Teddy Bear Tins

December 29, 2009



...Or Adoption/Loss/Infertility, to those unfamiliar with blogosphere slang.

This is the niche on the web in which I have made myself comfortable over the past year. I find so much healing in reading posts from people who understand what I'm going through. Generally they are able to better state it than I am, so I tend to comment more than I post. But the therapy in any case has been immense.

At the same time, I feel like a misfit. I arrived here during my struggle for breath after Aiden died. I found Carly first. And she just seemed to understand. She honors angel babies everywhere, she knows what it means to remember them. I was better prepared to face the "outside" world because I read about what happened to babyloss mamas in the ALI world, what they thought and felt, how words and actions affected them.

But I wasn't a babyloss mama.

I'm Aiden's auntie.

Mama > auntie

So I tread lightly, knowing that I don't truly know what they feel. I know what I have felt, and it seems to echo so closely what they speak of. But I respect the difference.

And it makes me think, maybe there's a reason I came here. Because everywhere that there is a babyloss mama and papa, there are almost definitely babyloss grandparents, and probably babyloss aunties and uncles, and friends and other loved ones. All hurting for the loss of hope.

We suffer at the same time that we search for belonging. Respecting differences, sometimes maybe holding back a little too much. Feeling deeply every hurt that babyloss mamas speak of. Grieving quietly behind them. Wanting so much to comfort them, to let them know that at least in some way some of us understand too.

It was Aiden who brought me here.

He is our angel. And I can't help but wonder if there are reasons why he's done this.

December 25, 2009


Merry Christmas, Aiden. We love you!

Trying not to think of what today would be like if things had only gone differently.

Missing you and sending you hugs up in heaven.

Love always,
Your Family

December 14, 2009


A blogger friend described what grief does to a mind: it makes the edges fuzzy, it blurs and distorts. I am was a very organized person. Friends would lovingly say that I had OCD. :-P But for the last eleven months that organized person has been on hiatus. Basic things like washing my clothes BEFORE I have to get dressed for work has become a serious challenge. I can't even count how many mornings I've stared into the empty fridge as the realization dawned on me that I'd forgotten to make food for my next meal. I'm lucky if I make it home at the end of the day in one piece. Gone are the days of lists and planning and productivity in general.

The point of this is to explain that I have a new-found appreciation for productivity, as it now has a tendency to escape me.

This past weekend was the first exception in a long time. Drumroll please...

...Our long-standing bathroom remodel has progressed! We have gone from tiny, disgusting, leaking, claustrophobic 1950s bathroom to the skeleton of a new and vastly improved space.

Maybe it's just side effects from breathing in too much mold and asbestos for the last two days, but looking at what we accomplished this weekend I get this strange tingling in my belly. Sort of like, could it be, happiness??


But at least a sense of satisfaction that productivity has happened. Perhaps the elusive is not so out of reach as I had thought?

And I'd just like to say how much satisfaction I get from working on these kinds of projects with hubby. Remodeling is our hobby, and I remember having a lot of fun doing this kind of stuff, but with all of the insanity it had been a while. We make such a good team. This work is almost therapeutic to me. We can be standing in the midst of an open pit where a bathroom once stood, covered in dust and splinters, staring at rotten framing boards and cabitzing like old farts over how best to fix it, and I'll just look him in the eyes and start giggling.

I love this man.

I love that we're a team.

Last night after picking the last of the construction debris out of my hair we went to our church Christmas cantata. And in the darkness, as the bellchoir played and one of the young "sheep" wandered off the stage, he wrapped his arm around me, and that belly tingle progressed into a smile.

Happiness. :)

November 30, 2009

Thanks & Giving

First, I owe some thanks...

...To the many people who made this delivery of Teddy Bear Tins possible. THIRTY-FOUR tins (1 not shown in the picture), and two bags stuffed full of teddy bears. This single delivery was larger than all my previous deliveries put together. St. Luke's has asked me for 90-100 tins to meet their yearly need, and at first I thought it would take me many months to gather enough. Now with these and the previous group I shipped them, we're nearly halfway there already.

...To the three artists who are currently painting tins, including a sweetheart on the opposite side of the earth whose beautiful nephew's spirit shines through in her.

...To the family and friends who spoke Aiden's name to me during the Thanksgiving holiday. For remembering him. For making him a part of the day. For being so welcoming to his parents as they gave of themselves preparing the meal. For surrounding them with the love they need.

...To the dear friend who allows me to openly discuss my current struggle, even when I didn't realize that saying things out loud can be healing.

...To my husband for his wonderful hugs, which I miss terribly while he's out of town.

...And finally to whatever supernatural power it was that convinced me to take my vacation days off from work this week. This tangled ball of nerves has finally had the chance to unravel a bit. Can I take the rest of the year off???

* * *

This past weekend I attempted to accomplish some of my Christmas shopping, since my job will have me on travel for most of the month of December for the second year in a row. And after several hours of semi-success, driving through two states in search of the right deals, I came to a moment where I found myself standing in a shopping mall parking lot in the rain. It was dark, I was tired, and I was frustrated as I dug through the black hole that is my purse in search of I don't even remember what. There were shoppers pouring out of the glass doors at the front of the store, mothers dragging crabby when-can-we-go-home children behind them, averting their eyes from the Salvation Army volunteer ringing his bell, dashing out into the street as cars with equally impatient drivers honked at them, all focused intently on getting to the next store as quickly as possible, checking off the Christmas list just to get it done.

And in a moment of clarity it hit me that I don't want this. I wouldn't wish this insanity on anyone I loved. I find my Christmas joy in giving, I do understand the value of a gift, at least from that side. But I don't understand the value in a need to just be forced to check off our list with whatever random material thing we can come up with that sort of reminds us of something that person likes (or we remember them liking, since we haven't had time to see them all year), that costs roughly the same amount as what we think they'll be spending on us (don't want to over- or under-do it, awkward!), and is located somewhere that we can get to during the rush before December 25th.

I will be happy to find gifts for everyone on my list, to the best of my ability making those gifts meaningful, giving of myself because it makes me happy to make them happy. But in return, my wish for those I love is that they be spared from what the holiday seems to have become. I don't want to be a reason that anyone should find themselves in that scene in the parking lot. This may sound cliche, but hear me out.

Right now, where I'm at following this terrible year, is a place where what I need most is peace. My heart needs it. My soul needs it. I have what I would consider to be a charmed life. My husband and I both have jobs that pay well, we have our big house on a hill in the woods, and when we want to buy something we generally can just go buy it for ourselves. Yet with all of these things I've struggled so hard to be happy, to find peace. In a way that I only partially understood before Aiden touched my life, the "material" in this world is just not important. So many people don't understand.

I know for me that my definition of happiness has changed. I think part of my problem is because I expect happiness to happen in the same way that it used to. I look for happiness in light-hearted silly made-for-tv moments. In times when everything is going perfectly or normally. And this sets me up for failure, because the way I see life now I'm no longer innocent of the imperfections and complications. Something good happens and I can't be happy about it because I'm too distracted by what I know is wrong. For something to get through to me, it's like it has to be at least as powerful as the sadness and pain that I carry around. Goofy material things just don't do it.

So I need to change how I find happiness. And I think the way for me to do that is for me to just let go. To give in to what maybe the universe wants me to do, the path that I can't see where it leads to. I need to serve others. I need Teddy Bear Tins to continue. I need to give, truly give, in order to find peace. Because the gift is in the giving.

So if you want to get me something for the holidays, please instead just support Teddy Bear Tins. Or enjoy a quiet moment remembering Aiden and thinking of his parents. Or reach out to that family you know that has lost a baby and say all of the things that you have been meaning to say. Just please don't let the rush and the things prevent you from finding some peace, from feeling some happiness.

November 19, 2009

Baby Boom

It seems like babies always come in bunches. Just shy of 18 months ago, half of my female coworkers were all in their last trimester. I was surrounded by babies. Then there was mostly quiet, and now again I find myself surrounded by glowing mothers-to-be.

Friends, acquaintances, family. And I think I'm handling it very well.

I'm sure they wonder how I'm doing. I know they tip-toe around me. They are so kind to think of someone else when they have a lot of their own life to focus on right now.

This morning Carly put it so simply, how I feel for these expectant mothers. It's not anger, it's not hurt (well, at least not directly), it's not even really jealousy. ...It's fear, and sadness. Fear that something will go wrong and they and their families will join this miserable club. I do worry myself sick about them. Every happy comment they make, I feel compelled to tell them to remember and hold onto every precious moment. But I hold myself back.

I'm conflicted about whether or not to say anything, to pass on any lessons learned as it were. Because I remember what it was like to not know about this other side. And while I was naive then, did that really make it hurt any more or less in the end? Carly put it so succinctly... These people may be naive, but they are just more innocent than anything else. And innocence lost is innocence lost, regardless of when it happens. So maybe it's just nice to let people keep their innocence, and to pray they can always be that way.

More people should know of the truth of stillbirth, and that the United States has one of the worst rates of infant mortality in the civilized world. This I believe is necessary to have any hope of enacting change. We should not hide this just because it is a difficult topic. To do so is a great disservice to ourselves. I strongly believe that.

But I think it may be OK to let mothers-to-be just be. Even when your heart aches in worry for them.

November 3, 2009

Another Milestone

It's official! As of now I am providing tins to our second hospital, St. Luke's in Bethlehem, PA. Teddy Bear Tins has been approved by their neonatal bereavement board, which is a praise considering just how busy the nurses who staff that board are on a day-to-day basis. I'll be shipping all of the current completed kits to them around Thanksgiving and I can't wait. From that point I'll be working to get more tins painted as I don't have enough yet to meet a year's needs for this hospital. They need 90-100. :( It's hard not to think of what that number represents.

That's all for now. I'm currently hopping around on a bunch of travel for work and I won't find myself home for about a month. Yuck. But at least I can keep myself busy working to gather more volunteer artists. Thank goodness for distractions!

October 22, 2009


Dear Aiden,

The leaves are turning colors, shades of orange and red and yellow. In the morning I hide from the cold under my blankets, preparing to jump out from them with the same resolve it takes to jump into a chilly pool in the summer. The days are shorter and the air is crisp. It is my favorite season. I had waited for Autumn, to feel your spirit on the breeze as I stand outside. But I feel lost. It doesn't feel the same as it used to. It's too dark, and too cold, and the trees don't seem to have their normal glow.

By now you would be crawling. I can picture your cute little diapered bottom as you speed down the hall at your mommy and daddy's apartment. You'd make drool bombs and gurgling noises and happy squeals. You'd smile with a goofy grin, with a few new teeth making an appearance. You'd hide your head on my shoulder when I held you, shy and a flirt just like your daddy was at that age.

I want to take you to the pumpkin patch and show you all of my favorite Autumn traditions. I'm going back to the same pumpkin patch I went to as a kid. They still have the same hay-ride and you-pick-it fields and indian corn. I want to prop you up next to an enormous pumpkin and take a picture and post it on facebook. My handsome nephew for everyone to see!

I miss you, and Autumn seems more like Fall.

You are a thousand winds that blow.
You are the sunlight on ripened grain.
You are the gentle Autumn rain.

Love you always,
your auntie

October 9, 2009

Supporting Bereaved Parents

I'd like to post some helpful information for family members and friends of bereaved parents, because I've learned in the past months that even people who have the best of intentions just may not know how to support someone who has lost their child due to stillbirth. It seems like the death of an infant is in some ways different than other deaths. Perhaps it's a bit more taboo to recognize because of the magnitude of the tragedy. But there are some truly simple and straightforward pieces of advice that I feel can go a long way:

(Adapted from www.griefspeaks.com)
* Be there for them. Grieving parents retreat from the world for a while, so make an effort to keep calling, visiting and let them know that you are there if they need you.

* Acknowledge their loss, and don't pretend it never happened. Even an early miscarriage can cause significant and lasting grief for a couple and that loss should not be ignored or minimized.

* Refer to their baby BY NAME, if they had chosen and announced a name. Many grieving parents are comforted by this because it means that we acknowledge that the baby existed, even though for a short time. This advice in particular is HUGE. Referring to their child as "the baby" can make their angel sound more like an incident than a person.

* Listen to them. They may need to talk about the loss of their baby; some parents keep photographs of a stillborn baby and want to show their family and friends. Just follow their lead, and talk when they need to talk and listen a lot.

* Offer to help them commemorate their baby. Some parents keep a grief journal or memory box with thoughts and mementos of their lost baby (hospital blanket, bracelet, shower announcement, lock of baby's hair, photo, pictures of mom pregnant).

* Remember that grandparents and siblings also grieve. Many will need support as well.

* Avoid saying, "it was for the best," or "you can always have another baby." Many people use statements like this in an effort to comfort and reassure the parents but it is the last thing grieving parents need to hear.

* Don't avoid the parents. Acknowledge the anniversary of the couples' stillborn delivery. It allows people to know they are not alone and that others are grieving too.

* Show sensitivity. Acknowledge that other's happy news may be painful for the grieving parents. Don't be angry at them if they can't attend a baby shower, baptism, or other ceremony at this time. They probably already feel guilty and isolated enough.

* If you find yourself struggling for what to say, just say, "I am so sorry for your loss," "I am praying for you," "We think of you and *child's name* often."

Basically: acknowledge, actively care, show support.

And finally, remember that grief is a process. No one ever "gets over" the loss of a child. Your life will go on, but theirs will never be the same.

September 23, 2009

Ups and Downs

That's been my year. Ups and downs, in insane succession. In 2006 I hit a ton of milestones all in a row - graduated college, got my first "real" job, moved to my first apartment, got married, bought my first house. That was a major year. And I remember at the end of it thinking how much I'd have to do the next year just to measure up to what had already been accomplished. 2006 was a better year than 2009 has been. I'd like to believe that life gets better every year, but I think I'd be kidding myself if I thought that. Some will be up, some will be down.

In many ways I feel like when Aiden died, I did an about-face on my path to the future and started walking right back in the opposite direction. Now I don't know where I am. Why is that? I was there that day, with them. Until late afternoon I was the only one with them. I was in it, in the thick of it, physically and emotionally. But I wasn't IN it like they were, I'm not Aiden's mother or father, I'm "just" his aunt. Why does it affect me like it does? Does this mean it's that much worse for them? I can't even imagine what that would be like.

I've said before that grief is a funny thing. I think in the past month I have been grieving more than I was the previous few months. I thought I was done with the worst of it? What's going on?

And then there it is. A hope for the future, when I realize that I AM grieving. That I feel like absolute crap for a reason, not because life in general is just bad. That this will happen, it's part of the process. That maybe 2010 will be better than 2009, and maybe I can bring more of the good from this past year with me than I do of the bad. Because there have been ups, they're just hard to see from the bottom of the downs.

God bless the mommies and daddies of angel babies. No one should ever suffer what they do.

September 18, 2009

New Look!

It's still a bit of a work in progress, but thanks to an anniversary gift from my hubs, the blog has a new look! With how clueless I am about CSS coding, I'm impressed at how simple it was to get the nice scrapbooking look for this blog that I had hoped to. I'm still working on all the static links, but once those are up I'm ready to publish! :)

My hope is that this site will make it even easier for me to spread the word about Teddy Bear Tins and find volunteer artists. The pace has been a bit slow here lately, but really I think that is just because I've been too busy to seek people out actively. Moving house and long hours at work are keeping me more than occupied. But at least on the moving front I think we'll finish this month. Then my evenings will be evenings again, instead of painting- and cleaning-fests!

I've also really been wanting to write down Aiden's story for people to read. It's been on my mind for a few weeks, but I've been too conflicted about what tone it needs to take. My mood lately has been changing so quickly, I'm still grieving, that it's hard for me to look forward to what it will be like when the grief is less raw and some peace has been found. On another blog during my daily peruse I found a Bible verse that someone had posted, and I think this is where I'd like to go with this for today:

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jer. 29:11

I need to trust that there is goodness somewhere and that there is hope for the future.

September 2, 2009

Chugging Along...

It's been a busy month! I don't know if I mentioned it, but that house we put an offer on... we got it! So now hubs and I are busily readying our new home and moving. If nothing else it certainly keeps us busy as taking care of two homes (we won't sell our old one for about a year until the market comes back) has proven to be probably more than twice the work. But we love every minute of it. :)

And in the midst of the craziness, Teddy Bear Tins continues on. I keep detailed records of every tin and every volunteer (seriously, I'm OCD), so I know that at this point 48 tins have been lovingly crafted by people spread across the east coast of the United States, and more are being worked as I type this. Of these, 24 have already been donated, along with a huge box of cuddly little teddy bears. My mom has a meeting with our second hospital this week to work through all the details of what they will need, and the remaining 24 completed tins will go to them shortly afterward. I can't believe I'm already considering contacting a third hospital!

This weekend hubs and I are taking a break from the moving to head up to see his family at their cabin in Pennsylvania. I'm looking forward to spending the weekend working on this website, hoping to get it more functional and running so that I can publish more widely. I want this to be a tool for spreading the word and hopefully finding more volunteer artists across the world.

The Neonatal Bereavement Coordinator from Christiana Hospital contacted me to ask if she could send thank you's to the volunteers who painted their tins... Teddy Bear Tins, and supporting these grieving families in general, is so important! It's hard to explain what it means, but I think that as these volunteers give of themselves and their time that they too are feeling the gratitude of these families.

August 30, 2009

TBTs Wish List

I've been so touched recently that a number of generous people have asked me if there were any things they could provide to help out with the effort. I hadn't thought of that! I concentrate heavily on seeking out volunteer artists, and have always just taken care of getting what is needed to make that all happen. I love doing this, so it doesn't really seem like work. But I realize that they will continue to prod me, so I figured I better get doing my homework!

As I've mentioned before, I'm not really comfortable with accepting monetary donations. I think instead it would be better to focus on the materials that go into the making of the tins. But what exactly are those?

Good question.

Finished tins are made up of the tin itself, which I buy in bulk and seal to prevent rust, plus a kit inside made up of instructions, plaster and a mixing stick. Add to that some labeling, miscellaneous shipping and packing supplies, and of course the teddy bear painting itself, and you've got finished product! I like to keep things simple. :) Broken out in graphic form for those who are as OCD as I am, the relative costs look like...

So I guess if I were to make a wish list it would be based on this little exercise, and it would consist of:

1) Blank tins. I buy these in bulk from a specific distributor, with a box of 48 costing about $100. If a group would like to purchase tins I think it would be easiest if they contacted me and I can help arrange it.
2) Testor Model Acrylic paints, which I've chosen very specifically after a painful few weeks of experiments and learning a whole lot more than I wanted to about paint types lol
3) Plaster of paris
4) Quart-sized zip-top bags
5) Postage (the post office sells $4.95 Priority Mail stamps which work for the size and weight of boxes that I send to artists within the U.S.)
6) Spray cans of gloss clear acrylic sealer
7) Paint brushes like these, which I typically find at Walmart

Lastly, if you have some small (8-10") teddy bears, while they are not my main focus I provide them to the hospitals as well. Because really, who doesn't love teddy bears?? :)

August 11, 2009


Where to begin...

*On July 10th I received the first painted completed tin lids. They happened to be the set from Aiden's great-grandpa. They were beautiful!

*On July 15th I received the second set of completed tins, from a woman who had never even met me but heard of Teddy Bear Tins through the Chesapeake Mommies group.

*On July 16th my dear friend Cindy Learn worked with me until we perfected the plaster-making process and finalized the kit contents. Each assembled kit now contains a premeasured baggie of plaster, a popsicle stick for stirring, and an instruction sheet (also prepared by Cindy!)

And on the back of each kit I'm putting a sticker...

*On July 21st I made the very first delivery of Teddy Bear Tins! The Neonatal Bereavement Coordinator from Christiana Hospital in Newark, DE was kind enough to meet me at the community center near my home. Included in the delivery were some teddy bears that I made and one that I purchased because I liked its fur. :)

...Since that time I have received dozens more completed tins, from friends, family and strangers. All incredible people who have given of themselves and whose generosity will help to bring peace to families when they need it most.

Yesterday I had to order more blank tins, I had run out! And today with the help of my mother, who happens to be a pediatric nurse, Teddy Bear Tins has been extended to its SECOND hospital: St. Luke's in Bethlehem, PA.

Since this journey started, Teddy Bear Tins has been a significant source of healing for me. This is the only way I can do what I want most right now - to be Aiden's aunt, to honor his memory and to remember him. Now that it is growing, I think Teddy Bear Tins can start accomplishing the second half of its mission, to honor angel babies. "In memory of Aiden, in honor of angel babies."

I don't automatically get notice from the hospital when a tin gets used, but as they come back to me to send more tins I know that they get used. And every single tin used is a family that right now is lost and needs something to hold on to.

Thank you, sincerely, to everyone who has helped to provide that for them.

July 7, 2009

Where have I been?

Good question!

The last few weeks have been very busy, but in a good way! Hubby and I have put an offer on a new house (we don't know yet if we got it) and Teddy Bear Tins is taking off. That and we continue to remodel our current house, plus of course our full time jobs, of which mine is insane!

So it's been a bit stressful, but today I'm trying to breathe and recenter.

I think Teddy Bear Tins has been very important in my "recovery" process. I had been starting to have headaches and memory loss, in addition to being in a general fog for several months. Since putting my heart into this new effort I've felt a lot better.

At this point I've got a box full of 48 blank tins, all the paints, brushes, and supplies needed for the volunteer artists... basically everything needed to make the kits. For the last week I've worked to assemble boxes and have now shipped them to my first four volunteers. In about a week I hope to have the first round of finished tins. I cannot WAIT to see them!

My grandfather, Aiden's great-grandfather, is one of the volunteers. Quite unexpectedly I received a phone call from him a little while back. Smiling I could tell that he had been prodded to call by my grandmother. My grandfather asked if he could paint some of the tins, saying that he used to paint. I never knew my grandfather had been involved in art! Later my grandmother emailed me and said that she thought this was important for Grandpa, that he might need it to help him heal. Then on Sunday after I sent his box of supplies she sent me this picture:

Absolutely. Priceless.

"Thank you Lord for the gift of this day, for the love and peace that I see in this picture. I beg you to continue to comfort my grandfather and all of Aiden's loved ones. We miss him more than we can understand."

June 17, 2009

A Better Place

Teddy Bear Tins seems to be taking off, and my heart finds such peace and meaning in this new effort. After I sent my email I have had numerous responses and even have my first two volunteer artists. People can be so wonderful without even realizing it. Even those who can't "help" because they aren't able to paint tins have been so helpful. Just meeting someone at the local Walmart and having them bring up the topic of Teddy Bear Tins to apologize that they aren't able to paint brings a smile to my face. Why? Because someone has just acknowledged my nephew's legacy. Aiden is now in the hearts and minds of even more people. I truly hope that this journey accomplishes something meaningful. Not just in memory of Aiden, but in honor of the many, many children who have grown angel wings and their families.

Yesterday I finally found the source for the blank tins, a definite accomplishment! It's trickier than I expected to find the right size and shape blank white tin! But when I got off the phone with the woman I knew they would be the right place. She's even sending me a free sample to make sure they are perfect before I order a full case. :) I also found the right paints thanks to a local hobby shop this past Monday. After some fussing with them on my demo tin it seems they will do the trick, as they dry quickly, cover well, leave a durable finish, and don't require the volunteer artists to use any fancy solvents for cleanup. Never thought I'd have to learn so much about acrylics! lol With those plus the mixing sticks I picked up and the plaster of paris that seems to be working well as an imprinting medium, we are almost ready to get this ship out of the harbor. Have I mentioned how excited I am? :-P

June 11, 2009

Fingers Crossed!!

I just sent this email message out to everyone I could think of. Praying now that God's grace guides my effort and that we are able to accomplish something truly meaningful!

"In Memory of Aiden"

Dear Family and Friends,

Many of you know that on January 18th of this year we suffered the tragic and unexpected loss of my beautiful nephew Aiden, one hour before birth at 41 weeks.

In one moment our lives were changed forever, and in the five months since then I have been searching for ways to respond to what is, to say the least, an entirely changed perspective on life. Aiden was and continues to be a miracle.

No new parent should ever have to leave the hospital without their child in their arms! But for those who must, many hospitals have a special group of dedicated people who put together memory kits for the bereaved families. Kits usually include things like pictures, hand and foot prints, special articles of clothing, books/poems, and an assortment of other items as they are available. These memory kits are so important! They are a source not only of memory but of peace, a tool for grieving and healing.

And it is with that in mind that I have created Teddy Bear Tins, in loving memory of Aiden. I am so excited! Teddy Bear Tins are hand & foot imprint kits that are provided to hospitals to be used in their memory kits. A nurse makes baby’s imprint in plaster which is contained in a small hand-painted tin that mom, dad and loved ones can hold on to forever.

Our first hospital has requested that we provide them with Teddy Bear Tins, and this is where I really need your help!! I am searching for anyone with artistic ability, professional or simply talented, who would be willing to paint teddy bears on the lids of our tins! Attached is a picture of an example that I have put together. I will ship the lids and instructions to any volunteer and collect the lids after they have been painted. No cost will be involved other than time and heart! I can even provide the paints if needed!

So please, please, please! Are you or do you know someone who would be willing to help out? Could you help me find someone who is? I have faith that somewhere, someone in our many networks, in a church group or on a community board, in a circle of friends or someone you remember working with years ago, will see or hear this message and will be willing to help me help these families. Please freely pass this on. If you could have them email me as soon as possible, I would be forever in your debt!

“Thank you” doesn’t really do justice to how I feel about the support that we have received and what it means to me for people to be willing to help honor my nephew's memory.

Aiden’s Auntie always,

June 5, 2009

Teddy Bear Tins

I just sent an email to the Neonatal Bereavement Coordinator at a nearby hospital asking if she'd be interested in what has become my first "Aiden Act," and now I am obsessively checking my inbox waiting for a response lol.

I am awaiting the response to my email in hopes that I can bring to life my first Aiden Act. I've been working to put together some cute little hand/foot print imprint kits that can be included in the memory boxes that I know many hospitals give to parents whose babies grow wings. I want it to be something practical and easy for the nurses. So far I've determined that the kits will basically be made of small white tins that I put clay/plaster into. I like this idea because some imprint kits I've seen are just intended to make a tile or stone and I think those could break over time. The tin is small and durable, and it can be closed when needed. Because the nurses are busy and don't likely have time for arts and crafts, I'm testing out some plasters and clays that I can premake inside the tins and then vacuum seal them to keep them pliable until they are simply opened and the imprint is made. Also, I want to work with local artists to have the lids of the tins painted. I think they will be beautiful! As I test things out to find out what kinds of things will work well for this I have put together a quick test tin (pardon my painting abilities, I'm definitely not an artist! :-P)

I don't know why, but I really like the image of a teddy bear for the lids of these tins. Teddy bears just seem so comforting and innocent. I want these kits to be a comfort to parents, something that they can physically keep with them. The hospital where Aiden was born gave our family a stack of ink footprints that we could all keep. I thought that was such a great idea! I hold mine dear. It's kept locked away in my safe, but I think of it often and I can take it out to touch and see whenever I need to. I hope that these kits can be like that. A mother or father may not be able to hold their baby's hand again, but they can touch and feel the details of each little finger, visually soak in a tiny perfect 3-D footprint, anytime they need to.

I've mentioned my idea to a few people and several have offered to help me. God bless them. The goal of this is to bring peace and healing to bereaved parents and families of angel babies. I haven't even finished the first tin and already my heart finds joy that other people want to participate. For me somehow I feel like, by painting a lid or making some clay or helping in any way with this effort, that someone else is acknowledging Aiden's spirit. It means so much to me.

I found this poem today, and I think it helps explain a lot of how I feel:

“You can shed tears that he is gone,
or you can smile because he has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that he'll come back,
or you can open your eyes and see all he's left.
Your heart can be empty because you can't see him,
or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember him only that he is gone,
or you can cherish his memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back.
Or you can do what he'd want:
smile, open your eyes, love and go on.”
~David Harkins (modified)

June 2, 2009

Finding My Voice

My mind keeps buzzing with ideas and things that I want to say. There is so much to do! I'm ready to run down this new path that I have found stretching out ahead of me. It makes my heart burn just thinking about it. There is so much to accomplish, so much to be learned, so much to give back.

So as a general update, I have been working hard to determine exactly what I'd like to do for my first Aiden-inspired community service. This process consumes me and I love it! I know obviously that I want my service to be something directly related to support for parents and families who have lost babies. I've read about organizations like Whispered Support, NILMDTS, the Harry Line, the Butterfly Haven, Names in the Sand, and others. All of these people are so incredible! It makes me think how I can possibly best use my skills to make a difference. Other people have done it, so somehow I feel like that helps me because there is already a community out there that can relate to this fire that I feel. In any case, I think that I would like to start by doing something small and simple, sort of something to help me as I learn more and find my way into this new area.

I've contacted the March of Dimes and continue to try to establish myself in that community. I've offered my time and resources to do anything that they need, from stuffing envelopes to raising money to donating supplies. I know that they are busy doing this important work, so I continue to offer myself as a resource and can't wait to see where that goes. So far I got to be involved in one event: early in May I got a phone call late in the day from a woman who was coordinating our local March for Babies and had one of her table sponsors drop out at the last minute. I filled in for them and manned that station on the very next day, it was great! It poured rain the whole time and there I was sitting with this ridiculous grin on my face handing out water and lollipops to the walkers. They must have thought I was nuts lol. :)

Woops I'm out of time for today! I'll have to post later with my newest idea. Sorry to keep you in suspense!

May 22, 2009

Getting Started

After spending the last several months dedicating a large portion of my "free" time to pouring over other people's blogs, I've decided it's about time I start my own. Possibly I should have started this earlier, but I'm embarassed to say that I was a little bit overwhelmed by the technology (go ahead, laugh). When I graduated from college a whopping three years ago I put my laptop in a box and haven't been on Instant Messenger more than a handful of times since. It's insane how much things have changed in that short time! It's not like I don't use computers - I'm on one 9 hours a day with my job - but I just haven't spent my time using social networking tools. I can't believe I just called them social networking tools. I'm so old! Somehow in that time Facebook has gotten a case of ADHD and scrapbooking has gone digital!? In any case, it took me a couple hours just to figure out how to set up a blog and customize it. And I'm sure I'll spend the next week figuring out how to make the perfect scrapbook template and cute little tags for my sidebar...

But anyway, I think it will help me to have a specific purpose for my blog. Since I've been thinking about it for a few months I'm pretty sure I know where I want to take this: I'd like this blog to be about my search for a life with deeper meaning. I've always wanted to be more involved in charity and community service, and I'd like to push myself a little further in that direction to see where it takes me. I have a wonderful life - a loving husband, a great job, a roof over my head, "children" (of the four-legged variety) that greet me when I come home each day - I've got it made. So I really think it's time that I pay back for all that I have been given. Therefore I will use this blog to chronical the path that lies ahead of me, and hopefully it will help me to stay on task and maybe even link me up with people who can point me in the right direction as I move forward.

That's all for now!

May 1, 2009


What exactly is a Teddy Bear Tin?
No new parent should ever have to leave the hospital without their child in their arms! But for those who must, many hospitals have a special group of dedicated people who put together memory kits for the bereaved families. Kits usually include things like pictures, special articles of clothing, books/poems, and an assortment of other items as they are available. Teddy Bear Tins are hand & foot imprint kits that are provided to hospitals to be used in their memory kits. A nurse makes baby’s imprint in plaster which is contained in a small hand-painted tin that mom, dad and loved ones can hold on to forever.

How can I get involved?
I am always looking for volunteers with artistic ability to paint tins!! Please see info here. And if you are as artistically inclined as I am, meaning not at all, then you can still help simply by spreading the word. I hope for this effort to become a sustainable resource that can be provided to many hospitals, in memory of Aiden and in honor of the many, many families who have lost babies.

Are you a registered charity?
At this time Teddy Bear Tins is not a 501(c)3 registered charity. This is just something I do because I feel it is important, and I haven't found the time to jump through the legal hoops quite yet.

Do you accept donations?
Because this is not a registered charity, I am not comfortable accepting monetary donations. If you would instead like to directly provide materials which help in making the tins, I have put together a list of what I use here.

How much do Teddy Bear Tins cost?
I provide the tins free of charge to hospitals, my gift for bereaved families in memory of my nephew, to honor all angel babies. I personally provide for all expenses associated with the raw materials and putting the tins together, including arranging for them each to be hand-painted by volunteer artists.

What hospitals do you serve?
Currently Teddy Bear Tins are provided to Christiana Hospital in Newark, DE, St. Luke's Hospital in Bethlehem, PA, and Riverview Hospital Maternity Center in Noblesville, IN. My goal is to provide a year's supply of tins to each hospital. As this effort grows, I contact a new hospital each time I'm able to meet that goal.

Volunteer Info

Thank you so much for your interest in this special effort!!!

I myself am not artistically talented (understatement lol), so the success of Teddy Bear Tins relies on the generosity of a group of wonderful people who are willing to give their time and talent to paint each of the tins. This also ensures that every tin is unique and beautifully made.

All of the details you need to understand the process, what it would involve, and how to get started is below!

PROCESS: When someone is interested in helping to paint, the process goes as follows...
1) They contact me
2) I work with them to determine how many tins they would like to paint (generally in the range of 5-10 per person)
3) based on where they are located I can either drop off the supply package with the tins at their location or have them shipped to them
4) in roughly 1-2 weeks I'd ask that they contact me for me to pick the finished package up, or they could return ship them to me (I can even provide pre-paid shipping if needed).
And that's it! I take care of sealing the lids with a clear acrylic protective coat, assembling the kits with the plaster packs, etc and drop them off at the hospitals. I'm happy to confirm when an individual's painted tins have been received by the hospital. :)
Please note that there is no cost involved for volunteers other than time and heart.

PAINTS: I provide these to borrow! I have special model-acrylic paints that are super easy to use and clean up with water, while still providing a durable finish on the tins once dried. The paints and all supplies are included in the supply package that I provide.

TINS & INSTRUCTIONS: The tins are small (3.5"x5") rectangles and are blank white. Each person is invited to paint any type of teddy bear that they would like, and they could even paint a background behind the bear if they want. There is no "pattern" to follow and no major requirements other than that they feel it is appropriate. I provide a detailed instruction sheet in the package of supplies when I ship the tin lids that answers any questions you might have!

I hope that you find your participation in Teddy Bear Tins to be as meaningful as I have. :)

Contact Info

Contact me anytime! I can be reached at teddybeartins@gmail.com.