Staring Down The Sun bio picture

Around Here.

Lil guy is growing like a weed… and crawling up a storm and even taking a try at the walker. So far it is just a couple of steps before he just falls back on his bum and looks up to me in utter delight, letting out a squeal which cues my heart to melt. He is 7 and a half months old already and I just want to stop time right now. He has my heart.

And right now I have time to blog since Gramma and Papa have him tonight so I can sleep in and have a little time off and rest! Hallelujah and thanks mom and dad!

Help us reach $100,000!

As of today we have raised $86,697 for Jayson and the kiddos. That is mind blowing and we are so, so extremely grateful for all of the financial support that has come in to help the Berray’s during this time. We are at almost 87%!! It is such a testament to the hands and feet of God’s love and provision for Jayson right now, and that is just on the financial front. We have about 45 days left to meet our goal, and I would LOVE to see us meet it. If you have already shared this link below, donated, or prayed for Lauren and the family, we give our sincerest thanks from the bottom of our hearts. You have helped carry us all in ways that you will never know, and we will pay your kindness forward as we make it through this. There just are no words other than thank you, thank you, we are so deeply touched and can’t find the words to express it sufficiently.

For those who would still like to get involved and help us reach our goal of $100,000, the link to go to or share is:

…and don’t forget to sign the guestbook even if it is an anonymous donation. I can’t tell you how much it means to us all to read through the comments and prayers. Every day that we were in the ICU with Lauren and then each day thereafter we would log in to see the number keep rising and the words of encouragement shared, and it gave us so much hope and even some comfort to see everyone come together and share their love and financial support for the family. It was and is still overwhelming at the thought of it.

Part of our goal with this fundraiser is to go over and above the amount of any medical bills that have incurred for Lauren, and be able to go to helping Jayson get on his feet and take care of his kids without stressing about finances. This is going to be a long haul. I can imagine that if I were Jayson, I would probably need a lot more time off to process my grief than I would have in “sick days” allocated, and not to mention the need for childcare for both kids now. So, all that said, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all of the support and prayers, they are a light in a dark time and we are so grateful for you. Thank you again. And please, keep the prayers coming.

How we started the #shultzfamwhole30

These are hard days. The adrenaline rush of everything that happened has faded, and we are back to “real life” but it doesn’t feel real. Zak is off of disability and back to light duty as of last week, I am back to my schedule of taking care of Johnny. Yet, we are exhausted. I feel like I could sleep for days, ugly cry a LOT, and stare at a wall for hours if I was allowed to. Such is the nature of grief, right? Just before Lauren’s accident Johnny was five months old and I was finally starting to get a sense of normal with him sleeping through the night and subsequently having enough energy to tackle my to-do lists during his nap times instead of taking a nap myself. I was starting to sense a little more of my old self again which I had lost through the sleep deprivation and nursing schedule. Stroller Strides became my exercise and I had done of month of hard-core working out 4 times a week. I was starting to find my groove.

That night before the accident, I was just telling Lauren how I was ready to start a cleanse and not worry about my milk anymore. Nursing Johnny had been one of the hardest things I have ever worked for but it was taking me over, and I decided that I was going to be proud of myself for making it five whole months and start giving myself the freedom I needed to take care of me and feel happy again. If my supply stayed, then awesome, if not, I will pat myself on the back for doing so well for so much longer than I thought I could. I made it FIVE MONTHS by that point and was ready to celebrate that. There were all of these rules I felt consumed by, like don’t lose more than a pound a week, make sure to hydrate enough or my milk supply would dry up, be careful with hot yoga (but don’t stress out about it… yeah right), get lots of sleep! (nope), and take supplements three times a day and don’t forget to pump after every feed… I felt like I was stressed out and held back from taking care of my body and feeling good about it so that I could give my son breastmilk, because like everyone knows, breastmilk is best. Except I was miserable. That damn pump, it owned me. I ended up in this place where I realized it was time to take care of my body and give Johnny a happy mama. (Did I mention I made it FIVE whole months yet?) Enter, Whole60.

I found a picture posted by JennasKitchen on Instagram where she had a side-by-side of her belly pre-Whole60, and then post-Whole60. She said that she only worked out one to four times a week, and this was a testament to how food is more important than exercise. Her before image resembled a better version of what I was struggling with and I wanted her post picture to be mine too. Something in me just clicked and I was IN. I shared all of this with Lauren and she was in too. Our sister Heidi was going to be back from Peru in a little over two months so it was perfect timing to have that as a goal to share our hard work with her, knowing she would be so proud. One of my favorite things about being a Shultz is that when one person decides to go for something, everyone else in the family will give their full support and pretty much jump in with you, no questions asked. It’s kind of amazing.

Unfortunately, we know what happened the next day. But like I said, that thing about being a Shultz… Amy and Heidi jumped in, and we started a Whole30 challenge and then finished it together. I don’t even have the words to express what that meant to me. All I can do is cry at the thought that I got these two in my life as sisters. As far as the challenge, Zak and I are continuing with it after taking a tiny break to do the full 60 days and are currently on Day 6. This food thing has been an important part of our healing. Usually, at least for us, when feeling sad it is much easier to eat crappy food with a lot of sugar, fat, and salt and eat away the pain. Yet once that cycle starts, it leaves you feeling worse about your body and just not feeling great overall leading you to start that cycle around all over again. Not to mention, those ingredients mess with your hormones and that doesn’t mix well with managing grieving to say the least.

What we realized is that what we put in our mouths is one of the very few things we can control right now, and therefore eating clean will make us feel better at least physically for now. It is working. The physical benefits are great, we are losing weight and that can always make you feel better. The Whole 30 Challenge is basically a diet without any grains, sugar, legumes, or dairy. Think of it as strict paleo 100% of the time without re-creating our favorite baked goods with paleo ingredients. Simply, it’s just a ton of veggies, lean and healthy organic grass-fed meat, fruit, nuts and seeds. We’ve been on and off paleo for the last couple years but we were wanting to go full on for awhile especially since I learned that what you eat affects your body more so than exercise, and with Zak’s injury and feeling incredibly restricted in what he can do there, this was a huge area he wanted to focus on. So we are in the thick of it now, together, and feeling free from the sugar addiction that seemed impossible to shake once. It is completely changing our relationship with food. Anyone who is grieving should absolutely take a Whole30 challenge, I can’t recommend it enough.

If you are interested in finding out more about this, you can check out the website and/or get the book “It Starts with Food” by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig. I’m reading it on my kindle paperwhite right now and am learning SO MUCH. After my last 30 day challenge I was down 15 pounds. I am proud of us. I can’t wait to report how this next round goes. We will keep you posted.

A Grief In Process

What a difference a phone call can make. One moment we were happily celebrating a two year old birthday amongst family, and then in the span of five seconds the world came crashing down leaving our heads spinning and our hearts broken. We learned that Zak’s baby sister Lauren was life-flighted to the hospital after hitting her head from a fluke fall off a skateboard, and was undergoing surgery for a blood clot and it didn’t look good. It was Memorial Day weekend. I had just talked with Lauren for two plus hours the night before, and everything was fine. We had plans to start a Whole60 challenge together the next week, and she made me promise that we would talk multiple times a day to help her stay away from the sweets. I was so excited for her to be my buddy and we would fight this baby-weight battle of the bulge and WIN TOGETHER gosh dang it. We emailed each other recipe ideas from pinterest and instagram late into the night. Everything was great.

What unfolded next was mind-bending to say the least, and after hopping the next flight up to Bend, Oregon to meet with the rest of the family, was an excruciating week in the ICU of praying and waiting to see if we were going to get our miracle. Zak had processed that she was probably already gone once he got the phone call, and for me the reality didn’t set in until we were by her bedside and learning about posturing. Effing posturing. It is the worst. Basically, it is the symptom of a brain injury where the arms and legs move and it tricks you to think that, hey, Lauren must be in there, she squeezed my hand! She’s trying to get comfortable! But no. It’s an involuntary reflex that points to a traumatic brain injury, and it is not a good sign. It’s a cruel part of the process.

Fast forward to six days after the accident (in which each day felt like a year) and it was time to take Lauren off of life support as decided by her other half, Jayson. Lauren wanted to be an organ donor, so we had to say our goodbyes in an operating room. Leave it to Lauren to be firmly devoted to others even in death. That was an experience I don’t even know where to start with, so I will save it for another time. Lauren took her last breaths as Jayson and I were holding hands, all of us family together, and he was seeing her on a beach at sunrise walk out to Jesus who was waiting for her in the water, wearing a sea foam colored skirt, grey hoodie and a flower in her hair. I just kept praying for God to take her quickly as I saw whatever life that was left in her slowly slip away. I heard from someone afterwards that she actually went fast, but it felt so long. Then she was gone. Just like that. A nurse said we had two minutes to say goodbye, and Jayson wanted to be the last one, so I gave her a kiss and wanted to get out of the way as soon as possible to give him his time. I walked out into the hallway but then I realized I was alone, and I had no strength in my legs, and I just fell to my knees sobbing, so overwhelmed with the realness of goodbye and an unrelenting wave of grief. It was crushing. The next thing I know I’m fiercely holding Heidi, and then Amy, and then Brooke all at once, and there are only four of us girls embraced, when there should be five, and its just too much. We get told to move along by the staff into the waiting room, so we walk the long walk back through the ICU, past her empty room, and I see the other patients with their eyes open watching us go by and I am jealous of their good luck, that they are awake and Lauren is not. It’s not fair.

Let me elaborate. I knew this life would not be fair or comfortable based on my faith in Jesus, and every time I experience some type of grief it makes me reevaluate my understanding of who God is… how can he watch these things happen from above without fixing it the way I want Him to… make that need Him to… and if Jesus was supposed to come and take away the sting of death then why does it still sting SO freaking bad? I know there are plenty of platitudes to be used here but I emotionally barf at the thought of them. Please, please, never share them with someone grieving. Actually, I have a whole host of thoughts to share on what to say and what not to say to someone grieving, so I will share that on here soon. There are just no words, unfortunately.

All I know is that Jesus is brokenhearted along with us, that he was fighting for Lauren this whole time, and that he promised to not leave us. Especially now. These are the dark times when I can’t feel His presence or see Him clearly quite yet, but I know He is up to something good, even in this. It is His way, to always be at work in redeeming broken things into beautiful things. I look forward to getting to see that happen. I also really look forward to Heaven someday much more now, when I can see her again and hear her laugh and see her reunited with Jayson and her babies and the rest of us. I just wish He would bring her back NOW. I tend to process and heal by journaling, and in my prayers lately I’ve felt like I need to share this on here, so I’m going to throw my writing out onto the interwebs for no other reason than to follow that leading. It is hard and scary, but Anne Lamott said this once: “When God is going to do something wonderful, He or She always starts with a hardship; when God is going to do something amazing, He or She starts with an impossibility.” These have felt like impossible times, so giddy up, let’s see what happens.

26 New Mama Gift Ideas

There we are coming home with Johnny for the first time! We had NO IDEA what we were in for … 😉

Being a parent for the first time means not knowing what you will need and therefore you don’t know what to ask for when that little bundle of joy finally comes home. Having been single and baby-less for most of my life I seriously had no idea what went on or how I could best help my friends with new babies besides taking pictures. Now I know and I’m happy to share. If you would like some ideas on gifts or things you can do for your new mama friends, here are some places you can start. They say that it takes a village to raise a child and for us that could not have been more true. While we were at the hospital our family was at our house deep cleaning, doing laundry, and filling up our fridge so that when we came home it was a retreat. It was such a gift I cried. We also had a Meal Tidings website put together for us where our dinners were pretty much taken care of for the first month. We had them come 2-3 times a week instead of everyday so that we could have time to eat leftovers. It was great to have friends come by and bring us food and meet Johnny at the same time. That first month was so hard for us I can barely remember it, so these things were a big deal. I would highly recommend checking with your friend to see if they have this meal plan setup, and if not, offer to set it up for them (ask for the email addresses before she goes into labor). Ok, ideas. Here goes:

  1. Target nursing tanks. these things are still all I wear for now, they are the best.
  2. Large water bottle. the 32 oz camelbak  eddy bottle is my favorite. she will be drinking so much water and will need water ready ALL the time.
  3. Pacifier wine stopper and wine. I got that wine stopper as a gift and it makes me smile every time I look at it. it reminds me of amazing friends and that I can drink again! And that cab… is GOOD.
  4. Hand cream. she will be washing her hands so much that they will dry out SO BAD. a really nice lotion would be a great gift.
  5. A little clutch or wristlet that can fit into a diaper bag. Her old purse will no longer work well.
  6. Amazon gift card. Or better yet, give her Amazon Prime or share your membership with her for a couple months. She will be ordering all sorts of things at the 3 am feeding from her iPhone. True story.
  7. Photo session. Come over to visit and bring your camera. One of my best friends Jen Disney did this for us and it was such a gift. I had no energy to take pictures of Johnny or even set up a session at that point so to have her do that for us without me asking was huge.
  8. The wonder weeks app and book… or itunes gift card for all the new apps she might need now.
  9. Lactation cookies. make these for her and give her the recipe. If you do this, note that brewers yeast is different from active yeast. Brewers yeast can be found at places like Whole Foods, and here in San Clemente I found it at Hansons.
  10. Find out her favorite coffee drink and drop it off. Find out if she prefers decaf or regular.
  11. Homemade peri pads. these were amazing. I ran out and needed more than one package.
  12. The Honest Co. gift certificate. She won’t have time to research them now but eventually she will and at least will want to try them out if she hasn’t already. Their diapers are awesome. I love their hand sanitizer, the baby bottom wash, the sunscreen (safe for baby), and their laundry detergent and well pretty much everything.
  13. Kind bars.. or any kind of protein bar she likes to eat while nursing. She will be starving and needing to eat quite a bit and having something to store next to the glider she will most likely be nursing in will be helpful.
  14. A magazine for reading while pumping.
  15. Hands-free pumping bra. I didn’t get one of these at first and it took 3 days to have time to even send my mom to go get one for me. She was that busy helping us. Once I got it, it was amazing.
  16. Oatmeal. For the breastfeeding mama. It helps with lactation and was recommended by my consultant.
  17. Come over just to hold the baby and let her take a nap. This is a big deal and will be hard for her to accept even though she will probably fall asleep mid-conversation. Bring her some ear plugs. Any tiny noise that baby makes will pull her out of a sweet slumber so those little things are quite helpful.
  18. Make her a gift with the stats of the baby to put in the nursery. Our talented friend made this and its a family memento now.
  19. Clean and/or pick up the house while she is napping. Or help her find a house cleaner and set it up.
  20. Dark maxi skirt (I still use my target black maxi skirt all the time)
  21. Short and stretchy jersey skirts from h&m. Really great for warmer weather and they are forgiving since they are so stretchy. And cheap! This last week they were 2 for $10.
  22. Call /text before visiting and see what size diapers they are using and bring a pack plus wipes. She will go through these much faster than she thinks!
  23. Find out what she needs from Target and make a run for her… or even better, watch the baby while she runs to target in between feedings to find some clothes to fit her new body.
  24. Lululemon wunder under pant cotton roll down. These are amazing. I call them my team uniform. I have them in black and grey, and they can be worn everywhere, not just workouts.
  25. Get her grocery list from Trader Joes and make the run for her.
  26. Come over in the morning and bring some breakfast and coffee. Hold the baby while she goes back to sleep. Mornings were always the hardest for me because I would wake up feeling so exhausted that it hurt. Getting to go back to bed was a gift.

I was insanely blessed by all of these things. There are more ideas over at Elise Blaha’s blog at this post here. She pretty much nailed it so take notes on that one. Hoping this is helpful!


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May 23, 2014 - 8:54 am

Jen Disney - So great!!!