Saturday, April 28, 2012

Thoughts on "Bloom"

This morning I sent Ben off to take Jakob to a birthday party, I made myself another cup of coffee and finished Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected--A Memoir by Kelle Hampton. It was important to me that I buy it and read it not only to support Kelle, who I view as a sister in this big DS family but also because she is, whether she knows the impact of it or not, the present voice of DS Mommas. She has the ability to speak and be heard by many, raising awareness and showing the world how wonderful a life with designer genes can be.

Let me begin by saying, Kelle has produced a very aesthetically pleasing book filled with many of her beautiful photographs. Her writing style stays true to her blog, which could be a good or bad thing depending on your own preferences. And while it is not the genre I tend to be drawn to, it definitely resonates with the larger population of Mommas who read it. She has written out her story beautifully, a story which a lot of people find themselves in. But note, I am not going to try and push aside my feelings towards Kelle in my review of this book. I read it with all of my own preconceptions from the journey we have had together for the last two years whether she is aware of it or not (which I am pretty sure she is not, as I have never met her nor conversed with her).

I remember the first time someone sent me the link to her blog. Ella was already 8 or 9 months and I too had blogged my journey. So when I read her story, I hesitated before adding to over a thousand comments to welcome her to the DS family. But I did. Because, just in case she read it, I wanted her to know it was going to be okay. If I had known her feelings towards "support" at the time, I probably wouldn't have offered a hand but I did and I put a link to my blog to say you're not alone. Our kids were about the same age and probably like hundreds of other moms out there, I thought maybe she would find a connection and a comfort. I think she was already too big for that though. Regardless, I began to follow her blog, like I do many other DS mommas and had to swallow my tongue and my pride every time someone sent me a link to her site, which was often.

Kelle and I are very different people even though many of the circumstances and events in our lives are so similar. We both come from broken families where the church took sides and we, as kids were caught in the middle of a manipulative game. We have families that have taught us to love despite mistakes, misgivings, sexual orientation and pressure from those we trusted. The first chapters of Bloom couldn't make our differences more evident. I was captivated by her response to Nella. It was completely foreign to me and I while I felt my throat tighten as I read of her first night, the gut-wrenching pain that she spoke of was something I knew very little about.

Do you know the phrase, What doesn't kill you will only make you stronger? I hate that phrase. But now thinking back on it, I guess it is true. My life has been through many valleys. A friend commented on the last part of Ella's story, that she cried when she heard about Ella: How could this happen to my beautiful Krista? Hadn't their family been through enough? I won't go into the details but lets just say there has been major refining in my life. This refining I cursed at the time, but perhaps it was the reason that instead of crying out "WHY ME?!", I thought quietly, of course, me.

I have never had a "perfect" life at least not in the way society views perfect, so unlike Kelle, I didn't feel like I was losing out on anything when Ella was born. And when looking at this book as a whole, I think that would be my biggest disappointment: Kelle spends more time talking about herself, how she would accept the challenge...that she has been given lemons but with her incredible attitude and strength will make lemonade. Instead, I saw Ella as a gift. A precious gift that I had been entrusted with from God and he would give me the strength and grace to raise this child. And this, my friends is what our differences hinge on. While Kelle talks about God and even believes in God, He plays a very different role in her life than mine. She knows the lingo, she was a PK (pastor's kid) for goodness' sake but there is a serious disconnect and relationship that needs to be mended there.

This brokeness shines through in Chapter Nine when she talks about "God-spinners".

"And so I pictured myself, on a hill, fist raised to the thundering skies shouting to it all - to God, to the Universe, to Coincidence, to Science - "I see your challenge. I accept. I accept. I'll show you how I can do it. You have no idea just how I'm gonna rock this out."

That being said, I know she is not alone and many of her readers probably praise her for her honesty. They can relate to being hurt by the church. Its a common and complicated problem that comes from having finite sinners as the representatives of God here on earth.

There is a lot of growth that goes on between chapter six with her stories of getting completely wasted, skinny dipping and walking home stark naked and chapter 11 when she starts to sober up. After that, I can relate a bit more, and isn't that what so many people are looking for in reading this book? Hoping to find something they can relate to? Find out what the secret is to the courage, hope and optimism that Kelle seems to emanate?

From Chapter 11 to the end of the book she recognizes that she has been handed a torch. Whether she wanted it or not, she graciously accepted it and did as she says, faked it until she could make it. She was made a leader, or maybe always was and when you are a leader, sometimes, even though you are not completely convinced in your heart, you know what is right in your head and so you are bold and carry on. She maintains her personal touch and it sometimes resembles more of a Grad yearbook write-up than a New York Times best seller but I think she always knew she wasn't out to write a textbook or a self-help book, just one person's story, her story and that is why so many people love it, besides, we are a blogging generation.

In the last chapters, that inward focus turns outward as she talks about the Buddy Walk that she said she would never do, but raised over $6000 from, and Nella's Onefunder that raised over $100,000 all for the National Down Syndrome Society. I have watched her blog grow, and seen her attempts to connect with her thousands of followers. And despite my honest opinions on some of the shortcomings of the book I have to applaud her and recognize that she has faced a huge learning curve with grace. She has come a long way from the first negative feedback she received via Enjoying the Small Things to now, when I am sure, people feel much less hesitant about telling her when she has said something wrong. 

Taking it beyond the book, I am pretty impressed that she has been able to maintain the essence of her blog since the book was released, considering her life is probably full of emails, writing, PR, etc. I often wonder if she has since gotten herself an assistant. We'll see what the future holds for Kelle Hampton. 

Now that you know what I think, why don't you find out for yourself. Long story short, I accidentally ordered two. So just leave me a comment or email to let me know and it's yours.


Anonymous said...

I haven't read her book yet but I've often checked out her blog as it has great pictures and its an easy read. I sense a rebelliousness in her which must stem from her situation you described (I wasn't sure what happened there). What a following she has, and what influence. I hope that one day soon she will turn back to God.
Christine O.

Jenn said...

I haven't read Kelle's book yet...I am a little too strapped for cash to buy it. But I am interested to see her perspective. I have a cousin with DS, and I love her desperately.

Arlee said...

Well said, Krista. As I read Bloom, I was saddened quite often about how Kelle felt so much pain over being gifted with Nella. It made me cranky sometimes, I must admit. I know she loves her and is an incredible advocate for DS kids, but it was hard to read in the beginning. Great review...I appreciate your honesty!

Kmarie said...

I guess we all have different things that bring out emotions in us. I feel that I can not pass any judgement on how Kelle felt about her first few moments because I am an emotional girl who needs to grieve hard before I can love well too. That is where Kelle and I are probably similar. Lots of legit emotions but at the same time I know you were not judging when you say your experience was different. Not better but different. Perhaps her relationship with the Divine is more of a challenging one at this point but I can respect that too. She seems to still be connected. We all have different ways to the Spirit. I admire her voice too. If anything I get frustrated by the ads and the constant optimism. I love gratitude and joy but there is the other real sort of life conundrums that need to be talked about for all those who struggle...that is what I think compassion is...opening up the vulnerable so I have to say that I am glad she did that in her book at the beginning. I also guess that she would probably be talking more about herself because it was a memoir and Nella is not at the point to voice opinions or old enough to have a whole book written on her yet...but I can probably guess the shift in perspective might happen in a prequel some day...or from her sister. I hope she talks bout Lainey...that also bothers me sometimes but I am glad that she dedicated the book to her.
I may not always be a strong fan of Kelle but like you I admire that she stepped up to the plate. It is not easy dealing with all the myriad of opinions and stances on life. I would not want it. I like my freedom of expression without too much judgement too much. I will say though that we all have different ways of expression, sensitivity and perception. I could easily see how she would be overwhelmed with emotion at first. Anything we are unprepared for can be hard but admitting that does not mean that we also do not have the paradoxical belief that it is a gift too. That's how I felt at the beginning of the Aspie journey...and depending on the day I do fluctuate between upsets at the downsides and happy at the incredible gifts with it.

Ok now that I am done with my habit of always giving the "other side" to whatever has been said...on to you Krista. I really admire your spirit and vulnerability and strength in your own words. I like that you recognized that while it is not your journey you can appreciate it. That shows grace and growth. It also shows that your dwelling in the Spirit creates a smaller spirit within you to accept and be even if it is different. I appreciate that. Ella is very lucky and I appreciate that you try to keep the balance between talking about yourself and also giving balance to your story. It was nice that you reached out to Kelle too and you are right- it is unfortunate that she does not like support but I guess we all have our weaker mentalities.
I loved these thoughts and will eventually get the book and read for myself too. I like stories in general...anyway this is long so
Great thoughts! Thanks for sharing.

Jenny said...

Ah, see the grief she felt was what I related to most. I have always been pretty open and honest about the fact that when Russell was born I grieved hard, I was devastated...Obviously now, looking back I see how foolish I was...But her birth story is basically the only thing that draws me in to KH because that is what I can relate to the most.

It's hard for me to hear that some people don't understand how other Mothers grieved when they received the news their child had Ds...It almost feels like the Mothers who instantly saw this as a gift and moved forward look down on us Moms who struggled...It actually kind of hurts to hear the "good" Moms say they are disappointed in how other Moms felt...sigh...anyway...

I also liked what she had to say about the Church, because I have similar feelings about things like that and was not at all comforted when people brought up God when Russell was born, or how I was chosen, or how special he and I both were. It took me a few months to get to a place of peace when it came to God.

I laughed when you said there were times that the book felt like a "Grad year book", hahah, it really did in some spots didn't it?
But overall, I really did enjoy it and thought she did a nice job.

Great review Krista!

Runningmama said...

I have read quite a few reviews of this book, and yours Krista, was by far the best and the fairest I have seen...if that makes sense. I have seen a lot of attacks on her from other parents of children with DS and I think that even though, like you, I am completely different in some of the same ways you mention...I can see that she really is doing some great things for Down Syndrome awareness so I can put my differences aside and give credit where credit is due :-) I know the extra book has probably already been spoken for, but if by some chance it hasn't I would love to read it :-) It has been crazy lately for me and I haven't had a moment to go out and get to book and sit down to read it, but I intend to do so in the near future when things slow down a bit.

Krista said...

Jenn, just email me your details and it's yours. kristadewert (at) gmail (dot) com

MG Atwood said...

I find this post so refreshing! I follow Kelle, I don't think it's all dollar store trips and tea parties. I like your insight. I'm glad she's been able to raise awareness for DS and the funds as well. I will read her book someday.

Nan said...

A gracious and thoughtful review, by a thoughtful and full of grace writer, photographer, and mom. I don't think I would actually read the book (is this what being over 50 does to you?), but love that you are sharing it with others . . . in so many ways. P.s. I am in love with Ella's cape!

Becky said...

I happened across your blog and your review. I agree with a comment above...this is the best one I have read and you shed light on some things I have struggling with regarding how I feel about all of this. Thank you for such a great, honest, and enlightening review.

Sandryte said...

Hi, Krista, Patti send me here :) I'd like to participate in this Bloom giveaway if you accept overseas participants. The nearest Amazon e-shops don't have this book yet but I would love to read it. We started our journeys almost at the same time with Kelle and she will always be such a huge part of my heart and in my thoughts. She is an inspiration! And so glad I found your blog through Patti - I already read so many posts, and eventually will go back to read them all.

Team Lando said...

I love this review. I know that you weren't expecting to love the book, but I like that you found what you did (and didn't) enjoy. And I love your honesty.

In particular, I like that you didn't make a blanket statement about "the book not being Christ-centered" but actually talked about specifics. Why that bothered you, what you'd see differently, while still framing it as Kelle's personal story.

I love both of your blogs (although aside from photos, for vastly different reasons) and so I especially enjoyed reading this one!

Katie Driscoll said...

Oh my goodness! I agree! I love Kelle and the blog and I enjoyed the book but I too when finding out my sweet baby girl would have Down Syndrome thought why not me! Was I sad oh yes, I was sad but I embraced that sadness and turned it into knowledge and I never ever looked back. Grace was and is a beautiful gift to us and we have never ever been so cool! :) Thanks for your thoughts! I just found you via a Perfect Lily! OXOX Katie

Meriah said...

Hi Krista,
It'd be great if you would share this on the T21Writer's Alliance - - or on the corresponding facebook page - International Alliance of Writers for Down syndrome.
If you would, just post the link to this post on the fb page. Then if you send me the post (, I can post it on the T21Alliance site.

Thank you!

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