Thursday, December 22, 2011

Upside, down

{My favorite necklace: a cross & a miraculous medal.}

Have you ever seen the movie Evan Almighty? Me neither. But I do really love a quote from the film that goes something like this:

"Let me ask you something: If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?"

As someone who was raised to pray---which I always thought meant to ask God for the things I want--I think a lot about what it really means. I guess I had always assumed I asked and then received. Clean, simple and without fuss. Being an adult however, I realize that this is a childish way to approach life--and faith. Foolish, even. It doesn't take much living of life to understand that you will never have all the things you want. And really, it happens that way for a reason.
For me, it always comes back to children. I think about the fool in me, the one who prayed for a child over and over again. I was just doing what I had always done, but this time I didn't get what I demanded asked. It made me angry. Why did I just get what I asked for? Why did I have to wait and suffer for something that seemed so simple?
I sincerely believe I was blind to my own lack of faith back then. I couldn't see past my anger, frustration and general "Why me?" to see what was unfolding in my own heart. That's the thing about faith--the point being made by that quote--it's about believing in something or someone greater than yourself in the moments where it feels like your pain will never end. That is when it counts; not when everything is going your way and life is equal parts hunky and dory. In the good times, it's easy to have faith. It's simple to feel like you have strong faith, because it feels like you are being endlessly blessed. If you want to be something, to gain an admirable trait, you're going to have to work for it.

I sincerely believe that life should be about finding blessings that are encased in a hard, painful shell. January is always a "marker" for me; that was when we started trying to have children three years ago. After all was said and done and we came to realize that it probably wasn't going to happen, I thought the worst possible thing that could happen to me was this: to live a life without children. It seemed unbearable back then--intolerable, even.

Today, I struggle to grasp what I really want---not what I feel obligated to choose or even what I'm expected to be or do. Or say, for that matter. Maybe that's why I stopped writing over the last month. Perhaps that's why I feel like I don't have all that much to say sometimes. For me, I need to really think it through in my head first before I can ever feel ready to 'write it down' here in this space.

 Our life today, without children, is not the terrible intolerable mess I thought it would be. I don't spend every day feeling like something is missing or that any part of my life is miserable. As you can imagine, this creates some confusion. What, really and truly, do I want? Was this really the worst thing that could have happened?

I don't know. I mean really: I have no idea. Life is confusing to us sometimes when we really don't know what we want---and when we're given the rare option to choose the very foundation of our own path.

I have always loved Christmas because it is a time to really and truly soak in the quiet and peace of the season. As someone who is rarely quiet (I even hold long conversations aloud while I'm sleeping) I think it's important to just allow myself to be quiet and search for the peace in Christmas.

This year, I realize that I have more blessings that I could even begin to count. And peace? Well, peace is about following your heart, accepting whatever is thrown your way and realizing that maybe the worst thing isn't as bad as you though it would be. It might just be a blessing instead.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It's Called Clarity

{Captivated by the possibility of a reason to bark.}

People sometimes say that when something traumatic happens their life "flashes before their eyes."

I can't say that I know the feeling, to be honest. I've had those moments where I came THIS close to getting in a serious accident or escaped a potentially traumatic injury but it's never caused me to feel like the entire life I have lived up until this point has flashed before me.

Instead, I like to think of those moments as an opportunity to experience clarity. It almost always follows that "Oh $hit" moment you feel when potential disaster narrowly misses you in some way. You think about what could have been---disaster---and what is now---another chance to exist the way you are right now.

A few weeks ago, I had a moment of clarity that has stuck with me for some reason. I was running with one of the dogs (the small but crazy one, if you're curious) around our country block and as we passed a field of corn that was being harvested, it happened. A huge deer--a massive buck--came leaping out of the dried corn and ran just behind us. Narrowly missing us, I'm guessing. I felt the breeze from his body if that says anything about our proximity to one another. I had no time to react or even understand what was happening. Once I did, the moment had already passed. It really happened that quickly. {Cue the snapping of my fingers.}

I stopped, however. Transfixed by that moment. We were nearly plowed over by a ginormous deer that easily could have maimed or killed us. I was searching for what it all meant, I think. I can't be sure, but I believe that the moments in our lives meant to snap us out of whatever funk we are in are just that major--and also just that subtle.

In a life that sometimes feels like it has no clarity, I tend to hang on to the moments where I feels like I can touch that feeling at least temporarily. Maybe it meant nothing; perhaps it represented something. I don't think that matters so much as that I took notice of the moment.

I think clarity arrives in each of our lives wearing a different face, and is often wrapped in an unassuming package. To remind us, like in this case, that timing really is everything. Or, that we sometimes need to stop what we're doing to think about what could have been or what might be happening that we haven't ever stopped to notice.

I also thought about what the headline might say in our local paper if I was, in fact, mauled by a deer. I imagine something like this:

Local Woman Mauled by Eight Point Buck in Freak Running Accident: Local Beagle Mix Still at Large

That's right: I live in a fantasy world in which I have the ability to write my own headlines. And I know for a fact that my Beagle Mix would still be at large in this instance. Sniffing some really important blade of grass that has captured every shred of his attention, I'm sure. I don't know that beagles understand clarity.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Hiatus

Have you ever taken a break from something you love?

It's a difficult thing to do, you know.

Without realizing it, I took a hiatus from one of my life's greatest loves: running. I haven't always completely understood my love for running, to be honest. We fell in love in college, and quickly fell into a full blown passionate love affair. Running is my life's passion. It's my therapy. It's always been an uncomplicated, love-filled relationship that brings light into my life.

In 2006, I ran my first half marathon. It was painful, but I kept going. I ran another half in 2007 and a third in 2008. Then, I stopped. I kept running on my own but I let my passion for running fizzle. I stopped because I wanted to have children. Then, I couldn't have children. Things got complicated.

I even let a physician with at least 4 advanced degrees hanging on his floral wallpaper covered office wall convince me that running was preventing me from getting pregnant. He gasped audibly and removed his glasses in a soap opera-like shock when I told him how many miles I ran a week (25+) and he told me I needed to either scale back or stop entirely. Anything over ten miles, he explained, had the potential to cause problems with my body. He even went so far as to say that running was "too jarring for the reproductive system." I pictured my insides being shaken up like a martini. It made sense. Apparently.

Back then, I clung to every word out of my doctor's mouth. Stop running. No alcohol. Don't take echinacea. Don't ride a bicycle. No coffee. Buy a three-year supply of prenatal vitamins. I did it all, because I always did as I was told. If I wanted to have a child, it was necessary to make these sacrifices.

It felt like my world was being turned upside down. I was fixated on something I couldn't touch, because of a laundry list of what I could not do. It got old very quickly. Particularly when it made no difference whatsoever.

Nearly three years later, I realize that I'm not willing to give up something I love for something that probably won't happen. It was snuffing out a light inside of me that was just begging to shine. I needed to start running again. I had been denying that part of myself for so long that I had forgotten it ever existed.

I signed up for a half marathon last week, in the spring of 2012. And in the fall I'm going to run my first full marathon. It was the culmination of so many things: getting back to my life's passion was like taking a mask from my eyes. I could see again, and it has renewed me in a way that is difficult to describe.

I gave up my passion without realizing it; it was only until I brought it back into my life that I realized it had been missing all these years. I don't remember letting it go, really. But it was gone. And it was slowly taking pieces of me with it.

I took my very last prenatal vitamin last week. I danced around the house with the enormous empty bottle, dogs and husband wondering if I had actually gone crazy. I have taken those stupid vitamins for three years, a daily reminder of what I do not have--and it was slowly snuffing out my joy.

Here's the thing: giving up something you love for something you desperately want is worth the sacrifice. However, letting it leave you entirely is not. I think sacrifice is often a means to an end; but it doesn't have to end something that makes you feel alive. I gave up my love for a purpose back then, but I realize today that my life has a new purpose---and I don't have to sacrifice a part of myself any more.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Life Lessons

My BFF Oprah likes to say that your life is always speaking to you. Perhaps it's a whisper or maybe it's a brick wall that crumbles around you. It usually starts out as a whisper, then progresses to wall-like magnitude if you don't get the hint. Regardless, you need to get the hint--or you will be faced with disaster.

I think about this a lot: what is my life saying to me? Am I listening, or just simply going through the motions so that I can reach my destination? I was reminded of what my life has told me for years now as the football season drew to a close. My better half, the football coach, just wrapped up his first season as head coach.

We did not win a single game. Last year, we did not win a single game either.

It's not easy to face such a dire situation, you see. Sure, the game is not about winning--no, it's about much more than that. But, wouldn't it be nice to just win a few here and there?

Perhaps. But on one especially cold and dire evening, I reminded my husband of something he already knew: he and his team were smack dab in the middle of an important life lesson. Sure, those boys probably have no idea and maybe the adults don't either, but they were learning something incredibly important: things don't always turn out the way you imagined. And really, that's OK.

I know this because it took understanding that we are not in control of our destiny to get it. Who is more prepared to explain what it means to not have something you desperately want than my husband? Maybe it's not fair, or there could be some other way to "get it" but I don't believe that's for us to decide.

It's like watching the seasons change again; I tried to hang on to summer for as long as I could. Really, I did. But, it's not within my control. Time will pass, the years will drag on and I'm a fool to resist it. I think the changing seasons remind me that despite the flip of my calendar, it feels like we are still waiting to adopt and making little, if any, progress.

Time, as you probably know, has an amazing power to heal us. To separate us by distance and time from the things that have wounded us. It doesn't make them any less painful or less real, it just helps us to understand that the world doesn't stop for us. Or, that we can slowly move on from something that feels like it will never stop haunting us. I think a lot about what I have to learn, or how I could move on and I would say that my greatest healer has been my greatest obstacle: the passing of time. It really does heal you if you give it the chance. I hate waiting, but I know it's part of the experience. It's more rewarding this way. It means more to work for it.

My life has told me for years what I refused to hear: I'm not in control. I cannot control everything, or anything when it comes to the progression of my life. Things don't always fall exactly into place. You cannot take your blessings for granted. But most importantly: your greatest heartache will someday be your sweetest blessing.

"When you can see obstacles for what they are, you never lose faith in the path it takes to get you where you want to go. Who you're meant to be evolves from where you are right now. So learning to appreciate your best lessons, mistakes and setbacks as stepping stones to the future is a clear sign you're moving in the right direction and letting in the light.” –Oprah Winfrey

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Misery Test

Allow me to describe someone that exists somewhere in your life: they are eternally negative, always seeing the downside of everything. They often make passive agressive comments, seem to always have negative thoughts and simply have a downright rotten outlook on life. They are miserable.

You know someone like this, right? Maybe she's the co-worker who gives you nasty looks and gossips behind your back. Perhaps he's the man who screams something rude from his car as you walk through a parking lot. Often, we feel as though these people have the capactity to ruin our day. Or, they cause us to have a negative outlook on ourselves or feel a sense of guilt about our position in life.

But here's the thing we tend to forget: you are only as miserable as you allow yourself to be. Those people, the ones who try to ruin your day? It's not your job to figure out why they are angry or what you did to deserve their wrath. It's your role to understand that they cannot steal your joy.

I heard someone say something recently that was a Oprah-aha-moment-worthy-experience: when someone says something to you, they are simply making an observation. It is you who gives that observation meaning, who strengthens it into a moment that is capable of ruining your day. As we all know, everyone has an opinion. Some, naturally, are just more harsh than others. However, I like to think of those moments as a test.

The Misery Test goes something like this: you are having a perfectly fine day. Someone, perhaps like that person I mentioned earlier, says something incredibly nasty to you. They give you a backhanded compliment like, "You know, you look nice when you actually try." or "You looked better as a blond." You get the point. My real point, however, is this: you are being tested. You can become miserable too, if you so choose. You can re-trace your steps and try to figure out what it was that you did to deserve such harshness or feel obligated to figure out why that person is so angry.

What you will likely discover is this: it's not about you. It's not your job to figure everyone else out. It's your job to live your live with purpose, to find the good in awful situations and to understand that words are only as powerful as you let them become. So often, we blame ourselves for someone else's bad day. We think we ruined them, or their life in some way that only we can obsess over or try to mend with our own words.

I say this: don't let your life be about anyone but you. The things you wear, the voices that plague your outlook on yourself, they really mean nothing. Listen your heart. Allow your voice be the strongest one that ever speaks to you.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I Wish I Had Known...

I was recently asked to be part of a video series in which women record themselves, explaining something they wish they had known about infertility back when their journey began. I seriously considered recording a video, but realized I just couldn't do it. Why play this awful game with myself again?

I already play, actually: I think about all the things I wish I had known before, in the interest of having that knowledge now. It's a tricky wish. Think about it: if you had known then what you know now, would you still be standing here, in this place, today? Does wishing away your former lack of knowledge minimize the strength it took to get to today?

When I play this 'game' I remind myself of something important: sometimes, ignorance leads to your life's greatest lessons. Sure, it's easy to wish we could change something or pine for the chance to have a do-over; one where we say all the right things and have all the answers, thus allowing us to avoid heartbreak. But really, what would that mean for your life?

If you had known how things would turn out, would you change your behavior? Would you risk ruining everything just to avoid one thing? It's hard to know, really. I can't say if it is a risk I'd be willing to take, even knowing what I know today.

I would not wish my experience upon anyone---even myself, if given the option. But that does not negate the fact that it happened and I can't change that by wishing knowledge upon my former self. I lived in ignorance--and bliss--for years before facing my life's most painful truth. It's changed me for the better, and perhaps also for the worse. But I can't pick out the parts of who I am that I want to keep and throw the rest away; my life isn't trail mix. Neither is yours.

Maybe I do wish I had known something all along: that I would be OK. Really and truly, the dust would settle and everything would be alright. I'd live through the experience and the waiting and every shred of major disappointment. I would have the opportunity to crack open every piece of baggage I carry. Hell, I would live through having surgery--twice. And I'd still be standing, stronger and better than ever.

Maybe that's what my wish would be.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Nothing Has Changed

We're still waiting---still no word, no phone call, no movement. With nothing to show for what I have come to know as our mental endurance. Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night in a panic. I sit up, gasping for air, drenched in my own sweat. I'm caught in a nightmare of my own making.

 Has the adoption agency forgotten about us?

What if they lost our application and all this waiting was for nothing?

My heart races, thinking about how I might react to the loss of our place in some imaginary line we've been waiting in for fourteen months. I play out my reaction in my head, wondering if I would cry or get really angry or maybe we'd just give up altogether. Would more waiting--after this waiting--really be worth it?

I strain to understand that this is worth it. The ugly truth? Some days it feels like it isn't.

Maybe we could just live without children instead; wouldn't that be easier?
But this has never been about doing the easy thing.

It's a tricky line to walk: the one between being OK without children and wishing you could have them---we have to have a foot planted securely in both worlds. I have a heart that has hardened itself to the dream of biological children, but still holds a soft place for an adopted one. Or, maybe a biological one if some miraculous-divine-intervention-biblical-event-thing could happen. Maybe. Perhaps. Probably not.

This is what my head looks like, which is probably why I struggle with what to write in this space sometimes. I feel like just posting this every day:

We're still waiting for adoption. We haven't heard anything. Just like yesterday. The End.

It's true, but that really can't be everything, can it? I feel compelled to understand why we are in this place together. What is God trying to tell me--teach me--by allowing me to live in what feels like limbo? I don't think I'm being punished, but I do believe I am being taught an important lesson, one that has the potential to change everything. I think about this constantly: I am trying to decode the secret message buried deeply beneath a pile of garbage and rusty junk.

I have to protect my heart, but I also have to leave it open to possibility. When this thought plagues me, I let my mind drift back to a parking lot.

We sat in a parking lot, together, after being told that IVF was the only way. The day was dreary: cloudy, rainy and overcast. We sat in silence for {what felt like} an eternity. Then, we spoke in unison: This doesn't feel right.

This is what I believe to be the most amazing thing about life: you don't have to justify every decision you make. You have the explicit right to blindly follow your heart without explanation. How many times have you done something just because your heart told you to? Sure, people will question you. Maybe they will think you're missing out on something or that you are setting yourself up for failure. But here's the amazing part: your heart tells you that for a reason. And you don't owe anyone an explanation for that.

I can't tell you why or how we chose adoption instead of a medical procedure. We didn't do any research. We didn't talk to friends who went through the process. We didn't consult another doctor. We didn't do anything to gain any further medical evidence. We just walked away---put that part of our lives back out into the universe and let it drift away.

It was the right choice: both decisions were. I know this because following my heart has never steered me in the wrong direction.

What is your heart telling you to do?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Stopping for Roses

We went television shopping {and buying} yesterday. In essence, it meant dropping a large sum of money and spending four hours in the car. The latter is due to the fact that we overestimated the capacity of my midsize sedan and underestimated the size of a 55-inch television box. The nearest *big box* electronics store is approximately a 50-minute drive from our rural locale---and we made two round trips because the television box didn't fit in my trunk.

Spending all that time in the car was frustrating and meant that we didn't have our typical Sunday filled with around-the-house-accomplishment and cleaning. Well, unless rearranging our living room and installing a television counts toward a sense of accomplishing anything. The house was a wreck anyway, which always drives me into a state of anxiousness; I truly despise clutter with every shred of my being. But like everything else, things found a way to their proper home and all was right again in our little corner of the world.

After an early dinner and a walk with the dogs, I headed into the basement to work out. Fifty minutes later, I returned upstairs to find that my husband had cleaned, cooked, canned tomatoes and gathered roses--from my amazing double knockout rose bush -- and placed them all over the house. They are breathtaking.

I realized something, in that moment: I had forgotten about the roses. I had once fawned over them, admired their resiliency. Then, I forgot about them entirely. As I leaned over to take in their fragrence, and he said:

"They were too beautiful not to notice."

He was right: they were. But somehow along the way, I had stopped noticing. I had forgotten to take stock of my surroundings in my haste to clean up the clutter and make sure everything looked perfect. It was as though I had become some sort of strange walking oximoron. I was literally not stopping to smell my own roses. It was nice to know there is someone in my life who notices when I stop noticing things--and gives me a gentle reminder.

Maybe there are other things I have stopped noticing in my haste to live my life, do my job, and be the best version of myself--I just don't know.

What I do know is this: there's always time for roses.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The End of an Era

We live in a world that tells us that things are important. Technology is always changing---companies re-issue the same products over and over again with a new spin to convince us to shell out $199.99 every six months. We usually fall for it; the trends, the technology and really-- the need to impress our friends. As someone who owns The Oldest Television In History that does not have a screen that is flat in any sense of the word, I can't say I really get it.

Things are just things--you can't take them with you and in the end, they really aren't important. However, like everything else, there is an exception to this rule.

You see, my husband and I have never (and I really do mean never) purchased a television--either of us. Every television we have ever owned was given to us by a sympathetic friend or family member who recently upgraded to a superior model. Ergo, we have always had a terrible television in our home. Actually, I stand corrected: we have three terrible televisions in our home.

The primary television was given to us by a friend and it is incredibly large and in charge {see photo above for proof} and recently, it left this world in the most dramatic fashion possible. I was watching the new FX television series, American Horror Story, and during a particularly tense scene, the television began doing some bizarre things. At first, I admired the great skills of the show's creators for a realistically horror-filled experience. Then, I quickly realized I was witnessing the death of my television.

It began with a strange white blur on the screen, followed by darkness. Then, there was a high pitched chirping-squealing hybrid that made the dogs howl. Soon after, there was a burning smell and smoke. Ol' faithful had left for that big garbage dump in the sky.

{RIP, Big Guy.}

My husband groaned loudly when I recalled the story with large hand and arm motions--we need a new television. After all these years of living with terrible picture quality and friends that would rather never come over to our home to watch the game, it was time to actually buy our first television.

Soon after, we pulled the dead TV out to the garage and he went into the basement to pull one of our "on deck" televisions from the basement. Not long after, he yelled:

"OK, so do you want the TV that is 21 years old or the TV that is 17 years old?"

My response?

"Well, I'd prefer the TV that is still learning to drive properly rather than the one that can legally drink alcohol in all 50 states."

We're going shopping for a new TV this weekend.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

It rains, then it pours

Ever notice how awful things tend to happen at the worst possible time?

Not that it's ever convenient for something terrible to happen, of course.

Last week, I was getting ready to leave for work in my super fabulous black sheath dress, gray patterned blazer, faux snake skin pumps, red lipstick and curled hair. Then, I realized there was approximately 2.5 inches of water in the basement. So, I added some chic snow boots and rubber gloves to said outfit. Then, I freaked out, said some awful cuss words and reached my entire arm (up to the armpit, in case you're wondering) into the hole in the floor of our basement where the sump pump resides. To turn it back on so it could start sucking again. {Pun intended.} After five minutes of using a push broom to direct the water toward its destination I realized there wasn't much else I could do. So, I went to work.

I've heard the saying, "Water knows how to make a decision" before, and it is true. It usually decides to seep through every crack and crevice and soak into every shred of carpet nearby. It's just logical, really. Our 'semi-finished' basement had some random carpet scraps that were destroyed in the process. And the shoddily hung drywall? It's toast.

So, as I stood in the backyard using the weight of my puny body to pull a large roll of musty smelling, water-soaked carpet through the basement window that is like THIS big in the aftermath of our water-filled basement, I realized something: this was not a big deal. Water in the basement, in the grand scheme of all things, is nothing. Of course, it seemed like the biggest deal in the history of Mankind at the time. Because that's how these things work.

When it comes down to it, water always dries eventually. Our basement is actual drier and cleaner than it was before---because we were inspired to clean up the mess left in the wake of the standing water. And perhaps this location in our home had become a catch-all for a large amount of junk. Perhaps.

Maybe we all need a little standing water in our basement to remind us that it could be worse. Or, that sometimes something has to snap us out of it so we can understand that there will always be those moments--the ones where we feel like everything is put together perfectly, only to be derailed by minor disasters.

I believe you should never take yourself seriously, and in that moment where I was looking fabulous and everything was in order, the Universe reminded me of this. I was put together. I was ready to arrive at work early. Instead, I threw on my double-insulated-rubber-bottomed snow boots and rubber gloves so I could wade armpit-deep into a hole in the floor. I cussed. Then, I laughed.

This was no time to take myself seriously. Then again, when is?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What to Reveal, What to Hide

Is there something in your life that you'd rather not tell people about? Something that you are ashamed of, or that makes you feel like you are less than adequate? Maybe, deep in the protected parts of that heart of yours, you think telling people about yourself will cause you pain or ridicule. Or, maybe you just think the world would think less of you if they really knew--deep down--how you felt or what you hid.

I feel the same way. Which, if you have read anything I've written, you probably already realize.

You see, I reveal myself here--in this little corner of this world where it feels safe, warm and still just a bit protected. {I know, the Internet isn't safe, protected or any other word that elicits the same feeling, just stick with me here.}

What I mean to say is that we all have something--maybe it's big, perhaps it's small--that we hesitate to speak about. Or, we try to protect and hide until it is no longer an option. We make little choices to hide or big decisions to reveal each time a social interaction requires this of us. Sometimes, we do it with purpose. Other times, it just simply happens that way.

I live my life in such a way that I assume all the people that surround me know my story. They have heard me tell it or they have heard it through the adult version of The Telephone Game. Or, they have read it here. One way or another, my inability to produce children into this world has been brought to their attention---or so I believe. I operate in this world with the understanding that everyone knows, or has heard, this part of my story.

Recently, a co-worker made a comment in passing that made me realize I might be wrong. He jokingly said he would wait to retire until I was pregnant. In that moment, that split second where I needed to make a choice, I decided to say something.

"Well, I hope you're good at waiting. You got another 40 years or so in you?" I asked.

The subject was quickly and awkwardly changed, but I realized that I was assuming too much--that everyone knew my story--and I was incorrect. I think it's easy to take just about anything for granted, including that people know things we never actually tell them.

Maybe you have something to hide, maybe you don't. Whatever it is, I believe that showing people who you really are is the only way to set yourself free. Those who hate you for it don't belong in your life. Those who admire you for it only stand to show you what you already knew: you are stronger than you think.

As for me, I have decided to never hide this part of myself (trust me, there are others I'd rather not show) but at the same time I do that story injustice by taking it for granted in any way. It all means something, and I believe it's best framed as something that gives me an opportunity to stand up for myself and never waiver from what I believe. I'm not an advocate for adoption as much as I am for myself--and my ability to endure something traumatic and make a solid choice. If that prompts a conversation or even a nod of understanding, then I have achieved my goal.

People should take you at face value--all of you--and love you anyway. They should see through your attempts to hide your faults and tell you that you inspire them. In those moments, I hope you realize that you are strong--and showing people who you really are is the best possible thing you could ever do for yourself.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Spitting, IVF and Adoption

A few days ago, I ran by a woman watering flowers in her front yard. I said hello, then a few steps later I spit on the ground.

"That is so unlady-like!" she yelled.

I stopped. Walked back to her and said, "Are you a runner?"

"Heck NO," she snapped.

"If you were," I explained, "then you would understand why I'm spitting."

I kept running toward home, thinking about what had just happened.

We tend to judge people for the things they do, without ever taking into consideration why it's being done--or what it might be like to be in a similar position. Some things, I believe, can only be understood by being experienced firsthand. I wasn't spitting to be crude, I was spitting because it's a necessary part of being a runner. When you run, you understand.

I kept running--and I kept thinking. How many times have I shook my head and walked away from a conversation or question because I realize that someone couldn't possibly understand what it means to stand in these high heeled shoes of mine?

It happens a lot when I talk about adoption; most people don't understand why we chose it instead of IVF. Why wouldn't we do absolutely everything in our power to have a biological child? Why walk away from that opportunity and choose a different route--one that is more complicated, costly and complex than the other? Why subject myself to a life of questions and explanations about the origin of a child that is not biologically of myself?

Choosing to be an adoptive parent is no different. Choosing to say no to IVF is just the same. When you live it, you understand it. I can attempt to explain what it felt like or why we made that choice, but I wouldn't do the experience justice. Or, I could try to tell you how I knew adoption was the right choice---but it would come back to the answer to every complicated concept in each of our lives: we just knew.

How did you know your significant other was "the one?"

Why do you have faith in God? How can you detect His presence in your life?

Why do you love your significant other?

You know the answers to these questions, of course, but you'd be hard pressed to generate a concise answer. I'm not morally opposed to IVF. I don't believe adoption is a superior choice to fertility treatments. All I know is this: adoption just felt right. I have never, in the last 13 months of waiting for this opportunity, believed anything else to be more true in my life. I have never questioned our choice; never waivered from my pillar of faith in our path.

Maybe you get it, maybe you don't. That part doesn't matter to me particularly; what matters is that at the end of each day, I know we made the right choice. And if I have to spend the rest of my days telling people that if they knew infertility they would understand, then so be it. I'm ready for any challenge.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Storm Warning

Last night, a storm raged outside. While the rain poured from the sky, a storm was brewing within me.

I woke up at 2:34 AM, writhing in that same familar pain. I slept through the storm outside--it was my internal storm that woke me from my sleep.

It was excrutiating, just as it always is. It may be familiar, but it never makes it any easier to endure.

I quietly slipped out of bed, walking on my tip-toes and softly shutting the door behind me. Hoping the dogs and husband didn't hear me.

I flipped on the lights in the kitchen and reached up to the top shelf in a high cabinet for my familar bottle of Advil.

My fingers fumbled for the smooth white bottle.

It wasn't there. Could it be?

Could I have been so foolish as to use the last of my own personal monthly savior without replenishment?

I started to cry. I sat on the kitchen floor, pathetically sobbing.

They heard me. Everyone came running---on four legs and two.

Licked my tears from my face. Picked me up off the hard, wood floor.

And showed me where the Advil was: on the top shelf, in the high cabinet---laying on its side.

It's nice to know that in the midst of pure agony, there are dogs to lick my tears and a husband to gently remind me that I shouldn't give up so easily.

Sometimes, in our desperation to solve our problems, we don't look close enough.

There were six Advil inside that bottle; I took three and went back to bed.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Dropping the Ball

Life is about juggling. Whoever you are, whatever you do---you have to juggle a series of balls in order to exist and function successfully in this world. We all do it, we all know what it's like and we would all agree that it is never an easy task.

However, what happens when you can't juggle anymore? You know, like when someone keeps throwing more balls into the mix and some of them are on fire? Can you still juggle?

I have never been good at juggling, personally. For whatever reason, this time of year is especially hectic. My husband is gone a lot with work and other commitments, our social commitments increase significantly and work becomes incredibly hectic. Most days, I come home feeling completely overwhelmed--and wondering if I am juggling as well as I could. I second guess myself a lot. Am I doing everything I should? Could I be working harder? Am I forgetting anything?

It hit me yesterday that I am forgetting something: I have dropped the friendship ball. I am not talking to, caring about or giving enough attention to the friendships that exist in my life. I didn't consciously drop that ball, but I saw it lying on the floor last night. Waiting for me to notice it.

I could think of plenty of excuses. Multiple reasons for why I can legitimately explain my absence. But I don't think any excuse is good enough--valid enough--to explain why I stopped trying. Something just had to give, and I gave it up without even noticing. For me, noticing that I'm not doing as much as I could is enough to inspire a change. It's not always an easy thing to do, but it is rewarding.

How do you juggle?

Monday, September 12, 2011


{Photo by James Nachtwey for TIME, from here.}

Where was I?

Well, I was sleeping.

And for that, I have always felt guilty.

Very, very guilty.

I have always felt like I should have been paying attention.

I should have been fixated on my dorm room's television.

Instead, I was peacefully sleeping. Unaware of what was happening.

I spent the entire weekend watching every single documentary and special on television I could find.

In my mind, it was the least I could do.

Maybe, just maybe, I could make up for sleeping through such a horrendous tragedy.

Every story of bravery, every tale of selflessness---it all means something to each of us.

It reminds us that we are stronger than we think.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Broken Road

You have no idea how great I feel after getting this off my chest. I wrote it, stewed over it, almost posted it like five times and then realized I was incapable of saying or writing anything else until I hit "Publish Post." I had to let it float out into the universe instead of allowing it to sit on top of my brain any longer. That's just how I operate; once I feel something, I need to get it out. Even when it's ugly.

Since then, I have thought a lot about what I said. Perhaps too much, but I have been thinking. I thought a lot about how I said it and even how it may be perceived. The thing about this blog is that I write it for myself---regardless of whether it will be read by others or not. I don't often think about my readers while I'm writing because it prevents me from telling my real truth. I have to write like no one is reading in order to be my most authentic self.

I had a front row seat for a beautiful, amazing wedding this past weekend (my brother in-law married his college sweetheart on Sunday). I realized something very important as I stood on the alter in that church, witnessing the union of two people who love each other dearly. As a young husband and wife duo played the guitar and sang Rascal Flatt's "Bless the Broken Road," I cried. I stared down at my own wedding band as I clutched my bouquet a little tighter, remembering the day I married my husband and thinking about broken roads--and what it means to know that journey.

The song, as you likely know, is about appreciating the fact that finding love isn't always easy and things can get tough as we make our way through life. But in the end, we have a new appreciation for finding the right person because we have gone through the toughest part of our lives to get to our ultimate destination. I think, though, it's sort of lonely to think that we have to travel a broken road alone to find someone to love us in the way we need to be loved. Does every broken road have to be traveled alone?

I like to think of  my own "Broken Road" as a journey I've been fortunate enough to never need to travel alone. Through every step of it, I have always had someone by my side. It can often feel like we're alone, but that really has never been part of my story.

So when I think about that song, I remember why I was crying. I think God blesses every road we travel---no matter the journey--because we are actually being led to another road. For me, I can't say that I would call the journey to finding my husband a difficult one; that's not exactly what I remember. The journey we have taken together since then has been a tough road to travel some days, however.

On the days where I have clarity and I think about all the reasons why God would choose us to never have biological children, I think about that road again. Maybe He makes some roads easier to travel, so that we have enough strength, appreciation and determination to travel the rough pathways together. Some things just come naturally to us, while others require us to fight like hell. I believe that's just how life works.

When I talk about how I feel in those honest and less than happy terms, I believe it's just part of the broken road. It's part of how I learn to function in this world as a person who sometimes feels like I am broken myself. If you met me or spoke to me out there---in the real world---I doubt you'd catch a glimpse of my pain. I wouldn't let you, to be honest. But the only way I'm able to do that is because I have another place where I can be honest, no matter who is watching. And for me, that's here. This is my safe place--this is the place where I can say exactly how I feel and I leave feeling a sense of peace and relief. I unload my burdens, show off my ugly side and walk away.

But the thing about a broken road, or at least the point of the song with the same name, is that it doesn't last forever. You walk the broken path because it leads you to something amazing--something you realize later was all part of a bigger plan to bring you to where you belong.

And for that, I realize it's hard to believe that God isn't blessing our broken road, just like he does all the others.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Hierarchy of Dog Personalities

If you are a dog owner, you understand that every dog has its own individual personality. Some dogs, like people, are completely crazy. While others, like people, are sweet and calm by nature. It's actually quite interesting.

Someone once told me that a theory exists that dogs evolve through the world in a quest toward becoming human. In other words, dogs start out as very dog-like, then they die and come back as another dog (stick with me, I know this is odd) they continue on a quest toward becoming more wise and intelligent before they eventually return to Earth as a human. It goes against every religious belief I hold, but I sometimes think it's true.

Here's what I mean: you likely know a dog that is gentle, kind and wise; calm, protective and really sweet. You also probably know dogs that are crazy: out of control, destructive, poorly behaved and just indignant. The latter are the dogs that are still at the bottom of this proposed dog evolution chart.

I think a lot about this theory when observing my own dogs and I sometimes think it could be true.

Our lab mix, Rudi, is the wiser one in this family. Rudi has always been very calm--shy, even--and sweet. She wants nothing more than to lay in the sun, get scratched behind her ears and she is very protective and intelligent. Her main goal in life, however, is to never be alone. Ever. She needs to know where everyone is at all times before she is willing to do her other favorite thing: laying on the floor and napping.

Our beagle mix, Buster, is still working on it. What's it? Most of the time, it's not being completely crazy. He is completely obsessed with food. He wishes nothing more than to sit at the window (he alternates between the window next to the front door and those on the back of our house) and stare. It's like he's just waiting for a reason to go completely nuts. When a leaf moves, he howls like there is a large group of machete-wielding men coming to kill us all. He barks---a lot. So much so, even, that he actually lost his "voice" over the weekend.

You read that right: dogs can lose their voices, too. Buster and Rudi both spent a few days at the kennel this weekend while my husband and I attended my brother in-law's wedding. When I picked the pups up yesterday, the woman who owns the kennel looked at me and said, "Are you sure Buster is a beagle? I don't think beagles act like that." Then, she said he barked so much for so long that his voice was sounding a little hoarse. Huh? It didn't take long for me to realize she was right: and it's pretty funny. Just imagine a dog howling with a raspy voice.

Thankfully, our dogs were just as exhausted as us yesterday and we all took the day to lay around quietly without barking, howling or other assorted craziness.

I considered throwing the dog evolution chart away until I realized that a tired dog doesn't lose their craziness, they just need to recharge their crazy batteries before returning to normal. Whatever normal means.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Sugar Coating

Things have been very murky lately. Do you know the feeling? It's like that glass of water I was telling you about--the one with the dirt that always sit at the bottom, that has come to represent my fragile heart.

I can't say that I can put my finger on it exactly. But, I do know that I feel unnecessarily sorry for myself today. Oh, and yesterday. And the day before that, I think. I hate it when that happens. I hate it when I let the waiting and the influx of emotions choke my breath for so long that I forget all the things I should hope for. It's incredibly difficult sometimes--being positive, feeling uplifted, telling people that this messy life of mine was meant to be. Today, I wish it wasn't. I wish I could just have what I want.

Most days, it's easy to hope. Really, it is. I'm able to find peace in the pieces--and understand that my inability to have children really is alright. Or, that it could be worse--it could always be worse, you know. I tell myself a lot of things, and I tell myself so often that I almost believe it entirely. But, I have my moments. Today is such a moment.

In the midst of my hope, I also find where my deepest anger lives. I'm usually angry because I have to hope---I can't just exist and wallow in my endless supply of bliss. I hate that I have to tell myself it will be OK. I despise the quotes I have to collect to remind myself that this is all "part of the plan" and it was "meant to be" and "we're being tested" and whatever else helps me through the day. It pisses me off. It makes me want to scream.

Do people who get the things they want feel this way, too?

It usually smacks me in the face when I'm out in public. When some terrible mother is violently grabbing her child. Or, telling them to shut the hell up already as she rubs her tattoo-covered neck. I feel jealousy for these people? Really?

It's a slippery slope.

Despite the pain and anger I sometimes feel, I often remind myself of that choice we made over a year ago: adoption. Adoption is my lighthouse, standing tall and steady on the coast. It's the rock I cling to, particularly when I'm feeling incredibly pathetic. While I often feel as though I'm still choking through the salty waves, getting sucked down by the undertow, waiting for my rescue to arrive, I realize that lighthouse is still standing, even on the days when I wish it didn't have to exist in my life. In the darkness and through the light, it's always there. Waiting, just like we are.

As we wait for adoption, people tell me that my husband and I will undoubtedly be chosen quickly. Who wouldn't want us to be parents to their child, they say. I pray each night that they have it right. I hope a complete stranger can see through the pain of their own choice to catch a glimpse of mine. I hate that my hope has to feel like it's so far away sometimes. I despise that I still secretly wish I would become accidentally pregnant. I wish we didn't have to wait for, pay for, and kill ourselves for something that just happens for every single other person. Or so it seems.

But most of all, I realize something important: I need to stop sugar-coating my life. We do this a lot as women: we say things are 'fine' or pretend they are OK in the hopes of pleasing others. It's a toxic habit, and one that always--and I do really mean always--comes back to bite us. The bite is usually a hard one, too. I have spent a lot of time telling myself that everything is fine. So much so, even, that I forget to give myself permission to just genuinely feel exactly how I feel without any guilt involved.

My desire to please, my tendency to sugar-coat and my battle with infertility seemingly creates the perfect storm in me sometimes. I often say that I never want to be "that bitter infertile lady." But, who is she? Who is this terrible waste of a human life that I so desperately wish to avoid? Is she just authentically feeling her feelings, or is she so caught up in her own anger and grief that she's lost a part of herself? Does she too, cry because she's spent years thinking about anything but babies because it's just easier to deal with her life that way?

I don't know the answer to my heart's most sincere questions--because I'm too afraid to really ask. I am entirely too scared to chip away at the sugary exterior to see what's hiding underneath. It sometimes feels like it won't ever go away, or won't ever get better--but I understand that's not for me to decide. In my mind, the sugar is protecting something that is probably terribly rotten and ugly underneath. I'm sugar coating my ugly feelings because I'd rather not feel them--or let anyone know that they exist alongside my deepest hopes.

I could continue to tell the world I'm always hopeful; but I would be lying. I'm usually hopeful, occasionally angry and sometimes distraught. That's the truth--without the sugar. It's the normal, real response of an actual human woman who feels like she cannot do the one thing she was built to do; and it doesn't always have to arrive with a bow on top. I am beginning to understand that expecting every part of my life to arrive neatly packaged is a pipe dream. Sometimes it's messy. Most of the time it isn't pretty. But it's the only life I've got. And that's OK.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Widow of Football

My husband was recently (is February 'recent?') named the head football coach of our local high school's football team. Like most other things in life that relate to an increase in responsibility, this prompts an influx of questions from people. Things like:

"How is football going?"

"How does the team look?"

"Are things getting crazy now that football has started?"

And my favorite question: "Do you enjoy being a football widow?"

Most people don't realize I know nothing about football, so I frequently listen in on my husband's telephone conversations for intelligent-sounding tidbits. I take lots of mental notes. Why, just the other day he said our team's strong offense will have this Friday's opponent running scared defensively. However, our defense is not strong enough to hold off their offense. When I tell people this, they nod knowingly. They think I know what I'm talking about, even.

But more than anything, I think people mostly understand what it means to be married to a man who is also married to football. It's a lot of work. It's a lot of time. It's a huge commitment. It's a major responsibility. But more than anything, it's a lot of things that people don't see---leading up to a few hours each Friday night under those stadium lights that they do. Football season is hectic and it means I spend a lot of time by myself. Well, alone with two dogs. Which technically is not alone. Per say.

Sometimes, it's difficult to hold back my feelings of irritation and frustration. Other times, I just don't get it. While I know I will probably never fully understand the football and the time and the moments where I wish someone would just make me a real dinner that is not comprised mostly of candy corn, I get it.

I get that life is about noticing that when the person you love loves something that much, you can't ignore it. It's about humbling yourself to realize you should support someone's dream no matter where it takes you. And even if you don't get why someone would love that thing so much, (ahem, football) you can understand what it means to have an unwaivering, undying passion for something. It matters that they love it, not what they love.

I'm sure this plays out differently in each of our lives and relationships, but the core of what I mean is all the same. Maybe your spouse has a demanding job that means they travel frequently. Or, they have a hobby that has them fleeing from home early in the morning and coming home late at night. Regardless, it's not about understanding why they love something, it's about respecting the passion they feel. I know I will never understand why he loves football that much, but I know love when I see it. That's what love is all about.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Thoughts on Living & Dying.

When someone dies, it feels like the world gets a little quieter. A lot of times we hear people say that when someone who is older or suffering in some way dies, it is a blessing. Sometimes, death is a shocking event that takes us completely by surprise. Regardless of how it happens or when it occurs, it creates a void in our lives. It creates an empty space in that place in our hearts that was once carved away for someone we loved dearly.

My husband's grandfather, Louie, passed away yesterday at the age of 91. He had fifteen children and was a farmer by trade. When I married my husband, I became the 100th member of the family--it was (and still is) an honor to be part of such an amazing legacy. That's me, on my wedding day, dancing with one of his crutches. Four years later, the family is 122+ strong. It's amazing, really. He began it all by marrying the love of his life all those years ago.

I thought a lot yesterday, and still today, about death--and living. I remind myself that I don't often think of these things until someone dies, and for that I feel ashamed. Why is it that we wait for someone to leave this Earth before we step back and think about how we choose to spend our time here? Why wait until it hits us that our time isn't promised to us that we feel inspired to really start living? The ticking of our own clock gets a little louder, and more profound, in those moments where it occurs to us that we won't be young forever. Or, the chance to really understand the importance of making the best of every precious moment. Death has a way of bringing that all back to us in waves, doesn't it?

I'm not often reminded of my own mortality, but losing someone dear always manages to dredge up those things in my own life. I should take more chances. I should stop dwelling on the negative. I should spend every last moment doing things that make me deliriously happy. I should learn to let things go--the things that really don't matter--to make room for the things that do. I should turn off the radio and just drive in silence instead. I should take shorter showers and go for longer walks.

Though he wasn't my grandfather, it still reminds me of all the things our grandparents represent in our lives. I was fortunate enough to grow up with three of my grandparents and today, I sincerely miss their presence in my life. I think a lot about what it means to live that long---over ninety years--and the strength and wisdom it takes to live such a full life. My mother has always told me that grandparents are an amazing judge of character. If we brought someone to a family function that my grandmother didn't like, she would always say so--and she was always right. The opposite was also true; when she told me my husband was a good man, I knew she was right.

I think a lot too, about what it might have been like to live through the Great Depression. To know what it was like to fight a war. Or, to raise children in an era where people were trustworthy and doors did not need to be locked. I wish I had asked my grandparents more questions. I wish I had listened a little closer when they told me stories or gave me advice. I didn't realize the inheritance I was receiving until it had been all but lost due to dementia or illness.

More than anything, I am completely captivated by true love. Our grandparents lived in an era where divorce wasn't common--but long marriages were. I think a lot about what marriage meant back then, and what it might be like to lose the love of my life. That's what marriage really is all about. Sticking together, through every obstacle life has to offer, for decades. And though death may separate someone from loved ones, it also reunites true love again. And that's a beautiful thing.

Friday, August 19, 2011

What is Perfection?

Are you perfect? Yeah, me too neither.

I think about what being perfect means far too often than I should. I think about it when I'm cleaning my house. I think about it when I'm getting dressed. I think about it when I'm putting on my makeup. What is perfect? Who is perfect? It sometimes feels like this idea is haunting me.

You probably know someone who you perceive to be perfect. As women, we do this to ourselves all the time. We meet someone who seems to have it all: an amazing body, perfect skin, good looks, lots of money, a huge house and a handsome husband. Sometimes, she even has several good looking children. (Which, you know, makes the flawless body thing even more annoying.) How does she do it? We envy her. We even maybe wish we could be more like her. It's like somehow every stroke of good luck on planet earth fell upon this woman and the rest of us feel fat, ugly and inadequate in comparison.

Here's something you need to know: she's not perfect. You aren't either. So, what is she then? Well, she's probably really, really good at hiding her imperfections. Or, she is practically killing herself to hide the cracks in her foundation. Maybe she wouldn't ever admit it, or maybe she's too proud to say so, but she's not perfect. Something in her life is wrong. She, in some way, was dealt a poor hand. No one, truly, can have it all.

But it's easy to forget that, out there in the real world with real pressures and a drive to keep up with those people we think are perfect. Maybe you're the girl who kills herself to hide the cracks. Maybe you're humble enough to admit that despite what others might see, you have split ends and your laundry room has enough clean clothing heaps to secure yourself a spot on Hoarders. (Guilty as charged!) Really and truly, it doesn't matter what it is--it just matters that it is. It matters that you learn to embrace your imperfections, and are willing to understand that everyone else has them too. Even when they aren't obvious to the outside world.

I have wasted a lot of time trying to be perfect. For years, I have struggled with body image. It's my Achilles heel, if I ever had one. I used to think my body was the only thing that stood between me and perfection. When you focus so intently upon something, like your body, it will never be good enough. You really won't be able to actually see it as its viewed through other's eyes. It will always be inadequate.

I understand that I am thin--some might say too thin. I wear a size 0. I dig through clothing racks for an XS. But, some days all I see are my stretch marks (yes, I have them) and love handles (I have those, too). I focus on my own faults because I can't see what everyone else sees---I cannot see the forest for the trees.

I'm not saying this because I want you to feel sorry for me with my poor skinny body and my terrible size 0 clothing. My point is that everyone struggles with their body, even those who don't have a weight problem--and those who should be deliriously happy with their dress size. Happiness and perfection are not found in a clothing size, no matter what anyone tells you.

"Perfectionism is slow death." -Hugh Prather

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Have you ever received a rejection letter? It's pretty much the worst piece of mail ever.

Today, however, I received someone else's rejection letter in the mail and it was a good thing. It was from the County courthouse, informing me that the degenerate who broke into our house two years ago was very recently denied release from the State Penitentiary. He asked, they said no. While I do not like to find happiness in other's misery, it made me smile.

You see, I have very mixed feelings about this particular situation. The man who broke into our house did so, we suspect, after watching us me for weeks on end. Figuring out my schedule. Noticing what I do and when. Then, on a cool Thursday in March, he made his move. He kicked in the back door, threw the remnants of the door's wood frame under my husband's workbench, and entered our house. From there, all I know for sure is this: he entered our bedroom and stole every valuable piece of jewelry I owned. He left the rest so I wouldn't suspect anything.

I didn't realize any of this until after I had been home for about 45 minutes. It shook me to my core. Was he still in there? Did he take anything else? How long has he been watching, waiting for the chance to come into our home and steal from us?

Eventually, he was caught. He and I are roughly the same age; he was a repeat offender on probation who was sentenced to four years in the State Pen. He broke into twelve homes over the course of six months. We would often see him walking up and down the road, collecting cans. Turns out, he was actually casing homes to burglarize. Part of me feels sorry for him; the Sheriff's office said he was a drug addict looking for quick money. The rest of me, however, is angry that he chose us.

It's awful to feel like you are not safe in your own home. To know that someone took what they deemed valuable from you, never really understanding how valuable it really was. Most of all, as I told the Prosecutor, he took things from me I cannot ever replace.

Monetarily speaking, those items were not worth much money; I imagine the jeweler didn't give him much for those pieces. But I wonder if he looked at the old, worn gold locket with the initials "MLS" engraved on the back and wondered who the sweet girl in the black & white photo inside was before it was melted down for scrap. Or, if he knew how many times I had spun the delicate gold ring with the big green stone around my finger on my wedding day. I will never get those things back--that's what hurts the most.

More than anything, I miss my ability to trust. I wish I could get my security back. It's more painful than you can imagine to never, ever feel safe in your own home. I still don't. I always wonder if someone is watching me. In the back of my mind, every time I return home, I hope my posessions are still there.

Seeing that denial letter today brought it all back to me again. It's funny that one piece of paper has that sort of effect on me, but it does. I remembered it all again, standing there in the kitchen, reading and re-reading that magic word: denied.

God bless the justice system.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Nature's Bounty

Remember when I waxed poetic about our super lovely vegetable garden?

As they say, the chickens have come home to roost, dear friends. And if our garden's plants were chickens, we would be eating all eggs, all the time. You know, because we would have more eggs than two people and two dogs could possibly eat on their own. A gal can only eat so many omelettes before she feels like she might vom.

Except, I'm not talking about eggs. I'm talking about tomatoes. And they are ballin' out of control.

Which means my husband has been bringing up my least favorite rural topic: canning. It's a lot of work, y'all. However, the lure of fresh delicious salsa whenever I please is quite strong. And pasta sauce. Also: pizza sauce.

Life is so simple for a girl who never really cooks anything, ever. Unless she's married to a man who cooks everything, all the time. Then, things get complicated. And delicious. It's quite the juxtaposition. So, as he slaved away last night in an attempt to transform our abundance of cucumbers into pickles, I took pictures. Also, I freaked out about the gigantic mess he was making in the kitchen, a place I prefer to be securely fastened in the "clean" category. Also, I don't like pickles, but I can appreciate how wonderful it might be to eat delicious pickles and know I grew them myself. Isn't nature delicious?

Speaking of nature, I'd like to point out another obvious nature-related tidbit. Check out this guy:

He spends his days doing a few things: obsessing over food and obsessing over cows. However, when he's not doing that, he is staring out the back window with a laser-like focus. At nothing. Nothing at all. Even photography was unable to break his focus.

It's actually kind of cute. That is, until he sees the wind blow and starts growling. Then, all bets are off.

Monday, August 15, 2011


Today is my birthday.


That's right, I just typed that out. And, it took like ten minutes (and singing out loud) to make sure it was correct.

In my family, birthdays have always been a big deal. On your special day, you get to pick out your favorite meal for dinner, your cake flavors and you are showered with gifts. It's sorta family tradition.

However, now that I live approximately 1.5 hours away from my family, we had this celebration last week. I chose breakfast-brunch and Kahlua cake. {I can't find my mother's actual recipe online, but believe me when I say it's the best thing ever. But then again, cake soaked in alcohol is bound to be delicious.}

I think the best thing about having a birthday (other than the attention and presents, of course) is the opportunity to reflect on your life. Or, at least the last year of your life.

I can't say that much has changed for me in the last year, but I do feel proud of this journey--our journey--to wherever life takes us. When you are little, birthdays are such a big deal, complete with parties and friends and all those major milestones that affect you in such profound ways. After 21, you and your milestones seem to slow down significantly and a birthday is just another year added to the tally.

If my life's experience over the last few years has taught me anything, it's that time--and life--is incredibly precious. I know I have said it before, but when something major turns your life upside down, it has a way of changing you for the better.

Here's what else I know for sure on this day of my birth:

Every moment matters.
Everything is preparing you for something.
You were a fool to ever play the "I'll be here by this age" game with yourself.
Not everyone can hear listens to the ticking of their biological clock.
When you feel like crying, you should cry.
If you don't cry when you feel like crying, you will cry harder at something insignificant.
The truth can hurt just as often as it can heal.
Invictus is one of the most beautiful poems ever written.

My body will always be this awkward & lanky:

My hair will always have a mind of its own:

And my knees will always be this knobby:

Oh, and clowns will always be creepy. Always.

Friday, August 12, 2011

August 14, 2010

I remember everything there is to remember about this day. I remember how it felt. The day was hot. Heavy. Scary. Exciting. Life-changing. I know what I was wearing. I remember exactly what was said. I know just how I felt, in every part of my being. One year later, it's still all too familiar.

On this day, our application was "officially" accepted by the adoption agency.

I wrote a check, hand visibly shaking, for one hundred dollars. It was an application fee, a moment that meant we were just one step closer to being parents. At the time, it seemed strange that we were paying money to wait. Was I supposed to put "Baby" in the memo line of my check?

But after one year of asking, "When?" and then another year of asking, "Why?" we were ready to move on. We needed to move on. Adoption was moving on.

It would take a while, they told us. About eighteen months of waiting, doing absolutely nothing except waiting, until we could start doing something. The excitement wore off quickly and today, nearly 365 days later, we are still waiting. Some days, waiting is peaceful and familiar. Other days, it breaks my heart.

I walk a thin line between feeling broken and being at peace with our current situation. It can best be described as a glass of water filled with dirt: most days, the gritty dirt particles sit at the bottom of the glass, existing. Resting, even. Other days, someone drops a spoon in the glass without warning and stirs things up again. Disgusting things come floating to the surface that were once resting at the bottom and the water becomes incredibly murky. My brain gets foggy, forgetting all the things I told myself in that moment where the water was clear. My heart rips open in the broken places, bursting through the band-aids and feeble attempts at repairs I've made over the years.

It's hard to know what it means, really. But I do know this: God is preparing me for the last leg of my life's most difficult, trying, painful and rewarding journey. It's foolish to think that it's all rosy from here. It wouldn't be wise to think that adoption is easy or that it won't remind me of all the things that have already caused my heart to break over the last two and one-half years. I think a lot about what adoption really means, other than waiting endlessly, filling out paperwork and plunking down thousands of dollars. Really, it's not about any of that---that's just the background noise. It's about being willing to open our hearts and homes to something bigger than ourselves.

I used to think that God didn't give us what we wanted because we were being punished. For what, I really do not know. That was the frustrating part. But we are good people, I used to beg instead of pray at night. Why do you give children to such awful people? Are they really more deserving than us? This thinking turned me into someone I didn't recognize anymore---because you look at anyone who is a parent and wonder what it is they have that you don't. Or, you listen to them complain and begin to hate them for being honest. It's a slippery slope.

To be honest, I still have a green eyed monster living in my brain. I am constantly walking a tightrope between peace and anger. It's the truth. I understand that it is likely a permanent resident, regardless of where to road to adoption leads us. Some things are just forever. I need to learn to exist with my demons, rather than trying to remove them entirely.

But here's the other truth: I have more faith today than I did two years ago. Growing up, I thought I just needed to pray for something and I would get it--it was that simple. It always worked; I fell ass-backwards into a lot of really wonderful things in my life and I took it all for granted. I don't believe we exist in this world as two people who are unable to have biological children because we're being punished or because we aren't good enough or praying hard enough---it's because we're being taught an important lesson. Life isn't always fair. We don't always get everything we want. And sometimes, we don't realize that we have been praying for the wrong thing all along.

I prayed and prayed and prayed for a child. Just one. That's it. I didn't think I was asking for too much; I just wanted what I wanted--and I did not want to wait for it. I have been waiting for much longer than I ever dreamed, but I now understand that's just part of our story. I may never truly understand, but I do know this: despite month after month of crushing failure and disappointment, I still hope. Adoption is the hope we've been waiting for all this time.

I have no idea what to expect in the coming years. I do not have the slightest clue what the process will be like. I don't know how soon a baby will arrive in our lives. But, I find my peace in knowing our day will come. In the meantime, I'll be here.




Wednesday, August 10, 2011


I have always despised the term "Writer's Block," because I feel it creates this false sense of lacking creativity. I am a writer. With every shred of my being, I love to write. It has always come easily to me, most of the time. But like anything else creative, the inspriration in writing comes and goes, much like the ebb and flow of anything else in our lives. I cannot write on demand. I can't create things that do not exist--they have to come to me.

Typically, they come to me at the strangest times. Like, in the midst of a Jillian Michaels torture session. Or, in the car. Also, on a run. These times, where I never have a piece of paper to write down my thoughts, is where I do my very best work. I think in order to be inspired, to tell the world your side of the story, you have to actually get out there. Whether it's taking a walk or sitting on the front porch, taking it all in never fails to leave me feeling inspired. Or, annoyed. Whatever gives me material, really.

However, it's a delicate balance. My job, at its core, is to write. My passion is also writing. However, I have to separate the two---my job is one thing and my personal passion for writing about whatever I choose is quite another. Sometimes, I do not posess enough creativity to go around. This has been the case lately. I find myself stopping and starting blog posts, or debating whether or not to even hit the "publish post" button.

Monday's post was one of those moments. I spent days (really, I did) thinking about deleting what I wrote. I sometimes feel like I write the same thing over and over again, just wrapped in a different package. I sometimes wonder if people get tired of hearing me complain about my inability to have children or grow tired of hearing me wish I could change something entirely out of my control. Even I get tired of it somedays. But's it's life---my life--and this is just part of my journey.

I can't quite put my finger on what it is, but I haven't felt as inspired as usual lately. Maybe it's the craziness of my personal life (and the start of football season) but when things get hectic, my creativity wanes. Luckily, it isn't gone forever; it's just taking a break.

After all, don't we all deserve a break?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Seeing the forest for the trees

Today marks three months since my surgery. It feels like a distant memory, however. I have healed completely and my scar has slowly begun to fade away with the help of an amazing scar cream. I can do just about anything without restriction and I feel basically back to normal. This is unfortunately the case for everything--including the pain.

I never believed surgery would heal me completely.

It just seemed too lofty a goal, which is exactly what I told the overly-chipper nurses who tried to convince me otherwise as they poked the back of my hand for an IV.

I never thought surgery would allow me to get pregnant.

All I wanted, truly, was to be rid of the pain. (Well, that and the large cyst on my ovary.) Today, months later--I'm still in the same pain. The stabbing pain of a large cyst is gone--it was removed along with four of its friends--but the monthly pain I have felt for well over a decade has actually gotten worse.

The body is a funny thing, you know. I sometimes wonder how it is possible for anyone to get pregnant based upon the overwhelming complexities of our body's inner workings. They call it "The Miracle of Life" for a reason, no?

I remember, quite clearly, that my doctor said surgery could help. Or, it could do nothing. There was just no way to know how cutting large chunks out of my lady parts was going to change anything--or nothing. With all the medical advances that exist in our world today, there are still a lot of mysteries and shrugged shoulders sent my way, unfortunately.

Looking back, I realize I had the right approach. I opted for the full-blown surgery, as truly horrified I was to make that choice. It wasn't as bad as I thought. (Is anything?) Likewise, I also chose to be realistic about what surgery meant, including understanding that it might not change anything. That's the thing about recurring disappointment: it prepares you for further disappointment. Gives you a realistic approach to anything that isn't a sure thing. I don't say this to be somber or negative--I say it because time has proven it to be my truth. A risk is just that--a risk.

You see, when you have been gravely disappointed, you protect your hope--and your heart--quite desperately. You quickly learn what things need to be hoped for, and what things will only ruin your spirit of hope permanently. You let certain hopes go, allowing them to leave you, in the interest of finding something else to hope for instead. Whatever it may be.

As for me, I don't mope. I do not dwell on all the things I don't have in my life. I do not believe the world is a terrible place. Really, I don't. I do not hate people who are very capable of giving birth to as many children as they choose. I do not despise pregnant women. But the truth is my feelings are tied up in a complicated knot that I have absolutely no idea how to untangle. Life is very complicated--and so is my heart.

I have come to understand that I will likely always battle those demons--the ones that make me angry, envious and bitter. That little jab in the stomach I feel when someone talks about babies and pregnancy. I'll spend years pushing them away, wishing I had the ability to turn off my ugly emotions with the flip of a switch. It's always going to be complicated.

I think that's why I have always found peace in the idea that we cannot see the forest for the trees. Sometimes, we are so caught up in the details that we forget there is a much bigger plan---one more beautiful and captivating than we ever imagined--waiting for us around the corner.

You can read more about the surgery experience here.


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