Monday, December 22, 2008
It has taken me a long time to get there this year but I think I'm finally starting to feel the Christmas spirit. I'm getting excited about leaving soon to go see family and friends. I truly do love Christmas: I love decorating, baking, gift-giving, and why we celebrate. This year it has been hard because it's just plain been a hard year. But I feel that old familiar Christmas cheer building up as it gets closer and closer, and I'm thankful for that.
Yesterday we had such a peaceful afternoon at home. We went to church and then came home and decided to have our "Christmas" with each other. Chuck has to work today and tomorrow and then we leave town on Christmas Eve and won't be back until New Year's Day. We figured Sunday would be a good day for us to exchange our gifts before things got crazy.
I struggled this year with what to buy for Chuck. He usually has a long wish list of power tools and other "guy things" I don't know much about. It's hard to surprise him with anything. Eventually I decided to go clothes shopping for him, and that worked out really well this year. He needed some new clothes and I found some great stuff for great prices. He was so happy with everything I'd picked out and I know he doesn't love to shop for clothes, so I did him a favor too. I also bought him a new CD he'd been wanting, as a stocking stuffer.
For a few weeks there has been a kinda big box under the tree with my name on it. I really couldn't guess what was in it. Oh yes, I had ideas about what I HOPED was in it but I was pretty unsure. It turned out to be exactly what I wanted - a new laptop of my very own! Chuck had hit a back-to-school sale all the way back in July and he'd kept the box hidden from me until now. Needless to say I was pretty excited. Since I've started blogging I've had a very strong desire to have my own laptop with only "my stuff" on it. Really the desire has been around for even longer because I'm a scrapbooker. When I'm holed up in my scrapbook room I always think how great it would be great to have a computer in there to do my journaling or to look up the date on a digital picture, or countless other things. Blogging, though, has definitely meant much more time spent on the computer for me. It was truly a sweet gift, and Chuck went above and beyond as he usually does. He had already opened it up and put all of my own personal settings and favorite programs on it. It made me cry when I turned the computer on and he had my big yellow lily photo (the one I use on my Blogger profile) as the wallpaper. It was so special. We took a nice Sunday afternoon nap after opening our gifts, then went to a Christmas party at our pastor's house. It was a good day, and it helped to begin to warm my heart toward the holidays.
Things will be picking up now as we are getting ready for another trip home to Louisiana. (Fortunately I should be able to at least keep up with e-mail this time, and maybe even a few blogs!) Tomorrow night we'll visit some friends here in Texas, then we'll leave Wednesday morning to go to my in-laws'. I believe this year is my 13th Christmas Day spent with hubby's family - a tradition we started when we were still dating. We will visit a few dear friends also before heading down to my mom's house on Saturday. It's always fun to pull into the driveway there and know that our arrival means Christmas has begun! Sunday we are planning to go visit my dad's side of the family and we'll also see Chuck's grandparents in that part of the state. The rest of the trip we will spend at my sister's house before we return home on January 1st. We can't wait to spend quality time with our nephews while they're out of school!
You will all be in my thoughts this Christmas. I'm so thankful for a year that included so many new friends. Chuck and I wish you all a very happy holiday season!
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Surprisingly, I found someone who happens to like spotted elephants and doesn't mind birds that swim instead of fly. You know, maybe there are no "misfits" after all.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Here are a few things I'm hoping not to hear this Christmas:
1. "So, how is all of that going?"
(It's a good thing I'm so savvy at picking up on subtle cues and can figure out that by "all of that" they mean infertility.) Here's where it gets interesting, because to me it depends on who is asking the question. If it is someone I'm very close to, who has been following along with all the ins and outs of this journey and knows what it has been like for us all these years, I'm much more inclined to give an honest update on where we are. If, however, the question comes from a friend I haven't seen or heard from since last Christmas (or five Christmases ago), I'm not usually ready to get into it. Believe me when I tell you that I know how easy it is to lose touch with people during the year. But if you were really concerned, you'd probably call or write when I came to mind rather than waiting to run into me in the grocery store and deciding that's the perfect time to talk about my personal battle with miscarriage. Right there in the produce aisle. I really do appreciate concern in any form, but sometimes it feels more like gathering information to store away in a mental file than genuine compassion.
2. "Have you tried _______?"
Unless the missing words are "Starbucks' new salted caramel hot chocolate" (to which I would reply "Yes, and it's fantastic!") then I'm really not interested in talking about a new treatment plan right at that moment. I'm open to suggestions or information about new studies in the world of infertility/recurrent miscarriage, but right now it's Christmas and let's just talk about regular things, please! Hearing medical advice from someone who may have gone through a vaguely similar situation years ago and now has had several kids isn't my idea of a fun Christmas party. I mean it when I say that I'm really glad things worked out and that they found the right thing that worked for them, but that doesn't mean it will be the right answer for me. Sometimes suggestions from friends who have overcome infertility or from friends who have never experienced it at all make me feel like they think my doctors are just twiddling their thumbs. I can assure you that we are seeking out the best medical care we can find, and even though I know that not much has changed for us in the past several years, we feel like we are doing the best we can.
3. "Are you trying right now?"
Well, we're not trying right at this moment... obviously. Seriously, I can't think of many situations where this question would be appropriate. It is awkward to discuss the personal details of my cycle and sex life with 99% of people. Maybe that's just me! And until you see us walking around with little ones in tow, assume we are "trying."
4. "Your blessing will come soon."
If you read this blog regularly, then you already know my thoughts about "blessings." I don't have any children but I already do have blessings! Unless you've had a direct word from the Lord about my future children (which I'm not doubting can happen) it may not be a good idea to offer empty promises to someone in my situation. Instead of making me feel better, that definitely makes me feel worse.
Now let me reassure you that if you are a bloggy friend of mine and you're reading these words, the chances are pretty slim that any of this applies to you! When you are in a community of people who are all struggling with infertility in some form, there are many times when talking specifics and suggesting treatment plans can be appropriate.
I'm happy to say that with the exception of #4, none of the above have happened to me in quite a while. This post is not an excuse to send out a secret message to any of my friends who might be reading it. It's just one of those days when I needed to vent, so thanks for listening.
Now, who wants a hot chocolate? I do.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Today at lunch time I was sitting here in a rather chilly house (I guess I hadn't really bothered to heat the place up since it's just me here) waiting to hear from Chuck about lunch plans. He works about 10 minutes away from home so we usually eat together. It's actually a tradition we started with our last pregnancy two years ago. He started coming home at lunch to check on me, oh yeah, and bring me food! We've just kept it up even though some days it's not really practical. We like it though. It's nice for us both to have that midday break and do some catching up.
Anyway, today he came home with food - which was a really good thing considering the state of our kitchen! He walked in the door with piping hot chicken pot pies and wrapped me up in his toasty zip-up sweater he'd been wearing. We enjoyed our "picnic" lunch in the living room and chatted about our day so far: he talked about the upcoming Christmas party at work and I talked about all of your blogs I'd been reading this morning. Pretty standard activity around here, but those little things just warmed my heart today and made me realize that it really doesn't take a whole lot to lift a person's spirits.
I know that many of you are going through a hard time right now with the holidays and so many other things. You're all in my thoughts today and I've been spending lots of quiet moments praying for you lately. Feel free to leave any prayer requests here in the comments or email me at any time. I love hearing from you and I'm always here.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Living with recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL) is a strange thing. Much like celebrating Thanksgiving and then losing a loved one (and having their funeral on the day that you've always celebrated as their birthday), it's like living somewhere in between joy and sorrow. There is the initial joy that comes from finding out you're pregnant - yet for someone living with RPL that is perhaps the scariest time of all. Then in my experience, loss is soon to follow. Being stuck on a roller coaster like that for going on 8 years has affected me in so many ways. I hope I'm more sensitive to where others might be hurting. I've realized that support is needed not just immediately after someone experiences loss, but for the extended time of their grief (however long they need that to be).
I've definitely learned that living with regular grief is hard on the body and the mind. I know I'm getting older, and I hate all of the reminders of it. Birthdays are hard, anniversaries are hard, finding more and more gray hair is hard (I'm still pulling them out!) - it's hard feeling like you're watching life pass you by while you wait. There are times when I have hope, but there are days where hope is the last thing I feel. Sometimes it's good to forget about all of it and have temporary distractions (it's probably a good thing that I don't drink). Distractions for me are vacations, weekends away from home, a good movie or book, time out with friends, or anything out of the ordinary (even a surprise snowfall).
Forgetting is good sometimes, but I also think it's important to remember. On her blog Taking the Statistical Bullet, Katie has begun having Memorial Mondays. Each week she posts someone's story of loss, and I think it's wonderful to have a place to honor those lives. Last week while I was out of town Katie featured my story of loss, from an e-mail I sent her when I heard about her new project. You can find it by clicking HERE. It's a brief window into my six miscarriages - just a few short paragraphs that represent several years of pain and disappointment, but it meant a lot to me that others knew about those little lives that I never got to meet. Thanks, Katie. I think this project is so special.
Aside from a few early posts I wrote where I shared my complete story with RPL, I've spoken about my miscarriages only in general terms here on my blog. It's hard to discuss specifics, and I know that many of you can relate because you have been there. I know so many of you have those memories tucked away of the day you found out you were miscarrying. Most of the time for me the bad news came by ultrasound. I always have a hard time with u/s images now, because of my experiences with them. It's where I've found out that the sac is empty, or the baby isn't big enough for 10 weeks, or that there's no longer a heartbeat. I can see why the u/s is so exciting for parents-to-be. What could be better than those early glimpses of their little one? But for me they've always meant bad news, and that's why when I see them I feel so sad and empty inside. Of course I do cherish the very few ultrasound pictures that I have of my babies because they are the only images I will ever have of them on this earth. My fourth pregnancy was the most promising one of all. I remember finally having a hopeful u/s (I think the only good one we've ever had) where we saw growth, little leg buds, and a heartbeat. We were so sure that it was finally happening for us. Just a few days later, much to our surprise and our doctor's, another u/s showed that the heartbeat had stopped. Just like that it was over. Very quickly we went from elation to sadness, from the top of the mountain right back down into the valley. That was 3 1/2 years and two more miscarriages ago and it's still one of the hardest things for me to write about.
Because of RPL, my goal every day is to find joy while living with sorrow, happiness over grief, and hope through despair. I want you to know that writing it all down and reading your stories of dealing with infertility have been instrumental in helping me do that.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
*Update: By the way, God, thanks for sending that snow to my nephews in Louisiana a few hours later. It's the first time they'd ever seen snow before. But you knew that already. They were thrilled!
Monday, December 8, 2008
The first order of business was to get Mom's Christmas tree up. My sister and I bought a little tree on sale last year, knowing that Mom would want something that wouldn't take up much space. Sis and I got the tree up and decorated in no time. It was so much fun looking through all of the homemade ornaments she has kept from when we were little. Mom was feeling uncharacteristically festive after that, so she had Chuck decorate the front porch with lights! We're pretty sure it's the first time she's ever had outside lights. It looked so cute.
I spent a couple of days helping Mom get some things organized. She won't be happy that I'm telling you this, but she has a "junk room." We got it all nice and organized for her a few years ago but there's a part of the room where things tend to pile up. Let's face it, who doesn't have a place (or two) in their house like that? Anyway, I helped her straighten it up and then I worked on some other projects she had, like putting loose photos in albums and getting her Christmas cards addressed. We were feeling so productive!
You may remember that I had planned to go to the movies and get some reading done while I was away. I started reading The Host by Stephenie Meyer, but I limited my reading so it wouldn't interfere with family time. I'm only about 150 pages into the book.
We actually took in two movies last week. I finally saw Twilight! My family was so excited to see it, but we felt like it didn't live up to the books. I didn't feel like it was a total flop but I found some of the dialogue to be cheesy. I've heard that watching it a second time (after the hype has worn off) is much better. Later in the week I went with my mom, sister, and brother to see Australia, which I thought was great. It's a long movie but you really don't notice so much. The plot, history, scenery, and acting were all good. (Hugh Jackman=great!)
If I had to sum up the whole week in a word besides family I'd have to pick food! Oh boy, you just can't beat good ol' Louisiana food. I love Cajun cooking and I love rice and gravy! I think I had rice at least 5 days while I was there. We ate a lot of rice when I was growing up and it's still a favorite of mine. Mom cooked chicken and okra gumbo, which is one of my most favorite things to eat in the world!
Now, usually when I go home for a visit it's on the weekend. I've been hearing my mom and sister talk about the plate lunches at a little diner in Mom's neighboring town for months and months and I couldn't wait to try it for myself. I took advantage of being there during the week and Mom and I picked up lunch from there 3 days in a row! It was unbelievable. My favorite was the round steak, rice and gravy, mashed potatoes, and green beans.
Ok, one more thing about food. (Is anybody else hungry?) Please promise me that if you ever find yourself passing through Louisiana along Interstate 10, that you'll stop and eat at Steamboat Bill's in Lake Charles. I absolutely love to eat there. The best thing on the menu in my opinion is the crawfish etouffee. I rarely order that in any restaurant because it's just never as good as my dad's, but Steamboat Bill's has the right stuff. I love to get a crawfish pistolette as an appetizer (a pistolette is a fried roll - they stuff it with etouffee and it is divine). During this trip I was in the mood for fried shrimp, but I had no regrets because I ordered a cup of crawfish etouffee on the side! My mom and sis seem to think that the shrimp etouffee is even better. I snapped a pic of sis's bowl to show you how scrumptious it looks. Man, is my stomach growling now.
At the end of the week we made a trip over to Mom's hometown to visit my grandmother. My grandma is a pretty unpleasant lady, but her sister is one of the sweetest people on the planet (you can see a pic of her on an older post here). We had a good visit with them, and I kept them talking about what it was like when they were little. I absolutely love hearing old family stories.
Another special thing about the week was celebrating my nephew's 6th birthday. He wanted a Scooby Doo party this year. Isn't it funny that kids still like Scooby Doo? We always have a party for him at Thanksgiving (and this year was no different) but I never get to see him for his actual birthday of December 3rd. We met up with them for dinner at a restaurant after school and it was great to be able to share his big day with him. It's hard to believe that it's been six years ago that I watched him come into the world.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
As much as I will miss reading all of your blogs for the next week and a half, it will be kind of nice to spend some quiet time in the country. I have packed several books that have been on the nightstand waiting to be read. I plan on at least starting Brisingr by Christopher Paolini (book 3 in the Eragon or Inheritance series) and/or The Host by Twilight author Stephenie Meyer. Speaking of Twilight, I'm finally going to see the movie this weekend! I haven't gone yet because my mom, sister, brother and I had agreed to wait and see it together. After hearing a few mixed reviews from friends, I can't wait to go check it out for myself.
I will be eager to catch up with all of you when I get home. Please know you will all be in my prayers next week. I plan on keeping a prayer journal just for you while I'm away. I'm thankful for you guys!
One final note: please pray for my husband's grandmother and the whole family. She is not doing well at all and we fear it may be a very hard time this weekend. Your prayers would mean so much to us!
Monday, November 24, 2008
This has me thinking a lot about something. If there is any topic I have wanted to blog about, that has been rolling around in my head for months and months, it is this one. It is the subject of blessings. What does it mean to be blessed by God? Am I blessed by God? I regularly hear people tell mothers how blessed they are. They walk right up to them and say, "Wow, God has really blessed you," or "You are the most blessed woman." I don't think anyone has ever told me how blessed they think I am! Am I less blessed than a mother? Why do we usually associate blessings with children?
I know I've just thrown a bunch of questions at you! I have been thinking on this and trying to study about it and soak up everything I hear on the topic like a sponge. I've talked it over with friends and family, listened to sermons, read the Bible, prayed about it, and spent hours discussing it with my husband. Today I want to share some things with you that I have learned about blessings. I'm definitely no expert, and I welcome any insights you might have on this as well.
Yesterday at church we had our annual Thanksgiving service and luncheon. During the worship time our music minister called for folks to share how they were thankful. I sat and listened as person after person stood and talked about how God had blessed them with such wonderful parents, families, and children. I have to tell you, it was special and I also thought about how thankful I am for my family. But I couldn't help but feel sad too in a way, for myself and for others in the room who perhaps didn't feel blessed. Maybe there was someone else like me who didn't grow up in a stable home with two godly parents. Maybe someone else had a dad who left them and drank too much. Maybe there was a single or divorced man or woman who felt alone and had a tough year. Maybe there were couples besides us who prayed all year long for a child and were disappointed and heartbroken. While I was sitting there in church I had the overwhelming desire to stand up and speak for those people. My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking but I knew I had to do it. I stood and told everyone there that even if they didn't have loving Christian parents or a spouse or a house full of children, that they were also blessed! I told them I was thankful for God's blessings like our salvation through His son Jesus, and hearts that are obedient to Him. I don't know whether it meant anything to anyone else, but it meant something to me. I didn't get through it without tears, which disappointed me, but I hope the message was clear. Please don't get me wrong, I DO think we must thank God for our parents, spouses, and children and everything in between! I just don't want to lose sight of what our blessings really are.
A few minutes later in that testimony time at church, a young man stood up and said that he was thankful to God for all of the trials in his life. He was thankful for all of the family hardships that he'd been given that have made him the person he is today. This young man is about 20 years old and has known more trials than I could even know. He came from a family of alcoholism, abuse, and neglect and was adopted by a loving couple. They have, I think, 4 biological children and I believe another 8 or 9 adopted and foster children, and this family has been living in tents and mobile homes ever since their home was destroyed by Hurricane Ike two months ago. He didn't say a word about any of that stuff yesterday, only how thankful he was. I was amazed. I'm not normally an "Amen shouter" but I couldn't keep myself from speaking out right then and telling him afterwards how much he had touched my heart.
In the Bible, in Matthew chapter 5, Jesus gives us what we call The Beatitudes. I think it's interesting to note whom He calls blessed:
Blessed are the poor in spirit.
Blessed are those who mourn. (Are you feeling blessed yet? This one stands out to me.)
Blessed are the meek.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
Blessed are the merciful.
Blessed are the pure in heart.
Blessed are the peacemakers.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness.
The Bible shows us that Jesus used external "blessings" like miracles and healing to open the door for what He really came to do. I believe that our real blessings are internal: those that happen in our hearts. God's greatest miracle is that He saves us and changes our hearts and calls us His own. A good definition of blessed is to be fortunate. We are fortunate to have God's hand of protection upon our lives. If you do have a happy marriage, you are fortunate to have that. If you do have children, you should consider them a blessing and a gift. But the absence of those external things does not mean the absence of God's blessing in your life. Those are not the ultimate blessings!
Through all of this study I've learned something very valuable. I don't want to pursue having children more than I pursue righteousness and obedience to my Lord. I want to seek His kingdom first and let Him take care of the rest.
Even when I don't feel blessed, I know that I am. I'm careful about how I use that word now. I don't want anyone to look at anything I have on the outside and see that as a blessing, but I want only to be seen as blessed if people look at me and see my Savior. I want to tell you, single friends and childless friends and my dear friends who are parents, we are all blessed because we are God's children.
When I write that Christmas letter this year and when I celebrate Thanksgiving this week, I'll be thanking God for my blessings. And perhaps for the first time I will truly understand what that means.
Friday, November 21, 2008
My Top Five favorite things about Christmas:
1. The music and movies.
Every year I can't wait to get out my Christmas CDs. A few of my can't-live-without favorites are Elvis Presley (of course), Harry Connick, Jr., and Aaron Neville. Some new favorites include Bebo Norman, Third Day, and Josh Groban. I love Christmas carols, and hearing my old favorites gets me so excited for the season.
You might think my favorite Christmas movies are It's a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street. Nah. My pick, hands down, is The Muppet Christmas Carol. I love that movie! It's funny, sweet, and sentimental, and it stars such great actors as Michael Caine and Kermit the Frog. How can you go wrong? I also enjoy watching Little Women (the one from 1994) and Home Alone 1 & 2 this time of year.
2. The decorations.
Is there anyone who doesn't love Christmas decorations? I love the lights, the ornaments, the nativity scenes, the garland, the candles, all of it! Yesterday I attempted to make a garland for the fireplace mantle for the first time. Normally I just throw some plain green garland up there and go with it. I like to decorate but I get intimidated by plain, prominent, flat surfaces. I never know what to put up on the mantle. I have mantle issues. This post at Nesting Place motivated me to try something new. A trip to Michaels and about 3 hours later my husband and I came up with this:
Monday, November 17, 2008
I spent the weekend with my mom, brother, and stepdad. They came for a visit and we had a great time, mostly eating! Mom was catching up on my blog here since she doesn't own a computer, and watching her reaction really had an effect on me. She didn't sob or freak out, but she just sat there with silent tears as she read. She finally put it aside and said she'd finish reading the printed copy later. It made me realize that although I sometimes feel alone in this valley, I'm really not alone. I'm not the only one who feels the pain of my own infertility. Sure, I may feel it the most - physically and emotionally, but I'm beginning to understand that my family grieves with us over this. They're sad and they feel pretty helpless about our situation. That makes me very sad too, but it also makes me thankful. They have stood by us through thick and thin, and they have never stopped hoping or praying for us.
In addition to family, I also have several faithful friends who have chosen to walk this path with us. They haven't given up on us even though it is taking a very long time and there has been little progress or rejoicing. They, like my family, have continued to encourage, pray, and try to understand what we're going through and how they can help. They are truly awesome friends!
Finally, there are those of you who have never even met us before but you choose to make a connection. You read these words and maybe leave a comment or send me an e-mail, or maybe you pray for us. I can't tell you how much it means to my husband and to me. Every day I can't wait to wake up and see what God will do. I love talking to new people all over the country (and world!) and realizing that I'm not alone. You guys inspire me. I hate that so many of you are dealing with infertility and/or miscarriage. But I praise God for bringing us together. I truly feel like I have a support group and some lifelong friends.
Some of you haven't been down this road but you still choose to get involved. For one reason or another your heart has been softened to this struggle and you keep coming back to support and encourage. There are many of you, but specifically, thank you Lauren for making a difference in my life this week! The post on your blog really touched my heart.
I know, it's a love-fest! Seriously, thank you. You should know that today I'm thanking God for you. Pat yourself on the back or give yourself a hug from me, and know that you're making a difference!
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Remember that song from the '90s that had the line in it, "You know I'd like to keep my cheeks dry today"? (Bonus points if you can name the song and the artist, no googling allowed!) Sometimes I start the day out with that thought. I'd just like to get through today with my cheeks dry. I don't want to break down and cry when someone asks me how things are going. I want to be honest with people but I don't want to come across like an emotional basket case.
I find that it's hard to answer the question when someone asks if I'm ok. I always feel like if I say yes, then they will think I'm doing fine and have "gotten over" my pain and grief. But I think if the answer is no, they think I'm on the verge of giving up and usually recommend counseling (especially if I cry). I think an easier question to answer might be am I ok today. That I could probably answer pretty honestly. Is it a good day or a bad day? Because really that's what I want people to understand. It has been nearly two years since my last miscarriage, but every day has ups and downs. Some days start out great but then I have a major setback. I'm happy to say that most days lately are good days. Oh, but the bad days are still around.
I'm trying to find a balance here. I can't pretend that recurrent miscarriage/infertility is not a part of my life but I want everyone to know that it's not all I'm about. Most days I'm happy and hurting all at the same time. Like everybody else I have daily joys and struggles. True friends are those who stick around with you through both, and I'm so grateful for those in my life.
I think one of the hardest things is when the lines of communication are broken. Unfortunately I've seen too many friendships dwindle away because we stop talking about things. I even have some friends who have been through infertility, had children, and moved on, never to bring it up with me again or ask how my situation is going. They've had their prayers answered and I don't know if they remember me way back here, still pleading with the Lord to remember me too. I hear them talk about how much God has blessed them and I wonder what that means for me. It's awful to feel the awkwardness creep into a friendship, and eventually watch the friendship all but disappear.
Yesterday I wasn't really ok, but today is better. I don't know how tomorrow will be, but I hope you'll hang in there with me either way. Likewise, I hope that you will count on me to help with your heavy load too.
Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Let me say that I absolutely adore my grandparents-in-law! I have never been particularly close to my own grandparents, although my relationship with my dad's mom has gotten a lot better in the past few years. She is 91 years old now and her last remaining sibling died last month. I've realized with each passing year that my time with her is short. My love for Chuck's grandparents started when we were just dating. They are four very special people and I have loved every moment I've had with all of them for the past 12 years. Each one welcomed me into their family and made me feel loved. I have always felt a special affection for older folks, I think because my great grandmother was so very precious to us. I adore spending an afternoon visiting with an elderly relative, asking them questions and listening to their stories of the past. I never really had a chance to know my grandfathers very well. Both of them died before I graduated from high school. I always told my husband how lucky we were to have all four of his grandparents in our lives for so long.
Things have changed tremendously in just two short years. Grandpa passed away last February after several weeks in the hospital. Grandma has since moved into a nursing home. On my mother-in-law's side, Pop had a severe stroke in March of this year. He survived but he has lost the ability to speak and has paralysis on one side. Granny spends every single day visiting him in the nursing home. It is so hard to see him going through this but he continues to inspire and amaze me even more than he did before the stroke - and that's saying a lot!
After the war, Grandpa worked for 30 years as a Farm Labor Representative for the State of Louisiana. After he retired he worked diligently around his home, maintaining his garden and lawn and cutting his own firewood until he was well into his 80s.
Pop grew up in South Louisiana speaking French as his first language. He worked with his father as a boat builder before becoming a preacher and lifelong missionary. He continued using his amazing carpentry and woodworking skills until the very day of his stroke at the age of 86.
Each of these men served his country with honor and pride. They returned home from overseas to marry their beautiful wives, raise their children, and eventually become wonderful grandfathers. I am so honored to call these two my family, even if by marriage.
Happy Veteran's Day.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Here are the criteria I remember:
1. If a family's house had more than one story, they must be rich. Why I thought the existence of stairs in a house meant tons o' money is beyond me, but somehow it made sense back then.
2. If a family had a built-in swimming pool, they just had to be rich. My sister and I used to beg our mom all summer long to take us to the public pool in a neighboring town. I remember it was usually so crowded that we'd just claim a spot along the wall and hang out there all day. There was very little swimming involved. To me it seemed like having your own pool would be the ultimate in luxury.
3. If one of my peers wore designer clothes, their parents were most certainly rich. I have blogged before about how we didn't have very much when I was growing up. I was very grateful for what we did have but I was just sure I might be cooler or have more friends if I had the right clothes.There was a short list of people I knew who actually had all three! It practically blew my mind. I just knew that they slept on mattresses stuffed with cash and used dollar bills as toilet paper.
Seriously though, I don't want it to sound like my childhood days were spent dreaming about fancy clothes and swimming pools and houses with stairs. They really weren't. But isn't it silly how we think this way? Sometimes I think I still do it in my adult life. I look at families today who have children and I think, wow they sure do have everything. In reality I know that every family has struggles. We don't usually know what secret hurt someone else is dealing with, or what thing they are longing to have. I'm not talking anymore about jealousy or covetousness as much as sheer longing for the desires of your heart.
Lately I'm not happy with my lack of contentment. There are many areas in my life today where I do feel very "rich." I still don't have a multilevel home, a pool, or designer clothes. I no longer care a single bit about those things! I'm rich in other ways that aren't necessarily tangible. Those are the facts, yet I'm still longing. Can longing and contentment go hand in hand? Where do we get contentment? I know the answer but I'm still trying to get a firm grasp on it in my own life. I'm humbled by the Apostle Paul's words about contentment in the midst of circumstances far worse than any I could imagine (Philippians 4:11-13, printed below). I know he achieved that not on his own but because of Christ's strength within him. Despite his situation, I can look at Paul and recognize that he was indeed a very rich man.
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
First you should know that our bodies are on two completely different schedules. I'm a night owl and I always have been. It takes me a very long time to wind down at night. I usually get in bed around 10, then I watch late night TV or read a book until I get sleepy. This takes a few hours. I usually turn my lamp off sometime between midnight and one a.m. (and even later if the book I'm reading is especially good). Fortunately my nightly routine doesn't bother my hubby one bit. As I've gotten older it seems like I've become more and more particular about my surroundings when I sleep. I never used to be this way. When I was growing up I shared a double bed with my big sister and no joke, if we had a friend over we'd fit all 3. I, being the runt, always got the middle. We'd also leave the radio on when we went to bed. Somehow I always managed to sleep. Now, however, I have to have it very quiet. The temperature must be cool but not too cold. It's almost like the stars and planets must be aligned for me to be able to get to sleep.
Over the past few years Chuck has begun snoring. I don't remember exactly when it started but it's gotten increasingly worse over the past year. It doesn't go on all night and it doesn't rattle the windows, but it's definitely enough to be a problem. This morning he was sawing some serious logs around 5:30 and I woke up just wide awake and unable to go back to sleep. He gets up for work around 6, so I stayed in bed until about 6:30 while he got ready and then I just started my day early. I had a Bible study to go to at 9 and normally wouldn't have gotten up until about 8, so 5:30 was a pretty early start for me! I am by no means a morning person, but it was nice that Chuck and I had breakfast together. I even got some chores knocked out early, as I found myself cleaning out the refrigerator at 7 a.m.!
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
In that video clip, Obama first states that "if" he could talk to Jesus Christ... If? Christians have assurance that we can approach the throne in prayer (Hebrews 4:14-16). We can and do talk to Jesus. There's no "if" about it. Next, he says he would ask Christ whether he is "going up or down." Again, as Christians we know that our souls are bound for Heaven. We have the assurance of our salvation, as promised by Jesus' death and resurrection (John 3:16; 17:3). We don't wander through life not knowing what will become of us. For a man whose campaign speaks of hope, this would seem pretty hopeless.
Obama also says that he doesn't think it is appropriate to assume that his faith is absolute. Again, it is a fundamental Christian belief that Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father (John 14:6). We call ourselves Christian because we are followers of Christ! Of course we are expected to live peacefully with people of other faiths, but to claim that your own religious belief is not absolute is to negate your entire reason for choosing to believe it. Furthermore, Christians should seek to be more like Christ, and as Alan Keyes points out in the clip, Obama's voting record proves that he is headed in a different direction.
Today, Election Day, is a big day here in the United States. Because I am a Christian, I must vote with my mind as well as my heart. I have made an educated and moral decision not to vote for Barack Obama (trust me when I tell you that religion is not the only reason). The purpose of this post is not to debate politics as much as it is to encourage you to defend your faith (1 Peter 3:15)! I can't hear a clip like this of a man presuming to speak on behalf of Christianity while having his facts completely wrong, and not feel the urge to speak up. Obama's lack of knowledge of the fundamentals of the Christian faith leave me feeling very sad and wondering why he would choose to associate himself with it.
If I wake up tomorrow with Obama as my President, I will continue to respect the office and trust for God's will to be accomplished through it. Either way, I am not without hope! I have been greatly encouraged by this video clip of John Piper that I found on his blog, Desiring God. I'd like to leave you with these thoughts:
Monday, November 3, 2008
I'm confused about a few things. Every now and again I get some comments from my mommy friends about how they're jealous that I get to travel. In fact, the most recent one was more like, "Let's not talk about how you went to New York last week." I don't know what to do with that. Here's what I find confusing. My friends know that as much as I love to travel, my heart's desire is motherhood. I have a lot of friends who talk about their kids 99% of the time, yet I never say to them, "Let's not talk about how you get to be a mommy." That would be taboo, right?
Yes, one reason I'm able to travel so much is because I don't yet have children. Chuck and I have made some wonderful memories over the past few years, and we've been amazed at the opportunities we've had to see parts of the country we never thought we'd see. We are so grateful for those times. Traveling doesn't erase the pain of recurrent miscarriage. It does, however, help us make happy memories in the midst of our grief.
This all boils down to a larger issue that bothers me. Let me preface this by saying that I've never been a mom before. I can try to imagine the struggles, the exhaustion, and the constant demands of having children, but really I don't know how that feels. That being said, it bothers me how many people out there talk about their children as if they are a tremendous burden and inconvenience. The notion that a person could sure do a lot of traveling and other fun stuff if they weren't tied down by some kids drives me batty. For one, most (ok, all) of the people I know with children weren't forced to have them. Second, who says that traveling and having kids are mutually exclusive? I'm sure traveling with kids is expensive and somewhat difficult, but lots of people do it.
I guess I'm tired of being looked at by some as the "lucky" girl who gets to have lots of time to herself, sleep in, and go on cool trips... all because she doesn't have kids. I love all of that stuff, but you should know that I use all of it to fill the void in my life that recurrent miscarriage has left.
I'd give it all up for the chance to have children. No regrets.
Friday, October 31, 2008
On the other hand, my husband has some really cute pictures with his siblings in their Halloween costumes! My mother-in-law is very creative. She always comes up with the cutest decorating ideas, so I think that when her kids were little, Halloween and birthday parties were her time to shine.
Hope you enjoy these early '80s Halloween costumes! (Yes, these were posted with permission!)
I think this one is my favorite. That's my hubby in the middle, looking so happy to be a policeman! His sis is a graduate and his brother is a daddy (how cute is that?).
In this one, my sis-in-law is a baby doll, hubby is a football player, and brother-in-law is a Rubik's Cube. :-)
Hubby and his brother are robots here and their big sis is Pippi Longstocking (yes, that's her real hair, supported by clothes hangers)!
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
I think one of the most difficult times of the year for me is New Year's. Too many times I've felt a new surge of hope and optimism that it will be the year that we'll finally have a baby, only to be disappointed. My birthday is also in late January, during a week that is associated with depression. Some say the most depressing day of the year is the 22nd, some say the 24th. My birthday is the 25th. The last two birthdays have been extremely hard for me, partly because of getting older but mostly because they've been spent recovering from surgery and/or miscarriage.
It seems too early to write a post about the holiday season since it's not yet Halloween. After our trip to NY, my Christmas shopping is now in full swing and Chuck and I have already been talking about travel plans for Thanksgiving. It seems it's not too early after all.
I really do love the holidays, but it feels like a ridiculously long time that we've been waiting and hoping to share them with our children. We want to start traditions with them. We want to see their faces light up for all those special occasions. We want our house to be noisy and full and happy. We're just plain tired of waiting.
Every year I hope it's the last one we have to spend feeling empty and sad, grieving over our losses and wishing things were different.
Here's hoping that next year will be different.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Statue of Liberty
Ellis Island Immigration Museum
Serendipity for dessert (frozen hot chocolate... Mmm)
Empire State Building
Museum of Modern Art (fantastic Van Gogh exhibit and lots of other amazing stuff)
Ed Sullivan Theater
Broadway (we saw Hairspray! It was a blast!)
Rockefeller Center (NBC Studios tour - so much fun!)
"Top of the Rock"
Radio City Music Hall
Greenwich Village/Washington Square Arch
Wow! We packed those 3 days with as much as possible. We traveled by subway and taxi but mostly by our aching feet. Thankfully, the weather was absolutely perfect while we were there. There were a few things we wanted to see but didn't get to, like Madam Tussaud's wax museum, the Brooklyn Bridge, the U.N. Building, and Grant's Tomb, but I guess we'll have to go back again someday.
I certainly missed keeping up with all of your blogs while I was gone. I will be very busy with that now that things are unpacked and the laundry is done! I can't wait to hear what you've all been up to.
Finally, here are a few pictures from the trip:
Lovely Lady Liberty
Times Square at night
Monday, October 20, 2008
Up until four years ago I had only been on an airplane twice in my life: once that I couldn't remember (when I was young) and once for my honeymoon. I always wanted to travel but really never thought I would actually be able to do it. There are still many places I want to go! I have been amazed at how many trips we have been able to take recently, especially those that have seemed to come out of nowhere and land right in our laps.
This week my sister-in-law (and dear friend) is going to New York City for a work conference. She invited us to tag along, and for the past few days we have been scrambling to make plans for all the exciting stuff we want to see. We are really looking forward to it! It will be a first for all three of us. We only have until Friday, so we'll be home before we know it but we are so grateful for the opportunity to go. I can't wait to share some pictures with you!
Hope you all have a great week!
Friday, October 17, 2008
Here are the rules:
1) Link to the person that tagged you.
2) Post the rules on your blog.
3) Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself.
4) Tag at least three people at the end of your post and link to their blogs.
5) Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
6) Let the fun begin!
Now the task of coming up with six things you don’t know about me that are random and yet remotely entertaining. This may be harder than I thought.
1. I hate to drive. I know some people who get in the car and just drive to relieve stress. Driving is the last thing in the world I’d do to relieve stress (besides maybe a root canal). I don’t mind driving around town to run errands and things like that. But really if I had a choice I would be chauffeured around everywhere. I’m not a bad driver but I just don’t enjoy it. I think it’s mainly because I grew up in the country and didn’t even get my license until I was 18. I’ve lived near the 4th largest city in the U.S. for 7 years now and have managed to only drive there once. To tell you the truth, once was more than enough!
2. The only real recurring dream I ever have is the one where I’m enrolled in a college class and it’s time for finals and I’m completely unprepared. Either I haven’t been to any of the classes or I haven’t studied for the test. I realize this isn’t the scariest thing in the whole world but to me it’s a nightmare. I wake up in a panic until I realize it’s not real then I am so happy I’m not a student anymore!
3. Speaking of scary things, the most terrifying movie I have ever seen is The Shining. It probably has something to do with the fact that I was way too young to have been watching it but thinking about that movie still gives me the heebie jeebies. It might be the kind of thing where if I watched it again as a grown-up it would seem ridiculous, but I'm just not willing to risk it. Every time I walk down a long hallway in a hotel I picture those creepy little girls or that huge wave of blood coming around the corner. Now I must change the subject or I absolutely will not sleep tonight…
4. I like to have my ears covered when I sleep. I have this phobia about something crawling in there at night, so I sleep on one side and cover the other side with the blanket. I can’t sleep with my whole head covered, so I make a little cocoon for myself that allows my face to stick out. It’s weird, I know. I’ve been doing this ever since I went on this horrible camping trip with my Dad’s family one summer when I was about 12. The mosquitoes were so bad and they buzzed in our ears all night long. We had to sleep completely covered even though it was stifling. Pair that with my bugs-in-ears phobia and it’s the perfect recipe for me being traumatized forever.
5. I’m totally obsessed with dental hygiene. I am very serious about brushing twice a day and flossing once a day. There is no way I’d be able to sleep without having done my nightly routine (wash face, floss teeth, brush teeth). I have spent years trying to convince my family and friends to floss regularly. In fact, I even did a speech about it in college! No joke. Think about it tonight before you hit the sack. As my mom would say, you don’t want to go to bed with a “yuck-mouth.”
6. I love to collect postcards. I have postcards from almost every U.S. state and from about 35 different countries. Sometimes people pick them up on a trip and hand them to me, which is also nice, but I personally prefer that they be written on and mailed with the postmark of the destination. I keep them filed away (alphabetically, of course) in three albums and I love to flip through them. It’s fun to see all the different places and even more fun to read what my friends and family have written on their trips over the years. A few years ago I started mailing them to myself when we travel. I write what we did that day and send it home so I can get the postmark.
Ok, I tried to end on a high note since nearly everything else was about me being afraid. I don’t want you to think I’m only a big scaredy-cat (although it's mostly true).
I’m tagging Beth, Sharon, and Sunny. I also tag Nity and Andrea (not the same Andrea as before) if you gals haven’t done one of these before. If you have I hope you’ll do it again or send me a link to your old one.
Happy weekend everybody!
Today is my husband’s birthday. I’ll call him Chuck here because it’s an inside joke but that is not really his name. I want to tell you a few things about him in honor of his day.
Friends, I married a man who is very silly. He is also smart, talented, kind, and sweet and I love all of that but what I love most is that he is a goofball. He has been making me laugh for 12 years and I’m sure he has many more tricks up his sleeve. He certainly knows when to be serious but most days he makes me feel like a kid again.
Chuck is the kind of guy who leaves crazy things around the house for me to find. And he will wait a year if it takes that long for me to find it. When we visit my sister he adds funny items to her shopping list. When I used to keep those alphabet magnets on our fridge when my nephews were smaller, I always found hilarious messages he’d left for me. Once when I left my scrapbooking supplies out overnight he meticulously picked out the letters to spell “I love you” for me to find the next day.
He’s the kind of guy who draws designs on his bread with the mustard just for fun. He likes to make ninja stars out of dollar bills and spell out his name on a restaurant table with empty peanut shells. He goes around and takes silly pictures with the digital camera so that when I look through them later I can have a laugh.
He is also the kind of guy who makes me a homemade Valentine card every year. I don’t just mean construction paper hearts, but well-thought-out and beautifully made cards that have something to do with an experience we’ve shared or an interest I have. While I’m usually cold he is always warm. On especially cold evenings he will get in on my side of the bed while I’m brushing my teeth so it will be warm when I go to bed. He doesn't mind getting dirty and loves to work with power tools, but doesn’t complain about watching chick flicks with me. I love that he is truly a man of many talents. He keeps me up to date on new technology, is a great cook, and knows how to sew on a button. He has rarely been unable to do something I've asked him to do.
The past several years have brought many trials with them, but he has stood beside me and reassured me of his love, support, and faith during the worst of times. We’ve had plenty of bad days to go along with the good ones but we trust that God knew exactly what He was doing (as He always does) when he put us together.
I love my husband and I don’t know how I would have gotten through this struggle without him. I know that so many of you would say the same about your wonderful spouses. Today I want to celebrate mine!
Happy Birthday, Honey.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Today I'm remembering six little ones that never got to live outside of my body. They were a part of me then and are still a part of me now in some way. I had hopes and dreams for each individual one and my life is not the same without them in it.
My heart goes out to all of you who have suffered the loss of a baby due to miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death. For more information about this awareness/remembrance day, visit the website above.
These are the multicolored teacups I wrote about. They've been in my family for 6 generations. They are pictured here with some of my Easter decorations.
Welcome to Louisiana - come along with me to visit some family cemeteries...
Lovely Louisiana scenery along the way.
An old cemetery that could use some TLC.
Old iron crosses at the cemetery.
This cemetery suffered some damage from hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.
One of my treasures is this photograph of my great grandmother. I had never seen a picture of her as a child until about a year ago. This photo is probably from around 1907.
That's my great grandpa on the right (I think the other guy was his cousin). Isn't this a cute pose? It's his grandmother who owned the tea set. I wish I had a picture of her. Maybe someday I'll find one.
About 4 years ago I started researching my family history. I had always been interested in it but that year I decided to jump in with both feet. I spent countless hours on the phone with my grandmothers and any other relative who would talk to me about it. I filled up legal pads with questions and any information I could gather. I did tons of research online and used a program to organize and keep track of all my findings. It was such an interesting time and I loved that several of my relatives got excited about it along with me. My mom and sister hung on every word when I would call to reveal some connection or new story they hadn't heard. My grandmothers helped me fill in the blanks where some old census record was too hard to read or didn't make sense. Over the next few months we planned several trips to old family cemeteries in Louisiana. My family hit the road with me with notebooks, pencils, and bug spray, and we were often saddened by the overgrown and neglected state of the small country cemeteries.
Of course some of the most wonderful treasures have been old photographs. Few things have made me more excited than those times when an elderly relative has offered to share an old box of photos or an old family album. Thanks to modern technology I've been able to scan and store dozens of priceless photographs that I never knew existed until recently.
I've done some thinking about what started this whole thing for me. In 2004 we were in our third year of this long nightmare with recurrent miscarriage. We'd had 3 losses and had just begun seeing a specialist. Month after month went by with no answers for us. It came to a point where I felt terrified to spend any time thinking about what the future held. How long would this take? How many more devastating losses would we have to endure? Would we ever be able to have children? Genealogy research was like a form of therapy for me. It was a huge project that I could spend hours working on. It quickly became one of my favorite activities and it was the perfect companion for my other favorite hobby of scrapbooking.
I think what happened was this: thinking about the future was too hard. Even dwelling on the present had become too much to bear. Several weeks ago while reading The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, I froze when I came across the perfect description of the feelings I had. While I can't exactly compare my situation to the public shame and humiliation of Hester Prynne, I can definitely relate in some way to her feelings about the present and future:
"She could no longer borrow from the future to help her through the present grief. Tomorrow would bring its own trial with it; so would the next day, and so would the next; each its own trial, and yet the very same that was now so unutterably grievous to be borne. The days of the far-off future would toil onward, still with the same burden for her to take up, and bear along with her, but never to fling down..."
Perhaps that sounds pretty hopeless. But I've felt that way before. As a Christian I'm never completely without hope but I still get overwhelmed about my future. Hester Prynne wore the scarlet letter of her adultery and there are times when I feel that I wear a symbol of my barrenness for everyone to see. It's not a punishment for something I've chosen but I bear the burden of it every day. Even if I do someday have children, it cannot completely erase the pain of loss I have felt from recurrent miscarriage.
I can now fondly remember a time when even though the present was too hard and the future was too scary, I found some comfort in looking back.
*To see photos that go along with this post, click here.