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Monday, December 22, 2008

Figgy Pudding

I really have no idea what figgy pudding is and I've certainly never tasted it before. I just think it's fun to say and didn't know what else to call this Christmas post!

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

Misfit


Do you have moments when you feel like you just don't fit in anywhere? I certainly do, and it seems to get worse the longer I live with infertility. I used to really enjoy social functions of all kinds. Of course I still do enjoy them occasionally, but most times the anticipation is almost more than I can handle. I'm afraid to put myself out there for fear that it will end up being awkward. I feel so much safer at home and usually I'd rather just stay in. It's true that a lot of times I talk myself into going and when it's all over I'm truly glad I went. But the fact is that those times have become few and far between.

The problem is that there is no real place where I feel I belong, socially I mean. I'm too old to be with the college kids - next year will be 10 years since I graduated from college. Although I identify with singles in many ways and value my single friends, I'm sure they don't always want to hang out with this old married couple. The young marrieds with small children have quite a bit on their plates, not to mention those closer to my age who have school-age kids! It seems like I have less and less in common with my peers with each passing year. Of course I have dear friends from all of these walks of life and of all different ages. Some of my dearest friends are closer to my parents' age and have kids who are grown. I think that having many different kinds of friends is great, but still I feel more and more isolated lately - like I'm stuck in a place where I don't belong and can't move forward.

The other day in a moment of frustration I told my husband that I felt like I should be shipped off someplace where broken things go. Immediately I thought of the Island of Misfit Toys from the classic Rudolph cartoon. The funny thing is that I can't tell you the last time I watched that movie. It's been at least a decade but I remembered it pretty clearly: the jack-in-the-box named Charlie, the spotted elephant, and the little doll. Remember all those toys that were rejects? I watched a video clip from the movie on youtube to remind myself of some of the others who lived on the island. I'd forgotten about the train who had square wheels. I hadn't remembered the bird who could swim but couldn't fly or the boat who couldn't stay afloat.

Maybe it sounds silly but I can relate to those misfit toys. I desperately want to be something I am not. I want my body to work the way it should. I am a mother who has no children. I feel like I don't quite fit.

This isn't a pity party. You have to understand something about me. One of my biggest pet peeves in life is when something doesn't work right. I get so frustrated when I can't get something to serve its intended purpose. You can imagine how difficult it is for me to live with a body that doesn't work the way I think it should! It is incredibly annoying to me (not to mention heartbreaking) that I have such a hard time with pregnancy and there is nothing easy I can do to fix that. No, nobody ever promised me that things would be easy to fix or that problems would be easy to solve. I haven't had a life like that anyway, so I would've quickly learned that I'd been misled. Still it feels like it just shouldn't be this hard.

I never want anything I write here to be interpreted as hopeless. Believe it or not, I can see a few positive things about those misfit toys! They were certainly unique, and although they didn't feel like they fit in, they fit in perfectly with each other. There's something to be said for standing apart from the crowd, and it most definitely helps knowing you're not alone. It doesn't always feel good being different, but there may just be someone out there who needs just what you have to offer.

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

Inquiring Minds Want to Know

It's expected that around the holidays you'll see lots of family and friends, probably even those you don't often see during the year. This is one thing I enjoy most about Christmas but certainly it becomes a source of stress for me also. You see, I'm always anticipating awkward situations and the inevitable questions that will be asked about my situation. This post has been inspired by three things: my past experiences on the subject, a recent conversation with a single girlfriend, and this post from Abby at LIFE As I Know It. Abby's brief post today about a comment she's tired of hearing got my wheels turning about those awkward moments we have with family, friends, and complete strangers. I have already written at length about what not to say to someone dealing with infertility, so I'll try to keep this one brief.

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

Tagged

I've gotten pretty far behind on some tags here lately so I'm using today to catch up. I know my blog has been a little sad recently and I figured it might be a good time for a distraction. Today I was tagged by Teresa for 7 random things. I've decided that the world just can't take more random things about me since I just did a similar post a few months ago. Read my 6 random things here, and since I'm short one to make 7, I'll tell you that I love the smell of scotch tape - especially at (but not limited to) Christmastime!

Instead I've decided to respond to a separate tag from Teresa about husbands. Apparently Chuck and I make some people's (katdish) "molars ache." So here's my response to the husband tag:

5 Things Chuck loves:
1. Jesus
2. His wife & family
3. Building things (with wood or Legos)
4. Eating
5. Sleeping

5 Things on Chuck's to-do list:
1. Finish and paint woodworking projects
2. Clean out garage (please!)
3. Make phone calls
4. Write some fancy code at work
5. Relax (probably not on the list, but it should be!)

5 Foods Chuck enjoys:
1. Steak
2. Pork chops
3. Mashed potatoes
4. Grilled fish
5. Breakfast food

5 Things you may not know about Chuck:
1. He's an excellent game player. He beats me at every game we ever play. (Maybe this means I'm a terrible game player!)
2. He's the greatest uncle in the world (just ask our nephews).
3. He's very witty, but very shy.
4. He has a degree in electrical engineering.
5. He works as a software engineer at NASA.

5 Quirky things about *Chuck:
1. He bites his fingernails.
2. He falls asleep VERY quickly.
3. He ate his first grilled cheese sandwich just a few years ago (in his 30s! He is not a picky eater but how is it possible he'd never had a grilled cheese sandwich before?)!
4. His known aliases are "Chuck" and "Hucklebuck."
5. He laughs every time he hears the last name McCracken. (If this is your last name, I apologize!)

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.


Also, thanks to Teresa and Nity for these lovely blog awards! You guys are great, and I LOVE your blogs too.




Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Little Things

Yesterday we finally got our kitchen remodel started. I know, it's pretty crazy to be doing this right before Christmas. We've been waiting for so long to get it started so we figured now is as good a time as any. I'll be posting some before and after pics once we finally get it all completed, most likely after the new year. Needless to say it's pretty crazy around here. I've never seen my house decorated for Christmas and yet so messy and cluttered at the same time! Oh, I can't wait to have it all done.

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

Loss

Before we left for Thanksgiving I asked for prayer for my husband's grandmother, who wasn't doing well. She passed away the day after Thanksgiving and it ended up being a sad weekend for the family. It was good to be together but of course terribly sad to say goodbye to Grandma. We had her funeral that Sunday, November 30, which would have been her 87th birthday. I'm planning on writing a post all about her soon and I have an awesome photo that I can't wait to share with you, but today's post is just about loss in general.

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

Snow in Texas - And a Little Reminder


So I was pretty skeptical when they said we might get some snow today. It has only snowed at our house here (south of Houston, Texas) one time in the 7 years that we've lived here. That time it was on Christmas Day a couple of years ago and we were so disappointed that we'd missed it! Well today it started sleeting around 6 pm and then we saw some snow flurries. It began to snow and it came down for several hours. I'm writing this after 11 pm and it's still snowing out. I can't believe it! Our yard looks so pretty. Those of you who live in colder climates will most likely laugh but it is such a rare treat for us to see this.

Actually, I had a pretty bad day today. I was letting some things bother me and I was feeling pretty down about infertility and thinking of how much I hate this whole thing. I was grumpy with my husband and I was just so miserable.

Then, it snowed. In Texas. And I forgot about all of that for a few hours and it was like a gift from God. We giggled and played and took pictures all evening long. It's a funny thing: we have these big wooden letters in our front yard that spell JOY. My husband's grandparents made them for us a few years ago and we love to put them out at Christmas, with the nativity scene in the middle of the "O". I have this big reminder on my front lawn, and I felt like God was pointing me to it today. He used snow to draw me outside and give me a simple little message that was just what I needed today. Joy. Even when I'm not happy, I can still find joy in Him.


*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

Lagniappe

If you're from Louisiana or other parts of the southern United States, you most likely know what the word lagniappe (pronounced lan-yap) means. Essentially, we use it to mean a little something extra, or an unexpected gift. It's the best way to describe my time at home last week. After Thanksgiving I spent the whole week in SW Louisiana at my mom's house. The week was full of "little extras."

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.


It was great to be away but it's great to come back to my husband and my home (AND my computer! I missed all of you!). I'm sure my brother is glad to have his bed back too, after bunking on the sofa bed all week.

This has been long and rambling, but I just love Louisiana and I love all the lagniappe that goes along with going "home."