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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

"O ye beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing."

(from It Came Upon A Midnight Clear)

Chuck and I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas! You are all so often in my thoughts and in my daily prayers. I know that the holidays can be particularly hard for those who are waiting for their children, for those who have experienced loss, and for all of those who are childless not by choice. I pray that we will all find peace and joy this Christmas season, even despite our circumstances.

With love and prayers,
Stacey

Monday, December 21, 2009

Maybe Someday

Well, our hopes for a successful first IUI are over. By Friday I was pretty sure that it would turn out to be negative, and Saturday the home pregnancy test I took confirmed my suspicions. I had decided that I would try to test again on Monday to be sure, but by last night I knew that today would be the start of a new cycle. No need to test again. I guess that is something positive about all of this; the turnaround is pretty quick. You can hit "reset" and start all over again in a matter of days. But sure, there's still disappointment.

I told myself that I would not freak out if this didn't work and I've partially kept up my end of the bargain. I did have a good cry late Saturday night, when I was still and quiet enough to let all of the worries and anxiety sink in. Okay, and I had another good cry today when I found out that my holiday plans with my family would be interrupted by this cycle's day 12 ultrasound. But ultimately, I'm okay. We had decided that we were going to commit to this no matter what day or season, so we are sticking to that plan. Fortunately, my family is very flexible and will work with us. I'm just a bit sad that some of our time together will be cut short.

So here we are. We're facing Christmas week with some disappointment but trying to hang on to joy in our hearts for the season. And we know we'll be okay. We've been through much harder things together, so we know that we can pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and try this thing again.

And ultimately, we're still hoping that someday things will start to go our way. Maybe someday.

This song by Rob Thomas has really been speaking to me lately, and I wanted to share the lyrics with you here. (I know, I can hear just about any song right now and think it relates somehow to infertility!)
If I don't write again this week, I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas!

Someday (Rob Thomas)

You can go, you can start all over again
You could try to find a way to make another day go by
You can hide, hold all your feelings inside
You could try to carry on when all you wanna do is cry

And maybe someday we'll figure all this out
Try to put an end to all our doubt
And try to find a way to make things better now that
Maybe someday we'll live our lives out loud
We'll be better off somehow, someday

Now we wait and try to find another mistake
If you throw it all away then maybe you could change your mind
You can run, oh, and when everything is over and done
You could shine a little light on everything around you
Man, it's good to be someone

And maybe someday we'll figure all this out
Try to put an end to all our doubt
And try to find a way to make things better now that
Maybe someday we'll live our lives out loud
We'll be better off somehow, someday


And I don't wanna wait, I just wanna know
I just wanna hear you tell me so
Give it to me straight, tell it to me slow

'Cause maybe someday we'll figure all this out
We'll put an end to all our doubt
Try to find a way to just feel better now that
Maybe someday we'll live our lives out loud
We'll be better off somehow, someday

'Cause sometimes we don't really notice
Just how good it can get
So maybe we should start all over
Start all over again

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Past

Each year when December comes around and it's time to decorate for Christmas, one of my very favorite things is getting out some of the old ornaments that have been around since my childhood. After I got married and had a home of my own, my mom let me have a few special things from Christmases past. They are not valuable in the sense that they cost very much money, but to me they are worth so much. These ornaments were on or under our tree or placed somewhere in the house every Christmas for as long as I can remember. I consider it a joy to give them a place of honor in my home today. They serve as a reminder to me for many things.

Here is the old nativity scene that Mom always placed at the foot of our small tree:


And here is one of our favorite old ornaments that my sis and I always called "the mouse in the chimney":


You see, we didn't have much when I was growing up. The things that are special to me and have a special place in my memory and in my heart are not fancy. Times were very, very hard for a very long time. When my sister and I were little, our mom would put up a small tree. Most of the decorations on it were ones that we had made at school or church, because it's all we could afford and because those meant the most to her anyway.

I don't really remember Christmas of 1978. It was one month shy of my second birthday. It stands out in my mind, however, because of a few old Polaroid photographs and because of the stories that have been told about it. Christmas was certainly unique that year. It was the year my dad won $200 playing pool, and he and my mom decided to spend it all on Christmas! Here's what our biggest childhood Christmas Day looked like:


Wow! It was a really big deal to us. Although I was too young to remember the day, I do remember playing with that basketball goal and that baby carriage for years to come.

We only have pictures from two of those early Christmases because they were the only ones during which we owned a camera. After only a couple of years, the Polaroid stopped working right and my dad tossed it into a field in Kansas during a road trip. I've always wondered if anyone ever found it!

The next couple of photos come from the following Christmas, 1979. It was thirty years ago this year, and one month before my third birthday. This is more like what a typical Christmas would have looked like at our house. There wasn't any bonus from any barroom activity that year, but I'm quite sure my sis and I were just as excited about Christmas Day!


If you look very carefully, you can see the little nativity under the tree. I even think I see the mouse in the chimney toward the top of the tree.


(That's me in yellow and my sis in green.)

Later I know there were many years when we had no tree and knew there would be few or no gifts. Fortunately, Mom knew better than to invent stories about Santa Claus. How would you explain to poor kids that even though they'd been good, Santa wasn't coming? I have always appreciated the fact that our mom made the decision to tell us that Santa was just a story that people tell for fun, but it wasn't real. We didn't burst anyone's bubble with the news, either; we just felt like we were in on a grown-up secret.

Mom knew that one day we wouldn't care that we didn't have mall photos with the man in the red suit and white beard, because she knew she had tucked the true meaning of Christmas away in our hearts. Her gift was that we knew that Christmas was about Jesus: Emmanuel, God with us. She taught two little girls that God loved us whether we were bad or good, and He blessed us with the greatest gift of all even though we were poor. That was something that we could believe in and hold on to.

So, that's what I focus on when I remember Christmas past. Sure, it was hard to see others with their new toys and games and clothes year after year. The true lesson and meaning of things is difficult to recognize when you're a child, but it is one that I hope will stick with me forever.

Sometimes I still need a reminder that Christmas isn't about things. It's about a Savior, it's about love, and it's about family. It's a great lesson for Christmas: past, present, and future.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Surprise or Two

I'm a bit later than I wanted to be on updating you on our appointment last Friday (can't believe a whole week has passed already!), but here goes.

Chuck and I traveled to Houston in the freezing rain for our appointment at 8:45. We had our ultrasound and everything looked really good. We were hoping for ovulation, and we were happy to find out for certain that we had it. We decided, along with our doctor, to go ahead with an IUI to hopefully increase our chances of conception. He did it that day and we're now halfway through the 2 week wait, hoping for a chance at another pregnancy and trusting the Lord either way.

I always get anywhere between a little bit nervous and extremely nervous when going to appointments. As crazy as the day was with a chance of snow in Houston last Friday, the weather actually provided a nice distraction from our worries. There was even a nice hour-long break where we sat in the little cafe on the building's first floor, listening to Christmas music and eating breakfast while watching the snow fall. We actually felt... peaceful.

It was pretty surreal. Snow is certainly rare where we live, but this is the second year in a row that I've felt like it was like a special gift from God just to us! (Here is the post about last year's snow.)

I remembered that my digital camera was in my purse, so we snapped a few photos. Trust me, I'm not always all-smiles at my doctor's appointments, but I was excited to see the snow! Here I am in the parking lot:


Here's one where you can really see it coming down. This is a statue outside of the front of the building where our doctor's office is located. (Notice how one snowflake looks like a heart!)


And here we are back at home in our back yard. Unfortunately, the snow didn't stick like it did last year, but we still enjoyed it so much! We were more than happy to have something else to think about.


Thanks so much to all of you who left comments on the last post and sent e-mails saying you were praying for us! We truly felt it and we are so thankful for each of you. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Change of Pace

As they often do around this time of year, things have really been picking up around here. We returned home late Sunday from our Thanksgiving travels. It seems I have been working virtually non-stop on laundry, with breaks here and there to do some online Christmas shopping! We put our Christmas decorations up last Monday so it would be taken care of when we got home from Thanksgiving. We are so happy we did that.



It was great to walk in and find it already done and looking so festive and welcoming.



This week I also worked on addressing Christmas cards, which Chuck dropped in the mail for me on his lunch break today. We send out an insane amount of Christmas greetings each year. This time it was around 165! How many do you send?

We still have some shopping, wrapping, and outdoor decorating to do, but I'm finally starting to feel at least somewhat prepared for the holidays. There's even a chance of snow in Houston tomorrow!

We'll be leaving town again this weekend to go visit my family. Today my sweet little nephew N turned 7 years old. We are excited to celebrate with him over the weekend. When I spoke to him several days ago, he asked me if our bags were already packed and ready to go! What a sweetie.

This season always brings about a change of pace with all the activities that take place. The title of this post, however, signifies another change as well.

After discussing some of our concerns at the consultation with our doctor in October, we decided to step things up a bit. Although I know it may be hard for many of you to believe, we are now in the middle of our first cycle with the aid of fertility drugs. To clarify, in 8 years of trying to have a baby, my husband and I have conceived 6 times on our own, with each pregnancy ending in miscarriage. We have been under the care of fertility specialists for many years now, but it is only in the last 2 years or so that we have had trouble conceiving. Although we were never opposed to fertility drugs, we never needed to consider them before now. All this time our story has been about loss much more than it has been about trying to conceive. Even now it's hard to think of making something happen to achieve pregnancy when our true concern is what will happen AFTER. At the same time, we know that we will never find out until we take that step.

And so, this cycle marks my first experience with Clomid. I was nervous about taking it the week of Thanksgiving because of our plans to be away from home, but it went okay. I wasn't much more emotional or moody than I normally am. :)

Yesterday the first ultrasound showed 4 follicles, but only one that really looked promising at 18 mm. I have another appointment tomorrow to see how things are progressing and we will go from there. All of this is a huge change of pace for us, and even sharing all of these specifics feels so out of the ordinary for me. It feels like I'm reading an entirely different blog!

We are trying to remain as hopeful as we can. As wonderful as the idea of pregnancy is, remember that it is also a very scary time for us. While we would celebrate any life that we are given for as long or short a period of time, another loss would be devastating. A positive test is just the beginning and not the ultimate goal. Still, I'm asking the Lord to answer our prayers. I'm asking Him to intervene. I'm begging for a miracle and pleading for a fresh start.

Now that I've let the cat out of the bag, I will post some updates on how this cycle is going. It is a HUGE step outside of my comfort zone, though, as this area of my life feels so fragile and so tender still. My natural instinct is to keep it protected. For some reason it has been far easier for me to share the emotional side of my struggle than it is to divulge the physical day-to-day happenings.

You guys mean so much to us and your support is appreciated more than I could ever express. I can't thank you enough for choosing to walk this road with us! We would appreciate any of your prayers and well-wishes as we try to become more aggressive in our pursuit of this dream.

P.S. For any of my real-life friends who might not know what some of this stuff means, please feel free to email me and I'd be glad to fill you in. Love you guys!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Castles in the Air

"In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps." Proverbs 16:9

I'm the kind of person who likes to look before I leap, so to speak. I like to know what I'm getting into. I don't really like doing something if I haven't investigated it first and if I don't have a general idea how it's going to go.

Even in the case of something fairly small, like trying a new restaurant, I feel pretty overwhelmed if I don't know what to do ahead of time. If I know someone else has been to that restaurant before, I usually call them and ask very specific questions about the place. I want to know what the atmosphere is like so I'll be dressed appropriately, what kind of food will be served, and whether I'll have to order up front at the counter or at the table with a menu. For me, one of the most stressful situations in the world is being somewhere and not knowing what to do or what will happen next.

You can imagine how helpless this life with infertility makes me feel. Talk about not knowing what will happen! There are a lot of unexpected twists and turns, and there is an enormous amount of uncertainty. Will I get pregnant this month? Next month? If I do, what will happen next? Another miscarriage? How would I handle another loss? Will we have a baby a year from now? Five years from now? Never? Will we adopt? Unfortunately, I can't call anyone ahead of time and find out exactly what will happen step by step!

One of my biggest challenges is making plans, and letting go of them is even harder. I married my husband at a young age. Sure, we had ideas and plans about the future -- what we thought would happen and what we hoped would happen. I had dreams of building our family while I was young, and having my children in my twenties. I envisioned my children growing up with my sister's children. I imagined family portraits of all of my mom's grandchildren together, separated in age by only a few years. After we bought our first home, I pictured our children growing up under this roof and all the memories we would make here as a young family. But infertility has changed all of that.

Even now as I write those words, I know that in my heart I haven't let go of all of those plans just yet. Some of them have been put on hold for a long time while others have been put to rest. I still dream of watching my children grow up in our home, but I know that I'll never be a twenty-something-year-old mom. And I know that if we do have children someday, my sister's boys will be much older than their cousins.

I certainly realize that these may someday seem like small sacrifices in the grand scheme of things. We would be thrilled to become parents even under different circumstances than the ones we'd imagined. Adapting to changes and making new plans are simply a part of life. Still, it's hard letting go of them, my "castles in the air," even though I know that life rarely turns out exactly how anyone plans.

Several weeks ago I finished reading the classic Louisa May Alcott novel, Little Women. I absolutely loved every second of it. It was my first time reading the book, although the movie has long been one of my favorites. In one of the many memorable scenes early in the book, the March sisters and their dear friend and neighbor Laurie spend an afternoon daydreaming about the future. In the chapter titled "Castles in the Air," the characters (who are teenagers at the time) reveal their loftiest lifelong dreams. Each one has a plan for where they'd like to be in the future. Besides Beth, who is humble and meek and wise beyond her years, everyone dreams of being rich and famous: Laurie a famous musician, Meg the mistress of a luxurious home, Jo a successful writer, and Amy a world-renowned artist.

"'Wouldn't it be fun if all the castles in the air which we make could come true, and we could live in them?' said Jo, after a little pause."

The great thing about being the reader is that we get to see exactly what the future holds in just a few hundred pages. Even in the book, no one's life goes exactly according to his or her plan, although some get closer than others.

I don't think that it's a bad idea to have big dreams, goals, and plans. And I don't think it's bad at all to pursue them and to hope that they'll come true. But I do think it's important to not get carried away with our "castles." Many times I feel totally crushed by the weight of all of the unknowns in my future. I've felt like I'm just spinning my wheels, staying in one place while others move forward. Sometimes it's overwhelming to think that people around me are seeing their plans and dreams fulfilled with each passing year. Sometimes I begin to panic. I get so focused on the big picture that I forget to enjoy what is happening around me today.

When I let myself, I realize that there are little detours along the way that I don't want to miss. Sometimes when we have to wait a very long time or accept a change of plans, we might just get to do things we never thought we'd ever be able to do. And we might find ourselves very thankful for that.

I'm planning to keep my castles in the air. But I reserve the right to rebuild them as I go, because sometimes God may have other plans.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Giveaway Winner!

I am so excited to announce the winner of this great cookbook that I could hardly get to sleep last night! Oh, I wish I had 20 of these to give away to all of you. Thanks to everyone who entered. Your memories of your favorite '80s songs sure did make me smile and brought back lots of memories of my own.

Just before midnight last night, I typed up all of the possible winners' names and cut them into strips.



There were a total of 21, not counting my husband, sister, or myself, and excluding those who said they didn't want to enter because they had already ordered the cookbook.


I placed all of the names in a cute little jar and drew out the name... (drum roll please)



AMY C!

Amy has been a dear blog friend of mine for a little over a year. In her blog, Inside the Parsonage, she writes about life as a mom, pastor's wife, and child of God. Amy is currently expecting her second baby after living through the pain of miscarriage.

I love that in Amy's comment she wrote that she never wins stuff like this! Here is her comment:

Love that you are having a giveaway! Even though I never win, I still like to play. :) I don't want to seem like I am copying your answer, but if Livin' on a Prayer comes on the radio, you will see me rock it out like no other. It may just be my favorite. That, or Whitney Houston singing "I Wanna Dance with Somebody." Totally different types of music, but still awesome. :)

Amy, I'm so happy to send you your prize! I know your sweet little family will enjoy lots of great meals from this cookbook. Congratulations!

Thanks again, everybody, for playing along. It was really fun. Wishing you all a great Thanksgiving filled with wonderful, delicious food!

Friday, November 13, 2009

'80s Rock, Thankfulness, and a Giveaway

It's a strange title, I know, but I promise it's all going to come together by the end of this post. Keep reading!

Earlier this week I was so excited because my favorite band in the whole wide world released a new album. I've been waiting for the November 10th release date for months and months and it was finally here! That evening my dear husband picked up the new CD on his way home and delivered it into my eager hands.

I'm a child of the '80s. I was born in 1977, so most of my school years were spent in that glorious decade of big hair and rock-and-roll. Honestly, I've been a fan of Bon Jovi for almost as long as I can remember. I was about 9 years old when my sister and I bought our first Bon Jovi tape. We listened to it all the time, but it was with their next album, New Jersey (1988), that I became a true fan for life. I played that tape in my sister's Walkman until I knew every single word to every single song. It was four more years until they released another album, so I had plenty of time to memorize every line. One of the things I love most about this band is that they didn't die with the '80s. They released two more albums (not counting the greatest hits one) during my high school years in the early '90s, and the brand new CD is their sixth one in our current decade. I absolutely love these guys and the way that their sound has grown and evolved with the times. The music is different enough from their early days of synthesizer-heavy anthem rock to be current, yet it's still true to their original style.

Can you tell that I'm a fan? I am, people! If you haven't listened to Bon Jovi in a few years or twenty, give them another try. Their lyrics are positive and hopeful and the music still rocks. The new CD is called The Circle. I personally enjoy all of the songs on this particular album that deal with overcoming obstacles, like We Weren't Born to Follow, Thorn in my Side, and Happy Now. Check it out HERE or HERE.


We're changing topics now, but I'll come back to this later, I promise.

Sometime around the third or fourth week of October of every year, my house begins to look like an amazon-dot-com warehouse. It means that my Christmas shopping has begun! My husband and I save money here and there all year long so we can do our end-of-the-year gift giving. I got my first couple of brown boxes in the mail today and they were full of all kinds of surprises for our family and friends.

There was one little thing that I had ordered for myself because I just couldn't wait for Christmas. I don't know how many of you are familiar with The Pioneer Woman, but she has a fabulous blog that is chock full of the most delicious recipes you've ever tasted. I have tried three of the recipes from her blog in the past few months and I haven't been disappointed. In fact, I've been amazed! Here is a photo of my sister cooking the Pioneer Woman's pot roast at my house earlier this year:


The Pioneer Woman just published a beautiful new cookbook, which is the gift I gave to myself. I didn't just order one copy, though. I also bought one for my sis, on the grounds that she may even get it early if she's really, really good. Oh, and I bought a third copy to give as a Christmas gift to some lucky family member or friend.


Oh yes, and I bought a fourth copy... for YOU!

Because it's November and because I am so thankful for each and every one of my special bloggy pals (I really mean that), I'm doing my first-ever giveaway! And let me tell you that you don't want to miss this prize. The cookbook is amazing. I know you will love the beautiful photographs and the step-by-step instructions that this cookbook offers.

Now, I know you may be wondering what this has to do with '80s rock? Well, in order to enter for the random drawing, I want you to leave a comment telling me YOUR favorite song from the 1980s. I won't pick a winner based on your answers -- that's just for fun. The winner's name will be chosen completely at random. Leave one comment from today, November 13th, until midnight on November 17th. I'll announce the winner here on the blog AND in your email if you display an address on your blog profile. If you don't have an address displayed, I will also try to let you know via a comment on your blog. Don't forget to check back to see if you've won the cookbook! You'll be asked to email your name and address to me (staceysthoughts@gmail.com) so I can send it as soon as possible. I want you to have this lovely book in your hands before Thanksgiving arrives!

Just to clarify: I'm not giving away a Bon Jovi CD! I'm giving away a cookbook! :)

Okay, so let's hear your favorite '80s song. I think I might have to go with Bon Jovi's own Livin' on a Prayer. And it cracks me up that now, thanks to Rock Band on the Wii, my sweet little nephews love that song, too. They can sing every word! They know all about Tommy and Gina. :)

Now it's your turn. Ready, set, go!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Endurance

There is no shortage of good analogies for the infertility journey. Infertility can certainly be compared to a roller coaster, with all the ups and downs and twists and turns. I've compared it to running a race, of course much more like a marathon than a sprint for many of us.

The only hang-up I have over the race analogy is the finish line and the idea of winning or losing. The goal of having a baby may not be realized by everyone. That's a hard truth, I know, but it is true. But the infertility race can have other endings, other finish lines. Although it may not result in a pregnancy and the birth of a biological child, the end prize may be parenting by adoption. For others, the finish line may come in the form of acceptance, coming to terms with a child-free future. I guess any way you look at it, there will be an ending to it. This journey I'm on will eventually come to an end one way or another. In my heart I feel that our personal goal is parenthood, whichever way we may arrive there.

This month I've been trying to turn over a new leaf and make better, healthier choices. I'm not technically on a diet; I'm just trying to be more active and be better about what I eat. While working out today, I decided to revise my analogy a little bit. Yes, I'm still "running." I'm still putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward. Sometimes the race is harder than other times. To me, it's more like running on a treadmill.

You see, I've also had times where I felt like I was stuck in one place. When you're on a treadmill the scenery doesn't change. You are at the same time moving and, well, not moving. Your legs are going, your heart is pumping, and you're sweating your butt off, but you can look up at any moment and see that your surroundings are the very same as when you started. Infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss are like that. Day in and day out you are doing the work, but when you look around it seems you haven't gotten very far. You think, "How is it that so much time has gone by and I'm still right here?" As frustrating as that seems, it's not, however, that you haven't made progress! After all, you are hopefully in better shape when you step off of that treadmill than you were when you began.

That's the way I'm choosing to look at it. Instead of running a race or running toward a very specific goal, maybe I'm running for endurance and for strength. Maybe I'm running to encourage someone else that they can do it too. Sure, I know that it's important to run (or walk, in my case!) with your eye on the prize, but I think that we can still run with purpose for the sake of finishing strong and not necessarily "winning." We know when we get on a treadmill that we won't be running across a literal finish line. But we get on anyway because we know that it will have its advantages. We'll burn those calories and we'll be closer to maintaining a healthy body.

If I can finish my infertility journey with a sense of purpose and even with a sense of pride for the accomplishment of feeling stronger, wiser, and more compassionate, then that, too, is progress. That, too, is winning.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Feeling Down

Holidays do funny things to me. Let me tell you, I'm a sucker for seasonal things. Here in Texas we don't exactly have all four seasons outside, but every year I'm determined to celebrate the season inside my home. I just love holidays. Even if no one (besides my husband and myself) ever saw the decorations, I would still decorate!

That's why this post is hard for me to write.

Lately I've noticed that it's getting harder and harder to conjure up those same old feelings of joy for holidays. I think with each passing year, the emptiness in my heart and in my home become harder to ignore.

Certainly there is joy and happiness and love in my heart and in my home. My husband and I are very happy with our marriage and in our little family of two. But there is a huge, unfulfilled desire that neither of us can ignore. We want children. We want to be parents. There is a void there for us both. There is an empty place in both of our hearts and in our home where our children should be. The holidays remind me of this.

Last week was so hard for me. I couldn't keep my eyes dry for very long, and it seemed that I was surrounded by a flood of emotions. The truth is, sometimes I struggle. Sometimes I feel like I don't do anything that makes a difference or amounts to much outside of these four walls. Sure, as a homemaker I have lots of responsibilities at home. I keep the house clean and the laundry done, on top of many other daily tasks. This is probably true for many people out there, but sometimes I don't feel needed. I don't feel necessary.

Oh, I imagine that there are parents who have those feelings, too. And sure, you can call it a pity party if you want. I'm just keeping it real and keeping it honest.

Halloween was just the very beginning of the whole holiday season. I don't recall ever being this affected by it in years past. Although I'm not necessarily a huge fan of Halloween in particular, I felt a huge absence this time. It was pretty quiet here. We spent the weekend with friends who were visiting. Our doorbell was rung only twice by trick-or-treaters that night. My sister sent photos of my adorable nephews dressed up in their costumes (they were a very handsome duo of Luigi and Wolverine). Countless friends posted pictures on Facebook of their cute little marauders. And I felt sad. Even in the days leading up to it, I felt so empty and so burdened by our situation.

Last Friday we went to see my two very favorite Christian artists, Bebo Norman and Jeremy Camp, in concert. It was a fairly small crowd and it was a special treat for me. We had great seats and it was a great show. I was particularly touched by the words to a couple of familiar Jeremy Camp songs that I've heard over and over again:

I still believe in Your faithfulness
I still believe in Your truth
I still believe in Your holy word
Even when I don't see, I still believe

and

I will walk by faith
Even when I cannot see
Because this broken road
Prepares Your will for me

It truly was like a balm for my hurting heart, because I'll admit, right now I don't see. I cannot always see the big picture in this.

I know that the holidays are just getting started. I hope as the weeks pass and as my decorations change from autumn to winter, from Thanksgiving to Christmas, that we might begin to feel the excitement that usually comes with it. I hope that we'll focus on the many good things that have kept us happy and strong for all these years: our family, our friends, each other, and our hope and trust in our Lord.

Even when I don't see, I still believe.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Fall Fun

We've had a full but fun October! I wanted to share some pics from the month with you in a quick post.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that we were going to our college homecoming in Louisiana. We had a blast that weekend, and our team won, which is always a bonus!


Go Tech!


Chuck & me


At the game with my birthday boy

Last weekend was the annual hot air balloon festival at NASA. Although we didn't attend, we can always see the balloons from our house. Chuck got up early that Saturday to go down the road and take a few photos.


A sky full of balloons



Later that day we went to the open house at Johnson Space Center. The coolest part is walking through Mission Control -- this is the first time since 9/11/2001 that they have opened it up to visitors. Here are a few pics inside:





Lastly, in the spirit of Halloween and college football, we carved a pumpkin with our school's logo on it.


I think it turned out so cute!


Happy Halloween from our house to yours!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Obstacles


Obstacle:
One that opposes, stands in the way of, or holds up progress;
A person or thing that opposes or hinders something;
Something immaterial that stands in the way and must be circumvented or surmounted.


What are the things that have kept you from realizing your dreams? Sometimes I think about the people or things or circumstances in my life, past and present, that have either made it harder or impossible to get where I want to be. I don't mean placing blame upon or harboring bitterness toward other people. Although it can be a person, I think most of the time (for me anyway) the obstacle is something that is largely out of our control.

Last weekend when we were at our college homecoming, we were walking through the student center when two older couples came up to us and asked us to take their picture. As it turned out, they were part of the class of '59 and were being honored for the 50th anniversary of their graduation. We stopped for a few minutes to chat with them, with the usual questions like what was your major, where do you live now, and what do you do. When one of the ladies heard that my husband works at NASA, she shared with us that she had always wanted to be an astronaut ever since she was a little girl. It was her dream to be the first woman in space! 50 years ago, however, when she entered college as a young woman with the desire to major in engineering, she faced an obstacle. She was asked, "Do you want to get married someday?" She hesitantly replied that she wasn't quite sure at that point, and was then told that her only options were to study to become a secretary, a teacher, or a nurse. They wouldn't allow a woman to major in engineering.

I wish I could tell you that the story ended with that nice lady overcoming that obstacle and fulfilling her dream. I wish I could say that she had changed the system and accomplished more than she had ever imagined. But we could tell by the disappointment in her voice that it hadn't turned out that way. Don't get me wrong; she didn't seem miserable or look like a woman who had never accomplished a thing. I want to believe that she found happiness and success in her life in other areas. I wish that we had gotten the rest of her story that day. I have thought about her many times since last weekend. I've found myself wondering what other avenues she might have pursued when that door was closed on her dream.

Sometimes having those obstacles and figuring out ways around them can be a good thing in the long run. Growing up poor, for example, was an obstacle in my life. Additionally, I was from a broken home with a father who didn't pay child support. As a child, I couldn't do anything to change that circumstance. As I got older I knew that I would have to work very hard to overcome it. I needed a way out and I pursued it with education. I wanted to go to college, but there would be no college fund or savings account provided for me. I needed scholarships and I needed grants, so I set out to achieve that. Trust me, there were still obstacles. Huge ones, in fact. People and circumstances got in the way. Some of them seemed impossible to get through at the time, but looking back now I appreciate it so much more because of the struggle and in spite of it. I never want to take for granted where I've been.

At this time in my life, my obstacles are infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss. I guess more specifically, the obstacle is my own body. It's terribly frustrating when something gets in the way of your dream. When that something is yourself, it can almost make you crazy. We don't want our big, life-changing decisions made for us! We don't want somebody or something to tell us we can't achieve our dreams. It's infuriating when it is out of our control, when all we want to do is have a baby, but our own bodies keep getting in the way.

Sometimes we can make it around those obstacles, and sometimes I think it's also great when we realize that we can choose another path (in this case, parenting through adoption or living childless and happy).


Right now I'm trying to overcome infertility, knowing that if it works, I'll have to face the possibility of another miscarriage. Those are my obstacles. I've been face-to-face with them before. I'm determined to find a way around, over, or through them.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Appointment Update

Yesterday was our long-awaited appointment with our doctor. I know that many of you remembered and prayed for us, so I want to give a brief update on how it went.

After more than a year-long absence during which we've been trying again for a pregnancy with no progress, we were pretty apprehensive about the appointment. Sometimes I think the anticipation is worse than the real thing. At the same time, we were both very ready to move forward.

Here on the blog I don't normally talk about the specifics, the daily and monthly drudgery of trying to get pregnant while fearing what may happen when I do. I don't write too much about how the bathroom cabinet is stocked with home pregnancy tests, and how each month I hope for and sometimes expect to see those two lines. Month after month I also fear seeing a positive pregnancy test. I'm 0 for 6, which isn't a very good record. Sadly for me, and I know for many of you, positive tests don't always result in a successful pregnancy. In fact, the two lines haven't represented the end of a struggle, but the beginning. Despite my track record, I still test almost every month, hoping to see a positive result. Even though I'm scared of it, I hope each time that it will be the exception and the one that sticks.

This month was no different. Of course, I hoped that I would get a positive test before going to the doctor's appointment. A good friend even sent me an e-mail to say that she was praying for exactly that. She didn't know that the timing would have been just right! I was disappointed, though, when about two hours before our appointment time the dreaded monthly visitor showed up.

It was a dreary and cloudy day yesterday, and by the time we made it downtown to the office, my mood matched the weather. Fortunately we didn't have to wait long before our names were called. We met with our doctor in his office and he dove right in, seeking to identify any changes or problems that he needed to address. We didn't talk about the future or where this is all going, which was actually a relief for me at the time. I'm much more of a day-to-day kind of thinker and problem-solver, and I get overwhelmed with the big picture sometimes. Simply put, he ordered specific tests on both of us based on a couple of concerns that we brought up. After we get those lab results in, we'll go from there. I know that may seem anti-climactic, but for us it feels great to have a next step. Just one. That's all we need for now.

Chuck and I are both pleased with how the appointment went and we're feeling more motivated to jump back into this. We know that we're in good hands with Dr. G and we are so grateful to have the support of our family and friends, including you! We truly felt your love and prayers yesterday, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hubby Love

We are so excited to be attending our college homecoming this weekend in North Louisiana! Saturday is my dear husband's (34th) birthday, so we decided to spend the weekend visiting his parents and enjoying the homecoming festivities. (Our college town is also his hometown.) Although we do occasionally visit the campus when we are in town, we haven't been to a football game in probably 8 years. This year is also the 10th anniversary year of my college graduation, which is another reason we thought it would be fun to go. To top it all off, the weather is supposed to be great! After another week of 90 degree temperatures in Texas, we are thrilled about the "cool front" and the idea of cooler weather for the game.

I've seen this little questionnaire on other blogs before and I thought I'd fill it out in honor of Chuck's birthday.
Here are some Q&As all about my husband:

♥ What are your middle names?
Mine is Rae, after my dad. His is Louis, which was his grandfather's middle name.

♥How long have you been together?
13 years total. Married for 11.

♥ How long did you know each other before you started dating?
About 4 months.

♥ Who asked who out?
He asked me.

♥ Who made the first move?
He did. I consider the "first move" the night he played with my hair while we were watching a movie. :)

♥ How old are each of you?
I'm 32. He is 34 today!

♥ Did you go to the same school?
High school, no. College, yes.

♥ Are you from the same home town?
No.

♥ Who is the smartest?
Oh, he is. I truly believe that he can do or figure out just about anything.

♥ Who majored in what?
I majored in Family, Infancy, and Early Childhood Education (with a minor in journalism). He majored in Electrical Engineering.

♥ Who is the most sensitive?
I am, but he can be very sensitive when necessary.

♥ Where do you eat out most as a couple?
Our favorite restaurant is Lupe Tortilla.

♥ Where is the furthest you two have traveled together as a couple?
Prince Edward Island, Canada, for a wonderful vacation in 2006.

♥ Who has the worst temper?
Neither of us has a very short fuse, but I'd have to say mine is probably worse.

♥ How many children do you want?
I think you know the answer to this. We'd love to have ANY.

♥ Who does the cooking?
We both do.

♥ Who is more social?
Definitely me. He's pretty quiet in a group.

♥ Who is the neat-freak?
Oh, I am! Thankfully, he's not very messy.

♥ Who is the most stubborn?
I would probably say he is and he would probably say I am. :)

♥ Who wakes up earlier?
He does!

♥ Where was your first date?
We went to dinner and a movie (Toy Story). It was January, 1996.

♥ Who has the bigger family?
When it comes to extended family, I do. He has a total of only 5 first cousins. I have 13.

♥ Do you get flowers often?
Usually about 3 times a year or more. The "just because" ones are my favorite.

♥ How do you spend the holidays?
We always divide it evenly between families, and we are usually never at home. I have hosted Thanksgiving at our house before, but this year will be my first to host Christmas with his family at our house!

♥ Who is more jealous?
I honestly don't know how to answer this one. I guess I am. I like to tease him about former girlfriends, but it's all in good fun. :)

♥ How long did it take to get serious?
I'd say about 6 months. We had "the talk" after about 3 months, and then we spent the summer vacation from school apart. After that we were much more serious.

♥ Who eats more?
He does, but I'm not ashamed to say that I'm a girl with an appetite.

♥ What do you do for a living?
He is a software engineer at NASA. I'm a homemaker.

♥ Who does the laundry?
I do.

♥ Who’s better with the computer?
He is. Definitely.

♥ Who drives when you are together?
I HATE to drive. He likes to drive. This arrangement works out nicely!

♥ What is "your" song?
Okay, don't laugh. We really don't have a mushy, sentimental love song. But one of the very first times we ever spoke to each other was on a fall retreat with the campus organization where we met. I heard him playing the song "Shine" by Collective Soul on the guitar and struck up a conversation. It was love at first sight. (It wasn't really, but we both still grin when we hear the song!)

Happy, happy birthday to the love of my life. I wouldn't rather experience all these ups and downs with anyone else!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Day of Remembrance


Today, October 15th, is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. While I think it is important to have a day set aside to remember and to spread awareness, I know that we all remember our babies every single day.

Over the last eight years, my heart has been divided into six tiny pieces.

I remember every time I see an ultrasound picture or a pregnant woman. I remember with every Christmas, New Year, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Halloween. I remember every time my nephews start a new year of school. I remember on any given day, when I realize how quiet the house is when I'm alone. And I remember every time my heart is broken when I hear about a friend going through this same pain.

It doesn't take much to remind me of the six babies that I've lost to early miscarriage. But the most solid, tangible reminder is the tree that grows in our backyard. We planted the small Bradford Pear in 2002, a few weeks after our first miscarriage.


The tree serves as a reminder in many ways. It reminds us of that first loss, right after we bought this house with the spacious back yard. Every few months we plant flowers around the base of the tree, in memory of that first baby and each of the ones that followed. We never planted any other trees there. This tree reminds us of each loss.


Each year when the seasons change, the leaves change color and eventually fall.


The tree stands completely bare for a few months, but every spring, without fail, there is new life. There are buds and tiny white flowers and bright green new leaves.

Above all, there is growth. When I look back at pictures, I'm always amazed by how much the tree has grown over the years. We don't always notice it because we see it every day, but little by little it has grown taller and stronger. We, too, have grown stronger little by little.

Last month, my husband spent an afternoon working on the flower bed. He removed the old bricks, measured and cut some wooden beams, and expanded the area, adding new soil and flowers. He had been sick all week and he came back inside exhausted and drenched with sweat, but I could tell by the look on his face that it was a labor of love.


Our tree reminds us of so many things: life, death, love, loss, grief, faith, hope, renewal, strength, growth, and God's provision. Each time we look at it, we remember.


Every day, we remember.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

My Unconventional Family

Today is my baby brother's 23rd birthday. Next week, my oldest brother will turn 50.

My family is, shall we say, unconventional. I know that in today's world there are probably lots of other families like mine out there. But the fact is, I really don't personally know many.

My dad married his first wife when he was quite young. They had three children together, two boys and one girl. After they divorced, he married two more times but had no children. (I never met wives #2 or 3.) My mom was his fourth wife, and together they had my sister and me. With his fifth and current wife, my dad has one son.

In addition, my mom also remarried after my parents' divorce. She has one son with my stepdad. That makes me one of seven children between my two parents combined.

Most people who know me find this confusing, and I can see why. I have 4 half-brothers, 1 half-sister, and 1 full sister. When I was growing up, most of my friends were perplexed when I mentioned my other siblings besides the two that lived at my house. My friends never really met the other siblings, and probably only ever saw them in person at my graduation and my wedding. But they were and still are a part of my life.

My dad's 3 oldest children always lived with their mom. They did often come to visit us when my parents were married. We saw our sister most often. She and my mom were very close and she loved playing with my sister, Connie, and me. She was a young teenager when we were toddlers. We don't see each other as often as we'd like, but we keep in touch regularly with phone calls and text messages. She has two grown daughters now who are both married with their own children! Yes, this makes me a great-aunt. I've never been quite as close with my 3 half-brothers on my dad's side as I am with my half-sister.

On my mom's side, though, it was different. My mom and stepdad had my youngest brother when I was almost 10 years old. Connie and I were so excited to have a baby in the house! The three of us grew up together, but my brother was only 8 years old when I left for college. Sometimes I think I've kept him frozen at that age in my mind. It is so hard for me to believe that today he is 23!

This weekend we will go to Louisiana, as we do every October, to celebrate our family birthdays this month. My little brother, my husband, and my sister's husband all have birthdays this month. Included in our party every year is my sister's ex-boyfriend, who is just like part of the family. We have celebrated together this way every year for as long as I can remember. Yes, this is a bit unconventional, too! He celebrates with us each October and will be there this weekend with his girlfriend, who seems to fit right in as well.

We had hoped to see all of our siblings this weekend. There was supposed to be a birthday party for my oldest brother's 50th, but we just found out that he has the flu. It is disappointing because we rarely celebrate holidays or birthdays with that side of the family.

We're very much looking forward to our traditional birthday celebration this weekend! I know it is an unconventional family, but it's the only one I've ever known. Sure, I sometimes wish it could be a little less complicated. But I love my family!

My little brother and me in 2008

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Some Things I Want You To Know

**I've been away from the blog for a few weeks, after two consecutive rounds of company followed by a week of feeling a bit under the weather. Everything is fine, though. Thanks to those of you who checked on us or have been praying! We had great visits from family and a dear friend. And after a trip to the doctor today, I hope to be feeling better soon (I think I have a mild stomach bug).**

As so many of you who live with infertility and/or miscarriage know, sometimes there are very sad days. Of course, that is true about life in general and for people in lots and lots of different situations. I appreciate having this blog to vent some of those feelings that I have during particularly frustrating or sad days. I would even say that sometimes there are simply sad moments that come up during otherwise normal or pleasant days. I use this blog to write about those little moments or big moments, and I know that very often the subject and the tone of the posts you read here are sad.

But one of the things that I want you to know is this: I'm not always sad.

If you don't already know me in real life, I want to tell you that there is a much, much lighter side of me! I do have a lot of joy in my life and I'm grateful for so many blessings. Yes, this has been the hardest experience of my life. It has definitely changed me, in some ways good and in some ways not so good. It truly is a paradox sometimes. For the most part, my experience with recurrent miscarriage has made me far more cautious about opening up to people. It is really hard for me to let others in and share the really hard stuff. At the same time, I wear my heart on my sleeve much more now than I ever used to. Having a blog has helped me work out some of those feelings that are hard to describe when I am faced with questions in person. It's much easier to work it all out from the safety of my living room, moving words and sentences around and putting them in the right order before I officially put them out there.

When I made the decision to start a blog about infertility, I knew that it would most likely only show part of the whole picture, although I do try hard to present (above all) an honest picture of this daily struggle. My hope is that it is a true reflection of the ups and the downs. It sure is nice to have friends who care and understand when I am feeling down, and I'm always overwhelmed and touched by the response. Sometimes I wish that I wrote a blog not about infertility, but about something, anything, happier. But I realize that I probably never would have felt compelled to do this, to reach out like this, without an experience like this one. It's one of those strange "good things" that has come out of it I guess.

And something else I've discovered is this: Sometimes I need a kick in the pants. Okay, I've known this about myself for a while. I know that sometimes I freak out and I close up and go into hermit mode. I need some encouragement or a friendly nudge in the right direction.

A few weeks ago I confessed to you that I hadn't been to see my fertility specialist in well over a year. I was too afraid to make the call for an appointment. You see, in the years before I started this blog, we were very active and involved with doctors and labs and charting cycles and all of that stuff. I know that isn't a side of our experience that you've really seen here. It just so happened that by the time I started writing about it, we were already almost 7 years into trying to have a baby. At that time we had just started seeing a new doctor. We were hopeful about having our fertility struggles looked at with fresh and very capable eyes. Dr. G ordered several new tests and did surgery in January of 2008 to clean up some scar tissue and mild endometriosis that I had. He told us to try again for a pregnancy. We didn't usually have to try for very long. But this time it has been different. Many, many months have passed, but in a way it is like new territory for us. My husband and I have been through a lot together over the years, but we have never felt like we were taking a passive role in our fertility.

Most of this blog has been about waiting. I know that doesn't look very active sometimes, but it never felt like we had given up. Sometimes even waiting can be a very active process! Admittedly, though, I was in a rut. I had let fear take over. I knew that we weren't seeing any progress or any change and I wasn't okay with that anymore. But I was afraid to pick it all back up and pursue it again. After my last post, several of you (along with my family) have encouraged me to get over that fear, and more importantly, not to give up on my dream of having a baby.

Yesterday, I made the call. I almost talked myself out of it, especially after the receptionist told me that the next available appointment with Dr. G was in JANUARY. I paused, and she said she could transfer me to the nurse to see what we could work out. She transferred the call and I got the answering service. I left my long and rambling message and waited for them to call me back. When the call came I was beyond relieved to discover that it wasn't the nightmare nurse that I've dealt with so many times before. Instead, on the other end of the phone was a kind and helpful nurse who was incredibly patient with me and who listened to what I had to say. She wasn't the least bit condescending or rude. (Can you tell I've been burned before?) I explained that we'd been trying on our own -- as the doctor ordered -- for over a year and that we were ready to come in and have a talk about it. So, she set us up for October 21st. I took a deep breath, wiped a few tears, and hung up the phone. Then I called my mom, who had been gently nudging me as well.

Although I do feel relieved about finally having an appointment, I still don't know what will happen and I'm still nervous about moving forward. There are no guarantees, except that I'll go in that day with my dear husband by my side and we'll both be clinging to our Lord.

And this time, as a bonus, I know that I'll also have you in my corner, cheering me on. And I can't thank you enough.

Friday, September 18, 2009

In The Closet

Recently I showed you one of our guest rooms that we'd been working in to install crown molding. I mentioned that the room was intended to be our nursery when we bought our home. I was in the beginning of my first pregnancy then, and I had no idea what was around the corner for the next several years. Before we ever moved in, I miscarried.

With the next pregnancy I had a glimmer of hope that everything would be alright, but when it turned out so much like the first, we realized we may be dealing with a real problem. We began our search for answers and we had four more planned pregnancies over the next four years -- each one after tests and surgeries and medications that we hoped would make a difference. Each time, we hoped. We allowed ourselves to plan and to dream, if only a little bit. Each time that we got good test results or saw progress on an ultrasound, we let that hope take root and begin to grow.

Sometimes we would buy things. Things for our baby. We never bought a crib or a changing table or even a package of diapers, but occasionally we would see an outfit that was too cute to pass up. We picked up a few really cute and incredibly soft stuffed toys. I love children's books, so we have quite a little collection of some of my favorites. We were given a few things as gifts as well, from family members who hoped with us.

For a long time, I had the baby clothes hanging in the closet of that bedroom, on those cute little baby clothes hangers. After a few years and much grief and many tears, I finally folded them up and put them in boxes. The two boxes remain in the closet, up on the highest shelf. I also have a bag of maternity clothes passed down from my sister that I probably couldn't fit into right now in my non-pregnant state. Sometimes I wonder if the maternity clothes and even the baby clothes we bought, some as many as seven years ago, have gone out of style. Babies are probably wearing much cooler clothes these days. And I know that expectant mothers are. Even the young, hip, and stylish pregnant woman in jeans on the cover of the current edition of What to Expect When You're Expecting looks like she could run circles around the tired, house-dress-clad mom-to-be on the cover of my older copy.


Just last weekend I was doing a bit of reorganizing in that closet, as we do store other things in there besides baby stuff. I came across a shopping bag with two items in it that I think I purchased during or around our last pregnancy. Until I found the bag, I had pretty much forgotten about these little outfits, one for a boy and one for a girl, and very much a reflection of the two of us.


I feel like a lot has changed since I started trying to have a baby. I've changed, too. But in a basket of baby-name and breastfeeding books, I also found a list of names that I used to like for boys and for girls. I'd written them down during one of the pregnancies, in what was probably a very hopeful time. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they really hadn't changed. I still like those names, and I would still consider those same names if we had the chance to hope again.

But back it all went into the closet again, along with my hope, for how long I don't know.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

All The Time

Last year at this time I said goodbye to my home and nearly everything I own.

I remember that moment before I closed the door and got into the car to drive away. I just stood there for a few minutes, looking around, and I thought Okay, Lord. I don't want to do this, but I have to. If you decide to take it all away, then so be it.

It's so much easier to write that a year later, after many people have put their lives and homes back together after the devastation of Hurricane Ike. This weekend is the first anniversary of that terrible storm. We are extremely comfortable right now, by comparison. This has been a quiet hurricane season for those of us who live near the Gulf coast.
Thankfully, we didn't lose our home, although many did -- and not just people we saw on the local news. People we know.

I don't want to make it sound as though I think losing material possessions is the worst thing in the world. I don't, but I still don't want to go through that terrible trial if I don't have to! I remember during the days of our evacuation how we watched The Weather Channel sometimes with panic and sometimes with resignation. We desperately hoped everything would be alright. Coming to a place, however, where you must say that it will be okay if you come home to nothing is quite a struggle. As a homemaker, it goes against every ounce of my being that loves keeping house and making a home for my family. The idea of a strong wind, or flood waters, or a storm surge carrying it all away is unsettling to say the least.

But I know people who have lived through it. They've picked up the pieces that were left and they've carried on. What's even more inspiring, though, is that they've found joy through the storm.

It is so, so hard to be joyful inside and to give God praise when things aren't going our way. It's easy to say that He is good when our circumstances are good -- and we should! But oh, the challenge is to say that and believe it when they are not.

But God is still good.
Even through hurricanes and infertility, He's good.
All the time.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

True Words

This weekend I came across a great quote that I want to share with you. I'll keep this post brief because I don't want to detract from the quotation itself. I agree wholeheartedly with these words. I hope that in life we can all encounter far more of the second kind of people than the first:

"There are two kinds of people - you know them.
As you journey along on life's track -
The people who take your strength from you,
And others who put it all back."
-- Ralph Spaulding Cushman

I'm grateful for those in my life who consistently put it all back!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What's Going On

Occasionally when it gets a little heavy in here, I like to do a post about some everyday things that don't have much (or anything) to do with infertility. My goal over the past few weeks has been to try to focus on some activities and hobbies that I've been neglecting lately. Unfortunately, that means less time spent blogging and reading blogs, but I've tried not to get too far behind.

Three main areas that have been keeping me busy for the past few weeks are reading, scrapbooking, and home improvements.

I'm still sticking to the reading list that I made at the beginning of the year. It has been fun yet challenging, but it has mostly kept me reading steadily each month. (I like to cross things off of a list!) The list has six books remaining that I want to read before the end of December. If you'd like to check out what I'm reading, there is a button right over there in the sidebar. Just last night I finished reading The Year of Living Biblically, which I found very entertaining. I'm currently in the middle of reading Crazy Love, and I think I'm about to start reading Little Women.

Scrapbooking has been my favorite hobby for almost a decade now. Each year I try to do a chronological album for that year, and I have several other themed albums apart from that (like for our wedding and special vacations). Truthfully, blogging has been detrimental to my scrapbooking! Since I started writing and reading blogs I've gotten very little done and am suddenly 2 years behind. Last week I eased back into it and was able to get 4 pages done. It was a slow start, but this week I picked up steam and completed 12 pages in 2 days! I'm still working on the 2007 album, but it feels great to make some progress.

Our current home improvement goal is to install crown molding in the 3 bedrooms. We've had the crown in our garage for at least 6 months now, waiting patiently for us to find the time to get to it. Last weekend we tackled one of the guest rooms. That room was once a nursery for our home's previous owners. Although I planned to use it as a nursery as well, I hated the way it was decorated. I remember when we moved in it was quite a chore removing the wallpaper border, repainting the room, and repainting the trim (the walls used to be a light aqua color and the trim was yellow). Of course, we owe the transition from carpet to laminate wood floors to the Great Dishwasher Leak of '08.

Anyway, back to the crown. Chuck and I worked together last weekend to get that room done. It always amazes me that he can learn to do just about any project around the house. My version of helping involved a lot of standing around and holding stuff, but we got it done and are really happy with how it looks. (The rug is a recent purchase that I absolutely love. Don't look too closely or you'll see my hubby's guitar case and amp peeking out from under the bed.)


Just a quick word about miscarriage here -- when we bought this house we were expecting our first baby. I miscarried in between the time that we closed on the house and actually moved in. For quite a while after that loss and a few others, this room remained mostly empty until we finally made the decision to put a bed in there and use it as a guest room. My nephews now call it their room. They sleep here when they stay with us, their toys are in the closet, and their pictures hang on the walls. It does make me happy that the room gets used by them and other guests. Hopefully we will get the crown molding up in the other guest room (which doubles as my scrapbooking space) and our master bedroom before the end of the year!

We are getting ready to leave town to visit my in-laws for Labor Day weekend. We have not been able to make that trip in way too long. It is a 6-hour drive, but Chuck will get off at noon on Friday and we will have the extra day on Monday. They've been having great weather there in North Louisiana and we have been so jealous! The cooler temperatures haven't quite made it all the way down to us yet. We have still been in the 90s every day and we can't wait for fall (neither can our electric bill!). Autumn is my favorite time of year.

There's a long and rambling recap of what's been going on here. How about you? What are you reading? Do you scrapbook? How do you use the room that you wish was a nursery? What's under the bed in your guest room?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Still Running


I'm not a runner. Honestly, I hate to run.

When I was in college, one of my friends suggested that I start running with her. She'd been running for years. I thought I'd give it a try and told her that I would have to start pretty slowly. Let me tell you, to put it nicely, it kicked my butt. I was able to keep up with my friend, but I noticed that I had to focus nearly all my energy on breathing in and out. I found it amusing that, while we would run, my friend would chat. Finally one day I told her that I absolutely didn't mind listening, but I would be a terrible conversationalist during our runs! I found it impossible to keep up my end of the conversation while gasping for air.

If any of you are runners out there, please don't be hard on me! I did my best to try to hang with my friend who obviously had more experience than I did. She knew what she was doing! I didn't, and I never quite caught on. We eventually quit running together (probably due to our schedules more than my dislike for it), and besides the occasional game of chase with my nephews, I haven't run for the sake of running since. I admire those who do it, but it's really not my thing. Truthfully, I've never been much of an athlete by any stretch of the imagination.

Figuratively speaking, however, I'm a runner alright. I'm a veritable track star.

Many times I run to escape my problems. Right now I'm running from seeing my fertility specialist. I haven't set foot in his office in a year and a half. We're supposed to be "trying again." But after all these months have passed with no change, I have become more and more afraid. So, I'm running. Every day I think about picking up the phone to make an appointment, but every day I find a reason not to. Maybe this will be the month that it happens again -- that we get pregnant and it actually sticks. You see, up until now we haven't sought a doctor's help to get to that point. My problem is with miscarriage. But now that pregnancy won't come, for whatever reason, I feel stuck. I feel afraid. I don't know what to do, which direction to go. So I've been avoiding it. Even worse, I'm afraid of someday hearing that we may never overcome this. This is a hard thing for me to admit to you today, but it's true.

I'm also running a race of endurance. I recently read something that compared infertility to a marathon. It is long and it is challenging. It feels like it may never end. I would almost prefer a sprint, I think, which is more intense but far shorter. This is my eighth year of running, and yes, I've been lapped many, many times. Sometimes I want to quit because it seems so hard and I wonder if I'll ever reach the finish line or achieve the goal.

Sometimes I feel less like a runner and more like a spectator. Others around me are running while I'm standing still. And some days I take on the role of a cheerleader, encouraging others who are pursuing their goal and rejoicing with them when they reach it. While I'm honored to be in that position whenever possible, there's no denying that it's hard and it's painful. It hurts to be the one left behind, the one still waiting and still running.

While I think the race analogy is a pretty accurate one in many ways, I'm not entirely comfortable with using it in terms of winning and losing. I certainly don't view my life as one big race to have a baby, while competing with my peers for one ultimate prize. In fact, I don't consider it my one and only goal in life to have children. While it may be my desire, my passion, and my dream, it is not all that I live for. If I never get there, I don't consider myself a loser or my life a waste. If I never become a parent, I am still a wife, a daughter, a sister, and a friend. Above and beyond all of that, I'm a child of God.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Hebrews 12:1-3

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Happy Endings

I love a good story. For me, there's almost nothing better than getting lost for a few hours in a great book or a great movie.

I'm not sure how many people will agree with me here, but I don't even need a fairy-tale happy ending. My sister, for example, wants that happy ending every time! She wants to know before she commits to the story that all will be well in the end. As long as the story is engaging and is at least mostly resolved by the end, I'm good with that. Although I always root for the characters and hope that their story will end well, I would much prefer an ending that feels realistic. Now, if there were a happy ending that also felt real, what could be better?

Honestly, I can't remember if I've always felt this way or if I've arrived here as a result of circumstances in life. Oh, it's certainly true that I've always had very realistic expectations. One look at my senior memory book from my last year of high school will tell you that. While most of my peers were recording their hopes and dreams for rich spouses, tropical vacation homes, and fancy cars, I was hoping for a much simpler and far more attainable future. I wanted to go to college (which, in itself, was a pretty lofty goal coming from a poor family), fall in love, get married, have children, and live a happy and peaceful life with my family. I really never hoped for much beyond that, and certainly not for anything fancy.

Some may see this as the difference between an optimist and a pessimist, but I don't. I'm somewhere in the middle. I always hope for the best, but I never celebrate until I have actually reached it. And that way, if I don't get there, maybe I won't have to fall quite so hard.

My favorite kinds of stories are the ones where you get to take a peek into the characters' lives. You get to see how they live and what challenges they face on any given day. There will most likely be some big event or action scene that you definitely want to see resolved. Hopefully by the end of the tale, you've seen them overcome something and come out on the other side better than when you found them. Sometimes this may not mean that the sick person got better, or that the infertile person had babies. I guess what I look for in a good story is more of an internal change, rather than one where a person got everything they ever wanted and now they can live happily ever after.

A few weeks ago I finished a book in which one of the main characters was barren. I didn't know this when I started the book, but it was communicated several times throughout that she could not ever have children. Besides that, this character had a very hard life and many obstacles to overcome. Page after page and chapter after chapter, I pulled for her and hoped to see her find happiness! It was a great story, and by the time I got to the last chapter, I cried tears of joy that she was going to be okay.

Then came the epilogue.

In the three or four extra pages tacked onto the end of the story, the author gave the reader a glimpse into the future. The woman had children. We are never told how or when, or what in the world had transpired. Although I know that this is a work of fiction and I felt some happiness for the character, I couldn't help but think that I would have been just as satisfied with the book had it simply ended, leaving the future to my imagination.

More often than not, I watch movies and read books that have a very nice, fulfilling ending. Then, during the closing credits or the epilogue, we get that look into the future that usually feels too forced for me. It feels unreal, almost too good to be true. We don't know what the characters went through to get those twins that they're holding in their arms. We don't get to see how they got from point A to point B. We must just accept that they did, that all of their dreams were achieved, and that they will be happy forever. I always have a hard time accepting this ending (in a story, I mean). I think it takes away from my own ability to imagine them happy whether they got all they ever wanted or not. Maybe I should start skipping end credits and epilogues!

I'm not saying that "happily ever after" never happens. Deep down inside, I know I hope for that. I want my happy ending to include having children, and I want that particular happy ending for all of my friends who struggle with infertility. But I want to believe that there can be lots of really great stories without reaching the goal, stories of people who find happiness and fulfillment, who show amazing strength and grace in the face of hardship, even if they don't get exactly what they'd hoped for. Can I be happy with that kind of ending in real life, like I am in a story?

How do you feel about happy endings, whether realistic or not?

Friday, August 14, 2009

More of the Same


It's that time of year when many people are busy with the beginning of a new school year.

I seem to always have a hard time with these "new beginning" and "moving forward" kinds of occasions. Right now most of my friends are school shopping, meeting new teachers and new friends, and watching their children grow and learn. Don't get me wrong - I'm sure that if I had school-age kids, I might not be looking forward to sending my little ones off to school. I know it's often a stressful time for parents and kids, but I find myself once again feeling left behind.


For me, a new school year means just a couple of things:
driving carefully through school zones again;
blissfully empty and quiet movie theaters on weeknights;
realizing that I am in the same place as last summer,
and the summer before that,
and the summer before that...

It's definitely not the time of year that gets me down. Each year around this time I look forward to the end of summer and the prospect of lower temperatures (although we have to wait a while for that where I live in Texas). Autumn is actually my favorite season. Typically, Chuck and I try to plan vacations in the fall, because of the nice weather and the smaller crowds. This year, however, we traveled with my family much earlier, in May, which leaves me longing to have something to look forward to this time of year. I certainly don't long for my own school days. I'm very happy to be done with my own days of classes and homework and schedules!

I think I'm just missing something. Something different. Some progress, maybe. Instead, I feel stagnant. I feel like I'm spinning my wheels, like I'm stuck while people around me keep moving forward.

A new school year for me means more of the same. Another day in the life of a stay-at-home-wife.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Love of God

I've heard it said many times that a person can't fully understand the love of God until they've become a parent.

Many people have stated that it wasn't until they saw, held, raised, loved, and cared for their own children that they truly realized how much God loves them and what the sacrifice of His own Son on the cross of Calvary really was.

I hope you know me well enough by now to hear my heart here if you're a regular reader of this blog. If you are not, please understand that I don't know what having and raising my own children is like. I may never know. And I would certainly never, ever take away from a person's own experience of parenting. I don't doubt at all that so many have better understood God's love through parenting. If having children is the way that our Heavenly Father has helped you to truly realize and grasp His amazing love for you, then I think that is a wonderful thing.

What bothers me, however, is the idea that NO ONE can understand it unless they've become a parent. It is one of those statements that I hear that, as a barren woman, cuts so deeply.

I wonder if anyone who has thought or said this has ever realized how much an infertile Christian woman relies upon the love of her Lord. In fact, I would even say that I may not have realized the greatness of it until I experienced infertility! And perhaps that is just the point I'm trying to make here. We all have different paths, different trials and afflictions that we will face in life. We will even have different joys and different blessings. And we all will decide how to accept and live with all of the combined circumstances that make up our lives. I believe that God is big enough and strong enough to reveal His deep and relentless love to His children no matter where they are in life, whether they will ever experience the joys of childbirth and parenthood or not.

It is unfair to suggest to someone that she may never understand God's love and sacrifice until she has a child. Many of us can identify with a portion (however small) of what He may have felt when He sacrificed His only Son. Although I've never held any of my children in my arms or looked upon their faces or even called them by name, I knew them and loved them while they were a part of my body and after they were no longer. Many have had to continue to live after having lost a child inside or outside of the womb. Furthermore, many have had to face the fact that they may never have any children. This too, friends, is sacrifice.

For me, it is the very love of my Lord that gets me through that pain every single day.

I understand sacrifice. I understand love. I don't know if any of us can ever truly grasp the depth of God's love until we see Him face to face. Until then, if the Lord has used giving you a child to reveal His love to you, what a wonderful and special gift! If instead He has used infertility to reveal how much He loves you with an undying love, what a wonderful and special gift that can be as well.

Your Love is Deep (song lyrics by Jami Smith)

Your love is deep
Your love is high
Your love is long
Your love is wide

Deeper than my view of grace
Higher than this worldly place
Longer than this road I travel
Wider than the gap You filled

Who shall separate us?
Who shall separate us from Your love?
Nothing can separate us
Nothing can separate us from Your love

(Ephesians 3:17-21 NIV)
I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.