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Friday, February 27, 2009

Honest Scrap (Tagged)

Once again I've gotten very far behind on some tags and awards. I love reading things about my fellow blog friends, and I always appreciate getting tagged by you!

In the last month or so, I've received the "Honest Scrap Award" from three of you. Thanks Teresa, Tammy, and Sharon! I adore all 3 of your blogs and can always count on them for complete honesty, friendship, support, and laughter.


Here are the rules:

1) Choose a minimum of 7 blogs that you find brilliant in content or design.
2) Show the 7 winners names and links on your blog, and leave a comment informing them that they were prized with “Honest Scrap.” Well, there’s no prize, but they can keep the nifty icon.
3) List at least 10 honest things about yourself.


Here are 10 honest things about me:

1. I thought about starting a blog for a couple of months before I actually did it. My husband and I went back and forth about all the possible pros and cons. I was very afraid of putting myself out there and I had no idea whether anyone would ever read it. I share so much here that I don't often say in real life, and it's very humbling to me that anybody would read and comment. So, thank you!

2. It bothers me that I'm not very independent. I rely on my husband way more than I probably should. For me it's usually a struggle to get out there and try something new.

3. I've already confessed this on the blog once, but I hate to drive. I'm fine with running my errands around here where I live, but driving to someplace new totally freaks me out. If I'm not sure how to get somewhere, many times I'll have Chuck drive by the place with me so I can scope it out before I have to go there alone (see #2). I know, it's sad. Thank God that I have a patient husband!

4. My middle name is Rae. My dad chose both my first and middle names, and the "Rae" part is the feminine spelling of his own name. I have always liked it and I think it has helped me feel a little more connected to a father who has been mostly absent in my life. If I ever have a daughter, I'd like to give her the middle name Rae.

5. Before I told you my middle name, I googled "Stacey Rae" to make sure that it wouldn't be an obvious thing to put on a public blog where I try to keep some anonymity. I scrolled through the first 10 pages and none of the references were about me. Who knew there were so many Stacey Raes in the world? Turns out I'm really not that unique! :)

6. I've never considered myself a very emotional person, but I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve these days. It usually makes me cry when I see other people crying.

7. I spend an awful lot of time proofreading stuff that I write. Most of the time I even proofread e-mails before I send them. Misspelled words get under my skin. Just yesterday I "suggested" that my husband change a misspelled word in his status update on Facebook! (Have I mentioned how patient he is?)

8. I made the decision to follow Christ when I was a young girl, but I got much more serious about it when I was an early teenager. He is my Lord, my Savior, my comfort, and my strength. I want my life to bring Him glory!

9. I very rarely wear shorts. I'm most comfortable in jeans, and around the house I usually relax in pajama pants. I have never liked the way my legs look in shorts and I'm usually cold, so I love wearing jeans.

10. I am a very loyal friend. Most of my closest friends are people I have known since grade school. Old friends are special, but I love making new friends as well!

Okay, that took me much longer than I expected! Now for the tags. I honestly love and appreciate every single blog I read. This time I'll try to tag friends that I'd like to get to know better or haven't tagged before:
1. Stacy@ In Its Time
5. prayerfuljourney @ Accepting God's Will 2009

Each of you ladies inspires me by sharing your thoughts and experiences through blogging. I hope you'll participate!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Pregnancy and Blogging

Pretty soon it will be a year that we've been trying for pregnancy number seven. I don't know an exact date; I just remember that it was last year in late spring/early summer that we started trying again. My last pregnancy ended in miscarriage back in January of 2007. After a surgery in 2008 we were given approval to try for another pregnancy. I am not by any means complaining about how long a year is. I know that so many of you have tried for much longer than that and I would never want to be insensitive about that.

I have not yet had the experience of blogging during a pregnancy. It crosses my mind sometimes and I wonder how I would handle it. As you know, the beginning stages of pregnancy are not easy times for me. They are fraught with uncertainty and fear. As much as I desire to be very open on this blog, another part of me has become very guarded. Living through even one failed pregnancy where you've had to "take back" the announcement will do that to you. Living through multiple losses tends to steal away the joy of those first few weeks and months of pregnancy. It is absolutely heartbreaking to let the word get out and then have to go back and tell family and friends that it's over. My poor husband has made more of those phone calls than he'd care to recall. The last couple of times we have kept our news mostly to ourselves for as long as we can. I know that not everyone is the same but for us it just became easier. We weren't trying to hide anything. We were protecting ourselves from additional hurt.

Sometimes we hear people criticize that method. They say that it's better to tell all and have people praying for you along the way. While I wholeheartedly believe in the power of prayer, I also know that we have many friends and family members who pray for us constantly! I've had reminders just this week from dear friends who are praying for us. They don't need to know the latest news in order to pray. The Lord knows where we are. Yes, there are times when there is a specific need and God leads us to share with certain people for prayer and support. Those times are important, but I consider all of those prayers spoken on our behalf every day to be equally important. Without them I don't know how I would have made it this far.

It's hard to predict how much I might choose to share right away on this blog if we are able to have another pregnancy. Already it's not a place where I share specific cycle dates or daily numbers. I don't oppose others who do that, but I've never felt that it is the purpose of this particular blog. That is partly because I know myself, and I know that I would too easily obsess about those figures. I write here about loss, trials, and faith, and all of the feelings and experiences that I've had with infertility and miscarriage. That's exactly what I want this blog to be if I make it to the other side of this, but it has been so important for me to write this out in the middle of this trial and not just after it is over! Even if I make it to motherhood I want these words to minister to those who wait, as many blogs have done for me. I'm not the kind of person who can have something like this touch my life for a season and then brush myself off and move on when the trial is over. I believe that our hardships shape and mold us along the way and we always bear the scars of them. Not in a bad way, but just as reminders of where we've been and how we've arrived at the places we are now. After all, scars only form after healing has taken place.

Even if we don't agree about how early to share pregnancy news, I hope that you'll be patient with me. For now, nothing has changed and we still try month after month with hope that our situation could change. I'm still waiting but I know that the Lord is working. I know that He is using this time for His purposes. Even though I don't like it, I'm willing to let Him lead. It's hard and it hurts sometimes. I still grieve every day, but there is joy and there is hope!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

My Grandma

Today is one of those days where I have lots of different ideas for blog posts tumbling around in my head (which I know makes it sound like there's plenty of room up there). As much as I know that the purpose of this blog is for me to write about infertility, it also does me good to be able to write about other things. Today I'd like to tell you a little bit about my grandma. I am very fortunate to be in my 30s and have both of my grandmothers sill living. A few months ago we experienced the loss of one of Chuck's grandmothers, which you may remember happened around Thanksgiving. I'm overdue for a post about her too, so that will be coming soon.

Unfortunately, I didn't really grow up having close relationships with my grandparents. My mom was extremely close to her grandparents, but not so much her own parents. Mom tells me all the time that she learned everything she knows about homemaking from two special women: her Granny and her (ex) mother-in-law. Mom always felt a connection to my Grandma Mary, my dad's mom. Now, you might recall that my parents have been divorced for about 25 years. Still, Mom always gives credit to Grandma Mary for teaching her so much. They still occasionally talk on the phone, and sometimes Mom will go visit Grandma with me. It always warms my heart that she still calls her "Mom."

Grandma Mary and I have developed a closer relationship as I've gotten older. We never talked on the phone when I was younger and I only saw her when my sister and I would have to go visit our dad, which were always stressful times. It has been great to really get to know her better over the last few years. Really it started when I began researching my family history a few years ago. I started calling her regularly to help me fill in some information, and I guess you could say we became friends.

My grandma is a tough woman. She has been a widow for longer than I've been alive. After she and my grandfather divorced, she was remarried for several years before her second husband died. She lived on her own ever since and has always been very independent. Her life has taught her to be strong. She is not exactly a fragile old woman like you might imagine! (In fact, none of the women in my family are like that.) She was just telling me on the phone last night that someone asked her, "Ms. Mary, who does your work for you?" She replied, "Well, nobody. I do it myself." Her cooking is out of this world. For a delicious, old-fashioned Cajun meal, you'd need to look no further than her kitchen. Grandma keeps an immaculate house. It's not fancy, but it sure is clean. She still drives, cooks, cleans, and plants flowers. Up until a couple of years ago she was doing all of her yard work but I think she has some help with that now. She always asks me how my flowers are doing, and she updates me on hers each season. My favorite thing about her, though, is that she is funny. Every time we talk on the phone she has me in stitches. Usually when we talk it is late at night. Like me, my grandma is a night owl. She is usually up until midnight or later, watching TV or playing cards (solitaire, of course).

I love all of her unique expressions. Grandma doesn't grab something, she "catches" it. She doesn't turn the TV off, she "puts it out." Usually on my birthday she will call and sing "Happy Birthday" to me in the cutest little Cajun accent. When she called last night, she greeted me in French and was surprised when I answered her correctly in French. I told her I remembered a few things from French class!

There is so much I appreciate about my grandma as we both get older. Last August she turned 91, and I realize that I don't have very much time left with her. I've only talked to her once since I last saw her at Christmas during our trip home to Louisiana, and that just isn't enough. I'm disappointed that I've let being busy get in the way of keeping in touch as much as I should. I want to be sure to treasure each minute that we do have left.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

In Between

Do you ever feel frustrated by the world's attempts to put you into a category? I do. Especially lately.

I've never really felt like there was a label that fit me perfectly. Growing up I was somewhere between tomboy and girlie girl, but definitely not one or the other. I loved playing with dolls when I was little, but I was never into makeup, dresses, or frilly things. I was someone who enjoyed sports (although I couldn't play them worth a flip), read lots of books, made good grades, and didn't do much dating. I loved being with my friends but was also perfectly happy keeping to myself. I never quite went with the "in-crowd" or with the "outcasts." I always felt in-between. It took me a long time to learn to be comfortable with myself, but thankfully growing up has made that much easier - once I realized that I shouldn't live to seek the approval of others.

I still sometimes get frustrated in many adult settings. I don't know why we think we should all be lumped in with other people who appear to be like we are. I like having friends who are different from me. When I go to church, for example, I don't necessarily need to be paired with other thirty-something year old married couples with no children. (Nevermind I don't think there is such a group!) Actually, right now I attend a very small church with only one Sunday School group for adults. It is men and women of all ages and situations. I like that because I get the opportunity to learn from lots of people, not just people who are presumably just like me.

Let's face it. I'm still in-between. I'm a fertile infertile. I'm married with no children. I've had pregnancies but I don't live the life of a mother. I'm a stay at home wife. I don't know a lot of people who are just like me! Fortunately through this blog I've met so many of you who make me realize that I'm not alone. It is nice to find a group where you actually do fit! But most of the time when someone tries to force a label upon you, they get it all wrong. I can't assume that every married person out there wants to be a parent, or that every single person wants to be married. I've certainly learned that God can and does meet people right where they are, and he has a plan and a purpose for each of his children whether married or single, fertile or barren (or any other category you've ever been put into).

I think what I'm trying to say is that I'm not just a wife. I'm not just a woman who wants to have children either. None of us is just one thing, but we're made up of all of our life experiences and our likes, dislikes, wants, needs, and goals. I'm a hundred percent sure that this will continue to be true of me if I ever do have children. I have lived with infertility too long to simply forget that it ever happened and just move on. It has shaped me into a different person. Sure I'll be a mom, but I'll still be that girl who likes sports but can't play them, loves to read, and loves to learn about new things. I think I'll always be somewhere in between. It's just a hard place to be right now - between the dream and the reality of motherhood.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

What's Cookin'? (Kitchen Remodel Photos)

I'm so late posting these pics! We have really been enjoying the new kitchen for the past couple of weeks. Here are a few pictures from before, during, and after.

BEFORE:


DURING (yikes!):

(We updated the lighting and had the tile installed a few years ago.)

AFTER:


AFTER:


Can't wait to hear what you think!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

More Books


Today I spent a couple of hours at a bookstore with a friend. I have been buying so many books lately and I'm so excited about reading them! I was pretty good today - I went in with a list of 4 books and only bought what was on my list. (I was impressed.) I want to share the updated list here on the blog and keep up with the progress. I've put a line through the ones I've finished and noted the month next to the ones I've read. (Can you tell I like organization?) After finally finishing the Paolini book, which took several weeks (it is long but I also had a lot going on last month), I've been making much faster progress. I'm not following the list in any particular order. Right now I'm reading Sundays at Tiffany's by James Patterson.

On the updated list I'm leaving off the recommended books this time. I'll add them back if I get to them this year. Nothing else has been removed from the original but you'll find my new purchases added. Also I'm combining the list into one, rather than having the young adult books shown separately. There's a new link on the right hand side of my blog where you can access this list anytime. (Click the button over on the right or click HERE to see the updated list.) Let me know if you've enjoyed any of these books! I hope you'll make time for some good reads this year. I realize that if you don't like to read, this post is probably pretty boring to you!

One more thing: Today at the bookstore I came across the most precious children's book. Let me give you the synopsis. There's a duck who is sad because all of his friends have eggs of their own. (Sound familiar so far?) He finds his own egg - a big, speckled one that his friends laugh at, but the duck loves his unique egg. Eventually all of the friends' eggs hatch but the duck waits and waits and waits. (Again, familiar?) Finally the duck's egg hatches and it contains a baby alligator that proceeds to snap at the rude friends. I LOVE IT!! ☺ The illustrations are beautiful in this book too. It's called The Odd Egg. Check it out HERE. I didn't buy it today but now I wish I had! I think I'll be adding it to my wish list.

Updated Book List

2009 Book List:

1. Brisingr – Christopher Paolini (January)
2. The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne
3. The Year of Living Biblically – A.J. Jacobs (September)
4. Middlemarch – George Eliot (June)
5. The Mill on the Floss – George Eliot
6. Little Women – Louisa May Alcott (October)
7. Your Heart Belongs to Me – Dean Koontz (February)
8. An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination – Elizabeth McCracken (June)
9. Crazy Love – Francis Chan (September-December)
10. The River Wife – Jonis Agee (April)
11. Sundays at Tiffany’s – James Patterson (February)
12. The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho (August)
13. Redeeming Love - Francine Rivers (August)
14. The Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger (August)
15. Life of Pi – Yann Martel (February)
16. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane – Kate Dicamillo (April)
17. Coraline – Neil Gaiman (February)
18. Stardust – Neil Gaiman (December)
19. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader – C.S. Lewis (November)
20. The Silver Chair - C.S. Lewis (December)
21. Bridge to Terabithia – Katherine Paterson (August)
22. Jacob Have I Loved – Katherine Paterson (May)
23. Criss Cross – Lynne Rae Perkins (February)
24. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery (March)
25. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett (March)
26. Relentless - Dean Koontz (July)
27. Silent Sorority - Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos (December)

Monday, February 9, 2009

Good Grief

I wonder if it seems strange that so soon after doing a post about having a new joyful perspective, I'm now writing about grief. Oddly enough, that post really got my wheels turning about not just having joy all the time but having balance. I think it is good and healthy to grieve. There is most certainly an appropriate time for joy and for grief, as the Bible says in Ecclesiastes 3:4 "... a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance..."

Having experienced six early pregnancy losses, I've done plenty of mourning. As a woman who suffers from recurrent loss, I can tell you that it's not just the current loss that is painful but all past losses and potential future ones too. It's not only the death of the child you were carrying, but the fear of never having a successful pregnancy. Each loss puts you closer to mourning the death of your hopes of ever becoming a parent. No, the ability to conceive is no comfort when it doesn't result in having a baby. Pregnancy becomes associated with fear, pain, and sorrow.

One of the hardest things to go through after a miscarriage is not having people recognize your loss. For some reason it seems that most of society can accept any other loss of a loved one, including a pet. But when it comes to a miscarriage, many don't know how to respond. I remember feeling so angry and frustrated when, after one of my miscarriages, I felt like there was a time limit on my grief. People started getting antsy because I wasn't "back to normal" yet, I hadn't been back to church, and they hadn't seen me in a while. The most painful part was that the concerned party hadn't called or come by to check on us. Instead, they started calling around to friends of mine, asking where I'd been lately and why I'd been absent for so long (being fully aware that I'd had a miscarriage). I couldn't help but think that my long absence wouldn't have been as much of an issue had I lost a parent or close friend.

The truth is that miscarriage is a loss. It's the death of a family member, a loved one, a child. YOUR child. No one else knew our babies as personally as we did for those precious few weeks. There was no funeral, memorial, or grave. Someone was there and suddenly is no longer there. A heart that was beating is no longer beating, and a child is no longer growing. Your plans cease and there will be no baby shower, no birth date, and no celebration. It is a harsh reality and it is a very lonely place to be.

A few weeks ago I was visiting another blog and came across a wonderful post on the topic of grief. My blog friend Stacy (I wonder if people try to put an "e" in her name - they usually leave mine out) truly has a gift of expressing herself with words. I love reading her blog and I have been so deeply touched by the amazing story of her son, Samuel. It is a blessing to me every single time I stop by her blog, but this particular post really resonated with me. I hope you'll click over and read her post called What I've Learned About Grief. (Maybe even offer congratulations as just last week they legally welcomed Samuel into their family!)

I wanted to write this today as a bit of encouragement for those who have experienced miscarriage. It's ok to grieve that loss, and don't let anyone try to rush you along. For me, the best thing was having my family and friends acknowledge my pain, mourn with me, and keep me company in the weeks that followed. The length of time that I grieved was different for each loss. I don't think this can be estimated, and although I never felt like I was "all better" or that time had healed the wounds, I did eventually feel stronger and more able to move forward.

I don't have any idea what's up ahead for me. The pain of my miscarriages is still around every day, and I suspect it will be to some degree even after I become a mother someday. I'm trying to wait as patiently as possible for my weeping to turn to laughter and (as uncoordinated and rhythm-less as I am) my mourning to become dancing.

Friday, February 6, 2009

No Coincidence

Something really cool happened to me yesterday.

I don't believe in coincidence. Sometimes I'm pretty amazed that things can line up perfectly in order for one particular moment to happen. I can appreciate how amazing that is, but I believe that God orchestrates our lives. Sure, we decide our own paths but as Proverbs 16:9 says, "In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps."

For the past several months it has been so wonderful for me to find some very special friends through this blog. I've been overwhelmed at the level of caring I've received from people who are also hurting. You guys have reached out from beyond your own suffering and formed a circle of unwavering support around me. You know I don't throw the word "blessed" around carelessly, but I truly feel blessed lately to have such wonderful family and friends. In the past few weeks I've received some beautiful gifts and tokens of friendship in the mail from some extra special friends. I know that many of you pray for me, which is the most you could ever do to show that you care! I appreciate all of the comments, emails, and words of encouragement that you send to me almost daily. It's incredible, and it shows me how our God can make something beautiful grow out of a circumstance that is pretty awful.


Ok, back to the something cool that happened. Earlier this week I was reading over at Tammy's blog about a trip she was taking with her husband this week to an unidentified town. You should know that Tammy and her husband Mark live in Wisconsin, which is quite far from where I live down here in the Lone Star State! Putting my sleuthing skills to good work, I figured out from her clues that their travels had brought them to my part of the country - in fact, practically to my backyard! After I exchanged a few emails with Tammy, Chuck and I drove approximately 5 miles away from home and met Tammy and Mark for coffee. Amazing, right? You might say the Lord determined our steps yesterday! That was the first time (but hopefully not the last) that I was able to meet one of my blog friends in person. It was a brief half-hour visit that felt more like 5 minutes, but it was a great time of fellowship and it truly refreshed my soul. I am so relieved that you guys really do exist!


Here's a photo from our short time together: (that's me on the left and Tammy on the right)


Tammy, I know that what brought you to my neck of the woods wasn't just a fun vacation, but something that was difficult for you. I appreciate you taking the time to spend a moment with us! It was so great to meet you and Mark in person. Thanks for being such a great supporter on this journey. I'm praying for you, especially today.

I just know this was a meeting that was no coincidence.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Perspective

This week I began a Bible study of the book of Philippians. As you know, I'm constantly fighting off my hermit tendencies. I'm usually hesitant to make a new weekly commitment that involves getting out of the house. Yes, I know how awful that sounds but it's totally true. I know that not everyone going through infertility/RPL reacts this way, but as I've read over the past few months, many of you do. I'm comfortable at home and I feel safe and protected here. I was interested in joining the study, though, so I sent off for the book. When it came in the mail I noticed the title and subtitle on the cover: Philippians: How to have joy no matter what. I knew right then that I'd made the right decision and that this study is right where I need to be.

Philippians is short little book in the New Testament, a brief letter from Paul to the people at Philippi. It's only four chapters long and I'm about to study those four chapters for 16 weeks! I hope that in a few months I'll know its principles pretty well. Today was our first day to meet for the group study and already I'm optimistic about a change in my perspective. Now, I don't presume to tell you that reading those four chapters and studying them will take away all of the pain of IF! I've made a promise to be honest on this blog, and to share the ups and downs along this journey. But for years now I've struggled with letting my circumstances control my life. Sometimes we have very little control over what happens in our lives and the situations we must face. What I want my goal to be, however, is to find my joy in the Lord and not in my circumstances. Whether I have children or not, I want to have joy.

That doesn't mean that you'll always find a "happy, happy, joy, joy" message on this blog! There will still be bad days and I know this all too well. But I don't want to be ruled or controlled by my circumstances or my emotions. Just last night I was overwhelmed as I turned out the light to go to sleep. This is usually one of the most difficult parts of my day. It's quiet and there are no distractions. My mind wanders and I begin to let the weight of my problems take over. I was thinking about all of the pain and disappointment over all of these years, not just for myself but for so many of you as well. I thought about how strength and faith are very good things, but if I could have chosen to skip this horrible experience altogether, I would have. I thought of how unfair it is and how robbed I feel; of hundreds of dollars of doctor visits and pregnancy tests and lab work; and of course, the loss of my children that I'll never get to see on this earth.

All of those thoughts were rolling around in my head and I began to feel hopeless and sad and old. I cried a few tears and then I began to do the only thing I knew to do. I prayed until I fell asleep, and this morning I went to a Bible study about a man who was imprisoned for preaching about his Savior, and yet remained joyful. As he wrote, he continued to rejoice "for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death." (Phil. 1: 19-20)

I encourage you to read the book of Philippians again if it has been a while, or maybe for the first time. For the next few months I hope to learn nearly every word of it by heart. I know things will still be very hard sometimes, but I'm seeking a change in my perspective. I don't want to let circumstances or people rob me of the joy that exists in knowing Christ. He is my joy - not my future with or without children.

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4)