100 joys (91-100)

In a change from how I’ve been documenting my daily joys, I’m switching gears and am going to cover the top 10 joys of 2010 (in no particular order) to round out the list, and the year.

joy #91

Last January, Frank and I were ecstatic to learn that we were expecting a baby in September 2010.  We were filled with wonder, hope and joy at the thought of finally being blessed with a baby.  While Lily’s life ended at 9 1/2 weeks, I still look back at the time we were pregnant with her as such a treasure and a joy.

joy #92

This summer we hosted a party and loved gathering our friends around for cocktails and desserts.  We really enjoy entertaining and it was a highlight of the summer for us!

 

joy #93

This was Frank’s crashpad in Atlanta.  Why is that in the past-tense?  Because, blissfully, Frank is no longer based in Atlanta.  He no longer has to commute Chicago to Atlanta!  His commute is an easy 90 minute drive to a nearby airport.  Oh, what a joy to see my husband more than six full days a month!!

 

joy #94

Our Church family.  We continue to look for ways to be more plugged into our Church and we are excited about the future at our church.  As always, a particular joy for us was attending our church’s Christmas service this year.  We were so blessed that our friends Rose and Al came along for the ride!

 

joy #95

Our Friend family.  Many of our friends have made up my 100 joy list, but there are so many that I didn’t include that are also joys and delights!

 

joy #96

Our family-family.  Everyone, at the time of this writing, is healthy and happy and safe.  It has been more than three years since my dad had his stroke and he is approved for driving, bike riding and general getting-into-troubleness.  All of our parents are up to their usual antics and getting excited to welcome the twins into the family.  My sibs are up to their usual antics, as are Frank’s sibs.  It was such a joy to spend time with our families this year and we are looking forward to more time together next year.  Not only is it a great joy, but a huge blessing.

 

joys #97 & 98

When we had a positive pregnancy test for the second time this year, we were ecstatic and when we found out we were having twins, we were over the moon!  This pregnancy, and everything about it (nausea, food aversions, heart burn, back pain – you name it!) has been a joy.  We are hopeful that our babies will stay put until late March 2011 and we plan to enjoy the next 88 days as we prepare to welcome them into the world.

 

joy #99

Aw, c’mon, y’all knew that Frank would be one of my top 10 joys, right?  Stop gagging for a minute and bear with me.  For as much as we’ve been through together – infertility treatments, family health issues, job changes, etc, being with Frank has made all of it a joy.  He is my absolute best friend and most favorite person.  While I treasure all of the stuff he does for me, I am most blessed by just spending time with him.  He is just a fantastic person.

 

joy #100

Jesus.

This year there were many times when I wondered, “WHY do I have to go through this?  WHAT am I supposed to learn?”

There was a song we sang at church where the refrain was “God is good all the time.”  It’s so easy to believe that God is good when things are easy.  It’s so easy to believe that God is loving when things are going your way.  But a lot of times, life doesn’t go my way.  This year, we experienced a lot of heartache, too.  There were times when my heart was just broken.  I would look at the mess I was in emotionally and wonder, “How am I going to piece this disaster back together??”  And sometimes it seemed like there was no winning.  But God has consistently shown Frank and I over the course of our lives that He is always good, sometimes especially when we don’t get what we want.  Frank and I can both cite example after example of God blessing us by closing doors that we desperately wished were open.

God’s love and patience with us as we struggled at times this year was almost palpable this year.  Without these struggles, we wouldn’t have stopped to pay attention to what God was doing.  We would have happily continued onward – and I am not sure that would’ve been the best course of action for us.

So my hope for the new year, and for you all, is that when we encounter new struggles and when hope seems lost, that we would remember that we have a loving Father in Heaven that only gives us good gifts.  And like all parents, sometimes the things that are good for children (vegetables, for one…) are not always what we want.

the things I just don’t forget

Since we are having twins, our doctor wanted us to do the birth classes at our hospital early.  So at just 22 weeks, we are in a four week birth class at our hospital.

Our hospital is a large, sprawling campus.  It is the hospital that I was born at, that my great-grandmother (and namesake) died at, where they took my dad when he had his stroke, where one of my close friend’s mom passed away and where we went for the D & C when we lost Lily earlier this year.  There are so many entrances to this hospital and they are constantly expanding the hospital and building new wings and towers.  It’s easy to go there and not enter in the same doors twice.

On our second night in class, Frank and I ventured around the south side of the campus to see the new maternity wing.  Our adventure took us past the blue awning of the “Day Surgery” center.  The same blue awning that I came out of after our D & C.  Frank and I both looked at this awning at the same time.  I could hear the air going out of both of our chests as we looked at that sad, sad spot.  It was like walking past a grave for us.

I don’t remember what we said to each other, but it was just a gentle acknowledgement of that door.  That time in our lives when our hearts were both simultaneously broken.

If Lily had been a healthy little baby, she would’ve been born in late September, likely.  We would be getting her ready for her first Christmas.  I’d be going back to work in January after my maternity leave.

But Lily was not a healthy little baby.  Frank and I have discussed this – not extensively – but in brief conversations about her since March.  Things just seemed to be going so slow with her.  The doctors were always pushing the due dates back – she always measured small.  In a family where we’ve always measured well past the bell curve, this seemed strange – foreign – to us. She was a fighter, though – and she tried really hard.  But in the end, she just couldn’t do it.  And that’s ok.  It’s hard for us to have to wait so long to meet her, but we have peace that she’s with God in heaven.

All we have from losing Lily are a few early ultrasound pictures and a doily they gave us after the D & C to help us remember her by.  I put all of these items in a folder and I put them in a filing cabinet in the basement.  I’ve looked at that doily and the pictures since then, but only quickly and only to put them in a new location.

But driving by the blue awning of the “Day Surgery” center was a fresh reminder for us of the sweet baby we lost.  And in some ways, of the struggles we went through over 18 months in order to get pregnant.

I don’t take anything about this miraculous twin pregnancy for granted.  Sometimes I feel like I’m in an out-of-body experience – I see myself looking at baby furniture or picking out a nursery theme – and I can’t believe that it’s me.  I can’t believe it because in the either-or experience – either I’m pregnant or I’m not, either the baby is healthy or it’s not, either I’m ovulating or I’m not – I’ve been on the “or not” side with great frequency.  I have not had the experience of easily getting and staying pregnant.  I have not had the sense that “of course I am pregnant, why wouldn’t I be?”  Instead, I feel very frequently how delicate life is.

I read a blog called Moosh in Indy. Casey, the blog author, struggled with infertility for FIVE years.  She battled serious depression and tried a lot of medical procedures to resolve her infertility.

And then one day… she was pregnant.  Of course, there was so much rejoicing and so much happiness, but as she writes so poignantly about infertility in this blog post – “I can never forget where I came from that got me to this point.”

I also cannot forget all of my friends who are still waiting, hoping and praying to start or expand their family.  The notion that because we are pregnant, we can then forget the heartache of losing Lily and struggling with infertility is entirely wrong.

Life is precious.

To all of my friends who are struggling with various forms of loss and infertility, my prayers are constantly with you.  I have not forgotten.

beautiful things

This morning at church they played a song by Gungor called “Beautiful Things”.  The lyrics were really simple, but really poignant:

All this pain / I wonder if I’ll even find my way / I wonder if my life could really change at all / All this earth / Could all that is lost ever be found / Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things / You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things / You make beautiful things out of us

Even though we are pregnant now, I still think a lot about our struggles with fertility. I think about how tested I felt and how alone, even in the midst of knowing quite a few people going through the same things.  I think about how often I wondered why we were going through this challenge.

A lot of the time, I think about how I could’ve done it better.

Maybe I could’ve been more positive and more optimistic.  Maybe I could’ve made it easier for the people around me by not talking about it or by talking about it more or by talking about it more positively.  Maybe I could’ve put on an attitude that was happier and more joyful, even when I was hurting.

And I kind of wonder what would’ve been accomplished.

It’s been occurring to me more and more the importance of reaching outward in difficult times and of being honest about where I am at, even if that location is not exactly lovely.  Glossing over feelings and putting up a front of being happy and in control is great if my goal is to make people feel like I have my crap together.  But it doesn’t do anything to draw people in, to connect with others or build community.  Of course, I believe there is a time and a place for being emotionally honest (ahem, losing it at work is not an option).

And then I think of Frank.

Frank loves to help people do projects around their homes.  He’s really good at helping, too.  He is much more coordinated than I am, so he is definitely more of an asset than a liability in pretty much any home improvement project.  He is smart, but he is not someone who thinks he has all the answers – which means he’s willing to problem solve and take direction.

Whenever he’s been asked to help with something and he’s not flying, he willingly and joyfully obliges.

And the thing about when he helps people is that it builds community.  He gets to know the other guys he’s working with and they usually feel like they are closer friends for having done the work.  I would argue that it is more effective for guys to build relationships working alongside each other than it is to go on a double date with their wives/girlfriends.

It’s just how guys are.

But imagine if no one asked him to help?  If everyone could just do it on their own?

I have a friend Rose, who you’ve read about here on my blog.  She and I have struggled with starting a family for some time.  She’s probably one of the sweetest girls I know.  And I doubt we’d be as good of friends as we are if we had not struggled through this fertility stuff together.  If she had said, “yeah, everything is WONDERFUL for me” and I’d lied and said the same thing, we’d probably never know each other as well as we do.

We share in the struggles together.  We cheer each other onward.  We rejoice and we grieve together.

I would also suggest that sometimes it’s the small things that bring us together.  Yes, the holidays are a great time for families to come together, but I also think that casual Tuesday night dinners and birthday dinners and celebrations of day-to-day things also brings us all closer.

So I don’t think I did the fertility stuff perfectly.  I didn’t keep myself together in a perfect little package of happiness.  But I don’t regret the struggle.

The song at church today reminded me that God uses all of this life we live to make beautiful things.  Out of the dust of our sadness and pain, God has grown friendships, strengthened our marriage and rooted us more deeply in our faith.  Our God is a faithful God, no matter the circumstance.

meet rosie, al and luis

Rosie, Al & Luis: The Family-To-Be!

My dear friend Rosie is one of the sweetest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.  She has been my companion on this unfortunate road of fertility treatments.  Her husband, Al, is one of the most dedicated husbands I’ve ever met – it is his delight to just be with his wife.  They are a couple that we simply marvel at and are encouraged by.

In their quest to become more than a family of two, they’ve suffered the loss of two babies, Katie and Daniel, in the second trimester of Rosie’s pregnancies. With other on-going fertility challenges, Rosie and Al had been considering fostering children. It has been their hearts desire to have a family and God answered their prayers!

Al’s older sister had abandoned two of her children with Al’s mother.  Struggling to find the energy to raise her grandchildren, Al’s mother asked Rosie and Al if they would be able to take the youngest, Luis.  Sweet Luis has not had an idyllic life: his mother tested positive for cocaine when Luis was born and he was even an innocent participant in a drug raid. Being shuffled between homes and parent-figures has taken a toll on the little guy.

After thinking and praying about this, Rosie and Al consulted a lawyer and determined that they would raise Luis and adopt him!  Luis is a vibrant, sweet little 3 year old guy and I truly believe that his life will be infinitely better because of Rosie and Al’s love.  It will be quite a beautiful family!

So here is my shameless plug: in order to get legal guardianship of Luis, they have to run ads in the newspapers and pay for a lawyer.  The cost is $1,500 and they are very humbly asking for assitance in achieving this goal so that they can provide Luis with a permanent, loving home.  If you are interested in helping out, please visit their blog. At the very least, they would greatly appreciate your prayers and thoughts.  THANK YOU!

so much to say!

Ok, in no particular order:

1.  I am running again.  Well, jogging.  Very, very, very slowly.  At this point, it’s as much for my physical health as it is for my emotional health.  I find that when I run, I am able to process things better and have more energy.  So I am committed to running/jogging/moving my booty every other day.

2.  For anyone wondering about my sugarless lifestyle, yes, we are still sugarless in the K House.  I have to say, there have been quite a few moments of weakness, but we are proud that we haven’t caved.  The only sweets we had were for FK’s 30th birthday.  Hey, that’s a pretty special occasion, right?  So we busted out some cinnamon bread pudding and homemade whipped cream.  Soooo good.  I was worried that it would become some kind of gateway drug – you know, leading to other sugary delights – but we stayed the course and did not venture any further into Candyland.

3. There have been lots of different themes floating around in my life.  I want to write extensively on every single theme, but right now is not the time.  Here are some highlights:

a. Definitions.  I’ve been wondering a lot about how to take control about how I’m defined, both by others and more importantly by myself.  This concern is on a personal and professional level.  Personally, I’m not afraid of being defined as someone who has had a very difficult time having children, but I AM afraid of being defined as ONLY that.  And maybe “afraid” is the wrong word.  I think if people only saw me for this trial, that would be a very limited way of looking at me and that I, and others, would miss out on the bigger picture of what God is doing in my life.  I also think about this a lot professionally, too – the woman who did my job previously really only focused on one particular area, whereas I’ve branched out and brought an entirely different skill set to the game.  I’m concerned that my success is being defined only based on area, without taking into consideration all of the other things I’m bringing to the table.  I have ideas on how to resolve my professional dilemma, but it’s a little bit more difficult to resolve the personal side of things.

b. Attitude. I’ve been battling attitude a lot lately.  For a great many reasons, it’s been particularly difficult for me to keep my attitude in check.  The running is helping with cleaning out any emotional overload, allowing me to refocus my energies when I feel myself slipping into a swirling vortex of sadness.  I think it’s a difficult one to balance, though, because I do believe that I need to be where I am, and not rush through it.  Said another way, I’ve spent a lot of my life checking things off of lists.  I like to do that.  But living a life of checking things off of lists sometimes means that I rush through things to just to get through the list.  A conversation I had tonight reminded me that life is really a series of processes and experiences, not a neat and tidy notebook of lists with check marks next to each item. Discontentment is being in one place, but believing that I should be somewhere else.  I kind of wonder if I would be more content if I just said, “Ok, this is where I am today, and that is ok” – with an understanding that I would not be in this same emotional place forever.  What does it look like to live a more contented life?  Hm.

c. Fluidity. In 2004/2005, I was working a lot of hours.  A lot of hours.  Even when I was not at work, I was mentally at work.  My brain was constantly thinking about things going on at the office; looking for solutions to problems I was having.  It doesn’t help that I worked in advertising and our world is inundated with ad messages.  Even if I didn’t want to take work home with me, it was everywhere.  But when I look back at that time and remember trips we took or things we did, I don’t remember the pervasiveness of work.  I just remember the fun things.  It’s amazing how my brain can edit out work and make my memories into a nice, clean 30 minute montage.  So why do I bring that up and what does it have to do with being more fluid?  Well, I realize that I have a selective way of remembering things.  I remember the joys of the simplicity of life being young when I feel overwhelmed.  But when I really remember what it was like to be me in second grade, I also have to remember that I was totally overwhelmed by simple things then (which were not so simple to me at the time).  I remember lying in bed one night, tossing and turning because I forgot to bring a worksheet home from school.  I knew I would get a “zero” for the assignment.  I finally went into my parents room really late at night (probably 10 p.m.) and told my mom what I was thinking about.  She laughed and told me about times when she felt the same way. The adrenaline from worrying about that worksheet left a bitter, metallic taste in my mouth.  The same taste I get even now when I realize I forgot something or am on a tight deadline.  We edit our memories.  Things do seem better in the past and more hopeful in the future.  Life is constant change.  People are born, people die, people move away, people move in… The sooner that I am comfortable with the idea that nothing is permanent in this life, the easier it is to roll with the punches.  I was not born as a person who is comfortable with being fluid, but over time I’ve come to be better with it.  I think being married to a pilot has expedited my personal growth in this area.  Let’s not go crazy though – I have hardly mastered being fluid and I still love a good check list, but in the realm of things I cannot control, learning to be fluid has been an excessively helpful trait.

So yeah.  Just a few thoughts.  No particular order.  More on some of them later.  Or maybe not.  Well, you can be 100% assured that I will likely talk about running and sugar again.  I’m predictable like that.

the one where i use an aviation metaphor

Physically, mentally and emotionally, it’s been rough.  It hasn’t been a crisis of faith, per se, but rather a crisis of HOW to have faith.

I believe in God, check.

I believe that His son Jesus is my Savior, check.

I have found, though, that I sometimes have a hard time figuring out how to look at our recent heartbreak and ongoing struggles to become parents and understand how to deal with it as a Christian.

When I am worked up about everything, I find myself tossed about by these storms and unable to find my bearings.

Which brings me to my aviation metaphor.  Ahem.

As a pilot, Frank has trained extensively.  When he first trained, he learned how to fly visually.  Flying visually is exactly what it sounds like – he would fly only in conditions (clear days, generally) that allowed him to identify landmarks and (most importantly) airports by sight. Flying on clear days is lovely, especially in small planes.

But as a committed pilot with aspirations to fly for airlines, Frank had to take his aviation training to the next level.  He had to learn to fly using only the instruments on the dashboard of the plane.  As part of his training, he actually wore a hood that didn’t allow him to see anything except the instruments in front of him.  He had to do this for two reasons: 1) because sometimes what you think you are seeing is not the whole picture and 2) because sometimes he has to fly in conditions where he won’t be able to visually see landmarks.

One night Frank took me flying.  It was a gorgeous night with a layer of low white clouds under a dome of shimmering stars.  Since there are controls on both sides of the plane, Frank let me take the “wheel” and instructed me to orient the plane so that it would be level with the horizon.  After a few minutes, Frank pointed at one of the instruments that showed how level the plane was relative to the earth.  Even though I thought I had the plane level with the horizon, I was very wrong.  The horizon I thought I was following was really a cloud, not the actual curve of the earth.

It is not enough, sometimes, to fly on sight alone.

Frank’s aviation training is a great metaphor for the grossly uncomfortable position that I am in right now.

Most of the time I can walk in my faith by “sight” alone; I either hear from God or I see landmarks from Him that point the way.  The answers are, for the most part, obvious.

Right now, though, we are stuck in the midst of storms and can’t see the ground or familiar landmarks.  Flying visually is not an option.  We have to rely on faith and the tools that God has given us.

I guess it’s a good idea to keep my seatbelt securely fastened, eh?

stopping the insanity

So, clearly, this weekend appeared to be a weekend of excess.  And could I have eaten less pasta and bread?  Yeah, probably.  And could I have eaten less candy/chocolate/ice cream?  Probably.  But I would also say that I didn’t eat as much of the candy/chocolate/ice cream as I wanted. And that poses a problem for me.

As I learned back in January, I am hypoglycemic.  This means that carbs are a particular problem for me because my body absorbs and distributes the carbs so quickly that I CRASH after carbo-loading.  Eating carbs causes me to have a blood sugar low within an hour or so that makes me FEEL super hungry.

As a matter of fact, when I eat candy mid-afternoon, by the time I get home at 5:30, I am irrationally hungry.  I don’t even bother to stop at the store because I am SO hungry that I am not sure how I will make it through the store without A) forgetting half of my list or B) maiming the first person who tries to abscond with my cart.

And don’t get me started with the parking lot.Let’s just assume there would be much carnage.

So anyway, I do not make wise decisions when I am on a sugar low.

Plus, my body converts these carbs to fat faster than you can say “Put down the butter Paula Deen!”  And if that wasn’t enough to make me pass on the sugary delights, the fact that we would like to get pregnant again means that I am at high risk for developing gestational diabetes.  While a high birth weight for our babies has always been a real possibility (my dear husband rocked the scales at a mighty 13 1/2 lbs and 24 inches of pure baby delight), gestational diabetes ups the ante significantly.  If that was the only serious side affect of gestational diabetes, that would be one thing.  Unfortunately, there are several other unfortunate potential by-products of gestational diabetes that give me pause for concern.

I realize that the idea of giving up all sweets seems … well… un-American.

I mean, who does that?

But after taking a long, hard look at myself in the mirror, reviewing the scale, and looking in the mirror again, I decided that I need to do just that.

Oh, not to worry, the idea of giving up all sweets did not come without serious mental protest and angst.  My poor, sugar-addicted brain said, “But dear Emily, what about BIRTHDAY cake?  What knd of person says NO to BIRTHDAY cake?? What about having something sweet to make eating healthy worth it?  Just a little bit of sweet stuff won’t hurt!”

Does a birthday cake make the birthday, I ask you?  Do I need a 3 p.m. sugar fix?  Do I need dessert after EVERY DINNER?  The fact that I tried to find reasons NOT to give it up was the biggest indicator that I SHOULD give it up.

I submit to you this: the celebration is to be augmented by the food.  The food is not to be augmented by the celebration.  This is a VERY difficult decision for me to give up sweets.  But I realized I was putting my desire to have a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup ahead of being healthy.  I was putting a slice of amazing, gooey chocolate cake ahead of feeling good.

Not any more.  Starting tomorrow (I had ice cream before I made the decision today), Frank and I are quitting the sweets cold turkey.  It’s going to be difficult because I am going to have to be really honest about what is a sweet and what is not.  I thought about buying some Fiber-One bars for their fiber-related benefits and because… wait for it… they also have a chocolate product.  Houston, I have a problem.  Using a Fiber-One bar to “replace” candy is not right.

And, of course, I realize that my eating habits are causing a rift with God and in my marriage.  I know that sounds far-fetched, but bear with me.  When I eat poorly, I feel bad about myself.  Instead of focusing on becoming the person that God wants me to be, I focus on how bad I feel about myself.  And if that’s not enough, I happen to have a wonderful, sweet, adoring husband who thinks that I am beautiful, no matter what, but I turn him away so I can have a self-loathing pity party.  Now, Frank muscles through it, but I think about how much BETTER my marriage would be if we avoided these kinds of pity parties all together.

So anyway.  This is my new adventure.  Anyone else want to join me?  I plan on discussing this frequently on the blog as I am anticipating a lot of withdrawal symptoms that may include “the shakes” and inexplicable crying/anger.  But once I get through the detox portion, I expect that I will feel MUCH better.  Right?  ::scratches arms, looks for a candy bar:: Right??