Happily Ever After In The Present

Sam Smith’s song “Stay With Me,” will forever be my anthem for the summer of 2014.  Despite my belting out I’m on my knees only to realize much later the actual lyrics are You’re all I need.  The month of August came and went blasting me into new perspectives and refreshed determination.  I started securely and ended with so much uncertainty.  I lost my job and I thought my marriage was over.

Through the last two months I have been blessed with compassion and understanding from so many connections.  My appreciation for friends, family and colleagues who reached out, both in direct and subtle ways, can never be explained.  I am truly honored for all of the people in my life, those who are still present and those whose paths crossed at opportune times.  The lessons I have learned through stressful times and challenges difficult to overcome, have been invaluable.

Thank you to my family for unconditional love and support. For encouraging me when I was down, for special unexpected deliveries, for sharing your own personal stories of heartache, for offering reading material, opening your home to me and for being a faithful ear. I am so thankful for an incredibly unique cast of characters I get to call my family.

Thank you to my friends who are like family.  Attending a stress relieving happy hour, receiving a letter or phone call, and meeting up for a meal has been powerful tools in helping me maintain sanity.  I know in the last year I have lost my emphasis at staying connected to friends as my energy has been devoted elsewhere. I am touched to have so many friends who intentionally make themselves available for me.

Thank you to former colleagues in my recent position. I have regrets with how things unraveled and I didn’t have the closure I wanted with the team members, residents and families I had grown so attached to. I appreciate hearing there is no animosity directed towards me, only understanding it couldn’t have been any different, so I will continue trying to make peace with it.  The connections I made there, my advocacy for the team and their hard work was all genuine.  My hope is some of the progress we had made will stick beyond my employment.

Thank you to my daughter for tolerating the uncertainty in our lives in stride.  She was during this time and continues to be my everlasting joy.

And thank to my husband for clearing the muddy waters, for recommitting to why we are together and the future we will develop successfully.  If there is anything we have learned in our six loooooonnnnggg years of marriage, it’s that it takes work.  I know we are prepared to put in the overtime necessary to get life back on track and we are already well on our way.

Life happens for a reason and the challenges we are presented with have purpose.  I know this to be true and in the midst of crisis, this reminder came from my friends and family.  Because of the love I felt during the hard times, August was the both the best and the worst month, and I felt so much happiness despite my life’s circumstances.

Live Happily Ever After Now

Warrior Dash 2013

The Warrior Dash is a 5K race with various obstacles along the way including hurdling fire, crawling through mud and climbing ropes.  In Kansas City, this years race happened to fall on a weekend after a week with several inches of April showers so the track was extra muddy.  The weekend remained overcast and the temperatures unseasonably cold.  And while no running activity is ever appealing to me, a group of friends convinced me to do the dash last year.  It turned out to be a ridiculously messy adventure to which we all agreed we might need a little more conditioning to actually appear somewhat fit to do it again.

What was I thinking – I don’t run, I thought as my friend Jeanne tried to cheer me on and push me to not stop until we got to the next obstacle.  Never in my life did I think I would be pleased to fall into a pit of mud or go wading into a murky pond, yet on that day we were like pigs on a farm needing relief from the heat.  Toward the end I was so exhausted I could hardly push my body weight over the logs I was attempting to hurdle, just as the fit and fast people from the next wave time effortlessly leapt past me.  Jeanne pushed and pushed me until I finally convinced her to run ahead and I’d meet her at the end/ As soon as she was out of sight I pondered if anyone would notice if I laid down to take a nap on the side of the track.

This year my friends all signed up again, and my best intentions to learn to run and build muscle for climbing, I did not prepare at all.  Fortunately or unfortunately, I dropped my plans to participate after dealing with the flu days before hand.  This year I went as a cheerleader/photographer, maybe next year I will be trained and ready to run.
w13My fanatically clean friend called me up a few days before she was scheduled to run the Warrior Dash.  She planned to run it this year for the first time and had an important question needing an answer.

“Do you have to donate your shoes?” Crystal, asked.  While the answer is no, I explained most people do throw their shoes in the suggested piles after running.  The shoes are cleaned up and given to charity, while registration fees contribute to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.  “I just got rid of all my old tennis shoes,” she stressed.  Despite knowing the Warrior Dash was scheduled soon, she couldn’t control her compulsive decluttering.

“Well at least when it’s over you will have something to clean,” I optimistically suggested assuming this might appease someone who finds so much pleasure in cleaning.

“Oh no, that’d be too messy.”  She reported her husband will be responsible for washing her tennis shoes after the race.

Rainbows After The Storm

This week started out with heavy storms, both literally and figuratively.  Last Saturday I woke up with a horrific headache and no pain medication in the house to take besides some heavy post-operative pharmaceuticals I didn’t think my ailment called for.  With my husband gone to an appointment I did my best to prepare a suitable breakfast for Parker and then sit as still as possible at the table while she ate.  It seemed any movement would send a shooting pain and bending over was agony.  I rushed my daughter, as much as a two-year old can be rushed, to hurry her eating so that I could get back to bed.  I sadly denied her requests to be picked up or to sit on my lap because it hurt too much.  She cooperated with my ailment, as children mysteriously do in times of need.  We finished in the kitchen and retreated to my bed where she sat quietly watching Elmo while I lay, eyes closed hoping my husband would be home soon.  The throbbing got to be too much at one point and I rushed to the bathroom to get sick, Parker calling on the other side of the door to see if Mommy was okay.  I crawled back to bed and text Reggie to get home as soon as possible.

I didn’t leave my bed much during the weekend, hurting and frustrated at having to cancel all of our weekend plans.  The anger I felt from the wasted time of having to lay there, when I had so many things on my to-do list not getting accomplished, probably made my head even worse.  By the time my migraine was subsiding on Sunday afternoon my body was achy and weak.  Despite having to suffer through the weekend the bright side was it happened on the weekend and would have been more difficult to interfere with Reggie’s schedule during the week to have to take care of Parker.  He did do a great job taking care of Parker too, even utilizing ‘phone a friend’ to find out how to take the day old french braid out of her hair.

With the week starting out so rough I didn’t have high expectations there would be much happening this week.  I was pleasantly surprised to have three big rainbows after the storm.

On Monday, back in touch with life and people, I learned my cousin had passed her test to begin an instructorship path recognized by the Thai Boxing Association of the USA.  She first told me of this test back in December painting a picture of a long examination of strikes, kicks and grappling lasting hours.  Had I been present to observe, the violence would have left me cowering in a corner rocking with my head between my knees.  Surrounded by peers, valued instructors and  the founder/director of Thai Boxing Association she was honored with the title of Khru meaning teacher.  I am so proud of her for this achievement, not only because she honestly has the strength in her tiny frame to kick ass, this accomplishment means so much more about her endurance to overcome obstacles she has in her life.  Truly amazing!

My second rainbow came from a friend sharing some bun in the oven news.  She and her husband are expecting and I have been trusted in her closest circle to hear before it’s made public (so shh, this is a secret.)  I’m ecstatic for her to begin the adventure into parenthood and to help her as much as I can (with advice from long distance) dealing with the pregnancy ailments.  Feeling sick , feeling tired, back pain, side pain, urgency to pee, loss of sleep, loss of appetite, increase in appetite, swelling, sweating, being easily irritated and no glass of wine to fix it – I don’t know how women can love it!?  The enjoyment I found in being pregnant came with the movement, first just tiny flutters, then kicks, somersaults and finally and obvious cramped space where neither of us could move much.  Although I wasn’t a woman who loved being pregnant, I wasn’t in a rush to deliver her because I knew for that time only she was all mine before I would have to share her with the world.

heather&kyleAnd finally the third rainbow came last night in the form of a proposal.  My little sister, Heather, and her long-time boyfriend, Kyle, are officially getting hitched.  I happened to be at my parent’s house when she called to share the news.  When my mom began shouting into the phone “Really?  Really?”  I immediately assumed my brother had hit it big calling from Vegas.  She put it on speaker phone and we all celebrated with cheers and tears.  When my mom continued the jumping and cheering after the phone call Parker looked at her shaking her head “Silly Nana,” she said before joining in with “Hooray” and dancing.

Ironically I had just been thinking of Kyle earlier in the day counting my brothers and sisters.  Biologically I only have 2 siblings, all together I calculated six wonderful brothers and five beautiful sisters I recognize as my family.  Kyle has been my brother already for years, it never mattered what their legal status was.  We always knew they would live a happily ever after together, now there will just be a party to celebrate it.

So with the start of the week wrecked, I am ending it with a smile.  Life is beautiful.

Bula! From Fiji

I met T. Jay and Crystal, also students from K-State when we entered the study abroad program and all chose to attend James Cook University in Townsville, Australia. Despite being nearly strangers, we figured it would be fun to travel together to get there and make our journey there an adventure. In order to get from Kansas City to Townsville, this required six flights, so we decided to take a break for a few days to explore Fiji and then another quick sight seeing tour of Sydney.

8 February 2003:
Bula!
We have finally arrived in Fiji after 18 hours of traveling. The flight to Fiji was the most uncomfortable ride I have ever been on where I was sandwiched between two guys for eleven hours straight. The plane was huge and completely jam packed. Every seat was taken and mostly by college students on their way to study abroad in Australia. Our flight arrived in Fiji at 5:30am and we finally left the airport a little after 7:00.

-cabinA short drive took us to turn at the McDonalds, down a long eroded street and then dirt road to the Club Fiji Resort. We checked in and were lead to one of the furthest cabins on the land (room 24). It’s small, no air conditioning, no phone and no TV – it’s the most rustic we’ve ever been and it’s perfect.

Crystal and I showered the plane off and sat down near the beach to write in our journals. A guy raking the sand stopped to talk to us, his name is Neeko and it turned out he is the activities everything person. He talked us into snorkeling today after breakfast (which really didn’t seem like breakfast since we have been awake for so long).

We met up with Neeko at 10 and he took us on a boat straight from the bay our cabin is on out to a reef. The boat had water in the bottom and a fish swam around inside of the boat, Neeko said he caught it yesterday. The reef, coral and fish were all beautiful, it makes me look forward to learning to scuba dive when we get to Australia. The schools of teal and silver fish that shimmer in the light were my favorite.

After snorkling we showered, yet again, and headed to the center of Nadi for some shopping. The stores are pretty much the same as many islands I have been to, and sellers follow shoppers harassing for a sale. One guy stopped me on the sidewalk and started a conversation. Initially I believed him to be another shopper until he insisted we go with him to a particular store. I dunno if T. Jay wanted to or if he didn’t know any better because he followed him, and we followed T. Jay.

kavaThe guy lead us straight to the end of the store and instructed us to take off our shoes and sit on the mat. We then participated in a kava ceremony in preparation for trying the drink. Kava is made from dried and ground kava root, then mixed with water in a ritual fashion. Everyone in the circle took turns sipping the drink, it really didn’t taste like much – water with a powdered substance in it. It made my tongue numb for a minute and I supposed if you drink more it causes a high effect.

From where I am sitting, looking out across the bay I can see the sleeping giant. Another traveler, Canadian named Murry, pointed it out to us. It really appears like the ridges of the hills are an outline of a man from head to toe. So far, I love Fiji. The people are friendly and the environment is beautiful. It is fun observing the birds, their calls and the unique vegitation. I don’t know what’s planned for tomorrow, I do know as long as we are in Fiji it will be wonderful.
-giant

Gallery

Quieting the Travel Bug

This gallery contains 10 photos.

I hate to set goals with deadlines for myself, I tend to miss deadlines, so by avoiding setting deadlines I can prevent the disappointment of not meeting them.  Still, I broke my rule and set a goal to achieve by … Continue reading

Lost the Fiesta and I’m Not Cursed

So many sports fanatics can relate to the roller coaster of emotions which come with cheering for players, sports and your team. The first time I declared myself to a team was with the Minnesota Vikings, most of it had to do with being oppositional about moving to Kansas City. Prior to this I had only seen football as a slow-paced game where huge men hog piled over a ball. Luckily as my knowledge of the positions, plays and players grew I came to respect the game and love watching the sport.

My real true passion for cheering a team came as a freshman at K-State in the fall of 2000. It would have been near impossible not to get drawn into the sport with the majority of the campus and community clad in purple every Saturday. I remember eagerly turning to the sports page of the university newspaper to measure the rise and fall of our ranking each week dependent upon the game before. And the very first and only game I attended during the season happened to be one of the most memorable games I have ever gotten to witness. K-State played a rival team Nebraska for their last home game, by the end in heavy snow conditions. I stood with my brother, sister-in-law and their friends with heated pouches in my mittens and boots to watch Nebraska get defeated. In my very first game not only did I finally get to participate in the Wabash, I got to storm the field with several thousand other deliriously chilled K-Staters.

I was hooked, college football was cemented into my college experience.

k-state tickets

It wasn’t until my senior year when I finally bought my first set of season tickets. My roommate, Sheila, and I attended every game and dedicated ourselves to standing, yelling, high-fiving and absorbing every second of every play. We enjoyed the football as much as our own pre-football festivities with a Game-Day CD blasting our Saturday tailgating anthems. Sheila and I were so invested in the games I remember standing near tears devastated at the loss to Marshall, holding onto hope until the very last second ran off the clock. I picture it raining that afternoon as we stood shocked looking at the scoreboard, maybe that is just how my memory puts me during that crummy emotional state. kstate

Despite the loss to Marshall, K-State went on to have a great season and was invited to play in the Fiesta Bowl. Being an irresponsible new graduate I hopped in with Sheila and a group of friends to road trip to Tempe, Arizona for the game. The whole trip was an adventure from the walkie-talkie game of “Would You Rather” I am happy there is no record of, to the hotel suite way too many of us shared, to the dangerously ingenious ride back after celebrating New Years in the downtown area. The spontaneous trip would have all been worth it, had it not been for the bowl game. K-State entered the stadium with odds against them, a fresh accusation against our prized quarterback overshadowed their ability on the field. K-State lost to Ohio, and I haven’t been able to smile at a Buckeye since.

Fast forward to this year, even a few hours away from Manhappiness, I continue to be a dedicated football fan eagerly anticipating every Saturday with more and more purple added to my wardrobe every year. My friend Crystal and I had decided to abandon mommy duty and drive to visit our friend, JoJo, in Texas. Simultaneously as K-State won games week after week and worked their way higher in the rankings we heard from JoJo, our mini-vaca happened to be the same weekend K-State would be coming to town and she could get us tickets. BEST NEWS EVER!

K-State continued their season undefeated and was finally placed at number 1 in the rankings as we made our way to Waco. JoJo showed us around Waco, introduced us to her favorite places to eat, drink and karaoke, she took us hiking, to the farmers market and to the Baylor campus where she is employed. We merrily enjoyed our freedom from changing diapers and wiping up slobber to have adult conversations for hours on end. And then Saturday evening rolled around, we walked the entire loop around the Baylor stadium and I was amazed at the personally labeled parking spaces and the high-end tailgating equipment sported by the alums. I was used to seeing cornhole, washers and ladder golf at tailgates, not high-definition flat screen TVs.

Fortunately we ran into a familiar sound and crowd finding ourselves at the K-State band playing in the parking lot just before going in. JoJo had gotten us tickets in the visitors section and I was pleased to see so many football fans in purple ready to cheer on the undefeated season. In front of us stood a group of K-State frat boys in button up shirts, khaki shorts and top-sider deck shoes – kind of laughable – yet they were for the good team so it was okay.

Baylor began playing better than K-State from the very beginning and I wasn’t worried. I had faith all of the excitement I had leading up to this game, driving all the way from Kansas City to Waco wouldn’t be for nothing. And then the game just kept getting worse. The refs made some horrible calls where the entire purple crowd cursed and screamed to the field. One of the frat boys in front of me appeared so infuriated, his face matched his shirt when he barely took a breath in his yelling commentary. I almost felt the need to stop my attacks on the ref to comfort the kid and prevent an early heart attack.

At halftime K-State went to the locker room behind in scoring 17:28, my confidence in the win never wavered. “They are a better second half team,” “Snyder is setting them straight now,” “They can do this.” I audibly reassured myself and anyone else near who was listening. And when the second half started, it didn’t get better. I sensed the desperation of thousands of K-State fans witnessing this on television watching the dreams of a perfect season vanish to a team we were/are better than, except I was watching it in person. In the second half Baylor continued to score while K-State floundered. With each Baylor touchdown the green people celebrated with greater enthusiasm jumping and dancing as the stadium played House of Pain’s “Jump Around.”

Over and over it played until the score reached 24:52. “Pack it up pack it in, let me begin…” I tried my best to sooth the lump in my throat and avoid looking at the Baylor crowd. I could imagine the excitement of being a student in attendance at the game to witness their team crushing the number one team in the country, at the same time already beginning to grieve the loss of the number one spot for my team.

I was so sour and depressed after the game we retired back to JoJo’s and went to bed early. Crystal and I got up before the sun on Sunday morning to flee Waco and return to Wildcat country. “Pack it up, pack it in…” popped onto our XM Radio channel within hours of our drive resulting in both of us lunging to turn it off.

K-State went on to play an outstanding season, never regaining a number one ranking, non-the-less they were invited to once again play in the Fiesta Bowl. Despite the temptation of making the trip to Phoenix, I was beginning to wonder if I carried a curse for away games. Logically I know I don’t have any sort of power to control the outcome by simply attending the game, and still the superstition concerned me.

I was glued to the TV to watch the opening kick-off return to see Oregon score against K-State. Unfortunately for K-State the Ducks took over, and I was reassured to know I’m not cursed.

Not your average holiday letter.

One thing I love the most about this time of year is all of the mail! The tradition of catching up with old friends by a Christmas card, a family photo or yearly update with a good old fashioned stamp on it makes me smile, plus fresh frame-worthy pictures to update frames is a bonus. Snail mail anytime of the year is welcome, though, I know I send and receive the most in the month of December.

The holiday letter is kind of a funny thing to me. When a simple card or picture will not do, individuals and families might opt to generate a quick synopsis of the last 12 months to update friends and family who might not otherwise hear all of the news flashes throughout the year. I’m not sure when my mom thought this would be necessary to write one for our family, though, I remember the year I did not approve. In 1996 I was 14 years old and read over her draft of the family holiday letter. I’m sure she highlighted many major events, boasted about how wonderful her kids were and used proper sentence structure and punctuation, yet it seemed to make us even more boring than we actually were. By pointing out the yawn factor, she challenged me to come up with something better. The product ended up being a sarcastic summary of life in our household and I was required to continue writing holiday letters until long after all of us kids were grown.

A few years back my mom’s friend Sue mailed me a stack of my holiday letters she had been saving. Her note said she had been doing some deep cleaning and heard I hadn’t been keeping copies. I guess rather than holding onto the letters themselves I will purge them onto the internet to be able to look back on and maybe inspire someone else to create entertaining holiday notes. Starting with letter #2.
-letter1997
-letter1998
-letter1999
-letter2000
-letter2001
-letter2002
-letter2003
-letter2005
-letter2006-letter2007
-letter2008
-letter2009

Amazing how my mom folded each letter identically over the years, huh? Now I am anxiously awaiting the mailman’s arrival!

Pawnee For Life

In my last semester of college I was coming down to weeks before graduation still wondering what my next step in life would be.  I enjoyed every ounce of the college experience and probably didn’t give enough thought to looking past that.   Lucky for me, a peer in one of my psychology classes told me where and how to apply for a job at the community mental health center, where she had been working.

Not ready to abandon my college roommates or completely emerse myself into career minded adulthood across the country somewhere, I submitted my resume.  At the time I wasn’t so sure the interview went well, the boss lady seemed bitterly all about business.  I figured either I missed something good about the interview or there were few applicants for the position when they called me back to offer me the job.

When I went in to sign the initial hiring paperwork, I met a hunk who was hired on the same day.  He later became my husband. And the mean boss lady was a bridesmaid and is one of my best friends.  She told me she hired me because she liked my purse…

In the moment working at the community mental health center was the logical next baby step for me after graduation.  Looking back I understand how this job, the team I worked with and the people we served made a deep impact – much grander than a baby step.  The team consisted of dozens of bright and creative minds, all complimenting and balancing each other out.  We worked with children diagnosed with mental illness and their families, I witnessed growth and change for some kids I would have doubted possible.  In the workplace the team seemed to be synchronized like a grandfather clock, finding strengths and supports within each other to do our jobs well.  Of course our grandfather clock would be wildly colored, with constantly evolving pieces being added and removed, provide laughter every hour on the hour and have a tiny toy rat terrier in place of a cuckoo bird.

Working with kids with emotional issues did get a little cuckoo at times, and not only did we have the support we needed in the workplace we all got along outside of work as well.  All the credit goes to the boss lady for hiring some amazing individuals, with whom, I am happy to call my friends.

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While we did have some great times and continue to maintain friendships, things were not all golden and drama free.  The team consisted of many strong-willed individuals who saw situations from opposite perspectives, though, I have never seen a group be more respectful in figuring out how to work towards solutions.  And I know I may be a little extra persuaded by the experience finding my husband there and all, though I think others share the same insight about the incredible group dynamics.

I worked there for three and a half years following my college graduation and left to further my education in this field.  Few of the staff I worked with are still there since many used the opportunity as a step like I did.  Those years were invaluable to me personally and professionally.  I appreciate everyone I worked with and learned from, unfortunately now my dilemma is being unable to replicate the fun workplace I remember, anywhere else I have worked since.

Let’s just say…  If I were granted a corporation to save the world, I know just the people I would recruit to be a part of the team.

What Is There To Say?

Expressing concern for someone’s grief always leaves me wordless…  I am mindful not to deliver the usual cliché condolences as these phrases can instigate more suffering and be invalidating.

“I understand how you feel,” is often used even when it’s not comprehensibly possible to know what someone else is experiencing.

“There is purpose in everything,” ouch – while true – not important to hear about in the midst of grief.

“Things will get better,” not helpful in the present moment when loss is so fresh and suffering is so painful.

Being fearful of saying the wrong thing leads me to say “I’m sorry,” and then stare blankly in the absence of something profound or the necessary empathetic expression which actually may help.

The reason this is on my mind is because of an e-mail I received from a friend last week.  She and I met several years ago in school, we work in the same field several hours away from each other and keep up with each other’s lives sparingly through Facebook, phone conversations and the occasional lunch.  My friend was elated to report of her pregnancy this spring, shared pics of her pregnant belly via Facebook and asked me questions about labor and planning for a newborn.  To say there was no baby daddy drama would be like belittling the Clinton sex scandal.  Regardless of no stable relationship she was glowing with excitement about this growing miracle.  From a distance it appeared her life revolved around preparing, planning and providing for the little one, and her smile in the pictures could not have been any brighter.

Her e-mail indicated she had gone into pre-term labor last week and delivered her baby at only 22 weeks gestation.  The tiny 1lb 1oz girl was too premature to survive and passed with less than an hour in life on earth.  

The thought of what she is experiencing right now takes my own breath away and puts me in a state of grief considering with how devastating the experience would be.  I want to hug my friend, I want to be able provide the explanation she doesn’t have as to how this could have happened, I want to fast forward to the point in life where she can feel some happiness again.  I really want to know what I can say to bring her some comfort because I am without words right now.

The Ultimate Determination

I have a friend I met almost four years ago through a job.  Carrie and I were hired within a month of each other and had an immediate connection.  We’ve talked about our souls being connected in the past and I knew she came into my life to help fill in the gaps of my own inadequacies and I to help her in the same manner.  We only worked together for about a year before some political drama and employment cuts ended up with her out of the job.  The situation makes me cringe to even think about and I could easily go into a downward spiral of hatred considering what happened…  So I will stop there and move on.

Our friendship continued although, our face to face contact became more dispersed.  She and I talked about the possibility of a business venture since our personalities complimented each other so well.  She is slightly older than I and sometimes it felt like she had a lifetime more life experiences.  There were times I would smile and nod at her question “You know what I mean?” hoping she wouldn’t recognize I knew nothing before I could puzzle together some context clues.  Carrie has a knack for getting her needs met, her southern drawl could reel anyone in and convince them of whatever she was requesting.  Her dark curly hair is the kind most women would lay down big money to duplicate, and this is on the days she claims she didn’t have time to fix it her own way.  She has warm brown eyes, a bright smile, rounded face and naturally tan skin.  Carrie’s outward beauty barely begins to exude the beauty within, as she has worked her life serving others.  Her career has involved advocating for those who cannot do it for themselves, and she is exactly who I would want representing me if I were incompetent to make my own decisions.  Sounds like I have painted the picture of a wonderfully warm and generous human being who speaks softly, with manners and always kind and gentle.  Yes, this is true of Carrie in many ways although I would warn you…  Don’t cross her, she can outwit you and pull the totem your pride was standing on before you can catch your next breath.

These characteristics have served Carrie professionally and recently in a deeply personal way as well.  This story is about the ultimate determination I have witnessed in my friend and an incredible journey to parenthood I am so honored to be able to report.  Seriously incredible and worth making into a movie, I told Carrie she would be played by Angelina Jolie.

Two years ago Carrie talked to me about her desire to be a mom.  She had been in a number of serious relationships throughout her twenties and thirties, none of them amounting to “the one” worth marrying.  Since she was well into adulthood, built a professional career and firm foundation, Carrie felt the tug of parenthood greater than the need for following society’s approved order of becoming a parent (i.e. relationship, marriage than baby).

Haters – stop right there.  I know some people immediately get all judgmental when someone acts out of the realm of what is traditional.  Need I remind you a large number of youth grow up in single parent households in the present day, single moms can do just fine providing all the emotional, physical and financial support a child can possibly need.  AND there is no such thing as a traditional household anymore – family make-ups are all unique and no one is better than another – just different.  There is no specific recipe for what ingredients make for a healthy child – love and resources in what ever form they may come.  

So Carrie began with looking at her options.  She wanted the experience of being pregnant, of feeling the baby growing and kicking, and delivering it into the world.  She submerged herself into research about the medical advances in using donors and insemination.  She met with doctors and began preparing her body.  She revised her diet and workout regiment, she was religious about vitamins and necessary medications.

I can’t recall all of the details of each insemination attempt. I know there were many and I know a few took to pregnancies and all ended in miscarriages.  Between attempts she became well versed in the medical terminology, being able to converse intelligently with her doctors about what tests they were failing to administer which increased her chances the next time around.  She submitted her body to a strict regiment of shots and medications to prepare for and retain the pregnancies.  With each attempt Carrie was more hopeful and then more upset with each loss, feeling dreams of motherhood crashing.  Feeling pregnancy may not be an option for her she looked into adoption.  Adoption also appeared like a hopeless path as adoption agencies look for two parent households.  The foster-care into adoption situations would only consider her for older children, sibling sets or children with special needs all of which she felt unprepared.

I heard her talk about “This will be the last try,” leading up to the most recent medical procedure, and I was elated to hear the positive test results several weeks later.  Without trying to sound pessimistic I questioned how she and her doctors felt this one would hold better than the last and if she would on-going increased care.  I so wanted Carrie to experience to joy of being a mom, to carry a healthy baby and experience the terrific pain of childbirth, I just had a sinking feeling this might not work.  In March Carrie told me the news, there was no heartbeat on the sonograms and this pregnancy also ended in a miscarriage.  It was devastating to hear and I cannot even begin to imagine how she was feeling.  Weeks went by before I heard from her again, and this time it was a phone call I will never forget.

The day before Easter Carrie called to tell me she was going to be a mom and her baby is due by the end of the month.  I wanted to cry, I wanted to hug her through the phone, I wanted to be there with her getting to see the expression of joy she had to be having.  Words wouldn’t even formulate in my mouth to ask appropriate questions of – how did this happen?  She provided me with some background and wanted some information, since she had spent two years working on how to become pregnant she missed the nine months women usually have to prepare for the baby.

Through this phone call and conversations we have had since I understand the bizarre and amazing connections which brought my friend to motherhood.  Even greater, the determination my friend sustained throughout this journey demonstrate she can tackle whatever challenges a parent may face.

Carrie and her mom learned of a young woman who was pregnant and wanting to give her baby up for adoption.  The birth mom was addicted to a multitude of prescription drugs and knew she couldn’t be responsible for the infant after the birth.  She used throughout the pregnancy and had no prenatal care at all.  Shortly after meeting with my friend she agreed Carrie is meant to be her baby’s mom.

Carrie scurried to get all of the necessary legal documents completed including a home inspection and began making purchases for a nursery.  She paid for a hotel room for the duration of the pregnancy and time afterwards since the birth mom had no stable living arrangements.  And she took the birth mom to buy food and to doctors appointments where she learned she was having a boy.

The birth mom reassured Carrie about how even the baby knew she was his mom, when he would calm his movements when her hand was on the belly.  She the only person who provided calm for him in the chaotic environment his birth mom surrounded herself with.  Carrie said there were various times when several women and handfuls of children would also be staying in the hotel room when she came by with groceries.  During one such visit an ambulance was called when one of the birth mom’s guests had a gran mal seizure.  The way Carrie described the individuals she interacted with, they sound incredibly intimidating.  She certainly wouldn’t let any fear show, as she was there for her son.

The estimated due date provided Carrie with about a month to prepare, except two weeks early she was rushing to the delivery room with the birth mom.  The hospital staff requested Carrie’s cooperation to help the birth mom through the labor as she was the only one the panicking woman would respond to.  For hours during active labor Carrie was on her knees on the hospital floor to bring her baby into the world.  One Monday, at a perfectly healthy weight and size her baby was born, miraculously showing no effects from the drugs or withdrawal symptoms.  

You might think hooray, and it ends there…  Not for Carrie, with adoption it’s not over until the paperwork is signed by the judge.

Court was scheduled for Thursday, leaving four more days in the hospital.  Carrie snuggled her newborn and got to enjoy the first feedings and diaper changes, while in a separate room birth mom recovered.  The hospital social worker was obviously disapproving of the adoption arrangement and questioned the birth mom “wouldn’t you want your son to have two parents?”  When her questioning wouldn’t budge the birth mom’s decision she talked about child protective services coming to speak with her.  After the conversation with the hospital social worker, and without the knowledge of Carrie or any hospital staff the birth mom eloped from her recovery room.

Once the social worker and director of nursing became aware of what was happening they approached Carrie about taking the baby to the nursery, because she was not a legal guardian for the child (yet.)  The social worker and DON were no match for all Carrie had been through in the last two years for this child, and she made sure they understood how they had failed this child by making the birth mom feel insecure and allowing her to walk out.  She made sure they understood she would not allow her son to be punished by removing him from her care because of their mistakes.  Carrie tolerated the babysitter/security they staked out in her room for the remainder of the days leading up to the court hearing.

A head hospital administrator learned of the events taking place on the nursery floor and came to Carrie with an apology.  He offered two $10 gift cards to the hospital cafeteria as a gesture, ha – as if that could make up for the furry Carrie felt toward his establishment.

On the Wednesday evening before court the lawyers began drawing attention to the birth mom’s absence and her unresponsiveness to calls.  It was clear if she didn’t make it to court, the proceedings wouldn’t happen and the baby would become custody of the state.  Carrie’s mom stayed with the baby while Carrie went on a chase.  She drove to every sight she had ever been to with the birth mom, contacted each connection she had made with the birth mom and followed every possible lead to where she may be.  Around 2am Thursday morning Carrie found herself in a trailer park with some shady characters looking high out front.  She found the birth mom inside a trailer passed out and helped her regain enough consciousness to get into the car and return to the hotel room.

Despite the roller coaster of emotions during the week and a sleepless night before the hearing, Carrie made it to court with the birth mom.  In the meeting room before seeing the judge the birth mom continued to try to put her head down and sleep, with the lawyers looking on frowning for fear the judge may postpone the date.  Carrie insisted she stand up and jog in place with her to stay alert and ensured all of the final paperwork was signed and approved.

 

 

 

My friend Carrie’s story of becoming a mom is the ultimate determination.  Her son is as lucky to have her as she is to have him, and I am fortunate to have her friendship.  Carrie’s dedication to fulfill her dream is an inspiration to me and to so many others who have witnessed her journey.