Update 2

I swear we haven’t forgotten to update, we’re just in a waiting period.

That said, I couldn’t let Infertility Awareness week pass without saying something.

So here’s what’s going on —

The timeline has changed since the last time I wrote. We were originally expecting Russ to have surgery in late May and thought all of this would be behind us (provided there were no major issues) by the end of June.

As it turns out, that won’t be the case, but we’re lucky because the only reason the timeline has changed is scheduling issues. There are about a million little things that can extended the waiting period and many of them are far more frustrating than a doctor’s packed schedule. ((Full disclosure: this was not my attitude when we first found out about the delay, but I’m going to go ahead and blame that on hormonal changes and take credit for the fact that I realized relatively quickly that I was overreacting.))

In the meantime, we’ve been able to nail down some of the less exciting, but very important logistical things like…

-We secured our baby loan! We’re not big on carrying debt. We’ve been actively working to knock out a student loan and car payments and we cleared any credit card debt we had over a while ago, so adding a new loan isn’t the most fun thing, BUT we’re really thankful that these kinds of loans exist, because the payment is manageable for us and because a baby is going to be worth it – no doubt.

-We chose a sperm donor. This is still a backup option and we are still hopeful that we’re just paying for something that we’ll never actually need, but it was a necessary step and now it’s behind us. I’ll probably sit down and write about that experience at some point, but I’m not sure I’m ready to do that yet. It was surreal.

-We requested the necessary time off for all of these things. It looks like mid-June we’ll have a nice week of vacation with a side of everyone going through major medical procedures then watching a billion hours of Netflix on the couch.

On top of all of that, I’ve recently had two different in-person conversations with women I know who’ve been or are going through this process and those were incredibly uplifting.

One of them is an old friend I haven’t seen in roughly a decade who is just a month or so ahead of us in the process at the same clinic. We got coffee and spent an hour or so just talking through the strangeness of the process. It was an awesome chance to be candid with someone face to face and just share the ups and downs of all of this. It is also cool to be able to be a cheerleader for someone else’s process. I feel like I’m rooting for her success as much as I’m rooting for my own and I’m really looking forward to the day we both can share great news.

The other was a friend who successfully went through the IVF process twice more than a decade ago and has healthy, beautiful, happy children. She’s one of those people who just glows with positivity and a genuine appreciation for life. As someone whose optimism has waned a bit over the past few months, it was great to be able to talk with her about how she handled it. I left our lunch feeling like Russ and I can totally handle this – That’s an incredibly valuable thing to feel. I’ve been saying it, but to really feel it is different.

OH… AND… it turns out the nurse who will walk us through the IVF orientation process is a friend of a good friend. A familiar face is going to be so helpful, particularly when she’s giving me all of the details of the injections I’m going to have to give myself.

So that’s where we are. That’s a lot of good things! Plus we’ve reached a point where we’ve had long enough to process our situation that we’re feeling pretty calm about it right now.

It’s sort of nice to be in this quiet waiting period where all we have to do is make sure I take one daily pill and we continue to have honest conversations about this whenever either of us needs to.

There’s plenty ahead of us, but right now feels pretty good!

 

 

 

 

Fertility stuff: Update 1

If this seems like it’s out of left field, you might’ve missed my last post. This is an update.

We had an appointment today to get the process started and we both left smiling.

Seriously!

After having a few weeks to process what is ahead and realizing that we are emotionally equipped to handle it, we’re feeling very optimistic.

The genetic odds haven’t changed, but we’ve been able to talk through just about every outcome and process it together.

Not to mention the fact that we’ve had a few weeks of knowing there is literally nothing we can do right now to make this happen on our own and that’s oddly freeing. We’ve just been having fun and enjoying each other’s company – the way it should be and usually is.

Did I mention three years ago today Russ asked me to marry him? Engagement anniversaries aren’t really something we celebrate, but given our appointment happened to be today, it feels worth noting that saying yes to everything that comes with this partnership was and still is a good choice.

Now we have a timeline. In a couple of weeks, I’ll start a process of drugs that, oddly enough, begins with birth control and is followed by a couple of weeks of hormone injections. That part sounds really terrible to a person who just a few years ago cried before getting a tetanus shot (I’m not proud of that, but in the interest of keeping it all way too real…)

Honestly, the injections just sound like an opportunity to finally grow past my way too extreme fear of needles.

Other than that, my job is far easier than Russ’s, at least leading up to the pregnancy (we’ve chosen to believe that it’s going to work out at this point). He’s the one who has to have surgery and that won’t be any sort of party, but the recovery time is short and we really do believe it’s worth it to have a final answer on whether we can have his kids or not.

The biggest bummers (barring the things that *might* go wrong during surgery/implantation/pregnancy that we’re choosing not to dwell on) as we go through this are:

  • Not knowing how I’ll react to the medicines. I’m not a medicine person. I don’t even like to take headache medicine if I can help it. I’m sure my hormonal changes will make me a party and a half to be around for the next couple of months. I’ll do my best to keep those in check…
  • Not being able to run – I’ve gotten back into a really good routine of running about 6 days a week and it’s put me in a great mental space. The doctor says I’ll have to cut that out beginning the month leading up to egg retrieval and then again in the month leading up to implantation. This is a bummer because it means I’ll lose whatever stamina I’ve built up and likely have to forego running for the whole pregnancy since you shouldn’t pick something back up that you haven’t been doing lately. This is honestly probably my biggest loss in the whole process (provided the pregnancy actually works out), so I’m sad about it. But light to moderate activity is okay, so I’ll just start swimming more often, plan on more walks with friends and ramp up my yoga class attendance. And then post-pregnancy, I’ll start running again… from scratch.
  • Cutting alcohol – we’re not heavy drinkers by any stretch of the imagination, but we enjoy the craft beer scene and breweries/taprooms are common hangout spots with friends. Both of us will have to cut this out for the month leading up to retrieval (essentially end of April to end of May). The nice thing for Russ is he can get back to enjoying some beer after his surgery. As for me, hopefully I’ll have to hold off for another 10 months after May… because that would mean everything went as planned. That’s a price I’m definitely willing to pay… in addition to the actual $ price $ we’re having to pay.

So that’s the latest. If all goes as planned, we’ll start meds later this month. By the end of May surgery and retrieval will be behind us and a month after that we’ll start cooking up a little baby, barring any major speed bumps. The timeline is kind of cool actually, because it works out so that we could potentially have a positive pregnancy test almost exactly a year after the original positive pregnancy test that turned out to not be so. It would be nice to finally put that darn ‘What to expect when you’re expecting’ book Russ bought me to use.

Like I said, we’re feeling optimistic. We’re choosing to believe this is going to work out and it’s incredibly nice to be moving forward with a plan.

And we’re beyond grateful for the huge amount of support we’ve received.

To the people who’ve asked if we’re doing a GoFundMe or if they can give us money. We so appreciate your support and that you would want to help in such a way. The weight of that gesture is definitely not lost on us, but we’re also very lucky people. We are blessed to be equipped and supported in ways that we recognize many couples are not.We hope that you’ll understand that, while we so appreciate the gesture, what we want most is for you to keep being the amazing, loving, supportive people that you are. 

So here’s the thing

Take a deep breath and ask yourself if you’re cool with reading something very personal before you read this. This is going to get kind of science-y — think body parts, reproduction and things you probably should’ve been taught in health class. Some people may read it and think “I would never put my business out there like that” or feel that they have a better way of handling the situation. Those are not the people who necessarily need to read this, though anyone we love (or anyone with internet access, I guess) is welcome to. Russ and I have chosen *together* to share our story because we firmly believe this is something people should be able to talk about instead of feeling alone in a heartbreaking situation.

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We can’t have children the natural way. That’s a sentence that is somehow easier to write than it is to say aloud, though it’s becoming more natural as the days pass and it’s really just the beginning of the story.

2018 has been a bit like hell. We started the year feeling optimistic. Months of trying to conceive a child and tracking cycles so we could get all of the science down pat felt like it might finally work out.

January was our month.

I’d somehow become so certain that we’d finally gotten the formula right after eight months that I was comforted as we started a new year.

In 2017 I was heartbroken three times.

Once when we had what was either a false positive test or chemical pregnancy in July; the first month after we started trying.

Again in November, when I wasn’t pregnant by the time I turned thirty; an arbitrary deadline I’d set for myself because it seemed so possible when we started trying five months earlier.

And once more when we wrapped up the year without any sign of a baby in the near future.

Science, health, bodies don’t give a crap about my deadlines.

January was fresh and full of optimism –– certainty even.

I was watching ‘Friends’ on the couch in the middle of the night on Jan. 31st, like I do on the very rare nights I can’t get any sleep, when I broke down. I’d been restless all night and had done more than my fair share of crying.

Another month of disappointment.

In a moment of pure weakness, I posted something to Facebook – Facebook… the land of baby pictures and pregnancy announcements. I thought maybe just maybe there might be someone out there drowning in the same sea of “why is this working for everyone but us?”

It wasn’t just one. Dozens of friends and family reached out to me to say they understood the struggle or were close to someone who did.

I was strengthened.

I was heartbroken, but I really felt stronger with the knowledge that it isn’t easy for everyone.

They don’t teach you that in school. My high school health class didn’t spend a lot of time on the reproductive system and what we were taught was focused only on avoiding the risks that come with s-e-x, not what to expect when you are actually ready for your body to make a baby human.

No one ever talked about how difficult it can be for some people, or even how long it typically takes if everything is working right. Did you know, even if everything is functioning perfectly, the odds of getting pregnant in any given cycle are just 20-25%?

I DIDN’T.

That would’ve been nice to know.

But that’s beside the point for us, because everything isn’t working properly. In fact, some things are working so poorly, there’s a pretty significant chance that we won’t be able to have a child that is genetically connected to both of us and we already know we definitely won’t be able to without the help of medical professionals with specialty degrees and sophisticated tools at their disposal.

And that shit (sorry) is devastating.

I mean, it’s heartbreaking. It’s cry in front of the doctor, cry randomly at your desk at work, cry on your husband’s shoulder while you feel him crying on yours as you hug across the center console of your car in the fertility center parking lot level heartbreaking.

For months I was told by so many people that it would work out when I just stopped stressing. I was told to just try to stay calm. I was told so many things by so many sweet friends that honestly turned out to be very well-meaning bullshit.

And I’m thankful for each of those friends who tried. I’m grateful for everyone who’s encouraged us and said whatever felt like the most appropriate thing to us in these moments. I don’t, for even one second, blame someone for not knowing the perfect thing to say. I don’t know the perfect thing to say and it’s my reality. There is not enough thanks in the world for anyone who’s just been there in the last several days, weeks, months.

But it doesn’t always work out. The truth is sometimes life is messy and hard.

Sometimes the plan is absolutely forced to change, no matter how you feel about it.

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Over the past few weeks we’ve been questioned about our medical history, we’ve distracted each other with conversations about the Patriots and why Raleigh is so great (two of our favorite rambling topics) while a nurse named Karen stuck needles in our arms and took our blood for tests. One of us even had our most intimate parts inspected by a doctor in front of the other in a tiny cramped office.

None of that was as uncomfortable as the truth that we learned two weeks ago. We have a huge decision to make if we want to birth children.

We can choose the relatively uncomplicated and inexpensive first option. Choose a sperm donor and try insemination (roughly $1,400 for each month of treatment). It’s straightforward and simple, but it would guarantee any baby conceived would be genetically mine and genetically not Russ’s

or

Spend roughly $20,000 for Russ to go through a complicated procedure to find out if he has any viable sperm (or if there never were any), have backup donor sperm on hand and go through IVF to have an embryo implanted that would either be genetically linked to both of us or just me, depending on the outcome of the first procedure.

We’ve chosen the second option. The decision itself wasn’t even all that difficult for us. I’m still not in a place where I can imagine having a baby that doesn’t have Russ’s blue eyes, chubby cheeks or deep dimples. Maybe it’s denial or maybe it’s hope.

We decided we ultimately couldn’t live with not at least trying to find out if having his own biological children has ever been a viable option for Russ.

The thing is, we know without a doubt what kind of parents we will be whether a child is genetically mine, ours or adopted. I know that there’s not another soul on Earth I’d trust with children more than Russ; the guy who spends hours playing with our nieces and nephews, is absolutely in love with our best friends’ daughters and gets down on any kid’s level to look them in the eye when he talks to them.

If we find out after thousands of dollars and a complicated operation that having children genetically linked to Russ was never a possibility, it won’t be easy to face that fact. I’ll probably be angry. I know I’ll be sad. It would be downright cruel –– honestly, it would be a hell of a loss for a world that could use more eternal optimists with contagious smiles like Russ.

It would be the toughest thing we’ve both personally experienced to date, but adoption is another option and one we are certainly considering.

We’ll come out on the other side of this with children. One way or another, we will be parents. It won’t be an easy process, but we’ll get there and we’ll appreciate the opportunity and each other more after all we’ll go through to get there.

It’s already happening. I can’t imagine going through this with anyone else by my side.

So that’s where this story begins. We intend to share as much of this journey as we comfortably can, because we need to, but also because there are probably others out there who need to know that they’re not the only ones.

Forgive us, please, over the next few weeks or months, if we don’t seem like ourselves. Forgive us if your words of comfort seem to fall on deaf ears. Forgive us if we’re just not ready for advice on how to handle it.

But please, don’t stop loving us. We need that.

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I saved this site for one more year. We’ll see where it goes.

A week ago I was letting this site go. After four years of a website bearing my name, I decided I hadn’t made it amount to much beyond sharing my ramblings with a handful of people who already know and love me.

That’s okay because that’s what I intended it to be in the first place. Actually, I intended it to just be a creative space for me. I never really thought anyone else would read it.

In the eleventh hour, I couldn’t bear the idea of losing it before I gave it another shot, so I ponied up the few dollars it takes to keep the site alive for a year and decided I would really try to find a focus in the next year.

Since 2014 I’ve used this as a space to write about friendship, family, falling in love and things that upset me, both small and large. Some of it has been shared, some of it has barely been seen.

But it’s been a space where anyone who wanted to could follow along.

So I’m keeping it alive for at least one more year. I’m promising myself I’ll write more often and be okay with whatever response it does or doesn’t receive.

Writing has always been my outlet of choice. Whether I feel my writing is worth sharing has little bearing on my decision to do it.

But this site is good for me, if for no other reason than forcing myself to be a little more brave with things I write and share them even if I’m not convinced they’re worth it.

I guess this is basically a warning to the 80 or so people who get emails whenever I post here. I’m going to be publishing more and while nonfiction, biographical, reflective posts are my tendency, I have short stories, poems and just general musings in notebooks all over my home and I plan to let them spill over to this space.

If you’re not up for seeing more of that, more of me, this is your warning.

If you are, well, I’ll try not to disappoint you.

Happy 2018!

Happy 2018 y’all!

I’m thrilled to be starting a new year right here – I mean that in both my physical location and emotional state.

2017 was a wild ride. Around this time last year Russ and I were doubling down on our plan to buy our first home. (I shared details of what we were doing to save money here). I can’t say enough good things about that. Saving for a house further solidified our roles as teammates working toward a common goal and reminded me of the importance of recognizing want versus need – something on which we can probably all use a regular refresher.

Here we are starting 2018 and we’ve been in our house for a few months. We’ve made a few minor improvements. I painted the laundry room and guest room. We (with a lot of help from my parents and brother) put down new flooring in one guest room (okay… they mostly did it). And we added a fire pit and lights to the backyard. Unsurprisingly, the backyard is our favorite part of the house. And I swear it’s not just because we can let the dogs outside on their own and don’t have to endure any more late night walks in the cold while we wait forever for them to take care of their business.

So far the house has given us a collection of small projects, but in 2018 we’re going to do more. We’ll start out garden and compost area. It was too late to plant a garden when we moved in late last summer. We could’ve started composting, but I was distracted by other things. So all of that will come early next month.

Our master bedroom needs a reboot. It’ll be getting new floor that matches the floors in the main room and guest room. That part should be relatively easy because we’ve already somewhat learned how to install that flooring and will likely again have help from my family (yeah, we’re lucky).

The master bathroom will probably be our biggest project this year. Right now we have what feels to me like an old hotel style bathroom. The sinks are open to the bedroom, visible from the bed. On the right side of the sink area is a shower room. On the left is our closet.

The set-up a little strange, but we’re thinking a sliding door would make a world of difference. It’ll be nice to feel like our bedroom and bathroom are two separate areas.

We’re also planning to replace the flooring in the bathroom and closet area. We’re looking at tile for the sink and shower room and probably the same floor we’ll be putting in the bedroom for the closet.

We’ll take our time on improvements here, because there’s no sense in screwing up the financial situation we’ve carefully built. Eventually we’ll turn the standard tub/shower combo into a tiled shower-only. I love a flippin’ bubble bath, but not as much as I want my bathroom to feel like a sophisticated space.

All of these changes come at a cost. One we’ll have to balance with our 2018 financial goals. This year we’re putting a bigger focus on paying off Russ’s student loans. The nice thing is we are armed with the knowledge that we can handle budgeting and planning to accomplish big financial goals. We saved enough for a house in just about a year and we did it without sacrificing much. Those of you who think it’s not possible, take heart in knowing that neither of us makes an impressively large salary.

It’s totally possible.

That’s the attitude I’ve adopted for 2018. For all things I hope to accomplish — it’s totally possible. 

 

 

Car accident: NO INJURIES

Yesterday I got into a car accident for the first time.

Okay, it wasn’t really the first time. Once in high school I was driving my mom’s car when a women in her twenties and I collided in an intersection. I was turning left and she was going straight, but it wasn’t very clear to the police whose fault it was because the woman had her left turn signal on and changed lanes mid-intersection. Technically, because she was going straight, she had the right-of-way, but she’d only made the decision to drive straight once she was in the intersection. The airbags didn’t inflate. No one was injured.

This was different.

This will count, for me, as the first time I was really in a car accident. Somehow the airbags deploying made it seem that much more real. That and the fact that I really did feel like it happened in slow motion.

I’d just left work to go take some photos for a story a few minutes before the accident. I was less than two miles from the office when I stopped at a four-way stop. There were no other cars there with me. I started to move through the intersection and as I did I saw a woman coming to the stop sign on my right side, but she didn’t seem to be stopping. I knew what was happening before it did and I tried to speed up to avoid it.

She swears she stopped before slamming into the rear passenger side of my car.

The airbags and bent wheel say that’s unlikely. The police agreed.

If you have to see what airbags really look like, my wish for you is that it be like this was for me — that the impact is on the opposite side of your car from where anyone is seated. The back passenger side of the car is literally as far away from the driver as you can get.

I was alone. So was she.

The noise was terrifying, a crunching that sounded much worse than the damage shows. Immediately after she hit, I tried to brake. My car slid about 20 yards up the street, a quiet back street with almost no traffic. The car slid until I realized I’d been pressing with all of my might against the floor instead of the brake.

My car came to a stop in a diagonal position in the middle of the street. I really wasn’t hurt. I knew in that moment I hadn’t hit my head or anything, but I also didn’t feel like I was inside my own body.

I was together enough to put the car in park, but not enough to realize that I shouldn’t leave my car sitting diagonally across a street, get out and wander into the street while leaving my driver side door wide open.

I couldn’t hear out of my left ear except for the ringing that didn’t go away until I woke up this morning, but I was otherwise physically unharmed. Still, I was shaking; maybe from the shock of what I’d watched happen or the fact that I tried and couldn’t avoid it or even the scary realization that it could’ve been so much worse. Regardless, I stood in the middle of a neighborhood street shaking as I called police.

Car accidents are strange. I hear about them every single day at work. Most days I hear about a deadly crash on a local road. Sometimes I write about them.

While we waited, I thought about how many friends I’ve lost to car accidents. I thought about a number of close calls. I thought about how minor the damage was to my car and self. I put into perspective just how lucky it is to be in a crash with a strong enough impact to release the airbags and walk away with nothing worse than temporary hearing loss and an annoying ringing.

The car can be fixed and pretty soon I’ll stop doing double-takes at cars approaching intersections as I pass.

Veterans Day repost

I’m re-sharing a post from 2014 because its about my brother, a veteran of the war in Iraq, whom I absolutely adore. Remember our veterans every day, but especially this weekend. Thank you to all who serve.

Here’s a link to another story about him, if you’re interested. 


I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t know the Bruce Springsteen song ‘I’m on Fire’ existed until John Mayer covered it for his 2009 album. I was a senior in college and still in that swoon over John Mayer phase. Bruce Springsteen was just ‘born in the USA’ and nothing more. When my brother brought this song up on the phone I told him I knew it because of John Mayer. He said “no, you’re thinking of the Jimi Hendrix song.” ‘Bold as Love’ is another cover I didn’t realize was a cover until I loved John Mayer’s version first in the mid 2000s. The timing of my existence is mildly unfortunate, at least in the case of good music, but I digress.

My brother is not a Springsteen superfan, by any means. Of all the years I spent riding passenger side in whatever vehicle he hadn’t wrecked yet (sorry, bro), I never remember any Springsteen. He was my old school rap and Miles Davis loving brother. He is also the reason I had boyz II men cassette tapes before I was old enough to care if they were boys or men. But Springsteen had a song that struck a cord during what must’ve been the most pivotal period of his life so far.

It’s two minutes and 37 seconds long. 2:37. That’s about as short as a song on pop radio can get. People run half a mile in that time. Running is exactly what it makes my brother want to do. When he brought up the song he told me he’d been listening to it on repeat for at least an hour. The why was heartbreaking. The song held no meaning before one particular night after Iraq when he was home safe and realizing the finality of friends that never would be.

…Watch as I skip over tons of details here, because it’s simply not my story to tell…

It was a night when the reality hit so hard that all he could do was run from it. He got up from his seat, went out the door, grabbed his iPod from his truck and hit play.

The early 80s beat picks up…”Hey little girl is your daddy home…” He’s running as hard as he can. He’s thinking of kids he knew over there. Kids, because that’s what they were. He was 23.. Some were just 19. Some, as he put it over the phone the other night, hadn’t even had sex yet. Maybe you argue they knew what they were getting into, but there’s really no way anyone does. The guys who never come home live not even half lifetimes. The guys who do, end up racing down the dark street in the middle of the night months and years later because they don’t know how or why it wasn’t them. My brother told me his whole story and I had no words. After several seconds I said, “In a very small and insignificant way I know what you mean.” That’s when he cut me off, telling me I was wrong. No memory that evokes emotion is insignificant.

There’s a George Strait song that puts me in the passenger seat of my dad’s old Buick. I’m 10 years old and he’s driving me through the West Virginia mountains that old cowboy is describing. I cannot hear it without thinking of that trip. I fell
in love with two things on that vacation; the beauty of West Virginia’s New River Gorge, and Country music. I couldn’t have fallen more in love with my dad if I’d tried. My junior year of high school I was coming home from track practice in that same old Buick, this time I was driving. I heard The first few notes and picked up my phone. I called my dad and left him a message because he was out of town and at 16 you sometimes still need your dad to know you miss him when he travels for work. I told him I was calling because our song was on and I loved him. The phone call ended. The song ended. My dad kept the voicemail well into my college years.

The summer we moved to South Carolina my mom rented a convertible for a week while her car was being fixed. It was an 8th grader’s dream. I had a newly purchased copy of the ‘Moulin Rouge’ soundtrack (terrible movie, btw), the wind in my baby thin hair, and no clue how awkward my teenage years would soon become. All I knew was that my mom and my best friend were willing to belt out Ewan McGregor’s version of ‘your song’ with me no matter where we were in town. I can barely handle Elton’s version anymore without wanting to really give it to the “are they green or blue” line.

Music is memory. Songs put us where we want to be. My music tastes have changed dramatically since I loved John Mayer, or since I thought Dave Matthews was super talented (kinda steered me wrong on that one, bros). I’ve grown up to find what I like, instead of what I “like” because someone I love does. But some songs still take me back. ‘Hand in my Pocket’ has me on the living room floor of my first house listening to my cousin Erika play piano. ‘Sailor Suit’ puts me at my computer with my middle brother leaning over my shoulder telling me which songs are cool enough to download. ‘Rich Girl is me, and Ginny, singing at the top of our lungs in Charleston humidity after a long, perfect day on the beach.

Music makes us feel alive.

Music often makes me want to run. When I got off the phone with my brother that night he told me he was going to run. He was going to put Bruce on repeat and just go until he couldn’t feel. I told him to be safe and I love him. We always say ‘I love you’ now, but we didn’t always say it before he went to war.

I hung up the phone, spent 99 cents on iTunes and put Bruce on repeat in my own bedroom because, in some way, his story is now mine too.

 

As it turns out, I am very bad at writing these daily now

I came home from the hospital on the day of the Raleigh Christmas parade in 1987.

The same parade was held on the weekend of or near my birthday every year of my childhood and still is.

I’m a maniac about my birthday. Anyone who knows me well knows this. But I’m also a maniac about Christmas and I barely can separate the two things in my mind.

The issue of when to begin celebrating Christmas is divisive. There are those in the wait until December camp, the wait until the day after Thanksgivings and the I can’t wait to start listening to Christmas music on November 1st crowd.

I bet you can guess which one I’m in. And I know it drives some people crazy. So I try to respect that. I keep my Christmas music in my headphones until after Thanksgiving.

But the truth is, the lines are blurred. November kicks off a full season of joyful time with family and friends. There are two major holidays between now and December 31st, but for me the feelings of those holidays lasts the entire season.

I, of course, know the meanings behind Christmas and Thanksgiving and understand why some people want to keep them separate, but I can’t help myself. I love the celebration of family and togetherness. I love Christmas decorations and the way I feel like I should go a little more out of my way to be kind to strangers (I know, I know.. I should do this all year round and I really do try).

I love the idea that most people around me have something to look forward to during this season, whether its visits from family not seen since last year or cooler weather or those darned red cups at Starbucks.

I love that my mom and mamaw are/were Christmas fanatics who started shopping months in advance and couldn’t wait to decorate multiple trees in their homes.

I’m grateful that we have a season that is undeniably meant for loving one another, no matter how or what we celebrate between now and the new year.

I don’t apologize for being excited about the holidays as soon as November hits.

In fact, I sort of blame the City of Raleigh. It’s not my fault I was born on the weekend they chose to hold their Christmas parade each year.

There’s no shame in the joy

A sweet friend of mine carefully and thoughtfully this week told me she is pregnant. She wanted to tell me in person because she knows that’s something I also want in my own life.

A lot of my friends are pregnant or taking care of infants and toddlers. It’s that time in life for many of us. 

I am not pregnant. Not because I don’t want to be, but because it’s not as easy for some people as others.

I’ve had friends who got pregnant in what seemed like an instant. I have people I love who never planned to be pregnant at all.

And I’ve had people very close to me who were devastated to learn they never would conceive. And I’ve seen them climb out of that despair and build families in their own perfect and wonderful ways.

The journey is different for everyone and that’s okay.

This is not about the sadness, loneliness or absolute depression that can come from the struggle for so many women. 

And it’s not about giving up.

This is about joy.

Right here, right now there’s just one thing I want to address, not as your friend who may not have as easy of a road toward motherhood as you had, but simply as your friend.

Share the news.

Don’t hide it. Don’t worry that you may come across as insensitive. You won’t. 

There is no wrong way to tell that friend that you’re pregnant. 

She’s your friend. She loves you. As much as she wants the same thing to happen in her own life, she’s no less thrilled that it’s happening in yours. 

So share the news. 

Understand that her own hopes for a family don’t diminish her excitement for you in this beautiful and cool time. 

There’s too darn much going wrong in the world not to share such joy.

Nerves got the best of me

I was invited to be a guest on Stories of the Upstate, a Greenville-based podcast that interviews people from the community.

The host, Loyd Ford, is awesome. I’ve actually interviewed him before and found him to be fascinating. He believes everyone has an interesting story, a belief we have in common.

But this isn’t about his podcast or my appearance on it.

This is about what I didn’t say.

Ford asked me right off the bat to talk about my childhood. It wasn’t a surprise question. I knew it was coming, but I was nervous. I’ve only been on one other podcast and it was just last week – and it was hosted by a good friend of mine.

I was nervous, so I didn’t say everything I’d want to say if I were sitting down to write a succinct description of my childhood. In fact, I barely mentioned my family.

In my mind, that’s a huge misstep.

So here’s what I would say.

My childhood was almost exactly what I’d want it to be if I were to do it again. I was surrounded by love from a huge family.

I had two brothers who rarely made it known that they found me annoying and would include me when they picked teams for neighborhood football and street hockey games.

I had two sisters who were already nearing adulthood when I was born and, though I only got to see a few times a year as a kid, went out of their way to make those moments special. They taught me, by example, so much about being a young woman, what kind of man to find for a partner – someone who works hard for his family and will have your back – and they continue to show me what it means to be a great mother, even when it’s the most challenging job in the world.

My parents weren’t rich, but they made every opportunity I could’ve ever wanted possible. They supported me when I wanted to play sports I wasn’t good at and continued to pay for dance classes long after they knew I was just in it for the social aspect and wasn’t actually going to be a Rockette (shoutout to my fourth grade dream). They made sure I was well fed and they sat with me while I learned to read. When I was a young kid, they never let me act shy when an adult tried to talk to me. They taught me to look people in the eye and always try to be kind.

When a hurricane devastated many of our friends, neighbors and even strangers in Raleigh, they carted me all over town to help clean up yards and deliver hot meals.

I had all of the time in the world to play outside and run and laugh and make up games and just be a kid.

I did pretty well in school and had endless access to books, one of my favorite things. I even made friends with the librarians who would take extra time to talk to me about things I might like to read next.

I wrote books. I read. I ran. I swam. I played. I loved

I was allowed to be a kid in ways that so many people aren’t afforded.

If nerves hadn’t got the best of me, this is what I would’ve said.

 

That time I was definitely not a softball star

In the spring of 2002, I was 14 years old and in my second year on a recreation league softball team that took the game about as seriously as Justin Verlander takes the ALCS.

It was slow pitch.

I’d ended up on the team a year earlier when I’d missed the rec. league tryouts for some reason and had my name drawn out of a hat by the head coach, a nice though intense man who held practices in his backyard.

The man owned horses and enough land to have two softball fields – one on either end of the property. There was a batting cage at the one behind his house. We practiced five days a week, while other teams did the standard once weekly practice at whichever rec. field they’d been assigned to that week.

Our parents met up with the coach at a grocery store and we’d ride in the back of his truck out to his land for a two hour practice before meeting back at a gas station where he’d buy everyone a snack and a drink and we’d get back in our parents’ cars and head home.

It all sounds very bizarre now, like something no 2017 parent of a 14 year old would be comfortable with.

But it didn’t feel strange then and it really wasn’t – aside from that fact that we all took the game way too seriously and basically guaranteed ourselves back-to-back-to-back championships with our rigorous practice schedule.

I am no softball player. I’d already played for a few years by the time I joined this team, but I’d never been good. I enjoyed running the bases, but I wasn’t very good at hitting and fielding was even worse. I stood in right field, the place they put the worst kids on any little league team, and prayed my friends would get three successful outs before I had to worry about a single pop fly coming my way.

It was slow-pitch softball. No one was hitting line drives to right field.

There was no good reason for me to be on that field, except the social aspect of the sport. Which is pretty much the case with most sports I played at that age.

My best friend had a similar story. Maybe she’d asked to play, maybe her parents signed her up. I don’t really know, but I don’t suspect it was because she was gunning for softball superstardom. Neither one of us was, though she was arguably better than I was. There’s really no reason we should’ve both been on this rigorous championship-seeking softball team that I can surmise.

Except to meet each other.

That’s the only real lasting thing I take from my time on that softball team, other than memories of free snacks, long practices and teenage girls yelling high-pitch cheers about good eyes and home runs from a dug out.

Honestly, I don’t really subscribe to the idea of universal signs or “everything happens for a reason”, but when she and I were trading innings out in right field and hitting only mildly impressive singles week after week, we were building something that’s lasted more than 15 years — across state lines, across the country and now, luckily, just down the road.

 

Journalism

I get to write a Q and A column for the newspaper I work for. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can find it here: http://www.greenvilleonline.com/downtown/askelizabethlafleur/

Journalism is taking some major hits right now, both from people who don’t respect the ethics of the job enough to be doing it and from people who simply don’t want to hear anything that disagrees with what they already believe to be true.

Journalism has two major roles to fill. It’s a watchdog making sure elected and selected leaders are doing what they’re supposed to be doing without corruption. And it’s providing the general public with information they wouldn’t have otherwise.

Writing this column allows me to fill the most basic of these two roles. Twice a week in publication (and many hours of research in between), I get to work to provide people with something they’ve specifically asked to know.

It’s that simple.

The formula is a question sent + time spent researching and interviews + time spent writing the answer. And in two months of doing this, I’ve received only positive feedback. That’s not to toot my own horn and say I’m doing it anywhere close to perfectly, but I think it says something about journalism in general.

People want to know things that matter to them – big or small.

Journalism has gotten away from itself. It’s become this never-ending search for clicks or views and a constant search for the balance of sharing stories that matter or sharing stories that people will actually click.

In these two months, I’ve studied my own analytics – the mark by which most journalism is measured these days. What I’ve found is that people still want answers. They still want to know what is happening in their own community.

They want to know they can impact what they’re reading and be impacted by what they’re reading.

It’s that simple.

It’s journalism.

And I couldn’t be more proud to be able to be a part of this small piece of it.

Happy October 20th

It’s October 20th and you know what that means…

No you don’t (and that’s totally okay).

It means I have one more month in my twenties which is somehow both wildly insignificant and terribly important to me.

I have friends who are older than me who’ve told me for years now that your thirties are some of the best years of your life – that you’re more confident, more assured, and just generally more aware of who you are and what you value.

I have friends older than that who tell me the 40s are even better.

I’m thrilled.

I’m not scared or sad like I thought I might be. I’ve always enjoyed birthdays and never minded getting older too much, but for a long time I felt like I was really a 17 year old trying to pretend like an adult.

Right on time, as if this is how aging is supposed to work, I actually feel like a grown-up now. I feel ready. I’m excited for what’s to come.

I did a thing four years ago, after being encouraged by friends, where I made a promise to write and post something every single day in the month leading up to my birthday. It wasn’t about making myself write – I already do that every day. It was about being willing to put it out there.

I did it and it led to a lot of great things. Publishing daily on this website played a role in the job I have today, which is huge. It also caught the eye of the man I’m now married to, which is MUCH BIGGER.

Writing, for better or worse, has changed my life over the past four years (largely for better). In fact, it’s changed my life all the way through since I opened my first bright pink diary with Minnie Mouse in a ballet costume on the front and little purple bows printed on the corner of each page inside.

So, I’m doing it again. Bear with me. I write far more for work now than I used to, so I’m going to need to dig deep for creativity at the end of long workdays, but I’m going to do it.

To celebrate the non-accomplishment of just still being here, I’m going to do it.

These three decades have been pretty darn good to me and if my friends are to be trusted, there’s something even better ahead.

A book and podcast I can’t get off my mind

 

I just finished a beautiful book called ‘The Bright Hour’ by Nina Riggs, it’s the memoir of Riggs, a woman from Greensboro, NC who is battling breast cancer. From the beginning you know the book was published after her death.

There’s no way out – no surprises. This person, whose story you’re going to become deeply invested in, will die and it will be at far too young of an age. She’ll leave behind two young sons and a grieving husband.

Along the way she’ll guide you through radiation treatments, tough conversations about her disease with her young sons, watching her mom die of another form of cancer and all of the ways she travels from anger to sadness to pure joy in the moments that she has left.

There’s a chapter that made me put down my book and call my mom just to talk. She doesn’t even know it. It’s impossible to read about such loss and not wonder about your own loved ones – and it’s unbearable to ignore that sentiment.

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On my way to work, I’ve been listening to a podcast called ‘Terrible, Thanks for asking’. It’s as dark as it sounds. Host Nora McInerny lost her husband to brain cancer when he was in his 30s. She weaves her own journey through his death in with interviews of others who’ve experienced similarly tragic loss – drug addictions, cancer, brain aneurysm and more.

Most days, I find myself weeping on my way to work as McInerny dives into deeply personal stories about figuring out how to continue to live in a world where someone so important no longer does.

McInerny explores life and death in a way that makes many of us uncomfortable.

She asks guests to share stories of the people they’ve lost – who they were, why they mattered and even how they died.  She speaks openly about deceased people whose names even some of the people who actually knew them are too afraid to mention in the aftermath of their loss.

Sometimes the gut reaction when someone we know loses a loved one is often to try to avoid bringing it up – to avoid interrupting whatever peace they might’ve found in the days since.

McInerny beautifully understands that peace doesn’t come from pretending those people never existed – or a fear of saying their name. Sometimes the best response is to ask how they’re doing and be comfortable with hearing “I’m terrible, thanks for asking.”

 

I can’t stop listening to McInerny’s podcast, because she’s dissecting something so final, and painful in a way that helps me understand that peace, or whatever semblance of it people in mourning can find, comes from being able to share the person they’ve lost and having people who are ready to hear about them.

I’ve surrounded myself with death in an, admittedly, superficial way. I’m not dealing with it as intimately as many people around me. I can’t compare teary car rides to the actual impact of tragedy.

But there’s something ethereal about listening. There’s grace and power in empathy.

You can find McInerny’s podcast at this link or download it in the podcasts app on your iPhone.

You can buy Riggs’ book at this link (or a Barnes & Noble store)

 

 

 

RIP Oprah.

My goat Oprah died unexpectedly last night. I’m heartbroken over it, more than some people might think one should be over a goat. But here’s the thing, I waited almost 13 years for this goat and she was sweet, though timid, and a wonderful mother to some very cute babies. She was my first goat, someone I dreamed about from the time I was about 14 years old. I don’t really have much else to say, but I’m going to miss her, so I’m going to use this day to share a couple of photos and a post I wrote shortly after I got Oprah for Christmas in 2014. ​

 


Welcome to the family, Oprah (Jan. 7, 2015)

I was squatting in a corner of the goat pen, hand outstretched with a carrot resting on the end of my fingertips, softly trying to negotiate with the goats. “It’s okay girls. You can trust me. I have carrots for you.” It turns out that’s not enough to convince adult goats that a complete stranger is safe.  Those that know me best would tell you patience is not my strong suit, but it’s going to take a lot of patience for me to get to know my new goat… and for some reason that feels okay.

Twelve years ago I started asking for a goat as a negotiation tactic. My parents told me we were moving from our perfect, happy, SERIOUSLY WHY WOULD WE EVER LEAVE HERE suburban life near Raleigh, North Carolina down to a farm in the middle of nowhere in South Carolina. My brothers weren’t going. They were both old enough to live on their own. I was the only one still in school. For reasons best explained by teenage angst and inability to see the big picture, I thought this whole thing was terrible. I decided moving by myself to South Carolina was, at the very least, a strong enough negotiator for getting a pet goat. So I started asking. I pushed hard for a while. I was a 14 year old girl with her dad wrapped around her finger (why deny it?). It didn’t take long to get a yes to the goat… but then she never actually arrived.

—–

I bit into one of the carrots to break it into smaller pieces. I can’t be certain, but I think one of the girls gave me the side-eye as I put my teeth around the end of the carrot.

I looked down at my dusty boots and laughed quietly at myself; I waited twelve years to squat near some goats, for what seemed like forever, while trying to patiently coax them into sharing a carrot or two.

—–

I named my goat Oprah — partly because I used to love watching Oprah after school with my mom… but mostly because I think it’s a hilarious name for a goat. Oprah can’t live with me right now. She lives at my mom and dad’s farm because I don’t think goats love apartment style living and my dog is going to murder me in my sleep if I bring another animal into her life.

Twelve years ago when I asked for a goat it was because I was a goofy 14 year old who appreciated the novelty of owning an animal none of my suburban friends had seen outside of the state fairgrounds. It’s probably best not to get a living, breathing pet for a reason that ridiculous. This year, when I renewed my request for a goat it was because this farm thing is real. I’m in this. I love the lifestyle. I love living off of and learning from the land. I don’t get to live it every day, but I benefit from it most days of the week. I cook meals made from vegetables grown in my parents’ backyard. I bake, scramble, and boil eggs from their chickens.

When I need a place to just get away and breathe fresh air, the camping spot down by the creek is the best spot I know.

—–

I know… as I corner Oprah and her sister and get just close enough to rub their backs, while they watch me with suspicion… that this is all going to take a while. I know, as I drive down the gravel driveway and turn out onto the road that carries the address I used to call home… that the farm is not my reality right now. I know that in 35 minutes I’ll be pulling up to my apartment two towns away from my family’s land, and that is where I live right now. That is where my bills arrive. That is where my dog sleeps. That is where I get ready for work each day. I know I still live in an apartment in another county, but the family farm’s influence is real and it’s shaping me.

Oprah is my best way to really take some ownership in the farm right now. She’s my ticket to spending more time enjoying what this land… our land… has to offer,  if I can ever get her to trust me enough to share these carrots I’ve already bitten.

 

 

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