From Linda, who tagged the world at large and thus made me very happy, because I’d been wanting to do this one.
Ten years ago: I was twelve. It was the summer between 7th and 8th grades. It was the last summer before we had any guy friends in our group, and things were definitely much simpler when it was just us girls. My best friend Cee and I spent all our time together, including sleeping over at each other’s houses two or three nights a week (she lived right down the street, so we just walked back and forth). That summer was also filled with endless water fights with the boys next door (my godparents and their five kids lived next door – all of us grew up practically as siblings). Those were crazy-fun water fights, involving squirt guns, water balloons, hoses, buckets, and any other water-holding devices we could come up with. Ahhh. Life was so simple back then.
Five years ago: The summer before I started college. I was excited but scared, happy to be going where Michael was but sort of terrified of leaving my family. The day I left for school was awful. But at the same time, I ended up loving college, and I realize now that dealing with changes like that, no matter how hard, is much better than the alternative of not dealing with them, and letting your life atrophy. In a certain way, moving out of my parents’ house to get married was hard too, but look how many blessings that has brought me! (Author’s disclaimer: this lesson is in no way aimed at anyone, especially not my eighteen-year-old sister who is freaking about leaving for college in a month.)
One year ago: The summer before my last year of college, I was working in a temp job at nearby Large Pharmaceutical Company, as the assistant to the head of one of the departments there. With most of our friends out of town or unavailable, Michael and I had settled into a nice routine, just the two of us. Take-out or Panera for dinner, watch a movie or play a game, go to bed early. Maybe it sounds boring, but I remember those summer evenings as some of the happiest we’ve had together.
Yesterday: I’m not working this week because Rob is UpNorth (yes, everyone does it), and Michael is in DC for two days (coming back tonight). So I spent yesterday alone. I watched two movies, caught up on all my favorite blogs, prepared and ate some really good food, went for a walk, and took a trip to the library. It was very relaxing. (All those of you with children who are ready to shoot me now, remember: I want children! If I had my way I would have them now!)
Five snacks I enjoy: Black Pepper Jack Doritos (seriously, the best chips ever), grapes (they have to be nice and firm), chips and salsa, Claussen pickles (so addicted to these right now), bacon, and donuts. (Those last two are my absolute favorite indulgences. I would eat them every day if I could do it without feeling bloated and weird afterward.) (I just realized I listed six snacks, but what can you do? I’m not taking any of those off the list.)
Five songs I know all the words to: Only five? Could I just list by album? Okay, hold on, I’m opening up iTunes to find an assortment that makes me look more interesting than I am. Here we go: “Shady Grove” which is a folksong recorded by various artists, I like Connie Dover’s version; “This Time Next Year” by Fernando Ortega; “Love Crucified Arose” by Michael Card; “Ordinary Time” by Marie Bellet; “You Remain Unchanged” by Margaret Becker. (Sidenote: I know all the words to almost every single Card song, most of Fernando’s, all of MaggieB’s old stuff, and most of Marie Bellet’s.)
Five things I would do with $100 million: Find the perfect property and build a house on it, do the same for my parents, pay for all my siblings’ educations and put money away for our own childrens’, take everyone I know out for fabulous dinners (one family/group at a time), and buy myself ten new pairs of shoes.
Five places I would escape to: Hawaii, specifically the place we went on our honeymoon; Italy; Switzerland; England; and a cottage in Maine.
Five bad habits: Procrastination/laziness, impatience, thinking that I’m always right about things, bossiness, and not cooking dinner.
Five things I like doing: Reading, watching movies, eating, writing, and singing.
Five things I'd never wear: A backless top, platform flip-flops, black pants with brown shoes, green nail polish, huge bows (or other over-large accessories) in my hair.
Five TV shows I like: Don’t have a tv, never have had one.
Five biggest joys of the moment: Michael coming home tonight, our upcoming weekend trip UpNorth to see his parents and uncles and aunts (love them, haven’t seen them in ages), Tony and Rosie returning from their honeymoon on Monday, the fact that August promises to be less hectic than July, and the peace that’s coming back to me (I went for a walk last night and listened to some of Fernando’s praise songs on my iPod, and I could feel the grace of surrender stealing into my heart, so that I could hardly keep from skipping with joy and wonder.)
Five favorite toys: My laptop, my iPod, my cell phone, my electric tea kettle, and my flat-top stove. (I’m assuming that “favorite” means “things that you use most often” because I’m certainly not in love with any of these items, but they’re very useful to me.)
Since I wasn’t officially tagged for this, I don’t feel the need to tag anyone except my little sister and brother (I’m interested to see what his answer to the first question will be because ten years ago, he was two). If you’d like to do the meme, consider yourself tagged. If you’d like to do it but don’t have a blog, feel free to appropriate the comments section of this post. I certainly don’t mind.
My sister was being eminently sensible when she planned not to date until her junior year of college. She’d seen the struggles Michael and I went through because we start dating so young, and (wisely) didn’t want to go through the same things herself.
Frankly, it seemed like a smart decision to me. But even then, three years ago, I knew that God sometimes has plans for us that we don’t anticipate, and I wondered what would happen in spite of her resolve.
One her first day at college, Rosie fell down at Anthony’s feet. Literally – they were playing soccer or frisbee or something, and she slipped on the grass. Although he doesn’t particularly remember helping her up (being on the orientation team, he’d met a lot of people that day) he recalls noticing her over the coming weeks.
I wasn’t going to school with them that semester (I transferred the following January), and my sister was reluctant to mention him, but at a school with only 250 students, the slightest interest does not go unnoticed, and so I heard his name from Rosie’s roommates. Asked about him, she talked a little, but her struggle was mostly internal. She was a bundle of contradictions, still mostly convinced that her resolution to put off dating was the right decision, but attracted to Anthony nonetheless, and also fairly sure that he wasn’t interested in her anyway.
I’d never met him, but somehow, from the first moment I heard his name, I knew that she had nothing to worry about, that he was interested.
And sure enough, he was. My sister may have been surprised when, in February, Anthony approached her about dating. Even though I’d only met him a time or two by then, I wasn’t surprised at all.
Things developed gradually. I think they had their first date that March, and he came to my parents’ house that spring for Easter, meeting our family for the first time. They were both a little shy, a little nervous together, but I thought the prognosis was good.
I’d be lying, though, if I said their courtship went smoothly the whole way. They spent that summer (of 2003) on opposite sides of the country, and in the fall he had an exchange semester in Austria, planned before he knew my sister. When he was in Austria Rosie went through a tough time. That November they decided (read: she decided) to make their emotional status match their geographical status, and take some time apart.
In January of 2004, Anthony was back in town, annoyed with my sister and determined (he says) to have nothing to do with her. But Rosie (he admits this now) is pretty irresistible, and by the end of that semester their relationship was back on good, if tentative, footing.
We took a trip up north with them that May, and although I’d had the feeling all along, that was the first time I knew they were meant for each other. Often in spite of themselves, their joy in each other was palpable.
In the fall of 2004, after another summer apart, the two headed down together to school in Florida. Desperately homesick and depressed, Rosie had a rough time of it during her first few months there, and so did their relationship. I spent hours on the phone with her, consoling her and sometimes challenging her.
I can’t pretend that going through the emotional wringer with her was always easy for me. But for the most part, I am deeply grateful when I have a chance to be there for my dear ones. And counselor seems to be a role I fall into naturally (see Rosie’s shirt in the picture below).
As ought to be apparent from the end of the story, eventually they made it. Although I always knew that it should happen, I was often afraid that it wouldn’t, but Rosie called me, out of the blue, on the evening of February 16th, to tell me that they were engaged. She was emotional and a little scared, but I felt a sudden lightness in my chest that spoke of the difference between praying and being fairly certain that something will happen, and suddenly being sure that it will.
(Lest you think me callous, let me assure you that I knew, also, that if the decision were the wrong one it would become quickly apparent, just as if it were the right one things were bound to point that way.)
The transformation in Rosie and Anthony during their engagement was amazing. They’d been praying hard for months, and when they got engaged they both knew that it was the right thing. But she was still shaky and depressed, and I imagine that dealing with that was not entirely easy for him.
However, by the time I flew down to visit in March, I could already see their joy budding. It was if making the decision to get married had moved them into a new period of their lives, a period where uncertainty had been banished and the future could be welcomed openly, smilingly.
By May, with two months to go, they were both impatient for their wedding day, ready to start their life together. It felt, to all of us, that July 23rd would never come, but of course it did.
Rosie asked me to be her matron of honor (she was maid of honor for me, and I’ll show you pictures from our wedding someday, when I remember to take them to my parents’ house and scan them). I was glad for the chance to take care of my little sister on one of the biggest days of her life.
At the reception, a family friend of Anthony’s came up to them and told Rosie that his favorite part of the wedding was watching her sisters’ faces as she came down the aisle. “They were all beaming,” he said. And we undeniably were, for a better thing has never happened to our sister.
It was a glorious day. Both families rejoiced together in the joining of two people we love so much.
They’re on their honeymoon now, but when they return they’ll be living in a little apartment two miles from our house. We can’t wait to have them nearby.
Meanwhile, I’m still praying for Rosie and Anthony, just as I prayed for them constantly during their engagement. I pray especially that their children may come quickly and easily. I pray that their life together may be filled with countless other blessings. And I pray that they may find the same solace in each other that Michael and I do, that they may thank God for their marriage as I thank him for mine every day. If there’s one thing of which this whole wedding has reminded me, it’s how blessed I am.
I'm back from Rosie's wedding and working on a post and a photo album, but meanwhile, I've got a question for all you readers.
What about Harry Potter?
I know that a large range of people from all walks of life, holding all sorts of different religious beliefs, read this site. I'd love to hear from all of you, even if all you have to say is "I've read Harry Potter, and I think the books are well-written and great fun," or "I've read Harry Potter, and the books made me enormously tempted to practice witchcraft, although I have happily avoided that temptation."
1. If you are going to tell me that the Vatican has ruled that Harry Potter is verboten, please do your research. Individuals connected with the Vatican have spoken out against and for the books, but their opinions (despite the impression given by the media) are not authoritative. The Vatican has no official position on the books.
2. I'm most interested in hearing from those who have read at least one of the books. If you have not even checked out one of the books, and are yet refusing to let your children read them, I'd love to hear the reasons why. (Really, I would.)
3. Please do not say anything derogatory about people who are in favor of the books (because you'd be talking about my parents, family, and many of my friends) or people who are against the books (because you'd be talking about my brother-in-law and many of my friends).
Go to it! I love a good debate.
Infertility has beaten me up more than anything else, ever, but most of the time, by the grace of God, I can keep my head up. My life is still full of blessings, and most of the time I'm thinking of how good life is, rather than of how hard infertility is.
Crying jags are not entirely uncommon, but I can save them for the privacy of my home, for the refuge of my husband's arms. The occasional off-hand comment makes tears fill my eyes abruptly, so I have to blink hard to keep them from spilling, and can't speak for a while for fear of bursting into tears. But I think that's hardly noticeable.
Things set me off rarely. Seeing a happy little family hardly ever upsets me; I'm generally happy that they have a baby rather than sad that I don't. When people ask me if we are "going to have kids" I'm momentarily confused, and frustrated by the implication (that you can simply decide to have kids, and then have them) but I can say "we hope so" without getting upset.
But one time at rehearsal a few months ago, when the cast was goofing off, my director reminded us jokingly that we could stay there all night, but he had kids to get home to, and I was suddenly so overwhelmingly sad that I wanted to lie down and become one with the floor, if that could actually work. And a few weeks ago I mentioned to the secretary at work that I'd really like to have kids and she told me not to do that, because I have a nice body and she wouldn't want me to ruin it. I don't normally speak sharply to anyone who's not family, but when I told her "Don't ever say anything like that to me again. Ever." I was surprised at the depth and force in my voice, the shock and anger that rose to the surface so easily. (I think she felt horrible, by the way, and after she found out about our infertility she apologized very nicely.)
Most of the time I'm okay. But once a month, and it doesn't seem to be cycle-related, I get fragile. Little things, things that would normally not bother me, hit and stick painfully. For no reason at all I am suddenly sensitive to everything. The most innocent song lyrics start the tears streaming down my face, driving home from work seems an insurmountably wearying task, and the only thing I want to do is crawl in bed with a book and a cup of strong tea. Being home helps, being with my darling husband helps, but I can still feel my heart sinking toward my stomach, my shoulders curling in to protect me from that crazy, hard world out there.
In a day or two I'll be better, shoulders squared to face whatever comes my way, excited about our future family and ready to work on building it. I'll be philosophical about the difficulties, thankful that it's true that good can be brought out of suffering, and looking for that good. But today, today the broken edges of these little dreams of mine are sharp, and I am raw. In this whole wild journey, it is the todays, the lost days, that are the hardest.
Tomorrow morning, early, we're leaving for the place that people around here call "upnorth." Just like that - "upnorth" - as if it were all one word instead of two, and far be it from me to correct them because I do it myself.
Upnorth, Michael's parents have a condo. It's a ski-in, ski-out condo, which means that in the winter when we're there, we go out the door, put on our skis, and ski to the lift, and when we want to come in for hot cocoa or large amounts of wine (just kidding! Everyone knows that drinking and skiing is an Unsafe Activity) we can ski right back in, and leave our skis right out there in the snow, because Upnorth is a happy and safe place where people just don't steal things.
The ski hill is about ten minutes from a beautiful bay that opens out to a beautiful lake, and since my darling little brother has already revealed our state of residence on his blog, I can tell you that this lake is actually a Lake, specifically one of the Greats. (By the way, people tell me all the time that they have seen lakes before and I tell them that lakes are all very well and good, but that a Lake is really more like an ocean (except of course salt-free), and they should keep that in mind before going around talking about the Great Lakes as if they were just dinky little ponds you can find anywhere.) Being near a Lake, the condo has built-in winter and summer activities, which makes it a wonderful place to go year-round. (I should really write advertising copy.)
Upnorth in the summer is generally about ten degrees cooler than the southern part of the state, and ten degrees cooler is lot of degrees, especially when our highs have been hovering around ninety (90). There's lots of woods up there, and quaint little towns, and even hills! (Rosie's fiance, who is from the part of Idaho that has Rockies in it, and if that is all of Idaho please forgive my ignorance of geography, believed Michigan to be entirely flat until we took him upnorth and he saw that hills can exist near Lakes! The two are not incompatible!)
Michael's parents have lent us their condo for the week, and my whole family is going up there until next Tuesday. Our goal is to do nothing, which means playing games, doing puzzles, swimming, hiking, and watching movies while Mom cooks dinner. (Haha! Mom actually has a lot of pre-wedding sewing to get done while we're up there, and was stressed out by the prospect of also having to do the cooking, so we girls offered to do it for her. Because we are perfect daughters.)
I promise to take lots of pictures, (If I remember the battery charger. Note to self: Do NOT forget battery charger!) which I will post when we get back. But one of the things about Upnorth is that Internets are scarce (does they even reach that far? I'm not sure.) so I won't be posting.
I know, I know. I sound so nonchalant, but it's heartbreaking. I'll tell you what: dry those tears, think happy thoughts, and I'll see you in a week. I promise.
Michael's coworker P and his wife S came to dinner last Monday. They adopted a little girl from Guatemala over a year ago, and are in the process of adopting their second daughter. (She was born in April; they've already met her and should get to bring her home within the next couple months.) We'd invited them because we wanted to ask them questions about adoption, to hear their story. They brought their daughter with them, and over grilled salmon and wild rice pilaf, they shared their experiences.
We asked why they chose Guatemala and how they liked their agency, and what the process takes and how long the steps are and everything else we could think of, and they answered the questions honestly and thoroughly. But for me the best thing was not hearing their answers, but seeing them together, seeing how much they love their little girl and how she is truly their daughter even though she is not biologically their daughter, and how that doesn't even seem to matter.
She's eighteen months old, with beautiful coffee-colored skin and black curls. She talks a lot, and they've obviously worked hard with her, because she knows, among other things, almost all the letters. (Do most eighteen-month-olds know their letters?) I drank in their interaction with her, loving the way they could anticipate her responses, loving having this beautiful little family in my living room. I imagine that they were once where we are, bruised by infertility and uncertain about the future, and now they are past that. Someday we will be, too.
Things we learned: In Guatemala, you can adopt children when they're very young, which is appealing. The process is more expensive than we had anticipated, at least with this agency and country; P and S said to expect it to cost about $27,000. However, it takes less time than I'd thought, as the time between beginning paperwork and bringing the child home is generally less than a year.
Our current tentative plan is to gather information, save money, and pray hard for guidance. We've got to choose a country and an agency, and we hope to have enough saved that we can start the paperwork by January. I'm somewhat bummed about the delay, but we still have a lot of research to do, and it's necessary for us to save up to be able to pay for the adoption.
Also, I think it might turn out to be good for me. The past year and a half has been really hard, and maybe I need more time to heal. I know in my head that if this is what God is calling us to do, then it is best for us, but my heart needs time to catch up. I certainly don't want to go overseas to get our son or daughter feeling that the way we're getting him/her is second best.
If you're a pray-er, please pray that these next months will be fruitful in their way. When we finally become parents, I want to be as ready as I can possibly be.