The Journey to a Child: A Story of Faith, Hope, and the Glory of God’s Miracles

Last weekend our families gathered together in celebration of Thanksgiving.  It was a wonderful day full of good food and great company; everyone was in high spirits.  Two days later we gathered again, this time with extended family and family friends for another celebration – one for which we are all very thankful – a baby shower for my sister-in-law, CaSondra.  After four years of struggling through infertility and pregnancy loss CaSondra and her husband, Ben, are expecting a child.  I wrote the following to be read at the shower as a prelude to one of the games we played; while the words are mine, the story is theirs. With CaSondra and Ben’s permission I’m sharing it with you today. My hope is that if you, or someone you love, is suffering through infertility or loss, this might bring you a bit of peace and hope as we look forward to Christmas and the birth of our Savior, a miracle himself.

journey_to_a_child

Written for CaSondra and Benjamin Shim with love by Kate Konopacki

December 2014

Introduction

Once  upon a time, there was a little girl named CaSondra.  CaSondra was full of spunk and love, and she lit up a room just by walking into it.  CaSondra had a very big heart and a special gift; she always made everyone feel welcomed. As CaSondra grew into a pretty young lady, she dreamt of marrying the man of her dreams and starting a family.

The Lord heard CaSondra’s prayers for a husband, and on July 26, 2008, CaSondra and Ben—her prince charming—were united in marriage. CaSondra and Ben quickly began talking about starting a family, but the two of them were an adventurous pair. Shortly after returning home from their honeymoon in Mexico, they decided that together they would spend the next year training to climb the highest free-standing mountain in the world! In February 2010, CaSondra and Ben set off for Africa to summit Mount Kilimanjaro.

I could tell you many more tales of CaSondra and Ben’s traveling adventures, but this story is about an adventure of another sort… When the lovely couple returned from their great summit, they set off on their adventure to start a family…..

Too Precious for EarthCaSondra and Ben spent each day offering their prayers to God, asking Him to bless them with a child.  On July 2, 2010, CaSondra and Ben found out they were pregnant. Unfortunately, a day that should have been filled with awe and joy was filled with much confusion and fear as CaSondra’s body was clearly telling her something was wrong.

“Please Lord, let this baby be okay,” CaSondra asked several times over the course of the next few weeks. As she and Ben were awaiting further news about the child that she was carrying, they offered their hearts to the Lord through prayers and tears.

In heaven, the Lord heard the cries of His children, and He bent His head in knowledge as the tears slid down His cheeks. As He wrapped the couple in His loving arms, He whispered:

 “Not yet. It’s not time yet. I have something to teach you first.”

After many consultations with their doctors, CaSondra and Ben’s worst fears were confirmed when they found out the pregnancy was ectopic.

On July 23, 2010, heaven received a new angel when Jaden Lyric  was placed in the hands of his Heavenly Father.

Jaden was greeted into heaven by a chorus of angels all ready and willing to cater to his tiny baby needs. He was a special little baby and everyone wanted to be close to him, but the Lord held onto him tight, rocking him gently and singing lullabies in his ear. To his parents on earth, whose hearts were shattered, the Lord gently whispered:

“ Trust in Me with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding: in all your ways acknowledge Me, and I shall direct your paths.” ~Proverbs 3:5-6

2011Over the next year and a half CaSondra and Ben continued on their journey to start a family.  The road was not easy; there were twists and turns and areas of rockiness. In January 2011, CaSondra was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and soon after began her first rounds of fertility medication.

“Lord, we trust you with our lives and our journey… please lead us,” CaSondra prayed.

In May, CaSondra and Ben were introduced to the great Dr. Bopp, a Reproduction Endocrinologist. Dr. Bopp was a wonderful man who prayed for and with the couple.  CaSondra and Ben were confident that it was by the grace of God that Dr. Bopp was introduced to them.

In July 2011 the couple prepared for their first IUI (Intrauterine Insemination), but were saddened by the news that the procedure had to be cancelled because the dominant follicle was on CaSondra’s right side. You see, during her surgery with Baby Jaden, CaSondra’s right fallopian tube was damaged and had to be removed.

It wasn’t time—yet.

Throughout 2011 the couple tried two more rounds of IUI, one of which was unsuccessful and another that had to be cancelled. CaSondra also struggled through periods of very painful and sometimes dangerous cysts. Their hearts were heavy, but CaSondra and Ben continued to put their hope and trust in the Lord.

Meanwhile, in heaven, Jaden was growing into a mighty fine little boy.  He had dark silky hair like his father and a heart of gold like his mother.  His angel wings grew more and more each day as he devoted his time to welcoming new little angels into the gates of heaven. He also spent a hearty amount of time running through the woods and tinkering on gadgets, as all good little angel boys do. The Lord watched over him and his earthly parents closely and listened intently as CaSondra and Ben prayed for another baby while Jaden prayed for an earthly sibling for his Mom and Dad.

2012: Free-fallAt the beginning of 2012 CaSondra and Ben spent much time in contemplation and prayer as they asked God to make His plan clear to them. The Lord listened and provided an answer; at the end of January the couple began preparing for their first round of In Vitro Fertilization.

CaSondra and Ben were filled with much hope and joy at the thought of becoming pregnant again! They continued to pray and put their faith in the Lord; they never doubted that he would make them a family, but they knew with all of their hearts that God’s plan was greater than theirs.

On February 15, 2012, the day their embryos were scheduled to be transferred, CaSondra and Ben received some devastating news.  The embryos had ceased growing and the procedure had to be cancelled.

They held each other as they wept: 5,241 tears, to be exact; the Lord counted each one as He wrapped them in His warm embrace.

“I’m so sorry, my children. I know this hurts. It’s not time yet.”

The weight of their journey came crashing down at this moment, and, no longer strong enough to sustain the trip on their own, they fell into the arms of their family and friends—the family and friends that were waiting and willing to lift them up and support this beautiful couple through encouraging words and warm meals and loving hearts. Through the pain, CaSondra and Ben were witnesses to something wonderful and beautiful. For the first time, the safety net that God had placed so lovingly beneath them was visible; they allowed themselves to let go, to free-fall into the love of others.

2012: Round 2A couple of months later CaSondra and Ben were ready to try a second round of In Vitro Fertilization.

“We trust you Lord, and although we do not understand your ways, we know that your plan is good.” As they prayed together, they left their hopes and dreams in the hands of God.

And each night while they slept, Jaden, their heavenly baby, would kiss his parents’ cheeks and whisper in their ears, “Do not give up hope, Mommy and Daddy. So many people are praying for you.”

Preparations for IVF round #2 began in March, and with each daily check-up things looked promising.  On April 9, 2012, the day after Easter, CaSondra had 18 eggs retrieved and was ordered to be on bed rest. Three days later she would have the strongest embryos transferred into her womb.

The couple spent the next few days in great anticipation. Family and friends called to check in and offer their hopes and prayers for this wonderful couple. Everyone was anxiously awaiting news that they were soon going to be a family of three!

The Lord heard these prayers and wishes and wanted the same, but with a heavy heart He wrapped His arms around His children once again and whispered:

“Not yet. It’s not time yet. You have something to teach them first.”

2012-2013: CaptivityThe couple was devastated by the news that their second round of IVF was unsuccessful. They decided to take several months off from their journey to parenthood to grieve and mourn their losses.

During this time, however, they never, ever, gave up hope.  They never stopped trusting in their Lord with all of their hearts. They never stopped praying for another baby, and they had faith. They knew that God had the ability to work miracles.

What they didn’t realize is that this hope of theirs, this commitment to trust, and this love for God that they poured out wherever they went, despite their struggles, was a shining example to all of those around them.

CaSondra and Ben, through their difficulties, taught their family and friends what it meant to be faithful. Suddenly, this safety net of people who caught them when they fell, watched the couple spread their wings and begin to soar. As they climbed higher and higher with their trust and faith, each and every person around them began to rise up as well.

From the heights of heaven, the Lord watched this couple, and He smiled.

Although their journey was not over yet, the next year would bring more challenges as CaSondra and Ben tried another IUI procedure and then started researching different adoption alternatives. Through it all the Lord saw their devotion and lovingly whispered to them:

“For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you and I will bring you back from captivity.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11

2014: 4 YearsIn heaven, Jaden and the choir of angels continued to watch over CaSondra and Ben, and the Lord continued to offer them support through the help and love of family and friends.

March of 2014 marked the fourth anniversary of CaSondra and Ben’s journey to start a family. Shortly before this they learned that CaSondra needed to have surgery to remove endometriosis.

They were sad to hear the news, but as I’m sure you know by now, this did little to weaken their faith. They decided to put their journey on hold for a year and try again to have a child in early 2015. Despite the unlikelihood of them being able to conceive without medical intervention, they still believed in God’s miracles.

“We trust you, Lord, with our lives and our journey,” they prayed in unison.

A Miracle ChildIn July , while CaSondra and Ben were unknowingly going about their day-to-day lives, the Lord summoned the angels to His side; His smile was wide, and they all knew instantly that His announcement was great.

“It’s time,” He said to them.

The angels, unable to contain their excitement, immediately broke out in joyful sound; the singing that erupted in heaven that day was glorious. As they looked down on Earth at the unsuspecting couple, they sang “Alleluia, Glory to God!”

As the Lord stood and gently quieted the room, He called out in a deep Fatherly voice:

“Jaden Lyric, are you here?”

The choir of angels parted, and from the very back of the room Jaden stepped forward. His body had become lanky, and his wings were nearly full grown; as he walked, the choir of angels saw that he was holding the hand of a small child. As they made their way to their Father’s feet, Jaden beamed and the little girl clasped his hand tightly. Her dress was white as snow, and her glossy brown hair shone as bright as the sun.

“We’re here, Lord,” Jaden said to his Heavenly Father.

“Wonderful, my children,” The Lord bent down and touched the chin of the most beautiful little girl, a true miracle child.

“Eliana, do you know what your name means?” He asked her.

“Yes, Lord. It means ‘My God has answered’,” she said as she looked lovingly into His eyes.

“Yes, my child.  Eliana, are you ready?” He asked her.

“Yes, Lord, I am ready.” As she looked up, a smile spread across her face; with a twinkle in her eye, she said, “Send me to my Mommy.”

 

* Eliana Shim is due to make her earthly appearance on April 5, 2015. *

With Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week by reflecting on the blessings of this past year, we both count The Sunlit Path as one of the things for which we’re most grateful. What started out as a tiny seed of an idea for a place to share our dreams (and fears…and struggles…and hopes…) has grown into a bountiful harvest, ripe with unexpected connections and grace.

We started The Sunlit Path to write down—and try to make sense of—what was happening in both of our lives during these times of transition. Even though we started writing partly as therapy for ourselves—spilling out our truth and hoping to find some clarity hidden in there among the rubble—we always hoped that we would touch someone else’s heart along the way.

That hope remains—that, at one point or another— you’ve felt a glimmer of recognition in something we shared, a “Me, too!” moment in which you hopefully feel a little less alone or a little more at ease.

We are humbled and beyond grateful for any and all of the words of encouragement you’ve graciously shared with us through your comments, texts, emails, and phone calls.

We can’t say thank you enough for walking with us on The Sunlit Path…

Happy Thanksgiving!

Love,

Em_signature2kate_signature

 

 

 

 

Soul in the Season: Favorite Tastes

Roasted turkey with perfectly-moist-yet-just-a-little-crispy dressing (or do you call it stuffing?) piled high on your Thanksgiving plate…that first bite of silken pumpkin pie with fluffy whipped cream dolloped on top…left-over turkey sandwiches the next day with a smear of cranberry sauce, for that perfect bite of bittersweet goodness…

These are some of the most beloved tastes of Fall (perhaps a little Thanksgiving-centric, but we can’t help it! It’s less than a week away!). Today we share with you some of our other favorite (non-Thanksgiving-centric) Autumn tastes…

Soul in the Season Favorite Tastes


From Wisconsin…

Pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, fresh out of the oven

Pumpkin chocolate chip muffins

 

A Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte #PSL (Mmmmm…too good to resist!)

PSL


From Michigan…

Creamy pumpkin soup (My Mom taught me the pumpkin soup recipe she always uses, which is based on one found in the More With Less cookbook. Pssst! My secret is to swirl a little Sriracha hot sauce and a dash of cinnamon in it just before serving for the perfect kick of hot and sweet. So Delicious!)

Pumpkin Soup

 

Pierogis (This was one of the first dishes Drew and I ever cooked together. He shared his family recipe with me, from his Mom’s Polish family side, while we were dating, and it has become a fall tradition to make several batches from scratch.)

Pierogis

What are your favorite tastes of Fall?

 

 

A Mediocre Mom, Part 2

Please note: Today’s post is a continuation of A Mediocre Mom, Part 1.


I suppose I shouldn’t have been shocked by my post-partum depression diagnosis, considering what had been going on in our lives over the past year—what with raising an infant, both of us undergoing job changes, moving twice, experiencing another high-risk pregnancy, learning of Drew’s Dad’s cancer diagnosis and Lily’s hip dysplasia diagnosis—in retrospect (oh, that beautiful hindsight!), I should’ve been expecting it.

I recognized that I had been feeling overwhelmed in general by life, and that even though I loved my daughters so much my heart hurt, I was having a hard time just…settling down and enjoying them. The days felt long and never-ending, and Drew was left with the brunt of my pent-up frustration.

He would call to tell me that he’d be an hour late getting home from work one day, for instance, and it felt as if my entire world had come crashing down around me.

Red flag?

Perhaps.

Still, I was actually surprised that my OB-GYN was so serious about my “condition”.

And I was ashamed. Because post-partum depression—in my mind, at that time—meant another “failure”.

It meant I couldn’t handle being a mother.

These self-deprecating thoughts came before I began to understand, of course, that motherhood isn’t something to be graded: that Mom over there gets an “A” because she volunteered in the classroom! Oh, and that one…she totally gets an “F” because she didn’t sign up to bring treats even once this year!”

Like most things in life, motherhood isn’t black and white—success or failure.

(I know there are exceptions to this generalization. There are, in fact, neglectful—or worse—Moms out there that are certainly not putting their children first.)

But I’m talking about the majority of the population. I’m talking about you, and me, and our friends and family members—most of the people we know—Moms who love their kids more than anything, more than we ever thought it was possible to love someone.

We strive to do the next right thing, but we sometimes make mistakes. We sometimes yell. We sometimes hand our kids our iPads or turn on the TV instead of getting down there on the floor with them to play a game. We sometimes go through that McDonald’s drive-thru for Happy Meals because making dinner with the ambiance of screaming and fighting in the background seems like just a little more than we can handle right now.

We do our best. Even if our best isn’t always the best.

We show up for the job.

Every day.

Even when we don’t want to.

Or feel like we can’t.

We do it anyway.

And what starts out as just doing the next right thing to get through your day is often transformed into moments of pure joy when those little arms circle around your neck and their tiny lips kiss your cheek.

A Mediocre Mom Part 2


The anti-depressant my OB-GYN prescribed did help, eventually, as it built up in my system. There came a point in time when just emptying the dishwasher didn’t feel completely overwhelming. A point in time when I didn’t direct every ounce of my anger and frustration at my husband. A point in time when I didn’t cry when Lucy dumped out the entire toybox for the third time that day.

A point in time when it felt like a fog had lifted. When I could breathe again.

I never pictured myself as someone who’d experience post-partum depression (then again, who does?), but when I saw the look in my doctor’s eyes that day in the exam room, I knew something wasn’t right. She knew me too well. She’d been my doctor through the nearly four years of infertility, and now through two-high risk pregnancies.

She knew. She knew the road I’d been traveling, and she recognized my weariness. She knew that just one. more. thing. on top of ALL THE THINGS that had happened would probably be my undoing.

Thank God for her.

And thank God for Prozac.


In January, when Lily was 3 months old, I went back to work full-time. A friend and former colleague of mine had approached me about an interaction design position, and I was really excited to be a part of the design team.

I worked at that gig for about 2 years…until the product launched and the design work began to wind down.

Even though that time was quite rewarding on a professional level, I was working so much that I felt I was missing out on a lot of things going on with my still-so-young daughters. We’d have to leave the house not long after they awoke just to get to the office on time, and by the time we got home at night, everyone (adults included) was cranky.

Rinse, repeat.

That was the trade-off.


Elizabeth Gilbert, the world-renowned author of Eat, Pray, Love, argues against that word that I called a fallacy in Part 1 of my Mediocre Mom post—against the quest for so-called “balance” in our lives. I’ll quote her exactly here because she states her point so much more eloquently than I could ever hope to:

“We are constantly being told that we should be achieving balance — that we should somehow exquisitely be negotiating the relationships between our work lives, our home lives, our romantic lives, our health and well-being, our spiritual selves. You can’t read an interview with a famous woman these days that the journalist does not applaud her for having achieved BALANCE….and then if you turn the pages of that magazine, you will find ten more articles showing how you can achieve balance. too!

Be careful. The word BALANCE has tilted dangerously close, I fear, to the word PERFECT — another word that women use as weapons against themselves and each other. To say that someone has found the secret to a balanced life is to suggest that they have solved life, and that they now float through their days in a constant state of grace and ease, never suffering stress, ambivalence, confusion, exhaustion, anger, fear, or regret. Which is a wonderful description of nobody, ever.”

I share this quote with you for a reason. To demonstrate that the grass isn’t necessarily greener in someone else’s configuration of motherhood.

I feel pretty lucky that I’ve gotten to “try out” a few different motherhood configurations, mostly because of the education it’s given me (though I am obviously still a fledgling) regarding the universal struggles of mothers.

What I’d like to share with you about what I’ve learned so far—you, the Mom lamenting not being able to stay home with your child for a snow day because of that really important work meeting you can’t miss today…or you, the Mom still feeling bad about not signing up to bring treats for the Halloween party at school because everyone at your house was sick the week leading up to it— is that in every configuration of motherhood I’ve tried, I’ve always, always felt like I was failing at this “job” in some way or another.

Whether it was not contributing “enough” financially to our family, or spending less time with my kids, or being unable to find the right rhythm to that irregular schedule.

I’ve likely tried that configuration of motherhood you’re yearning so much for. The one you think that—once you get there—you’ll finally feel balanced.

Here’s something that all motherhood configurations have in common: none of them—not one—leaves you feeling that way: balanced. Each configuration has trade-offs, and something will always be lacking.

In fact, balance is, by nature, at odds with the very concept of motherhood.

You start your day—disoriented and fuzzy-headed—with the demands of your three-year-old who “wants Cheerios in the red bowl with the drinky-straw right NOW!” or with the unpleasant task of trying to awaken your pre-teen SEVEN times before they’ll actually get up and get moving already.

Your very day—your EVERY day—begins off-kilter, off-BALANCE, as you try to get those little soldiers regimented, to FALL IN, the way they’re supposed to.

And that sought-after balance is never quite achieved, because life can’t be predicted.

As soon as you think you’ve gotten into that groove—like the one I confided in Kate about several weeks ago—LIFE HAPPENS, and something knocks you off-kilter again.


Pop quiz time!

Q. What’s the one thing that all mothers have in common?

A. Guilt! Loads and loads of internal, soul-anguishing, keep-you-up-at-night guilt surrounding whether or not each minuscule decision you make is in the best interest of your child(ren).

Guilt. It’s an inherently Mom thing. We can’t escape it.

But let’s try not to embrace it, either.

I want to remind myself that I will have those days (or perhaps only hours, minutes…) where I totally feel “in the groove” as a Mom. And then I’ll have those days (or perhaps only hours, minutes…) where I’m flailing around like a freakin’ maniac…struggling to figure out how to “make it work”.

I will have days where I’ll feel like a Mediocre Mom…and that’s okay.

Let’s re-visit the word mediocre for a second. Although some definitions or synonyms of the word may differ slightly, the one below is what I’m going to try  to embrace more often—rather than guilt—during moments when motherhood seems to be totally kicking my ass.

mediocre [mee-dee-oh-ker]

(adjective) of only ordinary or moderate quality; neither good nor bad

synonyms: undistinguished, passable, commonplace, everyday, run-of-the-mill

Because some days, even “passable” is pretty darn good.

Soul in the Season: This “Feels” Like Fall

As I write this, there is a good 6 inches of snow on the ground outside my office window. Admittedly, right this minute, it doesn’t “feel” that much like Fall anymore. But we’re not ready to say good-bye to it just yet. According to the calendar, we still have about a month left of this wonderful season, and we’re going to make the most of it!

This week we’re sharing some of the things that “feel” (the sensory experience of touch) most like Fall to us….

SIS_Feels Like Fall


From Wisconsin…

Pumpkin guts during pumpkin carving

Pumpkin guts

Comfy sweatshirts and jeans

Sweatshirts and jeans


From Michigan…

Being cuddled up on the couch with cozy slippers and a favorite blanket

Slippers and a Down Throw

Holding a hot cup of tea in your hands

Cup of Tea

What does Fall “feel” like to you?

A Mediocre Mom, Part 1

Mediocre Mother

Several weeks ago I confided to Kate that I thought I was starting to “find my groove” as a stay-at-home Mom (SAHM for those unaware of the acronym).

Many of you know from past posts (or just knowing me in “real” life) that I was laid-off from my job in mid-August of this year. My husband Drew and I decided, when that happened, that this was my chance to really attempt the whole stay-at-home Mom thing again (yes, again—more on that later).

“I feel like something has just changed!” I exclaimed to Kate over the phone. “I don’t wake up worrying so much about the day and how things will play out. I’m just enjoying my time with the girls more—and yelling less!”

Jinx!

Silly me for saying those words out loud.

Silly me for thinking this feeling—of perhaps having figured out some “secret formula” to Mommydom— would last.

Because, seriously, it wasn’t even a week later when I admitted tearfully to Kate: “Sooo…remember what I said earlier about the whole SAHM thing? About thinking I found my groove? Yeah, um…scratch that. I am definitely NOT in anything that even remotely resembles a groove right now.”

In the blink of an eye, my somewhat calm and relatively drama-free days with my daughters had turned into a constant quagmire of fighting, yelling, crying, and whining. I felt like the girls were constantly at each other’s throats, and after the 16th time-out of the day, I was—for lack of a more apt phrase— completely losing my shit.

A lot.

I’m ashamed to admit that “out loud”.

The yelling…oh the yelling. As if the louder my voice was the more they would understand how desperately I needed their cooperation at that moment.

But I should know by now—scratch that, I do know by now, inherently, even if I can’t always put it into practice—that yelling only escalates the situation…adds on a new level of chaos and frustration.

So, yeah. I am failing at the stay-at-home Mom gig, and I’m not even to the 3-month mark yet.

Where’s my medal? (You know, the Mediocre Mom award? And that’s probably being generous.)

Seriously, though, in the back of my mind I just keep wondering…when will I ever feel like I am really thriving as a mother?


Because I’ve been all “types”, really.

a full-time working Mom…

a part-time working Mom…

a full-time stay-at-home Mom during the day with a job on the side…

a full-time stay-at-home Mom…


When my oldest daughter Lucy was born, I went back to work part-time in my marketing communications role at an educational non-profit organization.  I really loved this particular Motherhood configuration. I was in the office Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays and home with my baby girl Tuesdays and Fridays. The organization was one that was actually supportive of part-time positions—which is not easy to find in many professional positions and organizations. It was a great mix of feeling fulfilled doing meaningful work that matched my skills while still allowing me some quality one-on-one time at home with my daughter.

A nice “balance” (as they say).

Except that “balance” (as it applies to motherhood) is a fallacy.

Because even in this particular configuration, I often felt like I was drowning. The amount of work for a part-time role never seems to quite line-up with being part-time itself. In my experience, you always feel like you’re playing catch-up (what did I miss on Tuesday? So and so did WHAT?), and then you start to wonder: is this even worth it? I’m making less money, but I feel like I’m trying to squeeze full-time work into fewer days without being compensated for it.

And then there’s the matter of schedule. We all know children thrive on routines, and when you work one day, are off one day, then work the next day, it can really throw you and your little one(s) for a loop.


I worked in that part-time role until Lucy was about 10 months old. At that time, Drew had found a job in the aerospace industry—at the same company his Dad had worked at for 30+ years. It seemed like a great opportunity, so when he accepted the job offer, I resigned from my job, we put our house on the market, and we half-moved down to Kalamazoo…living in Drew’s parents’ basement temporarily until our house sold and we could find a place down there to buy.

During this time, we agreed that I wouldn’t look for another job outside the home. I had been teaching college writing classes online before Lucy was born, and so I took on two courses for the winter/spring semester. We figured I’d spend my days taking care of Lucy, then grade papers, moderate discussions, post lectures, etc. in the evenings and on weekends.

Hoo boy. THAT was one of the longest semesters of my life. A month after we moved to Kalamazoo, we found out I was pregnant with Lily. I was battling exhaustion and morning sickness during those early days of the pregnancy while chasing a toddler around all day and then logging on in my “free time” to be all academic and whatnot.

Which was just a wee bit challenging. (This thing called pregnancy brain? I swear it’s real.) I felt like I wasn’t even able to form coherent thoughts, let alone produce thought-provoking lectures, discussion questions, and formative feedback on students’ writing assignments.

The semester ended in May, and somehow through all of that, I survived. Drew’s job, however, wasn’t really working out. He was hired to help manage a project for the COMAC C919, which kept being delayed.

And then there was our house. It wasn’t selling. And the market was so bad at the time that it was becoming clear that we’d take a pretty big loss on it when it did sell.

One night, we sat down after putting Lucy to bed, and it hit us like a ton of bricks: What the hell are we doing here? This job of Drew’s isn’t panning out. Our house isn’t selling. I’m going nuts being pregnant and trying to keep a toddler busy all day in my in-laws’ basement. Let’s just…move back.

Go home.


And so we did. Drew was able to find a job back closer to home, and in early June, we moved back. I was done teaching for a while. I didn’t sign up to teach summer classes, because I was, well…exhausted, and I also wasn’t scheduled to teach the fall semester, because Lily was due to arrive in mid-October.

So, from June to December of that year, I was fully a SAHM without any other obligations. I really enjoyed those months with Lucy before Lily joined us, but it was one of the hottest summers I can remember, and I was high-risk and hugely pregnant and having a hard time keeping up with her.

Then, just after Lily arrived in October, we found out about Drew’s Dad’s cancer diagnosis. A dark cloud hung over those months as we waited to hear what the next steps were for him.

Add to that Lily’s diagnosis of hip dysplasia and having to meet with specialists who were making MY BABY wear a brace the first three months of her life…and KA-BOOM! Everything seemed to explode out of me onto the floor of the OB-GYN’s examination room during my check-up as she “tested” me for post-partum depression.

She prescribed me an anti-depressant immediately and told me it was essential I take them.


Stay tuned for Part 2 of a Mediocre Mom…

Soul in the Season: Favorite Sounds

Trick-or-treaters excitedly chattering and giggling outside your front door…an extra-blustery gust of late autumn wind rattling your windows…the familiar hum of family and friends’ voices gathered indoors with mugs of something warm to drink in their hands…

These are just a few of the sounds of autumn that bring contentment and joy to our hearts. Here are a few more of our favorite sounds of the season from this past week…

Soul in the Season: Favorite Sounds


From Wisconsin…

Crunching leaves underfoot

Leaves in the Woods

Football on TV

football on tv


From Michigan…

The whoosh-whoosh-whoosh of  raking leaves into piles

raking

The crack and roll of acorns falling from giant oak trees

acorns

What are your favorite sounds of the season?

The Price to Pay

“So let me get this straight….you just built this house exactly how you wanted it and now you’re going to sell it?”

It’s a question we get all of the time and, if I’m being honest, it’s a question I dread, because I’m never quite sure how to answer it.

It’s a hard one to explain because unless you’ve  been lucky enough (haha, luckythat might not be the best choice of words) to hear all of our thoughts and ponderings and considerations of alternatives over the last year and a half, I’m not sure how I can explain it in less than 30-minutes.

The answer we usually give is an enthusiastic “Yes! We’re dreaming of a farm!”

But that’s only part of the answer.

The full answer is so much more complicated than that.


January 2012

I sit in the passenger seat while Collin drives. It’s mid morning, the boys are at his mom’s, and I’ve been cleared to leave work for a couple of hours. On the county road between our home and the place we are now staying, a semi pulls out in front of us; on his trailer is a backhoe.

“There he is.” Collin says to me.

My heart instantly starts racing and tears flood my vision.  I’m not ready for this.

We follow the backhoe down these familiar back roads and I look up at Collin, “I feel like I’m in a funeral procession.”

The rig pulls into our driveway and we park as quickly as we can—we know Jim and he’s a no-bullshit kind of guy—there will be no lollygagging when the machine comes off that trailer, he’ll get right down to business, but before he does we want to pull the chest from Grandpa Bruske out of the basement. It’s heavily damaged, but with a little love we might be able to bring it back to life.

Collin wiggles through the broken out basement windows, and he and his dad somehow manage to pull the large antique piece of furniture out. Just as they set it down on the lawn we hear the first loud boom.

I stand motionless for several minutes. I had hoped for a moment of silence before this began, but that was not to be, we’re here and this is happening. Bundled in a gray hat and scarf that my mom rummaged out of her closet, my new (to me) Columbia jacket hangs open (my pregnant belly is just big enough to prevent me from zipping it). There is a thin layer of snow on the ground, and with each movement the backhoe leaves his mark on the earth. It’s cold and I’m so thankful that people have given me these items to wear.

Our house is tan, light brown in color, but the tops of the few remaining walls are scorched, charred black streaks run jig jagged down their upper portion—evidence of the hot, hot flames that ravaged the place just a few weeks earlier. I watch as the scoop of the machine raises high in the air and then comes crashing down on the very little that’s left of our first home. Cloth diapers spill out of the dresser that was still standing in our bedroom, bags of sweet corn and frozen apples appear in the wreckage from our freezer, and few pictures and pages of otherwise ruined books litter the walkway.  It doesn’t take the backhoe very long….four large dumpsters later and life as we knew has been completely erased.


The fire took our home, our cat,  and all of our personal belongings…but it did not take our hope.

We all survived, our dog survived, and the baby in my belly was showing no signs of distress. We took solace in these things and trusted that God had a bright future planned for us.

Over 2-lb burritos (no joke!) in a little restaurant downtown Collin and I decided that we would rebuild.  We would rebuild our home and our life, bit by bit. I had a job that I loved, one that was steady and reliable, even if it required long hours. Collin’s work was less steady but came with more flexibility. The two were a perfect combination.

With the knowledge of what wasn’t working in the old house we rebuilt a home that works for us. When we started out we had no intention of building a “dream house” but we realize now that’s exactly what we did.  We built our dream house. One that allows us plenty of space to entertain and enough room to raise three little (but soon enough big) boys.  One that we could add more children to in the future if we wanted.


“We have a realtor coming to look at our house tonight.” Lori, our (amazing) cleaning lady had just gotten here and was rummaging through the supply cabinet.

“No! You are not moving…” and then her eyes brightened “you’re building a new house aren’t you?”

It took me several minutes but I gave her the shortened, condensed version of our long-winded story. I didn’t cry but the tears were right there, as they usually are, when I talk about this.

She looked at me with mothering eyes and shook her head “It’s okay.” She told me,  “Plans change.”

She summed up in two words what we’ve been trying, but fumbling, to explain over the past several months.

Plans Change.

We had no idea when we rebuilt our life around my income and Collin’s schedule that in the future I would no longer love my job—some days I wouldn’t even like it. I didn’t anticipate how much my heart would ache when I sent them off to school, for the first time in the care of someone other than family, and they would cling to me at drop off. If they were not all out crying there were always tears and fear in their eyes. They wanted nothing more then their Mama and I wanted nothing more than to whisper “I’ll be back soon, you’ll have fun.” But I couldn’t say that because I wouldn’t be back soon. It would be all day and into the evening before we would see each other again.With tears in everyone’s eyes, each morning I had to go, I had to pry them off of me so I could get to work.  I had to leave the one (three) things that fuel me and give purpose to my days to go to the one thing that drains me, physically and mentally each day, and when I come home at night I am exhausted, I have nothing left in me to give.

We also had no idea that being the “default” parent would leave Collin unfulfilled. Don’t get me wrong, he is an amazing father who is so hands-on with the boys. He has more patience with them then I could ever dream of, but Collin is a workaholic. His drive and passion comes from working. When he comes home after a long day of physical labor, as tired as he may be, he gets down and plays with the boys, he helps with homework, he wrestles them and makes them laugh. He has even more to give because his days have been fueled by the thing he loves.

When we stepped back and took an honest look at our life it clearly screamed to us “What are you doing?? You’ve got this backwards!!”

But it’s not as easy as just switching places.

The hard truth is, we can’t have the life we dream of and also have the house of our dreams.

price you pay


Mark came out last week. He is a long-time friend of Collin’s and has a passion for real estate. Nothing of what he told us came as a surprise: there isn’t a huge market for this type of house but there are specific buyers. I don’t want you to be discouraged, but this might not sell in one season. These are the things I think you should have done before listing it.

Despite this, we walked away feeling more encouraged than discouraged; we’ve always known the challenges we would face if we decided to sell. We were not thrown for a loop but instead felt confident that our initial thoughts were right on the mark. We felt good about our decision to have him come out and motivated by what he had to say.

Despite the generally good feelings we were having, that night as we put the boys to bed I started snapping at everyone.

“What’s wrong?” Collin asked me.

“I’m just stressed out.  I’m stressed out.” I didn’t even try to make myself stay awake through the bedtime routine, I knew all I wanted in that moment was to go to sleep. I wanted my brain (and my heart) to stop thinking (and feeling).

I woke up at 4 am the next morning, up early to finish the boys’ Halloween costumes, I wrapped my robe around me and came out to the living room to stoke the fire. It was quiet and I was alone—I love this time in the morning. As I sat down on the couch I felt the first tear slip down my cheek, and before I knew it I was crying.

I wasn’t stressed, I was sad.

I love this house. I don’t want to leave it. Collin and his dad put all of their sweat and energy and love into building our first home and six years later put all of their sweat and energy and love into building our second home. This place, our house, our land, this spot on the earth that we’ve lived now for nine years is full of so many memories and joy and excitement. It’s also full of a lot of pain and difficulties and hurt, but it’s all of this combined that makes it so special.  It’s all of these emotions entwined that makes me love this place so much.

I know which thing I want more—the shot at the life of our dreams or the house of our dreams—but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy choice to make.

Soul in the Season: Favorite Smells

Apple crisp baking in the oven…soup simmering on the stovetop…wood burning in the fireplace…these are some of the most treasured scents of the season.

Now, here are some of the favorite smells we’ve experienced this past week…

Soul in the Season Smells


From Wisconsin…

Pot roast simmering in the crockpot

Pot Roast in the Crockpot

A mug of warm spiced apple cider

spiced apple cider

 


From Michigan…

Pumpkin seeds roasting in the oven

pumpkinseeds

Baked sugar pumpkins, all ready to puree for pumpkin soup

sugarpumpkins

What have been your favorite smells this autumn?