You’ll Think This Post Is About Kittens (But It’s Not)

I spent the morning playing with our kitten, Fitz.

Fitz BnW small

He is darling, and hilarious, and the most loving little kitten we’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing…but that’s not what this post is about.

As I waggled his chicken toy at him, and giggled like a maniac as he pounced, a conversation I had with a friend recently popped into my brain. I’m not sure what caused it–the conversation had nothing to do with kittens–and yet, I heard her voice in my head, clear as a bell.

“You deserve to have whatever you want. Don’t let anyone else influence you
to the point that you give up on your dream.”

I watched Fitz wiggling his bum, preparing for another pounce, and let those words reverberate around in my brain. You know, that friend of mine makes a really valid point. We live in a society where it’s as easy as a few key strikes to shout your opinion from the social media rooftops. There are some topics of conversation that bring out the opinions quicker than a horse at a hay party—like politics, religion, sporting teams, and parenting.

Who knew adoption was on that list?

We’ve heard a plethora of comments from strangers, acquaintances, and friends alike when they learn of our choice to adopt. Most of them are normal questions filled with curiosity about the process–all valid and easily answered. Others are honest questions that people don’t realize can have a touch of ‘judgey’ to them — “Oh, well, didn’t you look into In-Vitro?” (Yes.) And “Oh, I’ve heard that’s expensive. On your salary?” (Yes.)  And “You should adopt from Africa/Germany/Haiti. They have a lot of kids that need homes.” (So do American kids.)

But the judgement doesn’t stop there. Nay. I have MANY mommy friends who have already started preparing me for the stern faces I will get when I ultimately choose formula over breastfeeding (sort of a necessity since, you know, adopting), public school over home school (I have to work, sadly), and Huggies over cloth diapers (because poo is gross.)

I’ve been so desperate to pledge the Sorority of Mothers that this side of the sisterhood wasn’t something I was prepared for. I always thought of it as a large group of strong, independent, thoughtful women who supported each other in this quest of raising kids to be prosperous, helpful, kind adults.

As it turns out, apparently moms are more interested in policing your child’s grooming habits, party etiquette, and food choices than being all “Kumbaya” about parenting.

judgey mom

Since I’m already getting hit with that judgement, and I’m still only pledging said sorority, it makes me wonder just how much worse it can get. And since I’m a newbie, I tend to want to take everything a Mom shares with me about her journey straight to heart.

Ultimately, here are the bullet points I want people to know:
We chose private domestic adoption. It wasn’t something we decided to do on a whim; we researched and discussed and soul-searched, and it was the best fit for our family.
We chose to pursue adopting an infant. Yes, I know they cry a lot, and I won’t sleep at all, and I’ll pray for the days when they’re old enough to tell me they want juice rather than just raising their voices to the sky in the hopes that I will understand that WAAAAAAAAAAAAAIL means JUUUUUUUUUUUUUUICE. But I want a baby. I want to experience it ALL. And why shouldn’t I get what I want just because my body won’t make a baby on its own?
We did NOT choose to be infertile. So no amount of offering to pray for us, or asking us about our sex life, or questioning our choice of adoption over fertility treatments isn’t going to change the fact that we probably can’t get pregnant. At least without a doctor’s help. And even with that help, we have less than a 30% chance of conceiving.

Aside: Maybe I should print those bullet points onto a spiffy little business card so I can just hand them out at will. Anybody got a coupon I can use?

So when my very wise friend made her very valid point the other day, while she was talking about our decision to adopt an infant, it could really be applied to all facets of parenthood. Hell–it SHOULD be applied to all facets of LIFE.

If you DREAM of getting rid of all your worldly possessions in trade for an RV so you can travel the country like gypsies—don’t let your paranoid and clingy best friend change your mind.

If you DREAM of quitting your day job so you can open a tiny pizzeria—don’t let something as trivial as ‘expectations’ change your mind.

If you DREAM of being a mother to a squalling, incontinent, impossible-to-please tiny human being—don’t let anyone else’s opinion about children change your mind!

After all, the other piece of advice this wise friend gave me? “You deserve to be just as miserable and exhausted as every other new mom in the world.” And she’s right. I totally do.

Written by Abby Chamberlain - Visit Website

Go Home, Pinterest. You’re Drunk.

I spend a lot of time on PinterestFor the most part, I pin words of wisdom, healthy recipes, and nerdy stuff like crossover memes where Sherlock meets Doctor Who meets Harry Potter.

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*crying silently*

Pinterest isn’t just a time suck for me; I utilize it on almost a daily basis to help me with my weight loss goals, or to find the words to describe an emotion that are otherwise lost to me. I’ve come across graphics that have inspired blog topics, found craft projects that have turned into heartfelt gifts for friends or family, and have found some BANGIN’ recipes, like this one for skinny orange chicken.

All of those things make Pinterest worth the time I spend on it (and believe me when I say, I spend a LOT of time on it.) But guys? I think the unsung hero of Pinterest are those weird pins that make you sit back, stare at your computer screen, and go, “What the —–??” You know the ones I mean. You’ve shared them on your Facebook pages or Tweeted them to your followers, all in the name of understanding the origin of said pin. I’ve even started a folder for them. They make me laugh, they make me cringe, and they  make me write a blog about how weird the internet can be sometimes.

Here are a few of my favorites.

Full-Body Sweater

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I have two questions: 1) In what world do you need your face to be warm before your toes and your hands? and 2) When did fashion become about emulating characters on Sesame Street?

In that same vein…

Faux-Muppet Coat = High Fashion

4

It was the photograph that made her career. It just saddens me that I’m sure that ice cream went uneaten. Sigh.

Bowling Ball Art

3

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have a love affair with my glue gun just like the next girl. But this seems…well, like a giant waste of time. And it isn’t even that pretty. I can think of better things to do with my bowling ball. Like go bowling.

A Wedding Dress Made Of Balloons

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I don’t know about you, but it was my dream as a young bride to come squeaking down the aisle in a dress made of balloons. And can you imagine the receiving line? Don’t hug this chick too hard or we’re gonna go from formal wedding to a streaker at a soccer game in 10 seconds flat.

You Just Crocheted WHAT?

6

When you first see this pin, you’re all like “Aw, look! What a cute little mask!” Then you read the title of the article: “26 Super-Sexy Pairs of Men’s Underwear.”

And then you make this face:

unnamed

And finally, the WEIRDEST thing I’ve EVER seen on Pinterest, EVER

The Formal Chicken Fling

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I have no words.

Written by Abby Chamberlain - Visit Website

For The Love Of The Game

I’ve been a football fan pretty much all of my life. My father graduated from North Carolina State University, and has spent most of HIS life as a Wolfpack fanatic. My family jokes that my first words were “Mama,” “Dada,” and “Go Wolfpack!”

In truth, I don’t think it’s much of an exaggeration.

When Brian and I got together many years later, I took my love of college football and applied it to his greatest love–Carolina Panthers football. I already knew a bit about how the game worked, from the many years of watching with my dad and brother. But it wasn’t until I saw my husband’s passion for the Panthers that I really started getting interested. And at that point, I became a student of the game.

As any good over-achiever would do, I did internet research, bought books, even made flash cards so I could remember who played what position and what their jersey numbers were. (Yes, I made flash cards. I may even still have them somewhere.)

So by the time Brian took me to my very first NFL game, I was well-versed in first downs, holding penalties, and wildcat formations. So enthusiastic was I about my newfound obsession with football, I spent the best money I’ve ever spent in my entire adult life and bought MORE tickets so I could take my baby brother to HIS very first NFL game, where were trounced the New Orleans Saints, 30-7.

Panthers page

And so now, during football season, our family gatherings on Sundays revolve around Carolina Panthers football. We’ve been die-hard fans through the ups and the downs, throughout coaching staff changes and new quarterbacks, while watching some of our favorite players retire or be traded. We’ve rejoiced with victories, shed tears over heart-breaking losses, and spent countless hours discussing the finer points of our defensive strategy. I’ve watched hours of Sports Center, and even more hours of the NFL draft, hoping to see my team grow and improve and become legendary (like I know they’re capable of doing.) We’ve kept up with our superstitions, we always wear our Panthers gear on Game Day, and we ALWAYS celebrate a victory with a shot of Irish whiskey.

Fan page

But even more than that, I find that I have an emotional attachment to my team, my players, my coaches. When I hear about a player who’s given their time and energy to a charity, I swell with pride. When I heard about Greg Olsen’s son, who was born with a rare heart condition, I felt my heart break for them. And when his son survived the many surgeries, I rejoiced with them. When our quarterback, Cam Newton, gets injured, I swear I can feel it in my bones, too. (Let’s not even talk about my reaction when I heard about his recent auto accident.) Maybe it’s the cheerleader in me, or the fan girl, but I am emotionally invested in my team, and I want nothing more than to see them do well.

Fast forward to today, January 10, 2015. It’s been a tough season for us. We’ve watched, sometimes with great frustration, a team that we know is Super Bowl worthy take us down a losing streak path that seemed to be endless. Game after game, we watched small mistakes, injuries, and countless penalties that left us wondering if the Panthers had lost heart. Still, we cheered for them, willing them to succeed. And as if to beat all odds, we won the last four games of our season, launching us unexpectedly into the playoffs–with a losing record.

We managed to beat the Arizona Cardinals last week, and now we find ourselves facing the Seattle Seahawks–last year’s Super Bowl Champions–in the divisional playoffs game that could, if we win, get us one step closer to the Big Game.

Readers? My heart is in my teeth.

After the year we’ve had, nothing would make me happier than for just one more victory. One more chance. One more time to see our team come together and celebrate like this:

From the Carolina Panthers Facebook Fan Page.

From the Carolina Panthers Facebook Fan Page.

They’ve worked so hard for it. We’ve cheered so hard for it. Tonight’s the night.

And my butt will be firmly planted in front of my wide screen television, at least an hour before kick off, wearing my favorite Luke Keuchly t-shirt and my lucky turquoise socks.

I have girlfriends who don’t get it. They don’t see the appeal, or understand my fascination with Sports Center, or why Sundays (and playoff Saturdays!) are days when I can make no social plans until after the game is played. And that’s ok. I’m ok with being the lone female sports fan in our little group.

Because I LOVE football. And I will shout at the screen over crazy penalties with a caveman mentality because I LOVE THIS GAME. I love my team.

And if–no–WHEN we win tonight, you will be able to hear my squees ’round the world. (It may be late; I apologize in advance for waking you.)

Written by Abby Chamberlain - Visit Website

Path To A Happy 2015

Guys, my holidays pretty much sucked. There was no Christmas spirit. There was lots of crying and “woe as me.” There was a WHOLE LOTTA forced merriment. I took my decorations down the day after Christmas, and as each bauble found its way back into storage, I felt a little bit happier, like I was packing away the source of sadness that had plagued me since just after the turkey went cold.

Considering the fact that, in years past, I have been accused of being as jolly as Buddy the Christmas Elf, this is some pretty serious news in and around these parts.

The reason why doesn’t really matter as much as finding my way back to happiness. What’s done is done, the past is in the past, and I’m ready to move forward into a happier, healthier, shinier new year.

Since my day-to-day life has been pretty colorless lately, I pointed my browser over to my favorite blog, Heck Awesome, written by the lovely and talented Carrie Baughcum. She is a daily source of inspiration for me, and though she doesn’t know it, I think of her as the Creativity Queen. And just as she has in the past, with one adorable and heartwarming post, she inspired me to try something new.

Art Journaling.

Finally, a way to combine my “artwork” with my words. (Note the quotations. Perhaps “cartoons” would be a more accurate description?) I’ve found a way to fully express the ideas in my brain. And use my awesome multi-hued felt-tipped pens. It’s brilliant.

And colorful. Did I mention art journaling is colorful? <—-COLOR IS GOOD.

So I decided to start my journal with that nasty holiday depression in mind. What can I do to ensure that my path in 2015 is filled with light, and humor, and happiness? I can accomplish the goals I’ve set forth for myself. I can exercise and let the sunshine in. I can write more and whine less. I can start every day with a positive thought. I can hang onto hope, even when hope seems fruitless. I can smile. I can laugh. I can draw and write and paint and doodle. I can create my own sunshine. I can be ME.

Path to a Happy 2015

It’s not as impressive as other art journal pages I’ve seen as I’ve perused Pinterest, looking for ideas. In fact, it’s downright amateur-ish. But it’s a start. And it made me happy, which was the whole point of the exercise anyway. So I’ll move forward. I’ll draw a doodle every now and then, and add the page to my journal. I’ll draw out my feelings when I can’t find the words to express them. I may or may not share them here, depending on how proud I am of said doodles.

Either way, my toes are off the starting line, and I’m moving up that path to happiness. I know it’s there, waiting at the top of the hill for me. It may be an uphill climb, but I’ll make it. And I’m taking my art supplies with me, because…

crayons

(Or, in this case, felt-tipped pens.) (But use whatever works.) (Heck, fingerpaint with pudding if you want to. I won’t judge you if you won’t judge me while I’m licking the paper clean.) (Great, now I want chocolate pudding.) (Mmmm. Pudding.)

To Carrie: You are my sister in creativity. Thank you for continuing to inspire me. XO

Written by Abby Chamberlain - Visit Website

Like A Bowl Full of Jelly

I’ve gained three pounds since December 1.

This may not seem like a big deal to you. I mean, three pounds isn’t a whole heapin’ lot. And could easily be shed with a couple of diligent weeks worth of work.

Here’s the thing, though. I made a pact with myself that I wasn’t going to gain the typical five (twelve) pounds that often comes with the holidays. I was going to keep indulgences to a minimum, continue my three-times-a-week trips to the gym, and avoid the merriment of gorging on cookies until the actual holiday.

I wasn’t looking to continue losing during the holidays. That’s too much pressure to put on anyone, especially a fat girl who really loves Christmas cookies.

weight loss 1

But I was going to maintain. That was my key word. MAINTENANCE.

See, I’ve managed to lose (and up until two weeks ago, maintain) a 35-pound weight loss this year. That’s three dress sizes, people. I started Werq in late February, and have been dancing my way to a slimmer, sexier me. I know what you’re thinking–thirty-five pounds isn’t a whole lot. Especially when you think of how long it took me to lose that weight. (9 1/2 months. But who’s counting?) But for me? It’s the most successful I’ve been with weight loss since I figured out I needed to lose weight about ten years ago. I’ve never lost this much, never kept up an exercise routine for this long, never been this successful before. And so, as the holidays approached, I promised myself that I would stay on the wagon. Or at least, hitched to it, so that when January 1 rolls around, I’ll already be ahead of the curve.

But. Cookies.

I have to be honest with myself. It’s not just the holiday cookies. It’s the “it’ll be easier to pickup a pizza” phenomenon. The “it’s just one bottle of wine” scenario. The cheerful Christmas cheeseburger (with extra bacon.) That’s been happening, too.

So I’m reigning it in. Move over Santa. You can have the big jiggly bowl full of jelly. And you can have my share of Christmas cookies, too.

Weight loss 2

After I eat this oatmeal cookie sandwich with a side of chocolate peanut butter globs.

Written by Abby Chamberlain - Visit Website

Enthusiastically Eating My Veggies Today

I had a dream about a salad last night.

My subconscious led me to a place where Brian and I were dining out. This particular restaurant had a salad bar, and I sat down at my booth with a plate filled with fresh mesclun greens, shards of carrot, wedges of ripe red tomato, circles of cucumber, gorgeous broccoli spears, all topped with a tangy but sweet vinaigrette.

Sounds super sexy, doesn’t it?

Eager to dive into my healthy dinner, I didn’t wait for Brian to return from his trip to the salad bar. I speared a bit of broccoli with my fork, closed my eyes, and savored.

When I opened them back up, a certain famous singer/song writer/actor/comedian was sitting in the booth across from me, eyeballing my salad. And this is what he said to me:

Sexy back 2

At that moment, the familiar bass line from “Sexy Back” started playing through the restaurant’s loud speakers, and a bevy of backup dancers arrived tableside. JT jumped up and starting dancing, too, leaving me dumbfounded with a broccoli spear hanging out of my mouth.

Before I could swallow, half of the patrons joined in, and the restaurant filled with the refrain of the famous pop song, with the lyrics slightly changed.

She’s bringin’ sexy back.
She’s eatin’ broccoli and that’s a fact.
Cuz Abby’s special with that healthy snack.
With smart food choices, man, she doesn’t slack.”

As the chorus of “Come here, girl” started up, a group of male dancers dressed like broccoli came dancing out of the kitchen.

Sexy back

At this point it suddenly became apparent to me that it’s all a dream. Not because Justin Timberlake climbed onto the table next to mine and belted out a particularly racy lyric about my hips. Not because the line cooks started throwing up jazz hands. Not even because the back up dancers started doing splits.

But because my husband finally arrived, a giant salad of his own in hand, and started line-dancing with the giant broccolis.

Anyone else thinking of having a salad for lunch now?

Written by Abby Chamberlain - Visit Website

My Recent Life As A Blogger

I had a friend tell me last night that he misses my blog.

“You need to get back to it,” he said. “I only follow one other blog. I miss Abby Gabs.”

I was humbled, flattered, and left feeling guilty for letting my readers down. “Truthfully?” I replied to my friend and reader, “I miss it, too.”

I don’t have many excuses for you when it comes to not writing here on this space I carved out for myself. I look back at posts past and wonder how I managed to pull out so many different blog ideas back then–humorous or thoughtful, commentary or comedy, I managed to find things to write about on a nearly daily basis for three years. Then, all of a sudden, it was like someone turned off the creative water faucet. Just like that, the words dried up in my mind. Occasionally, something funny or wonderful or goofy would happen, and I’d think to myself, “I should blog about that.” But I never did. And now those moments are lost forever, a myriad of memories locked away.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

When I lament the loss of my blog to my mommy friends, they all say the same thing. “You have Baby Brain.” It’s true. I eat, sleep, drink, obsess, and think about the adoption every single waking minute of every day. But while my life has been consumed with All Things Adoption this year, it hasn’t changed so drastically that I couldn’t sit down and write a blog every now and then. The honest truth of the matter is that most of those unwritten posts would have likely been about adoption: about the fundraising, and the constant worry, and the waiting, and the sorrow, and the excitement, and the anticipation—all the things that make this process what it is. There was a part of me that wanted to chronicle this journey here on AbbyGabs, but it became so intensely personal, and I worried I’d never be able to capture the emotions we’ve gone through in the form of the written word.

And so I just avoided the blog. I’d open my browser every morning and click anywhere but on Word Press. I’d spend hours on Pinterest, or play games on Facebook, or research  a new and different facet of adoption or parenthood, all in the attempt to avoid the fact that I wasn’t blogging. Not only wasn’t I blogging, I also wasn’t writing. At all. My enthusiasm for writing and getting published went up in a puff of smoke as soon as our home study was completed.

We have had a full year–one filled with friendship and support and laughter and tears and hope and failure. We have built friendships with people who have become more like family. We have planned and saved and dreamed about the baby we so desperately wish for. We lost a beloved pet, and gained a new one.

Pip and Fitz

There’s a small tug of regret for not documenting it here, as I had done so diligently for so long. But there’s also a small nugget of gladness knowing that I was just…living.

My hope is to find my way back to this space, and to the groove of blogging again. I know it’s still in me, somewhere. The creative spark reignited during Nano last month, and I’m hoping to tend to it, baby it, and turn it into a flame. And perhaps in the new year, I’ll be able to rebuild that roaring fire that took me flying through the first three years of Abby Gabs history. Until that happens, I’m going to keep living. I’m going to snuggle our new kitten, Fitz. I’m going to laugh with my friends. I’m going to keep dancing and striving for better health. I’m going to spend time with my family. I’m going to keep loving as big as the sky. And I’m going to write. Because, ultimately, writing is a part of who I am, and when I’m not doing it, I feel like a piece of me is missing.

Here’s to a renewed creative spirit.

Written by Abby Chamberlain - Visit Website

It’s That Time of Year Again…

November 1, 2014—a day writers around the globe wait for with baited breath. We don’t even bother putting away the Halloween candy. Nay, we will need all that sugar in the coming days. Instead, we grab our notepads, our laptops, and our flash drives, and we psych ourselves up for THE Writing Marathon Of The Year.

Banner

Thirty days. Fifty thousand words. A novel in a month.

Let’s do this.

Preparations come first. We gather the tools of our trade, preparing our space for the ultimate exercise in creativity. Coffee mugs are filled. Dictionaries are dusted off. Our favorite pens are located and put somewhere safe. We neaten our work stations, clear our minds and our desks of detritus that will keep us from our goal. This is NaNo prep at its finest.

Nano desk

The idea we’ve been marinating on for weeks, or days—or for some of us, minutes–begins to take form in our brains as we open that blank word document. It’s a clean white slate. Zero words, zero expectations, zero thoughts expressed. The time to start is now.

…But first, a selfie…

Nano selfie Day 1

…not just because you’re having a particularly good hair day, or because you happened to be wearing the same color as the prominent shade in this year’s banner. No. You take that selfie because it is commemorating the start of something great. Something amazing. Something AWESOME.

Plus, it’s probably the last time you’ll look this good for the next four weeks. Let’s be honest, here. By day 2, you’ll probably look like a zombie.

Now we turn back to that waiting word document. The cursor flashes expectantly, and the protagonist of your story surges forth with a tale to tell.

Oh. Wait. You forgot to update your Facebook profile pic. And your Timeline cover. OOH–and Twitter. Twitter is important, too. So you head over to the NaNoWriMo website–your home base for the next thirty days–and download your inspirational photos for your many social media sites. You might as well go ahead and create your novel while you’re there, too. I mean, now’s as good a time as any. You may have to do a little research to figure out your working title—that’s ok, you’ve got time. And your profile needs some updating–this is your FOURTH year, not your third. Oh hey, look—you have new messages in your inbox! YES—-a link to the Blue Book you’ll need for the meetings!!….

You chuckle at yourself because, minutes into your first day, you’ve already found yourself sucked into the time honored tradition of procrastination. Well, no more, writer.

NaNoWriMo 2014

The time is now.

Written by Abby Chamberlain - Visit Website

365 Days (Times Four)

Today I observe a tradition that I started on AbbyGabs 3 years ago, at its inception. It started as a post to honor the battle my husband fought, and won, against a rare cancer that threatened to destroy our lives. It ended as one of the most honest, heartfelt things I’ve ever written.

I share it every year because it serves as a reminder of how far we’ve come since that devastating diagnosis. The “C” word doesn’t get used that much around here any more, and considering it filled our lives for so long, that’s a major accomplishment in itself. But more than any other reason, I share this post every year on the off chance that there’s someone out there in the webiverse who’s going through the exact same thing we went through 4 years ago. Maybe there’s someone looking for comfort, or words of wisdom, or a shred of hope. So I share our story, in case it brings comfort. Take it from one who knows–having a lifeline, no matter how thin, helps. Tremendously.

This is the story of the day we got our lives back.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *   *     *     *     *     *    *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *    *     *     *     *     *

The alarm clock blares into the darkness. It is 4:15 a.m. We wake in the same position in which we fell asleep: flat on our backs, staring at the ceiling, our hands still clutched together between us. It brought enough comfort in the night to allow us to sleep, even for a few short hours.

My husband gets up without a word. The shower and the antimicrobial surgical soap are waiting.

I make the bed, wake his Aunt Tina, and start the coffee maker. I debate for 5 solid minutes over whether I should lay out his clothes for him. I decide to do it. This isn’t a normal day, so why should I act like it is?

Dressed and completely awake, we decide to get an early start to the hospital. The interstate is deserted. I’m unused to driving in the dark, and the empty highway startles me. Our headlights slice through the pitch black, and only road signs greet us along our asphalt path. For twenty minutes, we are silent. The radio plays quietly in the background. Tina asks me a question, I answer it. Brian sits in the seat next to me, hands folded in his lap. He tries to appear calm, but I can see the nerves dancing under his skin.

As we pull into the parking lot the sky just begins to turn pink. Morning has officially arrived. We gather our belongings–bags and afghans and books and sweaters. Changes of clothing. Warm socks. We trek to the sliding glass doors, a small caravan of modern day nomads.

The fluorescent lights are much too bright. I feel like I want sunglasses. Tina takes our stuff and makes a beeline for the waiting room “to get us comfy seats near the coffee maker.” I smile. Brian and I head the other direction. I stare at the dark blue veins under the skin of his hand as he signs his name and hands over his driver’s license. I rub my fingers down his back, feeling every bone in his spine. He smiles weakly.

We sit. We wait. It feels like days, but it’s only minutes. He plays Angry Birds. Tina and I make small talk. I want to stand up, pace, fidget. Finally, they call his name, and we walk back to finish the paperwork. I could let him go alone, but I can’t abide it. So I squeeze in to the little cubicle with him. I listen as he answers the same 25 questions he’s been asked so frequently these last few weeks. He jokes with the nurse who taps away on the keys of her computer. We sign where we’re told to sign.

They send us to another office. Here we go over how the surgery will happen. What the doctors will do. What we can expect. This nurse has less information for us than she likes. She keeps looking as his file, glancing at her computer monitor, swishing her mouse in search of more facts.

“Did the surgeons tell you what recovery was going to be like?” she asks gently.

No. We don’t know what to expect because they won’t know how bad it is, and they won’t until they open up my husband’s abdomen.

She nods once, plasters a smile on her face, and continues to walk us through the surgery plans she’s aware of.

At this point we are separated. They take him back to prep him. I can’t go. It’s the first time we’ve been separated since the cytoscopy. I feel the panic start to creep up and I stamp it down quickly. No time for that now. He kisses me, squeezes my hand, and disappears through the thick wooden doors.

Thirty five minutes later my parents arrive. Dad hugs me, Mom squeezes my arm. I tell them all that has happened. They ask if they will get to see him before the surgeons take him to the OR. I say yes, we should get to go back any minute. Moments later they come for me. We pick up our bags and afghans and books and sweaters and head to his room.

Brian lays on the gurney in his blue cotton gown. It looks so thin, I immediately want to ask for a blanket. He has a shower cap on his head, and blue booties on his feet. He’s already got an IV in each arm. His skin looks grey in the too-bright lights.

Mom goes over to him immediately and smooths back his hair. “How ya feelin’, kiddo?” she asks. She’s been so strong throughout this whole ordeal. My heart swells. Dad and Tina talk about everything but why we’re here. The C-word hasn’t been used once today. We’re denying its existence even as we are trying to eradicate it from my husband’s body.

One of Brian’s surgeons knocks and comes into the room. He is young and handsome and calm and kind. Brian and I share a secret smile–he’s known in our house as Dr. Superman. I can feel Brian’s nerves begin to settle as Dr. Superman walks us once again through the procedure. He reaches out a hand to me when he mentions how unsure they are of the outcome. “We won’t know how much the tumor has spread until we’re able to get a good look at it. It could be attached to his colon. It could be on his bladder. If it has infiltrated the wall of his bladder we will have to remove it. I don’t think that will happen, but you need to be prepared for that.” He gives my hand a squeeze. My heart is in my throat.

The activity in the room increases. There’s no room for us in there anymore as nurses and doctors hover over my husband. We’re allowed to kiss him goodbye. I lean over him and we lock eyes. A tear escapes even as I swallow a sob. “I love you to the moon and back,” we say. And we’re ushered back to the waiting room.

I can’t stand it. I can’t sit there and wait. So I leave Tina and my parents and I head to the financial aid office. I spend an hour asking questions, filling out paperwork, discussing our options with a social worker. I get a sense of calm knowing I’ve accomplished something. When there’s nothing left to do I go back to the waiting room.

I keep waiting for the phone at the nurse’s station to ring. It doesn’t. Why aren’t they calling? Shouldn’t they call for an update? It’s been nearly 2 hours and I’m beginning to worry. I’m contemplating getting up and asking the volunteer about it as Dr. Superman rounds the corner in his scrubs. He looks grim. My heart begins pounding so loudly I can’t hear anything else. He asks to speak to us in a private room. Episodes of ER and Grey’s Anatomy flash into my mind. The private rooms are bad. They only take you to the private rooms for bad news. My knees buckle. Someone steers me by the arm.

Dr. Superman turns the knob on the private room’s door and it is locked. “Well, I don’t have a key,” he says. “And I don’t want to keep you in the dark anymore. The surgery was a success. We got the entire tumor.”

I don’t realize I’m holding my breath until it all comes out at once. The tears that have been living behind my eyes for 3 weeks come out in a flood. My Dad is smiling, my Mom is crying, and Tina has a look of relief on her face I didn’t anticipate. She never looked worried for a second before this moment. Now I realize she’s been holding me up for days.

I hear only bits of everything else Dr. Superman says. The tumor was larger than they expected. His surgical scar will be about 10 inches long. The tumor was the size of a Nerf football and was only attached by a fiber to his colon.  Brian is going to be fine. He won’t even have to endure chemotherapy. Dr. Superman gathers me into a hug and his reputation as a superhero is solidified.

We flutter back into the waiting room like so many birds. We are light on our feet, there’s a song in our hearts. We each grab for a cell phone and begin the process of spreading the good news. I call Brian’s Dad first. Then my brother. Then Brian’s boss. I email and Facebook and text message. I could literally dance a jig in the middle of the hospital.

We’re told Brian is on his way from recovery to his room on the top floor. We grab our bags and afghans and books and sweaters and head for the elevator. We beat him up there. We stand in the hallway, afraid to occupy a room this isn’t rightfully ours yet. The nurses see our posse and begin rounding up chairs. It’s a private room, and we’re all impressed that Brian will be treated like a VIP while in house.

I hear the elevator doors open and a gurney coming down the hall. There is my husband, back in his blue cotton gown. The booties and shower cap are gone. They maneuver the bed into the room, plug in all his equipment, and retreat. I dash to his bedside, lean over him and say his name. I’m desperate to touch him, to connect with him, but there are so many wires.

Groggily, his eyelids open and I all see is ocean blue. He takes a moment to focus on me, and smiles weakly. “How’d I do?” he asks.

I run my fingers carefully through his hair, down his face, and smile at him, wanting him to see nothing but joy and excitement and exhilaration in my face. “They got it, baby. They got it all. You’re gonna be just fine.”

“That’s good,” he says, and drifts back to sleep.

My family talks quietly in the background. I watch my husband sleeping, and I allow myself to take in everything I see. I wrap my fingers around his bony wrist, stare at his chest as it rises and falls, wait for the pulse I can see in the vein of his neck. I’m no fool. I know recovery is going to be long and difficult. I know he’s going to wake up when the drugs wear off and he’s going to be in tremendous pain. I know we’re going to be living at this hospital for a week, maybe more.

But nothing could tramp down the feeling of good fortune in my heart. Brian was going to live.

It’s October 25, 2010.

Brian and his balloon

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Four years later…

The alarm clock goes off as sunlight peers through the blinds. It’s 8:00 a.m. I know what day it is immediately upon waking. I make the bed, yawning, then pad into the living room where my husband is playing a video game with headphones on. I smile and walk over to him, clearing my throat so I don’t startle him.

“Good morning, beautiful,” he says as I lean down to kiss him. Our eyes linger a little longer than usual. No words are needed.

I say them anyway.

“I love you. I’m grateful to have you.”

He smiles and kisses me again. “You’d better hit the showers. We’ve got a big day today.”

And so I leave him and follow through with my usual morning routine, knowing that later today, we will celebrate as two of our closest friends get married. We will celebrate love, and life, and happiness. It couldn’t be a more perfect way to spend the day.

It’s October 25, 2014.

us again

Written by Abby Chamberlain - Visit Website

Tacky Fun Day

Today is our Tenth Wedding Anniversary.

wedding

We could’ve done any number of things to celebrate this momentous occasion–and in truth, we discussed MANY of them. A trip to somewhere tropical, a giant fancy party, a whirlwind tour of Europe–but when it came right down to it, we figured out the PERFECT way to celebrate the ten years we’ve shared together as man and wife.

We drove to Myrtle Beach–aka Tacky Capital of the East Coast–for the day and pretended like we were tourists.

Now why did we choose to partake in Tacky Fun Day, instead of those other fabulous celebrations I mentioned earlier?

It’s easier if I show you rather than tell you.

So we started our trip at one of the hundreds of beach ware stores you see littering Highway 17 between Georgetown and the North Carolina border. This particular one was a Pacific store, and we went in with a mission.

Find the tackiest t-shirts we could find to wear throughout our adventure.

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I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure we succeeded. Brian couldn’t look at me if I was standing in direct sunlight because, well, my shirt was the color of a fresh new highlighter pen. (PS: I totally should have bought the hot pink sparkly fedora. I rocked it. Hard.)

Once we’d bedecked ourselves in All Colors of 1987, we booked it on over to the Hollywood Wax Museum. Guys? Seriously? Fun doesn’t come any tackier than this. We whiled away the morning jaunting around in the quiet halls of the building, taking selfies with pretend versions of our favorite celebrities. I took a TON of pictures, so I’m only going to share a few of our favorites here.

Top: Our separate reactions to meeting Captain Jack Sparrow. Bottom: The always lovable Tom Hanks, on the set of Forrest Gump.

Top: Our separate reactions to meeting Captain Jack Sparrow.
Bottom: The always lovable Tom Hanks, on the set of Forrest Gump.

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My handsome husband proving he’s just as tough as Vin Diesel (and in my opinion, a MILLION times cuter.)

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Y’all better watch out. Bruce Lee and Brian just opened up a can of whoop ass in here.

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I may have squee’d and run past Jamie Foxx, some race car driver, and Mariah Carey to have my picture taken with The King of Pop. Can you tell I’ve been practicing my dance moves? Can you?

It really shouldn’t surprise you at all that I was willing and eager to jump in a photo with just about any celebrity that the Wax Museum had to offer….

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Clockwise, from top left: Me with Hugh Hefner (not sure what he’s looking so smug about); Disappointed in Mark Wahlberg’s height; But not so disappointed I wasn’t willing to snuggle him; Dolly’s may be big, but I think mine are bigger; OMG y’all it’s Samuel L. Jackson; Walking like an Egyptian with Elizabeth Taylor.

But probably the most poignant moment, if you can have one of those at a wax museum, was when we came across Robin Williams. I felt compelled to pose for a shot that may have turned out to be the best one of the day.

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We wiped away the tears and headed downstairs to find the BEST portraits that had been taken as we arrived. “Pose here with King Kong,” they said. “Make funny faces,” they said. And so we did. And I’m SO pleased with how they turned out!

Wax Museum 10001

Wax Museum 10002

We are champs at taking goofy pictures. I think we proved that at the Wax Museum yesterday.

After all that fun, we were still left with hours to fill up our Tacky Fun Day. So off to Ripley’s Aquarium we went. While it isn’t as large or as grand as some of the aquariums Brian and I have visited over the years, it still had a certain charm about it. And the moving pathway underneath the giant shark tank? Super cool. And hard to photograph. So you’ll just have to take my word for it and be satisfied with this blurry picture of me in front of it instead.

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After a bit of lunch and shopping, we traveled a bit north to the MAIN attraction. We didn’t decide to just go to Myrtle Beach on a whim. Nay, good friends. We went with one specific goal in mind.

Mini Golf.

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And not just ANY mini golf. Nay, good friends. We drove ALL THE WAY to North Myrtle Beach for the opportunity to play at Professor Hacker’s Lost Treasure Golf. After paying the price of admission, and collecting our clubs and balls, we were shuffled off into a train car and driven to the top of the hill.

That’s right. It’s a putt putt course with a TRAIN.

Now you know why we drove up to North Myrtle Beach. (Sheldon would be proud.)

Just to set things up for you a little, Brian and I are pretty competitive when it comes to things like mini golf. We play on a pretty regular basis, and whoever wins bragging rights…well, let’s just say it’s a fun little jab that we use in day-to-day life until the next mini golf game is played.

I’d also like to mention that the last time we played, I didn’t just lose. I lost SPECTACULARLY. By dozens of strokes. I was slaughtered on the greens.

However, luck was in my favor yesterday. I beat Brian not just once, but twice. And here’s the shot of the hole-in-one that sealed my husband’s fate as a mini golf loser:

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…and Brian’s subsequent “I’m not happy” selfie.

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Ha HA! Suck it up, loser! … … … I mean, don’t be glum, chum. There are SO MANY OTHER THINGS in life that you excel at … … … I mean, you played so well, sweetie! You should be proud of yourself! You came in SECOND PLACE!!! … … …

Ok, I’ll stop. The next 10 years of my marriage may depend on it.

The final stop of our whirlwind tour of tackyland was actually a bit of a fluke. We wound up at WonderworksI’d seen the wonky, upside-down building from the highway many times before, and never wondered what was inside. Lo-and-behold, it was an entire attraction filled with fun scienc-y stuff. YAY! Science is fun!

We experienced hurricane-force winds, learned about gravity and the pulley system, played trivia games based on everything from geology to theme songs from the 80s, and attempted to land the virtual space shuttle. (Brian’s aside: he SUCCESSFULLY landed. I crashed three times.) (But that’s ok. Because he sucks at putt putt, so it’s all relative.)

We also got electrocuted:

Made giant bubbles:

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And got to pretend we were real live astronauts:

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It was a Nerd’s Paradise.

We capped off the evening with a quiet dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, whiling away the moments between bites of awesomeness with recounted memories from that blissful day.

So, you see, I don’t need a week in the Poconos. I don’t want a cruise in the Mediterranean, or a big fancy party. Because what I have is a partner, a best friend, a teammate, a playmate, and a husband, all rolled into one. I’d say that makes us winners.

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Except for at mini golf. At least in Brian’s case.

Written by Abby Chamberlain - Visit Website