Category Archives: Serious Post

Always–A Special Guest Post

Jenna and I bonded over many things when we first met: our love of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, the dream of living in a loft in NYC. One specific thing that my VBFFLSMSW and I shared was a love for the written word. We took creative writing classes together, wrote poetry and prose together, even took a one week writer’s course in NYC together.

(What? Oh. It stands for Very Best Friend For Life Soul Mate Sister Wife. I thought it was pretty clear.)

Jenna and me

After school, I continued writing, pursuing the career I’ve always dreamed of having. Jenna got married, started a family, and writing fell a little to the wayside for her. She has always supported me in my endeavors–she was the first to jump in line to read my novel, and she’s one of my biggest cheerleaders when it comes to the blog. But I know, deep down, she misses that creative part of herself. I’ve given her journals over the years, encouraged her to jot things down when they come to her. But as we all know, life sometimes gets in the way.

So when she sent me an email this morning with a word document attached, I couldn’t help but cheer. And then I read what she sent, and knew immediately it needed to be shared with the world. And so, in honor of my Soul Mate, and National Autism Awareness Month, I give you Jenna’s first guest post.
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My name is Jenna.  I have two beautiful, brilliant, sweet, hilarious children: a four-year-old boy and a two-year-old daughter.  My son was diagnosed with PDD-NOS when he was two.  I can’t believe how far we’ve come since then (especially as I look back over his assessments and old IEPs in preparation for his IEP review – the first since his original intake.  I feel very much like a general planning for war or like a poker player trying to decide how much of his hand to tip … somewhere in between those two … and maybe to the left a little.)  Like all good moms, I strive to give my children the best of everything, which is why I chose for them the perfect godmother.  Her name is Abby, and this, as you know, is her blog.

Here we are again.  We haven’t been here for a long time, so long that I’d almost forgotten.

But it all came crashing back when you fell apart.

The grocery store didn’t have any green race car shopping carts left.  We always get the green cart.

Always.

Every grocery store trip used to be like this.  Me pulling the cart behind us, at first pregnant, then very pregnant, and then, later, with Ellie in her carrier, sometimes sleeping, sometimes crying.

You, slung over my shoulder, thrashing, kicking, and screaming at the top of your lungs.

It wasn’t your fault.  You had just gotten overwhelmed; too many colors, sounds, lights, people, textures.  I know all that now.  I didn’t know it then.

Then, all I knew was that I somehow had to get all the groceries on my list from the shelves to the cart.

Just five more things.  Just five more things. Just five more things. Just five more things.

Just four more things.  Just four more things.  Just four more things.  Just four more things.

And the screaming.  Screaming.  Screaming.  Screaming.

The green carts are all being used, sweetie.  The carts are for everybody.

You were smaller then; people expect a one year old, a two year old, to have melt downs. Avoid eye contact, head down, get it done, just get through it.  But people were mostly supportive, “You go mom!” “You got your hands full!”  You were smaller then.

It’s different now.

We haven’t been here for such a long time, so long that I’d almost forgotten.

We have a system now.  We talk through transitions.  Routine.  Routine.  Routine.

We always get the green cart. Always.

Just four things. Just four things. Just four things. Just four things.  Just four things.

Just three more things.  Just three more things.  Just three more things.  Just three more things.

The screaming.  Screaming.  Screaming.  Screaming.

Now they’re the ones avoiding eye contact with me.

Studiously looking anywhere else.

Pretending they don’t hear.

Which is better, really.  One judgmental glare and a flood of rage would pour out from all the dark places where I keep it carefully, tightly packaged.

It’s better. I would attack – maybe physically, probably verbally; either would involve spittle.

We had to get the red race car cart.  We always get the green. Always.

Waiting in line.  Waiting and waiting.  Waiting and waiting and screaming.

Almost done.  Almost done. So carefully, tightly packaged.

We have a system.  Routine. Routine.  Routine.

Only Mommy can touch the cart.  Remember to use your words; remember what to say.

Please don’t touch the cart.  Please wait and let Mommy push the cart.

Please wait and let me push the cart; the kids get upset when anyone else touches the cart.

Almost done.  Almost out.  Almost over.

Ma’am, please don’t …

Not her fault; just force of habit.

You, slung over my shoulder, screaming and screaming and screaming.

Routine.  We always get the green cart.  Only Mommy can touch the cart.  We have a system.

You did a good job using your words, Buddy.  I’m sorry she didn’t hear you.

So carefully, tightly packaged.

I’d almost forgotten, but here we are again.

We have a system, but it all came crashing down and you fell apart.

A Letter To My Son

While perusing the blog today, I stumbled across an old post I wrote titled “A Letter To My Daughter.” It was an emotional one for me, written without censorship and with the greatest of sincerity. Given our new journey toward adoption, I felt it was only appropriate to also reach out to my Son…wherever he is.

Dear Son,

As I write this, we haven’t met yet. I think you might be out there somewhere, waiting for me, wondering where I am. I can already imagine your giant smile, your infectious giggle, your chubby little arms and legs. I can close my eyes and smell your little boy smell: all sunshine and dirt and chocolate pudding. I can’t quite make your face come into focus–but that will all change, soon. Because I am positive that, as soon as I see you, I’ll know in the bottom of my soul that you are mine. It’s easy to recognize that in someone that you already love more that life itself.

We are gonna have so much fun together, little man. We’re gonna run on the beach, our toes in the sand, chasing the waves as they wash out to sea. We’re gonna dig in the mud and splash in the puddles, till we’re all wet and dirty. You’ll fuss a little when I wipe your face so you don’t get dirt in your eyes, but don’t fret. It won’t take long, and I’ll let you get right back to that all-important mud pie. We’re gonna build giant towers made of blocks, and I’m going to take pictures of you making your “I’m concentrating” face. Then we’ll laugh and laugh and laugh when you knock them all back down again.

I can already guess that you and your Dad are going to be thick as thieves. You’ll bond over cars that transform into cool robots, and he’ll teach you all the things there are to know about the planet Cybertron, so you’ll be well-versed. He’ll be the first one to curl up on the couch with you on Saturday mornings for your all-day cartoon-a-thon. He’ll be able to tell you all the best ones to watch, too. Dad is an expert when it comes to these things, trust me, little man. It will make me a little jealous, watching you wax philosophical on the inherent differences between DC and Marvel comics with your Dad instead of me, but it will also make my heart soar inside.

Here are some things you need to know about me: I will at some point lick my finger to remove that bit of ketchup on your cheek. It’s going to drive you bananas, but it’s a mother’s job to make sure her son is spic-and-span (most of the time.) I will be your biggest cheerleader throughout your life, and you will roll your eyes at me during every event–be it soccer, baseball, football, gymnastics, dance, math tournaments, or whatever outlet you manage to fall in love with. I will be here for you whenever you need someone to talk to, and if you’re not ready to talk, I’ll be here just to hang out with you, too. I’ll teach you everything you need to know about cooking, so that one day, you can join your Pops and me in the kitchen on Sundays. And one day, you’ll be able to cook for your first girlfriend, and she’ll be so very impressed with your skills. (Trust me. Girls love a guy who can cook!)

But the most important thing you need to know about me, little man, is that I will ALWAYS, and I mean ALWAYS, love you–as big as the sky, as wide as the ocean, and as bright as the sun. Nothing can change that.

And so, I’ll keep dreaming of you, and hoping one day that we’ll finally meet. Until then, you are and will always be Mama’s Little Man.

All my love,
Mom

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My Philosophies On Life

I’m not usually one to dispense unsolicited advice.

I mean, if I run into you at the grocery store, and you ask me a question about pea pods, I’ll be happy to answer, and in great detail. But if I run into you, and I notice you’re admiring said pea pods, I’m unlikely to wax philosophical about the health benefits of green vegetables without being prompted. It’s just not how I operate.

But there are a few philosophies that I choose to live by–words that become my mantras when I’m feeling blue, or having a bad day. And I find, by living my life according to these philosophies, I am a happier person.

So, I’m going against the grain and sharing them with you here today, in the hopes that if nothing else, you might learn a little bit more about what makes me tick.

(Don’t worry, none of them have to do with pea pods.)

Save the Drama Fo’ Yo’ Mama
Over the years, I have learned that life, all by its little self, is stressful enough without putting myself in situations or relationships that stress me out. If I don’t want to go to a baby shower because I know it will make me sad, I don’t go. If I don’t feel like hanging out with a particular person because all they do is complain about the price of milk, I don’t hang out with that person. If I don’t want to answer a phone call because I’m in the middle of watching the newest episode of Downton Abbey, (OMG THE FEELS…) I’m going to let it go to voice mail.

Here’s the thing: there are going to be stresses in my everyday life that I can’t change. Work stress. Money stress. Family stress. Stress about trying to adopt, and trying to get published, and saving to buy a house. These are all a part of that little thing we call life.

But stress caused by a social media acquaintance that annoys the whiz out of me? I don’t need it, and I can control it. I just delete them from Facebook, avoid social situations that I know will put me face to face with them, and move on with my life.

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It’s not always easy to cut those strings, especially if you’ve been tethered to that stressful person/situation for a long time. But when you’re spending your time worrying about it, trying to solve it, or avoiding it to save your own skin—just grab those scissors and *snip snip,* baby. I’m TELLING you, your life will be better for it. I’ve experienced it first hand.

Turn Down The Noise
I’ve told you about this philosophy of mine before, and I quote it often and loudly. Because it really is the best advice I ever received. It also goes hand-in-hand with removing drama from your life.

When I was a shiny new bride, my father-in-law told me once that when life gets complicated, or scary, or too much to handle, to circle the wagons and focus on the most important thing. “Don’t be afraid to turn down life’s noise and focus on each other,” he said. And while it isn’t the most profound notion in the world, it has easily become the bedrock of my marriage.

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But I’ve also learned this past year that this philosophy has a little room to breathe and grow. When life gets hard, and I need an emotional compass, Brian is the one I turn to. And he reminds me that sometimes I need to turn down the noise and refocus on what makes me happy. It’s thanks to him, and that support, that has brought me back to blogging and writing my second novel. And for that, I owe him the world.

Every Day Should Start With A Little Music
I’m not 100% sure when it happened, but it occurred to me awhile ago that I was always waking up with the grumpies. By the time I hit the showers, I was already thinking about all the things I dreaded about the day, and all the things in my life that try to make me unhappy. I would stand under the spray, lamenting about my job, my lack of success in the publishing industry, or even just the fact that it was Tuesday, and whatever potential I had for a good mood would wash down the drain with the soap suds.

I found a very simple solution for that problem, ladies and gents. My alarm clock goes off, I hop out of bed, immediately turn on my phone, and let the 80s Pop Station on Pandora whisk me away.

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Before the grumpies have a chance to attack, I’m dancing in the shower to a little WHAM!, and my day is off to a colorful start.

Now, I can’t guarantee this will work if you tend to love sad music, or heavy music. I’ll be a pop princess till the day I die, but it’s the music I love that makes me happy, and makes me dance, that puts me in a good mood every day. I’m guessing that if you listen to the music you love, it might just work the same for you. Try it, and let me know how it goes.

“Be A Rainbow In Someone Else’s Cloud.”
I can’t take credit for that quote–it’s Maya Angelou’s. She’s much wiser than I am, and I’m okay with that. Her words are some that I live by.

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I like to spread cheer. I’m like Buddy the Elf, except all year long, and I don’t necessarily always sing it loud for all to hear. (If you are not a fan of the movie, “Elf,” then you will not understand this reference. All I can do is beg you to see the movie and then come back later.) I will, however, try to be a bright spot in your day. I might send you a chipper private message to tell you hello, or share a funny article I read that made me think of you. I might offer to do you a favor, or do you one anyway without asking first.

Now, listen. I’m not trying to toot my own horn or say that I’m the world’s best friend. I’m not. My point is this: even on my grayest days, I find that making one of my friends smile gives me a small bit of color back. Helping my Dad in the kitchen, or picking up Brian’s socks without complaining, or sending my best friend a silly card–I do these things for them, but I do it for me, too. Making them smile makes me smile. So this whole “rainbow” gig works both ways. Ya dig?

Be You. No Matter What That Means.
I’m a bonafide nerd. I geek out over everything from my favorite celebrities to video games and everything in between. I will quote Star Trek quicker than you can say “Beam me up, Scotty!’ Then, when you say that, I’ll gently pat you on the shoulder and tell you that Scotty never actually used that phrase–not once–in the original television series.

Fifteen years ago, if you’d told me that I’d be waving my nerd flag proudly at the largest comic book convention in the country, I’d have laughed in your face. It was more important to me to fit in with the “in” crowd. Whatever that means.

But I figured it out several years ago–I’m a grown ass adult who likes certain things that most other people my age aren’t into. I have a Doctor Who mini-fig collection that will rival your child’s entire Lego obsession. I follow superstitions to a tee when it comes to football, and will paint my face and wear the same shirt every single weekend in the season if it means my team keeps winning. I will sing show tunes at the top of my lungs, and even provide you with some jazz hands, if the mood so strikes me. And I will inevitably pick you up in my car at some point, and will have to apologize that the speakers were so loud, the lyrics from that New Kids on the Block song will be ringing in your ears till Easter.

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But I won’t apologize about my music choices, or my nerdy t-shirts, or my penchant for correcting your grammar. Because why? Because all of those things make me who I am, that’s why.

And in my opinion, that’s a glorious thing.

So, readers, those are my philosophies on life. I try to live according to them, and most days, I’m successful. I’m not saying that these words of wisdom always work; I’m not Mary Poppins, and every day of my life isn’t supercalifragilisticespialidocius. But when I put these philosophies to work for me, and remember that life is too short to spend it being angry, or sad, or bitter, then I get a little bit closer to being happy every single day.

And isn’t that what life is all about, anyway?

Areas of Improvement

It’s the first of the year. Practically every human being I know is busy making promises to themselves about things they hope to improve upon this year. You might call it ‘making resolutions’ or ‘setting goals.’ Or maybe you just think of it as ‘making a list of all the things I want to do better this year, especially eating more chocolate cake.’  But either way, I’m banking on the fact that you’ve got a list of your own, whether it’s tucked into your brain, typed out on your smart phone, or taped to your bathroom mirror.

I hope success for each and every one of you, whether your resolution is to lose weight, or to watch every single item available to stream on Netflix in the next 356 days. (That’s a lofty goal, my friend. Let me know how it goes.)

I don’t really have goals that I’ve set in stone. Sure, it would be amazing to finally publish my novel, or start a new career, or lose 100 pounds. But instead of focusing on specifics, I’m instead focusing on areas of my life that I want to spit shine till they glow. In case you’re interested, here’s a compilations of those areas seeking improvement.

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This probably isn’t a huge shocker for you guys. I’m intent on spending as much time writing in 2014 as ever before. Naturally, this includes AbbyGabs, but I’m also looking to finish the novel I’m currently working on and, hopefully, starting another.

In this same vein, I’m also looking to further my writing career this year. I’ve already signed up for my very first ever writer’s conference, PubSmart, which will take place here in Charleston in April. I’m excited, and exhilarated, and scared out of my gourd that everyone around me is going to be able to sniff out the noob in the room. (That would be me.) So I’m stocking up on extra-strength deodorant, holding my head high, and hoping that I’ll get something worthwhile out of this conference. Most likely scenario–I learn some stuff I didn’t already know. Best case scenario–I meet an agent who’s so excited to meet me and hear about my stuff that she’ll backflip herself right into a publishing contract with little ol’ me. Here’s hoping, right?

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I don’t necessarily mean making more of the green stuff (although don’t get me wrong. That would rock.) I’m thinking more along the lines of budgeting. Saving. Building a nest egg. Finally buying a second car. That sort of thing.

Because between you and me, the first year of having Brian on a nurse’s salary, as opposed to a bartender’s salary, was a fun one. I mean, we were spending like we had money to burn. (Dolla bills, y’all.) So I’m hoping to curb that enthusiasm this year, and really start to build a good foundation for our financial future.

Blog 3

Big shock. Abby’s getting back on the weight loss train. Again.

Here’s the thing: I have never conquered my battle with weight. Not once. But, I’ll keep trying until I find the formula for success.

So I’m trying a different approach this year. I’m easing into it. Counting calories (because that’s crucial for me to be successful.) Drinking water. Making healthIER choices. Moving more and eating less. I’m taking Brian along with me for the ride, and we’re determined to whittle a few inches from our growing waistlines. It’s not going to be easy. It’s rarely going to be pretty. But we’re going to feel better, and sleep better, and have more energy to do the fun things we love. And that’s all the payoff I really need, in the end.

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I can already hear a few of my closest friends rearing up to argue with me over this one. Here’s the thing: I’m a perfectly nice person. I smile at people in the grocery store checkout line. I make small talk with the postal worker when I’m buying my stamps. I’ll give you the shirt off my back if you need one, even if I’m wearing my ugly grandma bra. But there are 3 situations that turn me into a not-so-nice person.

I have road rage. There’s no doubt about it. Driving often frustrates me, and anyone who’s ridden in the car with me will attest to that. This year I want to find my zen behind the wheel and stop cursing so much at truckers who cut me off without even a second glance. (Peabrain.)

I have work rage. I’m less-than-friendly with certain customers because they’ve been so hateful and rude to me in the past. I get annoyed with other customers because they’re slow, or easily confused, or generally nosy. And quite frankly, my phone etiquette sucks. There are a lot of reasons for this that I won’t go into here on this public forum, but I’m going to work on being nicer to the people I encounter at work.

I have poor self-esteem. I mentally beat myself up all the time: over everything from how much I eat to what I say to people, and especially about my body. I think the words “Fat” and “Ugly” on a daily basis–about myself. I’m a nice person…most of the time. It’s time for me to start being nicer to me.

Blog 5

This is a fun one. I firmly believe that, in order to be a good writer, you also have to be an avid reader. And I do read a lot already, truthfully. But this year, I’m setting a goal for myself to finish 50 books in 2014. It’s not such a huge stretch–I’m sure I’ve read that much before. I’ve just never counted. So I’m going to make a list of the books I read, ones I plan to read, and challenge my friends to compete with me. I ♥ books.

And finally…

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It’s no secret to our friends and family (and most of the readers here) that 2013 was a difficult year for Brian and me as we uncovered the truth behind our problems with infertility. It was a difficult path that we had to take together…and one that we’ll continue to navigate as we move forward with our plans to look into adoption this year.

I may not have a child in my arms by the time the Christmas tree goes up, but I’m hoping we will have made serious progress toward opening our home, and our hearts, to a child looking for us as much as we’ve been looking for them. We have so much love to give, and while we’re nervous about the coming challenges, we’re (finally) ready to tackle them head on.

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It may seem that I’ve set myself up for failure this year, with these lofty goals. And so many of them! But I firmly believe that we can accomplish improvement in every area of our lives that we want to, if we stay focused and driven. These are the things I want most for my life right now. And so if I want them, I have to work for them. Right?

“Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.”  –Louisa May Alcott

Pack My Pontiac Food Drive

I’m taking a little break from Nano-ing today to fill you in on the progress we’re making with the Pack My Pontiac Food Drive. (Self promotion and word creation, all in one sentence. I’m on a roll.)

Thanks to Celerity, LLC, and my partners Jon and Lynda, we now have our very own, super-shiny, easy-to-use, looks-great-on-everyone website!! Ta-Da!!

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Click the picture to be whisked away to IndieGogo, and our auction website!

This fancy dancy page is going to allow us to dazzle our friends and neighbors with the AMAZING items we’re putting up for auction. From golf to groceries and everything in between–you’ll be chomping at the bit to participate in our daily auctions once you see the swag we have to offer!! So get your credit cards ready, readers. Because I’m guessing you’ll be able to get some holiday shopping done, all while donating to a worthwhile cause, and all from the comfort of your desk chair/couch/toilet/underground bunker or wherever you choose to peruse the internet. (No judgement here.)

Bidding couldn’t be simpler! Here’s a breakdown of the easy-peasy Three-Step Process:

Step One: Like Our Facebook Campaign Page!
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If you haven’t already, point your browser to our FACEBOOK CAMPAIGN PAGE and hit the “Like” Button! This is very important, as you’ll see in the next step.

Step Two: Watch for auction announcements on our Facebook Campaign Page, so you can BID!
FB 2Lynda and I will be making daily announcements advertising what item will be up for sale every day until December 9! So, if you don’t follow step one, you won’t be able to follow step two, which goes a little something like this: You see an awesome prize that you cannot be without. You go to the comments section below the announcement, and place your $5(00) bid. Then you see Oprah has come along and outbid you—that meanie head! So what do you do now? You bid AGAIN!

It’s just like eBay, people, except if you win, you don’t come away with just the prize in hand. You also get the satisfaction of knowing that every dollar you just bid is going directly into the pockets of the good, kind folks at Crisis Ministries. And that’s worth a $5(00) bid any day.

Step Three: You Won! Hooray!

At 8 p.m. on every auction day, Lynda and I will announce our grand prize winner. (That could be YOU!) At that point, you’ll be asked to direct your computer to our shiny IndieGoGo page (mentioned above.) Here’s what happens next. First, you….

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…click on the perk you just purchased. (We’ll only have one on the website at a time, to keep any confusion from happening.) Then you…

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…enter in the winning bid to purchase your item! (Don’t worry about “changing the perk.” There will only be one listed on the website per day, so no need to look for alternatives as there won’t be any.) Finally you…

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..enter in your shipping address so we’ll know where to send your amazingly awesome prize! (Your address is for our use, only. IndieGoGo does not keep them and will not send you spam. Promise.)

At this point, you’ll be taken to the all-exclusive “Pay Now” page, where you’ll enter in your credit or debit card information to make your donation. As soon as the funds hit our account, we’ll ship your prize to you (unless you’re our next door neighbor or our Mom. Then we’ll probably just bring it to your house.)

And THAT’S how our online auction will work! I hope you’ll jump right in and participate as we have until December 9th to meet our goal of $500 raised!! If you aren’t interested in any of the items we have to offer, you can also just visit our IndieGoGo page and donate directly to our cause. Every little bit helps, so thank you for your generosity in advance!

I don’t know about you, but the satisfaction of handing a big ol’ fat check to Crisis Ministries, and knowing we’re doing something great for our community, is the only thing I want for Christmas this year. So, bid away, my friends! And please, share our cause with your friends, families, and fellow bloggers.

To Lynda, my partner-in-crime, and Jon, our gallant sponsor: Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for taking my little dream and making it something remarkable.

Recalculating…

About three months ago, I was as close to rock bottom as I’ve ever been. It took every ounce of energy to drag myself out of bed in the mornings. My idea of the perfect day was to stay in stretchy pants, veg out in front of the television, and just exist until it was time to crawl back into bed. (I wrote about it in an emotional post titled “Here’s The Truth.”) I was crying in the shower, in the car, in the office. I was crying while cooking supper, while folding laundry, while writing in my journal. I cried into my pillow, into the warm belly fur of reluctant kitties, into my pillow.

I was depressed.

One night, sometime in August, I verbalized my pain to Brian. Of course, he already knew. He’d been witnessing it all first hand. I’d been avoiding my friends and family for a couple of weeks, and he was right beside me during stretchy pants time. But I needed to find my soft place to land in him, confess my darkest fears and private feelings, talk it out with my best friend and confidant. Curled up on the bed beside him in the dark, my head in my hands, I poured out my heart.

He listened, comforting me through the hardest confessions, wiping away my tears, shedding a few of his own. And when I was finished, he looked at me in that way he has–like he can see into the depths of my soul. “When was the last time you did something that truly made you happy?” I pondered, going over the last few weeks in my brain. After several moments of silence, Brian smiled sadly and said, “It shouldn’t be that hard.”

“You’re right,” I whispered. “But what do I do?”

“You need to rejoin your life. We’ll always be sad about not being able to have a baby. Now we have to learn to live with that grief and still have a fulfilling life.”

I tucked his words into my heart like a precious jewel, and over the next few days, I cleaned myself up, dusted myself off, and tried to re-inject myself into life. Lunch with a friend, an afternoon shopping trip with another, a long telephone conversation with yet another. I opened the blinds and let the sunshine spill back in. Even though it hurt, I allowed myself to smile. And eventually, after some time, the laughter followed.

I wasn’t ‘happy’ again, but I was trying to be happy. And that was a mega-huge step in the right direction.

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It’s November 12, nearly halfway through Nanowrimo, and I’ve never felt less inspired. My desk is littered with post-it notes filled with To-Do lists. My phone dings relentlessly with emails that need to be answered, reminders for upcoming events or meetings, private messages that require my attention. I feel like there are a hundred bees buzzing in my brain, and no matter how hard I try, I can’t turn off the noise.

My frustration reached a boiling point, and once again, I found myself turning to my husband for advice. I fussed about problems that aren’t mine to fix, whined about my lackluster word count, bemoaned my missing creativity. “I just don’t feel like a writer anymore,” I said. “I just don’t have the time or the inclination to do it.”

“If you didn’t have the inclination to write, you wouldn’t worry so when you aren’t writing,” he said. “It’s the time you don’t have.”

I sighed. “I know I’ve been really busy lately. I’m sorry.”

He looked at me in that way he has–like he can see into the depths of my soul. “When was the last time you did something that truly made you happy?”

This time I didn’t hesitate. I rattled off five or six things with relative ease.

“Let me rephrase,” he said. “When was the last time you did something JUST FOR YOU? Something that made you giddy inside? Just for Abby. No one else.”

I shut my mouth and, yet again, could offer no answer.

“You’re stretched too thin. Too many irons in the fire,” he said. “What are some things that brought you joy before?”

“My blog. Writing my book. Chasing my dream of being published.” The answers rolled off my tongue without much thought.

“So you need to get back to that, then. Start writing every day again. Pull out that list of agents and dust it off. Get back on the horse. I know you can do it. You just have to make time for it. Make it a priority again, like you did earlier this year.”

I heard his words and knew he was right. But in that moment, I realized what I’d been doing. In an attempt to learn to live with the grief of infertility, I’d been filling my life with things to keep my mind as busy as possible so I wouldn’t think about the things that had led me to my two-week long stretchy pants sabbatical.

I tucked his words into my heart where all his other bits of wisdom live. I let myself cry a little, to feel the sadness that is always lingering but that I hadn’t allowed myself to access in weeks.

The journey of mourning isn’t an easy one. We are learning in the process which avenues work and which ones don’t. We are making detours and getting stuck in emotional traffic and occasionally, taking a totally wrong turn and winding up in the wrong part of town. But the one thing I know for sure about all of this?

Brian is the most reliable GPS on the market.

Infertility 2

Three-Hundred and Sixty Five Days (Times Three)

Three years ago on this date, I was given a gift so profound that it changed my life. It taught me gratitude, patience, appreciation, and how to find my own grace under pressure. It was the kind of gift I never imagined I’d be asking for in my 30s, but one I went down on my knees to beg for behind closed doors.

That gift was my husband’s life.

After over a year of illness, a misdiagnosis that was almost catastrophic, and a three week period of waiting, Brian went under the knife to remove a life-threatening tumor from his colon: a tumor that was the size of a grapefruit. It had slowly been draining the life out of him, denying him the right to eat, withering him down to 120 pounds. Weak, sick, exhausted, we finally went for a third opinion and found the cancer that had been killing him. He was 30 years old. We were terrified.

It’s become a tradition of mine to remember that day here on AbbyGabs by sharing the post I wrote to celebrate Brian’s first year cancer free. It’s one of the hardest posts I’ve ever written, but it felt important to me to preserve those moments somehow, so I could look back on them one day when they begin to go fuzzy in my mind.

It’s three years later. We have moved on with our lives. The “C” word is rarely spoken in our home. We laugh all the time, we eat too much, and we enjoy the life we’ve built together. And it all hinged on the outcome of October 25, 2010. Here is our story.

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, 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. 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. 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. On that day, and every day since, I am the luckiest girl in the world.

It’s October 25, 2010.

The Infertility List Blog

Let’s set the record straight. I’m not a psychologist with years worth of research in my portfolio. I’m not a doctor who knows big words about specific sections of the brain and the hormones that they squirt into the body. I’m not a fertility specialist who can explain to you the complexities of coping with the emotional baggage that comes with having broken lady parts.

But I am an infertile woman living in the 21st century. And I’m also a blogger. So that gives me all the necessary tools to present you with a list of 10 things everyone (especially my friends and family) should know about infertility.

10 Things This Infertile Wants You (The Fertile Ones) To Know

1. Birth announcements don’t come in bouts of 3.
Nay. In fact, they come in groups of a hundred. Sometimes more. In fact, in less than a 2 week time span, practically everyone I knew–from best friends, to that child actor from the 80s, to the kid I used to babysit in the 8th grade–announced that they were expecting. Even the Prince of Friggin’ England was all like, “Heeey yoooou guuuuys….I’m gonna be a baby daddy!”

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You should be forewarned that when this happens you will find me in holey pajama pants, lying on my bathroom floor, sobbing into the bathmat. Don’t worry–I’ll find my happy for you eventually. It’s just going to take some time to pick up the shrapnel from the baby bomb that just hit my house. (It’s not as cute as it sounds.)

2. Let’s just put it out there–Friends with Kids, We Are Jealous Of You.
It’s nothing personal. But when we come to your house to visit and accidentally step on a Lego, we’re jealous. When we meet you for dinner and you’re a few minutes late because you had a diaper blowout, we’re jealous. When we call you up and can’t really hear what you’re saying over the sound of baby giggles in the background, we’re jealous. When you post a picture of your darling child in over-sized sunglasses and a beer box on his head, we’re jealous. It doesn’t mean we love you or your pint-size mini me any less. It just means that we see what awesomeness you have in your life, and we want it for us, too.

3. We really don’t need to hear about the conventional methods anymore.
I know you mean well when you gently remind us that the best way to get pregnant is to stop thinking about it/take your temperature/get drunk/elevate your hips after sex. Believe me–I’m more flexible than I look.

See?

contortionist

The problem with us is mechanical, not creativity. (wink wink) So there’s really no need to reenact the Kama Sutra to show me just how you got knocked up. (Although, if you really want to, go ahead. Just be forewarned that I will take pictures. I’m always looking for good blog fodder.)

In this same vein, please don’t make weird suggestions about other, less traditional ways to procreate. I want to have Brian’s baby. Not his brother’s, not his uncle’s, and not his third-cousin-twice-removed’s. Sorry. That’s just weird and creepy.

4. At some point in our relationship, I will cry.
I’m a big ol’ fat cry baby about most things, anyway. But this particular thing? I have no control over my emotions. The truth is–I’m grieving. That’s really what infertility is–grieving the life of the child you always imagined but will never have. It sucks. It’s really hard. And I cope by crying.

A lot.

So inevitably, we will be cheerfully chatting about that catty thing someone said at the party, and something will trigger that “OMG I DON’T HAVE OFFSPRING” button in my brain, and I’ll be sobbing all over you before you can grab the stray tissue at the bottom of your purse. I apologize in advance.

5. I use humor as a defense mechanism.
If this blog isn’t proof of that, then let me explain.

Your adorable toddler will run up to me and give me a big kiss. I will make an inappropriate joke about my ovary exploding. Everyone will laugh.

You’ll ask me if I’m available to take photographs at your child’s birthday party. I’ll laugh too loudly and make a joke about always being free since I don’t have a child of my own to throw parties for. No one will laugh.

I’ll be writing a semi-serious blog post about the trauma of infertility, and I’ll throw up a stupid picture of myself Photoshopped to look like a clown.

Clown

With me now?

6. Please don’t say, “You should adopt!”
You’re totally right. A family IS about love, not blood. There ARE lots of kids in the world who need loving homes. We totally agree with you. That doesn’t mean we’re ready, yet. It also probably means we’ve still haven’t worked up the courage to rob a bank, yet. Cuz that’s shit’s expensive, yo.

7. We totally still want to be friends with you, even though you are fertile.
It’s ok. We don’t begrudge you your fully functional baby-making parts. Mostly. So don’t worry that bringing your kids over is an inconvenience. Don’t stop inviting us to birthday parties and baby showers (although sometimes I might not come.) Don’t apologize when your kid squeals loudly or chases my cat or accidentally scribbles on my kitchen table. We love you, and your screaming toddler. I’ve even been known to miss a football game or two just to hang out with you guys. Now THAT’S love.

8. Sometimes, we need to hang out with our “non-kid” friends, though.
It has nothing to do with you. It has everything to do with our desire to drink copious amounts of alcohol, talk about grown-up type things, and say curse words often and loudly.

margarita ole
*Drool.*

I know you can carry on conversations about stuff other than your kids. (There’s a reason we’re friends. You are a super-cool cat with tons of interesting things to talk about. Am I right??) I also know that you want that giant margarita right there just as much as I do. But I also know it’s harder for you to leave the kids out of conversation, because they are your life, as they should be. No guilt trips here, lady.

It’s just this: sometimes it’s easier for us to be around people who don’t have that problem, and who aren’t so hyper-aware that something they say about their child could potentially send me into the ugly cry. It lets me get my drink on with the knowledge that I can be a happy drunk instead of the weird drunk who’s walking around the party blurting out random child-rearing facts that I probably shouldn’t know.

9. Imma spoil yo’ babies.
When they fall down at my house, I’m going to kiss their boo boo and give them a cookie. When it’s their birthday, I’m going to video myself singing to them and email it to you. When I come over to visit, don’t be surprised if I come bearing little gifts of my adoration for your progeny.

There are two parts to this: 1) I do it because I love your kid. He/She is adorable, and I just want to squish them regularly. Kudos, Mom and Dad, ya did good. And 2) I do it because it helps me fill a void. I don’t have my own child to sing to or bake for, so I’m gonna do it for your child.

Don’t worry, they’ll pay you back by pitching a fit at bedtime because they just want to go to Auntie Abby’s house and play.

cooler than you

You’re welcome.

10. We will be fine.
I know you’re concerned, especially because I’ve been in a constant state of funk since we got the official word in June that we won’t be able to join you in the land of Parenthood. (At least not without a crap load of cheddar and a miracle to rival the parting of the Red Sea.) If I’m honest with you, and with myself, I don’t know how long this part of the process takes. We’re sad, and we will probably always be sad. But even though I don’t have working ovaries, and even though Brian doesn’t have the Michael Phelps of sperm, we still have each other. And that, friends, is the really great news.

*It took me a really long time to publish this blog. Do you have any idea how hard it is to make something like infertility even remotely funny?? It’s really, really hard. So don’t feel like you need to send me an email or comment apologizing if you think you’ve possibly done or said one of the things above. Because you probably have. Because everyone has. And it’s totally OK. The important thing is that I know that you care. There’s not really anything anyone can say to make it better, but knowing I have friends in my corner who are cheering for me and who only want me to be happy makes bearing this cross a little easier. I love you–each and every one. And I love your stinkin’ babies, too.

Celebrating Mom

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day.

I love getting together with my family and celebrating the woman who gave me life. I spend weeks thinking about and planning a gift that I hope will make her smile. I look forward to preparing her favorite meal (chicken piccata) and her favorite dessert (pineapple upside-down cake). My dad, brother, and I will sit around the dinner table, sharing our favorite stories about Mom–from the time she barricaded my teenage brother into his room so he’d stop sneaking out, to her reaction when I accidentally yanked the ceiling fan down with my Get in Shape girl ribbon. We’ll remember how she used to put little notes in our lunch boxes, or draw hearts in the peanut butter of our open faced sandwiches, just to remind us of how much she loved us.

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I remember being in grade school leading up to Mother’s Day. We would spend a week’s worth of craft time coming up with clever gifts for Mom. Hand prints in clay, crooked flowers painted with care, handmade coupon booklets filled with all the chores we’d do, cards with long declarations of love written with backwards “E’s” and adorable stick people. I was always so excited to give my mother these treasures. And to her credit–she still has most of them. I bought her a wooden painted tulip one year with my “Good Citizen” tokens at school, and though it’s been broken and super-glued back together a hundred times, it still takes a place of honor in her curio cabinet, right next to the ceramic dog my brother bought her at the Dollar Tree when he was four.

She’s awesome like that.

I also remember skipping through the meadow next to our house, feet bare, bees buzzing in the spring sunshine, carefully plucking wildflowers for Mom. I would keep picking until I had an entire fistful of flowers–yellow and white and green and purple–and then I sneak into the house, bouquet clutched behind my back. She always lit up when I handed her those flowers. She would fuss over them and take them to the kitchen, putting them in a tiny glass vase she kept on the windowsill for just such occasions. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized I’d been giving her handfuls of weeds. But she kept them. Every single time.

Click for Source

Click for Source

My childhood was as close to perfect as you can get. I have my parents to thank for that. And as an adult I realize, now more than ever, that I have so much to be grateful for, and so much to celebrate. I adore my Mom, and she knows it.

And yet, when the greeting cards begin to appear, and the signs in Hallmark start reminding you to “Show Mom How Much You Care,” I can’t help but feel a little tug in my gut that reminds me that those hand prints in clay, those little gifts of gratitude, aren’t anywhere in my foreseeable future. That despite the fact that I feel the name “Mama” carved into my heart, that there’s no one here, yet, to use that name for me. I will miss the flowers, the sticky kisses, the breakfasts in bed, the hastily thrown-together construction paper cards that so many mothers will experience tomorrow.

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I don’t resent them their celebrations. They deserve to be celebrated. And I will be celebrating my own mother with them. I will shower her with gifts and food and love and attention. I will thank her for the many sacrifices she has made so that my life could be what is has been. I will hug her close and tell her that I love her. And I will do everything in my power to make her smile tomorrow, on Mother’s Day.

After the day of celebrating is done, I will come home and climb into bed with my husband. I will whisper into the night a prayer that one day, I’ll get to experience a day like today. And I will dream of round cheeks and tiny toes and wilting dandelions clutched in chubby fingers, just for me.

Starting Over.

Today, I weigh 250.6 pounds.

There, I said it. The number—that dreaded, awful, huge number—that plagues my thoughts on a daily basis. It has been written out in bold print for the world to see. I am ashamed, I am mortified, I am disgusted.

But why? Why am I ashamed to share that number? Why does it make my palms sweat, and my knees weak, to think that people…not just my husband, but people I know…will see that number and think “Crap. She IS fat.”

It will not change how much my best friend loves me. It will not change the wonderful relationship I have with my parents. It will not cause people to un-friend me on Facebook, or unsubscribe from my blog (I hope.) 

That number—250.6—is just that. A number. It is not who I am. I will not be defined by that number. I will not allow myself to be defined by my weight, just like I won’t let myself be defined by my infertility, or my Southern heritage, or my liberal politics. I won’t allow myself to be typecast, pigeonholed, or labeled. Because I am more than the sum of my parts. I am more than a fat girl, a childless mother, a tree-hugging hippie. I am more that the definitions society wants to place on me as part of its stereotypes. 

There have been obstacles in my path so far–ones that I should have scaled over or navigated around–that stopped me in my tracks. So now it’s time to pick myself up, and dust myself off, and figure out just why I keep falling down to begin with. 

I may need a band aid over to cover my scraped ego. I may even need a kiss and a hug and a pat on the head.

But I will continue my journey, even if I have to tread through the brambles in order to find my path.

Who cares if I have to start over? Who cares if I’ve done it a million times before, only to fail?  This time might just be the time that it all makes a difference. So I’ll get up in the mornings and go to the gym that we haven’t visited in two weeks. I’ll count my calories and eat more vegetables and avoid my trigger foods. It’s back to the grind, back to the full time job that is trying to lose weight. I will tell myself that this 2 week layover was a setback, not failure. And I will move on. To a healthier, happier, thinner me.


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Abby’s Weight Loss Journey, Day One, is today.