Nineteen

Nineteen years ago, I bought a down comforter and yellow duvet cover. I wanted my bedroom to be bright, hypocritically cheery even, so that when I came home from the hospital after the scheduled induction, the natural light and yellow accents might help me get out of bed in the morning.

Natural light. Such a silly thing to focus on, but that’s how I got through that day. I was angry. I was scared. I hated myself. I wanted to die.

Nineteen.

The number of weeks I was pregnant. Roughly the number of hours that passed from finding out my baby died in utero to when I delivered her.

Nineteen.

The age my daughter would be today.

The books don’t prepare you for what could happen. They’re all about snakes and snails, sugar and spice, and everything nice. They touch on the fact that 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage, that it’s usually due to a chromosomal abnormality and so common most women have one, many before they even find out they’re expecting. It’s all clinical sounding. I should know as I became a voracious researcher of miscarriage, pouring through what research I could find. Maybe I was trying to justify why it happened to me. What I had done wrong. Where I had failed. I wanted, needed, to stop it from ever happening again.

Unfortunately, for me, miscarriage happened in 1 in 2 pregnancies, and hearing how common it was didn’t make it any easier. Being knowledgeable about it, didn’t keep it from happening again. And again.

I rarely talk about my miscarriages. In fact, most people who know me have no idea I’ve had one, let alone three. My first pregnancy ended at the start of my second trimester. Fetal demise, they called it. What an awful term. To this day it makes me cringe, even more than photos from when feathered bangs were actually cool. My fifth pregnancy ended early, at six weeks. My second pregnancy ended nineteen years ago. It’s the most raw, and to this day, painful. I have no intention of sharing the intricacies of those horrible hours in depth. Those details are private, as is her name.

In many ways I don’t believe I’ve earned the right to mourn publicly. Although she was stillborn, she doesn’t have a grave site to visit and my memories of that day are faded at the edges, partly because of the shock I endured, and also the guilt I’ve carried with me since. The only photo I have of her is a fourteen week ultrasound where I still recall the tech commenting on how active she was. Losing her remains my unspeakable tragedy, a darkness that was so deep I felt like I was descending into the ocean past where any light can permeate.

But with every darkness, there is light. At the time, I didn’t know if I’d ever find it again, but it’s here- in my social justice driven daughter, my son whose ability to overcome adversity inspires me everyday, and my youngest who brightens every room she walks into. It’s in my husband who held my hand on that day and didn’t say any of the words that people used to justify our tragedy, well-meaning as they were. Because at the time, I didn’t want to hear them.

If you’ve experience miscarriage or stillbirth, whether it was a month or thirty years ago, I’m so sorry. I’ll say no more than that because those are the only words I wanted to hear. For me, it wasn’t the loss of a dream and it wasn’t going to be okay. I didn’t want to hear that I got pregnant once so I could do it again or that she was better off having died when she did because she would have been too disabled to live. It didn’t feel like a blessing to lose her, and disability or not, I loved her.

Please don’t feel sorry for me. I’m not asking for sympathy. Instead, hug someone who needs it. Be welcoming and have compassion for those looking for a better life. Forgive. Be kind. Be the person that I wanted to be for her. Have faith. Have hope. Love.

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Perspective: How Almost Losing My Son Saved Me

A few months ago, I was living the “grown up” life I’d always imagined—husband, three kids, a teaching job, and evenings spent running my kids to their various activities, grading papers, writing, and exercising. I was the mom who appeared to have it all together.

Except I didn’t. Not even close. I went to yoga and while in shavasana, compiled my to-do list for later in the day. I ran three miles and then came home and ate chips and salsa. I had wine and chocolate every night as I watched mindless television while surfing the Internet. I suffered headaches, could barely survive without weekend power naps, and for the first time in my life, was told that my blood pressure was getting a bit high.

I counted down the days to the weekend as if my life could only be lived between Friday afternoon and Monday morning. That’s not to say that I didn’t love my job, but rather that weekends seemed the time to do what I wanted to do where weekdays were meant to tackle the things I had to do.

I was living the life I was supposed to live, or at least pretending to, when on a sunny February day, everything changed.

As with every other Sunday, that afternoon was filled with errands and an ever-present to-do list. I dropped my fifteen-year-old off at the indoor baseball facility for practice, gassed up the car for the week, grabbed some groceries, and drove back to the facility two hours later, to pick up my son.

I parked and waited, checking my email and responding to text messages on my phone. When he came out to the car nearly fifteen minutes late, he was crying. He’d been hit in the head with a ball while fielding at a first base station. I drove straight to an urgent care facility, figuring he had a concussion. After all, I’d signed the concussion waiver for every sport my children played. We were informed how to recognize the signs and symptoms. What else could it be?

Three hours, one referral to the emergency room, and a CT scan later, a doctor stood in front of me. Your son has a fractured skull and is bleeding in his brain. His condition is life- threatening. The pediatric neurologist is on his way to discuss surgical options. We’re admitting him to ICU.

The room filled with doctors and nurses. I signed consent forms, looking from my son to the stack of papers I’d been grading as we awaited his test results. The words emergency brain surgery still hung in the air as the surgeon and anesthesiologist arrived. My son was wheeled down the hall as my husband and I followed behind. They assured us they were going to do everything they could, they believed they caught it in time and he’d be okay, but even I, the mom who appeared to have it all together, couldn’t help but wonder if I was saying goodbye to my second born. And what had I been doing at the hospital? Rather than focusing solely on my injured son, I’d been grading math assessments. I was overcome with regret and shame.

I knelt in front of a chair in the deserted waiting room, surrounded by toys, and prayed, pleaded, and begged for my son’s life. I closed my eyes and pictured him walking into a room, his casual sway and signature grin. I thought about his love of pop tarts and how he always roots for the villain, rather than the hero. I could do nothing but hope that I’d once again hear his voice, watch a ball game with him, and see him relentlessly tease his sisters.

I’ve always considered myself to be a strong person, but this realization, that I may lose my son was beyond anything I’d ever been dealt, and I’d survived a lot. My oldest were two and four the first time my husband was deployed to Iraq. By the second deployment, we’d added another child and a shih Tzu to our family. That added up to three kids piling into my bed every night and a dog who needed to be bribed to pee outside. While he braved the sands of Mosul, I fought the tantrums and homework power struggles on the home front. Believe me, if anything is going to break at home, it will happen exactly one hour after a deployed-spouse lands on foreign soil. It’s one of those unspoken rules they don’t tell you about when your soldier signs on the dotted line. I was strong and self-sufficient.

Or so I thought.

I didn’t know it at the time, but in those minutes and hours, as I tried not to focus on the what ifs, I was also coming to terms with the fact that although I was a great pretender, I was no longer the mom I wanted to be, or the person I thought I was.

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My husband and I stood beside our son’s hospital bed when he was wheeled into ICU following surgery. There would be more tests, visits with specialists, and constant checks for neurological responses. Despite our joy that he was responding to our voices, we had to keep the room dark and quiet to allow his brain to rest. He was easily agitated and stress made his blood pressure rise rapidly. He fought fevers and couldn’t get comfortable because the side of his head that he normally slept on now had over three dozen staples holding his skull in place. But he was alive and it was more than I could hope for.

Blanco hospital

Four days later, I walked beside his wheelchair when he was released from the hospital.

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He’s responding well. His brain looks good. An amazing recovery. He’s a fighter. I became aware of our surroundings for the first time, as I’d never strayed more than fifty feet from his bedside in the hours he was admitted. He came home to heal from his brain injury and surgery, as we all tried to adjust to a new normal. The fear of him going into a seizure or bleeding internally was never far from my mind, despite reassurances that he was expected to make a complete recovery.

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When he told a joke, I said a silent thank you that he was alive to make me laugh. When he said, “I love you too, Mom,” I cried remember how I’d feared I’d never hear those words again. I monitored his medications, coordinated a plan with his high school counselor, and limited his activity and technology so his brain could heal.

Three days after he came home, I headed to Tacoma for my daughter’s state gymnastic meet. After driving through traffic, finding there was no parking, and fearing I was going to miss her first event, I completely lost my shit, for lack of a better word. I put my head on the steering wheel and sobbed. I cried from exhaustion, pounded on the steering wheel with frustration, and hated myself more than I ever had before because I’d been correcting those math assessments in the hospital.

Why had they mattered so much? Why hadn’t I gone in to look for him when he was late coming out of practice? Why didn’t I have the foresight to take him straight to the emergency room? Would he be in less pain now? Would his brain have suffered less trauma? Would it have made a difference?

Maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference, but for me it did. Almost losing my son had changed me. In the days and weeks that followed I realized that living for the weekends was not enough. Every day held the possibility of amazing things, and I no longer wanted to waste them. I finally accepted the fact that it’s okay to be overwhelmed and to say no once in a while, and that there’s no sense suffering through exercises that make you feel like crap.

I started cooking more at home, and making salads and vegetables rather than grabbing dinner on the run. I stopped bringing papers home to grade, opting instead to do it during my planning or have my students grade their work in class, and found out that no one, aside from myself, noticed. I gave up the nightly glasses of wine and chocolate and stopped mindlessly watching television to go for walks or work in the yard. Most importantly, I realized that if you’re not doing what you enjoy, there’s really no point to it.

I started dropping everything and reading more, spent less time worrying about the perception others had of me, and lost weight. My head aches dissipated and my skin cleared up. At a recent doctor’s appointment, my blood pressure was low and I celebrated by going for a long walk.

I’ll never understand why my son had to go through what he did. I don’t know if he’ll ever play baseball again, and I’m certain that I’ll never be the person I was before this experience. What I do know is that almost losing him reminded me of what’s important in life. It’s not the to-do list, which never ends, the decorated (and immaculate) house, or the perception of the perfect mom who is what everyone else aspires to be and looks fashionable whether along the sideline of a soccer match or behind the dugout at a baseball game. I’m never going to be the person who has it all together, and that’s okay.

There will always be an abundance of activities to take my kids to, but when I think of the alternative, I find it difficult to breath as I force the what ifs from my mind. Whether stopping for Starbucks or singing along with the radio in the car on the way, time spent driving my kids around is time well spent. Never again will I forget what matters because life can change in an instant, and the most important thing you can do, beyond everything else, is to just live.

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Life

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged. The seasons have changed from summer, to fall, to rain, to winter, to rain (oh, the rain this year…), to spring, to rain, and now, summer again. Suddenly I’m a year older and the reality that my children are a year closer to moving away from home scares me more than ever before. In truth, the past year has changed me. Some of this shift was because of that natural progress that occurs as we go through life. Some of it was brought on by circumstances out of my control, which altered my perspective of both myself and humanity.

As you’ve likely asserted, I’m not a reliable blogger. I’m sporadic at best, preferring only to blog when I feel inspired, rather than sticking to a schedule which readers can rely on. I can’t handle blogging to a schedule- truthfully, it stresses me out. My brain is always running a thousand miles an hour, and even now as I write this, I’m thinking about all that I still need to get done this weekend. After all, laundry doesn’t fold itself. Regardless, I commit to forming an imprint on my couch for the time being so as to update you on the happenings of my life.

On Family…

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My husband and I will celebrate our 21st anniversary this July. He’s asked me repeatedly what we should do for our anniversary. My answer is likely a let down for him as I just want to live in the moment. He’s a planner and meticulous paperwork pile creator, striving to organize details with the precision of an event coordinator, likely a side effect of over two decades of military training. I, on the other hand, just want to “wing it”. I like to go for hikes, drink coffee in the early hours of the morning, drive to destinations we’ve never been, eat at restaurants that serve gluten-free food and cheap Merlot. I prefer to sit in a lawn chair with a good book than push my way through a crowd or watch an overpriced action-packed movie in a theater. Maybe that’s why we work as a couple- I am the introvert to his extrovert, the recycler to his pile creator, the smile to his untimely jokes.

With that said, I remain faithfully organized. With only a half-day left of school, I am ready to turn off my computer and leave the moment my students depart after the final bell has rung for the school year. I can make dinner, correct papers, and pay bills simultaneously, while also corresponding with classmates to plan our reunion this summer. I read novels while at baseball games and remain unable to cook when the kitchen isn’t clean. I’m not sure where my organized brain came from, but I’m forever grateful for the ability to plan lessons, coach track, write a chapter and pull weeds all before sitting down at the television to watch a FRIENDS rerun.

My best gift, however, remains being a mom. As of Monday, I will have a junior, sophomore and 5th grader. My children continue to amaze me with their athleticism and intellect. What I’m most proud of, however, is their respect and empathy for others. When I willingly signed up for this whole parenting thing, I seriously hit the jackpot. Not all days are easy. There are epic eye rolls, arguments, and more than enough morning dramas, but overall, I couldn’t be prouder and I am so grateful for every day spent with my kids.

On Teaching…

flowers from mason

This school year has been tough, but also rewarding. The two constants I tell my students are to never give up and to be awesome. More than ever before, I’ve had to adhere to my own advice. From moving to a new school, teaching a new grade level, learning two new curriculums, and having an extremely rough first week, I can honestly say, I couldn’t have been given a better class. The twenty-six students I was blessed to teach this year are amazing. Yes, it was a lot of work to get them to the next level, but I will never forget this group of students or how they cared about each other.

A couple of months ago, I was asked by the district curriculum team to be filmed as a model and example for instructional engagement strategies. Intimidating- yes. Overwhelming- most definitely. Awkward- totally. They sent me the video yesterday, along with a nice thank you note. I don’t know if I’ll ever watch it because seeing myself on film is painful. Performing on stage or in front of the camera was never my thing, however, it was nice to be recognized for my work. This summer, I plan to focus on student growth mindset strategies, while also serving on the literacy curriculum framework writing team and completing my English Language Arts endorsement.

On Writing…

I finished another contemporary young adult novel, which is currently in the hands of my literary agent. Publishing is a hard business, which moves at a glacial pace. In case you’re wondering; no, my other two novels have not sold yet. I remain committed to one day seeing my novels on the bookstore shelves, or as the market continues evolving, the Amazon website.

Here’s a sneak peek of my new novel, currently titled, Playing with the Boys:

diamonds are a girls best friend

        The ball stings the palm of my hand when it smacks against my glove. The batter winces at the ump’s call as I smile faintly, reminding myself that we aren’t done yet. One more pitch.

            The batter recovers and moves back into the box, tapping his bat on the plate, once and then a second time. The dirt from his cleats rises, clinging to my knee pads as the pitcher winds up. The ball crosses the plate right into my glove.

            “Strike! You’re out!”

            I stand and give my pitcher a high five before yanking off my facemask and helmet. I pretend to ignore the stares, the laughs, the comments coming from the other team’s dugout. No one cares how I played. No one cares that we shut them out. They only care about what they see in front of them, as if they’ve just realized what my team has known all along.

            The best catcher on the field is a girl.

On Reading…

 

The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins.

My verdict: This book was unputdownable (is that even a word?). I read it on the airplane to CA, while we were waiting to depart the plane, while in line at the car rental place, while waiting for the rental bus, while in line at the hotel, in the hotel room, and while my family waited for me to finish so we could go to dinner. It was that addictive.

Everything, Everything and The Sun is also a Star, by Nicola Yoon.

I loved these diverse YA novels. Highly recommend!

I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson

This was a fantastic young adult book about siblings, with an awesome voice.

I’m currently reading Love and Gelato, by Jenna Evans Welch. It’s another book with a fantastic voice and the fact that it’s set in Italy is a bonus. There are so many other books coming out that I can’t wait to devour.

On February 12, the Day that Changed Everything…

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I never imagined how things would change when I took my son to his select baseball practice on the Sunday afternoon of February 12. I remember dropping him off, gassing up the car, running errands and then stopping at home to see my daughters. Then I called out that I was heading to pick up their brother and would be back in a half an hour. I returned home four days later.

You see, my son was struck in the temple with a baseball toward the end of his practice. As most athletes do, he shook it off and continued playing. When he came out to the car, he was crying (not a typical reaction from him) and said he got hit in the head. I figured he had a concussion and took him straight to urgent care. After waiting for an hour to get in, they assessed him and sent him to the ER. A CT scan later revealed he had a skull fracture and was actively bleeding in both the epidural and subdural layers of his brain. In just those few short hours, his brain had already shifted and we were told his condition was becoming life threatening.

He underwent emergency surgery, spent four days in the hospital, two weeks at home letting his brain rest, but has recovered remarkably well. This experience, however, has changed me. The thought of almost losing my son weighs down on me every day, and I have to actively push aside the what ifs and focus on the moments we have together instead.  I don’t know if my son will ever play baseball again, but I do know that the fact that he’s stayed so positive, never felt sorry for himself, and maintained a 4.0 with a traumatic brain injury is amazing. He’s shown me how truly strong a person can be when faced with extreme adversity. He’s not defined by the scar bearing the thirty staples he had in his skull. He’s proving, rather, that even at fifteen years old, he’s stronger than I’ve ever personally felt.

What he’s given me, and what his experience has shown me, is that each day holds the possibility to do amazing things. I no longer live for the weekend. Yes, Tuesdays still seem to be seventy-five hours long, but there’s so much time left in each day to just be happy. To forget about the ugliness in our world. To say I love you to the people who matter most. To forgive those who’ve hurt us. To believe anything is possible. To just live.

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Until next time…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Work of Art

Lately I’ve read a lot of articles and heard stories and beliefs about education. It is an election year, after all. One particular conversation that has stuck with me is the debate over public versus private education. It hit a nerve so deep that three days later I’m still thinking about it. Although I am a public school teacher, I have the distinction of experiencing both sides of the spectrum as I attended private Catholic schools from second grade through college. I loved my high school and the choice to attend Gonzaga University was one of the best decisions I’ve made. The memories I have of retreats and service opportunities, along with school-wide masses on Holy Days of Obligation are still significant moments which I’ll always hold onto.

I know private school is the best education for many students. Yes, it is expensive, and I admire those who choose to and have the means to pay for it. I paid for my own college education, and had the student loans to prove it for years. Although the Catholic schools I attended in grade and high school were nowhere near in cost as the current yearly tuition of some private schools where I live, where it runs upwards 15 thousand or more a year, I know the sacrifices my parents made at the time to make my education a reality. Likewise, I recall working in the high school cafeteria my freshman year to help pay for my schooling and sweeping bleachers after games each year after as part of my work study job. One time a group of girls from a neighboring school referred to my friends and me as “rich bitches.” It was such an odd thing to hear because I barely had five dollars to my name and was the furthest thing from being rich as we hadn’t yet had the money to purchase school clothes that fall.

I guess what’s bothering me about the comments I’ve read and heard recently are the insinuations that private schools are preferential in that their students receive more opportunities for future success. Additionally some believe that teachers in public schools have tenure so they’ve checked out of teaching, which is something that doesn’t happen in private schools.

I’m a public school teacher. I correct papers late at night, analyze data to help my students improve mandated test scores, take continuing education classes to better my teaching, collaborate with peers to improve instruction, spend hours preparing Guided Language Acquisition Design (GLAD) lessons that will benefit not only my English Language Learners, but entire class. I differentiate lessons so that I’m reaching both my highest and lowest learners, and all 23 in-between.

And every teacher I work with is doing the exact same thing.

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My students and my own children, who I’m also proud to say attend public school, deserve the same opportunities as anyone, whether in public or private school, and I’ll fight for that to happen. Not only because it’s right, but because they’re worthy.

What I’d really like for my students to know, and to understand, is that they are capable and that I believe in them. After all, isn’t each of us motivated by those around us? It’s such a powerful thing to hear the words, I know you can do it. I believe in you.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re rich or poor, if you go to private or public school, if you’re homeschooled. The knowledge that someone knows you can achieve success is huge. It’s empowering. It’s a beautiful thing.

I could tell people that the best way to prepare a child academically is to read to them when they are young. I could list stats proving the quality of early childhood education and the benefits of reading lap hours until I’m blue in the face, but it won’t change the reality that many adults have never sat down and read to a child. One of the most depressing sentences I’ve ever heard as a teacher is, “We don’t have any books,” followed by, “No one reads to me at home.” How are we as teachers expected to overcome that obstacle of making up years of early literacy awareness and development when we only have students for a handful of months? The truth is, we teach to the best of our abilities, because we care.

In public schools, we teach everyone. We never know who’s going to walk through our doors. Nor does it matter because we will work our butts off to teach each student in our class. We will advocate for them, buy shoes and clothing for them, make sure they have food to eat over the weekend when they go home on Friday, and yes, at the end of it all, we will teach them. No application or tuition required.

Most importantly, we will believe that each child, whether they want to be at school or not, is capable of growth.

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If I could let each of my students know one thing, it would be this:

You are a work of art. Your heart, your mind, your spirit are all artistic elements that make you the person that you are. I’m your teacher. I provide the medium to aid in your self-expression, the charcoal to outline your abilities, the shading to fill in the gaps that prepare you to move forward.

My job of teaching you isn’t always easy, although neither is your job of learning. Your lines are often blurred, and there are many times when I wonder if you’ll be ready to move on and continue with your craft.

You see, I’m a temporary fixture in what will be a lifetime of learning as you complete your greatest masterpiece- your education.

Although I hope for the best, I don’t know what road you’ll take, nor do I know if you’ll receive the same opportunities as another, despite your hard work. What I do know is that I’ll hurt for you when your test scores indicate that you didn’t pass despite making over a year’s worth of growth. I’ll check my email at night and will read the Google doc you sent me from the after-school program. I’ll continue to meet with you after every writing assessment so you know what grade I gave you and I’ll help you set an achievable writing goal for your next task. I’ll make a fool out of myself, singing and dancing if that’s what it takes, in order to motivate you to reach the next level. I’ll open the door for you every day with a smile, even on those days when I am so exhausted that I’m barely functioning. I’ll brag about you to my family and will spend a significant amount of my pay throughout the year to keep our classroom library stocked with books that interest you and teaching supplies that help you learn.

When we were on our way to the field trip and you pointed out graffiti on a bridge, I made you promise that you would never do that. I expect you to keep your promise. I also expect you to keep your promise to call 911 if you’re ever in danger, including riding in a car with someone who’s been drinking. I’ll protect you when you’re in my care and will pray for your protection when you’re not.

I’ll always welcome your first language in my classroom, your insight, your thoughtfulness, and your creativity. I’ll also expect you to apologize with meaning and to know the proper way to accept an apology while still conveying why you were hurt. I’ll teach you what it means to be empathetic and won’t let you forget to say please and thank you.

I won’t be surprised if you think I’m mean or I push you too hard. It’s just that I know how capable you are, and I won’t let you waste that ability. I’ll expect you to come to school. I’ll communicate with your parents, whether for good reasons or bad. I’ll hold you accountable. When you misbehave or don’t complete an assignment correctly because you chose not to listen to the directions, I’ll forgive you.

You are a work of art, and I believe in you. Please don’t ever forget that.

 

 

Guest Post: To the Girls Who Will Love My Sons

Today I’m excited and to have a guest post from a very talented Inspirational Christian writer,  Kristin White, who I’m also blessed to call my sister. Enjoy!

To the Girls who will Love my Sons,

I think about you a lot. I wonder if I already know you, or if I’ve given you a ride somewhere. I wonder if you used to spin until you wanted to throw up, and then watch the clouds pass in the sky. I wonder about your childhood. If someone has hurt you. If you feel loved. If you’ve met God, and know how much He loves you. I wonder if you even believe in Him. 

I wonder about your house. Do you share a room like my boys always did? Did you whisper to your sister into the night? Did you sneak a flashlight in to read “Harry Potter” under the blanket? I wonder if you had help with your homework and dinner at night.

Jonah and Danny

I wonder if you were alone a lot. I wonder if  you were never alone. Do you have good friends?  Do you have the kind of friends who are lovely and fill you up with love and acceptance? Friends, who you fall over yourself laughing. Who don’t care what you’re wearing. I wonder if your home is filled with love? Are you happy? Are your anxious? Do you laugh a lot?

I wonder if you roll your eyes at your Mother and slam doors because she “Doesn’t understand.” I wonder if you love your Dad and tell him that. I wonder if your parents are together. Or if you wonder where they are. I wonder if you remember them being in love. 

I wonder if you are bullied. I wonder if the words are texted on your phone. I wonder if the bullies are people you cared about. I wonder if you know that they are cowards. I wonder if you’ve watched someone be bullied or have hurt someone else with your words.  My heart hurts thinking you might have. 

I want you to know I pray for you. I pray for your protection…

In Mind…that the images of over sexualized people from “Angels,” to so called “fitness experts” on social media, to a world that is saturating us with too much skin and less depth do not change how you view yourself. That you don’t put so much pressure on yourself to be perfect, and that you remember to live. That you make eye contact and put down the phone.  That you read and learn every thing you can. And that you aren’t a prisoner to depression or anything that steals your joy. That you never ever compare yourself. And that you radiate confidence. 

In Body…that you love yourself. That you see yourself as a creation of God. That you exercise, but that you realize you look most beautiful when you are laughing because happiness is beautiful. That you embrace the parts of you that make you unique- scars and freckles, bumps and curves. And that you will love all of them. That won’t happen by magnifying  your self in a mirror, or taking the perfectly filtered selfies. 

In Spirit…that you will realize receiving love and giving love are two of the most beautiful gifts you can have. That you feel empathy for those in need, and serve them. That you have compassion for the broken, and love them. That you never compromise your integrity for a relationship, or a job, or a spot in this world. That you know that relationships don’t limit who you can talk to and be friends with, but encourage you to bloom. That you realize you are worth more than toxic people who will steal your joy and free spirit, in the name of love. But it won’t be love. I hope you know grace and humility. That you know how to say “I’m sorry” and how to forgive. And I pray that you will know brokenness enough to rely on God. Because He is the only way your spirit will flourish. 

To the Women who will Love my Sons…

From the moment that small little plastic strip showed a plus sign, they have been the center of my world. I would rest my hand across my stomach and speak to them, my little miracles. When each was born we named them intentionally. Names that meant something.

Kristin

One that can never hide from God.

One that God will always protect. 

And…

One that will always speak the Truth.

We are raising them to know and fear Him. To be kind to others. To fight for the vulnerable. To be compassionate to everyone. To honor people. To Serve. To thank people. To Love. 

They. Are. Not. Perfect.  But they are good. They love well, they are kind to their little sister, and to each other (most of the time, seriously…not perfect). And in life- they try so hard to do the right thing. And when they mess up…we expect them to make it right. We don’t enable, and I know this responsibility is big…this Raising a good man. This Raising Good Men. 

They know that true love exists. They are products of true love. A love I don’t deserve, but a love that has made a family. I want them to know that. I wonder if you will break their heart.

My beautiful Boys. With them I’ve cried tears of joy watching the years fly by, and wept with worry as I’ve pressed my cold hand against feverish foreheads…in these moments I have prayed with them. They know prayer. They know God. 

They know He is good. And kind. And merciful. And they want to follow Him. Not because they are told to, but because they know Him. 

And we are praying for you. Because maybe you will be a first great Love for them. Or maybe you will be the One. But regardless of where you will enter our lives,  we are praying for you.

 I want you to know that you are loved, and that you matter. We pray that you know your life is a gift.

I pray for you.  And I wonder about you.

For now, I am the woman who loves them most. I’ve loved them their whole lives and will continue for all eternity. And I won’t take a second of them for granted.

Jonah Danny Micah

Love, Their Mom. ❤️ 

 

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Kristin White writes and speaks what she knows. A Wife, Mother, Sister, inappropriate joker and Lover of Real, she is determined the shatter the misconceptions we have about our worthiness in this over-filtered-fast paced- pressure filled world. She sings back-up in an 80’s band, loves working out, has proud laugh lines for days, and is madly in love with God. Visit her Real at Joyful Mysteries.

 

 

Dining Gluten-Free at Social Events

I recently attended a military function with my husband. It was at a very nice venue and I was relieved when I discovered that they had a gluten-free menu option. For those of you who’ve never had the pleasure of eating out or attending a social event when you have to be gluten-free (sarcasm intended), consider yourself to be fortunate. I do not exaggerate when I say that it can be a very difficult experience. Not only is there the fear of cross-contamination and a subsequent gluten exposure, there is also the side effect of being starving and having nothing to eat for the duration of the event.

Side note. If you’re anything like me, you become a raging bitch when you’re starving, but that’s beside the point.

This was an event that required some mingling to visit with other military officers, soldiers, and their spouses, so my husband and I left our table and worked the crowd, so to speak. When we returned, my salad plate had been delivered, right beside my gluten-free sign. The salad was romaine lettuce, topped with shredded parmesan and buttery herb croutons.

The moral of the story…

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When attending a social event gluten-free, be very afraid.

Now, I don’t believe all social events to be like this. In fact, last summer I loved every bit of labeled gluten-free goodness at my cousin’s wedding reception. Occasionally you’ll come across knowledgeable chefs and wait staff, but the majority of these events are not special-order functions. It’s kind of like the old saying, “you get what you get, and don’t throw a fit.”

Therefore, I’ll share with you some of my tips for braving the buffet line gluten-free.

  • Try to contact the host of the event to see if gluten-free is an option before the evening of the party. Follow up with the manager of the venue to ensure that the chef knows that you have an allergy.
  • Eat something before you arrive so that you’re not starving in the event that gluten-free options are not available.
  • Pack protein snacks, such as almonds or cashews in your purse.
  • If consuming alcohol, stick with wine. Beer has barley, which contains gluten.
  • When dessert is served, ask if fresh fruit is an option.
  • If a food looks too good to be true- seasonings, gravy, crisp potatoes that were likely battered in flour- it probably is.
  • Trust your instincts. You know what makes you ill. Don’t be pressured into days worth of sickness because someone said you can’t leave without trying just one bite of decadent raspberry cheesecake.

Most importantly, do your research ahead of time and take care of your body because it’s the only one you have.

Do you have any tips of attending social events gluten-free? I’d love to hear them.

 

 

 

 

Once Upon a Time: My Celiac Disease Diagnosis

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Just doing a little baking and eating, back when I could pull off the bib overall look.

Once upon a time there was a little girl who loved wheat. Cookies, toast, pasties, pizza, glazed donuts, pasta. You name it, she probably ate it. She loved it all. Her love of baking started at an early age when she’d help her mom mix cookie or cake dough with the promise of getting to lick the beaters. She loved Sunday mornings when she got to visit her dad’s bakery and he’d make frosting flowers on the back of her hand. Her addiction was accepted because whole wheat was good for her. It helped her run harder, have more energy to take tests, and provided her with the nutrients she needed to be a healthy kid.

Or so it was thought.

You see, I was that girl. I was the one who ignored the stomach aches and fought through the cramps after carb loading for a big race. I was the girl who dealt with dental enamel discoloration and constant headaches and canker sores. As I entered adulthood, I felt sluggish every afternoon and my feet went numb when running. In bed at night my joints ached and my legs tingled. I was tested for MS. There were no lesions, but my questions went unanswered. I suffered three miscarriages. I developed anemia and allergy-induced asthma. The canker sores became more frequent and I was constantly ill. I had a respiratory infection three times in 1999, all while being on a daily asthma pill and two different inhalers.

The cankers sores went from uncomfortable and irritating to excruciating when my husband was deployed to Iraq, in 2004. I blamed it on stress, which I’m sure didn’t help the situation, but it was more than that. The sores were often the size of a pencil eraser head and they were constant. I used an over the counter medication before being given a stronger prescription by my dentist. Eventually I found that the only thing that soothed them was a vanilla milkshake. My children and sisters loved our frequent visits to Dairy Queen, but the ice cream only managed to mask the symptoms briefly.

My mom told me that she’d read something about wheat allergies and celiac disease. She wondered if I might have that because my symptoms were similar.

A wheat allergy? No, no, no. That’s so not happening. Hahahaha. No.

My husband returned from Iraq. We moved to Kentucky and I ran my first half marathon. My feet were numb for five miles. I became pregnant a year later. I miscarried at six weeks.

My youngest was born a year after that and our family was complete. I was tired a lot, but what mom isn’t with three young kids? That’s what I asked myself, although I knew something was different this time. I kept getting sick and the anemia wasn’t letting up. I had to wean my daughter at nine months because my milk supply was virtually non-existent and she wasn’t gaining weight. My legs were tingling a lot and I felt depleted all the time. I was treated for postpartum depression to help with the aches, but then my mouth started to go dry. I literally could not drink enough water. Still, I was parched as if I hadn’t had a drop.

I went to the doctor, convinced I was diabetic. She took a blood test, which came back normal, and told me I had thrush due to the dry mouth. She prescribed some anti-yeast tablets and told me to come back in a couple of weeks if I wasn’t feeling better.

Two weeks later, I was worse. I could barely eat because everything I ate dried up my mouth. I even tried bananas thinking that I had a potassium deficiency, and I hate bananas. Nothing worked. So I started keeping track of what dried my mouth the most.

Pizza-yes. Pasta-yes. Bread-yes. The kids’ left-over chicken nuggets- yes.

Basically everything I loved and ate every day.

I went back to the doctor and told her that I wanted to be tested for celiac disease because every time I ate wheat, my mouth dried up. The conversation pretty much went like this…

Doctor: Do you have diarrhea?

Me: No.

Doctor: Then you don’t have celiac sprue.

Me: Can I have the test anyway?

Doctor: I can’t order the test because you don’t have diarrhea.

Me: Why?

Doctor: Well, fine. But what do you want me to put on the lab sheet? Are you constipated?

Me: No.

Doctor: The insurance won’t pay for the test unless you have a symptom. I guess I’ll just write that you’re constipated.

Me: Okay?

Doctor: But you’re not constipated so you don’t need this test.

Me: Okay? You can tell them I’m constipated. It’s not like they’re going to check.

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I had the test.

Two weeks later, the doctor-who-must-not-be-named called and asked me to come in. She breezed (seriously, breezed) into the room and announced, “We’ve figured it out! You have celiac sprue!”

Me: What should I do now? And good God, why is she so happy?

Doctor: Just never eat gluten again.

Me: Just don’t eat it? Should I see a specialist or dietician or something?

Doctor: You don’t need to. Just don’t eat wheat.

I breezed out of the room, found a new physician, and visited a gastroenterologist. When the gastroenterologist told me to continue eating gluten up until the biopsy, I did just that. I ate. All. The. Things.

I also got really sick and could barely swallow for a week. At my follow-up appointment, he told me that my lab results indicated that I did have celiac disease. I went to my minivan and cried.

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It wasn’t pretty.

However, that was just the start of my journey. It’s gotten easier and I do feel better. It may not have been the happiest ending, but it certainly wasn’t a tragedy, and really, it wasn’t an ending at all.

It was a beginning.

For my tips on going gluten-free,  please click on the Celiac Disease tab.

Why I Still Love Lloyd Dobler and Still Think Jake Ryan is a Skeeze

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“Just knowing that a version like that exists, knowing that just for a minute she felt that and wrote ‘I can’t help loving you.’ That has to be a good thing.” Lloyd Dobler

Before I start this post, I need to write a disclaimer. I like “Sixteen Candles.” In fact, I own “Sixteen Candles.” It is, by most accounts, an 80’s classic. Samantha’s sister is hilarious, the Geek is a great character, and aside from the obvious political incorrectness throughout, it’s a pretty funny movie.

Now here is where a lot of people will likely disagree with me, but for the life of me, I can’t like Jake Ryan. He’s cute, no doubt about that. But looks aside, I think he’s pretty much a skeeze.

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“You’d better not be dickin’ me around. It’d be a major downer to try and get together with this girl and find out that she really does think I’m a slime.” -Jake Ryan

Actually yes, Jake, I do think you are a slime.

However, I love Lloyd Dobler. Those who knew me in high school are quite aware of this fact. I love the way Lloyd loves Diane in “Say Anything.” I love how he doesn’t try to impress anyone or be anyone that he already isn’t. I love how he doesn’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. How he doesn’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, he doesn’t want to do that. Call him a parents’ nightmare date for their teen girl, or whatever. Lloyd is true, he’s loyal, and he’s oh so amazingly adorable that my heart still swells for him.

Let us look at the facts, shall we…

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Lloyd loves Diane so much he shakes when they spend the night together. The following day, he writes her a letter saying, “Dear Diane, I’ll always be there for you. All the love in my heart. Lloyd”

On the other hand…

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While Jake is at the dance, holding his girlfriend in his arms, he is looking at Samantha.

Did I mention that he didn’t even show an interest in Samantha until he read a note unintended for him, and discovered that he was the one guy she would sleep with if given the chance?

Lloyd loves his family, despite not being a priority for them.

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Lloyd’s question to his sister.

Lloyd calls Diane up and invites her out while living at the apartment that he shares with his sister and nephew. His life isn’t easy. No one in his family even made it to his high school graduation.

When Diane breaks his heart, he desperately tries to prove his love and win her back.

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Standing beneath Diane’s window playing their song.

 

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Meanwhile…

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“I’ll let you take Caroline home. But you gotta make sure she gets home. You can’t leave her in a parking lot somewhere. Okay?” (how noble) “She’s so blitzed she won’t know the difference.”

When Caroline passes out, Jake lets the Geek drive her home in his dad’s Rolls-Royce…so he can call Samantha.

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The kissing in the rain scene. Pretty much every 80’s girls’ fantasy date when this movie was released.

Lloyd loves Diane for who she is. He doesn’t care that she’s smart, and he isn’t intimidated by her fellowship or future success. He visits the nursing home where she works and supports her through her dad’s legal troubles.

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Um…okay? I guess if you’re Jake Ryan, a guy with a lot of money and good looks, it’s okay to dream big at the expense of your currently intoxicated girlfriend.

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Lloyd’s best friend, Corey. I couldn’t agree more.

Why can’t more guys be like Lloyd?

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“I have this theory of convergence, that good things always happen with bad things. I know you have to deal with them at the same time, but I just don’t know why they have to happen at the same time.” -Diane

And not like Jake Ryan?

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“I can get a piece of ass anytime I want. Shit, I’ve got Caroline in the bedroom right now, passed out cold. I could violate her ten different ways if I wanted to.”

I guess I’m just the type who believes if you’re going to fall in love, you should fall in love with all of your heart.

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And it should be with someone who will love you back with all of his.

Dear Missy

Last summer, my sister invited me to write a guest post for her blog, http://joyfulmysteries.me. After an obscene amount of procrastination over what to post on my part, I settled on writing a letter to my teenage self, similar to the popular blog, Dear Teen Me, http://dearteenme.com/. I wasn’t sure what I’d tell my teen self if given the chance. Was there a way to prepare that naive girl from Montana for the world to come? Probably not because even if I tried, she’d likely not believe it. I could, however, try to convince her that even when things seem overwhelming, they’ll turn out okay. I could also tell her to enjoy every moment of every day because before she knows it she’ll look back and wonder where the years have gone.

Looking back at my teen years, I tend to see myself as rather average. I wasn’t one of the beautiful blonde twins portrayed in the Sweet Valley High books I read, filled with outlandish drama, betrayal, and young love. I wasn’t a rebel or a rule breaker, nor was I the scholar or editor of the school newspaper. I wasn’t voted best eyes, dressed, or most likely to do anything. I was, simply, me. And in a world before the internet, social media, cell phones, digital photos, text messaging, and YouTube, that was okay.

What I do know is that I was once a girl who didn’t quite care if the dishes were done immediately following a meal and who only made her bed about once a week, a girl who at the time, didn’t appreciate the stars dotting the sky in her hometown, but would miss them every single day after saying goodbye and moving away.

If I close my eyes, I can still see that girl, the one I used to be walking through the halls of my high school, sporting Keds and stonewashed jeans. Would she recognize me sitting at her future home in a Mariner’s t-shirt and staring out at a cloudy Western Washington sky? Probably not, but here goes…

Dear Missy,

Okay, so here’s the thing…I know you tried to get rid of the Missy moniker when you started a new school freshman year to make yourself seem older, but it didn’t work because once everyone found out it was your nickname, it stuck. And that’s totally okay because it’s who you are and you’ll come to recognize that when the people who knew you growing up call you Melissa, it sounds foreign on their tongues, and you’ll kind of hate it because to them, you were always Missy, a name that somehow becomes familiar and comforting, like a warm blanket wrapped over your shoulders on a cold, winter night.

You’ll live and breathe basketball in high school, but will never play on a team again. I know this thought makes you sad and that lump that grows in the base of your throat when you are about to cry is likely burning now, but you’ll be okay. I promise.

Your heart will be broken your junior year and although you knew this relationship wouldn’t last, it will hurt worse than you ever imagined possible. Although you’ll find it hard to believe it wasn’t your fault and you’ll want to apologize and beg him to love you as much as you love him, don’t do it. He isn’t the one, and when you see him years later at a class reunion, you’ll hug him and feel genuinely happy to see him, but you won’t love him, nor will you regret dating him because he was an important part of your life. You will, however, regret lingering on the hurt and not giving other guys a chance the remainder of high school. Ditch that last shred of hope. Date the baseball player, tell the guy you’ve had a crush on since freshman year how you really feel. Take chances and don’t let past hurts hold you back.

Consequently, and further proving that some things are meant to be, you’ll fall in love in college. He’ll be the person who makes you laugh every single day and will be a great dad to your future children. He’ll be the dreamer while you’re the realist. He’ll be your best friend and before you know it, you’ll have survived two military deployments, infant colic, differing taste in movies, and will be preparing for your twentieth wedding anniversary.

You’ll get to see Bon Jovi in concert, twice. This won’t entirely make up for the fact that you weren’t allowed to attend the Slippery When Wet concert because you were too young, but it will help. Although the disappointment of not being able to see Jon Bon Jovi fly though the air like in the “Livin on a Prayer” video will linger forever, much like the Aqua Net in an 80’s locker room.

Tom Cruise will make you go, hmmm…but you’ll still secretly watch “Cocktail” whenever it’s on.

You’ll be diagnosed with celiac disease. I know this makes no sense as you have no idea what it is right now, but all the aches and pains you experienced after diligently carb-loading before a big race will one day make sense.

Spend more time with your family and don’t worry if you skip a night out with friends. You might not believe me now, but there will come a time when you’ll miss your family every single day and you won’t remember that party long ago that you just couldn’t miss.

You’ll still cry when you’re embarrassed and you’ll get embarrassed when you cry. It’s a double-edged sword, really.

The bangs. Where do I begin with the bangs? There is no need to take a butane curling iron camping so that your hair is styled in the mountains. Seriously. One day you’ll look back at pictures and even the fact that most other girls had the same curls and styled bangs that you did won’t cushion the blow that it was a really, truly awful waste of time and products.

George Clooney will become a really big deal, but you’ll still see him as the handy-man on “The Facts of Life.”

You’ll never be an artist so don’t even bother with the stick figures. One day you’ll be a fairly decent writer, though, so keep at it.

Speaking of writing, you’ll experience rejection. A lot of it. But the stories in your head will continue surfacing so to avoid becoming a habitual daydreamer, put the words onto paper and create a world others might find interesting.

You’ll become a teacher who loves her job. I know, right? Shocked me too.

There will be more Star Wars movies. You’ll still roll your eyes whenever Luke Skywalker whines in Episode 4 and you’ll become disheartened with the franchise when the prequels are released. Take my advice—skip the prequels and wait for “Star Wars, The Force Awakens”. It’ll be worth the wait. You’ll also secretly enjoy watching “Space Balls,” although you’ll never admit how hard it makes you laugh.

You’ll look back at pictures and wish you were still that thin even though you know at the time you wanted to lose five pounds.

You’ll enjoy a television show about zombies.

In the future, you’ll experience loss. Some of these losses will be so personal and painful that even now, you won’t be able to write or talk about them. You’ll also be okay.

You like to take care of others. You also like to be in charge. You’re not very good at delegating, although you’re working on it. Organization is kind of your thing. You hate clutter and become overwhelmed by excessive paperwork. You also hate dirty microwaves. And the smell of vanilla. You love chocolate and popcorn and to this day, detest the song, “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” You hold grudges, but eventually forgive because you finally realize how silly the grudge you’ve been holding onto is. You love traditions, wine, the mountains, your oldest and dearest friends, and your family. You’re an introvert who finds it hard to spark conversations with people you don’t know. Some people view you as standoffish because of that trait, but it’s just the way you are and that’s one reason you married an extrovert.

You’ll never sing in public and are a pop culture junkie, although you’ll never really be a fan of Ferris Bueller or reality television, and you’ll always believe “Say Anything” is one of the greatest movies and love stories ever written.

Don’t worry about what you perceive others to think about you. Try not to stress if you don’t get invited to a party. Stand up for your children and never forget to say “I love you” to those who matter the most.

So, put down the curling iron and go live. You won’t regret it.

Love,

Melissa  

Missy high school
Before my student council speech when I ran for secretary unopposed. Luckily, I won.
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Camping at Mount Rainier with my family. Killing it with the bangs.