You know, I have some really cool friends. They come from really cool, diverse backgrounds. They do really cool things, personally and professionally. And when you put us all together, we are the most unlikely cast of characters. I think that is my favorite thing about friendships; the unlikely transpires the likely.
For instance a few years ago, I made an unlikely friend. In fact, it took me years to even put his name and friend in the same sentence. He was arrogant and demanding, well read and well spoken. His presence commanded proficiency and focus and he brought out just about every professional insecurity I had ever had. Thankfully, he worked at another school and we only had to work together a few times a year, mainly in the summer.
I was still a relatively young teacher, maybe five years in, but I had found a rhythm with Ninth Grade Literature and so had he. We were paired up together to help create some professional development for other teachers in our county. What I didn’t tell him at the time (or even now) is that he really challenged me. Why did I teach that a certain way? Why did I choose that text over the other? Why is that my approach to that content? I would leave each work session exhausted and annoyed. One day in some not-so-professional angst, I’m pretty sure I called him a jerk and said, “I feel sorry for your wife.” Without even flinching, he responded, “You know, you and her would probably be friends.” “Yeah, right,” I thought.
Little did I know, he was right. Dang it, I hate it when he’s right! That wife of his would later become one of the most transformative friends in my life.
A few years after our professional partnership had ended, I heard a rumor that my principal had hired his wife. “What?! Great. Is this going to be awkward? Did she know that I thought her husband was a jerk?” I guess only time would tell.
Whenever we talk about that first encounter, we remember it oh so very differently. She remembers me being warm and friendly. I remember being anxious and on edge. But like I said, he was right. She is chill and stylish, has fun tattoos and a hip Bohemian style. She’s a quoter of Shakespeare and of Monica Gellar. And she’s the only person I’ve ever met who has DJ Shadow on her iPod. (Anyone? Yeah, I didn’t think so). Like I said, she’s cool and we became instant friends.
We share a lot in common; our love of Anthropologie (but never the price tag), Starbucks (I’m a latte, she’s all Chai), French inspired foods and markets (Paris Market, Savannah GA), and women’s conferences celebrating Jesus Christ (we’ve attended three now together).
In four quick years, I’ve stayed at her parents’ house twice in Savannah where her dad never fails to entertain and her mom’s hospitality is only matched by her warm hugs. But my favorite thing about this dear friend is how much she teaches me without ever really knowing it. In fact, pretty much every cool thing I have come to learn and love these past few years has come from her. Let’s face it. She’s on the forefront and “in the know” and I’m like “hang on, what is that?”
I could literally make a list of authors, products, companies, and nonprofits she has introduced me to. But instead, I want to share my latest obsession and maybe even provide a little whimsy into your summer inspired by my dear friend.
“Do you listen to podcasts?” she asked last spring while driving to the Atlanta Brunch Festival. Just two weeks post D & C, here’s another reason why I love her. She made me get out of the house and do something fun.
“Uh, not really my thing. I guess.” Maybe that was my response, but that was at least what I was thinking. I didn’t really even know what a podcast was but just the thought of listening to someone talk at me did not remotely tickle my fancy.
Eventually she taught me that purple podcast button on my iPhone served a purpose and that what lied beneath were stories waiting to be told.
I wasn’t an instant fan. The addition began slowly as I’m sure most do. However, what started with listening to a few episodes of one show (The Happy Hour hosted by Jamie Ivey) while getting ready for school a few days a week turned into a rabbit hole that I hope to never climb out of. I now have a slew of podcasts that I struggle to keep up with. Some are inspirational. Some are geared towards writers. I’m even listening to some now regarding business. But I must confess, the majority are a different genre altogether. I’m almost embarrassed to say it but . . .
Whew! I’m exhausted friends. Whoever coined the phrase, “I need a vacation from my vacation,” was so right. Having flown home late last night, I still feel like I’m on Vegas time. This morning my body couldn’t decided and I woke up at 5:30 am on Georgia time which would have been 2:30 am Vegas time. Regardless of lack of sleep, I am so glad to be home, to be back on my routine, to control my own meals, to sleep in my own bed, and to snuggle with my rowdy puppies.
Before I jump right in, I want to take a moment to sincerely express my gratitude for allowing me to share my heart and my story with you last week. I realize that is might have been too raw, too exposing but I have never felt such an incredible outpour of love and sympathy. I have a running list on my Notes app of those who have walked my shoes of miscarriage and infertility. During my prayer times, I pull out the list and just say their names aloud to our Father knowing that He knows their plot, their needs. When I began this journey of miscarriage, that list was small and intimate with just four names. With now months of writing about loss, grief, and hope, I now have 41 names on that list. How crazy is that?! Forty-one courageous women who have reached out to me letting me know that my words are their words. At times I wonder where this blog is going. What is my purpose? What is His plan? But every time I read that list, I know its purpose. It’s for those forty-one and whom else God calls to add to my list.
For those of you who have been following along, you know that not every week is so exposing. Sometimes we need a little whimsy mixed in with the heavy. So that’s what I aim to provide this week.
When my in-laws told me we were forgoing our traditional summer beach trip for a family adventure in Las Vegas, I thought, “Great, they’re taking a potentially pregnant (before I knew) woman to a densely populated city known for drinking, debauchery, and gambling with 100 degree temperatures. This will be great! (sarcasm).” But then the loss came and I thought, “Maybe I’ll just get drunk and will deal with the pain that way.” (No, I’m serious). Oddly enough I just didn’t want to. I drank once. I gambled once. And as a family, we took every tour, hit every show, and walked until my feet literally blistered in my adorable but not orthopedically sound Anthropologie sandals. I think the distraction was helpful, maybe even healing.
I still took my Bible and my Beth Moore devotional on David and sat on my 35th floor balcony every morning (minus the 5am Grand Canyon morning) and read aloud. If New York is the city that never sleeps, Las Vegas is the city that is never silent. Yet even over the blaring music, rowdy street goers, and consistent sirens, I knew that God could hear me. He always hears me. It is I that struggle to tune the rest of the world out to hear Him. I asked God to keep us all safe. I asked God to sanctify this time with my husband and my in-laws. I asked God to speak to me over the noise and the grandeur. He answered all my prayers and I’m sure a lot more.
So what did God say to me in the city that is never silent? Well, here are four things He not only said but proved.
To say that the month of May was emotional is the greatest of all understatements. I turned 33, celebrated ten years of marriage, resigned from teaching after ten years, packed up my classroom, hugged my colleagues, hugged all my kids (some for the very last time), and lost a pregnancy.
Yeah, I know. I should probably back up and hit rewind. After months of testing, and re-testing, and calling around to every doctor that Jason and I had seen regarding trying to start our family, my new doctor in Atlanta was finally ready to meet once again. With a patient file as dense as a 90s phone book, we sat in his office where he literally sketched out a plan on a plain white sheet of computer paper. This number shows this. This lab shows this. This is what we’ve tried. This is what we haven’t tried. “Ok, let’s get started. Today.” He ended the conversation so matter of factly. Jason and I looked at each other in amazement. We like this guy. He’s direct, straight to the point.
We moved across the hall to a pre-treatment ultrasound and consultation. Hormones began the next day. So May began with hope. May began with anxiety. Already knowing that I needed to meet with my principal about my resignation, I would now meet with her on hormones . . . great! This was also yearbook week, with the always-emotional yearbook banquet the Thursday night before distribution Friday where I would tell my staff of my departure as well. And I would be on hormones.
In case you don’t remember how hormones previously manifested in me, go back and read restoration. They make me a hot mess. A crazy, irrational, overly sensitive, emotional, hot mess. And’s that putting it gently. Thankfully, I was not training for a marathon this time and would not subject my running partners to monsoon meltdowns on unsuspecting downtown streets.
But there was no monsoon. No tornados. No hurricanes. No scattered thunderstorms or even summer showers. In what I can only attribute to God controlled, this round of triple dose hormones instead filled me with optimism, excitement, and even energy. When I stood before my students on Thursday night at our banquet space at Mellow Mushroom, all I could do was beam with joy. When I told them I was leaving, I couldn’t shed one tear because deep in my heart I was hiding the greatest secret of all; hope.
Having just told my principal the day before, she cried and I couldn’t. I was fearful she thought I was heartless but I was just really overcome with actual hope. Maybe I was finally getting everything I ever wanted? Still the week continued with a bundle of stress and excitement. Every day during lunch I was self-testing looking for a positive LH surge meaning I was ovulating. All I needed was one positive result and I could schedule the artificial insemination the following day. I kept praying that I wouldn’t miss my last yearbook day and God answered that prayer. With no positive surge indicated, my doctor ordered me a shot that I self-injected to force my body into action. So after the most emotional week of my career, after my last yearbook banquet, my last yearbook day, I drove home exhausted and shot myself up. Jason and I were scheduled back to Atlanta both Saturday and Sunday mornings for two rounds of IUI, intrauterine insemination.
Without going into the awkward details, we emptied our savings and poured out all our faith. Before leaving on Sunday, I asked my doctor the dumbest question possible. “So, what percent of pregnancy am I now looking at?” Without missing a beat, he responded “Oh, about 15%.” Wait?! What? Like 1-5-%? “That’s correct,” he smiled. With a pat on my shoulder he told me to have a good weekend and good luck.
For the second time that weekend, Jason and I drove the 55 miles north in a haze of emotions that even this writer can’t fully put into words. For next two weeks we waited. We held our breaths and we prayed. I told my core group of friends and our families, of course. That might have been a bad idea since I felt like all eyes were on me for the next two weeks. Well, was she, or wasn’t she?
Jason and I were planning our ten-year anniversary get-a-way. We would spend this weekend away to celebrate our first decade as husband and wife and we would also test to see if there was another reason to celebrate. Mother’s Day was the weekend prior. In years’ past where I would hold up in my fortress and avoid, this year I smiled. This was the perfect timing and this feeling in my heart told me that God was granting our desire. My everyday prayers became more and more like chants for life and for hope, stream of consciousness conversations with the creator of all life. I ended every thought with Thy Will Be Done.
The Thursday before we left to go out of town, Jason’s great uncle passed away at the age of 95. Instead of spending the weekend away, we would spend it with family honoring the legacy of a faithful follower of Christ and faithful husband of 64 years.
Before the long Saturday of funeral arrangements, I just had to know. Did I have a reason to mourn or a reason to rejoice? At 5am on that Saturday morning, I peed on a stick, set it down, and walked away. Forcing myself not to wait, I made my cup of coffee and headed toward my spot. I would pass the time waiting with my Father. In prayer. In song. Through tears. I sat in my office begging God for the one thing I could not hustle my way through. For all my achiever tendencies, accomplishment driven traits, He is God and I am not.
I was a horrible teacher my first year. And maybe even my second year too. To all my 2007-2008 students; bless your hearts. I didn’t know what I was doing, how I should be doing it, or why whatever I was or was not doing even mattered. (Remember, I had a publication degree, not an education degree). But somewhere around year three, I found my rhythm. I figured out for myself that I couldn’t do what everyone else was doing. Their classroom management style was not my management style. Their instructional strategies were not my strategies. Their relationships with students was really not the way I formed relationships with my students. I’m also pretty sure that you could write a book using my ten-year career as an example of what not to do when in comes to public education, I mean I gave out my phone number to my yearbook staff and this was 2007, not trendy 2017.
But like I said, somewhere around 2009, something profound changed my teaching, how I interacted with my students, and my life. Her name was Katie and as a high school senior, she was pretty much doing life on her own. I’m not going to go into details about Katie’s life. That’s her business. But on December 4th, 2009 Katie took a risk and walked through my front door. With two bursting-at-the-seems suitcases and one Yamaha piano, she chose to make us her family. This kid, who never wanted to be touched, much less hugged, had just unknowingly joined the most hipster, over-sharing, all-in-each-other’s-business-but-we-do-it-with-love family.
With what was promised as a five month respite for Katie before moving off to college on her own the following June, turned into almost five years of this petite brunette as a permanent fixture in our family. At every function. With her own Christmas stocking. Hugs required.
At just twenty-five years old, Katie taught me the greatest lesson of my life. A lesson that regardless if you’re a teacher or not, is transformative and I would like to share this little golden nugget with you. Are you ready for it? It’s short, simple, and easy to remember (Yep, I’m quoting Captain Jack Sparrow again). But here it is.
Talk about a #flashbackfriday. Having just graduated with my Master’s Degree, this photo is exactly eight years old. Still newlyweds in my book with only two years of marriage life under our belts, the education had truly just begun. Now ten years of “schooling” completed, we were scheduled for a quick and oh-so-needed getaway but unfortunately life, or rather Heaven intervened.
This morning at 4am, Jason’s great uncle, the father figure to his mother for most of her life went home to be with our Savior. At 95, Great Uncle Marion was happily married to the love of his life, Mrs. Ruth, who passed away before we were engaged in 2004. Their marriage spanned over SIX decades. Sixty-four years to be exact. Every time we would visit his home in downtown Decatur, he would hold my hand then look directly at Jason and tell him to cherish me. His warmth and aphorisms remind me a lot of Morrie Schwartz (if you don’t know who this is, pause and order Tuesdays with Morrie . . . like, right now).
Before the passing of endearing Uncle Marion, Jason and I still continued our conversation from last week. We have kept this ongoing text conversation about not only what I have learned in my ten years of marriage but what Jason has learned as a lawfully wedded husband. And in true Jason fashion, his perspective is a mix of satirical, poignant, and heartwarming lessons. So, keeping it short and sweet (just like my husband himself), here’s Jason top 10 lessons from the past ten years (with of course, my own bit of commentary).
1. Women can’t drive.
Jason says I’m too slow. Too sassy. Too swerve-y. But, I really am a good driver just clearly a lot slower than the Whites, who are all notorious for their lead feet. And yes, I have been known to swerve, but only if I’m sleepy. So babe, don’t carb overload me then ask me to drive all the way home from dinner and a movie in Buford. Deal? You drive.
2. Sleepy people can still yell at you, in fact, they are probably more likely to yell at you.
So clearly there is a theme here. Yes, I “sleep yell” at Jason, not sure if that is a phrase but I just made it one. The barking dogs, the explosions occurring on the surround sound that make me feel like I’m living in apocalyptic times, all these things are contributing factors. No worries. You know I never mean it. I don’t even remember it.
3. You can go your whole life and never see the end of a movie.
Jason, we get it. I like to sleep! BUT, I also like to get up early, Like 4:00, 4:30 early. So I have plenty of time to sip my morning coffee and finish whatever movie you watched the night before. See, it’s a balance.
4. Hair is a big deal.
No explanation needed.
5. Remotes can out smart even the smartest of people.
Well, when you have six machines all connected to one TV, do you blame me?! I mean, Blue Ray, DVR, Satellite, X-Box, Regular DVD player, Surround Sounds. Sometimes it’s just easier and a time saver if you just walk me through it one more time.
6. Some people will never master the art of putting toilet paper on the roller.
In defense of all women, statistically, we will always use more toilet paper than men. I might underestimate the amount left but you know it makes you feel useful to keep restocking the supply. So, you’re welcome babe. I never want you to feel unappreciated or unneeded.
7. Female to male ratio for bathroom magazines: 70 to 1.
I’m a reader! Nuff said.
8. Blankets are required no matter the house or outside temperature.
For years I’ve been saying that my need to blanket, or butt tuck as Jason calls it, comes from mom swaddling too tightly but who knows if that’s true or not. I just love the security of a blanket, and I have thin skin (undiagnosed of course) so I need the extra warmth. Neither Jason nor I are snugglers so my blankets are merely practical.
9. Pajamas are an outfit.
In recent years I have become a fan of matching pjs. If that’s my biggest vice, then we’re good!
10. You can marry your best friend.
STOP! Now I’m going to cry. Combined with the passing of Uncle Marion, the last day of school, AND my uncontrollable love for my husband, it’s almost too much! But it’s so true! I truly feel that is the secret to our wedded bliss. We not only love each other but respect each other. He makes me better and I have a feeling that I make him better too.
With just one week left in the school year, I am preparing my heart for, you know, all the things. This last graduation will be emotional times ten. I truly feel like a senior getting ready to graduate. I’m anxious! I’m excited! I’m scared! So do me a favor, friend. Check back in on me next week for this teacher’s final lesson.
Blind dates seem to be a thing in my family. My mom and dad met on a blind date in October 1978. He was a local boy, firefighter/ EMT; she was a nurse moved north after graduating from Georgia Baptist. My aunt and uncle met on a blind date on May 8th, 1976. I know this date with a certainty because 8 years later, I was born. My South Georgia grandfather began courting my California-by-way-of-West-Virginia grandmother from a blind date. Even my brother met his wife Emily on a blind date, set up by her own brother. But in 2001 when I was asked to go on a triple blind date with a college freshman from Banks County, I didn’t think this chance encounter would lead to anything significant.
You see in high school, I wasn’t very datable. I wasn’t the prettiest, the smartest, the most talented, or the most athletic. I was ridiculously average at best. True, I had a really awesome core group of friends but for the most part, we were all average, often overlooked.
In 8th grade, I thought I had blossomed. I had cool friends. We did cool things such as Skate Country every Friday night (I still never learned to backwards skate) but that didn’t last long. I was not good at keeping friends. Easily influenced, tricked, and used as a scapegoat, I quickly realized that being one of the cool kids was just not in the cards for me. I had my first true crush in 8th grade. He gave me his band pin! (Apparently, pins were still a thing). He was smart, good looking, and athletic. His friends quickly helped him see the error of his ways and we took the summer before high school to “meet new people.” He is now a professional CrossFitter with a beautiful wife and family and works for the Harvard Business School . . . No joke! (I’m not a stalker, we’re Facebook friends!) But clearly, we took different paths!
By my junior year, I caught another fella’s eyes. He was Bad News Bears all the way around; attentive but arrogant, hardworking but lacked ambition and direction, charming but deceptive. By the end of my junior year that relationship ended just as traumatic as it started. Praise be! That young man was clearly not husband material (let’s just leave it at that).
So by the time I was a senior in high school I was already pretty jaded regarding relationships. I’ve always been surrounded by amazing marital role models. No matter how upset my parents could get at us or each other, they were always unified. My dad could make my mom crack a smile even in the midst of the most serious scolding (him or me). But like any dramatic high school senior, I thought that love was just an illusion, something that someone so very average like me would have to settle for.
But in walked Jason White. Well, not literally. His friend Robert did though, through the doors at Sears. I was working my first job. There I made a great new friend, Morgan. She was a senior at the city high school and was someone to be envied. She could talk so easily to customers and even easier to boys. She was beautiful and bubbly and clearly not average. She caught Robert’s eye and somewhere down the road a triple blind date was formed; two girls from Gainesville, one from Oakwood, with three boys from Banks County.
We agreed to meet in the parking lot of the Gainesville mall. Not sure what time but the sun was still high in the sky when a new custom Pontiac Firebird with the T-tops out pulled up. It was blaring Nelly’s 2000 album, Country Grammar and I thought to myself, these guys can’t possibly be sons of farmers. Well, I was a third right. Only knowing what Robert looked like, I saw the other two guys hunkered down real cool and thought, no thanks (sorry, friends!). I resigned myself to just having a good time with my girlfriends because love was already off the table. We followed the typical Friday-night-in-Gainesville-early-2000’s-protocol and ate at Applebee’s before heading back to the Gainesville Mall theater. We saw Joy Ride. One hour and thirty-seven minutes of newcomer Paul Walker and 2000’s star LeeLee Sobieski, running for their lives from a psychotic Mack truck driver. Not my cup of tea but I sat there with my friends, enjoying my Coke icee just the same. And that was it. The triple blind date came to an end with the only real romantic spark between the already talking couple; Mogan and Robert.
I didn’t think twice about the other two guys and I’m assumed they didn’t think twice about me. But several weeks later I received a phone call from an unknown number on my cell. “Hello,” I answered. “Hey, this is Jason,” a young man on the other line responded. “Jason, my cousin Jason?” I asked puzzled. “No. Jason that you went on a date with a few weeks back” he responded. “Jason, Jason,” I thought to myself probably for longer than I was supposed to. Before I could respond he continued, “I guess you go on a lot a dates with a lot of Jasons. (Right there his sarcasm got me). He continued, “But I wanted to take you out on another if you would let me.” After explaining that he was given my number from Morgan when they bumped into each other on her date night with Robert, Jason was given the go ahead that I was expecting his call. Yeah, Morgan forgot that little detail of telling me that. Oh well, the following weekend we were all back out to our dinner and a movie routine which we carried on for months. Usually at least two or three couples were in the mix but we kept the routine steady for Friday nights. Jason and I didn’t date just the two of us. After all, he hadn’t met my dad, it was hunting season of course so his weekends were booked. But we talked and texted and became great friends.
Well as the story goes, he quickly won my heart with his honesty, loyalty, and ridiculously witty humor. To this day, no one makes my family laugh more than Jason, including my 85-year-old grandfather in South Georgia. Whenever we go home for a visit, I am guaranteed at least two times when Jason makes Papa laugh to tears. He’s just magnetic that way.
Which brings me to today. Today I am proud to celebrate ten years of marriage. We met on October 12th, 2001 and were married six years and six months to that date; May 12th, 2007. Jason makes me feel anything but average. Anything but overlooked. He sees me; blatant faults and all, and loves me still. Nothing is more exposing than marriage. I mean, when you pee with the door open, all secrets are out!
You know, I never wanted to be a teacher. It wasn’t a hey-I-might-think-about-it kind of thought. It was a firm refusal, arrogant, I-think-my-life-was-built-for-more, I’m-not-wearing-cat-sweaters verdict. (Yes, I was under the delusion that all teachers wore cat sweaters). My senior year at North Georgia College and State University confirmed this proclamation when I was forced to share classrooms with pre-education majors. With their colored pencils and foldables in tote, they complained about proximity, rubric construction, and bulletin boards. These were not my people. My people were the analytical, satirical, argumentative over literary qualms people. I’m even embarrassed to say that my senior capstone project was centered on the thesis that education degrees were nonsensical. All educators should be required to have content degrees versus degrees on pedagogy. Even though I still think there is a lot of merit to that thesis, it was clearly an arrogant and ignorant 21-year-old writing that capstone report.
However, God put two dear friends (later turned bridesmaids) in my life who challenged all my judgmental assumptions. They were both English Education majors who opened my English Publication major eyes. We shared courses, commonalities, and convictions. All young. All engaged. All focused on our lives ahead of us, not the absurdities of college drama. They both exuded such passion for young adults and faith for the future, they starkly juxtaposed the annoyances of those I judged all education majors from. By the spring of my senior year, I was taking a heavy course load (including Spanish 2001 and Spanish 2002 at the same time), working full time in retail management, and planning a wedding that was just 6 days after graduation (Yep, I was crazy!). Both my English Education friends were finishing up student teaching and one friend had already been offered the job she was currently learning from. She knew of another opening at that school, same department and hallway, and persuaded me to apply. With seriously no thought on obtaining an interview, I applied mainly to appease her kindness. I was looking for opportunities to break out of the retail rut and get my feet wet in a career, but education was clearly far from my sight.
You know, I wanted to be Barbra Walters. Ok, maybe not the overly teased bangs or radical disposition spoken from The View, but I want to make a mark on the news just as she had done. I wanted to write, and interview, and tell stories. I wanted to inspire, encourage, and lead. To me, Barbara Walters was all of this. She was a pioneer. She was significant. She was respected.
As a little kid, I have this memory of me standing in my front year on Union Church Road, wearing my mom’s stethoscope around my neck. With the ear pieces in, I would take the diaphragm chest piece and would speak directly into it. Really, I was corresponding. I was live from Union Church Road letting the viewers know that indeed the mail was being delivered at that very moment. I would even take Kermit the Frog’s broadcasting catchphrase; “Hi, ho. This is Kermit the Frog here reporting live from Sesame Street.”
Somewhere in the shuffle of college classes, retail management, and pre-married bliss, I forgot about my passions and instead focused on finding that career, you know, the one that pays the bills.
Well, a week after haft heartedly applying to teach, I was hustling across campus running late from work and even later to class when my phone rang. Dr. Terry Sapp and Mr. Bill Thompson from Chestatee High School requested an interview . . . with ME! What was I was going to say to these two lifetime educators? With, I’m sure, an out of breath response, I set up a date and time. I had little time to panic as I continued running down the hill from Jason’s apartment at Sherman Green (where I parked to avoid paying for a parking permit) into the always freezing Newton Oaks building.
One week later with my crisp J.Crew navy blue suit and matching pumps, I printed a fresh copy of my resume and prepared for questions that I had no idea how to answer. In hindsight, the interview is somewhat of a blur, but I do remember Dr. Sapp complimenting me on my suit choice. I later learned that a compliment from Dr. Sapp was a major win. I would spend my first couple of years in fear of her, and the rest in absolute awe.
Well, as you can tell, I got the job. What were they thinking? I knew nothing! Literally nothing! I did not know about classroom management, or GPS (Georgia Performance Standards) or EQ’s (Essential Questions). Everything I knew about education came from the other side, from observing, from being a student myself. And not always a good one at that. I mean, let’s not even talk about math!
But like everything else in my life, I have always learned best by doing. I’m a kinesthetic learner (yes, teaching has taught me about learning profiles too). I jumped feet first into the educational world, luckily surrounded by advanced swimmers and industrial-strength personal flotation devices. I went under more times than I care to count with more teacher fails than I’ll ever share but somewhere along the way, I figured something out: if you don’t love the kids, the kids will never learn to love. They will never love the curriculum, each other, or themselves. So that’s what I decided to do, about three years in, I began focusing all my attention on the learners. The curriculum, instead, I would learn right along with them.
Sunday was pretty uneventful. With the previous week bursting at the seems with need-to-dos, and want-to-dos, even Saturday night had us hitting both his school prom and mine (chaperones, of course), we decided to utilize the Lord’s day of rest for ourselves. Rest, for someone who is restless and stir-crazy, does not come easily or naturally.
Saturday night I fell asleep on the couch. Clearly, not a shocker for those of you who know me, this is my reoccurring ritual. The routine goes, that once Jason is ready, he wakes me up and in my comatose, Linus-from-Peanuts-state, I grab my blanket and I drag it and myself up the stairs following the procession of sleepy puppies. Quiggles, always takes the lead. On a good night, Aussie and Quigley will both get into proper position at the foot of the bed. On a bad night, one, the other, or both steal my pillow and I whimper, literally whimper, until Jason comes to my rescue and moves the furchildren. I’m dramatic. We all know this. Add lack of sleep, I become Oscar worthy.
Somehow last Saturday night was disrupted. Around 5 am, my body’s natural alarm clock sounded and I awoke to the “ting, ting, ting” of soft rain falling on our tin roof. Instead of rolling over and seeing the three loves of my life, I saw Jason’s spot on the sectional. I checked my FitBit again. Yep, 5:08 am. No puppies in sight. “Traitors,” I think to myself. I envisioned them curled up on my memory foam pillow under my all-season down comforter without a care in their puppy world.
In Jason’s defense, when he asked me to come to bed, I convincingly responded, “I’ll be up in a minute.” Of course, this was his version of the story, but this clearly sounds like me, sleep talking, sleep negotiating.
Regardless, I slept well. I got up and made my way to the Keurig and hit ON. “Clip, Clap, Clip, Clap” came Quigley’s quick feet down the stairs. Very much a morning puppy like his mother. He’s always ready for the day’s adventure. “Stomp . . . Stomp . . . Stomp,” Aussie begrudgingly followed with her slow, methodically taken steps, only appearing in case she misses out on something important like a good morning T- R- E- A- T.
I grab my coffee, splash in some coconut milk, and head to my spot in the office. My office is the formal sitting room right off the entrance. I am clearly not a decorator as it sits scattered with novels and nonfiction texts on the floor in one corner. Two antique club chairs in the middle with nothing visually to anchor them, both desperately needing re-upholstery. Lastly, my self painted yellow desk takes center stage loaded down with yearbooks on both sides, completed devotionals, journals, and planners scattered about on top; all open, all written in, all loaded down with entangled thoughts. Instead of an office chair, my spot (as Sheldon would claim) is an extra piece of our beloved sectional. Yep, the one I just slept on. I love it. It’s perfect. I could write a Petrarchan sonnet about how much I love it. All fourteen lines would reaffirm that this couch was in fact, made for this family. Unfortunately, or well fortunately, when we ordered our furniture mid home reconstruction, we overestimated the space for our sectional and now have an additional piece. Having moved it to my office to get it out of the way, it quickly became my writing go-to. My spot.
It’s wide enough for me to slouch on, comfy enough for long hours of reading, writing, or editing. I usually drag a club chair close to prop my feet up on between me and the desk as I’m doing right now.
“Ok, God. It’s 5ish in the morning. I have my coffee. I’m in my spot. Speak to me,” I said out loud to God last Sunday morning. Again, this is Sunday morning. Yes, our day of rest. Yes, I “slept in” till 5:08 am.
But I just sat there, in my spot, with my feet propped up, wrapped up in my Linus blankey, holding my coffee, waiting on my God to speak. Here lately, God has chosen to speak to me through other people’s words. Or maybe I just listen more attentively to a voice that is similar to my own. I have a stack of nonfiction texts that I need and desire to conquer but starting a new one this morning doesn’t feel right. Instead, I just sit. No lights. No sounds. Just the “tink, tink, tink” of the rain. I can hear Jason’s audible breathing up above me echoing from our undecorated, Benjamin Moore painted walls.
It’s just 24 days until my 33rd birthday. And if I were still 13 year-old me, I would be super pumped and probably have a paper countdown on my bedroom door but 32 year-old me, not so much. Not sure when this transition from elation to trepidation took place, but since that time, birthdays haven’t felt like anticipatory milestones, they instead feel like checkpoints. Like judgments. Like letdowns.
I love to listen to my friends when they talk about their toughest birthday, toughest age to turn. For my one friend, it was 27. She could no longer say she was in her early twenties, or even her mid twenties. It was official; she had crossed the threshold of (dare we say) late twenties. For another, it was the more obvious 29. Just one year till the dreaded thirties so what was she going to do with her last year of her 20s? For me, I thought it was the aforementioned big THREE ZERO. If you were to ask my students that year, they would all agree. I was a little more than dramatic about my “coming of age.” However, they showered me with love and affection so what I had predestined to be my most dreaded birthday resulted in one of my absolute bests, concluding with a week night date night with my one and only. It was a simple but perfect day.
So, that brings me to this year, 33. When my mom was 33, she had two children, an 8-year-old, and a 3-year-old. When my Granny Simmons was 33, she had four children. That amazing woman continued to give birth until she was 42 resulting in six youngsters, beginning with her first at age 20 and my dad, number five came at age 40 after an 11 year birth sabbatical. I guess dad was a blessing of surprise. But not wanting him to be alone at the bottom of the birth order, Granny added one more to the mix, my Uncle Ray.
I know that comparison is the thief of joy, yet I can’t help but compare. I again look at my dearest of friends and they all have children, well 99.9% of them. Some have one. Some two. Some three. Some twins, some are in pre-school, some in elementary school. Some have middle schoolers (Bless them!) and one has a son that will graduate this year and will head off to college. Some dear friends have beautifully round bellies, percolating life inside of them until that moment when that life is ready to make its debut. And then . . . there’s me.
I think what also seals the deal is that May really is a defining month for me. Not just because it’s my birthday, my anniversary (coming up on 10 amazing years! Woo Woop!), or a month so jam-packed with professional craziness that it makes even Jason’s head spin; finals, banquets, yearbook day, graduation, etc. For the past several years, May sets the cutoff for motherhood, at least for me. If I’m not pregnant by May, then I know I won’t give birth that year. With just seven months lefts in the calendar year (really eight since May is still fresh and new), even if I were to get pregnant, 2017 would still be another year without a birth, another year without all the feels and experiences of motherhood. 2017 began just like all the years before it; excitement, expectations, and of course anticipations. But right now looking eye to eye with May, I pretty much can already see how this year is going to end, unfortunately not with a birth.
And to add insult to injury, May also celebrates Mother’s Day. Probably a day where I feel the loneliest, the most awkward, the most out of place. Having discussed this with a dear friend who is also in my unfortunate fertilely-challenged shoes, we both feel heartsick this day; we both often avoid this day, especially at church. Even though she is a fearless and compassionate foster mom of two, she doesn’t know what it is like to hold life inside her body. To look down and see the round crest of squirming and wiggling growth. To hear a heartbeat that also makes your own skip with elation.
Last Mother’s Day, I was just seven weeks out from my greatest loss. Seven weeks numb. To soften the blow, Jason took me out of town for my birthday weekend. I needed to get away but in reality I was running away. Literally, I would have run all the way to the Highlands if he had let me. You see last Mother’s Day was also my birthday. Talk about irony. I told you God had a sense of humor.
While Jason slept peacefully in our dog friendly bed and breakfast in Highlands, North Carolina, I curled up on the couch in the living room adjoined and allowed God’s presence to wash over me. I was reading Do Over by Jon Acuff, hoping to gain some clarity on a career year with also more than a few pitfalls on my behalf when God poked His head into my room. In the midst of reading motivational career advice, tears sprung up out of a cavernous well that I had been so cognizant to keep covered. What began as deep, hot tears of sorrow, tears of pity, frustration, and anger, slowly turned to tears of joy, of gratitude, and thanksgiving for those precious weeks of young motherhood.
Out of that dark room, God brought to light a memory. One that over a year later I keep recalling and clinging to for hope. Sometime last February, I was driving to work headed south on 365 and my normally lively Mini with “The Pulse” satellite station blaring was uncharacteristically quiet. With my super secret pregnancy still warm in my heart, I chose to spend that morning talking to my baby and to my God. Out of the stillness of that morning I began thanking God for this long awaited miracle and then I spoke out loud words that to this day, I’m still shocked I uttered. “Father God, even if this life inside me doesn’t last, I am so profoundly grateful to finally be a mother. I am so grateful for this feeling of life at this moment.”
In hindsight, what kind of mother speaks that kind of scary possibility into existence? What kind of dooms day prepper had I become that I would verbally anticipate a tragic outcome? It has taken months, a year even, but God has reminded me over and over again about that gratitude. Even in the midst of my greatest joy, God, my Father, was preparing my heart for His will. He was preparing my heart for the reality that the newly created life wasn’t made for this world. It was made for His. I had been praying so hard for so long for God to finally allow me to be a mother and in His infinite mercy, He allowed that desire to come true. God is good!
“Archy, archy, archy,” I’m awoken by Pooperson’s cranky old lady barks. I tap my FitBit to see what time it is. The glowing screen displays that its 3:34 am. Yep, it’s Pooperson’s bewitching hour. Even on Saturday, she’s consistent. Pooperson is either angry at the birds roosting in the holly tree outside our window, there’s a bug somewhere in her proximity, or she can see the deer grazing in our side yard. Regardless, I get up before Quiggles starts his low, trying-oh-so-hard-to-be-manly chest growl.
I walk down my hickory staircase. Two fuzzy blurs pass me before I reach the landing. I open the back door and whoosh, they’re gone. I’m sure Pooperson will do a perimeter check with Quiggles right on her heels. I drag myself back upstairs, successfully navigating around the bench at the foot of the bed following the narrow carpet between my side and the fireplace.
I plop down in bed, grabbing my down comforter to snuggle against my chest. I can hear Jason’s rhythmic breathing somewhere over to my right. “How does he do that? How does he always sleep through Pooperson’s tantrums?” I think.
Just one more hour before my alarm goes off. “I’m committed to this. I’ve verbalized this. People will know if I don’t do this. Therefore, I will do this!” my mantras begin. Today, I’m going to run. Yep, today will be my first half marathon since the catastrophe known as the Savannah Rock and Roll Marathon of 2015. Let’s just say the city of Savannah was ill equipped to handle 40,000 runners and a November heat wave. But before I even have time to relive that race or all the months of long distance training that led to that disappointment, my alarm began echoing on my bathroom vanity.
Next thing I know, I’m back out of bed, turning off my cell phone alarm. Outside, I can still hear Aussie and Quigley (yes, these are their birth names but their nicknames are many) outside giving whatever poor creature hell with Aussie’s consistent “archy, archy” followed by Quiggles’s low chest tuffs.
Back downstairs I trudge for my much needed injection of caffeine. I let the kids back in. Quigley pauses to let me wipe the mud off of his paws. Aussie’s a little more dramatic with her entrance, trying so hard to tell me how she just saved our home from some natural intruders, probably a fuzzy family of fluffy bunnies.
I wait for my first cup of coffee to percolate while the internal battle of wits begins. “Natalie, you will do this!” the encouraging corner of my mind starts off, trying to beat the rest of my mind to the punch line. “But what if you can’t?” Negative Nancy interjects. (Don’t you just hate her, your internal Negative Nancy?) “What if you don’t finish?” “What if you can’t finish?” Even worse, “What if you slow down and are forced to (gasp) walk it?” Oh the horror! (Now you can see where Pooperson gets her flair for the dramatics.)
The Big Bang Theory, Series 03 Episode 23 – The Lunar Excitation