Monday, August 18, 2014

Catching Up

I have been a total blogging slacker for quite a while. Life has kept me quite busy and lots has been happening. It's too much to put into a single post so let me hit the high points and I'll come back and fill in the details later.

In February I became an independent consultant for Thirty-One Gifts. I expected to be primarily a "personal use" consultant but it has really taken off. I'm having a great time doing it and I've made some wonderful new friends. I went to the National Conference in Columbus, OH and am already looking forward to going back next year!

In May I completed my two-year Academy for Spiritual Formation. It was an absolutely life-changing, soul-shaping wonderful experience. It was hard to say good-bye at the end, but at the same time it was time for that season to end. I hope to someday return to a 5-day academy (In fact I really hope to attend one in February) but I know that it will be a unique experience all its own.

We celebrated our 5th anniversary on May 23rd. I'm not quite sure how but my name got on a list for a free cruise from Carnival so we took advantage of it for our anniversary. It was a nice, low-key vacation. We drove out to Galveston, cruised for five days, then spent a day in Houston after the cruise just exploring. Then we went to New Orleans for a day, also. It was a nice getaway that I think we both needed.

In the spring, Jeff and I made the decision to stop pursuing fertility testing and treatments. We also decided to step back from actively pursuing adoption. We said that if something landed in our lap we would go with it, but we weren't going to actively try to chase things down. Then, wouldn't you know it, something did land in our lap. I can't say a whole lot more about it right now but I'm very excited about what is happening.

Our family is also growing in other ways! My brother got engaged to his sweet, wonderful girlfriend and I am so excited to have her as a part of our family! She is great for him and makes him so very happy, which makes me very happy.

I have gotten very involved in our church and it has been great. On Pentecost I got to preach my first sermon in two years. It went really well and I had a wonderful time doing it. This week I also took another step and presented my request for ordination to the congregation. This has been sort of an ongoing thing and it continues to be an evolving process, but one that has been very empowering and encouraging.

In April I made the decision that it was time for me to quit working at Children's Hospital. The mental and emotional demands of the job were simply too much. My hours had also increased at UAB and doing both was just too much. I don't know what will happen long-term but I'm glad I can recognize and respect my own limits and generally avoid burnout!

On Saturday I turned 29. I didn't do much of anything which was a perfect celebration for me. I'm really excited about what the next year has in store for me!

So there you have it! The short version of the last 6-ish months of my life!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Friday Five - Movies

It's been far too long since I've had it together enough to blog (or really even do more than glance at anyone else's stuff. Sorry!) but I figured today I would give it a shot. So here's a Friday Five about movies. I am way behind on what is "current" and have never had much interest in "popular" and I'm guessing my answers here will reflect that so just consider yourself warned...

1. Is there a film that so captured your imagination that you couldn't stop thinking about it? In what way(s) did it affect you? It's not particularly recent to the rest of the world, but as I said in my disclaimer I'm way behind, so the Harry Potter movies are still what I consider to be one of my newer favorites! I just love it, particularly the first and third ones.

2. What religious/spiritual film has touched you? This could be something overtly thematic like The Last Temptation of Christ, or  something more subtle, like Enchanted April.
I really love the Chronicles of Narnia movies, but most especially The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. This is probably one of my all-time favorites so when anyone talks about how it's a terrible movie, I get fairly offended. (I'm not a movie critic so the "terrible" assessment is probably valid, but I'm more interested in the story)

3. When the going gets tough, is there a film you turn to for distraction and/or to help shift your mood?
I have a short list that I go to, depending on what kind of "tough" I'm dealing with. If I'm feeling especially down and alone, it's Dawn Treader, If I need to laugh it's usually something Disney like Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc., or Tangled. If long periods of distraction are needed (like after my surgery in December) I go to the Happy Potter box set and just start from the beginning.

4. What is your all-time favorite movie?
I don't know if I could choose a single movie that I love above all others or even that I will watch at the exclusion of anything else. At the moment I'm far too giddy about the coming of my new DVD copy of Frozen.

5. If you were to choose a film for viewing and discussion with your congregation, what would you choose?
I really am not sure. I've kind of been toying with the idea of writing something (and have done a little bit of discussing it with my pastor and I think we could really have some fun with) that I have given the working title of "The Princesses and the Kingdom" looking at what lessons about the Kingdom of God and faith that we can learn from Disney Princess movies. Obviously that would involve a longer-term "series" approach. If there was a single movie I'd probably go with Dawn Treader. 

My pastor has asked me to actually serve on a panel discussion about a movie we ARE going to watch as a congregation in the not-so-distant future and for the life of me I can't remember the name of it (but I haven't seen it yet!)

Bonus - If your life were to be made into a feature film, who would you want to play you?
Amy Adams please! I just love her!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

My Hometown

Recently I was asked to co-write a blog post with the lovely and talented Kendra Thornton about what we love about our hometowns. As she is from a big city and I am not, obviously we are coming from two very different perspectives,  but there are plenty of things I love about Alabaster and the surrounding areas.

It should be no surprise that I love good food, and I'm very lucky to have a few really wonderful local restaurants nearby. The first is Joe's Italian. My current favorite is the Tortellini with Pesto Cream Sauce, but I love pretty much everything I've ever tried. And of course you have to save room for a piece of cake. I recommend the strawberry or neapolitan.
Next up is Los Angeles Burrito. A very small place with amazing, fresh mexican food. The best taco I've ever had in my life was at an open-air restaurant in Mexico and these taste almost exactly like those. Add a Mexican coke and you have an amazingly tasty lunch!
And if you feel like venturing down the road to Helena, check out Fox Valley Restaurant. I have previously proclaimed my love of this place and the only seafood dish I will eat - their crab cake!

Of course, there is more to life than food and there are other things I love about Alabaster. Ironically, one of the things is that it's a pretty quiet place. There isn't a ton of "stuff" to draw people here. Which means there are lots of "nothing to do" days. While Birmingham is not that far away, because I make that drive every day for work, I'm not always eager to do it on my off days!
One thing Alabaster does well is its parks, and I do enjoy walking at Veterans Park, especially when the weather is nice. There is also a great dog park there.

One thing nearby that I have never done but would absolutely love to do is visit American Village in Montevallo. I'm a big fan of history, and while I've seen many of these sites "for real" it's a beautiful place and I would love to spend some time there.
For the times that we want to getaway (but not really) we do enjoy camping at Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham. Obviously if you're an outdoorsy person there's plenty to do, but even for someone like me who isn't exactly wilderness Barbie, it's a great way to spend an afternoon or even a weekend!

And now, here is what Kendra had to say about Chicago -

Where to Go in Chicago
There are many places around the world that I like to visit. At times, I have visited places with my husband and children, but other times I like to be by myself. Either way, traveling truly excites me. When I meet people wherever I go, I like to direct them to a place they may not have been, and that is my town of Chicago.
1. Go to a Professional Game
One of the things that Chicago gets overlooked at is in terms of professional sports teams. The truth of the matter is that many cities across the United States are not hosts to four of the biggest professional sports teams in the country. Chicago has two professional baseball teams, with one being on the north side and the other being on the south side. Professional hockey is quite popular at this time, since the Chicago Blackhawks recently won the Stanley Cup. Going to a professional game, or at least to a place that features a game, is an excellent way to get immersed in the Chicago culture.
2. Go to New Heights
The Willis Tower, which is always known to some native Chicagoans as Sears Tower, has a place that people can truly experience what it means to go out on a limb. The SkyDeck, which is on floor 103, gives children and adults the opportunity to see the city and the surrounding area in a glass enclosure. The enclosure is made up of multiple layers of glass and it is extremely strong. Some people who have been on the SkyDeck describe it as floating on the air.
3. Go to Get Pampered
When I need to get away from all of my troubles, worries and stresses, I go to the Peninsula. This fancy hotel allows me to unwind exactly the way that I need to. Located on East Superior Street, the Peninsula has a fabulous spa and it gives me a number of options for what I want to have done. After my spa treatment, I have an exquisite meal at the restaurant in the hotel. At times, I may not stay a night, but I truly enjoy the pampering that I receive. Chicago does however offer a number of hotels new or historic for couples and families. Many of these hotels are within the city limits, making the various sites in walking distance.
4. Go to Eat
Chicago has plenty of wonderful diners throughout the town. One of my favorites is “Uncle Lou” by Lou Michell. This historic and terrific diner has delicious food that my children enjoy. The prices are quite decent. Besides this, children and women receive Milk Duds, which is a Chicago creation, when entering this memorable facility.
Chicago is a great city. With so many places in which to go, staying multiple days is the best thing to do. It is no surprise that people keep coming back and even choose to move here. I know I did.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Smooth Operator

So way back when we first started this journey, my doctor laid out a big roadmap of where we might be headed and what might be happening. One of the last things he mentioned was exploratory surgery to diagnose or rule out (and treat if necessary) endometriosis. The possibility of endometriosis came up again when I had some lingering pain after the ruptured ovarian cyst, but because the only way to diagnose it was surgery, he wasn't eager to force the issue since I was slowly but surely getting better. But now that we have ruled out and tried pretty much everything else, we're at that point near the end of the road where it's appropriate and necessary.

 I was not expecting it to happen so quickly, but when they called on Friday to get it scheduled, it ended up that Monday was the best option! Well, ok! I tend to stress and worry over stuff anyway so that probably was best. It was enough time for me to process and adjust to the idea of it without having too much time to stress. So yeah, I've pretty much decided that about a 48-72 hour window is what I need to adjust to something that's not a TOTAL shock.

 I had done my reading and research, was with my mom when she had laparoscopic surgery (although not for this), and I DO work in a hospital and have made enough visits to both pre-op and pacu that I feel like I'm reasonably familiar and comfortable with what happens. Heck, I've even been in the OR and seen things that most people outside healthcare don't get to see. Still, I was a little surprised (and not at all happy) when I was told "oh by the way, you're only allowed clear liquids the day before" Especially since I'd been cooking for three days for a little get-together that was going to be, you guessed it, the day before my surgery. So instead of white chicken chili, wine, spinach dip, and salsa I got to have broth, sprite, and gatorade. I have never wanted a Frito so badly in my life!

 The morning of surgery I was instructed to check in at the outpatient surgery center at 6:45. I was honestly surprised at how quickly everything went. They called me back to prep me at about 7:10 and I was rolling back to the OR at 7:35! I was the most nervous about the IV, and while she only had to stick me once, it was kind of nerve-wracking. She asked if I was ok if she didn't numb it first because it was such a tiny vein. She had to dig a little, but she got it and I've never been so relieved to be done with something. It was the longest three minutes of my life! I remember very little after they put "the good stuff" in my IV as they started to roll me out. I have some vague fuzzy memories of moving onto the table but that's about it. When I woke up in recovery, I wasn't quite aware of where I was I just had the feeling I was waking up and needed to go to the bathroom. So what do you do when you feel that every morning? You get up and go! So I started trying to get up and the nurse had to tell me to lay back down. Once I was awake though, I was pretty much ready to go. The first thing I asked for was my glasses because I couldn't see squat! I had to wait until they got me out of recovery and into a discharge room. I asked the nurse what time it was and she told me it was about 9. I was pretty antsy to get up, get something to drink, and get the heck out of there. She kept offering me pain medicine and I kept turning it down. At one point she flat out told me "you're making faces like you're in a lot of pain. I'd really like to give you something." I honestly told her that it was just my throat hurting and asked for something to drink. She got me a diet coke and it was the best thing ever!

They moved me to a "discharge room" and I immediately wanted to get up and go to the bathroom. I was told before surgery that my ticket out was going tinkle, so as soon as I did that I was told I could get dressed and we could go.  The discharge nurse told me she was impressed by how well I was able to walk around on my own and I even managed to get dressed without any help. By 10,  Jeff and I were halfway home home and swinging through the Chick-Fil-A drive-thru to get breakfast!

I'm not a great patient and I don't like being helpless, but all things considered my recovery was pretty easy. Jeff stayed with me and we spent the day in the den watching Harry Potter movies and enjoying the new recliners. He got me Chicken and Dumplings for an early dinner and I took a couple of pain pills but they never made me really sleepy. I wasn't ready to lay flat so I just spent that night in the recliner. The next day I got to finally take a shower and wash all the hospital crud off of me and with the exception of a little bit of soreness/stiffness particularly when I went from sitting to standing I felt pretty good. It was over a week before I was comfortable wearing anything except elastic waist pants but overall it was pretty easy. The most annoying part was having the little strings hanging out of my belly button! I don't like loose strings on my clothes or my stuff. I'm NOT a fan of having them hanging out of my body!

My lower two incisions stayed pretty sore for the whole two weeks between surgery and my post-op appointment. When I went back to have my stitches removed he told me the incision in my belly button was perfect but the lower two were "kind of angry looking" so he gave me some antibiotics, but said he thought they'd heal a lot better without the little "foreign bodies" (stitches) in there and sure enough the residual pain was gone within a day of having the stitches removed. He also talked to me about what he found during the surgery. He had talked to Jeff and given him some pictures on surgery day, but it was nice to hear it all myself. He did find some endometriosis, but it presented as a peritoneal window, which is basically a little hole in the lining around my pelvic organs. He said that, while it's not the most common way of finding endometriosis, it's not an uncommon thing, and they cleaned it all up and are hopeful that it will do the trick!

Now we do more waiting to see what happens!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

How You Can Care For Me, Part 2

Remember how, way back when I went really public with all this infertility and adoption stuff I wrote a post about what I needed and how folks could best support me? Remember how I said that if I came up with anything else or if anything changed I'd share it? Well, it's time for some sharing. No, nothing has changed drastically in terms of "what's happening" but I think my attitude about it slowly has. I recognize that my needs are different and so I want to share a more current reflection of where I am.

Recently I saw an article about what you should or shouldn’t say to a person who is trying to get pregnant. It didn’t even specifically mention “infertility” but it was pretty clear that those with more extended “trying” periods were considered the experts in this field. I had a lot of issue with this article. For one thing, I’m not a fan of sweeping generalizations. In the case of this particular article (and several others I have seen) there are several key points that I disagree with strongly. I’m going to own all of this as my own thoughts/feelings and I make no generalizations about how this may or may not apply to others. So rather than critiquing the opinions of others, I’d rather just offer my perspective on how you can best care for and relate to me.

Be real with me. Life is hard. Not having kids is hard, but so is having kids. Not being pregnant is hard, but so is being pregnant. Being stuck in the house all day is hard, but so is going to work every day. While I appreciate being on the receiving end of care, and I crave it more than most people probably know, I also can’t live there. That’s just not who I am or how I’m wired, and I assume that if you know me well enough to care about how you relate to me, you know this about me already. If you need to complain about home or work or kids or anything, go for it. If I can’t deal with it at that point, I’ll be real with you, too, and tell you.

 Don’t exclude me. Like I said before, life is hard. It’s full of sad, difficult things. I probably see more than my share in my line of work. I soak up joy and happiness and celebration wherever I can. Children are living, breathing miracles of joy to me. If you’ve got something to celebrate, let me celebrate with you. I don’t have to be all up in your business, but you don’t have to walk on egg shells around me. I’m not saying you should go out of your way to include me in things you wouldn’t otherwise, but don’t feel that because it’s happy or baby/child related that it’s something to be avoided around me. This whole journey has been and continues to be an incredibly lonely one for me. Please don’t build any more walls to remind me of how different I am.

Give me permission to grieve. I will admit that there have been times when I prayed “God, if you’re not going to give me a baby, can I at least have a miscarriage?” Not because I think the loss of a child is something to be desired, but because that is a much more tangible loss that is more easily understood. There is a lot more sympathy and support for that kind of loss. I absolutely believe that all these things that exist should and they are very valuable. Pregnancy loss is a terrible thing. But it is something that can be grieved publicly. Trying and trying and there just being … nothing… is not something you can publicly grieve. How can you miss something you never had? It’s easier than you think. I often don’t feel that I have permission to grieve publicly, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not grieving. This is often where I feel the loneliest.

Let me be real with you. Ask what’s been going on in my life and in my head and in my heart and really listen to what I have to say. If you know me well enough to recognize when I’m feeding you a load of crap then be willing to call me on it and give me permission to share with you. Don’t try to force it out of me, but give me some safe space to talk about whatever it might be. No guilt or shame, no “should” or “ought”, no mocking or ridicule. It may take a while before I act on it, but simply the knowledge that the space is there and that it is occupied by someone who loves and cares about me is a tremendous gift.

Tell me your story. No, I may not relate to all of it. Heck, I may not relate to most of it. But if there is one thing I have learned through my life and my work it’s that, in pretty much every case, there is SOME point of connection between two souls. Remind me of some of these. Help me remember that there is a community who loves and supports me and there are people who understand. And don’t be afraid of happy endings. Those have always been my favorites!
Thank you for caring. Please don't stop. It makes a difference.

Monday, November 18, 2013

100 Wishes Quilt - It's Starting!

So I put out a call quite a while ago asking people to contribute fabric to the 100 wishes quilt. I have gotten several contributions, but not 100. Not even close. Still, the stack of fabric was growing and I just knew that this was a huge undertaking. Plus, all this waiting and helplessness has reached a point of "incredibly difficult" and I felt like I needed to be able to DO something. So I decided to call up my friend, neighbor, and partner in mischief, Mollie, and see if we could go ahead and get started.

Seeing as how I've never sewn much of anything before I figured that what would happen is that I would end up doing lots of cutting and she would do the actual sewing. Oh, how wrong I was! We took a little time to play with my very basic machine and figured out what we needed and got it all set up. She let me practice on a couple of scraps and then before I knew it she was handing me the center square and the first strip and we were off! Amazingly, it wasn't that hard. In fact, I did all the sewing today. Mollie did all the cutting and ironing (which was probably best for everyone!) and in only a couple of hours we had put together basically all the fabric I had! It ended up being about 20 pieces. It definitely went more quickly with two people, and it was also more fun.

I'm super-excited about what I have so far, but I'm also super-excited about what comes next! And that is MORE FABRIC! We are far from 100 so pretty please send something! If I need to come pick it up (and you're in driving distance) I will be happy to! Pick something special/meaningful to you. I've still got some pieces of t-shirts that are going to be worked in and probably some other things, too. It will probably be a little while before I sit down and add some more to it. It really worked very well having a bunch to do at once so I think that's what we'll try to do again. Obviously I don't have a target date, but if you're going to be making a trip to the post office for Christmas stuff, it might be a great time to pop a little bundle of fabric in the mail (just saying!)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Becoming a Baptist

It's no secret that I've had a long and conflicted relationship with the United Methodist church over the past several years, particularly in relationship to the process of ordination and getting the blessing of that community on my calling and my ministry. Several months ago a series of events began unfolding that I will not share in detail here because I know I can't do it without hurt, anger, and condemnation. And the details that are significant leave no room for anonymity, but all of that won't benefit anyone, so I'm going to simply take it as another one of those 2x4 moments from God where there is no more doubt in my mind that something has to change.

Something has indeed changed in my life since then. Jeff and I were finally able to find a church home. He was never especially comfortable in methodist churches, in part because of the connected nature and the fact that I know (or at least have met or know of) a whole lot of people. As I began to feel as though I was no longer chained to the UMC (and make no mistake about it, I did feel like I was a prisoner of this process for a long time!) we were both freed to find a place where we both felt at home, where we fit, where we felt we could be an active part of the community. Remember way back when I talked about church shopping? Yeah, that's still the list we were pretty much using.

I don't know how, but something planted the seed in my mind that perhaps it would be looking into what was different about the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) and see if there was a CBF church near us. For the most part I liked what I found about CBF in general and I found a church in Pelham that looked very promising! The thing that really caught my attention was that I knew their interim pastor - she is the wife of a very good friend and colleague of mine. So I cornered said colleague and basically had him give me the scoop on this church. It was incredibly helpful and Jeff and I went visiting.

Immediately we were both very comfortable. As luck would have it, just as we started visiting the church was in the process of calling a new pastor, and he started not long after we did. We both also really like him and have really felt like this is the place for us. Jeff has joined the choir and I'm slowly starting to get to know people. I love having a community that we can call our own.

Yesterday I had a meeting with the pastor to begin having some conversation about who I am, what I do, where I feel I have been called, and how I can and should go about getting the blessing of this community on that. It was honestly the most supportive and affirming conversation I have had in over ten years, especially in respect to ministry! I really don't know exactly where things are going to go from here, but I know that I have some great people in my corner who will be journeying with me and I am SO incredibly thankful for the fact that we really have been able to find our way home to this community!