Friday, November 29, 2013

Liebster Award

The blogger behind sayin' i love you has nominated me for the Liebster Award! She's got an awesome blog where she writes about her family, her faith, and all the life in between. And fun fact - she lives in Nicaragua! Go check out her blog if you haven't already. It's pretty great. :) Thank you for the nomination, girl! I'm really excited to take this opportunity to share more information about myself to my lovely followers. And I'm pumped to learn more about my followers too!

This award is given to up and coming bloggers who have less than 200 followers. Liebster is a German word meaning sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome. Isn't that such a lovely name and idea for an award? And the great thing about it is it gives smaller blogs an opportunity to get a little more recognition and increase connections in the blogosphere. 

Here are the rules for receiving this award:
1.) The nominated blogger must list 11 random facts about him- or herself.
2.) Answer the 11 questions your nominating blogger wrote for you.
3.) Nominate 11 bloggers for this (literally) lovely award.
4.) Write 11 questions you'd like your nominated bloggers to answer. And make sure they are aware of their new award.
5.) No tag backs!

Let's start with my 11 facts:

1.) I'm an introvert. I love my quiet, alone time and get very intimidated at large parties or gatherings of new/unknown people. My whole life, I've only had a few close friends, but that's exactly the way I like it. :) And I think my introvertism is the reason why I don't blog a whole bunch. I love blogging, but I have to find something I'm really excited about or dedicated to posting in order to feel like sharing. 

2.) My minor in college was in music with a concentration in voice. That means I like to siiiiiinnnnnng! At my college graduation, I performed "God Bless America" as a solo with the band in front of a crowd over 20,000! Nowadays, I'm not that showy, but I do cantor at our church every few weeks.

3.) Strands of wet hair drive me crazy! I spazz out when they get stuck on my fingers. In the shower, where this is most likely to happen, I immediately put strands of hair on the shower wall. Then, at the end of the shower, I swirl it around and ball it up so it's easy to throw out. Icky!  

4.) I love giving gifts, but I'm horrible at waiting to give them. For example, just yesterday I almost gave my husband his big Christmas gift. Luckily, he stopped me in my tracks, but I just don't have the patience to hold off on giving the gifts I just know the recipient is going to love!

5.) My birthday is 17 days away! Yup, I'm a December baby. And along with being horrible at waiting to give gifts, I'm also horrible at waiting to receive gifts. My husband wrapped my gift and placed them out in the main room just a few days ago and I've already figured out what it is: an Aerogarden. I'm so excited because this is such a great, thoughtful gift, but now my punishment is that I have to wait 17 more days to be able to use it! Silly me.

6.) I was kinda chunky in high school, so I gave up eating red meat and pork to lose some weight (and I did!). Nothing was able to stop me from eating Big Macs and pepperoni and hot dogs until I put my foot down and just took away the options completely. That lasted for several years, 'til a friend had me over for dinner and her mom served meatloaf. In college, I became a vegan because I read the book "Skinny B*tch" and it told me I had to. That lasted only a few months. Before our wedding, I used to tone up for the big day and lost 15 pounds! And now I'm trying out the anti-inflammatory diet to help with infertility. No, I don't like dieting, but I've definitely been drawn to different forms of it for different reasons throughout my life. 

7.) I love cooking and, in the past few years, have learned the importance of high quality spices in cooking. For Christmas in 2011, my parents got John and me a whole buncha yummy herbs and spices from Penzeys Spices, now our absolute favorite spice company. If you've never tried them out, I recommend it. As far as I can tell, their spices generally cost around the same as what you'd find in the grocery store, only they're a whole lot yummier and very high quality. Once you order some, try them out on this delicious recipe (that we just had for dinner tonight): Sweet Potato + Black Bean Chili.

8.) Jobs I've worked in my life include: waitress, camp counselor, RA, orientation leader, middle school science teacher, high school math teacher, and (now) youth director.

9.) I've never been to Europe, but my husband promises to take me there one day. Though I've never been across the Atlantic, I have been out of the country twice. The first time, John was doing a month-long rotation in Antigua, Guatemala through his residency program in Houston and I went along for one week of the adventure. It was lovely! The second time was our honeymoon in Aruba, which was also lovely!

10.) I like all things nerdy including Doctor Who, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Back to the Future, Lord of the Rings, math, graphing calculators, and this hilarious math joke: One day, Jesus said to his disciples, "The Kingdom of Heaven is like 3x squared plus 8x minus 9." A man who had just joined the disciples looked very confused and asked Peter, "What on Earth does he mean by that?" To which Peter replied, "Don't worry. It's just another one of his parabolas." Buh-dum CHH!

11.) Back in 2011, I took a picture every day for an entire year. I'm no professional photographer, but it was a fun challenge and now is a great way to look back and remember that year. 

And now my 11 answers:

1.) Why did you start a blog?
I've always been drawn to blogging. I had a livejournal in high school which was basically just blogger before blogger existed. When I was engaged, I wrote about the whole wedding planning experience on my wedding blog, Schwedding! And then after that whole sh-bang was over, I started another blog that was supposed to be a photography and recipe blog, but it fizzled rather quickly. About a year later, when we found ourselves in the world of infertility, I realized many women used blogging as a support network (which I was in dire need of) and I felt like I finally had something to write about again. Enter: Blessed to Be! 

2.) What is your favorite time of your day?
Late night. I've always been a night owl, though I've become less of a night owl over the last few years, especially when I was a high school teacher. In college, I'd stay up doing work until 2 in the morning, and that's when my best work would get done. Now it's more like 10pm or midnight. I just like feeling like I have nowhere to be and the time is all mine for my crazy creativity. On the flip side, I am NOT a morning person AT ALL. I've tried and it just didn't work. So night time it is!

3.) When was the last time you cried and why?
When I wrote that post about my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. It really was a bummer of a day. Infertility is about the only thing that makes me cry these days. Boo!

4.) Do you like to leave comments on other people's blogs? Why or why not?
I do like leaving comments, although sometimes I feel like I'm an awkward comment robot. I want to let readers know that I'm following along and enjoying their posts, but I'm not always the best at coming up with clever or encouraging responses. It actually takes a fair bit of effort for me to write comments. So, I'm apologizing now if I have ever written or do ever write an awkward comment on your blog.

5.) What is your favorite quote?
Not sure that I have a favorite quote. But I always love quotes from Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. Here's a recent favorite: "The truth is the truth even if no one believes it and a lie is a lie even if everyone believes it."

6.) What is your guilty pleasure?
Long, hot showers. Jalapeno Cheetos. The TV show Nashville.

7.) Do you have any talents?
I can play the ukulele and piano and I sing. I can also lick my elbow. And wiggle my nose up and down. 

8.) How old were you when you had your first kiss?
9th grade in a game of spin-the-bottle. Embarrassing. 

9.) How do you feel about plastic surgery?
For folks who need plastic surgery to correct scars, burns, malformations, or abnormalities, I say it's great! Otherwise, I'm not so cool with it. God made you beautiful, so learn to embrace it! 

10.) What is your favorite childhood memory?
My favorite childhood memories all involve hanging out at family parties with my mom's side of the family. I have 5 aunts, 5 uncles, and 9 cousins on that side and when we all would get together, it was always a blast! And we pretty much had a family party every few months: 4th of July, October Fest, and Christmas Eve were the 3 best. One year, me and most of my cousins did a re-enactment of "So Long, Farewell" from The Sound of Music. It was pretty sweet!

11.) How did you come up with the name for you blog?
Funny you should ask! I wrote a whole post about it here. :)

Any now for my 11 nominations! Congrats, you just won the Liebster Award!!

Cathy @ Fiscally Chic
Justine @ This Country Life
Jasmine @ Chronic Brevity  
The lovely blogger @ Waiting Hopefully
AM @ Snapshots
Mary Beth @ Grace of Adoption
The sweet blogger @ Infertile Minnesota
The kind blogger @ Ask and It Will Be Given

My 11 questions for you, dear award winners:

1.) Why do you blog?
2.) What is your favorite smell?
3.) What would you have as your last meal? Include appetizer, main course, and dessert.
4.) If you could master any skill overnight, what would it be?
5.) Who's your favorite Disney character?
6.) What movie did you most recently watch? 
7.) What song are you currently listening to on repeat? 
8.) Cupcake or slice of pie?
9.) If you could have any miniaturized animal as a pet, what would you pick? (e.g. My husband wants a mini-bear.)
10.) If you just found out company was coming over in a few hours, what dish would you whip up for them?
11.) Summarize yourself in 4 words. GO!   

Thanks again, sayin' i love you! This has been a bunch of fun. And now, I look forward to learning more about all of you newest Liebster Award winners. :)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Stephanie's Recipes: Carrot Ginger Soup

Over the last few days, I've been trying out the anti-inflammatory diet. If I understand correctly, it's basically gluten in moderation, dairy in moderation, and lots of healthy fruits and vegetables. There's a whole balance to it (40% to 50% of daily calories from carbs, 30% from fat, and 20% to 30% from protein), but for right now, I'm just trying to cut out my over-abundancy of daily carbs and focus on eating more greens, beans, and fruity treats. Baby steps.

No, no. I'm not on this diet to lose weight. Though if I did, I wouldn't be too bummed. :)

I'm on this diet because I'm still really worried about my endometritis, AKA infection of the uterine lining. Dr. G isn't too worried about it, but little worry wart me is so extremely focused on it. So I'm taking matters into my own hands and trying to anti-inflame things with this new diet. I have no idea if this thought process is medically sound, but it makes sense to me. If my uterine lining is inflamed with  infection, this anti-inflammatory diet should at least help a little.

My Creighton Model instructor's story also encourages me to give it a try. She struggled for several years with infertility and after all the work up, surgeries, and medications, the fix that finally did the trick was this anti-inflammatory diet. She's since had two precious baby girls. I'm sold.

A few months ago, John and I celebrated our 2nd anniversary on a little trip to Nashville and The Inn at Evins Mill. My favorite part of our romantic getaway was the Inn and the delicious meals they served. The night we arrived, we got to enjoy a 4-course meal cooked on site. The first course was a carrot ginger soup; it was so simple yet so tasty. I raved about it to our sweet waiter and he mentioned that the chef posted recipes from his meals on the Inn's blog. When I got home, I excitedly searched and searched their blogs (turns out they have about 10 blogs) until I found the recipe and then promptly forgot about it...

Until now! Because this soup is perfect for my new diet!! Tons of vegetables with a little bit of cream and a whole lotta yummy flavor. Mmmm!

So last night I gave it a go, and after peeling 5 pounds of carrots and chopping a large, pungent pile of garlic, I'm happy to say this soup is just as yummy as I remembered. I probably could have halved the recipe and still had plenty to go around, but I'm thinking this will freeze well, so the tons of soup I made will still be put to good use. Also, if you're dairy free, I imagine you could leave out the heavy whipping cream, or use a non-dairy creamer instead and it would still taste great.

While I'm not exactly sure that I won't cheat from time to time (I already miss quesadillas, cupcakes, and mac and cheese), this is certainly a great way to start!

Carrot Ginger Soup

3 tsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1/4 cup fresh garlic, chopped
1/2 cup fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
3 quarts chicken broth
5 lbs carrots, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp lemon zest, finely grated
1 13.5oz can unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Heat oil in large stock pot on medium heat. Add onion, garlic, ginger, and crushed red pepper flakes. Saute until onion is tender. Add chicken broth, carrots, and lemon zest and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for two hours, until carrots are very soft. Puree with immersion blender or food processor.
Stir in coconut milk and cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serving size: 1 cup. Serves 16.

Adapted from William Cochran's recipe.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Grass is Just as Green on the Other Side

This time last week, I was feeling pretty low. So I posted about it, got some support and prayers, felt a little better, and spent some time trying to recover spiritually.

I'm certainly not 100% healed. Re-reading what I wrote last week, I notice I still have some of the same feelings of anger and abandonment stirring inside me, which makes me realize I carry this stuff with me every day, whether or not I'm aware of it. The infertility world is just a bummer of a world to be a part of and I will likely spend every day wishing I wasn't in it until the day we become parents. I know that sounds horrible, and honestly, it pretty much is, but I made a realization after I posted about my bummer of a day last week that made me feel less abandonedment, less anger. And it was related to this question I asked...

"Why do I have to suffer while others out there are getting exactly what they want as soon as they want it?"

The answer is: They don't.

Though the question was supposed to be broad (i.e. wasn't just related to babies), since I have a pretty one track mind these days, I started reflecting on all of my friends who have children or who have gotten pregnant easily. And I quickly started to realize that not one of them have actually had it easy. They may not struggle with infertility, but they all have some sort of cross they carry.

One friend had two miscarriages (and was told by a doctor she needed to have three miscarriages before they could help her) before she got pregnant with a little one that stuck. She also struggles to make ends meet financially and really dislikes her living situation.

Another friend got pregnant when they weren't trying, ended up nearly going blind during her pregnancy because of a disorder, and only retained some vision because of an emergency surgery during her third trimester. When her babe was only a year old, she ended up in the hospital again with very serious blood clot. 

Another friend was extremely sick during her entire pregnancy and had to have an emergency delivery. She may not be able to have children in the future.

A few other friends have gotten pregnant very, very easily but have turmoil in their marriages. Or have struggled in being faithful to their spouse. Or have a close relative who is sick. Or have massive debt. Or have no self esteem.

The more people with children I thought about, the more I realized no one has it easy. And when I did finally think of a few people who "had it easy" I realized I didn't actually know much about them. They were the people I once knew in real life, but now only know through Facebook posts. And we all know that people can paint a pretty picture of their lives on Facebook without actually having a pretty life in real life. 

The point here is we all have our crosses.

Yes, I already knew that. I think it's one of those things we all start to become aware of while we transition from adolescence into adulthood. So it's not like I'm sharing anything new here. 

But what helped me in all of this was realizing that no one is getting exactly what they want when they want it. Sure, they might be able to get pregnant easily, but there's very likely something else going on in their life that isn't going exactly the way they want it. 

So I guess that's one less thing to be sad and mopey and bummed out about next time I'm in a funk. Not that I'm happy that everyone's suffering. I'm just happy that I've realized jealously is never fruitful

(Duh! Isn't that something we all learned in grade school? Sorry... sometimes I'm a little behind with these "life lessons.")

On a happier note...

One of the messages I texted my husband on my day of sadness last week was, "I just want to get away. I don't want to be in Memphis living this life right now. Can we please just go somewhere else and be someone else for a while?" While I admit now that that was pretty dramatic, he took the hint that I just needed a little getaway, a little break. So this past weekend, we drove about 3 hours west to Hot Springs, Arkansas, and enjoyed ourselves a one-night getaway from reality. I've got some pictures and some stories to share of our adventure, but I'll save those for next time. :)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

A Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Yesterday was cycle day 1.

Yesterday was my cycle review appointment with Dr. G. 

Yesterday, I broke down in Dr. G's office.

He wants to meet with me monthly now to check in on the medications he's prescribing and how my body is responding. Last month was our first cycle post surgery and he started me on a low dose of Clomid. To check on my body's response to the new drug, he asked me to get blood drawn three times post-peak. At the appointment, he showed me that the Clomid likely messed with my post-peak estrogen because the post-peak labs came back showing low, low estrogen, which was never a post-peak problem before.

So, with this next cycle, we're upping the dose of Clomid to 50mg on cycle day 3, 4, and 5, using Robitussin and sustained release B6 for mucus production, and doing another round of post-peak blood draws to see if the increased Clomid dose is helping or hurting. And if post-peak estrogen is still looking low after this next cycle, we'll consider HCG for the following cycle.

I was fine with all of this information. It sounds like a great course of action and I'm ready to get going with it.

But then he asks me, "How are you doing? Seriously, how are you doing with all of this, emotionally?"

And up until that moment I had held it all together. Well, in front of him anyway. I mean, there was an extreme wave of sadness that came over me when, earlier in the day, at work, I noticed my period had started. And there were those angry tears I shed during the 1.5-hour car ride to Dr. G's office, alone, while in frustrated prayer. And there was the annoyance at seeing yet another extremely pregnant woman waiting near me in the waiting room at the women's clinic.

So I guess it was pretty inevitable that I would burst into tears the moment he asked me about my emotional well being.

It was pretty ugly and I let it all out. I told him about how I felt abandoned and forgotten. How much it hurts to see so many pregnant women or women with newborns around me. How I feel like a bad Christian for being so angry at God, knowing that He could fix this if He wanted. How I had all these dreams and plans for our family that are quickly slipping away. How I'm probably the most impatient person on the planet and none of this is helping me to be a more patient person. How we trust Dr. G and all that he's doing for us, but I really have no hope for any of this. How I want to remain hopeful, but it's so hard to do when we've officially been trying for a year and having nothing to show for it but some still messed up hormones and 4 surgery scars.

Ok, so maybe I didn't quite say it all like that, but that's the general message that spilled out, uncontrollably, and through tears and awkward high pitched cry-talk.

Then I apologized for unloading on him and told him if the appointment had been on any other day than cycle day 1, I wouldn't be such a mess.

His response was so sweet, and so patient. He told me not to apologize for my tears or my emotions. He knows that infertility is hard. Medically speaking, he said, it's probably as hard as patients finding out they have cancer or some other serious illness, because it's a loss of control over your own body and an unclear future. He encouraged me to find support, specifically through my Creighton teacher, who also struggled with infertility for several years, and through other women in our same boat. And he ended by saying he's still hopeful that we are likely to be able to conceive, it will just require time, time spent trying and tweaking different medications and treatments until my body is healthy enough to get pregnant.

There was no false hope in his message. He didn't guarantee a pregnancy anytime soon. He just suggested I find support during the hard times and understand that the solution may not be quick. He also said he's been praying for us and will continue to do so.

By the end of his response, I had pulled myself back together and was just grateful to be working with such a kind, caring doctor. On my way out the door, almost without crying, I told him how appreciative we are of all he's done for us.

Then I walked out of the office, unlocked my car, plopped down in the driver's seat, and promptly let the rest of the tears spill out all over the place. Turns out I had only done about 10% of the crying in Dr. G's office. My car saw the rest. 1.5 hours in the car of crying, praying, crying, frustration at bad drivers, praying, listening to the radio, and just wishing I was home.

I've recently started listening to K-Love in the car, the "positive, encouraging," Christian music station broadcast around the country. Though I have to be honest, the music is almost all up there on the cheesy spectrum and the messages can be a little too sugary and happy, happy, joy, joy, it's much better than the alternative of over-sexed, over-drugged, anti-Church messages that are blasted by pop, top-40 radio stations I used to listen to. So I made the switch about a month ago. And I have noticed that it has generally put me in a better mood, even with the horribly synthesized violins in almost every song and non-Catholic Christianity fluff that comes out from time to time.

So, on my ride home, I had K-Love on in the background. And they were interviewing some guy who recently wrote a book about facing tough times in your life. (I apologize now for my inability to remember the author's name and the name of his corny book title, but it's probably best I don't associate his information with the reflections I'm about to make, especially considering I only heard a small snippet of his interview.)

The hosts asked him if he could talk about the tough time in his life that inspired him to write his book. So he spoke about the time his dad was sick with a terminal illness and how, no matter how much he prayed, it never got better. And though it was one of the hardest things he's had to face, he realized two things from it. First, there's a difference between your plans and God's plans. Second, though it was heartbreaking to watch his father die, he finds peace now in being able to comfort others who are going through the same thing, the death of a loved one.

And, in my angry Stephie-state, I could only think one thing...


Now, maybe it's just because I was extremely emotionally fragile yesterday. I mean, getting your period when you're trying to get pregnant is instant dream crushage, sole sucking, anger inducing, loneliness, and brokenness all rolled into one. Not pretty.

And I can say that pretty much on any other day of the month, I'm doing alright. I find beautiful distractions that bring me joy, I have a great husband who is so fun to spend time with and who takes great care of me, I pretty much love my job (I mean, there are always little things or people who'll drive you nuts, right?), and I know we're generally headed in the right direction with all this baby stuff and overall life.

But yesterday, and still a little today, I'm wondering, what do I do when I feel so low, so forgotten, so sad that all I want to do is crawl into a ball and cry and runaway and never face this pain and disappointment again?

Because I'm pretty sure "God has a different plan for you" and "This will help you help others" are the last two things I ever want to hear when I'm at that kind of low.

I wanted to say to Mr. Interview Book-Writer Guy TELL ME SOMETHING THAT CAN ACTUALLY HELP ME WHEN I FEEL LIKE I'M 100% SUFFERING! Not something that can help me after the fact, or when I'm feeling good enough to take in the "big picture" of this whole situation.

Because it doesn't feel right to spend several hours at work trying to hold back tears. Or to spend 10 minutes crying to your doctor about things he's already trying to help fix. Or to spend 1.5 hours crying and getting mad at a radio station.

Because hearing that God is with me and on my side and carrying me through it just doesn't feel helpful when I'm so totally angry at Him for not fixing something I KNOW He can fix!

Because knowing that it's all going to be alright in 6 months, 1 year, 5 years, 20 years from now does not help the me suffering right here, right now, in this moment.

So what do I do? What do we, sufferers of any emotional, physical, spiritual pain, do?

I tried prayer. I tried motivational radio stations and motivational music. I tried leaning on my husband. None of that soothed me. Prayers are unanswered, radio station doesn't get what I'm going through, and husband is hurting just as much as me.

The best I could do yesterday was distract myself, with guilty pleasures. An episode of Glee (I don't know why I even still watch that show), an episode of Parenthood, greasy pizza, cheesecake, and an episode of Doctor Who. Plus this sunset on my drive home from the appointment...

But I don't want to have to distract myself. I don't want to live the next 3 months or 5 years of my life just waiting and praying and hoping for something that's not happening, while I am forced to do nothing but distract myself from the one thing I really want. I just want to be a mother. Why is this desire written IN BIG, BOLD LETTERS on my heart if it's going to cause so much pain? Why do I have to suffer while others out there are getting exactly what they want as soon as they want it? Why does this one thing have to be so far out of my control?

I have no answers, my friends. Just questions. Hard to answer questions.

I'm so sorry to be such a downer. I'm sure tomorrow will be better. Thank God these lows are far and few between for me. Because I really don't like being an emotional and spiritual wreck.


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