Where Would I Be Without Friends?

First off, a brief apology. I’ve had so many texts and phone calls and messages of well wishes and questions of how things are going, and I am trying to respond as best as I can. I’ve been a bit preoccupied because 72 hours before the move, this is what my house looked like:

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I can seriously say, I have absolutely no idea where I would be without my friends. On both sides of the pond, my friends have absolutely blessed me with the best gifts they could give: loving my kiddos and helping me through a massive undertaking, supporting me practically and emotionally- cleaning out my fridge freezer, organising our things, wiping snotty noses, cooking meals, letting me stay at their houses overnight, and listening to me as I figure out the next steps. To all of my friends and family who have helped in this process, I am so overwhelmingly humbled to receive your help and love. People who love us in Texas are helping my mom and dad create toy closets and organise  their home to accommodate our family- especially because my mom’s health is possibly the worst it has ever been- so bad in fact that we are going to stay at my brother and sister-in-law’s house while we search for ours instead of my parents. The docs, rightfully so, think that the energy demands of hosting people are too taxing on her weak body. I hate multiple sclerosis, but that’s another blog post.  My brother and sister are so amazing to let us have their place. What a sacrifice, and I feel so loved.

The Chaos

In this move, we are taking 7 suitcases, a guitar, 3 carry-ons, 4 car seats, a pushchair, a large stuffed tiger, and ourselves and starting over.

We are forced to look at every single item in detail and make a decision about it. It is exhausting and tedious. It is complicated by the fact that although you are not going to be able to take an ironing board and an iron, you still need it up until the last minute- the same goes for microwaves, cars, cots, garden equipment, beds, linens, dishes . . . so the logistics have been a bit of a puzzle.

Speak Life

In an amazingly humbling and beautiful way, the goodbyes of moving allow you a really unique glance into how meaningful you have been to other people- and this has absolutely blown me away, and been the most encouraging, loving, life-giving affirmation. I hope to regularly tell people how they have impacted my life while I see them everyday- instead of waiting until their memorial service or good-bye party. I want to speak life into people and affirm them as I see them. This has given me such a motivation to do that!

Who-YA!

Today as I sped through and cleaned the entire upstairs, I got this rush of adrenaline that I can only remember having during graduate school, planning our wedding, and labour and delivery. It is this “WHO-YA!” self-esteem boost that says, “Dang girl this is really hard, but LOOK! You are doing it!”

However, I absolutely know that I could not be doing this without my village of people whom I dearly love, so many of whom, I cannot even fathom not being able to see on a daily and weekly basis. My husband James always said this would be a temporary move to the UK, but I didn’t view it that way. I poured myself into my community and built amazingly genuine and intimate relationships with so many beautiful people- from so many cultures, demographics, and age groups. I know for certain, that I have lifelong friends that will span the globe- and so in some ways, it feels silly to say good-bye- more like a “I’ll talk to you later this afternoon!”

And so today, I’m especially grateful for friends and technology that allows us to stay connected.

The Kiddos

So many people have asked about the kids- and thank you for asking.

7 year old Scarlett points two thumbs up and says, “this is me happy,” then points them down, “this is me sad.” She then sticks her thumbs together and says, “this is how I feel about the move.” She looks forward to homeschool with me for the next 18 weeks because she won’t have PE, and when she does go back to school she can have mufti-day every day (meaning no school uniforms), and desperately wants a climbing tree in our next home.

Evan, 4.5 years old, invited his grannie, lovingly called “Cheese,” to a party at his new house. When Cheese asked where his new house would be, he said “somewhere called America.” He told his nursery he would like to pack his friend Max in his suitcase. I’ve been taking photos of things to sell online. Whenever he cannot find something, he scrunches his eyebrows and asks me “DID YOU TAKE A PICTURE OF IT MUM?” I think he thinks I have a magic disappearing camera, lol.  He has had a lot of moves in his little lifetime. The night before our last move, James asked Evan if he would like to help move houses the next day.  Enthusiastically, he said, “Yes daddy! I will push reallllly hard.”

So in 48 hours and 18 minutes I have to say a goodbye to my home- I wish I could just pull Texas closer to England or pack my friends in the suitcase with me.

There is more to say, but tears are filling my eyes (again) so for now, it’s a goodnight.

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How to be a Friend to a Woman Experiencing Infertility

Baby #3 is due in July. I am overwhelmed by the grace and privilege it is to have children.  In a future post, I’ll explain why doctors said infertility was going to be my story,  but for today, might I just express my anguish over this topic?

When a full term baby of a friend was stillborn last year, I wept.  I was devastated, sad, angry, frustrated, feeling guilty of my own healthy babies, and in grief over the unfathomable pain in this loss. I didn’t know how to be a friend particularly being pregnant. There is no way you can know this level of pain without having experienced it, but can I still be a support system?

Through my tears, I prayed: “God, how do I begin to pray with and for my friends who can’t have a baby?”  God reminded me how close He is to the woman who struggles with infertility. The Bible is full of stories of women crying out to God to have a baby, to heal a sick child, to stop the pain of watching a sister give birth over and over in the middle of her own barrenness.

Thinking about the position of women in Biblical times, it is pretty remarkable that so many women’s stories are recorded:

Sarah, wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac;

Rebekah, wife of Isaac and mother of Jacob and Esau;

Rachel, wife of Jacob, mother of Joseph and Benjamin;

Manoah’s wife, the mother of Samson;

Hannah, wife of Elkanah, mother of Samuel;

Elizabeth, wife of Zacharias and mother of John the Baptist,

and a Shunammite Woman, whose husband and son are unnamed.

God reminded me that He lost His only son, and that He is close to these families in the middle of their struggle.  Side note: I would be super pissed off if I couldn’t give my husband a son so he knocked up some concubine or second wife instead (which was culturally accepted). I’m glad that’s history.

Back then, you had midwives’ tales, herbal remedies, and prayer. I’m thankful that there are so many fertility options these days, but when they fail, I can imagine it makes the pain that much greater. Think about the investment of time off work, energy spent researching doctors and options, hours spent in obstetrician offices (seeing a steady stream of preggo ladies waddling in and out), medication management, taking your basal temperature faithfully, navigating the emotional roller coaster of counting days and cycles and taking negative pregnancy tests. It breaks my heart.

And to add insult to injury, fertility treatment is expensive.  Many families take out a loan to cover infertility treatments. IVF isn’t usually a couples’ first resort, and it can set you back upwards of $12,000 per cycle.  The L&D of a stillborn baby? Costs money. How about a D&C? Hope you have already met your out-of-pocket deductible for the year.  Need time off to heal? Good luck getting paid time off.

All the costs of bringing a baby into the world are worth it when there is a baby at the end of the journey, but what about when it doesn’t happen? Devastating emotionally. Often crippling financially.

So I don’t always know how to be a friend to women who cannot get pregnant– and truth be told, I don’t always know who is trying to concieve or who has experienced a miscarriage.

So what can I do as a pregnant mom friend?

1) Listen.

2) Stop stupid advice

“It happens when you aren’t trying so hard” or “You can always adopt” or “Baby was clearly not meant to be.” That is hurtful and ignorant. If you don’t know what to say, say “I’m so sorry” or be honest, “I don’t even know what to say.”

2) Learn about all the details about their fertility journey–

and ride the roller coaster at each stage as much as the mom and dad want to share.

3) Stop badgering

married-but-no kids friends about getting pregnant. They might be trying desperately. Be sensitive when asking about future siblings, too.

4) Don’t avoid the elephant in the room.

I’m pregnant and a mom, and this is what that gal wants badly. So say so. “Gosh. It sure is unfair that some women get pregnant without having to go through all of this. I’m really, really sorry. Does it hurt too much for me to talk about being pregnant or having kids? Will you tell me if something is just too much?”

5) Don’t make assumptions.

Each woman is unique in how she responds and in each stage, she might respond differently.  Ask her about it. Is it worse to be surrounded by baby stuff after a miscarriage or not being invited to a party with your friends? Only the woman can answer that question, so ask. Give her some options and an out if she needs it.

5) Allow for the emotional craziness.

First trimester hormones make anyone else a bit weepy and erratic? Try those hormones + coming off those hormones + grief and you have a recipe for some nuttiness. Don’t take it personally. Lots of grace. Lots of space.

6) Ask about these little angels even years later.

I’ve talked to women who are 85+ about miscarriages in their 20’s. You know what? These mamas never forget those babies. Give these ladies an opportunity to share. It is good medicine and healing. Ask about names, dates, and if it was full term, what the baby looked like, how the baby is remembered from year to year. Let the mom tell her story. There is a really amazing organisation in the States of professional photographers who come and capture the few precious moments with moms and dads with their little ones who aren’t expected to live long. What a gift.

7) Know the pain lasts even years later.

Recognise that having a baby following a miscarriage might lessen, but doesn’t get rid of the grief for a lost baby. In some ways, moms have told me it is worse because they actually know what they are missing out on.


What can couples experiencing infertility do?

1) Let us know what is helpful.

Don’t leave us guessing. If you need space, say so. If you need a girls’ night out, let me plan one. If being around kiddos is healing, come to the zoo with us. Remind us as moms what a blessing it is to be one. Somedays we forget what a miracle life is and take it totally for granted.

2) Keep us informed.

Share the details as and when you are able; allow us to pray. Don’t carry the weight of miscarriage/infertility on your own. I cannot believe how many friends have said they have had struggles getting and staying pregnant only to find out several other friends have too. It is so much more common than one would think. You aren’t alone in this.

3) Let us cry with you . . .

and let us celebrate with you when you do conceive or go through an adoption process.

4) Cry and celebrate with us.

Don’t hold it against moms who have babies. Someday, we hope you will too. We each have our own unique struggles, ones we would never wish on each other. Let’s build each other up; we can walk this road together.

 

Boot Scooting Birthday!

Bootscoot-5I had such a blast hosting a line dancing party on my birthday. I love living in England for the diversity. Around my table, I had two Americans, a German, an Italian, an Australian, a girl born in Vietnam but raised all over Europe, a girl raised in the Middle East, and three well-traveled English gals. We are basically the UN.
To know me is to know my love for good friends, good parties, and good photography. Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman, has always been my celebrity fave because she combines those loves- food, parties, and photography. She is a chef on the Food Network and hosts an amazing blog. On the plane to Dallas last month for my friend Amy’s memorial service, I had this huge privilege to meet her producer, and I basically freaked out. The PW inspired me to love cooking and gave me the confidence that I can.  She takes step-by-step photos so you know you are on the right track (or frequently— not).  So how stinking excited was I to receive a signed copy from the producer? Basically over the moon!

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My Signed PW cookbook!

Of course, like any dinner party I host, my birthday menu consisted of PW creations. I’ll convert the UN to PW fans in no time. We worked off our Tiramisu, baked by my new Italian friend, by line dancing to The Boot Scootin’ Boogie, the Cotton Eye Joe & The Cupid Shuffle. Lots of laughs all around, and a pretty amazing birthday! Cherio! Ciao! Auf wiedersehen!

Bootscoot-6Click here for the salad recipe. It was amazing.

Saying Good-Bye

I recently wrote this tribute to share at my friend Amy’s memorial service. Amy was one month older than me and just celebrated her 28th birthday a few weeks before she died. She was in and out of the hospital for her entire life, and truly lived as if every day could be her last– fully & completely.  I want a life that is characterised by how I loved people. I am sure there will be more on this topic as I continue to process the loss of such a substantially influential person in my life, but for now, I would love to share this tribute:

Amy & Laura: Friends Forever

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