Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Casey shared this quote with me today. It's from a book called Surprised By Hope and the author is N. T. Wright.
Heaven and earth, it seems, are not after all poles apart, needing to be separated forever when all the children of heaven have been rescued from this wicked earth. They are different, radically different, but they are made for each other in the same way as male and female. And when they finally come together, that will be cause for rejoicing in the same way that a wedding is: a creational sign that God’s project is going forward; that opposite poles within creation are made for union, not competition; that love and not hate have the last word in the universe; that fruitfulness and not sterility is God’s will for creation.
Someday, things will be as they should. Someday, all of these struggles and heartaches will be redeemed. There are days when I long more for that 'someday' and days when I feel that God gives us glimpses of heaven right where we are.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Photos and Blogs

I'm working on about five new projects recently, almost all involving my photography. Hopefully I will be able to unveil some of it in the near future. For now, just trying to get it all done correctly and well. If you haven't seen me tone one of my photos, you just don't know how meticulous I can be. I've had people tell me, "Don't worry about 'fixing' the photos with Photoshop!" when I've taken pictures for them. Apparently they do not know how my brain works. Must. Tone. Photos.

I really wasn't going to blog about much today. I wanted to share about a couple of blogs that I've been reading for a while. I came across one through the other, and both of them are completely heart-wrenching. So why do I read them? I don't know...maybe so I can be reminded of my own blessings, or to be inspired by others going through huge tragedies -- ones that will never leave their minds.

The first one is called matt, liz and madeline. It started out as a regular blog, sharing with friends and family. But the day after Matt Logelin's wife Liz gave birth to their daughter Madeline -- just over twenty-four hours later -- Liz died. Now the blog is about a single father trying to figure out how to raise a child on his own, although you'll see that he thankfully has many, many helping hands in the process.

The blog I found through Matt's blog is called The Spohrs Are Multiplying. As a mother, I find this one almost unbearable to read, because it is about the loss of this couple's little 18-month-old girl Maddie in April of this year. It also started out as a regular kind of blog, but is now a picture of the daily struggles of grief. You'll find humor in there as well, and the videos of Maddie are just priceless. Don't say I didn't warn you, though...this is tough stuff.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Bath Time Enlightenment

Miles enjoys bath time. He has almost always loved it...the toys, the splashing, the (as he calls it) 'swimming.' I think there was a phase during his baby years when he just didn't want to get in the bathtub for some reason, but it didn't last long. I wish I got more enjoyment out of bathing him, but more and more it is just work.

For one thing, bath time comes at the end of the day and right before bedtime. This generally means that, unless I have had some sort of caffeinated beverage (and lately I am only having one cup of coffee in the morning), I am more ready for Miles to go to bed than he will ever be. In other words, I am pooped.

Secondly, I think Miles sees his bath time as a sort of job. As in, 'this is what I do, this is very important to me.' And here we come demanding that he stop playing and splashing for a minute so we can attempt to get him squeaky-clean. Basically we're getting in his way. And frankly, if I just didn't care if my kid was dirty and stinky I would be happy to let him play in the tub for a while and then put him to bed.

Now, not to say that my son becomes belligerent and fights me every step of the way. Not at all. It's just that he's so involved in the splashing and the pretending that he is not listening when I say, "Okay, lean your head back" and I find myself saying that or "Be still!" one hundred times. And I don't like repeating myself...especially at the end of the day. But last night, just as I got started on scrubbing Miles' hair and feeling that irritation of 'here we go again,' an illustration popped into my mind that got me thinking.

As a Christian, I know that God is always trying to work on me -- to 'create in me a clean heart' (Psalm 51:10). And what am I doing all the while? Well, I'm very busy doing what I do, the everyday things of life...some of these things are important, some not so important. But of course all of it seems important to me. God tries to get my attention in different ways, and how many times has he had to repeat himself because I'm not listening to him? If I would just 'be still and know that he is God' (Psalm 46:10) there is so much more work he could do on my heart!

That has stuck with me throughout today and I just wanted to share it with you.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Dark Coincidences

Last night was mine and Casey's weekly 'date night,' wherein we usually stay home and watch a movie or a favorite show, maybe play some Skip-Bo or Trivial Pursuit. Once in a great while we will go out for dinner and/or a movie, but because that involves paying money for the outing and a babysitter we tend to opt for the 'night in' version.

As we headed out to a church event in the early evening, Casey and I were trying to decide which of our two movie choices we would watch when we got back home and put Miles to bed. It would either be Prince Caspian or The Dark Knight. We hadn't said yet which one each of us would like to watch.

"Let's count to three and then say the name of the movie we want to see at the same time," I suggested. You can see that I am the ideas person in the family.

Casey agreed -- although I get the feeling he felt a bit silly -- and we both counted, "One...two...three..."

"Dark Knight!" we said together and then laughed.

"See, that was the best way," I told him. "Now we know for sure it's what we both want!"

And no kidding, not two minutes had gone by when we passed a Domino's Pizza where they've been having different guys standing outside with a sign advertising their $5 pizzas. Normally they're in a toga, dancing around to their iPod music, but guess what who the guy was dressed as this time?

The Joker.

My response, "It's a sign -- we picked the right movie!"

Friday, July 24, 2009

Donut? Oh, it.

I've taken a little while deciding to do this, but wanted first to explain why I am going through with it. I have added a 'Donate' button to my sidebar for those who would like to give toward our IVF journey. I've struggled with it, gone back and forth in my mind, but with the decision to go ahead there are some things I am keeping in mind.

One is that several people -- friends and family -- have already asked if they can give us some money toward our costs. I mentioned the idea for a button on the blog to Casey, and he was for it. In his words, "They don't have to give if they don't want to." Made sense to me. Which brings up the second thing I will be keeping in mind. We want you to know that we are fully aware that IVF is not a need. Casey and I do not need to have more children, but we long to have more children. Yes, to me, it can feel like a need at times because the longing and ache for another baby is so great. We may only receive donations from those friends and family who have asked if they can help, and that would be wonderful! No matter what we receive -- even if there are no donations -- we will be thankful for what we do have.

The whole IVF process won't be going into motion quite as soon as we had hoped, maybe a month later. But there are still things to be done before it all starts, like labs and tests and possibly a small procedure (don't tell me you're surprised I need another procedure!). But hopefully, after those things are said and done, we can really get started on this journey.

I want to say thank you for the prayers and really uplifting comments and emails. I had been nervous about sharing, and what to share, about what has been going on this past year. But the more I share, the more blessed I am by what you say. You really don't know how encouraged I have been lately. Thank you for listening.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Why you may not want to pick a fight with me

If you're like me, chances are you never knew there was a community of people out there bending nails. Not only that, but there are levels of nail-bending, and IronMind (link below) offers five nails: white, green, yellow, blue and RED (Blue Nails are the equivalent of a 60-D nail). I put the red nail in caps because there is a 'Red Nail Roster' of the men who have been officially certified as having bent an IronMind Red Nail -- and it's not a long list! The reason? Probably because it's a piece of CRS (Cold Rolled Steel) that measures 7" x 5/16" and people are bending it in half. There are rules for certification, and I believe part of it includes that the two ends of the red nail must be no more than two inches apart.

How do I even know about any of this? I had the opportunity to see my brother Trevor (whose biggest Red Nail bend to date is actually 6.5" x 5/16") bend several red and blue nails during our Fourth of July visit with family. He had told me well before this visit about his nail-bending ventures and I was intrigued, as I am with most mind plus matter shows of strength. I'm not talking about showing off, mind you, just about raw strength that people have and prove it by, you know, bending steel and stuff. After all, I am the same person who saw Demi Moore all those years ago doing one-armed push-ups in G. I. Jane (shush, you know some of you watched it as well) and said to myself, "Well if she can do it, surely I can!" and I set out to accomplish the one-armed push-up, and I did! I don't know if I can still do it, since it's been a good ten-plus years now. (Of course, mentioning it makes me want to try again.)

Back to the nail-bending. Trevor had brought all of his supplies...again, if you're like me you would have had no idea all that goes into this. But you can't just pick up a nail and start trying to bend it. Please don't do that. There are wraps that you need to use, not to mention specific techniques. Without the wraps, you can possibly do serious nerve damage or even pierce your hand. Without the proper technique, you probably won't have as much success -- or any at all -- in bending a nail as you would the correct way.

One of the first things out of my mouth upon seeing all the supplies and nails that Trevor had brought was, "I want to try it!" I guess this comes from seeing a very unique challenge in front of me and wondering if I could overcome it. I had no idea how it would turn out, but come on! Trying to bend a nail? Who doesn't want to try that?!?

Trevor gave me a green nail (level two, for those keeping score...and to quote my brother, "keep in mind that's a starter nail for men") and put the wraps on it, then proceeded to explain the proper technique. Had he not done that, I would be clueless, and I would account much of what I accomplished to his direction alone. What might seem like a very small thing is actually very big, because you use your entire body when bending a nail. And if you are truly putting your all into it -- mind and strength -- you feel it everywhere, and by the end you will be tired.

I did bend that green nail (seriously, would I be posting about this if I hadn't?), and I went on to bend two more that evening and one more a few days later. I also used smaller wraps that Trevor had to bend the first nail down even more. I mentioned how bending that first nail left me very tired, but the feeling of accomplishment afterward was amazing. Three years ago I had just been released from the hospital after a three-month stay, and I don't know if I could even have picked up a nail at that point, much less bend the thing.

To me this speaks volumes of what God has done, because doing this took my mental strength as well as physical, and three years ago my mind was in a very different and dark place. There were days I honestly didn't care too much about what was going on around me. Getting out of bed to brush my teeth or walk across the room sometimes took all I had. So I don't want you to think that I am being boastful about my own strength (maybe in a fun way, yes). The beauty of it is that others can see God's strength in me.

Now for the fun stuff: pictures! First you'll see both of my brothers bending a nail -- Russ first with the Blue Nail (and by the way, he had never done this before either and started with blue, which measures 6" x 1/4") then Trevor with the Red Nail, then me with my green and my final results from the first three. Also, here are some links if you're interested in learning more...

IronMind: 'Stronger Minds. Stronger Bodies.'

Red Nail Roster

Why Bend Steel? Article by 'Unbreakable' Adam T. Glass

Russ laughing in between working on the Blue Nail

He may look a little evil here, but trust me -- he's a very nice guy.

Trevor bending the Red Nail
(He had barely started and already you can see the thing bending!)

You can see how he's changed his grip here as he reaches the end

The defeated Red Nail and its conqueror
(I have to mention that from the time Trevor began until the time he held up the nail in this photo, only 34 seconds had passed. Also, he was having to hold back because he had an injured shoulder. His fastest time is 15 seconds, while the fastest in the world are about three.)

One of five or six photos of me bending the Green Nail
(While my brothers look manly doing this, I look...not all that ladylike.
So I wasn't about to show all of my photos!)

My first three Green Nails - they measure 5" x 1/8"
(The one I'm holding is the one I worked on more with smaller wraps.)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Here, Fill Out This Paperwork

The new journey I mentioned in the last post is beginning sooner than we had thought. We had an appointment at one fertility clinic for the end of August, but found another clinic further away where we would prefer to go after seeing that they offered some things the first place did not. No, it's not free vanilla lattes while you wait. Don't I wish!

Our first appointment is on Monday. Casey printed out the monstrous amount (23 pages) of 'new patient information' sheets, and we spent most of our lunch hour yesterday filling those out. Actually, I had started mine a good hour before that, because of course with the woman they need to know every tiny detail, like what you had for a midnight snack on April 23, 2007 (beets and water). While for the man it's a breezy two-page deal asking things like, "How do you feel about so-and-so being sidelined with a knee injury this year?" No...I'm not bitter.

But I digress.

I would like to say that I'm super-excited about waiting around in a sterile room for test after test, question after question, and the discussion of how romantic it will be to transfer and freeze mine and Casey's embryos. Yeah, I'd really like to say I'm excited about it. But I'm not.

What I am looking forward to -- see, I can 'look forward' to something without being excited -- is the fact that we are getting things done sooner than I thought we would. The whole process still takes a good while, up to a couple of months sometimes, so it's not like I could be making an announcement anytime soon. But still, an appointment on Monday beats an appointment at the end of August any day, right?

I'm sharing all of this lightheartedly, and in some ways I enjoy doing that because humor is how Casey and I partly survived all that crazy hospitalness a few years ago (will this woman ever stop talking about 2006?!?). The humor doesn't mean I don't hurt over it, but it does mean I'm dealing better with it than I was a week ago, two days ago, etc. It means God is at work.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

New Chapter, New Name

You may have noticed the new blog name and the scripture from Isaiah. I am officially changing the name of my blog to Beauty For Ashes -- although it's tough, because it has been Trace Talks for nearly five years. The address will, of course, remain the same.

Why that verse, why now? Some might think that this indicates that I have already been given 'beauty for ashes' -- and I have in some ways. But in the case of our current situation, we have not seen a resolution as we would have hoped just yet. Thursday was a dark day for us. To be told that you cannot have any more children without the help of a fertility doctor is so difficult to hear. And we're not even guaranteed that, at the end of our time with that doctor, we will even have a baby. There is never a 'one hundred percent' in the in vitro world, just as there isn't in natural conception. The one big difference is money.

Not sure why, but I feel the need to explain why this news is so very difficult for me to handle. If I had received this news all by itself, I think I might actually bounce back more quickly. Of course I don't know that for sure, but I do know myself pretty well. The fact of the matter is, each time I've received some kind of bad medical news in the past few years, I tend to emotionally re-live everything since April 2006. Because really, it all stems from that one single moment in time when my appendix just couldn't hold on any longer. The appendix is the reason for the long hospital stay, the months and months of recovery time, the loss of time with my baby, the many procedures and operations...and now the inability to get pregnant on our own. I think it took me a while to figure out why each new thing was so hard for me to digest, but now I find myself quickly recognizing it. Not that it makes it any easier -- like I said, Thursday was a dark day.

For me, though, re-naming the blog feels like an outward echo of my faith. I know that God will redeem this situation. What will that look like? I have no idea. Casey and I may never have another child, Miles may never have a sibling. But I believe there is so much that God sees that I don't, and he's not one to reveal everything at once. It's amazing and yet I do find myself frustrated. But would I really like to know what's around every corner? I don't think so. God must know that I couldn't handle that -- none of us could.

So here we go, off on yet another new journey, one filled with uncertainty and yes, hope. I don't know what is to come. What I do know is that God is here with me, always, and he knows what beauty will come from these ashes.

Update 2/28/12: If you have been following the blog lately, you will see that we are now expecting twins this year, praise God! By no means are these babies the means to my emotional healing from what's happened over the past almost-six years...but they are a great blessing from God and we glorify His name in all that we do.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Praying for the best...

I'm much too emotional these days. What I mean by that is that I cry much more easily than I used to. I've blamed that on lots of things, but I think when it comes down to it, this has just been one long road (is three years a long time?) of physical and emotional struggles. I still have more joy than pain, and I thank God for that. Joy and sorrow can exist side by side, but it is a strange thing.

Two days from now Casey and I will know where we stand with all of this fertility stuff. Here's the skinny on how all of this has gone down, in case you're only just joining us: my appendix rupture in April 2006 blocked my fallopian tubes, which we didn't discover until last November after trying for about nine months to get pregnant again. Surgery in December re-opened the left tube and we've been trying since then for a baby but have yet to be successful. This made me wonder if the tube is blocked again, so I am having another HSG test on Thursday morning.

If a tube is kind of...I don't know, 'clogged' or something, this test can sometimes clear it out, giving you a really good few months of being more fertile than usual. This is the outcome we are hoping for. But there may just be too many adhesions or scar tissue going on in there, and in that case the dye won't get through. It's going to be one way or the other -- clear or blocked -- and we will know right away.

Casey and I have talked about being prepared for the news that the tube is blocked. This time, unlike when I had the test in November, there will be no procedure to open the tube again. Our chances of conceiving a baby without the aid of fertility treatment will be over. This news...this is what I dread but must prepare for. I can tell you that I cried for two days after that first HSG test, so I really don't know what will happen this time. I will need to grieve and mourn, otherwise I can't fully move on. I know in my head that life in general will be okay, but my heart will need time to catch up.

In vitro fertilization would be our next step, and it all sounds easy until you start looking at how much it costs and the fact that our insurance won't cover one cent of it because it is not a 'medical necessity.' I get that, but I sure don't like it. I think the hardest part is that we could go through all of this, figure out some kind of financing, and then not even get pregnant. We basically have one shot and that's it.

It sounds like I'm getting ahead of myself before I even know the results of Thursday's test. But I can't let myself walk in there not being somewhat prepared. My heart can only handle so much, and so I need to tell myself that yes, this is what I hope, but this could also happen. I have pictured both scenarios in my mind. I didn't do that last time because I never thought I'd go in and hear the news that my tubes were both blocked, one beyond repair. It was a big shock.

I do hope that I have not come across as someone who doesn't appreciate what she has. Because I know that I have an incredible husband who has gone through it all with me, and I have a beautiful little boy who makes me smile every single day. How could I not feel blessed? But I always imagined myself having several children, and so it hurts my heart to think that might never happen.

I will do my best to update, but it may not be the day of the test. I would appreciate any prayers on our behalf, that Thursday's test will go well and that we will receive the best news possible.
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