New “Normal”

“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal,
Love leaves a memory no one can steal.”

Death has always been something that I have struggled with.  I’m not sure exactly why, but it hits me on a level that is so deep, it’s hard for me to understand.  I’ve lost grandparents, I’ve lost beloved pets, I’ve lost close friends … but at the beginning of August, our family suffered the unexpected loss of my baby brother.

I’ll never forget the phone call.  My phone rang at 4am and it was my mom – any phone call at 4am is generally not a good call.  I answered the phone to my mom sobbing uncontrollably before she handed the phone to her pastor, who was there supporting her.  He said “I know we have never met and I hate to be the one to tell you this but your brother, Dale, passed away this evening.”  My response?  “SHUT UP.  You’re LYING.”  My husband, who was still in bed, said “WHAT?!” and flew into the living room faster than I’ve seen him move before.  I don’t remember how I got from where I answered the phone, to the couch to sit down.

I started sobbing as I was listening to the pastor talk, but I don’t remember any of the words that followed.  After I hung up, J asked me what happened.  Through sobs of disbelief I said “my brother died.”  I then had to make a call I dreaded; to my sister.  I’ll never forget her response either – or how I had never wished I could fly any more than I did at that moment, so that we could just hug and sob together.

We got on a plane to California and were there that evening.  As I laid on the couch in the house I grew up in trying to sleep, memories flooded my mind of our childhood.  Playing on the swing set in the backyard, Christmases spent with the family all together, digging tracks in the backyard for our matchbox cars, playing hide-and-seek in the darkness, blanket forts, summer circus performances.  All the general shenanigans that siblings get into when the only kids we have to play with are each other…  While I have always loved those memories, they have a whole new meaning now.

The next morning, a dear friend drove and picked me up from our dad’s house and took me back home to Big Bear.  I remember as we got closer and closer to town my heart raced like a NASCAR vehicle at breakneck speed and my insides trembled so violently, I felt sick to my stomach.  My aunt greeted me at the door when I arrived and all I could do was cry and shake from the inside out.  It was so surreal being in the home my brother lived in and not have him come out to bother me immediately.  Because what more are brothers good for than to annoy the snot out of their older sisters?

If I was wearing my hair in a bun, he loved to either squeeze it or stick his finger in the middle of it.  He loved to flap the skin on the back of my arm while gobbling like a turkey.  He loved to open the claw clips I wore in my hair after I got it JUST RIGHT.  He loved to stick his finger in my mouth when I was yawning.  He loved to call me these nicknames that made absolutely NO SENSE to anyone except us … and I would give ANYTHING to hear him say it again.

It has been almost 3 months since we lost him and to be honest, it feels like it’s still not quite real.  I STILL find myself reaching for the phone to call him when I see something that reminds me of him or I want to tell him something.  And I immediately fall apart.  The tears seem to come at the most random times and the pain hits at often the most inopportune moments.  But is there ever REALLY a right time for pain to hit?

About a month or so ago, I got the question “how many siblings do you have?” for the first time since he passed.  I know the answer and his death doesn’t change the answer, but the pain that accompanied the question hit me so fast and hard, I felt my knees buckle.

As most of my close friends and family know, I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety my entire life.  Losing my brother has amplified that to a degree that has absolutely SHOCKED ME.  There are days that I can make it through okay and then there are days when I can only manage a second at a time.

I always thought grief was this linear process.  There are certain phases, so you passed the first one and CHECK, then the second and CHECK, and so on.  But let me tell you, friends,  THAT. IS. A. LIE.  Grief is this ever-changing, constantly moving, feeling-all-the-processes at once thing.  Some moments, I think of the memories and smile.  Other moments, I think of the memories and it’s all I can do to not completely fall apart when I realize those memories are just that.  Memories.  And while I cherish them, I get sad/angry/frustrated/feel cheated that we can’t make any more.

Feeling broken is NOT a feeling I am used to.  I’m the strong one.  I’m the one that holds it together.  I’m the one that doesn’t show emotion.  I’m the one being leaned on.  But that’s not me right now.  And I’m trying to teach myself that that’s okay.  It’s okay to fall apart sometimes.  It’s okay to cry.  It’s okay to not have to apologize for doing all of that.

We are all adjusting to this loss.  Some days it feels heavy and real.  Some days it feels like it just can’t be real.  Some days it feels like the pain will never end.  Some days it feels like I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  I do wish I knew which days would be which so I could plan accordingly, but I guess that’s all part of learning to live in our new “normal”.

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Well, Hello There!

Long time, no see!

I want to take a second to just say THANK YOU.  To all of you that have unconditionally supported – and continue to support – us through all the trials we’ve faced in the last 4-5 years.  It’s certainly been a roller coaster and we could NOT have made it through without the love, prayers, and encouragement that we have received.

I’ve not shared much of what happened on our adoption journey and I guess it was mostly because – for a while – we were just waiting.  While we were waiting, one of my tasks was to create a book that our adoption agent could use to show to prospective birth families.  It was supposed to have pictures of us, stories about us, where we live, grew up, what we like to do for fun, etc.

Folks, let me tell you – that book was HARD.

You know how movies have previews?  And it’s basically the highest/funniest points of the movie shown?  The ones that really sell you on the movie and make you say ” I HAVE to see that!”?  I kinda felt like that’s what we were doing.  I know it sounds a little taboo to say that we were ‘selling’ ourselves, but it felt that way.  I felt like we needed to find the best pictures and the best stories so that we’d really catch someone’s eye.  And the more I worked on the book, the more my emotions started building.

My emotions were already crazy heightened (I’m sure my husband would be happy to vouch for that), but this seemed to tip me right over the edge.  Aside from all of the obvious unfairness about adoption – birthmothers placing their children, adoption agencies making so much dang money, etc. – it did NOT feel fair that someone else got to choose if and when we got to be parents based on whether or not they liked our book.

If you know me, you know that I’ve struggled with deep, dark depression for many years.  I fought that darkness for so long while dealing with treatments and miscarriages, but all of a sudden, the perfect storm converged and I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

Being a mother is something that I have longed for as far back as I can remember.  And after getting married, being a parent became a shared dream.  Never would I have thought it would stay a dream.

We fought long and hard to reach our goal.  We gladly gave up a lot of things and cut back on so many more to save everything we could.  We were asked by so many amazing people how they could help, so we reached out to all of you and you stepped up in ways we never could have imagined.  All of your donations got us SO MUCH FURTHER than we ever could have gotten alone.  And we could never fully thank all of you properly.

But as I started looking at our life, I realized that – even though the cost of adoption was high, the price we were paying through health and our marriage was even higher.

J was working two jobs (still is) and I was stretched so thin emotionally, that it started manifesting itself physically.  After talking (A LOT), praying (A LOT), crying (just me but A LOT), and realizing that we’d exhausted our donations and funds towards the adoption, we decided that we were going to just take a step back.

From the day we got married, we were so focused on starting a family that we forgot to recognize that we already WERE one.

So, that’s where we are now.  We’ve put adoption on hold and are spending time learning how to just be who we are instead of stressing over who we could be.

T-Shirts! Get Your T-Shirts!

Hi!  I know it’s been quite awhile!!  Life has been a little crazy!  But guess what?!?!

We are officially homestudy approved for adoption!!  YAY!

Thus begins another fundraiser!!

Through a GREAT website, I’ve designed a t-shirt (well, with the help of J and A, and after some voting) and officially launched our campaign!

The way it works it is – starting today, you will have 17 days to choose between a t-shirt, a woman’s fitted tee and a hoodie!  You will be able to choose between direct delivery, or if you live close to us, free pick-up!  You will “pay” for your t-shirt, but won’t actually be charged unless we reach our goal!  I know that the direct delivery option can add up depending on how many products you purchase, so if you’re going to purchase quite a few and it might save a few $$’s to set it up as free pick-up and sent to us, we can work out a way to get it shipped to you!

We’ve set the goal at 50.  Once that goal is reached, they will begin printing t-shirts and they will ship about 2 weeks after the campaign has ended.  Unfortunately, if we don’t hit our goal, the t-shirts won’t be printed…  but the upside is, you won’t be charged!  Whether or not we hit our goal, we will likely re-launch it when the campaign ends, and we may even change-up the colors a little bit!

We will receive a great percentage of the profits that will go straight towards our match and placement fees!!

So, if you’d like to help us and get a cool t-shirt in the meantime, please click below to check it out!!

T-Shirt Fundraiser to Bring Home Munchkin McNabb!!!

Thank you all SO much for all of your love and support!!  Not to mention patience with me being such a non-consistent blogger!

2014 in review

What an awesome feature!! Thank you to all of you who read and interact and pray and support!!!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here's an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

2014 – 1, Me – 0

I know I’m not the only one that is glad that 2014 is OVER.  It was a rough year!

The last couple months were especially rough.  Not just because of the holidays.

We hadn’t told anyone, but we had been approached with a private adoption situation and were OVER THE MOON about it!  It seemed that we were FINALLY going to be parents!  We learned early last month that that possibility was gone.  It was very heartbreaking.  You don’t realize how invested your heart becomes so quickly.

I’ve been fighting off depression pretty badly.  Some days, it seems like I’m winning the battle.  Other days, it seems that the light at the end of the tunnel is barely flickering.  My husband has been so patient and loving with me.  I’m not entirely sure how he puts up with me sometimes.  Of course, I put up with him, too so I guess we’re even!  Well, that and he’s working a second job so I think that helps, too!

With J working a second job, I spend quite a bit of time alone.  It’s not always so bad, but I do get pretty lonely.  He’s been saying that I need to find something to do when he’s not here and because a lot of my depression (I think) comes from hating my body so much, I have decided that going to the gym is the perfect answer!  I find a hobby AND I can get in shape while doing it!  Talk about a WIN-WIN!!  (And NO, it’s NOT a New Years resolution!!)

I blame a lot of the extra weight I’m carrying on the fertility meds that I took for our IUI’s, but having a somewhat sedentary job and not doing much physical activity when I’m at home certainly hasn’t helped that!

I’m a little afraid to share with the world that I need to lose weight, but let’s face it, anyone that looks at me knows that’s no secret!  And the reason that I’m telling the world – well, the part of the world that reads this and actually cares – is because part of the battle is admitting weakness.  And the other part is accountability.

I am making a valiant effort to kick 2015’s butt and not the other way around!!

Also, if you follow me on Instagram or we are friends on Facebook, I have been participating in a really neat 60-day challenge that has been designed to let people in on our lives and get to know us better.  Here is the list of pictures that I will be sharing!

hopingtoadopt60days

This is in the hopes that through word-of-mouth we may be able to find the perfect match to help complete our family!  If you’re interested in following, you can “like” our Facebook page “Bringing Home Munchkin McNabb” or follow me on Instagram – @neeners079!!  It’s been a lot of fun so far!

Hope to see you there!

The Priceless Cost

Have you ever thought about the word ‘just’?  I think people use it too flippantly these days.  It’s used as an answer to almost every solution.  Here is a list of my favorite ‘just’ solutions for infertility:

  • ‘Just relax’ (been there)
  • ‘Just let go/don’t stress/don’t think about it’ (done that)
  • ‘Just drink a bottle of wine’ (drank LOTS of that)
  • ‘Just try artificial insemination/IVF’ (yup, done some of that, too)
  • ‘Just adopt’

Here’s my little nugget of wisdom.  Get a pen and a piece of paper and take notes…  Go ahead, I’ll wait.   Ready?

There is no ‘just’ about anything that has to do with any painful situation.

Any situation where a decision needs to be made that could significantly alter the outcome of an original perception requires intense discussion, pondering and most importantly, prayer.

As most of the people in our lives know (and heck, any stranger who will listen), J and I are in the process of adoption.  After our unsuccessful battle with infertility, we did some soul-searching and praying and decided that it wasn’t as important for us to be pregnant as it was for us to be parents.

November is National Adoption Awareness Month.  In 1976 in Massachusetts, Governor Mike Dukakis proclaimed National Adoption Week.  President Gerald Ford made the first National Adoption Week proclamation and in 1990, the week was extended to a month due to the excitement and participation by so many people and states.  There’s even one day of the month that is proclaimed as National Adoption Day and many adoptions are finalized all at the same time!  I just think that’s neat!

I have been criticized VERY harshly in the last couple days about the way I see adoption (as an amazing blessing), even to the point where I was told that I don’t deserve to have children and that me not being able to get pregnant must have been God’s way of telling us that we shouldn’t be parents and that there is no way that I could ever love an adopted child unconditionally because we HAVE to adopt and not WANT to adopt due to infertility.

The “conversation” – a term I use VERY loosely as it was more just overly assertive, opinionated people trying to get everyone else to believe exactly the way that they do rather than hear what anyone else has to say – escalated very quickly and left me feeling ashamed, embarrassed, scared, naïve and unprepared, to say the very least.

But as I remove myself from the “support group” – HA – that I got the criticism from, I realize that my opinion is just that.  MINE.

Every parent is frightened before they have their first child.  Ever parent wonders if they’ve screwed up monumentally along the way.  But every parent loves their child in an unconditional way that can’t be judged, deemed unworthy, viewed incorrectly or questioned by anyone else.

I say again:  Biology is the LEAST of what makes someone a parent!

I am beyond excited to meet the child that we will give a forever home to and love with every single nook and cranny of our hearts.  My heart pines and my arms ache for our child to come home.

To be woken repeatedly through the night to take care of someone who needs me.  To hear the pitter-patter of little feet.  To see daddy holding on to the bicycle seat while running alongside.  To wipe away tears after a broken heart.  To celebrate Mother’s and Father’s Day from the inside.

And to the parents who love their child enough to make the painful, selfless decision to entrust them to us to love them enough for all of us, my heart will be eternally grateful.

We all have learning to do, growth to be made, challenges to be met, disappointments to face, joy to share…  And in this month of awareness, I know that I am learning and growing.  I’m facing challenges and disappointment.  But the joy that I will be able to share will be so worth it.

Home Study:  $1,500
Background Checks:  $250
Legal Fees:  Cost undetermined
Having a child to call our own:  Priceless

Doing What We Say

I KNOW!  It’s been FOREVER since I’ve posted a blog!  I hope you all don’t hate me!!

There has been SO much going on!  I can’t share it all just yet, but it’s REALLY exciting!

(**Disclaimer**  I know every time an infertile uses the words “It’s REALLY exciting” people’s minds wander, so let me put that question to rest now – I’m NOT pregnant!)

Fair Warning:  This blog might make you uncomfortable, and that’s kinda the point.  It might seem like a total rant, and that’s okay.  My goal is to challenge you – to make you think twice or even three times before making some decisions or statements.

I’ve said it before – this journey is hard!

It’s difficult to try SO hard for something, to want something SO badly, to pray for something SO fervently, to fight for something SO passionately …  and not get it.

And when you find a way that you MIGHT get the chance to realize that dream but have no way of affording it,  it’s even harder to swallow our pride and ask for help.

I’ve had people be so much more incredibly supportive than I ever could have imagined.

I’ve also had people tell me that if I can’t afford to do IVF or adoption, I shouldn’t be a parent at all.

I’ve had people tell me that because I can’t get pregnant, it’s God’s way of telling me that I shouldn’t be a parent at all.

I’ve had people tell me that asking others for money to be a parent is a selfish thing to do and if I’m selfish maybe I shouldn’t be a parent at all.

 If it’s in an email or a message, I simply ignore it.  If it’s said to my face, I simply smile and nod.  (I may or may not say something equally inappropriate sometimes just to embarrass people and make them realize they are out of line making certain statements.)

I know I’ve shared a friend’s blog before that was SO important to me.  She talked about how doing something – even something small – can go such a long way.

We have people telling us all the time how much they support us.  And how they pray for us.  And how they hope we raise a lot of money.  We appreciate it ALL!

There are people who will pray with me in person and there are those that share our story or YouCaring link every single time I post it.  And that’s amazing!!

But I often wonder…  When people say they pray for us, do they pray for us by name?  Do they say they’re going to pray and then forget?  ( I’m guilty of that and even wrote about how I get caught in the “I’ll pray for you” web here )

Almost every day,  I see some of the same people – friends and family – who tell us they support us sharing link after link of crowdfunding accounts for people they may or may not know.  But I’ve yet to see our link shared.

I’m not saying that our story matters more.  Or that anybody else’s story matters less.  Everyone deserves the opportunity to receive the help that they’ve asked for!

I don’t mind that these people share those links one bit!  In fact, on most of them, I think it’s a great way to raise awareness, and I pray that they receive their miracle – whatever it may be!

What I DO mind is feeling that our story just isn’t important enough to share.  Or that declarations of support are simply lip service or “saying the right thing”.

Listen – I’m NOT saying that we expect you to donate a million dollars, a hundred dollars or even ten dollars, we understand that times are tough.  I’m NOT saying that we expect every person to drop everything to pray with us right that second.  I’m NOT saying that we expect people to go out of their way or over the top to show their support.

What I AM saying is,

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

If you tell someone you support them,  show it.  Send a card.  Offer to help where it’s needed.  Take them out for coffee.  Let them cry without offering advice.  Share a link.  Like their post.  Participate in their trials & joy!

Maybe there’s someone in your list of friends that is suffering with something silently, and seeing you share something that lets them know they’re not alone is just what they need.

When you tell someone you’re going to pray for them, say a little prayer silently in that moment.

It’s a hard thing to do, I know.  But it only takes doing something 28 times before it becomes a habit!  And having the opportunity to bless 28 people?  Wow.

If I made you uncomfortable, good.  If I made you think, good.  If I made you say to yourself ” I will say a prayer for someone right then when I tell them I will”, good!

I’m not just preaching here, I am working every day at doing what I say!

Will you practice doing what we say?!