Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Signing Off

I'm taking an extended vacation from blogging. I'm not sure when I'll post here or on Our Shady Tree again. What I feel like writing most of the time I don't feel like making available to the world (boy, do I think highly of myself, eh?) I'm thinking that signals a time for introspection without considering what other people might say. I'll still be dropping by your blogs from time to time ~ just not as often as I used to. Feel free to send an email. I really would love to hear from you.

If you're just dying to read my writing, I will still be working on my 52 Books or Bust. I'm really enjoying that project and I'm always looking for suggestions on what to read next. Feel free to drop by anytime.

I love and appreciate you all. Have a happy spring.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Should Cancer Stop You In Your Tracks?

It was recently reported that John Edwards' wife's breast cancer has returned to her bones. A press conference was held to discuss this finding and to let the public know that he would be continuing his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination for 2008. I saw portions of an interview the couple did with Katie Couric this morning. Although faced with a terrible diagnosis, Elizabeth Edwards seems confident and strong. The couples' love for each other shines through. It must be difficult to have to be so public about this.

Although I've been conservative most of my life, I have grown much more moderate over the past few years. I have no political opinion about John Edwards as a potential candidate. I'm not following any of the 2008 presidential news right now anyway. It's just too early in the process for me. Still, this story has caught my interest. Not as a voter, but as a wife.

Were I in her shoes, I am not certain that I would be happy with my husband's decision to move forward with a run for political office that might keep him away from me when I need him the most. Is it selfish to hold a spouse back from pursuing a dream under those circumstances? Or, is it better to face cancer with a fight and continue to live as if it weren't there?

I would be interested in your opinions. This is not an easy situation.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

So, You're Thinking about Joining Weight Watchers

A good friend called me last night. She’s taking the plunge and joining Weight Watchers today for the first time. She talked about how hard she thought it will be. I am having a hard time with my weight right now, that’s true. Still, when you’re in the groove with WW, it’s not hard at all. It’s all in the mindset. I was thinking about this after I got off the phone with her. Once you become a mother, your focus is on caring for them. For some people, that may be a contributing factor to weight gain itself. WW can be a wonderful way to put some emphasis and energy back on yourself. It doesn’t matter if you need to lose 5 pounds of 500, when you join WW for yourself, it is a rewarding experience. It’s not just the half hour meeting. It’s the time you then take each day to make healthy choices, to work some activity into your day, and to record how your day went.

Those minutes of caring for yourself each day add up. You become in tune with your body. You look forward to small things like planning a meal or figuring how you are going to work a special meal or event into your program. I’ve never been one for word problems or math in general, but I get a kick out of being creative like that. In the past, walking has been my activity of choice. I would look so forward to those walks, especially if I was walking by myself. It gave me the opportunity to work through things in my head. I also liked to challenge myself to walk farther faster or to make it up the next big hill. I would get home from those walks and feel so good.

Another rewarding part about joining Weight Watchers is simply going to the meetings. You are able to talk about your experiences with people who have been there and can empathize and/or celebrate along with you. The reverse is true as well. There were several times when people would walk up to me after a meeting and thank me for something I said in a past meeting. I always took the opportunity to do the same. When you have a weight problem, your self-esteem has usually taken more than its fair share of hits. This gives us the opportunity to build each other up. We are strong, intelligent, and worthwhile people.

Finally, there is the scale. The first time you weigh in may not be that fun. Moping about it won’t get you anywhere. Think of it as the beginning of a fabulous adventure. Even Indiana Jones has to start somewhere. That number is just a number. When your successes come flowing in ~ weight loss, looser-fitting clothes, increased energy ~ it is simply a point of reference. If it has any power, its to remind you of how far you’ve come. Most importantly, you have to have a beginning weight so that you can measure your weight loss to date. I don’t care if it’s .8 or 8.0, I was always proud to share my weight loss. After leaving my meetings, I called my husband, my sister who inspired me to join WW, and my parents. Since I live so far away from my family, it’s nice to give them the week-by-week rundown to let them start to imagine what you will look like the next time they see you.

[Good friend, I'd love to start calling each week to brag about our successes.]

As it happens, I’m joining WW tomorrow. These words of advice and encouragement are as much for my friend as they are for me. I am going to walk into my meeting tomorrow hopeful for the future and happy to start the process reconnecting with my body. My body and I may very well feel betrayed from time to tome, but that’s not the way it is. We’re a team.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Onward Ho!

I’ve been thinking pretty seriously about discontinuing blogging recently. I can say that I write for myself all that I want, but if that were true, I could keep an anonymous diary somewhere in cyberspace or using the traditional writing medium of paper. The truth is that I enjoy getting comments. It’s nice to know that there are other people out there who took the time to read what I have been writing.

I have some loyal and wonderful readers out there. I love and appreciate every single one of you! Truly I do. Still, what am I supposed to think when my own dearly beloved family of origin doesn’t read my blogs? I know that they love me, but it’s still very telling. What I have to say is either of no interest or too morose. It has to be easier to be far away when you don’t know too much about your daughter/sister’s pain. If I were writing in that paper diary in the sky, I wouldn’t have to think about those things.

Joining MyBlogLog was my last effort to scientifically (ha!) determine if keeping up with my blogs is worth it. There have been some interesting things that I have discovered. A Google search on “Allison is watching,” “canine orajel,” or “criss cross bears” will return a link to Our Shady Tree on the first page. Okay, the search on “Allison is watching” is a little disturbing. Who searched on that? Why? Still, what random ways to find your way to my blog?

Today, MyBlogLog has really paid off. I checked my stats from yesterday and discovered something I find wonderful. Another blogger, Crazyzim, found 52 Books or Bust and has decided to embark on that journey for herself. In reading the comments on her post about it, I discovered that she was “SO excited” to find my blog because it gives her ideas for books to read.

Crazyzim didn’t leave a comment. That’s okay. I’m just thankful that I was able to find out that she had been there. It’s breathed new life in me for blogging. I may never get to a place where there are more than four comments on a single post. I won’t know without some perseverance.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


I am tired. Exhausted. I want to sleep for a very long time. I want for more than two weeks to feel good and comfortable in my own skin. I'm not at that point yet. I've got a lot of work to do. It will be worth it. I know that it will be. It's just getting there. Again.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Is There Anybody Out There?

I joined MyBlogLog last night in an attempt to see how many times my blogs are accessed. I don’t really have any other way of knowing unless people leave comments. As much as I keep telling myself that I blog for myself, that’s not entirely true. I enjoy reading comments and learning about other blogs. It’s nice to know that there are others out there.

After signing up, I had a little time to explore other members. I used “PPD” and “post partum depression” and guess what I discovered? I am the only one out there, at least on MyBlogLog. I told Danny about that. It sure can make you feel alone. I know that I’m not the only person who experienced PPD. Isn’t someone else writing about it? There are communities out there for so many other childbearing-related experiences. It can be such an incredible source of support. If anyone is interested, you know where to find me.
“Writing eases my suffering... writing is my way of reaffirming my own existence.”
Gao Xingjian

Friday, March 9, 2007

The Joshua Tree ~ Almost Legal

20 years ago today, the most influential work of art entered my life. The Joshua Tree was released. It won't be long until people who have reached majority in this country will have been born after this album was released. It's hard to believe.

In those 20 years, this album has inspired me in countless ways, it has helped me grieve a lost friend and a lost uncle, it's calmed me in more nerve wracking experiences than I care to remember, and, most recently, it's helped me reconnect with myself while suffering from post-partum depression. Who knew then that I would still be listening to it more than any other album I've ever owned? I look forward to the other places this album will travel with me.

Over the years, my favorite songs have changed from one to the next. At one point or another, I've probably listened to all of them on repeat. I bought this album for "With or Without You." "Trip Through Your Wires" became a fast favorite. If I had to pin myself down to just one, I would pick "Red Hill Mining Town." I can't explain why. It just speakes so beautifully to me.

Over the past year or so, while watching Miami Ink, I've thought about what tattoo I would pick if I were to get one myself. It took me some time to pick an image, but "the" Joshua Tree from the back cover art is what I would choose, with the mountains in the background. While working my way through therapy, I've thought of my time with PPD as my time in the desert. If I've learned anything it's that even while you are in the desert, there is beauty all around if you open your eyes. This picture represents that beauty to me. I can't say that I'll ever get a tattoo, but if I do, this will be it. I can picture myself in Miami right now with Kat Von D as my tatoo artist. I'll be listening to The Joshua Tree and I'll be thinking of all the beauty I've experienced in my life.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

ROA Confidential

This is going to be no where near as sexy as LA Confidential. If you feel tricked into reading this, I'm sorry.

I have been feeling so strong and confident for the past week. I noticed that I have been walking taller and thinking more positively about myself. Now I'm purposefully making that a part of my day. I have set some short term goals and some long term goals that are just about me and just for me. I have lost 5 pounds and have been making an effort to get exercise five days a week. I can't tell you how good that makes me feel inside.

I am so thankful to feel like I've finally returned home within myself. I'm ready and feel prepared to move on to the next stage in my life. I don't know exactly what that is, but I'm excited to find out.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Random Thoughts Going Nowhere

I haven't posted here for a long time. To be honest, it's not because of lack of content. It's because I can't nail down one topic long enough to make a post worth while. My thoughts are flying all over the place. Here are the highlights:

1. My faith and new church and my parents' reactions.
2. What is motherhood? What does it mean that for some women in certain situations that there has to be a qualifier? How do I reconcile the differences between being Emma's adoptive mother and Allison's mother? Does the qualifier make my relationship to Emma more or less special? What about Allison? If I just call myself Allison's mother, what does that mean? If there are terms for first mothers and adoptive mother and foster mothers, ought there not be a different use of the word mother for women who give birth to and raise a child?
3. There seem to be similarities in post-partum experiences between women whose pregnancies end in adoption and those who suffer from PPD. Can you place a child for adoption and not experience PPD? How would a parenting mother's experiences with PPD change had she chose not to parent? Just curious.
4. What do you say to people who have lost a child?
5. Did I really go to school to end up here?
6. Why is it that every time I attempt to watch a serious news programs that the discussion is inevitibly about Anna Nicole and Britney? Isn't that what the tabloids are for?

That's all, folks!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Prayer Request

We just found out this morning that Ryan O'Hara, Danny's second cousin, was killed in a tragic car crash. Ryan was one of three brothers in a very close knit family. He was a college student with a bright future. Please pray for Ryan, his brothers, and his parents, Barbara and Terrence.

Ryan, may you be in peace with Christ.

Friday, February 9, 2007


I just caught this headline from Drudge:

Elie Wiesel was attacked by a Holecaust Denier

What is wrong with this world? Why do we feel it's necessary to violently assault those who hold opinions opposite to ours?

I read three of Wiesel's books in my Literature of the Holocaust class at Hollins University. I can't tell you how beautiful yet painful they were to read. Night should be required reading.

Unfortunately, the man taking credit for the attack believes differently:

In a posting Tuesday on the anti-Zionist Web site ZioPedia, a writer using the name Eric Hunt takes credit for the attack: “After ensuring no women would be traumatized by what I had to do (I had been trailing Wiesel for weeks), I stopped the elevator at the sixth floor. I pulled Wiesel out of the elevator. I said I wanted to interview him.”

Wiesel grabbed at his chest and yelled for help, according to the posting. “I told him, ‘Why don’t you want people to know the truth?’ His expression changed, and he began screaming again. …” the posting reads.Police reported that the suspect tried to force Wiesel into one of the rooms, but ran away when Wiesel started yelling.

The online posting states that the writer intended to “bring Wiesel to my hotel room where he would truthfully answer my questions regarding the fact that his non-fiction Holocaust memoir, Night, is almost entirely fictitious.” Later in the posting, the Holocaust is portrayed as a “myth.”

Elie Wiesel has gifted the world through the sharing of his experiences. He could just as easily have lived his life while doing his best to forget what he experienced. He does not deserve to be assaulted yet again. I hope that there is a special place in Hell for Eric Hunt and everyone like him. They are a pathetic lot.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

“Mommy, where do names come from?”

I love S@m’s Club. It’s nothing to look at. I know. It just makes me happy to be there. Color me certifiable if you must. Yesterday I had a chance to take my lunch break there because I needed to pick up a prescription. They have cheaper prescriptions and lunch with a 500 ounce drink for $2.50. Who can beat that?

I had no sooner walked into the warehouse when the loudspeaker came on. Normally I don’t pay attention to that. However, when the person calls your first name, it’s a little disconcerting. When that person is on a loudspeaker, it’s disconcerting and creates paranoia. God? Am I hearing things? Who’s watching me? What have I done? It's the verbal equivalent of having a teacher slam a ruler on your desk when you're trying to hide the fact that you're reading Nancy Drew during geography. During my lunch break, some Jennifer was called no fewer than five times. Therefore, I was startled out of my shopping/eating bliss four more times before I left. Although the signs were right for a relaxing and enjoyable lunch break, that was not one of my better S@m’s Club experiences.

In my age group, Jennifer is probably the most popular female name. The technical meaning of the name, which comes from Genevieve, is “white wave.” In the early to mid-70s it became a generic word for girl. It was like naming your dog “Dog” or your cat “Cat.” Not very creative to say the least. You strap that to a middle name like Ann, Lynn, or Marie and the girl really start to fade into the wallpaper (In my parents’ defense, they were at the head of the charge. It’s not like I was born in 1974 for crying out loud.)

All things being equal, Jennifer is a beautiful name. I think it suits me. I can’t really think of another name that would fit me better. Still, every time someone yells “Jennifer” in a crowd, I stop what I’m doing and turn toward the voice. Very infrequently is that person trying to get my attention. Over time it gets annoying. Even if I legally changed my name I doubt I’d ever lose the “Hey, Jennifer!” reflex. Let’s face it, it’s my curse. The daily cross that I bear.

It is experiences like I had at S@m’s Club that made me not want to name my children with terribly common names. True, I wanted their names to be recognized as names, but out of the ordinary enough that there wouldn’t be a [name] A, [name] B, [name] C, etc. in their class. What I didn’t know at the time was that I would be fighting a futile battle.

When Danny and I first discussed the name Emma, you never heard it. While we were waiting for a child, Jennifer Anniston’s character on Friends named her daughter Emma. I knew right then that the writing was on the wall. Our first child was not yet born, but a female child was already Emma in our hearts. There was no turning back. As it turns out, just as I am a Jennifer, Emma is an Emma. It’s just the way it is. Hopefully Emma and Emily won’t remain as popular as Jennifer was 30 years ago. If it does, Emma will probably be blogging on this subject in the 2030s. Allison isn’t quite as popular, but even her name is becoming moreso, not less.

Unless you’re willing to saddle your child with the life-long agony of having to repeat and/or spell their names for every person they meet, you might as well give up. We are under the control of Collective Unconscious. You think I’m crazy? I have four nieces and nephews who were born in the last 18 months. With the possible exception of Trent, Mallory, Sophia, and Caden (especially when it is spelled with a C instead of a K) are relatively hot names these days. Unless you can demonstrate how my lovely but not famous siblings have started a nationwide craze, the persuasion of the Collective Unconscious is just as rational a theory as anything else.

Parents don’t pick their children’s names independently. I’m not talking about relatives here. They are just pawns in the game. Somewhere in the night the collective unconscious is there whispering sweet names in our ears. When we awake, we can’t part with them. They've become jewels in our hearts. Don’t be fooled by those parents who burn through a thousand names during a pregnancy or wait until the moment before being discharged from the hospital to name the newest member of our universal family either. The CU deals with the fickle in its own way. There is nothing left to chance. The only escape is insanity. Yes, Gwyneth, Courtney, Nicolas, and Ginger Spice. I’m talking about you.

“Oh Lisa, you picked such a beautiful name,” Kristin gushed over the basinet. “I just love Jayden.”

Pshaw. We all know what’s going on here.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Judge Not ~ Part I

Uncle Randy, one of my dad’s older brothers, fell into a deep well of depression and anxiety in the mid-80s that began with medication for high blood pressure. This condition went on for years before things got so bad that he checked himself in to a medical hospital during the fall of1992. There he was told that there was nothing they could do for him. The chemical balance in his brain had been permanently destroyed. Within a week of being discharged Uncle Randy took his own life.

After finding her husband’s body hanging in their garage across the street, Aunt Elaine called the ambulance and then called our house. Dad answered the phone. The panicky caller identified herself as Elaine and told him that she needed his help right away. Our backdoor neighbor’s name is Elaine. Dad dashed through our backyard and over the fence as quickly as he could. No one was home.

His eyes were full of alarm when he returned. My mom wondered out loud what he had been thinking, “Could it have been our Elaine?” I picked up the phone and called their number. Another woman answered and confirmed that Aunt Elaine needed my dad as quickly as possible. He immediately left in the truck having no idea what was headed his way.

After reading the faces and reactions of my parents, I realized that I was out of the loop regarding the seriousness of Uncle Randy’s condition. We all saw a change for the worse in his demeanor. His teasing went from fun to downright mean. I didn’t want to be around him if I didn’t have to be. I knew that Uncle Randy had checked himself into the hospital. We lived 45 minutes away from Conklin. For Aunt Elaine to call Dad so frantically, this had to be bad, really bad. Had he beaten Aunt Elaine and then run off? I can’t remember if we vocalized any possibilities. I do remember that we held hands in a circle and prayed the Our Father.

When Dad reached Uncle Randy’s house in Conklin, he learned what happened. Aunt Elaine asked that he go to the morgue to identify his body. She just couldn’t ask one of his sons to do that. After identifying the body, my father drove two hours up north with Uncle Rex to tell his parents what happened. Unfortunately and unintentionally, the day of the suicide was also Grandpa’s birthday. The mixture of seeing the rope burns around his brother’s neck, mourning the death himself, worrying that Grandpa would start drinking again, and bearing witness to his parent’s shock and bereavement did not lead to much sleep that night. After morning broke, Dad and Uncle Rex drove Grandma and Grandpa back to Grand Rapids.

I was the only one there when Dad got back home. I couldn’t imagine all of the details that occurred since the last time I saw him. By the look of him, I didn’t want to know. I told him to go to bed and get some rest. He couldn’t. He had to go to the florist and buy some flowers for the funeral. I offered to do it for him, but he said that this was something he needed to do. He didn’t fight me when I told him that I was driving.

When we arrived, he told the florist that he needed to buy an arrangement for a funeral. She asked him what type of arrangement he wanted. “I don’t know.” He tried to clear the lump from his throat. “I’ve never had a brother die before.”

I couldn’t stop the tears. In that moment, the shock of the situation wore off and turned into anger. I probably even used the word hate at some point though I never really felt that strongly. I just couldn’t believe that Uncle Randy would do this to his family. To this day, Grandpa still thinks that Uncle Randy did this to get back at him for some unnamed and perhaps unknown fault. Over time, I did forgive him, but I never understood why he would do that to his family ~ until one early morning in mid-December of 2004.

As Allison lay asleep on my shoulder after a middle of the night feeding, I begged God to let me die. I didn’t care how. I just couldn’t keep living this way. After weeping and rocking for what seemed like forever, I came to the realization that He would not fulfill my request. If I died, there would be no one else who would or could love and care for my baby. In the dark of my absolute hopelessness I thought of Uncle Randy. I knew why he killed himself. I wouldn’t have been able to bear the thought of living if I knew there was no hope of ever living another happy, carefree minute. After the fact, it scared me that I reached a point where I understood my uncle. In the moment, I felt more love and compassion for him than I ever did in the days after his death. I’d never felt closer to him in my whole life.

The family lived through and with the result of Randy’s suicide, but it wasn’t about us at all. After a long battle, he chose peace over despair and anxiety. Death was the only place he could find rest. Who among us could pass judgment on him for that?

Click here for an introduction to the Judge Not posts.

Author's Introduction to the "Judge Not" Posts

I have been struggling with a post for about two weeks now. The idea started with Trista’s post about the crunchy granolas. It intensified with Her Bad Mother’s post about drinking socially in front of your children. What took me so long to even get started on this project is that it was too large on its own to come up with a starting point. I wrote and trashed several opening paragraphs/pages. I finally had to write something after reading this post from Kim.Kim. I can’t imagine being in so much pain and not feel comfortable telling people around you for fear of their judgments. I once again tried to wrap a single post around all of the ways people judge women and mothers. I was going to throw in the towel again until I wrote a single sentence about not judging another person until you’ve walked in the same pair of shoes.

Thus, the “Judge Not” Series has begun. I’m not sure how many parts there will be or how often they are posted. Although I have a particular statement I’d like to make, I can’t be certain where these posts will take me.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

I'm Not Sure I'm Ready Yet

I have been seriously thinking about writing a book ever since I got back from my trip to Grand Rapids in January. Trista and I spent a lot of time talking about mother related issues and both she and Mark recommended that I write and/or edit a book on mother-daughter relationships. I’ve also wanted to write about book about my experiences with natural childbirth/breastfeeding zealots, post-partum depression, and finding my way back to myself.

Trying to decide where to get started has been difficult. Do I need to recap the childbearing experiences of humans from the beginning of time to counter the claims of midwives that tell first time mothers that “your body knows what it’s doing” when in many cases it does not? The little bit of Internet research I did on the history of childbirth brought me face to screen with the story of a woman whose midwife birthed her baby’s arm. In order to save the mother, they had to amputate the baby’s arm, then amputate the leg that was birthed next. As my stomach was turning, the diary of the doctor writing this story mentioned how strong the mother was during all of this. I decided that I really didn’t need that level of specifics.

Today I thought I would look for the books that my doula, C, lent to me while I was waiting for Allison’s birth. There were two books in specific that I was looking for: one was written by a midwife who ran a place she called “The Farm” where low-risk women could come to give birth. Why didn’t I find the name of that place as demeaning then as I do today? It was this midwife who posed the idea of the “orgasmic” delivery. The other was written by a British or Australian midwife. Her book, if I remember correctly, venerated childbirth in Africa and came pretty darn close to worshipping the cervix. When I found the first book, my heart rate sped up, I started to feel hot all over, and I began breathing heavy. It was as if I was seeing someone who hurt me or my children. I stopped looking any further. If just seeing the front jacket of this book and reading the comments from the publisher can get me that worked up, am I ready to reread it with a more critical eye? Am I ready to write about my experiences at all?

On a related topic a few weeks earlier...

Danny and Emma were looking at family pictures on the computer when I happened to walk into the office. About that time Emma asked, “What’s that on Ally’s ear.” Danny replied, “That’s where she got stuck inside Mommy."

I looked at the picture. It’s one I’ve seen hundreds of times before but didn’t notice the bruising on her ear and on that same side of the top of her head. Instantly I thought, “It really wasn’t my fault!” It made me really happy until I realized that I still apparently had issues with the birth. If I was healed, so to speak, why would my first thoughts be about fault? Then I wondered why in the world I never noticed that before. This proof that Allison’s head had been positioned wrong for birth and was being clamped down upon by the muscles of my uterus has been there all along. She wasn’t even two hours old in this picture. Why hadn’t I noticed this before? Was I so sure that I caused this that I didn’t register any evidence to the contrary? Did I not want to see it? I think I still have some work to do here.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The End of the Innocence

I remember very distinctly the evening when I lost my innocence. No, I don’t mean that kind of innocence. I mean the innocence of youth. The innocence of a life led freely without consequences.

I was visiting a good friend of mine during the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college. I looked up to her and, quite frankly, would have traded my life for hers in a nanosecond. She was a cheerleader in high school, was popular, had a boyfriend, and smart. She was confident and strong. I felt that in many ways she was everything that I was not.

M had just gotten home from the hospital after having an abdominal surgery a few days before. Her mother had agreed to let me take her to a movie that afternoon. We went to see Ghost. We both enjoyed the movie, but the demons kind of freaked M out. I then took her out for ice cream. That was a mini-mistake. Her mother had expected us right back after the movie was over. She was a strict woman to say the least. After our tongue lashing, we spent the rest of the afternoon sitting on the hood of my car talking.

It was a pleasantly warm that day and as the sun started to set, the breeze picked up and was so refreshing. The sky was so beautiful. I can honestly say it is the only sky I can remember in my head with the exception of two others: the sky over Cape Canaveral when Challenger blew up and the sky on the morning of 9/11/01. I’m in no way comparing my loss of innocence to those tragedies. I just find it interesting that such major events are connected in my heart by the sky.

Looking back, M was trying to figure out whether or not to tell me the entire story behind her surgery the entire afternoon. I was just rambling on about nothing in my usual manner while she was more contemplative than usual. Finally, when our time was running short, she told me her story. She would not have known about the rather large ovarian cyst that she just had removed had the nurses at the clinic not been required to take an ultrasound to ensure that a pregnancy isn’t too advanced before performing an abortion.

Abortion? That word hit my ears like a bolt of lightening. M had an abortion? M, the same friend I considered to be the rhythm method guru (we’d had many discussions about how that worked and what I would have needed to do if my relationship with K had reached that point). M had it all together. How did this happen? Abortions wasn't supposed to happen to people like her. She is such a disciplined person. She’s a stickler for details and so thorough. That’s something that would have happened to me had I been lucky enough to be sexually active in the first place. As the sun finally set, I physically felt myself age. Life was no longer just some fun game. Just hearing that story from such a close friend opened my eyes to the divide there was between my youth and adulthood. I couldn’t jump back over and adulthood wasn’t all that I hoped it would be.

Through the conversation, M and I cried together a lot. I was thankful in my heart that she didn’t tell me about what happened until after it was over. I didn’t know how I would have responded if she had asked me to go with her. From a purely religious standpoint, I wasn’t raised as someone who would ever step foot inside an abortion clinic. Wouldn’t that make me just like the men who brought the adulterer to Jesus with rocks in their hands waiting to stone her? What good is having principles when there is no love behind them? I hope that I would have been a supportive friend who would have been there to hold her hand if only she asked me. After all, this wasn’t about me at all. It was about M, and her very painful decision.

Today, I am glad that I was that supportive friend to her that night on the hood of my car. I’m glad that I never told her how held her due date, January 30, in my heart. I’m glad that I’ll never tell her that I have been thinking all day about how that child would be on pins and needles at the DMV today. As I get older, I realize that I’m not so much keeping a vigil for the child who never was as I am for the child I would never be again. Adult life is complicated and you can’t go back. I hope I can convince my daughters to cherish every beautiful blue sky and every glorious sunset before the responsibilities and consequences of life knock on their doorstep. Innocence is something to treasure, not something to throw away. But how can a child ever know that until it is too late?

Friday, January 26, 2007

The "Weight" of Guilt

During my quick trip to Grand Rapids a couple of weekends ago I had the most wonderful opportunity to spend some time with Trista. I love her children. Abby and Ethan made me feel so special while I was there. Still, having time for just the two of us to talk face to face was priceless. We discussed the things that have been concerning each of us. During the conversation, Trista gave me something priceless: she affirmed my need to attend a church other than the Catholic Church for the time being. It’s just not healthy for me right now. While she grew up focusing on the love of Christ, I apparently only caught on the rules and regulations to which I just can’t meet. How can two people grow up going to the same church, having mostly the same religion teachers and have two opposite views of their faith? Your family is just as – if not more – important in forming such things as the institution itself.

I attended a local United Methodist Church on Sunday. The topic of the sermon was losing the “weight of guilt.” If that’s not a sign from God that I should be there, I don’t know what would be. It was a good service and to top it all off, Danny watched the girls that morning so I was able to concentrate fully. What I found the most interesting was how universal the causes of unnecessary guilt (condemnation) really are. Does everyone’s mother know how to stick it to them? Apparently it’s not just a mother/daughter thing. Where do these issues of perfectionism come from? The song/prayer at the end of the sermon was really nice. It didn’t get rid of my issues, but I am on the right path. That feels good.

One of Danny’s co-workers, A, attends this same church with her family. We talked for a few minutes after the service and that was really nice. She invited me to her Sunday school class this Sunday. I look forward to seeing how that goes. I’m hoping that it will feel like a good fit to me, too.

On a somewhat related topic, I’ve recommitted to my weight loss program on Tuesday. I went through all of the Weight Watchers Tools for Living and wrote down my thoughts and feelings. I’ve been drinking a quart of water a day and have been following the Quick Start guidelines somewhat loosely. Hopefully seeing some quick results will boost my motivation. A co-worker and I started doing a Leslie Sansone 10 minute walking burst once a day (we got the routine from a magazine). We hope to work up to three times a day, but we’re not pushing our bodies or ourselves. We don’t want to do ourselves in by attempting to do everything at once. I think that we’re being smart.

I’m already seeing some results. Today I had an extremely stressful morning. I didn’t drink my water right away like I had the days before, I had a fair amount of M&Ms from a co-worker’s candy machine, and although I chose a Panini with portabella mushrooms (not a fatty meat), it was still pretty darn fatty. About a half hour after I ate, my body gave me a gentle, yet noticeable message that what I ate had too much fat. My tummy is certainly getting used to healthier eating pretty quickly. Now, if I had been dieting before and ate only those M&Ms, the whole day would be considered shot to hell – if not the rest of the week or month for that matter. After the gentle reminder from my stomach, I reminded myself of what I really wanted. I filled up my water jug and started getting in my daily requirement. Just because I hadn’t started as soon as I got into work doesn’t mean that it was too late for that. And, as much as I didn’t feel like doing our 10 minute walking burst, I did it. That was a good thing, too. It was much, much easier today than the two days before. I’m making progress there, too. I’ve conquered my first meeting with my “all or nothing” enemy and I’m noticed some really nice progress. Tonight I’m going to get a turkey sub at Subway and start all over again tomorrow. What I’ve gained inside is worth so much more than what those M&Ms and Panini might have cost me in calories.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Begin the Begin

This first post of The Jennifer Tree is lovingly dedicated to my good blogger girlfriend, DD. She has been a source of support for a while now and helped me come up with this blog's title. As soon as she lets me know her favorite type of candy bar, it will be in the mail. Thanks, DD!

After careful thought and consideration, I have named my new blog: The Jennifer Tree. It's a combination of me, Our Shady Tree (my family), and the most influential album of my life. To me, this name signifies the joy that I already have in my life, the peace and happiness I've been fighting for and the hope that someday this will all make sense.

As it did from the very beginning, The Joshua Tree calms me, soothes my sorrows and fears, and makes me happy to be a part of the human race. Whether or not I'm kin to a monkey I'll let others debate. Knowing that what I experience when I listen to this album affirms my faith in God. No other creature has the gift of transending reality through art. It speaks to me in ways I cannot put into words. I will be forever greatful for the gifts of melody of The Edge's guitar and Bono's voice and lyrics.

Our Shady Tree was intended as a way to keep my scattered loved ones in touch with my children. What it became was a voice for the struggles I have encountered. Both of those ideas are important. I just feel the need to keep them separate. Just as I am more than a wife and mother, my family is much greater than my depression and anxiety. Who I am and what I feel will always be connected to my family and vice versa. Separating them here allows me to focus on one or the other and gives my readers a much clearer idea of what they might find. We'll see what happens. When you stop experimenting with life, you've put one foot in the grave (or urn for all of you cremating types).