Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Making a decision to have a child--it's momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. -- Elizabeth Stone

Last night, as I was in the process of getting both kids off to bed, I tapped Jackson on the butt and said to him “Go say goodnight to your father.”

“Oh! I forgot!”

All thirty-six inches of him turned on his heal and paddled over to where Josh lay on the couch watching the game. Our little man proceeded to throw the small expanse of his arms around Josh, leaned his head on his father’s chest and said “Night Dad!”, leapt out of his father’s embrace, his feet shuffling along the carpet as he dodged past me and to his room.

“It’s so weird to have two talking children.” Josh, wearing his heart on his face, watched as Jackson turned the corner and disappeared into the bedroom.

I continued to tuck both our children into their beds, gave them hugs and kisses goodnight, and closed the door. The rest of the night was uneventful, just sitting back and relaxing with my husband as we watched Hell’s Kitchen on Fox. During commercial breaks I stole time to flip through a page or two out of the current book I’m reading.

Since my last post, I’ve contemplated on what my next topic should be. Since I started this blog, I’m determined to write something that is on my heart, but not for the faint of.

The past few days I have thought a lot about our children, and how blessed we are to have them. One of each - most people’s dream, our reality. I don’t use the term “blessed” lightly as I have seen my fare share of heartache over those soft skin and rosy cheeks gifts from God.

When I was twelve years old, my mom re-married. After a few years of battling my own issues with sharing the attentions of my mom with another man, I learned that he was a father more to me than the biological one who deserted me at the tender age of nine.

During the next couple of years, I witness something so painful it sticks with me to this day. My father (I thought over all men he deserved the title) never had children. He came to the marriage and gained a hormone laden, pimply, strong-headed pre-teen. For the first few years of their marriage, my mom and dad tried to get pregnant, without success. After a visit to her OB/GYN, and an examination at the hospital, my mom found that both of her tubes were blocked by scar tissue. It prevented her from getting pregnant.

After undergoing surgery to remove the tubes, the only option my mom had to get pregnant was through In Vitro Fertilization. Days after the first surgery, the process proved successful. But when she went in for her check up a few days later, the doctor informed her she was no longer pregnant.

This went on for two more tries. Each attempt she was pregnant, and after a few weeks, the doctor delivered the same horrible news to her. She wasn’t pregnant. When she came home from the hospital after that third try she was devastated. She wondered why so many women who didn’t want babies could get pregnant, but she couldn’t.

Making matters worse, a report on the news shattered my moms world. A woman whom recently gave birth, left her infant in the car during the record-setting heat of a summer. Why did she do this? So she could go into a hotel room and sleep with her boyfriend. The result? The young infant died of heat exhaustion.

To this day I will never forget the pain of my mother’s cries. The wailing of a woman completely broken, confused and lost. At sixteen, it was a hard thing to witness.

On the fourth try, a miracle happened. The baby took and eleven years later, I have an amazing younger brother who will be going into fifth grade this year.

I took something away from that five year period. Not to underestimate the beautiful gift from God in a precious child.

When I had a miscarriage right before getting pregnant with Jackson, I resolved to the fact that I had one beautiful and healthy child. If that was all that God chose to give me, I knew I was blessed. Katelyn and her bright, beautiful personality was a gift not to be ignored.

After six months of trying and one miscarriage, we decided to wait a while longer. So when I un-expectantly got pregnant with Jackson immediately following the miscarriage, I was shocked. The pregnancy with him was not an easy one. At twenty-nine weeks I went into pre-term labor and after about five hospital visits, they took him at thirty-five weeks via c-section.

He came out, battered, bruised, and with a partial cleft lip neither of us were prepared for. As they struggled to get him to breathe, all I wanted to do was touch my baby boy. Before they whisked him away to the NICU, the LDR nurse held him up to my face. I wasn’t allowed to touch him, but I got to see him. Ordered by the nurse to leave, my husband followed Jackson to the NICU. It wasn’t without hesitation. I was bleeding out. He felt torn between the child who was a mess and not looking so good, or his wife that could possibly die. Later, as he recounted the tale, I could see the hurt that lingered.

I wasn’t allowed to see my son for the first thirty-six hours of his life. I was confined to my bed with a set of Polaroid pictures to keep me company. Little pieces of his flesh could be seen through the tangle of chords, swatches of blankets, and the tiny diaper he wore. I felt robbed of the joy of holding my child.

That selfish desire was wiped away when, as I held my child for the first time close to forty hours later, another preemie was rolled into the POD next to Jackson. This little boy, born at twenty-six weeks to a set of new parents weighed in at one pound, nine ounces. Talk about a smack in the face. I felt dirty for feeling as selfish as I had. Here our son was in my arms, about to be intubated, and I thought I had room to complain? Boy was I wrong!

To this day, I don’t know what happened to that little boy. Last I heard, a heart valve that closes in-vitro hadn’t closed yet and he was to be rushed to CHOC for open heart surgery.

Amidst the struggles we faced with my sons health over the following twelve months, I constantly thought of that little boy. During the sleepless nights at the hospital, and countless breathing treatments, I thought of that little boy. I leaned upon the Lord and asked for his strength. The last thing I believed I had a right to do was complain. Cleft lip and all, my little boy was perfect in God’s eyes.

Now we are coming up on Jackson’s third birthday. I’m happy to report, due to the generosity of some people at church, his lip has been healed. He has only had pneumonia twice this year and with each passing day, seems to be on the mend. He is such a handsome little boy with a lot of personality and a big heart.

We are entering that fun stage of parenting, tantrums aside. I love watching both of our kids interact and laugh with one another. Last night they were going crazy, running in and out of their room and laughing till their bellies most likely hurt.

There is something to be said, no matter ones status in life, about having happy children. Nothing can be compared to seeing their joy and comforting them when in pain. It doesn’t take blood relation to be a good parent, but love. An unconditional love that they feel secure in. Not until I had children of my own did I realize the love God has for us. To look at my two little rosy cheek, sparkling eyed, mischievous kids, and know how much I love them – it’s crazy to think how much more God loves me. Honestly, it is inconceivable.

When I read the quote above, I couldn't help but think how true it was. Now I know the pain my mother suffered when seeing me mature and leave the house. I'm not saying I want my kids to live with me forever, but when they do go, a piece of me will be with them wherever they are at.

I am blessed to be a wife to an amazing, loving, and wonderful husband. I’m honored to have been entrusted the welfare and upbringing of two children. When put into comparison, everything else in life is trivial.

Have a fantastic rest of your week!

(Above photo, from left: Jackson, Katelyn, my dad, my brother Johnny)

Friday, June 11, 2010

"Men must be governed by God or they will be ruled by tyrants" William Pen

At the end of my street, a resident put the phrase on a large 5x4 wood board. Attached to a couple of 2x4’s, the sign lifted to the height of a SUV. He made sure it would be visible to every person driving in and out of our area.

During the first night it was up, someone took a can of spray paint and crossed out the word “God” and sprayed “What’s God got to do with it?”

My husband and I talked a little bit about the tagger’s declaration. Here was a man that took the time and the money to put up a really cool sign (at least in my opinion) and like a thief in the night, somebody defiles it.

Two days later, my husband and I were pulling out of the area and saw the gentleman at work taking down the old board and putting another one in its place.

Another tagger marked it up that night. This time with unnecessary pictures of body parts and more on their opinions. That day, the owner came back and fixed it up. After that the sign remained untouched for a few days.

Watching the silent war transpire between these people who were unknown to me reminded me of when my husband was in the war. You see, my husband belonged to the 5th Marine Regiment. His unit was deployed back in February of 2003, a month and a half before the actual war began. During this time I took on a second job at Barnes and Noble to keep me occupied. A person’s worse enemy is their mind and I couldn’t handle sitting around only to watch all of the news coverage. The particular store I worked at was a part of a huge mall out here in Orange County, CA.

Protestors began to line the main street of the mall, and covered both sides of two different over passes. At one point I was even accosted at a street light with a man and his video camera “How do you feel being governed by a dictator?” I remained silent for a few weeks when a co-worker came up to me.

“Hey Erin! What are you doing tonight? My wife and I are going to go to the overpass and give those protestors a piece of our mind! Come and join us!”

“No, that’s okay. I’m just gonna go home.”

“What?! Why?” he genuinely seemed disappointed and upset at my not wanting to partake in their activities.

“Because,” I said “The reason my husband and his friends are where they are is so that those people on the overpass can have the right to express their own opinions.”

Or that is basically how the conversation went. It has been 7 years and all. My memory is not too good since my second child. ;-)

Though it hurt to watch somebody ruin such an amazing quote, the beauty in it was they could. Not only does our nation allow us to express our opinions, but more importantly God gives us freedom that man can’t. Yet, He is the only one who would be quick to forgive any person of anything if they were to only ask.

And that, my friends, is more beautiful than any combination of words.

Have a blessed weekend!

In Christ.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Why Fountain Pens Changed My Life

For those of you who haven’t tried a true fountain pen and giving it a shot, you are missing out.

A few months ago, talking on the phone with a new-found friend, I told her about how I can’t write by hand anymore. Both of my hands cramp up and after about a minute or two, the act physically hurts. Because of the pain and other irritating symptoms associated with them, I’ve even gone to the doctor. A full blood panel later, no arthritis was found. Talk about inconvenient and frustrating.

I’m 27 years old. Too young to have little things like opening jars or writing by hand hurt me. I wanted answers and when the tests came back clean, I was disappointed. We live in an age where there are answers for so many things. To not have walked out of the doctors office that day with one made me feel hopeless.

After telling my friend Erin all of this, she dived into a speech about fountain pens. I listened in earnest, but was left a little confused. How could a simple pen make the difference? I mean, the walls of Staples and OfficeMax are lined with disposable pens. Those pens are not that different from an actual fountain pen. So even though I listened, I still had a little doubt.

But hey!? Who was I to turn away a possible solution to my never-ending problem? At this point, I couldn’t even write more than 10 thank you cards for one of my kids’ birthday party. I’d try anything. Heck, I never used to carry around notepads because what was the point? I couldn’t write more than a page anyway.

About a week later, Erin lent me one of her pens to get the feel of things. It was very buoyant in my hand, causing me to raise my expectations. The first few pen strokes increased my hope. Then, about a day into it, I started to get frustrated. I wasn’t used to the nib. In order to use it correctly, you have to hold the pen right. In my frustrated state I thought to myself “why am I going to go through all of this to just have another headache?”

Desperate to have a solution to my problem, I persevered. Once I returned the pen to my friend, I already purchased another one to take its place. My agony grew when my new fountain pen, a different maker, wrote completely different than the one I spent a few weeks getting used to. UGH! I wanted to scream. But I didn’t give up.

I grew to like that pen, but it broke a week after I bought it. My solution was EBay. I found a lot of the exact pens that Erin let me borrow, purchased them and received in the mail a week later. Because they run on refillable cartridges, it was yet another thing that I had to get used to. Let’s just say the first few times were….not clean. It seemed to me that ink would never leave my hands. Every morning I’d go to work with clean hands. By the end of the day they would be covered in blue ink. A woman at work kept laughing at me, asking why I hadn’t given up yet.

Because I couldn’t.

Now, two months later, I couldn’t imagine my life without these pens. Yes, after years of writing with standard ball-point pens, there was some getting used to my new writing tools. But they were worth every ounce of frustration and every drop of ink. I rarely get it on my skin anymore, but when I do, I honestly don’t care. I could go to disposable ink cartridges and that would solve my problem, but I like what I’m doing and I don’t care to change it.

You’re probably asking why I would go through so much hassle just so I can write by hand. Especially with computers.

To fuel your curiosity, yes there are computers. I can type 80-90 words a minute so I am not lacking there.

What about those times when I’m in a park, at lunch or on a break? Those times when I don’t have my computer with me? Now, I have notepads in my purse, in my car, and anywhere else I can think to store them. When I have ideas, or I want to write, I do. My creative thoughts are no longer a prisoner to my hands. I write, and write, and WRITE all the time. I have my life back because of it. I owe mountains of thanks to my friend Erin.

Now I challenge you to two months of testing out these pens. You won’t lose anything by trying, but gain nothing by not.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Shout out to my agent: Kelly Mortimer

Hey all you writers (and non-writers) out there.

I wanted to give a shout out to my Literary Agent, Kelly Mortimer. She is an amazing woman and I'm privileged to have her as my agent. Check out her webiste and blog when you get a chance. I can guarantee you a good laugh and useful information.

Check them out!


Memorial Day Weekend - 2010

Memorial Day weekend is one of the busiest travel weekends of the year (outside of Thanksgiving). There are a lot of people who spent the week packing, planning, and preparing for their long trip. The only plans my husband and I made were to go to our friend, Gretchen's, graduation. She is a dear and close friend of ours, almost like family, so we wouldn't miss it for the world.

On Friday morning I got up and started my morning routine of getting ready, getting the kids ready, and feeding said kids. Of course, in the back of my mind I was thinking 'Oh, I hope we get let go early today - preferably before lunch. Then I can go write.' Shortly after getting to work I found out we were being let go at 3pm. It wasn't 12, but it was better than 5. After lunch, I heard that there'd been a gas tanker explosion off the 91 freeway, between Green River and the 71.

As soon as I found out that nobody was hurt, my next reaction was grrreeeeaaaattt. Where the tanker exploded is only one exit up from my house. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the area, there is only one way in and one way out once you are on that 5 mile stretch of the freeway. Gypsum Canyon (my exit) is the last one before Green River in Corona. There are absolutely no side streets to take from that part of Yorba Linda to Corona. The only way in and out is that 91 freeway. Unless, of course, people want to drive oh...40 miles out of the way to different freeways.

Talk about a mess.

So I left work that day fully prepared to take all the side streets and was beyond surprised when I found that there was no traffic on the 91 freeway (because they completely shut it down on both sides at Green River). I thought ah, cool and continued driving. Traffic started at Weir Canyon exit, so I got off and went to Chick-Fil-A to work on my manuscript.

After a couple hours there, I picked up the kids and went home. We live at the very end of a street and the only traffic we get is the residents going in and out. The one street (LaPalma) is the only way in and out of our part of the neighborhood. In the confusion of the 91 traffic, a lot of commuters got off at our exit and used La Palma as a point to turn around. Of course the end of the street is governed by a stop sign, so it took a while to get there.

Once there, what I saw was so disheartening I wanted to cry. A person, I have no idea who, that lives in the area decided that it was a smart idea to bring out her cooler and write on a big sign "$1 - cold drinks". Now I know that as humans we have a selfish and greedy nature. But still. Here you have people that have been sitting on the freeway for a couple of hours, or people that are stuck/stranded until they open it back up in many more hours. It broke my heart that this woman, in my opinion, was taking advantage of the dozen cars parked on the narrow road waiting for the freeway to open again. Or of the hundreds of people who used our little street as a turning point.

All I could do was pray for the people who'd been stranded, and for the woman selling the drinks. I felt helpless, but was comforted in the fact that the Lord heard my prayer. My hands were tied by the circumstances and the two kids in the car.

The next morning my husband and I were talking about the accident and freeway closure. I looked online for any updates on what happened. It was on an MSNBC interview that I read the funniest quote I've heard in a while.

"The worst of humanity is unleashed when the 91 freeway is closed."

That about summed up how I felt Friday evening on the drive home. I don't know the purpose of this post other than maybe to encourage one another to be there for each other in times like this, not to capitalize off of the situation. Most of the people I know would never do it, but a reminder now and again helps. Let's be there for our brother and sister when they are in need. Even if it is giving them a cold drink out of our fridge. We are the hands and feet of Jesus - let's act like it. ;-)

In Christ,