A Birthmother’s Love

Sometimes I get a little pissed off with memes and pictures floating around social media about adoption and a birthmother’s love and care for her child. Her care and intentionality in the plan… how amazing and selfless she is in thinking of another above herself.

Not that some or all of these character traits may not be true, but more so that in cases where children are removed by the Ministry (CPS, etc) it’s generally NOT because the birthmother is a kind and gracious, selfless person who has gone above and beyond. It’s generally because of a complex mix of societal, generational, and economic factors – combined with other potential complicating issues from abuse to addition to mental illness.

No one shoe fits all, but what I can say from OUR experience (as an adoptive family – adopting an “older child” sibling set, in Canada, from foster care) is the following:

1) Adoption is actually not about their birthmother. Adoption is about us a family unit, and about our kids. Removal, temporary/permanent custody, foster care, visits, termination of rights, etc., were the parts which actively involved her. The only thing about adoption that she was involved in was being informed and then us signing an openness agreement (morally binding – not legally binding)… but ADOPTION wasn’t and isn’t about her. She had no part in that. She had no part in that placement. Our sons’ Guardianship Worker (social worker who acts as their guardian on behalf of the Ministry/province) was the one who made the decision/recommendation for placement/adoption. Her rights were terminated two years before that.

2) My children feel rejected by their birthmother, not loved by her. It doesn’t matter what the social workers have said, what their foster families have said, what we have said, what she has said or done during visits, etc. The reality is that her behaviour and choices which got her into the position of having her parental rights terminated after two years of them being in temporary foster care are what speak to them of rejection. Those choices and behaviour say to them that she doesn’t care enough to put in the effort – to do what needed to be done to get them back home and to keep them there. It all feels like rejection and it has shaped their worldview and their senses of self. I say this past tense because it’s a reality we work with… it’s difficult to figure out how to explain abstract concepts to children whose minds are still at a point where they think in black and white. I think we’re doing a pretty decent job of it and we work together with our counsellor (who is an expert in working with adoptive families post-placement) but it’s not a surprise that rejection may likely be a lifelong struggle for our kids, as is common for many adoptees.

3) Every time I explain that we adopted our children there comes the second implied question about which type of adoption we experienced. Most people gravitate to thinking of local infant adoption, or to international adoption. When we say “children” or “sons” their minds tend to move toward international adoption, with the presumption that it’s unlikely that we adopted twin babies here in Canada. Therefore when their first question comes out “Oh! From where?” and my response is “From here.” they seem quite confused and reply “… but from where originally” and so I reply the name of the nearby city where the delivery hospital was where they were technically born.” They tend to still seem confused. This is the point where I need to intervene. “We adopted them through the foster care system.” “….Oh! Oh, good for you guys!” These sort of memes annoy me for the sheer surface-level factor that there’s so little known about the concept of adoption from foster care and that I can’t make a mirror meme; “Adoption isn’t about rejection of the child by the birthmother so much as it is about the psychological incapacity of the parent to provide minimal caregiving required by the parent for the child to reach the minimum potential required by an adult in today’s society… but she still loves you!” 

*sigh* Not going to get as many shares on Facebook is it? 😛

Time to go take my anxiety meds and my sleep meds and pretend that I’m a normal person whose brain turns off at normal times.

 

Panic & Biological Clocks

I was reading a few posts this weekend, by waiting adoptive parents in the foster care system, and reading account after account of delays in being matched with a social worker (too few and spread too thinly), years without either a match and/or even proposals…

This makes me queasy and panicky.

I don’t want to be desperate. Desperation doesn’t help in making good, sound decisions – nor does it do anything to help maintain my mental sanity.

I don’t want to be panicked. This fear that (although we’re early in the process) it won’t even happen for us. Fear that we’ve been too picky in our tickboxes on the application. Fear that after all this time and effort in trying to have children the regular way, then the ART way, and then now through this, that it’ll all be a bust.

I never thought I’d be a person who would have a biological clock that ticked so loudly. I told Rob yesterday, while driving to the movie theatre; “My biological clock is gonging loudly… not just ticking!” He smiled, rolled his eyes, and said “I hadn’t noticed.”

The little kidlets at our church sang a couple of Christmas songs during the service yesterday morning. I went from happy and laughing (and noting to myself at least 3 adopted children out of 20… which, as an aside, is pretty cool!) to having this wave of sadness, jealousy, and panic.

Then I checked up on my WB penpal (yes, I have an actual penpal!) since I got a letter from her that she’s expecting and due this month! I hadn’t heard from her in a while, and was excited for her, so wanted to check online to see whether her baby had come yet.

Big mistake.

For a long time I avoided the BabyBells section (except my TTC-Alt peeps, who get it)… but here I was – feeling all cocky and “Yeah – I’m fine with it!” but then reading these threads of women with their newborns; precious moments and happy stories – broke my heart.

That.will.never.be.me.

I’ll never get to cradle a little person in my womb. I’ll never get to welcome them into the world and laugh and cry over the beauty of it. I’ll never nurse. I’ll never have a baby shower. I’ll never push a stroller and have people marvel at the beauty that is a baby.

Never.

And that sucks. Period.

Add to that the general “suck” factor of the fact that we’re just starting a whole ‘nother journey (which could take years, if it ever happens) and I’m busy having a pity fest. I don’t get it sometimes.

I understand that adoption is family born from loss. It just sucks that there has to be so much of it… and while our future children are likely somewhere dealing with grief and loss of their own, here I am wallowing in my own self-pity. And panic.

<sigh>

Scars of Infertility

OK – so the point of this post is not simply for me to feel sorry for myself. Rather it’s the best expression I can muster about something that’s hard to encapsulate… and since I’m a verbal processor (and most people in my everyday life just simply don’t get it), this is me trying to get it into words.

What is Infertility to Me?

  • Infertility is a wound. It’s a gaping, bleeding, pulsing burn wound that I never expected. A few years ago I badly burned the soft inside of my arm, just near my elbow, with a high-temp curling iron. And I burned it badly. For weeks and weeks afterwards, it consumed a large part of my consciousness. The pain was persistent and distracting. The wound took a long time to heal and was VERY sore and quite tender for weeks after that… and that’s what infertility feels like to me. Even now,  somebody will make an innocent comment (not realizing its effects) and it’s like someone jabbed me in the slowly-healing-super-sensitive scar of my tentatively healing wound. At times it still hurts. It comes like waves – unexpected, surprising waves of grief – that overwhelm and shock me with their ferocity. And I’m pretty certain that even once the wound has healed, the scar will stay. It’s a part of me now – part of my journey. It’s changed me, and that can’t be reversed.
  • Infertility is helplessness. It’s loss of control. It can rob you of your sense of life purpose, when part of your sense of contribution to life and the world is investing in your children as a parent. Many women/couples I know who’ve experienced IF say that one of the greatest frustrations about this is how in every other arena of your life you can make responsible choices, work hard, and achieve your goals. Infertility is one thing we can’t control. It doesn’t matter how hard we work at it, how well-prepared we are, etc. We’re helpless to change something that seems so independent of everything else in our lives. Your sex life becomes timed and monotonous (no matter how hard you work to avoid that, it eventually becomes a reality). You either become isolated and suffer in silence (by not talking about it with people in your life) or feel the discomfort of those around you (because THEY don’t know how to deal with it) when you do share.
  • Infertility is the death of a dream. At least for me it was… which was a shocker. I’d always said that if a doctor ever told me that I couldn’t have kids, I’d be OK with it. Then life happened and we couldn’t have kids. And it ripped my heart out, stomped on my dreams and hopes, and beat me into submission. Surprise! Didn’t see that coming. Didn’t think it would matter so much.
  • Infertility is a sorority. Or sometimes a fraternity (guys walk this path too.) Maybe it’s not the sorority you’d hoped for… not the sorority of women chattering away and sharing their labour and delivery stories – laughing over the common frustrations of pregnancy and the crazy-maker of sleepless nights. But it’s a sorority. I would NOT have survived this season with any sanity if I hadn’t had the privilege of being a part of an online group of women (in the “TTC Alt” section of weddingbells.ca… holla!) who were also walking the same path. There’s something about sharing your story with others, and knowing that they ACTUALLY GET IT, that just makes the burden a little lighter. It normalizes the experience. It helps you to feel a little less like a nut-job when somebody out there ‘gets it’ and feels the same way. I am SO grateful to each of these women for the gift of their support, and the blessing of sorority… none of us ever wanted to end up in this sorority, but it sure is nice to not feel so alone when you get there.
  • Infertility is can be character building. I kept saying to myself (over and over again, like a mantra); “Better – not bitter. Better – not bitter. God – please let this process make me better, and not bitter.” But the reality is that bitterness seeps in… in crawls in through the cracks like all sorts of vermin and creepy-crawly insects. Bitterness, and her sister Jealousy. They eat away at the joy in your life until everything feels like it’s painted with the brushstrokes and colours of pain and bitterness. It hardens your heart… not intentionally, mind you… but after months and months (years and years?) of disappointment, your hearts learns to protect itself from the incessant pain. The hardening is survival. BUT, infertility will come to an end. Someday, and somehow you will stop TTC. You’ll either get that (seemingly forever) elusive BFP and welcome a child into your heart and life. OR you’ll choose to be happily child-free, and bring some ‘fur-babies” into your life – and be the coolest aunt/uncle or Big Brother/Big Sister out there. OR, you’ll adopt, and welcome a child into your heart and life that way. In the end, it will end. And in the end, you get to choose how and when it will end, and what you’ll take out of this roller coaster ride. Will it be bitterness, or a tempered, gracious, humble, appreciative spirit and heart? I’m choosing the latter… even if that choice is made day by day… “Better – not bitter,” I repeat again and again. One day it will honestly be true.

What about you? What have you learned? How have you grown through this journey? What is infertility to you?

First Meeting… Update!

So we had our first meeting with the “Adoption Recruitment Coordinator” (from now forward to be known as Recruiter Lady) on Monday night, and it went really well! I was (as I mentioned) a little nervous in advance… plus Rob ended up leaving work later than expected, but thankfully we were both able to make it on time! Yay!

Anyhow, the meeting was about 1 3/4 hours, and was pretty casual. She gave us a massive information package, with some great articles I (shockingly) had NOT already read yet, as well as a booklet that explains all of their definitions for the Adoption Questionnaire (http://goo.gl/Xy1bF)… and that was handy. I’d not before seen anything from the ministry on how THEY define some of the risk factors/behaviours, so that’s very good to heave.

Note to Self: This is a bureaucratic process. It’s the government. They have their own definitions for things. Learn and go by THEIR definitions for things, and not your own.

She asked us about infertility and the whole grief & loss process, and where we were at with that. We answered (Rob mostly shrugging and saying that he was fine with it. Me sharing more… no shocker there) and she seemed pretty happy with our responses. She smiled and nodded and said “You’re at the right place to proceed with adoption.” Woot! Hurdle #1 – Passed! 😀

Recruiter Lady also explained to us that (for our health region) the Adoption Education Program (“AEP” – the BC version of PRIDE/other types of required training for prospective parents) is over a series of 6 weeks of Thursday nights (7-10pm) and 2 (likely soon to be 3) full day Saturdays. That’s actually a lot better than I thought it was going to be… I was certain it was going to be 6 full Saturdays PLUS the one evening a week. We were both pretty relieved that it wouldn’t be as rugged as that! Also, we may get into the class that starts at the end of January, 2012, as long as we get our application in soon.

So herein lies my dilemma. We’d committed to each other that we would wait until January 2012 (4 months after we stopped TTC and fertility treatments) before formally putting in our application. This was supposed to be time to process, grieve, research, think, talk, pray, etc. BUT, I really wouldn’t want to miss this class and have to wait for the next one in May – Ugh. This entire process (again, being very government-style) is all about “hurry up and wait” for everything.

I’m kind of thinking that we should submit our application a couple of weeks early, just to make sure we get in… but I’m reticent to go back on that initial timeline at the same time because we set that to make sure that we’re taking a healthy amount of time for all of this. I know that grieving has no timeline, but Recruiter Lady seemed to think we’re OK to proceed as we are. Thoughts? Ideas?

Anyhow – that’s it for now!

Finding the Up-Side…

So there have been lots of moments over the past couple of years when I’ve been panicked about infertility. I’ve been angry, excited, fearful, hopeful, anxious, despondent… you name it! That’s a big part of why we decided that we needed ‘a break’ after ending our TTC journey early this September, after our final failed medicated IUI. I just needed a break from the endless disappointment and axiety. He just needed a break from me being crazy. We both just needed a chance to catch our breath from the past couple of years.

I’ve still been seeing my counsellor, just because I think it’s a good idea for someone like me who’s walking through a lot of stuff… and just in general a good idea in general! One of the things I asked my counsellor last time I was there was if there were any areas in how I was working through all of this that she thought were things I needed to be working through more before starting the adoption process. I was surprised, but encouraged when she said to me that she feels like I’ve dealt with it in a very healthy way, with a lot of grace, and that she feels quite confident that there are no ‘red flags’ there.

Can’t tell you how much that encouraged me!! I keep thinking that I must be over-reacting or that I’m a little nuts – it’s nice to hear that this is normal and that I’m OK, even if it doesn’t feel like it some days!

Anyhow, that led me to thinking about what some of the up-sides are of adopting, through foster care, after infertility. Now keep in mind that some of these are a tongue-in-cheek, but that’s part of the dark humour that comes from walking this road!

  • Not having morning sickness! My SIL, Dawn, is about 8 weeks pregnant now… and she feels like garbage. She’s got morning sickness ALL DAY long. I hate nausea, so this is something I’m pretty excited about not experiencing. 😉
  • Our kids will likely already be potty-trained… nice! I mean seriously – who likes diapers? (Well honestly, I was really excited about getting those cool cloth diapers and being all hard-core earth mom and all, but that’s something I’m OK with not having to do!)
  • Our kids will be able to use words to tell us what’s wrong! True – lots of kids who come from hard places often face challenges in understanding what’s upsetting them, and knowing how to express that, but hey – we get to actually ask them, and they can tell us. Bonus!
  • We get to do fun stuff right away! When Rob and I think about the idea of kids, the things that are most exciting to us aren’t googling at babies – they’re about DOING stuff, like camping, playing, picnics, and ball games… you know – fun stuff.
  • No stretch marks… well, no new stretch marks! Pregnancy does a number on a woman’s body, but me – I’ll never have to deal with that. Go team, right?
  • Our kids may not be doomed to have complete pancake butts! Rob and I both have super flat white-people bums, and we used to joke that our poor future kids wouldn’t stand a chance… so now, who knows! We could end up with kids from any racial/cultural background, and they could have actual proper padding on their behinds.

OK, maybe that last one was stretching it, but I’m still new at this. I’m hoping that hoping will be a good thing – that looking forward to the future with optimism and hopeful anticipation will be a lot more enjoyable than the misery and constant disappointment that TTC/IF turned out to be, so hey – one step at a time, eh?

Mixed Emotions

So… just found out that my brother (Will) and sister-in-law (Dawn) are pregnant again. They’re 6 1/2 weeks along and due in June 2012. I find myself feeling this weird combination of emotions.

Firstly, I’m super happy for them. I wish them nothing but the very best in life and in their family, and I’m really excited about a new little neice or nephew to join the clan. I’m not bitter at them at all.

Secondly, however, I’m insanely jealous, sad, and generally having a big ol’ pity party. It’s not so much about what they have and are getting, but rather what we don’t have, what we have gone through, and what it will take for us to have two children. Namely a lot of hard work (interviews, education programs, references, waiting, etc.) and uncertainty (when? what? how? who? if?), and then even after all that, there will likely be lots more challenges in raising children who’ve gone through such difficult passages. I’m jealous that it seems so easy for everyone else, and that more than two years after we began this journey in earnest, we’re nowhere near our goal. In fact I feel like I’ve gone from being on one speeding train to jumping onto a different speeding train… so much hard work, heartache, and frustration – with nothing to show for it. Grrr…

But finally, I’m a little relieved. Four months ago this would have killed me. I would have been bawling all weekend and in a huge slump for days – bent over with grief. In some ways it’s encouraging to know that althugh I feel a little sorry for myself, it’s not hit me as hard as it would have back then.

Hopefully that’s progress and healing, and hopefully that means that one day these wounds will heal enough to not be so painful. These scars of infertility will always be a part of me, us, and our life but hopefully they will fade a little with time and one day when I get one of these calls, there won’t be mixed feelings – there’ll just be happiness for the joy in the loves of those I love.

Getting the Low-Down #1: Mr. N & Mrs. N

Wow… I am so excited to share this!

I know very few parents IRL ( in real life) who have actually adopted children through the public domestic process in their home province/state. Yesterday I got the amazing opportunity to speak with one of the few whom I know, Mr. N, of “Mr. N & Mrs. N.” This is a great couple who work for the same charity I do, but who live in Ontario, whereas Rob & I are in British Columbia. I was out in Toronto for a conference this week, and got the chance to have a brief conversation with Mr. N. Man, do I wish we’d had more time (only 45 mins due to schedules), and that his wife, Mrs. N, had been able to be there, but hey – I’ll take what I can get.

M. & Mrs. N shared on Facebook back earlier this year about their plans to adopt, and their reasons why. I hope to share some of that with you in the future, but the summary of it is that they have a huge heart to provide homes for the children in need in their community. Their story was a bit unique in that they had seen a profile of a young boy (their son) at one of the education course sessions they were at. He had been labelled as “hard to place” and they felt an immediate desire to express an interest in him. The process of getting approval happened very quickly for them and he was placed with them shortly afterwards… that was just this spring (2011.)

Since I didn’t have a lot of time, I asked Mr. N a few specific questions about their process with adoption:

1) How did you decide which medical, behavioural, etc., categories you would be open to with your original application? Mr. N explained that they tried to say which specific factors they were 100% not open to at this time, and then to be open to assessing the specific child and the specific situation for the others. For example, their son had been diagnosed with FAS at the time he entered foster care (at 10 mo’s)… but by the time they met him (at 3 1/2), his development was meeting and exceeding expectations for a child of the same age. He gives a lot of credit for their son’s development to the fact that he was in an amazing home with foster parents who themselves had adopted children through the system, and who were continuing to foster other children. In short, if there are certain things where we feel like it’s “no – for sure and without exception” then note those, but for other things where maybe we’d be open to varying degrees, risk levels, and/or just getting to know the specific situation and child, then leave them open.

2) How has transition been going? Mr. N mentioned (after I shared with him a number of the stages I’d read about in the transition process; i.e. the honeymoon phase, rejecting one parent, etc.) that all of those things are totally true and they’ve experienced them. He also shared that one benefit of starting this process without having parented before is that you don’t know any better… basically that while there are challenges in the process, many biological parents have challenges with becoming parents and with the different steps and stages they experience; sleepless nights, colic, medical problems, etc., and that adoptive parents just have a different set of challenges to face, which arent’ necessarily better or worse. I found this really encouraging!

3) What advice would you give to Rob and I as we start out on this journey? Firstly, he encouraged me that honouring the grieving process of infertility is a wise choice. He said that learning to grieve in a healthy way is actually a valuable skill to have and will help in the future as we encourage our children to grieve their own losses as well. Secondly, he encouraged us to really ‘know’ and ‘own’ our motivations and reasons for wanting to go this route for adoption, because there will be challenges, struggles, and disappointments along the way – so it’s really important to remember why we’re doing this! Finally, he encouraged us to be looking to God for what He has for us in this process, and to honour that. All awesome stuff.

So while we only had a short time to chat, I’ve got to say that I’m so grateful for the opportunity. I told Mr. N that there’s just something about being able to talk about this with others, and/or read other people’s stories that normalizes the experience for me… and that the more information I have, and the more normalized this all feels, the less overwhelming it is. YAY! 🙂

Welcome – New Blog Home!

So I started a blog a while back, and then life happened, and then I fell of the wagon. Then more life happened and I wanted to get back on the wagon again… and then I realized that I didn’t like the restrictions of my other blog… so then I moved here!

This one post is basically a historical summary of the posts I’d written on my old blog and then transferred here. It’s going to be epically long… but that’s just for now. I’ll change that in the future. I promise!

Feb 21, 2011: Deep in the heart of renos

So we’ve been rennovating for 3 months now.

I. am. so. sick. of. this.

At this point we’re finally on the beginning of the homestretch. All the boring inner guts (electrical, structural, drywall, etc.) junk is done and we’re priming and painting now. In the next days there’s actually hope that our walls will have colour, which will hopefully be quickly followed by things like cupboards and backsplash and floors.

And appliance.

I cannot explain how excited I am to have a dishwasher in the foreseeable future. It is actually possible that one day I will not need to wash dishes in my bathroom sink. Excellent.

I’m also really psyched about being able to prepare food. You know – those little things in life that seem like basics; chopping, cooking on a stove (versus nuking in a microwave), putting food on plates and eating at a table.

One day. Possibly one day soon-ish. 🙂

Feb 17, 2011: Hope deferred

Well, here we are in another cycle of this stupid IF journey. Every month we get our hopes up. Every month they get crushed.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick but a longing fulfiled is a tree of life.

Heart sick.

Yup.

Feb 12, 2011: So it’s been awhile…

This is a long one… It’s been a while, so there’s a lot to update. Hold on!

It’s funny how grieving is different for different people. Personally I’m surprised at how Rob’s mom dying affected me so much.  She was an extrordinarily unhappy woman, who blamed me for her husband leaving her (he’d been having an affair for 1 1/2 years) and for her divorce. I ‘stole’ her son. I was pretty much evil incarnate. She was a (closet) alcoholic, and quite verbally/emotionally abusive… but always in subtle ways most people couldn’t see, and generally in emails after she’d been drinking. But more so, she was just very sad and had very poor communicaation skills.

But. I never ever in a million years would have wished that this would happen. That at 58 years old she was die unexpectedly. That our (future) children would never meet her. That my beloved husband would lose his mom at (what feels like) such a young age. That I would be so exhausted and sad about it. That it would make me fear my own parents’ deaths… I cannot imagine what that will be like – aside from the fact that I want to throw up every time I think about it.

It’s been just shy of a year now. She passed away on March 8th. Life has changed so much since then.

For example, we’ve been trying to start a family… for16 months so far. It feels like an eternity. Mostly because we waited until we were really sure that we were ready. I’d finished my Masters. We’d bought the house in the ‘burbs, and had time to settle down. We’d gone for a 3-week trip to Central America to explore and adventure together. We were ready.

And so we waited. And waited.

We got a BFP 4 days before Rob’s mom died… followed shortly after by BFNs… otherwise known as a “chemical pregnancy” or “very early miscarriage.” No time to really grieve. It was so early that it’s hard to even know how to grieve.

Finally at the 12 month mark we got a referral to a fertility clinic. We did the tests. Not such great news. Basically the liklihood that we’ll be able to conceive on our own is really low. That being said, the RE feels pretty confident that we can get pregnant through IUI or IVF/ICSI. So it’s an option. The bigger question is whether or not we can handle that.

In my opinion (at least my current opinion), IVF/ICSI is a little too much. It’s so personally, physically, and financially invasive that I’m not sure we could handle it. IUI isn’t such a huge thing to me, though… just feels more like giving the little guys a ‘fighting chance’ by getting all the healthiest ones closest to to the egg. Combined with Clomid (to hopefully have more than one egg available per cycle), it basically increases the (very low) odds to better than very low. We could adopt too. Totally. It’s also super invasive, but in more of a way that (as far as I understand/can imagine) makes it feel like you’re at a junior high school dance; standing off to the side and hoping someone will ask you to dance… and every time a boy comes near and doesn’t ask you it feels crushing. Just as expensive as IVF, but instead of being physically invasive, it’s more psychologically/emotionally invasive. And that doesn’t change with being public or private or international adoption… same crap – different category.

We’re still thinking about it. But no matter which way you slice it, I’m really really sad. I never thought I’d be this person. I always thought I’d be fine with no kids. I’m not anymore. I’ve just simply changed. I’m sad that the idea of us having kids ‘naturally’ is slipping away… yeah, yeah – anything’s possible. I totally know that. I just also know that anything’s not likely.

No – we don’t need to just relax. Yes – we do know what we’re doing, and the right timing and all that stuff. I know – when the timing’s right, it’ll happen… or not.

It just sucks.

There’s that. And work has been soul-crushing this past year. Major financial crunch – downsizing, layoffs. I’ve run out of steam… They’re good people. I’m just emotionally spent. Nothing left. I won’t go into a lot of detail, but the summary would be that I’ve changed. What I value in life and in work has crystalized. And the summary is that I don’t want to spend the equivalent of a full work day every week JUST communting. I don’t want to just fix other people’s problems. I don’t want to get anxious and nauseous every time I realize I have a new email in my work inbox. Good people. A cause I care about. I’m just not emotionally able to do it anymore. Not sure what that means yet. I’d really hoped to go on a maternity leave and figure it out then… now that that’s not likely to happen anytime soon it opens a lot of stuff to think through.

I’m just spent.

Now for the good things:

– We just celebrated out 5-year wedding anniversary! And I can say that we’re more in love now than when we first got married. I’m psyched to see what the next 5 years will hold. 🙂

– We’re 2/3 done our BIG reno: kitchen, living room, dining room, entry way. A lot of time. A lot of work. A lot of money… but it will be glorious. I will post pics.

– We have an adorable nephew who’s 1 1/2 now… and we’re guardians to our really good friends’ little boy who is almost the same age, and he’s awesome.

– We’ve got great friends, awesome family, stable jobs, our own home (with a small mortgage), a goofy/crazy/loveable/annoying dog who keeps us on our toes.

So in summary, it’s been a stupid year. It’s also had great things in it. We’re tougher and yet more fragile. we’re counting our blessings, but praying for a few other particular ones that seem elusive. We’re still here. We’ve survived this far.

One of my favourite quotes from the Bible is from Romans 5:3-5, and it says “…More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame…”

We all need hope. Hope keeps us moving forward when everything else feels futile. There have been many days over this past year that have felt futile… but we have hope.

Mar 28, 2010: Surreal Days

Well. Rob’s mom passed away 3 weeks ago tomorrow. She went to sleep Sunday night and just didn’t wake up Monday morning. The autopsy couldn’t find a cause of death (other than “natural causes”) but they’re sending away for more research…
This is something you just can’t prepare for. He’s an only child of divorced parents, so it’s a lot to handle. We’re both really tired and he feels overwhelmed most of the time. Not much else to say right now – more later.
Feb 27, 2010: Comfort Food
So I’m a vegetarian, and have been for a little over 8 years now… Rob isn’t. We started dating a little over 6 years ago, and have been married for four years now – so I was pretty clear at the outset about what I believe on the subject. In context, I’ve got to say that he’s a good sport; despite the fact that I still really wish that he’d “convert” to being a veggie like me.
All this to say, finding food that works for us can be a bit of a challenge – but oddly enough it’s not even because of the omnivorse vs herbivore thing… but rather we just simply have different palates! We like different types of food, so when we recently made a commitment to eating at home and eating more truly “home cooked” food (as well as actually making and bringing lunches with us to work) it’s been quite an adventure to figure out some great meals that aren’t super repetitive and which are easier enough to prepare and have for dinner when I get home from work; which is also usually not until 600pm or afterwards.
One of the great recipes I found the other day was in a cookbook I borrowed from my mom, 125 Best Vegetarian Slow Cooker Recipes; called “Smoky White Chili with Potatoes” (pg 127).
Here’s my somewhat modified version:
2 tsp cumin seeds (I used 2 tsp of ground cumin b/c that’s what I have)
1 tbsp vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
2 onions, finely chopped
4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 tbsp dried oregano leaves
1 tsp cracked black peppercorns (I just used out pepper grinder and very coarsely ground out the pepper)
1 tsp salt
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup white kidney beans, soacked, drained, and rinsed (I used one can of white kidney beans in the first batch, but found that 2 cans would be preferable… in the second batch I used 2 cans – with the 2nd one being Great Northern Beans, since that’s what I had on-hand)
4 cups vegetable stock (McCormick’s makes vegetarian stock cubes, so I used the ‘beef’ flavoured ones and found that they added some great body to the flavour)
1 chipotle chili in adobe sauce, finely chopped (I used 3-5 dried whole chilis and just let them infuse their flavour and spice into the mixture; removing them just before serving – perfect!)
125g cream cheese (1/2 package), cut into 1/2 inch / 1cm cubes, and softened (optional)
Finely chopped cilantro or parsely
  1. In the large dry skillet, toast cumin seeds until they release their aroma. Transfer to a spice grinder or mortar, or use the bottom of a measuring cup or wine bottle to coarsely grind. Set aside. (I didn’t bother with this – just added the ground cumin…)
  2. In the same skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and celery and cook, stirring, until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, cumin, peppercorn, and salt; cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Place potatoes on bottom of soft cooker. Add beans, stock and onion mixture. (I just cooked it in a big ol’ pot, since the timing worked better and it was actually pretty quick!)
  3. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours, until potatoes are tender. Add chipotle chili and cream cheese, if using. Stir well. Cover and cook on high for 30 minutes, until cheese is melted. Garnish with cilantro or parsley and serve immediately.
This was SOOOO delicious… Rob and I both loved it and I’m excited to say that I’ve just added another dish to our list of “Foods We Both Like” – woohoo!!!
Feb 24, 2010: Suburbia

If you’d asked me years ago whether I’d end up in the ‘burbs, I would have laughed you out of the room… but here I am, and happily so! Rob and I got married in February 2006 – on a crazy day where the wind went so wild that it snapped trees, took out all the power, and brought the waves from the ocean so far in that it flooded houses in the town! It was a crazy day, but in hindsight seems so appropriate. You can’t help but laugh at the insanity of it all… it was definitely memorable, and filled with family and friends who pitched in and made it something nobody will ever forget. We recently celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary, and I can definitely say that we’re more in love now today than we thought we could be – in a deeper, more solid and real way than ever.

We don’t have any kids yet – just Bleu. He’s our adopted Australian Cattle Dog (aka Blue Heeler) who joined us just a couple of months after our wedding. He was one of the Hurricane Katrina animals who were rescued and re-homed. He’s still got some major trauma and insecurity issues, but high doses of anti-anxiety meds and lots of love and patience have all helped him to mellow out… a little bit. 😉

Last November we bought a house in the next town over from where we both grew up – an 8 minute drive from the townhouse we’d had since shortly before our wedding. It was a whirlwind process of deciding to purchase the house… a private sale where we had 2 weeks to decide from the time we heard about it; with everything closing and us moving in within 5 weeks! Our good friends have kiddy-corner backyards with us, and we also know the neighbours behind us pretty well, so that was a huge bonus too!!

Our house is on a corner lot, in a really quiet area – half a block from a sports park (i.e. baseball diamonds and soccer field), which is connected to an elementary school. Our neighbours back onto farmland, which in itself is kind of odd for the ‘burbs, but we don’t usually complain. Usually. During the spring and early summer there are air cannons (that sound like shotguns) going off in the blueberry farms, and that’s really annoying, but otherwise no biggie.

Our house is 40 years old, just like everything else anywhere nearby, and when we bought it the majority of the insides were pretty much like a flashback to 1969… totally original – great condition, but super outdated.

We’ve been slowly, but surely, rennovating like crazy. It’s expensive and tiring, but totally rewarding. I’ve also realized that I really enjoy working in our garden.

We have a total of 9 trees (6 in the front and side yards, and 3 fruit trees in the backyard) and on a sunny summer day there’s nothing I’d rather do than spend the afternoon weeding the garden; Bleu relaxing on the grass next to me; finches singing to each other in the trees; sunshine and warm breezes… snacking on fresh, ripe raspberries. Awesome.

So anyhow – all intentions aside, I’m now in the middle of suburbia with my hubby and our dog… rennovating and pruning, and cleaning, and weeding. I spend hours pondering which light fixture to buy, and then hours on my knees installing flooring. And I’m not complaining. It’s peaceful and friendly here. The noise that we hear is kids laughing and playing. When we got a leak in our roof of our garage during the winter, our neighbour saw Rob out there trying to get a tarp on things… within minutes he and his son were over – in the pitch dark and pouring rain – to help out. Seriously. That’s awesome.

So this is a little log of some of the things that are happening in the happily boring world of suburbia. I’m happy if you find this interesting, but not traumatized if you don’t… suburbia isn’t everyone’s delight, but it is mine. 🙂