Halfway There

Tah-Dah! We are twenty weeks people (twenty-one by the time this posts), and therefore halfway through this thing called pregnancy!

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Us at 20 weeks

My morning sickness is almost completely gone! I’m finally starting to gain weight. I stuff my face with spinach, eggs, and avocados. I still have an aversion to butter (most dairy actually), toast, and white flour tortillas.

Last Monday, Timothy and I went for the BIG ultrasound. They call it an Anatomy Scan, and they measured and checked out our baby from her adorable head to her sweet little toes. She’s healthy and beautiful and I’m on target for my due date of August 18th.

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Daddy’s favorite picture of his baby girl

Even before I met Timmy, whenever I pictured my future family there was always a little girl there. I pictured boys too, sometimes lots of them, but even in a family with 6 kids, there was always at least one little girl. Sometimes she was fair, sometimes dark, sometimes with blonde curls, sometimes with two brown plaits laying against her shoulders. She was sporty. She was a fairy princess. Her nails were dirty from digging up worms. She hated mud and slime. No matter what form she took, she refused to leave my imagination.

I had a laundry list of worries walking into that ultrasound, but the one that upset me the most was, “what if it’s not a girl.” Yes, it mattered more to me that the heart and brain and feet and hands were all looking healthy and strong. I say “upset me,” because I didn’t want the baby’s gender to matter to me at all. I prayed so many times, “God, just let me not care. Please, give me peace.”

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possible early evidence of thumb sucking?

Looking back, I think he answered that prayer the first time around. I think he was telling me, “Rachel, stop worrying, because I’m giving you your girl,” but I was too scared to believe that it was His voice speaking and not just my own desires. My mother-in-law later said to me, “Maybe God gave you that desire, because he wanted you to have it.” God didn’t have to give me my little girl. He chose to. He has control over the whole cosmos, and knew which soul to put in my womb because he has a purpose for her life.

One of the wacky theological teachings I heard a lot growing up was a kind of “be careful what you ask God for,” strain of belief. Ask God for patience, He’ll give you trials. Ask God for contentment, He’ll burn your house to the ground. But the HUGE thing always missing from these sermons was the truth that God isn’t sitting on his throne rubbing his hands together with glee because you’ve asked for the wrong thing, like a cosmic genie who grants your wish for a million dollars by handing you your loved one’s life insurance policy. True, ugly things will happen to us, but as I learned through my miscarriage, by His grace those ugly moments are never too much to bear.

Whatever he takes, he replaces. Sometimes materially, sometimes with more of Himself. Either way, he will satisfy.

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I prayed for God to take away my desire for a girl or to change my desire to meet his plans for my life. He answered my prayer. He kept my desire there, strong as ever, and waited for me to take hold of the peace he offered me because of the ernest nature of my prayers. I never took that peace, but at least now I’ve got the lesson.

And a baby girl. 😉

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It’s a…

We love you little one. ❤

 

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March Reading Summary

My blogposts tend to be pretty random in content. I started with a ton of poetry which slowly morphed into a sort of random-anecdotes-from-my-life thing. I sometimes think I blog mostly just to exercise my writing muscles, and I’m thankful for anybody who takes the time to read my random blatherings.

With Little Baby on the way, and only one year of school left, I find myself frequently considering what I want to do with my post-school time. This has left me wondering if I might not want to refocus my content hereabouts.

One of the things I’ve been toying with is posting more book reviews. I read a lot, and my taste in books is wide ranged and random, so I’m not sure this is my best idea. But with books being one of the only things I know, I figure blogging about my opinions regarding them can’t be any more yawn worthy than the other stuffs that I post here.

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To that end, I’ve decided to do a recap of all the books I read in March. It was a light kind of month as I still had a ton of school work to do, but near the end I had a few pregnancy induced sleepless nights that I devoted to reading.

  1. Blonde Roots by Bernardine Evaristo

urlThis book was one of the novels I had to read for school this semester. While I appreciated Evaristo’s storytelling abilities, I struggled to enjoy this book. It is a “what-if” dystopian satire that turns the transatlantic slave trade on its head: Africans have enslaved white Europeans. The story is about Doris, a white slave, and her attempts to escape her black masters.

After discussion in the classroom, I was able to appreciate Evaristo’s aims in this rewrite of history. By flipping the familiar, she is trying to show how racial bias has warped our thinking in so many ways. She even reinvents the map of the world, shifting different countries above and below the equator. And while I understand what she’s doing, and believe she does it well, I think, for me, I would much rather read a non-satyrical account of slavery or a true life slave narrative. But, all in all, well written and if the idea piques your interest, I’d say dive right in.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

2. Passing by Nella Larsen

url-1This is another novel I had to read for school this semester. This one I loved. Larsen’s writing style is so poised, gentle, straightforward, and beautiful. The story is about Irene and Claire, two black women from Chicago now living in Harlem during the 1920’s. The story is dark and beautiful and deals with issues of race, racism, and jealousy. It’s also a short read, the kind of book I like to take to the beach because I know I can finish before it’s time to go home. I definitely recommend it for Larsen’s poignant themes and lovely writing abilities.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

4. Twitter: The Comic by Mike Rosenthal

url-2This one was a just for fun quick comic that I stumbled across while at the library. Rosenthal collected a bunch of goofy tweets and began to illustrate them. His tumbler account got popular, leading to this collection in this book. It was nice to flip through as a cool down after school one day. It made me chuckle. For a taste, you can find Rosenthal’s tumbler here.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

5. Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid

url-4Yet another book I read for one of my classes. This book is the coming of age story of a young girl in Antigua. It heavily discusses the relationship between the girl and her mother, and all the complications it develops as the girl’s childhood fades into adulthood. Kincaid’s writing style was straightforward, but the story itself had layers of imagery within it that deepened the themes to a satisfying level. It was also a short easy read, another book I’d happily take to the beach.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

6. My Point…And I Do Have One by Ellen DeGeneres

url-5OH MY GOSH! This woman is hilarious. Really. I read Seriously…I’m Kidding a few years ago, and she’s just so freakin’ funny. The book has no plot or anything. It’s just chapter after chapter of hilarious anecdotes and stories about her life, some of which you know have to be majorly exaggerated for comic effect. I read multiple chapters of this aloud to my husband and my brother-in-law and we were all cry-laughing at it. Seriously, if you need a pick-me-up then pick this one up.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

7. Welcome to Dead House by R. L. Stine (Goosebumps, #1)

url-7This series was excessively popular when I was a child. I never read any, one: because I didn’t enjoy horror back then (even the covers freaked me out) and two: if I’d tried to take one out of the library my parents probably would have slapped it from my hands and called the elders over to pray the demons out of me.

It was about what I expected, a creepy book for kids with kind of light corny humor interspersed throughout. The writing was strictly meh, but typical of a lot of serial books aimed at elementary/middle schoolers. Now that I’ve satisfied my curiosity, I feel no urge to ever read something by Stine again.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

8. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

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This has been on my to-read list for a while, so when it popped up as required reading for my Harlem Renaissance class I was super excited. This was one of those classics that absolutely lived up to the hype. Hurston’s story of Janie’s search for self revelation was deep and beautiful, full of breathtaking prose and delicious poetical imagery. Please, do yourself a favor, if you haven’t read this, DO IT!

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

That more or less finishes out March, except for my favorite read which I’m saving out to write up a separate review for. Hope I tickled the fancy of a few book nerds out there, and maybe gave you a title or two to check out.

Cheers!

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Being Brave and Letting Go

Brave art is beautiful art.

My husband reminded me of this after I bemoaned the increasing number personal elements that seem to be creeping their way into the short story I’m handing in for my Fiction Writing class. About an hour ago, I finished my third draft and had so much of my own self and struggles leaking through my fingers into the keyboard that I literally started to cry.

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No, I screamed at me in my head. No, you can’t do this. You know why? Because what if they hate it? What if they say, “people don’t really do that” or “this scenario is so unrealistic”  or “why is she so upset about something so minor?” You know you’ll just run from the room sobbing. You could barely control your emotions BEFORE pregnancy. Now? Now you cry when Han Solo says, “I know.”

I know.

It’s like when that quiet girl from the back of the classroom stumbles in late to Intro to Creative Writing with a tearstained copy of her latest poem:

It’s Over

Weep, weep, weep
Weep on my unrelenting river of tears
Stream that red, red, red
from the bloody bleeding heart he left behind.
We’re done.
I’m undone.
My bosom is heavy with an empty chasm for a heart
Tears, tears, tears
I’m such a miserable fool.

Suck or not, who has the heart to tell her to trash it when you can barely hear her read it over her piteous wails. I mean, look at her bloodshot eyes! Do you really think she slept last night? *The moon shakes it’s head, for it has born witness to her lonely howling.*

Granted, my story isn’t so overt, and thank God I’ve not been told I must read it aloud, but I’m in there. I’m screaming through the characters mouths. I’m laying curled up beside the abandoned child, grasping and clutching at that empty pocket of warmth left behind in the blankets. And it’s scary to be so seen in such an unseen way. No one in my class knows me. No one will see me there in those words. Nothing will hold back their “this sucks” or “what the *&%$ is this #$%@?” That’s good in a way. I mean, the truth needs to be told to me, or I’ll never improve as a writer. But even as healthy as the truth is, it can also be terrifying and humiliating.

Maybe that’s why I hated this story so much when I started, because I always knew it would turn into something more.

Come Friday I’ll have to let it go; I’ll have to watch it fall from my fingers into the hands of 15 strangers who will be reading between the lines of my life armed with a red pen.

This is terror. This is bravery. This, I guess, is art.

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Perfect Timing

While my pregnancy was a planned pregnancy, it was still a shock to me. I just figured it wouldn’t happen when it did, and while it’s still overwhelming at times, it’s become just another one of those times in my life where I can see how perfect God’s plans are when we submit to his will.

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17 weeks

First: My Crazy First Trimester

I mean, I was sick for my first pregnancy, but all these people kept saying to me that what I was feeling “wasn’t normal.” Since they never specified what part of it was so abnormal, I guess I just assumed that a heathy baby would be less horrible to carry. As wrong as I was, the miracle of it all was the impeccable timing of my bedridden stage. My morning sickness began the week of finals, but most of my finals were papers I’d already drafted and merely needed to hand in. After that I had the entirety of winter break to do nothing but rest and vomit.

Second: Returning to school

The oncoming spring semester was looming in the background like the malevolent flaming eye of Sauron. Every day that I spent laying in bed, incapable of anything more than watching Shawn the Sheep, the soft voice of anxiety whispered, “And how do you think you’re going to manage that?”

My early religious education emphasized the idea that once you’re a wife or mother the Bible allows for you to be nothing else. I’ve come to believe this as not accurate Biblical teaching, but I wrestled with what I was supposed to do next. Was God trying to tell me through illness that being a wife and mother was all he wanted from me?

No longer wishing to blindly follow the teaching from my youth, I prayed that God would make it clear what he wanted from me: finish my degree or quit for the baby. Maybe he’d let me finish my degree later, who knew? Only Him, and I just needed to know clearly what step to take next, one semester at a time.

There were so many times when I was leaning over the toilet bowl with Tim rubbing my back when I’d gasp out the words, “I think I should drop all my classes.” Tim, ever patient, ever wise, always said, “Just wait and see. There’s still time. Just wait.”

I waited. I saw. God provided me just the right amount of miraculous strength I needed to get to every class. Even the week before my first day I was too sick to go, but despite the fact I was still throwing up to and from school, and napping on a foam mattress between my classes, I have remained on my 15 credit class schedule.

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And Tim? Well, who could expect him to be anything but my guardian angel. He walked me to all my classes, carried my books, and for several weeks sat right outside the door to my class in case I needed any help, even though it made his butt fall asleep. Speaking of blessings from God, let’s not forget the man I wake up next to every morning. Him. Always. ❤

Third: The Due Date

The baby is due August 18, 2017. Even if I go late, I will still give birth this summer, before classes can start for next semester.

Fourth: Online Classes

One night, just out of curiosity, I looked over my degree evaluation at WPU to see what else I needed to graduate on time. The idea of returning to school with a two week old infant in tow is daunting, even if your husband doesn’t mind looking after him while you’re in class. I worried if it would even be healthy for the little one.

As I looked through what I needed to graduate, I saw a lot of online courses being offered. I grabbed a notepad and began to jot down courses. Soon, I had over 7 online course options I could take in the fall, all of which were perfect for keeping me on track to graduate Spring of 2018. I now fully believe that God will allow me to take most if not all of my courses online for my first semester after giving birth. My heart nearly burst with thanksgiving for this.

Fifth: Our Living Situation

I’ve never really been in close contact to infants before, except for bits of exposure during my time working the nursery at church. Basically, I’m terrified, and given my penchant for panic attacks and overreacting due to my struggle with anxiety disorder, I know that I’ll be as neurotic as any three new mothers locked in a dark tight space for 48 hours.

First on the emergency contact list will (of course) be my dear husband, eldest of 7 and widely recognized “baby hog.” His relatives know that when they bring their little one into the room, my husband will make puppy eyes at whomever is holding the baby until somebody lets him settle down with the little one so he can snuggle and play with it.

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Timmy with our nephew Emmett

But if even he should fail to calm me and the infant (both of us probably screaming), we will still be living with his mother, grandmother of my child and veteran parent of 7 children. Honestly, watching my husband’s parents raise the two little ones at home (6yrs and 10yrs) has grown me tremendously. Their grace and patience is something I pray I’ll have in my parenting, and it is truly a privilege to watch. If I could be half the mother Mrs. Svendsen is, my children will never suffer for love and acceptance, the two things I found most lacking in my own childhood.

I will have one full year under her roof, blessed by her wisdom and tutelage before my husband and I pack up and move across the country for him to complete his seminary training.

There is too much perfection in all the timing of this baby for me not to step back, look up and say, “Thank you Lord. Thank you so much.” ❤

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Quick First Trimester Recap

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It sucked.

It still does some days, but I’ve gotten enough of a lift to feel like my body is on the mend. My husband and I have gone out to dinner and taken a trip to Ikea in the past few weeks, something that would have been unthinkable a week before.

It wasn’t long after seeing those two blue lines that I began to develop aversions to smells, tastes, and sights. I was already vomiting once a day before I even missed my period. I still had this romantic idea that if I just boiled carrots until they mushed when you looked at them or ate saltines with a little bit of avocado, I could be gentle on my stomach while still getting solid nutrients into my body. *looks over shoulder at naive past self and laughs mockingly*

I lost about 20 lbs.

My first and foremost aversion was butter, one that still has not entirely abated. Quickly, anything associated with butter became partner in it’s evil salty oily fatness. That list begins with pasta, toast, rice, and potatoes, and ends somewhere with anything else that vaguely resembles butter in either its liquid or solid state. In fact, the aversion became so severe that when I started reading Tana French’s In the Woods, I ended up putting it aside to vomit because she had the audacity to use the word “butter” inside the first paragraph. I had to hide the book, because even looking at the cover put me at risk for another surge of nausea.

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In a moment of pure hysterical madness, I asked my husband to take a this photo. I thought the mineral water made it look more hangover than morning sickness.

With how easily my nausea was triggered over one aversion, it won’t surprise you when I say that eating anything at all was a battle. Add to that, I developed an aversion to water, and then I was battling fluid intake. My only hope for keeping anything down (and me out of the hospital) was to lay flat. I was absolutely freaked out by all the changes in my body. I fought my desire to shower twice a day, but lost the battle with my clothes which I changed frequently throughout the day, leaving mounds of laundry in my wake. I spent days in bed, hating every moment I was awake. I said to my husband, “This had better be the cutest damn baby in the whole world.” I also said, “I think this is by far the worst experience of my life, and it’s not even half over.”

Honestly, I couldn’t have done any of it without my husband. He was the ultimate caregiver. He cleaned up after my sick, did the laundry, straightened the room, made numerous runs to stores to get me food or medicine, and kissed away my tears. I hated seeing him working so hard with absolutely no help from me. It made it harder to rest in bed.

Whenever I expressed this frustration to my husband, he would always say, “You’re building a baby. You’re working hard.” Then he’d kiss my forehead and tell me to rest.

I’m excited for the reward at the end of this mess called pregnancy, though I still worry about my ability to be the kind of mother I want to be. Perfection is out of the question, obviously, but will I be enough? Loving enough, affirming enough, and enough of a guide to them that they will have the equipment to take flight into adulthood, wise and very curious. I doubt myself, but I never doubt that my husband is going to be the best father ever. Patient, wise, kind, affectionate, and fun? What more could a little baby want in a Daddy?

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Love ❤

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Tiny Dancer

It started with the flu then turned into a cold then became vomiting three days before I could miss my period. We took the first test five days early. It was negative. I cried.

Then it was the day my period was due and I’m fudging my way through my French final in the seat closest to the door in case I have to flee to the bathroom to throw up. I couldn’t remember anything I’d studied and barely cared that I might screw over my 4.0. All I could think was, “I’m pregnant. No, I can’t be pregnant. Am I pregnant? Nuh-uh. There’s no way I’m pregnant.”

I’m pregnant.

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They had trouble finding the heartbeat with the doppler at my nine week visit. I’d told myself that was possible; I’d read it a dozen times. I didn’t truly start to panic until the midwife began to ask questions like, “are you sure you’ve got the timing right?” They’d asked that last time, right before they laid a consoling hand on my foot and said, “I’m afraid this isn’t a viable pregnancy.” Then she palpated my uterus and added to my agony the words, “your uterus is enlarged but not nine weeks enlarged.” I could feel what was left of my courage melting into the exam bed and leaking out my eyes.

As they’re rolling in the ultrasound, I’m fighting through the flashbacks, trembling and deep breathing so I don’t hyperventilate. They found the baby quickly. As they’re zooming in, I’m waiting and hoping for them to say it.

“I see a heartbeat.”

I lost it. I was choking and crying. My husband whipped out his phone to video it for me so I could see the heartbeat blip on the screen, because every time I moved they lose sight of the baby.

Just as he hit record they all gasped and began to coo, “the baby moved.”

I’d been calling him a little tyrant because of how incredibly sick I’d been, but he changed my mind with that one little twitch. I felt like he was saying, “I’m fine Mommy. Now tell these people to stop pressing that thing down on me. I’m trying to sleep dammit.” In fact, the more I watch the video, the more it looks like he’s batting away the sound waves and rolling over to get away from the camera. Sassy little mite.

Here he is. My tiny dancer, with a heartbeat.

Ballerina, you must have seen her dancing in the sand
And now she’s in me, always with me, tiny dancer in my hand

Hold me close now tiny dancer
~ Tiny Dancer, Elton John

Cuddle close, my sweet tiny dancer. Mommy and Daddy love you so much already. ❤

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DISCLAIMER: I’ve been calling the baby “he” but we don’t yet know gender. Just in case you’re reading this as a family member and decide to prematurely buy him a “Mommy’s Little Man” onesie, there is still a 50% chance she will look funny wearing it. 😉

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Spoiler Filled Book Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

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This review of HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD contains MAJOR of spoilers. If you want to read this book, do not read this post. 

You’ve been warned.

Disappointed. That’s the word. And not like those people who were shocked and dismayed to discover the hefty hardback they’d preordered was a play instead of a novel.  When I bought my copy I knew what I was getting. The play itself isn’t even written by J.K. Rowling, but by Jack Thorne (which it says right on the cover by the way). But even the knowing of these things did not prevent me feeling cheated as I read the script, nor did it prevent me from directing my disgruntled emotions toward J.K. Rowling, because it was the plot that I found lacking. That, I believe, was all her.

The opening scene of the play is a dramatized version of the prologue in Deathly HallowsThis didn’t bother me at first, because it made sense to me as a springboard into the new story and would appeal to fans of the books. But that wasn’t the only old scene that was put into the story.

The plot centers around the use and misuse of a time turner. Now, time travel is tricky any way you slice it, and in my reading/viewing experience, often leaves approximately 458,290,002 plot holes behind that you need to caulk and spackle. Kudos to anyone who does it. But this rolling back of time, plus the occasional nightmare of Harry Potter, had multiple scenes thrown in from the original books. While this is a lesser complaint, I was hoping for more new content.

I was also frustrated by what seemed to me like a whiny violin play for sympathy over characters that I most often see mooned over by fans. Namely Severus Snape (who by the way is my favorite), Cedrick Diggory, and Neville Longbottom.

The initial jump back into time is all in an effort to save the tragically killed Cedrick Diggory. This screws up life and the world because Cedrick apparently turned Death Eater and killed Neville at the battle of Hogwarts. If Neville dies, then Voldemort lives, because Neville is responsible for destroying one of Moldy-Volde’s Horcruxs.

Now, we can rush past the whole Hufflepuff Cedrick becoming a Death Eater issue and play the “Author knows best” card, but by the time I hit this part of the play my eye was already twitching. Then when Severus Snape turned up alive in this new world, and gave his life AGAIN to make it all be right, I felt like I’d been roped into crying over the same crap I’d already been through with Deathly Hallows. Plus, there was this whole emotional moment when Snape is told that Harry named his child after him. Snape’s dying words are, “Tell Albus Severus Potter, that I’m proud he bears my name.”

But by far the worst part for me, was when I found that Voldemort was the father of Bellatrix Lestrange’s child, a little girl born just before the battle of Hogwarts. Sex? Voldemort? No. That is an oddity that no amount of “author knows best” can excuse in my mind. I just don’t buy it. I felt like I was reading fan fiction. Nothing wrong with fan fiction! I’ve written some myself. Except, I just think that Rowling doesn’t need to do that.

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I’ve read The Cuckoo’s CallingI’d give it a solid 5 stars. I heard mixed reviews on it, some harping on the fact that it didn’t really sell until the news popped out that Robert Galbraith was J.K. Rowling. Of course that made it sell. J.K. Rowling had already been tested in the fires of unknown authordom and found brilliant. Rightfully so. She is utterly fantastic. Nobody knew Robert Galbraith. Why risk picking up his book instead of John Grisham’s? I call it courage to go through those fires again when her name would have sold it easily without the initial rejection.

But that’s just what I mean, she’s too good to have to repackage the old franchise. She’s a true writer, and probably has a thousand untold stories dancing in her head. And while I love Harry Potter, I think she deserves to work on the new and not fall under the hypnosis of the MORE HARRY! MORE HARRY! chant from fans and publishers. That’s what Pottermore is for. She has there the blessing of a forever fandom, where she can post endless anecdotes and updates on her characters to the eager approval of all. Most authors just have to walk away from their favorite characters when the story is done being told.

And stories do end. Harry’s mortgage, petty marital arguments, and eventual aging arthritic knees will not make for compelling sequels. Harry has now saved the world for Voldemort TWICE. How many times can a person save the world from a super-villian that they’ve already vanquished? Is Harry a Saturday morning cartoon of a DC comic now?  And if I have to believe he is going to save the world THREE times from He Who Shall Not Be Named…well, I just won’t.

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In case this post sounds utterly negative and like I hate the continuing Harry Potter franchise, I LOVELOVELOVED Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  The world she created in the Potter books was bigger than just Harry. Give me more new characters like Newt Scamander and I’ll come back forever. Also, the play is scheduled to open in NYC. If by any chance I could secure tickets, I would sure as anything still go, but it wouldn’t be because I was in love with the plot. It had some very fascinating special effects written in, which I would love to see worked out on stage.

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To Turtle, or Not to Turtle?

I’m not accustomed to this level of praise from anyone but my husband. My professor is holding out my short story to the rest of the class, my √++ a loud red against the white paper. It’s screaming, “loved it” almost literally, because that’s what he’s written next to my grade.

“Look at the format. This is what you need to do. The heading there, in MLA. And it’s six pages, so now what? She just has to hand in four more and BOOM! she’s done with her portfolio.”

I can’t make eye contact with anyone, barely even my friends. I don’t know if I’m smiling or just red and blotchy. If I am smiling, there’s a good chance it looks arrogant and cockeyed because I can’t tell if I’m pleased or I want to vomit because I’m embarrassed. I thrive on positive encouragement. In fact, I can take nearly any criticism if it comes with a dose of hopeful praise or a sincere, “I love you.” I just get it so rarely that when it comes, I don’t know how to handle it. Usually when he’s reading my stuff aloud, even if nobody knows it’s mine, I turtle. This is when I pull the neckline of my shirt up over my face so the tip of my nose is covered, and stare vacantly across the room at some lonely piece of dust. And for a moment…we are one. Sometimes I throw shade and do this when somebody else’s stuff is being read, just in case anyone’s watching and has caught on to my tell.

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me turtling

I read my story to the group, that’s how it goes for the stuff in workshop. It’s the first piece of prose I’ve handed in for Creative Writing. I wrote it early in the semester, but it took me weeks to convince myself to hand it in for critique. I’ve LITERALLY been having nightmares about this moment since I passed it out. The windowless basement classroom becomes the ninth circle of hell, my professor is Virgil, telling everyone my sins of shitty writing while my classmates chew on what’s left of my hopes and dreams, like Satan on the head of Judas Iscariot. The only reason I didn’t have to come into class with a large consoling cup of peppermint tea (a necessity for my Sci-fi/Fantasy Class) is because I sneaked a peek into his stack of papers and already knew he’d given me an A. *crosses herself and looks gratefully toward heaven*

Just him alone, I can swallow the negative critique. He’s published about 6 collections of poetry and, obviously, knows his stuff. If he says it sucks, I cry a lot, pick up the pieces, learn and grow. But for some reason the critique of my peers just scares the crap out of me. I mean, there’s so many of them, and just one me. And I’m thirty years old for crying out loud! Most of them are barely legal. How freakin’ sick would it be for me to burst into tears in front of them. (“Don’t mind me. I just paid all this money to find out I suck. Thanks for making my Mother right. Again…”)

I finish reading (badly) and he starts up again. More or less, he had nothing negative to say. Just a few suggestions and pointing out of silly mistakes. He praised my use of figurative language, dialogue, alliteration, and verbs. He said my story made him laugh every time he read it. He even praised things that I thought I did poorly. I was worried that my story wasn’t deep or thought provoking at all. I was worried that my characters weren’t dynamic. He mentioned these things, but not in a way that made it sound like it mattered, that somehow my story was still “really good.” He said my piece was excellently staged, “like it could be a scene from a movie. Great use of senses so you feel like it’s real. Like you’re really there.” That’s something about my writing I’m constantly worried about, that my setting isn’t visual enough to draw in the reader.

I’m shuffling and glowing and want him to stop and want him to never, ever stop. I mean, I adored him from the first day. But now? Gosh. He’s on his way to being one of my all time favorites. Honestly, I can’t tell you how much his praise was needed. I’ve had so many down points since the summer. I’ve been fighting and struggling to find my purpose, my gift, what it is I’m supposed to leave behind me. I’ve been told by so many people for so many years that I am this and that. I locked them out, but they are the forever recording in my brain that tells me, You are not enough. You are not enough.

But maybe I am. I’m not Tolkien. I’m not Sylvia Path or Donna Tart or David Mitchell. But I’m me. And maybe I am enough of me to be enough.

Do I think I’ve arrived? No way. I mean, this is INTRO to Creative Writing. Maybe next semester I’ll have a Prof who hates my stuff. Writing is a thing that you’re always learning how to do better, and I’m still so new at it. I know my novels need a ton more tweaking before I should try my hand at querying again. But at least now I have some concrete assurance that I don’t completely suck at this. And sometimes, that little something can be everything.

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Unconditional

Some people get cranky when they’re tired. Some when they’re stressed. Some when they’re hungry or sick or when they’ve been cooped up inside from a snowstorm.12605531_10153376992302963_4298170848787498067_o.jpg

Me? I get cranky for all of the above reasons, but this particular night was the second day in a row that I was cranky from studying for my French quiz. Jon saw me come in favoring my tender, twisted ankle after a literal run in with the six year old.12140878_10153214699457963_8518091886176476593_o

“Aww,” he said. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

I snarled a groan at him and waved him away, “Just leave it, okay?” And that was just the beginning. I took everything else he said completely out of context and chewed him up to the best of my ability before throwing myself on my bed and sobbing into my blankets like a Disney princess with PMS.

I felt like…well, a jerk I guess. I’d like to use stronger language, but I try to keep it clean around here as best I can. I fell asleep hating myself, thinking about how, even if he had meant his words the way I’d taken them, I was still being unfair. He’s tired too and working so hard. I should at least be giving him as much grace as I’d want for myself.

First thing I woke up, I sent him a text: “I’m sorry I’m a jerk sometimes.

I saw him around the house but couldn’t make eye contact with him. I was too afraid that he’d still be upset at me for being so horrible the night before. On my way out the door, he called my name and came up to me with his arms wide open.

“I got your text,” he said, as his arms closed around me.11081166_10152783748617963_5494858081283997201_n

“I love you Jonny.”

“I love you too.” He pulled back a little and looked at me with his head cocked slightly to the side. “But seriously, I don’t remember you being a jerk.”

Every. Single. Time.
This bizarre treatment isn’t just specific to my brother-in-law. No. It started with my husband. Even when I know he knows I’ve done something to hurt him, even at the times I’ve brought tears to his eyes, he just says, “It’s okay. I forgive you,” and it’s done. It never comes up again. There’s no wall, no hate, no slamming doors or days of silent treatment and shunning.

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His parents are the same. I can openly disagree with them. I can do something they don’t like. I can be a snarky, nasty, easily annoyed female dog for days and they still just…

love me.

12622269_10153376950777963_1368095368960911501_oThis version of love is new to me. When I first found it in my husband, I just assumed it was so wild and beautiful because this was the way true romantic love was when you’ve finally found THE ONE. I never dreamed that I would find it in others. Yet here I am, living in a home where everyone just loves me. Not the nice me that nobody would have trouble loving, but the real me, the one with all the dirty broken bits.

It’s beyond my understanding, this concept of a love that13391473_10153678715022963_2054460552765938291_o does not have to be earned; that’s reaffirmed daily by action and word. Growing up, love was something I had to fight to gain. When I didn’t keep my behavior, thoughts, and attitudes properly in order, I was tossed aside until I got it right. I spent so much time groveling, hoping that if I just said enough right things or did enough right things or buried enough of the parts of me people didn’t like or understand, that I would finally receive the love I wanted so desperately.

Over the past few years I’ve come to realize that people who put that many conditions on love, are not worth the time spent in trying to gain their affections. So, I stopped trying. I thought this decision would mean the end of family for me, that I’d only have one again when Timothy and I had children and a home of our own.

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12961212_10208680190820471_2361922664253489059_oBut here are these people, these beautiful people, that I have no blood relationship to, that have no reason to want me around, who live with me day after day after day and see what a hot mess I am and yet CHOOSE to love me. It’s as though they made a decision to love me the first time their son brought me through the door. They didn’t even know me then, and they loved me. They know me now and love me just as much. And they give and give and give and want nothing back. And I’m just wrecked by it, in a good way, because I can’t wrap my head around the idea that the love I’ve always wanted, my whole entire life, the love I begged and wept for my whole childhood, the home I need now more than ever, was waiting for me in the arms of a family that I didn’t even know existed until eight years ago.

I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever understand it. I know I’ll never deserve it. But please, you guys, please don’t ever stop. ❤

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