Staying Present

I’ve always loved Christmas. Growing up, I spent a lot of time on my Christmas list. I can remember paging through toy catalogues at the breakfast room table documenting what I wanted. I would also put together a list of what I wanted to buy for my family. My grade school often had a Santa’s workshop set up each year and we could buy trinkets for our parents and siblings. Willow Grove mall was also a go to spot for holiday shopping. I was and still am a huge fan of Christmas.

At my parents house each year, the tree is set up in the room at the foot of the front steps, the library. The library has shelves of books of course and some furniture. It’s like an extra living room. At Christmas time, the library and the surrounding rooms become a Christmas wonderland.

Christmas Eve we would go to mass together. After mass, we would have pizza for dinner and make chocolate chip cookies.“Santa and the elves” would set to work after we all went to sleep. My aunt Clare and my mom’s friend Kathy would often stay over night on Christmas Eve and help with setting up. My aunt Clare would stay with me in my room. I can remember anxiously waiting for her to come up after helping my parents. “Oh my God, wait till you see what’s down there,” she would say. I would lie there, unable to sleep, imagining what was down there.

On Christmas morning, we would wake up together and wait at the top of the stairs until my parents were ready. My mom would ring a set of bells and shout, “Good bye, Santa. Thank you! Okay, everyone. Come down!”

The five of us would come down the stairs to a room full of gifts. Each of us had our own pile. The stereo played Christmas music, the train set raced around the foot of the tree. My dad had a video camera in hand and my mom greeted each of us with a Christmas morning hug. We would sit around and open our gifts and exchange gifts that we bought for our parents and for each other. The remainder of the day would be spent playing with our new toys and electronics as my parents prepared Christmas dinner. It was magical.

Even as a teenager, I couldn’t contain that familiar Christmas spirit. Over time, it became less about the gifts and more about the time spent with my family. I relished it. Now that we are all married and have started/are starting our own families, the chain of events has been altered. The past couple years we haven’t all been together for Christmas, but the magic of the Sprandio Christmas still surges on. I attribute this Christmas magic to my parents. They have this unique ability to create a welcoming, happy environment in their home any time of year. But at Christmas, it’s extra special. They are the heart of all of this. Their ability to share their generous hearts with those they love is so natural for them. It’s admired by anyone who encounters it. They have an ability to make you feel like a kid again on Christmas. They inspire fun and wonder. They have instilled this magical excitement in all of us and we have shared it with our new families.

This year on Christmas morning it was me, Zach, Shane, and Nina at my parents house. We spent Christmas Eve setting up for the kids. John, Grace, Leo, Sadie, Joseph, Jane, and Michael all had their own piles. As I helped assemble the gifts, I thought about how I was once a little one in this house trying to sleep while my gifts magically appeared in my pile. Now I’m helping prepare the Christmas magic for my nieces and nephews. I felt privileged to be in the position to create a happy environment for them.

The kids came over later in the day and opened their gifts. It was so sweet watching all of them investigate their new treasures. I recognized the wonder and excitement that had filled that room for over twenty-five years. Seeing their happiness inspired me, but I also felt a tinge of jealousy. I yearned to feel the way they did. I no longer had that innocence and I have struggled to find it and get in the spirit this year. This time last year, Christmas 2016, I was dreaming of what Christmas 2017 would be. It would be my baby’s first Christmas. I would have a little one to share in the fun with cousins. Instead, two miscarriages later, it was me standing in the corner watching my nieces and nephews with a jealous heart. I felt the all too familiar urge to cry, so I left the room and went upstairs to gather myself. I cried for the little one who could have been and for the pregnant belly I could have had at this time, I cried for Zach, I cried for the disappointment in the way I was feeling.

Zach came looking for me. He found me upstairs and asked what was wrong. I tried to explain it to him using too many words when in reality it was simple. I was sad. I was sad on Christmas and I was mad at myself for acting that way. I thought of everyone downstairs, my brothers, the kids, my parents, my aunts. I thought of how they would be disappointed in me if they knew I was upstairs crying. After talking it through with Zach, I rejoined the family downstairs. A few more times throughout the evening I had to step away to contain my emotions.

This holiday season has been a lot about reflection for me. As much as I think I have worked through a lot the last few months, I am still having trouble owning my feelings. I am still thinking of them as a burden. I am still trying to fight them rather than embrace them. Christmas Day was a reminder of this. I was surrounded by happiness, joy, and innocence. I allowed myself to get caught up in what COULD have been rather than focusing on what WAS. That’s not what the season is about. That’s not what I am about.

As this new year approaches, one of my new year’s resolutions that I am determined to keep, is to focus more on the now. I need to get my head out of the rut that it’s in and focus on what I have in front of me, such as my loving husband, my nieces and nephews, who I am so blessed to be able to see whenever I want pretty much. I was chatting with a friend and she said to me she knows it must be hard for me, but she said think about all the special moments you have with your nieces and nephews. You get to spend a lot of time with them right now because you are available and some of them are at ages that they can start to appreciate the fun memories. I didn’t think of it that way. I appreciated her input and will make it part of my thought process now. I get to be available to these sweet little ones. Maybe that’s what I am supposed to do right now. I need to take advantage of this time I have before the plans of having my own family fall into place. I need to rediscover my faith that there is a reason for everything. And when the time is right, I’ll be more ready.

Focusing on the now is easier said than done, but I think it is part of this journey that I am on. I am struggling with this step, but putting in writing will make more accountable for it.

For those of you who have had experience any kind off loss recently, especially a miscarriage or a child, know that I am praying for you. Keep your head up. The holidays are difficult when you’re feeling low, but be sure to stay in the NOW. Each day is a new day to lift yourself up and feel a little better. What happened has happened, continue to be strong and continue on your personal journey.

God bless, happy holidays. I wish much health and happiness in the new year.

Rut

One of my favorite bands is The Killers. Their new album Wonderful Wonderful was released a few days before my birthday this year. I preordered the album, got the fan club t-shirt, and the early access code, the whole shebang.

It’s been 13 years since I started listening to the Killers. They have been 13 formidable years. So many songs over the years that I have played on repeat while doing homework, rocked out to in my room, or in the car while driving. Songs that meant something to me in times when I wanted to celebrate or times when I felt lost or upset. The timing of the release of this album was ideal. I downloaded it September 22nd, a month after my second miscarriage, eight days before my 30th birthday. I listened to it on repeat maybe three times the day I got it.

One song that resonated with me most is entitled Rut. With the first listen, I cried.

“Don’t give up on me. Cause’ I’m just in a Rut.”

I’ve been in a rut, stuck in my head and heart trying to riddle out why this crap had to happen to me this past year. I encountered changes in my life and body that I had never faced before. Through the year, I have felt the need to apologize to those closest to me for not being myself and for being so consumed in my own pity.

“Don’t give up on me.”

I know my loved ones would never give up on me, but when you’re stuck in your own grief it feels like you’re a burden to others and you create an irrational fear that they’ll give up on you. At least that’s how the process has gone for me.

“I’ve done my best defending, but the punches are starting to land. I’m sliding into something you won’t understand.”

There are so many ups and downs with this process. You can feel great for a while, feel like you’ve been strong and defended yourself against sadness. Then some days the sadness hits you and there’s no energy to fight back. You get knocked out and it takes time to heal and rejoin the fight. As hard as I have tried to make others understand what it is I am feeling, it’s difficult. This is such a personal, internal experience that it is hard to convey. Only those who have experienced it can understand it best. But even then, it’s still a unique personal experience to your body. Every person’s body is different and reacts differently.

“I keep climbing but the walls keep stacking up.”

I feel like this line is applicable to the 2nd miscarriage I had. I was just becoming okay with what happened the first time and then God decided I needed another lesson. Are ya kidding me? How am I supposed to overcome this if it keeps happening?

I’ve made the decision again and again to keep climbing.

“So I’m handing you a memory
I hope you understand.
That steadily reminds you of who I really am.”

I’ve said before, I try not to let this bad experience define me, although at times it can. Even though I let the fear and disappointment get the best of me, this “sad sap” personality that surfaces isn’t who I really am. And I know that. But this feeling of needing to remind others of that bubbles up inside. I feel like I have to tell my husband and my family, hey, I’m sorry, I’m feeling defeated, but this isn’t who I am. I feel the need to remind them, I won’t let my happy personality slip away. I know I can overcome this. It’s really a strange journey this whole ordeal has taken me on. I am constantly thinking, am I processing this correctly? Is it taking me too long to understand what happened to me?

As good as it feels to write this out, I do feel redundant. I want to reach outside of myself and write about different topics, but there’s something inside me that urges me to keep writing about this. My selfish hope in writing these blogs is to write myself out of this rut. Thanks for bearing with me as I continue to overcome these hurdles.

Can’t Stop The Feeling

Six years go on this day I met my husband, Zachary Ells. You know, that guy I occasionally gush about in my blog posts and post pictures of on social media without him knowing. We met at a Sam Adams beer tasting event at a bar and grill called Magerk’s.* I can honestly say, since that day, I haven’t stopped smiling.

Zachary Morris Ells is a special kind of person. First of all he is the original Zach Morris.

“My middle name is Morris.”

“Wait, what?! You mean I am dating Zach Morris?”

I of course texted my brothers and all my friends the hilarious news that my new boyfriend was Zach Morris. I asked him why he didn’t tell everyone that he had the same name as the heartthrob character from the Saved By The Bell series and he just said he didn’t think it was a big deal. I of course thought it was the greatest thing ever. But that’s just how Zach is. He’s humble. He doesn’t like people making a big deal about him. He prefers to give the spotlight to others.

Well, today I am happy to take the opportunity to shine the spotlight on him. I know 6 years isn’t a milestone or anything, but I feel it’s fitting to give Zach his shout out considering we are both entering a new decade of our lives…30… I also think it’s appropriate because I think we grew up a lot in different ways this past year and I just want the world to know how great he is.

Zach Ells is the kindest, most thoughtful human being you will ever meet. He has an infectious personality and a unique zest for life. He can find the positive side in any situation. He works hard and puts 100% of himself into everything he does. He faces any problem head on and analyzes the solutions until he finds the right one. He’d do anything for anyone. When you speak, he listens closely to every word you say. He never judges others. It is so easy to be myself around him, no matter how weird that may be.

He has a smile that literally brightens a room. Like I’ve seen lightbulbs go on when Zach smiles, it’s wild. He is the happiest person on the planet and his happiness is electric. I feel honored that I get to contribute to that happiness. He lifts me up when I am down and keeps me grounded when I get too bonkers. I know they say perfection is impossible, but Zach Ells is a damn near perfect human being.

As cliché or corny as it sounds, from the moment I met him, I knew something was different about him. I felt comfortable with him right away. It was as if I had known him for years already. Love at first sight? I don’t want to sound too fairy tale-ish, but yeah. I really think I knew in my heart that I was going to be with him forever.

We have had a crazy fun journey thus far and I consider myself super blessed to spend my life with Zach. He makes me want to be the best person I can be. He inspires me every day. He makes me laugh and instills in me an insatiable zest for life. Most importantly, he loves me with his whole heart.

Here’s to you Zachary Morris Ells. I hope I don’t embarrass you too much!

 

*Shout out to my friend Jess Pasquarella for working for Sam Adams and bringing us together that night!!

Who is she

 

She looks at photos of herself from years past.
Who is that girl, she questions.
That girl knows joy.
That girl knows excitement.
She is unaware of struggles.

She turns to look in the mirror.
Who is she now, she questions.
She is a new version of the girl in the photos.
She has a tainted spirit.
She is aware of struggles and has let pain overtake her.

She steps outside and looks up at the sky.
Who will she become, she questions Him.
Why has she been given these struggles?
When will she feel okay again?
She listens hard only to hear the soft whistling of the wind.

She feels frustration billowing inside of her.
Who is she to ask these questions?
Why does she think He will give her the answers that so many others seek?
When will she have the strength to understand?
She breathes deep in hopes of inhaling wisdom and faith.

She directs her attention to the path ahead of her.
She arms herself with her cloak of strength to prepare for the unknown.
She wills herself to march forward because that’s what she must do.
Who is she, she questions.
She is woman.

 

 

 

Wave of light 

Tonight my husband Zach and I lit this candle in honor of pregnancy and infant loss awareness day. To my two pregnancies I lost, we will always love you. To all those who have experienced any kind of loss, stay strong and be brave. You are not alone. 

To the loved ones of those who have experienced loss, ask us to share our stories and experiences. Speaking about it helps. We need to break the silence. 
#pregnancyandinfantlossremembranceday 

#waveoflight 

The Big 3…0h

Well, I’m 30. While most grieve about the aging process, I welcome it. I rejoice and bask in the glory of my fleeting youth. I am still young and I have so many years ahead of me to experience what our short time on this planet has to offer. I still have the energy and zest to grab life by the horns and ride gracefully into my old age. I shall never complain about the big 3-0, for age is but a number. You’re only as old as you feel. Age doesn’t matter unless you are a cheese.

Oh, forget it.

22090094_10210818592209090_8401145546628100435_n.jpg

I CAN’T FOR THE LIFE OF ME UNDERSTAND HOW I AM 30 YEARS OLD. That sounds old. But now that I’m actually 30, it doesn’t seem that old, really. I was telling Zach the other day that my 20s seemed so long when I was in them. And now they’re gone. What the heck.

I LOVE my birthday. I know all my readers have come to know that fact. I love celebrations in general, especially ones centered around me or those close to me. If you go into my social media history and my blog history, you will find that every September 30th I have no problem wishing myself a happy birthday and throwing myself a huge party. What does it say about me that I do this? Conceited? A tad. Indulgent? Yes. Ridiculous? Certainly. But mostly, I do it because I love being around everyone. I love having a house full of people, probably because that is how I grew up. My birthday is simply an excuse to throw a party. The last party I threw with friends was when I was 27. You might remember me blogging about my “Roaring 20s” party. That was a good one. I invited my parents and Zach’s parents to that one. I tried not to get too drunk until after they left. I recall saying, “Zach’s parents are gone. I’m getting drunk!” Oh, to be 27 again.

At the time, I had an inkling that I would soon be engaged, and I made a note to myself that my 27 party might be one of my last blow out parties that I would throw on my own and it was. I got married two months after I turned 28, so I didn’t throw a party that year. When I turned 29, we went out to bars in the city instead of hosting a house party at our apartment. “I’ll skip throwing a party this year. I’ll go big for 30.”

We all know the crappy crap that happened to me while I was 29. No need to reiterate that. And if you are joining us here at the “Kate centric” blog for the first time, go back a few posts to review my last year.

29 sucked.

That was my thought process the closer I got to turning 30. 29 sucked. But as I reflect, I realize I am a bad person for saying that because a lot of good things happened around me when I was 29. My one sister-in-law gave birth to my nephew, Joseph. My little brother got married. I found out one of sisters-in-law was expecting her first baby. My best friend had her baby, Kennedy. My other sister-in-law had her baby, Jane. I attended weddings and birthday parties for various loved ones. I began year 2 of my incredible marriage. We FINALLY closed on our house my very last day of being 29. At 29, on 9/29, I bought a house. There has been so much good around me and while I still struggle with the pain within me, I am so grateful for all of these wonderful things happening around me. It does seem like a lot of people have been getting pregnant or having babies and others have said to me, “Is this hard for you?” It’s really not. I need that reminder of joy. I want to be excited for other people and I enjoy focusing on being happy for others.

I didn’t throw a blow out party this year like I said I would. As my birthday got closer, I felt indifferent about it. I told Zach originally that I didn’t want to do anything. I said I wanted to wait till his birthday and we could celebrate him turning 30. (Yes, he’s younger than me. Let’s get that out of the way. He turns 30 November 22nd, so you all know. Don’t worry, I’ll be reminding you). My best friend Alexis was shocked I wasn’t throwing a rager for my 30th. She said, “Um, are you turning 90 and I didn’t realize it?”

I didn’t feel the need to celebrate me this year because I was disappointed in myself. I was disappointed in myself for the miscarriages (yes, I know it’s still silly for me to think that, but again I can’t help it). Mostly, I was/am disappointed that I have lost myself a bit in this struggle. I’m a different person now and I am still adjusting to these new feelings, this new reality of life that I have been thrust into. I still have that joy, I still have that zest to celebrate, but it’s been dimmed. And I feel badly about that because those around me expect me to have that spark, but I have had trouble reigniting it.

Despite my indifference, I still threw myself a party. I really wouldn’t be me if I didn’t.

“You’re turning 30 on the 30th and it’s a Saturday. You have to do something!”-Zach

I invited my immediate family and Zach’s immediate family over for dinner. It was good timing that we closed on our house the day before because we had a chance to give some of them a tour. We held the party at my temporary home, the Sprandio Inn, as I like to call it. While I was overjoyed to have the families together under one roof, I found that I was feeling that tinge of indifference again. I was happy, very happy, but I felt reserved. I slunk back and watched the party from a distance. I watched how happy everyone looked. How both my family and Zach’s family interacted so well. I watched Zach, beaming because he was with his family who he doesn’t see as often as we see mine. I watched the kids being their joyful little selves. There was so much love in the room, so much positivity, so much hope. And yet I couldn’t help the thoughts of what happened while I was 29 slip into my thought process. Even in the happiest of moments, I have that lingering thought of disappointment. Thoughts like, “imagine if the first one didn’t happen, I’d have a baby in my arms right now. Or, imagine if the second one didn’t happen, I’d have a pregnant belly right now.” I wanted to talk about it, but rather than bring it up to everyone, I kept those feelings inside and simply watched the conversations. I wanted everyone to enjoy each other.

After dinner, my brother John and his wife Mary gave me a gift. They made me a movie. Since I was 13 and first learned to use iMovie on my Mac, I have been making movies for big events. Birthdays, engagements, weddings, graduations, etc. I’ve been paid to do a few, but mostly they’re for close family members. The “movies” consist of photos, quotes, sometimes video clips. I do it whether or not I am asked to, simply because I love to do it. I have made one for each of my nieces and nephews for their 1st birthday parties. I have made one for each of my brothers’ graduations, and engagements. I made one for myself when I graduated high school and when I got engaged. I even made one for Zach for his 30th and showed it at my party last weekend. I couldn’t wait two more months to give it to him.

When my dad came in and said, “Kate, is it time for the movie?” I immediately said, “Oh, Zach, I made you a movie. I know your birthday isn’t for another two months. I couldn’t wait,” thinking that was what my dad was talking about. We walked into the living room and my brother John was standing at the TV. He pressed play and the screen said, “Kate is 30!” Wait, what!

They had photos of me from all different years of my life. The premise was my life according to my social media accounts. Made me realize I share a hell of a lot of stuff on the Internet! They had quotes from my brothers, sisters-in-law, my parents, Zach’s parents, and some of my aunts. I was and still am so touched by their thoughtfulness. I know those projects can be time consuming. Even just getting the material together from other people can be a hassle. I can’t thank them enough for taking time out of their busy lives to create that for me.

As I watched the movie, I had Grace and Sadie climbing in and out of my arms. The other little ones and everyone else were all around watching. It was the reality check I think I needed. I was surrounded by my families watching a video about myself, what could be better! I was struck with everyone’s quotes. Mary said nobody knew what the others were writing and they all had something to do with my joy for life. As I read the quotes, I thought, THIS is who you are. You’ve lost sight of this person. Don’t do that. Hold on to her. She’s hit a few bumps, that’s okay. It happens to all of us. Don’t lose this version of yourself because all of these people love you for being that person.

I wanted to thank everyone that night, my parents, my in-laws, my brothers, my husband…I wanted to thank them for the comfort and support they have given me through everything, but I didn’t know what to say. Surprising, Kate kept quiet in front of her family.

I wanted to thank them for being the joy in my life. They are all the reason I am happy, excited, and willing to celebrate anything and everything. I wanted to thank them for reminding me what life is about and reminding me that I am never alone. I wanted to thank them for keeping me in touch with who I really am. Crap happens and it changes people. Change is okay, though. It helps us grow, but when the change starts to affect who you really are, it’s not good. This change that I experienced while being 29, brought out a different side of me. I think that’s okay overall, but I can’t lose who I really am in the process of growing with this change. These people keep me grounded. They remind me where I come from, they remind me who I am and how I’ve grown, and they help me develop and share in my life as I head into the future. Grateful isn’t a strong enough word to express how, well, how grateful I am for all of them.

After the dinner party, we kept the party going at Iron Hill Brewery up the street with Zach’s sisters and his brother-in-law. After they left, Zach and I walked home. Being true to myself, I broke down to Zach later that night. I couldn’t hold it in and I am so blessed Zach gives me the time to let it out. When we arrived in the driveway, we started talking and I cried. I cried in his arms and he held me, just like he had been doing off and on the past eight months. I cried because I was overwhelmed with the love and support that I have. I cried that I wasn’t myself that night and I needed to get back in touch with the real me. I cried for my pregnancies. As he held me, he reminded me of how loved I am and how I bring people together. He reminded me that it’s okay to feel this way and that I am still the person he fell in love with and the person he will always love.

So, here I am. 30 years old. I have a few battle scars on my heart, but I am loved. I am supported. I am respected. And, I have a house.

Good bye, 29. You were a real ass at times, but I appreciate what I learned. You’ve helped me grow up just a little bit more and recognize the important things in life.

Get ready, 30. I have a feeling I am going to be more ME than I’ve ever been.

Farewell, 19th Street

This past Tuesday, our lease ended on our apartment on 19th street. I remember when we first toured the place. We looked at each other when we left and we knew it was where we wanted to be. We walked back to Zach’s apartment on Arch Street discussing our other options, making sure it was a good decision. When we arrived at his place, the landlord called and said someone else was interested, but if we agreed to sign a two-year lease, the place was ours.

Wow, two years. It sounded like a long time. One of our original plans was to sign on for a place for a year and if we liked it keep it going. Signing on for two years up front seemed like an eternity. I can remember Zach looking at me and asking if we should do it. The start of many big decisions we would make in our relationship.

“Let’s do it. Let’s go for it,” I said.

It was our first place together, our first home as a married couple. The night of our wedding, we stayed at the Union League, so our first night at the apartment as a married couple was the day after we got married. We walked back from the Union League, our wedding gear in duffel bags. We walked up the steps and opened the main door. Zach turned to me and said, “I have to carry you over the threshold!” I of course responded, “I hope you can lift me.”

He carried me through the first door, up the few stairs to our entrance. We opened the door to infinite possibilities. I remember the surge of excitement we both felt. This was OUR place, our 1,100 square foot palace, our first big financial responsibility we would share together. We felt so grown up, so accomplished, so confident that this was where we were meant to start our marriage. The first thing we did was play a few games of Super Smash Brothers to christen the apartment. Obviously, that’s how you properly start a marriage. Zach won, I am ashamed to admit.

That first weekend set a tone for all the fun we would have at our new place. We went out with friends that Saturday night and stayed up late. Sunday we watched the Eagles play the Patriots and the Eagles won. Again, I reiterate the infinite possibilities. Living downtown was a dream come true. I often told Zach when we were dating that I’d love to spend a few years living in center city. When we got engaged, it was a no brainer that we would rent an apartment down there. Zach had already lived various locations and was well acquainted with all the best spots.

One of my favorite things was being able to walk everywhere. We’d walk to the grocery store together a few blocks away. We walked to bars, restaurants. We walked to meet up with other friends who lived nearby. Zach walked to work. We rarely needed the car, which was a change for me. Sometimes if I was out for a run while Zach was walking home from work I’d ask him which route he was taking so I could “run into him.” We’d run together to the trail that was just a few blocks away. The late nights walking home together after being out with friends were some of my favorites, laughing together at how silly we were and feeling like we had no limits on time and that the city belonged to us. It was our playground.

There’s a bar on 19th and Chestnut called Drinker’s that became our go to spot for tacos. We started going there on Wednesdays, because apparently we are too cool to eat tacos on Tuesdays like everybody else. Their tacos aren’t even THAT great, but we love them anyway. The waitress who worked on Wednesdays started to know us. She’d wave us down as we walked in and always made sure to be our server.

Cherry Street Tavern on 22nd and Cherry was our favorite spot to go. Zach introduced me to that place when we started dating. Walking in there is like Cheers, everybody knows our name. We’ve spent many times in there with countless friends listening to countless songs on Touch Tunes. Touch Tunes is an app that allows you to connect to the jukebox in a bar through your phone. I’m certain we have spent a small fortune on Touch Tunes. After we got married, there were a few times Zach and I were there by ourselves and he’d play our wedding song Hooked on a Feeling. We’d get up and dance together in the middle of the bar. Another favorite spot was Bar bar. Yes, a bar simply called Bar. I love it because they have a bubble hockey game there and it’s one of the few games Zach isn’t very good at.

One weekend recently, Zach discovered Uber Eats and we had McDonald’s delivered to us for a late night snack. You would have thought we discovered an unknown land. We relished in the late night burgers and watched Rick and Morty while we indulged.

Our place had a roof deck too where we spent many nights grilling, hosted family members and friends, drank mimosas while listening to music on a summer day. We hung out with our neighbors a few times, getting to know the “dudes who live above us.” It was a spot we could sit and watch the sunset, side by side, just me and my husband, and the beauty of the city sunset.

Yes, we have had our fun, a lot of fun. It is well known that Zach and Kate know how to have a good time together. But this apartment is also a symbol of our growth, both as a couple and as individuals. It’s a place we have learned how to live together. As I mentioned in a previous post, we didn’t live together until we got married. It’s been fun getting to know each other’s quirks better and how we operate being with each other most of the time. It was a rather easy transition thankfully. No major faux pas.

This place taught us how to be more open with each other. If we had a disagreement or we were upset over something, we couldn’t just leave and go home. We were home. We had to be open about whatever it was that was making us upset. I can remember when we were dating, if I got mad at Zach for something or vice versa when we were hanging out, we could deal with it later. Or if we were texting, I could put the phone away and think about it on my own. When you live together, you can’t do that. Sure you can go out and let off steam, but when you go home, the person is there waiting for you to express your feelings.

It’s the place we decided to try and start a family. It’s the place we found out I was pregnant both times. It’s the place we found out I lost my pregnancies. It’s the place we learned to lean on each other more than we had ever had to. It’s the place we both were at our most vulnerable. It’s the place we learned how to better comfort each other. It’s a place our love grew stronger.

This past year has been a pivotal one in our relationship and we experienced it in this apartment. As the time of moving out came closer, I thought to myself I am so ready to get out of this place. I hate the things that have happened the last eight months here. As I reflect on it now, I feel badly that I thought that. I got caught up in my grief and I took it out on our apartment. The apartment didn’t cause our strife. If anything, it was a safe, comforting environment where we could be comfortable to talk to each other, really talk to each other. We have shared so much within those walls; love, laughter, and hurt. As much as there were nights of non-stop fun, there were also nights of sadness and stress. There were nights I cried in Zach’s arms and then again there were nights we both cried from laughing too much.

I will always remember our 19th street palace fondly. The ups and downs we experienced there have been a positive in our relationship. I am so grateful for our time in the city.

I’ve gone on about what this place meant to us but I have failed to mention where we will be living. Well, that’s a whole other blog post. I’ll give you a quick summary. Right now, we are staying at my parents’ house because we are waiting to close on a house! Yes, a house of our own. A four bedroom, 2.5 bathroom house. A new palace for us to make our own. There will be more to come once we settle everything with it.

Here’s a teaser, we became interested in this house in January. We put in a bid in February. It’s a called a “short sale.” My suggestion is they (whoever they are that make up names for these sales) should change it to an ETERNITY SALE. It’s September right now, in case you all forgot. Yup, it’s September and we are still waiting. I’m totally not stressed over it. Nah, not at all. Totally okay with it. Ask Zach.

So dear readers, join me and Zach and as we say farewell to our 19th street palace. Join us as we take yet another step in our life long relationship. Help us say hello to our future home…hopefully….sooner rather than later…..love my parents dearly but we can’t live with them forever…….sorry mom.

unnamed.jpg

In the words of our niece, Sadie, “Buh bye! Buh, bye!!”

Try Again

You’ve all been with me on my emotional journey thus far this year. The blighted ovum miscarriage in January was jarring, but as the months have slipped away, I have become more in tune with my body and my feelings on the situation. But, just because you are coming to terms with one lesson, doesn’t mean life is done teaching you.

August 9th, I went out before Zach got home and I bought a pregnancy test. While waiting for Zach, I mulled it over in my head. The last week and a half the all too familiar pregnancy symptoms were creeping in. I tried to contain myself and convince myself I would get my period, it was just going to come late. I stashed it in the bathroom and talked myself out of taking it.

When Zach arrived home, I revealed to him the symptoms that had been increasing. He smiled that wonderful smile of his and told me to take a test if I wanted to verify my suspicions. His excitement fused with mine made me unable to wait. While we were watching TV, I snuck upstairs and took one.

Positive.

The instant joy and excitement that I remember experiencing in December surged through my veins. I looked at myself in the mirror and I smiled, but the longer I stared the more I could see the doubt in my eyes. I shook it away best I could and kept the smile steady as I went downstairs to show Zach. We embraced in a hug and laughed to ourselves with tears. I could not hide the feeling of uncertainty that lingered and I expressed it to Zach. He convinced me this time would be different. This time would be okay.

The next day I could hardly contain myself. We told my parents at their house and the following night we called Zach’s parents. That weekend we went to the shore and, rather than keep it from my brothers, which would be impossible for me, we planned on revealing the news down there. After the miscarriage in January, I had gone back and forth with what I would do when I got pregnant again. Should I hide it from my immediate family? Should I wait it out and not tell them until I get an ultrasound? Zach insisted we not do anything differently than before. He reminded me it is in our nature to share good news, so we were going to share with our families. Since the first miscarriage, I have made an effort to believe that we cannot let fear of the unknown dictate how we live our lives. It’s become a mantra of mine.

Our families were thrilled, as expected and it made us more excited to tell Zach’s sisters. We had a nice weekend at the shore and when Sunday rolled around so did the Sunday blues. We went to the beach that day with everyone. I was sitting in a chair catching some sun while watching the kids play with Zach in the water when I became overwhelmed. I began to cry, right there on the beach. My sunglasses and fedora masked my emotions, but I could not understand why it was happening. Is it my hormones? Am I being overdramatic because I don’t want the weekend to end? I excused myself from the beach and went back up to the house. I went inside and I searched around to make sure nobody was there. I sat on the living room floor and I cried. I was unsure of where it was coming from, but it came full force. After ten minutes or so had passed, I heard the back door open. I wiped my face and blew my nose. It was Zach. He asked me why I left the beach and I collapsed again. We went downstairs to the basement for privacy and I sobbed. I had no control over it. I was afraid. I was afraid of what was going to happen. I didn’t know what I would do if something went wrong again. He reassured me and comforted me the way he always does when I am down, which seems to be more often than not these last few months. Again, we hashed out my fears and Zach reassured me that no matter what it was going to be okay.

The day wore on and it was time for us to leave. I went upstairs to my mom to say goodbye. The waterworks began again. I sat in my parents’ room with them discussing my doubts. They too reassured me it’s going to be okay. My mom urged me to focus on the good things and to stop thinking about what could go wrong. I appreciated their advice, but it is so much easier said than done. The feeling of dread came from deep within me. It could not be shaken.

Monday afternoon I arrived home from work. I was very tired, so I took an hour nap to try to boost my energy before Zach got home. I woke up and I cried. I couldn’t stop crying. I was surprised I had any tears left from the day before. I paced the apartment, unable to settle myself. What was going on with me? I was pregnant, I should be happy. I shouldn’t be thinking negatively. I should be googling baby stuff and thinking of ways to tell all my extended family and friends when the time was right. When Zach got home, I collapsed again. That night I hardly slept.

Tuesday morning I felt different. The symptoms I had were gone and new, unwelcomed ones had arrived. Later that morning at my desk, my stomach began to cramp. I stared hard at the computer screen, willing myself to hold back the tears, attempting to hide my feelings from those around me. I went to the bathroom and faced my fears. I was spotting. I immediately texted my mom and she reassured me that spotting in the first trimester is common and I would probably be okay. My brother Brian texted me the same thing. “I’m sure you’ll be fine. This is normal. It could be implantation bleeding,” he said.

I threw my mind into work, trying to forget about it, but my body wasn’t letting me forget. The bleeding increased. I called my doctor and they said they could squeeze me in that afternoon. I called my mom and she told me she would come pick me up. The office was down the road from work, so I sat with my dad while I waited.

“I know what’s happening,” I said. “This isn’t good. I don’t feel right. I didn’t feel right this morning.” He tried to remain positive, but I couldn’t accept it. My body told me the day before. At least this time, I would be somewhat prepared.

I had texted Zach and told him to come back to the exam room when he arrived. I sat on the table in the room with my mom and I felt a strange calmness. I felt disconnected. I felt as though I was watching myself go through this rather than actually experiencing it. Zach arrived and stood in the corner of the room. It was the same room we were in when we found out about the first one.

The doctor did her exam and told me she saw nothing in the uterus. I was only 5 weeks, so seeing nothing shouldn’t be alarming. She then explained I needed to get labs drawn that day and then 48 hours later to measure my HCG level. If the level continued to go up, there was a tiny glimmer of hope this could turn out to be a normal pregnancy. If the level decreased, it meant I was miscarrying. I nodded and said thanks. Before the doctor had come in, my mom tried to prep me and told me to ask questions. I had no questions as to what was happening. As much as I wanted to hold on to the “tiny glimmer of hope” that this could go on to be a normal pregnancy, I couldn’t. I couldn’t lie to myself. My body wouldn’t let me.

The next few days were painful and exhausting. I took off work for two days, spent the afternoons with my mom and some of my family and the evenings with Zach. I napped a lot and ate way too many Yodels and Oreos. That weekend Zach’s family was in town. We spent an enjoyable and relaxing weekend with them.

Every day, Zach and I were surrounded by the people we love most. It was such a comfort to have them around and we so appreciate it, but at the same time that awful feeling of isolation crept up inside me. I felt different than everyone. I didn’t have the energy to be myself and the feeling of disappointment overtook me. I kept saying sorry. Sorry for not being myself, sorry for crying, sorry for being tired, sorry for once again letting them all down, especially Zach. Of course I was told I was being silly and to stop feeling that way, but I can’t. I can’t make those feelings go away. There are times I don’t have control over my feelings. Just like I don’t have control over these miscarriages. That’s one of the hardest aspects to handle, the reality of the lack of control I have over my what’s happening in my body.

Even though I am disheartened, the way I feel about this miscarriage is different. I felt better physically quicker and I am having an easier time emotionally. That’s not to say I haven’t broken down, but I am strangely more optimistic most days. After my lab results came back, the doctor called me and confirmed what I had thought. It was a chemical pregnancy, an early miscarriage, much different than the first one. She said it was so early that in these situations people don’t even know they’re miscarrying and they think it’s just a late period. If I hadn’t taken a test, I may not have known. I didn’t quite believe that, because I knew I was pregnant before I took the test. The symptoms were strong and I knew what they meant. The difference in the two was a comfort. I’d be more worried if it was two of the same thing. She told me she didn’t think that the first one caused this one. She explained that she can’t 100% guarantee this won’t happen again, but she honestly thinks that I’ll be okay. She assured me that I have youth on my side and it hasn’t even been a year of trying yet. She said women often have two of these and go on to have a healthy pregnancy. She reiterated once again, this is more common than people think.

She then went on to explain what it means for me going forward. In the past, once a woman had a 3rd miscarriage, that’s when worry would begin. In today’s world, with all the advancements in technology, women who have two miscarriages are opting to get blood work to see if there is a reason for them. She told me it was up to me what I wanted to do. I don’t know where the positivity came from, but I told her I wanted to keep trying. There is something in me that thinks a 3rd time could be the charm. I don’t want to go searching for a problem just yet when there might not even be one. Sometimes doctors do extensive lab work and still can’t find a reason for these things. My doctor sounded encouraging and agreed with my decision.

I think I am more okay with this one because of how it occurred. The first time was shocking. To go nine weeks thinking something is growing inside of you and get all the appropriate symptoms along the way, then to find out there is nothing in there, is just, I still can’t fully understand. I can’t figure out why my body didn’t react appropriately. This one though, I bled. My body naturally cleared everything out.

Having two miscarriages makes me feel like I’ve been given a special knowledge about what can go wrong in life. At least that’s my way of trying to think positively or give a reason for these. It’s not a knowledge anyone would ask for, but I was chosen to experience it. I am constantly searching for my purpose in this world, constantly reevaluating what it is I am supposed to be doing. I want to have a purpose and I want to make an impact. Maybe this is one of the things I am meant to do, I am meant to write about my experiences to help others. Even though it hurts, even though I can’t bring myself to understand it fully, maybe that’s why this is happening. Who knows though, right? Things happen in our lives and often we truly don’t know why, but we stick a reason to it to make ourselves feel better, to make ourselves okay with it. But in reality, we just don’t know.

I have to be at peace with the unknown. I struggle with the unknown. I have to be at peace with a “higher plan.” I’ve been struggling with faith and prayer since the first miscarriage. People keep telling me they’re praying for me and while the sentiment is greatly appreciated, some days I don’t think it’s worth it and that it doesn’t work. Then again, some days I have all the faith in the world. Saying these feelings are a roller coaster is not descriptive enough. It’s a loop de loop roller coaster, with sharp turns and tight curves that’s close to going off the rails on occasion. It’s a rollercoaster that would fail every safety inspection if it was actually built.

It’s been just over two weeks since I was at the doctor. Physically I am feeling well again. The human body heals and gets back into its own routine so quickly. My heart and mind however, I know they will take longer. They were getting back to normal and now they are faced with another loss, another disappointment. This time Zach and I as a couple are wiser and stronger, and we are more willing to understand. What will we do with this new wisdom, strength, and understanding? We will chin up and we will try again.

chalkboard print if at first you don't succeed try try again.jpg

 

Perspective

Working in an oncology office has been a soul opener. Is that a saying? I think it should be a saying. As a refresher for you all, in the last year, I have been primarily working as a patient navigator. We assist the patient in making any and all appointments they need, which I might add is a rare perk in a doctor’s office. Consultants in Medical Oncology and Hematology offers the best patient care. We’re nationally recognized in case you wanted to know.

Practice plugs aside, I can’t help but be affected by the conversations I have had with patients. It sounds cold of me to say, from time to time when it’s really busy, I get caught up in the hustle and bustle and don’t pay much attention to what they’re saying. I get frustrated like any office worker would and I need to remind myself who I am doing these tasks for. I am helping a sick person in need. When I remind myself of this, I am able to open myself to experiences. Just the other day I had one of those “put life in perspective moments.”

There’s a patient who I have become familiar with in the last year or so. He’s an older man. He’s pleasant when he sits at my desk and he’ll crack a joke or two. The other day he was telling me that he’s doing really well. I told him how awesome that was and he thanked me. He said, “You know how I deal with this? I laugh. What else can we do? We’ve got to smile and make light of some things. Since I’ve been diagnosed, I never wanted to be that guy that people say, ‘oh, here he comes, he’s going to talk about his cancer.’ I don’t whine about it. It’s something I’ve got to face. That’s life.” “It’s true,” I said. I nodded and smiled at him. “Take care of yourself sweetheart,” he said as he left.

The remainder of the week, that short conversation stuck with me, so much so that I felt the need to blog about it. What I took away from it was, we are not our struggles. How we handle our struggles, that’s who we are. No matter the weight of the struggle, remember to laugh. Remember to put effort into finding the joy in the mundane and in our interactions with others. As hard as it may be, we must face our battles head on. When we need help, ask for it. Wallowing in self-pity will only isolate us.

My miscarriage was a natural occurrence and, overall, I am a healthy, young person. This old man who has lived a lot more life than me, is now fighting to live it longer because of cancer. He can find the strength to laugh and fight his battle, so we should all be able to do it. I can be dramatic. Those closest to me will have no problem telling you that. At times, I have been known to dramatize the simplest hiccups and I know that’s a flaw I need to work on. Working on that can ultimately help me handle bigger bumps in the road, such as my miscarriage. The past seven months have been a lesson in learning to focus better on the good in my life. This patient reaffirmed my quest to be a more positive thinker even in times of distress. Occasionally, I need that kick in the right direction. Maybe some higher power knew I was struggling with something in my head that day and that patient came to me for a reason.

All of the patients that pass through are an inspiration to me and I am constantly reminded to life into perspective. They’re an inspiration in how to fight battles. Their determination and will can be applied to any struggle, both big and small.

 

The Bottom Bunk

Stone Harbor, NJ. It’s a ninety-minute drive, but it feels like a world away. There’s something about the salty smell of the air and the ocean breeze that awakens the soul. Time moves slower. All the worries and responsibilities of home are left behind. It’s true when they say life is better at the beach.

I’ve been coming to Stone Harbor for most of my life. Growing up, summers here lasted a lifetime. We had a routine of hitting the beach around 10am and staying till 5pm. Most nights we’d cookout on the deck and maybe go down to 96th street to shop. Mini-golf, the boardwalk, boat trips, we never had a dull afternoon. Each night we would lay our heads down and fall fast asleep dreaming of all the fun we had and of all the fun soon to come.

As a kid, one of my favorite things at the shore was my bunk bed. Probably still is one of my favorites. Growing up, Shane stayed in my room with me, even though he had a room down the hall with another set of bunk beds. I would sleep on the top bunk and he’d be on the bottom. We would laugh and laugh together before falling asleep. The topic of conversation mostly being complete nonsense about something we had seen on TV or something funny that happened at the beach. Or we talked about our crazy boat adventures like how we drove out to the ocean and Shane told my dad there was going to be a storm. Low and behold we ended up racing in a storm that afternoon. Shane always had a sixth sense for the weather.

The bunk beds served as a template for a fort where Shane and I and our cousins would hide out and tell scary stories and eat snacks. We’d hang a quilt down from the top bunk and put chairs under to prop it up. It was our special hangout and only the kids were allowed in.

As Shane got older, he wanted to sleep in his own room, which left my bottom bunk vacant some nights. Other nights it was filled with a friend of mine, or my aunt Clare, or a cousin, or our dog Nelly. As my older brothers grew up and started dating, my bottom bunk was reserved for whosever girlfriend was staying with us. There weren’t many, but I can remember a time or two going to sleep first when I shared a room with the ones I didn’t like, so I wouldn’t have to talk to them.

My current sister-in-law Shannon was a long time roommate. She was one I enjoyed talking to! We had so many laughs together before falling asleep. I think we shared a room for 7 or 8 years. I can remember we were chatting one night and she told me that she loved my brother. I felt so privileged to share girl talk with my older brother’s girlfriend. She and I became close friends because of those bunk beds.

One summer, she had the brilliant idea of purchasing the “clapper” so we wouldn’t have to get up to turn the light off. I am a big fan of devices that eliminate reasons to get out of bed. We unfortunately discovered the “clapper” isn’t as a great a tool as those commercials make it seem. That thing ended up in the trash.

No matter the guest, I always slept on the top bunk. My room my rules. I also had a slight fear of the top bunk falling on the bottom bunk, but anyway. After about 15 years, the original bunk beds grew old and we had to get new ones. These new ones have created the same kind of memories, but now my nieces and nephews use them. My niece Grace loves being able to sleep in “Kate’s room.” These days, I am a “grown up” now, or so I am told, so obviously I share a bed with my husband. While it is great to finally be able to share a bed with a boy under my parents’ roof, I do miss those bunk bed days sometimes.

Last Wednesday night, I snuck off to the shore for the night without Zach. I entered and the cutest little people tugged at me and urged me to play. I finished up dinner with everyone and then my parents and I took the kids to get ice cream, which was an adventure in itself. After arriving home from a successful ice cream binge, it was time for bed for the kids. Grace asked, “Will you sleep with me in your room?”

I got to be the inhabitant of the bottom bunk that night. The top bunk belonged to my niece and Goddaughter, Gracie girl. My brother told me, when he brought Grace up to bed, she told him to make sure to turn down the sheets on the bottom bunk, so it’d be ready for me when I came up. She also asked him to keep the door open. The thoughtfulness of her astounds me. She’s five and she has the heart the size of a person who has lived 100 years. When I went to sleep, I snuck in quietly as not to wake her. I brought my dog Nelly in with me and set up a quilt for her to sleep next to my bed. As I lay down, I smiled to myself. All the memories of the guests of the room flooded my mind. The late nights I spent with friends and family telling stories and laughing. And now here I was, with a new roommate. My oldest brother’s daughter. My Goddaughter. My friend.

At 7am, I got a wake up call. “Wake up! Wake up,” said a tiny, excited voice from above. My eyes rolled open and I saw the most perfect little face grinning back at me ready to face the day of fun. “Jump in here,” I said. She lay down with me just a few a minutes to tell me about her dreams. She dreamt she and I were mermaids and there were big fish jumping over us in the ocean. “Wow,” I said. “That sounds really cool.” I gave her a hug and relished in the moment with my niece. Moments like those are the ones to think back on when life doesn’t look bright. Those are the moments that make me realize how blessed I am to be able to watch my brothers’ families grow. I have lived in that room in the summers for over twenty-five years and new memories are still being made. I hope the room and bunk bed will serve her well the way they served me. I smiled and gave her an extra tight hug. She broke free, the excitement in her little body unable to be controlled.

“Let’s go! Let’s play,” she rejoiced. And off we went for a day of fun at the shore.

19396901_10209993498982275_9070098623449621290_n.jpg