Our Battle with Infertility: Year 2

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If you’re following up from the last two weeks, welcome back. If you’re new on this post, welcome into the inner recesses of our marriage and family planning. To catch up, you can visit our Infertility page.Sorry if this is TMI. If you’re dealing with infertility, please please please let us know if there’s anything we can do to help and…we hope this helps you, too. 🙂

In our last post, we recounted summer of 2011 to summer of 2012…that was the year of tracking, basically. We couldn’t really do anything because we hadn’t been trying “long enough”. To hear that is so disheartening, especially when you feel like something may be wrong. I felt like something may be wrong. In fact, I felt that way before we ever started trying. When we were first married, I knew we couldn’t financially handle kids and life and everything. We thought we might move shortly into our marriage and it just seemed like waiting was the right idea. All along I was worried, though, that when we were ready to try, it wouldn’t work. Being right about this really really really sucks.

Typically, I see a nurse practitioner at my OB/GYN because my favorite doctor EVER left a few years ago to stay home with her kids. I have never had any issue with the nurse practitioner and they have a great staff, but in the summer of 2012, we needed to see the doctor. The doctor started to test for EVERYTHING. We had day 3 labs (to make sure my cycle was OK), day 21 labs (to make sure I ovulate properly), more cycle tracking (joy.), and we scheduled a semen analysis for Chris and a test called an HSG for me. Sidenote: Getting bloodwork done on vacation because that is when your cycle lines up is REALLY annoying and WAY more money than we anticipated. Nothing says relaxing beach day like hanging out at the medical center getting blood drawn. Some of my cycles (as I noted in last week’s post) were a little off, but ovulation seemed normal and my bloodwork was A-OK. Chris’ analysis came back and was pretty good as well. At first, my doctor’s office told me he had abnormal numbers, but later we found out that “abnormal numbers” means “one level might have been ‘off'” and that one level can be affected by external sources (heat, time, etc) so it wasn’t really anything that should be affecting us long-term. Looking back, this is awesome. At the time, it was terrifying (and painful for my sweet husband).

HSG stands for Hysterosalpingogram. Basically, you go to the doctor (between your cycle dates and ovulation, I believe) and they insert a catheter that will release dye into your whole lady-system. You can watch it on a screen so, that was entertaining. They basically do this x-ray while you stare at the monitor showing your uterus and fallopian tubes. The intent of HSG is to check and make sure your tubes are working properly. Well, the dye SHOT through the tubes. I mean, it SHOT through there. That is totally normal, but, wait- THAT IS TOTALLY NORMAL. At this point, we were in to September 2012. Translation: I was missing school for this. We have definitely maintained the mindset that growing our family is more important than a job, but the 2012-13 school year was a year where I took more leave than ever before. (Foreshadowing: 2013-14 has been even worse, in terms of leave.)

We tried to stay really focused on the process in 2012, but it was so difficult with work and everything else. On top of that, going to a regular OB/GYN’s office can be *really* frustrating. For one, I couldn’t take off all of the time just because my cycle said so. For two, they can only work regular doctor’s hours (unlike fertility specialists). For three, they TRULY are fabulous, but didn’t seem to understand that my life runs on a TEACHER’S SCHEDULE. No, I cannot come get 10 minute blood work on my “lunch break”. What is a lunch break?!

Chris got two analyses during this year. They both had strong numbers in some ways and weak numbers in others. When you’re getting a semen analysis, you want good a) count [duh], b) motility [that they’re movin’ and shakin’], and c) morphology [that they look like tadpoles]. He went to see a urologist (super nice guy!) who said that he really didn’t feel like there was any reason that his numbers should be keeping us from getting pregnant. Great, right?!

THEN, WHY NO BABIES?! WE ARE BOTH SO NORMAL.

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Fall 2012- proof that we’re normal and not just crying about being infertile all the time. But, look at those people. Won’t they make CUTE babies?!

Next week, I’ll be talking about the second half of 2013. This was the time when we really started making moves and tried (as much as possible) to stop leaving things to chance. (You might even get to see pictures of my pee! Lucky you!) Obviously, we’re not very close to a due date so, some things didn’t work. However, that brings us almost to now and we have more answers than ever before. No, we’re not pregnant at this moment in case you thought that was our cryptic way of telling you.

Emotionally speaking, my breaking point in the process (meaning, when I almost broke someone) was when my nurse practitioner (bless her) said, “Sometimes these things take a while,” at my October 2012 yearly checkup. I wanted to harm her. Don’t get me wrong, people are SO well-meaning and they just.don’t.know.what.to.say. BUT, sometimes it’s better to say, “I’m sorry, I don’t know what to say.” Write that down. Then, if anyone ever tells you they’re dealing with this and you’re out of your depth, say it. And, read this. Don’t say these things. It will save you from a mental or physical punch to the face. 🙂 If you’re STILL unsure, google “things not to say” and “infertility” in the same search. Many brave women have opened up about this…and I promise none of them will want to hurt you. 🙂

Also, there’s a great post written by a *husband* no less, at this link about ten words that describe infertility. I have thought this over many times and could probably add a few, but he just says it SO well. For me, it’s #10 on his list. That has been my station in life for the past 8 months or so. Heart-wrenching ambivalence. We know that anything that has been said has been meant to be supportive, but if you’ve struggled with infertility, MANY of these will ring true and you will want to high five this man! 🙂 And this man, he says beautiful things about a situation that is not so beautiful. Thank God for good husbands in the world. Mine is practically a saint (even my students tell me so) for putting up with my crazy throughout this whole journey.

Thanks so much to all of our friends and family. So many of you have reached out since we started blogging this journey and we are truly grateful. We’re still not really up for giving up to date information. The timing of everything is still too sensitive for us to feel the pressure of keeping so many people informed. We love you (even you readers we don’t know) and appreciate your prayers and happy thoughts as always. Thank you SO much for sticking with us on this crazy ride!

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Our Battle With Infertility: Year 1

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**So, I know that we brought it up on facebook, but people really have blown us away with support since we opened up about our ongoing battle. We have received texts, facebook messages, “likes”, comments, conversations in person, hugs (well, less hugs because I’m not a BIG hugger), etc. It has been overwhelming and beautiful and phenomenal and, did I mention overwhelming?! We could never have imagined how many people have shared our struggle, felt our pain, been concerned for us, and just plain reached out. That being said, your support definitely encourages us to continue sharing. Again, PLEASE share this with anyone, but especially those you know who are struggling with this. They may be ahead of us in the process, or just starting out, but we are always open to suggestions and second opinions! We are also more than willing to answer questions for anyone just starting out on this journey. And please, don’t feel that your story isn’t “as difficult” or “as painful” as ours (we’ve had some people apologize) because anyone suffering from this knows that it’s not just about whether you’re struggling to have your first or your fifth, when you feel like you are supposed to be a parent and you can’t be one, something feels broken. We are always here to empathize and listen. This post may be offensive or hurtful or painful for you to read. I am SO sorry. It is about documenting where we were at this point in the journey. We are not necessarily in the same place now. We just have to be honest and authentic to our journey.**

To read Part 1 of Our Battle With Infertility, click here.

We left off in the summer of 2011 with a huge yearning in our hearts for babies and nowhere to go, but being a family! Little did we know, this was the beginning of a still-continuing journey. Get excited, guys! This is the post where start posting intimate details and pictures of my cycle charts. In future installments there will be awkward pictures and talk of bodily functions- TO THE MAX! Woo! Infertility!

The time from the summer of 2011-2012 or “The First Year”, as I like to call it, was pretty simple. I started tracking my temperature daily (to try to predict ovulation) and we tried to “time” intercourse. I feel like “timed intercourse” always means we have a stopwatch out, but –and there are people who DO NOT KNOW THIS– since you can really only get pregnant a few days a month, it’s important to time it correctly.

This has been a great source of bitterness for me and if you are struggling, it may be frustrating for you, too. SO MANY PEOPLE have gotten pregnant in the last 3 years and have just not known “how this happens”. #1- I can tell you how. A 15 year-old in family life can tell you *how*. Now, I know that’s not what people mean and I know that the surprise/shock of an “accidental” pregnancy is probably terrifying (I am one who likes a plan, after all!), but SERIOUSLY- only a VERY FEW days a month. #2- If you’re anywhere near “regular”, ladies, it’s almost completely predictable. I don’t say ANY of that to offend anyone who has had a surprise. You are SO lucky (and I’m sure that sweet baby smiling back at you lets you know that daily)! However, now that you’ve felt the mama tug and the amazing sensations and experiences of pregnancy, I’m sure you can’t imagine ever going back. Just keep praying for those of us who so badly want to be where you are. 🙂  Please don’t feel angry at the bitterness of those dealing with infertility. Feeling your body NOT work the way it is “supposed” to, CREATED to, for that matter and then seeing those who didn’t even plan it at the time…it kills. You feel that if they weren’t planning it then they didn’t want it and when you want it SO badly it just…suck. It just sucks. I don’t know how to put it. Sometimes not being happy for others is unfortunately part of this journey. Please believe me and grant me grace when I tell you that I still pray DAILY for the grace/mercy/strength to be happy for every other pregnant person I know/see. Honestly, sometimes it’s the random girl at Panera that just makes me want to cry. It’s so irrational. From what I hear though, there are irrational things in motherhood, too. Maybe I’m getting good practice? 🙂

If you are struggling with infertility, you likely have an app. I have found that the Fertility Friend app is super easy-to-use and tracks all of the information you need. There have been MANY months where I was just ridiculously bitter and could NOT care about tracking, but we’ll get there in a minute.

Well, we were hopeful that year. In the fall, October to be exact, I had a 40 day cycle. I also developed an aversion to meat. It was terrifying. I started eating dinner one night and just gagged and ran upstairs. I barfed multiple times that month. It was disgusting. Because of the stomach thing (I’m assuming), my sense of smell was also RIDICULOUS. Like, DO NOT MICROWAVE ANYTHING STRONG-SMELLING IN THE TEACHER’S LOUNGE! I just…didn’t eat. A lot. I flew to Vegas for my college roommate’s wedding and talked about it with the girls and there was SO MUCH HOPE in that elevator, y’all. Also, who doesn’t drink in Vegas? This girl. When she is already late.

This is what I look like when I’m up early in the morning and feeling nauseous for (literally) no reason, thought I didn’t know this at the time. If you ever get married in Vegas…pay someone to do my makeup. Clearly, I am a hot dang mess. That. Lazy. Eye. And. Huge. Zit. #classy

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So, this is what our app looked like for that cycle (soon after we started tracking):

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Sept 2011 Calendar

Sidenote: I will eat ALL THE TINY CAKE, even with an aversion to meat. Chocolate cake is not meat. Chocolate cake is delicious. #classier

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I was obviously not pregnant. Nor was I pregnant that February when I had another almost 40-day cycle.

Feb 2012 Chart

February 2012 calendar

Nor have I been pregnant every October/February since then when I’ve had an extra-long cycle. It’s been fun. Now, if you’re a guy reading this, you’re probably thinking, “Gross. Also, aren’t some women always crazy with the periods?” Two things: No. And, not me. I have been 100% regular for 15 years. Sure, I took birth control which contributes to regularity, but there were significant periods of time where I was not on any kind of hormone and EVERY. TIME. I was like clock work, down to the day of the week. Oh right, until this time when I’m ACTUALLY TRYING TO HAVE A CHILD?!!?!?!! Of course my cycle is now insane-in-the-membrane. Literally-hah! (Ew, too far.)

Even more frustrating, there were MANY months where we did EVERYTHING “right”. If you look at our charts, it’s not as easy to see on the calendars, and a few more charts will follow, you can see that there is a “t” made over certain dates in red lines. That means it’s the day where you most likely ovulated. The symbols on the charts for MANY of those months indicate that we DID EVERYTHING AT THE RIGHT TIME. This is when you get frustrated. On the other months? The ones with no red line? The ones with no little symbols mean we’ve been having sex on the right day? Ya know, when life gets in the way on the ONE day where you need life to leave you alone, or when you start a new workout the week before and you can’t move, let alone…ya know. or when you get sick. GOD FORBID YOU GET SICK AND YOU CANNOT DO EXACTLY WHAT YOU NEED WHEN YOU NEED TO DO IT. Well, then you don’t get a baby. Exhibits E, F, G, and H:

March 2012 calendar

May 2012 calendar

June 2012 Chart

June 2012 Calendar

You may or may not know that doctors will also not help until you have been trying for at least ONE YEAR. ^That calendar marks one year! When you’re trying (unsuccessfully) to have a baby, one year might as well be one million years. Trust and believe that I knew approximately 39823897429837 pregnant people in that year, too. I am consistently the person in ANY group of friends who knows the most pregnant people. It’s weird. I draw them to me or something. That being said, 9 out of 10 times I am SO OKAY WITH IT. People who are infertile don’t hate babies. We WANT babies. Snuggling their babies may be hard, but THEY JUST SMELL SO GOOD. RIGHT?!

All this basically means is…the first year sucks. There is LITERALLY nowhere you can turn for ideas/support besides the internet. And geez, that is like searching WebMD when you have a cough and thinking you have esophageal cancer. But, we did everything. Have I ever told you all that my husband lost FIFTY POUNDS after we got married?! FIFTY POUNDS, PEOPLE.

Husband circa 2010 (right after our wedding):

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Husband, circa 2011, less than 10 months after the above photo (what a fox, right?!):

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This was right before we read that being active helps. It was a happy coincidence, but we were SO sure we were doing everything right! You know the worst part? We were.

Over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll keep sharing. 2012-2013 was a big year in terms of progress! (No, we’re not pregnant.) You’re more than welcome to share or stop reading. We completely understand if you don’t feel right getting in our business, BUT in the case that this EVER affects anyone and we can help…we will. SO many people have misunderstood our course of treatment or what the acronyms mean that we feel obligated to share–even the weird/gross stuff. Thanks for sticking with us and, if you’re praying for us, hopefully this will continue to give you some insight to help you figure out where our heads and hearts are. 🙂 Thanks again.

Love,

Chris & Jessica

To read the next chapter of our journey, click here.

Our Battle With Infertility: Back to the Beginning

Hey, friends! I realize that I haven’t posted since…August? There may not be any of you out there anymore. If that is the case, I deserve it. Luckily (?), today’s post is as much for me as it is for you.

Chris and I (and typically, our budget) love DIY projects and making our house a home a little bit at a time. Don’t worry, if you are friends or family of ours who haven’t gotten to visit lately, we have more projects in the works than we did for ALL of 2013. Some of them will be posted very soon and we hope you will feel the virtual welcome we extend for you to come on in and make yourselves at home.

I, however, have always been an open book…except about this one big thing. Besides Jesus and Chris, this one big thing is the most important thing to me (us) and I’ve finally just gotten tired of keeping quiet about it. So, Chris and I have finally decided to break our silence and address the elephant that is literally living in the room with us at. all. times.

Backstory: I was married before. Chris was engaged and a month out of a wedding, also. We were both young and, of course, had a “5-year plan” with our previous significant others. In my plan, I got married in 2008 and we were going to start trying for babies in 2009. I have literally wanted to be a mom for as long as I can remember. When I was born, my mom wanted to include “Danielle” or “Heather” in my name (hello 80s!) but my dad wasn’t feeling it. When I found that out, I hypothesized (at like, age 8, mind you) that I would have boy/girl twins with the names Heather Danielle and Daniel Harrison. Those poor children, haha. As time went on, my future-family-fantasy grew to include another boy and another girl. I wanted 4 kids. I grew up in a house by myself (sibling-wise). I really wanted a big family and I didn’t want an odd number, partly because I’m OCD and partly because I didn’t want anyone suffering from middle-child syndrome. I became a teacher. I practically adopted some of my students. I became personal friends with families. I got divorced. My 5-year plan came CRASHING down, to say the least. Lowest of my lows, by far.

Then, I decided I didn’t want kids. I didn’t want a husband. My divorce was God’s way of telling me that I was a terrible wife and that I shouldn’t make plans and that all of my plans were crap. It was a dark day. Then, Chris and I hung out. It was a very different feeling from before. He had moved to a different city and we didn’t see each other or talk very frequently. Then, all of a sudden, he came back to visit and everything was…weird. I talked to him about my feelings of failure (I mean, he’s a minister, that’s his job, right?) and he talked to me about how he had felt that way after the deterioration of his engagement. His relationship had been 7 years long and they had grown up together and planned to grow old together. I met him for the first time a little over a year after the end of his relationship and his pain was still evident back then. We continued to talk and realized we had feelings and that maybe, just maybe, God really did want us to be someone’s spouse, maybe even each other’s. Thanks, God. We decided that making all of those plans hadn’t helped us before so we would try to just be married for a little while. Chris was working part-time at a church over an hour away and trying to have kids just seemed like too much…but God had brought us this far in relationships and after being friends for 6 years…so we had PLENTY of time for a family.

Engagement Photo

This is from our engagement shoot by the lovely Rachel May Photography. *Finally* we found where we belong. 🙂

In June of 2011 I caught wind of a rumor that my friend from work was pregnant. She wasn’t making a “big announcement”, but was OK with it being public knowledge so, I went and asked her if it was true. Then, I cried. (She is a really great mom.) I left work that day and I KEPT CRYING. If you know me personally, at all, you know this is strange. 1) I hate to cry. 2) It was a Wednesday and we had church, but I could not get it together. I believe I actually went to eat dinner at church and then went home and cried some more. Honestly, I had NO idea why I was crying. I prayed and cried and prayed and cried and realized that this friend of mine wasn’t planning on being pregnant, but she was. It made me realize that I REALLY wanted kids and I didn’t want to wait. I wasn’t mad at her. In fact, I went and bought that baby some onesies right that second because I knew she would be the most precious little baby ever. She is gorgeous, by the way. But it made me realize that I have this amazing husband and we know we eventually want a family so why would we NOT want whatever God was trying to bring us, even if it was soon and scary and our finances weren’t 100% stable. I think that some part of me had a tiny intuition that we might not get pregnant right away (probably best described as paranoia) so, maybe we should start sooner so we have time to iron out any wrinkles, right? Weird analogy, but accurate for how I felt at the time.

Chris came home from church that night and we talked about it extensively. I cried some more because I was just so caught off guard at my jealousy that someone was accidentally pregnant and I wasn’t. I mean, duh, of course I wasn’t. I was trying NOT to be pregnant and doing a darn good job of preventing it! Even in my first marriage, I was working NOT to get pregnant the whole time because we HAD. A. PLAN! Well, Chris and I realized that kids were what we wanted, even if it was sooner than we had originally thought we would. I mean, he’s a youth minister and I’m an elementary school teacher. It’s not exactly a secret that we love kids. I knew he would be a fabulous father and I could not WAIT to see him in that role. We decided that since I was supposed to start new birth control in the middle of June (during the last week of school) it would be perfect timing to discontinue the b.c. and start trying that next month. We were totally aware that it takes time for hormones to work out of the system, but we knew there was an app for that (haha- seriously!) so I started taking my temperature and monitoring all of my fluids (gross, but true) and we started to try to figure out WHEN we could possibly get pregnant. It was SO exciting for us! We couldn’t believe that God had overwhelmed me with that crazy jealousy and made me realize how badly I wanted a baby. [Sidenote: The jealousy did NOT negatively affect my friendship. I love my mom-friend, even more now, and her baby girl is so. freaking. precious. I love knowing their family and she is 100% supportive of me/us. She actually felt sad when I told her- just this fall- that I cried the day I found out she was pregnant because it made me realize I wanted babies, too. She’s awesome.]

So, we embarked on our little journey of trying to go from a family of 2 to a family of 3. As you may well have realized by now, that was 31 months ago, but who’s counting? We are. We didn’t know it at the time, but June of 2011 began our journey battle with infertility.

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This is us in the fall of 2011, not too long after we started trying. I mean, who wouldn’t want these folks as parents, am I right?!

You may not understand why I started writing about this. If that’s the case, you surely won’t understand why I write the posts to come. During this whole journey, until relatively recently, we have felt VERY alone in this. It’s not the fault of any of our family or friends. Infertility comes with a LOT of shame. We decided to start writing about it because I truly believe that someone out there is googling this and there just aren’t a lot of resources that make you feel much better. I’m hoping that this sheds some light, answers some questions, or just lets someone out there know they’re not alone. There will be more to come, some with personal details. All we ask is that, if you comment, you comment politely. If you’re related to us or consider us close friends and you don’t know MANY of the details of our journey, don’t feel hurt or offended, please. For one thing, we can’t really juggle anyone else’s feelings. For two, it is NOT personal. It is hard for us. It is scary. Sometimes, it’s too much to verbalize. Writing it down, I hope, will help us AND someone else.

To those of you who do know and have been supporting us, thanks. If you’ve been praying for us, thanks for that, too. Keep ’em coming! 🙂 I promise we will be back with house updates soon, but, we will also be filling you in on our story of the last 31 months. AND last, but not least, if you or someone you know is battling with infertility, there are great blogs that make you feel less alone. One fabulous blog friend I’ve gotten to know is Bethany from Sawdust & Embryos. Her story keeps that light glowing at the end of the tunnel. 🙂

To read about the first year of our battle, click here.

To read about year 2, click here.

Engagement-aversary: The day I screwed up all of my husband’s plans

OK so, after posting this morning about the gallery wall, I wasn’t going to post this. Then, I wrote a status about how I hi-jacked his proposal and people (including my sister- how have I not told this story to my whole family?!) asked for the story…and THEN, the episode of Friends was on where Phoebe and Mike get engaged and she botches it, like THREE TIMES. It was a sign from God, I think…so here it is. Our WHOLE story is really long and would take 1405938 posts (OK, I make up numbers like Claire from Modern Family…but still). Has anyone seen that one? I couldn’t get a link that worked…but Claire makes up numbers to confuse Cam, like…”Eleventy-four”. Oh man, it makes me laugh. Sorry if I’m the only one laughing.

Three years ago, August 8, 2010, my husband and I got engaged. He tried to propose in like, 3 different places. I screwed them all up. Welcome to our life. He’s romantic, I screw it up. We laugh about it later, much later in this case.

Chris and I had talked about engagement, but we’d only been together for about 7 months…so I didn’t really know what we were going to do. I also really wanted a fall wedding if/when I got married again…and it was already August. So it was like “dribble or shoot” time if we even hoped to get married that fall. We had like, weeks. We had talked a LOT about the fact that we had both been engaged before and, in his case, he proposed on a freezing cold, wet, January night and I was at the beach for my first proposal, but there was no get-on-one-knee-pop-the-question, it was written on a piece of paper. Both were very thoughtful, but neither was ideal. We were SURE *our* proposal would be idyllic. Hah. Hahahahahahaha. So dumb we were.

Chris actually met with my parents to talk about proposing and they planned to meet at a Panera in Richmond (where he lived). Funny thing, both he AND MY MOM called me and asked me for directions to Panera. What?! Seriously, guys, get it together! My stepdad thought it was really funny when I called them both out on it later.

So, at the time, Chris worked in Richmond so I would go to church with him every Sunday and we would drive back on Sunday afternoons to squeeze in a little more hanging out time before I started my work week. This particular Sunday, we drove back and went to Moe’s to eat with our friend/former roommate, Jess and her awesome sister, Steph. After Moe’s, Chris asked if I wanted to go to a new ice cream place that we’d seen all summer and thought about visiting. Unfortunately, sometimes Moe’s jacks up my stomach (and Jess is lactose-intolerant) so I was like, “No, let’s not get ice cream. Let’s come back out later and go take a Sunday NAP!” [Botch #1]

We took a nap (it was AWESOME) and then Chris asked if I wanted to go to one of our favorite places in Newport News, the Mariner’s Museum Park & Lion’s Bridge. [He actually wanted to go to “our place” at the Newport News Park and realized we didn’t have time because I overslept.- Botch #2] Lion’s Bridge has an AWESOME sunset and we used to go on walks there. We were all ready to leave when the phone rang. It was my best friend in Seattle, Chau (pronounced Cho). Well, we talked for…hours. Literally, probably 2 hours. By that time, sundown had occurred. Chris started acting squirrelly. [Botch #3]

Finally, we were sitting on the couch watching TV around 8? or 9? and he was being really awkward and I got super annoyed. He jumped up off the couch, walked into the kitchen, and got some water. I was *super* annoyed. Like, what on EARTH was he doing being SO weird?! He walked in and he got REALLY serious. Anyone who has met Chris knows that he doesn’t really *get* serious. He sat down next to me, muted (or turned off?) the TV, turned to me, and went off on a whole shpiel (shpeal? shpeel?) about how much he loved me. I don’t handle compliments well, so I got really awkward. REALLY awkward. He opened his hand, said some more mushy stuff about how much he loves me and wants to spend the rest of his life with me, and then asked me to marry him! It was precious, but I *REALLY* screwed it up. I mean, two proposals and never a knee?! Sheesh. I did botch our proposal EVEN further though. We had joked since I forced him to watch we watched Love, Actually about how I would answer like Aurelia, the Portuguese girl who learns English for Colin Firth (would someone NOT learn English for Colin Firth?!) who says, “Yes is being my answer”. Isn’t that the cutest?

Well, I got flustered listening to his compliments, realized that he was actually trying to propose 3 (THREE?!) different times that day, felt like an arse (to quote the British- get at me, Colin Firth?!), and hugged him. I backed up, went to pick up the ring he held in his palm, and he said, “Uhhh, you didn’t actually answer me…” WHAT?! Sheesh. I’m the WORST.

Knees, pretty locations, “planned” answers…all of those were great in our planning stage…but we have a pretty funny story and it REALLY suits our (way too long for today) story of mishaps that eventually led us together. Thank God this man has the patience of a saint and he stuck with me through an awful day. I might’ve been superstitious, thought it was a sign, and panicked. Thank God for him. Three years later, I’ve never regretted a single day, only wished for more. I love you, baby! 🙂

Engagement PhotoProbably my favorite engagement photo, courtesy of the lovely Rachel May. Can you believe my sweet husband has lost like, 40-50 lbs since these photos?!

Engagement

aaaaand, last but not least…

Engagement Records

Thanks for reading our story! 🙂

Bloggers in the Dirty South: My First Haven Conference

Whoa. I mean. WHOA. About 13 months ago, I started seeing some of my FAVORITE bloggers post about a conference they had attended called Haven. I’m not gonna lie, I’m a terrible blogger. I think we all know this. Consistency? No. Incredible befores/afters? To me? Yes. To you? You’re very loving and supportive. I thank you for that. 🙂 Huge following? No, but loyal and wonderful, you are. Anyway, I thought to myself last June/July, “How cool would it be to go to this big ol’ conference and meet these big ol’ bloggers and just revel in their glory?!”

Enter January when I heard tickets were going on sale. Nervous doesn’t being to describe how I felt. Anyone who knows us knows that we budget. like. crazy. Buying a huge conference ticket and figuring up hotel expenses didn’t even begin to fall into my “normal” budgeting month. Somehow, my super supportive husband helped me figure it out and the purchase was made! In the beginning, I found a roommate through Sarah at Ugly Duckling House and I was all set to go. Sadly, my wonderful roomie (also from VA- check her out: Caroline thediynurse!) was unable to go to Haven, but I found a new roomie…who I hadn’t met…who isn’t from VA…who might not like my ridiculous sense of humor…who might have to share a king-sized bed. I’m happy to say that God definitely sent me Melody from My Passion for Decor and I couldn’t have been luckier. We did end up sharing a king-size bed and it was no stress whatsoever! And this girl’s furniture makeovers? Beautiful.

So, we set out Wednesday morning for the bajillion and ten hour drive to ATL. We love road trips. That may or may not have been tested. Seriously though, we had a good time, played a million rounds of Heads-Up…anyone played this? It’s in the app store and it’s the celebrity/movie/song game that Ellen Degeneres plays with guests on her show? We play it at Friday Night Hangout (at our house, every Friday, you’re welcome to attend) and, needless to say, we have some GREAT car trip videos to send to Ellen. 🙂 As the drive got long, I did a mani/pedi in the car. The color is Bikini So Teeny by Essie. And I love it.

bikini so teeny mani (1)We also passed the Gaffney, SC peach and got stuck in ATL traffic. Pretty standard road trip fare, if you ask me. At this point, Chris was asking me every few hours if I was excited. I kept saying no. I kinda wanted to throw up thinking about ALL of the blogging madness that was going to happen the next day at Haven. I just…I couldn’t even describe how unprepared I felt.

Gaffney Peach toward ATL ATL traffic

Luckily, that night we had tickets to see a Braves game. I was over the moon excited about seeing my boys again and it was their NINTH win in a row! What a good night. We had stadium food with my sister and bro-in-law and we got to watch them win. In fact, we got there during the 3rd inning, in which they scored SEVEN runs. Booyah. Take that, Rockies!

Turner Field vs. Rockies 7.31.13GGG at Braves 7.31.13

We were tired after a long trip, but still in high spirits! Now, on to the conference!

I will not lie. I was terrified to go to this conference. The whole way into ATL from my sister’s I was quiet and nauseous. Poor Chris was being so supportive, telling me that my “funny” would translate and I would have friends (pathetic, right?!), but I could not get it together. We checked in to the room…which was awesome…although there was a man’s sock in the corner from the day before. I had a good laugh about that. And, wouldn’t you know it? My name was on the TV. WHAT?! It was like, “Whether you belong here or not, you’re here and they have your name ON RECORD.” I have to say, I kinda liked having my name on the TV. Exciting. Haven Conf TVI felt really small-town being overwhelmed by the fancy TV, but that’s not super surprising. My lovely husband stayed around in the hotel for me so I could calm my nerves/freak out while I waited for Melody. Luckily, the Haven Team had organized some twitter chats pre-conference and I got in touch with Heather from Real {Cheap} Housewives of Texas who texted me from the lobby bar telling me to get my butt out of my hotel room and come hang out. One last selfie with Chris and I was out the door. Terrified. Haha, anyone else sensing an emotional theme? Also…isn’t my husband just. THE. CUTEST?! He gets cuter, just wait.

GGG Haven Day 1

Seriously, I couldn’t have made it through the afternoon without Heather, Tara, and Melody. They literally kept me sane (ish?) while we waited for the first night’s opening cocktail party, hosted by Homes.Com. Now, this is when the party (literally and figuratively) started! I met a bajillion trillion people at this party and got to meet (in real life!) some bloggers who I had briefly met online. There are a bajillion pictures, so I’m going to try to let them do the talking. The first two pictures are me with Stacy at Not Just A Housewife and Amber of ForRent.Com and Homes.Com. Stacy and I had connected via instagram when I creepily told her that I asked for bangs just like hers when I went for a haircut. Amber and I also connected via twitter chats and we are like long-lost BFFs. We had similar nail polish, similar outfits, and then she said, “Oh, I live at the beach…like, Virginia Beach…in Virginia,” as I stared blankly and then exclaimed, “I LIVE IN VIRGINIA!” Then, there was much planning of girls’ nights, squealing, and hugging. BFFs.

Jessica-Gourley-Stacy-Risenmay-bangs Jessica Gourley Amber Heckler cocktail party

Then, I met Mandi from Vintage Revivals. I haven’t been following her for forever, but it’s been quite a few months and from post 1, I was hooked. I genuinely love her blog, her style, her house. Everything. When she saw me, she said, “Hey, didn’t I just start following you on instagram?!” I almost died. Of course, I knew (see photo below- hah) but I didn’t expect her to remember. Sometimes it’s really easy to build up these bloggers with huge blogs/followings as rock stars and Mandi is definitely a rock star. When she realized it and even remembered our correspondence via facebook a few months ago, I was so flattered. I’m pretty sure the words, “Are we the same person?!” came up some time during our exchange and later we even realized we were in adjoining rooms. Ahhhh, yes. Fate. Haha. Seriously, though. It was a blessing to get to meet these fabulous ladies in person and to form connections. I’m so lucky to have been in their company.

vintage revival following

My favorite things about the Homes.Com party were:

1. Sarah from Ugly Duckling House recognizing me and us FINALLY talking in real life. She said the other day it felt like we’d known each other forever. Ain’t that the truth. So glad to meet this awesome girl in person.

2. Re-meeting Sherry from Young House Love and not making a totally creepy reference although we did tell funny jokes about how kids say inappropriate things. Maybe we’re destined for awkwardness. I’m OK with that.

3. Meeting Katie from Bower Power in person since I feel like I’ve known her and been in her home millions of times.

4. Seeing SO MANY people I had connected with through instagram. Many of them said, “Don’t I know you?” and I’d say, “Instagram?” and the wave of recognition would wash over, haha. I had such an extensive conversation about my insta-habits and how *shocking* it was that I hadn’t instagrammed much during the party that a few of us went ahead and instagrammed the flowers at the tables. That’s how addicted I am. I admit it. I have a problem.

Haven Conf centerpiece HomesDotCom[Other floral instagrammers can be found at Southern Color, Deranchification, Designed by BH, and Tossed Salad Life!]

After the party, Julia from Southern Color got us all a table at Cantina, right outside of our hotel and we had a DELICIOUS Mexican dinner with a big ol’ group. Wouldn’t you know I left my business cards in the hotel room (when quesadillas call, you don’t hold for business cards) but these ladies were gracious enough to let me track them down again the next day to trade. And to think, I wasn’t going to bring business cards until my husband convinced me I needed them! What a good man.

Haven-2013-dinner-Cantina

Bloggers L to R: Melody from My Passion for Decor, Julia from  Southern Color, Anneke (and hubby, Michael!) from This, That, and Life, Lindsay from Life of Splendor, Kristin from Bliss At Home, Angie from Angie’s Roost, Trisha from Black and White Obsession, Elizabeth from  Southern Color, Jesse from Scout and Nimble, and Brooke from Designed by BH!

Our waiter was British and some of us may or may not have pulled a Love, Actually and made him repeat words. We did NOT invite him to share a bed like the girls at the end of the clip. Also, I might be watching this movie tonight. Christmas in August. You’re welcome.

I got back to my room and JUST as Melody and I were getting ready for sleep, I saw a bunch of instagram notifications from a photo I had NOT posted. I got all nervous because my twitter was hacked while I was on vacation this summer and I was afraid someone got into my instagram. I clicked on the photo, and this popped up. Hacked? Yes. By the CUTEST husband in all the world. I told ya he got cuter!

instagram-husband-hack

All in all, it was a kind of amazing first day. I was SO scared and everyone was SO gracious. So, on to day two! 🙂

This was the day I realized that I needed to start taking photos with people that I was obsessed with wanted to meet.

We had an amazing keynote speech by Ana White. I mean, amazing. I feel so stupid that I didn’t bring my book to have it signed! Dumb.  I did tell her that my husband loved her…in front of her husband…and then followed up with, “because he likes that you have plans for the crazy things I want him to build and he doesn’t have to come up with them.” Good save. Classy. She and her husband were super gracious and laughed it off. Clearly I’m not the only crazy wife who says, “Let’s do _________!” and overwhelms her husband. (Don’t take that dirty. I didn’t mean it. For real this time.) I have a million “Ana-isms” that I wrote down that were so helpful to remember, one of which was “Be the goats in the trees.” Sometimes, I can’t explain the crazy.

I was able to attend some AWESOME sessions like Photographing Rooms & Projects with Kristen Duke. Have you read her love story posts? Check them out. In the afternoon, I went to Getting Personal On Your Blog with Sherry and Katie and got some good photos and we got the exciting news that KB is pregnant! Woo, Bower babies! Then, I was in Profitable Advertising with Myra from My Blessed Life, Beth from Home Stories A to Z, and Sarah from Thrifty Decor Chick. Can I just say that Sarah has a HOT voice?! I mean, girl could work in radio. Yes, that was my opener when I met her, “I just wanted to tell you that you have a great voice.” Creepers anonymous, here I come. I got some photos with some of my fave bloggers on Friday before going to the awesome #ryobirockshaven party thrown by Ryobi Power Tools. It. Was. Amazing. Jessica-Gourley-Mandi-Gubler

Me and Mandi from Vintage Revivals. This is the photo that prompted my best friend to text me, “WHY ARE BLOGGERS SO BEAUTIFUL?!” My only response, “RIGHT?!”

I met Geralin from Hoarders, say whaaaaat?! I was SO excited and she was THE sweetest lady. This is a big deal. I watch Hoarders marathons every Friday night. Every. Friday. Night.

Jessica-Gourley-Geralin

Jessica-Gourley-Katie-Bower-Baby-Bower

Above: Katie Bower and her itty bitty baby!

Below: Sherry and I reppin’ V-A.

Jessica-Gourley-Sherry-Petersik-VA

These are REALLY quality photos of Dusty from All Things G&D proposing to Christina from Homemade Ocean [who is NOT a unicorn, nor is she a ghost?!] and me and my dates for the night, Christina and Sarah!

Christina-Dusty-Proposal-Haven-2013Christina-Jenkins-Sarah-Fogle-Jessica-Gourley

Ryobi-Party-Wobble

Above: Ladies on the dance floor doing the Wobble.

Below: Ryobi guys coming out to “It’s Raining Men!” Hahaha- so. funny.

Ryobi-Raining-Men

On Saturday, I went to three more sessions. I have to say, I have never taken so many notes in my life. The first one was from Brooke at All Things Thrifty and Court Tuttle of theblogbuilders.com. When I tell you that these 2 know things about building a blog, I mean, it’s insane. There are things I have never thought of. Things I could never possibly imagine. It was insane. And amazing. And inspiring. And they were super duper ridiculously nice. Then, I went to New Kids on the Block with KariAnne of Thistlewood Farms, Tauni of Snap!, and Heather from At the Picket Fence. These ladies knew SO much about building blogs and are even offering to help US out?! Gah. I cannot even handle it.

I got some photos with some of these lovelies, including KariAnne who pronounced us BFFs at the first cocktail party. I was so honored. And she thought I was funny? Whaaaat?! I blushed. A lot.

Jessica Gourley KariAnne Thistlewood Farms

I followed that session up with Hands-On Design Advice with Emily A. Clark, Sarah of Yellow Cape Cod, and Kristin from The Hunted Interior. I won’t lie. Kristin’s photos on her blog are like house porn for me. I just love what she does so I was excited to take in all of their knowledge and expertise for styling/arranging.

By Saturday’s end, I was running around like a crazy person taking pictures with everyone I’d missed and trying to get the last little bit of time talking to vendors and collecting my free swag (holla!) so I was freaking exhausted, but it was the best kind of tired. Ever.

Jessica Gourley Amber Heckler

Above: Me and Amber again! Love!

Below: My absolute motivation/sanity/helper/friend, Heather from RCHOTX!

Jessica Gourley Heather Warren Jessica Gourley Melody Smith

Above: Me and Melody- roomie pic! So blessed to have met her!

Below: Collecting vendor swag and entering to win a shower! What?! Yes, please! #moenshowertime

Jessica Gourley Moen Shower Jessica Gourley Sarah Fogle

Above: The smartest, funniest, most laid-back blogger and blog designer I have ever met. Seriously, Sarah is a gem and her advice was SO timely and well-said. I have much to learn from her!

Below: My new Lucy’s Inspired bracelet from the Southern Accents Architectural Antiques booth (my fave)!

lucy's inspired bracelet

I honestly couldn’t be happier that I decided to go blogger-stalk learn more at this conference. I met so many blogging idols (promise I won’t be quite so creepy next time, guys!) and learned SO much about the potential there is in this blogging world. The support was unprecedented and the relationships I formed were SO helpful to the next phase of me and my itty bitty baby blog. The Haven team planned a phenomenal conference- I can’t wait until next year! And special thanks to ALL of my new blogger-friends. I love you ladies and can’t WAIT to see you again. Lastly, thanks to my sweet husband for affirming me, encouraging me, and convincing me that I should go to this and that I would be fine. He was right. Ugh, I hate it when that happens. 🙂

**As much as it seems I can only post in months beginning with “A”, I promise I’ll be back with another post again soon! Thanks! **

Manic Monday

I promise I’m coming back this week! I know that if we’re friends on facebook, I promised a post today…but…

-a meeting started late
-it’s POURING
-it was still dark at 8 a.m.
-it was dark by 2 p.m.
-no recess today
-moved 4 kids’ cards to yellow (that hasn’t happened in awhile)
-found a HUGE scheduling snafu that I was responsible for
-frantic parent came in to the office…at SIX P.M.
-it’s POURING
-it wasn’t the 70 degrees they said it would be and…

did I mention it’s pouring? ugh.

Anyway, I have a serious case of the Mondays but some things that are getting me through…

Living room progress:

My above-the-buffet project. 🙂 Thanks to my husband for working on it while I babysat SO MUCH this weekend.

SO much better than this…I think it’s coming together!

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand, I’m doing this. WHAT? Most people who read this *probably* don’t know what Haven is…but it’s a HUGE HUGE HUGE DIY blogging conference held in Atlanta, GA. I mean, almost all of my favorite bloggers were there last year [Young House Love, The Lettered Cottage, Bower Power, Ana White, and Sarah from The Ugg Duck…to name a few…]. So yeah, it’s a big deal. I know my blog is but a baby blog. I call it “my little baby blog”, but I feel like I could really grow and be supported and encouraged at Haven. So, I bit the bullet. I’m super excited to be rooming with a fellow Virginia-blogger, Caroline from the diy nurse! Hooray! I can’t wait for August! 🙂
I’ll be back with the “painting project” for the living room tomorrow- I’m hanging it RIGHT now!

 

Biggest Day Ever [The Day I Re-Met John & Sherry]

Kidding. Maybe not the biggest day of my life. But, I was really excited. 
Sidenote: Yes, this is two months late, but- better late than never, right?
So, as many, many people know, John and Sherry from younghouselove were doing a book tour this fall. First of all, their book came out and I got it for my birthday (awesome). Second of all, they had a Richmond and DC tour date stop. Yes, I was willing to drive between 1 and 3 hours. Of course I was. The drawback? Both of those events cost money. Mind you, they were for AMAZING things, but one was a weeknight and the other event had more expensive tickets. Lucky for me, John & Sherry are always considerate of their readership and their hometown. They really wanted to have a free signing for local readers and a few weeks later, they announced one on December 2nd! Pumped is not the word to describe how I felt, especially after my husband said I could go to Richmond, even though it meant missing church (thanks, honey)!
Anyhow, their event was at Mongrel, a superamazingawesome local card/gift shop. I had never been to Mongrel before, only to a few other shops in Carytown and it made me want to buy everything in sight. They had super cute gnomes, a-MAY-zing cards (I love cards & stationary), and were super personable when we showed up.
Mongrel offered to open up at 10 a.m. for the 1-3 p.m. signing. I showed up at 10. I was really nervous. So many other blogs had said that they waited for hours and that the line formed hours beforehand. Best part? I walked up to the door of Mongrel at 9:59 to see if they were open and walked INTO the door because it was still closed. Classy. Started the day off with a bang. 
As I stood there, on the phone with my sister so I didn’t look creepy(er), a lovely girl walked up and asked if I was there for the book signing. Her name is Kelsey and she does cooler things than I do…so read her blog. Around that time walked up another lovely girl named Heidi who is an amazing photographer (seriously, check her out). She actually had a photo that ended up on YHL’s blog in a post about Richmond. She’s really. freaking. awesome. Soon after, another friend joined the fold (hi, Emily!) and we camped out to sit on the sidewalk for…3 hours. Luckily, it was a pretty nice December day and we didn’t get too hot or too cold (just had some stiff butts). Actually, Heidi was a GENIUS and brought a folding chair. Genius. I kid you not. 
Anyway, we flipped through our books and talked about ourselves for about 3 hours. It was awesome. They were the greatest line-mates I could’ve asked for and we coined ourselves “The First Four”. Since we were there so early, we were *technically* ahead of the line-forming. I was also ahead of the “Line Forms Here” sign. I felt a little pathetic being so eager…but, my 3 line-mates were just as eager and Heidi told us that she secretly waited in her car before she saw us walk up. Clearly, we were all meant to be. Haha. 
View from the bottom…well, from the sidewalk where I was sitting. 
I really love these trees. I feel like they’re not impossible to DIY…maybe next Christmas. Maybe, at this rate, I should start attempting to make them in August.
 They’re going to be here TODAY!
The line started forming and the guy at the NY Deli was super funny & entertained by the line of women forming outside of the restaurant. Also, he did not give us free food. Not cool.
Kelsey was officially the first in line. I was too eager. This is how you know I’m not at all cool. 
Lovely line-mates! 🙂 [Kelsey, Emily, Heidi]
 
Ya know, just Heidi being a genius, sitting in a chair.
Heidi was the best and took my picture…cheesing like a dork because I was SO EXCITED.
 
 So, they agreed to start the signing a few minutes early- we didn’t squeal, but I think we really wanted to. We went in…and there were people getting their book signed?! What?! We were the First Four?! Clearly, they didn’t hear, but the bitterness was overwhelmed by my concern that I was going to say something stupid. Have you ever thought “This could be really awkward so, play it cool,” and then you completely blow it anyway? Yup. That was me. Some of you may have read about the last time I met John & Sherry. It was…less than graceful. Then, through their blog, I found out that John & I share a birthday and we both played french horn in school. Via blog comments, we agreed NOT to talk about “The Incident”. Then I got there and they said, “Nice to meet you,” and I said, “Well, technically we’ve met before.” SLKJFS:LKDJF JESSICA! WHAT. WERE. YOU. THINKING?! You had a chance to START FRESH. My husband thinks that being their Most Awkward Fan is my version of winning a Dundie. He’s right.
As usual, they were unbelievably gracious, remembered The Incident and laughed as though they didn’t think I was crazy. I brought them a few cookies since this wasn’t a signing that provided snacks. Hopefully my “bathroom humor” didn’t keep them from eating the cookies. If so, my husband might never forgive me for taking cookies from him- hah. Then again, who takes cookies from a stranger? Particularly, a creepy stranger who talks about pee. [Who am I?]
This was about the time that John said, “It’s OK- now we really do have other things to talk about and it doesn’t have to be awkward that next time. Then Sherry said, “Oh…” and handed him the book. I may or may not have let out a guffaw when I saw what she had written.
 Bahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha- so fitting. Just. So fitting. #keepawkwardnessalive
 
A shot of the First Four! 
Cute Heidi, after giving them a beautiful photo of her skyline that they used in their blog. It was super sweet.
  At this point, I was starving. Heidi recommended Dixie Donuts in the same block…and she was right. I ate two donuts and was happy as a clam…that eats donuts.
 
 
Then, it was time to be on my way back. I snapped a quick shot of the block (Mongrel is on the left…bright blue and red) and the line that was still forming.
 
It was, all in all, a super fun day. Thank you SO much to John & Sherry for endless hours of inspiration, DIY ideas, and the openness to admit when they haven’t done something before and still encourage us readers to try new things.
 
Biggest thanks to Heidi, Emily, and Kelsey for making me feel like either a) I am not stalkerish for knowing so much about John & Sherry or, b) you’re equally stalkerish. I couldn’t be in better company!