Our Battle with Infertility: Year 2


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?!





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!


Our Battle With Infertility: Year 1


**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


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

image (1)

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


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):


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


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.


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.

Us- Photobooth-September 2011

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.

happiness and cheer.

So…it’s Christmas time. It’s Christmas Eve. Weird. I’ve had a super difficult time with holidays this year. Fall and winter are my absolute favorites (especially November & December) and, despite my endless birthday countdown, I didn’t feel like my birthday was very exciting. Then Thanksgiving was HUGE because we hosted (there’s a post already written that won’t post for some reason), but it still kinda…snuck up. It felt more like everyone was coming over for a family event than that it was THANKSGIVING. I don’t think it helped that it was SO different than our normal holiday traditions…it made it hard to realize that we were still having the same holiday. I’m bad at change, in case you hadn’t noticed. 

So, now it’s Christmas. The trees are up…OK, one isn’t decorated, but it’s in our room, so nobody else cares. We have garlands outside for the first time, we made Christmas treats a week ahead of time, our gifts came in AT budget perfectly, everything’s good. So, my question is, why doesn’t it feel like Christmas is TOMORROW?! I’m pretty sure the fever blister that has inhabited my face isn’t helping, but still.

Last year, we were in a very different place (literally and figuratively). This time last year we were sitting vigil for my stepfather who was losing his battle to cancer. We had planned out our entire Christmas route/schedule and it all got completely changed, haha. That’s what we get for planning, apparently. Even so, our tree had been up, our house was decorated, it FELT like Christmas. It was sad Christmas, sure, but it was still Christmas. This year, nope. Our house probably hasn’t ever looked this good at Christmas. It’s way cleaner, there’s less clutter, our tree rocks my socks…but something isn’t right. I feel ridiculous saying this because there’s NO reason for it and nothing I can pinpoint. I feel petulant, but it’s not that I’m not getting presents like I did as a child or that I’m not excited about Santa because I’m grown. In fact, we saw Arthur Christmas the other night and it further reinforced my belief that the Santa thing actually could happen. The Christmas music has been on the radio since before Thanksgiving and I’ve faithfully listened. Singing Christmas hymns at church has been my favorite part of every Sunday, as usual, but it still is not here. 

I’m not sure if it’s not having Steve here that’s doing it. Maybe it’s the billion other changes that have taken place this year. None of the changes we’ve experienced have particularly been bad, but it’s all different…and, like I mentioned before, I’m bad at change. Everything just seems off. But, since I can’t figure out what “it” is that’s missing,

I think I’ll just blame it on the fever blister. 

Hope that you & yours have a fabulous Christmas! We’ll be at church tonight & tomorrow for my favorite services of the year! See ya later with some Christmas photos from our little blue house. 🙂 

We Gather Together

I have a million things that I want to post about and no time for 999,999 of them. Really annoying.
So, I decided to talk about Thanksgiving instead. We decided to host Thanksgiving this year. 12 people in our house (it was originally 15…so that was actually small). Basically, I’m just proud of myself. Is that wrong? Maybe, maybe not. Our thought process behind this undertaking was that last year we spent Thanksgiving with my family, thinking we’d go to Nags Head with my husband’s family on Black Friday & spend the weekend. Well, my stepdad’s cancer had progressed further than we expected, traffic stunk, and we had to be back in Richmond by Sunday. So, we stayed at my mom’s the entire Thanksgiving. Plan B was that we’d spend Christmas Eve together in Newport News after Christmas Eve service in Richmond, have Christmas morning with my in-laws, and then head to my mom’s later on Christmas Day. Also, ineffective. My stepdad was hanging on at that point and we really thought he would only make it until Christmas night. We didn’t go to church together (sent the Preacher alone- hah) and we all sat holding a vigil at my stepdad’s bedside until he passed on New Year’s Eve. After that, splitting holidays sounded horrible, especially for this year. I hate the thought of my mom alone on holidays and I hate the thought of not seeing the in-laws on holidays. That’s when one of us (probably me) said, “Let’s just HOST Thanksgiving for EVERYONE!” (cue overwhelmed face and steam coming from our ears)
Obviously our house wasn’t “picture perfect” like we’d hoped because there are NEVER enough hours in days, so we stayed up ALL NIGHT on Wednesday. It was like being in college…only with pie crusts. Not gonna lie, pretty proud of my Martha Stewart pies and made-from-scratch pie crusts. You’ll see them in a moment. 
Anyway, we laid down for about two hours (actually, hubs only laid down for one) and then got started on the cooking around 10 a.m.! The BIG MEAL was scheduled for 2, so we had tons to finish up. Plus, we had to shower…what?! How do people find time to bathe when hosting holidays?!
I was really excited that we bought all white dishes this summer. It was great to make a fun table setting. My “little brother” Dillon had come over Wednesday night to help me craft some things from Pinterest so that the house would be uber-festive and everyone would have place cards. This is where my mom says, “You don’t have to go overboard,” but I thought it would be nice to have assigned seats. Ya know, when everyone goes to the same place every year, you have seats where you always sit. But here, nobody would really know, so I tried to make it a little less awkward. I hate awkward. “But you do it so well?” you say, ahh yes. Yes I do. Seriously though, let’s be honest, the crafts were for me. It was all about the little things for me.
In another lifetime, I registered for chocolate brown and green table settings. Hooray! Those can be fall colors! I set the table with jars with golden floating candles, silver napkin rings, chocolate brown napkins, green place mats, and a few tealight holders, pumpkins, etc. Then I put everyone’s place card pumpkin by their plate and lit the candles! Hooray! Happy Thanksgiving! 🙂 I also recovered our chair bottoms, but I’ll have to post about that later because I have to workout at 5 a.m. tomorrow, so it’s just about bedtime.

Bring on the photographic evidence!

This was inspired by some Pinterest action. If I can find the felt flower tutorial I used, I’ll link it up.
These were our little place cards. 🙂 They were found from Pinterest  and my pin is linked to google. I’m sure I found a real tutorial. 
This is the view from the “kitchen” end of our living room. That’s the dining table we used to always have out with recovered seats (I love my staple gun) and a table from church set perpendicular at the end. 
This is the other end. We covered the white plastic (borrowed from church) folding table with a brown table cloth so it would blend better with our table. Then we just put pine cones, votive holders, jars with water/floating candles, and some pumpkins (craft and real) in the middle. Yes, those are our rolls rising on top of our Thanksgiving crates in the background. We were close on time.
The main section of the table, pre-food.
Dessert bar! I made those pies from scratch (thanks to Martha Stewart’s recipe) and we added a blueberry cobbler, a few more pies, and my grandmother’s caramel cake to the spread. My Memaw also handmade that fall-colored runner. She taught me how this summer, but I’m clearly slower than she is at completing projects. 🙂


I’d love to say our house has stained this clean since Thanksgiving, but it hasn’t. Our Christmas decorations are awesome, but were pretty late getting completed. Since I’m just now posting Thanksgiving right before New Year’s, maybe Christmas will be up before Valentines’ Day? It’s a great reminder of all we have to be thankful for in our life. It was a fabulous first-host Thanksgiving! Happy Holidays! 
-Jessica (&Chris)

**tell us- how did YOU celebrate? any DIY projects? anyone else staying up LITERALLY all night to host people the next day? **


it is 2011

It is a new year. I mean, it’s been a new year for a week. I don’t really make resolutions. Last year I set a goal to read 100 books. Well, that was a bust (in that I didn’t read 100 books). However, I did read WAY more books than I’d read in previous years. I also discovered new authors that I really enjoyed. I really should’ve done better writing down the titles though, because now I’m not sure what some books I’ve read were titled. Oops. Hard to recommend a book when you don’t know the title…

It’s also been one of the craziest years of my life. That’s impressive. Truly. I thought nothing would take the cake of 2009. I was, in fact, 100% sure that 2009 was the worst year of my life. It was probably still the worst year I’ve had in my own head, but 2010 was a real kicker. 

The year started with my divorce getting finalized and losing one of the most influential people in my life, Lisa Relaford Coston. Losing those two relationships was, well, beyond huge. It’s still unbelievable to me that I won’t be able to call Lisa when I have a question or just to catch up on my life. No doubt, she’s smiling down on all of us who were lucky enough to be called her students. Then, my grandmother died. It is no secret that our relationship was strained, but losing someone who had been a part of my life forever was very difficult for me to handle. We’d come a long way in the last few years, and still could’ve been better, but the aftermath of her passing has involved my father being concerned about housing, my father/aunts/sister/cousin going into debt to pay for the funeral costs, and multiple family feuds with my crazy aunt…not really the best-case scenario. 

I started dating my wonderful husband this year and that is, by far, the best thing that happened to me. I don’t know how to put in to words what his love has done for me and how it has shown me love, not only from him, but from Jesus. Getting divorced did a number on my relationship with Jesus. Getting loved again did a number on it too, sometimes good and sometimes bad. I’m stubborn. I have a super hard time accepting love I think I don’t deserve. Truly, my husband has had an amazing impact on me and my heart. 

(Side note: I had an amazing roommate this summer. Love you, Jess Colling.)

In July, my mom came back from a cruise. She had a great time (I hated it because she was unavailable for phone calls the whole time- lame), but had dental surgery when she got home. It was hilarious, but a little scary. She was VERY out of it for two days. Then, my stepdad started whining. We were really confused because he said he felt sick but couldn’t describe what it was and Mom was on pain killers and we couldn’t figure out how to balance it. Then, he got jaundiced while at the dinner theater during a show. They sent him straight to the ER during intermission. Weeks later he was gearing up for surgery, meeting with Chris to grant permission to marry me, and being informed that he had pancreatic cancer. Five months later, after chemo and liquid nutrition, losing 95 pounds, and two weeks in hospice, he’s gone. Wow. That’s been intense. What a way to end the year. December 31, at around 9:15 p.m., my stepfather died. That’s a word combination I still don’t dare say out loud. 

Needless to say, this first week of 2011, I haven’t been too motivated to make resolutions. However, today I got inspired. I watched Nate Berkus and found ways to “transform small spaces” at my house. My husband is motivated to help me clean our house (amazing). AND on one of my favorite photography blogs re-started their Healthy Train. I’m even contemplating joining twitter just to follow the Healthy Train tweets (I initially typed teets and laughed out loud even though it’s not the correct spelling). So, I’m thinking of putting that Jillian Michaels – 30 Day Shred to good use and actually finish my whole 30 days. My husband and I may even do our Couch-to-5k that we started this year…maybe this time do it in its entirety (?), AND my third and final goal for the next 6 months especially (until Healthy Train ends) is to get my husband to try a 90-day cycle of P90X Extreme Home Fitness Workout Program.

Super overzealous? Possibly. 

I’d also like to keep working on my lesson-planning and get a few weeks ahead this winter/spring as well as start going back to the library to check out some more books. Oh…and did I mention we’re trying to paint our entire downstairs (including kitchen cabinets), fix up our sunporch, and paint our stairway? Yes indeed, it could be a very productive year. 

Wish us luck!

And next year, please remind me that I don’t do New Year’s resolutions… 

last words.

For some reason, I always believed a person’s last words should be very telling of their life and/or death. John Adams is credited with saying, “Thomas Jefferson survives,” on his death bed. I’m all for a healthy political rivalry, but even that is pretty epic. Julius Caesar’s last words, “Et tu, Brute!” have clearly withstood the test of time. Television and movies portray death scenes as final moments of clarity where people can get across the absolute truth of their lifetime. They are moments when love or hatred is confessed. After all, the term “death bed confession” isn’t coined for nothing. I think that if we all had our choice, beyond dying in our sleep, we’d choose to get that last moment of honesty and clarity with someone that could pass along our message, our legacy, to those who need to hear it. For some, their final words and acts become their entire legacy. For others, those final words are proof positive that they continued their good life into death.
The few times I’ve known someone who died suddenly, I’ve replayed our last meeting in my head. I’ve seen their loved ones replaying their last moments together to be sure to find peace. Luckily, I’m blessed with amazing people who make it their business to love their friends and family strongly every day. I, however, am paranoid. I have a habit of messing up my words. I say exactly what I mean to say, it just doesn’t always come across like I intend. At 26, I haven’t quite figured out how to make sure that even those closest to me understand my meaning. It’s maddening to see those who so quickly understand one joke completely misinterpret another and get hurt. I’m sure it’s my fault, I just don’t always know how to fix it, or prevent it completely. Obviously. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t actually do those things on purpose.
Unfortunately, I’m in a place where I’m concerned that every word may be the last word I say to my stepdad. After 17 years, many of which I didn’t want to speak with him at length, I don’t know how to get across what I want him to remember. Every day this week I’ve agonized over what he might say before he passes. Will he be in pain? Will he be asking for medication? Will he be crying out? It seems that he is feeling more peaceful with every passing moment. For that I could not be more grateful. I’ve also realized, since he is not dying suddenly or unexpectedly, we’ve been given the fleeting gift of time. We’ve said things in the last 5 days that we waited 10 years to say. I could sit here and regret that we didn’t say them sooner, I really could. Some things I think could’ve come up, for sure. Mostly though, we left things unsaid that would’ve hurt each other or those around us. If we had time, I’m positive we would’ve aired out some dirty laundry and healed up some old wounds. Fact is, we don’t have that time. We don’t get to “live” on the other side of the resolution. We don’t get to have the family memories free of misunderstandings and misinterpretations. That is what I’m sad for. I can’t be regretful, I haven’t lived those moments yet. But in years to come, I know that I will think, it would’ve been nice for this moment to come and all of us to be here happily. In those moments, it will bring me comfort to know that he will be somewhere far more joyful than the moment, but selfishly, I can’t help but wish we’d all been a little more aware of our time.
To say that actions speak louder than words would be the understatement of a lifetime, literally. We both know that our actions have hurt each other, that has also gone without saying. We’ve apologized for things we haven’t acknowledged. I’m honestly not even sure we’re on the same page about our apologies, but it doesn’t matter. And since I can’t end every sentence with “I love you,” or “I’ll miss you,” I’ve come to realize that he can still hear it when I say, “Could I get you some more soda?”

Steve, Tonight we sang “I”ll  Be Home for Christmas”. It’s been your anthem all week. But today I had to finish it because you’d forgotten the words. That was strange for me. You always correct me on words, even in other languages. Maybe there’s something poetic, in case it’s your last night, about our last words being, “I”ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.” Maybe you will be Home, but you won’t be here anymore. Maybe from now on we’ll have to settle for being with you in our dreams. I’m strangely glad that I got to sing it to you. You haven’t typically thanked me for singing a song and as strange as I would’ve thought this at 16, or even 22, I’m sure you will be in my dreams at Christmas for years to come. Those were maybe good last words, even if we’re lucky enough to have more tomorrow.

But I do love you. And I will miss you. More than I ever would’ve come out and said.