Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Four Days to Go

Well, my FET has been scheduled for next Monday. I won't know the exact time until Sunday, but everything looked good today for a Monday transfer. Today's appointment was to check my uterine lining, take some blood to measure my progesterone level, and show my mom, my sister, and Michael's mom how to give me my progesterone in oil (PIO) shots. Those need to be given twice a day, so the more people who know how to do it, the better.

I have been suffering from terrible insomnia and it turns out it's because of a steroid the doctor has me on. Darn thing makes my heart race and keeps me up half the night, and once I do fall asleep I have bizarre dreams. I love my sleep and I am usually blessed with good sleep habits, so the last couple of weeks have been really hard. I've only got a few more days on this steroid, but then I have to start another next week. Fortunately, the nurse said I could take Unisom. I hope it helps me tonight.

I've been making a real effort to pamper myself, eat well, and relax. I've been going in for a massage and/or reflexology at least once a week for the last three or four weeks in addition to my twice weekly acupuncture treatments. Friday will be my last spa day for a while. My sweet friend Peggy and I will enjoy a morning at Burke Williams then. I'm really looking forward to it.

I'm feeling good about the transfer. This will be my seventh ART attempt at getting pregnant. I know what to expect, and I also know that I have no control over the outcome. I have done the best I can do. The outcome is up to the Lord and I'm okay with that right now. I do covet your prayers for my continued peace of mind and an outcome that glorifies God.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Remembering on Father's Day

This weekend last year was the last time Michael played with the P@ul Ank@ band. We flew to Atlantic City for that show which took place at Caesar's Palace and also featured Ann M@argaret and Tony Ol@ndo. Michael was really excited about working with them. I almost didn't go to the show that evening because I was so upset about all the trouble we were having getting Michael into UCLA for treatment. It was taking a toll on me. Now I'm really glad I made it as we had no idea that it would be his last performance with the band. In retrospect, it was a great way to end a career of nearly fifteen years.

I think the show was on Friday night, and then we were treated to a "ride home" via Mr. Ank@'s private jet the next day. We both enjoyed that very much and it was much easier on Michael than commercial travel would have been.

Father's Day was spent with his family. I'm so glad we did that. He loved his family so much. Michael was raised by his step-father, Tony. My mother-in-law's first husband (Michael's father, now deceased) left her with seven small children for another woman. She was working at least two jobs to keep a roof over their heads and food in their bellies, when this young man at her restaurant job asked her out. She laughed him off at first because she thought he must be crazy to want to date her, but he persisted. They got married shortly thereafter. Michael always had the greatest respect for his mom and his step-father because of all they sacrificed and how hard they worked to provide for all those kids. It moved him to tears when he considered that.

While Michael was sick, it was really touching to see the love he and his dad had for one another. I remember his dad telling Michael, and I think it might have been on Father's Day, that he needed to "get right with God - get right with Jesus". I really respected Tony for telling Michael that, because Tony is a man of few words and he keeps his spirituality pretty private. But he cared about Michael - body and spirit. That's what a good father does.

Father's Day 2009
from left to right: Joannah, Michael, Michael's mom, Tony,
Michael's sister, Aunt Marian, Uncle Jerry

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Questions & Answers

I've had a couple of people ask me if now is really a good time for me to be doing this frozen embryo transfer. I respect the people who asked me and I understand where they are coming from. They had the best of intentions when they inquired and they are both in a position to ask me these kinds of questions - they did not overstep any bounds.

But . . .

Now that Michael isn't here, would there ever really be a good time?

Now that I'm already 42, would there really be a better time?

One of these same people asked me if I really wanted to be a single mom.

I have a very simple answer to that question.


I didn't set out to be a single mom when I started fertility treatments with my husband. I expected that we would raise a family together.

Then he got cancer and died.

It's not an ideal situation. How could it be?

But, it's the right thing for me to do. We created those embryos, they are part of Michael and me, and it would be wrong and selfish of me to leave them there indefinitely or have them destroyed. I can't even imagine doing so. It would break my heart.

This is the life I've been given. I just have to do the best I can do with it. If the transfer fails, I will have to mourn another significant loss. If the transfer succeeds, I will have to prepare for parenting on my own.

That's just the way it is.

My life isn't perfect.

It isn't what I thought it would be.

It's complicated.

It's heartbreaking.

It's strange.

But, it's my life.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Not Working Out the Way I'd Hoped

After four interviews in the last couple of weeks, I don't think I will be given the opportunity to experience a grade level change or move to another school. I am very disappointed and somewhat hurt. Opportunities posted for positions at other schools were for temporary teachers - teachers without permanent employment in the district, but nevertheless teachers whose principals are happy to keep them in their current positions.

At my own school, my principal has made some determinations about me and the way I interact with my colleagues and has chosen not to place me in the position(s) I asked for because of her prejudices. It's hard to work for a new principal - typically since they have little sense of the school's history or the dynamics of their staff. It seems to me this principal has been making decisions based on a lot of assumptions. It's even harder for me because I've just lived through the worst possible personal experience, and that has or hasn't been factored into what I can or can't do professionally.

I've really struggled with this situation over the last several weeks. But, it's time for me to lay it down. I'm tired of beating my head against the proverbial brick wall. What matters right now is that I refocus on my health and mental well-being while I prepare for my FET. Work-related stress must be avoided. Anger over the situation and the difficult personalities involved must be let go.

Somehow God will work all things together for good (Romans 8:28).

In my frustration and heartache, I was searching the Internet for articles about being a Christian in the secular workforce and I came across a variation of the Twenty-third Psalm. I modified it to speak to my own situation.

~Twenty-third Psalm for the Educator~

The Lord is my real principal and I shall not want.

He gives me peace, when chaos is all around me.

He gently reminds me to pray before I speak and to do all things without murmuring and complaining.

He reminds me that He is my Source and not my job.

He restores my sanity every day and guides my decisions that I might honor Him in everything I do.

Even though I face absurd amounts of papers to grade, unreasonable parents, unrealistic expectations regarding student outcomes, budget cutbacks, gossiping co-workers, unfair decisions, and a grieving heart and body that doesn’t want to leave the comfort of my home every morning,

I will not stop–for He is with me!

His presence, His peace, and His power will see me through.

He raises me up, even when they fail to promote me.

He claims me as His own, even if others don't want to work with me.

His faithfulness and love are better than any furlough days.

His retirement plan beats every pension plan there is.

When it’s all said and done, I’ll be working for Him a whole lot longer and for that, I bless His Name.

Can I get an amen, teachers?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Taking a Big Leap of Faith

When Michael was diagnosed with cancer, we postponed the transfer of our remaining embryos. Our plan was that we would focus on Michael's health, and once we got him more stable then we'd make plans to continue our journey toward having a family.

We just couldn't have known how aggressive his cancer was then. I realize now that even if we hadn't postponed the transfer, and had it been successful, Michael probably wouldn't have lived long enough to see his babies. And had I been in the last weeks of pregnancy while he was in the last weeks of his life, I wouldn't have been able to care for him like I did.

I knew even before he died that I would want to transfer the embryos sometime this year. When it worked out for me to take an extended leave of absence from work, I put the wheels in motion by starting acupuncture the first week of April. I sincerely believe the acupuncture has been beneficial for my physical and mental well-being throughout the last three months. I'm really glad I started it so soon after Michael's passing.

Then I had a consultation with my RE, and he performed another office hysteroscopy to make sure my uterus was in good shape. The doctor and nurses at my fertility clinic have been incredibly compassionate to me since they learned of Michael's passing, and one of the nurses shared with me that there are a couple of other patients in my situation. She offered to put us in touch, but I haven't taken her up on that.

Finally, everything is set to go. I will go in for an appointment tomorrow morning, start some oral medication, and then later this month the doctor will transfer our last two embryos. I don't remember the specifics, but I do remember that he told me they were both of very good quality.

I am hoping and praying for twins. I know that probably seems crazy for me on my own, but with Michael residing in Heaven, I'd like for them to have each other. Of course, I have no say in the matter. I don't even know if this will work. I'm just stepping forward in faith and trusting the outcome to the Lord.

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ~ Jeremiah 29:11

Monday, June 7, 2010

Three Months

I can't believe it's already been three months. Sometimes it feels like Michael left me a long time ago, but other times it feels like it was just a couple of weeks ago. My perception of time isn't what it once was.

So, how am I doing?

Sometimes I still feel like this can't be real. He must be on the road or something. He'll be back someday. But, I get that feeling less often as the time passes.

I sleep fairly well, and I dream of Michael frequently.

I am tired or low energy most of the time. My days tend to be very slow. I do the very least that needs to be done, and I don't beat myself up for not doing more.

I've lost at least ten pounds. Food just isn't a priority. I have no desire to make much of an effort to prepare a meal. But, I will eat well if I am out with friends or having dinner with family. I'm not starving, that's for sure.

I spend a lot of time thinking about Michael. At first I thought of all the things he'd done wrong that kept us apart for so long before we got married, and I felt angry. But, now I just think about him. Sometimes I reflect on the good times we had together, and oftentimes I use my "sanctified imagination" (as Randy Alcorn refers to it) to think about what it will be like to be reunited in Heaven and all the experiences we'll share then. Those are the thoughts that give me the most comfort because I prefer thinking about us in a future tense instead of a past tense.

I cry a little bit every day. Some days I cry more than just a little bit.

I still wear my rings, and I have no plans of removing them.

I have emptied out Michael's underwear drawer. Sorted his t-shirt collection and given a few of them away to a couple of his brothers. I decided to keep for myself the ones he wore most often. I don't wear them myself, but there's a comfort in having them here with me.

I loaded up his laptop with my stuff, and gave my old laptop to his brother Charlie. Every time I give something away, I get nervous. But I get over it shortly thereafter, and so far I haven't regretted any of the things I've passed on to his family members.

I'm trying to get used to living by myself again, but it's not easy. I really loved living with Michael. When I would come home from work in the afternoon, he would usually be practicing guitar. I really miss hearing him play. I miss our physical affection, all those hugs and kisses, his help around the house, his handyman skills, his cooking talents, and the sound of his voice and his laugh. Without those things, the house is very still and quiet from the time Buffy and I get up until we go to bed. There's an emptiness here without him and I don't like it.

I am lonely, but I am only lonely for Michael.

My faith has continued to grow, but there was a period of time in the last few weeks where I was having a hard time communicating to God. I just didn't know what to say. I was just thinking, "Now what, Lord?" I still don't have the answer to that question.

I spend a lot of time reading. Mostly Christian non-fiction, but I've read a few novels as well. I have read most of the New Testament, and I'm going to start in on the Old Testament over the summer. I can spend an entire afternoon out in my patio room just reading. I have learned so much. I think reading helps to direct my thoughts in positive ways instead of letting them wander to the dark places grief leads.

My future is still uncertain, but it always was. I just didn't know it before. Anyway, I can't see much past the next week. My days of planning things out are over for the time being. I try to live in the now as much as possible.

I have come to better understand suffering in this life, and that being a Christian does not mean I can avoid it. However, I do now that:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)

God is going to do great things, amazing things. Here and in the eternity to come. Since he's a God of redemption and restoration, my losses will be nothing compared to my reward in Heaven. That didn't use to mean much to me because I hadn't suffered much, but now it means a great deal.

Three months...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Flashback: June 3, 1994

I'm pretty sure I've blogged about this before, but I feel the need to think back on that night today.

At this point in our history, Michael and I were just friends and members of a fairly large praise band and worship team. In the months prior, we'd all started spending more and more time socializing together - going to breakfast or lunch after the final Sunday service, attending the singles' group together, stuff like that. The group was gelling together, and I sensed that Michael was attracted to me.

On June 3, 1994, Chris and Corey (two guys on the worship team) threw a big party. Chris was a history buff, and so this party had a historical theme centering around the Titanic. We were all encouraged to dress up in period costumes and be prepared for some adventure. I went to the party with Penny, and it was fun for a while.

I know I began to feel a bit disappointed as it got later and there was no sign of Michael. He'd said he would be there. I wanted him to see my costume. Sometime between eleven and twelve o'clock Penny and I agreed to leave the party. We went back to my parents' house (where I was living at the time), and we decided to hang out for a little while together. I gave Michael a call to chide him for not making it to the party, but he wasn't home and so I just left a message instead.

After Penny decided to go home, I went to bed. The phone rang shortly thereafter and it was Michael. He asked me why I hadn't been at the party, and I protested that I had been there. Turns out he showed up shortly after Penny and I left.

Anyway, we ended up having the longest phone conversation we'd ever had. Before now, Michael had called periodically for no apparent reason, but they were the shortest, dumbest conversations - you would have thought we were a couple of teenagers. Hi. What are you doing? Okay. Well, I'll see you next weekend. Yeah, stuff like that. Too funny.

This night, Michael asked if it was just him, or was there some sort of attraction between us. I agreed that it seemed like there was, and that I could see myself really liking him, but that there were a couple of problems. First, he wasn't a Christian, and I was looking to date a Christian. Secondly, he already had a girlfriend to my knowledge, and I needed to know if he was ready to seriously consider making changes in that part of his life. He said he wasn't, but wasn't it nice to know that we had mutual feelings for each other. I don't think I agreed with that summation, and I'm pretty sure I told him that I'd prefer to know we had mutual feelings if we were both in a position to act on them.

That was it for that night, but we spent a lot of time together over the next few months getting to know each other better, and fantasizing about being married and having babies together. Unfortunately, Michael did not follow through with any of this talk, and I just ended up with a broken heart.

There's a lot more to the story, obviously. Thirteen years later we were married, and we made each other very happy for all the days we had together.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Coincidence or God-incidence?

A few weeks ago, I received a copy of Life-Changing Moments with God, Praying Scripture Every Day, by David Jeremiah. It's just a little devotional book of prayers based on scripture. Michael and I had enjoyed a similar book of prayers based on the healing promises of the Bible during his illness.

While praying with yesterday's entry, I thought I'd look back to see what the reading was for March 7th - the day that Michael went home to be with the Lord. Here it is:

Your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is His name.
Lord, this is a great mystery . . . concerning Christ and the church. I shall no longer be termed Forsaken . . . but I shall be called Hephzibah [My Delight in Her], for You, Lord, delight in me. As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall you, my God, rejoice over me. You have sent Jesus to comfort me in mourning, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. I will rejoice in You, Lord, my soul shall be joyful in You, my God; for You have clothed me with the garments of salvation . . . as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Lord, You will betroth me to You forever; yes, You will betroth me to You in righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and mercy. Who shall separate me from the love of Christ?
You are a holy God who delights in His sinful but forgiven people! What amazing love from a compassionate, faithful, righteous, loving, and merciful God!

(Based on: Isaiah 54:5; Ephesians 5:32; Isaiah 62:4-5; Isaiah 61:1-3; Isaiah 61:10; Hosea 2:19; and Romans 8:35)

What really stood out to me was the reference to Isaiah 61:1-3 from which I derived the name of this blog in the aftermath of Michael's death. What a lovely God-incidence.