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In January 1986, I was an 11th grader at Dreher High School.  I was a Library Aide for one of my class periods.  There weren’t televisions in every classroom or SmartBoards or computers.  We had a few TVs on AV carts that were borrowed by teachers.  On this day, there were only so many to go around.  One of the self-contained classes had come to the library to watch the Challenger lift off from Cape Canaveral in Florida on one of the televisions we did have in that area.

This was important in SC and in schools because we had home state hero, Ronald McNair and teacher, Christa McAuliffe on board. It wasn’t common to watch the lift offs, but occasionally we would in a science class.  The librarian, myself, the special education teacher and her aide and a handful of students from the self-contained classroom were all standing up watching the lift off.  For most people who watched the tragedy unfold, they remember the sight of that explosion and witnessing the deaths of the brave men and women on board.  While I do remember that, the moment I remember most about that day was when Helen, one of the students in that class of students who had come to the library excited to witness this event.  She was stricken.  As soon as it was clear that this was a fatal event, she let loose the most pained, heart-wrenching cry.  “NOOOOO!  THERE’S A TEACHER ON THAT SPACESHIP! NOOO! SHE CAN’T DIE!”  She just fell down and started crying and repeating this over and over.  She was utterly inconsolable.  I felt so sorry her, and her raw emotion and utter sadness touched every person in that room.

She was finally able to be led to the nurse, where her parents were called to come get her.  She missed several days afterward.  Apparently, she had to be sedated and kept that way for several days until she was able to come to terms with the tragedy.

Even today, 32 years later, that is the image that comes to me whenever the Challenger tragedy is discussed.  As a teacher, we take our students to the Challenger Center that we have here in my town.  The Challenger Center provides students with hands-on activities and experiences related to NASA and the space program.

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I talk a lot, but I don’t always voice the things that are hurting me or causing me anxiety or stress.  I have always been the type of person who puts those hurts and indignities that I suffer in a neat little box in my brain and file it away, slowly building up a thick wall around it.  I can visual my brain as this endless file room full of various sized boxes depending on what needs to be filed away.  I don’t forget, I just harden myself to whatever has occurred.  It has probably made me more jaded and cranky that some folks, but I am better equipped to deal with difficult things if I can force myself to become objective.

I have had a worse life than some and a better life than most.  I have achieved nearly every goal I have set for myself.  College – check.  Grad school – check.  Work in a law firm – check.  Change careers and become a teacher – check. Fix my credit – check.  Find the love of my life – check.   Unfortunately, I have come upon the one goal I will never achieve.  You can call it a goal or a dream, a want or a desire, whatever label you put on it, I will never be able to get pregnant.  Being a mom is something I always wanted.  I always thought about “my kids” and what they’d be like and how it would be.  I may be come a mother, if adoption works out, but I will never know what it’s like to actually be pregnant.

My husband and I endured many miscarriages and finally got pregnant three years ago. I made it past the “danger zone” and told everyone the great news.  A week later, we found out that we had miscarried when we had a routine appointment.  It shredded my heart.  I wailed.  Even as I write this, my heart feels like it’s breaking again.  We went through the procedures you have to after an event like this, but I never really got over it  How do you?  You just put on the mask and move about your day.  I have always been good at masking things and eventually that box gets filed away, and I can move on. I have had other miscarriages since then, but no pregnancies that we ever though were going to be successful, no “this time it will work” moments.  My husband is amazing and understands me so well that even though I don’t want to talk about it and don’t, he knows.

This time last year we had an adoption in the works.  In March, she had the baby, invited us up to see her, hold her and name her, filling out the birth certificate.  We were to take her home on a Tuesday.  By the end of the day that Tuesday, she wasn’t returning calls and we learned that she had changed her mind.  Though I harbor no ill will or animosity towards this girl, it was just another thing to shred my unhealed heart.

Trying to become a mom has been the one failure or disappointment that I can’t get over or tuck away or not think about. I literally think about it every day.  “Oh, I will never wear maternity clothes” as I walk past them in Target.  “If everything had worked out, I would have a baby here this Christmas to buy gifts for.  I have a Christmas ornament I bought during that pregnancy that has never been taken out of the box.  I have a room full of things in my house that were supposed to be used to decorate a nursery.  It just chips away at you a little at a time.  You never know what will cause you to burst into tears.   I have always been considered strong and confident, but this one thing that thousands of women do every day, create a life, future and love it while it grows inside of you, I can’t do.

Now, my doctor tells me he doesn’t want me to get pregnant. I have other issues that will impede the process and possibly kill me if I do it.  No one wants to read about medical details, but I must have a procedure in a week that will prevent me from getting pregnant because it could literally kill me.  Then in May, when I should be planning my summer off and what I’ll be doing with my child, I will be getting a hysterectomy.  I am old. I am almost fifty. We have been trying for 5 years.  In the beginning, I thought we stood a chance.  I think that little spark of hope was my biggest enemy.  I let myself think this would happen.

Not only do I feel like a failure, but I feel like I a depriving my husband of the opportunity to be a dad.  He doesn’t agree and is so loving and supportive, and that makes me feel bad because I don’t feel like I deserve that.  If he hadn’t married someone so old, he’d be able to be a father.  I waited until I was older to get married and have kids.  I wanted to be married and then have a child. I grew up with a grandmother and no mom or dad around.  I didn’t want to repeat that cycle.  I also didn’t meet anyone I wanted to marry.  I never wanted to get married just because other people thought I should.  I wanted to wait for “the one”, and I did.  That I do not regret at all.  He says, he had to marry me, I am his soul mate.  I know he’s mine, too, but that I can’t give him a child breaks my heart even more.

At this point, my heart is a tattered mess.   I don’t want to see a therapist, but I probably will.  I do think that writing this all down is cathartic.  I also think that hopefully, with some actual closure and the spark of hope is gone, I will be able to pack up the box and tuck it far away in my head.  I know that my situation isn’t unique or special, and I am holding out hope that we will be able to adopt, but that, too, must have a deadline. I can’t go on forever hoping that it will happen.

I am not writing this for pity or whatever you want to call it.  Just keep this story in mind when you so freely ask women “Don’t you want to get married?”  “Don’t you want kids?”   First of all, it’s none of your business. Second of all, it could be a subject that brings an onslaught of emotions and pain.

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June 4, 1987, I had it ALL planned out, no vision boards necessary. The next ten years were all laid out in my head.  I would go to the College of Charleston, live with my best friend, become a child psychologist, find Mr. Right, get married, have 3 kids (all boys) and live happily ever after.  HAHAHA!  Oh, how much I knew at 18.  I did go to C of C and live with Amy Jo.  That’s about as far as I got in my 10-year plan.  During my Freshman year, I met and fell in love with who thought was my Mr. Right.  We were together for 4 years, then broke up the month I graduated.  During my Sophomore year, I decided I didn’t want to be a child psychologist.  I had always thought about teaching and law school.  So, obviously, the next step was to obtain a very useful English degree.  While I was doing that, I was also taking education classes so I could teach when I graduated, until I went to law school.  Changing my major and my overly active social life, plus working three jobs screwed up my credit hours, I ended up getting to the end of my financial aid eligibility and not finishing my student teaching.  I graduated.  I moved home.  I got a job in a law firm.  I got my paralegal certificate.

All that time, I was living with my grandmother.  Ultimately, we would live together until her death.  She could not financially take care of herself when she got too old to work, so I took over the bills.  I was glad to do it.  She had worked hard her entire life.  She deserved some time to lounge around and a little pocket money from her Social Security check.

Fast forward 20 years from my high school graduation.  My grandma passes away.  She had been ill and chose to no longer take her medications.  The event in my life that I am most proud of is allowing her the dignity of her death. She never wanted to be in a hospital, hooked up to machines.  My entire life she had always told us she wanted to die at home.  That was my last gift to her.  She died in her bed surrounded by her family and friends.  I will never regret that decision.

So, I still hadn’t found Mr. Right, had three sons but I was living pretty happily, aside from the normal grief that comes with life and death.  Ultimately, I did find and marry Mr. Right.  Unfortunately, it was rather late in life and I don’t know that we will have 1 child, much less three.  I can take some solace in knowing that I have had the joy of impacting the lives of hundreds of children.

Now, 30 years later, almost to the day, my senior class is celebrating and preparing for our reunion.  I am seeing lots of family and friends graduate or promote from kindergarten, middle school, high school and college.  I think about all of those high school and college graduates and their “plans”.  I can only offer advice that at 18 or 22 you’re probably not going to think is very realistic.

First, take chances.  Don’t sit and wait for anything to come to you.  It won’t.  Whether it’s a job opportunity or that special girl or guy, you have to go after it.  Time is not on your side.  In one blink, you are 30 then 40 then 30 again (haha).

Second, forgive.  Don’t hold grudges or hatred towards someone else, if you can avoid it.  It only makes you feel bad.  They usually don’t even know or care.  Forgiveness is more for you than for the other person.  It allows you to move on.

Third, don’t wait.  That’s similar to taking chances, but different.  Don’t wait for that ex-girlfriend to realize she wants you back.  Don’t wait until your 40 and then decide you want to go to law school, but realize you have too many adult responsibilities to justify another $100k for schooling.

Fourth, have fun!  There are so many amazing things you can do.  Travel alone, meet new people.  Take that class in class French cuisine or creative writing.  Plant flowers in the yard because you LIKE that, not because you want your yard to live up to the Joneses down the road.  Be silly.  It’s okay to laugh at yourself.  It’s pretty necessary actually to keep a sane mind

Fifth, let the people you love know it.  I have a friend whose parents never say they love each other or even tell this man or his sister that they love them.   I tell my husband multiple times a day that I love him.

Sixth, actions speak louder than words.  Sometimes idioms enter our culture because they are true.  Thought you may tell others you love them, SHOW them you love them. Clean up the cat barf because you know your wife doesn’t like to.  Call and make the dental appointment because you know your husband hates talking on the phone.  You can still be a snarky jackass and show kindness.  Just ask me, I do it every day.

Seventh, cut the people out who need to be cut out.  Sometimes, we have to “break up” with friends and even family because they are toxic to our lives.  We must watch out for ourselves sometimes.  It’s not easy, but sometimes it is necessary for your well-being.

Eighth, sometimes we don’t know everything.  Whether you’re new to a job or in a workplace, whether you are going through an illness or a divorce, SOMEONE has been there before and can give you reassurances, guidance and an empathic ear.

Ninth, step out of your comfort zone.  Try new things that scare you! Public speaking! Parachuting out of an airplane! Asking that person out! Getting out of your rut will invigorate you!

Tenth, finally, ignore all of this if you want, because ultimately, it’s your life to live and no one can judge you for your decisions and how you carve your path.  As long as your actions don’t inflict harm on others, trudge on.

I’m not writing this just for you nubile adults just graduating.  Sometimes we old folks need a reminder, too.

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My husband and I have  tried (happily) to get pregnant since we  were married in 2013.   We have had no success, most likely due to my age.  We decided that at the beginning of January 2017 we would start the process to adopt a baby.  On  New Year’s Eve, we met someone who has a step-daughter who is pregnant.  She is an 18 year old honor student who is in college and doing well.  She does not want children at this time, if ever.  After some discussions, the step-mom agreed to talk to the daughter some more about adoption, which is the option she was going with.  Thankfully, after meeting she agreed to allow us to adopt her baby!  I almost threw up I was so excited, and Jennings cried.  This is something we have wanted for so long and  never thought we’d have,  even with adoption as an option.  We have many friends who have adopted  children or who were adopted themselves.   I was able to get the perspective from different angles, and I still have more questions!

I come from a very small family, and never knew my father or his family.  Jennings comes from an extended family so  big we barely see everyone unless it’s a wedding or a funeral. We always want our baby to know that she or he is adopted and that we chose them for our small family.

The process is so different for everyone, and my husband gets sucked into to Google-land, so what we actually have to do gets confusing!  We finally meet with an attorney next week.  The baby is due on April 14th.  This is all going to be happening FAST.  Adoption is very expensive, so we have created a GoFundMe to help offset the legal, hospital and court fees/costs.  I have attached our story (in more detail) and our donation page.  If you are feeling philanthropic and wish to practice a random act of guidance, please consider helping us in our quest. Our Go Fund Me Page

Gratefully,

Kim

We Are Adopting

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Since I was a small girl, Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday.  When I was little, Gramma would pull up a chair for me to stand in and let me help her cook. I learned to make a lot of dishes that way, but Thanksgiving was special. After helping her “prepare” dinner, we would make place mates or name cards for the family coming to eat.   Soon, my aunt and uncle would show up with my cousins and we’d be ushered to the yard to play until dinner time if it wasn’t too cold.  If it was too cold, we would go play in our bedroom.  My sister and cousins and I would create all sorts of games and scenarios to keep us busy. Sometimes, we’d talk my uncle in to playing with us because he would rough house and toss us around.  My mom may or may not show up, but when I was little, most of the time she found her way home for holiday meals.

I always liked it when my gramma and her daughters (my mom and aunt) were together because they’d start telling stories about people they used to know and old memories.  It was one of the few times I would be still and quiet so they wouldn’t notice me, and I could eavesdrop on them.  We would eat so much that I always joked about wearing sweatpants on that day.  That night, sometimes Kelli’s friend would come over and we’d eat leftovers and goof off. Friday, we ALWAYS ate turkey clubs and chips, made the RIGHT way, according to her, with 3 slices of toast.

Gramma died right before the holidays and it was heart-wrenching for me.  She loved the holidays as much as I did. She loved cooking for everyone and having all of us at the house. The year before she died, she became obsessed with Thanksgiving dinner, the actual meal.  We had several turkeys in the freezer, and periodically throughout that year, she would want to cook a Thanksgiving feast, with all the fixings and trimmings, invite family over and be together.  It was exhausting, but she knew her time left with us was limited, and she wanted to make the most of it.  So I obliged her.  I got up at the crack of dawn (because Thanksgiving meals were ALWAYS at 1:00 p.m., as well as most holiday or Sunday dinners), get the turkey prepped and in the oven for her.  I only started with the really intensive help after she broke several glass pie plates and baking dishes getting a baking dish out for a casserole.  She would do the lighter stuff: peel potatoes, mash them after they were cooked, prepare the sweet potato casserole, etc. I handled the stuffing, the turkey, most of the other veggies, the bread and the actual being in the kitchen.  We got her an extra-long oxygen tube so she could get to the kitchen and still be able to breathe, but it was still exhausting for her.

I grumbled about it to friends and some family, but never to her.  I knew it was important to her.  Now, 7 years later, I am thankful that she and I had that time together and that I was able to make her happy.   Now, I am married and my husband and I got married a week after Thanksgiving.  We are starting our own family traditions and ways of doing things. I hope one day, if we’re blessed enough to have any children, that I can make holidays fun and memorable for them.  We are starting this year by taking our first holiday trip, a tradition I hope to continue one day.

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Known

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I was just looking at my cat, Gus, thinking, “I have known you all but 3 weeks of your little kitty cat life”.  That got me thinking, about who I have known all of their lives, from the minute they were born.  Then I started thinking about who has known me since I was born. At this point, the only person who has known me all the years I was alive during their life time was my gramma. We lived together the first 18 years; I went to college and came home to live with her for the next 18.  Even in college or when I was out of town, there wasn’t a full week that went by that we didn’t at least talk on the phone.  I can’t say that about anyone else.  I have known my niece and nephew since they were born, my cousins, my sister, but there have been gaps in the times I have been in communication with them. 

This isn’t the first time, that I have gotten teary-eyed thinking that the person I loved the most on the planet isn’t here.  The person who drove me crazy, made me laugh, encouraged me, scolded me is gone. The one person who was always there.  If you have a one person who is always there, don’t lose that.  My cousin can say that about her children.  She is always there for them.  She knows what’s going on in their lives.  She loves them unconditionally.

I know lots of people who are close to their parents and talk weekly, monthly, daily.  I know that my friends and others might think I “wasted” my youth living with Gramma, caring for her, dealing with her when others couldn’t and wouldn’t. I have never felt that way.  I have never regretted keeping her with me until literally the minute she died.  It is the thing I am proudest of, and not to toot my own horn, but I have plenty to be proud of, but this is it for me. 

She would have been 83 this year, and I wouldn’t change a thing. I do think about her daily.  More days than not it’s to laugh about something silly she did or said.  Sometimes, I see an older lady in a grocery store, drug store, restaurant, sitting at a bus stop, and I suck in my breath because they strike a resemblance or dig up a lost memory. I have gotten past the crying every time I talk about her stage of grieving, but holidays are still not as fun as they once were, and her birthday is no exception.  We always celebrated our birthdays big in my family.  For her 75th birthday, I called all over town to find a florist who would deliver 75 gladiolas to her.  Most just didn’t have that many, but one older woman was so touched by it, that she tracked down 75 for me and delivered them all.  When I got home, Gramma said, “Well, I guess I know what my funeral will be like”.  She loved them, but a morbid sense of humor is a family trait.

She loved cardinals as well.  Whenever I see one, I take that as a greeting from her, a little, “You’ll be fine”. So, tomorrow or any other day if you see a cardinal, just know that I’ll be fine. 

 

 

 

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I am not sure exactly which book it was that I read that made me think, “Holy CRAP, this is something I love to do”.  Ok, I probably didn’t say “crap” because I have been reading since I was 3.  I know that as a child, there were several books that spoke to me even at a young age.  I can remember reading Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and being very moved by the love and loyalty Mike had for Mary Anne.  I know that was a book that spoke to me as a child, but I don’t know that it was “The One”.  I know I loved Dr. Seuss, Peggy Parrish with her Amelia Bedelia stories, Ramona Quinby and her sister Beezus by Beverly Cleary, Bunnicula and a list of others.  I remember as I got older Judy Blume was there to assure me that everything was ok and every other girl or boy my age felt about the same away I did.  I know the same copy of Forever floated around Dreher High School.   I read classics.  At ten, Wuthering Heights was a favorite.  It seemed very romantic to my unexperienced mind.  In 7th grade I think I was the only person who checked out Little Women, and I read it multiple times and enjoyed it each time.    I have had books taken from me at the dinner table.  I have walked to and from school with my nose in a book, oblivious to traffic or others around me.  I have ridden thousands of hours on the city bus reading each mile and, if I was not on a bus with a regular driver, I would often miss my stop.  Books were my babysitter.  They are what kept me out of trouble throughout school.  “Just let her read, and she won’t disturb her classmates” was written about me each year to the new teacher in elementary school.  Thank God for amazing teachers.

In high school I was a total nerd and read ALL TEN selections each summer on my summer reading list.  We had to choose two. That was where I found Ethan From, The Catcher in the Rye, The Sun Also Rises (with one of my favorite literary heroes, Jake Barnes, who I sort of fell in love with that summer) and so many more I can’t even remember.  I actually read books in high school that weren’t assigned.

Reading was, and still is, the only time I felt calm and relaxed.  I can sit and read a book for hours.  I can’t do much else for hours.  I become intrinsically attached to  the characters.  I have cried with and for the crazies in the series Flowers in the Attic.  I sobbed during the last 50 pages of Where the Red Fern Grows and was so thankful my 7th grade Reading teacher told me to stop on page so and so and finish it at home.  I have cried with Harry Potter, Woodrow call, at least one character in every Pat Conroy book, Lennie, Granger and Montag.  I have hated characters (most recently nearly every character in A Game of Thrones series).  I have loved characters.  I have cussed out characters. I have thrown books.  I have read and forgotten more books than many people will ever read or even know about.  I have read amazing books (To Kill A Mockingbird, Lonesome Dove).  I have read shitty books (Twilight all of them, The Notebook  – luckily, I never read anymore past that tripe), but I would read a shitty book over not reading ANY books.

I have met some of my favorite authors.  In first grade Peggy Parrish, who is an SC native, and the author of the Amelia Bedelia books came to my school.  I was STARSTRUCK.  I met Pat Conroy, more than once.  I couldn’t even SPEAK.  Anyone who knows me knows this is a grand feat in itself.  I met Frank McCourt.  I met Robert Olen Bulter and Fred Chappell. These are all authors I hold in high regard. I have met other as well. I volunteer at the SC Book Festival each year, just on the off chance I get to meet someone.

But, no, I can’t tell you the minute or the day or the book that made me a lifelong lover of books and words.  I only know that once I started, there was no stopping me.   Nothing speaks to me, touches my soul, consoles me, entertains me, evokes every emotion on the spectrum nor delights me to no end like reading a book.  I have used books as a way to escape reality and procrastinate dealing with problems, but I have a crazy brain that might be doing one thing, but in the background it’s creating a solution to a problem or dealing with an issue. Reading is just a catharsis that allows my brain to protect itself as it purges the negativity out.  I would sooner lose a limb or my hearing that lose my sight or the ability to read.  Reading is such much a part of me that, as a teacher, it seems like it should just be as natural for everyone. I find it very challenging to teach reading.  It to me should just come naturally for everyone. I don’t remember when I couldn’t read, so my own personal reading history and experience can actually work against me as I try to teach others to read and instil the same love for it that I have always had.   Luckily, I DO have successes. It excites me to no end to find books that my kids love.  I love to see a kid who has always hated reading because no one really took the time to help him choose books that he might actually ENJOY.

If I am lucky, I will die with a book in my hand.

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