The Year of Wandering

The Year of Wandering

Trying to assess 2014 for the Connie Ann household is a tough one. There were no major milestones or changes. Our cars kept running, our jobs kept paying, and the sun kept rising over the CA Observation Deck. Brownie continues to be simultaneously adorable and troublesome. It’s a good thing he’s cute.

We hosted a number of parties, including a family New Year’s Day lunch, a Memorial Day cookout, a late-summer s’mores party and a Christmas movie night. We attended 4 weddings: 2 in Maryland, 1 in Nevada and 1 in the beautiful mountains of Western New Jersey.

We took numerous weekends to Williamsburg, VA, and celebrated the 4th of July in the true spirit of 1776. We went to Jamestown and learned about the hardships of the earliest European Americans. We ate cheesesteaks in Philadelphia. We went on our Great Western Adventure and saw Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon and the Pacific Ocean for the first time.

We celebrated our first anniversary with a weekend staycation involving Mount Vernon, a stroll in Ellicott City and dinner in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. The next day we said goodbye to Skippy, my beloved childhood pet dutch bunny. He was 13, and very much loved.

2014 was a year of wandering. I wrote so much about my spiritual journey and the cross of permanent infertility. I spent a lot of time thinking about my purpose in life. We had very high highs and some deep lows, but both were spent side by side. It was a win for marriage. We don’t know where we are going, when or if we will adopt, or what our purpose is. I truly feel like a wandering soul. And even though I don’t know if the next year will bring any of the answers I seek, I do know that with James standing by me, it doesn’t matter. We will get where we are going, though we do not know the way.

“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

Romans 8:28

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The Bartender

The Bartender

Today I read a post by Amy at This Cross I Embrace, in which she shared a beautiful email from Rebecca at The Road Home. Rebecca’s email likens infertility to being stranded on an island.

What a perfect analogy.

Infertility is an island. A desert island. A beautiful tropical island with unpredictable storms and hurricanes. Some stay for a while, some stay for a few years. And I’m the permanent resident. I’m the bartender.

Amy is someone who was on the island for many years. I’ve read her blog sporadically since just after she arrived. Watching her come to grips with infertility and learn to give it all to God has been a great comfort to me. Amy’s blog has been a place where I could find someone walking the path with me.

She was here for so long on the island. I never expected her to stay forever, but as time went on, I think I forgot that leaving was even a possibility. I’m happy she has been rescued. It is indeed bittersweet.

Lightening

I’ve been here a while now. Almost a native. I’ve learned to expect the storms. I pour the drinks and listen to people talk about their troubles. They talk about hope, about waiting to be rescued, and wonder when their ship will come. I’m the safe place; I’ll always be here. This is my home.

Here on the island, occasionally ships come and rescue us one at a time. Never a boat for me, but that’s ok. One of the most beautiful things about being the bartender is meeting all the wonderful, beautiful, hurting, victorious souls who come and go.

island sunset

Some days are Caramel

Today I’m thinking about Forest Gump and his box of chocolates. First off, I have some absolutely wonderful news to report. I have accepted a position with a marketing company that specializes in the food industry. I’m just an administrative assistant, but I am so excited to be in a creative environment with people working on projects that I think are fascinating. I’m looking forward to helping out in any areas I can so that I can learn as much as possible about the industry. They already said they are looking forward to using my writing talents. This job seems like it will be the perfect answer to my prayers.

Tuesday was my last day at the auto body shop, and while I am happy to be moving on, I will miss my coworkers. I am ecstatic that I have found a new direction for my career. I’m nervous too. Starting in a new place is scary. At least I got a new wardrobe out of the deal!

On the flip side, last night was a tough one, infertility speaking. Yesterday morning I had a CT scan to check and see if other systems are formed correctly, since some studies have shown 30% of people with MRKH can also have renal anomalies. Yuck. Last night I was at darling hubby’s basketball game, and there was a couple about our age with a  very cute 18 month old son. Later at home we were going over our health insurance policy because we are considering switching, and hubs wasn’t thinking when he started reading the very long list of free maternity care services included in our current policy. I lost it. In the kitchen. It was too much for me yesterday.

I calmed down. Life continues. And today is set to be a very beautiful one indeed. Charlotte’s coming over for a baking night. And today I’m going to order our Christmas cards and sign us up for an adoption information session in 2 weeks. I am so grateful for this beautiful life and all that is in it, even the chocolates with that gross coconut/strawberry stuff inside.

2013: The Best is Yet to Come

2012 began with a morning stroll down a quiet Duke of Gloucester Street with James. It was unseasonably warm, and the blue sky and warm sun filled us with hope and excitement. After 12 months of various ups and downs, and learning to adjust to my new identity, the year ended with a crackling fire in the cozy basement of our darling new house.

The holiday season was very good to us this year. We decked our newly purchased halls and had a merry time doing it. We hosted our first holiday party (2 in fact) and hung our first outdoor lights. We each had a birthday, and it seemed the whole month was one long feast of merriment. Most importantly, this Christmas season gave us an opportunity to step away from all the stress and think about all the wonderful things that we have done this year.

Strangely, the night before my 25th birthday, I found myself in a state of panic. “I’ll never be 24 again,” I said to myself. “How is it that my 20s are slipping by? What have I to show for it?” Silly, I know. I’m engaged, I have degree, and I own a single family home. Not to mention the numerous bucket list items I have fulfilled already. Still, that night I felt so much anxiety, like none of that had mattered at all and that I wasn’t good enough. I had spent so much of 2012 worrying about jobs and money that I hadn’t spent near enough time enjoying my life.

So, I have resolved to spend the New Year of 2013 being happy. Actually, I have 3 resolutions this year. First, to enjoy my house more, as that is the only reason I trudge through my job each day. Second, to grow deeper in my Catholic faith and read more spiritual literature, both alone and with James. Third, I’ll be keeping to Jorge Cruise’s eating method the entire year. My dad lost 40 lbs in 2012 by eating like Jorge, so I’ve decided to do the same. My plan is that these three small resolutions will feed off of each other and grow into a better-adjusted, happier me.

So much good is set to happen this year. In less than 5 months, I will finally marry the love of my life, and I will finally get to live in the home we are building together. Following the teachings of our Faith and living apart has not been easy by any stretch, but engagement is almost over now, and we know our sacrifice will make things all the more wonderful when our marriage finally begins. I’m so happy that 2013 is finally here, and that the best is yet to come. I’ll be seeing you.

From Darkness to Light

Last night was our first Halloween with the new house. I made my mom’s apple cider, we handed out candy to Trick or Treaters, and then we promptly shut it down at 8 to watch “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” on ABC. I had so much fun! It was a perfect Halloween.

At one point, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like if we had children. Would they look forward to their mom’s apple cider as much as I did? Would they want to dress as princesses or vampires? Would Charlie Brown be a sacred event for them as well?

That was October 31. And now it’s November. It’s time to put aside the bad stuff for a while and start counting the things we’re thankful for. Good ol’ Bing Crosby had it right (I’m telling you, White Christmas is definitely one of those feel-good movies to keep on hand year-round).

What am I thankful for today? I’m thankful that I was born into a loving and supportive family. I’m thankful for generous soon-to-be in-laws. I’m thankful we bought a beautiful house this year (with a library in walking distance!!).

Most of all, I am thankful that in exactly 7 months from today, I will be marrying my best friend and the love of my life. It certainly doesn’t get any better than that.

Movin’ On Up!

On July 27, we closed on our house! My mom was calling us Mr. and Mrs. Homeowner (our wedding is not for 9 months… I think she’s excited). For the last month, we’ve been busy getting the house in shape. Terrible excuse for neglecting my blog, I know. It’s amazing though (since the house is still new to us) that our  8 Billion chores are actually super fun right now. We’ve been having so much fun making a home together. I can’t wait til we’re married so I can live there too! It’s amazing how much closer we have gotten through all of this. This is seriously going to be the longest 9 months of my life.

Meanwhile, my car broke down and we had to get a new one. My ride of choice? A shiny red 2012 Chevy Cruze 2LT.

2012 Cruze, via Chevy’s website

We test drove the 2013 Dodge Dart and were severely disappointed with the sluggishness of the engine. The 2012 Ford Focus was very fun to drive, but it wasn’t very roomy inside. The Cruze was spacious for its class, and the engine had a whole lotta pep! Hit the gas and off it goes. My kinda car. Add the sunroof and nav system, and I’m in vroom vroom paradise. 40mpg’s sealed the deal.

Adjusting to life with adult financial responsibilities is definitely a challenge, but I think we’re up for it. We’re learning to balance the budget and finding new ways to save. I think I need to start having so much fun doing free stuff that I don’t have time to remember that my spending cash is zero. I mean sure, we can no longer do that trip to Williamsburg I’ve been dying to take this fall, but we can spend a Saturday driving out to the country to hike trails and look at stars. Besides, James and I are long overdue for a picnic. Now we have the perfect opportunity to sit back and enjoy our new life together.

This is why we have our Faith.

So many things in life are completely out of our control. I don’t know about you, but right now I feel like I’m at the breaking point. There’s way too much stress and not enough things that I can actually enjoy. Today I made a list of all the things that are bringing me down that I can’t do much about. Then, I made a list of what I can do to make my life better.

Trying to cheer myself up in the midst of all the turmoil in the world and upheaval in my life, I decided to start spending more time doing something I’ve always loved. I’ve decided to read more. I’ve decided to learn more of the skills I need to get the job I really want. As for my living situation, I can’t afford to improve it in the traditional sense, and I can’t move in with James since we’re not married yet, but I can make a plan to make myself a home. I can stay out of the house as long as possible. I can stay at libraries and Panera’s and Starbuck’s writing on my laptop (that I have yet to buy). I know it sounds ridiculous, but I need to do something. I really want a home. No, I’m not “homeless” in the traditional sense, but we had to leave our house in the mortgage crisis and move in with my grandmother, and I’ve felt “without a home” since December 2010. Isn’t there a psychological term for that? I need to do something.

I will not be “homeless” forever. James has been the one constant in the last year, and every time I’m with him, I feel at home. No, we still don’t have a wedding date. But as soon as he gets a job we’ll set one, and then I’ll have a light at the end of the tunnel. Right now I’m still in an “S” curve. His uncle (a priest) encouraged us to pray 1,000 Memorare’s to the Blessed Virgin. We’re coming close to 500 this week. I’ve always believed in the power of prayer. It has never failed me in the past. I know God doesn’t always answer things in the way you’d like him to, and he always has his reasons. Still though, this has been a serious test of faith. Praying for a job is starting to feel like praying for a pony.

My mom says that her father always told her that times like these are why we have our faith. I have to constantly remind myself that God has a plan and that this isn’t as stupid and meaningless and hopeless as it seems. Maybe there’s an answer I haven’t found yet. I hope it’s coming soon.

My travel bucket list

Lately I’ve been thinking about all the places I want to go, so I decided to make my travel bucket list. Why? Because life is too short to sit around saying you wish you could do something, someday.

Me at the Acropolis in Athens

In no particular order, here are the places I am going to explore:

1. England: I want to see the sights in London, but then I want to drive around and see the countryside as well. Maybe we could take two or three weeks and make it up to the Scottish Highlands too.

2. Australia: I want to spend a night looking at the stars in the Southern Hemisphere, preferably far from city lights.

3. Florence and Tuscany hill towns: I want to see the art at the Uffizi, then check out Siena, Pisa, and little off-the-beaten-path places.

4. Switzerland: I’ve flown over the Alps during sunrise twice. Now I want to see them up close.

5. Austria: I have always wanted to see Vienna and Salzburg, since I was a young kid, mostly for the history. And, who are we kidding, there’s something about the combined forces of Mozart and the Von Trapp family.

6. Caribbean: Um, can I be there right now? Maybe we’ll make it there on our honeymoon.

7. Africa: I want to see the animals, but I’ll stay away from bush food and death by hyenas. Might take some work to convince James on this one.

8. Patagonia: penguins!!

9. France: to see Le Tour de France, of course! This is actually one of future hubby’s dreams. I’ve already been to Paris, Chatres, and Versailles, but I’ve always wanted to see more of the French countryside. I want to learn French first, though.

10. Spain: I want to see the Prado in Madrid, the Alhambra castle, the Mosque of Cordoba, and flamenco dancing in Seville. Basically, I want to make a day stop to Madrid for the art museum, then spend a week galavanting around Andalucia.

There are a few more places I could add, like medieval towns in Holland, Belgium for the chocolate, Germany for kicks… but I think these are the main ones. Not sure if I’ll ever make it out to Africa, the shots and the toilet situation might be enough to keep me away. BUT… Fiancé and I are already making plans to go to 2 of these places by 2014! Guess which!!

Dreams That Have Come True …and ones I’m still working on

Today I decided to make a list of all the dreams I’ve ever had that have come true. When everything seems to be going wrong, it’s nice to think about all the things that have gone right in your life.

Dream 1: Marry the man of my dreams

Stop gagging, I know it’s cliché. I’m engaged to my best friend and it’s the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me.

Dream 2: Graduate from The Catholic University of America

One sunny spring day when I was 5 years old, I was playing in the front yard with my big brother Ryan. He was telling me what college was: “And they have all different universities, like Maryland University, American University, Catholic University…” “There’s a Catholic univeristy???” my little self said with complete wonder and awe. “Yeah,” said Ryan, “but you’ll never go there. It’s too expensive.” 20 years later, I’m a CUA alumna.

Dream 3: Go to Italy

I went with the CUA honor’s program in 2008 and had the time of my life!

Dream 4: Become a world traveler

When I was in 7th grade, we took a field trip to the Newseum, where I got my picture on the cover of National Geographic with the headline: “Explorer of the Century”. I’ve been to 6 countries so far, which isn’t a whole lot, but I think climbing on ruins in the Aegean, haggling with a rug salesman in the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul, and climbing to the top of Chartres Cathedral to look out over the French countryside count as fulfilling this dream.

Dreams that sort-of happened

Dream 5: Write my own newspaper

This one was from my elementary school days. If they had blogs back then, I would have been all over it. Maybe that’s why I like blogging so much: because it makes me feel like I’m 8 years old sitting at my desk playing with the typewriter my grandfather gave me.

Dream 6: Sing with Andrea Bocelli

Ok so this didn’t exactly happen. But I did get to sing in the choir when Pope Benedict XVI visited DC, and Placido Domingo sang with us. Pretty close if you ask me.

Dreams I’m still working on:

Publish a book, go stargazing in the Southern Hemisphere, visit all the places on my travel bucket list, and have a wonderful home with James where I have a pretty place to write and a sky that is dark enough to see the stars.

I hope all of these come true someday, and that after they do, I find new ones to take their place. A girl’s always gotta dream, after all. ♥

Wedding Brain

Lately I’ve been having a terrible time trying to concentrate on things. Whenever I go to dinner with people, my brain is in another place and I feel flighty and uncool. This Saturday, I thought my car was stolen in Silver Spring, until I realized that I was in the completely wrong section of the parking lot. My friend who was with me smiled and said, “You have wedding brain!”

Is that what they call it? We’ve been engaged for almost 6 months, and the planning is driving me crazy, probably because we don’t have a date yet and I’m starting to feel very scared and nervous. It was our choice not to set a date until James got a job, and it’s a good choice for us in this economy, but the waiting is driving me crazy. Everyone’s been suggesting that I go ahead and plan as much as possible without a date so that when we’re ready, all we have to do is book everything and go.

So, how much of a wedding can you plan before you have a date?

A lot, actually. You just can’t finalize anything. For example, you can pick your bridal party, but it might be smart not to ask anyone until after you have a date, that way they can decide if they can commit or not. You can design your ceremony (as Catholics, this means we get to pick the readings we want, the music, and the blessings). You can decide what sort of favor you want. You can design centerpieces and table settings. You can even pick your dress. It’s still nerve-racking though. I wonder how many other engaged couples got shafted by the economy?

We’re praying really hard that something works out soon. Hopefully it won’t take too much longer. We’re praying my dad’s miracle St. Jude/Sacred Heart novena, which has never failed. Recently we got the family on board, asking around to see if anyone knows of any openings in our area. And I do think that this experience will be worth it in the end. I can already see how we’ve become stronger because of it. Maybe dealing with snags during engagement helps people prepare for better marriages in the long run. I’ll keep trusting that God knows what he’s doing, and everything happens for a reason.