Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Graduation--I Made It!

It is official, official--I graduated and I now have a Master of Science in Applied Developmental Psychology. One-hundred five pages of my thesis project in program design proposing a preschool literacy program for a children's hospital setting is done. An executive summary of two pages highlighting the most important elements of my program and oral comps to present my project to a two person panel in the department is complete. With the final edits submitted, I can now say that I have accomplished my academic goal.

It was a lot of hard work and I had spent many long nights reading and writing to get it all done on time. Even though the class is for three credits, it is really six credits worth of work. Plus I was studying and preparing for the Child Life exam in November, which I passed. That was the equivalent of three credits. So, this fall was like going to school full-time, plus I have been working part-time with a temporary job at the children's hospital. Looking back, I don't know how I got it all done. But I am grateful for my friends and family who were patient and supportive as it took away much of my free time.

My mom and dad came into town for my graduation ceremony last week. I am so happy that they were able to come and share in my day. RJ and his parents also attended the event. And when the dean asked family and significant others to stand for recognition of their support, they took their turn. I was so happy to turn around and see their smiling faces.

These past few weeks have been especially emotional for me. As the deadline for my work was due, I waited with bated breath to see if I would really be able to get it all done. I was afraid to admit that I was going to graduate because I was afraid of the "what if's" and I did not want to disappoint myself or anyone else. But I kept working and pushing to get it done and to get it done well. I do not like to do anything half-heartedly.

But my emotions have also spilling over because graduation has a greater significance than just another degree. It is also part of my journey in taking back my life. Pouring myself into school is one thing that I have used to cope with the changes in my life in the midst and after the divorce. It was my chance to invest in myself and to have something good to work towards. And on the days when my mind would start running about what was going to happen to me, grad school allowed me to refocus on the smaller goals and to just take it one day at a time or one class at a time. With every passing assignment and every passing class, it helped to build my confidence.

On the days when it would be really tough, I had a song in the back of my mind urging me to keep going to keep doing my best. I was on my way to moving further and further beyond the heartbreak of my past. I kept telling myself to trust in myself and that everything would be worth it and the fresh start with independence was just around the corner. If I needed some inspiration before settling into writing my paper, I would play this song and remind myself to get back to the business of the task at hand. It is also heavily played on my iPod with the pounding of my feet along the pavement in the cool fall/winter air in those few times that I can squeeze in a run.

It is the end of one chapter and the beginning of a new one, which is both terrifying and freeing. During this last semester, especially towards the end as I got closer to finishing, I found there were moments that I could not help but cry. With frustration, I would also ask myself why I am feeling this way? But then in another moment, I would feel on top of the world, proud of myself, and bursting to show the world what I have to give. I should be feeling a more constant happy, but I often feel a mess of everything all at once. It ebbs and flows and in the moments of peace, I try to relax.

I had the school plan in place and now that it is done, I actually have some choices to make. I need to decide where I want to focus my job search. Where do I go from here? It is completely open and I am not entirely sure. I am hoping to steal away a little bit more time so that I can be still for just a moment and listen to my heart. While I do not want to rush, I do not want to miss any opportunities either.

But also, I want to get back to the business of living my life more freely--spending time with the people I care about and enjoying the simple fun in life--slow it down a bit to notice and to take pleasure in what I am thankful to have in my life. But I think what will help get me there are the wise words from one of the speakers at my graduation. She said let your faith be stronger than your fear. Have faith in yourself, have faith in what you are set out to do with accomplishing greatness, and have faith in God that He will lead you.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Rocked Boat

I feel so confused about RJ. I am not entirely sure how I feel about him. I'm not sure if I have been holding back emotionally and not fully admitting to myself how much he means to me because of fear of being wrong and having to face rejection. Or I just might have needed all of this time to get my life in order to wake up and say, "Hey, what do I really want out of this relationship?" While there have been times that I grow increasingly aware that I have not been 100% in the relationship, the part that has been aware has been participating as fully as possible. And I think that in some ways that is how it goes with a relationship, that as time continues, you give a little more. As I become more aware of my own restrictions influenced from past experiences, I reflect, find resolve, and move forward.

But the thing that has been lacking is equal reciprocation in the effort into the relationship--or maybe it feels somehow inconsistent or missing in meeting each other more fully in the moment at the same time--something is off. I felt like the summer was tough in being apart, naturally. But I felt that we were reconnecting in September and by the beginning of October I was feeling content. I was happy in the relationship, even if I wasn't ready to really evaluate it. I just wanted to enjoy being in the moment with RJ and just see where it lead. I knew I was not ready to make a desicion and that there was still too much up in the air to give our relationship any considerations for future forward progress.

But then sometime in October and throughout November, things seemed to wane. RJ has not felt fully engaged in the time that we have been spending together. The spark inside of him seems to be dwindling or is inconsistent. It is like someone blew out some of the candles and suddenly, I don't know where his feelings went. I know I have been under a lot of stress, which he says weighs heavily on him. He also has his own stress.

I wanted some guy perspective, so I talked to my dad. My dad said that neither one of us is in the head space right now to think clearly to make any decisions about the relationship. My dad thinks that RJ is trying to give me the space that I need to finish my work. My dad said that once this is done, it will be better. Better in the way that we won't have grad school hanging over us and maybe I will be able to have more room to figure out how I feel about RJ.

My dad also said there are two kinds of guys out there. One knows what he feels, trusts it and when he wants the relationship with a woman, he is going to make it work. It doesn't matter if there is stress around in other domains of his life, he is just going to deal with it with his woman and it is being together that matters most. The second guy wants to feel settled and stable in his life before adding a woman to his life. If his life is unstable, especially in career and finance, he will want to wait before taking on the responsibility of relationship because he wants to be sure that those other areas do not detract his attention and efforts of cultivating and maintaining the relationship with his woman.

So, now I need to put all of this relationship stuff on the side temporarily and finish my school work. Hopefully, now that I have it all written out, it can be out of my head for just a bit.

Thesis Project

I am working on the last of my thesis project. I have a LOT of work that still needs to be done. I am just taking a break for just a moment to put it out into the universe to send good vibes my way to keep strong and focused to get it done. I feel like there is so much riding on graduating in December.

Before Mom's Surgery

I am trying to keep a positive and hopeful mindset before Mom's surgery. But I am also very scared, too. I am afraid that something terrible could happen and I just don't know how I would cope if something bad happened. I try to stop that thought and then shift to envisioning better things. I don't want to skip over my feelings of fear and bury them to only get worse. But I am afraid of bringing on something terrible by focusing on them.
Too much going on right now and I have to finish my paper, soon! Bleh, selfish me. But maybe pooring myself into my work is a way of coping, even if avoidance or denial is not the best way. I just pray my mom will be okay and recover as quickly as possible.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Pep Talk

  • Get to work, stay focused on the task at hand and do what you need to do to cross the finish line. You can do this!

  • Don't worry about tomorrow, you don't have to have all of the answers right now.

  • Be in the present of today. Go with the flow and listen to your heart.

  • Be a participant in life and be aware of all of what is around you. Pay attention to how life feels, the experiences shared with others, and really be apart of the moment.

  • You will know what you need to know when you know it. Trust in yourself and let life unfold.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Consumed by School and the Next Step

This week I took the Child Life certification exam. I took it at a testing center online and shortly after pressing the submit button to end the test, I found out that I passed! Many of my friends and family said they didn't have a doubt. I was feeling pretty good about it, too, but just didn't want to count my chickens until they hatched. It was a lot of pressure, given that the exam is only offered twice each year. And the Child Life Council does not share what it takes to get a passing score, so that adds to the anxiety level. So, whew! Glad that is done!

That being said, studying for the test has been taking up much of my free time while looming over my head. I have been preparing for it for almost three months. So, my thesis project has been taking a bit of a back burner and now I need to really get rolling on it. I also went to two professional conferences this fall, both were very beneficial. I have been a busy lady and now that I have taken this weekend to breathe and regroup, I have felt badly that I have not been quite as connected with some of my friends. I've reached out and fortunately I feel they are understanding and I had met a couple of them out last night for some girl time. It was hard to really enjoy it with all that is on my mind, but fully thankful for having that night out.

Now that the test is over, I have my thesis project to complete before graduation. I just want to get through these last weeks and get to the finish line. I feel like at this moment in time my life is almost all about school and I have been feeling a little one-dimentional. It will be so nice to have a normal life again--having free time and having more choice in how I want to fill it. But approaching the end also scares me. Graduation means a lot to me in not just completing a huge educational goal, but it will also be the turning point in which I have the power to really take control of my life again, to get my life back after the divorce.

So with feeling a lot of intense emotions, I decided it would be smart to check-in with my counselor to help me sort things out and regain my footing before this last push. I told him that I am afraid to fail, but I have been trying to break it down into smaller tasks and to not get too far ahead of myself. He said that I am not afraid to fail, but afraid to succeed. He told me, you are succeeding and you are getting to the end and you will have all of these choices and opportunities. I think he has a point. I have been working so hard to just get by and to not get to wrapped up in worring about my future that now it is almost here. I will have to make a choice.

Not only will I need to make a choice in what direction I want to take my career, but that may very well affect my relationship with RJ. Which means I am also going to need to really consider how I feel about him. I don't feel ready for that yet. I feel like I have gotten to a really good place in processing my divorce and the loss of adoption, that I am feeling so much more free. Before now, I knew I was not ready to really think about marriage. And I feel like as I am finishing school, I am getting to that place to have the mental space to really give my relationship more thought. But I am feeling this possible crunch of having to decide sooner, rather than a bit later, depending on when I decide when I want/need to open my job search outside of Pittsburgh.

I do not want to take a job and feel like I am settling after all of my hard work. But then, I may still have some resume building to do regardless. Do I stay or do I go? I don't want to sacrifice my career for a guy after what happened in my marriage. But I don't want to pass up on love if there is potential for a lasting long-term, I want to spend the rest of my life with you kind of relationship.

RJ has also started to question the relationship. We have only started to really begin talking and I am not sure if his mind is made up or if he is scared, too. I could speculate round and round, but I really need to have more conversations with him. But we also need time to just be us. The very bottom line is that I need to decide how I feel about him. And I think there has been part of me that has been putting that thought process off because I am scared to trust in my feelings. Along the way I have been able to say yes there is some pretty fantastic stuff here, so enjoy it and don't over think it. But as time passes, there comes a time when you have to assess the fun and decide if you want to make it last for the long-term.

I have been shaken in trusting myself in how my marriage ended. I felt so certain about making that decision. And looking back, with what I knew then and how I felt, I would not have made a different choice. But my councelor said that I cannot base my decisions in life based on fear of what may happen. I have to trust what I know in that moment in time and make the best choice. Life is not static, it is constantly changing and we have to grow and adapt.

My counselor made a really good point. In life, there is no certainty. You also cannot wait for every part of your life to be perfect either before you act. Say I take a job in another city, there could be budget cuts and I would need to look for work again. Or if I have that awesome job and meet someone, there could be the possibility that they could get a job transfer. I could stay here and choose relationship and something terrible could happen to either one of us. The point is that I cannot plan out every detail or have a back up plan for every case scenario. I have been thinking very rationally about my relationship with RJ, but what I need to do is to consider the heart. I have to look for those moments, the ones when you know everything fits and it feels fluid and full of life, not just going through the motions. I have to re-embrace the feeling part of life and see what it tells me.

But relationships take two people. So, I have to focus on doing my part. Time will tell what RJ will do with his part. And now I am a ball of nerves. And I have to somehow find the focus to get to the business of the last of my work. Yikes!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Houses as Hobbies

As I am typing this entry, RJ is sleeping on the couch beside me with his arm wrapped around my belly as I sit on the edge of couch. We were looking at houses that are on the market in the neighborhood. Every now and again I peruse the listings to see what is out there to get a feel for cost and trends of those renovating houses. I dream of owning a house. And I also keep an eye out for deals that RJ might find appealing for his own investments in flipping or renting--knowing that my efforts are very amateur.

But today we looked at some of the houses together because we each like looking at houses, kind of like a hobby. I asked him questions about if he thought the houses were priced appropriately. He was patient as I clicked through the pictures and he sometimes asked to see more in the comments section. We talked about the layout and the condition of the houses--what we liked or did not like--what needed upgrading or updating.

And when we were done, RJ told me that he liked that I am interested in buying a house. I asked him why? With a smile, he said he likes that I enjoy doing what he finds himself doing with much of his day. He also said it is good to see me dreaming and wanting something more.

This shared moment with RJ today makes me happy in appreciating what we have in common. It is nice to see those shared interests that support the foundation of our relationship. I love that we both love houses and what is involved in fixing them up. I love that we both enjoy being active and outside with fall as our favorite time of the year. I love that we both love reading and can spend hours in a bookstore. I love that we speak Spanish and appreciate learning about other cultures and world views (However, his Spanish skills are excellent, it inspires me to reinvest in mine.). I love that we enjoy the simple pleasures in life--good company, cooking and playing board games. It all just puts a smile on my face. I've said it before, but I love how RJ knows how to live in the moment of the present and take pleasure in all that it brings.

(Now, let's not get ahead of ourselves...I know this post could have potential for a lot of speculation. It is just one day at a time and I have a lot left on my plate to get my life back in order. We are happy with our relationship and where it is right now--a very good thing.)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Inside/Outside Box

During my summer internship, one of the Child Life staff was sharing about her experiences during a conference about death, grief and bereavement. She talked about a presenter whose son had died and what she did to help her process her feelings of grief. The presenter was an artist and she used mixed media to express her sorrow, pain and anger, which she photographed and put into a packet. The Child Life Specialist passed the packet around the room. One piece that spoke to me in particular was a sculpture of two hands holding tattered, blue cloth that looked like it came from a worn, favorite hoodie. The artist shared that when a child dies, it is often the child's clothing that can be the most difficult to let go.

The tears started to flow and I wept silently as the Child Life Specialist finished speaking. She was also teary and shared that she was so deeply moved and touched by the presenter from the conference. My thoughts shifted and it was like tiny pieces were beginning to falling into place...those of acceptance with giving myself permission to grieve my own loss.

As I have been reading to prepare for the Child Life certification exam, I read a chapter about death, dying and children. In it, it explained that a death of a child is the greatest loss a parent can experience. It goes against all expectation in that a child is not supposed to die before the parent and it is the death of the dream of all that was hoped for that child. It can be isolating and complicated. Grandparents experience two losses. They experience similar losses as the parents in hopes of the future. But then they also struggle to support their adult children because there is nothing they can do to take away the pain. Bonding and love start long before a child is born--it can begin with learning of conception--and for some, maybe in the process of deciding to attempt to become parents. Those building dreams and hopes are strong. When a child dies, it takes a long time for parents to go through the different levels of grief before they are able to carry forward in their lives.

In addition, a failed adoption can be very similar and real as a death of a child. The emotional investment process also begins prior to a child being placed into a home. It can be devastating, sharing several parallels. I experienced imagining a life with that someday child. Both of my parents said that they felt a double loss. While they could relate on some level, they also struggle knowing that my pain is different and almost unreachable because they are parents. My brother and sister were very angry in that protective way about the divorce. However, over time, that anger has been replaced by a deep sadness. As I listened to the lecture and read the chapter, there were times that I could identify in my own way with the loss of a child. In my case, while the failure of the adoption was due to the failing of my marriage--and not of the biological parents changing their minds--it has been a considerable loss for me. These recent events have validated my deeply felt pain as real and deserving of time for me to process that pain.

Now, back it up to April with my play therapy class. For the final project of the class, we partnered up with a classmate to research and present one form of play therapy. Part of the presentation included doing an activity to demonstrate and practice that form of therapy. One of the groups presented on art therapy and chose inside/outside boxes for the activity.

Basically, you are given a box to decorate the inside and the outside. The outside of the box is how you think you appear or present yourself to everyone in the world. The inside of the box is how you feel on the inside, which often has elements that are private and that you keep to yourself. The activity allows a person to non-verbally communicate these thoughts and feelings in something concrete. Each person has the choice to share or to keep private the contents of the inside of the box. It is very important to respect the individual's choice to foster trust in the therapeutic relationship. So, no peeking!

At first, as I was making my box, I didn't really feel so into becoming super invested in the project. My emotions were running high and I just did not feel like sharing. So, I decided to make the outside of the box kind of cute and girlie. I allowed myself to go with the flow and get lost in the fun of sparkles, shiny and pink.

Once the outside was complete, it was time to start on the inside. I figured that I would just keep going with picking out whatever fit my fancy--wanting to keep it light and breezy without too much thought. As I was routing around through the scrapbooking materials with my classmates, I happened to come across a sheet of stickers with hand and foot prints. They were pink and yellow and seemed to go along with the color scheme that seemed to have morphed from this box creation.

Then I stopped. My eyes went back and forth between the box and the sticker sheet in my hands. It was then that I took a second look at the box--a really good look. Suddenly, I realized that the box resembled something a child might make for their mother on Mother's Day. I felt like what I was holding was the dreamed representation of my desire to be a mother. It was my lost identity of wanting to be a mother.

I had a choice to make--to either blow off these sudden realized feelings to make more fluff or to allow myself to consciously open myself up to embrace the experience. With bated breath, I quickly decided to keep listening to my inner voice, but with new awareness and to put whatever raw emotion into the inside of the box. It was the correct decision. However, I questioned if it was okay for me to still be feeling so sad about not being able to adopt the twins from Utah.

Why wasn't I over it yet? When would enough time pass before I could really let go? Was there something wrong with me for still feeling so sad?

Something buried in my drawer was suddenly nagging me--the sleepers. I still had them--kind of forgot about them because I still had not decided what to do with them and was tabling to deal with it when I wasn't so busy with grad school. But forgotten, is not truly forgotten.

About a month later it was time for me to go to Columbus and I still had not gotten rid of the sleepers. I drove with them to a Goodwill store (again), but just kept going because it just did not feel right. I couldn't do it. So, I decided to deal with it after Columbus.

Fast forward back to the near present. I've been feeling badly about still having the sleepers. So, I decided that perhaps my inside/outside box was not complete. Maybe it would help if I wrote the twins a letter. Then maybe I could finally let go. Nope.

I realize what I am most afraid of is forgetting about what the sleepers look like and that somehow if I give them away that it is giving up on a dream of one day becoming a mother. But carrying them around in my drawer and in my heart to just too heavy.

So, I took some photos of the sleepers and printed out little pictures of them to put inside of my inside/outside box. I am trying to reframe the letting go of the sleepers in terms of letting go of the dreams I once had for adopting the twins. If I can convince myself of this connection between the sleepers and the twins, then by giving away the sleepers is not giving away the dream of motherhood. The inside/outside box allows me to mourn and honor that specific loss.

Maybe this is what I need to move forward. Maybe this is what my heart needs to be able to heal and to turn the corner of finding and enjoying life after loss.

Inside My Inside/Outside Box

  • One hand and one foot print to represent each of the twins.

  • A small stone noting the beginning and end of the IF journey of the past, '07-'09.

  • A scrap of paper with the list of names I was thinking about for the babies.

  • Photos of the sleepers.

  • A letter.

Dear Utah Twins,

Although I was never able to meet you or hold you, my heart already started to dream about you. I remember the day I was on the phone and Suzy told me about you. My heart felt light--full of hope and life again. All of the sadness and heart ache began to fall away. It was like I could breathe again and I felt like dancing. When I told my then husband about you, we were driving in the car on our way to have dinner with his parents. He seemed to brighten and get just as giddy and excited as me about the possibility of you both coming home to us--to share a life with us. We called you our "Blue Light Special."

I will always remember that phone call and that drive. It was then that I allowed myself to dream about you. In my day dreams, I pictured flying out to Utah to pick you up. I had hoped to provide your mother with reassurance that we would love you and provide a good life for you both. I imagined holding and nestling each of you with love and tenderness as I would rock you to sleep at night. I could almost feel holding your tiny hands as babies growing into toddlers. I pictured taking you for walks and going to the park. Swinging on the swings, going to little league baseball games and playing in the fall leaves--those were the kinds of things I allowed myself to imagine. A love was planted on that day of the first phone call and it sung in my heart long after.

But we were not meant to be. He walked away--why, I cannot fully explain. And that dream of you slipped away--certainly I could not start it on my own--not then. It would have been selfish on my part, even if Suzy would have entertained the idea. It was a difficult call to make to tell her to pass. And in my heart I wished nothing but the best for you dear little ones. I hope you are now in the loving arms of a family who can give you their whole heart and soul, just as if you were their own. You deserve nothing less.

From time to time I wonder about you--how much you have grown, what are the things that most light you up and capture your attention and the little people you are becoming. How do you smile? How do you laugh? Is there a twinkle in you eye or dimple in your cheek? Are you bold or are you sensitive and sweet?

But one thing I do hope is that you have each other. Take care of each other--be tender and patient and kind--be encouraging and supportive and strong--be forgiving and honest and thankful.

Even though I could not take you home as my own, know that there is someone out there thinking and praying for you. All that I have to give you is a little angel of hope.



Friday, September 23, 2011

Two Tomatoes

When you put two teachers together, they are bound to eventually talk about education and teaching in some form or another. But those conversations are even better when it is when you get to talk about what makes you excited about the field.

I am beginning to work on my thesis project and wanted to borrow a book from my friend. When I picked it up from her house, she asked me about my project and how it relates to the book I was borrowing. She was a great listener and could not agree more about the importance of developing a rich vocabulary with children of the toddler/preschool group to help them have better success in reading comprehension later down the road. Then my friend showed me a booklet that was sent home with her daughter who just started Kindergarden. It was about the school's approach to teaching handwriting that focuses on directionality in a kid friendly way using picture cues for the lines (sky, grass, ground, and worm levels). I asked her if she would mind if I flipped through it, commenting that I knew I was being such a teacher dork. She laughed and said not at all. Got to love those envigorating teacher conversations!

As we were having these conversations hanging on the door knob, her kids bounced into the living room to greet me. Little Bear regailed her story about riding her bike without her training wheels for the first time, complete with twirling kicks and spins (in the story telling, not the bike riding). She was quiet proud, as she should be! I loved how both of her parents beamed with pride, especially because their daughter was fully owning up to her accomplishments and efforts.

Pickle was just looking up at me with all smiles and my friend commented, "Someone is in love." He then told me about his visit with his neighbor that afternoon. She gave both of the kids three tomatoes and said to be sure to share. He held out the smallest of his three and said, "Here, Miss Jamie, I'm going to share it with you." My friend mouthed, "You might want to wash that when you get home, but you don't have to eat it." It was sufficiently covered in that kid-feel-coating from having been carried all around with him that day. Nice and warm with a slight, sticky tackiness on the surface. I smiled and took his gift as it melted my heart.

Then his sister burst into the scene and said that those were her tomatoes. It's funny how kids know that stuff. My friend asked Pickle to give Little Bear her tomatoes and fished out his true three from the bag without missing a beat. Then Pickle gave me another tiny tomato. As I was returning Little Bear's tomato, she told me to keep it because her neighbor did say to share. I thanked them both for their generocity and said good-bye.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Shack

A couple of friends recommended the book, The Shack. A few found it helpful to read as a way to understand why the bad things in life happen. I was curious about the book long before my divorce and journey with infertility with my ex. But as my life was coming apart, I put it higher on my list of books to read. I have to admit that it took me well over a year to read the book. Part of it was being busy with school and not having as much time for fun reading. The other part is because it took me a while to let go and give into it. My expectations may have been set too high and I didn't find it gripping and kept waiting for the moment in the book that everything would suddenly and neatly fall into place. I could identify with Mack's frustration in trying to wrap my brain around what the book was trying to share.

So that is when I slowed it down and just read a little at a time. I decided to take whatever it was that I was going to take away from the book. First, it seems that when God gave people free will that it gave people the responsibility of choice. On some level there needs to be an acceptance of that freedom and that sadly not everyone uses it responsibly. Then somehow God tries to use it for good in someway. Second, forgiveness is not forgetting, but letting go of the hurt it causes you. Give it up to God to let Him settle the matter. Third, it is important to remember to keep living your life and that means being present and in the moment. If you find yourself lost in grief or anger, then it takes you out of the game and diminishes your experiences. You may not be appreciating all that life is trying to offer or picking up on important messages to help guide your actions for a greater purpose. Keep finding the joy and meaning in life everyday while also being thankful for it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Beads Strung with Care

As I look over at the necklace sitting on my dresser, it reminds me of a wonderful visit with my friend Christine near my hometown. A few weeks ago, I went home to spend some time with my parents before the fall semester began. And since I was in the neighborhood, I asked my friend if she would be up for a visit since I hadn't seen her since Christmas.

She works part-time from home and has two children, a four-year-old girl and a two-year-old boy, and expecting one on the way. We hung out with her kids as we talked. Her daughter asked a few times if she could take out the beading kit she got for her birthday. After fair warning that she would have to share with her brother, she raced upstairs to get the kit and Chris got a memory game for her son to play with as we sat around the coffee table.

We continued our conversation, stringing necklaces with Chris's kids (She was of course carefully supervising her kids with the small pieces and helping when necessary.). I made her daughter a necklace as she worked on a bracelet. For her second project, she made me a necklace. Chris and I helped her to sound out the letters in my name and then she added more beads as she saw fit. When her daughter was almost done, she asked me if I would mind having an orange bead. I said of course not. Chris asked her why the question about the orange bead. Her response, "Well, orange is a boy color." Chris and I had to laugh and then Chris told her that orange can be a boy color or a girl color. She asked her daughter about one of the dresses she has in her closet that is orange to dispel the myth. Her daughter also invited me to come back and visit at Christmastime so that I could go with them to Pettiti's Garden Center and see the talking tree.

Chris's son was a little slow to warm up because it takes him a little while to wake up from his nap to be ready to play. But as the afternoon continued, he joined in the play in helping his mom to string beads for a bracelet. He also enjoyed toting around his favorite garbage truck and arranging the memory picture cards.

Then as the weekend was approaching, I just kept getting a feeling like I should give Chris a call. I once read that if you keep thinking about a person, then you should get in touch with them. Then I got an email from my friend happily announcing the birth of her third child, a baby girl. (Long story short--she left her cell phone at home in the mix of going to the hospital.) I took that as a sign that I should call her the next day and was only expecting to leave a voicemail to tell her my congratulations. As it turns out, Chris picked up the call and was happy to talk because her newborn was sleeping, her husband was at home with the two other kids. At the moment, she was a bit bored sitting in the hospital and welcomed the call and we are gabbers, so it worked out well.

After Chris told me about her birth story and how the rest of the hospital visit was going, I decided to share with her how much our last visit meant to me. I started to get a little choked up and she asked if I was okay. I told her that it was happy tears and thanked her for sharing her time with me and also spending it with her children. I was grateful for sharing in a lovely, carefree afternoon. I was very touched with her daughter's kindness in giving me the necklace and her kids were very sweet in how they played with each other. Chris said you're welcome and thanked me. She said that her kids were looking forward to me coming all day. And whenever they see a map that has Pittsburgh labeled on it, they say, "Pittsburgh, that is where Jamie is!" It's fun and meaningful to be seen as someone special in the eyes of a child.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Final Thoughts on My Internship

Below is my last journal from my child life internship. I knew it would be a growing experience and sometimes growing can be tough, but well worth it in the end. It was also a summer of personal reflection in helping me to heal and move forward with my life. It is part of the process of embracing this life, the life that I have now and figuring out where I want it to go.

I have one week left of my experience and I am beginning to reflect upon my time at ***, I can confidently say that I feel my decision to come here for my internship was the correct choice. I sought out a child life internship program that would challenge me to grow personally and professionally. As a student I was given the freedom and the responsibility to seek out learning opportunities in working with all of the child life specialists in different areas of the hospital. It helped me to clarify my interests in which hospital populations I feel most attracted and motivated to serve. I feel comfortable working with out-patient care, such as the Emergency Department, in its fluidity and flexibility within the moment of care. It lends itself towards spontaneous creativity after making perceptive observations of all of the working parts. I also appreciate building relationships with patients and their families who require long-term care within the hospital, such as the Rehabilitation Unit or Hematology and Oncology Unit. In building rapport, I can better understand the patient through their medical journey as it unfolds and I can create interventions to support their physical, cognitive, social, and emotional needs and development. In working with a specific long-term care population, it is beneficial in building communities of support with their peers to encourage strength, purpose, and resolve.
Through my continued exploration across multiple disciplines throughout the hospital, I observed and worked alongside many medical professionals. For example, I observed the work of an occupational therapist, an early intervention teacher, a music therapist, and a specialist in therapeutic recreation. I was afforded an opportunity to co-treat with a physical therapist and practice procedural support regularly with an established medical team for dressing changes. This internship allowed me to develop a larger view of the collective effort of all included in the healthcare team.
I am grateful to have worked in collaboration with such a knowledgeable, dynamic, and passionate staff that is found in the Family and Volunteer Services Department. I appreciate the enthusiasm, dedication, and professionalism of my preceptors and liaison in guiding me throughout me educational training in child life. I realize it is a field that requires professional reflection and continuous education in order to build and refresh the knowledge and skills to be competent, successful, and fulfilled. I look forward to the next step in my career towards becoming a certified child life specialist.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Ha! Like I Really Would Know What I Am Doing!

I have about a week left with my internship at the children's hospital in Columbus. I have been feeling so many emotions. There have been times I have felt frustrated and wondered if I will ever know all that I need to know about Child Life. Then I have had more moments in building new confidence in what I am doing at the hospital. I get excited as I can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel which is my journey through grad school. I can begin to see that I am almost there! Then I panic because I can feel a little scared about how I will do about getting a job. I question my abilities to make it on my own. I haven't worked full-time since leaving teaching in my own classroom in May 2006. It's a little scary. Then I dream about someday having a little house and knowing that I will support myself. I hope I will feel better once I do have my first job out of grad school.

I thought I would feel more settled and have more answers by the end of the summer--or at least more certainty. But I don't. However what I do have is a plan for what I will do this fall and I will just have to go with the flow with the rest. Just have to keep remembering to breathe, take one day at a time, and let go of expectations without giving up the dreaming.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Lack in (Visible) Posts

I remember reading a few times in some of the blogs I follow when the writer shared they were hesitant to post something because they realized that there were somethings they didn't want to share with everyone who may be reading their blog. I have come to that bump. So while I have been writing a lot, I just have not been making the posts public. It is out of respect for privacy.

Second, I have also debated on whether or not I wanted to blog about some of my internship experiences. I mean, I wouldn't blog about things that would clearly fall under HIPPA regulations. I've just had a lot to digest in my own journey in working towards becoming a Child Life Specialist. Work stuff is also a sensitive area that I would rather not get into in the blogging world. But it is what has been filling my days and my mind lately, as it should. I have been learning a lot and I am thankful for this opportunity at the hospital. I still fully agree with my decision to come to Columbus for my internship as there have been so many benefits--professionally and personally--even it is not always easy. But then again, it seems that when you are having a growing experience, there are challenges to face and to work through to get to your ultimate goal. But in the end, it will be worth it.

And as the end is coming near with just three weeks left, I hope to build the confidence I need to finish strong. Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers--especially when it feels like so much is on the line. I've taken a big risk in going back to school full-time and taking my career in a different direction away from teaching. There are days when I wonder if I have made the right choice. Then there are days that I feel on top of the world with the excitement of feeling like this is what I was really meant to be doing and that everything else was leading me into this place.

I hope there will be a job for me at the end of this journey in the place that I dream. However, sometimes I am afraid to just come out and say it because I am afraid of getting my hopes up or having too many expectations. After loosing so much of my life once before, it can be really difficult to fully get lost in dreaming again. Having been in a place where everything had been so carefully planned only to have it smashed over and over and over again from so many angles and directions, I have a hard time trusting that things will really work out for me. I so want to believe that I will not only find my happy--or really, make my happy--but that I will also get to fully enjoy, savor, and live that happy.

Friday, July 15, 2011

I Was Doing It Again...

When someone was asking me about RJ and I had finished, they said, "You always smile when you talk about him!"

Then I must have smiled even more because I didn't even realize I was smiling so. It made my heart sing!

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Monday, July 11, 2011

Angry Tears

This summer I came to the conclusion that sometimes when I cry, they are angry tears. Angry tears come out of frustration and are not to be confused with sadness or lack of control. It is a release for me.

But I also get frustrated when I start to cry and I don't want to cry at that moment. And it just gets worse and worse the more I try to stop. It can feel like my insides are completely coming apart and melting down. It becomes difficult to breathe and I just want to run or escape as quickly as possible. I want to hide away from the world.

I hate how when I cry I feel like others see me as weak, oversensitive, or incompetent. I just become overwhelmed by emotion and feel things so intensely. It makes me upset because I so want to please and do not want to be judged by others. I am at a loss of how to make the tears stop. Sometimes the world feels so very heavy.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Bad News

Why is it that with really bad news that I am always really caught off guard? I just found it so silly when my dad called me this morning and just said he was on his way to come and visit. Yesterday Mom said he would call and just see if I was still up for it. But I was eager for him to come, even though I really wanted them both to be here. I was hoping to set up a time for them both to come as I have been feeling a little frustrated that Mom seems to be working so much lately. But now I know.
When Dad first told me about it, I was in shock. Breast cancer was the farthest thing from my mind, especially given all of her other health problems. My first thought was, "Please, God, don't let my mom die."
Dad says it is very treatable and that the doctors consider it to be more like living with a chronic illness. They said it is important to remain positive. I just don't know how to do that right now. I dread my mom having to undergo possible surgery, chemo and radiation. I don't want her to suffer or to be in pain and it is inevitable.
It's not fair. Mom is supposed to do her clinicals this year to get her LPN degree. That looks like it is going to be completely off the table, whether Mom wants to accept that right now or not. She and Dad have seemed to have a stronger and healthier relationship than they have in years. This is going to add a lot of stress on them and their relationship. It makes me feel so very sad and scared. I don't know what to do to help. I don't want my mom to die. I want to be stubborn and not think that that will happen. But I also don't want to see her loose a breast or her hair. She shouldn't have to go through that. And it sucks because it may have been prompted to come about faster because of the Embrel--a drug that had brought her so much relief from her psoriasis. I don't want that to get all out of control now either. It just really, really sucks.
And then there is that selfish part of me--the part that thinks about myself. This is not a good time for me with all that is going on in my life. It is all just another thing that is sucking away my focus on what I need to be doing. I am angry because I want to be there to support my mom, while I am freaked out about how I am going to be able to manage it all.
I wonder what other crappy thing is out there waiting for me with that superstitious everything comes in three's. I found out my ex got remarried, my mom has cancer, and I don't want to stomach what will be next. When and where is that moment of peace? I think that is why I miss last summer so much. And there was another piece of it somewhere around the first of December.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lessons From My Roots

I never fully realized my family was lower-middle class until I was a junior in college. I mean, there were clues in high school, but I didn't really take too much stock in it being from a small town.

This blog post, "The Mental Burden of a Lower Class Background," brought me back to that realization.

I didn't think of my family as rich, but certainly not borderline poor. I always felt lucky and that it was a privilege that my mom stayed home. I was proud that my dad had his own business for awhile, understood his reasons for selling it and getting a job with the city. There was good food on the table, presents at Christmas and birthdays, and our family usually took a summer vaction trip somewhere with plenty of memories of taking it on the road. Looking back I can better appreciate how creative my parents were in their budgeting to provide life enriching experiences for us--visiting museums, state parks, and zoos--experiences in the city and out in the country--and trips to the ocean and up to the woods of Northern Michigan. You can have a good and happy life without having a whole lot of money. There can be an artful balance of living simply and fully by focusing on what matters most and living in the presence of today.

And my mind continues to dance in the dream of having a house...something simple and cozy and allowing me the freedom to explore the world around me. Sometimes there can be an appreciation of having less so it can let you live life larger in other ways.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Timely Message?

I have a dirty little secret. I go on binges of reading horoscopes. I think it is my ridiculous way of trying to get a little control from the universe, or at least try to glean what it has in store for me.

My love horoscope from yesterday:

You have a strong sense of self and you're not too likely to lose yourself in a relationship. With that in mind, remember that it's okay to become very attached to your loved one. You can be part of a couple and still be an individual.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Feeling Crazy and Confused

In the middle of all of my miserable feelings, I feel insecure about my relationship with RJ in that I don't want to mess things up. I am scared of not being ready for him in the way that I want to be. I hope that he is patient in waiting for me to return to Pittsburgh. I hope he is understanding of the mess that I am feeling, which is asking a lot.

Just in general, I am scared of saying too much to him and I am scared not to say enough. I don't want to lean into him too much for support as I am trying to be independent, but I don't want to shut him out or put too much of a burden on him either. I struggle to find the balance between losing myself again and allowing myself to go to him when I could use some comfort. I am tired of feeling like I always have to be strong and I want to feel okay with showing that vulnerability sometimes. I sometimes wonder if I am overcompensating and if I am holding too much of myself back. Part of being a couple is being there for each other. But how much is too much?

I want to crawl into his bed and into his arms. I just want to cry away all of these frustrations and for him to hold me. Is that okay? Is it asking too much? It's not RJ, it's me wondering--to give myself permission to do that.

I miss RJ.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Staying the Course of my own Journey

Have you ever driven down a road where you can see that it runs parallel to another road by the traffic off in the distance? I'm thinking back to my days of college at Bowling Green in Ohio where it is pretty flat and you can see the semi-trucks or the occasional car across the spread of corn betweeen I-75 and state route 23. You sometimes notice the other vehicles in the corner of your eye and other times, even if you know they are there, you almost forget they are out there. Then eventually, a town interupts the view or a bend comes along one road and the other just fades away. It becomes no longer relevant because it has nothing to where you are now and where you are going.

I feel the two roads are a good visual representation in letting go of the dream. It is not at all that I long for that other life again, but that it is mourning what had been and more so a life of what could have been. Initially, it was something that loomed so heavily and I couldn't help but compare where I was and all that had been so carefully planned. Then slowly I began to notice it less as I focused on the new road that I was taking with all of its new adventures and challenges.

I've known that that dream has long died, but finding out that my ex has remarried serves as another reminder with another layer of grief with this whole process of regaining my life. It is forcing me to say good-bye to the dream yet again when I already thought I had done that. But then again, I carried a small fear of wondering how I would feel if I heard that he had married again, especially to that woman. I didn't dwell on it, but felt like I would deal with it if and when it came. That moment is now and all I can do is be honest and patient with myself in allowing me to feel what it is that I need to feel so that I can continue to move forward. I can better identify why I have felt so sad and angy, and now it is a matter of my heart catching up to my head. It is not easy watching a dream die, even if I know it really is for the better. I feel this undercurrent of emotions that just have to pass with time and acceptance. To borrow a familiar line from the children's book, Going on a Bear Hunt , and suggested by my friend, Julie, "Can't go over it. Can't go under it. Gotta go through it!"

And part of me is okay with him remarrying first because despite whoever would do it first, I imagine this process of grief would still take place. At least I get to digest it all on my own and separate from a day so special as a wedding day, a day that is supposed to be full of happiness and love. In facing this loss now, I hope that if/when I do get married that it will free me to focus in sharing my day of happiness entirely with the person I love. I am happy to gain more distance from that road that might have been before committing myself to share in a life with another person. I want to be in a place to fully embrace a new dream.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

In a Glass Case of Emotion

Thank you, Ron Burgundy.

I feel raw, exposed and vulnerable.

The day after, I woke up with a head ache and miserable with that feeling of, "Is this real?" I was feeling angry and betrayed. I wondered who attended the event and stood there to support that crap. And I don't want to hear, "Well, when it is your friend, you want to be happy for them." Well guess what? Some of those people were my friends, too, and it sucks.

On the second day, I was starting to feel better and felt like a cloud had lifted and I was regaining some focus. Okay, so let's get back to the business of my life. I kept reminding myself of those moments of dreaming during the yard sale and that RJ was coming to visit me this weekend.

By the fourth day, I was feeling over run with emotions again. And it was all just so painful. It was not that I was really thinking about him, but just feeling frustrated and wanting to already be in a place where I really have moved into that space of all on my own. Right now I am still going to school and I am depending on him for support. It ticks me off to feel stuck and feeling like he probably takes pleasure in it or feels sorry for me. Both are equally repugnant. It really stinks that on the surface it seems that his life has moved onward seamlessly and he gets to have his happy despite being the destructive force, while I am still struggling to get my life in order. I want a job and to be supporting myself. While I am grateful for this opportunity to be going back to school and redirecting my life towards what I feel I am supposed to be doing, there are times that I feel like my life continues to remain on hold. And it has felt like that since November 2006, for various reasons and most of which have been beyond my control. That is a really long time to feel like you are in a holding pattern.

And it gets old hearing the instant response to this crap as, "Be happy for what you have in your life right now." True. I am. It is what keeps me going. But don't gloss over what I am feeling right now. I am angry and sad and frustrated and betrayed and powerless and diffident and miserable...even if just for a moment. I need to acknowledge that to be able to move beyond and to carry forward. I need to cry every one of those tears. Thank you to the people who allowed me to do that with them. This news serves as another reminder of the feeling that I failed and wondering if I am just damaged goods. That is the hardest part, the failure.

Then there are times when I do not want to feel like I have to decide where I am going to focus the direction of my life because I don't know where things are going with RJ. I like being in a space of flexibility and just going with the flow. But what life has taught me is that there are no guarantees and life keeps moving. This recent news about my ex has shaken me. It has undermined the confidence I have been working so hard to rebuild and restabilize. And what I am about to say is not a reflection on RJ because I feel like our relationship is in a pretty good place right now.

It is just that I am afraid of building my life around another man only to be left disappointed and abandoned again. I do not want to find myself more invested than the other person. They have to want the relationship just as much as me and be willing to put in the effort.

But I am equally afraid of closing myself off because of these feelings and to miss what could be the best thing to be happening in my life. The resurfacing of self-doubt makes it difficult to trust myself in judging my experiences.

It has almost been a week and there are times when I feel shaky. But today is a new day and I need to get back to kicking arse! I will let Ron Burgundy's words resonate within me, "I'm kind of a big deal."

Top Image: http://www.rufkm.net/, note--appreicate the image and not their political views

Bottom Photo: by Melissa Moseley, http://www.towntopics.com/jul0704/cinema.html

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sorting Out a Hot Mess

I don't even know where to begin.

Just when I felt like I was getting to that processing point in finding the words and discovering the reasons behind some very significant recent feelings, I am hit with a wall. Being in Columbus has allowed me to do some serious reflecting, for which I am thankful. But what the heck am I supposed to do with this information? Am I in some state of denial? Am I going to feel worse tomorrow morning, in the coming week or month? Will this tsunami of new information come back and test the strength and forgiveness that I have tried to build?

Enter the lovely Facebook...

My ex married the w----*.

Today as I happened across an old friend my ex and I shared, I noticed this friend looked happy and was dressed nicely in a suit. I was thinking, "He must have had a friend get married, how nice." I then thought I would see if his wife, also an old friend, was on his list of friends just to be nosey and to look at the profile pictures. (Honestly, I was curious to see if they were still together because it seemed like they might have been having relationship troubles around the time my relationship with my ex hit the fan. I am very happy they are still together.) As I was scrolling down the list, there popped up the wedding photo as her profile picture.

I was not expecting this. A few of the last words my ex said in my presence were, "I am NEVER getting married again."

I had never known what she had looked like. And I liked it that way.

Stupid, stupid, stupid. My intention was not to probe into his life. I was taking a walk down memory lane, just missing a few people who had been in my life for fourteen years.

It was weird. As I looked at the picture, they looked happy and had they been strangers to me I probably would have thought that they looked like two people who seemed to go together.

And it hurt because it is not easy to think of myself as so replaceable. My next thought was that he has definitely moved on with his life.

Argh! And just when I was getting to a place where I was not comparing the milestones in our lives as a measure of success in my life and letting go of feeling like it was less. I was (and am trying to hold onto) being better able to just let that all go. His life doesn't matter. Focus on myself and be thankful for all of the good in my life right now.

And despite all of the growth that I have made in the last few weeks**, I feel guilty for not being in a place to feel happy for him. I don't wish him harm or for bad things in his life. I have just been feeling at peace--just kind of neutral--you live your life and I will live mine. I don't know if I can feel happy for him. I'm not there yet. How could he have moved on so quickly? It's not about him. What's so wrong with me? And I don't want to hear that if this is what makes him happy that it was meant to be. Then why did I love him for all of those years?

Let it go.

(Important Note: When I originally created my Facebook page, I immediately blocked my ex. I wanted to minimize the chances of him knowing about my life and I had no interest in knowing about his. I knew her name and attempted to block her, but she did not have an account. Blocked a few other ex-in-laws and had not messed with the edits since.)

**Highlights from the previous weeks leading into learning this news...

So, in coming to Columbus for the summer, I have been reconnecting with some friends and getting back in touch with some old classmates. Feeling a bit nostalgic, I've been scoping out Facebook a bit more and it has been fun. And really, where it had sometimes been tough seeing people from my past with their families and children, in talking with them I am really happy for them. It is a very healthy thing.

Part of that I contribute to moving to a place where I can dream again--for myself and in my life. Last weekend, RJ and I went to a bunch of yard sales. I love roaming around a neighborhood yard sale with him. As we were out and about, we went into a couple of homes that were having open houses. RJ wanted to check one out to see how they were restoring the house, as it was in progress. It was fun to appreciate the workmanship. Then I was curious about another house, not wanting to lead the realtor on, but just a peek. It gave me a hint of what a house can cost in the area and how much home you can get and in what condition. It was the first time that I realized that I could really one day own a home again. I think given what I hope to have as an income when I get a job, I think I could one day swing getting a nice, little house. And I think it was important to view this as a possibility that I could potentially do on my own--in the way to know that I will be able to support myself and not rely on having to be with someone to do this. This is NOT a slight against RJ. If anything, I see this as me being able to have more to contribute if we consider more in sharing a future together.

It was refreshing to catch myself in that moment of dreaming and playfully considering the possibilities of my future, especially in such a positive way. It helps me to focus on me and to be thankful for what I have in my life and to not measure my life experiences with those of others. As my friend Karen said, "We each have to make our own happy." And that freedom to accept and appreciate my life allows me to enjoy more fully what others have in their lives for those who have meaning in my life. Again, a very good thing.

Then getting back to that nostalgic bug, Columbus has a lot of selection in music stations on the radio. There are several that play music that reminds me of high school and college. As much as I have tried to fight it, I have been thinking about my ex a bit more. Not in that way where I miss him or want to be with him, but just wandering thoughts of some of the good that we experienced together. I have felt very sad, but it has also been nice not to have vengeful or ugly thoughts related to him (*Oops, that one slipped.). In thinking about it, I wondered if I might be coming to a better place in reaching another level of forgiveness with him in letting go of the bad and the hurt. I am tired of feeling angry and maybe this was a sign that I am turning that corner or something has lifted. Many times I wondered if I could ever look back on the relationship with any kind of positive regard or if it had all been ruined in that my life during that period had been for nothing and a complete waste. But I decided that maybe how I was feeling recently was showing me that there was some good there and it was not all for naught, that there is meaning that I can positively take away for myself from that experience.

And with this new realization and acceptance I feel like I can better move forward in my life, especially in allowing my self to dream and in my relationship with RJ. Letting go helps me to be free and to have that space to enjoy more of life. It gives me better clarity as I work towards deeper resolve and acceptance. I am living my life for me! (Darn it!)

I just hope that I can hold onto that strength and level of forgiveness. I don't know how I will feel tomorrow or the coming days. I have a feeling that I may be in for experiencing a bit of an emotional hangover. Blughhhhh...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Lost and Found

When I got home from the gym the other day, I realized that I forgot to put my belt in my bag after changing out of my clothes from work. I called the gym right away and told them about it. They took my information and said that they would call me if they found it. They also asked if I was going to be in the next day to work out and I said yes. There was no call and it was not in the lost and found. I tried to be hopeful that someone would have turned it in at the desk. I was very sad as the realization began to sink in that it was really gone.

It was a really nice belt in the way that I could wear it with quite a few things. It went well with jeans or khakis. I could semi-dress it up for a relaxed preppy kind of look or I could dress it down with a t-shirt and comfy jeans. It was made of soft, worn brown leather with small, flat metal studs and a line of stitching of twine-like threading. It was so me. Soft and casual, yet with a subtle depth of layered detail. It was the perfect belt and I had had it for at least twelve years. It was an artifact from college that remained a classic staple in my wardrobe and I probably would have worn it until well past eighty. I'm a simple kind of person and not always one with a lot of accessories, so for quite awhile this was my only belt. (Why would I even need another one?) But now it is gone. I am so bummed.

But why? Why am I so emotionally invested and attached to the belt? I've tried to shake the feeling because it seems silly to have such feelings of loss over something material. So, what is it about this belt that is so hard to let go?

I guess it reminds me of college and my youth. It was a simple way to recall the past without breaking out an old, smelly t-shirt. And somehow I think the belt served as a way to connect my past and present by representing what was consistent in my identity across time and that certain elements would follow me into my future. There were several times in my life when I struggled with either loosing my identity or figuring out how to reclaim it or redefine it. But the belt was a constant--looking at it I would think, yep that's me.

But then there were times in the last year or so that as I would put on the belt and I would feel sad. And it always felt strange to have that feeling with something that I considered to be a favorite. But there were times that the belt would take me back to that dark, lonely place in my divorce when I felt so lost and alone and like my life was spinning out of control. It was because during that time I lost forty pounds (I had gained thirty pounds during the prior year while trying to get pregnant.). I was at a loss and felt helpless each time I had to pull the belt another notch tighter. I remember when I got to the last notch and it just wasn't tight enough. I felt scared and knew that I couldn't loose anymore weight and stopped stepping onto the scale when it dropped to 98 pounds. That was a low point in my life.

Well after I returned to a healthier weight, I wondered if maybe I should get a new belt. Why keep something that could sometimes draw out hints of sadness? But would I be abandoning something that seemed to symbolize what makes up me has always been there and use it to carry me forward? Is it better to hold onto something and learn to live with that trace of sadness or to come to a place where it is time to let it go and move on?

I guess the decision has been made for me--or perhaps it was my subconscious that decided for me. The belt is lost and gone and I will have to find a new one. I just hope that I can find one that is just as awesome, but in its own unique way. More reason to go shopping!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Pittsburgh Half-Marathon 2011

A few weeks ago, I ran in the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon for the second time. My goal was to run the race in under two hours and I am proud to say that I accomplished my goal! I ran the race in 1 hour and 56 minutes at an 8:50 mile pace. This exceeded what I had intended to accomplish in reducing my time by cutting my mile pace by 40 seconds! Two things certainly contributed to this success--a longer, established running base before ramping up the weekly mileage and the hill workouts.

In addition, I think this race was important because this year I ran it by myself. In someways I think it represents how far I have come in rebuilding my life. Last year, I ran it with my friend, Michele, and we were a great team. We supported each other through some tough things and we were each other's cheerleader. As we ran, Michele did a great job navigating between runners to keep our pace, while I kept an eye on the time as we passed each mile marker. This year, Michele was not able to sign up for the race in time. So, I ran solo on the course. I think this was good for me because I could prove to myself that I am very capable of accomplishing my goals independently.

And while I may have been running the race by myself, I was far from alone. I had several other friends who were running in the race and we didn't run together for various reasons--pace, corral assignments, and personal running style. But we sent each other a flurry of texts before the race and it felt like we would all be running together in spirit. It was funny because at one point during the race, I passed my friend, Heidi, who was running a leg in the Relay. It was great to see her and continue in our individual journeys.

Then RJ and his friend also came to cheer me on along the sidewalk next to the course. I was so touched because he postponed a fishing trip just to be sure to see me run. RJ asked me where I thought I might most need an extra boost of support, I gave him the map and told him at Mile 6, just before the West End Bridge. As I was reaching that point in the race, I grew more excited because this year I had someone out there cheering for me! RJ was wildly ringing his cow bell and waving the sign he made for me. His friend snapped a picture as I passed by them. They later told me that they had a ton of people comment on their cow bell playing and would yell all sorts of references to the Will Ferrel SNL skit. It really did raise the energy level. And that is what is great about this race is that there are so many people in the crowd to cheer on the runners. Not only do they support the person they know, but then they extend that enthusiasm to all who run in the race. RJ and his friend then found a spot near the end of the race to give me that last hurrah before sprinting to the finish line. RJ's parents and uncle were there, too, as they came to watch his aunt run in the race.

After the race, I tried to look for RJ and his friend, but there were just so many people. I think we just missed each other, so I headed back to my neighborhood. It was a long walk to my car, but I had so much fun. I loved the crowd support with their cheering, costumes and signs. I loved the music all along the course with a variety of bands. It was great to hear other runners comment on their experiences as we were running. I think this kind of race is great for me because it really brings me into the space of living in the moment--to be aware of what is going on internally and externally and embracing every bit of it.

Once I was back to my neighborhood, I met up with RJ and his friend and we cheered on the Marathon runners along Mile 22. After a quick shower and a change of clothes, it was great to revel in my own accomplishments and to continue to offer support for those still running in the longer race. Yeah, I wore my finisher's medal. What other day can you do that and not look obnoxious? :)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Personal Authenticity

Strange how life can be cylindrical--the ways in which we slip back to safeguard ourselves and the ways in which we open ourselves up to the world. Shortly after the divorce, there were times when I lived much more free and open as I was rediscovering the world. Then looking back on it more recently, I realize there was a period during the late winter and into spring that I found myself closing up in a protective way. I felt this quiet strain that I was grasping to identify. It was during one of my last classes of the semester that someone commented, "Jamie is an enigma. You never know what she is thinking and I always wonder." I guess people can tell when the hamster wheel is turning, but they cannot always get a read on what exactly that entails.

This remark bothered me a bit. Many friends have said in the past that I am a genuine person or that I wear my heart on my sleeve. I know some of my classes could be a little touchy-feely being that they were about therapy and counseling. I mean it is good to sometimes share and disclose things about yourself, but then it is important to also have a professional boundary. The one class in particular was small and the class got to know each other more. Some people shared some fairly personal stuff. It was tough because I almost feel like maybe I did not reciprocate as much as other people. But then again, I don't have to spill my life out to everyone I meet. I don't like seeming to be that closed off or so distant, but it can be tough to know where to draw that line in one's professional life to build relationships that are warm and supportive without overstepping that personal boundary. Work is work and not everyone needs to know my business. But then, what is that balance to share so you don't seem like the cold weirdo? I do feel like I held myself back some during my Practicum experience. So, I am trying to be more aware of that during my internship to allow myself to relax and be more present and in the moment.

I don't know. I think in the past I did a better job of that balance. But now somehow I feel like there is the extra filter in me so that I don't get hurt. I just hope it doesn't spill over into the parts of my life of where it counts to be more disclosive and real. Someone told me that if you try to protect yourself too much, you constrict yourself. Then you don't allow yourself to feel anything and in the end you suffer. It takes a certain amount of bravery to open up again to experiencing the moment in relationships. I have to be willing to be not only trusting with others, but more importantly, with myself.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

It's My Life

I miss listening to Retro Request Lunch as I am doing my thing in Pittsburgh. The music brings me back to a few of those youthful days of middle school and high school...

Example 1 To put a little funk in your step.

Example 2 Minor teenage rebellion/I so don't care.

Example 3 A shout out to my friend Christine!

Example 4 A woman with pipes and you just gotta sing along.

Example 5 Who doesn't like dancing around like a bee?

So today as I was driving to the hospital for my internship and flipping around the stations, a little Bon Jovi came on the radio. It wasn't from the days of the roller rink favorites, but certainly close enough to put a smile on my face. And it got me thinking about once again being thankful for what I have in my life in the present and to dream new dreams. That has to be my focus, my springboard moving forward. My life has its own path and I have to wake up and appreciate it before I miss its beauty, wonder and fortuity.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mother's Day Thoughts (Belated)

This year was different. On a good note, I bought and sent my mom a Mother's Day card with a gift on time! Not to worry, I'm not patting my self on the back for doing what I'm supposed to be doing. But this was the first time that I had walked into the card aisle and actually picked out a card for her in a long time. I sent hand-written letters or pretty blank cards with a note for the past few years. It was just too much to be standing in that aisle and to focus on finding a card that expressed my feelings and gratitude while not completely falling apart or wanting to run out of the store. I did not want to just quickly pick up any one that would just do.

So, this year felt a little surreal as I browsed through the Mother's Day card selection. I did tear up as I was scanning to find the appropriate section as my eyes glanced across the For my Loving Wife section. I don't miss him. I miss and grieve the dream of what was to have been. And I feel frustrated because even though it hurts less, I just want to be able to let it go--to really move into a better state of acceptance where I can more fully dream new dreams. But I have to be patient and give myself credit because I did refocus and found a card that I really felt good about giving my mom. I was slightly determined not to let that other section derail me from what I came to do and I was not going to allow myself to fall into the trap of dwelling. I quickly acknowledged the part that was not so easy and then carried on with my business.

On a sad note, when I called to talk to my mom on Mother's Day, she shared with me that my grandma (my dad's mother) was not doing well. This was not surprising news because her health had been declining for several months. She had fallen and fractured her hip about two weeks before Mother's Day and I was waiting to hear how she was doing. If she didn't seem to rebound, then I knew she would most likely make a rapid turn for the worse. Two days later, my grandmother died peacefully through the night.

I have mixed emotions about my grandma's passing. She was in her 90's, so she lived a long life. She was also not diagnosed with any illness, so her death is really related to age. While her fall contributed to her decline, at least she was able to have some amount of independence and mobility towards the end of her life preserving some dignity--even if it was only really for going to the bathroom. My last memories of my grandmother are good ones because I did go visit her at the end of March. She recognized me right away, she was in good spirits and she laughed. She teased my dad about his greying hair in asking, "Tommy, where is your red hair?" However, I am sad because I did not feel a closeness with my grandma in a way that I would have liked. It took me a long time to come to a place of acceptance in this. As much as I wanted to know more about her, I felt shut out on a certain level. I always felt a distance in that our relationship was just on the surface--politely supportive. I knew she was not a warm and fuzzy kind of person, but my dad would say she would always ask about me. I wonder why she couldn't show me a deeper love?

I am glad and proud of my dad for taking the time to visit my grandma regularly--well before the end and near the end. I hope that it helps to give him closure in saying good-bye to his mother. I imagine it could not be easy to watch a parent slip away and change before the days came when her awareness was seemingly gone and she mostly slept.

I will miss her laugh and her smile--the real smile--the one with the twinkle in her eye or when her whole face would light up.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Easter (Yes, I know it was in April.)

I started this post a while back, but am just now getting to finishing it! So, just because I don't want to forget how special it meant to me to share Easter weekend with RJ...

We went to Cleveland on Saturday to spend the day with my family. It was the first time RJ was coming to my hometown on Lake Erie and I felt so nervous. I just did not know what he would think and I hoped it would go well with meeting more of my family. I really enjoyed talking on our drive to my hometown and I had to chuckle when RJ asked me, "Am I asking too many questions?" One of best parts was that as I was taking him around town to see where I went to school and the first house that I grew up and the time he spent with my family, he took a genuine interest in it all. It was not like he was doing this stuff out of obligation, but that he really wanted to be there and participate. He was also very kind in sharing that he loved how cozy and comfortable my family's house felt and it was exactly what he imagined in a house near a lake. I also had to laugh because he shared how he understood why I kept saying how Lake Erie is a lake--a real lake. While with the North Park Lake in the Pittsburgh area, it's like you want to pinch its cheeks and with a gentle laugh say, "Aren't you so cute, trying to be a lake?" I grew up near water and I think that is going to be a requirement for me--to live by some form of water. It is just so calming to me.

On Easter Sunday, RJ suggested we go to church in our neighborhood. I was glad that I went and found a familiar sense of peace being in the space. For whatever reason, I find comfort in sitting in a church. I also appreciated RJ's reverence and respect during the service, not that I expected anything different from him. He is a good guy.

I have not been to church in a while, mostly because I am having a difficult time with whole annulment process. It just feels so invasive and unnecessarily lengthy considering how I have purposefully sought help in healing in other ways. I have a difficult time with the concept of having to prove that I should not have gotten married in the first place--because given all that I knew then and how I felt, I honestly do not think I would have changed my mind. But the Catholic church does have a caveat that if the other person steps outside of the commitment of marriage, that it is grounds for an annulment for the wronged spouse. Unfortunately, there is no check box to indicate that and skip having to write out all of the miserable details at length for some group of strangers to read and discuss and judge you on if they think your relationship was messed up from the beginning for it to be better if it had never existed.

After mass, we went to his grandma's house and had dinner with RJ's mother's family. It was very nice of his family to share in their Easter tradition of painting Easter Eggs using traditional Ukrainian wax, tools and dyes. His aunt also made this amazing sweet bread that I think uses sour cream and then you top it with butter, cream cheese or horseradish. Yum! I also appreciated how after dinner, his family sat around the dining room table and talked and shared stories as a group. It reminds me a lot of how my mom's side of the family spends time together.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Getting Rid of the Elephant in the Room

I've been meaning to write a post about this for a while--it is related to how I am handling people's pregnancies. I had written about how difficult it was for me to hear this news for three close friends from growing up. It is difficult because I had always imagined that at some point I could be pregnant with them--to share the experience together. So it can be sad to feel like life is passing me by in someways. But then I take a step back and realize that my life is on a different path and I refocus on what I am thankful to have in my life.

I am thankful for loving and supportive friends--in new friends and old friends who are like sisters to me. I am thankful to have the opportunity to work on completing my master's degree and I have hope in continuing a fresh start in my life. I am thankful for having a heart that is open to love and meeting RJ, who does not shy away from my past and accepts me--all of me. I am thankful for the unconditional love of my family and the moments in which their strength shines through. I am thankful for the strength to embrace hope--in not just surviving and moving beyond, but also in wanting to really live life in appreciating its satisfaction and wonder.

So, I am happy to say that I decided to visit my dear friend, Karen, in the hospital after the birth of her second child. I am glad that I did this with a positive mindset in not just doing the right thing, but wholeheartedly wanting to give back and support her. I felt it was important to visit her because she was honoring our relationship with the invitation to share in this important moment in her life. I really appreciate my friendship with Karen because she strikes that delicate balance of being mindful of my past struggles with IF, but she also does not shy away and continues to sensitively include me in her life with her family.

And as life moves forward, there are and will be other important people who become pregnant in my life. I am happy to say, most of the women I have met in the IF community now have children or are expecting a child. I want to also thank these women for their continued friendship and sharing of their journeys. While it might be easier to drift apart, I value their reciprocated support. I enjoy reading and talking to them about their experiences and I am happy that they recognize and support my life path, even if it is different.

As it might sound selfish or silly to sometimes want to hide from the world of pregnancy and motherhood, I know and I don't want to ignore it forever. It is not healthy or realistic. Life moves on and I am learning how to accept and celebrate pregnancy and motherhood with the special women in my life. It will not be the same as before IF, but avoiding it now doesn't work for me either. Life is not all about me and I want to be there for my friends and loved ones. I feel a shift, which I think is a healthier way to carry forward. I can recognize my sadness, but I can also share in the happiness I feel for my friends and loved ones.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Things are shifting, things are changing, but they have not yet fallen into place. How this chapter in my life will end, I do not know because there is so much yet to be determined.

For the most part, I have been okay--not too up and not too down. There have been days with more blips of emotion, and I have learned to let them pass. My thoughts have been shifting towards thinking about where my life is going and I have reconciled with myself that I don't need to have the answers right now. I think the present and the summer will have much to tell me, so I will just go along for the ride of life unfolding. I hope to have more clarity when I return to Pittsburgh and it will be then that I can better investigate my possibilities.

I know this post is vague, but that is kind of how I am feeling. Plans for the future are uncertain, but I am okay with that--for now.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Question of "In" or "With"

I feel like I have been just okay--not too up and not too down. There is no major mess on my plate, but I still have a feeling of some inner turmoil. Am I bothered by the lack of unrest in my life? Am I reading into it that there must be something wrong if I don't feel strongly one way or the other? Or am I experiencing the undercurrent of feelings before a big change, my internship in Columbus?

Well, I guess I am frustrated because I don't know what RJ plans to do this summer in terms of our relationship. He doesn't seem to show a lot of interest in coming to see me while I am in Columbus. I tried to ask him if he would be interested in planning a trip with me before I start my internship and he has been very non-commital. He says he sees me in his future and there are times he assumes that I will be there for stuff, but I don't know. You can't always trust in what a guy says, but some of his actions seem to speak that he does see me in his life long-term. But maybe that is the question, does he see me in his life or does he allow room to have a life with me?

RJ is very oriented to living in the present, which is good. It is in the little stuff and the everyday that life seems so big with him, which I love. I tend to be a person who likes to plan and know what is ahead. But I know that can be limiting because that doesn't always allow you to live in the present, which is where a lot of the real fun in life can be found. I feel like I appreciate living more in the present and I have been trying to make a shift towards it. But it can also be fun to dream, so thinking about the future is not such a bad thing at times either. I don't know if my expectations are off or it we just don't fit as well as I would hope. I hate to be knit-picky because I think you can poke enough holes in any relationship and make it seem questionable.

Another area that seems to be on my mind is the balance of separateness and being able to join with another person. By joining, I mean really being present with each other and being able to flow with give and take in the moment. Joining can also have elements of planning and dreaming of the future together. I have struggled with separateness, which is something that RJ does very well. It has helped me to grow, as I have been trying to do this anyways. But I wonder if he does it too well and I question if he is able to really join with another person, by way of thinking and dreaming with another person in the future orientation. I feel like that layer of being able to trust to dream in the future, which can enhance that living and joining in the present, is lacking.

Bottom line, I would hate to commit to staying in Pittsburgh with someone who is not really willing to make commitments in return. It will be good to go to Columbus to see if Pittsburgh is really where I want to be, regardless of a romantic relationship. I feel like if I am confident in wanting to make a life for myself in Pittsburgh, that it may take some pressure off of our relationship. I feel like this is important because I am not ready to make any big decisions about our relationship. I just feel like if I am unsure about staying in Pittsburgh, that it will cause me to really have to made desicions affecting our relationship prematurely before I am ready. But I also realize that I can't have life always as I would like and certain things are beyond my control. So, I guess I will just have to make my decisions as they come with what is presented to be known at the time and how my heart feels in that moment.

Is all of this thinking bad? What does this mean about my relationship with RJ? What does it say about my relationship with him?

I don't want to be overthinking everything, nor analyzing my way out of something really important to me.