A relative we don't see often was asking me about Emily.
"How is her heart?"
I told him that for now her heart is awesome.
"How is her development?"
She's advanced in some things, and delayed in others, but she's doing great, and she responds really well to therapy...is what I said.
"What effect will her syndrome have on her IQ?"
Yes, he really asked that.
I told him that she might have some learning disabilities.
"How will her syndrome affect her emotional state?"
Again...I couldn't believe he even knew to ask this question.
I'm trying to be honest and open about Em and her chromosome deletion.
I don't ever want it to define her, but if someone asks I will tell them.
There is a greater chance that Em could develop bi-polar disorder or schizophrenia in her late teens or early adult life...that's what the research shows.
I hate that research, and I try really hard not to focus on it, but it's there and my uncle asked.
His response really surprised me.
"I can see that as a possibility; she's really emotionally detached from life."
I had no response.
What I wanted to say was 'you've seen her twice in her entire life, she doesn't know you, and you have no clue what you're talking about.'
I didn't say anything.
But I thought about it all day long.
Later in the day Em was watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse...again.
At work it's the only show I have and we watch it while she's eating, to keep her entertained.
Em has the same response to every Mickey Mouse Clubhouse we watch except one.
One of the episodes has bees, and Emily has something against the bees.
The first time she watched it I thought she was going to have a heart attack.
Yesterday when she watched it I recorded it so that Jason could see what I mean when I tell him about how Emily reacts.
I laugh every time I watch it.
And Uncle? If you were Mickey Mouse, I can guarantee you would feel differently about Emily's emotional attachments!
Jason came home for the night.
He leaves again tomorrow, but he's here now, and Emily and I will take whatever time we get.
I told Jason the only thing I wanted was a nap.
I curled up in bed, knowing my little lady was in good hands, and slept.
For an entire 20 minutes.
My body wouldn't allow more than that.
I've heard yoga is good for relaxation.
Maybe I'll start doing yoga.
It's just as well I didn't sleep longer.
The little lady welcomed Daddy home with a major blowout and it took both of us to hold her still long enough to clean things up.
That girl of ours?
She's turned into a crazy person.
We lowered the mattress in her crib after she proved how she could pull herself up and almost over the side of the crib...I wish you could have seen the look on her face as she kneeled against the side of the crib smiling at me. I've never seen a nearly one year old more proud of herself.
I might be turning into a crazy person myself.
I made dinner.
Don't die of shock.
Jason said the chicken fajitas I made were the best meal we've ever had in this house.
That's not saying much considering that we've had maybe a total of 7 meals.
It's been a while since I've been able to go to church, and this morning as I was cleaning up Em's daily episode, I realized that I needed to find something uplifting to listen to.
I turned Mickey Mouse off and miraculously managed to find Pandora through the TV.
Em played quietly on the floor as we listened to the soft sounds of church music fill our home.
The song Be Still by Hilary Weeks came on and as I listened to the words I couldn't help but cry.
Another day I'll try again But can you tell me Will the hurting ever end? I've been taught And I believe But it's been awhile Since I've been on my knees But I need you by my side I don't have the strength To make it on my own And Lord, do you hear my prayer How soon will you answer me? I know you're weary I know you've had all you can bear And now you ask of me on bended knee I promise I'll be there I've watched you struggle Yet I can see how much you've grown Child, could you feel my power in your darkest hour? You were not alone Be still and know that I am God I'm by your side Whom shall you fear I'll give you strength my child I am here Be still and know that I am God And there's no prayer That I don't hear Lift up your head My child I am here
As I thought about the song, the words, and the effect those words had on my heart, I realized something.
I've mostly shut my heart off to feeling things deeply...spiritual things, tender things, happy things, sad things...
And today, in letting the words of that song reach my heart, I couldn't stop crying.
I think I'm afraid if I really feel anything I will start crying and never stop.
I'm not a person who dwells in sadness and misery.
I truly believe life is meant to be lived and enjoyed, but in the last year and a half plus there has been so much...
So much hard...on so many different levels...
And I think my heart has been saying it's had enough, and I'm just now realizing it.
Other people who have gone through their own 'hard' and come out stronger on the other side?
They give me hope that there is going to be another side...one where my heart feels whole again.
I've spent the last hour reading through an old journal...specifically about my return to Mexico.
I think I can do the story justice.
Let me say this: my life has been so full...full of amazing experiences, and I'm grateful.
I have a hard time remembering that I have a purpose here other than laundry and vomit, and reading my journal tonight gave me a bit of peace that I've been in need of.
* * * * *
Almost immediately upon arriving in the village of Garbanzo, I knew it was going to be a long week.
We were with a group of 25 or 30 other people and we would be spending the week building a small schoolhouse, and construction a playground for the school kids.
Four of us in the group were single girls, and within a matter of hours, one of the guys from the Mexico team had tried flirting with all of us.
He must not have had a very positive response from me because he spent the rest of the week mostly avoiding me, and I was okay with that. He was a bit arrogant, and knew just enough English to get himself in trouble, over and over again.
(This is another story entirely, but Fernando and I eventually became friends and there was a time I broke his heart...)
For nearly two days I worked hard and watched as the girls and Fernando flirted with each other.
The girls squealed and laughed at all of his jokes, and he sang to them and danced with them in the dirt.
I thought often of the boy I loved, and mostly felt both slighted and relieved that I wasn't the recipient of any of Fernando's attention.
It wasn't easy for me to be in that setting.
I loved Mexico and was so happy to be back, doing something good for people who truly needed it, but my heart still hurt, and that hurt felt more raw.
In the afternoon of the third day we were in the village, a truck pulled up and three or four people got out.
Juan, the man in charge of the humanitarian group in Mexico, walked over to them and shook their hands.
In turn, he brought the group to where my dad and I were working and introduced them to my dad.
They were students from the University of Mexico and had come to help with our project.
Juan introduced them to me, and when I shook the last guy's hand I was stunned.
He was so good looking it took my breath away.
I immediately felt self-conscious. Showers aren't part of our 'luxury' accommodations when we work in the villages, and we had been there a few days. I was wearing a hat and dirty clothes, and I'm sure I smelled like sweat and the earth.
In that split second Fernando and his little harem melted into the background, and I never gave them a second thought.
I was in love and I couldn't stop smiling.
Obviously I wasn't really in love, but I was smitten and happy to be feeling that way...especially in Mexico.
Hector was tall and dark (obviously) and beautiful. He was the quite brooding type, and in a way he seemed mysterious. He didn't say much but he seemed aware of everything. His hair was as long as mine and he wore it in a ponytail. It looked perfect on him.
It wasn't until that night, after I had a chance to stick my head in a bucket of cold water and wash my hair, that the object of my affection seemed to take notice of me as well.
His eyes followed me everywhere.
We still hadn't spoken to each other but in a strange way words didn't seem to matter.
That night we sat across the fire from each other and watched as those around us laughed and played games.
When I finally went to bed it was with a feeling of contentment I hadn't felt in such a long time.
Sometime the next morning the barrier between us was broken and after that we were inseparable. We talked, we didn't talk, we worked next to each other, and sometimes we simply just stared at each other.
When Hector saw me using a digging bar without gloves he brought me gloves.
When he saw that I was getting sunburned he brought me sun screen and stood next to me to make sure I put it on.
He truly made me feel like I was the only person in that village that mattered to him.
And he made my stomach queasy every time he looked at me.
We stayed up late the second night talking by the camp fire and when I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer he made sure that I made it to my tent safely.
Our last night in the village was New Years Eve and a big party had been planned.
A ginormous tank of water had been trucked in and all of us got in line to wash our hair so that we could clean up for the party.
The other girls had been teasing me all day that 'tonight was my night'...romance was in the air and they couldn't wait to see what happened.
I stood outside my tent combing out my hair and one of the girls came up to me and whispered, 'He hasn't taken his eyes off of you since you first got your hair wet.'
I was both anxious and excited about what the night was going to bring...
I make it sound like I was expecting some amazingly romantic encounter.
I was way too shy and innocent to allow anything too scandalous to happen, and even if I had uncharacteristically thrown my morals out the door, my dad was never more than 15 feet away from me.
Mom, don't worry...I never even thought about throwing anything out the door.
I changed into the only clean clothes I had left, and doused myself with body spray. I put make up on and combed through my hair one more time before I was finally ready to leave my tent.
I looked for Hector and found him across the camp site. He had just finished taking his tent down and was packing his bags.
I went first to my dad and asked what was going on.
He put his arm around me and said, "I'm sorry Nell; he's leaving. Someone in his group is sick and they have to get him to the hospital."
I couldn't even say anything.
I walked to the steps of the schoolhouse and sat down.
A few minutes later, while the rest of his group stood watching, Hector walked over and sat down next to me.
"I have to go," he said.
"I don't want to go."
"I don't want you to go," I said.
And then we just sat there in silence.
He hugged me before he left and then I watched the tail lights of the truck until I couldn't see them anymore.
I didn't stay and ring in the new year. I went to my tent and cried a few tears and then slept.
Here's the thing about Hector.
I knew how it would end before it started.
I knew that after our encounter in the tiny village of Garbanzo, we would never see each other again.
And although I was sad that our experience was cut short, I wasn't heart broken.
But what Hector did for me in those few days is something I'll always be grateful for.
He took the emptiness that my heart associated with Mexico and filled it.
He replaced the saddest memories with happy ones.
When I think about heartbreak and Mexico, they are no longer one and the same.
The boy I loved broke my heart, but Mexico held a piece of my heart that could be separate from that.
Mexico became the place of some of my very best memories...and after Hector, each return trip to Mexico was filled with a peace I rarely found at home.
I still think of the boy I loved on his birthday.
When I drive through his hometown I can't help but think of him.
But when I do think of him, I'm just filled with gratitude for the years I had from when he broke my heart to when I met Jason.
Some of the best things about my life would have been lost had things worked out with the boy I loved.
And the best part of my life wouldn't be...
The man I love now fills my heart and our daughter completes both of us.
And in my book, that's the best happily ever after I could have hoped for.
"It's okay if you giggle, it will only tickle a little..."
...the theme song from Doc McStuffins on the Disney Jr Channel.
I could also sing the Hot Dog song from Micky Mouse Clubhouse if you're interested.
The Doc McStuffins song is the ONLY song that every runs through my head.
And I'm also tired.
This two weeks is the longest two weeks that Jason has ever been gone, and I'm only one week into it.
Friends, one day I'll finish my story...probably once you've forgotten the first part of it, but I want to write it well and in order to do that I need brain function.
I hope you'll stick around until then.
It could be 2016 before brain function happens.
My sweet sister-in-law texted me yesterday and said, "I know I'm jumping to the end of the story but does your heart recover?"
Neither of my sisters-in-law knew anything about this part of my life.
Is it annoying that I keep showing you parts of my bedroom makeover?
...you know, instead of waiting until everything is done?
My bedding finally came today and I'm so excited to show someone.
I'm currently looking for a blue throw to put at the bottom of the bed, and as soon as Jason sticks around long enough to remember that he's married, we're going to paint the walls...probably a shade of gray.
I'll paint the picture frames, add another pillow to the bench, and I'm saving my pennies for the picture I want to hang above the bed.
What do you think?
(I wish you could see the detail of the quilt...it's so beautiful.)
It's a crying shame that 90% of the time the bench is covered with laundry waiting to be put away.
(DO NOT be fooled. That laundry just got thrown onto the floor for the taking of this picture.)
When I first suggested we put the bench here both Jason and my sister said, "But it will just become another place to put stuff."
I acted all offended but they were right.
My eyes are telling me I need to shut them.
Guess who pulled herself up from sitting to standing?
And guess who is going to start crawling any time now?
Oh my goodness...that little lady is going to be a year old in just 7 weeks.
Should I throw a huge party and invite the world to celebrate that she made it to her first birthday?
There is a reason I haven't finished my story.
Her name is Emily.
Would you like to know more information than you need to?
Em has never had an easy time with the bowel region of her little body.
You remember that recurring infection that kept her in the hospital for nearly three months?
I think I mentioned at the time that Em's guts hate her. Literally. (I just heard of a little heart friend who passed away because of the same infection. Em is blessed.)
Recently a friend suggested that perhaps Emily's throwing up was a result of being blocked up everywhere, and if we fixed that problem, she would stop throwing up.
More than one person told me that their little kids were on a low does antibiotic that helped with motility and keeping everything regular.
When we last saw our pediatrician I asked about the antibiotic.
Em has now been on it for a week.
Let me give you a glimpse of what the last 24 hours have been like at our house.
When Emily woke up yesterday I changed her diaper and her pajamas...because her diaper had soaked through.
I got smart a long time ago and put a waterproof pad down on top of Em's sheet so that I don't always have to change her bedding.
I fed her the first feed of the day, and she immediately threw most of it up.
I gave her a bath and changed her clothes again.
I put her down to play and 30 minutes later Em had a blow out.
A major blow out.
I cut her onesie off of her; there was no way I was pulling it over her head.
I cleaned her up, changed her again, and then gave her her second feed.
She threw up.
I changed her.
Last night as we were just getting ready to leave work I heard an explosion come from the little lady we all love and adore.
I cut her second onesie off of her.
If I had been able to stick her in the tub clothes and all, I would have, but guess what...we don't have a bathtub in my office. Clearly that was poor planning. We were already late for an appointment with Em's new speech therapist so I put her in a clean diaper and stuck her in her car seat with nothing else on.
This morning I did a load of laundry and then fed Em her first feed.
She threw up.
She got a bath and then I took a quick shower.
She threw up her second feed because she sneezed and both of us ended up changing clothes.
What? You don't lose your lunch when you sneeze?
Em was on a medicine that would hopefully help dry out her mucous but I had to stop giving it to her because it really really constipated her.
After everyone was clean again we packed up and stopped to run an errand before we went to work.
I got Em out of the car and put her in the stroller.
I covered her with her car seat cover but the sun still got to her.
Guess what happened...
She sneezed...and threw up ALL over herself and her car seat.
I changed her in the back seat of the car, cleaned her car seat the best I could, and changed errands.
We had to go and buy more clothes because I was out of spare outfits for the little miss.
I just took a break from writing this post to feed our girl.
I thought we were in the clear until she sneezed.
It would appear that all these medicines have done is add to my laundry pile.
This outfit was so cute...for the hour she had it on!
You would think, with as long as Emily has been fed with a feeding tube, I would remember to plug in her feeding pump at night.
The only time the pump ever beeps at me to warn me the battery is almost dead is when Jason is out of town...because as he told me, 'I think about those kinds of things. It's okay that you don't.'
If my deodorant isn't sitting on the counter, practically in front of my face, every morning, I can guarantee I will forget to put it on.
And I've been wearing deodorant for a lot longer than I've been feeding Emily.
Sometimes at night I'll wonder at a headache.
"Why does my head hurt so bad?" I'll moan out.
And I'll think about it and come to the same conclusion every time.
It's because I forgot to eat that day.
I forget to eat.
Every month like clockwork I'll be sitting somewhere balling my eyes out. (More than the normal balling my eyes out which happens a lot more than once a month...it's directly related to the number of times I've had to change clothes in a day because of that little love of mine.)
"What is the matter with me? Why am I such a mess?"
I can't tell you the number of times I've woken up to the sound of the garbage truck.
"For the love..." I'll think to myself. "I can't believe I forgot to take the trash out again."
Recently however, I've discovered that I actually have a garbage fairy.
And it seems that the garbage fairy knows when Jason is out of town.
Tonight it was midnight before I remembered that I needed to take the garbage out.
I walked outside and saw that someone had already taken my garbage to the curb.
And as I thought about it, I realized that my garbage was taken care of the last time Jason was gone, and the time before that as well.
So on the chance my garbage fairy reads this blog? (Because how else would the fairy know when Jason is gone...)
Your kindness makes my life easier, and I'm grateful.
When he was done, he rolled over and put his arms around me and whispered 'I'm sorry dear.'
* * * * *
I would like to say that I was okay after opening the wedding announcement.
Not for such a long time.
And it wasn't just that the boy I loved didn't choose me.
It was so much more than that.
The fragile trust I had gained in men shattered again, and I was left not having a clue how to pick up the pieces.
I built a wall so high and thick around my heart; I never wanted to go through pain like I had just experienced again.
I cried for weeks...for months probably...and lived my life in a daze.
Not only was I heart broken, but I had lost one of my dearest friends, and that homesick feeling that I described earlier, was stronger than ever.
I finished my under graduate degree and was trying to decide where to go next with my life.
I hadn't dated anyone but I was quite unapproachable.
I had guy friends but they were safe because I knew I wouldn't develop feelings for them.
It had been over a year since the boy I loved had gotten married, and I had decided that I wanted to serve a mission for my church.
I filled out all of the necessary paperwork, and waited for my assignment.
Six weeks before I was to leave for New York City, where I serve as a missionary, a guy from church asked me out.
We had been friends for a long time, and I liked him.
He was the first guy I had liked since 'the boy I loved.'
I agreed to go out with him and we had a great time.
We dated for a few weeks, and the more I saw him the more I liked him.
I knew that I was leaving for NYC though, and it made it easier to have fun with him without putting too much emotion into anything.
Dating him made me realize that I could possibly develop feelings for someone else, and I had hope.
Just two weeks before I was to leave for NYC I had a set back.
I ran into the parents of the boy I had loved.
The happiness I felt at seeing them (because I had truly loved them) was coupled with a recurring heartache as I listened to them tell me that the boy I had loved had a new little baby.
We talked for quite a while, and when they hugged me as they were leaving, the mom said, "my son will be so happy to know that we saw you and that you are doing so well with your life. He loved his association with you."
I drove to my mom's office, with tears streaming down my face, and I sat on the floor of her office and cried for an hour.
* * * * *
I know now that part of my pain came not because my relationship ended, but rather by how it ended.
I never had closure.
I never got to say goodbye.
I never got to say anything.
One day the boy I loved was part of my life, and the next he wasn't...and it took me years to get over that part of the hurt.
Sadly, the relationships that I invested the most emotion into all ended in a similar way.
* * * * *
I learned and grew and developed my best friendships while I was in NYC.
And at the end of my 18 months there, I knew I was a better person.
I came home and continued my education and eventually graduated from college.
In all of that time, I never had a serious relationship with anyone.
I developed crushes...I felt attraction...I had fun with guys...but the wall around my heart was still in place, and I was still afraid of being hurt.
One night I was talking with my dad and told him quite seriously, "Dad, I want to go to Mexico again. Can you make that happen?"
With what was probably a little bit of divine intervention, Dad did make it happen, and before too long we were on a plane going back to where it all started.
It was almost ten years to the day, from the time I first went to Mexico to that day our plane landed.
And I was hoping beyond all hope that the experience of this trip would finally fill the hole in my heart that had never healed.
Several weeks before the boy I loved came home I wrote this in my journal:
"In three weeks he comes home from his mission. In four weeks I will see him, after two years.
Everyone who knows, naturally assumes that I'm nervous, or that I'm scared.
Sure, I feel some nervousness, but that's not what I feel the most.
For the last two and a half years I have been waiting for this day, and the days that will follow.
Somehow my life will go in a new direction - whether with him or away from him.
I try not to think about the outcome of this whole situation, but it's really hard."
I hadn't purposely put my life on hold waiting for this boy.
I met other people and had a lot of experiences in the mean time, but nothing came close to the feelings I had for the boy I loved.
I saw him before he saw me. If I thought I had butterflies before...
I wasn't sure I was going to survive an actual conversation.
When he did see me, he didn't say anything other than my name before he hugged me.
And after that he blushed every time he talked to me.
I'm quite sure I did the same.
My family and I spent time with his family at their home, and to be honest, he spent more time talking with my mom than he did me.
His mom told my mom how much she and her husband loved me and how grateful they were that I was in their son's life.
His mom told me the same thing, and hugged me several times while we were at her home.
When we finally left, it was with the boy I loved hugging me again and telling me he would call me, and that he would be down to see me before he left for school, which was only a few short weeks away.
I cried during the hour drive home.
Two years of waiting had ended in a mostly awkward experience, and I was so disappointed.
I don't know what I had expected.
The boy I loved had just spent two years being told 'girls are OFF LIMITS' until you go back home.
He had even warned me in a letter; he didn't think he was going to react well to being back in the 'real world.'
My mom assured me that I needed to give him time, and space, and when he was ready he would call.
He did call, a couple of times, but it was always with a reason he wasn't going to be able to see me after all.
Every day someone would ask, "Did he call?" and I would always answer the same way.
In response they would say, "He will call. Just give him time to adjust."
After a few months I stopped jumping every time the phone rang.
I stopped looking for letters in the mailbox.
And I stopped saying his name out loud.
Unfortunately, my heart didn't stop aching.
I didn't stop loving him, and I didn't stop hoping that one day he really would call.
It was several months later that my sister picked me up from school.
"How was your day?" she asked.
I burst into tears and told her it had been the worst day of my life.
And I think it really had been.
For some reason, while I was sitting in an English class, I had a memory of something that had happened when I was young.
It was out of the blue, and it was something that, up to that point, I hadn't remembered.
And it wasn't pleasant.
My reaction to the memory was so strong it took my breath away, and I could barely see through my tears to finish taking the notes I needed.
For the next hour that scene replayed itself over and over again in my mind, and I felt like I was going to fall apart.
I have never been more grateful for the safety of a car and a loving face.
When I finally stopped crying I looked over at my sister and could tell that something was bothering her.
"What's wrong?" I asked her.
"It can wait," she said.
"Bec, I'm fine. Tell me what's wrong."
She didn't say anything, just handed me an envelope that was addressed to my parents.
My hands shook as I reached out to take the envelope.
I knew what it was.
And in that moment I wasn't sure my heart was ever going to recover.
Because there, smiling back at me, was a picture of the boy I loved with the girl he was going to marry.
We rode in the back of a cattle truck to get to the tiny village of Tlalcosteptl. I'm sure we were a sight: a group of 40+ North Americans hanging over the wooden sides of a cattle truck, riding through the crowded streets of Puebla, Mexico.
The village was nestled into the side of an extinct volcano called La Malinche. It was the home of 25 or 30 families; all from the Tlaxcalan Indian tribe. While the leaders of the tribe spoke Spanish, the majority of the villagers spoke in their native dialect: nahuatl.
At the base of the volcano was another town called San Miguel Canoa. We were asked to walk, not ride, through that town, and to keep our voices low and to stay together in the group. The people in the town were suspicious of 'white men' and only because they trusted our leader were we allowed to pass through in safety.
I learned later, from a woman who was considered the priestess of the village, that the Indians were guarding sacred records hidden somewhere in the volcano, and outsiders had been shot in the past for getting too close.
We all breathed a sigh of relief as we left Canoa and the air was once again filled with laughter and anticipation.
I have never in my life seen poverty as I saw it in the village of Tlalcosteptl.
Just 20 miles away, the city of Puebla was a thriving metropolis, and yet Tlalcosteptl had neither running water nor electricity.
The homes were made of dried corn stalks, and the people of the village made their living by farming.
As we unloaded our gear into the tiny schoolyard of the village, the villagers quietly left their homes and came to watch the spectacle that we were.
We pitched our tents, dug a hole that we built walls around with a tarp for our latrine, and spent the rest of the afternoon attempting communication with the children of the village.
We were there to work, but we were also there to be taught life changing lessons...we just didn't know it.
Just a few months prior to our group arriving, another group had been to the same village and started the construction of a two room schoolhouse.
Our project was to finish the school, and build a brick plaza in front of the school.
We worked hard every day, from early in the morning, until the sun went down at night.
The villagers worked alongside us, and we developed trust and friendships with people we couldn't even talk to.
Although the above picture doesn't show it, I was the happiest I think I had been my whole life in that village.
It was as if a part of my soul I didn't even know was missing, was found the minute that cattle truck dropped us off on the side of that volcano.
The reality I had known my whole life was entirely different than the reality these Indians knew, and it didn't take me very long to realize that perhaps their reality was the better one.
Children who had nothing were content and perfectly happy to play in the dirt.
Parents worked hard from sunup to sundown to eek out a living for their families.
The food these people had to eat came from the crops they grew.
And although they could stand at the edge of their home in the evening and look down and see the lights of the city of Puebla, they rarely found a reason to leave.
As a group, we became family.
We loved each other and became the best of friends.
And before too long, as will happen with any group of young people, crushes were developed.
Jeff loved Angie.
Becca loved Darren.
Camille loved Jared.
Taylor loved Camille.
Justin loved Ann from Connecticut.
Kristin loved everyone.
I loved someone too.
Someone with the most amazing blue eyes I had ever seen.