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Holding onto hope…

January 23rd, 2014 | Josie

Hope is that thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops… at all.  ~Emily Dickinson

This has always been on of my favorite lines of poetry, right up there with József Attila’s “My heart is perched on nothing’s branch” (I guess I have a thing for bird references). The latter I’ve turned to in times of sorrow and despair, when I felt like there was nowhere for my broken, battered heart to land. I’ve felt that way less and less often over the years, thanks in very large part, if not in total, to the beautiful love I’ve found and this happy marriage I never expected to find waiting for me. After all my yearning travels and self-destructive love affairs, who would have ever guessed I’d find all the happiness in the world waiting for me back at the start? It still boggles my mind that I had to go such a long way round to find this kind of love and happiness and peace, even years later, and I continue to be amazed. My heart is no longer listless, landless; I once thought there would never be a time when I wouldn’t be drifting, perched at the edge of nothing, and am so happy and grateful that I cannot imagine feeling that way, ever again.

If the words of a Hungarian poet with borderline personality disorder who died tragically young are the mantra of my soul when I am sorrowful and feeling broken, Dickinson’s words are the balm. Even though she herself was troubled by depression and sadness for much of her life, I’ve always found so much hope in this little line, so much possibility. When the storm is raging and I feel myself setting adrift, as I have so much in the last weeks, the idea of that a small piece of hope can cling to my soul and, almost relentlessly, refuse to stop singing against all odds, that tiny idea carries me through the worst of it. Even as I continue to struggle through this new hurdle to a healthy, happy baby, and as I worry about the stress and the anxiety and the medicine affecting him adversely, I can’t help but cling to that hope singing it’s wordless tune. I listen and in the melody find the strength I need, the faith I need to trust that at the end of this tunnel there is a light.

Max is my hope, my light, and each time I feel him kick and squirm away in my belly, I find the day a little brighter, find myself one day closer to holding him in my arms at last. He is the hope that is forever perched in my soul, guiding me through the nothing.

Fear of the fear

January 9th, 2014 | Josie

“To fear is one thing.  To let fear grab you by the tail and swing you around is another.”  ~Katherine Paterson

I’ve admittedly had a lot of anxiety in my life… it’s hard to worry as much as I do, about everything, and not let it get into your head. But somehow I’ve always managed to deal with it, to keep things under control and not let the worries and the fears overwhelm me. 3 weeks ago, that changed, and I hit a wall with a terrible, horrifying panic attack on a Wednesday evening. Hours of pacing and walking, unable to calm down, let to a midnight ER visit that lasted until 5:30 am. Another day of pacing and panicking, with only a 1 hour stretch of sleep in over 48, landed us back in the ER. It’s been 3 weeks, and we’ve been to the ER twice more, and I’ve had 3 doctor’s appointments in 6 days. “Acute Panic Disorder,” likely brought on by the pregnancy. Blood tests show that I’m severely anemic (why this wasn’t caught sooner, I’m not sure) and possibly slightly hyperthyroid, which can “cause mental changes.” I have a new OB, a sleep doctor, a psychiatrist, and a therapist, all working to help me get better and keep Max safe, but I feel so betrayed by my body. I’m so scared of having another panic attack that I spend all my days on edge, and almost talk myself into them. Working hard to stay calm, eat and drink enough, and to take care of my body so that it can be a safe place for Max to be. I’m so scared that this horrible thing I can’t control, that’s all in my head but that I’m not making up or imagining, will hurt this baby we’ve tried so hard and so long to protect. I don’t understand how I can do all the right things and still always end up at the short end of the stick. I feel so bad for Charlie, for my mom, both of whom have borne the brunt of my panic attacks, walking with me endlessly for hours… as many times as they ask me not to apologize, I can’t help feeling guilty that I’m stressing them out or keeping them awake. I feel like I am a burden on the ones I love most.

I’ve done a lot of praying. Actually, I’ve really done a lot of begging lately, to please feel ok, to please keep me and my baby safe and healthy, and to please let me weather this storm intact. I spend so much time scared now, I just want to go back to feeling like me, to be excited and happy and not sad and terrified all the time.


December 10th, 2013 | Josie

“Pregnancy is a process that invites you to surrender to the unseen force behind all life.”  ~Judy Ford

109 days. In just a little over 3 months, we get to meet our amazing little boy, this tiny human being that we fought so hard to make, so hard to keep safe, and I can still hardly believe it. Even as he stomps and rolls his way through my belly, making waves and wonder all the while, I still feel dumbstruck by the hugeness of it. We are going to be parents; the unexpected and oh-so-needed happiness I’ve found with Charlie, a happiness I didn’t even know I was looking for until it found me… in a short 109 days that happiness is going to take the shape of a baby boy, we’re going to give that happiness a name. It completely overwhelms me and fills me with such awe, I feel like I might break from joy.

2013 has been a rough year, one that has shaped our marriage, has shaped me, and one that has taught us so much. Just before we rang in the New Year, in the fading days of 2012, we found out we were pregnant. We hadn’t anticipated it happening so fast; in fact, with my health history, we were fully prepared for it to take a good long while, and had settled in to enjoy the process. When that little plus sign appeared, 2013 exploded into view with infinite possibilities. So much was going on all at once (new house, new studio, new baby!), and January flew by in a flash. Then we went for our first ultrasound, and as quickly and as unexpectedly as our miracle came into being, it was gone. The happiest 4 weeks we’d ever known came crashing to an abrupt and life-shattering halt: there was no heartbeat.

Even now, 10 months later, I still don’t have the words to explain our sadness. Our world, our faith in everything, had been rocked like it never had been before. Even when I nearly lost my life to a blood clot in 2010, I’d never felt so shattered. In some ways we were lucky; we got a diagnosis, a reason for our tragedy, which so many people never get. Our baby, tests revealed, suffered from triploidy, a genetic anomaly that caused her (yes, testing also showed that. It’s amazing what science can do, how much we can know and how little we can know at the same time) to have 69 chromosomes instead of the normal 46. It is “incompatible with life,” but even knowing that she couldn’t have survived didn’t dull the ache, the emptiness I felt. The doctors kept telling us that it was an accident of nature, that it was nothing we did or didn’t do, but I remember thinking that it was my fault. Not so much my fault as my body’s fault; for the second time in 3 years, my body had failed, had thrown me a curve ball, and I felt so betrayed.

The months that followed were some of the toughest on our marriage. I was lost, drifting in a sadness I couldn’t shake; I had completely lost hope. Charlie was a rock, weathering the blows as I railed against him and the universe as a whole, but even a rock will start to crumble under a constant onslaught. I was broken, and I didn’t know how to fix myself this time, and couldn’t let Charlie fix me. Still, we struggled through the storm and came out the other side whole as my heart began to mend. I still felt an emptiness inside that I knew would not be filled, but I was slowly able to feel something other than sadness or anger. Mostly though, I felt an overwhelming need to fill the hole in my heart, a need to have another baby to hope for and dream of. So we tried in earnest.

Trying to have a baby, really trying, with all the clinical timing and total loss of romance, is not a picnic. There is no “enjoying the ride” when you are all-consumed, when lovemaking becomes only about babymaking. Those months weren’t any easier on us, and looking back on them now I cringe a little, remembering what I put us through with my need. Every month I wasn’t pregnant I felt like  a failure, and my newly mending heart would break all over again. The monthly heartbreak only hardened my resolve though, and we were on to another month of endless testing and timing. Everyone kept saying to me, with all the best intentions, that it would happen when we relaxed. But I didn’t know how to relax, couldn’t un-know what I’d learned about my body, about conception. Every month I would try to let nature take it’s course, and every month I was equally obsessed. I heard all the stories of people who would take a break from trying only to fall pregnant, the anecdotes that it was the stress of trying itself that was keeping our miracle from happening, but I couldn’t de-stress my thoughts or my life. I was a ball of determination and stress, and it wasn’t going to go away until I had that positive test in my hands.

In the end, I never did end up slowing down. For us it wasn’t a matter of sitting back and letting nature take it’s course. Stress consumed me right up to the day I got that magic little second line. I was able to calm down for about 5 minutes, then the panic kicked in: what if it happened again? I was so nervous, so scared, that I missed out on a lot of the excitement I’d felt the first time around, when I’d been too naive to expect the worse. I was a nervous wreck, even as the tell-tale morning sickness kicked in, a supposed sign that things were going well. Seeing that little flickering heartbeat on the screen at 7 weeks eased my mind a lot, I was so happy. But still I knew that we weren’t out of the woods yet, and I worried.

Fast forward 4.5 months, and while I still find myself worrying probably more than is healthy, I made a conscious decision months ago to love this little baby with all my heart and to try not to worry about things that may never come to pass. Instead of filling up his world with fear and doubt, I’ve been making every effort to let him know that he is loved every second of the day. Admittedly, it is easier not to let my mind wander into the land of worry as often now that I can feel him move so much, that I get that regular reassurance that he is there, that he’s ok and alive. Still, it sometimes happens, and I find myself doubting, fearing for the worst. At these times, I have to surrender my fears, my doubts, myself even, and trust that everything will be fine, that in a few short months we’ll be holding this miracle child in our arms. It’s not easy, but every day it gets easier to trust in my body and myself and know that I can do this, that we can do this. To trust that in about 109 days, happiness will be named Max!

Tick-tock goes the clock…

April 26th, 2013 | Josie

“Sometimes I feel that life is passing me by, not slowly either, but with ropes of steam and spark-spattered wheels and a hoarse roar of power or terror.  It’s passing, yet I’m the one who’s doing all the moving.”  ~Martin Amis


I remember how slowly the clock used to tick, the minutes moving at a snails pace. From the time I was small, I was always looking to the next thing, the greater adventure just waiting for me to hurry up and embark, and I would impatiently watch the time trickle by in anticipation. Time was infinitely slow, an endless commodity, and there was always plenty of it to go around. Even at times that things seemed to speed up, times when I wanted to world to slow down to give me a few more precious seconds in a particular moment, I never felt like I was losing myself in its passing. I felt as if I had to find ways to fill the time with as much potential as I could cram in, until my life was bursting at the seams. Give me six months and I could visit four countries, make a fool of myself countless times, make ten new friends, and fall in love at least twice. I could fit more life into two years than some might expect to experience in fifty, and I definitely felt the emotional strain for compressing a lifetime into a moment. But I kept on going, because there was so much more to do and see and be.


My life has calmed down considerably in the past few years. I no longer feel the urge to burn the candle at both ends, to stuff experiences into my repertoire like a child hoarding candy. Now that I’m content to let life run its course, to stop forcing the issues at hand and just try to enjoy what time has in store,  now that I’m comfortable with its plodding passage, time seems to pass by faster than I can blink, and before I can think to enjoy a moment, it’s gone. I turn my head and a month has passed, or five, and I can’t remember what I did with that time or how it flew by so fast. I feel as if all the big things in life  are coming at me all at once. A new home, an exciting step.  A miracle made and lost. Sisters grown and growing every day. A new endeavor, with increasing responsibilities and opportunities. Another birthday come and gone. These things all whiz by with a whir and a flash, and I’m left confused as I try to keep up with a life that won’t slow down to meet me at my own pace. The girl who once begged the clock to tick faster, for more to fill the days and weeks, she is now scrambling for purchase in a life that is overflowing with possibilities and coming at the speed of light.

The life in your years…

March 20th, 2012 | Josie

“We turn not older with years, but newer every day.”~Emily Dickinson


My dad told me a story when I was young: when his own mother turned twenty-five, he bought her an old glass rose and gave it to her as a birthday present, because it was an antique, just  like her. Twenty-five sounded indescribably old when I was ten, so of course I saw the logic in his childish thinking. I distinctly remember at that age being unable to really envision myself beyond the year 2000, which at the time was only three years away. Later, at the oh-so-mature age of sixteen, I had trouble grasping life beyond high school outside of the fantastical idea that was “college,” impossibly distant for an angsty teen.  Even when I reached that echelon of adulthood that is college graduation, I really couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea of what came next. Sure I had plans, goals, dreams… but they were fuzzy hopes of what I thought the world could be, what I might be if I could just see the outlines a little more clearly.

Now that the monumental  day has come and gone, I have to admit that twenty-five is distinctly anti-climactic. Aside from a few grey hairs (that I think I’m still to young to actually have, despite my husband’s insistence that they exist or the proof I see in my own mirror), I don’t feel any different than I did a year ago, or even five. Now that I have reached the age that my father once called antique, I realize how young I truly am… I look at my sisters, 18 and 20, and think how young they are, even though I know they feel so mature. They have so much more living, so much more learning to do, and I do, too. I’ve learned so much in the past quarter of a century… I’ve loved and I’ve lost, I’ve been hurt and I’ve hurt others beyond imagining. I started the career of my dreams, only to find I loathed the work. I took a job I thought had no future, and have found my future in it after all. I’ve done all the right things and been in all the wrong places, just to find that everything I never knew I wanted was waiting for me where I least expected it. I married a wonderful man, and faced the trials of terrible and unexpected illness with him. I’ve defended my decision to marry young, and struggled with the desire for a family versus the comfort of financial stability. Charlie and I have fought and made up, been silly and cried (sometimes in the same breath), and oft times I still find myself amazed to wake up next to him every morning.  I feel as if I have grown into a woman so full of love and life I might burst, an amazing feat for a girl who once thought her heart broken beyond all repair.

Through it all, I’ve never lost those things that make me most essentially me: I still don’t believe in regretting my mistakes, and I still don’t sleep if I can help it. I throw myself into each new project fully, and cannot always find it in myself to finish everything I start. I try to find the good in people, though sometimes I struggle to be positive. I am my own worst critic, and often the worst enemy I have is myself. I approach love with caution, but don’t hesitate to show affection to those I do hold dear. Above all, I’ve learned to embrace my scars, to see beauty in my own imperfections, and to enjoy life for all of its infinite possibilities.


“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count… it’s the life in your years.” ~Abraham Lincoln