Monthly Archives: October 2015

A deeper understanding of the tapestry. Because: Always.

Yesterday was a hard day. In the same way that every day has been a hard day, but a little bit worse. I had a big work deadline during the day and a remembrance service for the baby in the evening. Work was stressful, I got home late, Curly couldn’t even be bothered to say hello when I got home (oh that moody pup can cut me!), and the remembrance ceremony was more than just hard — it was disappointing and untouching and all it did was make me cry more tears without any of the healing I had hoped for.


I’m sure it wasn’t the service, I’m sure it was me. I’m sure it was the bitter shell that’s building up around the outside of my tender heart. There were so many families there. Families with kids. And I wasn’t prepared for that. I expected a room full of other sad women and while it probably was actually a room full of sad women on some level, my eyes could only see something that made me feel jealous and angsty and ungrateful. I felt ugly from the inside out.

But before that, between my bummer of a non-greeting from Curls and the short drive to the hospital chapel for the service, I opened some mail and sat down to the table for a quick bowl of chili and walked through the park with my pup on a leash. Though hurried, I felt like I had a couple moments of clarity where some big stuff started to coalesce…

We’d been gone for a week with the mail on hold and Monday was a federal holiday, so the stack that arrived on Tuesday was kind of enormous. I studiously ignored the multiple insurance EOBs (people talk about children being expensive — non-children are too and it hurts quite a bit to open those up and see the bill for a broken heart continue to grow and grow) and other bits of business-y junk and not junk, but kept aside a letter that made a rattling sound from my friend Adriane and a heavy envelope from my Auntie Pam.

For a second I thought that maybe Adriane, realizing my appreciation for the dramatic, love of all things microbiology, and need for rest (maybe in a coma), might have sent me some anthrax spores and a guaranteed trip to an isolation suite in a hospital in Minneapolis near her where she would be my only visitor. She’s tiny and adorable and would be really hilarious to the out-of-body-coma-me seeing her in a big biohazard suit. It was such a good idea, but I was disappointed on the spores end. What Adriane had actually sent was a really, really beautiful note and an incredibly thoughtful gift of forget-me-not seeds. Forget-me-nots. Because she knows I’ll want to remember.

My Auntie Pam (the reason I’ll always insist on being an auntie and never an aunt) also sent a beautiful note and gift of remembrance — an angel ornament for our Christmas tree. But she also sent me two ridiculously exciting and probably haunted books she picked up at a little used bookstore across the street from the super-haunted Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, located very near to my best cousin and his best wife’s house. (To be clear, Mike only has one wife, I don’t mean to imply that there are multiple and that Christina is the best — she just earned the title of “best” when she married my best cousin.) She had thought of me, really me and my gone forever baby and the things I love, even while she was there visiting her own newest (and probably best (see above)) grandbaby. More tears.

After I opened the mail, I sat down to my finally-cool-enough-to-touch chili and re-read the words of Shauna Niequist about grace that I had already read once in the morning. I started reading Savor again on Monday morning. I had put Shauna away for a while, unable to bare her musings that sometimes (often) include family and motherhood in a way that I just couldn’t hear for a minute. But Monday and Tuesday were both about grace and powerfully so.

Shauna on Grace

I re-read those passages and looked up from my bowl. My eyes and my mind flashed around the kitchen at the clutter on the counter top and table that I had been (jerkily, ungratefully, offensively… but probably somehow protectively) referring to as “pity presents” and they suddenly weren’t that any more. They were, all of them, tangible reminders of so much love.

Flowers from Lara

I finished my chili and picked up Curly’s leash for a quick walk through the park. My mind turning over and over and over in the cool air. Pieces clicking together even as I bent over to bag up dog poop (because I’m a super responsible pet owner, even when distracted) and threw it away.

I was mad at God and the words “God has a plan,” the words I’ve heard so many times since the middle of September, felt like acid crawling through my insides. Because if God has a plan and his plan includes infertility, the months and years of waiting for nothing, then God is kind of an a-hole. And if God has a plan, and his plan is to take my baby, to prevent me from being a mother, to punish me or to hurt me or to cause me pain, then God is a jerk and I hate him. But that didn’t really fit for me because if God stops the hearts of babies, then God must also be responsible for whipping up the atmosphere into the frenzy of tornadoes and hurricanes. God must also slam tectonic plates together in a way that causes earthquakes and tsunamis. God’s blueprints must include untold levels of death and destruction. I don’t think I believe in that God.

Instead, deep down, I still really, really wanted to believe what I’ve said so many times. That God is good. Always. No matter what. And to believe that, I have to believe that God is love and only love.

And, bag of poop in hand, I realized I do believe that. Always. Because in addition to God, I also believe soundly in biology and physics. Meteorology and plate tectonics. Love doesn’t change biology, it can’t stop gravity from happening. Love can’t seed a rain cloud or move the winds. Love can’t shift the earth’s crust, make mountains or waves. But love can and does, as I have soundly witnessed, stir people’s hearts to do amazing things in the wake of unpleasant biology, physics, meteorology, plate tectonics, or any other unchangable earth-fact.

Love sends words and notes and gifts of comfort and remembrance (i.e. not pity presents and I’m sorry for ever even thinking it). Love is the reason anyone ever healed or rebuilt, from the (universally speaking) small miscarriage to the large floods of New Orleans and earthquakes of Nepal. When these things that cannot be helped, by God or anyone else, happen, when our lives are shattered, God is love and love is there to help us pick up the pieces, to inspire others to grace and compassion and goodness in ways that were unknown before the break.

And I hate that and love that for the same reason that Shauna Niequist wrote about yesterday, October 13th, when she said:

“I don’t really want to need grace… I prefer to believe instead that the math works: there are good things about me, but they’ve checked the math and because I’m funny enough, they can let go of how terrible I look most days, or if I’m interesting enough, the fact that my house is dirty isn’t such a big deal. But that kind of math is specifically anti-grace. Grace isn’t about netting out on the right side of things.

If arithmetic is numbers, and if algebra is numbers and letters, then grace is numbers, letters, sounds, and tears, feelings and dreams. Grace is smashing the calculator, and using all the broken buttons and pieces to make a mosaic.”

It doesn’t have to make sense or to work out mathematically. Which is what I’ve been trying to do. To account for the heartbreak of infertility and miscarriage as something deserved and the kindness of others that, since not earned, must be pity. The God I believe in, the love he is and inspires, the grace, compassion, goodness, and even grief, that necessarily follows, just doesn’t work that way.

So what about Under the Tapestry? My whole premise — the idea that God is weaving a design that, no matter what it looks like from down here, is really, really beautiful “up” there. From the other side, whatever that might mean.

Well. Apparently in August of 2013, I had an idea, and it was a good one, but even I didn’t completely understand my own words — the bedrock on which I based all the rest.

I still believe that God is the weaver. But what this experience has taught me is that he is not the spinner too. Life produces threads, sometimes we color them ourselves — sometimes we do even more than just color them. Sometimes we shear the sheep, clean the wool, card, spin, and dye it all ourselves before we hand it over to the weaver. Sometimes life does it for us — biology, meteorology, physics, time. God just (not really just, but I think you know what I mean) incorporates those strands into our tapestry. Weaving them all together with the love that he is, into the design we cannot know on this side of eternity. A love so big and broad that it spreads out to all the people in a way that seems huge, but is really only a tiny glimpse.

Love begets compassion and kindness. Love begets grace and forgiveness. Love even begets grief and hurt. All those things stem from love and God is love. Love. Not a genie, puppeteer, or master of the physical universe. Not an architect, blueprint in hand. Not in my mind, anyway. He can work on our hearts, souls, and minds… but not physically. I really don’t believe that that’s how it works.


As hard as it is for me to wrap my mind around the above, it’s even harder to write about. Honestly, and not humbly, it takes some courage to put my thoughts about something as big and contentious as the idea of God out in space knowing that someone could hate it; will hate it. Especially when my thoughts aren’t exactly reverent (e.g., “then God is a jerk and I hate him”). While I was in Hawaii, though, my friend Dawn (bringer of light — her name is perfection) demanded I listen to a podcast (my first ever, truth be told, which is surprising for an Audible fan like myself, don’t you think?). Dawn has often sent me inspiring and powerful and thought provoking things to read and I’ve never been disappointed, but she has never ever demanded anything. And this time she demanded, so I listened. The voice on the line (Thomas Keller — here) was talking about how when we express our emotions and our questions, even the angry and fearful ones, it’s a prayer. A prayer for understanding, acceptance, peace, grace. Considering my general opinion of myself as an absolute crap do-er of prayer, this was music to my ears. I may not be good at on-the-spot holy father thou arts and such, but confused, out loud emoting is definitely my kind of thing. So let’s chalk this up to a prayer of that type. I’m confused and I’m hurting and I need desperately to better understand God in a way that brings me comfort rather than anger, because I don’t think anger is the point. And it’s certainly not a healthy place to stay. I wish mightily to be a person who is comforted by a well-timed bible verse or a phrase like “God has a plan,” but I’m not. I don’t find a lot of meaning in platitudes, no matter how true, probably for the same reason I don’t like small talk. It has to be deeper for me. Nearly 2000 words deeper plus 217 other posts, I guess, all to get to the place where I started:

The dark threads are as needful

In the weavers skillful hand

As the threads of gold and silver

In the pattern he has planned

So I guess God is good. Always. Even still. Because how can love ever be bad in a world that can be so hard?

Diamondhead View

The things you don’t see on Facebook…

As I write this, I’m sitting on the chaise end of an enormous comfy couch located in a gorgeous penthouse suite at the tippy top of the Hilton Hawaiian Village Lagoon Tower in Honolulu, Hawaii. I have a view of Diamondhead Crater and Waikiki Beach through the gauzy balcony curtains. This moment is 100% Facebook-able. Not unlike the large number of other Facebook-able and Instagram-worthy moments I’ve posted since departing the chilly Wisconsin fall in favor of the sandy beaches, aqua ocean, and tropical climes of Oahu early Saturday morning.

intro pic

I posted about the upgrade to first class on the 6+ hour flight en route from Salt Lake City to Honolulu that Seth gifted to me and the mai tai I was offered the second I sat down. It was super sweet of Seth and definitely a cush way to travel, I think I captured that… but I didn’t describe the anxiety the began to plague me the second we left our house on Friday evening. I didn’t describe the panic it turned into before we boarded that plane in SLC. The heartbeat that wouldn’t slow down, the breaths that became increasingly difficult to take, the feeling that something was stuck in my throat and sitting on my chest, the tears that wouldn’t stop coming, over and over again for almost the entire 6+ hours.

This is what anxiety looks like. (On me, in that particular moment.) Not exactly a new profile picture.
This is what anxiety looks like. (On me, in that particular moment.) Not exactly a new profile picture.

We met our friends in the airport — I quickly confessed my unwavering anxiety to Melissa and she rapidly and genuinely assured me that she loves me no matter what. I believed her. Mostly. But not entirely, because anxiety…

But then again, gratitude, you know? And this place, this vacation, these friends — so much gratitude. And we were in Hawaii, and I was wearing a beautiful lei, and I posted a (tired) selfie with the words “Aloha!” and a smattering of super fitting emoji. I posted a snapshot of our view and showed everyone the perfection that surrounded me. And it was good.


Chris came to join us from his hustle bustle, fancy wedding-in-the-mountains lifestyle on Sunday afternoon and he made dinner plans for us at Roy’s Waikiki. (Have you been there? This sentence, how is this my life?) As we piled into the car and headed down the beach, I felt the panic rise again. There were tears burning the back of my eyes and a tightness in my chest I couldn’t swallow away. There was no reason, yet over pre-dinner drinks Halekulani, Seth put a hand on my back and asked me if I was ok and I lost it. Lost it and couldn’t get it back. There was this picture that Chris took, and it’s nice. But I can see the white knuckle grip my fingers have on my own arms, the strained smile, the panic…


Dinner was lovely. I had a perfectly cooked local butterfish in a deliciously complex orange sauce followed by a few bites of chocolate souffle perfection for dessert. That’s all Facebook-worthy, Twitter-perfect… but the moments in the fancy bathroom spent messaging my mental illness guru (<3 <3 <3) and fighting tears and the constriction in my chest at the table… not those. Those (plus Seth’s, shall we say, insistent urging) were enough to convince me to message my psychiatric nurse practitioner about perhaps calling something in for me — a temporary solution to get me through the flights home before I get back to Wisconsin and into the clinic.

I was so hesitant to take the drugs. Depression is my thing. Not anxiety. This is not me. Was not me? And the Hawaiian restrictions on prescriptions for anxiolytic drugs that wouldn’t allow the local pharmacy to fill the Rx faxed in by my provider (I get it though, Hawaii, I really do — and I’m totally not upset) and the necessity to seek out a walk-in clinic and explain my situation all over again nearly did me in. Fortunately, my sweet husband and amazing friends didn’t give up on me and, with their encouragement, I did what I needed to do to get some help. I went to some weird places and walked some strange roads through Honolulu on Tuesday, but met the “helpers” that Mr. Rogers (the elderly, sweater-wearing, shoe-changing variety) tells us about and got the help that I needed for now.

It was on Monday, as I pondered the absolute absurdity of my goings-on that I thought about all that I was showing and all that I wasn’t and how utterly ridiculous it is for me to know with absolute certainty that that is true about myself, but to constantly and consistently doubt the same must-be-fact about others. We don’t post selfies in the lobby of the Japanese-only (except apparently not because they treated me) walk-in clinic we stumble into while in Hawaii. We don’t become facebook friends with the also Japanese MA who hugged me when I told her I had a miscarriage a few weeks ago and then told me about her own journey through IVF with no success; the woman with whom I shared a surprisingly sweet moment of sadness and mutual understanding. We don’t chat about the kind Walgreens clerk who explained Hawaiian prescription laws and then discussed our mutual love of the Packers and cheese with me while waiting for my sketchy almost-in-Japanese-but-from-a-Hawaii-licensed-prescriber prescription for valium to be filled. Nope. We post the leis and the luaus and the sunset and the smiles. Because those are the things that belong on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and whatever the kids are using these days.

But then again… Tuesday night happened too. And while some of it made it to Facebook, the most amazing bits are relegated forever to my memory because, well:

black sky

iPhones, at least in my hands, don’t take pictures of stars. Facebook can’t really capture the beauty of Melissa’s face when she looked up and nearly screamed, completely giddy from altitude and excitement, “is that THE MILK from the Milky Way?!! Am I seeing the milk???” You guys… it was the milk. The faint light of millions and billions of stars in our beautiful and enormous and amazing and mind boggling galaxy. The milk.

But not just that. It was the whole trip. The warm sun and strong breeze on the ground in Kona while we ate lunch overlooking a little harbor. The stop at the little abandoned sheep station for dinner on our way up. The stars, the stars, the stars. I saw Cassiopeia and followed her arrow to the north star. We saw a dusty little nebula, a star cluster that might as well have been fluorescently stained cells in a dish (the feeling that I had seen that before, wow), and even a glimmer of the “nearby” spiral andromeda galaxy.

The next day, we came back to Oahu early and then headed to the Polynesian Cultural Center as Super Ambassadors where our sweet guide Danica took us from island to island where we heard music and helped to make it, watched beautiful dances and shook our hips as best we could when they taught us how. The Maori gave me goosebumps, the Samoans made me laugh hysterically, and the Ha Breath of Life show brought tears to my eyes in a truly good way.

music in fiji

I took pictures in all those places, at all those times. Facebook-worthy, Instagram-perfect pictures — but there’s no way to capture it all. I can show you the pictures, but I can’t show you the best parts. I can’t describe to you how beautiful my friend was when she saw that milk, how happy my husband was to have finally made it to the top of Mauna Kea. There’s no way to adequately explain the feelings, the real meat of the experience.

And that’s really my point I think. I can post things about my miscarriage, my grief over the loss of our first baby, and the consequent (I think) anxiety and panic I’m experiencing. But even if you know, even if you have experienced it yourself, you haven’t had my experience and I haven’t had yours, so there’s a whole depth there, beyond social media and even the words, words, words I share here, that we really can’t cross. Similarly, you have had beautiful experiences — weddings days and amazing vacations, deep and important friendships and tiny perfect moments — and so have I, but again, there’s a depth of experience that make these things so personal, so uniquely our own, that no amount of photo sharing or photo shopping can ever really capture or convey what it meant to be there, to have lived it.

But it can give us a clue — a clue that something is worth digging in over. Several years ago, when a friend of mind posted something hinting at depression, I messaged her. And a couple days ago, when I found myself in that fancy bathroom, we had another nuanced and deep conversation, despite the panic, that was exactly what I needed in that moment. Similarly, Aunt Becky, PhD, saw our pictures of the sunset from Mauna Kea on the Big Island and was reminded of her own sunrise trip to the top of Maui’s Haleakala and shared her own beautiful photos, reminders of another beautiful experience, with me.

Life is so complicated and messy, yet it sets up up for so many moments that are beautiful beyond words. Sometimes we manage to capture some of that beauty and little snapshots of frustration or grief. It’s not the whole truth, though. It can’t be. We can only live what’s real and show the highlight reel. There’s no other way to go about it. And, for me, it’s so important to remember that the beautiful, picture perfect moments are only a very small fraction of the story, but that all of the experience matters.


On Monday night I was in a complete state (as I imagine a genteel southern woman would delicately call the messy ball of anxiety I had become). I went up to our room, took a sleeping pill, and came back down to say goodnight. But my sweet friend Melissa saved me from myself. We went out onto that beautiful penthouse balcony and I sobbed about my miscarriage, the struggle with infertility, the unfairness of it all… the pain, the grief, the self-pity. I unloaded it all. It was not pretty. And then I couldn’t stop apologizing because one of my biggest fears before we left was being the ruiner of vacation — I couldn’t bare the thought of ruining this beautiful trip for people I love so much. Instead, my friend said to me, with the most Melissa-y quiet confidence the likes of which I have never seen in another person, that she was sure we would look back on this trip someday and be grateful for this moment. This moment that felt so ugly and pathetic, yet truly was deepening and strengthening for our friendship. She talked about how well we’ve walked together through the highest of highs (our vacation dossier is ridiculous) and how this was truly our first opportunity to run our friendship through the lowest of lows. She’s right, of course. And those are the things you would never see on Facebook.