Tag Archives: joy

A Jessie-Spano-on-pills-style pregnancy.

I’ve been at such a loss for words. (You: But you always have words, way too many words…) I know, I know. The words are in my head… but they won’t move to my fingers and I can’t get them on the page. Blogging feels impossible. Because what do you write about when you just wrote the biggest thing you’ve ever written? Where do you even start?

And, more importantly, what if you have to take it back?

I don’t, thankfully. But I am so scared that I will. And that makes me scared to say anything at all. Lame. My husband is rather fond of saying, “like water off a duck’s back, babes…” He thinks it’s somehow not worth worrying about something you cannot control. Pppsshhh. I am so not a duck.

Yesterday, I came across a lovely description of my weirdness courtesy of Anne Lamott (living proof that The Hard can make you so so Good):

“My six-year-old associate, who sleeps down the hall about thirty feet away with both our doors wide open, wakes up on many mornings and predicts, ‘This might be the best day ever!’

Then, in the dead of night, a tiny voice calls out to me, ‘Nana, will you ever get sick or die?’ Then he cries at the very thought. He terrorizes himself.

I think this says it all.

If you are alive, conscious, and sensitive, which is to say, human, you’re going to have incredible joy and terror this side of eternity. It’s Life 101, life on life’s terms, not on ours, all these things – fear, joy, grace, mess, isolation, communion, all mixed up together.

I hate this more than I can say. I don’t like everything to touch.”

Mmmmm hmmmmm. (Nods enthusiastically.) Joy and terror, always touching. Like the world’s most poorly crafted dinner plate, everything leaking it’s juices all over everything else. Life. Ugh.

The only person who has ever said it better? Why, Bayside High’s own Jessie Spano of course — you know the very special episode. When poor, over-committed Jessie starts taking caffeine pills just to keep up with it all.


“I’m so excited! I’m so excited!! I’m so… scared!”

That is exactly it. I’m so dang excited I can barely stand it. But I’m SO SCARED. And as such, I’m trying way too hard to temper my excitement… just in cases (not a typo, watch Love Actually)… it’s no good.

Honestly, it’s no way to live. Yes, the bad, the worst, the unimaginable can happen. It has been happening for over three years. Month after month of disappointment, bad news, procedures and pills and injections without success. But in this moment, the good, the best, the unimaginable in a completely different way has happened. We’re pregnant. Pregnant!! And right now, we have a baby on the way. Incredible joy. Terror can always show up. But it’s not here now and worrying about it, collapsing into my real world Zack Morris, doesn’t help.

Fortunately, I ran back into the house on my way to work last Friday morning to puke up my breakfast. I had chalked everything else up to the progesterone injections (seriously guys, my backside is like swiss cheese — injections every day until 9/23) or elaborate psychosomatic responses to knowing/thinking I was pregnant (my brain can be such a powerful little beast), but you can’t just imagine puking. That’s real! I’d been feeling so good that I’d even peed on another stupid stick (positive!) last Monday. Kind of pathetic.

It’s just… the FEAR. I can’t escape it! I honestly don’t know how and I feel like I’m skipping from rock to rock across a 40 week wide river at the moment, desperately hoping I make it to the other side. Always looking ahead to the next rock, barely believing I made it across the last. Blood HCG to peeing on a stick to puking in a toilet bowl and ultrasound on Thursday. At some point I’ll have to stop, or I really will end up like poor, stressed out Jessie Spano. I’m just no good at being a duck.

It’s funny because I thought that when the IVF was over, we’d have an answer and I’d feel resolved in some way. But I don’t. Not at all. Excited and happy, of course, but definitely not resolved. And what I probably need most of all is to circle back to that lovely prayer of relinquishment — the one that, with both hope and gratitude, accepts what is to be. Or, as Hagrid says, “What’s comin’ will come, an’ we’ll meet it when it does.” (I just finished The Goblet of Fire last week. Oh my goodness. Onto the Order of the Phoenix — no fake book interlude this time, just straight through the magical goodness.)

Because why shouldn’t Harry Potter be part of my spiritual solution? (Which reminds me to say that dang, Hermione’s hair is so much better in the books than in the movies. I mean, lots of love to the brilliant Emma Watson, but her hair really should have been a lot bushier in the movies, don’t you think? Perhaps I’ll spend some time worrying about that instead for a bit.)

X is for the xylophone I almost stole…

… and I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you pesky kids!

(Scooby Doo? Am I the only fan? Ruh roh…)

But seriously, I almost stole a xylophone from Lincoln High School in Ypsilanti, MI.

(And good thing, too, because I don’t know where I’d go with the letter X otherwise.)

Thankfully, we’ve just recently passed the statute of limitations on xylophone-related crimes and I can no longer be prosecuted… so it’s finally safe for me to share this story with you.

Band, and particularly marching band, is a super big deal in high school… if you’re in it.

Nerd alert, right?

Except it doesn’t matter because if you’re in the band, particularly the marching band, you’re too busy learning music and having a blast to care whether it makes you uncool or not.

Which is why that band camp line in American Pie is so universally funny to everyone. If you weren’t ever in band, you probably think they’re making fun of band nerds. But what you don’t realize is– we’re totally in the joke. Because band… well, band is like that. It’s insane. There’s long hours, physical activity, forced closeness, long periods of inactivity, huge commitments, ridiculous uniforms, so many things that make it so unique. And when you’re in it, you know you’re a dork, but you don’t even care. Because band is freaking FUN. Hard, yes. Intense, of course. But so much fun. So bonding. So cool to be a part of.

So that xylophone…

I told you how I was in the drumline, but drums were mainly my thing during the marching season… and only because we didn’t march with any keyed instruments and I liked the snare. It was fun to be part of the group that kept the rhythm– the cadences, the roll offs, the taps after the whistles. But during the concert season, I was dedicated primarily to keyed instruments… bells, chimes, marimba, vibraphone, xylophone. And oh man, I loved, loved, loved playing the xylophone.

NOT the almost stolen xylophone-- this was the completely intact one.
NOT the almost stolen xylophone– this was the completely intact one.

(I also loved playing the beaded gourd, but sadly… only got to do it once during a performance. Perhaps in another life.)

At good old LHS, we actually had two xylophones (perks of having a percussionist as a band director, our section of very expensive, school-owned instruments was quite well-stocked)… one was in need of repair, but was great for practicing. It just had a broken string on the bottom that made some of the keys sound kind of dead, but otherwise completely intact.

Between my junior and senior year, the band director I’d come to know and love/hate (because that’s another thing about band– the director is like a parent and sometimes they throw tantrums and sometimes you do, but at the end of the day, you love each other, so it’s all good) offered to let me take home that busted xylophone for practicing… except he made absolutely no note of it for the incoming director. No one, except the people I chose to tell (you know, other band nerds who would be excited that I had a xylophone in my basement) knew anything about it. It was wonderful!

I kept it all year, no one ever the wiser. I practiced and practiced and practiced on it– particularly Sabre Dance, because it was fast and exciting and made me feel awesome when I played it. (Ugh, my poor parents!)

Until the day after I graduated from high school, when another kid from the percussion section showed up at my house to pick it up. I don’t know how he knew… I guess I must have said something, or maybe I said something to the new director out of guilt? I don’t know. But he came and got it and I was so sad that I got busted. Because that xylophone was sweet.

The other thing that was sweet? Being in the band.

Although I haven’t played a single note on anything other than a table top or a steering wheel since 2001, I still feel like music and being part of the music is a huge part of me. I hum Honor’s Band songs I haven’t heard since 2000 while I’m washing dishes. I play the cymbal part to Stars and Stripes Forever with my bare hands.

I loooove marches. (So does my two month old niece, Claire— it’s spectacular!)

I am a band nerd, through and through. I even almost stole a xylophone.

Maybe I’d still be a musical type person if I actually had.

Regardless, the band was a big part of my life and I will forever love all those people who experienced it with me (Kelly! Christin! Laura! Emily! Other Emily! Tammy! Kacey! Dolly! Alex! Stevie-D! yes, even Evan a little bit! and so on and so forth! you know who you are!). I told you about Tim Haight and making assumptions before… but that was just the tip of the iceberg. I have a million and one stories and even more lessons, but the biggest one is this: cool doesn’t matter. Not nearly as much as you might think. What really matters is what you enjoy. If you enjoy doing the “cool” things, more power to you, but if what you enjoy is anything else– do it anyway!

Turns out: cool, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

Understanding that at the age of 15 is a challenge, yes. But when you’re in the band, your peers are in the same boat and at band camp (it’s a very real thing), during sectionals, while marching on the football field or along a parade route, on a long bus ride to band festival, you are cool, because you’re part of something big and fun and empowering and musical.

I imagine any group activity you really enjoy is like that, whether it’s a sport or drama or the school newspaper or yearbook or television station or whatever. These days, for me, it’s blogging (which is surprisingly communal) and book clubs and loving dogs and doing “homely” things that give me that community. That empowerment. That joy. And at 30 years old, it’s a lot easier to not worry about what other people think is cool.

Especially now that I can no longer be held responsible for any xylophone-related crimes. Whew.

Advent for Thirty: Joy!

I wasn’t really sure what to write about joy. But I got home from work one day last week and had a package waiting for me on the counter. It came all the way from Alaska and this is what was inside:

Treat yo self! In cross stitch! omg!!
Treat yo self! In cross stitch! omg!!

My friend Aimee (yes, that Aimee!) sent me a treat yo self cross stitch! I’m so in love with it! It’s just genius! And it brought me a ridiculous amount of joy! Such an awesome and unexpected surprise!

I sent my sister a picture right away (she was super impressed and super jealous, as anticipated) and then set about deciding where to hang it. I wanted to see it pretty much all the time and to be awake while near it… so I settled on my office. Right by my monitor.

I hung it there. It made me smile– and does so again every time I look at it. And then I realized, in my office, I’ve surrounded myself with little items that bring me joy!

Surrounded by joy... in my office!
Surrounded by joy… in my office!

You can see my treat yo self cross stitch to the left of my monitor. Above that is a line from the Mumford and Sons song Roll Away your stone about grace. The best picture ever of my niece and my puppy makes up the background of my desktop. Other family photos (including one of four generations including me, my mom, my grandma, and my great-grandma) are above. To the right is the super clever science clock my brother made me when he was in high school… apparently my sister picked up on my love of science at some point too and the stuff gonococcus (the bacteria that causes gonorrhea– do STDs bring me joy? Yeah, little bit…) on the left is from her. I’ve also got a Michigan Tech husky pup and lots and lots of pictures from the UP (also taken by Aimee). What you can’t see are all the other microbiology and squirrel jokes I’ve got tacked up, the hand drawn pictures made by another Aimie’s kids, the framed fall leaves from my grandma’s house, or the quilted pine tree with an inspirational message sewn on the back (I can’t even talk about it– it makes me cry every time) that my friend Jess’s mom made for me that hangs by the door.

(I’m suddenly noticing a severe lack of dinosaurs and Harry Potter… will have to do something about that.)

Work can, of course, be tough at times. But the environment I have created for myself is one that is jam packed with joy. And when I thought about that, the more I realized that my house is the same way. So many reminders of the things that bring me joy in my life!

Things like my family. All of it!

The whole big Vonck-Stankowski-Drengler-Krueger-Space clan!
The whole big Vonck-Stankowski-Drengler-Krueger-Space clan!

There has been no greater joy in my life thus far than the day I married Seth and got to celebrate with all of our family and friends! All in one place! So much happiness! It was perfection!

And books, so very, very many books. I love books and they are everywhere in my house.

So many books... in so many places...
So many books… in so many places…

Apparently, some things never change. When I was really little, I didn’t sleep with a stuffed animal or a blankie– I slept with a book under my arm. For me, reading books is a huge source of joy!

And of course, these two, they bring me joy every single day!

My snugglers!
My snugglers!

The way my husband and my pup snuggle just kills me– it’s the sweetest!!

And there are a million other little things that bring me joy…beautiful dishes (especially Polish pottery), when it snows so lightly that you can see each individual flake perfectly formed on your mitten or your windshield, when my puppy tries to catch leaves in her mouth, connecting with other Michigan Tech grads, tinsel, making someone else laugh, and I could go on and on of course, because the list of things that bring you joy should be a long one!

Despite my long list, there are definitely times when I simply cannot find joy… in anything. In fact, it happened most recently at the end of September– we talked about that here. Intellectually, I know that there are a lot of things that should and usually do bring me joy. But I’m not always capable of feeling it.

I am doing well right now as I approach 30. Joy comes easily and I’m feeling pretty good. But I can hear the voice of depression inside me. It’s suggesting we perhaps try to go drug-free… which at this point in my life I know is as ridiculous as a type 1 diabetic listening to their pancreas tell them that they need to go without insulin. Nice try, brain. It’s just not going to work for me.

I was trained in chemistry, then in microbiology, and now I work in medicine. I know better than to think I can outsmart my brain chemistry… and yet those insidious thoughts sneak in, hell bent on robbing me of my joy. But at 30, I’ve finally learned that I cannot let that happen– because what’s life without joy?!

Thanks to Advent for Thirty for convincing me to reflect on that! Advent for the win!!

A new and personal kind of advent… or here comes 30.

According to Wikipedia (omg, a venue in which I can legitimately cite Wikipedia! hold on for a second while I savor this moment……….. consider it savored!), advent is “a season observed in many Western churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.” Clearly, Wikipedia knows what’s up!

I’ve always liked advent, probably because of the candles, but have really latched on to it with greater fervor in the last year or two. Apparently, someone picked up on that because the day after I frantically scoured all of Marshfield looking for 3 purple candles and a pink one, my mother- and father-in-law dropped off a beautiful advent wreath as an early Christmas gift. (How did they know?! Seth swears he didn’t tell them…) Since I absolutely couldn’t stand the thought of candles that didn’t match, I had settled on four white, vanilla-scented glass votives clustered around a poinsettia. The advent wreath my in-laws gifted to me was much more beautiful and included its own little Nativity scene. I’m in love with it.

Advent Wreath

I have to be perfectly honest with you, I didn’t actually get to light all of the candles, and certainly not at the appropriate time. It just didn’t feel right to leave my kennel-bound puppy in the other room while we had a nice candlelit dinner (and she cannot be on linoleum right now without doing the whole Bambi-on-ice thing) so we mostly ate near the kennel as we waited for a miracle for the knee-that-simply-will-not-heal.


Even though I didn’t get to light all the candles in my own home, I was still able to reflect on what they mean and how important those things are to this beautiful season.





And lastly, on Christmas day, the Jesus candle, which is in my mind all of those things (hope, peace, joy, and love) wrapped into one.

I had a truly lovely Christmas, enjoying a brief time (marked by an unfortunate ice storm) at my parents’ house in Michigan and a day of gifts and food and warmth at my in-laws in Mosinee. But with Christmas come and gone, my thoughts, as usual, turn to my birthday, which is coming up mid-January.

On January 14th, I will turn 30. And I’ve had lots and lots of feelings about that number, which I plan to discuss later. Thirty feels like it should be something of a big deal. True, there are no new privileges connected to it, like a driver’s license or the ability to rent a car, no major milestones, like your sweet 16 or “adulthood” at 18. (Perhaps you reached the maturity of adulthood at the age of 18; I personally did not. Hence, the quotation marks.) So I’m going to have to do something else to make it a big deal– to reflect on those years between 1984 and 2014 and to decide how I want to enter this new phase of my life.

To use the exact advent imagery might be blasphemous or heretical or something like that (though that’s certainly not the intent). So I think I’ll write some blog posts instead.

This week, I will write about my hopes for 30.

During the week of December 29th, I will write about making peace with 30 and finding joy at 30.

During the week of January 6th, I will write about love at 30 and I will highlight 30 years of silver linings in my life.

And finally, on Tuesday, January 14th, I will welcome 30 with all of the hope, peace, joy, and love it deserves!


And cake.

Because I love cake.

And I can’t imagine that 30 is going to change that.