Rise To The Top

Listen up! I made bread. I am so proud of myself. In the event of the apocalypse, I feel totally prepared.

Grow food ✔️

Raise chickens ✔️

Goats (soon to be in milk) ✔️

Make Bread ✔️✔️✔️

How is this my life? Knock me over with a feather…

So here’s my experiment into bread: I LOVE Olga’s restaurants. The bread, the almond Swiss butter, the zucchini fries, the gyro meat, the peasant soup, all of it! I went on a hunt for the almond Swiss butter spread in stores and found a recipe instead…and went way down the rabbit hole. I found a recipe for their bread too. The kids and I had recently worked into no yeast breads like dessert breads and zucchini, But we’ve never had to actually knead or prove. I asked the kids to help me but they ignored me and trashed the living room instead. Here’s our recipe:

1 cup of milk

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup margarine

1 tsp salt

2 1/4 tsp (1 package) active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water

1 tsp Sugar

4 cups flour, divided

1 egg

Looking at this recipe I know now I totally forgot the salt 😂

So I started with scalding the milk. I didn’t know what that meant so I hit the google machine and it means warm up until almost a boil but not a boil…there I saved you some time looking that up too. So in a small sauce pan I warmed the milk to a frothy simmer but shut it off before it boiled. I transferred it to a big mix bowl and added the margarine, sliced up to melt faster, and the honey. Set aside.

In a small separate bowl, pour in some warm water, the package of yeast, and the teaspoon of sugar. Apparently sugar is what feeds the yeast and activates it and makes it grow. This immediately made me think of Men in Black and I’m now convinced yeast is an alien that thrives in sugar water. Not regular water, er tap water, er lemonade… Mix gently just until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside. It will get frothy and thicker, and weird looking quite honestly.

Head back over to that milk bowl, add 1 1/2 cups of the flour and mix well. Add one egg and mix some more. I’m guessing some salt goes in at this point but I know why I missed it now, the recipe never told me to add it. They think I can bake…nope. I need explicit directions.

Add your yeast mixture to the milk mix. Add the other 2 1/2 cups flour about 1/2 a cup at a time mixing thoroughly between. This is the point where I realized I should definitely have been using my kitchenaid mixer, but I was already committed to this hand mixing mess and didn’t want to dirty yet another bowl (because then we have to clean yet another bowl) so I got the work out instead.

At the last 1/2 cup, my biceps were huge, and the flour kind of stopped taking so I turned it out on to the floured up counter and started mixing with my hands and kneading. It said knead for 2-3 minutes. I don’t know how long I kneaded but I know it was fun and I felt like a kid doing an art project.

Next, it said to return the dough to an oiled bowl… ? … so I poured some vegetable oil into the bowl and sort of swished it around the side. I don’t know if that’s right…at all. I poured out excess so it wasn’t like soggy but left a film everywhere. Then it said to flip the dough once so both sides get oiled. Ok. Done. Then we covered it with cling wrap and put it on top of the stove to prove. I know what proving is because I have a deep love for the Great British Baking Show. But basically it means keep it somewhere warm all covered up and wait for it to grow.

This is about 5 minutes after we placed it under the cling wrap.

The aliens are doing their thing. It’s bigger!

Oh boy! That’s huge! It’s about doubled in size, so it’s ready.

The recipe said to punch the dough down. I didn’t know what that means but I took it quite literally and punched it in its doughy fluff ball face…a few times. And then turned it out on the counter. The counter was floured but I’m not 100% sure it’s supposed to be at this point but I figured more flour was better than stuck to the counter.

I divided it into four balls with a pastry cutter. And then divided those 4 into 4 also. So I had 16 dough balls. Put a dry skillet on the stove at about medium heat. Roll a dough ball out into a “rough” circle. Thank God this part said rough because I found out I can’t roll a circle to save my life. They were not round at all. And I’ve decided I’m ok with that.

If your skillet is warm enough these cook super fast! Basically you drop the circle on the Pan. Start to roll out another ball. Freak out. Flip it over. Finish rolling ball. Freak out. Take it off the skillet. It was literally like 15-20 seconds each side.

I did it! I made Olga bread. So full of pride. The kids and I tried the first one before we cooked the rest because I’m not into wasting time and if it was bad, I’m not above just tossing the whole bowl in the trash. But they loved it! And I did too! It was sweet and had some fun bubbly holes. It wasn’t quite Olga bread sweet, but it was definitely sweeter than a pita. I think one issue I had was that we only have skim milk and whole milk probably would have given it more flavor.

So that’s our adventure into Olga bread! Go make some, and if it’s good, invite me over to taste test it with you 😉

WHY I’m NOT leaving LuLaRoe

There has been a rash of Going Out of Business Sales in LuLaRoe.  I don’t really talk about it much but I’ve felt it in my team and from my customers who are scoring items at rock bottom prices.  And I don’t fault them for that.  I’m on a budget too and I LOVE a good deal.  But those sales come and go.  I’m here for the long haul.  I can’t sell at those prices because it wouldn’t make any sense for me or my business or my family and I value what I sell.

Most of the girls I know personally who are leaving are doing so because of major life changes.  New babies.  Sadly sometimes illness.  New opportunity knocking on their door.  Big moves.  A variety of reasons.  Some didn’t know exactly how much work this would be and that turning a profit takes a long time like most small businesses.  And yes, I consider myself a small business.  I have corporate rules I have to follow, but for the most part, LuLaRoe is my wholesale distributor.  I run LuLaRoe Mary Barnes.  I decide what to buy and when.  I decide how much to stock and which items.  I dictate my schedule. I insure my business.  I balance my books. I manage my inventory, marketing, shrinkage, charitable donations, taxes, etc.  I’m a member of my local chamber of commerce.  I run a business…from home.

I juggle 4 children that I homeschool and a small homestead farm with my dedicated business partner and husband, Lewis.  We often trade off at the door when he gets home from work.  He takes the kids and I head to the shop.  We work when we can and try to treat our customers like friends.  And I LOVE my job.  I love the look on someone’s face when they try on the dress that really speaks to them and makes them feel like a million bucks.  I love the moment when someone with a hard to fit body realizes these clothes are made for them too.  So I’m not going anywhere.

I have had a job consistently since I was 12 years old.  I’ve cleaned horse stalls, slung 50lb bags of flour, waited more tables than I could ever count, worked in corporate offices, managed offices, and worked retail for someone else.  I loved some of these jobs and I’ve disliked others.  But one thing is now confirmed in my head.  I don’t want to work for someone else.  I want to work for me.  I have an entrepreneurs heart.

As we stumble through the winter months and work on our “how” for 2018, one thing I have down solid is my “why”.  Yes I do this for my family.  To provide for them.  To show my children what hard work looks like and set an example.  But I also do this for a deeper reason.  I do this to create communities so that no one feels alone or disregarded.  Creating a place where people can gather and there are clothes that fit every body, short, tall, thin, plus size, all in one place.  A place where you can drop in and shop and bend a listening ear.  Escape if you need to.  Meet up with new people. Or bring your friend group for a much needed ladies night out.  We also try to create an online community where people don’t have to follow any bizarre rules or buy more than they wanted to get the one piece they love.  Even online I want to create a place where people can share what’s important to them and converse with other people.  So no one ever feels alone.  I want to create art in clothing and put together outfits that fit people’s busy lives.  Fashion is art and self expression and this company gets that.

So while I love a good deal, I hope that we provide something more.  I hope that we provide amazing service that comes with a side of friendship and gratitude.  Also, there are some AWESOME new items in the works and I want to show them to you!  I think LuLaRoe has their finger firmly on the comfortable side of the fashion pulse and I don’t want to miss out on what they will do next.

Have you tried LuLaRoe?

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I resolve

It’s that time of year again.  The time when we all decide all the things we don’t like about ourselves and our lives and we decide January 1 in the dead of winter blues is the time to change them.  My name is Mary and I am an over-resolver.  I set pretty high standards for myself and generally fail within 72 hours.  Then quit.  But I’ve apparently learned nothing and I’m making too many resolutions yet again.

Yes I’d love to lose weight.  Sounds great.  Not putting that pressure on myself right now.  A diet isn’t going to do it.  What we need here is a lifestyle change and that takes a lot more time and dedication.   So phase 1: we are cooking more.  We are resolute in our efforts to learn to cook new things, and stop eating out and picking up carryout as much.  Slow Cooker Recipe suggestions welcome, because time is NOT always my friend.

We resolve to be more organized and purge the things.  I admire minimalists.  I admire the simplicity.  The ease.  I have no idea how they do it.  Things keep accumulating and a lot of them seem to remain “useful” so I have a hard time purging them.  IF they are in fact useful, the option is to organize them better so our things don’t swallow us whole.  I will accumulate more things from the container store to contain the things that are eating the house 🙂  And truly purge as much as we can.  I really want this.  So I’m hoping we can commit.

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The cluttered desk I sit at while writing this exact blog this exact moment.  Posterity.

I resolve to paint the broken wall…It’s only been ONE YEAR.  January of 2017 a car crashed into my bedroom.  It did take a while to get the insurance check.  It did take a while to get the contractor we hired on the schedule to get it fixed.  But it has been FAR too long…and the wall is still not finished.  I never painted.  So he never put on the floor molding.  I resolve to do this ASAP.  This constant reminder of a scary night is probably not the healthiest thing I’ve ever done for my children (ha).

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My main resolution is one of those choose a word things.  I have chosen PRESENT.  I want to be present in all the things I do.  Multi-tasking is a big fat lie.  I am incapable.  So I need to stop pretending.  I can do many things at once poorly, or I can schedule my time and be present in each task in it’s time.  I want to make an actual plan for my business, with realistic yet challenging goals, and stick to it.

I’m also giving up all my vices and bad habits and joining a gym and going vegan…

JUST KIDDING.  I will need all the caffeine and time and protein to conquer the other hurdles.  What’s your resolution?  Come prove your resolve with me 🙂

Be Present

“Forever is composed of nows.” – Emily Dickinson

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all the things I spend my time on, because time is in fact a commodity.  A commodity that seems to drift away so quickly.  How many of these things are useful or important or even necessary?  I have definitely not found the balance, but I’m working on it.  I am always a work in progress and I hope to always be growing.

We took our Christmas Gift Trip last week, and spent an uninterrupted week just doing fun things together on the road.  There were no daily distractions.  No chores.  No work. Just us.  We made up ridiculous road games (our version of the cow game that we never truly played unless it was convenient for me to win) and we made random stops.  Lewis’s favorite part of the whole trip was when we got slap happy at midnight on the way to Georgia and everything was “fine – It’s fine.  It’s going to be fine.”

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We went to a Merry Go Round Museum, Great Wolf Lodge, An Ohio Turnpike Rest Stop…which blew our Michigan minds (ha), Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, Georgia Aquarium, Zoo Atlanta, and The Lost Sea in Sweetwater TN.  We spent HOURS together in the car.  I didn’t even get sick of them.  It was so much fun that something happened when we got home.  I can NOT get back into life.  I just can’t.  I want to be present all the time and watch them grow and become.

Problem is, my job is connected to my phone and my pay directly correlates to how hard I work.  I love just being free to do what I want, but for Christmas this year, I’d like a fairy godmother who helps me make a balanced schedule.

I think we are slowly becoming “unschoolers” who try to immerse our children in what they’re interested in.  But don’t stuff me into a box because I just want to do my own thing.  🙂  Renna has a deep desire to bake.  So we were present together this week and we had a no yeast dessert bread bake off.  The kids measured all of their own ingredients and picked what flavors to add and they made 3 loaves of delicious dessert bread.

But in this time, messages went unanswered.  Is that ok?  Sometimes.  But not always.  Work went undone.  And we made this huge mess.  How can we be present while we take care of this?  To be honest, I did NOT clean this…ha…Lewis did.

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Sweet mother of mercy.   What is this pressure to have it all!?  How do you make a schedule and decide which moments to “miss”.  What if during your scheduled present with kids time, they’re super boring and they want you to go away? But during scheduled work time there is an epic snowball fight?  I don’t have the answer.  I’m truly asking.  Message me if you know!  I am very lucky with LuLaRoe to not be gone 9-5 but still work and provide a decent living for my family.  I know this.  Maybe I’m just too immature to do it right 😉

How are you present with your people?

-Mary

 

 

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Our Christmas Journey

When we had nothing, we did our best every year for Christmas to make it as exciting as we could without getting evicted in January.  We would open store credit cards and charge them up and expect to pay the minimum until tax time when we could hopefully pay off Christmas.  It was a vicious cycle and the bills would often rack up and not always get paid off come April.   But those faces on Christmas morning when the tree was just flooded with gifts!  Even if half of them were from the dollar store, they were small and they didn’t know.

Fast forward to my first year with LuLaRoe.  We had money!  I bought so many gifts it was ridiculous!  So many wonderful things, their whole wishlist, which was probably made spontaneously while just browsing a toy catalogue. I even bought them a bounce house that we inflated and took up the entire basement so they could bounce inside on Christmas morning.  I felt great about it…until a few days later.  All the wonderful toys had now just added to the fantastical amount of clutter in 1000 square foot home that contained 6 people.  Pieces were already missing.  Things were already broken.  And I realized, we had just bought more things.  THINGS.  EVERYWHERE.  That will be our very last things Christmas.

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I know many a blogger has written about giving your children experiences and not things, well add me to the list.  Maybe my message is not new, but it’s still true and it has changed my children and their expectations.  Last year, as our lives were rapidly changing, so was our mindset.  We wanted out of the clutter.  We wanted out of the things.  We had a new perspective and a deep desire to DO things, instead of OWN things.  We planned a December Trip.

It started simply enough.  Renna had saved money all year to buy an American Girl Doll.  There was supposed to be a pop up American Girl store locally, but I heard from many it was nothing like the real experience.  So I made plans to take Renna to a real store.  Then I started thinking about Chicago…I love Chicago…so many cool things to see and do.  So we booked it!  We took off for Chicago and explained repeatedly to the kids that this was Christmas.  Santa was still coming but Santa only brings one thing.  “We might buy one other present each to open, but the trip is your gift.”  And we stuck to it.  We hopped a train to Chicago, which was an adventure all it’s own.  We stayed on the Magnificent Mile.  We could see the water from our hotel room.  We went to Water Tower Place with the American Girl store.  We went to Shedd’s.  We randomly caught a movie while we were there.  We went to the Children’s museum and we explored the city.  We created memories.  When we got home, none of those broke.  None of them took up physical space.  None of them were tossed aside like junk.  One year later, they’re still talking about Chicago.  And they’ve been on a real train, they’ve Uber-ed.  They’re traveled now 😉

 

On Christmas morning I was PETRIFIED!  I was like oh my goodness, this is going to be awful.  They’re going to be so upset there are only 2 presents to open.  They’re going to cry.  I am the worst mom EVER!  But it wasn’t. They weren’t.  They didn’t.  I wasn’t.  They took their time.  They opened their one gift from Santa and one gift from us, slowly and thoughtfully.  They took turns.  They took almost two hours rotating and opening 8 gifts total and truly exploring and loving what they were given.  They were so grateful and happy.  It is truly one of my proudest parenting moments to this day.  I have raised children who understand gratitude.  I have children who knew how lucky they were.  I have children who will forever carry their Christmas journey with them.

We’re off again this year!  We went a little more relaxed than originally anticipated, but we are going to splash at Great Wolf Lodge, and then road trip slowly and unplanned to Atlanta Georgia!  Off to explore another city.  See another Zoo and Aquarium, and see whatever happens across our path on the way to and fro.  The tree will not be flooded.  The tree will be pretty bare underneath.  But the things they do get on Christmas morning will be the one or two things that actually bring them joy.  And we will get an adventure.

Art for Art’s sake

Once upon a time, when I started this blog, I promised how to write up’s of some kind.  I’ve never made one…I can’t really tell you how we gardened super successfully, nature did all of the work and we got lucky.  I cannot tell you how we care for our goats…we sort of just do.  But I can tell you about parts of our homeschool day and projects we do.  Today’s project was fluid painting.

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Like a week ago, on FaceBook, I was scrolling around and saw a painting that caught my eye.  It was different bands of color with these cool cells.  I was obsessed and took to youtube to figure it out.  I searched “cell paintings” and found myself in a sea of Fluid Painting videos.  The next day I watched a few with the kids and they were officially obsessed too.  It was sworn, at that moment, that we would get super messy with some paint and we would create the mesmerizing fluid paintings.

The Problem – none of the videos were super specific about the process and how they mixed and what they mixed and how much.  So we got to make it up as we go.  I am sure there are 8 kajillion methods for this medium, but the following is what we did.  I did hear the words “silicone” (which we didn’t use) and “Floetrol” (which we did use) used a lot.

On Saturday, between a wedding and a reception, Lewis and I had some time to kill, so of course we went to Meijer.  Because what else do people in a black suit and floor length sparkly dress do with their child-less free time?  I wandered into the craft aisle on accident and found a decent price on canvases, so I started to load up Lewis’s arms.  And right across from there were some acrylic paints.  So the mission to make this happen began.  I acquired an excessive amount of acrylic paint quickly because I’m me and I like choices.

Problem 2 – What the heck is Floetrol?  I drew some conclusions that it was something that made the paint “more” and helped me pour it.  That’s all I’ve got.  My deductive reasoning is pretty hardcore 😉  Did I google it?  No.  I loaded up all of my kids for a day of small business shopping in Romeo MI.  We grabbed lunch at Romeo Family Restaurant.  Then we headed over to Creative Corner Art Supply store.  The man working there is SUPER kind and friendly and helpful…but he had no Floetrol.  He seemed to know what it was though, and it was in fact some kind of pouring medium.  He gave my kids each a bottle of his discounted acrylic paints for free (because cute small town) and I bought them each one more color from their adorable shop and a homemade paper making kit…apparently we are going to make homemade paper…to be continued.  We left, sad we were headed to a chain craft store, but to make ourselves feel better we stopped at Juliet Chocolates and got some candy.  All better.

We made our way to the big craft store…they had ONE kind of pouring medium and it was $16 for a bottle smaller than the perfume I keep in my purse.  No thank you craft store.  I FINALLY turned to google.  You know where I found this mythical Floetrol???  Frickin HOME DEPOT…no joke.  $7 for a quart. Luckily it was right next door.  Floetrol in hand we headed home to finally make some art.  So skip the middle man and head straight to the house paint section at your Home Depot.

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Here’s what you need:

  1.  Excited Participants (4 children, 1 mom, and 1 nosy dog)
  2. Some sort of Acrylic paints
  3. Craft Sticks or something for mixing
  4. Mythical red solo cups…not just for beer pong and flip cup.  Or Dixie Cups or whatever little mixing cups make your heart happy.
  5. Highly recommend disposable gloves.
  6. DROP CLOTH.  Let me say that again.  GIANT DROP CLOTH!  You’re going to make a mess.  A big one.  I went with the disposable plastic sheet for house painting and covered my kitchen floor.
  7. We also used an old cookie sheet to catch the biggest part of our mess.  Worked well.  It now looks super awesome and we’re letting it dry out too so we can use it again next time.  OH THERE WILL BE A NEXT TIME!
  8. Drinking straws if desired.
  9. Pushpins to put in the back corners of your canvas so that it can sit up off of whatever you leave it on to dry and have room to drain.

We started with what’s called a “dirty pour”.  It’s not alcoholic or inappropriate despite the fun name.  Basically, we mixed some paint, here’s my specific measurements:  pour in enough acrylic paint to just barely line the bottom of the cup.  Add in a few drops of water, and then add in Floetrol. I would say my final mix was about an inch in the cup.  I didn’t want to waste too much paint but wanted enough for everyone to have fun and have lots of colors to play with.  The “dirty pour” means we started with an empty cup and poured in some white.  Then some ocean teal.  Then some more white.  Then some black.  etc. etc.  in layers.  We now had one cup of paint, neither shaken nor stirred.  We put the canvas on top of it, then flipped it over quickly and pulled up the cup!  We had a puddle of paint colors in the middle.  We then tipped the canvas slowly back and forth and all around until the paint slowly started migrating all over the canvas and swirling it’s colors on it’s own.  BE READY FOR THE MASSIVE RUN OFF.  We ended up with this as our test piece:

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We were excited about it but wanted to try other things from the 7 billion tutorials we saw too.  So Renna and Sam went first and did a more controlled pour of 3 or 4 colors.  They poured little dots of white and then in the center of each dot, they poured another color, and in the center of that another and so on.  They tipped theirs too and it came out like this:

Next up was the twins, who are 4…and I was scared for the safety of the pergo floors and the clothing, but I let that go, because paint is fun.  They wanted to do a controlled pour too just because they wanted to pour paint more times…  After we tipped theirs, we grabbed a drinking straw, and they pointed it at the canvas and blew through the straw to let the under layers of paint come up and the results were pretty cool.

The air going into the paint made for some cool designs and those “cells” we were talking about.  In a lot of the tutorials they used WD40 or silicone drops in their paint mix to force up more cells.  We didn’t do that, but might try it in the future.  We were keeping it simple.

When the kids were done we had a massive amount of paint left and I was itching to do my own, so I did.  Having watched them go, I learned somethings.  I flooded the canvas of my painting with just two colors, not really mixed together but poured side by side and allowed to mingle in the middle.  I let it flood the whole thing.  Then I poured one pink circle in two corners and added a yellow circle inside of that.  I used Elliott and Lorelei’s straw trick to have a little more control and manipulate my puddles where I wanted them to go and creating a floral shape.  I didn’t tip after I added the pink or yellow. Just moved it around with the straw and let the colors mix and pull up background colors on their own.  I’m super happy with how it turned out.

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So we did 6 paintings.  Made a huge mess!  And a had a LOT of fun.  Renna discovered she wants to be a youtuber and tried to make her siblings play along…  It went Ok…and maybe with some creative editing we will start a Barnes & Boutiques YouTube Channel someday.  Our paintings are laid out on a broken down cardboard box on the kitchen table and with the amount of paint on them I estimate they will be dry in March 2019.  Ok…hopefully sooner…but you guys…it’s a LOT of paint.  They’re not even close at this point and it’s been 6 hours.  So heads up there.

Homeschooling has been such an adventure!  People ask me all the time “Well what about Art and music and things like that?”  Ummm…this is NOT where we are lacking at all.  History turns into art.  Science, English, HECK!  Even math sometimes.  We love projects and we like to get MESSY.  Bring on the spilling paint and glitter and glue and melting wax and whatever else ya got.  We are ALL IN.

So go buy some canvases and make a new masterpiece!  It’s fun and easy and everyone feels like an accomplished artist when it’s done.

Happy Creating!

-Mary

What we aren’t saying

I’ve hemmed and hawed over writing this or not writing it.  I’ve shared before but never on a larger scale.  October 15th is pregnancy and infant loss awareness day.  So I can think of no better time to share what we are NOT saying.

1 in 4.  25%.  A staggering number when you think of it in terms of statistics that we as women all share.  1 In 4 of us will become pregnant and not take a baby home.  Look around wherever you’re sitting right now, or next time you walk outside. Count women as they pass. 1, 2, 3…4.  Her. It’s her. It’s me. It’s maybe you.  It’s our friends, our sisters, our daughters, our mothers.  And we don’t talk about it as much as we should.  So when it is you, it’s hard not to feel alone.

In December of 2006, I went to a party with my husband at a friend’s house.  I love crab stuffed mushrooms so I made some as my dish to share.  As I mixed them and baked them I was caught off guard by how bad the crab meat smelled.  It was awful.  I wondered if I’d done something wrong. I am NOT the worlds best cook.  I order up some mean Chinese food though…  I took them to the party anyway. It was far from home and I didn’t want to get sloppy so I only had one drink there.  I peed every 10 minutes…ever heard of “breaking the seal”?  That’s what I thought happened to me.  We drove home that night, still having to pee…and I looked at my calendar.  28 days.  I hadn’t had a period in 28 days!  Some of you are saying so what freak that’s normal…not for me.  23, 24 tops.  Never 28.  Sweet mother of mercy!  The crab meat.  The peeing.  It all made sense.  I made Lewis stop for a pregnancy test on the way home even though it was 2:30 in the morning.  We had only been married about 3 months.  Our lives were very undecided.  We didn’t know where we were going or what we wanted to do.  We were living in my moms house, Lewis worked in a gas station, and I was waitressing.  We were not ready for a baby.

Something happens when you take that test. All of your hopes and dreams and fears and anxieties are trapped on a little white stick that you just urinated on.  What would it say?  The moment those two pink lines appear, everything changes.  Regardless of how you feel about this situation, EVERYTHING is different now.  I was both horrifyingly scared and excited simultaneously.  2 little pink lines.  One so faint it was barely there, but it was literally day 28…I took the other 3 tests that came in the box over the next two days (just to be sure), and every day the line got a little bit darker and more obvious.  At that moment, I became a mom.

We found a doctor who would see me at 8 weeks.  We found state health insurance since I had none.  We even found an apartment (it was time and we couldn’t stay at my moms forever). My mom even helped Lewis find a better job.  We started dreaming about our new roles.  We imagined our baby.  We thought about names.  We wondered who the baby would look like.  Facebook was a fairly new platform at the time, and at 6 weeks, with some confirmed blood work from a women’s clinic, we told our Facebook friends.  We told our work friends.  We told our families.  The 8 week appointment went great!  Our baby looked like a tiny croissant, or the alien from The Faculty.

Then 11 weeks arrived. We went to the doctor again because I have other issues we needed to keep an eye on.  We did some chatting and took more blood.  We made our way to the ultrasound room and we got a picture, but she told us this baby was measuring a little small.  I had no idea what that meant, but when she asked me to come back in 1 week, something seemed not quite right, but she never said that.  She never said it wasn’t right.  So we went home and carried on.  We continued to daydream and try on our new lives.  At 12 weeks she broke our hearts.  There was still a baby in there, but this baby had not grown…no tiny flicker on the black and white screen where the heart beats and the little line of sonography static blinks just for you.  Just stillness.

2 days later, I was scheduled at the hospital for a d&c and exploratory laparoscope at the same time.  Quick outpatient, general anesthesia, no big deal.  Nothing has processed.  It was just a tiny croissant…it’s no big deal.  I got to the hospital and signed my papers, but there was a mistake!  My papers said I was having “an inevitable abortion”. I’m as pro-choice as they come and I’ll argue it until the cows come home, but I was not having an abortion!  They made a mistake!  They need to fix this mistake!  Did you know that when you have a “missed miscarriage” (fancy for incomplete) you also have to have an “inevitable abortion”?  I did not.  So they wheel me back. I count backwards from 10.  I only remember to 8.  I woke up with a small tube in a recovery bay separated by just curtains from the rest of the patients waiting to go home.  After my tube came out, I asked the nurse if that was it.  She said yes, and then something broke inside of me… some sort of protective floodgate released and it all came pouring out.  The sadness, the feeling that I had disappointed other people with my failure.  I failed this baby somehow and my body failed Lewis, and our parents, and our friends, and every single thing that we dreamed about.  And it was in that moment alone in a curtain section with a strange nurse I’d never met, that I was hit with guilt and anger and shame…all at once.  The nurse came over with tissue and some crappy grief pamphlet on loss and left.

The next few days were sort of a blur.  We had just moved, Lewis still had to work, and I had intense pain from where they had burned out my scar tissue during the laparoscope.  I was in our new apartment alone. Watching movies in my bed and not seeing anyone during the day.  Just alone.  I felt so stupid.  So stupid for being so excited and attached to an “idea” of this tiny person whom I had never met and never would.  I felt like past doctors I had seen were right and I would never carry a baby.  What a terrible disappointment I must be.  Time passed and I started to feel better but not quite whole.

When I returned to work, I was out 5 weeks for the scope, I thought I was better and ready, but the first person I saw when I walked in the door asked me how my little bean was growing… it’s not…it’s dead.  Thanks for asking. But I didn’t say that. I said nothing with words but probably a novella with my face.  My friend swooped in and whisked me away and said we aren’t talking about that.  It was super needed in that moment, as it wasn’t the time or place, but overall that was the general theme everywhere.  We weren’t talking about it.  We weren’t engaging on a subject so taboo.  A subject so uncomfortable.  A subject that isn’t polite.  A subject that is difficult and involves grief that others sometimes don’t understand.  And when we did engage, we heard things like “at least it was early on” or “that wasn’t your baby, everything happens for reason.”  Or how about “You’re young. You can try again.”

But what people didn’t know, since we didn’t talk about it, was the dreams I had for this baby.  This person with half of me and half of Lewis who was going to be beautiful and had some potential names, and eye colors, and hair colors, and future dreams and ambitions.  This person we will never meet.  This person that we almost never talk about anymore now.  Because they’re gone and we never met them.  This person who was inevitably aborted, viewed in a hospital as medical waste.

I have witnessed more stories like mine.  I have witnessed with my own eyes, and my heart, stories immeasurably more difficult than mine.  Stories of such loss and heartache that you cannot understand why in any universe this would happen to good people.  Stories that shake your faith.  And yet, it’s uncomfortable, so we don’t talk about it.  There is so much power in what we are not saying.  My challenge to everyone, is to tell their story.  I am 1 in 4.  If you are 1 in 4, become a part of the dialogue that removes the stigma that we can’t say it out loud.  We are better than a crappy grief pamphlet.  We can let the next (1,2,3…) HER know she is not alone.  And know that it will hurt and be awful and she CAN talk about it.  October 15 is also my birthday and this year, as a gift, I’d like everyone to tell their story and shout, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  I GRIEVE WITH YOU.  I KNOW YOU HURT AND I DID TOO.  AND I WILL NEVER FORGET.  Hashtag it:  #1in4 #123her