Sunday, October 31, 2010

Travel on the Cheap

Ryan went to Memphis, Tennessee this past weekend for a pedo interview.

Upon arrival, Ry was greeted by a big lady at the rental car desk: "And what can I do for you today, Sweetness?"

Welcome to the South!

As you can imagine, flying all over the country to residency interviews is pricey, so Ry has committed to do it on the budget plan.

We couldn't find anyone for him to stay with in Memphis, so we decided that his first night, he would stay at the cheapest hotel in town, and the second night, he would sleep in the airport.  His flight was scheduled to leave at 6:00 a.m., so it didn't seem worth paying for a hotel just to get up at 3:00 a.m.  Do you agree?

On the day of his big interview, after a lovely night's sleep at the Airport Plaza Motel, Ryan discovered at 5:30 a.m. that the shower wasn't working.  Because his interview breakfast started in less than an hour, he didn't have time to change rooms, so he just washed his hair in the sink and put on a little extra deodorant.  Classy!  He tried to demand a refund when he checked out, but they gave him some nonsense about how the manager wasn't on duty.  Don't worry...his wife will be calling.

After a long day of interviews (he had eight individual interviews in addition to a breakfast and lunch and a facilities tour), I told him that he deserved a good's night sleep.

"Just get a hotel,"  I texted.  "You've had an exhausting day."

"Too late," he responded.  "I got ice cream instead.  I ordered a large instead of a small."

I had to laugh when I read that.  Talk about easy to please.  I hope the ice cream was abnormally delicious.

Luckily for Ry, I think we've found people for him to stay with during all of the rest of his interview visits.

I hope their showers work!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Nice Husband

I have a nice husband.  He spoils me.  This past weekend, he really went overboard, and I loved it.

He and a few of his buddies decided to treat their wives to a "girls night on the town" full of surprises.  I came home from work and found an envelope full of clues.

The first clue led me to dinner with friends at one of those crazy Japanese restaurants:

We all decided to order fancy drinks, since our husbands said to order whatever we wanted.  Tiffany, who is nine months pregnant, announced to the waitress, "I'm going to stick with water, since I now weigh ______ pounds."  I will not publish her weight on a public blog, but I will say that I love that girl's honesty.  She is hilarious.

The next clue led me to a chubby, hairy masseur at the New York Massage School.  (No photo, thank goodness.)  It was a little awkward to be rubbed down by Vince, but who doesn't like a good massage?

Finally, it was off to the movies--and then to a hotel for a night of girl talk.

I know, my husband is way too nice to me.  But I really can't give Ryan all the credit...he is not a planner, and he freely admits that this entire event was planned by his friends.  I am grateful, however, that he is always willing to jump on board with other people's good ideas, and he is generous when it comes to pampering his wife.   

Life has been a little stressful lately with teaching and grading, responsibilities at church, fertility treatments, adoption drama, pedo residency applications...I was grateful for the fun diversion.  And I am forever and always grateful for the ultimate fun diversion: Mr. Ry Guy.

I came home from the outing with friends exhausted (as you can imagine, we stayed up talking until the wee hours of the morning) and fell asleep on his shoulder.  He studied while I snoozed. 

I love that skinny guy.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Help Needed

Today, as I was grading 100 papers, I decided that I hate being an English teacher.

Then, I started searching for flights for my husband's pediatric dentistry residency interviews, and I decided that being a travel agent might be even worse than being an English teacher.  Orchestrating travel arrangements is a huge pain.

Does anyone know anyone who lives in the following places and might be willing to let Ryan stay on his/her couch for a few days?

Memphis, TN
Pittsburgh, PA
Cincinnati, OH

The couch of a dental/medical student would be perfect (so Ryan could get the "scoop" about the school/area), but really any couch would work--sure beats paying for a hotel.

Thanks for any suggestions!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Adoption Thoughts

I am a woman of many words.  I love to talk, I love to write, I love to express, I love to communicate.  I feel that in order to truly understand the things that are most important to me, I must verbalize and record them.

So why is it so hard for me to capture in words all that I have learned and experienced in the past few months? 

I sit down, and I try to write blog posts or journal entries about our adoption journey, and I just can’t do it.  It’s not that it is too sad or too hard for me—it’s just that I don’t have the words.  I have learned so much more than I can possibly verbalize in one sitting.  I feel like it will come out little by little over the months and years.

I’m finally getting around to writing about the adoption conference that we attended a few weeks ago.  I wrote a fairly impersonal report of the event for the regional Families Supporting Adoption blog (you can read what I wrote here), but I wanted to capture a few more of my intimate feelings, so my friends and family can understand a bit better what the adoption process is like. 

The adoption conference in Kirtland was truly an enlightening experience.  I’d say it changed my entire outlook on adoption, while also strengthening my faith.  Prior to the conference, we had been contacted several times by expectant mothers who were considering us to adopt their babies.  I usually get a contact every couple of weeks.  Some of these contacts are not serious—just one email, and I never hear from them again.  Other contacts are more promising, even including phone calls with the family.  The serious contacts are initially very exciting but eventually become very devastating because I can’t help but get my heart involved.  Emotionally, it’s somewhat like a miscarriage when a birth family stops communicating with us. 

We had a particularly tough week just prior to the adoption conference.  I was getting discouraged about myself (“Why aren’t these families picking us?”) and a little angry with God (“Why can’t I just have a baby to love?”).  Life didn’t feel fair.

At the conference, we were surrounded by other couples who understand perfectly what we are going through.  Some of them waited for years before getting a child; some of them waited only a few months; some of them are still waiting.  Some of them have adopted multiple children; some have adopted only one.  But I felt strengthened by their stories, and I realized that their children were definitely intended for them—that God had a plan for them all along.  If this is true for them, then it must be true for me as well.  Eventually, I will get the children that the Lord intends for me.  And I’ve always felt that He intends for me to have a lot of them.  One day, when I have a house full of rascals, I will look back and think, “What was I so worried about?”

I attended a class taught by a young mom who experienced five reversed adoptions before they finally got to keep their second son.  Yes, five times, they had a baby placed in their arms, they took the baby home, and then the baby was taken away because the birth mother changed her mind.  I cannot imagine the heartbreak of having that experience once, let alone five times.  It was inspiring to hear her explain how she dealt with the pain.  It also made me realize that our little trials are not so rough.

A highlight of the conference was a “birth mother panel.”  Young women who have placed their babies for adoption told their stories and answered questions.  They all spoke with reverence about their experiences and explained that they felt God guiding them as they chose the family with which to place their babies.  Not all of these women were or are religious, but they all felt that things worked out “the way that they were supposed to.”

I often wonder what that phrase means—“the way that they were supposed to.”  How much of our lives are planned/controlled by God?  How much does He mean to happen, and how much does He just allow to happen?  I know that we all have free will and agency, so it’s not like He dictates exactly what we are going to do.  I don’t think He intends for teenage girls to get pregnant.  However, I do know that once these teenage girls do get pregnant, He has the ability and desire to help everything work out for the best.  He can take an experience that could be considered a trial and turn it into a blessing for all involved.  That is the power of His Atonement.

One of my favorite scriptures is Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.”

God may not have intended for me to have fertility problems, but He has promised that He will work it out for me somehow so that it will be for my good and so that I will still be able to fulfill my calling as a mother.   At the adoption conference, I felt that truth settle on me, and I’ve felt an uncanny peace in the weeks that have followed.  Sure, I’ve had a few meltdowns (just ask Ryan), but for the most part, something inside of me is saying, “It’s all going to be okay, Rachel.  Just hang on.” 

Because we are using an adoption agency that gives expectant mothers the opportunity to choose the adoptive family, we have no guarantees about a time frame. This type of adoption is a supreme test in the ability to wait.  Everything is uncertain.  I have no control—none—and I have to learn to be okay with that.

I am proud to say that I am learning.  By nature, I am a control freak.  I am impatient.  I am used to working for what I want.  I must say that as much as this experience hurts me, it is good for me.  I can feel myself changing.

Which leads me to my last religious thought for the day.  (Well, at least my last religious thought to be shared on a public blog.)  In Psalms 27:14, we are promised, “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.”

I am waiting.  And He is strengthening me.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A few random things:

1.  My cell phone is functioning again.  With a longer battery life.  It must've needed a little bath to clean out the gunk.

2.  I went with Sherry to see the musical Mary Poppins last night.  The whole time, I kept looking at my big carpet bag purse and wishing I could pull a lamp out of it.  But I do carry around lots of random things in my purse--including a roll of packing tape with a razor-sharp cutter thingy.  Tonight, when I reached into my bag to grab my now-functioning cell phone, I cut my finger.  Luckily, my friend Tiffany was kind enough to give me a Sponge Bob band-aid.

3.  Ryan has been in Alaska this week.  He went there for a dental residency interview.  He texted me one afternoon to say that he had just seen a gigantic moose grazing on the side of the road.  I picked him up from the airport tonight, and I am oh so glad to have him home again.  He is handsome.

4.  I am tired and stressed these days.  But writing blog posts like these help.  Life is really uncertain and really busy for us right now.  But it is also good.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Love of Lit

I love the books I teach.  Love them.

The more times I read a book, and the more I analyze it, the more I love it.

Unfortunately, most teenagers don't loving reading books (or even passages from books) more than once--nor do they like analyzing.  They do it to appease me, but they really don't like it.

I often feel frustrated that I can't express to them how amazing the books are.  I try to help them see the themes and the symbols and the significance to real life, but they don't seem affected by it.  I've sometimes wondered if it's because they don't totally understand real life yet.

Right now, I am teaching Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.  It's about broken dreams, friendship, alienation, and loneliness.  It is not uplifting--but it is a masterpiece.  John Steinbeck is a total genius.

Next, we will be reading To Kill a Mockingbird, which just happens to be my favorite novel of all time.  My favorite scene in the entire book is when Scout stands on Boo Radley's porch and finally sees things from his perspective.  She has learned empathy.

In the 11th grade curriculum, my favorites are One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and The Catcher in the Rye.  Both are controversial, especially with only one cursory read--but the more that I've studied these novels, the more I've come to love their main characters.  McMurphy and Holden are flawed men--but they are also good men.

I also love the poems I teach, like this one and this one.  I don't always understand a poem the first time I read it, but the more I study it, and the more I teach it, the more I fall in love.  Often, as I'm reading the poems aloud to my students, I get goosebumps.  And sometimes, lines from my favorite poems come into my head at random times to get me through a tough moment in real life.  Poems like this one.

Literature is amazing.  I feel sad for people who have never gotten a true taste of it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


As I mentioned in an earlier post, Ryan and I attended an adoption conference this past weekend in Kirtland, Ohio.  The conference was sponsored by our adoption agency, LDS Family Services.  It was excellent.  I have a lot that I want to say about it, but I will have to do it bit by bit, so as not to overwhelm myself or anyone who reads this blog.  Infertility and adoption are not light topics.

Tonight, I just want to post an interesting metaphor that was shared at the conference.  It was originally published in 1995 as part of a Dear Abby column.  I think it is clever and quite reflective of the experience of infertility.

Long journey, wonderful destination

“Deciding to have a baby is like planning a trip to Australia. You've heard it is a wonderful place; you've read many guidebooks and feel certain that you're ready to go. Everyone you know has gone there by plane. They say it can be a turbulent flight with occasional rough landings, but you look forward to being pampered on the trip.

So you go to the airport and ask the ticket agent for a ticket to Australia. All around you, excited people are boarding planes for Australia. It seems that there is no seat for you; you'll have to wait for the next flight.  Impatient, but anticipating a wonderful trip, you wait—and wait—and wait.

Flights to Australia continue to come and go. People say silly things like, ‘Relax. You'll get on a flight soon.’  After a long time, the ticket agent tells you, ‘I'm sorry, we're not going to be able to get you on a plane to Australia. Perhaps you should think about going by boat.’

‘By boat?!’ you say. ‘Going by boat will take a very long time and it costs a great deal of money. I really had my heart set on going by plane.’  So you go home and you think about not going to Australia at all. You wonder if Australia will be as beautiful if you approach it by sea rather than by air. But you have long dreamed of this wonderful place, and finally you decide to travel by boat.

It is a long trip, many months over many rough seas. No one pampers you. You wonder if you will ever see Australia.  Meanwhile, your friends have flown back and forth to Australia two or three more times, marveling about each trip.

Then one glorious day, the boat docks in Australia. It is more exquisite than you ever imagined, and the beauty is magnified by your long days at sea. You have made many wonderful friends during your voyage, and you find yourself comparing stories with others who also traveled by sea rather than by air.

People continue to fly to Australia as often as they like, and some say things like ‘Oh, be glad you didn't fly. My flight was horrible; traveling by sea must be so easy.’

You will always wonder what it would have been like to fly to Australia. Still, you know you have been blessed with a special appreciation of Australia--after all the beauty of Australia is not in the way that you get there, but in the place itself."

I still don't know if we will eventually get to "Australia" by plane or by boat, but I am glad that I've had the opportunity to learn about the journey by boat.  It's true what the article says: "It is a long trip, many months over many rough seas."  The uncertainty and waiting involved in adoption can be heartbreaking.  But it's also true what the article says: "You have made many wonderful friends during your voyage."  I am so grateful for the friends that have supported us during this difficult year--and also for the new friends that we have made during the adoption journey.  We felt a kinship with the other adoptive families at this conference...we're all in this together, and we all understand what it's like.  

And the final line of the article is my favorite: "...the beauty of Australia is not in the way that you get there, but in the place itself."

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sunday Afternoon Disaster

Yesterday after church, I decided to be a good wife and let my husband take a nap while I cleaned the house.  (Not sure what that has to do with the rest of this story--but I thought I'd throw that in there to show how helpful I am.)

Our sink was full of dirty dishes, so much so that I couldn't really wash any of them until I cleared out some space in the sink.

I filled up the mixing bowls and pots to soak, and I put them on the counter space surrounding the sink. My phone was sitting on top of the microwave, also right next to the sink.  (If this were my English class, and we were reading this story aloud, I would stop right here and say, "Does anyone have any predictions of what is going to happen?"  You know, modeling active reading.  But I digress.)

I must add that my phone has an insane vibration mode.  I know that the vibration mode is supposed to be silent and discreet, but with my phone, I think it is louder than the actual ring tone.  It goes BZZZZZZZ!!  so loudly that people within ten feet jump in surprise; if it is sitting on a table, it literally makes the entire piece of furniture shake like an earthquake has hit Buffalo, NY.

I don't know why my phone was on the vibration mode yesterday.  But it was.

As I was pleasantly washing dishes and humming to myself, someone called me--and my phone started vibrating on top of the microwave.  After jumping in surprise, I looked over at the rogue phone--just in time to see it shake right off of the microwave and land in the mixing bowl full of soapy water.


I grabbed it out of the mixing bowl while yelling, "Oh crap!  Oh no!  This is not good!"

Needless to say, Ryan did not get his nap after all.

The purpose of this post:  The phone is ruined, and I am wondering if anyone who lives in Buffalo has an old Verizon phone that they are willing to give me or that I can buy.  I do not need anything fancy; I just need a phone on which I can talk and text.  I'd really prefer not to buy a new phone because they are way way way overpriced at the stores--and chances are, I will break it or drop it into a mixing bowl filled with water in the near future anyway.  I am hard on phones.  I really am.

Let me know if you can help!

Monday, October 4, 2010

I am awkward.

Ryan and I are attending an adoption conference in Kirtland, Ohio this weekend.  The workshops look great, and I am excited to learn all about adoption.

I didn't expect to be such a doofus on the phone when I called to reserve our hotel room.  Do you ever astound yourself with your own awkwardness?  Well, I won the prize tonight.  Here's a sample:

Receptionist:  Hello, Days Inn.

Me:  Hi, is this Days Inn?

Receptionist:  Uh, yes it is.

Me:  Oh.  Yeah, I guess you just said that.  Anyway, I'd like to make a reservation for Friday night.

Receptionist:  Okay, singles or a double?

Me:  What, like the beds?

Receptionist: Um, yes, the beds.

Me:  Well, I don't care what size the bed is, as long as two people fit in it.

(After making that comment, I realized how idiotic I sounded, and I started laughing uncontrollably.)

Me:  [Through my laughter] Sorry I am asking you such stupid questions.

Receptionist:  [No response to my apology.  No trace of amusement in her voice]  How would you like to hold that reservation?

Me:  Hold the reservation?

Receptionist:  Yes.

Me:  [Confused silence.]

Receptionist:  [Sighing] Visa, Mastercard, etc.

Me:  Oh, a Visa.

And as the unamused operator continued to process our reservation, I tried to fight back my giggles, but every once in a while, one just slipped out as I recalled myself saying, "I don't care what size the bed is, as long as two people fit in it."

Such an air head!

Does anyone else ever do stuff like that on the phone??