Update 2

I swear we haven’t forgotten to update, we’re just in a waiting period.

That said, I couldn’t let Infertility Awareness week pass without saying something.

So here’s what’s going on —

The timeline has changed since the last time I wrote. We were originally expecting Russ to have surgery in late May and thought all of this would be behind us (provided there were no major issues) by the end of June.

As it turns out, that won’t be the case, but we’re lucky because the only reason the timeline has changed is scheduling issues. There are about a million little things that can extended the waiting period and many of them are far more frustrating than a doctor’s packed schedule. ((Full disclosure: this was not my attitude when we first found out about the delay, but I’m going to go ahead and blame that on hormonal changes and take credit for the fact that I realized relatively quickly that I was overreacting.))

In the meantime, we’ve been able to nail down some of the less exciting, but very important logistical things like…

-We secured our baby loan! We’re not big on carrying debt. We’ve been actively working to knock out a student loan and car payments and we cleared any credit card debt we had over a while ago, so adding a new loan isn’t the most fun thing, BUT we’re really thankful that these kinds of loans exist, because the payment is manageable for us and because a baby is going to be worth it – no doubt.

-We chose a sperm donor. This is still a backup option and we are still hopeful that we’re just paying for something that we’ll never actually need, but it was a necessary step and now it’s behind us. I’ll probably sit down and write about that experience at some point, but I’m not sure I’m ready to do that yet. It was surreal.

-We requested the necessary time off for all of these things. It looks like mid-June we’ll have a nice week of vacation with a side of everyone going through major medical procedures then watching a billion hours of Netflix on the couch.

On top of all of that, I’ve recently had two different in-person conversations with women I know who’ve been or are going through this process and those were incredibly uplifting.

One of them is an old friend I haven’t seen in roughly a decade who is just a month or so ahead of us in the process at the same clinic. We got coffee and spent an hour or so just talking through the strangeness of the process. It was an awesome chance to be candid with someone face to face and just share the ups and downs of all of this. It is also cool to be able to be a cheerleader for someone else’s process. I feel like I’m rooting for her success as much as I’m rooting for my own and I’m really looking forward to the day we both can share great news.

The other was a friend who successfully went through the IVF process twice more than a decade ago and has healthy, beautiful, happy children. She’s one of those people who just glows with positivity and a genuine appreciation for life. As someone whose optimism has waned a bit over the past few months, it was great to be able to talk with her about how she handled it. I left our lunch feeling like Russ and I can totally handle this – That’s an incredibly valuable thing to feel. I’ve been saying it, but to really feel it is different.

OH… AND… it turns out the nurse who will walk us through the IVF orientation process is a friend of a good friend. A familiar face is going to be so helpful, particularly when she’s giving me all of the details of the injections I’m going to have to give myself.

So that’s where we are. That’s a lot of good things! Plus we’ve reached a point where we’ve had long enough to process our situation that we’re feeling pretty calm about it right now.

It’s sort of nice to be in this quiet waiting period where all we have to do is make sure I take one daily pill and we continue to have honest conversations about this whenever either of us needs to.

There’s plenty ahead of us, but right now feels pretty good!





Fertility stuff: Update 1

If this seems like it’s out of left field, you might’ve missed my last post. This is an update.

We had an appointment today to get the process started and we both left smiling.


After having a few weeks to process what is ahead and realizing that we are emotionally equipped to handle it, we’re feeling very optimistic.

The genetic odds haven’t changed, but we’ve been able to talk through just about every outcome and process it together.

Not to mention the fact that we’ve had a few weeks of knowing there is literally nothing we can do right now to make this happen on our own and that’s oddly freeing. We’ve just been having fun and enjoying each other’s company – the way it should be and usually is.

Did I mention three years ago today Russ asked me to marry him? Engagement anniversaries aren’t really something we celebrate, but given our appointment happened to be today, it feels worth noting that saying yes to everything that comes with this partnership was and still is a good choice.

Now we have a timeline. In a couple of weeks, I’ll start a process of drugs that, oddly enough, begins with birth control and is followed by a couple of weeks of hormone injections. That part sounds really terrible to a person who just a few years ago cried before getting a tetanus shot (I’m not proud of that, but in the interest of keeping it all way too real…)

Honestly, the injections just sound like an opportunity to finally grow past my way too extreme fear of needles.

Other than that, my job is far easier than Russ’s, at least leading up to the pregnancy (we’ve chosen to believe that it’s going to work out at this point). He’s the one who has to have surgery and that won’t be any sort of party, but the recovery time is short and we really do believe it’s worth it to have a final answer on whether we can have his kids or not.

The biggest bummers (barring the things that *might* go wrong during surgery/implantation/pregnancy that we’re choosing not to dwell on) as we go through this are:

  • Not knowing how I’ll react to the medicines. I’m not a medicine person. I don’t even like to take headache medicine if I can help it. I’m sure my hormonal changes will make me a party and a half to be around for the next couple of months. I’ll do my best to keep those in check…
  • Not being able to run – I’ve gotten back into a really good routine of running about 6 days a week and it’s put me in a great mental space. The doctor says I’ll have to cut that out beginning the month leading up to egg retrieval and then again in the month leading up to implantation. This is a bummer because it means I’ll lose whatever stamina I’ve built up and likely have to forego running for the whole pregnancy since you shouldn’t pick something back up that you haven’t been doing lately. This is honestly probably my biggest loss in the whole process (provided the pregnancy actually works out), so I’m sad about it. But light to moderate activity is okay, so I’ll just start swimming more often, plan on more walks with friends and ramp up my yoga class attendance. And then post-pregnancy, I’ll start running again… from scratch.
  • Cutting alcohol – we’re not heavy drinkers by any stretch of the imagination, but we enjoy the craft beer scene and breweries/taprooms are common hangout spots with friends. Both of us will have to cut this out for the month leading up to retrieval (essentially end of April to end of May). The nice thing for Russ is he can get back to enjoying some beer after his surgery. As for me, hopefully I’ll have to hold off for another 10 months after May… because that would mean everything went as planned. That’s a price I’m definitely willing to pay… in addition to the actual $ price $ we’re having to pay.

So that’s the latest. If all goes as planned, we’ll start meds later this month. By the end of May surgery and retrieval will be behind us and a month after that we’ll start cooking up a little baby, barring any major speed bumps. The timeline is kind of cool actually, because it works out so that we could potentially have a positive pregnancy test almost exactly a year after the original positive pregnancy test that turned out to not be so. It would be nice to finally put that darn ‘What to expect when you’re expecting’ book Russ bought me to use.

Like I said, we’re feeling optimistic. We’re choosing to believe this is going to work out and it’s incredibly nice to be moving forward with a plan.

And we’re beyond grateful for the huge amount of support we’ve received.

To the people who’ve asked if we’re doing a GoFundMe or if they can give us money. We so appreciate your support and that you would want to help in such a way. The weight of that gesture is definitely not lost on us, but we’re also very lucky people. We are blessed to be equipped and supported in ways that we recognize many couples are not.We hope that you’ll understand that, while we so appreciate the gesture, what we want most is for you to keep being the amazing, loving, supportive people that you are. 

So here’s the thing

Take a deep breath and ask yourself if you’re cool with reading something very personal before you read this. This is going to get kind of science-y — think body parts, reproduction and things you probably should’ve been taught in health class. Some people may read it and think “I would never put my business out there like that” or feel that they have a better way of handling the situation. Those are not the people who necessarily need to read this, though anyone we love (or anyone with internet access, I guess) is welcome to. Russ and I have chosen *together* to share our story because we firmly believe this is something people should be able to talk about instead of feeling alone in a heartbreaking situation.


We can’t have children the natural way. That’s a sentence that is somehow easier to write than it is to say aloud, though it’s becoming more natural as the days pass and it’s really just the beginning of the story.

2018 has been a bit like hell. We started the year feeling optimistic. Months of trying to conceive a child and tracking cycles so we could get all of the science down pat felt like it might finally work out.

January was our month.

I’d somehow become so certain that we’d finally gotten the formula right after eight months that I was comforted as we started a new year.

In 2017 I was heartbroken three times.

Once when we had what was either a false positive test or chemical pregnancy in July; the first month after we started trying.

Again in November, when I wasn’t pregnant by the time I turned thirty; an arbitrary deadline I’d set for myself because it seemed so possible when we started trying five months earlier.

And once more when we wrapped up the year without any sign of a baby in the near future.

Science, health, bodies don’t give a crap about my deadlines.

January was fresh and full of optimism –– certainty even.

I was watching ‘Friends’ on the couch in the middle of the night on Jan. 31st, like I do on the very rare nights I can’t get any sleep, when I broke down. I’d been restless all night and had done more than my fair share of crying.

Another month of disappointment.

In a moment of pure weakness, I posted something to Facebook – Facebook… the land of baby pictures and pregnancy announcements. I thought maybe just maybe there might be someone out there drowning in the same sea of “why is this working for everyone but us?”

It wasn’t just one. Dozens of friends and family reached out to me to say they understood the struggle or were close to someone who did.

I was strengthened.

I was heartbroken, but I really felt stronger with the knowledge that it isn’t easy for everyone.

They don’t teach you that in school. My high school health class didn’t spend a lot of time on the reproductive system and what we were taught was focused only on avoiding the risks that come with s-e-x, not what to expect when you are actually ready for your body to make a baby human.

No one ever talked about how difficult it can be for some people, or even how long it typically takes if everything is working right. Did you know, even if everything is functioning perfectly, the odds of getting pregnant in any given cycle are just 20-25%?


That would’ve been nice to know.

But that’s beside the point for us, because everything isn’t working properly. In fact, some things are working so poorly, there’s a pretty significant chance that we won’t be able to have a child that is genetically connected to both of us and we already know we definitely won’t be able to without the help of medical professionals with specialty degrees and sophisticated tools at their disposal.

And that shit (sorry) is devastating.

I mean, it’s heartbreaking. It’s cry in front of the doctor, cry randomly at your desk at work, cry on your husband’s shoulder while you feel him crying on yours as you hug across the center console of your car in the fertility center parking lot level heartbreaking.

For months I was told by so many people that it would work out when I just stopped stressing. I was told to just try to stay calm. I was told so many things by so many sweet friends that honestly turned out to be very well-meaning bullshit.

And I’m thankful for each of those friends who tried. I’m grateful for everyone who’s encouraged us and said whatever felt like the most appropriate thing to us in these moments. I don’t, for even one second, blame someone for not knowing the perfect thing to say. I don’t know the perfect thing to say and it’s my reality. There is not enough thanks in the world for anyone who’s just been there in the last several days, weeks, months.

But it doesn’t always work out. The truth is sometimes life is messy and hard.

Sometimes the plan is absolutely forced to change, no matter how you feel about it.


Over the past few weeks we’ve been questioned about our medical history, we’ve distracted each other with conversations about the Patriots and why Raleigh is so great (two of our favorite rambling topics) while a nurse named Karen stuck needles in our arms and took our blood for tests. One of us even had our most intimate parts inspected by a doctor in front of the other in a tiny cramped office.

None of that was as uncomfortable as the truth that we learned two weeks ago. We have a huge decision to make if we want to birth children.

We can choose the relatively uncomplicated and inexpensive first option. Choose a sperm donor and try insemination (roughly $1,400 for each month of treatment). It’s straightforward and simple, but it would guarantee any baby conceived would be genetically mine and genetically not Russ’s


Spend roughly $20,000 for Russ to go through a complicated procedure to find out if he has any viable sperm (or if there never were any), have backup donor sperm on hand and go through IVF to have an embryo implanted that would either be genetically linked to both of us or just me, depending on the outcome of the first procedure.

We’ve chosen the second option. The decision itself wasn’t even all that difficult for us. I’m still not in a place where I can imagine having a baby that doesn’t have Russ’s blue eyes, chubby cheeks or deep dimples. Maybe it’s denial or maybe it’s hope.

We decided we ultimately couldn’t live with not at least trying to find out if having his own biological children has ever been a viable option for Russ.

The thing is, we know without a doubt what kind of parents we will be whether a child is genetically mine, ours or adopted. I know that there’s not another soul on Earth I’d trust with children more than Russ; the guy who spends hours playing with our nieces and nephews, is absolutely in love with our best friends’ daughters and gets down on any kid’s level to look them in the eye when he talks to them.

If we find out after thousands of dollars and a complicated operation that having children genetically linked to Russ was never a possibility, it won’t be easy to face that fact. I’ll probably be angry. I know I’ll be sad. It would be downright cruel –– honestly, it would be a hell of a loss for a world that could use more eternal optimists with contagious smiles like Russ.

It would be the toughest thing we’ve both personally experienced to date, but adoption is another option and one we are certainly considering.

We’ll come out on the other side of this with children. One way or another, we will be parents. It won’t be an easy process, but we’ll get there and we’ll appreciate the opportunity and each other more after all we’ll go through to get there.

It’s already happening. I can’t imagine going through this with anyone else by my side.

So that’s where this story begins. We intend to share as much of this journey as we comfortably can, because we need to, but also because there are probably others out there who need to know that they’re not the only ones.

Forgive us, please, over the next few weeks or months, if we don’t seem like ourselves. Forgive us if your words of comfort seem to fall on deaf ears. Forgive us if we’re just not ready for advice on how to handle it.

But please, don’t stop loving us. We need that.


How to survive Thanksgiving

I keep seeing these posts about how to survive Thanksgiving with relatives who have different political views from yours. I’ve seen tweets and Facebook posts echoing the same concern. And I want to ask ARE YOU KIDDING?

Is this an honest concern people are having? I’m seriously asking this question, because I’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around it.

This election was monumental. It changed the course of politics. Many voters on both sides were left wondering ‘how could ANYONE vote for ______?’

It’s that very refusal to try to understand the other side that got us into this divisive mess in the first place. But we’ve been here before. We’re America. We had a civil war, for goodness sake.

How am I going to survive Thanksgiving with relatives whose opinions are different from mine?

I’ll tell you how – like I have every. other. year.


Last November, a dozen or so of my uncles and cousins came together to help us start building a barn from the ground up, to be used for our wedding reception. For several months after, they popped up to Pickens County on weekends or holidays and sometimes in the middle of the week to help us build walls, a loft, a roof, etc. It was one of the best displays of community I’ve ever witnessed. Russ and I learned new building skills side-by-side and watched as all of these men and women who, at times, couldn’t be more different put a building together piece by piece. A year later, I’m still trying to find words strong enough to suit my gratitude.

I find myself in the middle on many issues. I like to try to understand all sides, because it’s my job and because I’ve just always been that way.

Still, I have an uncle whose political opinions are often very different from mine, which honestly seems pretty standard in any family of more than… I don’t know… two people.

He’s the same uncle who was the first person to see me when I arrived home on the morning my papaw (his father) died. He had to break the news to me when I wondered aloud why he was visiting on a random Saturday in April “Are we having a party?”

He’s the same uncle who was driving me home when we found my dog dead on the road. He helped my dad scoop her off of the asphalt, in the dark, and bury her in our backyard.

Am I supposed to block out these memories in favor of fighting about which Presidential candidate was worse while we pass the turkey?

Get yourselves together, people. You’re about to share a meal with people who held you as an infant. They’ve cleaned off scrapes after you fell while running on the concrete at your grandparents’ house and they’ve celebrated your achievements through the years.

Stop asking yourself how you’re going to survive Thanksgiving with people who think differently from you.

We all *should* know someone’s 2 minute decision on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November didn’t make transform them into anyone other than the person you already know them to be.

Challenge yourself to disengage from conversations that make you forget that.

Or, better yet, have the conversations and challenge yourself to remember why that person’s opinion matters to you in the first place.

Oh, and enjoy the pie.


One month

Today is my parents’ 36th anniversary. They’ve postponed anniversary celebrations until after our wedding because they’re working their butts off to get the farm ready for ours. This is not a fact I take lightly. I’m certain there’ve been more times than not in my life when my parents have put much more effort into me than into themselves.

Tomorrow marks one month until Russ and I get married. Anyone who ever comes to this blog is probably getting pretty tired of hearing about wedding related things. I can’t blame you. For two years the majority of my posts have been somehow related to my relationship with Russ. It’s hard not to be that way, when you write about your own life and the biggest thing in your life is this all-encompassing love for another person.

For the better part of 11 months the majority of my posts have been related to wedding plans. Planning a wedding is all-encompassing in another, far more trivial way.

We’re a month away now which seems like an appropriate time to take a few steps back from buying bridal party gifts and choosing flowers — to take a few minutes to just soak in what’s ahead.

When we’re not planning a huge life event, Russ and I like to do certain things together. We love to camp, hike, go to concerts, run on trails and run through neighborhood streets. We love to drink wine and sit in the backyard. We love to visit with family and hang out by the pool with friends. We love to “chill”.

Our life this past year has been anything but “chill”. It’s been a fast-paced blur of colors and fittings, barn buildings and mass alcohol purchases (for the wedding, thank you!). It’s been a whole lot of weekends taken up by other people and things — all of which are wonderful, but most of which don’t allow us to spend too much quality time just hanging out together.

I’m ready to get back to what we do best. We’re a month away from getting married and I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel about it. Should I be nervous? Should I be a little scared because forever is such a huge concept? Should I be more excited about a huge event where we will be the center of attention? I don’t know.

I’ll be thrilled to celebrate with so many people I love on April 23rd. The only bit of wedding planning I’ve been absolutely certain about is this — I want to be married to Russ and I want to celebrate that with as many people I love as possible.

And then I want to get back to what we do best. We’ll have a couple of days to explore Savannah right after the wedding and in June we’ll take a week long honeymoon. The wedding and all related celebrations will come and go. I’ll try my best to be in those moments and soak in the joy of having so many family and friends around at once. It will be as beautiful as I want it to be and I’ll be able to let go of little things that don’t go perfectly as planned — because I know that once April 23rd passes, our forever will be filled with cook-outs, campfires, concerts, hammocks, hikes, Sunday nights drinking wine in the backyard that will someday become quiet moments we, as exhausted parents, savor after the kids are in bed and summer days lazing by the pool that will turn into summer nights volunteering to time races at our kids’ swim meets.

Forever is understated. It isn’t perfect. It isn’t always easy. It doesn’t involve a lot of fanfare. Forever doesn’t scare me. It’s exactly what I want.IMG_4176



Like your mother taught you…

I know in this age of Facebook and Twitter and texting our normal communication inherently helps us avoid the horror of a phone call or actually using the U.S. Postal Service, but there are some things that still matter. RSVPs matter. Letting people know they either can or shouldn’t expect you to be at the party they are taking time and energy to plan is important, lest they be left with favor bags full of baked goods and tons of uneaten (and VERY delicious) food.

A lot has changed over the time I’ve been alive, but the work that goes into throwing a nice invitation-only party has not. There is preparation that goes into these things. We’re talking about a lot of hard work – food prep, favors, games (if it’s that kind of party), many different things that require knowing a number and names of guests.


This weekend I sat with a few friends and some family around a campfire at the home of a very nice couple who know my parents better than they know me. Months ago they generously offered to throw us a wedding shower. To my left sat my freaking awesome fiance (more on that guy here), and just over his shoulder was a table covered in snacks, and white bags individually labeled for each expected guest. The bags weren’t there because we were waiting patiently to grab our own. The bags on the table were left by people who never showed and never called to say they wouldn’t. The party in question required a “regrets only” RSVP – A phone call from those who wouldn’t make it. Most (certainly not all) didn’t give that courtesy.

Yes, I was hurt by my friends not showing up or calling the hosts. I show up for a lot of people. I’m sure I screw up a lot of things in relationships, but I do show up. I make a genuine effort for those who matter to me. For years I’ve gone to bachelorette parties and kids birthday parties, more baby and bridal showers than I can count, and every wedding I could possibly make it to. Some people tell me I “should say no more often”, but I don’t, because when it comes down to it, I want people to know they matter to me. If I miss something you’ve formally invited me to, I guarantee there is a very good reason. This weekend I felt like a lot of people didn’t give us the same courtesy. It may be small in the grand scheme of life. It may seem petty. In fact, it is smaller and more petty than some unrelated tough things I’m dealing with in other realms of life right now, but it still hurt.

Yes, for me, it was embarrassing, rude and a little hurtful… but it really doesn’t matter what it meant for me.

At the end of the day, I know it doesn’t really say anything about the caliber of the friends we have. I know it says more about how busy we’ve all become. I know this issue is not exclusive to our party. I’ve attended several others that played out the same way, but this one hit home for me. I know this is about a larger societal shift, not just me and Russ and whether we’re loved (Spoiler alert: we are and we’re lucky). It’s a sign of the times. Society’s priorities are changing and maybe not in the best ways when it comes to nurturing relationships.

The truth is, Russ and I had a really great time celebrating with the friends who showed up. It was a solid group of incredibly special people — those who remind us on a regular basis that we have all of the love and support and friendship we need in this world.

If I could change anything, it wouldn’t be a change to those who showed up. I’d love to have had any combination of the invited guests there. They were all invited because they’re important to me. I had a wonderful night and left feeling, once again, like we are two of the luckiest people to be able to start this life together with so much support.

No, what I’d change is the lack of courtesy shown for those who worked hard to plan the night. I’d like to give the host and hostess a simple heads up about the bags of baked goods and party favors that wouldn’t be needed.

This isn’t about the sting I felt on Saturday. I woke up on Sunday feeling as loved as any other day of the year.  This is a bigger issue about manners. I’m not one to take people to task or call individuals out and I wouldn’t dream of doing so, because we’ve all gotten too busy at one time or another, but we can do better. We can take a tiny moment out of our sometimes hectic lives to respect the time and efforts of other people. We can show them they’re at least important enough for common courtesy.

Show up or don’t, but at the very least please just make the phone call.

Sharing Christmas

I’ve never thought of myself as a collector. I’m sure when I was a kid I had brief moments of collecting things. I know I had a few baseball cards, and some Yo! MTV Raps trading cards (yes, those were a thing). I remember a brief time when I collected charms for a bracelet. I know at one point I thought it would be fun to collect the state quarters… until I realized I could take a couple of them up to the toy store near our house and trade them in for candy.

I don’t remember ever having a lasting collection of anything, except Christmas ornaments. I honestly never even thought of it as a collection until tonight. I probably have about 200 to my name. Every single one was given to me. Each year I get at least a couple new ones. There is always an angel, a tradition my mom and mamaw started a lifetime ago.. my brothers and I always get a new angel each year. There is always a ballerina, a tradition my mom started when I was a kid because I took ballet. There is almost always one more that doesn’t fit into either of those categories, because my mom loves shopping for them.

I didn’t realize until just a few years ago that massive ornament collections are not something every christmas-celebrating person has.

Part of my family’s Christmas tradition is the time spent unpacking the ornaments and remembering who and where they came from, before deciding where they should hang on this year’s tree. It may be my favorite tradition of the season.

There’s the tiny gold angel Mamaw and my mom picked up at Rockefeller Center on one of their bonding trips to New York City when I was just a baby. There’s the little teddy bear playing with a fisher-price toy that was given to me by my best friend’s parents for my second Christmas. The Baby Girl’s First Christmas ball Papaw bought for me to celebrate December 1987. There are the handmade Lutheridge ornaments I got each summer I worked at camp. Each ornament, all 200 of them, is incredibly special to me.. a collection that was started before I was old enough to even say the word Christmas.

I’ve never shared this holiday with anyone but my family. I’ve never been in a relationship serious enough to pick out a tree with another person, to shop for each other’s families, to wrap and ship the gifts to other states. Sharing traditions is new to me.

This week I learned that Russ writes Christmas cards to his family. I’ve never done that. I know about mailing Christmas cards, but I’ve never known that some people give Christmas cards with the gifts, like one would give a birthday card.

So earlier this week Russ and I picked out Christmas cards to give each other. And when we opened the shipment of gifts from his parents, there were cards inside. Russ asked me if we could put them on the tree, and after some brief confusion I learned he meant actually sitting the envelopes on branches of the tree — another thing that is new to me.

Russ has learned that I am a little holiday crazy. I’ve filled his December with Christmas music at all hours of the day, and obscene amounts of baked goods. He’s watched as I obsessed over wrapping gifts, and getting the hand-tied bows just right. He’s seen all elements of my Christmas crazy, and he’s letting it become his tradition too (or at least pretending not to mind it).

So this Christmas, along with all of the food, gifts, ornaments, and traditions I already know, there’s more love in my world than I’ve ever had, and that’s a good enough reason to make space for a few envelopes in the tree.


my favorite veteran

My favorite veteran was once just a guy who taught me how to climb trees, jump across creeks, and shoot a lay-up.

Before he ever picked up a gun. Before he trained for weeks at Parris Island in the dog days of Summer. He was a little boy with the power to grant or deny me access to his latest fort in the woods across from our house.

It was this time ten years ago when my oldest brother was serving in Iraq. It doesn’t seem like it’s been anywhere close to that long. I was a junior in high school. I remember that Veterans Day better than any other because it was the first time I really understood why.

Like every other kid in chorus class I knew why we always practiced the Marine Corps Hymn or God Bless America to perform in front of the entire school.

I knew we got shortened classes for the day because school wide events meant special scheduling.

I knew that at least one person sitting near me would feel a personal connection to the holiday.

I remember sitting in the gym, pretending to listen to some guy tell his story of war and return from war. I remember not paying attention. All I could think about was the guy who taught me you should never eat two dozen Krispy Kremes in one sitting… the guy who used to come into my bedroom in the morning with multiple outfits in his hands to ask which matched best…. the guy who sent notes threatening any of my potential prom dates from a base somewhere in the middle of Iraq.

And without hearing even a moment of the man’s actual speech, I finally knew why he was there.

(scott showing me how to kayak alone in the ocean)

Why I won’t “fix” my nose.

For years I seriously considered rhinoplasty. I have the Sanders nose. I am the only one of my father’s daughters to get it — which frankly, as a teenager, seemed like a pretty unfair hand, genetics.– Three years ago when my paternal grandfather died I stood next to my brothers and sisters for a couple of hours at the mortuary in my tiny hometown greeting people who knew my grandfather in one way or another. For the entirety of those two hours men and women I’d never met said things like “you look just like your dad” and “you must be a Sanders”. After about 90 minutes I began responding with “It’s the nose.” Rude? Maybe, but a person can get away with less tact than normal when she’s grieving. You know what makes people really uncomfortable? When a woman makes jokes about her own appearance.

My nose is noticeably large. Spare me the “oh no, it’s just right for your face.” Please, people, I have access to mirrors, and this is not an attempt to get someone to tell me my face looks good. I’m not concerned about how pretty I am or am not. It’s just that I know my nose is long and pointy, and when I was in my late teens and early twenties I was certain I wanted to “fix” it. Every time the idea would pop in my head I would give it serious thought until I dead-ended into one of two issues: 1) I couldn’t afford unnecessary surgery 2) What would I one day tell my children? What would I say when I tried to tell them they are beautiful just as they are and they want to know why I went under the knife to change the way my face was made?

Those are good reasons, particularly when you’re operating on the fluidity of a young mind. But those are not the reasons I’ve decided not to get my nose “fixed”.

The fact is, I have the Sanders nose. My grandfather had it, I assume his father had it. And I got it from my dad, the man who used to dance with me to ‘brown eyed girl’ at every wedding we attended when I was a kid. He’s the man who taught me everything I know about country music, that vanilla wafers and peanut butter are the best snack any time of day, and how important it is to have a sense of humor.. even about my nose. The most prominent feature on my face came from that guy, a man who has spent the better part of my life reminding me who I am and what I am capable of accomplishing, even when I don’t believe it.

There’s a very distinct smell I’ve only ever noticed in two places. My grandfather’s farm, and the back parking lot at work. Weird, I know. It arrives in Spring, sticks around for the Summer, then leaves again. I can only assume it’s related to some combination of flora found in both places, and chances are good that I haven’t noticed it elsewhere because an older me is more open to the idea of nostalgia. Regardless, a little over two years ago I walked outside at the end of my workday and breathed in the smell. Immediately I knew it as Pa’s farm. In that moment, I wasn’t walking to my car. I was walking hand in hand with my dad toward Pa’s old dock. Dad making a joke about closing the gate so I wouldn’t let the cows out… there were no cows.

Rhinoplasty wouldn’t take away my ability to smell, unless something were to go horribly wrong. I know that. It wouldn’t keep me from remembering good times spent with my family on my grandfather’s old farm. It wouldn’t do anything but maybe make me feel a little bit more beautiful on the outside. Except that’s not what I need anymore. What I need is the people who love me, and my deep connection to them. Sometimes that connection is shared hobbies, or stories, sometimes it’s knowing the best and worst sides of a person and loving them anyway.

Sometimes, if you’re lucky, it’s shared genetic imperfections. I say lucky, because it’s in the moments strangers stop the receiving line at your grandfather’s visitation just to say “Hey, you must be a Sanders” that you realize where you really came from.

To be honest, that’s the only real thing we get to keep in this world.

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leaving home

I’ve never been able to grasp the concept of moving out of a home and just leaving it, permanently. The idea sits right outside the edge of basic rationale, despite the fact that it’s just a thing we all do. I’ve lived in four houses with my family (nine homes total, if you count dorms and apartments I’ve rented). Every one of the four houses was a home. Sure, it was just a physical space, but it was our physical space where we lived and breathed and fought and laughed and learned. They were spaces where we became people instead of just humans.

The first home I lived in was on Joel Court. We were the first owners, but it was only my first home. I was born there. If you want to get technical, I was born at a nearby hospital, but you know what I mean. I lived the first 8 years of my life there. It’s the home where I learned to walk and talk. Molly, my first dog, lived in the backyard. When I was still small enough Molly didn’t mind when I attempted to ride her. Joel Court is where I learned how to shoot a granny shot, then an actual layup. Joel Court is where my older brother used to run into my room and climb in my giant bed with me because he was scared of lightning and thunder and didn’t want to be alone. Joel Court is where the same brother later spent an afternoon playing every Beatles album he could find and teaching me everything he knew about the British invasion. Honestly, he probably didn’t know much, but I do remember being fascinated by ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’. Joel Court is where we’d put on socks and “skate” on the hardwood floors. It’s where I learned how to ride a bike. It’s where I got so frustrated trying to learn how to ride a bike that I shouted at my parents “IT’S FINE! I CAN JUST ROLLER SKATE EVERYWHERE… FOREVER.” I had my first sleepover in the playroom of that house. I remember when I became old enough that they replaced the teddy bear wallpaper in my room with something more suitable for a growing girl. We left there when I was 8, which at 26 seems so young, but I’d already begun becoming who I am at 8 and that home was a part of it.

(joel court. you can’t even see the house anymore. that giant green tree was much smaller when we left in 1996)

We lived on Stablegate Drive for an even shorter time, though this fact still blows my mind. This is the house that I will always consider my real childhood home… I think. We were the first owners here, also. It was ours. We watched the construction of it. I sat on the balcony outside my unfinished room and named all the reasons this house was going to be cooler than the last. We were there when Hurricane Fran made a surprise inland trip and battered Raleigh. Our home was new and our power lines were buried. We lost nothing… but many of our friends in Raleigh took straight shots. This home is where my parents taught me what it really means to get out and help people when they need it. Stablegate is where I lived my middle school years. I had friends in the neighborhood who were close to my age. The neighbor two doors over put in a pool during our last summer there. I remember listening to P!NK and Avril Lavigne on her outdoor speaker system while taking turns diving into that pool. That home is where I learned that pets don’t live forever. We said goodbye to Molly on the back porch. We were there when both of my older brothers grew up and left home. We stood in the front entry of that house and gave teary-eyed hugs to Scott before sending him off to the Marine Corps. Stablegate was our last home in Cary.

(stablegate drive, man.. those trees are bigger too)

I struggle with home. Not as much now as I used to, but I find it difficult to answer “where are you from?” I lived in Cary, NC until high school and I spent several years after that promising to return as soon as possible. Now I’m here in the place I never wanted to be… and I’m not sure I want to leave. But there’s always this nagging feeling that soon I’ll have lived here longer than I lived in Cary and it will somehow change my identity. So for now, I’m from whichever Carolina is most convenient to current conversation.

When we moved to Liberty, SC we took what seemed like roughly 473 steps down on the standards of living scale. Part of this due to the fact that moving meant facing the reality that I was still the only child left at home. The other was the green carpeted, very outdated parsonage home we rented while building our actual home on the farm. I’d like to not even count this home, except that things happened there. We ended up spending two years in that home. We lived there when my grandparents moved in. It’s where I learned to drive… where I drove right into the pole in the middle of the carport, scraping the back passenger side door all the way in. This is where I lived when I first became this tall. An awkward in-between house that mirrored my stage of life at the time. Apple Drive wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was then, but 16 year old girls can be a little dramatic.

There’s a big white house on top of a hill out in the middle of nowhere in Pickens County. It’s the house I go home to for holidays. It’s where my mom, dad, mamaw, papaw and I all moved together. It’s where I celebrated winning a student council election and homecoming queen. It’s where I was picked up for two proms. It’s where I got my college acceptance letters. It’s where all the adults in the house made me feel like every big thing in my life was the best big thing that had ever happened… and for whatever it’s worth, that’s the only highlight I found in living as the only child at home. We lost Papaw suddenly and unexpectedly here. We lost Mamaw seven months, to the day, after. I’d always been afraid of living in a home where someone died, but that’s different now. The farm is where I learned the real value of living off the land. I buried a dog there. I swam in the creek there. It’s where I moved when I was in between college and a job. It’s the home I hope we’ll be able to keep in the family for generations long past any I’ll get to meet.

(current home.. and the place where i feel the most at peace)

I’ve moved more times since then than during my entire childhood, which I guess is pretty normal. I spent four good years living with various close friends in Charleston. We had the years in “the penthouse” on Bull Street with the roof we weren’t supposed to climb on, but always did anyway. We had the year on Vanderhorst street in the house that was somehow built on a tilt. God forbid, you spill a drink on the right side of the room, it’d be on the left faster than you could grab a paper towel. None of those houses were really “home” for us, and dozens of college kids have probably lived there since, but if I had a chance to climb back on the roof of 11 Bull just one more time to sit and laugh with my favorite girls, I’d do it right now.

Houses are just the right combination of wood, nails, sheetrock, bricks, siding, etc. as required by law and contractor standards. I know that. Logically, I get that they’re not meant to be forever. Hell, people’s homes get ripped to pieces all the time by various disasters. I’ve just never been able to grasp the concept of voluntarily leaving your very own combination of  bricks and wood when it’s the place you became a person. I don’t understand it and I probably never will. But every time I go to Cary I cut down Stablegate Drive and see the god-awful giant Duke Blue Devils sticker stuck to my old bedroom window and I know, for certain, that some things change despite my inability to understand.