Sunday, January 1, 2017

Poker Face

Today is the first day of the new year. Another year gone, another year lies ahead. Today, like many others, I sit and reflect back on what has passed and contemplate what awaits in the future. 2016 taught me a lot. I was reminded once again that life is too short and needs to be treated for exactly what it is, a gift. I was given the opportunity to realize that my track record for getting through tough times still remains at an undefeated 100%, and those times help me to appreciate the good times even more. 

2016 has ended, that chapter closed. But today, today we get to open a brand new chapter full of empty pages. Empty pages we can fill with happiness, love, and memories to cherish. This year rather than making resolutions and things we want to change, Lou and I made a list of promises. Promises we will try to uphold, promises of things we will attempt to do together to make 2017 memorable and successful.  

This year, like all those before it, and I am certain many times after this, had it's ups and downs. This rollercoaster of a year was a wild ride as usual, but in the end was a great ride. 2016 ended with some relationships ending, and some left behind. These decisions never come easily, but every person plays a role in your story, some are just not meant to be in the ending. This year my family lost my young cousin, and taught us to appreciate those in your life daily and work hard to maintain relationships. This year brought a new job for both myself and Lou, the opportunity to complete my Master's degree and work towards my BCBA, and new friendships that I truly value. Some friendships flourished and reminded me how lucky and blessed I am to have these people surrounding me. I was able to rekindle and mend broken relationships with some. Some of the events of 2016 gave a new meaning to the vows Lou and I took, "for better or for worse", and we triumphed. We made it through a year that probably may have broken many others, but it made our relationship stronger and closer. 



With every gain, there are the typical losses. In a true card game, there are always wins and losses. You have to place your bets, ride it out, and hope for the best. Sometimes you're lucky and your hand pays out, while sometimes you have to just smile and remember it's all a game. Life is like a card game, and while I may not be in charge of the hands that are dealt to me, I always attempt to turn that hand into a winning hand. Many times I have been successful, and even those hands that aren't meant to be winners remind me that we have no control over what comes our way. We must simply sit back and make the best of what we are dealt. So, today, on this first day of this new year, I have placed my bets for 2017. I bet that this year will bring excitement, happiness, love, laughter, and hopefully small bundles of joy. I am sure there will also be the not so great times, but in true fashion, we will overcome each and every one. Like any gambler, if you hold your cards steady and line them up the best you can, put on your best "poker" face, eventually you'll see that the hand you're dealt with and holding onto can be better than what you think. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

If I Know Then What I Know Now...

I am sure most of you have heard the infamous quote; "If I knew then what I know now." We have all probably thought it, said it, and most likely analyzed it. Using those words to figure out what we would have done differently. What situations and mistakes we could have avoided. There's no going back, and there are no magical erasers that can change our experiences. There are lessons that each situation presented us. Lessons to help us realize the person we are and the person we can be. The situations and mistakes we experienced may not be able to be changed, but how we are changed by it, how we come away from it is what is the real lesson.  

I wish that someone had told me that quote wasn't true. Instead of looking back and wishing things had been done or said or played out differently, I am focusing on what did happen and the impact it had. I instead what to write a letter to myself, reminding me that I have survived every difficulty so far and I will continue to do so. I can use every hard moment, every tear shed, to remember THEN what I already know NOW

Dear Me,
       
 I thought this letter may come at a good time as your birthday is this week. What better time than the day you entered this world then a chance to remember what you have accomplished since then? You are tough, you are strong, you are a survivor. You have a big heart and a genuine desire to help others. You have the ability to see the good in all, and to find a silver lining in every moment. 

This past year gave you opportunities to learn from. I hope that in the future, if you are struggling, you are able to remember. Remember these situations that happened this year, and how you changed from it.  You had hard moments, your marriage felt the stress of life's events and almost came close to the end. But instead you both worked together and made it even better. Remember that, even when something may be "broken", try to fix it first. Put every ounce of energy you have into fixing it, and if it is worth saving, it can be repaired to something even better than it originally was. 

You made the decision to leave your job, one you were comfortable in, but no longer made you happy. Remember that change is scary, but necessary. Change is better than regret. Letting go of things we know, things we think we need is hard, but holding on to something that no longer makes you happy is far worse.

 Remember that, remember that you can and should let go of anything and anyone who no longer makes you happy. As our lives change, so do our relationships, our friendships. Not all of these friendships and relationships will survive, but you will. Remember that each person played a part in helping you become who you are today. Understand and accept that not everyone will be there for you. Not everything will go as you planned. 

This year you enrolled in school and began working towards your Master's. Remember that you made the decision to make a change. You knew what you wanted, and are working towards it. You are the only person that can make that happen, and you will.

You are the only one in charge of how you feel. And I want you to continue to choose happiness. Choose to smile even when you want to cry. Choose to love and be loved. Choose to listen as much as you speak. Choose to be a good friend, and to keep those true ones close. Choose to let go of those who don't. Walk away from anything that hinders your happiness. Choose to put yourself first. It sounds selfish, but you need to be truly happy with yourself to be happy with others. Choose to work hard for everything you want, and you will continue to get everything you deserve. Continue to make those big changes, they have all played out well for you thus far. Continue to be you. 

Remember, right now, at this moment, you know what you need to. So, in the future, if you are faced with something difficult ,if I know then what I know now, you will be just fine :)
                                                       
                                                                  Love,
                                                                  Me

Saturday, May 7, 2016

To All The Childless Mothers

Dearest you,
       I had to write this to you, today of all days, because today you need to read this. You need to hear what I am about to tell you and more importantly believe it. Today is one of "those" days, the days where you wish laying in bed all day and pushing pause on life was an option. Even better, maybe fast forward to tomorrow, past another one of "those" days. These days we all dread and cringe thinking about...not that everyday isn't hard but there is something almost punishing and downright cruel about having to celebrate a day that you absolutely long to be a part of. I personally have avoided thinking about this day for years, and in these most recent years since being married and ready to start a family, since we do not have a child. Since my surgery, taking away my ability to have a baby, Mothers Day has been a cruel reminder of that painful fact. The surgery took away illness, but also my chance of becoming a mom the way I desired.


In addition to the empty hole in my heart on this day for the child I do not yet have, the remainder of my heart aches for my mom. Since her death, Mothers Day has always been a hard day. A day that I attempted to forget. For me it was too hard, too upsetting to think about not having her here, to be reminded yet again that I was a motherless daughter. It took many years, until I met my mother in law, to be reminded of what the true meaning of mothers day is. To be thankful for each and every moment that we have and had with our mothers. To be appreciative of all the wonderful attributes and lessons our mothers passed onto us. All the sacrifices, tears, smiles, and laughs that she shed turning us into the women we are today. Our mothers are part of the reason we long to become mothers ourselves. Because we have seen what true love looks and feels like. Because these brave women taught us to be thoughtful, caring, and strong. Even in my mothers last moments, as she lay dying, she never stopped worrying about us. In our final conversation, she was worried about us. She wasn't scared to die, or lose her battle with cancer, she was scared to leave us. To leave behind her children, before any of us were ready.

Every child needs their mother, and it has been hard growing up without one. Even in her absence, I have learned so many lessons from my mom, I am lucky enough to have so much of her in me, I can see her in my reflection, in my smile, and hear her sarcastic humor that always had everyone around her laughing. The thoughtful nature, of giving every ounce of myself to anyone I love, is all her. To aim to make everyone feel loved and at ease, is my Mom. The ability to see the positive in every situation, is completely owed to my mom. She taught me that there is always something good, even in the bad. The best way to remember her is to continue living, continue smiling, and continue loving.

With that being said, I always attempt to find the good, so here it is. It is hard. It is painful and it hurts. When you walk by the babies with their mothers and blink back the tears that instantly form. When you cringe at the invites to baby showers, and feel an embarrassing twinge of jealousy as you view pregnancy announcements and dreaded ultrasounds. I know the pain of wishing for a mothers day to come addressed to you, to hope for the day that you will a mother. When you ache to be a mother, and to hold a beautiful reflection of yourself and your spouse in your arms. The day you will be able to fill that empty spot in your arms, and in your heart. I know what it is like to feel broken, and unable to be fixed. Here comes the good, the "cure" to all this pain. The light at the end of this cold dark tunnel.

You are not broken. You are amazing. You are kind, and thoughtful, and loving. You are so incredibly strong, you have been fighting, wishing, and hoping to become a mother. But let me tell you this...you already are. Have you ever loved someone, so much, that your heart feels like it may explode? Have you ever wiped away the tears of another, and comforted them until the pain disappeared? Have you ever listened to a friend, sibling, lover, and helped them to fight a battle they needed help with?

There you have it, the definition in black and white. No where does it say anything about giving birth to, or conceiving. Because being a mother is much more. Being a mother takes sacrifice, and love. A mother is a role that one earns, it is not given. You have already earned the title, and in time you will be given the rest. I know this to be true, because you have already fought and would  give your entire being for a little human that you have not even been promised yet. You may not yet have a baby in your arms, but they are in your heart, your full, loving heart. You, my beautiful you, you are a mother. So, Happy Mothers Day!!!

                                                                                               Love,
                                                                                    A fellow Childless Mother

Thursday, December 31, 2015

To My "Net"



To My Safety Net,
     There is something so beautiful about being honest and open. Honest enough to share the parts of ourselves that we aren't the most proud of. The parts of ourselves that are deep within, that make up who we truly are. To share your fears, your weaknesses, and every part of you with others is a gift. This blog and this experience has provided me with ample opportunities to get to know the "real" me, the whole me. To test my limits, to push myself to levels of strength I did not know I was capable of. To learn more about myself. This year I got to know myself truly.And I was fortunate enough to get to share myself and journey with several people. These people helped make my year, 2015, one of the best yet. 

    As you read this, I want you to know how thankful I am. How thankful I was for this past year. Although this was not the year I became a parent, I got one step closer. I got stronger and better. Thank you for all of the memories that you brought this year. Today is the last day of the year, a perfect time to reflect and look back on all the year provided. There were some amazing moments, and naturally some moments I could have done without. But regardless, this year was mine. It was another 365 days of ups and downs, 12 months of learning and growing, and a calendar full of dates; everyday holding something that led us to today. This year you gave me a chance to get closer to goals. 2015 was full of losses, but also equally full of gains. My heart and strength was tested; relationships put to the test. 


     Once again I was reminded that life is a balancing act. It's like walking on a tightrope, each step gets you closer, each step meaningful of reaching the goal. Just like a tightrope, there is a safety net. A net that is there to help you if and when you fall. While I have gotten much better at the act of balancing, there were several times I slipped off and needed the safety net to save me. Luckily, my safety net is full of amazing people. People who have been there for me when I didn't even realize I may need them. You remind me that although there are bad moments, there are so many better moments. You are part of the reason I am who I am, and why I am better. You have helped me grow and become the person I am today.


The arms who hold you at your weakest, the ears who listen to not only what you are saying but more importantly what you arent saying. The faces that look at you and just let you know they are there for you, cheering for you every step of the way. It is okay to fall, okay to rely on your net to save you. And knowing the only place you can go is right back up to try again. It is alright to not be okay, to not smile and laugh. It is during theses moments , when you are at your worst, your weakest, that the people who matter the most step forward and help you. These are the people in your corner, in your safety net. These people don't attempt to fix you, just love you and accept you. They love you at your worst, and are there by your side at your best. While you are at your worst, they remind you of who you are at your best. 

Today, the last day of 2015, going into the New Year. I am still walking proudly across the rope, slowly but surely. Slow and steady wins the race they say. Knowing you will be there if I fall keeps me going, and knowing you have been and will be there is the best gift I have received. You are my people. You are the people that remind me of what is to come, what I am walking towards. You are the people in my "net". So although I may have gotten thrown off the rope a few times, I am back and slowly walking across again. Knowing that net is there if I need it is the reassurance I need to keep moving forward at times. The best thing about being on a tightrope is there is no turning back, only forward, step by step. So, 2016, here I come, one step at a time.
                                                                                    Love,
                                                                                  Colleen

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Choosing My Own Adventure







      I have always loved reading. In fact to this day my friend and sister love to remind me of the shirt I proudly wore as a child; "So many books, so little time." Yes, I was a nerd, a nerd who loved to read and live vicariously through the characters and their stories. Who remembers the Choose Your Own Adventure book series? The books that allowed you the reader to choose your own ending, as well as how the story panned out. I loved these because it gave me the opportunity to be the writer, not solely the reader. I was in charge of the story and the outcomes.

 Years later, I am the author of this blog and more importantly the writer of my story. I have been fortunate enough to share my stories with all of you. The story of a broken girl who picked up the pieces and built her future. A girl who refused to stay down, no matter how many times she was knocked down. A story of bravery and courage and survival. A story of a girl who found and got to experience her happily ever after. Similar to the adventure books, I chose each and every part of the story. In reality, I may not have chosen the situations, but I have chosen my reactions to them. Every choice has led me to now. And just when I thought I had the story all pieced together, a perfect blend of past hurts and struggles to current and future happiness, the story has a twist.
 
        It has taken me many years to heal from the surgery that changed me, the surgery that transformed me. The surgery that left me in more pain that I could handle; physically and emotionally. The surgery that left a scar much larger than the visible one on my abdomen. The surgery that left me unable to have the baby bump, the ultrasounds, the bond of carrying my child inside of me and experiencing one of the deepest forms of love possible; giving birth. The surgery that left me to figure out What to Expect When You're NOT Expecting This is one of the chapters of the story that I may have skipped over while reading if in a Choose Your Own Adventure book. Or, like most of us did, start reading it and realize that what you just read was NOT what you wanted and go back. Unfortunately for me, there is no going back and this chapter has and always will be a part of my story. After many years of dealing with the pains my hysterectomy left behind, I have gotten to a place where I am accepting of it. I will never be "okay" with it, because I can't help but long for the experiences I am being denied. But, I had gotten to a point where I was no longer angry, no longer bitter, and I was able to accept that I will have my own set of experiences, and that although the path to having my child will be different, the ending will be the same. I was alright with it. Until, after extensive review of my medical files in their entirety I got news that was almost as awful as the day they told me I needed a hysterectomy. "You should have never had that surgery. The hysterectomy was unnecessary and could and should have been avoided if not by the fault of previous surgeons." And just like that the pain I had worked so hard on healing, the open wound I had finally watched heal, was now ripped open again.Hearing that my hysterectomy could have been avoided, could have not happened was a blow. The knock out blow that I never saw coming. My guard was down, my gloves down by my side. This fighter hit the mat, and hit it hard. How am I supposed to be okay now? How am I supposed to feel after hearing that the first eight surgeries I had were done so inadequately that I had to undergo a surgery at the age of 24? That the lab reports all showed precancerous changes and nothing that would indicate a diagnosis of cervical cancer and/or a need for such an invasive surgery??I felt like my entire story should be erased, that I should be able to flip back to the part right before this, and be able to choose a different adventure.But this isn't a Choose Your Own Adventure book, because this adventure was chosen for me. There is no re write, no option of going back and changing it. Instead, I have to do what I have always done, pick up the pieces and move forward.
   
       I debated for weeks about whether to share this, if I was even ready to. I am choosing to share it because it is a part of my story. The story continues. Each and every moment, happy and sad, has led me to exactly where I am right now. Life isn't a fairy tale, there is no option to edit and write another draft. This is our one shot, our one chance. Sometimes it is hard, sometimes its messy, and sometimes its sad. But the best part is, its not over. This is not the end, it is just another part of the story. A part that reminds me that I can not change what has happened but I can instead embrace it, and know that although I did not want the surgery and I wish it never happened, it did. But that surgery changed me, that surgery made me stronger and made me a survivor. I may have lost a lot from the surgery, but I also gained. I gained a new outlook on life. I learned to push myself even when I am so close to giving up. I learned to look for the bright side of things, because it could always be worse. I learned to be positive, to love wholeheartedly and found someone who loves me  the same. I found that I am tougher than I could have ever imagined and determined. I can and I will overcome whatever comes my way because I am a fighter.
   
      The amazing thing about choosing your own adventure is that no matter which way you get there, the ending is still available. The story continues, and my journey to parenthood continues. I may not have chosen the path to get here, but I am here. The rest of my story is still unwritten. And I am ready for the next chapter :)






Sunday, August 9, 2015

Does Heaven have a mailbox?


                                                                                                                                           








                                                                                       July 26, 2015
Dear Mom,
      It has been a while since we have talked, and for that I am sorry. It is so hard some days and I miss you so much that I can not even concentrate on the world around me. I wish you were here to have this conversation instead of me having to send this letter. I wish you here to see all the things I have done. To see the big moments; to see me fall in love, graduate, get married. Or more importantly for all those small moment; to dry my tears when I am crying, hold my hand when I am scared, and laugh alongside me at the funny moments. Instead, I sit here, sixteen years after our last day together. Realizing that I have now lived as much of my life without you as I did with you. 
          All I can  remember is the lasts, the last hug, the last kiss, the last conversation. And I sit here wishing we had time for one more last. Maybe if I had known how hard life would be without you I would have appreciated time with you more. Maybe I wouldn't have been so quick to let go. Sixteen years with you was not enough time. I need you to know that I love you but I can't help that a small part of me is angry. Not so much with you, but with myself. Angry that I didn't say I love you more, mad that I didn't understand how much I needed you, and how much it was going to hurt to live without my mom. Growing up without my mother left me broken. Piece by piece I picked myself back up and had to fill all the holes that you leaving left. I spent so many years trying to fill the huge emptiness in my heart that I didn't think was ever possible to heal. I needed you to tell me it was going to be okay, to tell me when I was making mistakes, and be my cheerleader when I was close to giving up. I had to learn to instead be my own hardest critic, my own fan club, and my own worst enemy at times. 
           With that being said, I need you to know that I understand that you're here as much as you can be. I can literally look at pictures of myself and see your smile in mine. I feel you in the warm sunshine and in the cool fall breeze. I search for you in the moments I need you most, thinking of what you would tell me to do. You were by far the strongest person I have ever met. You fought and lost a battle that was bigger and stronger than you, but never once complained. You lived a short life but managed to touch everyone you met in that brief time. Everyone that knew you was better simply by being around you. You lit up a room with your smile and warm personality. You were nurturing and loving and made everyone around you feel at ease. You made all of the little things become big things; every celebration, large or small, never went unrecognized. You were thoughtful and always knew the right things to say at the time everyone needed it. Your life may not have been long enough to teach me all of the lessons a daughter needs from her mother; but you still managed to instill the important ones. Because of you, I know that everyone needs someone to make them feel special. I know to appreciate all of the little things, because those are the ones that matter the most. I know that a smile is the best accessory you can wear. I know that laughter is the best medicine, and can heal more than you think. You taught me to love with my whole heart, no matter how scary that might be, because life is short and love is powerful. You are the one who showed me to always search for the silver lining, because every situation presented is a lesson. I search to find the good around me in the worst of times to remind myself that there is always something to be thankful for. Because of you, I will be an amazing mom. I will hold my child every second that I can. I will teach my child all of these valuable lessons and tell them that their grandmother loves them. I will be sure to tell my child that I love them every chance I get. I am writing letters to my child so that should the day arise that I am not present with them, that they can read the things I longed to hear from you on my most important days. 
         
I will love you for always. I will see you one day, and when that day comes, we will have so much to talk about.  I hope when that day arrives you are waiting for me, with your cup of coffee and ready to catch up on all you are missing out on. Until then, I promise to continue to live the life you made possible. I promise to keep smiling and live a life that you would be happy to be a part of. I love you.

                                                                                                          Love,
                                                                                                        Colleen

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Cleaning out the closet

          It's that time of year, the time all of us who suffered through the cold, bitter, New England winter have been not so patiently waiting for. Spring has arrived! Spring is the time for renewal, and a time for change. Many of us use the arrival of Spring as a time to clean. A time to clear away the snow, the shovels, and the boots, and watch as flowers bloom and blossom.  To pack away the coats,gloves, and mittens and embrace the promise of warmer weather.  I love the feeling of opening the windows and airing out the winter months, letting the clean fresh breeze fill the house. I get a feeling of excitement organizing my closet, as I put away all of the bulky winter clothes and suddenly feel as though I have a brand new wardrobe in front of me. All of the dark, heavy clothes are replaced by bright, cheery ones. Each year I always find several items that have been forgotten about as they fell behind the thick wool sweaters. Have you ever found a shirt in the way back of your closet, that you forgot was there because it was out of sight and you overlooked it? How wonderful of a feeling to throw on that shirt and wear it as if you had just purchased it. Sometimes we are so busy focusing on people and situations that we fail to see other "shirts" that are in the back of the closet.


           I love Spring cleaning, but the one thing I forget to do every year, is to clean out my life. Yes, my life. Spring is a time to start anew, so why not leave those behind who are weighing us down? Those who no longer need to be a part of our "closet". I pride myself on my thoughtfulness and my kindness. I am the first to reach out to people, I am the first to send a card , to be there for someone in their time of need. To lend a helping hand, or a shoulder to cry on. I love being silly and making people laugh, because laughter truly is the best medicine. There comes a time where you have to look around and see who is willing to do these things for you. Who dries your tears? Who cheers you on from the sidelines? My mother always used to tell me to think of who I would call at 3 a.m. if I was stranded on the side of the road. Who would answer? Who would come to your aid? While the good hearted optimist in me would like to think everyone in my life would do this, sadly I know the truth.  It is in both the worst and best of times that people will allow you to view a different side of them. I have had several opportunities in my life to see people's true colors exposed, and for some it is not a shade I am fond of. I want to fill my life with bright, happy, positive people. I am no longer interested in having anyone or anything in my life  that doesn't make any effort to be a part of mine. Just as the seasons change, people change.Sometimes it so hard for us to see past who we want someone to be that we forget to see them as they are. People and situations change so that we can learn to let go. We can clean them out of our lives and make room for bigger and better things. What a wonderful thought that some of the best days of our lives haven't happened yet. The best is yet to come.

          Use this new season to make yourself a priority. Being selfish is the best advice I can give. Not selfish in a negative sense, but possess a selfishness that shines through in your strides to be the person you want to be. You need to make yourself happy before anyone else can. Being a parent requires you to be the best that you can be. Having children changes everything, and it is a change we are ready and longing for. Suddenly, this tiny little person will become the center of our lives. This child will look to us for love and support. Why not use this time before we have children to ensure that we are the best that we can be? Utilize this time to ensure that we can offer our child two strong, loving parents? Our child deserves to be the center of our  family, and our child will be. Everyday I am continuing to strive to be the best version of myself because I deserve it, my husband, family, and friends deserve it. Because our baby deserves it. This is a huge part of what to expect when you're NOT expecting.

           I am working on clearing out my "closet", my life, my mind. I have been working on focusing my time and energy on those people and situations that are worthy of it. Those people who have been there, in my corner, every step of the way. Getting married, we took vows, "for better or for worse", which is the most important to me. This should be the standard for all relationships in your life, with everyone important to you. It's those who stick by our sides and loved us when we felt as though we had nothing to offer. Those are the relationships that last, that are true and everlasting. Those are the shirts I have moved to the front and center of my closet.

So go ahead, grab the broom and partake in some spring cleaning. Sweep, sweep!