My Dad.

One week ago, we lost our dad. We didn’t lose him exactly, but he passed away. I always found the terms associated with death to be sweet, caring, nurturing…comforting, even. Maybe to someone else. To me, all the terms associated with your dad dying just sound like total bullshit.

My dad wasn’t like many other dads. But then again I suppose every daughter probably says that about her dad. But really, my dad was different. He was the kind of dad you could text in the middle of the night to check the status of that impending thunderstorm…that is, until he got sick. He’s the kind of dad who would chat forever about the ole’ Tom Petty albums or reminisce about the Traveling Wilbury’s “End of the Line” lyrics until he was blue in the face…that is, until he got sick and stopped listening to music. He was the kind of dad that had your back in every horrific relationship, and then had your husband’s back in the “right” relationship….that never changed, even at “the end”.

My dad and I had somewhat of a tumultuous relationship at times. I suppose some would say it’s because we’re too much alike. Too passionate. Too opinionated. Too sarcastic. Too trusting (yet too guarded?). The thing is, when I was younger, my dad was my best friend. The one I’d leave the safety and security and stability of my very own Mom’s house for. The one I’d defend through thick and thin, and the one I’d protect until my last breath. I’d eventually grow up and learn that some of those things caused more pain than relief, but nonetheless, that was my life for many years.

Throughout the past week I’ve heard from people who were directly impacted by my dad the same way I was when I was younger. He saved them. He helped them see clearly. He helped them find their worth and purpose. Though my dad was never a perfect man, (who is?), he cared deeply for the people in his life. He cared about my sister and my brother, and me. He was a proud man- in the way that every dad should be proud of his kids. He was protective, overly protective at times, but I trust now that he was always keenly aware of the times I needed the extra protection, even when I didn’t realize it.

I used to think (and this is an ugly truth that I’m about to admit) that my day-to-day life wouldn’t change if my dad wasn’t part of it. I have three kids. A husband. A job. A house. A brother and sister. A mom who means the infinite world to me. I have friends and a life and a career and all these things that I’ve created and developed and maintained- even in the many years my dad lived in other states. So I thought- my life won’t change much without his daily texts or weekly calls.

My. God. Was. I. Wrong.

The plants that have poured in from supporting friends and co-workers over the past week…how do I take care for them or re-pot them without my dad’s advice. That project that my brother just did in his garage- who will he send the picture of the final product to, if not my dad? Who will I talk to about the bitterly cold weather, and decipher if the roads are “Gretchen-capable” of driving on, if not my dad? The snarky post about his passing and the cruel, insensitive comments about his lifestyle that have been posted- who do I bitch to if not my dad.

You see, you never really know the impact and coverage someone has in your life- until you no longer have the option to doubt it or question it, or even appreciate it. You never understand a father’s true love for you until it’s absolutely taken from you. You’ll never understand the hurt and the pain of not being able to reach out to him…until he “passes,” or is “lost,” or is “gone.” And then, unfortunately, it’s just too late.

I have zero zero zero regrets when it comes to my relationship with my dad. I firmly believe in the power of God’s plan and the lessons we take and learn from every single relationship in our life. My relationship with my dad was much more than just a fleeting lesson, but it is a lifetime of love and value. A relationship that sustained me for years. A relationship that taught me, cautioned me, and fulfilled me. I will not let his “passing” take that from me.

Forever in my heart. I love you Dad.

Trash Trucks and Cheeseburgers

*written through tear soaked eyes, 10/15/2021

Sitting down to write this, my precious beloved Stausi is sitting at my feet, her little cheeks puffing with air as she half -barks/ half- whimpers in her sweet dream. I imagine she has no idea what’s to come in the next few days. Today we got the horrific news that due to her fight with seizures over the past couple years, her body has endured some irreversible damage and we must do the unthinkable and lay her to rest.

Telling the kids this new this morning, I knew I wanted to do it without Ryan home. Just the three of us. Well, four including our sweet pup. As Lilly walked out of her bathroom, rounding the corner to the living room, she instantly knew something was wrong. My eyes were swollen from crying, and her brother was sitting patiently waiting to hear whatever it was that I needed to talk to them about. All I got out was “the vet called back…” and Lilly was weak in the knees. I called her over to where Anderson and I were sitting, Stausi perched between us, perfectly close to both of us- not wanting to be too far away from either of us.

This was the worst news I have ever had to give my kids. It was the hardest morning I think we’ve endured together- maybe ever. And I know the worst is yet to come on Monday morning when Ryan will leave with our Stausi and come home alone.

We thought of all the ways we could make her last weekend at home with us as enjoyable as possible. This weekend she turns 7, and so we want to ensure we spoil her, get her all her favorite foods (this means cheeseburgers, pup cups, and lots of TJ treats!), and smother her with all the hugs and love we have to give.

As I heard the garbage truck pass by this afternoon, my heart just sank as her ears perked up. This would be the last time she’d hear that sound at home. This would be the last time I got to see her fury little face smile watching the FedEx guy come to the door, and growl at the pesky squirrel hiding nuts in our pots on the deck (gaw, how I wish she’d get just one squirrel in her life! How happy she’d be!).

So pray for our family as we go through this incredibly tough time. Hug your dogs for us, and never take one of those annoying pesky barks for granted!

Rest in peace sweet Stausi.

Stausi Eugene Hahn 10/16/14-10/18/2021

Personal Narrative: An Assignment

Lilly came home from school last week with an assignment to write a personal narrative about a traumatic or life-changing experience in her life. She went through the timeline of her life, not really able to identify any trauma or major changes in her life (oh the bliss of being a kid!). She settled on writing about her dad leaving IN to move to MN (it was that or the first time our dog had a seizure…real problems over here!)

As Lilly has written this six page narrative, she’s asked me questions along the way. “What year did Dad move?” “How long was Dad in treatment?” …all the while, making me rehash some old memories that I’d suppressed over the past decade. The way I am able to identify the months of times he was home or in Minnesota, tying them to traumatic events that occurred during that time period. Thinking to myself, “well he missed your third birthday party because he was on a four day bender..so that was in May…” “well, we came home from church and his car was packed to move BACK to MN and it was right after Christmas because he had that gift Nana bought him packed in the car, so that had to have been at least December…” The memories during this time are blurry- they seem like someone else’s life, not mine. But these memories, this story…they ARE mine. And now it’s her’s too.

I never wanted to be the girl engaged to a drug addict. I never wanted to have kids with someone who was emotionally, verbally, and, at times, physically abusive. But the reality is- this is all part of my story, and it’s part of Lilly’s. While the details may differ between her dad’s recollection and mine, the reality is, we’re all better people because of all the details of the story- whoever’s version we go with. And while people who come into our life now and in the future may never fully understand, I pray that they love us through the residue of what’s left from the hardships we endured. Because I assure you, my Lilly is going to shine- despite the story of her dad moving to MN, despite our moving six times since then, despite anyone who is embarrassed that this is our story. My Lilly will shine because she has seen me shine. And I am damn proud of myself for that.

One Month Later

It’s been one month since our sweet Palmer Paige was born. I’ll spare you the birth story, though it is a good one…movie-esque my husband would say. The thing I will forever remember from Palmer’s birth story is just how incredibly supportive, loving, and concerned Ryan was. The look on his face, the touch of his hands, and his sweet kind words will forever be etched into my mind. (Thank you, sweet sweet Ryan!)

So one month into life with a newborn. Ya’ll, it’s been incredibly natural. She has slipped into our life and routine nearly seamlessly. The late nights have been bearable and dare I say, enjoyable! The older kids have been incredibly helpful and fun throughout the past month, not that I’m surprised- they’re great kids! Ryan wears fatherhood well- things have really seemed to come organically to him. I’ve always loved watching him with my Lilly and Anderson, and now seeing him with Palmer has made me fall in love all over again, in the perfect cliche’ kind of way!

The things that have popped up over the past month though, that I wasn’t prepared for are my lingering feelings from my first two births, my pridefullness (it’s a word now) in raising said two kids on my own, and my hardcore dedication to being a working mom. Learning how to now live this new birth story, co-parent alongside Ryan, and digging deeper into my loyalty to a job I don’t especially love or care about anymore are all things that I’ve really had to work through, or am actively learning to work through. Nothing could have prepared me for any of these feelings, insecurities, and even hardships (as a control-freak lunatic, co-parenting is no joke!). Add to this, a global pandemic with a Superman strength variant, and you’ve got yourself an anxiety-ridden Mama!

I am truly so thankful for the past month- the good, the great, and even the hard and the low moments. I am really looking forward to seeing what the next few months will bring us- where we’ll end up personally, professionally, and just overall as a family. I am praying for clarity. I am praying for patience and acceptance as our clarity prayers are answered, and I’m praying that we say “yes” to what is revealed.

Before Things Change…again.

We’re just a few short days from welcoming our new little bundle of joy! We are over the moon excited- and nervous- and prayerful, and all the things. Yes, I’ve done this before (as my oldest so kindly reminds me), but it’s been a very long time. All the awareness that I lacked the first two times is now sitting front row for this birth and I’m just..nervous.

More than anything, as we spend these next few days, our last as a family of four, I am trying to really lean into the reality as to what all will change for us once the new baby comes. Where we have grown accustomed to the ease of raising teenagers (and I mean that- they’re EASY kids), and having the freedom to come and go, that all changes after next weekend. Where my daughter and I have standing Starbucks dates, we now add the element of a newborn and all that entails for our 7am coffee runs. And how Anderson is now my baby of the family (even though he loathes that term!), the truth is he now becomes the middle child (..and let me just tell ya about the middle child!). Things are going to be different for us all, and while I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all, the reality is, things are just going to be different. Plain. And. Simple.

So as I sit here in my feelings, it’s important for me to acknowledge the changes, but also bask in the loveliness that is our life now. To my older two: You will never stop being the most important people in my life. You will never stop being important, my priorities, and my pride and joy. You will never have to question my love for you, or my complete and utter devotion to being your mom. Just as I’ve said before- nothing will ever change my love for you or my support of you…not even a new baby! While we’ve rolled with some changes over the past decade or more, I pray that you have remained fulfilled by knowing that I am ALWAYS here for you.

I am so in love with my life and I just can’t wait to see what it will look like once we add our new baby girl.

Things About Your Dad

Dear Little One,

It’ll still be another year until you get to spend your first Father’s Day with your dad, but I think it’s important that we give you a little heads up about the type of dad you’re getting, and the things that make him so special.

First, just know that your dad is very loved, by many people. He’s honest and loyal, and will go to the ends of the earth for the ones he loves. One of my favorite things about your dad is that he shows up for everything! He will be there for you, and for your brother and sister- no matter how big or small the event, he’ll be there. He’ll be your biggest cheerleader and supporter. No matter what you do, right or wrong, he will always be calm and respectful, and will always always always try to see things from your perspective.

Your dad cares deeply, and even though he doesn’t always vocalize it, he is obsessed with his family. Being a good husband to me, and a good dad to you, Lilly, and Anderson is the most important thing in the world to him. He is consistent. Nothing will ever change the way he loves each one of us.

But there are other things, sweet girl, that you should know about your dad! He laughs at his own jokes…a lot! (I can’t lie- it’s adorable and I love that about him!) He somehow always catches big fish when he’s alone, but never when we’re with him…interesting, huh?! He acts like Stausi is such a pest, but in reality he adores her! Messes don’t bother him at all- so never worry about things being out of place- all he cares about are the memories being made! (I’d be so lucky to be more like that!) He is known to make late night ice cream runs for us, and doesn’t think twice about stopping on the way home from a long day at work if there’s something you need from the grocery! He’ll do anything for us! One tip though, keep him away from sad movies about animals. He’s a mush ball and it’s just best we avoid those movies! Trust me!

From Lilly:

What a lucky girl you are. You have the best dad ever in the whole world of dads! Your dad is a kind man who will have the best influence on you, as he does to your brother and I. Your dad has the sweetest family that will always love and care for you to the fullest. He is one of the best Christians I’ve met and it really shows. He is the funniest, sour patch kids and laffy taffy eater that you’ll ever meet! Ryan has always been so sweet to us, and although we aren’t blood-related to him, it has never mattered to him and he will always treat us the same. He will love you to the core.

From Anderson:

You lowkey have the swaggiest dad ever ngl (not gonna lie). He’s always funny (mostly un-intentionally) and he always cares for you, even when he doesn’t want to show it, he cares. I know that you will grow up to be an intelligent, funny, (probably tall), independent girl who really cares about her family and the people she loves because of your dad.

See Little One, you’re blessed to have your sweet sweet dad in your life. He’s one of the best, and you’re so lucky! We are beyond thankful for him and all he does every single day to make us feel loved and valued. We cannot wait until you’re finally here so we can see just how wonderfully he’s going to love you too! You are your dad’s answered prayer. And he will spend his whole life making sure you are happy, loved, and always taken care of. That’s just the kind of man he is, and we are so lucky he’s ours!

Days.

Last Sunday at church Pastor Denny asked “what is our fascination with bad days?” It struck me that just 24 hours before that message I wrote about a bad day I was having. And I realized, I oftentimes focus on the bad things, the bad days. I remember a long time ago my dad told me that there’s no such thing as bad days just bad moments. And really, that’s true.

I realized that though we’ve had some real bummer days over the past year, they have been far exceeded by really good days! Through what has proven to be the hairiest year of our time, we’ve been able to do some really cool things and we’ve been able to spend a lot of really great days together making really happy memories.

In May we hosted my sister-in-law’s wedding at our house! It was such a magical day filled to the brim with love! Just a few weeks later we hopped in the car and road tripped to Hilton Head for a much-needed beach vacay with the kids! July 4th was spent with family, making amazing memories yet again! In October we road-tripped to the mountains of NC with most of the Middleton family. We hiked, we shopped, we RELAXED, and most importantly we laughed until we cried!

It is so easy to focus on the bad days, the hard situations, the times that feel like things will never get back to normal. But really, there are SO many amazing days between all of that, and those are what we will choose to focus on!

So here’s to what’s to come! Here’s to choosing joy in the midst of difficult times, to finding the good in between bad moments and allowing ourselves to cling to those good days when things go sideways!

Failure.

I never cared much about not being able to do something really really well. I am okay with being “just okay” at certain things. I’m not a great cook, but I cook well enough that I’ve been able to keep kids alive for the past fourteen years. I don’t consider myself a brilliant writer, but I’ve blogged and journaled for as long as I can remember. I’m not overly great at any one particular thing, and this has always been totally fine with me. It’s who I am- what makes me ME.

Being part of the Recurrent Miscarriage Club is not something I ever expected for my life. As I’ve mentioned before, I never considered having more kids after my perfect “girl and boy” pairing that I already have. But then, Ryan Middleton happened. And everything changed. (And I know, poooor me, my dream husband and two of the sweetest human children EV-ER). Now I can’t imagine not having children with Ryan. I can’t fathom going through life without more Littles like my Lilly and my Anderson. But to this point, I’ve not been able to make that happen. It’s the one thing that I’m not okay being “just okay” with.

Unless you’ve endured infertility, miscarriage, or recurrent miscarriage you just can’t grasp the enormity to this sense of failure. My logical mind knows that this is science. This is just a matter of things not lining up properly. But my heart and my feelings instead say: WE get pregnant, but I can’t keep the pregnancy. It’s personal. So personal that even my incredibly patient and entirely TOO forgiving husband can’t understand. He doesn’t understand that it hurts because I can’t give him what I know he wants too. He doesn’t understand that it hurts because I’ve never wanted something so badly in my life. He doesn’t understand that I’ve never allowed myself to feel failure in my life- because I’ve always been okay being “just okay” at things. He doesn’t understand how differently that type of love feels- the love between a parent and a baby. I want him to get to experience all those things, and mostly, I want to experience that alongside him.

So, while I won’t let myself fester too much in these feelings of failure, I will let myself grieve these losses. I will let myself feel all of this- the hurt, the disappointment, the physical pain of daily hormone injections and ultrasounds every three days, the inner sadness that sometimes seeps into my outside life, and causes me to pour champagne at noon on a Saturday afternoon to mask the emotions!

I will feel it all, because I know I love a God who knows my desires and my heart. I know I serve a God who is good and mighty, and who knows the outcome of all these feelings. I know I have a God who has his hand on my life and can scoop me up and soften all these feelings with just my willingness to let Him. And. He.NEVER.Fails.

Pivot! Pivot! PIVOT!

The first half of 2020 has proven to be full of surprises, month.after.month. I am truly ready for a solid Ross Geller “PIVOT!” at this point! March brought the dreadful COVID-19, which came with changes at work, school, socialization, and well…everything! What we all thought would be a brief adjustment to our normal routine has become a new way of life. We’ve seen the country explode due to one social injustice after another. We’ve seen a passion from our friends and family that we never saw before, and felt a burning call to movement in our own souls that we never felt before- or if we did, we were able to ignore it. Now we can’t (and we shouldn’t).

In our house, we’ve endured heartaches in the form of two more miscarriages, we’ve experienced celebrations in the form of work promotions, we’ve made memories with the kids by way of vacations and staycations, and have put our finances to good use in the form of multiple home updates! As we are close to wrapping up the first month of the start to the second half of this insanely chaotic year, I am choosing a second word of the year.

PIVOT.

When March happened, and shut downs and quarantines started (and then lingered), I can honestly say I was embracing it. For someone who loves her alone time (and please hear me say- I STILL DO!), I was actually (and surprisingly) LOVING the time working at home with Ryan, and having the kids at home 24/7. As we now navigate this back-to-school/reopening plan, I must admit I’ve considered homeschooling these alien children more than once, just to keep them home with me! (Could be that I forget how dreadful eLearning was for those four months, I don’t know!) And even though I am lucky enough to work fully remote now, Ryan has gone back to an office…and I have to say, I liked my days way more when he was home all the time! So now that life is starting to go back to “normal”, I am working to embrace the “old” way of life again…with the kids at school, and my husband at work all day.

Work has been incredibly different, and I’ll spare you all the details, but I am proud of my husband’s promotion to VP of Operations, and look forward to my new role once things get rolled out. Again, another big “PIVOT!” moment- at a time when this all started we were concerned what our future with our company would look like. Now we are hopeful and excited for the future!

Recently we endured our second miscarriage of 2020. Bleh. The thing I’ll say is this- we are finally at a point where we’re ready to PIVOT in our outlook and “plan” of growing our family (right now). And believe me, this is not a decision (errr…an acceptance) that has come easily or without a lot of tears and prayers. Before our second miscarriage, I was really digging deeper into the Word and trying to really grasp for any answers. The morning I was to get some test results, I wrote down “No matter what…God’s plan is perfectly designed for US.” And it piggy-backed on something I had read or something we had studied earlier that week- Isaiah 55:8-9. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

So let me explain how this piece of humble pie hit hard then in May, and again in July as we experience what is now our third miscarriage since we’ve been married. I am so incredibly thankful for the God who protects my body from an unhealthy pregnancy. I am so incredibly thankful for the God who KNOWS what is best for me and my marriage and my husband, because if I was in control, I’d go full-force at this pregnancy. I’d get to be pregnant along my bestie sis-in-law, I’d get to experience all the beauty that a pregnancy with the most loving husband brings, I’d get to have it all…or at least that’s what happens in MY version of the perfect plan. THANKFULLY, God knows the better plan. And I am finally at peace, pivoting in my mind, that there is beauty in a different plan. One that includes traveling with my husband and kids, remodeling a house to make it a loving home, growing in my marriage and as a mom to teenagers (ya’ll, that is no joke in and of itself). I am truly thankful for the faith in my God, who knows the perfect plan for my family. And mostly, being humble enough to know that MY plan is not THE plan.

As a self-proclaimed control freak (shocking, I know), I have felt a calming peace in our future. I am finally “letting” God take the reins, willingly giving them over to Him (I know I know…I never REALLY had control, but ssssshhh!).

No matter how this back-to-school season goes, or how many hours my husband works, or how many friends and family have babies around me, I am at peace with this decision we made to pivot our focus to something different than what WE planned.

Here’s to the final months of 2020, and for future Ross Geller quotes in my blog!

Happy 14th Birthday, Lilly Jane

Today is my sweet Lilly’s 14th birthday. Being the first born has to be scary- your mom literally has no clue what she’s doing, and yet somehow Lilly has managed to morph into this perfect little ball of perfection! At the ripe age of twenty-four, I was incredibly naïve to parenthood. Having Lilly changed my life in ways I can never fully explain. The excitement, the fear, the unknown. We went through it all together. She helped me grow. She pushed me to do more, be better.

This year is the first time I’ve actually considered how little time I still have with her at home. Before we know it she’ll be driving, and then heading off to college. She’ll start her own new adventures, and the squishy perfect little girl I once held will be gone.

I am beyond lucky to have such a sweet, kind, loving teenage daughter. Everyone warns you about the teenage years, and though we’re in the early stages of those years, I am loving every single day with her. Lilly is truly the most thoughtful girl in the universe. She loves her family fiercely. She is the first one to offer a helping hand. She is genuinely kind and truly cares about other people. To know her is to love her.

Today, I am just so incredibly thankful to have a daughter like Lilly. There is no one like her in the world, and I just thank God for her every single day.