I thought I knew

Almost all of my friends have a child, many have more than one. My sister has a baby, who I was in the hospital room when my niece was born. I babysat little kids since I can remember, for money and sometimes for free. I excel at being organized and convincing people to do what I think is a good idea. Another way of saying, I'm bossy. I knew what I was getting in to when we started trying to get pregnant.

18 months later we had just given our notice to both our employers and our landlord we were moving. And it wasn't a little move. We were moving from our hometown, Sacramento, California to Raleigh, North Carolina. Two days later, I took 3 pregnancy tests, not believing my eyes that it was reading positive. We were elated. Or at least I was on the outside. Inwardly, I was beginning to panic. 

Who moves 2,800 miles from their support system when they know they are pregnant? Well, we did. We arrived to Raleigh on June 3 to help start a church. Over the next few months as we prepared for our baby, I planned to get a job that I could go back to after the baby was a few months old. I would balance work and home life with my husband by his schedule being flexible and my employer (who I did not have) would let me work part time. I have a specialized skillset in special education at the state level, I figured I would be a diamond in the rough and certainly the state of North Carolina would hire me. Little did I remember that it is a rare person who hires a pregnant lady. 

As we neared our due date of December 31, we had didn't have health insurance. 

What moving across the country taught me about my beliefs

Earlier this week I shared how we moved to North Carolina one year ago. The story continues by going back in time a tiny bit to May 1, 2013...

On this particular day, I formally gave my notice to the California Department of Education (DOE) that I would be leaving work there and moving to Raleigh. Two days later, we would find out, we were pregnant with our sweet son, Samuel. Even with finding out we were pregnant, Anthony and I knew we were still supposed to move.

We had no jobs lined up. I did have a phone interview scheduled with the NC DOE and thought I would get the job. We had money in savings and were scheduled to continue being paid through the middle of August. We had a place to live until the middle of August too. We had health insurance through September. Not wanting to jeopardize our chance to get new health care and have the pregnancy covered, we didn't see a doctor to confirm we were pregnant. I just took 4 tests. 

When I gave my notice a year ago, I told my boss I had some leads at the NC DOE and he kindly said I wouldn't have any trouble finding employment. I greatly appreciated his faith in me. I wouldn't have said so at the time, but I thought I was a great employee and would be employed by July 1, at the latest. Little did I know, this would not be what happened. 

Shortly after arriving in Durham (about 25 minutes from Raleigh) on June 3, I began working at a preschool on a temporary assignment. After that ended, I worked at a pool supply store for 3 weeks. All the while, applying for many, many jobs to work for the State of NC. I had two interviews at the DOE in September. Anthony and I felt I needed to tell them I was pregnant and I didn't get the jobs. This came as a huge let down to me. How was I ever supposed to contribute to our family if I wasn't making money? How come things weren't working out for me to be successful? Why did I have to rely on Anthony and why wasn't God letting me take care of myself? 

These questions led to much thought and life reflection. I was face to face with the reality that I believed I only had value if I was making money. Here's another way of saying that: if I don't bring home a paycheck, I don't think I'm worthwhile. Which brought up the next truth: I did not believe that being a stay-at-home mom was a valuable profession. Sure, to any mom's face, I would say it was the most important job and I really thought I believed this. That is until I realized there is no paycheck. I can't be a career woman and take care of Samuel full time. 

My personal value was wrapped up in my ability to make money and be successful in the work world. Ouch. That is pretty messed up if you're a follower of Christ. And you say you are living for something greater than yourself. It isn't what a good wife would think. It certainly isn't what a loving mom would think either. But that's what I believed. 

I think we had to move here and not get "stable" jobs until December for me to realize how my measure of God's provision was my ability to provide for myself. And no sooner did the stable job come, that Anthony needed to resign because he didn't feel comfortable with staying there. So here we were in North Carolina, 2,770 miles away from our families with no jobs, a new baby, and one month of money left. 

I would have never agreed to move to North Carolina one year ago had I known what was coming. 

I needed to rely on God. In other words, I needed to be put in a circumstance where I actually needed God. I enjoyed relying on myself, because I knew I would come through. I've always prided myself in my ability to achieve and earn gold stars.

Moving here has taught me that God comes through too. Even if it's at the last minute. As of today, we have never gone without food, shelter, or clothing. Our daily needs have been met. What a huge gift it has been to be taken care of just as scripture promises. 

If God clothes the field grass, will he not clothe you? If He feeds sparrows, will he not feed you? No need to worry dear child, God cares far more about you than birds or grasses. 

Proof that God has taken excellent care of us!

Packing up and Leaving Sacramento

A year ago today, we set our alarms early. We needed to get up and be ready because we had family coming to help us finish up packing our house. We had people stopping by to purchase our couches. I was 7 weeks pregnant and felt pretty cruddy in the morning. The one thing that helped: Jamba Juice smoothies. I stopped by Tupelo Coffee, the Hubster's "Cheers" (where everybody knew his name), and got him a latte. We'd need fuel to get going on this dreary, bittersweet day. 

As the morning progressed, we were simultaneously loading our U-haul Box, our CR-V, my dad's truck, and sister-in-law's car with unwanted items and things that just wouldn't fit. Our neighbor's stopped by to say goodbye. Our landlord stopped by. "Where do you guys want this?" was a very familar phrase heard that day, and weeks later.

My sister Heidi called, "When do you think you're leaving? We're going to come over," as Anthony and my Dad put the final touches on the U-haul pod.

Anthony and Dad headed over to U-haul to drop off the box, after much drama, they returned home 2 hours later. They did overhear a lady asking if U-Haul had anything to pack a "Chester Drawers," we're pretty sure she meant a Chest of Drawers but it has become quite the joke to Anthony and Dad. We had them meet us down the street at Togo's (a sandwich shop). There we said goodbye to Heidi, Caleb (my brother-in-law), and sweet Olivia. 

We finally got everything packed in one of the vehicles, locked the front door, and put the keys in our mailslot and heard the keys fall to the ground in our living room. Our cleaner would come later that day to do a final cleaning. We hugged my parents, Scott (Anthony's step-dad), Brianna (Anthony's sister) and Chad (Brianna's husband) and headed south on 57th Street, for the last time. It started drizzling, the weather matched our emotions perfectly.

We got on the Capital City Freeway and headed East. We took a little detour to say goodbye to our friends Dan and Jackie, who were also moving this very day. Seeing 2 empty houses on the same day was a lot to take in.

We got back in the car and continued East on Interstate 80, another stop, to say goodbye to my grandparents in Granite Bay. We didn't realize it, but it would be one of the last times we'd see them together. They've both passed away since we moved to NC. 

We finally got going and made our final stop to say goodbye to my cousins in Applegate. At each stop, we gathered with our family and friends and prayed. 

As Sacramento began to be further behind us in the rearview mirror, I was a mix of emotions. Excited about what the future would bring, what would the roadtrip be like, how would we like our new church, what would the weather be like, when would we find new jobs, a new car, etc. I was also reserving myself from thinking too much about what we were leaving, our entire life up to that point. Our support system, our jobs, friends, family, well-known roads, familiarity, and I didn't know it then, but a sense of comfort we have not had since we left our house that afternoon.

We finally arrived at our first place for the night, Elko, Nevada. We spent the night and the next morning as we were checking out of the 2-story hotel, I took the stairs with the guitars, and Anthony took the elevator with the rest of our things. The power went out and he was stuck in the elevator. After 30 minutes, I finally called the fire department myself and the firemen showed up and got Anthony out of the elevator. 

We continued on the road.

That should have given us a little idea of the challenges we would begin to face as we journeyed East. We had sold almost everything, quit our good jobs, and had money in the bank to keep us afloat until we landed new jobs in Raleigh. We kind of felt like missionaries, yet, we didn't ask for support. Not financial at least. We didn't have to wait til we got the financial backing of a church, or friends, or anyone. We were self-sufficient on this faith-journey and the pride I felt in that was huge. 

Over the next few days, we put pavement between us and the West Coast. Our coffee-snobbery was thrown to the side and we were happy to see a Starbucks!

There were a huge tornado storm across the mid-west, we saw on the news. We decided to stay a couple extra days in Boulder, Colorado. Better to be "stuck" in this city than somewhere in the middle of the United States! We went to the Denver Zoo, saw a Colorado Rockies game and saw our friend Jesse who happened to be visiting his then-girlfriend Nicole in Boulder. For some reason, I couldn't enjoy our time though, I was so anxious to get to our new city. I was afraid we were spending too much money and the timeline of us getting to Raleigh was going slower than I expected. 

I, I, I. These were statements that were constantly coming out of my mouth. I wanted things to go a certain way. I had a timeframe. I had a plan and knew that it would work. If the past was any indication, the goals I set, I almost always made and with excellent results. I knew we felt God had called us to Raleigh, but I knew I would be able to make things work, so we'd be successful once we got here. Little did I know, what I had done in the past would not work anymore. 

To Be Continued...

Five Minute Friday: Mess

The word makes me cringe. I can't stand messes. I especially have a hard time with messes that are my own. It's hard to see the beauty of something when the mess is what stands out to me. 

Take this picture of our kitchen counter (which I took this morning).

The main thing I see when I look at it is how cluttered and disheveled it looks. But upon closer reflection, I see more than that. 

I see an orange mug that's filled with coffee for Anthony to take to work. I see a sweet book from the library, Betsy-Tacy. Lots of groceries. A little square box my grandparents had for me to use as a bank when I was little. A juicer. And the thing that stands out most, flowers Anthony recently bought me on our trip to Trader Joe's.

Each of these things represents other things like: a job, the ability to read, money for groceries, memories from my grandparents, the ability to make healthy food, and the love of my husband. I can look at this counter and be frustrated by its imperfection or I can look a little deeper and see the other things that it stands for. Maybe that's what I'm learning right now, how to see the beauty of messes. And this includes my own self. 

Linking up with Lisa-Jo for Five Minute Friday where we write freely for 5 minutes.

8 Years Ago...

I married my best friend.


I thought I loved him then! I didn't know you could grow to love someone more with time's passing. The weeks have turned into months and years. The time we've spent together causes my heart to grow more in love than I'd ever imagined.

We met a long time ago and started hanging out a lot in 2002 or 2003. The timeline is fuzzy, because it's hard for me to recollect being an adult and him not being around.


Our relationship has been through instant messaging, text messaging, emailing, phone calling, instagramming, and facetiming. We've been there for each other through marriages, deaths, moves, breakups, infertility, babies, and so many other things. We've been around for short hair, long hair, soul patches, clean shaven, beards, faux hawks, weight changes, and more!




There isn't a day that goes by that I don't talk to him. He's the first person I tell when something is good or bad. He's seen the best of me and sadly the worst of me too.



There have been Christmases and birthdays, steaks and cakes, feasting and eating, and coffee and coffee and coffee.


We've travelled along the entire West Coast, across the midwest, and down the East Coast. We've been on trains, planes, boats, bikes, ferries, and cars. We've walked and talked along the streets of Sacramento, San Francisco, Monterey, Portland, Seatte, Vancouver, New York City, Washington DC, Richmond, Raleigh, Charlotte, and Durham.






There have been many, many trips to the Happiest Place on Earth.



There have been sleepless nights and long conversations into the wee morning hours. There have been prayers prayed, songs sung, tears shed. And there has been a lot of laughing and joking and smiling.

We've started and finished school. We've gotten into debt, we've paid off debt. We've saved up for things we needed to buy.


We've seen job: changes, successes, resignations, and hunts.

This last year has been our best and hardest one yet. Our family has grown!


We've stared together at our sweet boy and just smiled.

I can't imagine a life where Anthony wasn't in it and I'm so glad I don't have to!

Happy 8 years to my wonderful Hubster. I love you and can't wait to see what's up next.

February 2014 Recap

This has been a fun month! Sisters, cousins, smiles and snow were the major highlights. I'm using my Instagram pictures to tell you about this past month. 

My sisters and niece flew in at the end of January and got to experience the craziest snowstorm Raleigh has had in many years. Lucky for us we had lots of food and things to do to stay busy. Olivia loved her cousin and calls him "Ssss" or "baby." Heidi knit Sammy the cutest green blanket. Heidi (on the left in the pic below) and Heather (in the middle) brought Samuel tons of clothes and he was able to celebrate the Olympics with his own sweater. We facetime each other quite frequently and Olivia is truly a little ham. In the picture, she thought it would be funny to have two hats on. 

The second week in February, Raleigh got hit with another snowstorm. Since we were going to be home for a few days, I finally picked up my knitting and finished a cabled headband I'd been working on since the beginning of December! I had two Valentines this year and in the photo on the bottom corner I tried getting a smooch from my little Valentine. :-)

 (click on the picture to make it larger) 

I've been inspired by my sisters to keep knitting, so I made this little green beanie for Sammy. He needed a hat for this unpredictable weather we have in Raleigh. Seriously, in one week we had snow and it was almost 70 degrees. Last week my cousin Rachel came for a week. We were spoiled by her doing so much for us. Cleaning, cooking, and calming Sam the main things that occupied her time. We took her to Bojangles, Ole Time Barbecue, and Rach ate her first hush-puppy. We also introduced her to the Godfather series and we didn't even finish the 3rd movie in a week since we kept getting sidetracked! We did create the most delicious cheesecake and ate lots of tasty desserts. 

 

Remember when I met Gretchen Rubin? Rachel helped us hang up many of our pictures/artwork while she visited. I have been so surprised at the happiness boost I've had from hanging the pictures up. Anthony is sitting in his favorite chair with a picture above him titled, "What Goes Around Comes Around". Our friend Terry made it and I have a love-hate relationship with it. It's in our front room to remind me not to gossip. 

Every now and then I like to post an old picture on Instagram, for "throwback Thursday." The picture I put up was of Anthony and me in our backyard in Sacramento. It was in May 2011 and I had just finished my Master's degree. See that little picture of Sammy? He is wearing dark green overalls with a little fox on them! My mom got them for him and he wore them to celebrate his 2 month old birthday. Seriously, the time is flying by. Lastly, the picture of Sammy and me is to show a little onesie Heather bought him when she first found out we were trying to have a baby. It says "Here Comes Trouble" and it barely fit our little man. He's over 13 pounds now! Heather also sent us the Big Bang Theory on DVD to watch in the hospital when we were having Sammy. He came early so we didn't get to watch it then but now we're hooked. Bazinga!

In case you're curious, I used Instaport and PicMonkey to download my pictures and create the collages. 

Now March is here and begins a new month of family/friends visiting, Anthony starting a new job and more new experiences. Here's to a happy March, everyone!

Mom's Company Cheesecake

I love cheesecake, but tend not to make it because it's too labor intensive. When my mom was visiting after Samuel was born, she made us her cheesecake. It is super easy and isn't difficult to make. The sour cream topping hides any mistakes, bubbles, or variations in color!

My mom has an old Betty Crocker Cookbook. It's from the 70's, is hardbound and well worn. Inside this cookbook is a recipe for Company Cheesecake. I vividly remember eating this cheesecake over the years as we would have friends over for dinner or be guests at their homes. As you may know, I love modifying recipes. I didn't realize that characteristic was from my mom! Check out her recipe notes:

Mom's Company Cheesecake

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 c. Graham Crackers (aprox. 2 packages), finely crushed

  • 3 tbsp. Sugar

  • 1/2 tsp. Cinnamon

  • 4 tbsp. Butter, melted

  • 3 (8 oz.) pkgs. Cream Cheese, softened (or whipped cream cheese)

  • 1 1/3 c. Sugar

  • 2 tsp. Grated Lemon Peel

  • 2 tsp. Vanilla Extract

  • 4 Eggs

  • Sour Cream Topping: 1 c. sour cream, 2 tsp. Vanilla Extract, and 2 tbsp. Sugar (beat together)

Directions

Heat oven to 350. Mix cracker crumbs, 3 tablespoons sugar, cinnamon & butter. Press in bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan. Bake 10 minutes; cool.

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Beat cream cheese in large mixing bowl. Add 1 1/3 cup sugar gradually, beating until fluffy. Add vanilla; beat in 1 egg at a time. Pour over crumb mixture.

Bake until center is firm, about 1 hour. Cool to room temperature. Refrigerate at least 3 hours, but no longer than a few days (if it lasts that long). Top with sour cream mixture.

Loosen edge of cheesecake with knife before removing springform pan. Cut and serve to friends and loved ones. Enjoy!

Growing Our Family Part Four: The News

I began writing these posts November 2012. They share the difficult journey we traveled when we wanted to have a baby.

It's strange to recall the feeelings I had from a year ago. It was a normal January day and I was visiting my sister Heidi. As I held my niece, Olivia, I sat with tears streaming down my face as "that time" had come again. I shared how sad I was that every one of my friends had gotten pregnant and many had already had their babies in the time we had been hoping to have one. Jackie had even found out she was pregnant with twins! Something I have always dreamed of!

Heidi consoled me and said, "Malis, it's normal to feel the way you do. In fact, it would be strange if you weren't upset. But the thing is, whenever you do get pregnant, we'll all know that this baby was wanted. And we can all tell him/her that their entiire family was praying that they would be born."

In February and March, I had some testing done to see if there was a reason we weren't getting pregnant. All the while, Anthony kept saying we'd have a baby in God's timing and not to get fertility treatment. I needed some answers. We were still pursuing moving to North Carolina. Finally after having an HSG (specialized x-ray of my uterus) and the doctor saying nothing was wrong, Anthony said we needed to put all of this on hold. We'd look into it in the fall once we were in Raleigh and settled. 

We were both trying to get jobs, have Anthony's respiratory license transferred, researching places to live, amongst the sad process of beginning to say goodbye to our beloved family and friends. 

Growing Our Family Part Three: The Waiting Game

I began writing these posts November 2012. They share the difficult journey we traveled when we wanted to have a baby.

Waiting is an interesting lesson to learn. There are many things I’ve discovered about myself as I wait for that dreaded "time of the month" which means we aren't pregnant. 

Being a parent is not inside of my control. I’m already learning to let go. I think that’s the biggest lesson I’ve discovered thus far. Nothing goes according to plan. From the moment I thought we were ready, to the moment our baby is born; it’s all outside of my control.

When I visited my doctor recently he said it’s a miracle any babies are born. I wholeheartedly agreed with him.

I’m still waiting and learning. I’ve learned that I love Anthony even more than before. I have come to appreciate watching TV uninterrupted, sleeping through the night, spontaneous overnight trips. I hope that someday, I’ll have these memories to look back on. In a strange way, I’m learning to be content in the now. Which is all that I’ve actually been given. I don’t know if I’ll ever be a mom, but I do know I am a friend, wife, and employee today. I’m trying to enjoy these “roles” that I’ve been given and look forward to the future. A future that I’m sure will be better than anything I could plan for myself. It's November 20, 2012, I don't know if my future includes a son or daughter.

Growing Our Family Part Two: The Catalyst

I began writing these posts November 2012. They share the difficult journey we traveled when we wanted to have a baby. 

Anthony and I have had many, many conversations about the right time to begin trying to have a baby. When we sat across from each other at a Mexican restaurant near our house, we once again chatted about the “when.”  It was a Sunday, October 23, 2011, to be exact. He asked me, “How do you think we’ll know when the right time is?” My response was – “Maybe like we do for any other important thing; pray and ask God. We could even fast” I said.

That afternoon, we went to church. During our time of worship, I sat with a friend’s 5 year old little boy. He was restless, so I gave him a notebook to draw in. He tapped me on the leg and showed me a picture he drew. I asked him what it was. He said it was Anthony, me, and our baby. Surprised, I asked if it was a boy or girl. He said "I didn’t know, its a baby!"

Then our pastor began talking about the time when Jesus called His disciples. Jesus invited them to follow while at the peaks of their careers, they seemingly had better things to do. I clearly felt God say to me “now is the time.”  What? I thought, I’m at the peak of my career! Anthony is at the peak of his career.” The main theme of the message was to stop procrastinating and get on with the things youve been trying to put off.

When we got in the car to leave, I asked Anthony what he thought about the message. He told me he felt God say that now was the time to begin trying for a family. “Really” I asked? “When did you hear that?” It was when our pastor was talking about the disciples. Un-be-lievable. I don't think i can express my surprise I felt at that moment.

I didn’t think I would hear so clearly from God in regards to starting our family. That was almost 9 months after my lunch with Jackie and we still weren’t pregnant.