Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I'm Moving!

Hi Everyone-
Finally, I'm moving...not physically but virtually.

From now on I'll be posting at my new site Please stop by my new digs, poke around and BE SURE TO RESUBSCRIBE to my posts so you don't miss anything.

Thank you for sharing my first home here in the world wide web but now I'm all packed up and ready to go.

I'm extending you guys a personal, cordial invitation to stop on over at my new, brighter, improved digs!

Come on, go ahead click over to and I'll see you there!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

This Is Not The Story You Think It Is or Maybe It Is

(Our Bella)

Hi Everyone,

Well, it's been some time since I found my way back here. Mostly life has been full of highs but we had one very, very low that found me wandering off into the woods to lick my wounds privately.

After being a part of our family for almost sixteen years, the time came when we had to put our little doggie, Bella down. As I sit here typing this the tears well up, my heartbeat quickens and I find it difficult to catch my breath.


Our home feels so lopsided without her in it. We were a family of four, two with two legs and two with four. We are down to three now. When The Bird calls on his way home from work and asks his routine question, "Hey, Babe, have you fed the dogs?" He catches himself mid-sentence and with no comment from either of us corrects himself and says, "Did Bianca eat?" I'm sure his heart sinks as low as mine does at his natural slip of the tongue. For so long in our house dogs was plural.

Death is such a mystery. I hate it. The sadness her loss provoked in me felt all too familiar. Emotionally, it took me to a place I forgot I could go. After the death of my Mom, I tried to close the door on that dark, dank hallway that leads only to pockets of pain. While I cradled Bella in my arms on her last day with us, a sense of powerlessness crippled me.

“How can it be that my hysterical ache for her to get up and walk again and be whole, is of no consequence?”

It was the very same feeling I had holding vigil at my Mom's beside seven years ago. Holding my rosary beads, I pleaded with God to bequeath a miracle on our family and restore my mother to perfect health. I begged-I pleaded, I threw myself on His mercy. With no attempt to disguise my attempts at manipulation, I shrieked every scriptural quote I memorized as a child at Him. In essence saying the equivalent of the soldiers who crucified Him, “If you are truly the Son of God, come down off that cross.”


My Mom passed away as we cried, caressed her forehead and kissed her and in the wake of her death wake was a palpable sense of surrender.

Surrender is a complex concept, one I haven’t befriended very graciously. But surrender is not phased by the presence or absence of grace or dignity. Unaffected by my emotional temper tantrums, surrender suggests itself a viable alternative to emotional meltdowns.

While I’m willing to give surrender a nod for the peace it brings when embraced, I’m hardly at a place where I’d consider it the first place I’d turn in the face of a crisis, although I do have it listed in my phone book under "friends."

What helped me get by

Over the last few weeks I stumbled upon a book that kept me up at night and I found a way to interject into just about every conversation I had. It is the best first person account of embracing surrender I’ve come across. It should be required reading periodically throughout our lives. If you haven’t read, “This Is Not The Story You Think It Is,” by Laura Munson yet, close your laptop (or turn off your computer), put down your smart phone, grab your keys, put on your hazard lights and race to your local bookstore. Pick up a copy for yourself and every friend and family member you care about, even the cashier at your grocery store or pharmacist or trash man/woman. It’s that life changing.

With reckless abandon, she exposes the private precincts of her gut-wrenching attempt to adopt an attitude of non-suffering (which doubles in my book as surrender) in the face of a very raw, personal crisis.

Making the horrific decision to put Bella down circled me back to a place where I initially made no room for surrender. Laura’s book, however, reminded me that surrender really is the only friend we can rely on in the face of crisis. Surrender has the potential to liberate us from angst-albeit fleeting at times (I’m speaking for myself).

Hope you guys are all well. Please, make space in your schedules to read Laura’s book. You’ll thank me for the nudge.

Sixteen years is a long time. What are some benchmark moments for you, from the last sixteen years? Me, I buried my Mom and my dog and my husband’s best friend but we’ve also had some write-in-your-journal highlights too. I guess that’s how life is-the bitter with the batter as my Mom used to say.

Reading suggestions on this topic:

The Five Ways We Grieve by Susan Berger

This Is Not The Story You Think It Is by Laura Munson

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Chickens, Ducks, Nieces and Nephews

Hey Guys,
So, where did April go? Hmmm....I felt like she breezed in and breezed out. Her short stay was reminiscent of a daughter (or niece in my case) who visits from college for the weekend, loaded down with dirty laundry who stays just long enough to launder her clothes.

Well, at least she smelled fresh as she breezed out.

Happy, happy spring. Here the honeysuckle is in full bloom. The air around here is so pretty and fragrant I feel like God leaned down and spritzed us with eau de springtime. Isn't that nice of Him?

Some quick updates:
I'm busy working on my memoir and also some other pieces for my bi-monthly column at and my new site which should only be weeks away from debuting. I can't wait to share it with you!
In the meantime, I took a short break from work related activities tonight, to fill out birthday cards and graduation cards for some of my nieces and nephews. As I sat here writing out their cards, it occurred to me how lucky I am. One of my nephews stopped by this afternoon after work and hung out for a bit while we pruned flowers and fed and watered the chickens. There are few things I enjoy more that an unexpected visit from one of them. When the door opens or I hear them pulling up in the driveway, my heart starts to shout, "Hey, they're here! They're here!"

Mother's Day came and went this year and I'm happy to report I survived it gracefully, which truthfully, is progress from years gone by. But while I thought about the children I never conceived or birthed, thoughts of the children I do have in my life fluttered in.

As you guys know, my nieces and nephews are the stars of my life. While I see some of them more than others, they each have touched my life in one way or the other. As I sat filling out cards for them tonight, I had a vision that every time one more of my thirty nine nieces or nephews was born, God said, "Ok, angels, let's add one more to Aunt Steph's brood. I know her. Her heart is vast, she'll be tickled if we keep adding more to love."

He's right.

But yet, this time of year finds me teary. I do miss my own Mom. I ache for her so often. I want to call her to tell her I just got accepted to The Colgate University's Writers' Conference, that I'll be featured along with four of my other non-children dear friends in a story in MORE Magazine, that writing about my life growing up with her as a Mom makes me proud and teary. Instead, I shed my tears, buy a single rose to place near her urn and count the love in my heart for my nieces and nephews.

So this post is mostly an update but I would love to hear from you guys. How do you get through Mother's Day if you are suffering the loss of your Mom or if you don't have children yourself? I'd love to hear your stories.

I posted some pictures of a canoe ride my niece, Julie and I took a few weeks ago in our pond out back. Two little baby geese paddled behind us, quacking and carrying on as we paddled around in the sun. Also, the chickens love to take a dirt bath. It's the equivalent of a trip to a spa for we humans.

The animals keep me grounded. I envy the simple lives they lead and sometimes I just take a time out and watch them cackle around the yard or float with them on the pond watching them live simply. Bianca my one dog only asks for a belly rub and to be fed twice a day. Now how cool is that? I have to learn to be more like her, "Just a belly rub please."

Go out and try to see the view from the belly. Bianca loves it. It's her favorite vantage point and then come back and tell me what you saw? Deal?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tips for the Loved Ones of People Who Suffer From Infertility

Last Christmas, after an afternoon sledding and munching on homemade Italian cookies, my niece Lauren, opened the refrigerator door and said, “Aunt Steph, it’s really a good thing you never had kids.” Poking around for the milk, she added, “No one would have liked them.”

Lounging on the loveseat with my knees bent up to my chest, I laughed.

“Really?” I said. “Is that right?” sipping a glass of red wine.

“Yup,” she poured a glass of milk and turned to place the carton back on the shelf.

I knew why she said this and hearing it put a smile on my face so broad my cheeks hurt.

It was Lauren’s way of saying she didn’t ever want to share me.

She wasn’t the first of my nieces to tell me this. As my husband and I made the painful decision to end fertility treatments, several of my other nieces expressed Lauren’s sentiment.

“Let me get this straight,” I’ve said to each of them. “If we had a baby and had a party for his or her baptism, no one would come?” I paused. “How about birthday parties? No one?” I chuckled.

“Yup. That’s right.” They all said. “If you had children, you would be distracted and never have time for us. So, in the end, it worked out.”


I couldn’t argue with that. If I had my own children my attentions undoubtedly would be divided.

As my husband and I labored to come to terms with failed fertility treatments, the children in our lives knew how to provide comfort. Conversely, well-intentioned adults often struggled to find the best way to offer support.

National Infertility Awareness Week

Infertility is a complex issue the dimensions of which even those undergoing treatment don’t fully comprehend. But what we do know is that certain things people do or say are helpful and others miss the mark. Sadly, like many who grieve, the job of educating our loved ones on how they can be supportive, falls squarely on our shoulders.

In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week I encourage those grappling with infertility to take this opportunity to share with their loved ones how they can be helpful. In my practice, I have witnessed the reparative value doing so has on the strained relationships infertility leaves in its wake.


For the loved ones of those battling infertility, here are some tips on what to avoid and a suggestion of how you can be sensitive.

  • Avoid the temptation to say, “Just relax!”

o This implies blame. Trust me, we are good at blame all on our own.

  • Avoid asking “Why don’t you just adopt?”

o Adoption is a gift beyond measure for those who feel called to it, but it is not a panacea for the desire to conceive, birth and raise a biological child.

  • Understand when we pass on baby showers, birthday parties and christenings

o Sometimes we need time to lick our wounds.

Gentle presence

So what is helpful? My favorite suggestion comes courtesy of Henri Nouwen, a renowned priest, author, and respected professor. He said:

When we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is the friend who cares.

If you or someone you love has been touched by the despair of infertility, jump off the sidelines and join me in the game to raise awareness about an often-misunderstood condition. It's lonely being the only person on my "team" so suit up and come off the bench!

Please feel free to link to my post, tweet it, comment or email me. I need your help to educate and raise awareness. The journey of infertility is lonely. It's not so isolating though, when others meet us on the road and wave a warm hello!

I know people want to help they just aren’t always sure how to do so effectively.

So, did you "suit up?" Hope to see you on the field!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Spreading the Word About Infertility

Hey Guys,

Next week is National Infertility Awareness Week and if you're anything like me you're thinking, "My Lord, what will they think of next?"

I'll bet if I did a Google search I'd find a week that commemorates National Shoelace Week and National Garage Door Awareness Week too. Somedays, it seems a little ridiculous but next week, National Infertility Awareness Week makes sense to me.

Why you ask? (Oh, wait, maybe you didn't) ;-)

Many of you know I've suffered from infertility and never parented. For those of you who don't, now you do and you might be asking, "Hey, Steph, why didn't you just adopt?" For the long answer, click here but the short answer is we didn't feel called to it.

Infertility comes with a host of unanticipated issues. It is riddled with uncertainty and angst that most people can't fully appreciate unless they've traveled down the bumpy, foggy road. But personally, one of the most challenging struggles is that the number of myths circulated about infertility outnumbers the sands on the shore. (Ok, I admit that's hyperbole but sometimes it feels like that). My sense is this is because only the success stories make the headlines.

In the next few weeks, I am publishing an ebook called, The Forgotten Patient. It is a compilation of essays from women who've ridden the unforgiving roller coaster of infertility and never succeeded. This book will pay homage to our population and also educate others on what it is like to live in a world where we don't always quite fit in.

Infertile people are persona non grata in so many circles. The infertility professionals distance themselves from us because we represent failure and in others people just don't quite know where we fit in. The struggle of identity is reminiscent of Simon Cowell's comment last week about Sibohan Magnus. "Siobhan," Simon yawned, "We just don't know who you are. What kind of an artist you are. I think you're confused and so are we."

When we can't quite "pigeon hole" each other, we struggle. Our brains search for a frame of reference. If you watch American Idol, this analogy makes sense. Mike is like Luther. Lee is like Daughtry. Crystal is like Melissa. Sibohan is like...hmmm....uh, hmmm. See what I'm getting at?

Infertile women often struggle themselves with a sense of identity. Lord knows, if we don't know who we are, the rest of the world won't either.

I am grateful that no matter how silly we have gone with "National" awareness weeks, this upcoming week April 26- May 1st is dedicated to raising awareness around a topic so near and dear to my heart and my client's hearts as well. I'm participating in it and so is another woman I met via the world of social media who has walked in my shoes.

Pamela is a gifted writer who tirelessly works to raise awareness about those of us who have struggled with infertility without success. She authored the book Silent Sorority, a must read for anyone who had been there or loves someone who has.

Please check out her latest post on Open Salon titled, Would You Tell Someone You Are Infertile? It made me cry and left me shouting, "I know, I know!"

Please share a link to it on your blog, Twitter account or Facebook. I'd be so grateful and I know Pamela would be too.

Is there something you would like to know more about in terms of infertility? Maybe how to help a friend, deal with the grief yourself? Ask away and also, I'll be tweeting next week using the hashtag #infertilitymyths. Join me, guys! Really, join me!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Doris, Sophia and Me: Lessons From My Mother Who Didn't Live Long Enough and My Daughter Who Was Never Born

I'm really excited to announce that for the next few months, my blog posts will feature pictures from my childhood. Now before you start asking why in the heck you should care about my photos, (see, I heard that!) allow me to elaborate.

While visiting my Dad in Florida this week, now ninety-five years old, this idea came to me.

One quiet, still, evening after everyone else went to bed, I changed into some warm,emotional courage and pulled out old photo albums, with a box of tissues my only companion. As I paged through the albums, I found photographs that are snapshots from many of the significant moments I am writing about in my memoir, Doris, Sophia, and Me: Lessons from My Mother Who Didn't Live Long Enough and My Daughter Who Was Never Born. I would love to share them here with you.

My hope is that when you stop by and take a peak at my pictures, thoughts of your own childhoods will come to mind. Please feel free to drop me a comment or even a picture or two of your own. My purpose for posting this pictorial book is to pay homage to the generation of men and women who were our mothers and fathers; to the legacies they left behind as well as provide you with a sneak peak into my memoir.

I know I am not the only woman out there who felt reduced to the likes of a ten year old little girl after her Mom died AND continues to struggle with living in a world her Mommy no longer is in.

I like when things are clear. So, this first post, starts at the very beginning. The beginning of the days when I was safe in the world...

Someone Who Watched Over Me...

My Mom, Doris
(pregnant with me and my identical twin sister circa 1966)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Are pictures worth a thousand words?

This week, I am traveling again. So instead of of long posts, I'm going to post some pictures that evoked something really emotional in me. Something that spoke to me about safety in this world, our vulnerability and love.

While I don't mind listening to myself, I'd prefer to listen to you. So, please stop on by and make a comment. I love comments!