Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Octo Mom "8," Part II

January 14th was the Saturday before MLK Day, so I knew that if I was to get into a doctor it wouldn't be until Tuesday. I also knew that I needed to stop taking a couple of the pills I was on but if I changed my regiment, I would surely get a migraine. To add insult to injury, the migraine medicine I lovingly call "bitch slap" is definitely not safe for pregnant ladies. Many things will throw me into a migraine and hormone imbalance combined with changing a prescription is the recipe for two days of darkness and packing my entire head in ice for 24 hours. This one I would have to take head on. So to speak. I didn't care.

There was no decision to make. After seven miscarriages, I knew what my doctor was going to say and so while I was lucid I packed up four or five ice bags with our new ice from our new refrigerator.  Did I tell you about that? I've never seen Andy so excited about an appliance. We had been tying the door shut on our old one, until the Lazyboys were paid off. Only then could we go back and exchange a Lazyboy payment for a fridge payment. But the new fridge shoots ice like a leaf blower. Awesome!

With the old fridge, I would sometimes have to send Andy up to the gas station for ice. Poor Andy is sometimes like a little delivery boy from the 1920's: "Hello young man. Today I'll need a stick of butter, a loaf of bread, a few pregnancy tests and 17 bags of ice. Hurry along now." (Best if you say it in a little old lady voice.)

Sunday the 15th was the migraine. I forgot to get a sub for Primary (children's Sunday School assignment) so I went because it wasn't raging yet...but after two hours of listening to children scream the songs "Do As I'm Doing," and "Scripture Power," there was that migraine in full bloom. Oh....yeah. Home to die.

Living through a migraine is like forcing yourself to go to war, with yourself, and surrendering about ten minutes in. But without the meds...you stand in the field with your white flag, waving it and waving it and no one gives a crap. No one even notices. The migraine eventually gets tired of warring against itself and goes home about 48 hours later. Bored.

So I was vomiting all day with the headache until about 7, then vomiting with the nausea from the baby until about 2. That was F.U.N. I'd lean over the toilet and say to myself, "...this is awesome!" (SQrtrTBLEAPPlahPojrjrPPQ!)... "I'm so glad I'm pregnant!  (StrTBLAPPlahPojrjrPQ!)... Thank you Heavenly Father for this opportunity!  (SQrrTEAPlahojrPQ!)... I am going to raise this child in the light!  (SQrtrTBLEAPPlahPojrjrPPQ!)... I'm sorry I'm not feeling well but I'm trying to have a good attitude! (SQrtrTBLEAPPlahPojrjrPPQ!)... Isn't there a better way to do this...(SQrtrTBLEAPlahPorjrP)... Did Eve throw up, because if she....(SQrBLAPlahPojrPQ!)...  son-of-a- b@!*! I might die before morning... SQrtrTBLEAPlahPojrjrPPQtrTBLEAPPlahPojrPPQ!)... !) Cry....sob....sob some more....say a lot of curse words....(SQrtrTBLeap). And then...over. Just like that.


That's what you do when you have three positive pregnancy tests laying there next to your bed, grinning at you, haunting you, and you are 47 years old. Nothing else mattered and you lived through it, and you would again. It's unexplainable. It's madness. It's love. It's the kind of love you have never known until you have held it in your arms and that's the truth. I use to think that was a ridiculous cliche. HA!

Sucks to be true. So heartbreakingly true.

So on January 17th, I returned to work and after school I went to the doc. It was Tuesday, which means no college classes. I could sit down and work. I planned on telling no one and soon enough, the lies started...."migraine weekend," I told everyone..."hangover from the drugs..." Andy was able to keep the kids out by threatening not to cast them in Titanic if they bothered me. "She had a bad migraine this weekend, best leave her alone." They are good kids because they know Migraine Jan. She is not someone you want to run into at school - on purpose. Kids would see me and take two steps toward the hall walls and avoid eye contact, as if I was Moses parting the Red Sea.

Non-Migraine Jan is also a little scary. I may have trumped up that reputation on purpose over the years, but it works for me. It keeps rehearsals quiet and moving. It brings in homework. It creates a mysterious kind of respect... you can hear it in their little brains...how could someone so focused, so abrupt, so honest (I've been known to say "Let's go back and take the suck out of that" at rehearsal) be so darn good at breaking me down and building me back up? (Cause that's the trick sillies.) But why can't I do that for myself?

It didn't matter that I got pregnant on my own, I still wondered H.O.W? It didn't matter that the pregnancy tests were positive instantly, I was sure they had learned to make a more receptive pregnancy test in the past 18 months. It didn't matter that I had been off Diet Coke for 6 months now, I still wish I had an intravenous drip. It didn't matter that aside from the migraine...I felt great during the day...just GREAT. Is this what real pregnant people are supposed to feel like? I was so sick with Noah right up until the delivery. It had been 5 years since his birth. I couldn't remember ever feeling good in a pregnancy. He would have been 5 on December 23 this past Christmas. I wasn't going to cry... but I did, so much, and looking back it's probably because I was pregnant on his birthday and he was probably laughing at us as I wept over his graveside this year.

I decided that I needed to give away the fear and the anxiety and say "D.A.M.N.I.T.! It's a miracle and I deserve it!" Don't I?

But it's very hard to do that when you are 47 and the past is not that far away.

On Wednesday morning, at about 4:30am, January 18th, I was spotting... a lot. Not bright red blood (that's very bad) but the dark, placenta stuff that smells like moldy lemonade (that's only sorta bad). Still, it was a sign. So I did what I always do...I went back to bed and waited for the baby to come. Andy woke up at 5:30 as usual and he knew immediately what was going on. He said "did you call a sub?" I said "Yes, and I emailed all my students at the college and cancelled class." So true to form, Heather and Jan (the secretary at the college) were the first two to know that I was pregnant.

I laid there all day, waiting for the pain to begin. I got the trusty colander out from under the sink and stuck it in the toilet as usual. But nothing happened. Did I just need to keep my feet up? I called the Doc and he said "Keep your feet up."

I could not stand the confusion. I called my amazing sister Penny who lives about 1 mile from us and asked her to go buy me a pregnancy test and she was at my house in about 7 minutes, opening the test as she entered. She didn't say a word, she was just shaking her head. I went in to the bathroom and BOOM! Instant plus sign. Penny listened to the story and still she was neutral. I know why...she knows too much. But she did take a couple of deep breaths and said "I'll go put your name in the temple." We laughed about the situation, but it was only because we thought we were going to have a heart attack. I sure love my sister Penny. She was there when we delivered Noah and I've put her through hell and back again over these miscarriages. But she has the most amazing faith and I needed to borrow some of that.

48 hours later...I still had not lost the baby. I was doing NOTHING but lay around and listen to the dogs whine. I graded papers, I watched Netflix, I slept! I slept! And on Friday morning I still had not lost the baby. Saturday...Sunday...Monday...more tests and the HCG was still climbing! I went back to work and laid low.

I did everything I could do to keep that miracle baby. I was delirious with worry, but couldn't take anything for it. I decided that I didn't want to add Diet Coke or crack cocaine or some ridiculous thing to the list of things I already felt guilty about. I went to the doctor, did everything he said, walked around the block every day, carefully, bought the $4 a pill Prometrium, went to bed at 9pm and slept with my feet above my belly button and waited.

You see, when I told Doc C. I was pregnant, I watched him think about that. He's been such a good doctor. But he's a realist, as I'm sure many of them are. We're exactly the same age. I knew what he was thinking and I was thinking it too. I shrugged my shoulders, then he shrugged his shoulders and said "lay down." And off we went. He explained what I had heard seven times. He poked around and scribbled out a lab order.  And on the bottom of that order this time it read "STAT." I knew what that meant.

STAT meant that he didn't want me to suffer for very long. He needed to know right away how low my HCG levels were and if there was anything that could be done about it. I was already about 7 weeks along and I read the hesitation in his eyes. But his mom was 49 when she gave birth to the lawyer...or is she a teacher? Anyway..she's perfect.

See...there isn't a pill I haven't taken to keep a baby. There isn't a snake oil I haven't tried. The minute I found out I was pregnant, he was on vacation so I went to a faith healer who told me that there was no reason I could not carry this baby. I have tried so many things and truthfully, one of the worst days of my life was when I found out that my eggs were aging with me. (Blog #?) It somehow deflated my hopes and they never recovered.

Still there's always a little hope. Just a tiny glimmer. And with all the strange circumstances surrounding this one... I thought for sure I had finally earned a miracle. I knew it would take a miracle for this to happen and I wasn't sure I had the faith for it. Miracles happened to other people, not to me. Prayers are answered for other people, but not for me. You know what I'm saying because we've all thought it. But we are CHILDREN OF GOD and with God all things are possible! Right!? Even for me? I felt myself mustering my faith every second that I was awake because I felt the innate instinct to just give up my fear...give it up...but it would not go away. It was clinging to me like a fog and I was desperately trying everything to shake it off but it never went away. No matter how hard I prayed, how hard I begged to keep this baby...how many times we put our names on the temple prayer roll... in the back of my mind, was the picture of the green colander.

When my HCG levels turned out to be NORMAL (for my age) and CLIMBING (woot!) WE HAD A PARTY! Then Doc sent me to a specialist. I had an intervaginal ultrasound - those are the...intervaginal ones. S.O. M.U.C.H. F.U.N! But I didn't care because I was having a baby and it was going well! (Knock on wood. Go to the energy healer again, shake the Navajo stick over my belly, turn around three times and spit...blah, blah, blah...)

And then on Friday morning, Feb 3d at about 5:15am, I woke 15 minutes earlier than the alarm. I thought I felt someone touch my face. And then the distinct feeling that someone was standing there just flooded the room. I got my bearings, and sat up. But at that second the feeling left. I knew I wasn't pregnant anymore. I felt the blood start its descend.

Bright red.


I add the asterisk because I want you to remember that I know how short this life is. It's as little as an asterisk. There is a great sister in the Lehi Second Ward that has a giant piece of crossstitch fabric  in a frame. It's as long as the sofa below it. And in the center of that frame is ONE stitch. It symbolizes how long we are on this earth in comparison to how long we will live and how grand and vast the universe is. I've never forgotten that. It keeps me sane.

I drove to the doctors office on Monday morning not expecting the next event to be so hard. I had decided that in order to ease my mind, give me time to heal, and prevent any further surprises, I was going to get a birth control shot. My first one ever. Nobody judged me. I think they were happy to do it. And sad too. It was quiet. No one said anything to me except "I'm so sorry." And then I left. Feeling defeated. I'm 47 and I am done. I have not cried so hard since I left the refugee camp in 1988.

I wanted to write that I'd had the miscarriage in the first sentence of this blog, but I didn't think you'd read the rest, and I wanted to get to the important part:

God lives.

That's all I know. He teaches me as I become the person He knows I can be. I want to be a mother! But He does not need me to be a mother on earth. He needs me to use other gifts right now. He sees my potential and He knows it's just going to take me a while to see it for myself.

So many sacred things have testified this to me since February 3, but I cannot write them in a public blog. Still... you should know that He lives. I hope that you can feel it through my little blog. I think back on a blessing I got from my brother-in-law after Noah was gone and he said "God knows your sacrifice." And He does.

And He owes me. ;-)


Come thou fount of every blessing tune my heart to sing Thy grace:
Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above;
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it, mount of God's unchanging love.

Here I raise my prayer to Heaven, hither by Thy help I'm come,
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger wand'ring from the fold of God
He to rescue me from danger, interposed His precious blood.

O to grace, how great a debtor, daily I'm constrained to be;
Let Thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love, 
Here's my heart; O take and seal it! Seal it for Thy courts above.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Octo Mom, "8", Part 1

On Thanksgiving, 2011, I managed to get myself pregnant. My 47th birthday was just two days earlier.

Oops and... hurray?

We had just closed my favorite play You Can't Take It With You. In true form, we were looking to expand somehow, and had opened a new performing space with YCTIWY and that was lot of work. Figuring out how to light it, get sound to it, build a set in it, get an audience to fill it, etc...was tricky. The process had taken us three years. But once we were done it felt great to know that we could turn Andy's classroom into a real working black box theatre in a matter of hours. YCTIWY was a smashing success. The cast was brilliant....good, hard-working kids with very little concern for themselves and a great concern for each other and the art. I seemed to be in a good place emotionally. I love rising to a challenge. It puts me in a good mood. I felt the familiar winds of change though...but mostly I attributed it to all the exciting changes we were making at the school.

The next day we left for Thanksgiving at home in Utah County. The ONLY way for me to take time off is to go away. Otherwise, I'm too close to work, and I end up driving out there somehow. I don't know how it happens.;-) We did come back on Friday night to have rehearsal for the next show, A Tuna Christmas which we were throwing together as a faculty fundraiser for the school. Andy and our friend Josh Scott were the only two in this one so it was really fun, easy and fun. They ran lines for four hours on the drive home after Thanksgiving. We laughed for four hours. It was good to see those two practicing their craft again. It lifted me.

Tuna was also smash hit. (Future blog) Rehearsals began for the Winter musical "How To Succeed..." No rest for the wicked...er...addicted?

I was not on any kind of birth control. I never thought I could get pregnant without planning, pills, having my ovarian cysts removed (going off Diet Coke)....etc. I just didn't think it was possible unless I controlled every element of it. SIRENS! Embarrassing life theme emerging... I've always thought, that if I was not in control, eventually I would have to reach in, become the controller and save the day. (Who do I think I am?) I guess what I needed to do, was get sooooo busy, that I forgot about the periods, the thermometers, the stress of it all...

It's not that I wanted to be surprised. I don't think i had enough faith left for that. Or did I? I always had that in the back of my mind though. It went something like: "I'll let the Lord decide if I should get pregnant again, ha... ha... ha...but I am not going to do one thing to help out." Such a great attitude. Seven miscarriages will do that to you. I was also 45 and I had seen the statistics. So I left it up to the Lord. The thermometer had been put away after number seven, eighteen months earlier.

I had been to the temple after number seven to discuss my predicament with the Lord. I sat there for hours, in that beautiful final room, full of the very history of the state of Utah...those pioneer families treking across the plains to build this magnificent structure...and sat in a gold velvet chair and wept. I wanted a traditional family of my own so badly. I wanted to give Andy a quirky little dark-haired girl. I wanted to be there when Andy Jr. struggled with his decision to play football or be in a play. Surely he would sing. Surely he would be huge. He would need me to be there when he was making that decision. I wanted to be in the audience watching my own child take a bow someday. Help my own child with her math...er...English. Introduce my own children to Broadway music, Disneyland and Sesame Street. I wanted to have an excuse to stop teaching other people's kids and teach my own.

But instead, I told the Lord that I was officially done. I basically repeated what I told Him seven years earlier just before I kissed Andy "I will wait until the next life and I will adjust my grip and hang on til then." But I also told Him that I needed to give away the guilt of not trying to get pregnant every single month. Of, not saving money for Invitro anymore... of not feeling bitter, heart-breaking pain every time a baby was blessed in church...I was STILL not going to church on Mother's Day, ever again, and He could just know that I still love Him, but I would not submit myself to torture. I believe that torturing oneself IS against some commandment, isn't it? I laid out my new rules for getting by. I needed Him to understand that I was taking a stance and I didn't have the stamina, emotionally or physically to get pregnant one more time. I needed to tell Him I just couldn't feel bad about my broken, old body anymore. I had no self-esteem anymore. I needed to move on for pete's sake. I was starting to appear pathetic, desperate and bitter...to myself! What if other people knew?

But I didn't go on any kind of birth control. It was like, "Shhhhhhh....I'll leave the door open for you, in case you are waiting to make me the topic of Good Morning America one day." Stupid.

Andy questioned the sanity of that, but he had been there every step of the way and putting the calendars and thermometers away seemed a relief to him too. In five years, he never once complained about it, and knowing you were headed to the bedroom to meet a deadline is not the ideal way to spend that kind of time. It messes with your brain because after several years, the nagging truth lies behind the act...that it's useless, and why try? You've got to give that away or it will drive a stake through your intentions for a long time.

A friend of mine, after finding out that Michelle Duggar (19 Kids and Counting, TLC) was about to have her 20th child, said "she needs to remember that her vagina is not a clown car." And I laughed until I cried. But secretly, I want to choke Michelle Duggar. And hug her at the same time. What did she do in the pre-earth life to merit that kind of equipment? I must have been in the "big sturdy feet" line when those good female parts were handed out. I felt that I didn't have time to go on birth control because my body was giving out....was broken...was handicapped... and if the clock was still moving forward, I needed to move too.

Mormons are asked to have big families. You need a body to be resurrected. So the object is to let the Spirits that are waiting to get a body, have one. The other objective is that we build families as the central celetial unit in the grand scheme of things. Birth control is the thing we don't talk much about. But personally, I don't know a Mormon that hasn't used it. My crowd's pretty brazen though. ;-) In my situation, I didn't really need it or want it... I was 41 when Andy and I got married and it was like there was a man standing outside the wedding ceremony with a starter pistol...."GO!" And we did. C'mon...41 years. Still, there is this stigma... this dark, ominous feeling that if you are on the pill, you are prideful and altering God's plan for the Universe. The U.N.I.V.E.R.S.E. I also thought that if I went on some kind of birth control that I was admitting defeat...epic fail...E.P.I.C.

Now don't start up on Mormons and contraception. I won't fight you. I don't know why many things are asked of us... I try to live in the Spirit as I go forward. It might offend people. Get over it. I'm not in any good place to be judging anyone about anything and neither is anyone else.

I've really digressed this time.

Anyway...back to January 14th. Andy was directing "How to Succeed" after school and I thought it was important for him to do this one on his own. (I had planned on swooping in at the end as usual). I was sitting in my office ordering this and that for the show, making a poster, grading papers etc... when I felt that all too familiar feeling that I needed to vomit. I bolted from my desk to the faculty bathroom hoping that I would make it, and thinking, "what did I eat yesterday?" all at the same time.

So much vomiting.

Then we got home from school, rolled into the garage, and the smell of the dogs made me vomit again. That night, taking off my bra was like opening the gates of hell... and that's when I finally clued in and said...

"When was my last period?"

I could not remember. So I made Andy go to Walmart and buy pregnancy tests. I knew that the doctor would not even schedule an appointment without a positive test so we bought one [several]. I've never been able to get a reading on a store-bought pregnancy test. Even with Noah, after 8 weeks, we only got a faint positive line. With the rest, I had to have it confirmed at the doctor's office only to have it unconfirmed 6-8 weeks later. I didn't want to cry wolf again so I was determined to get a positive test before I went. Maybe the Lord knew that I would wait merely to save face, and there were prescriptions I needed to stop taking NOW, or maybe I was six months along and I didn't know it ( I watch too much T.V.!) and that would explain why...

When I took those tests the next morning all three of them lit up in seconds like a neon sign "POSITIVE, POSITIVE, POSITIVE." 

P.A.N.I.C. No!!!!!! Not again. What kind of trick is this?

J.O.Y.  Maybe it's the secret miracle...the true intent of our hearts...We were going on Good Morning America!

The combination created a kind of anxiety, a frenzy that I had not felt before and I went to work with our little secret saying....

"*!$@! I'm 47. What's ahead for us? What lies ahead...." And trying to think about anything else was impossible.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Hotel Hunsaker

We got married on the Friday before school let out for spring break. It's the perfect time for teachers to get married, because you can always go and do something fun for your anniversary. Unless you are a teacher...oops. Then you can't leave the county without measuring the cost of a vacation and by the time you've figured it out.... you might as well stay at the only hotel in the world that carries all of your clothes and you'll never forget your toothbrush...H.O.M.E. We pay about $60 a night to stay here and we will for the next 25 1/2 years. Might as well stay...cation.

We live in a small townhome in Washington, Utah, which is about 300 miles South of Salt Lake City but not quite in Nevada. Sometimes we tell people we're from Las Vegas. It cuts the explanation down to four words and makes us sound cooler.

Because we have so few weekends off, when we are awake, a couple times a year we like to Priceline a hotel for the night, drive to Vegas, see a couple of international movies (stuff that would never come to St. George) and drive home the next morning. Thanks to my sister Penny and her kids, the dogs get to play with humans that actually function and we get to sit in a hot tub or lay in the sun for an hour to refuel.

Andy's a Priceline pro. We've stayed in some fancy hotel rooms for $40. On any given day, he's got Priceline quotes in his head for several people. He'll know how many days he's been bidding and what number he's at, for whom and at what level. We regularly see my brother in Fullerton for $40 a night and we always stay at the Marriott. (Now when I say "see my brother" I sometimes mean..."go to Disneyland." Brad and Ashley live 10 minutes from the Happiest Place on Earth and that's where we sometimes end up when we need to.... get happy. It's cheaper than a drug addiction - but not by much.)

We can't afford the big Vegas shows on a "Priceline weekend" but for our very first wedding anniversary, Andy splurged and took me to "Love" the Cirque Beatles show and we stayed at the Palazzo.  The hotel hadn't had it's grand opening yet, but they were putting people in rooms and diverting them over to the Wynn for the pools, etc... So it was kinda like staying at both places. Both of them were incredible hotels. We paid $55. I've never seen it for less than $600 a night since. We'll never stay there again, but we'd like to say "you're welcome" for breaking in the hotel room. We did a GREAT job of that. ;-)

For our second anniversary, Andy surprised me with Bette Midler tickets and took me to Paris. I would have killed him for spending that much money but I've been a Bette fan since she was singing with Barry Manilow in the 70's. I'm not sure how he knew my love for her except that I have every CD she's ever made and I don't even listen to music. We were the youngest people in the audience. I don't care. We were sitting so far back, that I had to use my opera glasses. I don't care. (I certainly don't use them for the opera). The seats were so small that after about 15 minutes, I was numb from my belly button down. I don't care. I was in Caesar's Palace, in her presence. I was in tears for most of the show. We stayed at Planet Hollywood during their "remodel" and that's the only way we could ever afford to stay there and that's a good trick. But they weren't remodeling our room. It overlooked the Paris Hotel's mini-version of the Eiffel Tower" on "The Strip." We might as well have been in Paris.

Last year, for my birthday, he took me to see Donny and Marie at the Flamingo. (I like to say "at the Flamingo" because it makes me sound like I really know Vegas.) We stayed at the Luxor which used to be a high end hotel, and for us teachers it still is, but you can regularly Vegas.com it for $40. Who cares about the hotel! We saw D.O.N.N.Y. and Marie. I love Marie, but read my first blog..I have pretended to be married to Donny Osmond since he was on the cover of Rolling Stone in 197....(cough...excuse me.) I had a school "looseleaf" (we used to call them that) with his picture imprinted on the front cover. I kissed that thing so many times his face wore out. You have to admire a man like Andy who would PAY to watch his wife sing the words to "Crazy Horses" at the top of her lungs (because that was the first single I ever owned) and scream like a pre-teen for two hours. Again...we were the youngest people in the audience. The lady next to me was from Michigan. She and her husband "just flew out to see a show. We come to Vegas a couple of times a month for the shows." Me and my husband would be paying for those tickets for months with interest.

We stayed at the Monte Carlo once, that was a favorite of mine because of the swimming pools. There was no one there when we stayed, so we actually got into bathing suits and jumped in. Of course, it was 11 o'clock in the morning and nearing 112 degrees, so the act of getting into the water was more like a life-saving tactic. It's so dang hot in Vegas in the summer and that's when a teacher has time to vacation.

I remember staying in the parking lot of Circus Circus one summer when we were kids. It was 2:00 in the morning when we stopped to sleep. My parents had rented a camper and we were on our way to see our Aunt Polly in Redondo Beach, I think. It was several hundred degrees when my dad pulled into their RV hookups. I exaggerate for effect. It was only 174 or so.... I remember my flip flops melting to the pavement of the parking lot at 2:00 in the morning. We were all such happy campers too. ;-) (Again...my parents are living Saints) I remember being on the verge of tears and turning over and over trying to find a cold spot on the bed and pillow probably. My mom said "lay still so your body cools off. If you keep moving you'll make it worse, like exercise." Was that the truth? So it's her fault. Hehehehe... (Maybe she just trying to keep the weight of so many people from tipping us over. :-)

Most of the time, we don't stay overnight. Since I teach film, we've been visiting just for the day, to see movies that will never come to St. George. We are theatre people after all, and if we could afford to go to the theatre in Vegas we would, but... we can't. Andy is a Harry Potter fan and we did get to see the last movie at an IMAX there...worth every penny of the $17 ticket. Vegas has a plethora of awesome restaurants and by the time we've eaten, seen a couple of movies and spent the gas money driving down, our fun money is gone, and so we stay at the best hotel ever.

Let me tell you about it.

It's called the Hotel Hunsaker. It's 1500 square feet! That's big for a hotel room. When you walk into our fancy hotel you will see many amenities that rooms at the Wynn or Caesar's Palace don't have. It has a full sized refrigerator and if you look inside...it's mostly stocked except the people that live here need milk. They always do. I always notice that the lady that lives here has a bottle of grapefruit in her fridge - but it's almost always expired. I admire her for trying to start eating grapefruit for whatever reason, (a diet) and then realizing that grapefruit is almost never... good.

I digress.

Walking past the garage door, you'll notice that this hotel is equipped with two small dachshunds. Furry friends in case you left yours behind. How nice.

This hotel has three bedrooms---perhaps we should call it a "suite." That's good. One of the rooms is larger than the other rooms and that one has it's own bathroom. But we don't allow guests in there because, well, it's just not a place you'd want to go. There is evidence that those people sleep in the Hotel Hunsaker and that's about it.

"Brad's room" as we like to call the main guest room, (or sometimes Cole's Room) contains a queen-sized bed that has fancy purple bedspread on it (in homage to Donny Osmond, if you must know). There is a "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door knob to deter housekeeping personnel, but the down-side is, there's no housekeeping personnel. The up-side is...you can leave your stuff around and no one will touch it.

The other room houses some exercise equipment that has never been used. Warn us in advance if you want that room so we can find the bed.

The Hunsaker Hotel is completely non-smoking and never has been so no need to worry about that. Unless you are a smoker, and then you will have to stay somewhere else.

When you take a bottle of water out of the fridge, it won't cost you $12. In fact, if you are at the Hunsaker's it might already be recycled and is probably, you guessed it...free tap water. F.R.E.E.

If you or someone you know has an accident (we are kid friendly here too) there is a free washer and dryer just across from the bathroom! F.R.E.E.

The artwork in the main living area is eclectic to say the least. You might think we like Coldplay (we do) James Christensen art (a wedding gift to Andy from Jan), and Jesus. We really like him. So if you are the one stuck sleeping on the couch, I hope you don't mind Jesus watching over you all night.
Other artwork in the house includes more than a dozen picture magnets of the Shelton and Hunsaker Extended Families for your shock and amazement.

The furnishings are mostly from the late 1990's and refinished pieces (thanks Paula). We like to call it "Musical Theatre Chic." I feel that it ads a homey touch because it all looks like it has been used in a play before...well...because it has.

You don't need a wake up call. You will also be able to see the time from the next county because of the giant clock on the wall that reminds us all, every day, how late we are.

But the best things about the Hunsaker Hotel are:
  • There is no clanging of the Casino beneath you.
  • No neighbors beside you doing things you don't want to know about. (Against hotel policy)
  • No registration fee...no check in...late check out whenever you want.
  • The movies are free and there are a lot more to choose from.
  • If you want extra pillows you don't have to wait 45 minutes. (But you might say "why is this pillow so flat? Get two. Just sayin'.)

And finally..... drum roll.... It's F.R.E.E. to stay here! And you can't beat free. I believe someone pays the mortgage on the place, but we don't care who or how, we just know it gets done. Barely. And until the housing market gets better, the value of the property raises back to it's original selling price (I think they bought in 2007...that was dumb...snort...they're going to paying on this place til Vegas has all new hotels!) the Hunsaker Hotel will be open to all...

Even the Hunsakers themselves. And boy are they glad. You can't beat Home Sweet Home.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Octo Mom #5, #6, #7, Lies I've Told

My doctors mom had a baby when she was 49 and that baby turned out to be a lawyer.

There is a 47 year-old mom in Fargo on the verge of delivering her 15th baby today.

The lady in China...had twins at 63... or was it Korea?

John Travolta is in 50's and has a new biological baby...with 47 year-old Kelly Preston.

There is a blog out there for women over 45 who are pregnant...been there... read it. It has 3000 members.

Sarah...Elizabeth....old. Their children? Isaac...John for-crying-out-loud-The-Baptist!

My own mother had a baby when she was 43 and he turned out to work the World of Color!

But here's what haunts me....

I met a woman who had ten miscarriages and on the eleventh pregnancy, she gave birth to a baby boy who grew up to look like Superman and was possibly the nicest teenager I had ever met. This was her humble reply "Oh, we just call him The Miracle."


Where is my miracle?

A couple of days after #4, I spent the night in our guest room kneeling against the bed in prayer, begging for peace of mind. I was there most of the night. Andy and I had been married 3 years and I felt like I was running underwater. That damned biological clock never stops. It never, ever stops in your head. I could not stop worrying about the clock. Every day I would think about "The Miracle" and every day I would cross off the calendar take my temperature, swallow the regiment of pills and snake oils and pray, pray, pray. Finally...this long night of wrestling with the Lord, was nearly over and I was so dehydrated that I thought I would pass out. So I got to my feet somehow, and when I did, I heard it clear as a bell.... "s.t.o.p. w.o.r.r.y.i.n.g."

I sat on the edge of our guest bed and heard it over and over again. It was spilling into my head. It was resonating in my sinuses. It was like someone was trying to shout at me, quietly....s.t.o.p...s.t.o.p...s.t.o.p...s.t.o.p...s.t.o.p....... but time was passing by the minute and just because someone tells you to stop, doesn't mean the clock stops too.... there's so much madness in miscarriages.

When you have a lot of miscarriages, and you try a thousand things to have your own baby, you start to think that you might be addicted to miscarriages. After number 4, I wondered if I liked the pain. I wondered if I liked the attention I got. I wondered if our parents were just rolling their eyes every time I announced to them that I was pregnant. I cringed at the thought that I was going to be known as the woman that "cried wolf." So I stopped.............telling anyone.

I didn't want my selfish need to have a baby, burden anyone anymore. After all,losing Noah was hard on everyone. Not just me.

Mormons are commanded to "bear one another's burdens, mourn with those that mourn..." and in our amazing ward group, I was a bearer, not a bearee. Since, even I was sick of my miscarriage drama, I retreated into my home, myself and Andy. Sometimes I told my sisters about them, because when you are sobbing on the toilet, by yourself, you really need someone to tell you it's going to be alright. Paula lives four hours North of me and I figured she didn't know who my church leaders were so my secret was safe with her. I'm sorry, to have always burdened you, Paula. In the end, however, they usually told the rest of the family and my mom would call... "We're praying for you, Jan." I couldn't stand the pity party! Why is it so hard to know people are feeling sorry for you? They can! They do. Because you never know when people have gone through something like it and they do know what you are going through because you have probably just drummed it up for them again.

It's not that I didn't appreciate it, but I wondered with all the praying going on, where was My Miracle? WHY was I sitting on the toilet one more time? Why did I have a green colander under my bathroom sink? Colanders are for pasta!

I decided that I wouldn't breath a word about being pregnant until I was 38 weeks along. I would just point when it got too obvious. We visited the doctor for the usual things and I casually mentioned that I was not getting any younger. My good doctor (who's youngest sister was born to a 49 year-old mom remember) encouraged us to get back in the "shark tank" as he called it and give it another go. I was 45. I should do it sooner than later. Keep in mind that we are not wealthy people and our insurance did not cover expensive fertility treatments. That's the bitter part. Why does it always seem like if you're wealthy you can have anything you want, even babies. I read an article once where aging Sophia Loren rented out a hospital wing and just stayed on her back for nine months until her two sons were born. She hired people to wait on her...for nine months! HAHAHAHA! I can't even afford to buy the glasses she sells.

We went on crazy diets, took crazy pills...pills that made me crazy, we took every picture of my manufacturing parts that my insurance would allow, autopsies, genetics counseling, allergists, energy healers... I GAVE UP DIET COKE, red meat, sugar, salt, artificial sweetners, I slept next to a thermometer for months! And still... the verdict was "we don't know why you can't keep those perfect babies."

Right about this time, the readers are thinking...did you do this or that and you want to write me and tell me what to do...or who to go and see... I love you so much. But I am done. Miracle or not, I'm not going to try for 10. Sarah, Elizabeth...those ancient miracle moms in the bible were just better people than I am I guess. You think I'm kidding! Your mind plays those games on you when you grow up thinking that "I the Lord am bound when you do what I say, but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise." Tithing overload, three callings at once, (I was a bad visiting teacher) banana bread to the kooky neighbors... You don't do anything, NOTHING GOES BY, without thinking that you need the "brownie points" in heaven so you can "earn" your baby...er...blessings.

It's sick.

But it's the truth.

So...with the "lady that had ten miscarriages" and the "lady in Korea," and my doctors mom in my mind...I got pregnant three more times in two years. And one by one.... I got out the colander.

My depression between 5 and 6 was dangerous. Andy started working out with a friend of our who is a trainer, and I turned my back on that opportunity because I was so bitter. I was making it to work, but I was not there. My creativity shut down. I produced a couple of plays that were so bad, when people said "that was the best show I've seen," in my mind I would reply "You're an idiot." That's not me.

Up to that point, I had never been bored in my life. Okay, maybe for seconds at a time until I would think up something to do or create. I have never waited for life to come to me. I could create a play in fifteen minutes, a party for twenty in ten. But I was bored at home. Andy didn't know how to help me. We watched a lot of T.V. I stopped walking the dogs.

Then I was asked to teach Relief Society. (God reaching in...he's nosey) I started to lift my head up out of the fog. Relief Society is the largest women's organization on earth. I've never liked it. I always thought it was for married women or women raising families. Most of my life, I've lacked one of the other of those skills. It made me feel inadequate when good women in the church tried to teach me, a single woman, how to be a better married person, or what to do if my kids were acting up. "Giving them an F!"... not really applicable to most moms. (I say most because you never know around here.)

But when I got called to teach, I grabbed at the chance to force myself back into the scriptures and use my teaching skills for something other than high school kids. It helped me take control back. It helped me say "I am going to live through this." It didn't happen in a day, and I often employed my acting degree rather than not show up. I've told some good lies about pregnancies/miscarriages over the years.
  • "Migraine today" = need to keep my feet up. Literally.
  • "Food poisoning" = morning sickness
  •  "Flu" = post miscarriage day
  •  "Just closed a play" = No we can't go to dinner with you because we are wallowing in our self-pity.
  • "Going to drive to Los Angelos and get costumes for the play" = usually means we just had a miscarriage and we are going to Disneyland to get our minds off of it. It also means, we are going to L.A. to get costumes for a play.
  • "We can't, we've got rehearsal" = we are pregnant and I will be throwing up around 7:30pm every night for the next four weeks. It also means 'We can't we have rehearsal." That one's also very versatile.
  • "We should go home, we haven't seen the dogs since yesterday" = I am depressed and can't imagine having cheap small talk right now. I'd rather be with my four-legged silent children right now.
  • "I just ate" = If I eat, I will throw it up on you. Move aside.
  • "Not feeling well" = can't tell you because I'm embarrassed you will think I'm crazy that I just had another miscarriage at 45 years-old.
  • I was given an award for "Outstanding Administrator of the Year" in 2009, and I could not be at the conference because I was pregnant and spending every minute I could with my feet above the baby. But we were not telling anyone so we drove 4 hours to get that award at the end of the conference. That night, I went to the hospital with spotting. A couple of days later....green colander. (I do cherish my award however. It represents a lot of hours of raising other people's kids, which I take very seriously and love very much).
I'd go on but I have to teach two film classes tomorrow and I have to stay awake for a Bollywood film that I've seen 400 times. Not looking likely.

Where was I....oh...How do you talk about miscarriage in the RIGHT WAY?

In the rotation, I happened to get to teach a Relief Society lesson on dealing with adversity and I found great solace in letting the women know that I had buried a child, which we didn't advertise. There was an outcry of support (and a little pity...which is easily resolved but just saying "shit" see Noah Blog Part II) ...but one sister came up to me and said "I buried a child too, and it's been so long ago, I don't think about it every day anymore." It was a promise! It was a revelation! I needed to hear that so much.

The great wisdom of God allows us to bear one anothers burdens and he even commands it so that we can hear things like that. WE DON'T HAVE TO GO THROUGH THESE CRAPPY TRIALS BY OURSELVES. My poor husband was suffering too and I was too disfunctional to help him out. I felt rotten about that. (Always remember the husbands) But because of my upbringing, I was taught to cook, sew, clean, change diapers, tend kids, earn money, knit, crochet, decorate cakes, bottle tomato juice....ALL AT THE SAME TIME... Just kidding....up hill both ways.... in the snow...with no shoes...no, kidding. (Sometimes my self-pity runs amuck) because of my upbringing, I wanted to be able to control everything and in my life, I wanted to make my husband a father more than I wanted air and water, and this is the one thing I can not control. (This and my insane desire to have a Diet Coke)

But I don't have to lie about it anymore. Obviously, with the blog...those days are gone. There is no such thing as crying wolf where miscarriages are concerned and people want to mourn with you! I have had a lot of miscarriages. I am not crazy. I just want to fulfill the measure of my creation, damn it, and I feel that accutely every day. I'm not sure why it's soooo urgent for me and not to others. I know so many women that stopped after two because it was just too much and they say "you are so strong." I don't want to be strong anymore. I want to s.t.o.p...s.t.o.p.....s.t.o.p....w.o.r.r.y.i.n.g.

At the end of 2010, I stopped chasing babies when I reconnected with the bigger picture by letting time pass and looking toward a future filled with OPK and my insanely funny and loving husband. God loves me and does not want me to have this pain. He will stand by me and offer me opportunities to overcome it, if I will just have the faith to keep taking hold of them. He has put it into perspective for me (last blog) and he will continue to remind me that I am His child and He will take care of mine while I'm away from them.

If I get to raise those babies in the next life, it will be a kind of funny joke, won't it?...because that is a lot of babies. Think of that!

Monday, February 20, 2012

There are Worse Things Than Miscarriages

SOOOOO many people are suffering in this world. Despite the fact that teachers in this state have not received a raise for the past three years, we still have our house, we have working cars, great neighbors (Batman's parents moved) and our parents, all four of them are still alive. AND we have Netflix. We have nothing to complain about.

The reaction from my OctoMom series has been awesome. Thank you all for reading and commenting. It's because of God, Andy and my dear friends and family that I am able to write about this little thing called infertility and still keep myself relatively sane. I fear, however, that some may feel sorry for us. Don't. There are worse things than miscarriages. I might express bitterness and hopelessness because that's how it feels in human time. But in God's bigger picture, it's just eight tiny hiccups. I can live with the hiccups.

Back in 1986 I was called to serve an LDS mission to Bangkok, Thailand which in itself was a miracle of sorts. I had been a naughty college student. As the distance grew between me and God, I looked for opportunities to fit in somewhere else. My culture was my church. Leaving the church would mean that I would need to completely re-invent myself. I was about 21 and I still really didn't even know who I was to begin with. I examined my life and thought long and hard about what it would be like to give away my belief system and my standards completely. All my friends were doing it. It was "easier," almost trendy. I felt, that by staying in the church, I was losing my popularity fast. What would I gain? Popularity? I craved it. But I had already experienced the dark feelings of immersing myself in sin. It was never a good feeling. No gain there. It always felt like I was drowning.

I was lonely. Boys filled that void...but never permanently. "Cheap and easy" is not my favorite feeling. ;-) No gain there. Desperation is not a popular look. While I experimented with the freedom of doing what I wanted, it always felt like jail. That in turn, would make me mad. I could never shake the feeling that I was being stupid. Stupidity feels worse than drowning and even makes cheap and easy look good.

I was working in Jackson Hole, Wyoming with a bunch of "good" kids from BYU and SUU including my best friend Gayliene. Several of them had been on missions and they were happy people. I hadn't been truly happy in so long. They were sincere and accepting. They were not the snooty prudes they were rumored to be. Exactly the opposite. They seemed to know who they were and I craved that. They were full of light. And in this group, it was trendy to have so much light. I wanted in.

While I was in Jackson, my brother Steve received his mission call and I realized, that even if I wanted to go through a Mormon temple with him, I couldn't. I wasn't living worthy of that privilege. I needed to get my "poop in a group."

So I went back to church with the Cougars. These kids saved my life. I clung to the light they were giving off, wishing, so badly, that I could give off that light too. I poured my soul out to my Heavenly Father and asked him to forgive my stupidity and help me find a place to fit in.

So when I got my mission call to Bangkok, Thailand, it was no less a miracle than the parting of the Red Sea. I felt that serving a mission would repay God for taking me back into the fold. In hindsight, I just got further and further in debt.

I proselyted for the first ten months of my experience in Thailand. It helped me learn the language, wreck three bicycles and kill a few (million) cockroaches. I wasn't great at introducing Jesus Christ to the Buddhists. Then, my leaders assigned me to work in a refugee camp near the border of Laos and Vietnam. It was called the Phanat Nikhom Transit Camp for Refugees in Thailand. There were four or five LDS sister missionaries assigned to teach English in the camp. We were not allowed to proselyte or even speak casually about the church or we would have been thrown out. The camp was supervised by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees. It was three square miles of land owned by the world, for refuge from the world.

16 refugees lived in 20' X 16' shelters made of corrugated tin and a thatch roof. They were given a kilo of rice each day, two small fish and a bucket of clean water. Everything else, they had to buy. Many of them were rich doctors or professors that had been reduced to swallowing plastic bags full of money to hide it from pirates so that they could survive in the camps to come. I'll resist from telling worse stories. But most of them were destitute. It was life-changing. I wish every high school student could experience it, could see it, could smell it. Open waste canals, public showers and laundry everywhere. But happy people populated this place. How could it be?

On one side of the huge electric fence that separated the property were the Vietnamese people. Most of their families had been decimated by Ho Chi Minh. Many of them were still dealing with injuries suffered on the walk or boat ride into Thailand. Yet they were flourishing in their new found freedom. The Vietnamese people are so smart! Many of them spoke English far better than I did. They are a funny and happy people. It was a lesson for me to see how happy they were and how much it meant to them to have the freedoms that other people had in the world even though they were not allowed outside of that fence and they were surviving in the heat of Thailand with one bucket of water a day.

On the other side of the barbed wire, were the Cambodians. They were running away from Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. If you've seen the movie "The Killing Fields" this is their story. Their suffering was fresher than the Viets. Three million of them had been killed in the genocide of the Khmer Rouge. They were still psychologically scarred from the torture. They were doctors and lawyers, teachers and children. They had the clothes on their backs and their paperwork was the most valuable thing they owned.

We lived in Phanat Nikhom proper and would drive out about 30 minutes every day to the camp. Our neighbors were Save the Children, The Seventh Day Adventists, The Catholic Nuns (we had a lot in common with them) and the Peace Corps. What an incredible neighborhood we had. We each had different responsibilities in the camp. We (the LDS Church) had an office on both sides of the fence. We taught English. We were to get them ready, verbally and culturally to meet the challenges of being accepting to their new country.

We employed several grammar teachers. These were Viet and Khmer kids (ages 13 - 30) that spoke English really well. They taught the beginning classes and then we would go in and teach the advanced classes. These young, punky teachers changed my life. I was assigned a translator for one of my intermediate classes. We'll call him "Tiger." Tiger was Vietnamese and he spoke 6 languages.  He was full of LIGHT!!! I was in love with this kid from the first second I met him.

We had daily "inservice" to help our teachers with the curriculum they were assigned to teach. One day I asked them all to write a biography in English. I wanted to get to know them. I wasn't prepared to read what I had assigned.

I'll share Tiger's story.

Jeremiah 3:14 "I will take you one of a city and two of a family and bring you to Zion."

Tigers dad was a professor at a medical school. The new government beat him to death in the street infront of his family. Tiger's mom split up the nine brothers and told them all try to escape to Thailand. They planned to meet in the camps there. Tiger, being the youngest, stayed with his mother and one older brother. They started walking to Thailand. When they were within four miles of the border, Tiger's mom stepped on a land mine and died. Tiger, who was 9 years-old at the time, and his brother picked up her pieces and buried her on the trail and continued walking.

When he made his way through the camps along the Thai border, he met up with several of his brothers and an aunt and uncle. They had been accepted to Toronto, Canada (if I remember right) and that was a day of rejoicing for everyone. While they awaited their Visa's, Tiger came to our office and volunteered to be a translator. He was just 13 when I met him. We ended up working together for eight months before he got his freedom.

In an effort to challenge him, he wanted homeowork. He had nothing else to do. So I gave him the only book I had in Vietnamese. It was a "Gospel Principles" book. The church had sent us a box of books translated into Vietnamese including the Book of Mormon, but the box laid untouched because we were not allowed to hand them out. In 1988, the GP contained about 30 chapters of basic church doctrine and a bunch of hymns at the back. I didn't think I would get into trouble if I had Tiger translate the hymns from Viet to English. So I ripped off the back part of the book and handed it to him. I pointed at the first song and said, "I want you to translate those three verses into English and bring them back to me. If you have done it correctly, I'll be able to tell what song it is and I will sing it back to you." "Translating songs are hard," he said. He was right. I hoped he could do it.

The next day, Tiger brought me the text of the song. I still have the note in his child-like handwriting and I will cherish it forever. It reads:

I am God's child.
He sent me here.
He has given me the earth and parents that love me.
Lead me, guide me
Walk next to me
Help me know what to do
Teach me what I need to do to return to You someday.

Tiger had translated the most famous children's song in the Mormon church "I am a Child of God."

It wasn't just a song to me. It had always been a testimony of my divinity as a daughter of God. God was teaching me, reaching out to me through Tiger, his Vietnamese son. I'll never forget the light that came back to my soul that day. My confidence in God was reassured.

It was with great alligator tears that I sang that song back to him. He was so excited that I recognized the song immediately. But my tears confused him. "Is that a sad song?" he asked. "Not sad at all, " I replied. "This song reminds me that you are my brother and that makes me very happy."

The world is my group! "I am a Child of God" was meant to be sung in every language not just English. Learning my place in the universe was such a blessing to me. Learning it from this brilliant boy, priceless. The only thing that has ever really mattered to me since then, is knowing that God is all around me. He lives in every one of us equally. He loves His Viets, His Khmers, and His Americans. In my search for God, I found him across the world in a thirteen year-old orphan named Tiger.

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

Sunday, February 19, 2012

You Might be the Perfect Pineapple

We got up this morning at 5:30am as usual. I taught at the college and Andy taught at Tuacahn. Short teaching day. We convened at noon for a faculty meeting before we headed into parent/teacher conference until 6:00pm when the cast and crew started showing up crowding the sign in sheet for their call. We are two shows away from closing How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Tonight we have adjudicators here for the Utah High School Musical Theatre Awards. No pressure. Try to stay awake at least.

How to Succeed is the longest dang show.

So by the time we shake the last hand and get the last kids out the door at curtain it will be about 11pm. 30-minute drive home. 18-hour day.

I digress. (pause) Moment of self-pity. (pause) Moment of wishing I was a bank teller. (pause) moment of wishing I was home raising my own children. (pause as I listen to the kids singing "Coffee Break" out on stage. It's so loud it's like they are being adjudicated tonight or something. We have the best kids. Ok. I'm over it. Sad that it takes so little to remind me why I do what I do.

Two shows to go... Presidents Day Holiday on Monday!!!! Thank you Abe and George! WOOT! Tuesday - Auditions for our BIG Spring production. This year we've chosen to do Titanic; The Musical. I just hate auditions. I hate them more than mean people. I would rather be put in a vat of stinky, mean people than have to sit through six hours of auditions for the big high school musical.

Its not that I don't like listening to the kids...that's my problem. I like the kids too much. I want them all to be amazing and I NEED them all to be amazing. But there are only so many parts to hand out. And that's where I get in trouble.

We try to choose shows that can use a lot of kids so they can all be involved in some way. Over the years, I've amassed a books-worth of audition stories...I choose the TOP TEN Worst Auditions/Casting Moments for your entertainment. And in honor of the Titanic auditions this week I say...Break a leg everybody!


10. Wish I Was That Fat
There was a dad that called me once after his daughter didn't get the role she wanted and accused me of being prejudice of fat people. His daughter wasn't fat. She might have been a size 12. I would have killed to be that "fat." This guy was certain that he had a legal case and threatened to take me to court over it. I said, "you might want to meet me first." And they did. And that was the end of that.

9. The Picky Guy
Tall, testosterone-filled men are hard to find in the theatre. There was a guy, voice to die for, perfect for the role I needed him to play, that auditioned for me even though he had been cast in another play at the same time. I didn't know this. He wanted to be able to get to know both directors and the roles, then choose which show he was going to stick to down the road. He was going to try to come to both rehearsals for a while until he made his decision. I didn't know this had actually happened until after he had done the choosing (he stayed with me) and the other director confronted me about it. That was fondly called "the conversation heard round the world."

8. "I'll Take Her Out"
There was a dad that came blustering in convinced that I had overlooked his daughter and he wasn't leaving until she had the lead. The list had already gone up. His daughter was in the show, somewhere. I asked him what I should do with the poor girl that was already cast. He thought for a minute then perked up and said "Put my kid in as the understudy and I'll hire someone to take out the other girl." He laughed so hard I thought his ears would pop off. Me? I wasn't laughing.

7. Oh How Lovely Was The Morning
I was a guest director at a high school that didn't have a drama teacher. They wanted to do a musical and so I came in after school and helped them out. I posted the auditions and kids showed up. I had requested, on the audition notice, that they sing 24 bars of a Broadway song and do a comic monologue. Pretty standard. The first boy in came and stood on the "X."

Boy: Do you want me to sing or do my monologue first?

Jan Whatever you decide.

Boy: Oh, wow... I thought you'd tell me what to do. (pause...eternity passes)

Jan: I promise it doesn't matter to me.

Boy: Dang. Well... okay... (I sense that he's buying time because he doesn't remember either one)

Jan: How about you sing first.

Boy: Oh good. I can do that. (he chooses a key...acapella because he didn't have his music) "Oh how lovely was the morning, radiant beamed the sun above. Bees were humming, sweet birds singing, music streaming though the grove...when within... (from the Mormon Hymnal)

Jan: Thank you. That's enough.

Boy: Monologue now?

Jan: Yes, please.

Boy: I can do that. (He took a deep breath as if I was going to hear To Be or Not To Be...but that would have been awesome. Instead he started speaking the lyrics of the same song that he had sung.) "Oh how lovely was the morning, radiant beamed the sun above. Bees were humming, sweet birds singing, music ....

Jan: Wow. So much effort. Thank you.

Boy: Well, I had a football game last night so...am I done?

Jan: Yes. Yes you are. (I turned out to love this kid in the end.... He is a rock star)

6. I've Prepared a Dance Solo For You
We were in the process of creating a summer show that would gather the best talent from around the state of Utah for a production of Les Miserables at Tuacahn. We listened to hundreds of kids. After a while you get a little loopy. We were just about done, I could practically feel my hotel bed... when a girl came in with the traditional "Polygamist style" hair and dress. I mean no disrespect because one of my best friends in school grew up in a Polygamist family. But I had never seen them at an audition.

And she had tap shoes on.

For Les Miserables. 

We had not posted a dance audition.
She sang "On My Own," and at the end of the song, she said "I would like to do a clogging routine for you now." Which she did.... And it was awesome. Shame there's no clogging in Les Mis. Maybe I should have added it near the end of the first act. "ONE DAY MORE....(shuffle hop ball change shuffle hop ball change) ONE MORE DAY!!! That girl was a true BK and I admired her for that.

5. Gauging the Crazy
A Midsummer Night's Dream. I posted the audition and requested a Shakespearean monologue. A girl showed up to audition with her mom and dad. The two minutes I have with their child is priceless to me. I want to always make sure its positive and they go away feeling like they succeeded. Having their hypercritical parents in the audition isn't one of them. Nevertheless, they insisted on being present for their daughters audition because she had "a social phobia and could not perform without her mom in the room." Sometimes, gauging the crazy, I pick my battles. I didn't feel like picking this one. So I allowed them to stand at the back. The tension was incredible. It's just a skit, I say in my mind. The daughter began and about half way through, she forgot her lines. Mom pitched in with the lines, then repeated the monologue with her daughter to the end. Outloud. On the way out of the room...I kid you not...Mom passed out and hit her head on a desk making her ear bleed everywhere and scaring the pee out of me. I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry. I just started doing a combination of both and I couldn't control myself. We got her up and her husband walked her outside and I just sat there heaving, trying to control my blood pressure. I thought I was going to have a heart attack. 

4. You Can't Get a Role With a Gun
People often show up in costume even though you warn them not to. I guess they think you need the visual picture of them in the role they want. I always get a kick out of it. However, once a woman showed up dressed in a gunny sack and carrying a real rifle. She had ratted her hair out as big as a Project Runway model and stuck a bunch of feathers in it. The feather were falling out as she came into the room. She was moulting. We were producing Annie Get Your Gun as a community theatre show. She sang "You Can't get a Man With a Gun" and then cocked the rifle at the end. Everyone at the staff table gasp and stood up. But she reassured us "I won't shoot it off!" Oh that's good. Thanks.

3. You Don't Know Anything About Kids
Number three is mentioned in the last blog. To recap: "My daughter is devastated that you overlooked her. I understand you live at home with your mother. It's no wonder you don't know anything about kids."

2. Amazing Principal!
Whenever there is a musical where the leading role is a woman, there are problems that stretch themselves out over time and really take their toll on me. Let me be truthful...it's the reason I don't direct Annie Get your Gun or Hello Dolly anymore. It was one of these type shows (vague on purpose) that after the cast list was posted, a girl locked herself in her room with a knife. I got a call from the mother who placed the blame squarely on me. "If she takes her life, you will have to live with that forever." I was praying, begging for inspiration from above as to what to say to put this fire out. Mom wanted me to double cast the show after the fact. WHY do they always think that is the answer? How do you explain that to the rest of the cast? Do they want to explain to the rest of the parents why the rehearsal schedule suddenly doubled in length?

An answer came to me. I told her to call the principal and whatever he told me to do, I would do. On Monday (I always post cast lists on Friday two minutes before the bell and then I get the heck outta there. Gives them the weekend to cool off.) the Principal came to my room to thank me for his weekend fire. I thanked him and he laughed. But this girl was in school on Monday and happy with her supporting role. That's a P.R.I.N.C.I.P.A.L.

1. Always Re-Read It Before You Post It!
And the number one WORST cast list moment was all my fault. I typed up the list. I prayed about the list. This is something I do EVERY time. I realize that plays change kids lives and I do not take that lightly. I've seen it for 20 years. I am giving those kids a memory that he/she will base their self-esteem on for years to come. (Or not.) So I pray that everyone will accept this decision and I ask God to give me peace about it. Sometimes he does, and sometimes I get a very dark feeling about my choices. That's when I revisit the list and move the roles around until the feeling goes away. As I was moving kids around on this particular list, I had mistakenly listed one girl twice and bumped the entire chorus down ONE name without noticing it. I was racing against the bell.... so I flew across the hall to post the list and get back into my room before the masses attacked me. I shoved the push pin in the cork and ran.

By Monday, there were no less than a dozen parents sitting outside my room waiting for me to arrive. That was the day I considered becoming a delivery boy for 1-800-FLOWERS.

Here's the truth....

The truth of the matter is this... Auditions are the very last thing that count toward casting in an educational setting. Many things affect a cast list. We tell the kids "you might be the perfect pineapple, but this time, the role requires a carrot." The script requires a certain "type" and that is very hard for kids to wrap their minds around. No matter how hard we fight to put the talented, funny, little butterball girl in as Juliet, she's a perfect Nurse. But she really wants to play Juliet (and her mom usually thinks she should play Juliet too). Trust the bigger picture. (That's my story BTW)

We also tell kids: "You are always auditioning" which means that we are watching you 24/7 and we are taking notes. The kids that get cast in our plays get good grades, come to school, they're nice to people and make our life easier....why wouldn't we cast them? We spend our lives doing these skits, we don't need to cast people that we know will add to the drama. There's always enough drama.

We also say: "It's just a skit people. There will be hundreds of skits down the road." But that doesn't always work with kids. When I was in 2nd grade I STILL remember the play we did. I was 8 years old. It was called "Farmer Brown and the Magic Coyote." It was about a dying farmer that needed help planting his garden and this Coyote gathered his fairies in to plant his vegetable garden for him and it saved his life. I think it was actually a play about the food groups, ironically.

I wanted to be a fairy so badly.

The day our teacher read the cast list to us I remember walking home through Wines Park crying so hard. I had been given the role of "CARROT." I had to wear two pieces of orange posterboard tied at the shoulders with yarn and a green pipe cleaner headband. It still sorta defines me.

The moral of the story parallels life. Whether you are the lead or the Third Carrot from the Left, do not let your status on the cast list, define you. Be the best Third Carrot from the Left you can be and remember that someone is taking careful notes to see what you have done with the opportunity, no matter how small.

Always remember the kid that sees his name on the list for the first time. Rejoice for him! Today, he's the perfect pineapple. Next time, it will probably be you.

Friday, February 17, 2012

We'll Call Him Greg...a Real BK.

My dad is a teacher. It is because of him that I am a teacher. Since I was old enough to curl crepe paper I did my dad's bulletin boards and I dreamt of having my own bulletin boards one day. 22 years later, I am constantly offering the job to my students because I detest it. I have a love/hate relationship with staplers for the same reason.

One year I had a run-in with a parent who told me that I was the "worst teacher that ever walked the face of the earth." We had just posted a cast list for the play Schmidler on the Schmoof (I've changed the name of the play to protect the innocent.) I probably WAS the worst teacher on earth right then because I was directing, going to school full time to get my MFA, and raising thousands of dollars to take a group of kids to Scotland. She sent me a note that included: "I understand you still live with your mother, no wonder you don't know anything about kids." She had left the tail on the "s" really long across the page, like a ssssssnake. Obviously it scarred me. I still remember what her handwriting looked like.

In my parent's wisdom, they built a house within a house. The upstairs (where they live) is nearly identical to the basement which can decently house a family of 8. (We know because it's been done.) They foresaw the economy of the 2000's. The prophecy, that their children would all return to live them, eventually, came true. At one time or another, we have all left the nest for a time, and then returned with our tail feathers between our legs and $3 in our checking accounts. I had less than $3 when I decided to go back to school and get a masters degree...and build a house....I was home a long time.

But in my defense, I actually LIVED at school. See my 2nd blog. Still... this disgruntled mom was convinced that I had ruined her child by not giving her the roles she deserved and I was going to hell in a handbasket for it. Apparently I didn't know jack squat about high school kids. They had "special needs," she said. Her daughter definitely had ... special needs.

If you don't have kids of your own, people assume you don't know anything about kids. Even if you've been teaching their kids for a couple of decades. What people don't understand is that you see the exact same kids with their exact same problems year after year and eventually you make these categories in your head and you have a label for them, right or wrong. They don't always fit perfectly but the labeling most often helps me help them. Ask me about a first grader and I'm stumped. Ask me anything about teenagers.

Here are a few of my favorite kids and the accompanying codes I use next to their names in the roll book and on audition sheets... wait....I hear you judging me. Believe me when I say, I utilize everything I can to help them. Especially with their issues. These definitions are not medical terminology, I know nothing about medicine (be glad)...but my husband doesn't call me the "kid whisperer" for nothing.
  • KDP. "The Kid with the Divorced Parents." That kid needs attention. Put him in a play and give him a cute dance partner. His mind will be on other things in minutes. You'll rescue him from home and he'll be much easier to deal with while time is healing him.
  • KNR. The Kid with No Rules at Home." This kid is dangerous. This kid likes to gather a posse and expand his horizons. Be careful you don't sit that kid next to "The Kid With the Divorced Parents."
  • KND. The Kid with No Dad." This kid will seek out a male example. If there is a male drama teacher at your school, you are in luck. Better hope this male is an outstanding member of the community. That will be your kids new dad, whether you like it or not.
  • K2R."The Kid with Too Many Rules at Home." That kid can't really participate in drama because drama becomes the kid's new master and can't really compete with parents that want their child home where they can see them....all the time.... They are usually full of social problems too. I hope those parents like their kid, because they will be stuck with them... forever. House within a house.... call Kay Shelton.
  • KHS. "The Home-Schooled Kid," (these last two usually go together) I always feel bad for this kid, because their moms will show up at the school dances. They traditionally become "loners" because they don't know how to play the rules of the social game. They eat by themselves or with their siblings. It takes them a long time to asimilate and sometimes, they never do. Again, see above "house within a house."
  • SRK. The Self-Righteous Kid. This kid is arrogant and vocal about his relgious beliefs. Only hurts and isolates himself. These kids often come wrapped up in a KHS package with a little K2R for seasoning. If you don't cut the "swears" out of your play, you will most definitely hear from SRK's parents - SSRP - Super Self-Righteous's Parents. This child will (in 100% of the cases I have seen) turn on the rules one day and it will be as dramatic and intolerant as their obedience was to them. S.C.A.R.Y. Love. We must teach tolerance and love.
  • KL. "The Kid that Lies." This kid will say anything to get out of trouble. If it's a Drama kid, those kids are chronic exaggerators. (I know because I was one) They LOVE to tell a story and get a reaction. Put that kid in a drama class and make him compete with other kids in this category. If for anything else, I love to see the cat fight. The "Drama Queen" will arise forth and join another category.
  • DQ. The Drama Queen. This girl needs attention for deep seated reasons, but mostly because she just likes attention. She will usually break bones, be at the doctor constantly, create rumors...etc... My personal favorite is when she puts herself on vocal rest, and hangs a sign around her neck that says "Can't Talk Today - Vocal Rest." Who does she think she is, Adele? Yes. Yes, she does.
  • KCO. The Kid that Just Needs to Come Out Before He Hurts Someone." Also called the Drama King. That kid is one of the most dangerous because all the girls are in love with him. He LOVES girls. He wants to BE a girl. He pays close attention to the girls and they love that. It creates M.A.Y.H.E.M. Never has their been greater drama in the drama department than when KCO chooses a BFF. O.Y.V.E.Y. Choke....cat hair everywhere.
  • KHO "The Kid that Hurts Other Kids." This kid does not care about other kids. He is a world class narcissistic. He also doesn't care if he hurts you, the teacher. Watch out for this kid he will make you cry too. Unfortunately, he needs you - to slap him - no just kidding. He needs you to find out why he hurts so it can be stopped. Sometimes this is a horrible situation. These kids usually don't exist in the drama department....for very long. Because of . . .
  • KLE. The Kid that Loves Everyone. This kid has no love filter. Bu usually needs you behind them to pick up their pieces when they realize everyone isn't like them. They are naive. They are clingy. They will do anything you need them to do and then go backstage and cry when they aren't getting the love in return. This kid sometimes becomes an amazing stage manager...
  • KNS. The Kid that Needs Strokes. DO NOT stroke a kid. Rule number one. Literally. ;-) But figuratively speaking, these kids are sometimes ignored and will do things, like buy pizza for the entire cast, and then not pay his activity fee. There is usually a reason for this. This kid might also be missing a parent at home or they might be an only child. You can divert this energy into a positive by getting them into a play and let them experience a standing ovation. You'll be stuck with them for life. They will do anything for the applause, even push themselves with private lessons. Remember this....
  • NHNH. Nice House Nobody Home. The beautiful kids. Never dangerous, just focused on other things besides school. Sometimes they need you to remind them to put away their phones, mirrors, and hairspray before they take your test or go out on stage. They sometimes lack a serious GPA but they will always be serious about lipgloss. These kids sometimes have issues like bulemia and cutting. Sometimes they need you to figure out that they have very low self-esteem and might just be a KNS in disguise.
  • KSBP. The Kid that's the Studentbody President. Might not come to class because he also thinks he's employed by the school. It's confusing to him why teachers don't just hand him a great grade for being.... G.R.R.R.R.R.E.A.T. He expects you to consider him for a lead. This kid needs a reality check. Give him a progress report every week, cast him in the ensemble and become good friends with his parents. They will probably fund your program or at the very least, send you a gift card to Olive Garden for your trouble.
  • KS. The Kid that Sleeps in Class. Wake that damn kid up. Call his mother about his texting, IM-ing, porn addiction or Facebook fetish.
  • KA. The Kid that Can NOT Get Anything Less than an A. Danger Will Robinson. Prepare for a fight. Prepare to be blamed for losing his/HER homework. Prepare to justify your test questions. Prepare to read papers that are twice as long as they should be. Prepare to have long conversations with HER parents about how wonderful she is at Parent/Teacher Conference. Prepare to give her a cheap A just to avoid all of the above situations.
  • KJ. The Kid with a Job. Put him in the ensemble. He will be leaving rehearsal early every day.
  • KUF. The Kid With Unnatural Fear. This kid might seize up when anyone is looking at him . He won't do you any good unless you can crack that fear with love and patience. I once had a seventh grader urinate in his pants infront of a class right before he gave a speaking assignment. I thought it would be good for him to just take a crack at it. I was wrong. I was a bad teacher that day. MAKE SURE you don't attempt to crack that kid infront of his peers. If he's a great singer...you might attempt to crack him one on one, you need him. If he's not, see what he thinks about the light booth.
  • KNH. The Kid that Never Goes Home. This kid has replaced his parents with you. They are often the oldest in a big family. They don't get enough attention at home... OR...at home, he has responsibilities and would rather stay at school, at rehearsal, where its fun.  There might be issues there, tread carefully. Never take this kid home, to his house, or yours. The best thing to do is make rehearsal a living hell. ;-) Easy enough. Make home look like heaven in comparison.
  • KPT. The Kid that Plays You Against Other Teachers. "I can't take that makeup test, Mrs. Hall. Mrs. Hunsaker said she is going to kick me out of the play if I don't come to rehearsal on time." "Mr. Williams won't let me wrestle if you don't give me an A on my assignment today." "Mrs. Hunsaker said nothing is more important than this play, especially math. She said she hasn't used math since 1975. She said Math is stupid...infront of the whole school...over the announcements....every day last week...."
Though I've had a great time thinking about all the eccentric kids I've known (and loved) let me finish on a high note with a kid (very much like MOST of the kids I teach) that I thought I could never reach in a million years. Turns out I NEEDED HIM.

I had a student, a seventh grader, and he had Turret's Syndrome. Am I spelling that right? We'll call him "Greg." Greg walked around most of the time with his arms crossed infront of him and his hands resting on his opposite shoulders. The district specialist came into our class and taught us how to deal with Turrets. We were warned that he would have "outbursts" and that we were to ignore it completely. The student sitting directly behind him would simply have to put their hands on his shoulders and that was the signal his parents had taught him and he would stop, or leave the classroom and get it all out somewhere else. And that's exactly what happened.

When the first outburst happened, the entire class was ready for it. I taught "Speech and Debate" classes. There must have been 35 thirteen year-olds sitting listening to "persuasive" speeches when "BEREAVED!" came from the front row like it was being shouted at a football game. 35 kids hopped a little in their seats. 35 kids looked at this one poor kid and silence fell as it had never fallen before in that class. Even the current speaker stopped and took a step back. "BEREAVED! DAMN IT!  BEREAVED! YOU STINK! DAMN DOUBLE DAMN! BEREAVED! TRIPLE DOG DARE YA...BEREAVED! BEREAVED!" I stood up immediately but did not get to him before the girl sitting behind him had gently put her hands on his shoulders, just like she was told. Then I watched Greg decode what was happening. He felt her hands, it was his signal. He calmed down immediately, but it was not without realization of what he had done. Shame flooded over his face and his lowered his head so far that his nose almost touched the desk. There were silent tears already pooling on the desk. We had been told to move forward as if nothing had happened. But I knew Greg knew he had had an outburst infront of his friends. I was not prepared for that. They didn't say that he would melt infront of us after he realized he had "done it" again. Boys rarely cry and that took me back a little.

I was a little freaked out by the incident because it was the first time I had ever seen this up close and personal. You hear about things like this all the time in teacher inservice, but it always happens to someone else. I was the adult and I needed to model "calm, cool and collected." I kicked my bachelors degree into high gear (acting), we got the speaker going again without missing a beat and life went on. I couldn't think about anything else but Greg until the end of the day when I had a chance to call his mom.

(Well.... I did also think to myself "I wish the worse thing I had ever said was 'Damn It.'")

Recalling the incident to his mom after school, I was surprised by her "cool, calm and collected"  response: "He did, huh? How'd 'ya do? Good. That sounds right. I'm sorry, I wish I could say there was a warning signal, but that's what happens and now you know." As I was decoding the event to her I realized two important things. 1) Not a single kid laughed or fell "out of character." A few of them sat up a little straighter, but they were fascinated by the whole thing. They probably thought it was cool to get away with swearing in class and were planning ways to repeat the incident in Biology. But seriously, because of the special training, the class never once laughed at him or paid any attention to him during any episode after that. If you didn't know he struggled with that challenge you never would have guessed it. He was socially very adept. 2) He said "Bereaved." Did 13 year-olds even know what that word meant? I asked his mom about that and she said that when he was very young, he heard that word and became obsessed with it. So they told him it was the worst word a person could say, and never to say it again. Worse than the F word, worse than "fat." (That's the F word at our house).

She said it was too late to condition him out of saying "damn and double damn" because that term was too freely used in their house from birth. Heheheheha.....(At my house, a person might have Turret's and we just wouldn't know it to be any different.) They taught him that "bereaved" was a bad word, so that when he used it in his episodes, and they knew he would, people wouldn't call the police. Ingenious! What a great mom. There are so many great moms I've been privileged to know.

To my point...again and I do have one.....

3) Greg never missed a class. I would have left the room and never returned, but this kid, this little teeny teenager, came faithfully to class every day. The sheer bravery! Once a week or so, we'd deal with an episode but eventually, no one even noticed them...except Greg. I wanted to wrap my arms around him and tell him how much it killed me to see him aching of embarrassment. We were not embarrassed, it didn't even phase us...we were just continually reminded of his bravery and his fortitude to come to school like everyone else his age. He's knows he's doing it, but has absolutely no way to control it, unless someone puts their hands on his shoulders. That explained why he kept his own hands on his shoulders when he was stressed.

I haven't felt very brave lately. I've been a coward. Truly. I've kept a secret because I didn't want people to feel sorry for me, or embarrassed for me and I denied people the opportunity to help me. I caused my own isolation and that's how we spin into depression. I feel myself in that spin sometimes and I can't control it. Bravery can sometimes mean that we allow people to put their hands on our shoulders..."To bear one another's burdens." I'm sick about my cowardice, but I'm a work in progress and sometime soon I hope to be as amazing as my awesome student Greg.

BK. The Kid that Gets Up and Meets His Challenges Head On, With Bravery, Every Day. You can learn something from a kid like that. A Brave Kid.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Octo Mom #3 and #4, Easter and the 43 Year-Old Eggs

When you meet new people, at work, church, wherever, we are conditioned to ask "do you have any children?" and since we lost Noah, there is never a good answer to that. Wrong answer: "No." (because in the Mormon culture, you feel like you have to justify that answer with an explanation.) Wrong answer: "Well, we had a baby right after we got married, but he is no longer with us." Makes you sound like social service came and took him away. "We had a baby but we lost him": Do you know where he is? We had him and then "boom!" gone. Or how about: "We had a baby but he only came to get a body before he returned to his bigger mission in Heaven with God." WHOA! Crazy Mormons ahead! No more friends.

The right and shortest answer is, "Yes, but he died." It's also the most awkward answer. But it's short and to the point. Unless you count the time it takes for the questioner to decode your answer and come up with a politically correct reply to it. I hate to make people uncomfortable, so I usually say "We have 330 children, we're school teachers." And that avoids the original question and invites the next one: "oh, where do you teach?" Awkward moment averted. Vagueness...still there, but who cares. Once these people figure out how busy we are, we won't be able to befriend them anyway.

So there is just no good way to answer that question. I've stopped asking it myself. So if you wonder why I haven't asked about your kids, it's because I know how hard it is to answer that question unless I know in advance that they are all living, wonderful and superstars. Then I will bite my tongue and listen to you brag. It's soooo much easier.

After we lost our baby (have you seen him? Just kidding!) I was determined not to ever get pregnant again. I tried to put it out of my mind. I was 42, then 43...in January of 2008, more than a year after Noah died, I felt my biological clock ticking so loud in my head that it consumed me. When you are "aging out" of the process...you have shame, guilt and anxiety almost all the time. Every time you have a period, you wonder if that was the "egg that got away." It can make a person certifiably crazy.

I used to laugh at people who would say "by biological clock is ticking" outloud. Mine was too but for me, I needed a companion first. I was lonely and I wanted a physical relationship with a man. S.E.X. (Remember - Mormons are advised to save that act for the sanctity of marriage.) But the thought of raising a child on my own, seemed daunting and wrong somehow...wrong for me. A lot of people do it. You can buy babies. You can have them implanted, grown in a dish, grown in another person, adopt them, foster them... Babies, eggs, sperm...huge demand. While I was single, the thought of a baby was second in line to getting a sperm donor to marry me first. I really wanted a companion. I knew I couldn't handle it by myself.

Once I thought about selling my eggs to build a house...I wasn't using them after all. I could sell them to buy a baby...that would be ironic. Truthfully I didn't think I could have handled knowing that there was a little Jan out there, torturing someone. What if, one day, I saw her get an Oscar, or my neighbor said, "my son's drama teacher looks just like you...I wonder if you're related?" BAHHHHH!!!! But adoption is $30,000 these days and a drama teacher doesn't have that kind of money laying around. So I reasoned that I would have to sell a few hundred more and start a savings account for the day-care that I would need once I adopted someone else's child, since I would still have to work. PSHTTTTT!

But then I read it....online...a story about a woman that lied about her age to sell her eggs and went to jail because the child ended up with Downs Syndrome, and the parents started worrying about the donated egg they had paid a mint for. She needed the money but she was over 35 and "eggs that are older than 35 years are not always immune to chromosomal deficiencies" so egg banks (is that what they're called?) don't usually accept eggs that are older than that.

That was something I didn't need to hear. I have always remembered that article, because that is the first time I learned that a woman is born with all the eggs she will ever have. I don't know how I missed that information in school, but after talking to my doctor, I did find that to be true. My heart sank....my eggs were aging with me!?!? So the longer I waited to inseminate one of my ancient eggs the more likely I was to miscarry because there was something wrong with the fetus. I didn't have a problem raising a child with a chromosomal deficiency...I had a problem keeping a fetus with me for longer than 27 weeks. In fact, of the seven miscarriages and one baby I've had, we've only held half of them longer than 6 weeks.

So I decided that if I wanted to have a baby, I would need to get going again. I would need to stop crying about Noah and get into the shark tank again while my eggs were still dropping pretty consistently.

Miscarriage #3, August, 2007. 6 weeks. This miscarriage was identical to the first one and that's when I knew how to identify the first one. I was at school... of course. We hadn't told anyone we were pregnant. I had just started the nausea cycle and so the pain seemed like part of the process. We share a campus with a professional theatre company and the dancers were rehearsing tap numbers in our theatre. I was alone in the bathroom. I left the toilet long enough to go next door to get Andy. I wanted him to see it before it was gone. So Andy came into the bathroom and we had a moment to ourselves. Until 20 professional tap dancers, who still had their shoes on, marched in across the tile floor for their "break." It was like thunder. They didn't know. They looked at Andy, standing there in the women's bathroom and said "do you mind?" What do you say....? Pearls before swine. So Andy left and I locked myself in the stall and held my hand over my mouth and cried, as silently as I could. Looking back, I should have said "do YOU mind...we've just had a miscarriage here" or something curt and to the point. But when you miscarry, your mind isn't with you. It's everywhere else.

Miscarriage #4, Easter weekend, 2008. 14 weeks. This one makes me sound like a crazy loon. Which I might be.

My sister Penny's family was looking for a house and they found one a mile from us in Washington. It needed lots of work before they could move into it. My brothers are all blessed with skills that can make turning a house over in a week, almost possible. ;-) And let's face it, when you have 7 siblings who are all married, those 14 people, all know how to do something. It's awesome that way! And if they don't know how to do something, they know someone that does. I'll always be grateful to my mom and dad for giving us all that incredible network. We have benefited from each other skills so much. (Except the only thing I can do is loan out cool Halloween costumes, but I am good at cleaning and boxing up stuff too.)

Andy and I had successfully crossed the 12 week mark with pregnancy number 4 and had just let that cat out of the bag. Everyone was ecstatic! 12 whole weeks and I was actually looking pregnant. There was no mistaking it. The pregnancy was going really well. I felt great.

Week 13 - spotting. Laid down...feet up.... spotting went away. Then at the top of week 14, I woke up early in the morning to pee, and swung my feet over the side of the bed and realized I wasn't pregnant anymore. I didn't feel pregnant. A wave of emptiness went over me...like a spirit had woken me up and was now leaving the room... I sat there for a minute, trying to decide what to do. As I stood up I felt the blood descend.

No need to wake Andy up. We were putting the final touches on a musical and he was about to leave that day to take 50 kids on a bus to state drama in Northern Utah for 2 days.  We were exhausted. I cleaned up and laid back down. I didn't feel a need to make it an emergency because I knew it had already happened. So I laid there and cried. The bleeding stopped as quickly as it had come. We called the Doc as soon as their office opened and he had me go in to the hospital in Hurricane to have an ultra sound. I drove in myself because Andy had gone to competition with other peoples kids.

The ultra sound technician was about 12 years old. Okay, maybe she was 21, but she was obviously nervous about the situation. She hadn't been doing it very long. She might have said three words the entire time. "Please scoot down." Once she decided the regular external ultra sound wasn't giving her what she wanted, she lubed up the internal one. That was fun. A person ought to give some warning about that one. None. I'd never had one of those before so I was..............S.U.R.P.R.I.S.E.D.

The only ultrasound I ever had was two years earlier with Noah and I had forgotten why they did them in the first place. Since this technician was so talkative, I just laid there, watching the monitor. She kept moving the "wand" around.....O.W....W.E.E! and around and around....never saying anything. I could very clearly see this little person inside of me, though. Arms, legs, back....It didn't have two heads. But it didn't have a heartbeat either. I wasn't thinking about that. I was just caught up in the fact that I had a fully formed little human inside of me. After at least 30 minutes, which I found out later is a very long time, my technician left suddenly. I needed to pee. So I just laid there concentrating on NOT pee-ing all over the table.

The girl came back in and handed me a phone. Maybe she had a severe speech problem..?! I took the phone and Doc Chamberlain was on the other end. He said "I'm so sorry, Jan, they can't find a heartbeat. I'm so sorry."

What did he mean exactly? They just can't find it...it's too soon...or it's lost.... or.... oh.

He went on..."If you don't pass it within 72 hours, you'll need to come in and have a D&C. Keep me posted." I was still hanging on the word "pass." I asked him to repeat himself and he focused deeply on what he was saying always followed by "I'm sorry."  It dawned on me that I would have to carrying around a dead fetus for three days..."Can't I just have the D&C and get it out and over with? "We want your body to expel it on its own, you don't want to have a D&C. If you've already passed a lot of blood it should be very soon. Go home and let it happen. Bring the fetus to me after you pass it."

I wandered by myself to the parking lot. Everything from the waist down hurt. When I got inside the car I sat down and screamed at the top of my lungs "WHYYYYYYYY?!?!?!" And I "wrestled" with the Lord. I felt so far away, abandoned by Him. I was grasping and heaving. I thought I might pass out so I opened the door. I vomited next to the car and an older couple ran over to me and asked me if they should get help. I didn't know what to say except "I just need some time to deal with something," and they walked away. I got myself together and went home.

We were putting up a musical and trying to get the team together for competition, so Andy was at work and of course, Tuacahn has the worst reception ever so his phone was out of range. I went home, laid down and you guessed it... cried some more. He called me when I got home and I broke the news to him. He sent everyone away and came home. I wanted to pass that baby while Andy was still there, but it wasn't to be. 24 hours passed... Andy left with the team... then 48....my parents arrived to start packing my sister up for the big move and I decided that I might as well get up and help. I went to her house, grabbed a box and started throwing things in it. I was so pissed. So angry about having to tell everyone that we weren't pregnant anymore, but I was still carrying around the baby...that had been dead now for three days.  I lugged boxes full of food storage cans out to the trucks and after 6 hours of that, I had created some pretty big pains. So I went home...dragged out the green colander from it's usually space under the bathroom sink and started "sifting" through the blood.

My mom told me to call her if I needed her. But that was Penny's day and I didn't want to drag her away from the joy and excitement of my sister moving into her first home. I didn't want to put a damper on that awesome event. Everyone was working furiously to get them out of the rental before the end of the month. I told her I was fine and I drove home.

When you carry a baby for 14 weeks, that baby has created a lot of G.U.N.K. It has padded it's apartment well. So your body reacts in an effort to get rid of the renter and it's apartment just as if you are having a full term baby. I didn't know this. Now I do. I started very specific contractions as soon as I laid down. I started passing whole sheets of blood - things that looked like giant pieces of beef liver, only, as you break them up, looking for the miscarriage, they fall apart like broken jello. A miscarriage is a leathery mass that can't be pulled apart.

My mother....is a saint. I've already told you that. After about an hour of having full on labor pains, I just started praying that someone would come home or come over to help me if they had a chance to break away from other priorities. I was in the middle of that constant prayer and I heard my mom say "Jan?!" Where are you?" She felt that prayer out there in the universe. She gave her boxes to someone else and came over to hold my hand and help me deal with the loss. I wasn't alone. I now know the great and tender mercy of God that he allowed me to keep that baby long enough that my mom could be there with me when I delivered it. That was such a blessing to me. She held my sweaty hair back, wiped my forehead and scrubbed the bathroom after it was over. She even lifted that tiny baby out of the trusty Tupperware colander, put it in another piece of Tupperware and took it to the doc so he could analyse it.

What does a 14 week-old baby look like? Like a tiny person (3-4 inches?) covered in slimy, wet beef jerky and red jello. I only glanced at that tiny baby. I could see it's little head,black eyes, arms and fingers through the transparent slime. Then I had to look away. The entire mass could have fit into an 8 oz. measuring cup. Doc Chamberlain told me that it was a perfect little person and did not have an answer for me about why we miscarried.

It took a week or so for my uterus to pull itself back together and that was pretty painful, but other than that, the boobs, the nausea, the smells...it all went away immediately. That's why you continue to try to have babies...because the pain goes away and the desire to raise a family is so powerful. But I was discouraged, beyond discouraged after this experience. When will I be given the blessings promised me in my patriarchal blessing? Maybe not in this life. And I might have to be okay with that.

What can I take away from this.... what can you know from me about how to help someone through a miscarriage? Because of the guilt, shame and anxiety that come with miscarriage, women tend to want to do what animals do...go somewhere else and be by themselves. But don't let them do it. Be brave. Brave enough to face it, add stability and not drama, add hugs and not advice. Let them try as many times as they can and pray, pray, pray.