Surviving the transition to Horse Show Mom

I was five the first time I stepped foot in the show ring – on my aunt’s horse, Daisy, who had three legs in the grave and one on a banana peel. All jokes aside, my job was to get behind my aunt in the ring and Daisy took care of the rest. I survived, and was happy as all get out!

But I can still remember my “mildly” competitive dad working with five-year-old me behind the trailer to lope poor Daisy who was quite over any bursts of speed at that point in her life. Dad was frustrated because I wasn’t “ready”, and I was too excited to care;) I was five and in a HORSE SHOW!!! I was practically old enough to drive the truck!

To dad’s point: why put a kid in the ring that isn’t ready to compete?

To my aunt’s point: because she’ll have fun and learn.

And now I’m trying to fall in the middle as parent to our munchkin.

So off we go to our first “real” horse show with a saint of a pony named, Clyde! Munchkin’s not “ready”, but he is ready to learn, and he is ready to have fun. I worked with him on leading his pony. We put out buckets in the barn aisle, like a pony-leading obstacle course haha, but he’s not been comfortable enough to trot his pony in-hand.

But who the hell cares? He just turned four and he’s happy and having a ball!

So we get to the show. The pony is bathed. Twice because he’s white and rolled in poop. He’s braided. And him and the kid look cute as hell. (Munchkin picked out his own neck tie to match his navy coat!)

And what do you know….

Munchkin is in the first halter class, and he’s the first called into the ring. No ability to watch others and he’s got a show mom in the background giving him directions but trying to let him figure it out.

Did he walk straight to the judge? No. It was a little more drunken sailor-ish.

Did he set his pony up correctly? No. He doesn’t even know what that is. He STOPPED his pony, which was a win;)

He let the judge inspect, and when the pony moved he didn’t freak out, he just rolled with it.

Did he trot away from the judge? Not a chance. He hasn’t been confident enough to try it. And I’m ok with that. What I was more ok with was the big grin on his face and the look of accomplishment!

He lined his pony up for further inspection and because it was a small local show, I could be with him to help. But I tried my best to let him have his moment, to let him learn, and to figure things out on his own. I didn’t set his pony up. We didn’t even talk about how to do it. We’ll get there….

When he came out with a second place ribbon, he was stoked…. I mean, red is his favorite color!!! How cool was that?! He has no clue that blue is what he should’ve wanted, but he’s four so again…who the hell cares?!

His daddy was waiting on him on the outside… ready to intercept the pony and high-five the kid.

His daddy has never horse showed. But he suggested Munchkin go stand at the rail and watch the next few classes to learn. But again, he’s four…. I legit wasn’t worried about him watching other classes. I was just happy it was a good experience and he got his favorite color ribbon!

But dang if he didn’t listen to that daddy of his and learn.

He watched, just as his daddy asked, not for too long. But he watched. Neither of us said much to him. We asked if he was having fun. He was. He wanted his cousin to come hang out by the in-gate with us. So I went to grab her.

And oh geez, it’s time to go back in the ring for his 12 and Under Best Turned Out class. Before I can hand over my two year old niece to Hubs, Munchkin has grabbed the pony and is heading into the ring at a trot!

Ummm…

1. He’s NEVER trotted his pony in hand

2. He left me in the dust

3. It was not necessary to trot the pony and I was definitely not telling him otherwise!

He had watched the other “big kids” and adults trot their horses and decided he could do it too. Well, ok little man! Go on with your big, bad self!

So he wins his class, which is slightly LESS exciting because it came with a blue ribbon. Duh, red is his favorite color…. Meanwhile, Grandaddy is happy because to directly quote him: “If you don’t win best turned out, you’re just plain trifling!”

Kudos for honesty from the munchkin too…

Judge: Young man, did you braid your pony?

Munchkin: No, my momma did!

In his defense, he did help me wash his pony;) BOTH times! And he picked up all the hair when I pulled Clyde’s mane. And he watched intently as I clipped his pony. Soaking it in…

Next came the stick horse class. He romped around the ring and his “horse” somehow managed to maul his cousin’s head…

And then lead line. Riding proud as peacock:) and without me actually leading him, because clearly he’s too big for that…

And then it’s over. An hour later. After all that work…

We take some pictures. Untack the pony. Mimi helps undress the munchkin. We load up. Drive home. Unload. Unbraid. Put Clyde back in his stall.

I’m exhausted. And also 7 months pregnant.

But my heart was happy.

Munchkin had a great experience. He learned. He had fun. He got all sorts of cool ribbons. He wants to know when he can go to another show:) The local show made it fun and enjoyable, while allowing me to help and stay with my kiddo so everyone was safe and happy!

Thank goodness…. Grandaddy was quite pleased with Munchkin’s blue ribbon in the one class, but clearly thinks he should’ve won every class;) In fact all the men in his life do.

But we did win. We won in every category as far as I’m concerned. And as a momma, I couldn’t have been prouder.

My hubs doesn’t get the enjoyment out of horse showing. But watching Hub’s face light up at seeing his son do something he so clearly enjoyed….well that helps me know that even if Hubs doesn’t understand all of it, he trusts me when I have these crazy ideas. He was so damn proud of his son. Proud of the independence Munchkin showed, proud that he listened and learned, proud that at four he’s already picking up some of the traits we hope he carries with him all his life.

At the end of the day…. that folks, is why we horse showed this weekend.

And while I missed not being on a horse in the ring yesterday, I can tell you nothing compares to watching your little one love something you do too…

Love,

Stilettos

And here we go again…

Well folks, I’ve been very open with our baby struggles for the last year. I’ve appreciated each and every person who reached out during that time. And some of you have made me cry (which is impressive because I HATE crying) with your own stories.

Most of you know at this point that Hubs and I have one perfect, beautiful, wild little boy. A year ago last month we had a miscarriage. I immediately got pregnant again.

And nine months ago we sent a son to Heaven. I hope it will be the most painful thing we go through in our marriage, but the reality is – it might not be…and that’s ok. We’ll figure out whatever gets thrown our way, just like we have everything else.

They told me afterwards, just give it time. They said your body will know when it’s right. But for the girl who evidently gets pregnant just looking at her husband – having to wait months, and facing disappointment was new. I trusted it would be fine, I had no issues conceiving in the past, and I very easily recognized that despite the fact my body theoretically SHOULD be ok….it wasn’t. I’d already been pregnant twice in less than a year, and what I went through in August was traumatic on mind, body, and soul. Christmas was coming, and I got to this point that I told my sister-in-law that this was it – if I wasn’t pregnant I had come to this place of peace and decided I was done. Done with the migraines. Done with the feeling bad. Done pushing for something that just maybe wasn’t supposed to be.

Then I got really pissed at Hubs. I mean really pissed.

I NEVER get pissed like that. What was I mad at? I was home steaming shrimp for a fried oyster party because I don’t like oysters, and he neglected to inform me of the following:

A) he wasn’t coming home prior to the party – aka he was already there having fun.

B) There were copious amounts of crab legs too (which I love…as I’m slaving over the shrimp to take to the party that I didn’t need to take.)

C) He never told me a time to be there and now he’s wondering why I’m late….

Admittedly, some of you can easily see why I would be upset. But for me…the girl who never gets mad, that always rolls with the punches – I WAS PISSED. Like, really, really, PISSED.

And it was then that my friend Britt knew I was pregnant again.

I drank several glasses of wine (WHOOPS!!), refused to speak to my husband, and eventually calmed down:)

The next morning I took a pregnancy test (wayyyy too early) and went, “OHHHH shit.”

Do you know what it’s like to host a Christmas party with fifty people crowded all over your house, you can’t drink, and you’re not willing to tell anyone you peed on a stick that morning?? No? Well, it sucks.

So here we go again…

When I was pregnant with Munchkin, I KNEW he was a boy. Immediately. Instinctively.

When I got pregnant the next time – Same.

When I got pregnant again – Same.

When I got pregnant this time, I told Hubs to watch out. This one’s a girl.

And so it is. In August, Hubs, Munchkin, and I will welcome a baby girl to the family.

These last few months have given me time to reflect. While getting pregnant has never been my problem, getting a baby here on earth has. And it’s left me feeling grateful for a lot of things.

Munchkin is a freaking miracle.

All babies are special. I know that. But knowing what I know now…how we got Munchkin here without issue, I’ll never know or understand.

I have a genetic blood clotting disorder. Without the miscarriages, without losing our son, I would never have known until something catastrophic happened.

And unfortunately, my family knows all too well what catastrophic means. My grandfather died at 31 from a massive aneurysm. He was “healthy as a horse”, or so everyone thought until my grandmother found him dead in their bed three days after Christmas. My dad was 5. My aunt was 3. Nanny was 6 weeks pregnant with my uncle. Talk about being up poop creek…. what Nanny went through I just can’t imagine.

My dad has only one memory of his father, playing with his Christmas train set he’d just gotten on the living room floor. His siblings have no memories.

What I have is genetically dominant, and I’m heterozygous for it – meaning I received a copy of the gene from one of my parents. Likely my dad, given the family history. My dad has never had an issue, but he’s on medicine to hopefully prevent it from happening to him, as am I.

What if I hadn’t found out? What if I had a massive aneurysm in my early thirties, just like my grandfather? What if I’d left my husband with a toddler and a baby, but no momma to raise these precious humans.

We can spend our lives “what if-ing” and it won’t do us much good. But what I can do is be thankful.

Be thankful for an OB that wasn’t satisfied with not having an explanation for what happened to our son. That went to the ends of the testing world to figure out what happened, and then put together a game plan for how to handle it.

I can be thankful for all the support we got from friends, family, and strangers. For the random acts of kindness, the check-ins, visits, and phone calls.

I can be thankful that in August we’ll have a wild little girl to keep us on our toes, and an angel boy in heaven to watch over us.

So for those that have followed along on our journey, loved us up close, and loved us from afar. For those dealing with their own battles that just don’t feel like they can talk about it. For the lucky ones that didn’t have to go through Hell to get a baby, but want to understand what it’s like for their loved ones….

This is where we are.

I recently read and saw Dylan Dreyer’s (a Today Show anchor) openness regarding her own battle with trying to add to their family, and she said this: joy is joy, pain is pain. She shared joy at learning another person was having a baby, and pain over her own family’s struggle. All at the same time.

So, while we know pain, we very clearly know joy. And right now we’re basking in it. At 22w, I feel good finally! Pistol is cooking as expected, we’ve had an uneventful pregnancy thus far (much like Munchkin’s, and nothing like the last two)! She’s kicking, and growing, and stomping on my bladder for shits and giggles – which I’m perfectly ok with:) So, thanks for keeping up with us, the positive vibes, prayers, and everything else. Y’all rock.

And finally, may we all be good humans, like Dylan Dreyer, and able to share joy even in times of pain.

– Stilettos

Being an AGvocate

Yesterday I posted a funny poem about our unfortunate “date night” – since that’s about how steamy we’ve been here lately – spent in the bathroom warming up a very cold newborn calf. It got some giggles, some shares, and some likes. It’s been making its way across the country through Facebook, which is admittedly kind of cool – that one sleep-deprived poem would make its way into the eyes of cattlemen from across the country.

It got quite a few comments, one from Hubs friend who said he no-longer thought of Hubs as a KMart Cowboy hahaha…I guess he’s the real deal now! One person thought I should turn it into a children’s book – which probably means I should take the “pissed” and “hell” out…

And it got one comment from a person in Montana.

This individual read my silly poem and agreed we must be good, hard-working people – but then she made two crucial assumptions that just weren’t true. And that’s why I hope, as my “ag” friends, you’ll share this post.

She assumed we chose to calve in the Winter.

She assumed we live in Montana (because the person who shared it does).

Sayings of the South #1 – “Assume” = if you assume, you make an ASS out of U and ME. I’ve always found that to be true.

She went on to criticize cattle producers who want accolades on social media for pulling a calf out of a snow bank, but that technically made the choice to calve in the winter. She believes that calving seasons should be moved to a more ideal time. She clearly made some assumptions in regards to us.

Sayings of the South #2 – “Opinions are like a-holes – everybody’s got one.” True story.

Admittedly, this is how I perceived her comments. But see, that’s the bad thing about written language. One sentence, one comment, one blog post can be perceived by individuals in more than one way. And this is what I think she’s missing out on.

We calve mid-March through mid-May, most coming in April. We have a tight window of calving. We live in Virginia. It will be 70 degrees this weekend. And while we’ve had some cold weather this week, and we might get a squall of snow between now and April – it’s definitely not winter. So her assumptions were false.

I commented back explaining our situation, the assumptions she had made (politely), and that I was commenting because I didn’t want people to only read her comment without knowing the truth.

She responded, acknowledging her faulty assumptions, but stood by her claim that people in her area shouldn’t be calving during winter months, unless there’s a very valid circumstance. Her rationale seems reasonable. But here’s the problem. There were other comments regarding why calving happens during winter months that also seem quite reasonable. And that’s the thing about agriculture…

Sayings of the South #3: “There’s more than one way to skin a cat!” PLEASE nobody get offended and think I think we should be eating domesticated animals. It’s just a saying!!! But it’s true – there’s more than one good way to do something in farming and ranching. And that’s ok.

So here’s why I’m posting this – and I’m hoping you will too.

One individual posted one negative comment about us rescuing a cold calf. She’s a person from the agriculture industry, someone who should “get it”.

ANYBODY could read her statement – and I do mean ANYBODY. Left alone, it leaves my husband and I looking like attention seeking, irresponsible cattlemen. With context, and an explanation, it leaves her looking like a person who complains, and makes negative comments without doing her homework. And at the end of the day, someone in the agriculture industry still looks bad. Which nobody wants.

Sayings of the South #4: “Don’t air your dirty laundry outside.” Nobody wants to see the skid marks in your undies. Promise. Meaning? If you don’t have something positive to say, Facebook might not be the place to air it.

So here’s my ask, farming/ranching folks:

Can we please make social media a place of positivity when it comes to agriculture. Where we showcase what we’re proud of. Where we show the hard work that we put in. Where we stay in our own lane, and agree not to tear down someone who does it differently than us. So that together, we combat the people who have NO clue what they’re talking about, have never stepped foot on a farm, but have buttholes (See Sayings of the South #2).

I may not personally feed my kid organic, GMO-free food. But I’ll support the farmer producing it. I may not eat “natural” beef. But I’ll support the farmer producing it. I may not personally agree with a lot of things, but here recently I’ve been trying to do a better job supporting ALL of agriculture. Hence forth, can we not agree that by slamming others in the agricultural industry for ideas or production methods we don’t agree with – we’re hurting the industry we all love.

My husband and I agreed before our kid was born – no disagreeing in front of Munchkin. No “airing our dirty laundry”. Why? Because it creates a divisive nature which is helpful to nobody, and in the end it would be all of us that lose. Especially our kid – or in the case of agriculture…the consumer. Because if the people within agriculture can’t publicly agree how to handle something – how in the heck do we expect a consumer to figure it out?

So as an industry this is what I want your take-away to be:

Social media is a powerful tool. It allows us to tell our story, to show off our farms, and to combat those that know very little, but have big opinions about how farming and ranching should be done.

It’s ok to disagree amongst ourselves.

Save it for a producer meeting. A Farm Bureau meeting. A one-on-one with local veterinarians and extension staff. Save it for the person you disagree with. Don’t air your dirty laundry because in the end – we all lose. Somebody looks bad, and that means we all look bad. We look divided – not united. And last I checked, we’ve gotten a whole lot more done as an industry, than a single person ever has.

Love ya’ll long time,

– Stilettos

PS – for those of you interested, I would encourage you to reach out to your state and local farm bureau organizations to see what media training resources might be available to help you navigate social media and AGvocacy.

A farmer’s love story…

While all of you slept warm in your bed,

Farmers and ranchers were out checking their head.

Searching the fields and shining bright lights

Trekking in freezing temps to make sure all was alright

But look over there! A cow is in labor.

She WOULD pick the coldest night to worry us and the neighbor

Give her an hour, go back to the house

Wait till she’s done, be quiet as a mouse!

Back out we go to check on the calf

Ice cycled babies require a staff.

Elsa from Frozen will soon like his ears

Wish we were warm and drinking some beers….

Baby is cold, shivering, and wet

But dealing with momma is currently our threat!

Man is she pissed!

As Hubs shakes his fist!

She says, “BRING IT, BIG BOY!”

Momma’s DONE being coy!

We run for the truck when she charges our butts,

Knowing she’s trying to trample our guts!

I drive the truck up all sly with Hubs in the back

We steal baby IceCube and head to the shack

Haha…We’ve tricked you, big cow, and no one got hurt!

Your baby calf is now wearing a shirt!

Into the basement at midnight for care

His temp doesn’t register giving us a scare.

Colder than cold, needing to warm…

Time for a bath to beat back the storm.

Newly finished bathroom now has a user,

It was supposed to be ME! not this big cold bruiser!

Sitting forever with IceCube just bathing

His temp coming up is actually quite amazing!

He’s trying to stand, he’s finally stopped shivering

Time to get out after a memorable delivering

Hubs says go rest,

I say, “No way, till IceCube is dressed!!!”

He’s warm, while snuggled in blankets with all of my love

Baby is happy, a true gift from Above!

So to bed we go for just a few short hours

But we’re back at it again saying “Please, God…no scours!!!”

IceCube has made the basement his home

But he’s mooing and moving, wanting to roam

It’s back to the farm,

Where Momma still wishes us harm…

But IceCube is happy and bucking

And so he goes straight to sucking!

All in all, we’re both tired as hell

But happy the farm is still all well!

My hubs is so sweet, he’s quite the charmer

It was just another night spent loving my farmer!

Bring on 2019!

Well folks – I’m the procrastinator that NEVER gets Christmas cards out on time…or ever. “I’ll write a Christmas letter next year!” And that never happens either.

But I’m embracing some changes. So here’s our “Bring on 2019” letter:

To our friends and family:

As we got closer and closer to finishing 2018, I often thought – THANK GOD! I can’t wait for 2018 to be done and onto 2019. But that would mean I’ve been thinking about all the not-so-great events of 2018 and neglecting all the wonderful things that have happened for our family this past year…and since I’m a glass-half-full kinda girl, here’s all the things we have to be thankful for!

Last December we bought the herd of cattle Hubs has been tending to since he was still in high school. For those that don’t know, Bruce was like Hub’s grandad. They loved each other tremendously. So after Bruce died last year, his cows have now become our girls, which is only slightly over-shadowed by the fact that in January we bought Bruce’s farm. Bruce is missed every day, but we’ll always have a piece of him in that farm. (My boss often asks if I’ve bought any other farms – evidently being in debt up to your eyeballs insures his employee will be working her tail off. He’s correct.)

To some, buying a farm may not seem like a big deal, especially if you consider we come from farming families. But to us, it’s huge. Our families farm, but they have their own, separate operations. This is something we did by ourselves… in our early thirties, with a young family. We stuck our necks out to buy a farm we both love. A farm we hope to pass to our children one day. We’ve worked hard, but the real work is just beginning, and we’re so excited to give our Munchkin the opportunity to grow up this way. And it is an opportunity – a wonderful, stressful, glorious, magical opportunity.

Munchkin continues to amaze us. He’s growing like a weed – at 3 he is wearing 5/6 clothing, and sometimes thinks he’s at least 16. He drives anything with wheels like Mario Andretti, has fallen off a horse twice, and close-lined himself on the electric fence once. He finally likes his precious cousin (pseudo sister), and will agree to be in pictures with her – it only took 15 months! Unfortunately, he finds her to be messy, which isn’t cool according to him, despite multiple attempt to explain she’s just younger than him. Despite his squabbles with her, she loves him fiercely, and whether he admits it or not – if he doesn’t see her for a single day – he asks when he’s going to.

(Usually she’s the photogenic one – but this picture just makes me laugh…)

Hub’s business partner and his wife have a little one two months older than Munchkin. We knew they’d be close, they have no choice. But it’s special none-the-less to watch these two wild boys. Who recently were so covered in mud they had to ride home in their skivvies. Boys will be boys, right?!

Munchkin has also recently entered the dating market and (according to him) is anxiously awaiting a good girlfriend. Here are his requirements:

Big

Not messy

Will sleep with him because he doesn’t like to be alone.

(I swear this is his unprompted, direct quote, list. How does a three year old possibly think about s*** like this?!?1)

Please send resumes. Super puncher cowboy from way back, looks good in Wranglers. Likes driving real fast and loves to cuddle.

Munchkin started preschool in September. His teacher is Mrs. Perkins and I think she’s an angel. He can now sing his ABC’s, count, and say the pledge of allegiance! His vocabulary is extensive….sometimes TOO extensive. I can’t blame that on preschool, but it is funny. He enjoys insulting his daddy (the only person he’s allowed to insult) with things like “YOU BIG BUCKING BULL!” Which is great, until he yells it in public and people think he’s yelling something that rhymes with bucking… So, yeah…we had to end the “bucking bull” insults.

Hubs is busy – like always. His best friend got married in May and he was only sad they didn’t have a full-fledge Hangover reenactment for the bachelor trip…the wedding was close, and it was a blast! He continues to improve his karaoke skills and does particularly touching renditions of Strawberry Wine and Stay (Sugarland), but his favorite will always be “Tina at the Teardrop Inn”, followed by anything by Blackhawk.

(Hubs wanted to know how they got that sock on that tree – ummm it’s a tree scarf, which is admittedly weird, but definitely not a sock…)

Molly and Sadie (our Border Collie and Aussie) are doing well – “the girls” as Munchkin calls them have had an interesting year. Molly is still alive, which is great, since anyone who knows her knows she’s a bit of a problem child. (Understatement of the century.) She’s most definitely outlived the standard cat’s nine lives and we’re hoping she’s got 18. (She’s probably used 15 of them…) She did have a gallbladder attack this year that scared the crap out of us. Sadie….oh Sadie. She had her one and only litter of puppies in January, she was spayed in August, and she adopted and started nursing two random kittens in September. Then got mastitis from nursing the kittens, went crazy, ran away, and luckily was found 24hours later. She made a full recovery, but unfortunately still likes cats…

And me? I’m just happy. I’m happy to have a husband who always works hard for our little family, a son who lights up our world, family that’s been there for all the highs and lows, and friends that know how to make you have a good time even when you don’t want to. I love my job and my customers and I’m thankful to work for a really cool company.

(Please notice the background = life with a 3yo.)

So, 2019 – BRING IT…

This little family is ready.

Love,

Stilettos

Not my Momma’s Meatloaf + Farm Life

The joys of farming –

So tonight, I get home after a long day…

I changed into some comfy shorts and sandals…

And Hubs gets home to inform me we have cattle to work. Like right now. No time to change.

Don’t you dare judge. Yes, I’m well aware my open-toed feet should never have been where they were…but they were. And it probably won’t be the last…

So off Munchkin and I go to enjoy some quality time on the four-wheeler, helping Hubs get cows up!

Of course, Munchkin got to play while we sorting cows – enjoy it kid… one day you won’t get to play in the dirt while we work haha. Molly and Sadie were right there with us, going between us and the Munchkin making sure everybody was ok. All in all… it was a pretty perfect Spring evening.

Sometimes I get asked – how can you raise beef cattle AND eat them? Um – I love beef. Our job is to provide a safe, reliable, delicious protein for your family…and we aim to please. Our cows are probably better cared for than ourselves – they certainly see their doctor more than I see mine! I guess our logic (and conscience) dictates – If they’re going to be providing our family with what we need – you bet your bottom dollar we’re here to provide them with what they need.

Tonight we had a girl that wasn’t feeling herself, so to the barn she went to await the vet, with her girlfriends.

When you live on a beef farm – you eat a LOT of beef. I come home from the grocery store with chicken and Hubs looks at me like I have 6 heads. Don’t we have a freezer full of beef? Yes, yes we do. But sometimes I crave something different.

Luckily, I’ve been able to tweak on some “staple” beef recipes over the years that satisfy my need to not be boring. Friends – meet my friend, Not Boring Meatloaf.

So over the years, I’ve had to get creative in an attempt to not eat the same thing over, and over, and over. This meatloaf recipe is one such way.

I should probably confess in advance – I’ve never liked meatloaf. A few years ago, I started playing around with a recipe that would satisfy Hub’s love of all things meatloaf and my aversion to normal meatloaf – this is what we landed on…

So let’s get started!

In a bowl add 2 cups of torn up stale bread (pretty sure I used hotdog buns this time) and enough milk to saturate the bread.

Let that soak in, then add an egg, ground beef, chives, parsley, onion, salt, and pepper.

Remove the rings from your hands. Trust me.

Now, get to squishing. Work the ingredients together with your hands until you’ve got it thoroughly combined.

I LOVE this roasting pan. Spray a little cooking spray, fill the bottom with water, yayy easy cleanup AND fat drains away while cooking.

So, dump the loaf onto the sprayed pan…

Form into a loaf…

Throw it in the oven at 400 degrees.

Let’s talk sauce.

Mix ketchup, mustard (I prefer spicy mustard but plain yellow was what I had to work with), and a little liquid smoke. Hubs HATES sweet on meat. He doesn’t like bbq sauce on a meatloaf, or brown sugar in already-sweet ketchup. This sauce is savory with the smoke, the mustard adds a kick, and just a tad sweet and definitely tangy from the ketchup.

Pull the loaf out, sauce that bad boy and return it to the oven. Save the sauce leftovers for dipping the meatloaf when eating.

And when this glorious baby is finished…. Hubs will start slicing and serving before I can even take a picture. Go figure….

Enjoy folks!!

2 C bread torn into pieces

~1/2 C milk (or until bread is saturated)

1 egg

1.5lb hamburger

1 tbs dried chives

1 tbs parsley

1 Tbs dried onion

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

Sauce

1 C ketchup

1 Tbs mustard (spicy)

1 tsp liquid smoke

Mix milk and bread in a medium bowl. Let soak. Add remaining ingredients, mix together. Form loaf on pan, cook at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. Remove, add sauce, return to the oven for an additional 20 minutes, or until internal meat temperature reaches 165 degrees. Let it rest for a few minutes, then serve with leftover sauce.

Being Thankful… Even in a ShitStorm.

Lord knows we’ve had an awful year. Not one I wish to repeat. But, I’m a firm believer that when life throws you lemons – you make lemonade….and throw in some vodka.

As I reflect on our lives this past year, and the grief that surrounds infertility and pregnancy loss… it’s beyond easy to get bogged down. It’s easy to stay in a pool of grief because we lost two babies, one when I was almost halfway along in the pregnancy. It’s easy to get wrapped up in us having another child vs not, and letting it control our lives. I know how grief can do that, but I refuse to go there. We get one life on Earth…I’m not about to squander it.

So it’s got me thinking about grief.

Everyone grieves. We grieve when loved ones pass at 91, and when loved ones pass before they were ever born. We grieve when relationships don’t work. We grieve over plans not working out. No one is immune from grief. No one.

And that got me thinking about how I choose to handle it.

I’m one person. I’m certainly not an expert. There’s no good book on how to handle grief when you lose a baby. There’s not much out there on grief in general.

But what I can tell you is this…

Everyone gets shoved into the grief pool when something terrible happens. Sometimes it’s immediate, sometimes its days later, weeks later, or months later. Nobody escapes the grief pool. The vast majority of us will have to come up for air eventually. Sometimes it’s within days, sometimes longer. It’s laughter, someone making you smile, or maybe just putting your focus somewhere else, away from your pain, for just a moment. And you’ve got a decision to make: do I go back under, or do I pull myself out. Maybe you’re not ready at first, so you go back under. Maybe you move from the deep end to the shallow. But inevitably, if you go back under you’ll come up for air again (maybe sooner than last time) and the decision happens again. Eventually, you choose to pull yourself out – or maybe you don’t. I hope you do.

I got out of the pool. I’m not immune to grief. I have feelings. I’m not EVER going to forget what happened, and nobody in their right mind would expect me to. It’s simply not possible. But, I choose happiness over sadness, thankfulness over being left wanting. But so many times I see people choose to stay in the pool.

I want to live a life of thankfulness… even in the midst of the shit storm that has been this past year.

So… here’s what got me out:

In moments of grief, reflect on the love that surrounds you. Allow people to comfort you, to make you laugh, and forget the sadness…even if only for a moment. They’re trying to pull you up so you can breath. Let them.

In moments of weakness, when you feel like you can’t stand up, let someone help you. So, so, so many women have gone through this. You are not alone. But, if you don’t allow someone to be there for you (that’s been through a loss or infertility of their own especially) – you’re going to feel alone. Feeling alone is unnecessary. There are too many of us out here for it to be ok for you to suffer in silence.

In your moments of anxiety and worry, control the controllable and forget what you can’t control. I can’t control that my body’s all out of whack right now – it just needs time, and that’s ok. Can’t get the anxiety under control? Talk to someone. There are options – even if it’s just red wine and a good friend.

When things don’t fit into YOUR timeline: get rid of the timeline. Like seriously. The timeline is creating stress and it’s probably making you crazy. If you can’t control it – get rid of it. Lord knows, I thought Muchkin would be playing with a sibling by now. But he’s not and that’s ok. My mom and aunt are seven years apart and are thick as thieves. I never got a sibling…and my life has been good. Timelines are stress-inducing.

When what you prayed for doesn’t happen, when what you’ve wanted more than anything in the world doesn’t happen…. reevaluate. How important is it? Are you losing yourself in an attempt to gain something society tells you you must have? What lengths are you willing to go to? What stress are you willing to put on your spouse? Is it worth it? No? Then find something else that makes you happy. There’s a whole world out there waiting on you. Yes? See below.

And what happens when you decide it is worth it, and you keep praying, and you keep wanting…and it still doesn’t happen. You reevaluate. You decide what you need to be happy if it’s not going to be ________________, and you go do that. You go on trips, you adopt a child, you become the world’s best aunt, you make a career move, you do SOMETHING that changes your focus and makes you happy. Because happiness should not be determined by one thing. You let go. You did everything right, and it didn’t work out. Good. Let yourself feel peace. You change your prayer. Pray not for the thing you wanted, pray for peace and happiness – it’ll seep in.

In our time of grief, I forced myself to think of these things:

I choose to live a life of thankfulness. Not everyone has what I have and I’m grateful: we have family who supports us, loves, us and prays for us. We have friends that will do just about anything to help. I have a great career. We have a warm home. We have food in our bellies. We’re happy.

I choose to see the good in my family, friends, and God. Yeah, we all get annoyed from time to time with our loved ones (God included)…but the reality is – they love us, we love them, and when push comes to shove – we’ve got each others backs.

I put faith in Him, that He may not stop really bad things from happening to really good people – but He will support you in a way nobody else can.

And if you ever question that, ask yourself: how have I witnessed God?

This was my answer: On our worst days – we had family drive in from out of state to bring us food. One of my best friends drove hours to come see me, only for an hour. We received cards, and messages, and love from people we didn’t even know. I had doctors that cared for me. I don’t mean they treated me, which they did…I mean they CARED for me. Like I was their daughter, sister, friend. I had nurses that complimented my eyelashes when I was in the OR and gave me drugs that relaxed me – on the worst day of my life they made it a little better. Our minister sat on our back porch for hours just talking to me and my mom…caring for us. If that’s not God at work, I don’t know what is.

I prayed not for God to change our outcome – but for him to give me peace and strength. He did.

And because of that peace and strength… I’m happy. Legitimately happy.

I talk to our son. Maybe that seems crazy. But to me…he’s in Heaven being bounced around by my grandparents. He’s perfectly fine. And I have a family here on Earth who needs me. A husband, a child, our family, and friends – I’m important to them and they deserve all of me.

One day, if we’re blessed to have another baby on Earth, we’ll gladly welcome him or her to our family – and if that doesn’t happen for us…I’m ok with that too. Like REALLY ok. Not the kind of ok people say and don’t mean.

My value as a woman, and a human, is not dictated by fertility. Your’s shouldn’t be either. My value is determined by what and who I am, because that’s something I can control. If you put your value into something that you can’t control, well…that’s how you lose your happiness. That’s not something I’m willing to part with.

Tomorrow, I’m going to eat way more than I should and enjoy my family. And tomorrow night, I’ll lay in bed next to my husband and for a moment, think what might have been….then smile because I know I’m coming out on the other side stronger and happier – and for that…I AM THANKFUL.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving. May your turkey be delicious, your cranberry sauce be from a can, and the drinks free-flowing….

Love,

Stilettos