The Lessons of My Half Full Cup…Six Years

AUTHOR: | POSTED: 09/24/15 10:33 AM
CATEGORIES: Blog, gratitude, IVF, Logan, perspective, Resilience, thankful

It’s been six years.  Can you believe it?

It was just like today.  Cool, sunny, with blue skies and fluffy white clouds.  I remember opening the windows in my bedroom that morning wondering if today would be the day.   I tried to relax and forget about the kerfuffle surrounding my pregnancy.

When the phone rang and I saw it was Sean I thought he was calling to check in on me.  When he spoke, however, I could hear the hurt in his voice.  “Have you seen the paper?

No, ” I replied.  “I told you I’m not reading the paper or watching television until this baby is born.  I can’t take the stress.”  Our story was the front and center of the  current news cycle and not all of the journalists were getting it right.  It was frustrating to see the details of what was happening to me…to our family…getting botched.  So, I promised to stop chasing my tail trying to correct everything and just concentrate on the health of my pregnancy.

“They went to the bishop for a reaction.  He said we’d committed a mortal sin by using IVF.  That no good could come out of the commission of a sin.

That did it.  I am convinced you can hear blood pressure rising. It makes a buzzing sound in your ears which feel like they are burning off of your head.

I grabbed my cuff, wrapped it around my arm and noted the reading.  145/95.  Time to call the doctor.



I’ll never forget the moment right before he was born.  I closed my eyes and waited for the hurt.  Not the hurt of the actual delivery.  The hurt in my heart.  I knew as soon as they cut the cord, he was no longer mine.  I was scared.

Scared of what was coming next.

I’d prepared for the moment.  I’d worked long hard hours with a wonderful therapist who helped both Sean and I reframe the moment.  “Don’t look at it like a loss.  Look at it like a gift.  A gift you get to give another family.  The ultimate gift.”

So that’s what we did.

Here he comes.”  I could feel them digging inside of me.  Trying to get a grip on the little gymnast that was doing anything and everything to evade their efforts.  When they finally lifted him out I clenched my eyes shut.

Here it comes.  The hurt.

Do you want to see him?”  Those were the words that snapped me out of my trance.  Then I heard him cry. A loud, beautiful cry.  My eyes flung open as my instincts took over.

Of course.  Yes.  Yes.  I want to see him.

Then came the gift.

You see, when they held him up over the curtain something magical happened.   As I stared at my baby I realized it didn’t matter that he wasn’t mine.  It didn’t matter that I wasn’t going to get to rock him to sleep, walk him to his classroom on the first day of school, or usher him through his childhood.  This wasn’t about loss.

It was about love.

I knew in that very moment that I loved this child the same way I loved my others.  His birth was a triumph.  His life was a gift.

logan picture 7j

The year after Logan left was tough.  Actually horrible.  I was struggling trying to figure out what to do with my experience.  I wanted so badly for something good to come of the whole thing but I was flailing.  Looking back on it now I realize that I was dealing with a nasty case of post partum depression.  I wish I would’ve taken more time to figure things out—the whole “something good can come of this” sentiment could’ve waited.

logan birth 11

I still get little twinges in my heart when I think of Logan.  And, make no mistake.  I think of him every day.  But time really does give way to polished perspective. Because of Logan I am better able to find my way through tough stuff—and we’ve had some tough stuff.

I also continue to concentrate on being grateful.  A wise man once told me,  “If you keep your eye on gratitude it’s hard to stay depressed.

Although I take issue with the notion that clinical depression is easily combatted with attitude, I understand the sentiment behind his statement.  So, I walk with gratitude.  Actually…sometimes I stomp.   I’ve learned I can be grateful and angry at the same time.

logan birth 3j

I still go to mass every Sunday even though Drew explained I was pretty much excommunicated.  At least, that’s what he told me one day after his high school theology class, “You know, Mom, no one has to actually tell you you’re excommunicated.  You just are if you commit a mortal sin and don’t seek forgiveness.

Hmmm.  What do you think about that?”  I asked as we casually drove home from school.

I think Jesus would be okay with you saving Logan’s life.   Religion and it’s rules are man made you know.

He went to St. Johns Jesuit and was taught to think.

I love the Jesuits.

logan birth 11

So, it’s been six years.  Six years of unexpected blessings and hardships.  Six years of happiness and challenges.  And, six years of gratitude and perspective.  To say that Logan was a gift sounds kind of cliche—but he was.  He was not only a gift we gave to another family, but also a gift we received that has guided us.

We are stronger because of him.  We are wiser because of him.  We love more deeply because of him.

He is my half full cup.

Happy Birthday, Little Man.

logan birth



Remembering The Value of Suffering

AUTHOR: | POSTED: 10/20/14 1:32 PM
CATEGORIES: Blog, compassionate parenting, perspective, Resilience

Sean and I have spent our entire parenting careers trying to instill certain values in our children.  They are the same values that were instilled in us by our own parents and to us they are platitudes to live by and remember.  And, my guess is, they aren’t all that unique.  Good people don’t become good people without walking a certain talk and sharing certain values.

The values of dedication and diligence; honesty and integrity; and compassion and humility have always been common threads of our parent-speak.  Those lessons are so well-intended but, I fear there is one lesson about reality we forgot to instill in our kids.

An unpleasant one at that.

Teaching our kids to live a good life–to be a good person–always includes the aforementioned virtues.  But somewhere down the line, I allowed my children to assume that if you live a certain way;  if you walk a certain talk; if you work hard and consistently;  if you tell the truth and live honorably;  if you are kind to others putting their needs ahead of your own the people around you will value your efforts.  You will be rewarded.

And that isn’t always the case.

Because life is often unfair.

I suppose teaching our children about the unfairness of the world  is something that we, as protective parents, have a hard time doing.  We want to shield our children from pain, and we fear that if we lift the veil on the randomness of loss, we’ll scare them–or discourage them.  Teaching about unfairness is also kind of tricky.  I can tell a six year old that if she practices her piano her teacher will be happy; or explain to a fifteen year old that his academic efforts will  be rewarded when it comes college admissions time.  Those lessons are  fairly objective.  But the world isn’t always black and white.

Subjectivity can be confusing.

We all know that unfairness always comes.  Sometimes because of random acts of nature.  Other times at the hands of people. And what makes it scary is that we can’t explain it. The “why” is absent.   So we struggle.

Struggling is difficult.   Watching your child struggle is excruciating.

Obviously, Sean and I are currently experiencing a situation with one of our children that has rattled us.  I think one of the reasons it’s been so unsettling is because the rationale behind the situation flys in the face of the virtues we’ve worked so hard to instill.  In this case, our child’s dedication and diligence; honesty and integrity; and compassion and humility was completely disregarded.  The situation was a blindside and like everything unfair–the “why” is absent.

Kids are resilient, though. I keep telling myself this.  I will admit my child isn’t handling the situation the way I would handle it.  But—that’s okay.  My child isn’t me.  I have to honor that.  All I can do is be present;  be respectful;  and be willing to listen and guide if the need presents itself.  I also have to repress my urge to rip the face off of the person who has led us down this path.  That, my friends,  is a feat.  (Ahem…I am nine months pregnant.  I’m guessing I might be able to plea temporary insanity in the event of losing control.)

Of course, that would help no one.

Last week Sean and I were recounting times in our lives where the virtues we live by didn’t seem to matter.  As a result, the lesson about life being unfair came up.  I also confided in my dad.  He reminded me that unfairness usually leads to valuable life lessons.  Of course, at the time, I didn’t really want to hear it—sometimes I need to wallow a bit— but deep down I knew he was right.

Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls;  the most massive characters are seared with scars.

Kahlil Gibran

Being screwed over always hurts.  Watching your child get screwed over is even more painful, but time does manage to heal.   If there is healthy support the lessons of suffering can pave the way to a deeper understanding of the world and the people around us.  Suffering builds strength and,  if channeled positively, can give the gifts of compassion and perspective.  Good can come of this.  It still hurts, though.

Of course, this won’t be the first unfair thing that happens to my child.  It also, probably–and sadly–won’t be the worst.  It’s an important lesson.  One that I hope causes a double down of efforts to be dedicated and diligent in work; to live honestly and with integrity in  life; and treat others with compassion while remembering the importance of humility.

That’s where I’m hanging my hat this morning.

Now onward.


I know, I know.  This was a heavier than normal post for me.  Rest assured, tomorrow I’ll return as my normal, silly self.  Just needed to get this off my chest.  There.  I feel better now.

And Then She Fell in A Hole…and Pee’d Her Pants.

AUTHOR: | POSTED: 09/9/14 10:48 AM
CATEGORIES: Blog, From The Files of You Can't Make This Sh*t Up, perspective, Pregnant at 45, Shenanigans

I have the plague.

Okay.  Maybe it’s not the plague.  Actually I think I may very well have the “mystery virus” that is popping up all over the midwest.  Reports say that those primarily effected are children.  I know I’m not *a child* but I’m *with child*—er—so maybe that puts me in the high risk group?   Regardless, I have been sicker than I’ve ever been before with some sort of respiratory illness that has rendered me short on oxygen and energy.

In other words I’ve been a worthless sack of humanity this past week.  Hence my absence from the radio and this space.

Of course, the show that is the Savage household doesn’t shut down for sick days.  Kids still go to school, activities are still attended, and the to-do list still needs doing.  Of course, none of my chores have been slam-dunked this past week.  Instead, it’s all been a giant example of “half-assery”.  Well packed lunches were replaced with lunch money;  kids were a little less polished in both their appearance and preparedness; and chores?  Well, I resorted to a bare minimum to-do list leaving peripheral duties…like laundry… for the weekend.

I’ll be digging myself out for days.

Isn’t that how us mothers do illness, though?  We put ourselves last and come hell or highwater we can’t take a day off no matter how crappy we feel.  It’s both noble—and stupid. Noble because nothing will stand in the way of being present for our children.  Stupid because after we drag ourselves to these supposed watershed moments sometimes sickness prevails and we look plain stupid for not listening to our bodies and collapsing into our beds.

What am I alluding to?  Allow me to set the scene.

Drew had his first NCAA cross country meet of his sophomore season this past Friday.  The race was  in Athens, Ohio, a mere four hour drive from our home.  Knowing it would be an all-day commitment both Sean and I made the necessary plans to attend.  Friday meetings were rescheduled; babysitters were hired;  and rides home from school were arranged.   I thought my ducks were in row—until I got sick.

Sean:  Do you think you should go?  I mean, you don’t look so hot.

Carolyn:  I’m not missing this.  I’ll take some tylenol and rest in the car.  There’s nothing anyone can do for me here, anyways.  It’s viral.  I’m pregnant.  I have no choice but to suffer through it and wait for my immune system to kick in.  Plus, what harm could come from watching a running race on a golf course?

Little did I know.

Fast forward to the morning of the race.  My cough was epic causing me two very inconvenient issues.  The first was easily solved by a text to my midwife who gave me permission to use my inhaler.  The second, however, was bit more of a nuisance.  You see, I’m 28 weeks pregnant and my sweet little two pound bundle of joy is resting comfortably on top of my bladder.

My forty-five year old, warn-out, saggy bladder.

I don’t want to get graphic here, folks.  So, let’s just say that not only did my cough cause me to have to refill my inhaler but it also led me down an aisle of the drug store I’d never paid much attention to.  As I stood in that aisle I realized how little I knew about the product I needed and was quickly overwhelmed by the vast selection.  There were mini-pads, maxi-pads and full on under garments.  Some were designed for men.  Others for women.  All of them promised discretion and came with guarantees of absorbancy.

I studied the products and sized up my issue.  It’s only a little when I cough.  I need to catch it.  Not collect it.  I don’t think I’d classify the issue as a major leak.  Let’s categorize it as mild to moderate.  And with that, I grabbed something I thought would do the trick and scurried back to the tampon aisle–a place more befitting of a 45 year old woman…who’s not pregnant.

Oh well.

By the time we arrived at the race I was convinced I was prepared.  Tylenol had been swallowed;  inhaler had been inhaled; and any mild to moderate “spills” were guaranted to be contained…it said so on the package.  I was confident.  And all was going swimmingly.  The race started, Drew was off, and I commenced my waddle across the course to snap pictures where I could.

I was so proud of myself.  I was there despite the fact that I felt like hell and sounded like I had a fifteen-pack-a-day habit.

Everything was going great until Drew hit the third mile.  It was then that I thought I should make my way towards the finish line.  Sean had long abandoned me to run around the course encouraging Drew at different stages of the race, so I was alone.  Me.  The very pregnant mother of a sophomore in college.

And…about that.

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again.  Nothing has gotten me more stares than the wondering eyes of my fellow collegiate parents.  I can practically read their horrified minds as they ponder going back to the days of bassinets, burp cloths and bottles AFTER having successfully booted one chick from the nest.  I’m sure maybe an iota of what I imagine is projected onto their private thoughts from somewhere deep in my psyche…but I have no doubt the looks of astonishment I get from that crowd are genuine.  And I understand them.  If it were someone else I’d be thinking the same thing.

That being said, I’m a little self conscious around the whole college parent scene.  And, on this particular day I was trying hard to look inconspicuous. It was going okay until I fell.

That’s right.

As I began my waddle towards the finish line I managed to find a well camouflaged, twelve inch hole and promptly fell into it.  My camera flew out of my hands.  My sunglasses fell to the ground.  As I was falling I remember thinking, “Holy hell!   Please don’t let anyone be watching.”

No such luck.

Unfortunately, the tumbling mass of pregnant woman managed to catch the peripheral attention of at least a dozen other bystanders who ran to help.

I wanted to die.

I wanted to die because it was embarrassing.  I wanted to die because drawing more attention to myself was the last thing I wanted.  And, I wanted to die because if hurt like hell.  I’d twisted my right ankle something fierce and as I quickly popped up and assured the growing crowd around me that I was perfectly fine I was thinking, I think I just broke my fucking ankle AND for the love of  God hold onto the one last shred of dignity you have and don’t fucking cry.

But it was too late.

I could feel the tears coming as my ankle throbbed.  Out of desperation, I made a last ditch desperate attempt to mask my pain by laughing—because you know—that makes sense.  So,  I laughed like what just happened was the funniest thing I’d ever seen–which under normal circumstances may have saved me and lightened the mood of the very concerned bystanders–but instead, given my current bought of what may have been the Ohio version of ebola, sent me into an immediate respiratory spasm.  Before I knew it I was doubled over coughing so hard I could see stars.

That’s when the horror set.

What happened next is somewhat of a blur.  I think my fuzzy memory of exactly how this went down is due to either oxygen deprivation from the cough or because the the human mind, out of self-preservation, is hard wired to forget traumatic incidents.

And traumatic it was.

Because with every cough.  Every contraction of my diaphragm.  I flooded.   I quickly thought about the packaging I’d so hastily read earlier that day as the words “mild to moderate” mocked me.  There was absolutely nothing “mild to moderate” about what was happening in that moment.

This was a catastrophic event.


When I was sixteen I wrecked my mom’s car during my driver’s license exam.  When the secretary of state person drove her to the scene of the accident she gently told me something important as I sat in the back of the cop car explaining to the police officer that, “I can’t provide you with my driver’s license because I was actually taking the driving test when I disregarded that stop sign“.

She said I’d laugh about this one day.  At the time, I didn’t believe her.

But she was right.


I have no idea if anyone around me truly realized what happened in that hole on that golf course last Friday afternoon.  After I eventually caught my breath, I thanked everyone for their concern, assured them I was fine and then pointed to the finish line.  By the grace of God, the runners were coming.  They all left which gave me a moment to take inventory of how bad the situation was.

Luckily I had a change of clothes in the car, and a cooler full of ice to plunge my ankle into.  As for my dignity?   Well, I admittedly checked that at the door during my first labor and delivery experience.  No harm, no foul.  And with that, I waddled to the ladies room.

Later on that evening Drew noticed something was amiss.

Drew:  Why are you limping, Mom?

Me:  I fell in a hole at the race.

Drew:  Oh man [horrifed].  Did anyone notice?

Me:  Yes, Drew.  Many people noticed. 

As for how much they noticed?  Well, hopefully I’ll never know.


FYI…My ankle isn’t broken.  And, I’m happy to report my virus is responding to antibiotic treatment.  I guess it isn’t ebola.  I’m hoping to be back to my regular old self by the end of the week.

Of course, laughing…with proper protection…has helped as well.

Settling Into A New Season: Can This Be Over Already?

AUTHOR: | POSTED: 08/28/14 10:44 AM
CATEGORIES: Blog, perspective, saying goodbye

Around the middle of May my social media feeds were flooded with posts from parents who were”limping” across the finish line of the school year.  Pinterest inspired lunches were replaced with lunchables…or boxes of crackers.  Homework assignments that required parental assistance morphed  from over-the-top to, “What homework assignment?  Aw…just pull some scraps out of the garbage and glue them onto this posterboard…er…side of an Amazon shipping box.”   It seems that when the pressure of our busy school year routines build up, the light at the end of the tunnel known as summer causes us to wave our white flags of surrender.

We need a break.  We need to slow down.  Can this be over already?

Funny thing is, I noticed the same thing about the end of summer.  When school let out the first week of June I was ambitious.  Maybe even a little over eager.  I had a mental summer bucket list that included hiking in our metro parks; day trips to the shores of Lake Erie; and water balloons.  There were day camps and art programs;  swimming and tennis lessons; and backyard fires with s’mores.  My cupboards were amply stocked with sunscreen and bugspray.

Fast forward to the beginning of August.  Suddenly hiking, swimming and water balloons had lost their appeal.  And as for sunscreen?  Hell.  I was down to one bottle with a wonky spray nozzle that only squirted sideways.  Cloud cover quickly became my friend.

Making matters worse, I remember returning home from our week in Michigan and walking into the store to see aisles and aisles of happiness on a shelf.  School supplies.  Hallelujah.  It was almost time to dust off those lunch boxes and get inspired again.  I had two more weeks of time to finish off that bucket list with the kids but suddenly I was all, “Forget it.  You five need some alternative adult interaction in your lives.

That’s code for “Mama’s tired.”

Tired of applying bugspray;  tired of drying beach towels and scrubbing asphalt stained feet;  and tired of breaking up fights over squirt guns and cleaning up toys.  Suddenly I didn’t care as much if tennis was played or a swim stroke was perfected.  And back yard camp fires with s’mores?  Nope.   It was time for appropriate bedtimes.  For all of us.

We all need a break.  To slow down.  Can this be over already?

Sometimes I worry that I don’t live in the moment enough.   I don’t know if it’s because I have so many obligations–five kids;  a home and yard to care for;  a pregnancy to protect; and a publishing date…and birth date… looming on the horizon.  I often find myself thinking about what I should be doing instead of what I’m actually doing and feeling guilty about all of it.  I also admit to looking forward to the beginings of new seasons before the old season is complete.  But then, I wonder if that isn’t the way our culture is wired.  We are taught to prepare in advance lest ye be caught off guard once what’s on the horizon is actually happening tomorrow.   Back-to-school hype begins the day after the Fourth.  Stores have their Christmas stuff out already. And summer vacation dances onto our radar as soon as the Easter Sunday sun has set.

I think those subtle–and not so subtle–cues cause me to feel behind.  At the same time I kind of like it.  I look forward to change.  The thoughts of pumpkins and stuffing;  football games and cross country races;  I find the change in seasons is invigorating.  It motivates me to move on to something new and to turn away from my tiredness.

Change is my break.  It causes me to simultaneously slow down and wrap up–and push my peddle to the metal in a new and very different gear.

It keeps me inspired.

The girls are settled into their school.  Ryan is rocking his senior year, so far.  Erica has only been here for a week, but it seems like we’ve known her for our entire lives.  And Drew?   Well, his sophomore year in college and second season on the Bobcat cross country team seems to be off to a stellar start.

We are settling.

Time to get inspired.

Now onward.

A Third Birthday

AUTHOR: | POSTED: 08/14/14 12:22 PM
CATEGORIES: Blog, Daughters, gratitude, perspective, Surrogacy, thankful, The Babies!

Three years.

It’s hard to imagine that three years has passed since Reagan and Isabella joined our family.  Jennifer, our friend and their gestational carrier, joined our family for a celebration last night and she asked me if I though time was passing quickly.

They just seem so grown up.

And they are.


No longer babies, these two little ladies are really starting to show us who they are.  To me that’s one of the greatest gifts of parenthood.  Our children are not ours to mold and shape.  They certainly aren’t extensions of ourselves.   As parents, Sean and I can’t decide whether Reagan will be a ballerina or a basketball player or whether Isabella will be a tomboy or the most feminine girly-girl on the block.  Of course, we have influence on what our children are introduced to but once the introduction is made, it truly is our job to observe and let the child show us who they are.


Their big third birthday present was a bounce house.  Ryan gave it a life span of five months.  We tend to be hard on our play gear.

Their big third birthday present was a bounce house. Ryan gave it a life span of five months. We tend to be hard on our play gear.

It’s a privelege to watch them unfold.


At three, Reagan is feisty.  She knows what she wants and she protests when we don’t follow her path.  It appears that she enjoys performing.  Yesterday I took all three girls school supply shopping.  As we neared the cash registers she spotted an end cap with ballet gear.  I haven’t the slightest clue how she knew what the pink shoes and leotard were for, but she scrambled out of the cart and snagged a pair for herself and refused to put them back.

She’s telling me something.

I think we are going to try an age appropriate dance class for her.



Isabella is extremely verbal.  Her ability to articulate at such a young age surprised Sean and I.  At birth, in spite of her full-term status, Isabella was intubated and hospitalized for ten days due to breathing difficulties.  Both of us worried about the oxygen deprivation she experienced and wondered whether there would be long lasting impacts.  She was a late walker and her feeding and eating habits could be characterized as challenging, but other than that it appears she is developing normally.  She is very friendly, one of our more outgoing children, with a happy, easy-going demeanor.  And the girl can talk even the chattiest person right under the table.


The two of them together are a trip.  They play with one another like most siblings;  one minute they’re “best friends”;  the next they are mortal enemies.  They take turns being the alpha, and for every like they share, there are two they don’t.  Reagan’s a screamer.  Isabella’s a crier.  Reagan’s shy at first.  Isabella is quick to warm.  They both like walking around in click-clack shoes and playing with their hot wheels cars.

They are individuals.  It’s my job to respect them.


So, instead of molding them into my vision of what I think they should be, I’m enjoying the reveal. I’m certainly not passive in my parenting approach.  I’m more of a coach.  I cheer for them but I’m not a blind fan.  I provide support, guidance and boundaries that will–hopefully–teach them to be kind, confident and responsible.  Some moments it seems like it’s all working.  Other moments it doesn’t.    None of it’s perfect.  But in a way, I think that’s good.

Our imperfect world is full of imperfect people.  That’s an important lesson to learn.

We had a small family party with their god parents and Grandma Kate.

We had a small family party with their god parents, Jennifer and Grandma Kate.

Last night, after everyone else was in bed, Jennifer and I stayed up talking.  We both decided time is, indeed, passing quickly.  We reminisced about her pregnancy with Reagan and Isabella.  How big she was.  How much she sacrificed for our family.   We also talked about gratitude.  For Sean and I, it’s an undying gratitude to her for the gift of our daughters.  We are both convinced they wouldn’t be with us if it wasn’t for her.

Jennifer with the girls in 2013.

Jennifer with the girls in 2013.

Jennifer and girls circa 2014.

Jennifer and girls circa 2014.


For Jennifer it was about how thankful she is that she gets to visit with them.  “It’s nice to see what I did.”

I get that–at very profound level.

Blowing out their candles.

Blowing out their candles.


Sean and I are so lucky.  We have five–going on six–amazing kids to shepherd.  They challenge us.  They push us.  They teach us.  And in return, we love them for it.  For all of it.




I know.  This post is an about face from Monday afternoon’s post.  Sean and I talked about the spirit of Monday’s post and we laughed.  We figure anyone who advises an expectant mother to “enjoy every single second of parenthood” probably doesn’t have a child at home under the age of 18.

That being said, we had a birthday here this week.  Our girls are growing up.  So pardon the my sentimentalism (Yes, that’s a real word.  I looked it up).

Happy Thursday.