Thursday, October 3, 2013

Troubled Journeys

There are some journeys no one wants to take.

My wife and I have had a pretty crazy journey just to get married, we are still amazed and thankful that we found each other and love each other so much. Joy was the theme of our wedding and remained a theme of our marriage. Our theme verse is Psalm 126:3. Inscribed on my wedding ring is:

The Lord has done great things for us

And on her ring is the rest:

and we are filled with joy.

Joy filled our lives, especially marrying so late. The only thing that would increase our joy even more would be adding to our family. We both wanted children. Such things are easier to desire and harder to achieve.
It had taken us months with disappointment after disappointment. We saw doctors. We were finding it would be very difficult for us to have a child at all. We went to her doctor. We went to my doctor. My doctor sent me to a specialist. Surgery was discussed.

Then it happened. As we spent days weighing the necessity of surgery, that little test proved positive. The signs started to appear. Her doctor’s office confirmed our home test and sent us to a great obstetrician. There they confirmed with yet another test, they loaded us down with pamphlets and software galore to help us prepare. Even then the thought was overwhelming and exciting. Suddenly there was a whole part of the world opening to us. Things I used to be able to pass over I now paid attention with great interest. Most department stores have a whole section for babies – who knew?! It had seemed God had given us a little miracle of our own.

And how would we tell our friends and family? We didn’t just want to call and tell; we wanted it to be special. A plan was hatched! We had a clever idea and having just gotten a car for my wife, we used that as a convenient excuse to go to Utah and announce the happy news in person.

How often do plans go smoothly, without a hitch? Seriously, I’d like to know…

We were near the Idaho-Utah border when it started. Amanda noted she had some spotting. It wasn’t much, but just the word sent chills down our spines. We called her OB’s office where we were told not to worry unless it got worse. It didn’t quite stop, but it didn’t seem to get a lot worse. Hoping for the best, we continued down to Utah to her grandparents. We announced the news with the book, enjoying the reactions. We were praying the entire time.

In the morning, we got up. My wife said she didn’t seem to be having any trouble. Her grandfather wanted to take me to the small airfield with her cousin so we could take a look at his kit-plane and so the latter could see about getting his pilot’s license renewed. I was wary about leaving her alone – granted her grandmother would be there too – but understanding this was fun for her family, she encouraged me to go. I’ll admit, it was a lot of fun, and if things didn’t get worse, I might have had a chance to fly as well.

Things got worse. Not a lot, but worrisome all the same. She texted me while her cousin was in the air. Suddenly I couldn’t sit down. I started to pace nervously. I couldn’t relax. When would he get back? My worried attitude was readily apparent to her grandfather – which meant I was very worried. I normally don’t show a lot of emotion. That I couldn’t hide it meant I was truly afraid. Though they offered to let me fly, I noted it was more important we get back.

She was worried as well, I could feel it, but we still hoped for the best. After all, it still wasn’t bad. It was just … there. We had a little lunch at one of our favorite places to eat while we’re in Utah – Rib City. We went to One Sweet Slice (they made our wedding cake, the best wedding cake ever) to cash in a coupon. We tried to carry on as if things might be okay, but really that dark cloud was forming. There were two calls to her OB. We were assured we shouldn’t need to go in unless things got a lot worse. They never really did but the shadow remained. At last the fear was too much. We couldn’t delay any longer. We hurried with her grandmother to the emergency room.

I’ll be honest, most of the time I’m just fine in an emergency room. As young asthmatic boys my brother and I went to the emergency room so often that the staff knew our family by name. In those sorts of situations one either gets terribly stressed by the mention of such things or one gets so used to them that it’s hardly a bother, even welcome. I’m amongst the latter. I felt no ease this time. We still prayed. I’ll admit, I was begging the Lord often. “Please, please don’t break her heart. Please let the baby be well.” Again, my fear was readily apparent. My poor wife was terrified as well and needed reassurance. I found a little entertainment in rolling back and forth on the doctor’s stool, doing what I could to give her a smile. It’s not easy to do something like that when inside you feel a shadow growing over your heart.

The nurses took blood, they made her do tests, and they even performed an ultrasound. In the few short hours we kept giving information, and got little back. Smiles from the nurses and doctors did little to reassure us. The dearth of information was more ominous than anything. Waiting in silence was even harder. The door opening to our exam room became one of frightful anticipation. Again, we just wouldn’t stop praying.
After a long evening, the results came in: a completed miscarriage.

For us, there could be few words any worse to hear, but there it was. All that excitement and anticipation were gone in an instant. Even before those words, even when the bleeding got worse, we could cling to the smallest thread of hope. Please, please baby be okay. Please God let the baby be well. But in a few words that thread was cut. It was over abruptly.

There was a baby. We loved the baby. For a few short weeks, we got to enjoy a love that is a pale glimpse of what the Father has for us. Even before we are born He loves us as His own. Even before our baby was even noticeable to anyone, we loved that child with all our hearts. We were filled with joy in the anticipation of its arrival.

I’m not sure where that joy went. It’s gone. I’m not sure I understand why we were allowed to have this anticipation at all. I’m afraid I still get a bit angry with God at times. Why would He do this? If He didn’t want us to have children, why let us believe we could? If He did, why let us go through such a thing? Why did He have to break her heart? It hurt with such an ache I can hardly describe. It still hurts. I am less angry now. I apologizeto Him  for my anger.

Trepidation fills the hole that joy left. What if we can’t have kids? What if we never do? What if this was our only chance? Sadness layers atop the fear. There was a child we loved. When all sense would say we have no reason to love it, we did. Bitterness fills in the cracks. How is it that people entirely unsuited to have children are able to have many and we cannot? It gets worse as I log into social networks and see all my friends and family celebrating their children, old and new. I can only feel a sense of loss. I feel unfairly bitter towards even those I know to be great parents. I may just stay away from Facebook for a while. It seems to remind me too much of what we might have had.

We had a recent visit to her OB. There the doctor gave us a few facts to help us understand. I’ll admit that it probably helped me more than my wife. My analytical mind loves facts, and it clung to those facts as if they were driftwood in the open sea keeping me afloat. It was nothing we did, and nothing we could have done. It is more common than one would think. We could still have children. My wife struggles, as do I. I’ve found I don’t know what she clings to, but it seems she clings to me. I desperately want to find that stable point for her, and some days it just seems nowhere to be found. I’m reaching out to the Lord, but my fears and doubts surround me. Is He reaching back?

Anger and bitterness subside. I hope the Lord can forgive my anger. I know He has plans for us and is still with us. I fear should He return anger for anger; I am thankful I know He is forgiving and loves us. I pray for the comfort we need. In time, I’m sure, the pain will heal some and life will return to normal.

But that’s just the problem. We didn’t want it to go back to normal.

Monday, June 3, 2013

So the other day I’m lounging in Travel Slob HQ1, enjoying a delicious and nutritious breakfast3 when my Editor rudely interrupts my reverie with more outrageous demands4:

Editor:  Listen, it’s been ages since you’ve written another travelogue

The Travel Slob:  I’m conserving energy.  I need it for writing my Great American Novel

Editor:  You’ve never started writing a novel.

The Travel Slob:  I’m still saving up enough energy, and you’re delaying the process.

Editor:  Well I’ll delay that more.  We need a new one right away.

The Travel Slob:  Fine.  I’ve got notes on my honeymoon, we can use that.

Editor:  Your honeymoon?  That was almost six months ago.

The Travel Slob:  Yes, but we traveled.  To Maine.

Editor:  Y’know what?  Fine.  Go with it.  I’m tired of arguing.  Besides, that’s the farthest I’ve heard you traveling.  I can’t believe I pay you for any of this.

The Travel Slob:  You don’t pay me at all.

Editor:  And you don’t give me anything, it’s a mutual relationship.


So here I am, writing once more for you, dear readers (reader? Anyone out there?  Hello?  Hello?)  And yes, I am recently married to a gorgeous woman.  She even said she’d read my blogs which means that she may now be doubling my readership!  Thank you, darlin’!

After a lovely wedding (which henceforth I shall refer to as the Best Wedding Ever), we enjoyed a limo ride to gather our things, and then to our honeymoon hotel.  Of course, the wrong hotel was given to the driver so we ended up taking a little longer drive – much to our driver’s consternation.  We spend the night in the Little America Hotel where PRIVACY PLEASE!  Sheesh, you people just have no decency.  Except for you, honey.
This is all you get to see.
Friday morning we board a plane in Salt Lake City, Utah.  A connecting flight is made in Detroit.  I can now say I have set foot in Michigan but I shall not as I don’t count airports.  I’m fairly certain the Detroit airport is the cleanest thing in Detroit and it is indeed kept rather immaculate.  Of interesting note, the airport sports a tram in one section which is raised above the walkways but visible from the side.  It gives one the sense of being in Disneyland except without the mice or princess parades, and you’re in Detroit.  Food prices match about the same, however.

The next stop, Portland, Maine!  The airport there is definitely made to give one the sense of coastal Maine.  Heck, one can buy live lobster in the airport of all places.  Rocking chairs are among the amenities allowed travelers waiting for planes.  It’s a small airport with a homey feel.  Well done, Portland.
Seriously ... lobster at an airport.

Mrs. The Travel Slob and I, excited about our recent Best Wedding Ever, check in at Enterprise rent-a-car.  Though I reserved a compact model, they say for just a little more – the price of a mid-size – they’d upgrade us to a luxury car just for our honeymoon.  So, instead of a little Toyota Bucket on four wheels, we spent the weekend driving a Chrysler 300.  Well done, Enterprise.  Our next destination, the mountains!

The Bear Mountain Inn lies near Harrison, Maine only spittin’ distance from New Hampshire (note to the good people of New Hampshire: We did not spit).  It lies within the hills and mountains of Maine, with a lakefront and fine accommodations.  We rented the Sugar Bear Cottage, a small building off the side of the inn which gave Mrs. The Travel Slob and me the privacy we desired because all you people just need to back off already!  The cottage was cozy, sporting a bed, small table and chairs, a kitchenette, a bathroom to the side, and a fireplace that got plenty of use.  Hanging in the bathroom were two Turkish Bathrobes which were long and fluffy and comfortable.  It’s like wearing a teddy bear without the disturbing Furry enthusiast implications.  Win-win!
Mrs. The Travel Slob next to cozy cottage.

It was late, but we went for dinner at the Old Mill Tavern in town nearby.  That night they had the Maurer Meals Charity:  All food on their specials menu were grown or harvested by locals and half the price of dinner was donated to a scholarship fund.  Mrs. The Travel Slob enjoyed a delicious Delmonico steak, while I opted for a shrimp meal.  Along with dinner we had Pumpkinhead Beer – a local brewery’s pumpkin spice ale.  Satisfied and tired from travel, we head to bed.

Saturday morning welcomes us.  Breakfast was French toast, turkey bacon and herb potatoes.  Not much happens for us tourist wise because you don’t need to know!  Go away!5  We later enjoy dinner at the Black Horse Tavern – which I suspect is our favorite spot in that area now.  Mrs. The Travel Slob enjoyed a Filet Mignon, while I partook of the prime rib.  Mrs. The Travel Slob also tried “The Great Pumpkin” cocktail which took Pumpkinhead Beer, ginger apple vodka, and cinnamon sugar around the rim of the glass.  That coupled with a shared dessert of Mississippi Mud Pie made for a meal so decadently good we felt sinful even though we were just married.

On the way back, we buy a half-rack of Pumpkinhead at a grocery store.

Arriving at back at the inn, the Innkeeper, Jim Kerrigan, offers to start a fire near the outdoor deck.  It being a lovely night we agree.  Jim is a friendly man who clearly loves the area he lives in and loves running his inn.  As he struggled to get the fire to start – and it did take some time – he regaled us with stories of the surrounding area, great places to visit, and some of the experiences of guests in the inn’s past.  Mrs. The Travel Slob and I enjoy cups of Chamomile Mint tea when the fire blazes at last and let time pass as we enjoy each other’s presence and the quiet of our surroundings.  We go back to the cottage, satisfied.  Fade to black.

Sunday, breakfast is a Frittata with sides of herb potatoes and sausage.  Mrs. The Travel Slob updates her social networks as I take notes of our honeymoon.  We decide to go to nearby Bridgton to shop and walk the streets.  Architecture in this area has a certain feel to it that fits the region.  The people in the area are neither standoffish nor overly friendly, and we felt quite welcome and rarely overwhelmed.  We stop at an antique / flea market style store. Strange items and curios were in every section.  We even found a used Moose Menorah.  Nothing says Hanukah like a cartoon moose with candles coming out of his antlers.
“Hey Rocky!  Watch me commemorate the rededication of the holy temple during the Maccabean Revolt!”

We pick up an Arthur C. Clarke Novel, I one by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and a random fifth so we get the 3 books for $5 deal.  We walk down Bridgton Street a bit further and discover a little book store.  Well we’re suckers for books so we go in and enjoy the little shop.  Mrs. The Travel Slob gets postcard for neighbor’s grandson and a magazine.  We soon have a large stack of books including those we brought with us.

Dinner was at Ebenezer’s, which took several passes on the road to find.  It’s nestled in what’s almost the middle of nowhere near a golf course, according to the Innkeeper who proves right.  Ebenezer’s sports a long list of beer like none I’ve seen.  On the west coast we tend towards the heavily hopped bitter beers.  Ebenezer’s had more in the sour variety.  Our waitress was concerned we might not be ready, but Mrs. The Travel Slob and I are no cowards (when it comes to beer)!  She went for one called My Blueberry Nightmare, a blueberry sour beer that we both decided was the best of the evening.  The waitress takes our photo with enthusiastic congratulations for our recent Best Wedding Ever.
This is the beer list at Ebenezar's. At least part.
The Best Bride Ever enjoying a Best Blueberry Beer Ever.

Back at the inn, Jim informs us that as of that night, we’re the only guests.  He lets us choose a different room if we so decide (we decline), and allows us to choose what time we’d like breakfast.  Normally it’s at 8:30am, but we opt for 10am.

We end the night in the cable with a warm fire and a movie on DVD.  We see “All the Pretty Horses”, a Matt Damon film based on a book by Cormac McCarthy.  I thought it a good movie, but Mrs. The Travel Slob found it too violent, too darkly themed, and lacking in enough horses.  So basically it was a movie based on a Cormac McCarthy book.

Monday we luxuriate in our early breakfast.  Blueberry pancakes are on the menu!  While the innkeeper is out, we tour the rooms out of curiosity.  The inn has a large number of comfortable rooms and even a suite in uppermost floor that was at least twice as large as the space in our little cottage.  Since we’re alone, we check out every room like a pair of burglars casing the joint (note: no joints were cased).  We then explore the grounds around us, taking in the spectacular scenery and peaceful surroundings.

We leave for North Conway, New Hampshire, but first stop at Pietree Orchards.  According to Jim, these Orchards were once doing poorly and a developer almost bought the land in order to build condos.  However, author Stephen King lives not too far from that area and did not want to see the region’s character spoiled with condos and the amenities that condo dwellers are known to expect.  So he purchased the Orchards in his sister’s name.  Good show, Mr. King!
The Unofficial Stepehn King Orchard. Abandon all hope (of eating apples of the non-tasty variety) upon entering here.

North Conway is quaint, but we arrive too late to try out the tourist train.  Still, we wandered outside the train station to see what it was like.  North Conway is the largest town we’d been to for any length of time so far, and far busier than any else.  We walk the streets, again enjoying the area before heading home.  We stop at a Starbucks for some coffee on the way.  Big mistake!  For some reason our coffee tasted just weird.  Very weird.  We blamed the water or New Hampshire or aliens or something.  On the drive back we have a sign that specifically forbids “out of state firewood” in Maine.  I have to wonder:  How do they know?

We go back to Bridgton for dinner at Bridgton House of Pizza, a small mom-n-pop operation that was nothing fancy at all, but still simple and light.  We return to the Black Horse Tavern for more of that mud pie and cocktails.  We liked it that much.  We return to the cottage, tired.  Another fire is made and then we Fade to Black.

Tuesday, breakfast is scrambled eggs and turkey bacon.  We decide to take a hike at nearby Hawk Mountain, which is just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the inn.  The hike is easy if a bit rocky and rather wet thanks to heavy rains the previous evening.  There’s a false lookout point with a great view, but we braved a little further out and found the real lookout point at a rocket spot nearby for great rewards.  We ate Pietree Orchard apples at the summit – they were delicious!
We're certain the leaves were changing just for our Honeymoon. Look at that view!
Speaking of Pietree, we return for more apples because dang those apples are good, and a mini-pumpkin pie.  At this point, I think we have a bit of a dessert backlog.  The cashiers informed us that the view from the orchards is wonderful as well, so we brave heavy winds and were duly reward.  No hauntings or monster chasings to speak of, however.

Back at the inn, we get a little tea and pick up Horse-Opoly from the Inn lobby to relax at the cottage to a bit of game.  There is, of course, a vigorous amount of horseplay (hur hur), so much so that my chair breaks mid-game!  Mrs. The Travel Slob is of course, concerned, but no harm was done.  Except to the chair.  And to my pride.  Mid game there’s also a strange rumble and shaking.  Mrs. The Travel Slob feared an earthquake.  I dismiss it, having been in California too long.
One of the dangers of playing Full Contact Horse-opoly.

Wednesday morning, we watch the news when we get up and discover that yes indeed, there was an earthquake!  Boy is my face red!  It’s our last full day in the area.  We explore the grounds again, enjoying this area and thinking about what a great place this is.  We also head to Norway, Maine to see some more sights.  Norway enjoys a main street that maintains the old character of the town.  As a man from the West, such sights are amazing, and the drive to preserve such is commendable.  We pass a civil war memorial that causes me pause.  There’s a lot of history in the east and they do their best to maintain it.  In the west, we seem quick to replace old things, and often things don’t remain preserved.
Our lives are short, brief, a blink of the eye in the passing of history.
It’s our last night at the inn, and we enjoy some champagne as we sit near the fire again.

Thursday, we pack our things and get ready to check out.  The innkeeper recommends a lobster shack near twin lamps before we go.  We sign the guest book in the cottage so that others can perhaps share some of our memories.  We also opt to buy a couple of those wonderful bathrobes.  Mmmmmm!

We head back to Portland, Maine.  Our hotel isn’t ready right away for us, but we wait a little, and then afterwards drive to Twin Lamps for lobster!  We both get a lobster meal that they boil up right in front of us.  I thoroughly enjoy my crustacean, but Mrs. The Travel Slob has many issues with the food, in that it looks back and has way too many legs.  The lobster shack is built right next to the shore, so we eat outside at a small table where we can watch the waves crash against the rocks as we enjoy lunch.
I think Mrs. The Travel Slob is inching away slowly from our lunch.
At night, we walk the streets of Portland, just taking in the sights and window shopping, then return to the hotel to finish the night with pie, whipped cream, and more champagne.  We fall asleep in a room larger than the cottage but certainly not as friendly and inviting.  Also there was no fireplace.  Boo.

Friday morning is our last day.  We check out and go downtown Portland to walk around again.  We window shop at a comic book store, a toy shop, and other places.  We have a quick lunch, the reluctantly make our way back to the Portland airport to prepare to go home.  It’s been a long week, but so rewarding.  We both will miss Maine and hope to see it again soon.  We definitely want to get back to the Bear Mountain Inn and to enjoy more Mississippi Mud Pie.





1Actually, it’s just an office.2

2Actually, it’s just a cubicle.

3Pop Tarts, Black Licorice, and all the coffee in town

4Editor’s Note:  Outrageous demands?  I find occupying a cubicle and doing absolutely nothing outrageous.  Me:  Hey, get out of my writing!

5Editor’s Note:  Please don’t go away.  He needs all the readers he can get.