Looking Back on a Year of Ever Upward

 
 

Since my 30th birthday I've made a very conscious effort to spend time on my birthdays to really reflect on the last year. How much has changed?

The struggles. The joys. The growth.

And, today as I turn 35 I look back at the past year in pure, wholehearted awe.

I have laughed more, cried more and just amazingly felt more of everything this past year.

There have been the struggles:

  • Major difficulty and heartache in a close relationship.
  • More than 230 rejection letters from agents and publishers.
  • My dad's accident.
  • Managing an evolving career while also paying the bills.
  • Coping with the lifelong losses and feelings of infertility and a childfree life.

There have been the joys:

  • Our first childfullChristmas.
  • Another year of dates with Chad.
  • More laughs and love than I can measure with the dogs.
  • Our first year in our family home MasonHouse.
  • Finally, getting published.
  • Seeing Ever Upward in print, in my hands and with my heart.

There has been the growth:

And, the yet to come:

  • Struggles
  • Joys
  • Growth
  • ...amazingness.

Tonight I celebrate Ever Upward at the book launch party with friends, family and even strangers. Tonight I will make sure to stop, to take it all in, to take a breath and truly feel the love, the light and the magic. But, most of all I will make sure to stop and take that breath and to feel me.

Because more than any other year of my life, I have walked into myself more than ever this year. I have struggled, I have overcome, I have grown and I have owned it all.

The always healing, the always growing, the always trying ever upward me.

 
 

Housekeeping

Ever Upward available now!

Ever Upward Launch Party is tonight!

30 Day Toolkit to Living Ever Upward here!

Fertility Compassion Survey is collecting all responses.

If you found this post enjoyable, inspiring, helpful, hopeful, interesting or even infuriating ;), please take the time and the chance to share it through your social media! More shares means more eyes, means more people helped and the message heard on a wider scale. Thank you! Justine

Thriving Growth - Tell Me How You Feel and What You Think!

 
 

Ever Upward, the blog, has changed my life. It has been ever influential in my healing process and recovery. It has brought so many amazing people, new and old, into my life. And, it seems to be helping some people along the way through connection and story. Ever Upward, the book, is officially finished. And, as I am in the trenches attempting to get published, the feedback I tend to get is that I need a bigger platform.

And yet, I am wholeheartedly grateful for the success of Ever Upward, the blog. Ever Upward is six months old. I have posted 60 times. I currently have 115 followers, have been viewed over 14,000 times and in over 55 countries.

But, six months and 60 posts in, I want to hear from my readers, both to make sure you are getting what you need from Ever Upward and in an attempt to improve my brand, platform and Ever Upward. I would greatly appreciate it if you would take 5-10 minutes out of your day and click the link below to answer my 12 question survey.

Take the survey here! Thank you so much!

In ever upward light and love, Justine

My Full of Love, Laughter and Light Twins

I feel intense, heart growing, soul expanding, unconditional joyful love...

every time I enter a room and their nub tails wag with anticipation before they are invited to greet me.

every time she cuddles her head on my neck.

every time she tilts her head in her understanding of my human words.

every time she bats at Bosco begging him to chase her.

every time she barrel rolls across the floor.

every time I hear racing up and down the halls.

every time I see them jump in the snow.

every good morning dog pile...on my head.

every time they chase each other in the back yard.

every game of hide and seek and pounce on each other.

every loving growl and whine.

every time...anything.

On April 16th, 2012 we got the news that our dream of having children was over. Michelle, our surrogate, wasn’t pregnant, again. The second transfer had not worked. We had prepped ourselves for this 30 second phone call, and the words, “I’m sorry, she isn’t pregnant”, for we had already heard these words the December before.

In December they were breath stealing and crushing, the saddest disbelief feeling I have ever experienced.

This second time, was hauntingly bittersweet.

Our journey of IVF was over, and it was both devastating and freeing; no more shots, no more pain, no more waiting, no more loans, no more soul crushing heartbreak. Time to move forward to letting go of this dream and grasping onto a new one, feeling the grief and loss and working on the acceptance of this new definition... of everything.

The first step? Adopting our version of twins.

And today, two of the brightest lights in my life turn 2 years old!

We had always known we wanted to expand our furry family, especially since our first fur baby, Maddie, was not doing well. But we had never thought we would adopt 2 puppies, at the same time. But for one of the first times in the crazy painful journey, we jumped into a decision that some may have thought of as insane. But my dad said it best, when I told him we were actually going to adopt both of the puppies he said, "You guys are grieving, take both of them home, you deserve some happiness!"

I'm not recommending everyone go out and rescue puppies after suffering major loss, trauma or stress. And you can say dogs are not the same as kids, but I assure you my heart feels just as powerful about my furry babies as you do about your children.

Gertie and Gracie, my full of light and laughter, version of twins have been a huge part of saving my life.

Of helping me to save my own life...

Unending love.

Accepting true joy.

Pushing through fear.

Laughing every single day.

Of finding my ever upward.

I Am a Mother, a Mother to My Magic

A defining moment for me in this Ever Upward journey was during Elizabeth Gilbert's keynote speech at the Emerging Women Live 2013 Conference in Boulder. She told her story of how she first lost three other versions of her current bestselling novel The Signature of All Things before finding what is the magic on bookshelves now; much like losing my three babies in our IVF journey. Elizabeth spoke about these losses in the sense, that they were never her magic to grasp. She further described how magic will float around asking the universe, "Are you my mother? Are you my mother?", finally, settling in the space where it is meant to be nurtured and grown. "Are you my mother?"

 
 

This question has developed so many meanings to me over the last year or so, especially as I feel like I have found a major spark of my magic through this journey.

Which means, I know, I am a mother in many ways.

As I have written before, I will never be the traditional mother, raising my own children, biological or not. However, I have learned, and even continue to cultivate, my broader definition of mother. This definition made even clearer by my peers. One who assured me I would have a lifetime of meaningful relationships with my friends' children and family's children, maybe even more influential than their relationships with their own parents. One who assured me that my mothering skills would find their outlet through my dogs but, even more so, in helping my clients and others. And finally, one who wrote this comment on my Taking Off the Armor post, “For what it is worth, in my view you chose to be and are a mother even though you suffered the injustice of not being able to raise any of the babies that ought to have come from your transferred embryos.” She has helped me to see, that I am a mother, just not one who was meant to carry out the job here on the physical earth.

Family and mother, has many definitions. I have no doubt, these definitions will be the topics of future posts, as I continue to discover and nurture the magic of my Ever Upward journey.

I am a mother, but not in your conventional sense of the word.

I am a mother because...

I am a nurturer.

I am a helper.

I am a mentor.

I am a healer.

I am an advisor.

I am a coach.

I am a teacher.

Most of all, I am mydefinition of a mother. One that the people who know and love me understand and root for.

One where my magic grows.

What magic are you a mother to?

Make Friends with Social Media

Alarm goes off. Check Facebook.     Feel alone.

Sitting at stoplight. Check Facebook.

    Feel pissed off.

Break between clients. Check Facebook.

    Feel sad.

Pee break. Check Facebook.

    Feel left out.

Commercial break. Check Facebook.

    Feel not good enough.

Finish getting ready for bed. Check Facebook.

    Feel empty.

~~~~

There are so many articles and opinions flying around lately about the monster that social media can be, all relevant and important. But like everything else in our lives, we each need to find our own balance, and this includes balance with social media and technology. I think we must learn to disconnect some from our technology, every day and engage with our loved ones, in person! And, even sit with ourselves doing something quietly. However, I also think that in some ways the negative light being shined on social media is unfair, and is a light that we actually need to shine on ourselves.

I think my addiction to Facebook portrayed above is pretty classic and what many of our days can look like. This was over a year ago. I never walked away from Facebook feeling good, connected, positive or happier.

However, I was also in a pretty shitty place myself. Angry, sad, bitter and feeling very alone about our failed IVF journey and just starting my journey of accepting a childfree life. So, of course, my Facebook wall left me feeling all of the above; alone, pissed off, sad, left out, not good enough and empty.

But if I am honest with myself, this was also a lot of my own doing.

I was addicted. Instant gratification of checking my wall left me satisfied for a split second, and the completion of the behavior left me feeling awful but still wanting more.

I was sad and mad; just at the beginning of my journey to choose to get better. So of course, I was never going to leave Facebook feeling any better.

First things first, I detoxed. I started by only allowing myself to check 4 times a day, in the morning, at lunch, evening and before bed. No more stoplight checks or in between sessions. Then the next week down to 3 times a day. Then finally down to 2 times a day, lunch and evening. No more first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Those moments need to be spent being grateful and centered.

Then, I cleaned it up. I made sure to like pages that post the things that were going to improve my life; laughter, thought provoking articles, inspiration, beauty and positivity. And if you didn’t use it in these ways, then you didn’t make the cut. If I wasn’t quite ready to defriend someone (even if just for voyeuristic curious reasons), I hid them. Finally, I changed how I engage with social media myself, always being cognizant of what I was putting on my wall and posting on others.

These changes meant it wasn’t long before social media changed for me, no longer the enemy but something that actually enhances my life for the better. Which I think was probably what it was meant to do in the first place. I would like to believe that social media was conceived to make people think, laugh, grow, engage and connect! I have connected and reconnected with so many people, from both past and present, through social media. And these are not superficial connections, but ones where we actually write each other regularly or even meet up for lunch. We are engaged in each other lives, building friendship, connection and love.

When I am taking care of myself and practicing happy, I use social media to enhance and not compare. I like to hear about the changes your in lives. I love to see your children and pets grow up and do funny things. I enjoy reading the diverse articles everyone posts. I relish the beautiful pictures and quotes.

With all this sparkle and rainbows, I will admit my addiction has strengthened some, checking Facebook more often than my detoxed 2 times a day… but I also make sure to disconnect every day.

So bottom line, you won’t find your happy on your social media walls. You will only find your happiness from practicing it every day, and of course, within yourself.

~~~~

Eat breakfast. Check Facebook.

    I think.

Between sessions. Check Facebook.

    I laugh.

Between commercials. Check Facebook.

    I grow.

Before night time routine. Check Facebook.

    I engage and connect.

How do you use social media to enhance rather than hurt? How do you make sure to find the balance?

Pushing Through Fear to Accept Joy, Hell, to Fight For It

In her Golden Globe acceptance speech, Amy Adams thanked her daughter for teaching her to accept joy and let go of fear. This is a lesson we all need to be reminded of.

Amy Adams found it through becoming a mother.

I have found it through accepting I will never be a mother.

Choosing to change my life, practicing happy, finding my definition of a childfree life and living it all out loud has meant feeling the fear but doing it all any ways.

Being brave, living authentically and showing up means we feel fear and discomfort. Rather than letting go of the fear, I challenge all of us to push through it.

Feel the fear, and do it anyways.

Because this is growth.

 
 

This is fighting for joy.

Moving through this fear allows us to trust the bravery that is required to accept joy.

If you are living your truth authentically, loving wholeheartedly, finding your faith and being brave enough to connect and practice vulnerability you are pushing through fear to accept joy.

Which is what life needs to be about. It is here you will find yourself, your journey, your happiness.

It is here that ever upward lies.

Step toward it.

Open yourself up to it.

Embrace it.

And fight like hell for it!

The Last Never To Be First Birthday: My Ongoing, Thriving Acceptance

The journey of IVF is a constant waiting game when you are in the throes of it; waiting for the right day in the cycle to begin birth control, the 10 or 30 days of medications and injections, the date of the transfer/conception and then the torturous two week wait for the first pregnancy test. There always seemed to be tons of support for this timeline. However, the doctors and all the message boards never seemed to prep you enough for the dates that will haunt you forever, the would have been birth date and first birthday, etc. The dates of the ‘never to be’s’ are seared into my brain; August 31st and December 21st.

I am sure, to many people they were just embryos, eight cells of Chad and I implanted into our surrogate’s uterus, never to be born.  But to us they were our babies, our future dreams.

We transferred two embryos the first round of IVF, making them due August 31st, 2012. We transferred our last chance at a family the second round, giving us the due date of December 21st, 2012. To us, these dates will forever, and always, be seared into our hearts and minds.

Today marks our last never to be first birthday. And with it I feel the universe; sad, mad and bitter, but more than that I also feel happiness, contentment and peace. Today I feel a sense that everything is right in my world, it is as it needs to be. It isn’t fair or unfair, perhaps just unlucky. Nonetheless, it is still very sad. But within this universe and space, I must choose to find my thriving acceptance.

This thriving acceptance means I wear a mother’s ring and necklace with what would have been the birthstones of our never to be children. And if you ask if they are my kids or if they are the birthstones of my dogs, I will not shy away from your questions. I will own my truth:

I will tell you, we tried to have children; we tried really hard with lots of money, pain and love, but it was never our dream to have.

I will tell you they were my children never to be mine on this physical earth.

I will tell you I'm an ever evolving, and sometimes not so pretty, work in progress in accepting my childfree life.

And, I will tell you that today, now more than ever, I am sure my journey of IVF, but even more so, those three babies are...

my completion...

my sorrowful joys...

my lights...

my ever upward.

You Just Have to Decide…

Teaching General Psychology at the local community college is something I honestly feel I was born to do. Many times I am the students’ first exposure to psychology; which means I get to show them my passion, and truly my heart, two times a week. I literally get to witness their aha moments; when the light goes on and they are better able to understand themselves and their loved ones. I’d like to believe you can’t take a Gen Psych class and not have some of the veil lifted, leaving you more enlightened in some way, maybe even motivated to change your life for the better. I end every semester by showing one of the last interviews with Randy Pausch, author of The Last Lecture. The video can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-a7LRwqwNw. Two times a year I am reminded, and humbled by these 41 minutes. Randy Pausch was truly a remarkable man and the true definition of ever upward. His “Last Lecture” on youtube.com has more than 16 million views, and his book, by the same title, has changed countless lives, including mine.

Some of my favorite Randy Pausch quotes:

“You just have to decide, are you a Tigger or an Eeyore?”

“We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.”

“Experience is what you get, when you didn’t get what you want”.

Like I said, the true spirit of ever upward.

I will strive, every day, to have even just a tiny bit of the love, acceptance and “tigger-ness” that was, and really still is, the light of Randy Pausch. Even if, at times, it feels like life tries to steal it; the hurts, pains, losses and just daily frustrations can be the persistent thieves of this light. And for me, truthfully, IVF was one of my biggest perpetrators. I will admit, under the haze of the ‘Clomid Crazy Train’ I was a broken Tigger, and it has taken me more than a year of hard work to find my bounce again.

But what it really comes down to is the decision, the choice; the acceptance of what is, and the work to find your new normal.

So decide to practice happy, to become healthier, to heal, to grow, to learn, etc.

You just have to decide; choose to change; choose your ever upward.