Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Two Babies

For the last several months, Niels and I have had two things on our mind: getting pregnant and celebrating Christmas with Dutch Dad and Mom. Two babies. Our baby and the Christ child.

Niels and I know that good things come to those who wait. In fact, Niels' wedding band is engraved with the words, "worth the wait." Almost five months into our marriage, I am certain that Niels was worth every minute of the 35 years, six months, and 14 days I waited to marry him.

Because of our age, we talked about our desire to start our family sooner rather than later. We were thrilled to discover we were pregnant in early October, just 11 weeks after we were married. Our joy was short lived, when we miscarried at 5 1/2 weeks. Niels has been such rock to me in our grief, allowing me my sad days and helping me remember all our blessings. One thing he said that has really helped my mindset is the reminder that God has blessed us with so much this year--travel, finding each other, the financial means to pay for a wedding and two homes all year. He had to save something for next year.

As November turned to December, Niels reminded me of this again. We thought if we were pregnant in December, we would tell his parents by putting notes in their stockings. When my period came, I was disappointed for the missed opportunity. They live 6,000 miles away and we won't see them until next Christmas. This would be their only time to see me pregnant with their first grandchild, even if I wasn't showing yet. I was feeling tired and sick all week and felt bad for not being where I wanted to be with all the holiday planning. I wanted everything to be perfect for our first Christmas together.

Friday morning when I woke up, I was bleeding. We called my OB and they said to go to the ER. It was a busy day, so we ended up being there from 11:30 to almost 9. They were a little worried about my blood pressure, which was 104/45. They took some blood and came back to tell us we were pregnant. We were shocked, excited and nervous. We're 5 1/2 weeks, exactly where we were when we miscarried on October 15.

They discharged me with a diagnosis of either a threatened miscarriage or early ectopic pregnancy. I had orders of bedrest for two days when they would check my HCG levels again. For two days my mind raced with the hope of a Christmas baby after all, and fear that I would miscarry again. In the meantime, our radio played a constant stream of songs about another Christmas baby.

Sunday morning we headed to hospital for my blood test. We waited at the lab for the results. We prayed for a big number. The level should be doubling daily at this point in a healthy pregnancy. But, much to our dismay, the number went down and we were told the baby was not viable. We're devastated, again, but we are together, and because it is not ectopic, I am safe.

Niels parents had their own troubles. Weather and customs delays caused them to miss the last leg of their flight, so instead of arriving on the 23rd, they arrived on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, their luggage has yet to arrive. But they are here and they are safe.

Last night we went to the Christmas Eve service. I was doing pretty well. The pain was tolerable for the moment, and I was able to focus on the service. But when we started singing songs about The Baby, I began to weep for our baby. Niels' mom leaned over, her own cheeks wet with tears, hugged me and said, "I'm so sorry." And after such loss, there really are no other words to say.

Losing two babies this year has changed my perspective of the Christmas story. I identify with Mary more than ever. And I understand the greatness of the Gift. I want so much to hold my babies. I want so much to nurture them in my womb. I want so much to hear their cries as they enter this world. I believe that all life is sacred, and so I celebrate the very short lives they lived.
God didn't give us the son we wanted for Christmas, but He gave us His Son. I wouldn't willingly give up my babies, but God gave up His Son, for the greater good, and the gift of That Baby is life that never ends.

Sleep in heavenly peace, little ones.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

My First Dutch Poem!

In my ongoing effort to learn my dear husband's native tongue, tonight we translated the poem from the beginning of my book into Dutch. So for my new Dutch family, this is for you:

- de uitbarsting-

is als een sterke aardbeving
de wereld schud
gevoed door woede
en alle boosheid
en frustraties
zo lang broedend
onder de oppervlakte
spuit dan plotseling omhoog
in een inferno van haat
of onverschilligheid...
is de wereld kalm
en je denkt
dat het schudden voor bij is
maar dan begint de cyclus opnieuw
je bent vermoeid
je wilt rusten
en dat is wanneer je realiseerd
dat het schudden gestopt is
er is een angstaanjagend gevoel
hangend in de lucht
je aarzelt
om nooit meer iets te geloven
je bent zo moe
en na zolang worstelen
rust je daarom
op het laatste stukje stabiel land
om ook dat in tweeen verdeelt te zien worden
die nooit meer
opnieuw samenkomen
elk nieuw deel
een gedeelte van jouw
en onder je ogen
drijven ze uiteen

- Jen Abbas,
achttien jaar

And for my English reading audience:

-the eruption-

is like a trembling earthquake
the world shakes
rumbling with rage
and all the anger
and frustrations
that have been festering for so long
below the surface
suddenly spew upward
in an inferno of hate
or apathy…
at times
the earth calms
and you think
the turmoil is over
then the cycle begins again
you are weary
you want to rest
and that is when you realize
the shaking has stopped
there is an eerie feeling
lurking in the air
you are hesitant to believe
you are so tired
after struggling for so long
and so you rest
on the one last solid patch of land
only to watch it split in two
that will never
come together
each new patch
supports part of you
and as you watch
they pull away.

-Jen Abbas,
age eighteen

Monday, December 17, 2007

Soundtrack for Children of Divorce

If children of divorce had a soundtrack, these would be our songs.
updated 12/17/07

"25 Years" from the album Throws Like a Girl by Vroom
"Because of You" from the album Breakaway by Kelly Clarkson (VIDEO)
"Blurry" from the album Come Clean by Puddle of Mudd (VIDEO)
"Broken Home" from the album Geek Love by Fan_3
"Broken Home" from the album Infest by Papa Roach (VIDEO)
"Breathing" from the album, No Name Face by Lifehouse (VIDEO)
"Confessions Of A Broken Heart" from the album, A Little More Personal (Raw). by Lindsay Lohan (VIDEO)
"Dance Little Jean" from the album Twenty Years of Dirt by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
"Daughters" from the album Heavier Things by John Mayer (VIDEO)
"Dear Judge" from the album Last Sessions by Ernest Tubb (VIDEO)
"D-I-V-O-R-C-E" from the album Super Hits by Tammy Wynette (VIDEO)
"Don't Give Up" from the album Face of Love by Sanctus Real
"Don't Go" from the album It's Pronounced Five Two by KJ-52
"Eye to Eye" from the album Simple Things by Amy Grant (VIDEO)
"Faheem," from the album, The Undisputed Truth by Brother Ali
"Family Portrait" from the album Missunderztood by Pink (VIDEO)
"Father of Mine" from the album So Much for the Afterglow by Everclear (VIDEO)
"Have I Ever Told You" from the album Have I Ever Told You by FFH
"Hearts of the Innocent" from the album of the same name by Kutless
"He Didn't Have To Be" from the album Who Needs Pictures by Brad Paisley (VIDEO)
"I Don't Call Him Daddy" from the Greatest Hits vol. 3 album by Kenny Rogers
"I Love You This Much" from the self-titled album by Jimmy Wayne (VIDEO)
"I Wonder" from the album Small Town Girl by Kellie Pickler (VIDEO)
"Jamie" from the album Listen by Cindy Morgan
"Making Me" from the self-titled album by Downhere
"Mommy Don't Love Daddy Anymore" from the album of the same name by Resurrection Band
"Never Been Unloved" from the album Live the Life by Michael W. Smith
"Out of Breath" from the album Stanley Climbfall by Lifehouse (VIDEO)
"Precious" from the Precious single by Depeche Mode (VIDEO)
"Prodigal Dad" from the album Out of My Mind by GS Megaphone
"The Promise" from the album Listen by Cindy Morgan
"Reconcile" from the self-titled album from downhere
"Six-String Rocketeer" from the album Hero by Daily Planet
"So Blue"
from the self-titled album by Downhere
"Stay Together for the Kids" from their Greatest Hits by Blink 182 (VIDEO)
"Still Waiting" from the self-titled album by Everman
"Stories" from the album Welcome to Diverse City by TobyMac
"Tell Me Why" from the album Empty by Tait
"The Living Years" from The Hits by Mike + the Mechanics (VIDEO)
"Tip of My Heart" from the album Big Blue Sky by Bebo Norman
"Too Bad" from the album Silver Side Up by Nickelback (VIDEO)
"What If I Stumble?" from the album Jesus Freak by dc talk (VIDEO)
"When Love Takes You In" from the album All About Love by Steven Curtis Chapman (VIDEO)
"Who Am I/Grace Flows Down" from the album All Things New by Watermark
"Why Don't Daddy Live Here Anymore" from the album "Queen of the Coast" by Bonnie Owens
"Wonderful" from the album Songs from an American Movie, vol. 1 by Everclear (VIDEO)
"You're My Little Girl" from the album Infectious by Go Fish
"We Gon A Make It" from the self-titled album from Peace of Mind
"Worth it All" from the album, Voice from Home by FFH
"You Better Sit Down Kids" from the album Story by Cher (VIDEO)

Let me know if you can think of others...

First Quote with my New Name

Thanks to my former publicist, I'm on the rolodex at Life & Style magazine. So I wasn't overly surprised when they called me once again to weigh in on the latest celebrity divorce crisis.

This week's issue includes an article on Britney Spears' rumored hope for a reconcilation with her ex, Kevin Federline.

My quote is in a full page call out with the headline: Would Getting Back with Kevin Help Britney?, complete with pros and cons...

Many divorced couples reconcile and give marriage another shot. "But I don't think there are any magical answers for Britney," says Jen Abbas de Jong, author of Generation Ex, a book about divorce. "Her divorce from Kevin has been awful, it would take a lot of work if they ever got back together." Still, de Jong notes, the couple (here in LA in 2004) "loved each other, so they'd have something to build on."

new songs for the COD soundtrack: Brother Ali's "Faheem"

As part of the "Big Clean" to get ready for Dutch Dad and Mom's visit, I'm spending the day catching up on the stack of magazines we've neglected that last few months. An article on Brother Ali in Rolling Stone led me to a new addition to the child of divorce soundtrack.

I can't recommend the overall album because the parental advisory sticker is well warranted; however, the lyrics to this song written for the albino Muslim's son are too poignant to pass up.

I gave you that name, boy...
I will never stop feelin sorry that your home got broken
I feel that I owe you for the road that I chose
But I believe things happen the way they're supposed to
And you'll always be with me wherever that I go
I was right there for your first breath
I used to lay you on my chest when you slept
I fed you, changed you, read to you, bathed you,
I'm not trying to hold that over your head,
I'm saying thank you
God put you into my arms for me to teach you
Sometimes I gotta not be popular to reach you
But boy look me in my eye when I speak to you
I tell you these things because I believe in you
Respect, patience, excellence, and truth
Make good choices and always follow through
But above all else know Allah always watch us
And Everything we do comes back upon us
Alright, let's talk about your mommy
I need you to know that I used everything inside of me
To make you as healthy as you could possibly be
And I just couldn't see a good future for us three
And you gonna have questions as you grow
But there's certain negative things that you don't need to know
And baby boy that's what this is about
We live, learn, and figure it out
I just pray that you don't remember us sleepin on the floor
And me cleanin mouse droppings out of your toys
It took alot of hard work for us to get where we at
And young man, we aint quittin at that
Just know that it hurts me to death when I leave and go tourin
I'm scared that it might make you feel unimportant
But our bond is so strong that the moment I get off
We seem to pick right back up where we left off
I try to say that I do it for you
But in my heart I know that's not entirely true
So if I ever come home and feel that I've hurt us as friends
I swear to God that I'll never tour again
I ain't never met a child quite like you
Words don't suffice for me to describe you
You have a genuine goodness inside you
I watch you and wonder if I was ever like you
It's me and you, brother, for life
So when you put me in the ground, look for me in the clouds
You make me the definition of proud
You taught me what this life is really about

Friday, December 14, 2007

Go Green. Stay Married.

Mother Nature feels the pains of divorce

AP Science Writer
Tue Dec 4, 6:48 PM ET

WASHINGTON - Divorce can be bad for the environment. In countries around the world divorce rates have been rising, and each time a family dissolves the result is two new households.

"A married household actually uses resources more efficiently than a divorced household," said Jianguo Liu, an ecologist at Michigan State University whose analysis of the environmental impact of divorce appears in this week's online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

More households means more use of land, water and energy, three critical resources, Liu explained in a telephone interview.

Households with fewer people are simply not as efficient as those with more people sharing, he explained. A household uses the same amount of heat or air conditioning whether there are two or four people living there. A refrigerator used the same power whether there is one person home or several. Two people living apart run two dishwashers, instead of just one.
Liu, who researches the relationship of ecology with social sciences, said people seem surprised by his findings at first, and then consider it simple. "A lot of things become simple after the research is done," he said.

Some extra energy or water use may not sound like a big deal, but it adds up.

The United States, for example, had 16.5 million households headed by a divorced person in 2005 and just over 60 million households headed by a married person.

Per person, divorced households spent more per person per month for electricity compared with a married household, as multiple people can be watching the same television, listening to the same radio, cooking on the same stove and or eating under the same lights.

That means some $6.9 billion in extra utility costs per year, Liu calculated, plus an added $3.6 billion for water, in addition to other costs such as land use.

And it isn't just the United States.

Liu looked at 11 other countries such as Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Greece, Mexico and South Africa between 1998 and 2002.

In the 11, if divorced households had combined to have the same average household size as married households, there could have been a million fewer households using energy and water in these countries. "People have been talking about how to protect the environment and combat climate change, but divorce is an overlooked factor that needs to be considered," Liu said.
Liu stressed that he isn't condemning divorce: "Some people really need to get divorces." But, he added, "one way to be more environmentally friendly is to live with other people and that will reduce the impact."

Don't get smug, though, married folks — savings also apply to people living together and Shaker communities or even hippie communes would have been even more efficient.

So, what prompts someone to figure out the environmental impact of divorce?

Liu was studying the ecology of areas with declining population and noticed that even where the total number of people was less, the number of households was increasing. He wondered why.
There turned out to be several reasons: divorce, demographic shifts such as people remaining single longer and the demise of multigenerational households.

"I was surprised because the divorce rate actually has been up and down for many years in some of the countries ... but we found the proportion of divorced households has increased rapidly across the globe," he said.

So he set out to measure the difference, such as in terms of energy and water, land use and construction materials and is now reporting the results for divorce.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Separation Success Stories

When couples are having trouble, one often overlooked option is "controlled separation," that is, separation as a sort of time out on the marriage, with a goal of working through the issues and eventually reconciling. Controlled separation is not the same as "checking out the single waters." Unfortunately, many times separation is seen as the first step in divorce. It seems rather obvious that if you spend your separated time dating other people, you aren't likely to be putting any serious effort in working on repairing your current relationship. (Which begs the question, if you want to marry someone who honors the commitment of marriage, why would you date someone who is married? What does that say about your own commitment to marriage?) When people recycle relationships, all they are doing is putting one set of scabby band aids after another on the same wound, and not surprisingly, facing increasingly higher divorce odds with each subsequent divorce.

In this age of freedom and choice, we choose our spouse, not our parents or any other authority. And if we choose to marriage someone and spend at least a little time getting to know them before taking the plunge, there's probably a good amount of foundation to build on, and if necessary, re-build on.

It seems to me that in this generation of gun shy romantics, either we avoid marriage by over analyzing each relationship--and thus training ourselves to focus on the (potentially) negative of our significant other-- or we jump in without thinking, offended by the thought of pre-marital counsel, knowing that divorce offers an out if everything isn't all sunshine and roses every day.

As the former poster girl for the former stance, I completely understand the desire to stack the deck in your favor. But the problem is that you're always playing with your own cards, no matter who's sitting across the table. Analysis is good, as long as it leads to action and positive change. Analysis as a door to escape is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

That rant aside, here are a few couples who faced separation, and have stronger marriages today because they came back together:

1. Alan & Denise Jackson.
Denise Jackson has written a book about her life with husband Alan Jackson. It's All About Him: Finding the Love of My Life offers an in-depth look into the lives of the two childhood sweethearts.

In the book, Denise shares the story of the teen couple's meeting in small-town Georgia, and their marriage when she was just 19. She addresses the couple's struggles, dreams, successes, and the near-failure of their marriage. She also discusses rediscovering her faith, and shares how that has helped to shape the life they now live.

2. Burton & Suzy Farbman.

3. This couple.

4. This couple, after the husband committed adultery. (added January 13, 2007)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Back from Betrayal

I had an interesting call yesterday from Life & Style magazine. They've called a few times before for comments on celebrity splits. The topic of yesterday's conversation was a possible reconciliation between Britney Spears and her ex-husband, Kevin Federline.

As part of our conversation, we talked about controlled separation and couples who have made their marriages work after separation or divorce. She seemed shocked by the idea and it changed the course of our conversation. I was asked if I could think of any high profile cases of reconciliation after divorce, and I drew a blank. (Darn memory issues!)

Seems like a good list to compile. Any suggestions?

Along those lines, a very inspiring book for anyone considering divorce is Back from Betrayal by Suzy Farbman. I read it a few years ago and quickly added it to my list of books to keep in multiple copies.

From Amazon:
Though she describes herself as "Generation S"-one of the cultural "straddlers" who came of age in the 1960s-Farbman admits she was more into pruning her rosebushes "than marching for peace." A virgin when she married her real estate developer husband in 1967, Farbman was a faithful, supportive wife for 30 years. She set aside her own career to raise their children, turning down job offers outside her husband's Detroit base of operations. She thought she had a very good marriage. Then her husband admitted-after she'd become suspicious and brought him to "couples therapy"-that he'd been having affairs with other women. Farbman was devastated. But rather than go straight to a divorce lawyer, she decided to deal with her pain and confusion and see if her marriage could be salvaged. She went to Onsite, a crisis intervention center in Tennessee, and also to the Deepak Chopra Institute. She consulted "spirit guides" and an astrologist. She tried realignment by "cranio-sacral massage." Her husband went to The Meadows, an Arizona facility for behavioral disorders, and together they studied "A Course in Miracles." After much rethinking and revising of their interpersonal skills, the Farbmans were able to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary together stronger, wiser and happier. Statistically, it's uncommon for couples to recover from infidelity. Culturally, it seems even odder for middle-aged, upper-crust Midwesterners to consult New Age therapists for healing. Still, readers without the means to participate in such far-flung seminars may find inspiration from reading this story.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Hoping for a little help from our GR friends

Greetings from Ohio,

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. Niels and I hit our four month anniversary and are loving married life. With one exception. All we want for Christmas (or New Years, or the spring, or soon) is to sell my condo. We're very grateful to have gone from three mortgages to two, but we both vaguely remember having one house payment and would like to experience those days again. We've been very blessed to keep our heads above water on Niels' income as I am still unable to work after head injury #3 last October. (And yes, I finally caved and applied for disability).

We'd greatly appreciate your help in passing the word around about it to anyone you may know who is looking for a good deal. Friends, family, co-workers, neighbors you don't like, anyone is fine with us...as long as they have good credit and are ready to buy! The condo is currently officially off the market over the winter, but we'd be glad to entertain any offers now on a For Sale By Owner basis, as we have a lot more flexibility on the selling price without the realtor commissions. (My mom is a retired Realtor and will walk us through the paperwork).

As you know, the housing market in GR is pretty soft right now and it's a great time to buy. We're very motivated to sell and at this point, really just want to break even.

As a thank you, we're offering a $300 incentive for any referral that results in the sale of our home.

If you don't know of anyone in the market right now, we greatly covet your prayers for a quick sale! Our budget thanks you.

$135,999 (negotiable)

3783 Old Elm Dr SE
Kentwood, MI 49512

1410 square feet
2 bedrooms ~ 2.5 baths

Schools: Kentwood ~ County: Kent

Two story Bailey's Grove townhouse offers the benefits and amenities of a single-family residence, with none of the responsibilities. Enjoy this open floor plan with lots of natural lighting. The spacious kitchen features a bay window breakfast nook, pantry, lots of counter space and beautiful maple cabinets. The twenty-foot ceiling makes the Great Room bright and inviting. Each bedroom has its own full bath and ceiling fans. The master bedroom has a separate vanity, double-mirrored pocket door, and huge walk-in closet. Spacious lower level provides lots of storage space and is plumbed and ready for your finishing touch. There are many beautiful homes to choose from in Bailey’s Grove, but this home includes brand new carpet and padding, fresh paint, a furnace humidifier and plenty of upgrades. Bailey’s Grove is a popular condo community with a pool, walking paths and clubhouse. I would have stayed here forever if I hadn’t married my Ohio sweetheart.

Listing comments...
Well-kept condo with vinyl & brick exterior
New carpet and padding installed August 2006
Most rooms freshly painted in August 2006 and November 2007
Furnace humidifier installed summer of 2004
Private entrance and deck
Master bedroom includes private bath, WIC, ceiling fan, and double-mirrored pocket door
Cathedral ceiling with fan in Great Room
Upgraded maple cabinetry throughout
Upgraded window treatment throughout
Spacious unfinished basement with daylight windows
Sheetrock attached garage with remote
Professionally landscaped
Underground Sprinkling
Snow removal and lawn care provided
Association Pool

View floor plan and photos at:

and here:

Thanks, Mindy for the great idea of posting this message on her blog. GR bloggers, spread the word!