Fantasy vs. Reality

Accepting change

Over the last 3 or so years, I have been seeing a counselor. Sometimes consistently and sometimes not. Usually when I am not seeing her consistently is when I really should be – funny how that works. In actuality, it’s really not funny. It’s actually pretty stressful for me when I take breaks for extended periods of time. Anyway, my counselor has been key in helping me sort through many of my life changes. I don’t know if it’s HER or if it’s just the fact that I have someone outside of my life to talk to; an objective person helps so much. If you haven’t tried it, you should!

Fantasy vs. Reality is a hot topic in our sessions. Fantasy – what you think or dream up to be in a given situation. Reality – the actual situation at hand. Some people can just roll with whatever happens in the reality even if it’s different from what they thought; whereas, others (**cough, me, cough**) have a harder time coping with the change. I’ve generally had a harder time adjusting to given changes in my life ever since I can remember. As I have gotten older, I’ve coped with some changes and have had harder time with others. I mainly struggle with the ones that have drastically changed from what *I thought* would be how life would work out.

For example, one thing that I thought would be easy would be having children. Isn’t this what we all think? At least, what we all think when we don’t have any perceived medical diagnosis, anyway? You get married, buy a house and have children. After all, it’s the “usual way” people do things. Now, I realize not everyone does this in that order and that’s totally fine. But this is what I thought it would be for me and my husband.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy. Actually it was the exact opposite. About 3 years into our marriage and 2 years of no baby, I became suspicious of a possible issue. Nick and I were open to having kids but it wasn’t an intentional act of trying and tracking; however, I felt something wasn’t right. In the summer of 2014, after finally convincing my husband of doing some tests, we found ourselves at the Houston Fertility Institute at their Sugar Land, Texas location. We were told in our initial consultation that couples have a 25% chance of conceiving in their first year of trying (that’s WITHOUT any perceived issues) and then after that the numbers drop significantly: down to 5% per year and it lowers every year after that. Talk about a punch in the gut! We were in our second year of being open to children and BOOM, a scientific kick in the pants.

We went on to do some testing. I was having feminine issues with my cycle anyway and during “that time of the month” having a lot of pain. Anyway, the results from my tests weren’t good. I had stage 3 to stage 4 endometriosis. According to Mayo Clinic, endometriosis “is an often painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus — the endometrium — grows outside your uterus. Endometriosis most commonly involves your ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue lining your pelvis. Rarely, endometrial tissue may spread beyond pelvic organs” (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/endometriosis/home/ovc-20236421).

I don’t think I could have been more devastated. This is not what I dreamed up, remember? This is not how it was supposed to be for us. This made our chances of having a baby even less. Unfortunately, if we wanted to do any fertility treatments it could and would make the disease worse as it feeds off estrogen in your body; so, if we did do anything, we would be taking the risk of making this worse for us. We just weren’t ready to take that risk. In fact, we were actually trying to avoid it as much as possible. I was 25 years old – this shouldn’t be happening. 

Nick and I opted for me to undergo surgery to remove as much of the endometriosis as possible so we could possibly try to conceive on our own. Here’s the deal: endometriosis grows microscopically so anything they could see and remove, they would but it didn’t mean I was necessarily in the clear. It’s constantly growing. So following the procedure, I would have monthly injections that would essentially put me into menopause to try to reduce the legions as much as possible. I wasn’t too excited about it. Surgery, in general, is usually pretty rough for me – I’ve had a few in my life to know the general gist of what would happen post-op. My body takes forever to get rid of the anesthesia.

The laparoscopic procedure was slated for 90 minutes. The doctor would blow my stomach up with air so they could see the organs and be able to manipulate them to burn off the legions – hopefully without damaging any other organs. The worse part of it was that my ovaries had huge cysts on them. Taking those out wouldn’t be easy and in fact, it would be so important for the doctor to be precise as to not damage my ovaries further. Every time they take a cyst out, they would be taking part of my ovary (not enough to cause permanent infertility but that was definitely a risk). Then, there’s the whole we “really don’t know what it will be like until we are in there” uncertainty and you always hope it’s better than the doctors expect. 

Little did I know this 90-minute-you’ll-be-back-on-your-feet-in-3-days procedure, turned into blowing my stomach up a second time and a 3 hour procedure. Of course, I didn’t know any of this until I woke up from the surgery. The whole 3 days back on your feet was a LOAD OF CRAP. It took me well over a month to feel “normal” again. You know that fantasy vs. reality thing I was talking about before – yep, I was not happy. In fact, I was angry. Well, let me take a step back – I was very glad the doctor took her time – I had such a bad cyst on my fallopian tube that had she not taken her time, I could have lost it or woken up with a cut open abdomen. So, I am very thankful that. But I was still mad. I was so uncomfortable for weeks! Have you ever had gas pumped in your stomach for any procedure, IT IS AWFUL! Again, this is not what I was expecting. And I had a very hard time accepting that.

Honestly, this whole time I had a hard time dealing with the reality of what was happening and how this was my fault. My body’s fault. Nick, in no way, made me feel this way – this was something I was personally dealing with. In fact, he was amazing during this process. I think if you are the one with the diagnosis in the relationship, it’s normal to have these feelings. But it still sucks, to say the least.

By September 2014, I was on those menopause shots. Okay, again – totally not fun. Talk about a wild roller coaster of emotions, literally. But this, again, was our best chance to combat the endometriosis from growing back quickly and to potentially start trying when all this was over. A medically induced menopause at 25 years old – that was really hard to wrap my mind around it. I wasn’t supposed to have a cycle while on this medicine…..until I did. THAT WAS AWFUL. If you’re a girl, you know an unexpected period isn’t fun at all. Nope. Not at all.

After 3 months on the shots, I had an ultrasound in December 2014 and I was devastated. The cysts had grown back. Not as big but they were there which meant the shots really didn’t help. Maybe they did a little bit but the cysts were there. THE CYSTS WERE THERE! SERIOUSLY WHAT THE HELL! I was screaming inside on that table. I felt like I had put my body and my mental health through absolute torture the last 6 months! For what!?!

Nick and I ended up right where we didn’t want to be…..

Facing the biggest personal and financial decision of our lives…..

Here’s to everything in between (including the crap),

Rachel

“Sisters, sisters….

…..nothing can come between sisters”

I am the oldest of 4 kids in our family. I have one sister, who is 16 months younger than me and then 2 younger brothers (4 years and 8 years younger respectively). I always wanted an older brother but that’s just not how life worked for me. Instead my parents brought home this sister. 

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One of my favorites of us

My boys are about to have a sister in about 4 months (I still can’t believe it) and there is just something about having a sister that is the most frustrating, at times, explosive, and most wonderful experience I have had in my life. I hope the boys feel the same with maybe a little less explosiveness but let’s be real, she will have TWO older TWIN brothers almost just like her daddy. I couldn’t be more excited her and nervous for them. Ha ha!

The explosiveness. When I think about growing up with my sister, I think about her stealing my clothes and being a BRAT. Seriously. I would have to label my clothes to get her to stop taking them. I would get so mad. And she still took them. 😦 Why did it matter so much? Well, I’m sure it’s all about territorial things when you are growing up, right? I wasn’t the only one dealing with this I am sure. I’m also sure I was a brat too but this is my version of the story, right? 😉 Then when things really got crazy between us, my dad would sing us the song from White Christmas Sisters (Check it out here if you don’t know the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trD3Kqf-g0w). Man, that would really get our blood boiling! But I guess it would get us to stop for that moment. So parental mission accomplished.

Did I mention she always ALWAYS got away with everything too? I mean life couldn’t get more unfair! Maybe she was just better at lying and hiding what she was REALLY up to – I have no idea but she seemed to NEVER get caught. Me, on the other hand, ALWAYS got caught. I was ALWAYS told I needed to be a good example. Totally UNFAIR. I mean she had younger brothers too!

I don’t think there could be two people living in the same house that were SO OPPOSITE from one another. She was into architecture and modern looks. I am more into history and traditional looks – we still are today. I mean, when it came to almost anything, we had a different outlook on everything. I’m sure our parents were so exhausted from dealing with us by the time my brothers came along – I don’t blame them. They’re probably still recovering. 😉 

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She still makes this face now.

Anyway, as we got older and I mean, out of college, things were better between us – not great but better. I guess the whole growing up thing really helps. Plus, I was living in Dallas and she was finishing up her Masters with Texas Tech while living at home. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? 🙂 She was very helpful when it came to planning our wedding festivities and she was so supportive! To be honest, I was a little surprised, at the time, at how she listened to what I wanted and she was there for everything. It was really neat and memories I’ll keep forever.

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At one of my bridal showers

But really our relationship took the next level of understanding was when I was finally pregnant with the boys. I say finally because that wasn’t an easy process (we will get to that later in this blogging journey). In the weeks leading up to the boys being born, she changed. She grew up. My little sister literally grew before my eyes. I don’t know if that really happened and maybe I was the one who really changed but I saw HER for the first time. I understood her for the first time. We were really friends for the first time in our lives. The sister thing clicked with us and it was magical. 

In the photo to the right, I was doing my usual thing laying on the couch (I was so incredibly pregnant and miserable) and she wanted to take a picture of her with her nephews – so sweet. I had no idea that when the boys were born, next to my husband, she would be the rock in all of our lives. 

The boys were born at 34 weeks and lived in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) for 15 days at Memorial Hermann Medical Center (again, another part of the story that we will definitely talk about later on). While we were there, I’m pretty sure she came every day – the days run together when you are in the NICU so I have a hard time remembering exactly. Lucky for us, she worked in the Houston Medical Center so visiting was easy for her and it was helpful for me to have another adult there just to get my mind off the babies (well, as best as anyone could) and pumping and all the healing that needs to happen after a c-section.

These pictures were taken early on in our stay at the hospital. Some of these memories make me laugh because she was SO AWKWARD holding them and trying to feed them. Now, to be fair, the boys were very tiny so everyone had to learn how to hold them a little differently. So not only had I watched my sister grow up, I was watching her become an aunt and hopefully one day training her to be a mommy. It was beyond the neatest experience and I know when this little girl comes, she will have a better handle on her (I hope). I hope we all will. 🙂

We came home from the hospital and my sister, with the help of my family, had cleaned and rearranged everything to help us transition better. In the days after the hospital, she continued her aunt journey with us. She lives in the Heights so it’s not exactly around the corner. But whenever she made it to Sugar Land, she would stop by. This was the best time because I got a break and the boys learned who she was and to this day, she almost makes weekly trips to see us. 

In January 2016, she became the godmother to Andrew when the boys were baptized. In March, she treated Nick and I to the rodeo for my birthday – a much needed night out. By April, she was on our first flight with the boys to Ohio to see family! I mean, pretty much when we need her to be there for us – she is and usually without a complaint (except for missing some sleep 😉 ).

When she transitioned jobs over the summer of 2016, she spent the time off she had with her nephews (me too, but let’s just be honest about who she really wanted to see). We went to the Houston Zoo and the Fort Bend Discovery Center and we probably did others things I can’t remember. It was so fun and I loved the fact she wanted to spend time with us when she could have done a million other things. Her aunt-y heart is so big – I know she will have room for more. 🙂

On July 11, 1989, my sister, Rene Louise Hoelker was born and I had no idea how she would rock my world but I’m glad she did. I didn’t know that when my parents brought home this little sister of mine that we would grow to have this special relationship. I truly believe all those fights (yes, even some physical ones) and all the misunderstandings brought us to this point of friendship. This sisterly friendship is one that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

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Rene’s Graduation from St. Agnes Academy May 2007

“Lord help the mister that come between me and my sister
And Lord help the sister that come between me and my man”  — Sisters, Bette Midler

Here’s to everything in between,

Rachel

It Takes Two

The blog name.

When I was sitting down trying to name this blog, all I could think about was “it takes two.” I don’t know why but I was instantly reminded of the song with Tina Turner and Rod Stewart (see the YouTube video of their music video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mzDQbmtPZ0). Then my brain jumped to the 1995 movie with Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen It Takes Two. If you’ve never seen this movie, it’s pretty cute (check out the information here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0113442/) . It’s funny how our minds go back to memories with just a phrase. Okay, let’s really get to it!

It takes two. What does this mean? Really mean?

First, it reminds me of marriage and that when you are married or in a committed relationship of any kind, it takes TWO people in it all the time. That’s pretty hard and possibly unreasonable. I mean, after all, we all are human and have our own individual needs. And sometimes YOU JUST CAN’T GIVE ANYMORE, right? We’ve all had those moments. We feel defeated and at the end of our rope. But the beauty of having the other person there with you is that, usually, that person can “pick up the slack.” For instance, I’m currently pregnant with our little girl and we have 1 1/2-year-old twin boys – talk about a madhouse – unlike the twin pregnancy, I’ve encounter some slight complications, making me even less than available at times. (Don’t worry, everything is fine). In my physical absence – I’m there but not there, you know? – my husband and mom have picked up some major slack. Growing a human is NO joke! And I’ve done this before. I couldn’t imagine doing it alone like some women do – it just reminds me how lucky I am to have that support system.

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This is us being silly showing “our” bumps with baby girl last weekend at 18 weeks!
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Our biggest support system, our family!

Secondly, it reminds me of friendship. Not everyone is married or in a committed relationship, I totally recognize that. But everyone should have a friend. Someone to lean on and that can lean on them because I personally couldn’t imagine living this life alone. Life is so amazing that it shouldn’t be lived alone. I hope and pray that each and every one of you at least have one friend that can do that for you. Married or in a committed relationship or not, find that friend and keep them – they are worth having in your life. I’ve been so lucky to have had some good friends in my life. Some have come and gone and come back again which makes those relationships even sweeter. The best thing about raising kids with your friends is that they slowly become friends (or at least you hope). Even though I’m married, I don’t know what I would do without my friends – especially the ones that totally empathize with me when I’m just needing to vent or being completely unreasonable (especially now). To be around people who just plain care about you, no matter what, is so special. **Disclaimer: I couldn’t even put pictures or name all the friends we have in our lives that we are so grateful for so please don’t be offended!**

Thirdly, this reminds me of my boys. Maybe it’s the whole Olsen twin thing, I have no idea. I just know I couldn’t imagine life with one of my boys or the other. My twins complete each other. They are the best of friends needing and deserving of one another and it’s the most magical experience I’ve witnessed in my life. I hope they continue to live their lives as the best of the friends and have the most amazing relationship for as long as they live. Even now, as I am writing, they are playing and laughing (sometimes fighting) with each other and it’s the best! I don’t even know what we will all do when baby girl gets here but it’s sure to be a lot of fun!

What does “It Takes Two” mean for you? Is it marriage, friendship, family or something with your kids? Regardless, like most things in life, you need a buddy and if you don’t need a buddy, you want a buddy. It’s like the whole women going to the restroom together. It’s so NOT necessary but it’s fun. You continue to talk or switch the conversation to something more scandalous or definitely not table appropriate. I keep thinking of my friend Michelle, we probably had the most unusual bathroom experience I’ve had with another lady but that’s for another day. 😉 But you understand what I mean…Having that partner in crime gives us someone to share our lives with.

It truly “takes a village” but personally, I want the village. I need the village. The bigger the better because life is so much better sharing it with others. 

Here’s to everything in between,

Rachel

So, who are we?

Background into us….

The journey into who we are is a LONG one. I’ll start with college. To go back any further would be way too long. But don’t worry, I’m sure my life will come out in pieces as we continue our journey together.

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This is me in 2007. These pictures were taken almost 10 years ago to the day!
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This is Nick in 2007. We met on a bus ride to Illinois.
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Baseball and Softball rode ONE BUS 18 hours! Why? Don’t ask me.

I met my husband, Nick, in college at the University of Dallas. He was on his 4th college following his dream to play baseball and he was the cutest, most rough around the edges type guy. I was there being my studious self and playing softball. Do I believe it was love at first sight? Not really. At least, not for him. 😉 Nick left UD after a year and off to LeTourneau University where he finished college and baseball. Fast forward to my last year of college when we FINALLY dated and had TONS OF FUN. One year later we were engaged and the year after that we were married on September 3rd 2011. I would say “Well, the rest is history.” Isn’t that what people say right about now? Maybe so but little did we know our lives were about to get a little more crazy.

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Our Engagement Pictures
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Our Wedding Day 9/3/2011

We started our married lives in Dallas, Texas. I was finishing up my teaching certificate and then became a nanny; Nick worked at the Mesquite Championship Rodeo and then got a job at Chase Bank. We weren’t making much and lived in a small apartment but we enjoyed life. Sometimes we look back and wish we could get away and go back to that “simple” life. Funny how perspective changes as you get older.

By August of 2012, we headed to Sugar Land, Texas (my hometown). I found a job teaching World History at Fort Bend Christian Academy and Nick transferred with Chase Bank. Ya’ll it was complete divine intervention that brought us back to Sugar Land. I applied for every job under the sun in Dallas and only one job in Sugar Land. YES ONLY ONE. I got ONE CALL BACK from this ONE JOB I applied to in Sugar Land! So off we went! 

This is really where the fun begins! Anyone a teacher out there? Talk about a whirlwind of a first year of teaching! That’s a whole another blog entirely but I have never had more heartache, pain (quite literally), and lessons learned in one year of my life (so far). I was also coaching a select softball team AND helping with our high school team. I look back and think WHAT WAS I THINKING! I think I may have come close to having a major panic attack a few times.

While I was doing all that, Nick decided he needed a change and found a new job at Frost Bank. While we were going through all of those transitions, we ended up taking in Nick’s mom. She was living alone and things were rough (to say the least) all the while trying to live with Parkinson’s. According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (http://www.pdf.org/about_pd), Parkinson’s is a “is a chronic and progressive movement disorder, meaning that symptoms continue and worsen over time…..and it involves the malfunction and death of vital nerve cells in the brain, called neurons.” She had this disease for about 10 or so years by this point but due to some unfortunate circumstances, her health was taking a turn for the worse. She lived with us beginning Jan 2013 through the summer of 2014. In that time, we found specialists in Houston and successfully got her on a new plan. We also bought another house actually in Sugar Land and we all moved in early 2014. We eventually moved her into a town home close by from that summer of 2014 until November 2015 when she moved to Greenville, Texas to live with her brother. She is doing fantastic now!

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Archannette, Nick’s Mom

But let’s get back to the story, we had bought our first house in a new city in Richmond Texas, I was in my first year teaching, coaching two softball teams and became a primary caretaker to my mother in law. Nick was learning a new job, learning a new city, and also the primary caretaker to his mother. Oh, did I mention he had to live in San Antonio for 8 weeks for training at Frost Bank during all of this! In 2014, we moved again to Sugar Land Texas and we adopted our dog Dakota! WOW! When we look back on this time in our lives, we don’t have ANY regrets but ya’ll it was SO HARD. Don’t forget, we were also in our first years of marriage! That honeymoon phase ended REAL QUICK.

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Dakota, when she was a puppy.

 

Are you tired yet? We are just getting started….. 😉

Here’s to everything in between,

Rachel

The Journey Here

The blog.

The journey here hasn’t been an easy one and not one I could even possibly share in one blog post. But here I am. Blogging! Who knew? It’s been on my mind for a few months. You know when you are bugged over and over by a thought but you brush it off? Yep! That’s this blog. Then something amazing happened. I connected with an organization called Caiden’s Hope (we will definitely be talking more about them throughout this blogging journey). Using my side biz with Usborne Books & More, we partnered together to raise funds for their organization (more to come later, promise!). One thing led to another and by the power of the Holy Spirit, the founder of the charity asked me to start this blog. BAM! The little thought was no longer brushed off and now 1 month later, we are here! This blog is intended to relate to a number of different journeys we are all on – marriage, kids and everything in between! It’s everything in between that life happens, am I right? So, take this journey of life with me…. I promise it’s an exciting one!

 

Until next time,

Rachel