Sunday, June 30, 2013

All I Needed To Know I Learned on Vacation

While we were away on vacation I really "fell off the wagon". I took the advice of many and just relaxed and put TTC out of my mind. The entire week I was away I didn't chart my temps, I didn't take my meds and I didn't bother bringing OPKs with me. 

I am grateful that AF showed up when she did. Not only was my luteal phase right on; we were also able to really enjoy the time we had together. In the past we always seemed to be headed out of town near ovulation and I used to think that was the perfect time to "get it on", but now I am not too sure. This past week we were able to focus on us and the fun things we wanted to do with out the stress of TI.  Our vacation was a success and we were able to enjoy each other in an intimate fashion without any pressure,  just pure desire. It was the best sex we have had in a long time; we will both agree to that.

Now that we are home I have been contemplating whether or not I want to chart religiously, if I want to obsess over OPKs, if I want to force TI. I know that I have a hard time letting go of things; including things I never had control over in the first place. I have been so free of  worry and frustration this week but, I am not sure that feeling will stick around. I am about 5 days away from the time I should start testing for ovulation; Mike asked if I needed to get some tests while we were at the store the other day, instead of saying yes, I ponder the thought for a minute and said "No" and bolted out of the aisle before I could change my mind. I am not sure what I want to do.

A big part of me knows deep down that it will take a lot more than a positive OPK and perfect TI for us to conceive but, there is a small part of me that believes in miracles. The bigger part also tells me that since it will take a lot more that the norm, we should just stop worrying about it so much and just live. The small part of me says to do what I can until we are ready for IVF and Mike seems to be on board with that. He figures we can try and hope for the best. I keep telling myself that monitoring my cycles with BBT and OPKs will help me understand them better but, I have been doing that for 25 cycles now and I am still just as confused as ever and I am still not pregnant. There is always a dilemma with infertility, I swear!

This week also made me realize that I am married to a fantastic man who deals with my ups and downs with extreme patience and to a man who sees my pain before I feel it or express it. We spent some time talking about our life; the past, the present and the future. Even though we are no where close to "giving up" we are learning to accept the fact that we may never have children. Our life may be just what it is and we are okay with that, as long as we have one another.

If we never have children, I won't feel like my life isn't all that I want it to be. Today, my life is exactly what it is suppose to be; I am exactly where I need to be. I am sure seeing baby bumps will continue to hurt and I'm sure that I will still feel a sort of emptiness when I see a family of 3 (or more).  I am sure that I will still feel robbed as I hear the news of other's BFP but, I know that those feelings don't mean that I am unhappy or that I feel as though my life it not what I want it to be. It just means that the love we have for our unborn child will never go away nor will our desire to be parents.  I also know that the feelings of anger, bitterness, or envy, does not make me a bad person nor does it mean that I am insensitive or unhappy for others. It just means that I have a desire for a child and motherhood that runs deep.

This vacation also made me realize that it is okay to notice the freedom we have without children. I know that we spend so much of our time trying to figure out how to have kids that we don't spend enough time enjoying the alone time we have right now. It is okay to notice and appreciate how easy it is for us to do things with out children. It is okay to appreciate the peace and quite that we have. Being grateful for such things doesn't mean that we shouldn't have kids. Often times, I feel like because I want to be a mom and raise a child with my husband that I need to love all things about all kids all the time. That is not true. Right now I am a wife and I want to be able to focus on that while keeping hope that one day we will be parents.

I used to think that we were not ready to be parents. I thought that if we were not willing to put forth all of our energy, money and time, that we didn't want to be parents bad enough. I am sure there are people out there that probably do think that. However, I don't. My dream to be a mother will not die but, it will no longer take over my life. I have a wonderful family, a loving husband and a great dog, who at this time takes the place of a child. Those people deserve my attention and happiness, too; those people need me to be happy and present.

This ride we have been on has brought us closer to one another and it has taught us understanding. Infertility can either break or make a marriage and it is safe to say that while infertility might rob us of our dream to be parents but it won't rob us of the love we have for one another. Our love and commitment to each other is stronger than infertility.

There will come a day when I am back at the doctor's office, being poked and prodded too often, so for now I want to take some time to focus on the things and people I do have in my life. I want to leave the stress and worry at the door for a while. Does that mean I don't want to try? No. Does that mean we don't want to be parents bad enough? Hell no. 

For now, I will take it day by day. I am not sure how committed I will be to "trying" or monitoring, or not trying or not monitoring but, I will be committed to being happy and present. For a little while, at least.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

She's baaaaack!

It seems like forever since my last post! We just got back from our vacation in So Cal. We had so much fun even with the third wheel. Yep, that's right. AF showed up just as I was about the board the plane. No joke. I told Mike that I better go potty before we got on the plane because I won't use the one on the plane. As I wiped I was greeted with her blushed face. I guess she decided that a  42 day cycle was long enough and that she wanted to enjoy the beaches too.

We arrived in LA on Thursday morning, rented a car and drove to Vista to stay with Mike's grandparents. It has been a year and half since we have seen them and the visit was much needed. Grandpa has dementia and Grandma is in serious pain with her back. We spent 5 days with them and then we spent a couple nights with Mike's cousin. The trip was a perfect mix of family time as well as one on one time. 

We went into Oceanside a few times since it was only about 15 minutes from Grandma and Grandpa's house, then we drove down to San Diego, and to Palm Springs and then up to Anaheim to Disneyland (AF was gone by then)!! 

At first I was really scared to go to Disneyland since I am so scared of rides but it ended up being a blast! I wanted to ride the "scariest" rides over and over again! I loved Space Mountain and Splash Mountain...even though I did keep my eyes closed almost the entire time! We were sure beat after that; we got to Disneyland at 9:30am and we left at 12:30am. My feet paid the price for sure!

The weather was fantastic the whole time we were down there; a little really warm but, still fantastic! Meanwhile, in Oregon it rained the entire week we were gone. We definitely brought the warm, dry, weather back with us! This week it is in the 90's and by Tuesday it is suppose to get to 100! At least we are partly acclimated to it.

I am exhausted and I am so far behind on all of my blog reading; I have a lot of catching up to do!

I will leave you with some pictures of the trip-- everyone loves photos, right?

Mike's First Ever In-N-Out Burger

Sunset  in Oceanside
Oceanside Pier
Oceanside Pier
My hubby smiling! He does that sometimes.

USS Midway- San Diego
San Diego- Bob Hope tribute
The Kissing Statue- San Diego
Miss Marilyn Monroe- Palm Springs

Laguna Beach

Beach Bums- Laguna Beach
Laguna Beach- Blue Steel
Toon Town- Disneyland
The Castle...
Mike looks like he is pretending to yell- but he wasn't!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Letter To My Dad

Dear Dad,

Thank you for all the blood, sweat and tears you put forth to insure that your kids had everything they needed as children and for the values and morals you instilled in us. I am proud of the person you have helped shaped me into. I know that the best parts of me come from you and mom.

Thank you loving me unconditionally and accepting  my outspoken, loud personality. I know that you may tell me to quite down when I get "too excited" but you love me none the less and you've never tried to change me into some one else. You offer up advice and suggestions on things I could work on; like my temper or "loose" emotions but, you never make me feel like I am not good enough or should be better.

Thank you for sharing your softer side with me. You have shared your tears with me; I have heard the pain and struggle in your voice and have seen it in your eyes. I know this because there there was a time when I put you through hell; and even though it hurt beyond belief, in the end I think it brought us closer together.

Thank you for never giving up on me and for showing me tough love; you saved my life in doing so. I know at one time you stopped "bailing me out"  but, you never stopped loving me and you were always RIGHT there when I really needed you. 

Thank you for knowing the difference between when I really needed you and when I just wanted help. You knew when to come get me and when to tell me that I needed to figure it on my own. Thank you for having that courage and strength to do that and knowing when to do it.

Thank you for the times you offered advice and for the times you simply offered an "I love you" and a prayer. Thank you for all the cards you sent me and for being awesome enough to even send me a card from my dog! That is a great dad!

Thank you for being honest and for never cheating; at anything. Your loyalty and integrity have made you a person I deeply respect. I value all of your insight and knowledge because I know that you always do what is right and you never base choices off of greed or selfishness.Your level headiness is something I admire so often times I turn to you for advice.

Thank you for treating everyone with love and respect. Gossip is your least favorite thing and I know that you always try to see the positive in most situations. Thank you for teaching me how to offer a form of understanding to those suffering and for teaching me how important forgiveness is and how pointless grudges are. 

Thank you for being so connected to your faith. Thank you for taking the time to talk with me about it and for listening to my doubts as well as to my interpretations of the Bible. I won't forget the conversation we had recently at your dinner table. I felt a deeper connection, in not only our faith but, with you after that. 

Thank you for making an impression on my friends. There have been many childhood friends who have shared with me the impact you and mom made on their lives. A while back a girl from school sent me a message and told me that you were the person who introduced her to all the morals she has today and that you brought her closer to God. You took Megan in as if she was one of your own and you made her feel like she was part of a family.  Thank you for being more than just an influence on me but, for the many people who know you.  It's true... to know you is to love you.

I have so many more things to thank you for and I plan on telling you all about them some how. I am sure as time goes on there will be more and more things that make the list, since each day I am reminded of something that sets you apart from others. 

Thank you, Dad, for being you and for being the best father a girl could dream of.
Happy Father's Day.

Always your little girl,

Friday, June 14, 2013

New Beginings

I was offered the job! I will be honest, at first I figured I had the job; no problem, but then when I had to go in to be judged on my personality and have lunch with the staff so that they could get a "feel" for me, I wasn't so sure; we all know how woman can be, especially the ones who may have wanted the position.

Alicia (the office manager), came in to the office this morning  and said that she spoke with Dr. F; who has been on vacation this week, and he wanted to offer me the job. He told her that he knew he liked me and that he would have hired me right away but, she was the one that was going to be working with me closely so she had to get along with me too. She said she knew we would get along  great and that she will have fun working with me. I feel the same way. She has this great demeanor about her and a great energy. She is a soft spoken, sweet person and she laughs at all my wise jokes! I already know that Dr. F and I get along and that we can joke and tease back and forth; we have since I have known him, which has been about 3 years now.  There are a couple girls that can be challenging, I know this because I've been warned by TWO of the staff members already but, you know what? I think I can handle her. I can be a difficult person too and I have dealt with many difficult people, however, I find myself to be very much a people person and I have an ability to build a good rapport with just about anyone; difficult or not.

It will take me a little while to get comfortable since I have never worked in the dental field before. I am picking up on a lot of it pretty quickly but the schedule intimidates me. I am used to one hour blocks and in dentistry there are quite a few 30 minute appointments and double booking. I hate double booking, but in dentistry, it makes sense; assistants can do a lot of the xrays and such giving the doctor time to finish up filing or crowns or whatever the case may be. The trick is not to double book the doctor's time!! Ugh!

When I applied I had requested a wage that was higher than my last full time job and he gave it to me; with benefits and paid vacation and I only work 4 days a week! I am pretty stoked to have the same schedule as Mike. He works 5 days a week but has LOTS of vacation with the city so getting days off is no big deal for him. We will be able to do lots of thing together that we love, like camping!

So, I will work Monday with the entire staff and then I am off until July 9th! We leave for vacation the 20-27 and then the first week of July the office is closed. Until then, I am enjoying my last days of "freedom"!

Thanks for all the luck!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

This Post Has No Name

Sorry about my horribly nasty and negative post a couple days ago. I forget sometimes that I should process things before vomiting my emotions all over everyone.

After I wrote the bitchy post I decided to make myself a juice, read some blogs, and burn off some negativity. I might have woken up in bad mood but I didn't have to stay that way. And I didn't.
I was going to do 30, then 45, then decided 60 would do.
Spinach, celery, cucumber, lime (rind included), ginger, carrot, grape, pineapple, strawberry. 
I am a little saddened every time I see my chart, but then I try and remind myself two things. One, I ovulated on my own and that right there is a great accomplishment. Two, this was suppose to be our rest time, a time to let go of the pressure and stress of ttc. 

After I wrote the post I felt like a real ass. I mean, I have read numerous blog posts or articles about the evil TI and IF from the man's perspective. I've heard it straight; I have even shared the writings with Mike so that he knew, that I knew, we were not alone and so that he knew it wasn't just him; but he already knew that. He never takes anything personal. So, after I burned off some frustration on the elliptical for 64 minutes I regrouped and accepted that it was what it was... and even though our chances are slim, there's still a chance.

Anyone who has been ttc knows that there is nothing worse than the dreaded TI. I think I hate it more than the 2WW. There is so much more pressure involved than one might imagine. There's nothing spontaneous about TI. I wish I could "hide" it from the hubby, but we have been at this for far too long; he knows my cycle better than I do, I swear. I am sure that my emotions play a big part of his "knowledge" but none the less, ovulation is not something I can hide. So, it is not like I can "trick" him into sex. 
In other news, I may have a job! I say "may" because they want to see if I can learn the software and procedures of the office before they make a final offer. I went in last week and shadowed for a few hours and then returned the next day to have lunch with the staff just so that we could all get a feel for each other. After the lunch they called and asked if I would come in a work this week while the doc was out and when he gets back they will evaluate and go from there.

If I didn't know the doctor personally and if he didn't approach me about the job I am not sure I would go through all this with out the commitment of a position. But, the doctor is super cool and his staff is really great. I can also appreciate the fact that they want to make sure they hire the right person for the office and the team. I was just as picky when it came to excepting a job.

I hope that by the time we come back from California they will have a permanent position for me. We leave the 20th and return the 27th and then the office is closed for the week of July 4th, so my start date, as discussed in my "interview" or lack there of, would be the 9th.
The other great thing I like about the office is that when the doctor is gone, usually no one is on the office. I won't get paid for the weeks we don't work, of course, but I am not complaining about ANY time off! 

What else? 

Oh, I had THREE nieces graduate this past weekend from high school! Sadly, we didn't make it to any. One was in Redmond, one was in the valley, and one was in California. We decided if we couldn't go to all, we wouldn't go to one; besides, I really didn't want to sit through 2 hours of graduation anyways! They all understood.

One will be going to Cal Poly for track and getting her teaching degree, the other will be in West Virgina playing water polo and getting her masters in business, and one will be in Seattle getting her degree in ecology. I already have a nephew at UC Berkeley majoring in civil engineering and playing football and a niece at Fresno getting her bachelors! I am such a proud aunt. All 17 nieces and nephews that I have are phenomenal kids and athletes.  I have no doubt they will all go far.

Miss WV Bound- on the right
The Cal Poly Mustang (and the brother) UC Berkeley Bear

The Seattle Pacific Falcon
 My niece that is going to Cal Poly sent me a Facebook message one day that said "Auntie Teresa I must be thinking about you because I had a dream about you last night. I dreamt that God blessed you and Uncle Mike with a baby!" I guess she also told my sister (her mom) that maybe by the time she gets married we will have a baby so that our child can be in her wedding. I just love that girl. She really is amazing. I read her captions on her IG photos and get chills. She is so smart when it comes to life, love and perseverance. Seriously, the girl has drive!

Ahhh, okay I will stop braggin about my amazing family....

On the juicing front things are going well. I have a had a couple nasty drinks but I am learning. I will tell you one thing; I don't care how small of a beet I use, you can still taste that puppy. It is not my favorite. Other than that the juices are surprisingly satisfying; and it is good to know that I am finally getting the  nutrients I need. I will also be extremely honest and tell ya that I even see a difference in my stools. The juicing is beating out the metformin! Yahoo! And since I have been increasing my activity, decreasing my carbs, and the artificial sugars (which I never thought I could do) I have even dropped a few pounds already!

And last... sadly, I noticed today, that I had lost a "follower". Noticing that just goes to show that I need a job! Ha ha! Seriously though, losing followers makes me kinda sad, and yes, I do take it kind of personally, but then again, I take everything personally; just ask Mike!

I guess that is all I've got for now... I am off to study dental codes!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Well, Sh*t!

As you know, I got a smiley face on my OPK five days ago. Ovulation was expected on CD 28, but since my temps didn't rise as quickly as I would have liked, I figured it was a false positive.

We did the deed on the day of the positive test and the next day... but then we had a MAJOR FAIL. We have not bd'd since then, and today, my temp really spiked! 

My heart hurts. I am disappointed and annoyed. I have been waiting to ovulate on my own without any sort of fertility medication for a while now, and when I do, we f*ck up the TI. Awesome. Way to go, team. UGH!!!

In case you can't tell, I am extremely frustrated. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013


I have decided to try juicing. For one, I don't eat enough vegetables and for two, a fellow infertile friend has lost quite a bit of weight in the short time she has been doing it. While I know that there is no "quick fix" I do know that this could help me not only shed some weight but, it will allow me a chance to get the nutrients that I  lack in my diet. I will be sure to add protein into my daily routine as well. I only plan to juice for breakfast; since that is a hard meal for me to put down, and for lunch. Mike and I will consume a balanced dinner each night, together.

I started out with: the juicer (that I got a smoking deal on), kale, spinach, beets, cucumbers, limes, lemons, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, watermelon, grapes, pineapple (they were 10 for 10!) oranges, apples, carrots, mangos, ginger, blueberries, nectarines and celery. (Some stuff Mike will take for lunch, I'm sure.)

My first juice was a kale, apple, ginger and carrot. It was surprisingly good! I am looking forward to trying new recipes, making up my own recipes, and hopefully feeling better.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

CD 27

When I took my temperature this morning there was a slight increase but nothing that made me think this was going to happen...

I woke up feeling fine and then by 9am I had some significant ovary pains on my left side; I have also been having some EWCM off and on for a few days now. But, when I went shopping earlier I could totally feel the pressure on the left side so I decided I would break down and buy more OPKs. Boy, am I glad I did!

I can't believe I ovulated or at least showed a surge on my own with out any fertility meds! I guess you know what we will be doing later....

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Super Sweet...

Risa at "Who Shot Down My Stork" has nominated me for a Super Sweet Blogging Award. This is my second blogging award! Thank you for thinking of me, Risa! You are so great in so many ways... I love that you are so funny and honest in your posts and I love that you advocate for DV. You have touched my heart in several ways.

So, what does this award entail you may be asking? Well... here are the rules:

Thank the person who nominated you
Answer 5 super sweet questions
Include the Super Sweet Blogging award image in the blog post

Nominate 12 other bloggers

Super Sweet Questions:

1. Cookies or cake? Cheesecake, please. Or chocolate mousse!

2. Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate. There's nothing "vanilla" about this girl.

3. Favorite sweet treat? How do I choose?! Almost anything covered in chocolate or anything fruity and chewy! Oh, but my sister makes these amazing cake pops...

4. When do you crave sweet things the most?After a BFN or any day of the week ending in "Y".

5. Sweet nickname? Growing up I was always called "Reece" or "Reece's Pieces" today my husband calls me "Sweet Cheeks". It's just proof that I have always been sweet. ;-)

And now, the 12 Super Sweet Blogs!

1) Not sure if there are no takesies-backsies, but Risa at Who Shot Down My Stork is incredible. She has a this amazing way of making you laugh and cry in almost every blog post she writes. It's great when her hubby Chris shares his view as well. I love hearing the male perspective.

2) Toni and Just T was the first connection I made when I entered the blogging world. She helped direct me to sites that would get my blog out there and she keeps me sane by hosting a great support group on FB. She is so supportive and positive and she has such will power. This girl is going to beat infertility one way or another!

3) Amber at Old Lady No Baby has become such a close friend. She is a fellow Oregonian so I hope we get the chance to meet in person this August when she is in my home town! Amber just went through an FET and is currently pregnant. When I first found her blog she had just lost her baby at 9 weeks. My heart broke for her when I read the post about her miscarriage. But, today I couldn't be happier for her!

4) Teresa at Not Pregnant and Pissed is new to this blogging world but has also become an important person to me. She found my blog, reached out and we connected so easily. Not only is she from the PNW, she has a pit bull, she is named Teresa and is called Reese. The similarities between are pretty awesome! She is struggling with infertility and just went through her first IUI. I love her writing as it is always raw and honest.

5) Aubrey at Two Hearts One Dream is super sweet. Just look at her! Could anyone be any cuter?! Aubrey always leaves the nicest comments on my posts. She is so good about commenting too! Her writings are honest, raw and I love reading them!

6) Jennifer at It's Jennifer Juniper is such a sweet girl! She has been TTC for a few months now and fears she has PCOS as does her identical twin sister. Jennifer's love for her husband is so sweet. She is a kind soul and is so eager to learn more about TTC and is always there to lend some support. It has been a pleasure getting to know her.

7) Heather at I should b is great. Currently she is trying to conceive naturally as she wants to finish up school before they plunge into treatments. Heather is an inspiration on many levels. She not only got herself to ovulate on her own; she has also lost nearly 30 pounds... if not more by now! I think that is pretty darn sweet!

8) Lisa at the Pursuit of Pregnancy is about to become a mommy but she hasn't slowed down on supporting all of her infertile friends. Lisa remembers what it is like to struggle, Lord does she know! She has been through so much and is finally going to be blessed with a take home baby named Graham. Lisa is so kind, caring and is always lending support in the most positive of ways. I am so excited to "meet" baby Graham!

9) Gypsy Mama at Gypsy Mama's Journey writes a blog about IVF and adoption. She has touched my heart with her story. I will admit that I am extremely jealous of her travels! My dream is to be able to pick up and leave someday in order to see many different parts of the world. I admire her ability to seek adventure. I hope that she too, gets a take home baby one way or another.

10) Laura at The Adventures of an Infertile Myrtle wrote a letter to her baby that made me bawl! She is so open in her writing and she is so encouraging in her comments. Laura sent me a fertility monitor that she was not using; kindness like that shouldn't go unnoticed! I just love her smile, too!

11) Mandy at Hakuna Matata also sent me a bracelet last month when we were having such a hard time figuring out what my cycle was doing and right when I was about to give up this awesome bracelet showed up that read "Believe". It was just what I needed! She has been so great in the support group and in the blogging world. I appreciate her level head and honest words.

12) jAllen at Mine to Command amazes me with her athletic abilities. I wish I had that much drive! When I think of swimming, I think of tanning oil, beach towels and booze! jAllen has been so supportive on my blog with her kind comments. She writes such great posts that I always feel like I learned an underlining lesson when I am done reading them.

Wow, that was harder than I thought! I wanted to name about 20! Thanks again, Risa!!

Monday, June 3, 2013


“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” ~ C.S. Lewis

Saturday I received a message from a fellow infertile and friend that her first IUI had failed. Her period greeted her while she was away from home just a couple days before she was going to take a HPT. Her message broke my heart. She not only had to deal with the let down of the failed cycle but, she also just found out that her close friend had gotten a BFP after a few months of trying. Talk about a double whammy.

After I shared the situation with my husband I let the tears fall. He gently reached over and grabbed my hand as I tried to explain why I was upset. At first, I didn't think he would understand, but surprisingly enough, he did. He too understood the pain. I forget sometimes that he is in this battle with me. He knows that these women I tell him about mean a lot to me and he knows that it is easy for me to hurt for them.

Even though it wasn't my period that started; her let down was my let down. That's what happens when I hold people close to me;  I care so much about them that their triumphs are my triumphs, their sorrows are my sorrows, their joys my joys. There's no separation for me. My best friend has always told me that I try and take care of others before myself; she says that I try to take on their burdens as my own. She is right, I do. I  wish I had a magic wand that could remove the pain from all the ones close to me. Especially the ones who are currently in the same boat that I am.

I know how deeply my infertile friends hurt when the cycle fails because I have felt that pain 40 times over as well. I know what it feels like to have your stomach drop at the sight of AF or a negative test, no matter how expected it was. I know the pain, anger, grief and helplessness my infertile friends feel when expensive treatments prove unsuccessful. I know what it's like to be bitter, envious, cold, and at times, mean, when others get a BFP. I know what it's like to want to stay in bed, get shit faced drunk,  and throw in the towel when AF shows up. Believe me, I know!

We share so many raw emotions and details with one another about our journeys to parenthood in this blogging world, that I find it is easy to build a bond with many of the women I have "met" even from behind the screen. Many of them know more about our infertility struggle, not only because I share more of our personal and private details with them, but because they too, are going through the same things; they know more because they can identify full heartedly. 

Infertility has brought so much pain, suffering and debt to my life but it has also blessed me with the opportunity to meet some amazing, strong, selfless, loving women. While I wish I  never had to go through infertility (obviously), I will always value the relationships I've built because of it. I will forever cherish the friendships and lessons I've learned in the past 3 years. Infertility has left me with so much more than just heartache and an empty womb. It has left me with an amazing amount of support, love, and friendships, and it has blessed me with a great deal of compassion.