Stickers, Stickers, Everywhere!

When I was in the 5th grade I had a beloved sticker collection. Each newly acquired sticker was kept in tact and pristinely placed into a giant photo album where it was safely kept under the shiny plastic to be admired over and over again. I never used any of my stickers (like actually stuck them on anything) and the bigger, puffier and shinier the sticker; the more it was valued. Unicorns and rainbows were hot commodities along with the amazing sheets of scratch and sniff stickers found at the local teacher aid store. Gift shops and drug stores would sell individual designer stickers by Lisa Frank, Suzy’s Zoo (my favorite) and Sandra Boyton. I would save my money so I could buy these special stickers for my collection. It was a big event to go to the mall to buy new stickers. What a thrill to tear the newly found sticker off of the roll and then find the perfect spot for it in my book! 

Designer stickers from the 1980s.
Pictures of my sticker collection.
Other coveted stickers in my collection included Garfield, Pac Man and Snoopy. My friends and I would trade stickers on the playground during recess and get together to admire our collections after school. I belonged to the Lisa Frank fan club where I was matched with a sticker pen pal. We wrote letters to each other and even traded stickers through the mail! I was the shining example of a ten-year old sticker addict! 

Fast forward thirty-five years and I am a forty something with a two-year old little girl who is obsessed with stickers! But unlike her mommy, Lillian gets a thrill from eagerly ripping the stickers off of the sheet and sticking them onto everything! Every time I see her do this my ten-year old self (who never dared to use any of  her stickers) cries out with a silent Aggghhh!!!  She puts stickers on her clothes, on her beloved stuffed Sweetie Pie, and all over her toys.  So there are stickers everywhere! Stickers are stuck to our hardwood floors, in the carpet and one night I even found a sticker in my hair! 

Lillian likes to share her stickers with the people she loves; never expecting anything in return. Visitors leave our house adorned with stickers. I have shown up to multiple rehearsals with a sticker clad shirt and daddy went to work one day only to discover at lunch that he had spent the entire morning sporting a Minnie Mouse sticker on his tie! 

And she doesn’t discriminate when it comes to stickers. As long as they are sticky she is in love! In fact anything adhesive is viewed as a sticker. Last week we went to our local post office to mail a package. While there I picked up a sheet of stamps. Not even thinking I let Lillian pick them out. She got the biggest grin on her face when the nice lady behind the counter handed her a new sheet of “stickers.” She began to rip the expensive stickers off of the sheet while I frantically explained these were special stickers, called stamps, that are used to mail things to people. To my relief, she willingly traded her new sheet of “stickers” for some Goldfish crackers and I celebrated the fact that I successfully prevented a $9.80 mistake from happening!

Lillian loves stickers!

A huge smile appears on her face when the cashier at Target, or one of the grocery stores we frequent, gives her a sticker as we pass through the check out. The little girl in me gets excited when we go to Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe’s has the best stickers! They give each tiny shopper an entire roll of stickers and the stickers are often seasonal and witty, so there is something to be enjoyed on multiple levels. For Thanksgiving they gave out scratch and sniff stickers (for free) and the little 80’s girl who used to save her money to buy stickers could barely contain her excitement! Back in the day the stickers Trader Joe’s gives out would have been a coveted addition to my growing sticker collection! 
The fun stickers from Trader Joe’s!
My old sticker collection is a childhood treasure I am excited to pass down to Lillian. I plan to wait a few years before I give her my cherished possession. Although I would enjoy seeing the excitement on her sweet little face, I would find absolutely no joy in peeling my beloved collection off of our hardwood floors! 

Love Across the Miles 

 I spend most of my days as a stay at home mommy, which I absolutely love! After resigning from McGraw-Hill, when the miracle baby was born, I was offered the opportunity to come back as a per diem consultant. Although the job still requires travel, the arrangement is great. I get to pick how much I want to work and can either accept or decline job assignments presented to me. I try to work a few days each month and sometimes my parents and my little girl travel with me. I am blessed to have the best babysitters in the world (my parents and in-laws).  

I wrote this letter to my little girl on February 3 when I traveled to Washington  state. 

Dear Lillian, 

I see you in the passengers I encounter along the way. You are in the face of the bright eyed toddler embarking on her first airplane adventure with her family. Your enthusiasm for life is seen in the excited teenage girl jetting off on a shopping weekend with her mother. And I feel your love for me through the actions of the middle aged woman helping her elderly mother depart the airport shuttle. 

When I reach the hotel you are there. You speak to me at breakfast when I see the dispenser overflowing with Cheerios and discover that the bananas aren’t too mushy or too green but perfectly ripe, just the way you like them. While I walk on the hotel treadmill my eyes are drawn to the electrical outlets because they are missing the familiar childproof caps I have become accustomed to. When I flip through the channels on the television I hear your giggles and see you enthusiastically clap your hands when Mickey Mouse appears on the screen. 

 And when I look in the hotel mirror I see a reflection of you in the bright blue eyes staring back at me. I see the hard working women who have come before us and those who will follow. I see the shy little girl who over time grew into a strong, independent woman filled with determination. A woman with a sense of family and a passion for the arts. A woman who has a calling to share the gifts God has given her by instructing educators across the country. A woman who strives to be a positive role model to her young daughter. 


Although we may be 1,699 miles from each other and are two time zones apart, my sweet Lillian, you are with me. You are part of me and when you were born my life changed…for the better. I miss you terribly when my work takes me away from you but you are always on my mind and forever in my heart. 

Love,

Mommy

Listen To Your Mother 

The Listen To Your Mother videos have been posted! Now I can share my story with all of you. I still get emotional when I think about my journey to motherhood, “Although my scars may never completely fade, I proudly wear my scars as they provide a reminder of the battles that have been fought and eventually overcome…” Click on the link below and see me share my entire story on stage.

A Fertility Miracle by Jennifer Freeman Talleyhttp://youtu.be/wZpRkePk86g


Being selected as a cast member in this year’s Listen To Your Mother show was a life changing experience. After years of keeping my infertility struggles private, the show provided me the platform to publicly share my journey with the world. It is my desire that by sharing my story I will bring hope and encouragement to women who are struggling with infertility.
 

I proudly shared the stage with a cast full of amazing women who were all strong and creative. Throughout the rehearsals and the two performances I had the opportunity to hear their beautiful stories and see them evolve on stage. Please take the time to watch all of their videos on the Listen To Your Mother You Tube channel. I promise you will not be disappointed and you may want to grab some tissue while you watch because the stories are guaranteed to make you laugh out loud and cry. Now I proudly share my story with all of you.

A Fertility Miracle

By:  Jennifer Freeman Talley

I always knew that motherhood was a privilege, and I never took it for granted.  I actually dreamed of being a mother for most of my adult life.  But, you see, my journey began when I turned 40. Although it might sound cliché, that is when I woke up from a busy life as an educational consultant, musician and wife and realized my maternal clock was ticking and that the time for me to give birth to a child of my own was running out.

After trying naturally for six months, while having vile after vile of blood drawn and undergoing countless tests, my self-prognosis was correct. I had a low ovarian reserve, and the probability of conceiving a child with my own eggs was low, although not impossible. In total, we did seven iuis, intra-uterine insemination which is artificial insemination. Not as romantic or as sexy as my husband and I had intended!  We did this month after month without any success, so, it was clear to see that IVF, In-Vitro Fertilization was our one and only chance at conceiving.

I entered the world of IVF with the statistics glaring me in the face. For the over 40 crowd, I had a 12% success rate and the percent was growing smaller and smaller with each passing day.

I was scared. I was scared of the needles and what would happen if it didn’t work? Do we have enough money to do this and do I want to take time off of work?

After agonizing about it and through lots of prayer, my husband and I realized this was the best option for us to have a child.  So, we jumped on the emotional roller coaster that is IVF.

Although IVF is becoming more common it is often not talked about. It is a secret that gets hidden away and at first we were reluctant to share our journey with even our parents and close friends. So I joined an online support group for women who are undergoing fertility treatments.

I became friends with women from all over the world. Three women were with me through my entire journey. One friend was a neighbor to the north and lives in Canada, another was from across the pond and resides in England and the last, lived a bit closer to home in Oklahoma.

I would have never had the strength to continue my journey if it wasn’t for their love and support. Although we have never met in person and each of our journeys look different, the pain and hurt we suffered united us and we share a bond that will connect us for the rest of our lives.

Unfortunately, my first IVF cycle was cancelled as my body did not respond to the medication. I learned later this is not uncommon and there are many women both young and Geriatric like myself that do not have success the first time around. (Did you know that ANY woman over the age of 35 in the fertility world is considered a senior citizen?) We decided to give IVF another chance as the doctors had learned a lot from my first cycle.

I wasn’t looking forward to being a human pin cushion yet again but was determined to do whatever it took to get my miracle baby. Although painful, the injections administered daily by my devoted husband never hurt as much as the heart wrenching pain of an unsuccessful cycle. My second cycle resulted in the doctors retrieving two eggs! But then the doctor called and I felt numb when she gave me the news, “I am sorry but neither of your eggs fertilized.” My doctor said there was one last protocol they could try but she sadly didn’t sound very convincing that it would even work.

I was going to give up but something told me to carry on. I began doing my own research and read success stories about 40 something’s giving birth with the help of IVF, and this kept my hopes alive. I began seeing an acupuncturist, began taking herbal supplements to improve my egg quality. Could there be one good egg left in me yet? I cut out caffeine, stopped using scented soaps, perfumes and body washes and began to meditate. I also began researching doctors and got a second opinion.

That’s when one of my cyber sisters from Canada recommended I see a doctor she had researched for me. He had a pretty high success rate for woman over 35 and his office was only a few miles from my house so I said, “Why not?  I have nothing to lose in getting a third opinion.”

My husband and I were blown away by this new doctor. He was unlike any doctor we had ever spoken to. Although the statistics he shared were the same, the sparkle in his eye, his compassion and acknowledgement of our journey so far was unlike anything we had experienced. He said he could understand our want and desire to conceive a child that was genetically ours and said although it was like throwing a ‘Hail Mary Pass’, if we were willing to try he would be happy to take our case. We left his office truly feeling like he wanted to help us and not just take our money. And he and his staff at Fertility Partnership were cheerleaders throughout the process. Dr. Simckes uses humor to put his patients at ease. I couldn’t help from laughing when he burst into the operating room singing the theme song from the Looney Toons or played air guitar during an exam. His commitment to his patients was like no other.

Sadly, my first cycle with him ended in a chemical pregnancy. But we got embryos this time, and although it was a chemical pregnancy –  I got pregnant! Our insurance was about to run out, but we had enough left to cover one more cycle, our LAST cycle no matter what the end result may be.

I entered that last cycle knowing I had done everything I could have possibly done and although I may live with regret, I counted all of the blessings I had in my life and trusted that if God wanted me to be a mother, He would find a way for it to happen.  I just knew in my heart that I would be a mother someway, somehow, someday.

Well, the last ‘Hail Mary Pass’ resulted in a TOUCHDOWN, a positive pregnancy! A pregnancy that Dr. Simckes would declare a fertility miracle!

I was on pins and needles throughout the first trimester and must have requested an ultrasound every week just to make sure the baby’s heart was still beating. My dad eagerly volunteered to be my traveling companion on work trips. He carried my luggage, took over the driving, brought me lemon aide which eased my morning sickness and even injected me with daily progesterone shots because I was afraid of the long needles and could never administer them to myself! You may think I have an overprotected father but I am an only child and I was now carrying his grandchild, a grandchild he and my mother prayed for but never thought they would have.

After what ended up being a perfect pregnancy, our dream came true 18 months ago when I gave birth to little Lillian Clare, 39 days before my 43rd birthday!  Even though everything about her birth was planned from conception to a scheduled caesarian delivery, and there were countless detours and bumps along the way, little Lillian is a miracle baby, a true gift from God. She defied statistics, and is a medical amazement.

My journey to motherhood taught me to remain positive and to look for the good in even the darkest time, to live without regret and to preserve even when the odds are against you. I learned it is OK to cry, and although you may feel alone, there are others who are experiencing the same fate.

Although my scars may never completely fade, I proudly wear them as they provide a reminder of the battles that have been fought and eventually overcome through the support of family and friends, a doctor who was both sympathetic and comedic and “babydust” from cyber sisters from around the world.

 

The Bag Lady

You can tell a lot about a woman by looking at her purse. From the type of purse or bag she carries to the contents inside, her purse gives a glimpse into her world and sheds some light on her personality. 

I remember the cute designer purses I carried in high school. My favorite was a “pleather” Liz Claiborne in taupe. It was expensive and one of my prized possessions. We had to go to the department store to buy it and I remember agonizing over what color I wanted. After much debate my mom and dad convinced me that taupe was a good choice because it would go with everything. I really didn’t care what color it was because all of the “cool” high school girls in the late 80’s carried one and now I had one too! It was small so there wasn’t a lot of room to keep much in it. I remember getting a matching wallet for Christmas one year and I would bet good money there were several tubes of lip gloss and a mini can of hairspray inside. It was the 80’s after all. 

  
I don’t recall what ever happened to that purse but styles changed, I grew up and started college and then I was too busy trying to graduate in four years to care about what kind of purse I carried. I had moved beyond a cute designer purse to a big practical back pack. Mine was an East Pak and it carried all of my heavy textbooks, notebooks and mechanical pencils. I think it was hunter green but it really didn’t matter, it was the early 90’s and it paired well with one of my floral babydoll dresses or with my oversized college sweatshirt and scrunchee. 

When I graduated from college and began my teaching career I carried a canvas bag that said “#1 Teacher” in red stenciled letters. It was hand decorated with a drawing of a ruler and an apple and was a gift from a former preschool student and his parents. I proudly carried this bag to school on my first day as a kindergarten teacher and it held my plan book and a red Open Court phonics teacher edition. It paired well with the corduroy jumpers I wore.

When I graduated from teaching kindergarten to teaching on the college level I traded in my canvas tote for a more distinguished bag…. a messenger bag. With this bag I carried students papers, textbooks and educational journals. This is when I traded in my paper calendar for a PDA (personal data assistant). I also started carrying a computer bag for my laptop computer. My first laptop must have weighed over twenty pounds!

Then I became a full time educational consultant and I began traveling every week for my job. A purse was an extra carry on and since you are only allowed two (and I never wanted to check my bags) I found throwing my personal effects into my work bag was a great solution. My work bags evolved over the years from a briefcase with wheels (to carry an oversized projector) to designer computer bags. My bags became worn from travel and from me over stuffing  them with consultant request forms, presenter notes, snacks and a heavy laptop. I found myself buying a new one every year. As the laptops got smaller and lighter, my bags got smaller and more stylish. Sometimes I stepped out of my comfort zone and bought a bright red bag instead of basic black.  

Today my life is so busy I have four bags. Each bag is used for a different purpose and each one represents a role I proudly play in life. 

The first bag is made of hard black leather. It is worn around the edges from the many trips it has taken on an airplane carrying my necessary work accessories: Surface Tablet, wireless presenter, cords and adapters. If you dig deep into the bottom of this bag you would find an old airline ticket, loose change and crumbled up pieces of paper with random notes from teachers. It represents my work life and I carry it a few times a month when I leave my role as a stay at home mommy to work as a per diem consultant.  
 The next bag is also black but it is constructed of nylon so it won’t get wet and it is padded for extra protection from the elements. This is my gig bag and it holds my clarinet, folders full of music, reeds and a stand light. If you dig deep into the bottom of this bag you will find programs from concerts played and long forgotten, some broken old reeds, a stray tube of cork grease and a broken pencil or two. I carry this bag back and forth to weekly rehearsals and to monthly performances. 
 The last bag is covered in a playful black, white and red design. It is made from a waterproof material and is designed to take a beating. This is my diaper bag and it contains much more than diapers and wipes. In this bag you will find an extra set of clothes, a bib, toys, snacks, a sippy cup, Boogie Wipes and those plastic disposable placemats the baby eats off of at restaurants. This bag has built in crumb holes at the bottom to easily clean out the random Cheerios and Goldfish Crackers that have found their way to the bottom of the bag. The bottles I used to carry in this bag have been replaced with organic baby food pouches. It isn’t overly feminine looking and my father in law feels comfortable carrying this bag when he babysits. 
 As I reflect on all of the purses and bags I have carried in my life, the diaper bag is the bag I carry with pride. It represents the most important job I will ever have…a mother. And of all of the bags it was the most difficult one to pick out. In fact, I just couldn’t make up my mind so I bought two diaper bags before my daughter was born. That is where the fourth bag comes in. It is a designer looking baby bag with a sophisticated pattern and it resembles a purse more than a diaper bag. Now that my daughter is approaching 18 months I have begun using it. It has a ton of compartments to carry all of the necessary baby paraphernalia along with a pocket just for mommy. It is the best of both worlds as it is both practical and stylish. I didn’t realize this when I bought the bag but when I take a closer look I see it resembles the prized Liz Claiborne purse I carried as a teen. This bag represents the smart mature mommy I am today along with the optimist carefree girl of the past. And in case you wanted to know, inside the mommy pocket you will find my cell phone, wallet, a power bar and a tube of lip gloss safely tucked away.  
 

Birthing A New Song

   

 Julie Giroux’s Heartland Portraits

I recently had the privelage of being part of the premier performance of Julie Giroux’s Symphony No. 5 “Heartland Portraits.” This commission was made possible through a generous donation by Pete Poletti, principal tuba and a charter member of the Saint Louis Wind Symphony.

The Saint Louis Wind Symphony had the opportunity to rehearse the symphony with Julie, the talented composer, prior to the premiere performance. During the rehearsal Julie would stop the ensemble and explain that she wanted the first movement played at a slower tempo. Later she commented that another part needed to be played softer so we dropped to one player on a part for a few measures. In the second movement she noted that she wanted a louder cymbal crash in a particular measure. It was clear that she was passionate about her work and she listened to every note with clear intent. 

Participating in this process made me think that as a composer Julie had “given birth” to the notes on the page and they were truly a part of her, an extension of who she is. She was sharing her raw emotion, her intimate thoughts and feelings. By sharing her work with us she was giving up control and was trusting us to care and love her work as much as she does. Just like a mother who trusts a teacher or caregiver to love and nurture her children when she is away from them. She was trusting us to tell her musical story. 

She told the musicians something that day that resinated with me and I find I am reflecting on her words weeks later. She said she didn’t expect us to play every note on the page correctly, noting that no performance is ever perfect. Besides, the audience won’t know if some of the notes aren’t right. What she wanted from us was emotion. Stating that the emotion will move the audience more than playing the right notes. She said, “After all, it is the emotion in life that makes life worth living.”

As a mother I strive to play every note right and make sure I give my daughter enriching experiences where she can learn and grow. I want her to eat healthy foods, live a happy childhood and be well rounded. I often find myself stressing that I am not doing enough for her or that I am making mistakes. For example, should I enroll her in swimming lessons? Sometimes I forget to have her brush her teeth before bed. She goes to bed later than her friends. On play dates she doesn’t like to share. Will she develop poor eating habits after she had a taste of ice cream? The worrisome list goes on and on….

Just like Julie Giroux and her message to us before the premiere performance, deep down I know that I will never play every note right, even with a lot of practice. I can read book after book on parenting and research online but I will still make mistakes and that is ok! My daughter won’t even remember the small imperfections as long as I surround her with my love and support. What is more important is that my daughter knows that her mommy loves her unconditionally, even when she makes mistakes! That she has a mommy who cries with her when she is sad and laughs with her when she finds something amusing. Julie gave me more than the gift of composing a new piece of music that day. She reminded me that I want to be a mommy who isn’t afraid to say I’m sorry and one who focuses on the emotion in the world instead of focusing on the precision of making sure every note is played right.