Animal Day!

I often plan on updating the blog with things, like our vacation with Fred’s parents in Hawaii, or our short individual visits to our families after the death of Fred’s grandpa and my grandma the last few months. I plan on it, frame it in my mind, and don’t do it. Either I get distracted, or lack the motivation to actually do anything, to communicate, is that still depression? I think it is still there. But we are getting better, both of us. We are on a more compatible work schedule, that is helping a lot. There are still challenges, things at work, at church, in life, but we’re getting better. And some days are very good, like Tuesday!

Tuesday was beautiful and we were both not only off work, but awake! So we had a breakfast date and went for a drive out the road (Anton Larsen Road, if you’re following on a map). It’s mostly dirt, going off west-ish of town. And it was a gorgeous day.


At the bay at the end of the road there were several sea otters playing, too far out for my puny zoom to pick up well, but if you know that the blips in the water are otters, then you can see them!

After playing peekaboo with a seal on the way back, we stopped at the Buskin bridge and admired a mother bear and her two cubs!  Our second bear sighting in Kodiak, our first close enough to really tell in pictures!






Catching breath

This spring/summer has been interesting so far. Both of us have been struggling with depression. I got a chest cold that turned into several weeks of chest tightness, with what feels like asthma flareups but may only be allergies. Regardless, it has inhibited our activity level. Vacation is coming up and we are both eager for it, for a break to finish regrouping and refreshing in the sun. At least, we’re praying for sun!

Even with the emotional lows and the energy lags, this time has been good. Good conversations with friends and family. Good rest together. Good time in the sun, when it’s out. And of course, Crab Fest!  

We’ve been working through thoughts on various minor and not so minor things. Hurting for aching loved ones. Starting to form plans to move (hopefully next summer). Buying a used car (because our Kia was falling apart). Talking about adoption again (now that our student loans are almost gone). Praying for our church’s pastoral search and wrestling with conflicting thoughts and feelings during the candidating process. 

Good things, hard things, encouragement and apathy. And then somehow it is June, vacation is coming, the island is turning green, the days are longer. We were surprised and blessed by a visit from my uncle. And we are still in good hands, still anchored fast, in this time of rest as in the time of stress. 

Heaven Babies

I was surprised at the response to my last post and blessed by the prayers and love. Thank you for being family to us and for listening as I process on paper.

This post has weighed on my heart. I am afraid of not finding the right words. What if I can’t condense the scattered thoughts and feeling adequately? What if it ends up stilted? Putting it off for a little while was good, but you will just have to deal with the result if my fears come to fruition.

As most of you know, we prayed for a year before God gave us a child. It was early in 2013, the spring before Mom died. Thank God, she was well at that point and we talked often as the pregnancy progressed.

At 12 weeks and two days, on a Monday, I started spotting. On Wednesday I called the doctor and made and appointment for Thursday. That night I started cramping badly, but the bleeding didn’t intensify. Thursday we went in and the doctor couldn’t find a heartbeat. I hope you never experience that moment. An exam confirmed that the bleeding was uterine and a miscarriage was coming. We cried and went home to wait.

Fred got home from work Friday evening, I was laying on the couch, curled around a hot pack which needed replacing. He left for the store to pick up a new one and about 15 minutes later I felt a big contraction start. I made it to the bathroom and the first gush came–blood, fluid, clots all over my pants and the floor. I knelt in the shower, thinking clean up would be easier that way. Which was true. A minute or two later another contraction came with another gush and a fist sized clot, filling the floor of our little shower. Another couple minutes, another flood and fist sized clot. I called Fred and told him to come right home.

When he arrived I had cleaned up a little, but was still contracting every two to five minutes and still passing large clots with lots of frank bleeding. Had flooded the shower floor several times. It seemed like too much. Fred took one look and started prepping to go to the ER. I stalled for a few minutes, after all it had to stop soon, but it didn’t so we went.

To our little hospital with coworkers as caregivers. To the waiting room in pajamas that I didn’t mind being blood stained, with a towel in my underwear to hopefully protect the waiting room seat. To the ER itself where the bleeding finally slowed, but didn’t stop. Friends brought Fred dinner there and gave us hugs before they left. He didn’t eat much.

An ultrasound showed my uterus filled with blood, not a surprise at this point, but not normal either. We were given a choice between a D&C (dilation and curettage) right then or being admitted for observation with a good possibility of a D&C later that night or in the morning if the bleeding hadn’t stopped. We chose to just get it over with.

I don’t remember anything between the discussion of risks with the doctor and waking up after the procedure. I woke up shaking from the meds and saw an OR nurse I knew somewhat well and Fred. He was shaken, clearly. They gave me more meds to stop the shakes and pretty soon we were on our way home. That morning we had been 13 weeks pregnant. Now we were just numb.

Fred was more traumatized by the hemorrhage and D&C than the miscarriage itself. He was afraid he was losing me.

The next days were hard. Sunday was Mother’s Day. My baby was in heaven and I never got to hold it or hear its heart beat. It’s a strange place to be, a parent with no children. Other people talk about their pregnancies and it feels strange to share about your own, because yours doesn’t really count, real though it was. I had nausea and heartburn too, I bloated and gained a pants size. I had contractions, labor, but no prize at the end.

And then we couldn’t get pregnant again. Or if we did, we miscarried too early to know for sure. There were several months when I wondered. Three years and nothing but periods. Until this March.

Mid-March I felt pregnant. The end of the month my period was late. On April 1st, the test was positive. That was Saturday. Monday, at four weeks and four days gestation, I had a little spotting. Barely enough to notice, surely just implantation bleeding. But it scared me. We were already nervous, scared to hope that this baby would live. And now there was blood. Tuesday morning I woke up at 4 A.M. feeling leaking. I bled that day, but not heavily or steadily and I had no cramping. Not even as much as a normal period. The blood was less that a period too. The next three days I had scant spotting, which seemed ominous, but increased nausea, which seemed hopeful.

Tuesday I repeated a pregnancy test and it was negative. I called the doctor to schedule a blood draw that day to confirm. Wednesday we found out, definitely miscarried. A strange, easy miscarriage, which puzzled me and the doctor, but still a miscarriage. So we have two babies playing with mom and my sibling, with grandparents and the heaven babies of friends.

Getting pregnant at all after those years was encouraging. I tried to focus on that. For a few days I thought it was working, that I was just tired. Then I gave in to grief and its depression. And now we are feeling better, though still more emotional than normal. We’ve had good support, family and a few friends who hoped and grieved with us. Who have held us since. One in particular who has walked this road more than I, told me that Tuesday, when I was bleeding, to take advantage of that day with my baby, even if it was the last. She said to talk to it, sing to it, be with it that day. I did. I’m so grateful to her for the thought, so glad that I did.

So that’s where we are, baby wise. Still praying, resting in God’s timing, sometimes hurting in that resting. “But I know Who holds tomorrow and I know Who holds my hand. ”

Empty Womb, Empty Arms

We don’t like to talk about grief very much. We aren’t good at it. We avoid bringing up the loved one and the events around their death, not realizing that ignoring it hurts more than talking about it. We quote platitudes that are often false and think to ourselves that a little more faith or prayer, or less sin, may have kept the person alive. We are bad at death. We are bad at loss. We are bad at grief.

So we keep our griefs private. We don’t advertise our mental illness, or our loved one’s debilitating disease, or our stifling financial burden. We smile and try to act normal. Or we isolate ourselves and blame others for not having an intuitive knowledge of what’s going on. Loneliness makes our grief heavier and the spiral of breaking continues.

There are socially acceptable griefs, that are more easily shared and understood. A parent dying. A lost job. A divorce. Some griefs, though, are harder to talk about, either because they involve more intimate disclosure, or because they open you up to more unhelpful or hurtful comments. Not that any situation is safe from such comments, but some seem to be more of a magnet for ignorant feedback. Man, so many rabbit trails to explore later.

Anyway, this is an update on a more hidden grief. Not secret, most of our loved ones, maybe all of them, know. Hidden in the sense of intimate. Easy to ignore until it breaks out for some reason and makes itself felt again. Let’s talk about infertility and miscarriage.

I never thought about the possibility of infertility affecting me. I have six siblings, five living. None of my aunts or uncles or grandparents had difficulty conceiving, or at least they all had children. There isn’t a history of it in Fred’s family either. And yet it took us a year, and then almost three years, to conceive. If you haven’t been here, it is heart wrenching. Each period is like a neon sign pointing out the obvious. Still no children. People ask what you are waiting for, assuming that this simple task (getting pregnant) is in your total control. In case you are under that delusion, it isn’t. God opens and closes the womb. After our first miscarriage (which I’ll come back to), we waited over a year before we started the doctor appointments. It’s not like there weren’t life complications that could have been preventing pregnancy. Surely it was just physical and emotional stress getting in the way. But each month the blood came, so we finally started testing.

A year later every test was done and every treatment tried, short of IUI or IVF. Nothing wrong. But still no baby. Okay, so it’s not that we should be changing something, it is purely in God’s hands. Which is good to know, that we are healthy. Healthy, barren. Both. Hoping and longing. Both. Grieving the empty womb. Empty arms.
(This went long so I will make miscarriage it’s own post).

I wrote this poem last year on a rough night. This seemed like an appropriate place for it.

The blood comes, my heart drops,
The answer’s no again.
Am I missing something You want or
is this part of Your plan-
A piece to some larger puzzle that I
do not understand?

I grow weary of questions,
“So how many, one or two?”
“I guess you don’t want babies”
Or “You’re waiting, good for you.”
Do I tell them of my heartbreak,
One who early looked on You?

We’ve done all of the right things,
We’re healthy, loving, kind.
Advice still comes, some welcome,
Some stings from hearts left blind,
thoughtless in its flippancy, blame
casually assigned.

This barrenness deserves the name,
for empty womb and arms
display the blessing that’s withheld
like rainless, dusty farms.
How can we fill the earth for You
if You withhold such charms?

It isn’t that I’m faithless
or without peace in this,
but I do still hurt and struggle
with the pieces that I miss.
With children born unwanted,
in homes touched by Satan’s kiss.

Why should babes be slaughtered?
Why should children be abused?
Why are infants born addicted
or on the world by parents loosed?
Why are those wombs open?
Is this by You produced?

copyright Jonelle Liddell 2016

A New Addition

A couple of months ago, Fred was leaving for work. It was dark and the night had been particularly stormy, blowing roofing off our neighbor’s trailer, tearing limbs from the trees behind us, pouring buckets of rain. The storm hadn’t died down yet, but in the tumult Fred heard a kitten crying. He found it huddled against our neighbor’s trailer, a little black ball of pathetic, a miniature version of our Pepper. He took it to the shelter and we expected someone to claim her. 


 After a few days, we checked and no one had looked for her. So we asked for her. It took 4 weeks for us to bring her home, because she had to be spayed first, but now little Storm is ours and the cats are finally learning to get along!

  It gives us a fun range of the cat lifespan, with a 7ish month kitten, a 4 year old cat (who now tries hard to act sophisticated whenever the kitten is around), and our increasingly senile and stiff Crystal (who can still purr like a motorboat and still loves to sleep with us).  

Storm is learning to be held, Pepper is learning to share attention, and we are already struggling to tell them apart at times. It’ll only get better, right?


Taste of Kodiak


What is Kodiak like?  Like anywhere, you have to be here to understand, but here’s a brief picture.  We have a diverse population.  Lots of Coasties (Coast Guard) come and go, with some Navy folk.  Those military folks come from all around the country and have an ever changing influence on our community.  There are many fishermen, both locals and out of towners.  Some are here longterm and some come for a season, or a few seasons.  Fishing means canneries and Kodiak has several. They have increased our diversity, bringing in a large Filipino population.  There are also El Salvadorans, Samoans, Mexicans, Japanese, and periodically small groups of Ethiopians or Somalis or other nationalities.  Next there are the Alaska Natives, from several tribes.  The rest of us trickle in for a variety of reasons.

So cultural diversity, which usually means religious diversity.  And we have that.  Russian Orthodox, Catholic, and a variety of Protestant churches.  Many churches and church leaders actively cooperate with each other, and people from these diverse backgrounds work and play together.  One of the most beautiful things about Kodiak is fellowship that is shared between groups in the community. 

The town is small and the population is largely transient, so people form quick relationships and the community quickly welcomes and integrates newcomers.  They are plugged into jobs, church groups, local organizations, and the friendships help compensate for being far away from family.  It is a laid back place, where people commonly where Carharts, sweatshirts and Xtra-Tuff boots.  Habits from the lower 48 disappear quickly.  And since this is Alaska, people tend to be fairly independent, helpful, and outdoorsy.  Very outdoorsy.

It’s hard not to be outdoorsy here, the island practically begs you to get out and explore.  Small coastal mountains give way to larger mountains in the island’s interior.  The mountains hug the coast and are surrounded by beautiful forests.  There are birds and animals everywhere.  On a given day, you might see sea otters, Kodiak brown bears, bald eagles, orcas, sea lions, grey whales, and much more.  Our bears are large and scary, our deer are tiny and cute, our salmon run in every waterway, nature here is always awe inspiring.

People here may love hiking, hunting, fishing, kayaking, hocky (on a rink), but one way or another they are likely to be active.  And to spend time in boats.  We have a limited road system, most of the island can only be reached by boat or float plane, though one village is on the ferry route.  People often fly to Anchorage for medical appointments or shopping, or ferry to Homer then drive.  Both modes of travel are expensive, but at least you are off island for a bit.  This matters more for some than others. Kodiak inspires love or hate, few people think it’s just “okay.”  I certainly dont.  Kodiak is our home now and I love it.