Thursday, December 31, 2009

Reading Time

by Sarah

Hands down one of my favorite times of the evening is when Joe gets out his giant Calvin and Hobbes books and reads to Luke.  We all snuggle up,  Joe puts his hand on my belly and reading time begins. It is fun to laugh together and to do this as a family- but most important is the bonding between Joe and Luke that is going on....I'm just a lucky bystander.  I absolutely cherish the way that Joe desires to spend intentional time with his son and am reminded again and again by his actions that I have married an amazing man who is also a fantastic father. Luke is a lucky boy.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Love Shower

by Sarah

A few weeks ago several of my friends gathered together for a holiday cookie exchange and to encircle Luke and I in prayer.  It was not a baby shower in the traditional sense, but it was a gathering for the purpose of honoring and praying for Luke and I- and it was like nothing I have ever experienced before.  It was a powerful afternoon spent among the company of incredible women who have not only walked beside me during this difficult season, but who have also stood guard around Joe, Luke and I through prayer, encouragement and steadfast support.  They have truly gone to battle on our behalf whether it be helping to keep our spirits up, loving on Luke, praying over us publicly and privately, helping to carry the burden of sharing our heartbreaking news with others in hopes that we would have to repeat ourselves one less time...  Yes, these women have stepped into the gap and have helped to hold us up and continue forward when we have only wanted to lay down.

Sitting in that lovely room on that gloomy afternoon, I was completely humbled by the army of warrior women God has placed around me during this season.  Some have been friends for decades, while others have only entered my life recently- yet all have made an incredible impact on my life.  I am humbled by their ability to step into the fire with me and hold my hand.  They have wiped my tears and listened to my cries.  They have rubbed my belly and talked directly to Luke.  They have not been afraid and have not turned away as human beings are so prone to do when life gets difficult or hard.  They have stepped forward and offered their strength, their arms, their ears, their shoulders, their time, their talents, their energy, their creativity, their homes and their prayers.  And the ultimate humbling fact was that there are so many more women out there who have done these things for me who were not present that afternoon.  God continues to open my eyes to these amazing people in my life and to truly see and appreciate the richness of the blessing that they are to me.  He continues to open my eyes to this wonderful blessing so I am sure not to miss it or forget it as can happen in the midst of crisis.  He continues to show me time and time and time again that I am most certainly and absolutely NOT alone.

Our time of prayer that afternoon was powerful.  God was glorified for the amazing work he continues to do in Luke and how he is using his short, sweet life to touch so many others.  I felt strengthened and loved and encouraged and surrounded and so, so grateful for the rich blessings that continue to flood into my life during this darkest of seasons.

Towards the end of the get together - these wonderful women bombarded me with one final, giant Love Bomb (no other way to adequately describe it!)  They had each brought something for me to open during the month of January after Luke's arrival- a huge basket of TLC! I was completly not expecting this and of course burst into tears when I realized what it held and how much love was wrapped up in there for me.  Some items were wrapped, others were not (I can see comfy PJs, some funny books and DVDs, some recipes....) ...I have not opened a single one yet as I decided to wait and open one each day...starting when I get home from the hospital and after Luke's service...something to look forward to every day when I'm at home resting and recovering.

With Luke's diagnosis, it obviously was not appropriate to have a traditional baby shower per se, but this Love Shower was exactly perfect.  I have never been to one like it before and personally think that every woman should experience something like it in her lifetime (although minus the tragic circumstances of course!)  I was reminded in so many ways of how loved we are and cherished how Luke's life and impact were honored.  We were lifted up in prayer and wrapped up in love.  Sometimes, even amidst the seemingly never ending storms in my life lately, I just cannot help but think that I'm a very lucky girl and my heart cannot help but whisper "Thank you, God."

Dreaming of a White Christmas...

by Sarah

Well, we have made it to this side of Christmas.  Our holiday was a bittersweet one filled with emotion, tears, smiles, and family.  We stayed here in KC under doctor's orders and enjoyed four solid days of R&R together as a little family.  Joe and I had been talking for over a week about how much we would love for Luke to have his one Christmas be a white one.  However, in KC, those are extremely rare...especially when just two days before the temperature was nearing 50!  But God must have had something special in mind for sweet Luke because it didn't just snowed BIG TIME!  And not just a couple of inches, but a full on Christmas Eve blizzard that continued on into Christmas day- complete with warnings and the works! It was spectacular and wonderfully cozy.  It looked like something out of a movie or what you would see in the mountains, only we were home!  We received over a foot of snow before all was said and done.

Here is how one of our local weathermen described the event:
 Here is what just happened:
  • The biggest Christmas Day snow storm in Kansas City's recorded history
  • A blizzard on Christmas Day with 40 to 50 mph winds & heavy snow
  • The first 6 inch snowstorm in over four years
  • A five day precipitation event with rain, thunderstorms, sleet, and snow
  • Four straight days of measurable snow
Not to shabby!  Little Luke got his white Christmas in a very special and memorable fashion!  In honor of the big snow, we took some time as a little family to build a snowman in our front yard- Luke's first.  Well, it started out to be a snowman, but as we were creating his head, we noticed that he was developing two lumps so we made him into a snow-cub.  It was a lot of fun to do that together.  He's still standing watch outside the front door.  The snow seemed to make everything more peaceful and beautiful and quiet...maybe even in our hearts a little bit.  Joe had put up lights on our bushes and those looked even prettier under a coating of snowflakes.  It will be sad to take down the lights - they have added a lot of brightness to our home this season.

We attended two Christmas Eve services, one on the 23rd at our church, Heartland, and one on the 24th at Village Church (where my parents attend). Both were beautifully heartbreaking in their specialness to us.  The traditional singing of Silent Night with lit candles took my breath away with its simple, familiar beauty.  Standing there next to Joe in the candlelit sanctuary with one hand touching my belly in effort to hold Luke as close as possible while listening to the beautiful singing of everyone while the blizzard raged just outside the window was too much beauty for my heart to hold.  The tears and sobs choked their way out and I didn't care.  I tried to take a mental picture to forever capture that moment in my heart. I will cherish those few minutes in my heart every time I hear that song or sing it on Christmas Eves in the future....however, I wonder if they will ever be as beautiful to me as that moment in time was.  Even though I have done that literally more than thirty times, this one was different for me.  It was truly beautiful.   This season I have been profoundly aware of all of the music about newborn babe's, mother and child, joy to the world, music about anticipating the birth of a baby, the specialness of being a mother at Christmastime, the emphasis on the birth of Jesus...I have heard the carols of the season with fresh ears this year and my heart has been penetrated in new ways as these oh so familiar songs have taken on new meaning.  Although, I personally have not felt much joy.  This year I have had a much more personal experience of the season and the reason for why we celebrate I pray never leaves my heart....even though I realize that the catalyst for my deeper experience will be leaving my physical body all too soon.

We spent the night at my parent's house and had a great time playing dominoes with mom until the wee hours of Christmas morning. We loved sleeping over - especially when we woke up the next morning and didn't have to drive anywhere in the less than stellar conditions- we could just wander out to the kitchen and get some coffee and look out at the untouched white snow that was everywhere! The tree at mom and dad's was beautiful and our gift giving was a lot of fun.  Luke was a busy shopper this year, so almost everyone received a little something from him which was fun.

Now the decorations have been packed away, the tree wrestled out the door and Luke's ornaments placed in special boxes awaiting their return next year.  The house seems empty and almost sad without all of the festive lights and special holiday items around....similar to our hearts.  As this season of Christmas winds down, our hearts feel heavy and sadder by the day as our next difficult season rapidly approaches.  One thing I know is that we will look back on this single Christmas we were blessed to share with Luke and remember it warmly. We will ALWAYS be thankful that this particular Christmas was the biggest white Christmas in Kansas City history and perhaps was a little whisper from God for Kansas City's youngest resident?  Maybe.  Only God knows that for sure.  But in my mind and heart, and the way I will always remember this Christmas is that it was all for Luke.  All the beauty and richness and love our hearts could handle...and then some.

    Wednesday, December 23, 2009

    Tears, Scripts and Being Normal

    by Sarah

    It is difficult- these days of my life. I am overflowing with thoughts to be captured, yet when I sit down to write, all that comes out are tears- no words. I find that the tears are barely harbored just below the surface and all it takes is a whisper of a thought, a lyric of a song, a glimpse of a baby, a kind hug, eye contact from a friend who is walking alongside of me during this season, a sweet card in my mailbox...and I'm done.  The tears spill out over the brim of my eyes and they are hard to stop once they get going.  If I am alone, its a relief to release the floodgates and let the tears pour out...exhausting, but a relief just the same.  However, if I am in public or with someone, inevitably the person I'm with begins crying too or there is an apology offered for "making me cry."  I try and explain (through my tears) that this place of sadness and crying is where I live now and where I have been living for the past four months....that they didn't make me cry...I am pretty much crying all the time- especially lately...

    I'm positive that I've gotten some second looks as I walk through Target with tears on my cheeks, or as I sit sobbing at a stoplight or in a restaurant, but what I've learned these past few months is that crying in public does not kill you.  It may kill your "impression" you make on strangers, and it may kill your make up application, but really, who cares? I'm learning that there are so many more important things in life than worrying about if your waitress feels uncomfortable offering to refill your water glass as you wipe away some honest tears.

    A lot of my time is spent among people who know what is going on with Luke- coworkers, friends, family, church community...and that is a relief to me- to not have to explain what is happening over and over again.  I've been asked numerous times what I say or how I respond when people ask me about the baby and while at first it was difficult to find the words, I've since gotten a pretty good handle on it- at least most of the time.

    I typically have two versions of what I say- the first is for people in my life who I will see again and who will notice if I do not have a baby with me, and the second is for folks whom I will never see again or who happened to catch me at a time when I'm not feeling particularly brave.  It typically goes something like this:

    Scenario 1
    Person I know: OHHHHH! You're pregnant! Congratulations! When is your baby due?  Do you all know what you're having? I'm so happy for you!!! (typically asked in rapid-fire mode)

    Me: Yes...we are expecting a baby boy in January and his name is Luke, but there are some pretty serious complications with his health and he is not expected to survive after being born...(que tears, look of horror, shock, panic on their face) but we are keeping him with us as long as we can and trying to savor every day that he's with us...

    Person I know: Oh God! I'm so sorry....(usually there is an awkward silence...they typically look away or begin tearing up)...

    ---then depending on how well I know them, people sometimes ask about what the complications are and how we are doing with the news and it opens up a genuine heartfelt discussion which typically involves tears from both parties and a great conversation.  If I don't really know the person all that well, the conversation pretty much stops at that point because it is just such a difficult revelation to process (I know because I've tried to process it!) People just simply do not know what to say or how to respond because they feel horrible about bringing it up in the first place (which talking about pregnancy is pretty least among women) and their version of the happy pregnancy paradigm has been shattered. 

    In my experience, people have later told me that they felt so badly for asking me or for bringing it up at all or for not knowing what to say in response!  And I understand all of that.  I truly do.  The main thing I try and share with people is that it's important for people to know and understand what is going on with Luke because not only does it honor his life but it also honors our time with him.   It also clarifies the future expectation that I will not have a baby to talk about or pictures to share....and I would MUCH rather people know up front than ask me on the other end of the journey....

    These conversations are hard, but I'm becoming braver in them.  I'm learning that it is always best to be upfront and honest about what is going on with Luke because you just never know who you are talking with or what their experiences have been.  I am growing to deeply admire people who are not afraid to talk with me about what is going on- as long as they do it in a respectful way (I've had a few very hurtful and difficult run-ins, but thankfully those have been rare).  I have also encouraged those around me to share the news as well if they are asked- not to be gossipy, but more to help me manage the burden of delivering and explaining  this heartbreaking news....and simply because some days I just do not have it in me to share.

    The second scenario is the easy one- the one where I'm just the "normal pregnant girl" who is talking about her baby:

    Stranger: OH!! You're pregnant! How far along are you? When are you due? Boy or Girl? Can I touch your belly?  Are you excited? Do you have a name? Is this your first? (again with the rapid-fire questions)

    Me: (smiling) Yes- We are expecting a baby boy in January....his name is Luke...we are excited and feel very blessed....(and that is typically all I say/allow for in those interactions)

    The end.  Blissfully simple. Easy. Normal.

    It is so nice in those moments to dip my toe into normal again...there is still a tug on my heart and a deep ache within when this conversation is taking place, but unless they can read minds or notice there is not a sparkle in my eye as I say it, they do not have any idea of my reality and its refreshing to blend in a little bit and feel normal again- if even for a brief moment.

    Finishing one Kind of Work to Begin Another...

    by Sarah

    I had my last official day of work on Monday, December 21st and I got very emotional as the time neared for me to leave the office.  Typically when it is your last day of work before a vacation, you are excited and eager to leave- looking forward to what is ahead.  However, I was not.  I was unsettled, anxious, tearful and was the last time that Luke would be at work with me, kicking me as I sat at my desk, causing me to feel out of breath while I talked with kids, filling up the chair I sit in...the last time we would be there together. I cried as I drove away from there....knowing and realizing how vastly different I will be when I return.  I cried because I wasn't leaving for a vacation...I was leaving to begin the saddest and most difficult season of my life...and even though it's time, I'm still not ready.  I cried because the chapter of going to work and having that routine was closing for us.  But mostly I cried because I knew it was time for the REALLY difficult part to begin.

    Even though I was feeling all of these things, I was also feeling a tad bit relieved at no longer having to feel "pulled together" or "focused" on professional topics when my heart and mind were truly always elsewhere. I felt relieved to finally feel able to honor my emotions and feelings as they arise during the day without having to bottle them and have them burst forth later in the evening on the drive home or upon arrival back home. I felt relief at being free from an environment where everyone knew what was going on, but only a few spoke or asked about Luke for fear of upsetting me or of not knowing what to say...understandable, but still difficult.  I will miss seeing the faces of the fantastic women on my team who have helped me to stay up on my feet these past few months with their support, love, hugs, encouragement, patience, tears and true friendship.  I would not have survived without their TLC everyday...besides Joe, they were the ones around me the most on a daily basis- and that cannot have been easy..and they took great care of me.

    As I prepared to depart, my teammates and coworkers from another team bombarded me with love.  Instead of exchanging gifts with one another, they collected money and purchased gift cards for me for many of my favorite places to help me along my path to recovery.  There were gift cards for home decor places, bookstores, coffee shops, a salon, itunes etc... I was completely overwhelmed by their thoughtfulness and absolute generosity of heart. It is beyond humbling to feel wrapped in so much love and support by the people in your life.  God continues to show me amidst this dark season that no matter how I may be feeling or what I am facing, my cup indeed, runneth over.

    So as this chapter of work ends for me in this season of my life, the next form of "work" begins...the work of preparing my mind, spirit, body and heart for what is ahead, the work of creating a restful environment in which to recover, the work of physically having a baby, the work of emotionally and physically saying goodbye to my sweet, adored baby boy, the work of honoring his life both publically and privately, the work of grieving and mourning, the work of recovering physically and the mighty work of healing- heart, spirit and body. 

    My head is bowed as I begin this next phase of the journey...Lord, I am praying for a willing, teachable and plyable heart as we enter this season together.

    - ..."Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go." 
                                     -Joshua 1:16


    by Sarah

    Since December 4th- one month from Luke's delivery date- arrived, I have felt every semblance of composure slipping away from me...a feeling which has only increased in intensity as the days of December have sped by. With the passing of December 4th, sweet Luke's final month has arrived and along with it, the dawning realization that everything will start to be our 'last' with him.  When I think about this, I sometimes  feel like I cannot breathe.  The arrival of this final month has also kicked into high gear my own mental countdown and attempt at preparation for the dreaded, approaching reality...which is proving to be simply almost too much to bear.

    There has been so much that I have wanted to document here on the blog, but I have truly struggled with finding actual words to put to the thousands of tears marking these days that are passing by far too quickly.  It's strange because while they are days I want to always remember, its almost as if my brain will not let me encode them with written language- that they are being written on my heart where no language or words are necessary....but I'm still going to try.

    Along with many wonderful experiences, we have also had some challenging "lasts" as well.  In the past few weeks we have had our final sonogram, final OB appointment, finalized our birth plan, finalized Luke's honoration service details, started packing for the hospital, have been crossing off things on our "bucket" list of things we want to be sure to do with Luke while he is here, had my last day of work, had my last blood draw prior to delivery, had our maternity photos taken...a season of "lasts" that just crushes my heart to recognize.  As difficult as this part of the season with Luke has been, the reality that its coming to a close is bringing with it an avalanche of emotion...a recognition that he will soon not be here with us to feel kicking and moving and growing...that he will soon be gone...only alive in our hearts...

    How do you hold on tightly to someone you must also let go of?

    Even though I know what we are approaching is not the end of our story, it certainly feels that way in these moments and days. I cannot see beyond them.

    Sunday, December 20, 2009

    November, the rest of the story...

    by Joe

    They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  Well I'll keep the words brief, and show some pictures that go with our posting titled, November.

    Our church home, Heartland Community Church, opened in their new home.

    Luke's first snow in Estes Park.

    Welcome to Christmas in Bugville, this scene tickles Luke's mom's heart.

    Touring Rocky Mountain National Park.

    Luke left his mark at the Dunraven Inn.

    The Pioneer Woman came to Kansas City...

    ...and Sarah was there with her friends.

    Luke's dad learned to not make bacon in the waffle maker.  No matter how good the bacon tastes.  After two hours of clean-up and funny looking waffles, it's simply not worth it.

    Jozey, came to keep us company for Thanksgiving.

    Luke's dad was surprised by homemade Harvest Fruit pie on Thanksgiving.


    Luke and his mom and dad got to see the Plaza lights turn on while we enjoyed the warmth of the cider at the InterContinental's Oak Bar.

    Luke goes shooting with mom.

    Gathering our first real Christmas tree.

    Our home all cozy ready for Christmas, friends, and snow.

    Monday, December 14, 2009

    Logistics and Love

    by Joe and Sarah

    Days are flying by and as we draw closer and closer to Luke's arrival, we are continually overwhelmed by people's loving kindness-es toward our little family.  Based on the consistency of several questions being asked, we wanted to post and share some logistical information that you may be wondering about yourselves.  So please know that we harbor no expectations of any sort- but just wanted to share the following information should you be interested.

    Luke will be born via C-section at 9am on January 4, 2010 at Overland Park Regional Hospital.  We will be posting ways you can specifically be praying for us on this day and leading up to this time in a future post.  We are asking that there be no visitors on this day as it will be extremely difficult for us and for our families. 

    We have planned a service to honor Luke's life that will be held on January 9, 2010 at 3:30pm.  It will be held at Village Presbyterian Church and is open to anyone who would like to come. 

    We have received many, many kind offers to bring us meals in the days and weeks following Luke's birth and passing and are deeply touched by everyone's thoughtfulness and love for us in this area.  Our dear friend Katie has offered to coordinate these meal offers and their delivery for us.   If you are someone who has expressed interest in doing this for us, we ask that you would please contact Katie at: so that she can help facilitate this.

    Again- we continue to be so deeply and sincerely touched by everyone's outpouring of love for our family during this season.  We have many updates to the blog that will be posted soon as there has been so much happening lately, but we wanted to get some of the logistical questions answered first as they seem to be what we have been asked about the most as of late.  We love you and cherish your prayers and support and we simply thank you will all of our hearts.

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009

    Girl Power

    by Sarah

    I used to be naive.  I used to believe that pregnancy was one of the most lovely and beautiful times in a woman's life- a time where her dreams of finally becoming a mother are within her reach and she is happy all the time.  A time where women cannot help but look beautiful and radient.  A time where everything is exciting and that if you take care of yourself and receive great prenatal care, you will have a happy, healthy baby at the end of a long wait.  While some women are lucky enough to experience pregnancies like that, I'm not that girl any more.  Before we found out about Luke's diagnosis, I had never really considered all that could go wrong with a pregnancy.  I knew of course, that it was possible for there to be some kinds of complications while pregnant, but in my heart I believed that with today's technology and medical services available, that these complications were more inconveniences and could more than likely be remedied. I did know about miscarriages, but actually believed that once you made it out of the "danger" window of that first trimester, you were free to breathe a little bit easier and no longer had to worry about your baby not surviving.

    What I know now is a lot more about the heartbreak and dark side of pregnancy than I ever imagined existed. I feel like my innocence and joy of becoming a mother has been taken away from me.  While I will hopefully be blessed enough to have more children, I do not think I will ever feel freely happy until that baby is declared healthy and is placed in my arms.  I no longer look at pregnant women around me and simply think about how beautiful they look to me- I now wonder if their babies are okay, or if they are secretly heartbroken and walking around sad, scared and worried like me. I find myself whispering prayers for pregnant ladies I see everywhere...prayers for their babies, prayers for the mamas...prayers for what I cannot see or do anything to help or fix.  I have learned that being pregnant and becoming a mother is not always as idyllic as it may appear.

    As I've been on this difficult path to motherhood, I've been overwhelmed by the amazing women around me who upon learning about Luke, have come up and shared stories of their own pregnancy heartbreaks and losses.  These are stories that no one really talks about or shares publicly...the ones you don't hear discussed or read about in the pregnancy books.  I have been amazed to hear from friends and strangers alike of this secret, sad world of pregnancy that so many women have passed through on their way to motherhood.  Whether it has been situations similar to my own, stories of phantom pregnancies, ectopic pregnancies, miscarriages, loss of an infant due to foreseen complications, SIDS deaths, surprise stillbirths, miracle births, infertility struggles....there have just been so many many brave women....women who have lent me their shoulders, their stories and their strength to help me along this path.  While I'm so sad to become a member of this secret sorority of sadness, I continue to feel honored to be in such incredible company.  I have also felt immensely comforted in knowing that I am not alone in this journey and that these beautiful women have gone before me and I can see with my own eyes and hear with my ears and heart about how they no longer reside in this dark place where I now find myself...most of them have found joy and happiness again.

    What I'm realizing more than I ever knew to be true is that babies are a any capacity.  Whether they are healthy and running around and driving you crazy, or are just a whispered dream in your heart....they are a gift of hope.  Looking back at the naive girl I used to be- had I been given the choice, I would have probably avoided this harsh initiation into motherhood.  However, standing on this side of the sonogram and diagnosis, I know with absolute certainty that I would NEVER, EVER trade these minutes, days, weeks and months of being Luke's mom. He is my gift of hope....the expanding of my heart- a little bit more every day.  I can truly say I am grateful for this experience and journey with him- it will be forever ours.

    I'm also deeply thankful for the beautiful, amazing, strong, encouraging, uplifting, brave, understanding, creative and powerful community of women (moms and non-moms alike) who have surrounded me and shared their stories good and bad with me during this time.  Thank you for sharing, for listening, for crying with me, for loving me, for holding my hand, for letting me fall apart and for letting me run away when its too hard.  I can see your secret angel wings and I'm forever thankful for your strength and beauty.

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009

    Welcome to Holland

    by Sarah

    When we learned of Luke's diagnosis, a friend of my mom's named Alison, reached out to me.  She knew exactly what we were feeling and experiencing because just last October she and her husband had lost their sweet son, James.  She had been told that James had a diagnosis that would prevent him from living very long-if at all-after birth but yet, she and her husband chose to love him and carry him with them as long as they could.

    Alison is one of the blessings that has come into my life during this season.  She knows exactly what it feels like, how people respond or choose to back away because they don't know what to say or how to act.  She has had the difficult conversations and has experienced the long hours and days mixed with joy and profound sorrow.  She knows and she gets it.  She shared with me the following and I wanted to share it with you all as it speaks to some of the emotion, beauty and grief we feel each day as we make our way toward our own beautiful Holland.

     Welcome to Holland
    by Emily Perl Kingsley

    I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability- to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel.  It's like this...

    When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip- to Italy.  You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans.  The Coliseum.  The Michelangelo David.  The gondolas in Venice.  You may learn some handy phrases in Italilan.  Its all very exciting.

    After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives.  You pack your bags and off you go.  Several hours later, the plane lands.  The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."

    "Holland?!?" you say.  "What do you mean Holland??  I signed up for Italy! I"m supposed to be in Italy.  All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy!"

    But there's been a change in the flight plan.  They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.

    The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease.  It's just a different place.

    So you must go out and buy new guide books.  And you must learn a whole new language.  And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

    It's just a different place.  It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy.  But after you've been there for a while you catch your breath, you look around...and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips.  Holland even has Rembrandts.

    But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy...and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there.  And for the rest of your life, you will say, "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go.  That's what I had planned."

    And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away...because the loss of that dream is a very, very significant loss.

    But...if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things....about Holland.