Friday, October 30, 2015

The Sonogram

I have a new article featured on BonBon Break about our first sonogram appointment and making room for love. You'll find it here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

No One is Replaceable. That includes YOU!

Thank you for all of your well wishes and support. I am so grateful to have you with me in good times and bad.

Here is an article I wrote for The Washington Post I thought you might like. No one is replaceable. Including YOU:

Monday, October 26, 2015

Baby Gender Reveal! It's a...

Last week was pretty terrible, but it got a whole LOT better toward the end. My morning sickness had abated, so I felt energy I hadn't had since summer. I wanted to get things done! I wanted to enjoy the fall weather! 

On Tuesday, a friend and I went for a walk, and I felt a sharp pain in my back. Kind of like 4 1/2 years ago when I reached into the fridge for a jug of milk and felt a pop. Yep, my back "went out" and since I'm pregnant, there wasn't much to do about it except ice it, use a heating pad, and be in pain. By Friday, I could barely move. Thoughts like, "How will I ever take care of a baby? I can't lift anything with my torn shoulder, and now I can't even walk!" flooded me with insecurity and doubt.

Saturday I woke up feeling better and we decided to go ahead with a gender reveal party with our Bible study group and their kids. Tim and Margaret did EVERYTHING for the party while I rested my back and read. 

At around noon these guys showed up with the most gorgeous cake they had made from scratch! Inside, the cake color would indicate whether we are having a girl or a boy. Dawn and her family (including baker extraordinaire, daughter Ellie) had known the gender for A WEEK but did a great job of not giving it away. Well, Jack's friend on the left did say a little something as they were leaving that made Margaret and me wonder...

Margaret and a friend did the decorating, and had a little chalkboard set up for people to vote BOY or GIRL. They also made necklaces to wear, indicating people's guesses.When our Bible study groups got there, in the late afternoon, we were, gulp, ready to find out!

Here we are about to cut into the cake. Wait, where did Tim go? He was out in the driveway waiting for the pizza guy.

After we found Tim, it was cake cutting time! Some people wondered if Tim and I had peeked at the contents of the envelope and knew the gender already. Nope. We wanted to be surprised.

If you would like to see a one minute video clip of the cake cutting, head to the An Inch of Gray Facebook page. I tried to put it here, but it wouldn't let me.

Oh, if you are going to go watch the video, don't read any further until you have done it. I don't want to ruin the surprise.


Ok? Good.

Here, are the photos right after we found out:

IT'S A BOY! Sooooo exciting!

I kept apologizing to Margaret that we didn't get her a sister with whom she could wear matching preppy dresses or show how to do makeup, but she handled it beautifully!

My back held out, and it was a wonderful experience to share with a few of the friends who have walked with us so closely through the good and bad, including my sister, her 2 precious kids, and others you will recognize from Rare Bird like Cindy, Jenn, and the young pastor.

Everyone was gone by 6:30 pm, and Tim, Margaret, and I set out to eat the huge bowl of homemade guacamole we forgot to put out for the party.

p.s. The cake was DELICIOUS!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Stitch Fix Review-- Maternity Edition!

I almost panicked when I saw that I had another Stitch Fix shipment on the way in October. I was afraid they would send me a bunch of cute clothes I couldn't wear.

Fortunately, I was able to send a quick message saying that I'm pregnant and already up 12-15 lbs. A few days later, my fix came. Stitch Fix now has maternity clothes! I am still waiting for them to start carrying plus sizes so that everyone can take part in the fun of getting cute clothes in the mail selected by a personal stylist, and have given them feedback with that request.

Here are the 5 items that were in my fix:

Blake Poncho Pullover Sweater ($68) and Porter Maternity Leggings ($58): 

The poncho is soft and hangs very nicely. It covers my rear even when I'm wearing leggings. Not sure how to wear a coat with a poncho in the winter. Is that even possible? Do I even care? Verdict: Keep.

The leggings were made out of very thick, stretchy material that provided great coverage and control. I could tell they were very high quality. The drawback was they were size small, and I could have used medium. They felt tight around my knees and I figured that meant they wouldn't work for me for very long. I think this price is reasonable for something that could be worn every single day, and I really wish they fit. Verdict: Return

p.s.  I have since ordered two pairs of legging from Motherhood maternity, but they were thin, almost like tights or hose rather than leggings. Now, I'm out $30 and still don't think I have something that's going to work. If you know of good maternity leggings, please let me know.

Santomasso Tie Neck Maternity Blouse ($68): 

I felt a bit funny at first in this one b/c it was so roomy. However, I hope to be filling it out soon. It is the perfect color for me and has cute elastic cuffs. This blouse is super comfortable and has nice gathers in the back. Also, it's long enough to wear with leggings. I think the price is really steep for a blouse, especially considering I buy most of my clothes at a thrift store. However, I am considering this fix to be my pregnancy splurge and hope to borrow other maternity clothes from my much-younger friends! Verdict: Keep.

Alfonso Off-Shoulder Maternity Top ($48)

Super soft, lightweight material and nice length. However, it was already way too tight. I'm not that far along, so I can still wear regular clothes. Once I get a tad bigger, this top will be too tight across the front, as it already is across the rear. Also, since I'll be pregnant in the winter, I want clothes that will be warmer than this (written by a woman currently under a blanket and wearing knee socks).

Dariah Maternity Abstract Faux Wrap Dress ($108)

Super soft, drape-y material. Perfect length for me and it covers my arms, too. I love this dress, and although the print is sort of busy, I like it a lot. This dress is pretty pricey, but I justified it by promising myself I'd wear it to all of my speaking engagements and to church. If you see me at a dressy event and I'm not wearing this dress, please chastise me. Verdict: Keep.

So, I'm keeping 3 items and returning 2. I consider that a great fix! If you would like to try Stitch Fix for yourself, feel free to click on my link below:

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Empowering the Rural Women of Armenia

I am on the World Vision blog today sharing more about the women I met in Armenia. Please visit the blog or read all about it here. Thanks!

Empowering the rural women of Armenia | World Vision Blog
Margarita walking back from school with her son Tigran in Amasia, Armenia. (Photo: 2015 Matthew Paul Turner)
According to the UN, empowering women living in rural areas is essential in the fight against extreme poverty.
As a girl growing up in the suburbs, my encounters with rural life took place on my aunt and uncle’s farm in West Virginia. I was struck by the abundance around me. Acre upon acre of land, ringed by tree-covered mountains, rows of corn that seemed to stretch for miles, and a big kitchen table piled high with food and encircled by family.
When I grew up, I loved taking my kids back there. Once, my son Jack asked where “Aunt Betty’s peacock” was, because he had seen one at a farm park I’d taken him to and assumed that all farms had a peacock strutting about. There was no peacock on this working farm, but there was no shortage of livestock, either. Getting far away from the city and the suburbs meant fresher air, beautiful scenery, and bearing witness to long hours of intense yet rewarding work for the family on the farm.
Did you know that the UN celebrates the International Day of Rural Women today? 
I didn’t either.
My view of who a rural woman is has shifted over the past eight months since my trip to Armenia with World Vision.
My memories from my aunt and uncle’s farm were in stark contrast to my experience in Armenia. The Armenian villages we visited were so remote, that “isolated”—rather than rural—is how I would describe them. And the landscape, striking in beauty with majestic mountains all around, had ground that stayed frozen 7-8 months every year, making farming difficult. I saw so much struggle, from the daily quest for dried animal dung to be used for heating—since firewood was so scarce—to women who seemed trapped without a support network in a cycle of bearing baby after baby yet without the means to care for them properly. My eyes saw lack rather than abundance.
Empowering the rural women of Armenia | World Vision Blog
The view of Amasia from Aida's house, including the outhouse on the right. (Photo: 2015 Matthew Paul Turner)

Children went to bed hungry, and some were sent to state-run institutions so that they could receive what their parents couldn’t provide. Medical bills or a bad batch of fruit could send a family teetering over the edge.
I remember meeting Aida, who lived with her husband and seven children in a small, remote village in the Amasia region. My teammates and I laughed as we pitched this way and that, trying to navigate our way through the deep snow. We passed a communal outhouse with a tin roof and made our way into a tiny rented home with sagging floors. I soon learned that only the eldest child had winter boots. It made our laughing trek up the hill, bundled in parkas and warm boots, seem a lot less funny, to think of this family isolated and housebound for months at a time.
It was easy to feel hopeless, especially when I contrasted my life as a woman and mother to some of the women like Aida I met in Armenia. I tried to imagine having to choose between keeping my family intact and sending my children away so they could eat. To not getting my kids vaccinated because I didn't have warm enough clothes to wrap them up and make the snowy trek to a doctor.
Empowering the rural women of Armenia | World Vision Blog
Aida and her husband with 2-year-old Grigor. (Photo: 2015 Laura Reinhardt/World Vision)

But not all was bleak.
As a result of our visit, each of Aida’s children gained World Vision sponsors, and Aida will benefit from development programs that World Vision will soon implement in her community. When we were able to meet families who had been part of World Vision’s established economic development programs, I could see how empowering rural women would raise the raise the standard of Aida’s family, other families, and entire communities. One mother I met had been given a knitting machine and was able to sell sweaters to earn money for her family. Other women were trained in growing, harvesting, and packaging local produce that could survive despite the unforgiving weather, and had gained experience marketing their products to high-end gift shops.
Empowering the rural women of Armenia | World Vision Blog
Haykanush working at her knitting machine. (Photo: 2015 Laura Reinhardt/World Vision)

I also got to see firsthand how giving families the gift of livestock, something our family has done for years through the World Vision Christmas catalog, helps real people gain an economic foothold.
I met a lot of women in rural Armenia: caring, determined, hard-working women who wanted to better themselves and their families. It was inspiring to see the joy that came along with opportunities that might seem small to you and me, but that provide hope and empowerment to those who need it.
“There is no tool for development that is more effective than the empowerment of women.” –Kofi Annan, former secretary-general of the UN.

World Vision's child sponsorship program works at the family and community level as well to empower people to break the cycle of poverty together. Join us and sponsor a child in Armenia today!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Big News, OR, Just Call Me Halle

PSA: Please swallow that sip of coffee and make sure you are sitting down before reading this post.



So, our family's big news is that I have unexpectedly found myself EXPECTING A BABY!

I'll just wait and let that sink in a bit. If you need to process a while and come back later, that's cool.


Since we can't all sit down over a mug of decaffeinated tea, I've tried to anticipate some of the questions you might be having so I can share the whole scoop with you.

OMG! OMG! Anna, is this really true?
Yep. I wasn't so sure myself, but I have the sonogram to prove it.

How far along are you?
13 weeks.

Unexpectedly? Don't you and Tim know where babies come from by this point?
Well, yeah. We decided to stop using protection when Jack died on the off chance I could get pregnant at age 41 or 42. When nothing happened, we figured that was it. Nada. Over. Four years later, we got quite a surprise. Our chances of conceiving were less than 1%, and that's if we were trying. We were not trying. 

Didn't we all just wish you a happy 46th birthday last week? Won't that make you 64 or 65 when this baby graduates from high school?

So, how did you discover you were pregnant?
My breasts started hurting and my period was late. Doctor Google told me it was likely peri-menopause. After a couple of weeks, I went to the dollar store and bought two pregnancy tests. Those lines showed up within seconds, and I just started to laugh! BTW, if you are 46 you will need READING GLASSES to read the instructions on a pregnancy test.

What did Tim and Margaret say?
Tim was like, "Oh really? Cool!" which made me think that he would have been just fine had we jumped on the third baby wagon a decade or so ago. Margaret was concerned when she noticed I'd been to the doctor twice in a row. She was afraid I had cancer, so I was pleased to tell her that I had something growing inside me, but it wasn't what she thought. She is thrilled!

Is this a miracle? It seems like a miracle!
Kind of feels like that to me, too, as long as miracles can be joyous and scary and tiring at the same time. Tim might claim it is also a result of immaculate conception due to a dearth of bedroom activity. Believe what you wish. I also know that many people would like positive pregnancy news in their own lives, and I want to acknowledge what they are going through, even as I share my news with you. 

Does this mean you are replacing Jack, everything in your life is going to be perfect, and you are going to stop mourning your boy?
Aww, c'mon. I know none of you would ask me that. 

But aren't you one of those moms who enjoys her kids most when they are well past the baby and toddler years?
Definitely. I really dig 9 year olds. That's why I'm going to need some support. Baby whisperers/cuddlers welcome!

What about the baby pool? Target tantrums? Car seats? The uh-oh game? Nasal aspirators? Tiny nail clippers? The croup? Do you mean you are really going to do all of that again?

Are you aware that BEFORE you got pregnant this time you weighed what you weighed when you were SIX MONTHS pregnant with Margaret and that it's a lot harder to get your body back at 46 than it was when you are 29 or 31?
Thanks for the reminder.

Don't you think it's a little weird that your own mom DIED at age 46, but you are bringing new life into the world at age 46?
Completely weird, symbolic, and interesting. I keep smiling and asking myself, "What is our creative, loving God up to with this?"

So, will you be able to know if the baby will be healthy? What about you? Aren't there lots of extra risks for both you and the baby because of your age?
There are lots of possibilities. Here is some excellent info about that

How are you feeling?
After 12 weeks of nausea, I'm feeling much better! I am super hungry and feel best while in the act of eating, so I eat a lot. I am not sleeping well because of my damaged shoulders, but otherwise am doing well. I feel a great sense of peace and am hoping to continue what has been a season of radical trust for me.

Are you going to keep writing? Public speaking? Hanging out on Facebook?
Absolutely! When I became a mom almost 17 yrs ago, I would have LOVED the community found on the internet and through sharing our messy stories. Speaking to groups is my passion, and I hope to do more of it than ever. I also am guessing this adventure will provide a whole lot of blog fodder.

Cool. Does that mean we can vote on baby names, like we did for the title of your book?
Ha! Ha! I'm not sure about that. But when we find out the gender, I'll be sure to let you know so you can start making lists. 

Okay, Anna, one last question:

Does this mean Halle Berry was TELLING THE TRUTH that she just somehow got pregnant at 46?
I guess so! Do you think she'd ever come over for a playdate?

It takes a village friends, and I could not be more grateful for mine here at An Inch of Gray. THANK YOU for being on this journey with me and thanks in advance for your prayers!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Happy Birthday to Me and A Gift for YOU!

In honor of my birthday, my friend Christy Casimiro has generously offered to give away an amazing makeup collection to one of my readers! I am absolutely IN LOVE with Younique makeup. The fiber mascara takes my lashes from nonexistent to va-va-voom.

You can win the Cloud Nine Collection which retails for $145!

To enter the contest, all you have to do is visit Christy's website and choose which eyeshadow pigment name sounds most like ME.

Angelic? Sassy? Confident?

Don't worry, there is no wrong answer!

Then head to my Facebook Page to leave your answer. That will count as your entry.

Good luck!

Monday, October 5, 2015


I turn 46 tomorrow.

46 is not a banner-year birthday marked by surprise parties, substantial jewelry pieces, or trips to Cancun. Mine will kick-off while I'm working at the snack bar at the high school. Oh, it does tip the scale to my being closer to 50 than 40, so there's that.

It may be be kind of a "blah" birthday, but 46 is significant to me.

It's the age my mother was when she died. Back then, in all of my 18 year old wisdom, I convinced myself that she had led a full life. Hadn't she had a chance to get married, have kids, start her own business, and nurture deep friendships? I used that reasoning to console myself that she wasn't missing out. As I got older, it became clear to me just how young 46 really was. I still feel almost as young inside as I did right out of college even though I'm tired a lot and the mirror sometimes shows me a face I don't recognize.

When I gave birth Jack and Margaret, I found myself thinking, "So, if I die at 46, will they remember me? I could calculate that they would would be turning 15 and 17 this year, so I decided, "Of course they would!"

Oh, you didn't know that when your mom or dad dies young you live your life imagining and even assuming that you will too? Statistically, it's not probable at all, but still we do it.

My brother hit 46 a few years ago. I wasn't sure whether, as a man, he would have identified as closely with the possibility of an early death for himself at age 46. He did. My sister lived through it last year, and in a way it seemed as if her training herself as an elite athlete, running toward health and strength, was also her running from the specter of death bearing down on her. She and I both celebrated in March when she made it out of that year and became 47, opening up the possibility of living abundantly years and likely even decades longer than our mother did.

I have complicated feelings about my own journey.

Outliving my son Jack, who died at only 12, has been excruciating. But because children are supposed to outlive their parents, maybe I shouldn't feel as conflicted as I do about aging past my own mom.  It just makes me sad. I hope to be able to experience grandchildren someday, something she missed out on, and continue to grow as a woman personally, spiritually, and professionally. And although my longing is to be in heaven with Jack, I have important reasons to keep living and growing here on earth for as long as I'm able, as did she.

It's weird.

Weirdest of all, my 46th year is shaping up to be one of significant change for me, the likes of which I could not have anticipated. I will have to learn to adapt and grow in ways that my mom didn't have to, or didn't get to, depending on how you look at it.

Because 46 was far too young to die.