Courtney S. Barr

Welcome to My Kingdom!
Join me, the Princess, on my Royal Adventures in the Land of Writing!

Monday, May 26, 2014

It's an Honor to be Free....

"They hover as a cloud of witnesses above this Nation."
-Henry Ward Beecher

Men and women for over 238 years have lived and died to give me the ability to have a public blog where I can share my life, my dreams, my aggravations, my political viewpoint and my opinion about which salad dressing I love the most. As silly as that may seem, that right, that ability is something someone died for.

I am grateful for that sacrifice. I am humbled by its necessity. I am saddened by its sheer number of lives lost.

This weekend I will have sunned at the pool, eaten whatever I wanted, listened to my favorite music, read magazines with public opinion, watched television that showcases more than one political view, laughed with my family, enjoyed my dogs and lived in a house of my choosing. All because of sacrifice - not mine, but sacrifice of people unknown to me. They gave their life so that I could have mine.

I have had military scattered throughout my family. My oldest brother was Air Force and still serves with the Guard. He often has to leave for sporadic periods of time and most recently did a year in Cuba. He is a man of simple pleasures - he loves to fish, to hunt, to eat, to come home to his two newest granddaughters and to relax with family. He has traveled the world, seeing other countries, seeing people who do not have the luxuries we have, knowing that his life - this dedication he chose - continues to allow his family to enjoy the meaning of freedom. He does not agree with everything our government decides to do, but it is because of the sacrifices before him, the sacrifices he has witnessed and those yet to come that he is able to disagree as openly as he chooses, why he continues to do his duty and how I will never fully grasp the things he has seen or endured. He has lost friends - no he has lost family - to the cause to keep us free and he still goes when asked, still performs when needed, still rallies for a country that often forgets who to thank and who to recognize for providing the liberty we all enjoy.

I cannot thank him enough. He is my brother, he is my hero and he is a soldier who sleeps on a hard ground, who endued sand covered months in the Middle East, sat on the shores of our enemy in Cuba, has trained in Germany, worked on our borders with Mexico, and watched as those he loves paid the ultimate price for him, for me, for those yet to be born.

"For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue."
-James A Garfield

My life is better because someone else decided to risk their own.
My dreams can be reached because someone decided that their dream is to allow me to discover mine.
My ideas can be voiced because someone else fought and their voice was silenced.
My courage to write these words pales in comparison to the courage they showed on the battlefield.
My sacrifices seem great to me but only because the ultimate price has been paid by those with the foresight to believe that there is something greater, something unique, something worth dying for that may not yet have reached the surface, but their belief, their honor, their love for the 'could be' allows us to be unconditionally grateful to their cause.

I am honored to be an American.
I am blessed to be free.
I am grateful to those who died for me.
I am humbled by their unselfishness.
I am moved by their determination.
I am stunned by their dedication.
I am sorry for their family's loss.

To the many veterans who walk this world: Thank you. Thank you for doing a job that is often thankless, for continuing to believe in a country that often doesn't get it "right" but continues to search for the best possible path. This day we celebrate the lives of the brothers and sisters you lost, we lost, this country lost in order to freely continue to be the greatest country on earth. Even with our problems, people still flock to be here, the American dream may shift but we still get to achieve it and as I watch certain political decisions be made I don't lose faith...because as long as there are people who believe in what we stand for; "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness"; then sacrifices will be made and sacrifices will be honored.

Thank you: to the families of those lost, your courage is not unnoticed and the sacrifices of the loved ones you have lost is appreciated by many. It is our duty to continue to work towards the freedom they died for and to honor them daily.

God Bless America and may He continue to do so....

"Who kept the faith and fought the fight; the glory theirs, the duty ours."
-Wallace Bruce

Monday, May 19, 2014

How We Got Here - The TMI Version

“All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” – Helen Keller
For some of you this will be a story you already know, for others this is pretty intimate & in depth look into the path that led us to this point in our lives….
I never expected this to be the first part of our story…My path has been a tricky one up to this point. Everyone has their trials, God’s plan is full of them, He sees our strengths grow, our characters evolve and our love for the journey expand with every endeavor we face.
I was 14 when I had a vision with God. He sat across from me on the daybed in my parents’ house. He held my hand and spoke with conviction. He told me that I would not bear my own children, that there would be a time where I would have to accept this fully. He also told me I would hate Him. I remember vividly saying “never.”; and Him softly telling me that I would find my way again, not to give up hope when the time came and that He had plans for my future family. I was confused; He had just told me I wouldn’t have a family. But in the hazy dreamlike state I just took it in…He smiled, I smiled and then He was gone. I woke up and told my mom about the dream. Both of us thinking I must have been watching something interesting the day before but neither of us completely discounting the vision; my mother has always been intuitive spiritually so for either of us to have gut feelings, déjà vu or in some ways premonitions was basically normal. However, teenage years and time forced the entire sequence to slip back into the recess of my mind.
I met my lovely Stable Boy “M” when I was 15. We dated through high school, surprising everyone when we continued the relationship through college – never once breaking up, but definitely having our trials laid before us. We persevered and found ourselves marrying at 25 and 26 years old. Enjoying life, loving our blessings and for the first time discussing our future. We both agreed we were way too selfish to have a child at the time and in deciding that we put off for 3 years trying to conceive.
We had been actively trying for 3 months. I was 28. It was July and we were supposed to be heading to his father’s wedding in Texas. I had a yard sale – it was grueling in the heat and thought I had just overdone it when I started cramping. By 2 a.m. that Monday I was in the ER screaming my head off at the pain. Tests, scans, needles, everything was a blur until they told me there was nothing they could do. They called a specialist. She came in and spoke sternly but with reverence – asking me about past menstrual issues, any cramps before, did I know what a cyst was. M sat wide eyed, learning way too much about the female makeup in those 5 minutes than he EVER wanted to. She told me a cyst the size of a football had decided to wrap itself around my left ovary and that she could not see any of my organs due to its mass. She had no idea what she would find, if it was cancerous, if it had damaged organs, if it could be removed without damaging the other ovary; but extensive surgery was the only option…the tears came. By the Friday that we were supposed to fly out I was lying on a bed, waiting for the OR to open up and my anesthesiologist was asking me if I minded if he prayed for me. Crying, I told him, “please do.” He held my hand, he prayed for me and I felt Him again – just as I had 14 years before – that peace, that understanding that He was there and I was no longer afraid. 5 hours later I woke up with 39 staples, a 16 inch incision from my breast bone to my pelvic, the knowledge that my specialist had to remove ALL of my organs that were masked out of my body for a few minutes – creepy - no left ovary and had “birthed” a 4 lb cyst that got me in an article in the Medical Journal – Whoopee! But I was alive. But I was also angry. The memory of that vision/visit from my youth was fresh on my mind and I remember that first week, looking down at the Frankenstein-esque metal and thinking “yep, I hate You right now.” The first weeks of recovery were not at all fun – my sweet sister had to endure my anger, my tears and my frustration. It was a hard recovery, a difficult transition and the best definition of a true trial that I had ever encountered up to that point.
I had hope that the single ovary on my right side could be fine for conception. Checkups were many, follow-ups and blood work became words I truly despised, but the overall goal was to have a baby in the end. We had to wait around 6 months before truly trying to conceive again. The right ovary took its time getting back to rights. We tried, and tried and tried. Then we took a break – we decided to not drive ourselves nuts so we gave it all to God. 2009 passed, then 2010, and then in 2011 I realized that there seemed to still be some issues. After speaking with my OB/GYN (the specialist God sent me when I lost the first ovary had graciously become my doctor and I had become her most interesting patient) we decided to do a D&C. So there I went, into another operating room for a standard procedure that women have every day. It was at the middle of November, my doctor sent off her sample and Thanksgiving was upon us. When you go to Camden, more specifically to my parents, it means you are agreeing to no cell service for the holiday. I was okay with that. J
However, my doctor was trying to find me. Desperately. She left me no less than 8 messages. When we returned the Sunday after the holiday I was beyond curious as to what was going on. Stupidly, I did not call her back until Wednesday. She told me to come in immediately, she would work me in. I was nervous, but not scared…not yet.
She sat me down and when she teared up fear crept in. I hadn’t told M to come with me. It was just me and her. She told me that her findings had given her something she suspected – a thickly lined uterus – but there was something else. She found Endometrial Hyperplasia Complex with Atypia Stage 3. That afternoon I not only had an OBGYN but I was scheduled to meet an Oncologist at the Bruno Cancer Center in Birmingham, the following week – the 7th – the day before M’s birthday. The oncologist would be my second opinion and if the cancerous cells were verified – he would be my cancer doctor.
I remember calling mom – she was calm, but I know she was immediately googling, asking her resident doctor and nurses the minute we hung up. It’s okay, I did the same when I got back home. I cried too. I cried a lot in that small drive home. I cried when I saw M. He held me and said everything was going be okay.
The next month is still at times a blur. The first meeting and pathology confirmed our doctors’ fears. Our Oncologist, Dr. B, wanted to do surgery the following week – I was set up for a hysterectomy with a full lymph node scope (upper thighs and below the breasts) – we asked if we could wait at least until after Christmas. He agreed, he was so torn about removing my remaining ovary – at 30 I would have little to no hormone production and the long term effects made him wary. He said if everything looked good, he would do a partial hysterectomy leaving the ovary…December 28th – everything wasn’t good. The ovary was enlarged and I woke up in recovery at St. Vincent’s with a Total Hysterectomy. The idea of conception had already left me 21 days earlier, but now Menopause loomed at 30 and reality swept in.  It was 7 days post surgery when I got the good news – they had removed all the cancer and I would not need radiation therapy. Life was blissful in those seconds. The recovery was another hit to my system and the following year brought all kinds of new bodily changes.
M was beyond amazing through everything. We had a discussion that day after confirming the cancer cells in Birmingham and that first initial meeting at the cancer center. I told him I understood if he wanted out – if he wanted the opportunity to have children with someone I would never hold it against him. I cried, begged him to think it through and my loving husband sat in front of me at The Tavern, held my hand and shook his head. He was in this from the beginning because he loves me, he had no intention of leaving me and that no matter what we would make it through this and God would be there for us every step of the way. I’ve loved him since I was 16 but in that moment I saw love for the first time; it was all over his face, in the way he held my hand and in the look he continued to give me as we ate. Then the surgery came, recovery came, crazy swings of menopause, insomnia, neuropathy and the idiosyncrasies of Courtney engulfed our life.  He still smiled, still held my hand and I still saw that look of utter love – he amazes me every day and I am so thankful for his strength. We are a team. Marriage is not something that just easily happens, you build it, you work on it daily and you make it the most important portion of who you are. I am grateful every day that God saw us way before we saw each other and that He continues to guide us daily.
During all of this, during all the years since 2008 life was still circling all around us, we welcomed Kristin “The Duchess” (M’s niece) into our home and got a good taste of parenting a teenager. She has been a blessing in our life and we love her so much. She came to us in 2010 and we have enjoyed watching her go from 16 year old young girl to the 20 year old woman she is today. Her journey is just beginning and she is holding her own. We know that had we been able to conceive in 2008 that we would not have been able to take The Duchess into our home in 2010.
It all circles back to that first vision, first discussion with God. He knew the path in front of us, he knew that the Duchess was in our future, that we would need to have open hearts for different paths and Heknew that we would face our trials head on, accepting life with each passing day. He had more faith in me than I had in Him at the time. Now when I look back at the moments His presence filled me: 4 surgeries (laparotomy, D&C, hysterectomy & a random appendectomy), each recovery, sitting in the Bruno cancer center waiting for my oncologist to tell me “I rarely ever get to tell my patients this news: you are now cancer free.” and the moment I woke up in January of this year, on a Sunday, lying in bed, overcome with the deepest, strongest yearning to see M as a dad, to hear the word ‘mom’ and know it was meant for me, and to see the laughter in our child’s eyes as they run in the yard with the dogs...and on that morning 19 years ago after spending all night talking…He fills me. He surrounds me daily, blesses me always, loves me unconditionally and reminds me often that this life is not an easy one but it is worth every moment…thankfully I don’t think He will make me wait seventy years….
"For thus says the LORD, 'When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. 11'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. 12'Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.…” Jeremiah 29:11

Friday, May 16, 2014

Updates + a Big Family Announcement

Hey Everybody! *waves frantically*

It is definitely been too long, too much time, too much happening around here for me to have slipped away since…well…since a little while ago.

SOOOO many things going on around here.

We’ll start right about:

The Duchess is home for the summer – searching desperately for a summer job. She is definitely excited that classes are over, I just hope she realizes that this next year will be even more important than the last. The pressure will continue and intensify as her college career grows.

The King (aka Stable Boy) has been working his tail off (literally). He’s gotten dedicated to daily gym trips, cleaning up our garage (which honestly is like some crazy Hydra – clean one area and another messy one appears times two…) and staying busy with his dayjob. He works in construction so warmer weather means more jobs – always a good thing.

The furbaby Prince’s are precious as ever. Snickers is creeping up on his 1st birthday and Peanut Butter is still crossing his fingers that his little brother is temporary…sorry Nutter.

I’m working on more art and more writing. I entered an art show in my home town and pleasantly surprised myself by placing – it truly is an honor. It was quite nerve wracking. It’s been since High School that my hometown has seen any of my art…these people have known me since I first grabbed a sketchpad and they are always there for me, they are important to me. I never want to let them down or fail them – they are family. The judge however is from another state – no connection whatsoever and is a highly accomplished artist – the fact that he loved it enough to award me second place…makes him a new favorite of mine ;o)

Oh and one more thing…..


Yep. We are. We are in the VERY beginning stage of applications, scheduling home studies and getting sooo excited about this step in our lives. It is only through the blessings of God that we are able to begin this process and it will only be through Him that we will see this process through. I cannot begin to express our excitement….There is so much to share and I plan on doing that ASAP! Look for my next entry to share our story of the whys? The with who? The process.

Please keep us in your thoughts, your prayers and send the best possible love to the universe…