Lilypie Angel and Memorial tickers

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Our big girl!

Our big girl!
Growing so fast!

Kylie 1 day old

Kylie 1 day old
Curling up

Bryleigh Addison

Bryleigh Addison
Our youngest miracle


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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Who I am

This is not intended to put anyone down. This is not intended to point fingers or make someone mad. This is about no one but me.

My entire adult life has been enveloped in a bit of mild depression, anxiety, and a horrible self-worth. I have been down on myself, hurt, and depressed. I worry about everything, and I worry about what other people think of me ALL the time. I wear my heart on my sleeve, my emotions out in the open, and I do get emotional and upset easily. I let things get to me and pile up, and many times, I find it easier to keep my mouth closed and let people treat me like a door mat instead of opening my mouth and standing up for myself. I'm too nice most of the time, and just let things go if they upset me or bother me. I hate fighting with others, and I hate, hate, HATE being the subject of everyone's gossip.

That being said, I often feel like I am the person everyone talks about. I feel like I am that girl who you are super nice and sweet to her face, and sometimes not even that; you just tolerate when she's around. When she's gone, or out of ear shot, you begin talking about how annoying she is and how you can't stand her, and how she's terrible at what she does, and she'll never compare to you, blah blah blah. I often feel like the girl everyone is friends with because they feel sorry for her, or because she's too stupid to figure out that they really don't like her. I feel like that everywhere I go, no matter where it is or what it concerns.

My whole life, I was raised to be a respectful, nice, honest person. My parents encouraged me to be who I wanted to be and raised me and my sister with the morals and values they were taught as children. You respect adults, peers, everyone. You do what is right, and you stand up for yourself if you feel you've been wronged. You work hard to earn your grades/money/praise/etc. You never stop learning. You do for others when you can. You talk to people instead of yelling at them, and you take care of your stuff because it's all you've got.

I wasn't the pretty girl, still ain't. I wasn't the skinny girl whom everyone envied. Still ain't. I wasn't the cheerleader who could flip across the gym. I wasn't the girl who could turn boring pieces of clothes into a fabulous outfit. I wasn't the one the guys wanted to date. I wasn't the girl who everyone liked because she was all around awesome. I wasn't the class clown that could make everyone laugh. I wasn't the girl that would "put out" so guys would follow me every where.

Don't get me wrong, though. I had boyfriends, dates, friends with benefits, best friends I spent most of my time with. I had some of the popular clothes and brands, and I was co-captain of the cheer squad in 8th grade (no tumbling, only basketball, but still). I was the "social butterfly." I didn't hang with just one group of people- i was friends with everyone. Popular, not popular. Jocks, band kids. Smart kids, kids who didn't care. I befriended everyone. This was part of my raising, I think. I just genuinely like people. I don't discriminate, and I don't judge people by the outside appearance or who they hang out with, etc.

It's funny to me that I can take off my glasses and be blind to those around me, and still find the good qualities in people, while I stand here and allow people to judge me based on my weight, my quirky qualities, my kindness, and the way I dress or look. Because let's face it. We live in a world where people automatically assume people do nothing but eat if they are fat, they don't take care of themselves if they don't wear make up or dress a certain way, and that people are desperate if they try to make friends with everyone they meet.

But here's who I am. Plain and simple. This is me:
My name is Amber Lanford Keith, legally. My middle name is Leigh. I am 28 1/2 years old. I have been with my husband for 10 years, 2 months. We have been married for 8 years. I am a mother of 3 little girls: Jaycee, Kylie, and Bryleigh. Jaycee I did not birth, but love just the same. Kylie was born prematurely and now lives in Heaven. Bryleigh is our full term miracle who lights up our lives every day. I am a Christian, and I love God and His blessings, and I am thankful that I have the promise of Heaven because Jesus died on the cross for you and for me.

I was diagnosed with PCOS, polycystic ovarian syndrome, when I was 21 years old. This explained so much of  my life since I was about 11. You see, growing up I was a skinny, blonde-haired, blue-eyed little girl. The summer between 3rd and 4th grade, I gained 50 pounds suddenly. No change in eating, no diet problems. My mom had my thyroid tested. The doctors couldn't find anything wrong. From that summer to this day, I struggled with weight. I gained weight, lost it, gained it again, lost it. I started having dark hair grow on my face  and my arms. I struggled with stomach problems. No matter what I did, nothing was better. After my husband and I got married, I was having some excruciating pain. I was told by the medical clinic at Auburn that I had a disease and they wanted to know how many people I slept with, which was funny to me because I was MARRIED, and we'd been in a relationship for over 2 years. When I returned home from Auburn, a doctor finally diagnosed me with PCOS and explained that it is a metabolic disorder, and it is actually genetic. You are born with it. Symptoms show up at different times, but some of the main things that come from it is tire weight (weight problems mainly in the stomach), dark hair growth, insulin resistance, lack of metabolism, painful cysts on the ovaries that can rupture, etc. I was also diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, which is directly related. Because of this, conceiving a child would be difficult, and my life would be full of medications, odd diets, and struggles. However, I finally had a diagnosis. This is why I am "fat." My body works against me all the time. I have no metabolism and it makes it very difficult for my body to burn off what food I do eat, regardless of how much or how little, and what kind of food it is.

I have suffered with anxiety issues, and I think it is related to the PCOS. I used to take Lexapro, but since my pregnancy with Kylie, I have not had any. Though, I am beginning to think it might be time to calm my nerves some because I have been a basket case a lot lately.

Who else am I?
I am a friend. I am a very devoted friend. I often see myself caring about people more than they care about me. I let myself be used like a door mat. I truly love people, and I am a people person. I don't try to hang out with people because of what they do, or who they hang out with, what they know, or who they know. I like people and I like to be included in things with people. I like to be around others and let them know I enjoy their company. Even if our interests aren't the same, I like meeting new and different people. That's just who I am.

I am very protective of my friends and family. I love with 200% of my heart. Another reason I often end up caring for others more than they care for me. I care so much about those around me. I hate for the people I love to be hurting, broken, upset, anything. I want to fix all the problems, and I cry a lot for those around me. I read things on the computer that just hurt my heart and I cry for my friends. I cry for those who have lost loved ones, who are going through tough times, who need to find a job, who are struggling with money. I  pray for them and think of them constantly.

I am an advocate for parents who have lost babies/pregnancies. I don't do things for these groups or run Healing Hearts because I want attention. I do it because I want parents to know they are not alone. I started this group, the event, everything I do for bereaved parents because I had to search so hard for things to help me, and there was almost nothing local. I had to suffer alone, and feel alone, and I don't want parents to have to do that. I want families to know that they are not alone, and that there are people who understand.

I am Kylie's mommy. I am Bryleigh's mommy. I am Jaycee's mommy. I love each of my chidlren, and I will ALWAYS include Kylie in all that we do. Cards, photos, etc. Even if others get tired of hearing about her, I will continue to talk about her, share her, and do things for her, because she is just as much my child as my living children. That's something I always get upset about because people think I should move on and stop talking about her. Do you stop talking about your kids here on earth? No. If you haven't lost a child, don't judge me or talk about me or ask me to do something you don't even know anything about. It is nothing I would wish on my worst enemy. I will carry this pain forever. It eases up, but never completely goes away.

I am a teacher. Contrary to what many think about me, I do LOVE being a teacher. I love teaching seventh grade, and I enjoy my students. Like any job, like any thing we do, there are frustrating moments, difficult people to deal with, and days that go terribly wrong. I hold my kids to a high standard because I love them and care about them, and I wish for them to succeed in all that they do. Sometimes, there are personality clashes (between teachers/students and teachers/coworkers), but it doesn't make me love my job any less. I do try my hardest, and I try to be the best that I can be. Maybe it isn't enough for some people, but I do the best I can with what I have. This year was hard because I missed a whole grading period, so it really is hard to catch up from all that time out. But, I had some awesome kids, and I just kept treading water to try to do the best I could. It is hard to go back to work with a tiny baby at home, I'll definitely say that. There were days I'd much rather be at home cuddling my baby girl than teaching, but that is any mother. I am thankful for my job, and I do try to improve each year and do things differently when they go wrong. We're not all perfect, but I'd like to think that I am growing as a professional each year.

I am a person. I have feelings, hopes, dreams, issues, problems, successes, joys, hurts, positives, negatives, you name it. I want to be seen for who I really am, not what people judge based on an outward appearance or a few encounters. I want people to know that I am a pretty emotional person, and I let things get to me easily. I don't like fighting. I don't like hurting.

I hate my body. Because of that, I don't like to take the time to dress really well. I don't have a style. I wear jeans and tshirts. My hair isn't that important. I rarely wear make up. I hate buying clothes because nothing fits. I am the same weight i was before having Bryleigh, but it all sits so differently now. I hate trying on clothes. I spend most mornings throwing clothes and crying because it's too tight, won't fit right in the waist, too long, too baggy, too short, too this, too that. I have one pair of summer attire that  my mom bought me on Sunday. I have very little variety to my wardrobe. I wear flip flops. I don't get pedicures because my feet are awful and I don't want the Chinese people to make fun of me in Chinese while working on my feet. I don't have a lot of money in the budget for regular haircuts, color, or shopping sprees. I spend my money on the kids first. I rarely buy for myself. When I do, I often end up hating it, or if I try to shop, I get frustrated and feel worse about myself than before. I just feel so bad about myself I don't even want to put the energy in to looking nice because I don't feel that it will make a difference. I still hate how I look.

Right now, I am struggling. I am terrified of what is going to happen with one of our children because it is now down to the wire here. I am having horrible body image issues after having Bryleigh. Yes, I am blessed to have her, and so grateful that she is here and healthy, but it doesn't change how badly I feel. I had horrible body image issues before, so it is compounded now.

Months ago, probably over a year ago, an "anonymous" person posted on my blog some very, VERY hurtful, hateful things to me. This person told me I was fat and it was my fault that Kylie died, and that being fat and doing nothign about it was going to kill another child, that I was a terrible wife, mother, and teacher. And those words still haunt me. To know that someone I let in my life, to know that someone who was close to me could say those words to me with no regard, and then for someone to back them up... it just kills me that someone would say those things. But then, it makes me wonder, who else feels that way? I can't help that I have PCOS. I can't help that I had a doctor who wouldn't listen to me and take me seriously when i kept having complications. I can't help that unforseen things happened in my life to bring me where I am. But, I think I have a pretty good idea of who this person is. It's someone I have pretty much written off anyway. Someone I don't really spend much time with. I hope they are happy though, because their words still have power over me. Every day, I hate myself. I hate my body that I am trapped in, my constant ramblign and talking that has just been me my whole life. You see, I talk a lot. Yes, I know. I don't do it to be annoying. I just talk a lot. That is who I am.

I am proud to be a nerd. I like to read. I like technology. I like the computer. I like Facebook. I like to write. I like to watch my kids play, smile, and grow. I like to cook dinner for my friends and family. I like for people to like my cooking. I like to be around people. I am not the best housekeeper. I hate vacuuming and doing dishes. I like to dress my kids in cute clothes. I like for people to notice how beautiful my babies are. I love to brag about my kids. I love to share corny jokes with my students. If I pick on you, I like you (my Uncle Cecil was the pro at that, by the way. I miss him so bad). I carry a lot of emotional baggage with me.

I am the daughter of Pam and STeve. I am the granddaughter of Frank and Betty Lanford and Barbara Jones and Terry Ray Uptain. I am the great-granddaughter of Lillie Mae Uptain. I am the sister of Ashley Berchekas. I am the aunt to Nicholas. I am aunt to five other nieces and one nephew on Chris's side. I don't get along with my in-laws at all. I wish I could win the lottery.

My granny has Alzheimer's, dementia, and Parkinson's. She now lives in a nursing home and has missed the past year's worth of holidays. Some days, she doesn't know who we are. Many days, she doesn't talk. Granny and I were very close when I was growing up, and my heart hurts every day to see these diseases taking her away from me.

I worry about Jaycee all of the time and what will happen with her. I can't stand to lose her; it would kill me to lose her. I love her so much, and I only want what is best for her. She knows our home as home, and us as family. I want to keep my family in tact. People don't understand what a stress it is, especially right now, to be in this situation. I wouldn't trade her for anything, ever. She is my daughter. I am her mommy.

This is me. Take it or leave it, but don't be so harsh on me. We are all human. I don't want you to pity me. I want you to see me as a real person with real feelings and emotions. If you don't like who I am, please tell me so we can end our friendship here. I am going through a whole lot right now, and this is who I am. This is me. All of me. I have been pretty honest and have exposed myself, but I want people to know who I am.

Summer, it has begun!

Today, I am officially considering my summer as "STARTED." I was off work as of Thursday, but really, today is when it all begins. Holiday weekend is over, things are kind of settling into a new schedule... you know the drill. As a teacher, I am grateful for the summer off. I really am. Who wouldn't enjoy that kind of schedule? I love what I do, but I love having the opportunity to get back to being the real "me." During the summer, I don't have to dress up, I don't have to worry about paperwork deadlines, and I don't even have to worry about getting to many places before 7:30 in the morning. PJs all day are okay, sleeping in is okay, and sitting on the couch for hours on end is okay.

However, there are lots of things still to do, and lots of things to smash into a very quick summer. Jaycee will be five on Friday. Yes, folks, you heard that right. I'm not quite sure I'm believing it myself! Five years old. It seems like just yesterday that we were cuddling her and feeding her bottles and changing her diapers. Now, she is a vibrant, smart, sweet, witty girl who loves to sing, play, dance, and talk. A lot. Talking= her favorite thing to do. And she's good at it, too. No telling what will come out of her mouth. God knew we needed her in our lives and brought her to us, and I am so, so, so thankful that she has grown up in our home. Kindergarten looms, and preschool is a thing of the past. It's hard to believe, isn't it? I know that life has so much in store for her. Did you know that she now wants to be a doctor?! A doctor!!! I told her she can be ANYTHING she puts her mind to, and her daddy and I will cheer her on and help her in any way. I know she could do it, and I guess we'll worry about finances when we get there. =)

Bryleigh is growing like a weed. I mean, literally. She has such an awesome little personality. She smiles and laughs and giggles a lot, and let me tell you, she is a Momma's girl BIG TIME. She can see me across the room, and if she sees me, her face lights up and she gets so stinkin' excited. It melts my heart! She hears my voice and she starts looking for me. She has two little teeth already, and she is rolling from front to back and back to front easily. She is sleeping through the night, and she's up to about 7 ounces at a feeding. She loves playing with her little feet, and she has discovered the joy of teething rings. She likes to swing, bounce, jump, roll, and play. She LOVES her sister, and she laughs at her a lot. Their relationship is so precious! Bryleigh has said Mama on multiple occasions, mostly when she doesn't feel good, but still, she's said it! Her smile lights up a room, and her bright blue eyes are just gorgeous. We've had so, so many people stop us and comment on her eyes, many telling us those eyes were going to cause some serious trouble when she gets older. If they only knew!

We are fast approaching three years since Kylie was born and passed. It is hard to believe that it has been that long. Many days, it feels like yesterday. Some days, it seems like so much longer. Kylie is still continuing to inspire me, to inspire others, and to be my guidance in all that I do. I love her today, tomorrow, and always. Her sisters will always know her and who she is, and for the opportunity to know her, even if it was for just 2 short weeks, I am forever thankful. Her life continues to teach me more than I ever imagined. I just miss her so, so much. It's easier to get through the day, but sometimes, I look at Bryleigh and see so much of Kylie in her. It just tears my heart a bit, though I am thankful for the reminders.

So this summer, I have lots of projects to come. Working on Kylie's fund, working on the October 15 event, working on myself and getting ready for a new school year. So summer will fly, and I will be exhausted any way. However, I wouldn't have my life any other way.