NOT a Dream Deferred :)

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I posted a while ago about making decisions in life and potentially not being ready, and since then, I’ve continued to think about where I’d like for my life to go. I’ve always been a dreamer, but as I’ve grown and matured, my expectations have become more realistic. I still dream but my dreams are definitely attainable. I feel like I’m becoming more sure of what I want in life as it continues, and while some might keep their dreams or plans private, I don’t mind sharing mine because I’ve actually reached a point of excitement about a long term plan I have formed in my mind.

The first goal in my life is to return to teaching. I taught high school English for two years in 2005-2007 and after a period of what will be nine years outside of direct teaching (but still in education), I’m ready to get back into a classroom of my own and be in charge. I was fulfilling a passion when I worked as a one-on-one assistant with a little girl who had a physical disability, but my county needed me in another position in a high school setting, so I returned to the exact high school where I had started teaching but I began doing something I’d never done before. I’m still in a position at the high school, and while I enjoy my position and its purpose, I don’t feel it’s the best personal fit for me. I’m not fulfilling MY purpose or potential 100%. However, I love working with teenagers and find a strange patience and enjoyment in being in their company. I know not everyone can tout that kind of personality trait. 🙂 Some will say that you’re not supposed to advertise leaving your current job, but it’s no secret to my boss. He knows my past teaching experience and my wishes to return to an English classroom, and he’s quite supportive. So I don’t really fear an issue with expressing my career objective. I want to be an English teacher again; I want to impart knowledge and cultivate students on a higher level than with what I do now. I continue to hope and pray that after this school year is over, a door will open for me to go back into teaching in the next school year. If you are reading this and are a believer of prayer, please pray that I’m led to where I’m meant to be.

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On another front, I know that I previously talked about the pressure or influence from others to grow my family. I have gone through highs and lows of feeling totally confident in having another child or feeling absolutely terrified of having another child. As Ella Grace continues to get older, I am paying attention to the age gap that would occur between her and any potential sibling. There are large age gaps between my siblings and me, and I personally don’t want children who are far apart in age. In thinking about my own experience as a child, I feel like my sister was more of a second mother to me because she was almost nine years older than me. It’s just now that I’m older and a wife and mother myself that the two of us act more like sisters and are in more of an equal phase of life. As a result of this, if Ella Grace ever had a sibling, I wouldn’t want her to be so much older that she was like a second mother. So I know that as I continue to wait and mull over the possibilities, the age gap only continues to grow. I think about this and begin to feel more persuaded that if Ella Grace is going to have a sibling at all, I can’t keep waiting for years and years. I wonder if this will come down to the issue I discussed in a previous post: in life, we might just have to make decisions whether we’re ready or not. No, I’d never be ready for discomforts of pregnancy again, the sheer pain and agony of a C-section recovery, fumbling through an effort at breastfeeding that ultimately failed last time, sleepless nights, ravaged hormones and emotions, and everything else that comes with a new baby before things start to get easier and more manageable again. And while some would say it’d all be easier because I’ve done it before, I say no, not necessarily because now I’d be doing it with a new baby AND the other child I already have. But despite the fear and worry, I feel more that becoming a mother for a second time is what I’m meant to do. The persuasion I’m feeling from within myself doesn’t make it a definite in the near future. I don’t even have a time frame mapped out for that kind of life decision, and as a matter of fact, Andrew and I will continue to plan to NOT have a baby until we feel a stronger confidence that the time is right. But again, I’m always thinking about the age gap in potential children and how this decision will ultimately affect Ella Grace, too.

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And lastly, in thinking about a family expansion, I think about our home. Would our home be the best fit if another child came along? Could it hold us all anymore? Andrew and I have talked about this and feel that if we have another child, our current house would be overrun, having fulfilled everything it could for us. It’d be time to move on. We don’t take this kind of life decision lightly. Some people may bounce from house to house and love the chronic experience of moving, fixing up, and decorating, but not us. We bought our current house in November of 2006, so next year will be the full decade anniversary of our occupancy in it. We were young when we bought it – only 23 years old – and it was the first major purchase either of us had made in life. It fit our wishes and wants at the time, but as we’ve continued to grow and change, our wants have evolved as well. Our sweet and beautiful little house doesn’t fulfill all of those wants and doesn’t allow for alteration to create the changes we want, so that leaves us to consider moving. I’ve always enjoyed looking at real estate and home design, so the idea of finding a house to meet the desires of the family is fun for me. Right after we bought our current house, and for several years after, I was so content that I totally dropped my hobby of browsing realty websites and listings. In the past year, I’ve picked up the hobby/habit again, and I dream about a house out there that will hold us as we continue to grow and change. When we do move (whenever that happens), I’ll miss our current house terribly. It has contained so many moments and memories, and I’ll always remember it as the house where my marriage to Andrew grew and strengthened and where Ella Grace came home after birth and experienced so many firsts in her life. I pray that our next house will hold just as many, if not more, blessings and beautiful experiences that our current house has.

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So what does all of this mean? I suppose that in the cycles of life’s events and progression, we’re approaching a cycle of change. Thinking about these potentials means that I’m not done growing and improving myself – I know that my blessings and happiness can be even more if I have the faith and persistence it will take to achieve bigger and better things.

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Ancestry.com, I Love You!

A couple of weeks ago, I found a keepsake book meant for a mother to fill out for her daughter. I began working on it, filling in facts and memories for Ella Grace to have later in life. At the beginning of the book was a family tree for both sides of Ella’s family. As I began filling it out, it required knowing a few things about Andrew’s family that I wasn’t positive about, so I employed his assistance in getting the correct names of ancestors. When Andrew wasn’t for sure, he called his father. Eventually we got what we needed for the book, but my initial questions and Andrew’s conversation with his dad sparked some interest in learning more about his ancestors. As a result, we are now the proud members of Ancestry.com and while Andrew has looked into his family tree, I’ve also taken an interest and started my own family tree.

I started with my dad’s family – the McKnights and Ashcrafts (my grandmother’s maiden name). This side of my family is far more spread out so I was curious to track down some locations of where people were born and died. As I searched back through both branches, I discovered that in the McKnight side of the family, past wives came from families with the names Dalton, Shelton, and Patterson, which are all ironically local to where we live now. However, my dad’s side of the family comes from West Virginia, Ohio, and Virginia. To me, it’s so interesting to find and identify people and immerse myself further into the older generations. As the dates go back in time, the names of the people get pretty interesting as well. Way back in my grandfather’s family tree is a man named Littleberry Patterson, born 1729. What a name! The furthest back I’ve gotten on the McKnight side is Hayden McKnight, born in 1793. He was married to Patience Bradfield, which makes me think of Puritans for some reason, but those were the Bradfords. Ancestry.com supplied portraits of this lovely couple. They’re pictured below.

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My paternal grandmother’s name was Ruby Pearl Ashcraft. She died in 1976 so I never knew her, but when you talked to my dad and his siblings, you found out she had quite the legacy and large personality. Even her name – Ruby Pearl – has always seemed unique to me. 🙂
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Ruby’s mother, Olive, was a Swiger and as I traced into that branch of the family, I discovered the names Davis, Griffin, and even a Keziah (Kizzie) Underwood. Maybe I’m distantly related to Carrie Underwood… LOL! So far with my dad’s side of the family, I haven’t gotten far enough back to get out of the United States with ancestors.

However, with my mom’s side of the family, I’ve gotten back to Ireland on one side and Switzerland on another! My mother’s side of the family is Shires. But my grandmother’s maiden name is Robinson, and on that side of the family, the lineage goes back to Ireland through a man named Joseph Robison/Robeson, which is probably how the last name began in Ireland. On an 1880 census for the United States, he lists his birthplace as Ireland. Pretty vague but I’m determined to find ancestors in Ireland. Below is the listing of his existence in 1880.

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My grandmother’s mother, Gladys Robinson, was originally a Persinger. I began tracing the Persinger name and found lots of interesting information! It’s hard to know if all of this information is exact because some stories and connections are merely stipulated and not confirmed with valid records; however, many members of the site hold the same versions of stories and people, so for now, I’m considering these finds pretty reliable.

One of the cooler tidbits I found is that a woman from my great-grandmother’s side of the family, Sarah Persinger, had children with a Cherokee man named Joseph Sparrowhawk. Some stories say they were married – some say they weren’t but had children together. Sarah Persinger and her family were a unique bunch for their time period because the family supposedly protected and defended Joseph as one of their own. Some children of Sarah and Joseph were registered and labeled as mulatto but other children of Sarah were labeled white. Descendants and historians believe all of Sarah’s children were fathered by Joseph but that she and her family lied and told stories concerning who the father of the children were in order to get the younger ones labeled white. Or course, we know from history that anyone during the 1800s had better opportunities if he/she was white, so Persinger folks seem to think that Sarah wisened up about how to make life better for her younger children and lied in order to get them registered as white. However, Sarah and Joseph’s children were, in fact, part-Cherokee, which means as part of the long running joke in North Carolina, that I likely have “Cherokee blood.” Ask anyone in North Carolina if they have Cherokee heritage and he/she will say yes…haha. If this part of my ancestry is true, then I legitimately do!

The Persinger ancestor I found as the first generation immigrant was Jacob Bertschinger. He came from Switzerland in 1735 and at some point, his name was recorded as Persinger, obviously the American version of his Swiss last name. Jacob came into the U.S. at Philadelphia and married a woman named Rebecca at some point. Together with their children they began migrating down from Pennsylvania to Western Virginia, which is where the Persingers still live. On their way, accounts says that Rebecca and two of her children were kidnapped by Shawnee natives. They were never found and so in 1757, she was officially declared dead. Jacob remarried and eventually settled in the Alleghany Mountains of Virginia.

One of Jacob’s sons, John Henry, was born in 1752 to Jacob and Rebecca, and he later became a colonel for the United States. I haven’t researched much about his service but records indicate that he was killed by his own slave, Daniel Wright aka “Blue,” and Blue was subsequently tried and hanged. His hanging was the first recorded hanging in Alleghany County, Virginia. Below is an image of a text that records the account of Colonel Persinger’s death.

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These are the most exciting and interesting things I’ve found out about my ancestry so far. I knew I had ancestors from Ireland but was surprised to learn my maternal great-grandmother’s ancestors came from Switzerland. I personally find anything I can learn about my ancestors as fascinating. I’m sure some people wouldn’t care but I enjoy learning about my family and also hearing stories about family. I used to love to listen to my grandmother’s stories about her parents and grandparents, as well as her youth.

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I think it’s important for recent and future generations to know something about their forebears and where they came from. So coming full circle to why I started the whole research process: creating a memory book for Ella Grace to have about me. I have a weird and irrational fear that when I die, Ella might think she never truly knew her mother or what her mother was like, and I don’t want that to be the case. So I started the book for her and as a result, I’ve now become a more educated and enlightened descendant myself.

11,688 Days

Today we celebrate Andrew’s 32nd birthday! I’ve mentioned a lot recently that Andrew was born with an immune deficiency and outlived doctors’ expectations of his life expectancy. His life story is always an inspiration and miracle to me – the fact that I still have this man to come home to every afternoon and go to bed with every night is incredible. And to celebrate his birthday, I thought it’d be fun to share some of my favorite memories and moments I’ve had with Andrew since we started dating at 16 years old.

Well let me start a little before the official dating period. Before Andrew and I became a bona fide couple, we enjoyed hanging “just as friends” on Sunday afternoons when we’d go fishing at a pond close to my house. While fishing, we spent our afternoons flirting and joking around with one another, but we were never more than friends. Eventually we moved past fishing and started going to movies, but again, still as JUST FRIENDS. 🙂 However, I recall that when Andrew drove me home from the closest movie theater, he took the longest way possible. We spent our time listening to the radio and CDs, and despite being a highly self-conscious teenage girl, I even became comfortable enough to begin singing and belting out tunes with Andrew. I didn’t comment on the long drives until after Andrew and I started dating, and when I asked him why he took that particular route home from the movie theater, he said it was so he could be with me for as long as possible. *sigh* How dreamy…

Fun fact: Andrew asked me to be his girlfriend on August 27, 1999, at a West Stokes football game. He’d been too shy and nervous to ask me prior to that, despite our “friend dates,” but one of his good friends, who was also my friend at the time, threatened Andrew that if he didn’t ask me out, the friend was going to! So I believe we can thank that friend for giving Andrew the motivation to finally make a move. I mean, I’d only been pining over Andrew and waiting for him all summer. 🙂

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(Christmas 2000 – the year Andrew gave me a promise ring)

Another fun fact: I was Andrew’s first real girlfriend – definitely his first girlfriend in high school. I was also his first kiss and first love. Andrew valued love and kissing and had never wanted to just give away his first kiss or saying “I love you” for the first time to a girl. I joke that Andrew must have been way more stingy with his kiss because he actually told me “I love you” before he ever even kissed me! He professed his love after only a few months of dating, and he did so under the influence of drugs leftover from having his wisdom teeth removed. Not kidding… So his “I love you” was quite the surprise, and Andrew will say that I scared him because I didn’t reciprocate the expression. In my defense, I wasn’t sure if he meant it since he was slightly drugged; therefore, I didn’t want to say “I love you” back, only to be surprised when Andrew had forgotten the whole situation by the next day – which I was sure he would because of the narcotics. However, he was sincere the whole time and professed his love again the next day, when more sober of painkillers. I returned the expression and the sentiment hasn’t changed for 16 years. 🙂 When it came to the first kiss, Andrew neglected me on New Year’s Eve – the BIG New Year’s Eve of turning from 1999 to 2000. He refused to kiss me. The kiss came later in January, after we’d been out of school for winter weather and had been at a sledding party at a friend’s house. At this point – five months into the courtship – I’d quit expecting to receive a kiss, but Andrew surprised me with a peck on the mouth/chin when he dropped me off at home that cold and snowy night. Yes, he was a little off target, but I’m pretty sure he was nervous. He’s perfected his kissing aim since then.

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(Senior prom – 2001)

My favorite memory or experience from dating would have to be the trip we took to Hawaii. Yes, when I was only 18 years old and simply just dating my boyfriend, his parents invited me on a family trip to Hawaii (our high school graduation gift), and I went! In July of 2001, we traveled to the big island of Hawaii, via San Francisco as a stop on the way there and on the way back. Along with Andrew, his brother, parents, and their family friend, I experienced breathtaking scenery and landscapes on the Big Island. I had a lot of firsts on that trip: first major flights, first time snorkeling, first time seeing or being in the Pacific Ocean, first time out of the continental U.S., and probably my first trip somewhere without biological family. It was an incredible trip, and I can’t believe how blessed I am that Andrew’s family pulled me in as one of their own so quickly and so thoroughly. Since that first trip, we’ve had many other Voss family trips (Mexico, Canada, Ireland, Aruba, and throughout the U.S.), and through these trips, my love for travel has been expanded and intensified. 

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(Banff, Canada – 2004)

Andrew and I continued to date throughout college. We went to Appalachian State University together and saw each other every day. During our junior year of college, Andrew proposed to me. He proposed on March 4, 2004 – so 11 years tomorrow! He followed the example of his grandfather, Rex (Grandy), by choosing his birthday as the occasion for his proposal because “I was all the gift he’d ever need” in life. 🙂 As part of his proposal, he gave me wedding-themed gifts in an order that led up to opening the ring and Andrew dropping to one knee. I don’t remember everything he said as part of the proposal but I do remember crying, screaming “YES!”, and then practically tackling him with a hug.

We got married on July 16, 2005 and honeymooned in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. It was a good honeymoon. We stayed on the all-inclusive resort and did a lot of relaxing, until I got food poisoning (probably the fresh fruit) and spent a lot of time in the bathroom. I hope that the trip we’re taking for our 10 year anniversary this summer will be less gastric…haha!

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(Honeymoon! – 2005)

So as I just mentioned, this summer will mark 10 years of being married to Andrew.  There are so many things that have happened and it’s impossible to remember it all. However, I do have a few moments that remain clear and vivid in my memory.

Let me back up: When we got married and the doors opened for me to walk down the aisle with my dad, I saw Andrew at the other end, sobbing and bawling his eyes out. My dad and I made it down the aisle with dry eyes and as Andrew and I continued to stand at the front of the church, the look on his face was one I couldn’t read. I’d never been so confused by an expression on his face as I was during our wedding ceremony. But I believe it was because he was feeling a lot of emotions and his face couldn’t keep up with them all! At one point during our ceremony, though, I whispered, “Are you okay?” to which he gave a quick nod. So I followed his nod with, “Well just don’t throw up on me…” Ah, the romance. 🙂

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(the sobbing groom)

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Other married moments: buying our first house at the ripe age of 23 and getting our first dog shortly after that. We traveled some more, worked jobs/careers, faced some health issues, and continued to love and build our marriage. After 5 years of being married and enjoying “us” time, we decided it was time to start a family. We consciously made the decision to try to have a baby, and after only 4 months of trying, we found out I was expecting in November of 2010.

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On that morning of November 9, 2010, I woke up as I did any work day morning, but I knew it was my plan to take a pregnancy test first thing before taking a shower. I’d done this a couple of times before with negative results, so after peeing on the stick, I put it on the counter and began undressing to take my shower. I didn’t have contacts in nor glasses on, so I was in my natural state of highly impaired vision; however, even through the blurriness, I began to see a second pink line forming to join the standard first one. I continued to stand at the bathroom counter, naked as a jay bird, until I was for sure that there was a second pink line. I’d closed the bathroom door so as not to wake Andrew, as I did every morning when I began getting ready, but when I opened the door and said his name, Andrew bolted from the bed. He’d known I was going to take a test when I woke up, so when I called his name, he dashed into the bathroom to see the pregnancy test. I believe he said something to the effect of, “You’re kidding me…” We were shocked, overjoyed, but hardly knew how to react. I believe I stood naked in the bathroom for a few minutes before I could figure out how to proceed with life…haha. I did take pictures of the test after my shower, and I continued to look at the pictures throughout the day to make myself believe I was actually pregnant. After work that day, I then went to the drug store and bought every other kind of pregnancy test and took those, too. Andrew grumbled about the cost but I needed to be reassured by also seeing a plus sign and a digital read-out of the word “pregnant.” It was Andrew’s idea to wait from November 9 to Christmas Day to reveal my pregnancy to family. We kept the secret and had momentous reveals. It was during this time that I began to feel a closer connection to Andrew.

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When my water broke on July 19, 2011, I was in our upstairs bathroom and yelled down, “Hey Andrew, I think my water just broke!” to which he replied, “You’re joking!!!” It’s funny that his reaction to my pregnancy and then an impending delivery were just about the same.

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(July 19, 2011)

I remember bits and pieces of my labor but it was during the literal delivery of Ella Grace, via C-section, that I recall her first cry and Andrew subsequently saying over and over “Oh my God.” We were both likely having out of body experiences. We had a daughter. We were parents. We’d created another human being. It’s likely the most incredible moment I’ve experienced in life, and along with remembering the exact sound of my daughter’s first cry, I can also recall the tremble in Andrew’s voice – the sound of emotion, tears, and utter disbelief. “Oh my God, oh my God…” over and over. He instantly became a father in that moment, and I firmly believe that any nervousness he had about caring for a baby instantly fell away when he held Ella Grace for the first time. On numerous occasions in her first months, I felt that Andrew was far more steady in caring for her than I was. He became even more amazing in my eyes.

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(July 20, 2011)

There are so many more moments and memories. We’re only a fraction through a lifetime together, but already Andrew and I have experienced so much and been so blessed. I do hope that in 30 or 40 more years I can still remember our youth so clearly. I know that as the years pass, we will continue to celebrate Andrew’s birthday on March 3, and each year, I’ll never cease to be thankful for every minute, every laugh, all of the tears, each night with him asleep by my side, and every second I can hold his hand or reach for him. He is truly a gift in my life. 11,688 days alive for Andrew and of those days, I’ve been by his side for 5,677. Thank you, God.

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