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What Alice Forgot (and also, my entire heart).

Well.  This post has traveled to and from the trash can a few times, friends.  But here goes.

I’ve been reading a book – What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty.  It was one of those randomly selected (okay, I’m am computer scientist; I realize it was not ‘randomly’ selected…) titles on your Kindle that pops up after you finish a book because, hey, if you liked that book or even thought it was okay, reading this book might be a decent way to pass time on your return flight.  So, I bought it and started reading.  Because, whatever, but Amazon probably knows me better than anyone.

And, gosh, this book.  On so many levels it’s struck a chord with me.  I’m not reallyyy going to ruin it for you (and I haven’t even finished it yet) but it’s about a woman named Alice who wakes up on a gym floor thinking she’s 29, madly in love with her husband, and sweetly expecting the arrival of their first baby.  But when she comes to, everyone tells her that, no, she’s actually 39.  And doesn’t she remember anything?  Alice wakes up to a broken marriage, three children she doesn’t know, and a realization that she’s turned into someone that she can’t stand.  She’s left fumbling to pick up the pieces and figure out what went wrong.

Alice has this sister, Elisabeth.  And Elisabeth is the first person she calls when she’s taken to the hospital, because of course, her older sister is her closest friend.  But a lot has happened in a decade.  And Alice realizes that Elizabeth is a sad, cold shell of the life-filled, optimistic woman she once was.  It’s turns out that while Alice had three beautiful children without effort (and even one of them “by accident”), Elisabeth had lost baby after baby.  After baby.  In Elisabeth’s journal to her psychiatrist, she voices all of the crazy, heart breaking, frustrating thoughts that she keeps so well contained underneath her cool, professional demeanor.

“That’s what’s so embarrassing about all this. Each time I sobbed for a lost baby, it was like sobbing over the end of a relationship when I’d never even gone out with the guy. My babies weren’t babies. They were just microscopic clusters of cells that weren’t ever going to be anything else. They were just my own desperate hopes. Dream babies. And people have to give up on dreams.”

“So now I just assume that it won’t work, and that if it does work, I’ll lose it anyway. This is meant to protect me, although it doesn’t, because somehow the hope sneakily finds its way in. I’m never aware of the hope until it’s gone, whooshed away like a rug pulled from under my feet, each time I hear another “I’m sorry.”

“I have no right to be sad about anything. No right to have therapy from expensive doctors like you for losing children who never existed. There is real grief in the world. There are real mothers losing real children.”

No one knew.  No one knew the depth of Elisabeth’s grief and shame and brokeness except a journal that her therapist didn’t even read.  And guess what?  She ended up shutting everyone out and going through the motions and giving up on hope.  And friends, this terrified me.

Because as scary as it is to say out loud (in print?), I’ve been there.  A while ago, we found out we’d lost our first baby just a few days shy of the second trimester safety zone.

No heartbeat.  No reason.  Nothing more we could do.

And no need to be too upset, we were told, because this happens all the time and we still had (what was it??) an 80% chance of having a healthy baby in the future, and blah, blah, blah.

I’ve wanted to be a mom for my whole life.  I mean, I remember that for my twelfth birthday, all I wanted was this really special baby doll and my mom kept asking if I was sure I didn’t want to change my mind.  And I remember the day – the DAY – that I was deemed old enough to babysit.  And I still get that gut feeling when I see a little baby, but I’m too old to fearlessly run up and ask to hold her now.  All that to say, I’ve been looking forward to this time in my life for a while.

Even still, I definitely wasn’t naive.  I’d heard and seen stories of immense loss and I knew I was not exempt from that.  So we did everything right:  We kept it private.  We didn’t buy a single thing, even though I’d secretly walk by the baby section at Target and let my eyes drift towards all of the things that only mothers get to touch.  We talked about our ‘maybe baby’ and tried not to let our hearts get too attached.

We were going to go out for breakfast afterwards.  I think to the Landmark, but it could have been somewhere else, my memory of that morning is a bit hazy.  We were the first ones to the office, which now feels a bit embarrassing.  We called and knocked and wondered if we were in the right place.  (We were.)  And when we finally got into the room with the ultrasound tech, I was shaking and Ryan held my hand and made some slightly off color joke about the equipment and we all laughed.  After that it was silent.  And everyone’s seen enough movies to know that’s a bad thing.  Without an explanation they sent us to a procedure room to wait for our midwife.  It felt like an eternity.  We knew.  And outside the door, we heard her say to the tech, “You’re kidding.  First appointment of the morning?”  They sent us out the back door, so we wouldn’t have to see all the rosy ladies, smiling, with swollen bellies in the waiting room.

Gosh, I was bitter.  Some nights I’d finally fall asleep and when I’d wake up it’d take a few minutes for that morning at the doctor’s office to rush back to me, almost like when you come to after a fainting spell.  That week we got calls or notes from five close friends telling us they were expecting.  (I’m not joking.  I started keeping track because it felt like a joke.)  And let me say that obviously, we were glad for them and (because we’re not the spawn of Satan) we would never have wished our situation on anyone, but it sucked big time and brought out all those emotions that I had worked so diligently to stuff away.  Ryan pushed me to tell a couple friends about everything.  And I did.  That didn’t fix it.

I wrestled with God in the typical way, I assume.  Asked all the whys.  Wondered how this was fair and whether He is actually good.

And I can’t say I’ve figured it out, actually it still stings every day.  And really, I haven’t moved on at all.  But I can say with confidence that God has brought good things out of the pain.

I had the opportunity to speak at a Christian girls’ retreat and for some reason I threw caution to the wind and included the raw, unedited version of my story.  I don’t know if it made a difference to any of them, but it made a difference for me.  I think God does something in us when we share our stories vulnerably with one another.

He brings comfort and peace.  Not in a way that erases hurt.  But it’s something.  Because man, masking all of that pain is exhausting, isn’t it?  Acknowledging our weakness and brokenness is unifying, and it seems to bring Him glory.

Also, I’ve decided that it’s better to hope than not hope.  While I was pregnant, I had this weirdo notion that if I let myself get excited – for instance, if I bought some little onesie with a monkey on it for $4.99 – then some sort of karma (that I don’t actually believe in) might take my baby away from me to teach me a lesson.  I know, my brain is a crazy place – that is just ridiculous.  If there is a next time, I’m going to let myself feel it.  Because really, was it less painful because I didn’t buy a pair of tiny socks?  (No, it wasn’t.)

The prospect of never getting to be a mother scares the heck out of me.  But I’ve realized, there is something more frightening: Waking up in a decade and realizing that in trying to protect my heart, I’d become a person that I don’t even recognize – a lonely, empty shell of who I once was.  So I choose hoping.  I choose feelings and brokenness and vulnerability.



If you’ve lost a baby, it actually IS okay to talk about it and feel it and wrestle with it.  I know there’s this weird social pressure to put it behind you and trudge on fearlessly and to that I say, “Whatever.”  If you need someone, I’ll be that person.  I’d love to hear your story.  E-mail me at



March 2, 2015 - 4:25 pm

Jamie - Oh gosh, Hayley. I am so sorry for your and Ryan’s loss. And I love you. And God is faithful, all the time!

March 2, 2015 - 4:32 pm

Katie Denisar - Hayley,
I wish I had the words to take away your pain. So much of what you said I can relate to and yet can’t even imagine what it would feel like to have such a loss. I’m glad you felt brave enough to share your true feelings. I remember giving a talk at The Weekend and I felt bad that my story wasn’t all sunshine and flowers but if felt so good to be honest about how I felt and that I wasn’t happy with God’s plan at the time. In the end (of course), I’m thankful for His plan and wouldn’t have changed all the bad times if it meant I couldn’t have what I have today. Hang in there- you will be a mommy someday and a SUPER mommy at that I have no doubt. Much love to you!!! XO Katie

March 2, 2015 - 4:59 pm

Mallory Becraft - Thanks for sharing, Hayley. I can’t imagine what you are going through but agree that vulnerability helps us to connect with others. I really respect your hopefulness and willingness to share… and will be sending nothing but positive thoughts your way.

I’m sure you have, but if not, you might be interested in this Ted Talk ( or any of Brene Brown’s work on vulnerability. It really resonates with me and reminds me of your post.

March 2, 2015 - 5:24 pm

Peg - I am so sorry Haley. Your pain was palpable as I was reading. I am praying for you and Ryan as I type and will continue. Lancing the boil does help. But loss is loss. Grief is the price we pay for loving. God bless you for your openness.

March 2, 2015 - 8:24 pm

Erin Kilgore - Oh sweet Hayley, I am so sorry. My heart aches for you. There are absolutely no words…We are praying for you both and love you!

March 2, 2015 - 8:48 pm

Cassie - Wow…all I can really say is that. My heart aches for you. My heart admires your boldness in sharing this story. I am so very sorry, Hayley. We, often, don’t have answers for what life serves us, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t still ask, “why.” We worship and walk with a very big God. He welcomes us to beat on His chest. Although miles separate us, please know that I am here for you, if you ever need anything. Love and Hugs to you and Ryan.

March 2, 2015 - 9:33 pm

Jackie Cook - Wow, Hayley …. I’m so sorry for the loss that you & Ryan have experienced. True … it happens to a lot of couples, yet that doesn’t minimize the sorrow. Nor, ever, will any justification … so I’m not even going to go there. One day, I hope, you will experience your ‘dream come true’ to be a mother. And while, maybe you’d rather not be used by God to ‘share your experience,’ your heart reaches a lot of people & it is evident that in sharing your story, God, too, is growing you. Brian & I lost our first baby. Two years later, we welcomed Kaitlyn! Keep hope alive, my dear! Love you.

the homemade pantry: a giveaway!

HomemadePantry2-1024x682Okay, friends.  This is exciting!  It’s time for my first giveaway.  And what better prize is there than my very favorite cookbook of all time?!  You’ve heard me rave about The Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila before, but let me reiterate: It. Is. The best.  I bought this by chance at a Barnes & Noble when we first really started cutting back on store-bought, processed foods and I loved it immediately.  It makes Ryan laugh, but he has caught me (on multiple occasions) reading this cookbook before bed in place of a novel.  It’s just totally my style – great photographs, a story to go along with every recipe, and kind of a cozy feel all around.  Alana’s writing is so wonderful & down to earth that it gives her recipes personality.  The way she writes about cooking as a part of her family story reminds me that so many of the best moments happen around the table with friends and family.

It’s jam-packed with great recipes for the basics, but some of our favorites are her yogurt, granola, instant oatmeal, pancakes & waffles, cornbread, pizza sauce, hamburger buns, tortillas, maple popcorn, yellow cake, and pudding…just to name a few.  I’m so excited to share this great book with you!

So here’s the deal:  Enter the giveaway via the form below.  You can earn a total of three entries if you subscribe to the blog & leave a comment – I’d love to know what cookbooks top your list of favorites!

I’ll choose a random winner next Friday, January 30th!  

xoxo, hayley

P.S.  Check out Alana’s blog, Eating From the Ground Up.  You’ll love it!


Big congrats to Anna, who won the giveaway!!

Thanks to everyone who entered.  That was fun!

How to subscribe to the blog & get credit for the contest:
1. Enter your e-mail in the ‘Subscribe Via E-mail’ section near the top right of this page.  Then click the ‘Subscribe’ button.
2. Go to the Rafflecopter form, below, and enter the same e-mail you used to subscribe and click ‘Enter’.
3. Check your e-mail. You’ll get a message asking you to confirm your subscription to the blog.  Click ‘activate’!  Then you’re all set.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


January 23, 2015 - 10:35 pm

Sarah Wingo - Would love to try out this cookbook! 🙂

January 23, 2015 - 10:37 pm

Sarah Wingo - Also- Pioneer woman cookbook tops the list as my favorite.

January 23, 2015 - 10:45 pm

Hannah O'Polka - Thanks so much for tagging me! I love adding new recipes to my collection. I actually find many recipes at and They even help you with grocery lists! 🙂

January 23, 2015 - 10:49 pm

Hayley - Sarah – Yep, Pioneer woman is great. I don’t have her cookbooks, but I love watching her show!

January 23, 2015 - 11:52 pm

Hayley - Hannah – Definitely! I’ll have to check out both those sites. Like you, I’m always looking to add a little something new & exciting to our routine recipes!

January 24, 2015 - 6:44 am

Cassie B - Looks like a great practical cookbook. I love having a fully stocked pantry and want to start making more of the stuff I stock it with.

January 24, 2015 - 7:37 am

Kathleen - I have loved watching you and Ryan create new habits and delicious foods! So glad you are doing well!

January 24, 2015 - 9:33 am

Janet Holland - Where do I join your blog?

January 24, 2015 - 10:36 am

Hayley - Janet – I added instructions on how to subscribe to the post, and also tagged you in some visual instructions on Facebook. Hope that helps! I’m so happy that we’ve gotten back in touch. 🙂

January 24, 2015 - 1:53 pm

Anna Kraft - I love cookbooks for pictures and stories too…love the Pioneer Woman’s cookbooks, and I am currently reading through Keepers and The New Midwestern Table, but they are on hold with Whole30. 🙂

January 24, 2015 - 8:44 pm

Peggy - I love trying new recipes and any you recommend would move high on my list. 😉

January 27, 2015 - 11:29 am

Amanda - Thanks, Hayley! Sounds like my kind of cookbook!

January 28, 2015 - 12:21 am

Amanda Cervantez - Oh, I’ll have to check this cookbook out! My current favorite cookbook is The Midwestern Table by Amy Thielen!

January 28, 2015 - 7:35 pm

Kara - I rarely use cookbooks. We normally try to find recipes online and then adjust them. This one sounds absolutely wonderful, though! I would love to find replacements for more processed stuff. Is there some sort of a cracker recipe? Soren has gone cracker crazy and I feel bad about all the junk he is ingesting in them.

January 28, 2015 - 7:36 pm

Hayley - Kara – Yes! She has a cheese cracker recipe and a ‘wheat thin’ type of recipe.

January 29, 2015 - 10:41 am

Jaime Arnold - My favorite cookbook that I have (that I currently lent out and wish I had back!) a cookbook from the Christian bookstore here in town. It is a family cookbook with tons of easy dinners that aren’t exactly healthy but they got my family excited about cooking! Dan was excited to try the recipes and Lexi loved helping make them. What I loved is that it was also a devotional that you could use with your family over dinner. I will probably buy more copies to give as gifts! But I can’t remember the name of it at the moment, ugh! Anyways, I know you have raved about this cookbook for years so it would be really cool to win one! Even if I don’t I’ll have to go buy it. ☺️

Sleepy Time Rub with Essential Oils

sleepy time rub -

So, I shared in this post about how much I’ve been loving my Young Living essential oils starter kit.  And I think now I’ve even sold my husband on them with this Sleepy Time Rub.  He also might have just said that because he got a foot rub, but I’m calling it a win.  Take five minutes to whip up a batch with the recipe below!  (Or if you’re interested in learning how to get started with essential oils, check out this page.)

sleepy time rub -

Sleepy Time Rub
+ 1/3 cup coconut oil
+ 10 drops Lavender
+ 10 drops Peace & Calming
+ 10 drops Valor

Melt coconut oil.  Add essential oils & mix.  Pour into glass container & let it return to a solid in the refrigerator.  Apply to feet or wrists or chest before bedtime.  Sleep like a baby!

What’s your favorite way to use essential oils?

xoxo, hayley

January 23, 2015 - 10:34 pm

Alison - Did they cure the headache? I suffer from migraines and am really curious on a method that is less invasive (shots) and harsh on my body.

January 23, 2015 - 10:56 pm

Hayley - Alison, I can’t say that I have personal experience since I don’t suffer from migraines. But I did a bit of reading and it sounds like many people swear the peppermint & lavender combo. I just diffused it, but it seems like most add it to a carrier oil (like coconut oil) and apply it to their temples, back of neck, etc.

Young Living also has an oil blend that specifically targets migraines called M-Grain. I’ve read some success stories, so it might be worth a try!


So, by now you know that I think natalie is super cool.  I saw this list on her blog today and thought it’d be a fun way to get out of my writing slump.

currently -

I’m currently…

reading:  Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.  I’ve had this book sitting on my shelf forever, and I’ve started it a couple different times only to be distracted by some bright and shiny young adult fiction (I know, I know, I’m just not great at liking the grown-up books!  Especially the non-fiction…).  So, this time it’s going to happen.  Even in just the first chapter, it packs a powerful punch.

playing:  the All Sons & Daughters Live album.  All day, every day.

watching:  nothing to speak of, but Friends is on Netflix now (yay!) so that’s my go-to.

trying:  to figure out what shade of white to paint the second floor bedrooms.  If you follow me on instagram, you’ve heard my desperate pleas for help.  I have no skills in this area.  I’ve read all the blogs and asked all the people and held up all the paint chips.  To me, the greenish-whites and pinkish-whites and grey-ish whites all look white.  So, I think I’ve decided to just buy big buckets of plain white eggshell paint off the shelves and paint everything.  Problem solved.

currently -

cooking:  baked potatoes & veggie toppings with my hubby.  Not my best ever Whole30 concoction, but let’s be real:  some days you just have to use that microwave – you know – so it doesn’t feel left out from all the stove top and oven stuff that’s been going on lately.

eating:  all the Whole30 things.  I’m in a bit of a sweet potato/aidells chicken sausage/eggs over easy rut, but it’s day 9 & I’m still hanging in.  And actually, I’m feeling great.  The toughest part of the whole thing for me has definitely been the social aspect (having to bring my own food or having trouble ordering off of a restaurant menu when out with friends), but I’m finding it easier and easier each day.  And I can honestly say my cravings for sweet treats are gone!  (Cue hallelujah chorus.)

drinking:  peppermint tea.  My fave!

calling:  my mom, if anyone.

texting:  ryan.  Five-thousand times a day.  (Sorry, babe, I just have so many thoughts…)  And Anna.  We’re doing this Whole30 together and trying to get a workout in each day.  Accountability is a must!

pinning:  ideas for our house!

tweeting:  gah, I don’t even know about twitter.

crafting:  painting, really.  Painting a linen cabinet to help with our lack-of-storage dilema.  Painting our bedroom.  Touching up the white woodwork around the house.

doing:  the couch-to-5k running plan.  I’ve always wanted to be able to run, but I’m terrible.  I’m on week two and still going strong, so that’s something.

going:  to start selling more things on ebay.  I’ve noticed it even more since we’ve been moving things around to paint: We have way, way too much stuff.  New motto: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”  (William Morris)

loving:  my essential oils premium starter kit from Young Living.  I’ve been diffusing Peace & Calming before bed & putting a drop of lavender on our pillows – and now I’m sleeping like a baby.  (If you’re interested in ordering your own starter kit, click here.)

hating:  our power bills.  I guess that’s what you get when you live in a big, old, uninsulated house in the middle of the midwest.

currently -

discovering:  how much better I feel (physically & mentally) since I’ve started the Whole30 & an exercise routine.  It sounds so obvious, but it makes a world of difference.

enjoying:  being on the leadership team for a Christian girls’ weekend retreat.  It’s been really uplifting to be spending time with a community of faithful, encouraging women.

hoping:  to make an IKEA trip sometime in the near future!

celebrating:  warm, fuzzy blankets.

smelling:  my Fireside Yankee candle.  The best.

currently -


thanking:  my husband, Ryan.  I’ve been reminded over the last days how deeply he cares about the people he loves.  Their hurt is his hurt.  Their joy is his joy.  He’s a special guy.  🙂

considering:  learning calligraphy.  But I don’t know where to start.  Any suggestions?

finishing:  the talk about communicating that I wrote for that upcoming girls’ retreat.  Maybe I’ll post more about that later.

starting:  to make plans for my garden this year.  We’re planning to build five raised beds this year & add some cool heirloom veggies to the mix.  So exciting!  

What are you up to these days? Any good books to recommend? Anything exciting going on in your life? I’d love to hear about it!

xoxo, Hayley


my one word for 2015

my one word for 2015

This year, I think I’ll take Natalie’s lead and choose one word to represent my hopes and goals for 2015.  And since the moment I considered the idea, I’ve heard my word echoing from the mountaintops (of Illinois??) – “be present“.

present, adjective: not past or future; existing now

Being present is something I’ve struggled with for pretty much always.  I’m a worrier, and a planner, and a stress-outer.  During work, I’m making notes about how I want to (re)decorate the house.  During meals I’m mentally already clearing the table.  During crafty projects, I’m thinking about how good it will feel to finish.  But I never seem to be right here, right now.  This year, that changes.

my one word for 2015

I will say yes to today and enjoy it for what it is.  (And stop focusing on what it’s not.)

I will invest in relationship – with my husband, with (new) friends, and with God.  This is hard – dependence, vulnerability, turning off that performance mentality.  But I’m in.

I will learn to be grateful for the process – each stitch of a knitting project, my time at the gym, each page of a book – rather than just focusing on the finish line.

my one word for 2015

I think part of my inability to be present stems from disorganization.  I’m committing to doing 15 minutes of preparation for the next day before bed each night with this printable.  It helps me to get everything in one place and stop worrying about what I’m forgetting.  I’m seeing that the most important parts of the planning, for me, are

  1. setting three top priorities:  I’m learning that my to-do list will always hold more than I can accomplish in one day, so setting a few things above the rest helps me focus and feel accomplished;
  2. deciding on some things that can wait until tomorrow: This is powerful stuff – telling myself that these things don’t have to take up space or time today.  Plus, this helps me think forward to what the next day’s to-do list might contain; and
  3. leaving room for my mind to wander, but keeping a handle on it: So my brain is a little bit of a jungle, full of ideas and whims that I can runaway with, accidentally leaving my real life behind, for like, hours.  So, new rule: Write down the things in a list.  Immediately resume working/listening to sermon/driving/eating sushi.  Revisit jumbled, crazy list of random thoughts at a later date and attempt to decipher.

So.  Here’s to being here – being present.

What is your word for this year?  Let me know in the comments!

And check out Natalie’s post about her word for 2015 here.

January 1, 2015 - 5:53 pm

Olga | teamconfetti - I’m so glad that the to do list helps you organise so well! Such a funny idea that someone on the other side of the planet is using it. 🙂
Have a great new year!

January 1, 2015 - 6:15 pm - Olga – It’s wonderful! Thank you so much for creating it! 🙂 Happy new year!