The Hike

About ten years ago, when I first met Rick, it was pretty clear from the beginning that he was The One.

If you know Rick, that’s not surprising. Handsome, funny, smart, kind—he was the total package. But, of course, everyone has their flaws. And I should have seen this coming. He went to school in Maine. He carried a Nalgene bottle. He had a propensity for all things L.L. Bean. That’s right. Rick was…..outdoorsy. 

Since high school, I prided myself on being an indoor cat. I was not interested in “physical activity” or, you know, “doing healthy things.”

“No one every got hurt reading a good book!” I would proudly exclaim after hearing about a sports injury. I loved movies, and tv, and reading, but it was just not my thing to head outside in my free time. 

Then in waltzes this amazing guy and well, love makes you do crazy things. Before I know it, I’m slated for a Saturday hike. I’ll admit that in an atypical way, I kind of wanted to go. You know, do something novel and crazy. For some people that might mean jumping out of a plane. For me it was walking on a dirt trail, okay?  But then the anxiety popped up. With Crohn’s disease, I would often have to use the bathroom at a moment’s notice. Sometimes multiple times in a row. That’s not exactly desirable dating material, I’ll admit. I didn’t particularly love it myself. And not having access to a bathroom, and then worrying about access to a bathroom, was a recipe for exactly what I didn’t want: having to use a bathroom. 

I once heard a story (a true story about a college friend’s friend from high school, not an urban legend) about a guy who simply thought about his girlfriend having to go #2 and had to break up with her!!! That’s the kind of stuff that haunted my dreams. It’s hard enough to find someone to date. You don’t really want your embarrassing bathroom habits to be what drives him or her away.

But I was hoping that things would turn out for the best, and that maybe I’d be so happy and in so in loooove that my intestines would just be simply twitterpated (Bambi reference) and just take the day off. Basically, I just figured I’d deal with the ensuing embarrassment in the moment, and then wish him well as he finds his perfect, outdoorsy, never-pooping match somewhere else.

So I arrive and, just to set the scene, Rick is packing up a backpack with some water and trail mix…and I’m standing there in flip-flops and oversized sunglasses and wondering if I can stop and get a venti cappuccino on the way. (Also, not going to help with the bathroom situation, but I’m a glutton for punishment.)

‘Oh, one more thing!” he exclaims.  He leaves the room and comes back with a twinkle in his eye. He’s got something behind his back. “We should probably bring this too, just in case, right?” And there, in his hand, rested a gleaming, two-ply roll of “will you marry me.” Okay, he wasn’t proposing, but he was standing there holding a toilet paper roll. Like my gastrointestinal knight in shining armor. 

That was yet another a major sign that Rick was The One for me. From very early on, he accepted who I was and what I was challenged with. He didn’t gloss over it but he didn’t make it a big deal, either. That TP spoke volumes to me. And you know what? It took just enough of the edge off of my anxiety that I never needed to use it on that hike.

So I hope that, whatever you struggle with, I hope you have—or keep looking for!—  someone to bring you TP, whether that’s literal or metaphorical. That person doesn’t have to be a romantic partner, just a friend who accepts you for exactly who you are. Someone who takes your issues or struggles in stride, as part of the overall wonderful package of You. Someone who is willing to tackle things alongside you, to whatever degree you need it.

Actually, first and foremost, I hope you are a step ahead of where I was, and that you are ok with bringing your own damn toilet paper. You know, ok with being exactly who you are, take it or leave it! But I also hope you find the companionship of a person who packs the TP for you, flashes it to you secretly with a knowing grin, and then takes you out for a hike. 

Here we go…


Finding Alice

It was probably two years ago now that I was sitting in church and the particular prayer on my mind was, Ok God, what do you want me to do with the rest of my life?  After all, things hadn’t quite turned out as I’d expected. 

Rick and I are both from big families. Mine includes 5 siblings and 15 nieces and nephews, and now a great-niece and a great-nephew! Rick’s includes a brother, a niece and a nephew, plus a large extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins. Naturally, when we got married seven years ago, we assumed we would also be blessed with a large family. Two months before our first anniversary, Ryan was born. We were off to a great start! We even picked our stroller based on how it would work for two kiddos because we were so sure another baby would soon follow. And then, nothing.

Don’t get me wrong, life was good. But from a baby perspective, it wasn’t going according to MY plan. Probably the most frustrating part was that I was so excited to use our name for a girl. (Well, we had a considerable list of girl names, but this was the front runner. And I’ll have you know I am breaking MAJOR Morris Family protocol by sharing a baby name…my sisters are going to be outraged. Sorry Mary, Eileen, and Colleen!) But if we had a baby girl, her name was going to be Alice. My Mom’s name. 

Not long after we moved to New Hampshire, we learned that scar tissue was very likely the reason why I wasn’t getting pregnant. Over 25 years of Crohn’s disease meant a handful of surgeries, and surgeries can lead to scar tissue. Unfortunately when that’s in the lower abdominal area, it can affect the surrounding organs. So basically, it did not look good for more Feeney babies. I was used to, and accepted (not always gracefully), Crohn’s affecting other aspects of my life, but it had never occurred to me that it would impact my dreams of having a big family. 

So back to the pew in St. Michael Church, asking God for guidance. I’m sitting there wondering, If I’m not going to have any more kids (the thing which I had assumed would occupy the better part of at least two decades) what do You want me to do with the rest of my life? At the time, Ryan was going to be starting a longer day of preschool, so I would have more time on my hands. Should I keep freelancing? Should I write something else? Should I go back to school?

Of course, God didn’t whisper in my ear as I was sitting there, and I wasn’t expecting that. I was just formally starting the convo and trying get serious about my own process of self-reflection at the same time. 

When Mass was over, I had coffee on my mind, obviously. As I pulled out of my street parking spot, I was minding my own business, plotting my Dunkin Donuts order, when all of a sudden I noticed the car ahead of me had a vanity plate. The vanity plate read: ALICE. 

Now, COME ON. Right?

So I really felt a sense of hope. Maybe another baby is still in the plan, I thought. I tried to keep the faith. But another year passed without any success. 

Around this time, my Mom’s forgetfulness started to turn into something more. I remember a phone conversation I was having with one of my sisters. I told her the story of the vanity plate. “You know,” she said, “maybe the Alice is Mom. Maybe it has something to do with her.”

That hadn’t even really occurred to me. Of course when I first saw the vanity plate, my Mom wasn’t in any need of help. I’d like to think that in the very quick progression of her illness, until she passed away in December 2017, that I did help her. But I wasn’t her primary caregiver, and I wasn’t even able to contribute in the same ways that my other siblings did, because I was so far away in New Hampshire and my schedule was pretty limited with Ryan being in school. While I tried to help where I could, I just don’t feel like I did enough for her for that to be It.   

I’m still trying to figure it out. And honestly, I haven’t given up hope on another baby. But for now,  I’m starting this blog. I’m a writer. Might as well start with this! I’m calling it, Finding Alice. It’s kind of like my personal metaphor for finding out more about my purpose in life. 

Some days Finding Alice will be a way for me to share how I’m finding my Mom, and her influence, in my day-to-day life.

I’ve been wondering if my purpose in life has something to do with my experiences with Crohn’s disease, depression, and anxiety, so I’ll share about these personal experiences as well. My hope is that this might help someone struggling with one of these things—or struggling with SOME thing. It always helps to know we are not alone. We all have our crosses to bear. 

You’ll probably see a post or two about The Bachelor/Bachelorette, because I need some sort of outlet for all this cerebral stuff I’ve got going on up here in my brain.

Of course this wouldn’t be a blog written by me, if I didn’t share about my faith and how that has played, and continues to play, a role in my life. Will I be able to intertwine this with a Bachelor post? Only time will tell!

Finding Alice will also be a way for me to share and laugh about a smorgasbord of other life experiences. A way for me to fight the Facebook tendency, and I’ll fully admit, MY Facebook tendency, to post a select view of life. I’d prefer to live a little bit more authentically, even though that also means being a bit more vulnerable. I’ll admit, I’m terrified. See above: Anxiety. 

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for sticking with it! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading as much as I’ve enjoyed agonizing about writing this. 


I welcome all comments INCLUDING differences of opinion as long as they are expressed with kindness and respect.