Grocery Spin

Grocery Spin

“Don’t take it personally…holidays are the saddest time of the year for many people,” my brain could not, would not absorb this sentence.

Mom used her hands to iron the wrinkles of Mr. Gobbles’ construction paper feathers. Slow little exhales, burning nose, tight throat. Each feather had a letter of my name written neatly on the back.

Red feather-E, orange feather-M, yellow feather-I, green feather-L, blue feather-Y, purple feather…oh, no. At first I was a little sad that it didn’t work out evenly. Then aha…purple feather-K.

It was a good idea. You can call yourself “Emily K” if your name is Emily Knoll. This trick especially helps if the kindergarten class has 2 Emilys. You don’t have to say the whole name. My letters were very straight, all the same size…I forgot to show Mom the back, but I didn’t want to right now.

Why can’t I spin in the grocery store aisle with arms wide, faster and faster, listen to his feathers flutter, whoa…whoa, no one has EVER spun this fast, canned foods a blur, probably a world record-

“WATCH what you’re doing!” His hand was quick and precise. I know an accident, and I know on purpose. Grab, crunch.

He did not look like my grandpa, but he looked like he was SOMEone’s grandpa. All old people love all children. No. They don’t.

Sometimes if I close my eyes tightly, I can see pages in my reality scrapbook, and the days when more details were added. Pages that were once only a brightly colored paper plate turkey, that now also have a black and white photograph of a stranger–large glasses, a veiny nose tip, deep frown lines–“WATCH what you are doing!” Thanksgiving page.

“He was NOT SAD. He was MEAN.” I no longer felt like crying. He wasn’t on the aisle anymore, and I wasn’t tall enough to reach his face. But I was a good climber, and I also had a good imagination. Our paths could cross again on a different aisle. I could climb into the cart and slap him in the face with my turkey. Slap, slap, slap, slap, slap…I could probably get 5 or 6 whacks in before anyone could stop me.

“Sometimes sad people SEEM mean,” Mom interrupted my violent fantasy. And caught up in my own angry-sadness, the irony of her statement was lost on me, for many years. Hurt people hurt people. Adjectives and verbs and…I get it now.

“Why would a holiday be sad for someone, Mom?” We would collect cans at school for homeless people, and I knew what they looked like because I would see them at the library reading Western books on the worn, upholstered couches.
I knew a lot. He was not homeless. He was clean and dressed nice with a good haircut for an old man.

“There are lots of reasons people get sad on holidays…sometimes they are lonely. He might’ve lost his wife recently.” I knew that “lost” could mean she had died, and probably did not mean that he couldn’t find her.

People don’t like to hear the words “dead” and “died,” so sometimes we say…”my dog passed away.” Or “we lost my dog last night.” And most people will know this means died.

I thought of my own grandmas and great-grandmas. I did not want holidays without them. And that would be sad. Where would we go? My great grandma came to my grandma’s now. My grandma is her daughter.

“Well, why can’t he just be happy that he can have Thanksgiving with his kids and grandkids and other family? He’s not homeless.” THANKful. FULL of thanks. Reasons are everywhere. You have to teach yourself to see them and to say them and to feel the thanks. I had been practicing myself.

My neighbor had SEVEN Cabbage Patch dolls. I had only one Cabbage Patch doll–Lily Lynette. I did not name her. Her birth certificate came in the box. I called her “Lily the Net,” and I did not like her middle name, but my sister said I cannot change it.

I told mom that my friend had seven, and she told me to be thankful for my one. I never said I wanted seven. I was just telling her. And I did love Lily. We would swing together. I was full of thanks for her.

“Baby…you just never know. He may not have other family or…maybe they all live far away or…” Mom was scribbling out items on her grocery list.

He ended up in front of us at the checkout, just like I had hoped. I didn’t know what the word confrontation meant back then. Or intimidation. I only knew that I was not a pretender. He could pretend he doesn’t see me, and he did. But I was not a pretender. I would just stare.

Three bananas, a loaf of white bread, one roll of toilet paper, a package of bologna, a frozen Salisbury steak dinner, the smallest container of pecan ice cream. 

Ice cream with nuts:  that’s the dividing line between young and old. I had been trying my best to keep my parents away from old flavors, to keep them young. It was an exhausting fight that they didn’t comprehend. I didn’t even know you could buy only one roll of toilet paper. I did not want to think about him going to the bathroom, but I kept thinking it.

I don’t hate you anymore, old man. I really never did. I am so sorry about your wife. Life has a way of humbling us all.
My name was Emily K for exactly one month shy of 19 years. And then Emily S for exactly 2 months shy of 14 years. And then Emily B for exactly 2 years and 3 months. And today, it has been Emily C for 3 days shy of 1 year and 4 months.

Sometimes you stand in the front rows of church with your hands lifted, belting out joyful noises.

Sometimes you sit on the back row even though everyone else is standing, and you just listen with a repentant heart, thinking…I shouldn’t have spanked my daughter so hard this morning RIGHT before we left for church.

Sometimes you only make it to the parking lot, and you can’t bear to walk in, past all the people who love and hug you. So you just text a friend and ask her to please come sit outside in your minivan with you and let you cry while you tell her that he packed and left.

Sometimes you come back too soon, all alone. And the sermon series is called “Songs of Love” and all about things your heart isn’t ready to hear yet, so you have to make a brisk walk sobbing past the huggers, before the service is over, back to a minivan full of no one.

Sometimes you come alone during a holiday sermon, and a little girl inches closer and closer to you with the warmest smile, and she tells you that she wants a Christmas sweatshirt that lights up.

And then sometimes you make it back on the front rows, and not everyone knows about the back row days or the parking lot…but you will never, never forget them. Life’s scrapbook pages are so full of clippings of every sort.

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:11-12 NIV)

Family holidays and gatherings change so much over the years. I am thankful for the memories of big holiday gatherings with lots of food and a roomful of family members. Memories of paper plate turkeys.

And I am thankful for holiday alone times too, years when I don’t have my daughters with me, thankful for quiet morning times with God, thankful for all the other people who love my girls, thankful for the good food and laughs they will share in the homes where I no longer go, thankful that I can relax and not cook. Absence does make the heart grow fonder, so I won’t lie and say I don’t miss them. I am thankful that I miss them, thankful they will be back. 

Much love to all my family and friends. I hope your day is lovely. And lots of love and prayers to those friends who are going through hard times, friends who can’t be with their family today, friends who are deployed, friends in prison, friends who are eating Salisbury steak and pecan ice cream alone, friends who lost a loved one recently…or not recently, friends who don’t see their blessings, friends who do see theirs, friends who have to work, friends of broken and blended families, friends struggling with addictions, friends who are sick or in the hospital. 

Love to my friends who are laughing today, and especially to my friends who are crying. May God bless each of you in special ways.

In everything, give thanks. Somehow find it, feel it, give it. Thankful. 

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Glorious Chub

Glorious Chub

When did I love you less? Never. 

How many times have I stretched a baby sock over a freshly lotioned, plump pink baby calf? With four older sisters, Rebekah, you know it was many, many, many times. 

I would circle my finger around inside your little sock. It gapped so drastically. Rubbing the tiny knob of your ankle, watching your soft skin roll and wrinkle as I easily slipped the sock back off, I would kiss your long thin toes as they curled onto and gripped my finger.  

A long, skinny 5lbs and 10oz, I usually dressed you in long-sleeved, footed outfits or in many layers, not because I was ever ashamed of you; please know that it was never that, but because I wanted to protect you from any raised eyebrows, from whispers of concern, from tight-lipped smiles, from critical eyes. People can be cruel. 

Your wide eyes were glazed with fatigue at times, not always, but even once a week was too much. You fought sleep  sometimes, even when we knew you were exhausted. 

You will never know how many hours your dad would patiently rock you, slowly massaging, warmly snuggling, securely pressing you into his safe chest. Hours and hours, leaving his hand in your crib with you because you would wake if he tried to sneak away. Your strong, delicate fingers wrapped tightly around his thick finger, but he cannot deny that he was the one who was wrapped. 

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You slap my face with your chubby hands, throw your head back smiling, then head butt me as you pull my head toward you, slobbering all over my face as you cover  me with the messiest, sweetest kisses.

In two days, you will be 9 months old, and this morning while I watched you laugh as you splashed water onto your fat face in the bathtub, I decided I needed to weigh you again. 

Whoa…19.1 lbs of glorious chub, I was elated to see that. But just so we are clear–this scale has never weighed, and could never weigh, my love for you or your worth as a baby. 

You are so curious about Audrey’s kitten Carly, and she is curious to know you too.

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 Morning babies, playing hard.


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YOU’VE COME A LONG WAY, BABY GIRL!!





To my favorite soldier…

To my favorite soldier…

Do you ever look at pictures of us and think–why do we ever fight? Because I do. 

A man in uniform. Hot. A uniform crumpled on the floor. Hotter. A cocoon of safe arms. Warm. 

Don’t get up. Don’t go. 

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It must be the Army in his veins. I’m not usually awake at 5:15am these days. I had never been a lucid audience watching Keith when his alarm goes off. It gave a new meaning to UP AND AT ‘EM. 

I think my dad would’ve liked to see me move this way when he would clap his hands in my room late on Saturday morning, “UP AND AT ‘EM!” <CLAP-CLAP-CLAP-CLAP> I am no soldier. “Mo-ommmmm! Tell him not to do that. And why does he always call me Adam?!”

I was playing 2048 on my phone when his alarm went off. Keith JUMPS out of the bed, and I think he must land in his pants, socks, boots. He would have an amazing transition time in a triathlon.

He is quiet and quick and I don’t know what all he did in the dark. I blink twice trying to see him; I can’t figure out where he went. I feel the wind of the fan being blocked, and I sense he is kneeling by my side of the bed. 

“Bye baby. Have a good day.” Smooch, smooch. 

I look at my phone time,”It’s only 5:23am.” He has to be there at 6:30am. 

“I know.” I was thinking he must’ve forgotten to switch his watch back an hour last time we did that.

“Do you always get dressed that fast?”

“Yeah.” And I feel the fan again. 

I know he likes to leave about an hour before he has to be somewhere, but I didn’t know he greeted the morning with such vigor and sense of purpose. It was inspiring. He was completely ready and out the door before most people would have had the time to hit snooze once. 

I slipped back into sleep. When my alarm sounded…well. Let’s just say my soldier mechanic probably wouldn’t have been impressed…
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Who will protect us if the US gets attacked? Who will lay his life down to do anything to protect our family if someone broke into our house? What is the face of our nation’s defense?

My love…up before the sun on a Sunday, out the door within minutes, never a hesitation, never a complaint.

Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage.

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Do you feel the sun beat on your neck, inhale some dust, and wonder if we miss you? 

Don’t remember my daggers. Please forget them. Forgive them. Think of me when I’ve been a cold drink for you, ice clanking to your lip when you don’t want anything to eat, only a drink. Only cold tea down a dry throat. Only me. 

We do miss you. In a messy house, clock ticking, exhausted pile of arms and pjs and ponytails, under a lonely blanket on a creaky couch, we do. 

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Your flaws are not flaws to me. I watch you when you don’t know. 

Did I forget to hug you today? Did I forget to hold on? Did I forget to thank you?

I know I probably did. 

Leave your guns on the shelf. Stare into my eyes. Search them. See me. I will hold your face. I will slide my fingers over your warm sandpaper jaw. Let me see you. Come back to bed. Dim the lights and remember me when I was beautiful. It’s okay. Closer. It’s me. Soften. Find us. 

Walk

Walk

It’s not the casserole. 

I am an audience member of my once-life. It’s that. Watching someone else play me. That. 

I don’t remember how to ride in the backseat. I know how to get out of a car at a stoplight. And I know how to walk. 

I know how to walk in painful shoes and not wince. I know how to step on a rock, twist my ankle, crumble to the ground in the middle of a busy road. I know how to get back up and keep walking. And keep walking. 

I know how to walk. And walk. And walk. And walk. 

Ask him. 

I don’t know how to hurt in socially acceptable ways. I don’t know how. 

Don’t expect me to ride along. I know how to walk.

I know how to drive myself. I know how to get away when I need to. I know how to walk away. That. 

I know how to feel invisible. I know how to feel invincible. That. 

Don’t look around, unless you can handle seeing that I’m here. And I’ll be here. And I’ll be there too. 

It’s not the casserole.

It’s the backseat. 

Did you…

Did you…

Did you think you weren’t my favorite daughter? Because you were. You were, you were. 

Please don’t ever think that. 

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“I hate you!!!! I hate you, Mom!!” Her feet are close to the edge of the broken floor tile. Her face is red rage and tears. 

“You can’t act this way, and it’s my job to make sure you know that.” I pick her up and carry her to the dining room and place her firmly on a chair. She doesn’t know that I’m getting her foot away from the tile. She doesn’t know that I’m getting her 4-year-old eyes out of the kitchen. 

“Aaaaaaaaa!!!!” She swings and kicks her legs so much that the chair bounces around.

“You. Better. Quit.” I kneel down in front of her, place a hand on either side of the chair to steady it. My face is calm. My heart is racing. She looks away first. 

“I hate you!!” She screams to the back of my head as I walk into the kitchen. I put a new, clean trash bag into the trash can and bring it back to the dining room. 

“Take off your new dress and put it in here. You will not be allowed to scream at me and hit and kick me wearing this dress I just bought you.” I hold the trash can out toward her. 

“I don’t care! I don’t want it! It’s ugly!” She takes it off and throws it in the trash. The giant jewel on the top of the dress hits me in the knuckle; I clench my jaw. 

“You won’t need this baby doll with a matching dress either.” I pick up her doll off the table and drop it into the clean trash bag. 

“I don’t care.” She opens her mouth slightly again, then closes it. Crosses her arms. 

“What’s it going take? Because I can keep going.” I can’t keep going. I can’t, but I will. 

My methods are probably all wrong. I don’t know what I’m doing. We don’t usually say it, but most moms…we think it. We don’t know what we are doing, or if it’ll work. 

I pick up her new iPod touch, drop it loudly into the trash, never looking away from her eyes. She doesn’t care. I don’t know what else to throw away. I don’t know how to break her rebellious attitude. 

Freddie bounces his way into the dining room, unwittingly. Her sweet, fluffy gray kitten. He bats at a dust particles swimming around in the light from the bay window. I scoop him up. 

Her eyes look worried.

“I guess you won’t be needing your kitten either.” I place him gingerly onto her dress in the trash can. 

“NO!! Please NOT Freddie! I’m sorry.” Her sob changes, her voice softens. “I’m sorry, Mom. I’m sorry. I don’t hate you.”

She reaches for me. I can’t pick her up fast enough. I fold my arms under her baggy Dora panties. Her tiny butt rests on my forearm. 

We bend down together and pick up Freddie. He’s not worried. He wants down so he can attack the dust again. 

I collapse onto her chair and we hold on and rock each other. Paper mache streaks of snot-glazed hair.

Shh, shh…you are my baby forever. You are my favorite. 

I hold on. I rock. I think of all the things we never did do together, all the things I should’ve done better…

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If you think a person can’t have five favorite daughters, then you obviously don’t have five daughters.

Two spoons: Congenital Hypothyroidism, video timeline

Two spoons: Congenital Hypothyroidism, video timeline

I keep an unorganized mental log. I have vivid memories, especially of the emotionally-charged moments.

I decided to share some more video clips and notes about my daughter, Rebekah Ruby Kate (currently 7 months old)

Born on February 15, 2016

Born at 39 weeks 6 days

Weighed 5lbs 10oz (my 5th daughter)

Rebekah had velamentous cord insertion (cord attached to amniotic sac instead of placenta). Because of her abnormal cord attachment, she had IUGR (intrauterine growth restriction), and she was also SGA (small for gestational age).

Tiny and perfect to me. She has had some health setbacks, but she faces them with the sweetest temperament. They don’t subtract one ounce from her perfection to me. 

Rebekah had abnormal thyroid levels (elevated TSH) at 1 week old, 4 weeks old, 13 weeks old, and 16 weeks old. But because her thyroxine was always in range, and because I had read extensively about the differences in the hormonal profiles of SGA babies…we waited. 

We chose not to start Levothyroxine until she was 16 weeks old. 

Before 25mcg Levothyroxine…

February 16 (one day old)…

March 19 (one month, 4 days, 6lbs 15oz)…

April 8 (almost 2 months, 6lbs, 6oz )…

Rebekah lost 9oz of weight between week 5 to week 8. My milk supply was low, and I had to fight hard to continue breastfeeding, something I never had to do with my other 4 daughters.

I tried fenugreek, pumping, coconut oil, lactation cookies with Brewer’s yeast, ground flax, tons of water, chia seeds, coconut water…you name it.

And when she was 10 weeks, and had gained her 9oz back on only breast milk, I finally started supplementing with goat milk. I would still pump daily as well. 

May 17 (3 months, 2 days, 8lbs 14.5oz )…

May 22 (3 months, 7 days, 9lbs 8oz)…


June 2 (3 months, 18 days, 10lbs)…

June 6 (3 months, 22 days, 10lbs 8oz)…


I did feel that she was doing well with all her milestones without starting Levothyroxine , but we agreed to start it when she was 16 weeks old.

I put all her thyroid level results on this paper, including the lab ranges which are different.



SHE STARTED 25mcg LEVOTHYROXINE ON JUNE 8, 2016 (16 weeks old)…

We crush her pill between two spoons, every morning. We mix it with about an ounce of apple juice or water. 

We read in the drug’s instructions to take it on an empty stomach. This is quite a feat with an infant. For the first 3 weeks, we would feed her at 9pm; she would wake herself around 12am to eat; then we were waking her at 3am to eat, then waking her again at 5am for her med, and then she would wake at 6am ready to eat again. 

Pretty much…we didn’t sleep. 

Then on June 30, when we met her endocrinologist for the first time, she told us she tells her parents they can just give it with a feeding. 

Well hallelujah. So then we would just let her wake us. 

Rebekah developed torticollis (her head leaning right) almost immediately after starting Levothyroxine. I looked up anything I could to find out if there was a connection.

I only found that muscle aches were sometimes a drug side effect. So we decided they weren’t connected.

June 11 (3 months, 27 days, 11lbs)…

On the med, she started to be incredibly lethargic, especially in the afternoons. There were several weeks that her overall health was much worse after starting Levothyroxine. (Though some things improved later.)

I kept a detailed log of several of her daily habits and figures. Just to see if anything changed…


On June 12, when Rebekah was about 16 weeks old, I started making a more complicated formula that I got from Dr. Axe’s website–goat kefir, coconut water, flax oil, nutritional yeast. 
June 15 (4 months, 11lbs 2.5oz)…


It seemed that her torticollis was worst when she was sleepy and/or had a full belly.

June 16 (4 months, 1 day, 11lbs 5oz)…

I stopped pumping breastmilk for her completely around July 1, 2016. My supply just dwindled and dwindled. It was a heartbreaking choice, and even today…2.5 months later, I hope to somehow go back to it. 😞

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Rebekah had what seemed like a panic attack on June 24. It was incredibly scary. She had a mild fever, shifty eyes, very quick breathing and a fast heart rate. I guess I deleted the videos from that night. I wish I could delete my memories of it.

She ended up falling asleep that night, but then her fever continued the next day. I called the on-call nurse at AR Children’s; they recommended I call poison control. The poison control guy recommended I not give her any more Levothyroxine until her thyroid levels were checked.

This was all on a Saturday, so that means I spent about an hour at a walkin (after calling to find out if they check thyroid levels, and verifying with AR Children’s that I could use them), only to have the walkin Dr check her vitals and  recommend that we go to the emergency room instead.

I spent about 5 hours in the ER with her–rectal temp 102.7, heart rate 185, 36 breaths a minute. This is my 5th child, so I realize these aren’t alarming vitals by themselves. But I was concerned about her behavior; the poison control guy wanted her checked out; the walkin Dr wanted her taken to ER, and her whole life has been so drastically different than my other girls.

They did a chest xray, a port in her foot (which ended up being unusable), drew blood, did a catheter, drew blood again. Everyone was incredibly kind, but the experience was sooo traumatic. But mostly…we waited and waited and waited.

Her thyroid levels came back in range. She was diagnosed with a UTI; they said her behavior was “normal” febrile seizures. She was prescribed Cephalexin…and we all went home exhausted.

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Rebekah woke several times at night, and she would have a completely soaked diaper 3-4 times a night, so soaked that they would soak her outfit and sheets every time. 

If you’ve followed any of Rebekah’s story and you thought to yourself–that baby needs drugs! Well, I’m sure you were relieved when we started her on Levothyroxine, but if I’m completely honest, she has faced her biggest health challenges and scares right after she started and the entire time she was on 25mcg of Levothyroxine. 

I can’t say, and I’m not saying that the med CAUSED her torticollis, insomnia, panic attack, excessive urine, her UTI. But I am saying it’s been rough. Rough on her. Rough on us. 

July 3 (4 months, 18 days, 11lbs 12oz)…

Rebekah started seeing a chiropractor on June 22, and her torticollis was better almost immediately. 

July 10 (4 months, 25 days, 11lbs 12oz)…

Rebekah rolled over around 5 months, and in many ways she was adjusting her her dosage and doing okay. 

July 29 (5 months, 14 days, 12lbs 10oz)…


However, she still woke several times a night with soaking wet diapers, and she was not gaining much despite her large calorie intake. 


HALF DOSE 12.5mcg LEVOTHYROXINE (STARTED AUGUST 17)

On Wednesday August 17, I decided to start giving her only a half dose for a few days to see if it changed her naps and sleep quality overall, her excessive urine output…etc. 

I contacted the endocrinology nurses; they consulted her Endocrinologist, and she said we could leave it at a half tablet until September 12 when she had her levels checked again. And then we would go from there. 

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August 17 (6 months, 2 days)…

Her sleep quality improved overnight; she only had to be changed once at night now (instead of 3-4 times); she has started keeping her weight on, and her energy levels improved as well. I hoped her levels would “agree” with her behaviors. 

Rebekah sat up on her own for the first time ever on August 19. She’s been more talkative and active, and also…more peaceful and restful at night and nap times. 

August 19 (6 months, 4 days) …

On September 12, Rebekah’s TSH was 4.32 (in range) and her fT4 was 1.28 (also in range). Her endocrinologist said she can stay at 12.5mcg until her level check on December 12. 

Depending on her levels in December, the endocrinologist said that we might talk about stopping the med entirely by Rebekah’s first birthday. 

God is good no matter what, and we are hopeful…

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September 18 (7 months, 3 days)…

Taste words before spitting them out.

Taste words before spitting them out.

It is a love story. 

It’s a work story. It’s a story of pain, of bitter resentment. Love isn’t a hole for fallers. It’s a decision. Tick, tick…every second. It is grime and crying babies and unbrushed teeth. 

Put your head down, put your blinders on, and plow. Love isn’t a life of naps. 

If you can’t do that, if you won’t do it…if you are too proud for low horses. If you can’t get on the horse…and back on…back on. If you can’t be the workhorse…

If you want to watch a love story, if you want to invent one in your head, if you want a lusty affair, if you’re looking for a plateau, you’re wrapped up in the wrong life. That’s not love. 

Never trust a snapshot. A lie worth a thousand words. Trust an empty closet rod. Trust an eviction notice. Trust a full trunk.

Careful who you talk to. Don’t say it outloud. Not yet. 

Every choice you made. Every choice you didn’t make. All adds up to now. You chose this.