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Truth be Told

I’m sorry that you had to say “ok” when they asked you how you were doing today. I’m even more sorry that when you paused they took that “ok” and assumed you meant “good” and bulldozed right on past it. I’m sorry because I know the truth, and the truth is you were not doing ok. The truth is today is hard and you had to pep talk yourself into even leaving the house today. The truth is your pieces are breaking into pieces, and it is going to be awhile before things feel “ok.” I saw you though; you wanted to say this out loud, and you couldn’t. No, the truth is that people just want to hear that you are ok; not that things are messy or painful or hard.

I’m sorry that the world is not ready to accept your truth. Or anyone’s really. We all have this never ending undercurrent of just smoothing things over and pretending everything is ok. The truth is, that could not be farther from the truth.

What if we created a community where when we asked how someone is doing we truly wanted the honest answer; good, bad, or ugly? What if we made it ok to say I am here but I am struggling? What if we did not feel pressed to know what to say to smooth it over, but were ok with accepting that things are hard and people hurt and not everything is tied up in a pretty little bow? What if we made it ok for people to share their truth instead of what we want to hear?

I know I can not change the world, but I can change myself, and maybe even the culture around me. When I ask how you are doing, I really want *your* God-honest truth. You do not have to pretend for me, because guess what… I’m hurting too. Maybe it is ok to not be ok, and maybe the very comfort we need is the people around us accepting us where we are at. It seems like a good place to start.

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Blue and Pink October

October is miscarriage and infant loss awareness month. I do not quite know how I feel about awareness months. I think some of them help raise needed money for research and hopefully better medicine. I think some of them actually do shed light on things we were previously oblivious to. The thing about miscarriage and infant loss though is that there is no “research and cure” for it, and most people already know it happens, or even know someone who has been through it. Dedicating a month to it does not necessarily do anything for it except perhaps stir a lot more emotion for the families who have survived it. Maybe more people are sharing their own stories because of this month, and that’s good, they need to be told.

At my roots I’m a fixer, and if there is going to be a month dedicated to it, I want it to be productive. I do not know how to do that. What do you do when throwing money at it or doing walks in matching t-shirts and selling rubber bracelets does not bring babies back from death or prevent it from happening in the future?

I have a new friend who recently experienced the stillbirth of their son, and just sitting in the thick of how raw and earth-shattering that pain is reminds me that the only thing that can and needs to be done is circle around that sweet family and let them feel what they need to feel, because there is no campaign or 5K or colored ribbon that is going to take away that pain. Know what? That is perfectly ok. It is ok for people to hurt. It is ok for them to take all the time and feel all the feelings they need to without anyone rushing that along, regardless of how uncomfortable that may make the rest of us feel.

I guess what I have then is a list of do’s and don’ts. Maybe you have not walked with someone through miscarriage or infant loss, or maybe you have and you want to do it better next time. I hope that coming from the heart of a mama who has lost babies I had not met yet, as well as a baby who lived earth-side with us will help those of you looking outside in, wondering what to do.

DO acknowledge that it happened. You cannot just keep trying to carry on with business as usual and hope that your person will be over it soon enough. They lost a huge chunk of their heart; hopes, dreams, memories, and they need you to tell them that you realize they are going through that.

DON’T try to compare their loss to, well, anything else. Their loss and their grief is completely unique to them, and believe it or not, it does not help them feel better to hear about your friend’s mom’s sister who lost a baby and how they handled it. Let their story be /their/ story, and let them share it with you through their own lense, not the one you had ideas about before this.

DO make specific offers of help. Saying “call if you need anything,” will never actually result in a phone call. You need to take the wheel here. Tell them you are making them a meal and ask what night is best. Tell them you are heading to the grocery and ask what can you pick up for them. Go over and rake their leaves/cut their grass. Tell them you’d like to help with some housecleaning and give them a choice of days to choose from. It is very hard to ask for help. Period. You need to not offer it, but to actually just give it and help with the decision making.

DON’T rush them into the future. Never ask if they’ll try for another baby or if they’ve ever thought about adoption, or reassure them that at least they are young and can try again. I do not want to have to explain this one. Just don’t do it.

DO continue being supportive well into the weeks, months, years ahead, not just right now during the “crisis period.” This is a hurt that is always going to stay with them, and there will be triggers for the rest of time such as holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, random Mondays. Remind them throughout time that you remember and are thinking of their little one. Use their baby’s name; it means the world to hear it.

DON’T use platitudes like, “God just needed another angel,” “everything happens for a reason,” “you can always have another,” “now you have an angel looking after you,” or anything that begins with the words “at least…”.

DO say “I’m sorry,” “my presence is unconditional,” “do you need anything?” “[baby’s name] will be greatly missed,” “this was not your fault,” “just take the moments one at a time.”

It is ok to tell your person you are at a loss for words, and have no idea what they are going through. Assure them that you want to be there for them, and then follow through and show up. They will help you know what they need if your eyes are open and your heart is receptive.

Miscarriage and infant loss are sad and hard and uncomfortable, but if you can look past your own discomfort and come alongside a friend or a family member who is going through it, you will not only bless the socks off of them, you will learn a lot of good things about yourself as well.

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Being Brave

It gets said a lot; you are so brave. When it is said to me I think to myself, “I am not brave, I am barely hanging on.” I have always self-described bravery as purposely doing something big and scary. Like something voluntary I think. I have always felt like brave is more of a choice rather than something you just are.

Recently my pastor came and sat at my bedside. His enormous hand swallowed mine, and he looked me in the eyes and said, “you are so brave.” I responded by telling him I don’t /feel/ brave; I feel like my anger and my fear and my disappointment is the opposite of brave. It planted a seed in my mind though. I started wondering what brave actually means.

Back in my day, before Google, we had these things called dictionaries. They were huge books that had the definitions of practically every word you could think of. So, I dictionaried the word Brave. Yes, I am making a new word because in this day and age of everything being looked up by Siri I feel like the good old dictionary deserves its own new description that I can convince my kids is real. Dictionaried. That’s what I did. The Oxford Dictionary said this under the word brave:

Ready to face and endure danger or pain.”

It did not say you come looking for the danger or pain, but are simply ready to face it; assuming it has instead come looking for you. It was such a simple definition, but it resonated in my bones. It did not say that bravery is a lack of fear. Wow. This changed my whole perspective. It is ok for us to show up shaking and sobbing and scared out of our ever-loving minds, but being brave simply means being ready for the fight.

My danger and pain today is facing Botox. It is injected into my hamstrings and some of the muscles in my legs to loosen the spasms and help me retain more range of motion. The last time we did this I passed right out on the very last injection. Naturally that bad experience has me feeling extra apprehensive this time around. I know however, that I am putting up the fight of my life. That is my brave; still being afraid of what is going to happen, but showing up anyway because I know good will come of it. Courage is not fearlessness.

Friends, whatever you are facing today, just getting up and facing it makes you brave. You do not have to have good feelings about it, you just need to show up with the ability to endure. The world knows you are afraid, but you love more than you fear, and that is what we all remember about you. Let’s take on today, shall we?

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You’re Doing it too

It’s funny what got this thought started in my head. I was sitting on the floor of my shower, exfoliating my feet. Yep, I know; gross. For my men who don’t what that is, it’s when you use something abrasive to scrub off the scratchy dead skin and make it soft and smooth again. Trust me, you are glad we do it. Anyway, there I was scrubbing my feet and I thought, “It seems like just yesterday I was scrubbing my feet to get them pretty for summer flip flops and bare feet in the sand.” Then I felt a pang of sadness. Summer is over. It slipped right by while we were clinging to our masks and holding our breath that the pool and the theme park would open and we would galavant about in the sunshine like we usually do. Those things never happened, and here we are ankle-deep in colored leaves already with not a tan line to show for it.

I know I’m not the only one wondering where summer went and what we have to show for it. Thankfully we were able to spend some time away at our family camp site, and we sneaked away for a short trip when some things started opening back up, but there are a lot of “normals” that we missed out on this summer, and it wasn’t just us. People everywhere had to miss family reunions, vacations, trips they had been planning forever, even time visiting grandparents in their skilled nursing facilities. There was a lot of loss, even if we didn’t realize that’s what it was.

If ever there was a time to be gentle with each other, it’s now. As a whole we are grieving. The more comfortable life we knew before COVID. The peace of mind to be closely with our people and not worry about getting them sick. The moments in the sunshine and the grocery and the swimming pool that maybe we took for granted last year, but are trying to fill with something else in their absence now. Perhaps we can not see enough of an eye crinkle above your mask to know you are smiling, but it’s a perfect time to shout a good morning, to give an unexpected compliment, to bring some warmth to the cold parts we are all experiencing.

If I’m orange from self-tanner by December, you will know why, and if my eyes look weary because we still have to wear a mask to get into the grocery, you will understand that too. But I’ll be trying to bring a little more light to your day, and I hope you will be doing the same.

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These Boots

Today I lost another Paramedic friend. I say another because it’s not the first time. I fear it will not be the last. I do not really know what to say about it, so these are the words that came to mind.

These boots are the ones that were picked out so new and shiny and untouched.

These boots are the ones that were nervously shined for the first day on the job.

These boots are the ones that got drowned in soap bubbles washing the trucks as a probie.

These boots are the ones that held nervous feet running their first call.

These boots are the ones that climbed endless stairs to bring your loved ones down to be cared for.

These boots are the ones that got cuts and scuffs from asphalt and rocks and ice and twisted metal, and those darn stretcher wheels.

These boots are the ones that trudged through dry fields for hours, looking for a woman who was lost.

These boots are the ones that rested on the dash in hopes of a few minutes break on a busy shift.

These boots are the ones that were the first thing many patients looked up and saw.

These boots are the ones that crunched through broken glass to get your loved one out of the car.

These boots are the ones that stood in a homeless man’s urine as he was tenderly helped to his feet.

These boots are the ones that were polished again and again in attempt to cover the scars and scrapes.

These boots are the ones that ran an achey elbow call right after performing CPR on a baby that wasn’t coming back.

These boots are the ones that were splattered in blood as every effort was made to make it stop.

These boots are the ones that stood there while you were told we had done everything we could do.

These boots are the ones that saw far more pain and heartache and destruction in a day than most people see in their lifetime.

These boots are the ones that sit empty, still bearing the scars and scrapes that never could be erased from your heart.

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The Little Garden That Could

Remember several months back when my garden got trampled and I was certain that I would not see anything grow from it this year? Every few days another arm load of veggies is ripening to perfection, and while I may not have any strawberries or cucumbers this year, just the victory of getting to make okra pickles with my little man is more than enough to call this little garden a success this year. I am blessed beyond measure.

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Above the Belt

I seem to frequently get told that I’m strong or brave or amazing, or any one of those pat-you-on-the-back kind of words. As flattering as that is, let me change your camera angle for a moment and show you what’s really going down. Behind, beside, blazing ahead of, or basically whatever direction I need to find him in is the most wonderful man that I get to call mine and do life with every single day.

It is true, I do a lot of fighting against my waves in life, but if you look a little closer you’ll see my Mark doing whatever legwork is necessary to keep us right-side-up. He is one of the most giving guys out there, frequently overlooking his own needs or wants in order to keep me comfortable and moving forward.

I can see it in my head; a boxing match. There is arm waving and whistle blowing and the boxer wearily plops themselves down in the chair in the corner, and that’s where you see him. He flies in fast as an eagle, but stealthy as a shadow and he surveys the damage and starts making it better before the rest of us have really even taken it all in. He’s icing swollen eyes, dabbing up bleeding lips, and all together just letting the sweat and the blood and the brutal grossness of it all drip all over him without a second thought because he is so focused on the goal of getting his fighter back out there to take in all the glory. Yep, that’s who my man is. Every single day.

He doesn’t complain. He doesn’t ask to share the winning Golden belt, he simply does whatever he can to make the circumstances better so his fighter can get back to doing what she loves, and be good at doing it. I’m not sure the official name that person is called, but for me, I call him Buddy. Whenever he hears me call that name he comes rushing to my side to help me battle through whatever next fight needs to be fought. He likes to stay in the shadows, and insists that anyone would do what he does, but I know better, I have the best of the best.

Will you say a prayer for Mark today please? He is such a hard worker. He gets up as daylight is about to begin cracking the sky. He gets ready to start his work day, but never before first checking on me; helping me get my morning medicine, and showering me with kisses. He always makes sure I am cared for and comfortable before he starts his own work. He puts in a solid day of work, but it is not just that. He is working through his doctorate, and he’s making himself available for all the 10 gazillion times myself or one of the kids will come knocking on his door to ask for his help that day.

He does work-work all day long, but he often splits into the time of his day to take me or one of the kids to appointments. He makes sure the little ones get lunch, and feeds all of us again at the supper hour. He helps with homework, does housework, and whatever else needs to be done, like picking up groceries, or taking our pets to the vet. He does it ALL, and he still meets each one of us with love and grace. And usually a silly dance; lets not kid ourselves.

My husband needs more strength right now more than ever before. He needs strength to keep up with work and school, and all the other things that still need to happen around our home because I am laid up in bed. I’m so thankful he has scuba diving as a hobby, because it allows him to find peace, refreshment. (and quiet) to keep fueling himself for keeping our family running. Please help me support and love on him right now as he carries such tremendous weight on his shoulders.

Thank you for listening to my heart!

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Being Here

Hello my faithful friends and loving strangers. Since wrapping up my blog, I have been receiving numerous requests for me to keep sharing my writing. I heard stories of how it has changed people who I didn’t even know were reading it, and how it has encouraged people who have needed that, and brought hope to others who have been feeling alone and hopeless. I felt God urging to me to continue sharing my story; so that many will know His grace and His hope. If God is willing to use someone like me to point others to Him, then here I am, committed to showing others the grace and hope I’ve found along some hard, long battles.

I was admitted to home hospice a couple weeks ago. They have treated me with such loving care, but it has also been a hard pill to swallow. I don’t like the thought of having a number on the expectation of my days. I know though, that every single one of my days is already planned, and nothing can change that. God knows.

Please try to ignore any spelling errors or mistakes you find in my writing. My disease has progressed to give me severe double vision. I have to close one eye to be able to see things like words very clearly. It must look comical to people seeing me typing (and a lot of backspacing) with one eye closed or covered. Otherwise I use voice-to-text, and I think we all know how that can turn out. So please be patient with me, try to get a giggle out of imagining how I am writing this, and try to pull out the meaning of what I’m really trying to say.

Despite Covid, we have managed to squeeze in some really fun things as a family. We drove to a nearby beach and had a wonderful time just playing in the ocean and sand, and since our room was right next to the beach, it was easy for me to take a break and just go up to the room and lie down. I could open the door to the deck and hear the constant soothing sound of the ocean. Mark is working on his doctorate, so that was pretty much the most relaxing way to do it. We were quite content just eating at home and staying in the pool and at the beach. It was just what all of us needed.

Shortly after we got back, my home hospice nurse came out for a visit, and she needed to send me to inpatient hospice because she was not able to get my pain under control. I have been there ever since, and while they’ve been a great help with some things, there is decline in others. It’s been a scary and hopeful experience, and I’m greatly ready to be at home in my own bed with my own loves snuggling me close.

We have been SO loved on. Our people from our small group have stepped in and cooked for us and cleaned for us, and visited me for hours of talks and laughs and all the most perfect treats they know that I love. My little sister even drove out from Kansas to pick up my kids and take them to her house for a week. While she already had 7 others. Who does that!!!We are so grateful to have people like all of these, loving us big. God is so kind to me.

Thank you for your thoughts and your prayers as we shift to this new season. We need your prayers and your visits and your reminders that God is faithful and good to us, and is holding us strong through each moment.

Thank you for listening. It brings strength to my soul.