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Hard Doctor Day

Yesterday began at the office of my tender hearted hospice doctors. Despite my anxiety, I am always soothed by the kind hands and gentle eyes that meet me. Hearts that truly want to help; to listen and find the thing that will make my days the most bearable. I always end these visits knowing that I matter, that my needs are important, and that I have a team in my corner.

My heart thumped more uncomfortable as I had to brave the pulmonary office later. There is not the same gentle atmosphere, but one of facts, hustle and bustle. I knew by my panting for air and the bluish of my fingernails that I was fighting harder. There was no tenderness in the hard words; my days could be changing, my lungs needing more support. My positivity deflated as I considered my days tethered to these machines that help me suck in and out the air of living.

Immensely sad is what I know I felt, but it came out as anger. I didn’t even know where to direct it, and my sweet little loves ended up getting the brunt of my frustration as I reeled with how to reconcile my thoughts and fears. I finally removed myself, tucking early into bed so as to not keep expressing my frustration to the people I love so dearly. Some days you just have to put it all to bed; pick it up again when your courage is renewed.

The facts are the same today, and my heart is still sad, but I am renewed in my hope for these coming days. There is nothing I won’t do to fight for more beautiful days with my people. Expectations laid aside, for I know that the true meaning of my days is not found in my misguided expectations, but it’s found in the great gift of deeply loving and being deeply loved by my people. That’s where you’ll find me; wrestling another hard bit of my story, but drinking deep in the grace found all around me.

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Four Faves

I’m away from home in a strange bed tonight, and I thought I would do something a little different on my blog to pass the time. As I grabbed a few “necessities” and threw them in my bag on the way out, I thought about how some of the best things are discovered from other people’s suggestions, so I’m going to share with you a few of my favorite things!

5 gum in Strawberry Flood. It’s no secret that the peppermint 5 gum is my absolute favorite, but not too long ago I tried the strawberry on a whim when I came across it. Just like the mint, it keeps its flavor long after most gums fade. The strawberry is a perfect blend of tart and not-too-sweet. It’s juicy and fruity and just the best pick me up on a hot day of running around.

Double stuff is my jam, but an Oreo completely encased in fudge? That is perfection! These tiny bites have the perfect ratio of cookie to chocolate, and they come in pre-measured portions so you don’t go overboard! They also come in flavors like mint and coconut if you’re looking to switch things up.

BiC Gelocity pens. Not only do these come in a bunch of vibrant, fun, as well as practical colors, but they glide so smoothly you’ll never want to stop writing! I use these for jotting down notes and writing letters, as well as doodling or drawing in my journal and sketch pads. The creamy inks are a pleasure to work with! I keep a variety of pens tossed in my bag for when opportunities arise.

Ecolips lip balm from Whole Foods. This organic lippy is divine, and I find myself reaching for it time and again. It moisturizes exceptionally well, and never feels thick or sticky. Yumberry is my favorite flavor, but they have many delicious flavors to choose from, like vanilla honey, blood orange, and pomegranate.

Black paper sketch pad. I got some great new markers and pens for my birthday, and I picked up this sketchbook at Michaels to practice with them. Not only are the pages super smooth and thick enough to prevent bleeding through, but I absolutely love how it makes the colors pop!

There you have it, a few of my favorite things. I hope you find something new you enjoy!

Please leave me a comment, it lets me know you’re listening!

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The Grumps

After a sleepless night, I’m curled under my favorite blanket watching a cloudy gray sky. I’m dealing with some nagging pain following a procedure yesterday, and it’s got me feeling down. Well, maybe just sorry for myself. There were other things I wanted to do with my day today. Thinking how to be grateful anyway… there are so many with larger struggles than I. I can lie here and save my energy for my little people who will come bounding in from the bus and find me with love to share. That’s where the gift is found; in strength that’s beyond my own, and that’s meant to be given away. Tell me, where are you loving beyond your strength today?

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Enough

I’m lying in bed as the last light of day seeps in the bottom of my bay windows.  The plasticky smell of oxygen whispers against my pillow with every breath, and I count how many times the back door chirps open as the kids run in and out to grab things for the box fort they are making.  They are soaking in the warmth the summer evenings still offer, even though school is back in session.  We have just wrapped up a whirlwind adventure of a summer vacation, and as I lie in the comfortable quiet I find myself wondering if it was enough.

We planned big.  There was hardly a week that we were not out traveling or exploring or trying out some new adventure.  We knew it was good and our family needed it. At the beginning of the summer we talked about shifting our focus to the memories and the legacies we were creating of our time together.  We definitely made big and wonderful memories, but I’m left troubling over the mundane. It is easy to make memories when it’s fun and exciting, but are we making good memories in the grind of every day?  I try to think back on my own childhood and remember the small moments.  I want my children to reminisce on our dinners around the table, braiding hair in the mornings before school, and snuggling in for a book before bedtime.  I want them to remember these things because these are the things that feel so inherently me. It will be easy to remember the thrill of a concert or the awe of a canoe ride, but I hope the kindness and love and adoration I have for them seeps deep into their souls so that when they think back on the days of packing school lunches and rubbing backs in my bed they will be overcome with the remembering of the safety and love that was there. We may still have a wild adventure or two, but for me, I’m going to be focusing on these little moments and making sure they count far into eternity.

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Summer Lovin’

Every summer for the past few years we have started off the break making a “summer bucket list” of things we want to do during summer vacation. Some things are big, some are small, but the main idea is to be intentional about using our time. I am a homebody through and through, so I would be perfectly happy snuggled in my nesting place with my tribe. I have wanderers and adventurers though, so we try to plan some exciting things to venture out and try while we are free from school routines.

This summer we crammed in more than we usually do, trying to check off some unique things that I either haven’t done or likely won’t able to in the future. It has been a blast. I have dug deep for energy and stamina to hang with my people, and while the nights find me collapsed in an exhausted heap, it has been exhilarating to taste so many joys this summer. We stretch me out, hydrate, medicate, and wake up again to take on the next adventure.

From staying in pajamas all day and doing sidewalk chalk, to concert hopping and driving to new destinations, we are creating a beautiful bucket full of the exciting and the mundane of sweet summertime. What is on your bucket list this summer?

If you are friends with me on Facebook, you may have already seen some of these, but enjoy the pictures of some of our adventures!

Please leave me a comment, it lets me know you’re listening!

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Incurable Hope

It has been a long six years trying to find a diagnosis. Based on my symptoms and the way they have progressively worsened, we’ve known it was some kind of degenerative neuromuscular disease, but we haven’t quite known the prognosis. Early on it was thought to be MS, and I was able to work through it, making some modifications to how I did things, but vastly able to continue life as normal. Things continued to decline though, and I found myself losing the strength and endurance I needed to continue working as a paramedic. This is when I cut back to part time paramedic, and also took an office job in organ donation. As fulfilling as that was, I eventually found myself no longer to make the drive, or even remain upright for the hours that it required. Eventually I had to face that I could no longer safely work in any job, and I needed to save what little energy I had for my family and friends.

It’s been a frightening journey at times, especially with the unknowns, but we are beginning to have some clarity. A recent brain MRI showed significant damage to my brain stem, which is responsible for many of the automatic functions of the body. This information shed light on why I was having symptoms related to that area of the brain, like trouble regulating my breathing. All of these pieces started to fit together and pointed to Multiple System Atrophy. In some ways this was a relief, as the contenders like ALS have a very short length of survivability. MSA comes with its own fatal prognosis though, typically within 5-15 years. Being at year six, I already feel blessed for the time I’ve had and continue to enjoy. I’ve tried to stay in the moment and be continually grateful, although I’ll admit that sometimes my attitude stinks and I fall into a grumpy state of forgetting the gifts I’ve been given.

I know that God knows my heart and hears my prayers, and those of so many who love me. I know that He can take this from me if He chooses to. But even if He doesn’t, I will still choose hope and thank Him for every moment He allows me to have here.

I hope you’ll help me, dear readers, to continue to find Hope and Grace in the day to day. I know that it’s there, and sometimes I just need help to lift my eyes up for it. Please don’t treat me differently; let’s laugh and dance and do big and small things without fear of the future. I’m ready for today, how about you?

Please leave me a comment, it lets me know you’re listening!

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Memories in the Making

We’ve had some difficult conversations as a family about what our future may look like. Mostly to be forthcoming with the kids, because even though we never can truly know the days ahead, it’s fair for them to be prepared based on what we do know. These conversations have opened up a lot of dialogue about the here and now. I know we all wish to be kind and loving and live our best lives every day, but sadly it often seems to become most poignant once you have a scary unknown on the horizon. I wish we could all start sooner, but I know firsthand how easily we get caught up in ourselves.

As a family, we continue to talk about the importance of letting the little things go, and making memories that are rich in kindness and large in love. We talk about making choices that will leave us with important experiences rather than things. We talk about what will be left behind when each of us are gone.

This train of thought is what spurred us to get away for some fun and relaxing family time together. We needed to just be us and focus on enjoying each other and spending time together in some of our favorite ways. Our everyday consists of a lot of time with me in bed, or laced with doctors and medicines, so we went for the opposite and ran for the sun and sand of the beach in Boca Raton Florida. It was glorious!

We had two extra daughters along with us, and all the kids were troopers for the two day car ride squished into our Pilot. They passed the hours with pipe cleaner creations, jewelry-making, mad libs, and tons of snacks. Add a little fighting and a lot of giggling, and it was a road trip for the books. We were rewarded with a week of sun-kissed skin, sandy toes, scuba diving, snorkeling, go kart races, bumper boats, and late night swims. It did my heart so good to see the kids able to just be kids; playing and laughing and enjoying all the things a young one should be enjoying.

It was a little bit intimidating at first to think about leaving my comfort zone of home. I had to push back fears of getting stuck in a hospital far from home. We don’t always travel, but when we do we make sure to check out at least one local hospital… this time for a terrible allergic reaction I had to some antibiotics on our drive to Florida. I received the best possible care though, and it hardly put a wrinkle in our trip. The rest of the week I felt rested and relaxed and enjoyed days of less pain and more energy after drenching myself in the salty waters. My family was helpful and patient with my pace, and never complained when the time came for a recovery nap.

We returned home with tan lines and a sandy car and hearts full with memories of a wonderful week just being us. No worries. No doctors. No scary talks. Just fun and sun and ice cream and enjoying each other’s company. It was worth it. Every bit.

Please leave me a comment, it lets me know you’re listening!