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Just Keep Being

I was scrolling through my photos and feeling pretty grateful. It was a day of strength. A shunt adjustment this week seems to have given me some reprieve.

I got to witness the joy of my little guy filling up a backyard pool.

I got to melt into a puddle of all the warm amazing feelings watching my boys head off together with their fishing poles.

I was able to stand long enough to make trendy sweet coffee drinks with my girl.

It has been good. /Good/

But then I swiped to the next picture and it hit me like an unsuspecting slap that stung like fire.

It was there because I had been going through some old photos a few days ago and I’d saved it to send to a friend. I had been building this incredible list of small mountains I’d climbed, and reveling in the joy and fulfillment I felt, and this memory of my past swiped my feet out from under me and sent me crashing through a wall of heartache that I was not ready for.

So much emotion tied up in that one simple picture. The immense joy that being on the fire department filled my soul with. The overlooked gift of being hold a brush to paint my nails. The ability to use my thumbs for a thumbs up. In a splinter’s worth of time, I went from great heights to a mind crushing low. I felt sad to have ruined my gratefulness, but as I talked myself through it, I came to realize that it was absolutely ok to feel what I was feeling. A hard memory doesn’t take away the joy of important moments with my people. Those two emotions can live together. I was reminded of a card I read this week…

“You can be angry and at peace. Curse God and whisper His name for help. You can be shaking and sobbing and strong. You can be grieving and grateful. Jagged and graceful. You can paint your nails and curl your hair. You can also not give a crap about any of that right now. You can hide quietly in your closet crying and dance to loud music in the kitchen while squealing in laughter. It can all hurt even when it feels good. You can feel so darn lonely in your head, and you can feel the vibration of the world holding you up in love and prayer. There is no book for dummies on this awful thing. I imagine your feelings change daily, sometimes by the minute. There is no wrong or right way to be. Just keep being.” -author unknown.

I cannot think of a more perfect way to say it. Just keep being.

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Cracks

I have been bedridden since February. Not exactly how I hoped this year would start. I feel like I miss so much when I’m tucked away in the corner of my bedroom. Weeks tick by and I keep hoping to put the worst of this year behind me.

Enter Covid-19. Suddenly my babies are home all day every day, and I’m a first grade teacher lying flat on my back in bed. He hasn’t complained; each day he climbs up onto the bed next to me and we do math, reading, writing, science… nestled among the pillows. But my heart is sad, disappointed. I’ve been given this incredible opportunity to have my littlest boy by my side for weeks on end, and the reel of my mind spins fast thinking of all the creative and memorable things I could be doing with him during this most intimate season of learning. Instead I feel trapped; bound to the square corners of my king-sized bed and quickly losing my son’s interest in the monotony of the same assignments day after day.

My husband works overtime; committed to his full-time job while also managing all of the meals, the laundry, the errands, the breaking up of fights as the tension of this season wears on everyone. I see the overwhelm and worry in the lines of his face and in the soft hunch of his shoulders. He’s married 18 years, but acting the role of single parent to the children and caregiver to his young wife. It silently breaks me.

Like most people during these unprecedented times, I am grieving many losses. Cancelled trips, time spent with friends and family, going to my little’s viola concert, attending my firstborn’s high school graduation. All of the little daily comings and goings that make life seem “normal.” Add to that my inability to be up and around occupying myself, and my heart has felt heavy and anxious. I have intensely missed gardening. For years as the winter months dissolve I have started seeds in my windows that have grown to beautiful plants cradled in the warm earth and bearing armloads of delicious produce and extraordinary joy. During these months that I have spent studying the ceiling from my place in bed I have grown more and more sad that the therapeutic tending of a small vegetable garden won’t be happening for me this year.

Wood. Saws. Screws. Measuring and cutting and pounding and smoothing, and a triumphant grin from my big-hearted husband as he shows me the hearty garden bed he has built to coax me out into the sunshine. Since I hadn’t been able to start seeds this year, he brought home small potted stalks of green life, ready to place in the fertile plot of sunshine. Oh how my soul sang as I gave thanks for the opportunity to tend something so special to me.

It took days of reaching for strength, of practicing standing without being overcome by the pain and vomiting that has plagued my body, but one cool gray day it happened. I was gifted with a period of strength and calm in my body, and along with a first grader who was growing wiggly with math and phonics in my big bed, I grabbed my garden gloves and we made a dash for the large box of deep earth. Together with chilled fingers and dusty knees, my little and I carefully tucked the robust plants and some dry seeds into the well-worked soil. It took all of my portion of strength for the day, but when we finished I had such peace and an exuberant sense of anticipation to watch my garden grow. It was such a gift.

I love his face SO much!

But, 2020.

As I was closing the shades of my bedroom window that overlooks the garden, I peeked out at the neat rows of leaves and plant markers that I had finished a few hours earlier. I involuntarily sucked air in fast, sharp. My garden was in a state of upheaval. Plants toppled. Leaves torn. Stakes scattered. Ragged holes dug in the once smooth dark earth. After many days of not giving the raised box any notice, apparently our dog had decided today was the day to climb into it and go tearing around in circles, digging holes and trampling plants.

And I cracked.

In that moment, the future felt empty of all the things to look forward to. While I burrowed under my quilt and felt the hollow in my chest and the sting in my eyes, I thought to myself how absolutely minuscule it was in the big scheme of things. A garden. There are so many huge battles people are fighting around the world; cancer, unemployment, divorce, death of loved ones… the list is endless. My family is safe, employed, fed, and sheltered, and yet the toppling of my vegetable garden is what undid me. I started to feel a little embarrassed at my ungratefulness.

The more I thought about it though, the more I realized maybe we all are a little like that right now. Maybe we are all just one more thing from screaming at the sky and cussing out the dog for just being well, a dog. Let’s face it ya’ll, 2020 has been a loop-thrower for all of us. We are all faced with stress and change and uncertainty unlike any we have experienced. It’s not just the pandemic, it’s the pandemic plus all of the other little hiccups we normally experience as we go through life. For me it’s been surgery upon more surgery and complications that simply won’t go away and a flooded basement and a broken into camper and sick kid and a bunch of tiny little things that each on their own aren’t such a big deal, but when you throw them all on top of each other and then ice them with a global pandemic and sprinkle them with a life-altering illness, it’s enough to make a person crack. Cry uncle. Beg for mercy. Tell 2020 that we aren’t friends anymore, and maybe we never really were friends, and it should go straight back where it came from and take all of this crap with it.

Are you with me? I feel like there are a lot of yesses. We are in it together, so let’s get through it together. Let’s be gentle with each other. Let’s check in on each other even when we are the one that wants to be checked in on. Let’s look for ways to cheer each other on and hold each other’s arms up and scream our battle cry so loud and brave that it drowns out the fear and frustration and helplessness we feel and replaces it with the rising up of all the people who choose to believe that something better is coming, and that hope is worth grasping for.

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

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Running

There are many things I struggle with in regards to living with a terminal illnees, and one of the big ones is being able to be active. Working out or going for a hike or a run has always been one of the best coping skills and stress reliefs for me, and I struggle with not having a comparable activity now that I’m not able to do those things.

Though I usually ran just for fun, I had set a goal for myself once of running a race someday. I figured even if I did just a 5k one day, I could knock it off my list and enjoy the experience. Well I sat on that goal for too long, and it never came to be.

Fast forward to today… I came the closest I will to meeting that goal! My friend and fire partner, Michael, who has a lot of miles under his running shoes, teamed up with me to do a 5k together. We chose a virtual 5k that fit our friendship perfectly, mapped out a course, and he pounded the pavement while pushing me in my wheelchair. It was glorious! When I closed my eyes and listened to the rhythm of his feet against the ground, with the fresh air tossing back my hair, it almost felt like I was running.

I know it wasn’t easy; he had to navigate getting my wheels across places with no pavement, bump me up and down a few curbs, and push me up some ginormous hills.

He never complained, and just chugged along like a freight train. It was such a special day of fun and friendship, and I’m so thankful for Michael going above and beyond to help me accomplish something in the best way I could.

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

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New Wheels!

The past few weeks have brought me a fancy new wheelchair and an incredible mobility van to travel around in! I am still waiting for my headrest, but everything else is so wonderful and supports my body in a comfort I’ve not had in a long time. I am so blessed that insurance worked with us on this, and now Mark doesn’t have to push me around everywhere we go!

I know there are many people with the same needs as I have who aren’t as fortunate to have a nice chair to use, or even a vehicle to get the chair around. It is not lost on me how richly blessed I am. I’m so thankful to have these needs met in such amazing ways, and I hope to use them to bring more love and light to the world.

Here’s to more adventures in the fast lane!

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

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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.

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

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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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Gone

My heart hurts tonight. This afternoon I went through my paramedic jump bag to get it ready to pass on to my partner. That hurt. 13 years worth of remnants of a life that thrilled and fulfilled me. Perhaps I’m a little bit angry this time to have to leave it all behind. I’m so deeply thankful for this time I have now, but I do miss working as a medic terribly, and I haven’t quite learned to reconcile that yet.

My signature green scissors… my brightest helmet light… the fun bandaids I always made sure I had so no one would have to get a boring one. Unused gloves and sheets of paper waiting… for the next call that won’t be coming.

Look at this I found. It’s so ridiculous, but you must know.

I was running on a very intoxicated transient man one night, and as we neared the hospital I reached across him to grab the phone we used to call report ahead. It had one of those old school curly cords. Well as I stretched the cord to reach my ear the receiver snapped out of my hand and smacked my poor patient right in the middle of his forehead. It hit him hard enough to split the skin, and blood trickled down toward his eyebrows. I was mortified. I stammered apologies as I tried to get him cleaned up. He assured me there was nothing to worry about; that I was doing a great job and he was just fine. I was impressed he was taking it so well, and rummaging for a bandaid. It just happened that pink Hello Kitty bandaids were all I had left. Oh my goodness this was getting worse! At this point he was still encouraging me and swearing he had no cares in the world. I marched into the emergency department that night in a hot blush, wheeling my drunk, homeless victim with a pink girlie bandaid right in the middle of his forehead. By this time he was telling everyone what good care I had taken of him, and asking me to be his wife. I was so embarrassed to tell the hospital staff what happened, but he was just the most gracious man, beaming up at me with that goofy bandaid. I definitely needed his grace that night. I have always wondered though what he thought the next morning when he woke up with that pink Hello Kitty bandaid on his head.

I miss getting to connect with people like that. I miss the rawness and the realness and everyone just trying to do their best for one another. I’m honored to pass my bag on, even though it’s hard. I know it will be in good hands, and it will see to caring for many more people who need compassion and a helping hand. I’m glad to see it have life once again, though maybe for a nostalgic moment it made me miss who I was.

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