Saturday, May 16, 2015

Witness To A Miracle

Miracles happen all the time, every single day, in thousands of different ways.  Most of the time we aren't paying attention and we miss them.  Then every now and then we will hear a story on the news about a miracle.  Like the people that survived for days, and days trapped in the rubble of the Nepal Earthquake, or how someone miraculously walks away from an accident that should have killed them.   We are always moved by these stories, but then we forget, because they didn't happen to people that we know and our lives were not touched by them. 

Google defines a miracle as this:  a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.

How often are you lucky enough to be a witness to a real miracle?  We all hear stories from time to time, but how many miracles do you know?  I know one, beautiful, living, breathing miracle.  Her name is Audrey.  She and her family (Mom Krista, Dad Matt, and Big Brother Austin) are part of my church family.

Audrey has always been challenged by some physical and developmental delays, but her amazing Mama and Daddy have made sure that she has had the support that she needed to conquer the obstacles in her path.  But, last summer, when Audrey was three years old she started to have unexplainable seizures.  This was very scary for her parents and her big brother and for Audrey.  The seizures came out of no where and quickly got worse.  Audrey was admitted to Albany Medical Center and the testing and questioning started.

The initial fear was that Audrey had a brain tumor.  I went and visited her when she was in the hospital. I will never forget the talk that I had with my Kindred Spirit friend Krista when Matt took the kids off for a walk.  Once the kids were out of the room, the first thing I said was "How are you really?"  All the testing hadn't been completed at that point.  Krista sat before me, full of grace and peace and told me that she was prepared for the worst case scenario.  She said "If three years is all we have with Audrey, she has already touched so many lives."  I was amazed by Krista's strength that she was able to say this at such a desperate point in her life.  But Krista knew that God was in control of the situation.  That is the amazing thing about God, if he brings you to it, he will bring you through it, if you let him!  A big part of this miracle is the steady faith that Krista and Matt have had, and their trust that God would care for their daughter.

And Audrey, she was just her happy, smiley bubbly little self.  So happy to see me when I came to visit, and so pleased with the little bag of trinkets that I brought her.  Audrey is a LIGHT BRINGER!  Light shines from her where ever she goes.

Over the next few days, Audrey went through a series of testing to determine the cause of her sudden seizures.  This is a picture of her right before she went in for her PET scan.  They had to sedate her because a person has to remain perfectly still for a PET scan to get accurate results.  That cannot be expected of a three year old! 

The testing showed that Audrey has a rare brain malformation.   There is no cure for this brain malformation, no surgery that can help.  It explains the physical and developmental delays that Audrey has had to deal with.  The goal for treatment for Audrey is to control the seizures to protect her brain from any further damage.  But, that is not the miracle part.

Over the last year Audrey has spent time in and out of hospitals for testing.  She has visited doctors that specialize in her particular brain malformation as well as doctors that specialize in treating seizures.  Why is Audrey a miracle you ask?  I will tell you.  Every doctor that has seen this child has said the same thing.  This child should not be able to walk.  This child should not be able to talk.  This child should definitely not be able to run.  This child should not be toilet trained.  The list goes on and on. Audrey should not be able to do any of these things, but she can! The doctors' have told Audrey's parents that they cannot not explain her abilities.   Krista always responds with "I can explain it."

This little girl has a whole army of prayer warriors, and a whole big extended family who loves her.  What blows me away is God's purpose for this little girl.  He gave her warrior parents who will fight for the services that she needs.  He put her family in our church so they would be surrounded by love and support.  He gave her the exact big brother that he knew she would need.  Austin loves his little sister so much that it warms my heart.  He won't leave her side when she has seizures.  He is always making sure that she is okay.  He has such an amazing heart.  Austin is another LIGHT BRINGER!

Most importantly God has given Audrey a determined spirit.  When the doctors told her that she would never be able to write her name, Audrey decided that she was going to learn to write her name.  She spent days practicing over and over until she could write an A.  The doctors have said she will never be able to read.  The teachers and therapists that work with Audrey every day say that she will learn to read.   Audrey is a true miracle and I feel so blessed to be able to know and love her.

Audrey is four years old now and still continues to battle with the seizures.  She can go weeks without one and then suddenly have multiple seizures in a day.  We all continue to pray for her family and the doctors and hope that they can find the right medication to keep the seizures under control and prevent further damage to  her brain. 

In the mean time, I, and many others will continue to be in awe of this amazing little LIGHT BRINGER that continues to baffle the doctors with everything that she can do, everything that they say she can't do, but God says she can do!  We are all so blessed to know this little Miracle.  We love you Audrey!! 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Following the Light....

I have said this before, but I ALWAYS want to write more often then I do.  I have blog entries in my mind all the time, but rarely sit down to write them.  My life is full in many good ways.  I don't always have the time to sit down and think things out enough to write them down.  This is GOOD thing for sure.  But, I still feel it is important to tell my story, and I have so many things that I want to share that I hope will help others on their journeys.

Things have been busy for sure.  I run a playgroup at my church once a week.  Anne, my oldest, is in Kindergarten five days a week, and definitely keeping me on my toes.  There are so many things to navigate when your kids our in school and we have been dealing with some issues with her peanut allergy and how she handles herself with the other children in her class.  Everything is fine though, we have met with her teacher and are talking with her on a daily basis.  Her teacher and the school are so wonderful.  We are so grateful that Anne has such a loving teacher.  My Anne will be turning six in one short month.  I am just in awe of how much she has grown, and matured and changed in the last year.

Then there is my Matty, he will be four in three months!  I can't believe how much my baby is not a baby anymore.  Granted we have some issues that we need to work on, like using the toilet, but he has also grown and matured so much in the past year.  Pre-school has really helped him come out of his shell.  I LOVE his pre-school.  I will be so sad at the end of next year when I don't have a kid to send there anymore!  Matty has developed an amazing imagination just like his sister.  It is fun listening to them play alone, but even more fun listening to them play together.  Sometimes Matty forgets that he is growing up though, and likes to crawl into our bed almost nightly for snuggles and security.  I am savoring those moments, because I know, before long, those full on, squeeze you around the neck hugs are going to be a distant memory.  Slow down are growing to fast!

We are rolling into Wedding Season, that means my husband is working more, and we miss him.  We have been dealing with some hurdles lately with the business, but we are praying our way through them.  We know God is taking care of us, he hasn't failed us yet.  So we try not to get discouraged, and my guy just works super hard.  He is pretty amazing, always there to help, whenever his talents are needed.  He helps at church and my daughter's school, and still finds time to do a magic show every now and then.  Matty can't wait for Daddy to come perform at his school!

As for me, I caught the flu this year, just when I was getting myself into a good healthy routine with going to the gym and trying to be more active.  The flu then turned into a bad sinus infection that took two rounds of antibiotics to clear and then I ended up on steroids to deal with respiratory issues that have turned out to be allergies.  This has been strange.  I have had allergies all my life, but never more than the sneezing, itchy eyes kind of stuff, and never in the spring.  My issues usually happen in the weed pollen season in the late summer/early fall.  But suddenly I am on an inhaler to deal with spring allergies.  The doctor said it was probably just the wonderful timing of when I got the flu.  After about a month of feeling pretty crappy, we finally have it under control for the most part, and hopefully I won't need the inhaler for much longer.

Now the last time I wrote was in March and I discussed the issues that I was having with my anti-depressants and the side effects.  I was considering going off of them because of my frustration with the side effects.  This is what happened.  I kept feeling like it was time to go off my meds.  I felt like the side effects were starting to become bothersome, maybe because I didn't need the medication anymore.  BUT listen, I know the state that I was in when I started taking medication three years ago.  I was a mess, and I COULD NOT function.  I needed them and I don't regret my decision to take them at all.  In fact, I am quite sure that they played a significant role in literally, saving my life.

So I grappled with these thoughts, that quite voice saying, "Laura, you are okay, it is time."  but then the other voice saying "What if I still need them?  What if it puts me back to where I was three years ago."  Mamas, it is scary stuff.  It is scary to be in a place that is so desperately dark that you need medication and counseling to pull you back to a place where you can function, as a person and as a parent.  I thank God that there is medication that can help us when we are in such a desperate place.  God was telling me that I am okay that I can move forward from this, but after being on medication for three years I was terrified at the thought.  I don't ever want to go back there.  So I went back and forth in my mind about this for awhile.  When I brought it up to my husband, I could tell by his reaction that he had the same fears that I did.  Ladies, he has seen me at my worst and loves me too much to want to see me there again.  So I struggled with which voice to listen too, which one was real.  So I prayed this prayer  "Lord, I am too emotional about this medication topic.  The thought of going off them is very, very scary and my emotions are not letting me make a decision that I feel comfortable with.  Please Lord give me a CONCRETE sign as to what you want me to do."

Two days after I prayed this prayer I went to the pharmacy at Target to pick up my refill on my prescription.  I was taking 60 mg of Cymbalta.  This has been my good therapeutic dose during the worst of my depression.  It was early in the morning, the store was so quiet, the pharmacy had just opened.  I went in there with my son, only intending to go to the pharmacy and then leave.  The pharmacist handed me the bag.  I did not look in it, but I HEARD the pills.  A bottle of pills makes noise, especially in a quiet, echoing environment like an almost empty Target Store.  We left the pharmacy and walked right out of the store, I had the bag in one hand and my son's hand in the other.  My thoughts paused briefly as I walked past the front registers to congratulate myself at walking in and out of Target without spending any money.  I know you all understand what a big deal that is!  We went out to the car, I opened the back door to put my son in his seat, when I did this I reached over the front seat and gently dropped the prescription bag on the front seat.  The front door was never opened on that side of the car.  I strapped him in and we went straight home.  When we got home I came inside and went to take the pills out of the bag to put them out of reach of little hands.  THE BAG WAS EMPTY!  Totally empty, as empty as Jesus's tomb.

I went out to the car and searched it about three times.  My car is not that big.  I called the pharmacy.  The pharmacist assured me that the pills weren't there and he put them in the bag, and I believe him.  Not only is he a wonderful and helpful man whenever our family needs assistance with medications....I heard the pills in the bag when he gave it to me.  The bottle was not in the house, it was not in the car.  Matty and I went back to Target and searched the parking lot and retraced our steps in the store and nothing.  I kept thinking to myself that if the pills had fallen out of the bag at any point, either in the store or the car, I would have HEARD them.  I spoke to the Pharmacist, and he called the insurance company who, of course, would not pay for a replacement prescription (Shocker, I know).

"Well Lord, I asked you for a concrete sign, I guess you can't get any more concrete than making a bottle of bills disappear into nothingness."

I knew in my heart then, that it was time.  We simply could not afford to replace the missing pills.  Cymbalta is NOT a medication to go off cold turkey, no anti depressant is.  The pharmacist thought that the insurance company may approve a lower dose, so I called my doctor.  I had to wait most of the day for a call back.  So I had lots of time to think.  I started to think about all the things that I have now that I did not have when the depression took over:

1. Coping skills.
2. Kids who are older.
3. An amazing and supportive church family.
4.  Supportive friends that have been through similar trials that will literally talk me through anything.
5.  My therapy dog, always available for soothing snuggles.
6.  And most importantly, a much deeper relationship with my God.

God was telling me to go, I knew it was time to listen.  My doctor was a little concerned at our initial conversation.  I remembered the talk that we had when I first started the Cymbalta.  She told me it was one of the very hardest drugs to go off of.  The withdrawal symptoms can be debilitating.   At that time Cymbalta was the right choice for me.  Now I was confident that if God wanted me off it, then he would get me through it.  So my doctor agreed and called in a prescription for 30 mg, which is half of what I had been taking.  She told me to take it for a month and see how I was doing.

A few days into the lower dose I had one evening where I felt really dizzy and lightheaded and out of it.  This is a withdrawal side effect, so I assumed it was just my body adjusting to the lower dose.  After that day, I had no side effects, and most importantly no change in my mood or overall emotional state, sure I still had bad days, and bad moments, but everybody does.  These times were no different then the bad days and bad moments I experienced while taking the full dose of the medication, so I was prepared to press on.  After about two weeks on the lower dose I started getting sick with the flu, followed by the sinus infection.  I think I would have lowered my dose sooner but I was just too sick.  So on one of my follow up visits, she lowered my dose to 20 mgs.  That transition was absolutely fine, I didn't even have any dizziness, or if I did I think it was from the steroids I was on.  The final step was two weeks later, to go to taking one pill every other day for two weeks and then I would be done.  I was on an inhaler and steroids at the time, but I decided that I was already feel crappy, so why wait until I was off the steroids and lower my dose so I could just feel crappy all over again.

Now the decision I made next is not something that I would recommend to anyone.  Going off an anti depressant is serious business, and if you are ready you need to taper off following your doctors instructions.  Your tapering off dosages and instructions will be different from mine.  TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR, make a plan and follow it.  That being said, I didn't do exactly what my doctor said.  I did the every other day dosage for three doses.  I was feeling so dizzy and light headed about 36 hours after a dose (about 12 hours before the next one), but that was the ONLY symptom I was experiencing.  I made the decision to stop taking it after those three doses because I felt that was the right decision for me at the time.  I figured that if dizziness was my only issue, that the sooner the medication was out of my system for good the sooner the dizziness would stop.  I turned out to be right.  It got progressively better and after about four days was gone completely.  If I had any major issues I would have contacted my doctor.

I firmly believe with all my heart that my transition off the medication was so easy because I followed what God wanted me to do, and I trusted him to take care of it.  I have now been completely off the Cymbalta for two weeks.  I feel very empowered, like I have reached the end of a very long road and I am okay.  I am doing great.  I still lose my patience and have moody moments.  This is because I am a woman.  The biggest change I have noticed is that I definitely have more energy and that feels great.  It is amazing to get through the afternoon and not feel like I need to take a nap in order to make it to dinner.  This is actually a life changing thing for me.  I have been getting the kids out more, I have gotten tons of yard work and other projects done and it just feels good to have the energy to accomplish more things.  Don't get me wrong, I am still very done with the day by the time the kids go to bed.  I actually feel free of this depression burden that I have been carrying for such a long time.  I don't regret one step of this journey.  It has shaped my life and who I am.  It has put me in position to touch other peoples lives either through the blog or face to face with people that I know.  It has made me empathic to the struggles that all Moms face on a daily basis.  In fact, the two most important things I have learned are:

1. Nobody's life is perfect, no matter how perfect their lives LOOK on social media.
2. Everybody has something that they have to struggle with.  Some of us have dealt with trauma or loss, some of us battle with depression or other mental illnesses, some of us struggle with infertility, some of  us parent children with special needs.

Don't judge other people, LOVE them.  Because in the end, none of us get through our struggles alone, we all need love and support from those around us.  And Most Importantly, God is good. He loves you and will be there with you every step of the way, all you have to do is let him.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Dream Weaver

    Life is full, and that is a good thing, but it also distracts me from writing my blog, which I always intend to do, but never really get around to doing, mostly because I am too tired.

    Update:  Generally things have been going well.  I have been back on my feet since the last weekend in November.  The holidays were wonderful, we dealt with some winter illness in January and February was COLD, SNOWY and DREARY, as anyone who lives in the Northeast will attest too.  I believe that they are saying it is the coldest February on record.  And it was cold, too cold to play outside, too cold to walk the dog and even too cold to do the laundry.  My washer freezes on a regular basis when the temperatures are too low for too long, which seemed to be about two thirds of the month of February this year.  Ugh!  I can say that March has been much warmer though, I have been able to do wash whenever I have needed to!

  So there have been some tough moments, days, even weeks since my last entry.  We had a scare with my husband at the end of January.  He was having severe headaches and we thought maybe he had an aneurysm.  We endured a very stressful trip to the emergency room where the doctors and nurses had us believing he was going to be rushed off for brain surgery, until the results of his tests came back and we found out that he just had a bad sinus infection.  Whew!  It took us a couple of weeks to get the headaches under control with the right medication.  Thankfully he is just fine now.  But, while we were dealing with the headaches with him, my daughter had the flu with a fever for five days and she missed four days of school while my son had an ear infection.  That was a LONG two weeks.  I think I survived on adrenaline alone, because nobody was sleeping and I was taking care of all three of them.  As soon as everyone was showing improvement, this Mama was a cranky mess for a few days.

  My last cycle was really tough on me mood wise.  I had a few of those kinds of days that make me feel like the depression is starting all over again, and all I want to do is be left alone so I can sleep. but as always, sleep eludes me.

   One of the biggest reasons I was so upset that insurance forced me off the medication that worked the best for me (Cymbalta), is because it was the one medication that did not make my problem dreaming worse.  After being off it and trying other medications, nothing else worked quite right.  Now I have been back on it since the early fall and I feel better overall than I have on anything else,  but it is making the dreaming worse this time around.   I am at the point in my life where I feel there really is no solution to my dreaming problem.

I have always been a dreamer.  I don't know what most people dream about, but my dreams only sometimes contain people and places that I know.  I am more likely to be a character in a movie with a really confusing and drawn out plot.  I have had dreams like that ever since I can remember.  I have many stories in my head that need to be written down as a result of some of these dreams.  The one component that my depression has added to my dreaming is an emotional component.  We all have occasional dreams that are upsetting, but I find it happening on almost a nightly basis lately.  And the dreams are exhausting.  I wake up feeling like I have just run a marathon.  I have just lived this other life out in great detail, and now am expected to get up, fully refreshed and go about my own life during the day.  Except I never feel refreshed.  The best sleep I get during a 24 hour period are the twenty minutes I am lucky enough to doze off while my son is watching tv before we go to pick my daughter up from school.

I guess they call this kind of dreaming Lucid Dreaming and I can't find any way to make it stop.  My doctor and I have discussed this at length and apparently I just seem to be one of those people who rarely, if ever, gets into a deep sleep.  I can shake off the dreams, but I am never able to really shake off the tired feeling.  I think this is why I have such a hard time getting up in the morning.  When the dreaming gets worse during the PMS part of my cycle, sometimes I ask myself what is the point of going to bed  at all.  Sleep Aids will help me to fall asleep, and sometimes to sleep a little better during part of the night, but it is the crazy dreams towards the mornings that I find most challenging to endure.  Lately I have been waking up feeling really down, and last night felt that way at bedtime too.  It is a struggle, a minor struggle compared to being the throes of a bad depression, but it is still as struggle.

Sometimes my dreams will be tied to real life.  I often dream of my former best friend.  When life priorities changed, our relationship started to change.  I was married, then with one baby, then another baby while she remained single.  Then as the depression took a good hold of me, our friendship fell apart and she decided to end it.  I still miss her all the time, but try not to think about.  I will get heart twinges when I see the kids playing with something that she gave them, or they want to read one of awesome books she found for them.   I still stop and have to remind myself that I can't share things with her anymore.  But I try not to think about her for too long, I have laid the issue to rest.  Then I have a dream about her where we are reconciling and going on some adventure, or I dream that we are having some kind of argument, and either way I wake up thinking about her and missing her, and just generally feeling bad because the dreams are so emotional and they feel so real.  It  is very frustrating to not be able to control what goes on in your head while you are sleeping.

It leaves me with facing a decision about when and how and if I should go off my medication.  I don't think that it is time right now, but maybe soon...I don't know.  I know that going off is not going to solve my depression and it definitely won't make me stop dreaming, nothing is going to that.  My dreams, my depression are all part of who I am and I have to continuously figure out ways to cope with them, and ways to get better sleep whenever I can.  And the issues that the dreams bring up, you know, those issues that I thought that I have dealt with, but apparently parts of my brain don't agree, well, I guess I will have to figure out ways to cope with them too.

Dreams and hormones, hormones and dreams will always be around to frustrate me.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Darkness to Light....

So I just realized that it has been a month since my last entry.  I guess I have been keeping myself busy enough just hanging around.  My hip is healing slowly. I am now allowed to put up to 25% of my weight on the bad leg, so that has made getting around a little easier.  I think I am finally learning some patience, although I have been quite thrilled to get some privileges back, like standing in the shower and being able to put my foot down!  I really am looking forward to going back upstairs to my bed instead of sleeping on the sofabed in the middle of Grand Central Station. This happens every morning...even on the weekends:

I have had lots of time for reflecting.  If you are reading this because you are on your own journey with depression, I share my experience to offer support to other Moms and also to give hope to those who are deep in the struggle.  This January I will be coming up on three years in my journey.  So I know that I am currently in a much different place than those who are just starting out.  Do I still struggle, of course?  About a year ago it was determined that my PPD is now just plain old Chronic Depression.  Apparently it ceases to be PPD after the two year mark.  When I am  not having a good day I try to reflect on how far I have come since the really, really bad days.  When I worry whether or not I have totally messed up my kids, I reflect on how sweet and loving and HAPPY they are, so I guess my husband and I have done alright despite everything.  They know that they are loved and that is the most important thing.  I am okay.  There is still some darkness that sneaks in from time to time, mostly based on my hormonal fluctuations.  At least I can see those coming, know what they are, and know that they will pass pretty quickly if I just ride it out.    The situation with my hip has resulted in a few day of feeling sorry for myself here and there, but for the most part, being pretty much off my feet with limited control over my own life for over two months now, has shown me just how much of a handle that I do have on my depression, and honestly that is a good thing.  I am on a good therapeutic dose of a medication that works, I have wonderful support in my life and I do feel pretty much normal.  So maybe I have finally found my end in sight, until the next challenge arises or until I decide that it is time to go off my medication.    My greatest enemy is, and will continue to be sleep deprivation, but unfortunately that is just the way I am and there really isn't much I can do to sleep better, so I have learned to live with it the way it is, and I catch a good nap whenever I can.

My dear friends, if you are at the beginning of your journey and the darkness is heavy right now, rest assured that there is hope.  It is a long journey, full of many difficult days and many challenges.  It is important that you remember that you are a good mother, and this is not your fault.  Seek support and don't believe the negative thoughts that the darkness puts in your head.  It may take therapy and medication to help you move forward.  If you choose to take medication it might take a while to find the right medication with the right dosage, I went through many trials before I found the right one.  Don't lose hope.  Ask for help.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel I promise.

It has been a while since I recommended one of my favorite resources for information and support about Postpartum Depression:  This website helped me tremendously with figuring things out in the beginning.  I am sure it can help you too!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

"I just want things to go back to normal."

Just a quick background for this post if you haven't been keeping up.  Towards the end of July I injured my left hip, but I didn't really know what was wrong, and it wasn't too bad at first, so I continued to use it normally for the next 3 and a half weeks.  It got steadily worse until I could no longer put weight on my left leg.  I was diagnosed with a stress fracture just below the joint in my left hip.  I cannot put weight on my left leg at all while it heals, so I have been on crutches or in a wheelchair for the past six weeks.  I still have at least six weeks to go until I am crutch free, as my doctor told me I need to stay off the leg for six weeks AFTER I no longer feel any pain in that hip, and currently I do still have some pain.

Last evening while Daddy was heating up our dinner, this precious girl of mine, Anne (age 5) had a meltdown and climbed up onto my lap sobbing and saying that she "just wants things to go back to normal."  I was pretty sure that I knew what she meant, but I questioned her further just to be sure.  Through her tears she told me that she wanted things to go back to to normal when Mommy did all of the work and she had more time to play.  She didn't want to have to help me carry things all the time and always be the one to let the dog out.  Now granted this was a very tired little girl at the end of her second full week of Kindergarten, but she was breaking my heart!

Now I feel my child's pain.  I have really been struggling the last few weeks, trying so hard to be patient, trying so hard not to let my depression creep in and take over, and wishing so hard that I could just get up and do all the things I am supposed to be able to do.  I want to sleep upstairs in my own bed!  I want to walk my children in and out of school every day instead of having someone else do it for me.  I want to clean my own house.  I want to take a real shower.  I want to take my dog for long walks in the woods on these beautiful fall days.  I want to make dinner for my family.  I want to be able to pick my kids up off the floor when they fall, and walk my rascally son back into time out over and over and over again.  It has been six weeks, well longer than that if you count the three weeks of pain before that.  I am really trying to learn this lesson in patience that God is trying to teach me.  God is always trying to teach me patience.  I must be pretty bad at it!  He is also trying to teach me to let go of control, to let other people help, to let HIM take over.  I must be pretty bad at that too!  BUT, I am trying.

I really have struggled with the extra pressure that this has put on my children, especially Anne.  She is more sensitive and because she is older, more has been expected of her.  And while she says that she doesn't want to do everything to help, she worries about who is helping Mommy when she is not there.  And she wants normal again.  I don't think that she understands that our normal has changed.  The old normal wasn't so great.  There were wonderful things about it, and many things that I took for granted, but I can sit here now and say that there were many things in my life that were normal for me, but that need to change.  It takes time for "normal" to change.  I need to change for a healthier me.  I need more time with God, I need more exercise, I need to eat better, I need more quality time with my husband, my friends and my kids.  However, I spend most of my life sitting in safe and comfortable ruts, doing things the easy way.

I feel like this experience is giving me the opportunity to change my old normal for a better normal, and honestly, I am so afraid I am going to screw it up.  I am afraid I am going to forget when I am free to move again.  I am trying to use this time to better my mind and prepare myself to have a whole new normal.  I feel like that is the reason that all this is happening, because I needed a drastic intervention to change and wiggle out of my comfortable old normal.

So my poor precious girl, this has put too much stress on a five year old.  She worries that I am going to get hurt worse if I fall, and about who is going to take care of me when she is not around, and then she is five, and just wants to play sometimes, so when we ask her to help she feels like she has to do everything.  So we had a long cuddle and a long talk, about being patient, and about what it means to do things out of love, even when you don't feel like it.   Even though it feels like it is taking forever for this hip to heal, it will.  In the meantime, I have been listening to Andy Stanley's series, "In the Meantime (  It is all about what to do when you can't do anything.  It is very inspiring.  So I am trying to be inspired and to plan out my new normal, while I patiently wait to heal.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

There was a little girl....

I wrote this post a few months ago, but didn't feel ready to post it at that time.  After reading it again tonight, I decided it was time.  It has been a challenging month and a half for me as I recover from a stress fracture in my hip and I haven't been feeling my best emotionally.  Life has been challenging for my husband and my kids as well.  But through all of this my family has been loved and supported by our family and friends and OUR AMAZING CHURCH FAMILY.  So, I couldn't think of a better time to share the story of how we came to join our wonderful church and found such a loving home there.  Here it is:

This post is one that has been on my heart to write for the longest time, and recent circumstances in my extended family have brought it back up again in my mind and in my heart, so I figured it was time.  I just never knew exactly what I should say or how I should say it.  What do you say when a stranger's tragedy literally alters the course of your life? Would you want to know?  Would you want to know if a loss that you suffered ended up saving someone's soul, and maybe even their family?

What is the measure of a life?  I suffered a loss, a miscarriage with my first child.  The child of my heart, the one I will always miss.  I only knew that she existed for six short days.  Then she was gone.  I grieved for her with all my heart and all my soul.  And I wondered, what was the point?  How could her life have any purpose at all.  Now I know that it did.  Loving and losing her has helped to shape the person that I am today.  I know that talking about her and what I went through has helped others, and in that, my child's life did have a purpose.  My arms still ache to hold her, but I know that I will someday, and that knowledge does give me peace.

But there was another little girl, one that I never met, that had a greater impact on my life than I could have ever even possibly imagined.

When my son was six months old, my postpartum depression was just starting to get out of control. I was very lost at this point, and over the next two months it was only going to get worse.  But it was when he was six months old a tragedy happened in our town and a family that I had never met, lost their five year old daughter to an illness.  The loss happened pretty quickly after diagnosis.  Somehow this little girl's story spread all over the local area.  I remember holding my babies and sobbing, hurting so much for her parents.  We wanted to do something to help.  I talked with my husband about it and he reached out to help at a local fundraiser that was going to help the family with the medical expenses.  But just like that she was gone.  The event still happened and the money went to help the family and to also start a foundation in the child's name.  A foundation that continues to do amazing things for families in our local area.  I am forever amazed by these parents who took their grief, and used it spread love in their daughters name.  My husband continues to help out with events for this charity whenever he can.

Aside from the impact of being sad for this family, this little girl affected our lives in an overwhelming way.  But how do you say that to somebody?  How do you tell someone that them losing their child changed the course of my family's lives forever.  Sometimes I feel guilty when I think about the impact that this child has had on our lives.  I know that I would give it up in a heartbeat if this family could have their baby back.  But life doesn't work that way.  God has this incredibly intricate plan for the world that we cannot fathom or understand.  Lives intersect for a reason, many reasons, and only he knows why.  I know this, but would still give her back to her family if I could.

The initial fundraiser that happened to raise money for the family happened at a local church.  One we had never been to before.  My husband performed for the children at the fundraiser and I, and some friends took our kids there to support it.  We had never been to this church before.  And we didn't go back, not for 7 months.

This is what happened.  My husband and I had been sporadically attending the Roman Catholic Church that we were married in.  We were both raised Roman Catholic, and that was all we knew.  But we both knew that it just wasn't working for us.  I still had a relatively strong faith, but my husband had been doubting and struggling for years.  We asked to meet with the priest once because we needed some help and guidance, and he didn't have time for us.  We didn't really know what to do.  We never felt like we were part of a community there. We never really wanted to go to church.  The times we went we just felt like we were spending an hour trying to keep the kids quiet, so what was the point? It was so frustrating, and we felt so empty.  And the more my depression took hold, the harder it was for me, and the emptier I felt.

Then one day, in November, out of the blue my husband suggested that we check out that know the one that we went to for the Fundraiser.  I was doing way better with my depression at this point, but was still a little wary...not as much for myself but for him.  What if he didn't like it?

So we went the Sunday after Thanksgiving for the first time.  I went in nervous, they had nursery for little ones, but I had a kid with a severe food allergy, could I leave her there?  Would she be safe?  I felt completely at home within 15 minutes of entering the building, we were welcomed, brought to the nursery, our fears were addressed, we left the kids, went to the auditorium.  Our family has been attending the church ever since.

Over the next few months I watched my husband's life change dramatically and mine did too.  He found support, people to talk to, people to ask all of his questions to, and then quietly, without fanfare (because that is the way that he is) he came to Christ.  The prayers I had prayed from my heart for six long years were finally answered.  My husband came to know peace, the peace that comes from having a meaningful relationship with God.

Since then my family has flourished.  Many things that were once struggles started to work themselves out.  Both my husband and I have continued to grow in our faith.  We have found a loving church family with an amazing support system.  I joined the moms group there and both my husband and I have found ways to volunteer at the church doing things that we love.  We became official members of the church and were baptized together six months after we started attending.  Our kids love the church, and are already learning to know God and develop a relationship with him.  I am constantly taken aback by the heartfelt, spot on prayers that come from my five year old.  I love watching her grow with God.

So many areas of our lives have changed for the better since that day in February 2012.  My heart aches for anyone whose child has left this world too soon.  I know that pain, and I share it.  I am so sorry for your Mama and Daddy, sweet girl, and for all those that love you.  Thank you precious girl, for being such a bright, shining light in our lives.   You have been the brightest beacon on my Journey to the Light and because of that I will ALWAYS carry your light in my heart.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Best Summer Ever!

I found my bliss for awhile just after the 4th of July.  We escaped on a spontaneous trip to our favorite place in the world....Maine.  Four whole days at the ocean.  Four whole days, just the four of us.  I returned peaceful and refreshed and determined to make this summer different, better than the last several summers have been.

Two summers of magic shops, 1 summer with a brand newborn, 1 summer pregnant, 1 summer struggling with PPD, 1 summer full of surgeries.....summers around here haven't been exactly what summers should be....especially for kids.  I was determined to make this summer different.  And I did!

I have four siblings.  My kid have nine cousins.  With the exception of holiday gatherings we don't see each other all that much.  Two of my siblings live in Kansas...we live in NY.  A trip to Kansas was not happening this summer.  I wanted to have some good family time and to let my kids have some cousin time.  They adore their cousins and their cousins adore them.  Luckily for Matthew and Anne, eight out of their nine cousins live within two and a half hours of us.  So we got back from vacation and I set out to plan the rest of the summer full of visits with family and friends, playdates and sleepovers for Anne.

Daddy stayed home to work and the kids and the dog and I headed out to my sister's for a few days.  We had a blast.  My only disappointment was that when we went to the zoo the Penguin Exhibit was closed.  The next week I packed everyone up and we went to my brother's.  We had a fabulous time.

Then we came home and got everything together for the Penguin Party!  Yes!  My Matthew turned three!  Crafty me had so much fun getting ready for his party and throwing it.  We had such a great day.

But trouble was brewing for this Mama long before the birthday bash.  I think it started before we left for our visit with my sister, when I was pulling weeds in the backyard.  For a week or so I was waking up in the morning feeling like I had a pulled muscle in my groin, but that feeling went away after a half hour or so each day.  Then while we were visiting my sister my nephew and I were walking the dogs and I slipped, just a tiny bit on a wet wooden foot bridge.  I felt an intense pain in my hip that I struggled to walk off.   That was followed by a series of little incidents that left me with the same kind of pain.  Then it became harder and harder to walk. I had a hard time during my visit with my brother so I went to the doctor as soon as we got back.  My doctor determined that my injury seemed to be a weight bearing issue with my left hip joint.  She sent me for an X-ray and referred me to an orthopedist.  The X-ray showed nothing. I had to wait 2 weeks for my appointment with the orthopedist and the pain continued to get worse to the point where my leg would give out when I tried to put weight on it.  My husband bought me a cane which helped a little bit, until I tripped on it the first evening I had it.  That was the end of the line for me.  The pain and frustration over the whole situation brought me to tears, and I don't come to tears easily.  That fall wrenched my hip so badly that I could no longer put any weight on that leg.  My husband called the orthopedist the next morning and got me an emergency appointment.  An MRI was ordered which I had the next evening.  As it turns out I have a stress fracture in my left hip joint.  I am now alternating between using crutches and a wheelchair.  I cannot put any weight on my leg for six whole weeks.  Surgery is a possibility if I do not seem to be healing or if I fall and injure the hip further causing the stress fracture to become a complete fracture.

So my summer turned out interesting for sure.  I am so grateful that I got in those family visits when I did, and that I was able to give Matthew his Penguin birthday bash before it all became too much.

Now I am in an interesting predicament.  I have a five year old starting kindergarten in two weeks and a three year old starting pre-school in three weeks.  I won't be able to put weight on my leg for at least six weeks.  It is a frustrating and discouraging position to be in.  I am not sick, and if I don't move around too much I don't feel any pain in my hip.  So I feel fine.  Yet I am confined.  Cooped up with two little kids.  I have to be really careful because the slightest wrong move could cause a complete fracture.  I can't really do much to care for my family and my home.  I am actually relying on the kids to help care for me during the day when my husband is working.  They are being really great, but they are still very little.  I can see in their behavior that this situation is stressful for both of them, especially my daughter. I am so thankful that I am not in this alone.  I have my church family, my friends, my in-laws and my parents.  People are bringing us meals, cleaning my house, helping me care for the kids.....I have done things like this for others before, and now I am truly seeing first hand how important it is.  What a difference a meal can make, a clean bathroom can make.  For the first time I realize the importance of being a part of a community, something bigger than your own family unit.  This is a frustrating time for me yes, but I know that I am going to have help and support and LOVE to get me through it.  That makes all the difference in the world.

This is the best summer ever!