Monday, July 27, 2020

He always showed up

Here is a post I found went unpublished until now.....................................................

In honor of Father's Day, in a very hard year personally and globally I thought I'd share what was on my heart.

At the funeral of a very dear man his children (and step children) said of him, "Dad (Pops) always showed up." These simple words were profound to me.  It was true.  He did always show up not just for his children but as a general rule of how he lived his life.  I am blessed to not only have a mother and father I can also say this about but  my sister, aunts and uncles and cousins.  It is a family trait I am so very fond of.  It would only be later in life that I would learn this is not the "normal" for many people.

I also sat there realizing this was no longer a reality in my life.  I still struggle with my energy level and have very different limits than most people my age.  My heart wants to be the one who, 'always shows up' but my brain limits me in very profound ways.  I find myself feeling like I need to explain this to people more than ever these days.  Since it's been 15 years and I can function pretty well most days, even people closest to me forget or get tired of my limitations.  I AM NOT MAKING THEM UP AND I AM NOT USING THEM AS A CRUTCH.   Honestly, I have grown very irritated by being told how I feel at any given moment.  I'm pretty good at understanding my limits most times. They are still very real and I need to take care of my own mental state.  I am frustrated every time I push too much and crash or get an anxiety producing migraine aura.  I don't want my body to tell me to stop, I'd rather pace myself and survive!

So, I am thankful for everyone who has shown up for me. I am thankful for the example my family has set and continues to live out and I will show up every sing time I can.  This is real post aneurysm life.  But, we are here to live it.  Keep on keeping on!

Photo taken by me!

Friday, November 1, 2019

Stellaluna

Yesterday was Halloween.  As a kid it was so exciting to bring our costumes to school and and have a parade. Each class came to the gym, when every one got there, Kindergartens led the festivities and a teacher would play some fun silly kid music (probably on a cassette tape, yup I'm dating myself.) We would walk around in a circle for a few minutes then, the next class did the same until our tiny rural school of K-5 all got to display their costumes (teachers too, they always came up with something fun.) There was never a scary, morbid or evil part of Halloween in my child mind. It was all costumes and candy! There was never a day we wanted to live "in town" more than Halloween. Handing out candy seemed like a glorious treat and my sister and me. We would always think, "someday we are going to live where there are trick or treaters."  Then, the day was over and we went back to riding our horses on a 7 acre spread, playing, "dog show" on our front lawn and eating picnic lunches on a large rock in our woods we called, "the picnic rock."

Fast forward to adulthood.  I was married and living in a second story apartment, no trick or treaters.  But, I was getting closer! We soon purchased our starter house and when October 31 rolled around it seemed like we lived in a prime trick or treating community.  However, we spent that evening with every shade and curtain drawn shut and the lights out except for the dim glow of our television which was debated even turning on lest anyone think we might be home.  Mookie, our dog, spent the evening barking at all the funny kids walking by, having the time of her life, as my heart silently broke.  That is not the actual point of this blog though so moving on. 

Each year, at the library where I work, the 'story time' children dress up during Halloween week and trick or treat around the library.  I never really had any fun with it until this year when I pulled out some bat leggings and a matching shirt I found on clearance last year.  I got myself a bat wings headband and decided since I worked at a library and it was a story time parade I would be Stellaluna (not just any old bat, a bat with a purpose).  I even checked the book out (Stellaluna by Janell Cannon) and had it sitting on my desk in case anyone was interested in checking it out.  Apparently, as always, my nerd side kicked in and I was the only one excited about the book.  I totally didn't care, I was living the dream, handing out fruit snacks, dressed as a bat, promoting literacy on Halloween.



But, let me tell you why I chose Stellaluna.  Of course, I had "bat-wear" I wanted to sport but, I also truly do love the story of Stellaluna.  It is about a fruit bat and her mother.  One night, they were attacked by an owl and mother bat's wings became too tired after fending off the owl to hold Stellaluna and she dropped from her mother's protection.  She landed on a tiny branch. Hanging upside down for as long as she could she finally became too tired and dropped. She dropped right into a bird's nest.  Not knowing what to do she climbed out of the nest and hung upside down from it while the other birds sat chirping for food. Stellaluna thought the idea of eating grasshoppers was revolting but finally out of desperation she ate what the mother bird fed her. 

The baby birds became curious of Stellaluna and tried hanging upside down from the nest too.  When their mother returned home she scolded them for behaving that way and told them that was not what birds did.  If Stellaluna wished to remain, she too would have to act like a 'real bird', staying awake in the day, sleeping at night, sitting up and eating grasshoppers.  Without options Stellaluna did as mother bird told her and acted like a 'good bird'.  When the birds were grown and the nest was too crowded, mother bird told them it was time they learned to fly.  As she let them go, they discovered indeed they could fly. Stellaluna could too, although she quickly learned she couldn't land gracefully on her feet like the other birds.  She was determined to practice all day.  The other birds became tired but Stellaluna was determined and continued on without them. 

That night Stellaluna found a branch and fell asleep, hanging from her 'hands' not her feet.  She awoke to a voice asking her why she was upside down.  Confused the other bat explained that bats slept hanging from their feet so she was actually sleeping upside down.  More bats gathered in awe.  Stellaluna told them her story and one bat began to question the events of her life.  The older bat quickly realized it was Stellaluna, her child.  She quickly began to teach her all the ways of a fruit bat.  One day Stellaluna went back to the nest she had landed in.  She found her bird friends and insisted they come meet her bat family.  The birds tried to fly at night with the bats but, of course, failed miserably, this time needing Stellaluna to save them! In the end, they decided they were very different but they were most certainly still friends. 

My childhood seemed more like the safe nest of the birds that cared for Stellaluna.  While adulthood, I can more readily relate to being Stellaluna.  Being dropped into a similar yet unfamiliar world.  Both before and after my aneurysm.  What I really needed to do was be given the chance to "leave the nest" and find out I could actually fly with hubby by my side, of course!! Life dropped me in a good place, it just wasn't where I was meant to fit.  It would begin to feel too crowded. Flying to something better, something that fit me, the me I was created for, was how it had to be.  Before my aneurysm I felt forced into a world of a crowded nest eating grasshoppers, staying there because I didn't think I had a choice.  Sure I survived it, although it left me with a terrible taste in my mouth.  Not to worry, my aneurysm would force me out of the nest and leave me literally relearning how to live.  Things were different now and I could never go back to the nest I didn't belong in.  So now I've "found my place in the world" but it doesn't mean I have to leave the others all behind, I am different, life is different.  We can think it is such a mystery that we are so much alike and so different too, as Stellaluna and her bird friends discovered.  But, we can know for sure we are still friends, a part of each other. And, it's okay that hubby and I fly together in our own uncrowded nest.  Each bringing what is ours and leaving the rest.    

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Scarlet Letters

This post started out as one about opinions.  Specifically, one day when I became overwhelmed by the strong opinions of others around me and on social media.  As a highly sensitive person (in the words of my therapist, "wow, I've never seen a score that high.") I tend to take everything too personally. But, Mother's Day, I dread for weeks before it comes. I have a wonderful, selfless mother.  She made sure we had a great childhood.  We went to Story Time at the library, read all the classic children's books, always had a balanced diet, played outside in our expansive yard and made up our own "castle" in the woods. She was a teacher and a mom.  Yet, I never once ever remember feeling neglected. We always ate supper as a family and had clean clothes to wear. I don't know how she did it but it gave us the opportunity to have horses and go to a good college. Sure we spent a few days each summer in either her classroom or my father's (also a teacher.) I remember liking it.  There were plenty of things to keep us occupied while they prepared for a new school year.  FIRST, remember that my brain is literally stuck in 2005. Now, fast forward to 2002 when I got married to hubby with my degree in Elementary Education.  I was very much a people person and saw the tremendous impact both of my parents had on their students even years later.  Even in college though I had this sense that God had some sort of different plan for my life.  I had no longing to be a mom like most of my friends did and if you ask any of those closest to me at the time they will tell you I always knew I'd end up different.  I thought I might be called to adopt a child with special needs or something like that. But, get married and have kids? NOT for me I sensed.  Maybe teaching was where I would leave my impact?
My hubby knew this when he married me. He was okay with God's plan. We were okay with God's plan.  I am overly sensitive. I think the day we returned from our honeymoon was when the pressure about kids started.  I was 22, hubs 23. We had plenty of time to just be married since our entire relationship was a long distance one.  The brazen pressure about children shocked me, frankly.  I grew up in a family and church that valued children but left you alone about them.  Now the pressure was all around me. I had no capacity to handle it.  I began to feel like a "bad person." Was there something wrong with me?  And thus, the battle began.  Even at Christmas a little stocking was hung and paraded around wondering when it was to be filled. I couldn't escape it.  Yet, I still had this sense that something different awaited me.  So, I waited but the pressure grew into resistance, resentment, self-preservation, bitterness, sin.  And oh how I dreaded Mother's Day when I felt nothing but judged and pitied. I didn't want to be either.  I felt like poor Hester with that scarlet letter standing in the town square, everyone judging her for what she did, her mistake.  Since according to the critics, the only plan for a married woman is to have children and raise them, but even still give a girl a couple years before the pressure starts!. There was no room for me.  I didn't fit. I began feeling even worse about myself.  Did I miss something? Were they right?  I knew none of them were, but I lacked the maturity to see it for what it was;  their problem, not mine. I was seeking the Lord's will for my life, whatever that may be. Except now it was my problem too, because I was so angry about it.  I was a mess, coming unglued. It was effecting every part of my life now, and I had no idea how to fix it or what to do.  So I stood there feeling like Hester with a J(judged) and P(pitied) written on me, real or imagined, that is what it felt like to me.  Then, my aneurysm...............the different plan revealed!
This year is the first year I actually felt a measure of peace about the day.  We went to church (a different one than 2002) and had a nice quiet afternoon to ourselves. I took a nap with my little Terrier mix, Pippi and avoided Facebook at all the overly emotional sentimentality I knew I would find. It makes me uncomfortable in general.  I celebrated Mother's Day with my mom last weekend and hub's side last night. I walked out of church and shed those letters.  God's providence has prevailed as it always does. I am fully accepted and whole in Christ and gifts withheld turn into unexpected blessings.

Happy Mother's Day to all my mom friends and family.  Thanks for doing what you do and letting me be me. 

Friday, July 20, 2018

Me, really?

Our church recently asked for people willing to share their stories to create a series of videos to post on their website.  I immediately knew I had to share mine.  I can't give you the link until it has been played for our church but in it I talk about relating to how Moses responds when God chooses to send him.
Moses questions why he would be chosen.  He even has the audacity to tell God he is poor at speaking.  Then he questions why anyone would listen to him and who he needed to say sent him when he got there(I guess he was willing to go).  God doesn't just let Moses off the hook that easy.  He does send with him a helper to speak and he tells Moses to tell the people ,"I AM" sent you. So simple, so profound.  I might not have even thought another thing about that but I either read a devotion or heard a sermon that talked about the profound impact, "I AM" can have ; I'll get the in a minute.  So if you know me at all nobody has to tell you God is at work and can take full credit for me both being alive and for my determination to keep going and not coming totally unglued or consumed by anxiety (believe me I still have my moments, the struggle is real.) But, if you truly know me, even a little you are amazed God would choose such a weak, crazy, indecisive, insecure human being to survive what the medical world claims is impossible and live with the effects of it daily.  But, I have always known God can use anyone and he usually uses the weak so His power is evident.  I'm not going to lie, really I was and am a prime candidate! And God may have used it in my life to take me out of my uncertainty. I always just had a feeling His plan for me did not fit the usual mold, but nobody would listen to me about that either, except my hubby. Thank the Lord, even if he didn't get it he certainly didn't stuff me into a world that I did not belong.  For that I will be eternally grateful. For those who kept trying to stuff me in their box for whatever the reason, I am still learning how to forgive.  It only led to a belief that "nobody would listen to me anyway", sound familiar??
  "I AM," have you ever thought about that? Honestly, I never had, not really.  When God says "I AM"  it is all encompassing. I say, "I am too weak, I am just so tired." God says, "I am strong. I am your strength.2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." I say, I can't speak well." God says, "I AM speaking."Exodus 4:12 - Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say." I say, "Nobody will listen."God says, "I AM here, I hear you. 1 John 5:14 "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of himWhatever, you need is within the power of the Great "I AM." Try it, express a need and there is an answer in the "I AM;" I mean He did create all things and gives and supplies  all things. Do you know the Great I AM, can you hear his gentle, quiet whisper answer your need?? Or, are all you've ever known been doctrine and duty and they are so loud you have never heard a whisper. "In the secret, in the quiet place. In the stillness, You are there."

Friday, July 6, 2018

Dear Younger Me,

Yesterday I drove past a few key places for me as I began life here after college.  If you know me, I'm always thinking, analyzing.  This can be good but as anything can also be a big downfall.  Also, if you know me at all you know I am fascinated with psychology and people; how they think, why they do what they do. So, yesterday I drove past the road of our first apartment, past the district office of the first school I taught in all on the way to visit a brain bleed survivor and his mom at the Rehabilitation hospital I went to after my own aneurysm.  What an emotional day.  And, if you know me I love those movies/stories where a ghost brings someone to their past and shows them a new perspective of what was going on or of what it could have been like without them.  Now, don't get all bent out of shape here.  I believe everything happens for a reason and it is as it should be. God uses us just where we are. But, the idea fascinates me.  I recently watched a movie on Netflix that I didn't particularly love but, there was one scene where the character picked up a phone and pretended to call his younger self and give him advice.  I loved it! So, here you go.....

Dear younger me, 
  I have rewritten this now several times.  Yup, You are still a bit of an over-achieving perfectionist who knows it won't ever be perfect.  Let it go (advice from your sister!) There is a whole song about it now, it's a thing so let it go!

Create healthy boundaries.  You have never been good at this.  Do it early and be honest with people when they overstep their boundaries.  Be nice and do it with tact, because that is who you are, but please listen to me, you bottle things up until the explode in your own head.  By then the damage is done and you are angry.  SO, even if your boundaries seem pretty obvious, set them anyway because what is obvious to you and everyone else you know may not be obvious to the people you are now around most often.  BOUNDARIES are your friends be kind when dealing with them.

Find something you are passionate about and do it even if it puts you a little behind.  Get that Masters in sign language!  Get your Masters Degree. Just get it done(ignore those who discourage you), you won't have five years to do it, but don't worry about that, it's going to be okay! PS- right now you are sweaty, shaky and finding it hard to breathe.  You are dizzy and feel the need to remove yourself from the room you are in.  People are talking, you have no idea what they are saying. It's called a panic attack, get help for them!!!

The older you get the more you will realize you don't always let people get to know you, what you are really thinking or doing.  At reunions your high school friends will have no idea what your husband is talking about.  When he jokes with them and lovingly asks why they never  warned him of some of these personality flaws they will honestly say they never knew, you hid it so well! Don't despair, your college roommates and friends will know you much better, so I'd consider that growth.

 Never take anything for granted and keep fighting the good fight!

PS- I am going to hit publish without revising, get over it younger teacher self.....hehehe

What is a Brain Injury anyway?

What is a Brain Injury Anyway?? By Li Sa renraW
Adapted from "The Spoon Theory" by Christine Miserandino

My best friend and I had plans to catch up over lunch. But that morning I woke up with “it”, you know it well, horrible brain fog. I knew it was not safe for me to operate a vehicle that day so I called her to see if she would pick me up. She happily agreed. Upon arriving at my house she found me just standing there staring at my purse. “Need help?,” she asked. “Ummmm, no just a few minutes.” She knew enough to be quiet and let me figure it out. I surrendered and grabbed my checklist for leaving the house. One by one I methodically followed my list. I was toward the end when I said, “Cell phone,” that's what I was looking for.” The hunt began. We located my phone. I only tripped a few times as my overloaded brain caused my weak left side to slightly drag my toe as I walked. She watched me now out of breath, not from being out of shape but from my brain being overloaded,. I fumble with my keys to lock the door because my left hand was balled up in a fist that refused to open despite the brace I wore. She drove silently to the restaurant and we found our usual seat, the quiet one in the corner away from the windows. I sat smiling, taking deep breaths enjoying time out with a friend who at the very least respected my limits. I could tell she had something on her mind. She finally asked, “may I ask you something that won't be easy to answer?” “Of course, ask anything!,” was my response. “Well, I know the symptoms of your injury and how you like me to deal with things like when to just be quiet. But, what is it really like living with a brain injury. What does it feel like to struggle so much?” That's when I remembered an analogy I had just read called “The Spoon Theory” by Christine Miserandino. I was going to try it out for myself. I grabbed all the spoons around me and handed her the spoon bouquet. She didn't even flinch, I was always doing odd things! I explained that these were all the spoons she had for one day. Everything she did would cost her a spoon because with a brain injury you had to think about everything, every step all day. She jumped right into her day and I began removing spoons for the simplest things. She began questioning me. I explained that she lost her executive function and had to relearn all the sequences of everything like a child. You don't do anything automatically, it has to be carefully thought about. When she needed to go downstairs she lost a spoon. This one she fought for. I had to explain that she struggled with balance. Alternating her feet while she stepped was no small task. I didn't even bother explaining that all this thinking would lead to a left hand now so tightly wrapped around the railing used for stability she would need to stop and pry it off before continuing. I told her she could skip going downstairs but she would just loose a spoon fixating on whatever it was she wanted down there in the first place. “What about taking a nap?Can I get a spoon back if I get some rest??” “I wish, taking a nap will mean you can hold onto the spoons you do have left. Skip resting and you might as well throw those spoons away now!” By the end of our imaginary day she knew from breakfast that skipping dinner was not an option, pills needed to be taken or you might as well give up your spoons for the rest of the week. So, she opted for an easy bowl of cereal, it worked. I didn't mention that she was probably too tired an nauseous to cook anyway! She stopped and looked at me with a tear in her eye, “You really have to do this every day?” “I don't have a choice. Some days I have more spoons than others but I can never make it simply go away, trust me I have tried.” I handed her one more spoon I had been holding onto.(hold up spoon in pocket**) “ I have learned to always have a spoon in reserve. One of the hardest lessons for me has been learning to slow down and learn I simply can't do everything, or the way I used to do it. I just wanted her to understand that all the little things that everyone does so easily are like a hundred little jobs in one for me.” What other people simply just do, I have to plan it like I'm strategizing the winning touchdown in the Superbowl. I knew I needed to turn this around and find something positive for her to take home. “Think of all the time, all the spoons people waste every day. I can't do that. I don't have the luxury of wasted spoons so when I choose to use one, it is meaningful. Today, I chose to use one to be with you!” some parts copied and adapted from “The Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino.

That is how I feel about volunteering. It is worth every single spoon I have chosen to use.

Thank you!

** Sweet story about the spoon I am holding up. Dear friends of mine asked me to be in their wedding. It was something I wouldn't miss being a part of for the world. But, to be full present I was going to have to limit the events I went to leading up to the ceremony. They graciously told me to do what I had to but I thought they need a better explanation than the one I gave them about cognitive fatigue and how even though it look and can fake being fine for short amounts if time there is always so much more going on than meets the eye. I sent them a copy of “The Spoon Theory” by Christine Miserandino. As a gift for being a part of their day I got an engraved spoon that said “Thank you for being our friend.” They understood the cost and gave me a spoon for my reserve as a memento.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

December tales

Every time I sign into Facebook it generically asks, "What's on your mind?" Usually I just ignore it figuring nobody really cares.  But in Early December I shared my thoughts on the Grinch, then wrote a blog post that I never published.  It went like this....

With the Christmas season approaching I have, in years past, been accused of being a bit of a Grinch about the whole thing.  I'm too tired to have any desire to decorate and decide where things go and disturb where my everyday things live.  Tasks like grocery shopping, that are already a struggle become infinitely more difficult.  People are stressed and busy and consumed with buying things.  And as the Grinch so honestly puts it, there is, "noise, noise, noise."But here is the thing I love about the Grinch, he has a change of heart.  He swallows his pride, returns what he intended to steal and changes his ways.  That's what I love about the introverted, misunderstood Grinch who has had too many of his boundaries crossed by others or perhaps in his immature youth failed to set healthy, honest boundaries with people. . Sure he may have overreacted a tad BUT.....he had a change of heart! 

So, this year I decided to have a change of heart; both for my sake and those around me. Hubby helped to simplify things by getting our families to agree we would only buy gifts for the kids.  He always helps with the decorating (because he knows it won't be done otherwise, it just costs too many spoons--> seriously check out this website!). I had survived to the last Christmas celebration and the one I'm most responsible for getting together.  My spoons were all used up and some borrowed from the next week.  It took all I had left to put on a smile and be merry! It takes a lot of brain cells to create a filter once it is lost (and never works perfectly, especially when you are tired and the noise just makes you feel like throwing up.) It ended in total disaster.  And there I stood feeling like a much less gracious Cindy Lou Who. 
For what was robbed wasn't material and couldn't be pushed back down a hill in a giant Grinch sled pulled by a dog with an antler tied to his head.  My precious little bit of energy was gone, vaporized. Oh how I longed to retreat up a hill and back to my unhealthy "Grinch cave" with wide clear boundaries. I wanted to set alarms lest anyone cross my boundaries again! Boundaries I failed to set so long ago.  But, Christmas came without it's usual cheer.   It came with heavy hearts and boundaries still unclear.  It came with the reminder of forgiveness both present and past. It came because Christ was born to live a perfect life and then die for my sins.  Christmas, my friends, came!