Thursday, November 26, 2020

When it all just hits you.....................

Here I sit at home typing and processing.  It's the first Thanksgiving ever I haven't been with my family.  I love being with my family. They ground me and remind me who I am.  Amongst a pandemic and my vascular health concerns we decided to do what many others did today; simply stay home. I don't regret that decision and I'm thankful my extended family was able to do a zoom meeting, to see faces and answered prayers.  This year has not only been challenging with the health of hubby's father but it is not as well known that I had an uncle with a potentially life threatening blood clot, like another hour and this would have been a different post.  Then, I had a cousin survive a massive heart attack, no risk factors other than family history.  As I sat looking at all their faces and listened to them talk it hit me, profoundly.  I was grateful and overwhelmed all at once.  I sat there taking it all in and I'm not sure I even opened my mouth to say what I was thankful for. Honestly, I was struggling to process it.  And then it made me sad that I haven't been allowed the space to feel all of that.  Because of our location and relationship the sole focus has been elsewhere.  I was lost, got lost, ended up lost in the shuffle.  But, today I was reminded who I am.  Where I come from and the dear lives that I love so much, dear ones that have been understanding and poured so much of themselves into me, so many times. No questions asked(Okay, maybe a few that's a family trait).  It spoke life and softness around some annoyingly hardened edges of me.  I saw in living color family loving and caring and reaching across the valleys of life.  

And, just when you think 19 years would teach you something about a person, there is always more to learn.  When we met 19 years ago I distinctly remember the Thanksgiving plans discussion.  Hubs told me it was 'no big deal in his family. They would hunt all day and stop at Cracker Barrel on the way home.  I remember finding it a bit sad but we started going to my parent's. He would hunt with my dad then we would visit each of my grandparents. Still pretty low key, really.  Then my sister moved closer so we started a tradition at her house.  This year, sadly, neither grandparent can be visited, we aren't traveling so I expected we would default to "Thanksgiving is no big deal." So, I didn't stress out about it, not a bit.  I bought some thick sliced baked turkey at a deli and figured I'd do a couple sides and call it a day.  Hubs asks me first thing I wake up, "what appetizers are we having?"  WHAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Thankfully, I'm a mild hoarder and always have some simple basics on hand so I did pull off a few unexpected appetizers and had planned a surprise pumpkin pie anyway.  So, once again my communication deficit bites me.  If only, I could process faster or learn to ask the right questions.  Don't assume or "the saying" (you know what it is) will indeed be true. Oh, and always keep a few appetizers on hand, incase you misunderstood along the way!

An my weak left side shows again!


Hope!



Sunday, August 23, 2020

I'm already tired tomorrow!

 Recently, I had a conversation with a loved one about my continued fatigue.  I kind of thought people knew.  

Yes, I nap regularly even though I get 12 hours of sleep sometimes.  No matter how much or how little sleep I get of any quality, life still makes me extremely tired.  Doctors have explained it this way.  I still have to think about every single thing I do.  Every step takes careful planning still. Dinner still has to be sequenced.  I have lost the reserve to push past the fatigue.  It is simply gone! I have all new pathways and some of them are still a bit bumpy.  Oh how I try not to make a brain Injury my excuse for everything but I do have limits different than most. Whether you think I do or not. The filing cabinet in my brain has been dumped and I am still searching for all the papers carried off by the wind. Imagine how tired you would be if your brain didn't filter out light and noise and touch. If you felt like you were constantly in a game of dodge ball with all these things and also had to carry on like "normal". Carry on like nothing was constantly bombarding you.  Nobody knows the actual extent of damage the aneurysm caused.  There are no studies of survivors of burst aneurysms. Doctors would tell you those people don't exist.  Blood touching brain cells outside a vessel  kills them.  That is what they do know.  My head was filled with blood, this we also know.  Reports state I have, "significant cognitive deficits."  

Another loved one just this week, "but you'd never know you were struggling right now." Another Mercy on my life, for short periods of time I do rather well not showing the actual struggle.  But tune in and you'll notice it.  My left hand will curl tighter and tighter.  I'll struggle with balance, I huff more often or sound out of breath.  I begin to answer everything with, "I don't know." My left leg shakes and I start to loose eye contact when people are talking.  I desperately search for words and call things by the wrong names.  We all do it.  I just do it more now than I ever used to.  Nothing irritates me more than someone telling me I don't have a problem or it isn't as bad as theirs simply because they can't see me struggling.  I've been accused of not having the same degree of struggle and honestly, who really knows.  Perhaps I just have stronger coping mechanisms from working with autistic children. Perhaps, it's a good day for me. Perhaps, we have a different definition of struggle! My dad always said, "don't compare yourself to others."  I'm tired. I struggle whether you see it or not.  There are many times it is just worth the struggle.  It is worth the nausea, brain fog, headache and a body full of nerves that feel on fire. It is worth the left side tone and frustration. My mom reminded me of the words of the young missionary, Elizabeth Elliott.  If you don't know her story you really should look it up!!  Her husband was killed by the people they went to serve.  When her husband was killed they were very young and she had a baby to care for still in a foreign country.  When she asked what she was going to do, a wise person told her, "do the next thing." 

The 'survivor tree' in NYC (another great story)

So, every moment we just "do the next thing," whatever that is. 

Why the caged bird didn't sing

My devotions this week have been on control and anger. YIKES! Perhaps next week we will tackle, letting go. 

Growing up we were blessed enough to have horses.  But, horses eat hay.  Not just any hay but hay that has been well dried and never rained on.  This requires long stretches of hot, sunny days.   Now, I am heat intolerant and light sensitive with the whitest skin you've ever seen. Throwing hay requires long pants, and gloves. Forget the long sleeves, I just lived with hay prickled arms.  Hay was not exactly my favorite activity.  But, the thing I most disliked about it was that you could never make plans.  All summer our plans depended on whether or not there was hay down and ready to be baled.  I like a plan.  Perhaps that is one of the things I did like about teaching.  We always had a plan for the day.  Now mind you, I know I truly have no actual control.  Control is a lie.  

College:  That is when my terrible, unbearable, literally blinding migraines started.  So, life then became as uncertain as the migraines.  They popped up at the most inconvenient times. Will I make it to that final exam without one?  Can I make it home without loosing my vision? Substitute teaching was a nightmare on so many levels.  I was terrified of loosing my vision and having 20 kids I don't know to take care of.  Can they find a substitute for the substitute?? More uncertainty, more anxiety, panic attacks that went undiagnosed.  The beginning of a dangerous spiral that sabotaged relationships and stole away living.  

Marriage: both certainty and uncertainty.  I was certain that I married the right one.  I was 22 and obviously uncertain about being a wife, as in how to be one and not from the 19th century version.  Our entire relationship, previous to marriage, was long distance.  I never before saw the man I married on a daily basis. Just seeing each other every day was exciting.   We had a "plan." I was going to finish my Master's degree and obtain my permanent teaching certification while we got to know each other as newlyweds. I really wish I had this book back then. It's a book by Jim Burns titled,
" Doing Life With Your Adult Children: Keep your mouth shut & the welcome mat out."  It is everything I'd want to say in one title. So much hurt happened in those early years. I was told that I needed to withdraw from my Master's program, forget teaching, stay at home and have kids.  It was not a suggestion but a command.  What was probably intended in love was a selfish and unnecessary demand.    I believed that as a married couple we would finally be allowed the freedom to make our own decisions as husband and wife. Freedom to do what was right for our family.  We wanted a few years to just be married. We were so young and in no particular rush. It was not a matter of choosing one thing over another. We simply wanted some time and space for a few years! I wanted to make our way together, define us as a couple. Isn’t that what being a newlywed is all about? There is no way to sugar coat it, the commands given to us made me angry.  We were responsible, newly married adults. I had heard the words, "leave and cleave" uttered so many times that I actually believed it would be true. Oh, I always was a dreamer, thanks a lot Jane Austen (hehehe.)  I have also learned that I am a peace keeper not a peace maker.  And, believe me, there is a difference. When my brain had a filter, back in those days,  I just quietly and politely listened knowing my opinion would make no difference to anyone. I did not know how to establish healthy boundaries and allowed the hurt to continue.  Even to this day I have no idea what it would look like to be a peace maker in our situation. How I could have had peace and been at peace with those around me? I had always known the freedom to talk through things.  When that freedom was removed I had no idea what to do.  I was a caged bird, but my tune not heard. I simply had a different opinion. I only wanted to be truly heard. I wanted it to be okay that God had other plans for me.  I sensed it from an early age.  Im thankful I had a husband who heard and supported me when I had the courage to talk about it. 

Post aneurysm rupture living with a traumatic brain injury: These days, the chronic fatigue gets me.  The never knowing if I will wake up to a good day or an "unsafe,foggy" brain day.  I hate wondering if I'l have the energy to deal with the appointments and commitments I have made.  It's the not knowing, the feeling of spinning wildly out of control.  A favorite author recently did a devotion that really touched my heart.  Becky Wade, talked about the women carrying spices to Jesus' tomb.  Along they way they were rightfully concerned about who was going to move that stone so they could anoint Jesus.  When they got there God had already moved that rock.  All they were asked to do was bring the spices.  They brought the spices, the rest was not their concern.  Her point, just do what you can do. Bring to God what he asks you and let Him do the rest.  Keeping bringing those spices readers.  Maybe you are like me and the women with the spices.  I want to know all the details, have a foolproof plan and concern myself with it failing or letting someone down because I "didn't do it right." Just bring the spices!

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."