Thursday, June 18, 2015

45 minutes

The other day I was reading through some of my journal entries from a couple of years ago when the seizures were really bad and many days were very dark. I didn't write often because of that. Perhaps I should have. This particular entry stood out to me. I wrote it during those precious few weeks after Jane was born and before I had the brain surgery.

I have been a bit hesitent to share this here because I didn't want to share something so personal and I didn't want to put a lot of focus on my struggles when I know that there are a lot of people struggling with worse things. Things that make mine seem tiny. I feared as well, that it may offend the wonderful people who love me and served me so much. And I never, never want to do that. However, I have felt strongly the last several weeks that I should post it.

I want to share it because it reminds me of that time when, despite encouragement from others, some days it was hard, nay almost impossible, to keep from letting the darkness and fear over take me. It was a battle I fought almost every single day. Don't get me wrong; there were many happy wonderful days, but I would be lying if I pretended that those times when I felt completely hopeless never happened. For better or worse, very few people saw them because I am one of those who don't break down in public. I would go into my dark bedroom, curl up in fetal position on the floor, and sob and pound the floor in private. I don't want to remember those times for the sake of dwelling on them, but rather to see what I had a very difficult time seeing then; it would get better. In some ways I wish I could go back and tell myself that. It will get better. So much better. On the other hand, as strange as it may sound to some, I am glad I can't. You see, because I went through that, I can understand a bit better what it is like to experience real anger, doubt, depression, and overall darkness.

I share this here in hopes that it may possibly help others who are struggling, truly struggling, to know that it will get better. Although I couldn't see it when I wrote this, I know it now.

"November 23, 2013 Walking in the Forest Around Lake Johnson

Today I took a 45 minute walk. Alone. It was the first time in 7 months that I have gone anywhere alone. 7 months! It as been so hard, so much pressure. I have felt the need so often to burst and scream. To breathe. To not feel eyes on me watching for the next seizure. Almost constantly I feel like I have been the focus of so much attention these last several months. A lot of it I appreciate: the prayers, fasting, help with meals and play dates for Charlie, and even the almost daily service of women coming over to just be with me. But I hate the sympathetic looks and uplifting words that come from the mournful faces of people who don't know what to say. I know they have the best of intentions, but sometimes I wish they would just say "that must really suck." Often I just want to know that someone understands or at least is trying to.

I spent a lot of those precious 45 minutes of alone time mourning my loss of independence these last 7 months and wondering when I would ever have an opportunity like this again. I kept fighting back the tears and trying to focus on the sound my feet made as they swept through the carpet of leaves and the sound and feel of the wind as it rushed through the empty branches. I tried hard to enjoy the smell of the cool air as it rushed into my lungs and the faint taste of decaying leaves that it brought with it. I have always loved the North Carolina autumns. I struggled to enjoy my brief moment without adult supervision, but the lump in my throat just kept growing.

Eventually I sat down on a log and told God that I needed help. I didn't want to go home in a worse mood than when I had left. But when I thought of going home and fighting Charlie to get ready for his nap, feeding Jane and finally searching for something of my own to eat, it made me want to keep walking for a long long time. I knew I couldn't though. I had told an anxious, but understanding, Keith that I would be back in 45 minutes and I didn't want to make his anxiety become panic.
The thought entered my mind to force myself to focus on the now. Push out thoughts of the past 7 months, push out thoughts of what would meet me at home, push out thoughts of the myriad of struggles that awaited me in my near future, push out thoughts of the unknown that lay beyond that. Just focus on now.

It took a lot of effort, but as I practiced yoga breathing and focusing on things I could feel physically (wind, log, ground) it came; and with it I began to feel happy. The weight I carried was gone. The things in the past and future were not all happy and pleasant, but that moment was. I was happy when I focused my efforts on experiencing that present peacefulness and not tainting it with thoughts, worries, and fears that would pull me away from the beautiful now."

If only I had known then how very good the seemingly distant future would be.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Let's Go Fly a Kite

Far right: Charlie got it pretty high!
 This is a short post but I wanted to document Charlie's first time flying a kite. We saw some at a park as we were walking home from another park and had to stop and watch. Charlie peppered me with questions about how they work and I told him that we could get him a kite.

Well he (of course) didn't forget and a couple weeks later we were at Walmart with a friend and he reminded me of my promise (which, I had completely forgotten about). He picked out a $3 kite and was as happy as could be. That Friday it was gorgeous and windy (it is Fargo after all) so we took it for a test run. After a little while learning how to get it from falling he got the hang of it and we were off! Charlie and I raced around the little hills as he laughed with delight. Meanwhile Jane took Keith exploring.
 It was short but super fun. I have learned to treasure the simple joys of life; they are so very good and you never know what tomorrow might bring.

Top right: Keith helping Charlie to get the kite off the ground.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Most Wonderful Day

 The Saturday of Memorial Day weekend was just about as perfect as days come. Really. Days as good as this are rare and I never take them for granted. I tried my hardest to drink in every wonderful moment.

The weather was perfect so we took a ride along the Red River. There were trees and it was so green! It sure wasn't anything like the Fargo I knew!

Charlie loves his little trailer. It adjusts so it accommodates a wide range of kid sizes/ages and it allows him to help pedal when he wants (which he did the majority of the time).  As a bonus, he also really likes the little water bottle holder on the side. He is looking very cool with his sunglasses and little "I got sweet ride and you know it" expression.

I pulled Jane in the bigger trailer. Technically it is made for two but it only worked for a little while before Jane got squished to the side by Charlie who took up (almost) the entire space. We put her little doll in there with her and she slept for most of the ride. (The main reason I pull her these days, while Keith pulls "the little Charlie that could," is that in case of a seizure the two wheels on the yellow trailer would make it more difficult to tip over.) Oh, and the picture in the upper right-hand corner is me in front of the first lilac tree I have seen here. It was where the trail ends and meets a neighborhood. I was pedaling further to find a spot wide enough to turn the trailer around in when I passed it. I had to stop and just smell it for a while. That smell takes me right back to my childhood summers at home. There were big lilac bushes covered in the sweet aroma of their beautiful flowers. We would often pick some and put them on the kitchen counter where the delicious smell would fill the room. I think heaven will smell like lilacs.

To top the day off, at the end of the trail we turned around and went a bit further to a big playground. We had snacks while Jane (who was rockin' the '80's look) and Keith discussed important things like the sunlight shinning on the tree leaves above them. After words the kids played while Keith rode back to where the truck was, drove it back to where we were, loaded up bikes and kids, and we drove off into the sunset (just kidding about that last bit).  :)

Friday, May 29, 2015

"Still Life"

I know most of you have already seen this picture,  but it is just too perfect to not document here.

I call it "Still Life with Charlie and Jane." 

Unbeknownst to me, Joe took this screen shot while we were on Skype this morning. He sent it to me a little while later and I burst out laughing. Funny how it is easier to laugh about things after they happen. 

I am holding up a book that Jane insists I hold for her so she can look at the pictures. If I slack in this job she will start fussing which will escalate until I hold it up to her desired height. Charlie is crying and screaming.  I have just told him that he won't have any Graham crackers with his lunch because he has eaten SO many already. 

And then there is me. I am in between laughing at the situation and just getting up and leaving the room in frustration; letting the chaos play out in my wake. "How is it only 10am?!?" All while trying in vain to hold a conversation with Joe. 

And dear Joe, enjoying the scene from the safety of his bachelor pad. 

Needless to say, Skype didn't last much longer. 

I am so glad he captured this unplanned moment in time so I can look back and remember the frustrating/humorous moments more clearly when my littles are grown up. 

I have this quote by Dr. Seuss written on a sticky note on my cork board. It reminds me to have a positive attitude about life because it is fleeting. Which is a reminder I often need.

"Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory. "
-Dr. Seuss

Monday, May 18, 2015

18 Months!

My dear little Jane is 18 (errr.. 19) months young! Right before starting this post I was looking back through some past posts and was amazed at how time flies! Her growing up is bitter sweet. Bitter because she is our last and knowing that makes me both cherish each moment and hate to see them go by. Bitter also because I know I will miss her just being small and this age. I will miss everything about it. Sweet because it is fun to see her develop her own unique personality and opinions on matters. Sweet because she is discovering every day that she can do something that she couldn't do the day before.

A funny and sometimes annoying, part of her every growing personality is how quickly she switches between smiling, sweet, happy Jane to mad, foot-stomping, "world-ending" Jane when she doesn't get what she is certain that she deserves or if someone (usually Charlie) dares to cross her. We have found that there are two things that you should NEVER take from sweet Jane: her doll and her pink shoes. Taking either of these will instantly turn sweet Jane into extremely screaming, almost uncontrollable Jane.

 Speaking of shoes, she is obsessed. Seriously obsessed and particular. She gets extremely frustrated if she can't get a pair on (this mostly goes for her shoes and Charlie's red rain boots), but if you attempt to aid her in her efforts she just gets more upset. We have found that if we hear her yelling and crying by the front door, it is a shoe related issue and we will just let her sort it out. She usually does, in time. She likes them off (but nearby) while eating and doesn't like them without socks. She is equally particular about outfits. Suffice it to say that it has been a bit of a shock as to how different kids come. Charlie still doesn't care much at all about what he wears.

She does enjoy playing with Charlie's trucks, something that Charlie is gradually beginning to accept. The picture on the right is one of my favorites. It is the moment she realized that her Easter egg contained candy. When I look at it I can still hear her loud exclamation of pure childhood excitement.

Her hair is crazy! None of the pictures in this post do it justice. I really should take the time to do her hair more often. Doing so keeps it out of her face and keeps the tangles down to a manageable level. She is pretty easily distracted when I take the time to do it, so that part is actually pretty easy.  Basically this whole idea of doing a little girl's hair, a skill that seems to come quite easily to some (see pictures below), is only slightly easier for me than if you handed me a rubix cube to figure out. I am not sure what to do with it and when I do come up with a game plan it usually turns out looking terrible. I just never take pictures of those so there is no evidence.  ;)

I love what I caught Charlie doing in the bottom left picture.
(Side note: this really should have had it's own post; but my sweet mom braved the North Dakota winter to visit when I had surgery to instal the VNS device.)

Jane LOVES books. If it is long at all than she doesn't enjoy having them read to her. However she finds joy from simply touching them, flipping through the pages, pointing out the animals and making the appropriate sounds, and just sitting there pretending to read. In relation to the animals, if she doesn't easily recognize what it is she will decide it is a dog and say "woof woof!" For example, she thinks the buffalo on the North Dakota license plate is a dog.

 One more thing: she is a true Merrill/Temus mix and LOVES olives of all kinds. She demands them if they are within her sight. She especially enjoys eating them off of her perfectly sized fingers.

We all love our dear sweet Jane, even when she throws her little tantrums. I am infinitely glad that Heavenly Father intrusted us with her care, for she is a true joy.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Progression of a Sunset

I am a sucker for sunsets (and sunrises for that matter, when I am awake and alert enough to view them...). Whenever possible, I just have to stop what I am doing and soak it in. It is soothing. No matter how stressful or busy the day has been, when I take time to watch the sunset all of that melts into a wonderful feeling of calm. It makes me reflect on the good and humorous parts of the day. Because even in the busiest, most stressful and even the saddest of days there are always tender mercies if we really look for them.

Farewell sun. Farewell day. Or in the words of Dr. Suess:

"Today is gone. Today was fun.
Tomorrow is another one.
Every day,
from here to there,
funny things are everywhere."

I would add to that: funny and wonderful things are everywhere. Trust me. Just take a moment to think back and look for them.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

We Live in a Beautiful World

 Whenever I hear the song of a bird

 Or look at the blue, blue sky,
Whenever I feel the rain on my face
Or the wind as it rushes by,

(not exactly a velvet rose...)
Whenever I touch a velvet rose

Or walk by our lilac tree,
I'm glad that I live in this beautiful world
Heavenly Father created for me.

He gave me my eyes that I might see

The color of butterfly wings.

He gave me my ears that I might hear

The magical sound of things.

He gave me my life, my mind, my heart:
I thank him reverently

For all his creations, of which I'm a part.
Yes, I know Heavenly Father loves me.

Keith and I were (partially) joking last night about how nice it would be if my first seizure and the discovery of the tumor had been on a day that is easier to forget. I have been thinking about that today and I think it may be a good thing that it is on a day that is not only easily remembered but a day to celebrate some of God's greatest gifts. Each year I can look back and see how many blessings He has given me and how He has guided me along the way.

At the very least, it is a great day to give thanks that I am still here on this beautiful earth that I love and enjoy so much.

And someday, on this day, I will be able to look back and give thanks that the seizures are gone. That day will come. I know it.

Happy Earth Day!