24 Groundhog Days later and love still knows no bounds …

Today is Groundhog Day. It is also the day that my mother died. For 24 years this day has not passed without tears and sadness. Sure, some years are better than others, but generally it’s just awful. I usually spend most of the day trying to avoid contact with the outside world. I try to limit my interactions to the people who know me the best. Those brave souls who have seen me at my worst and loved me anyway. Because for the most part, on Groundhog Day, I’m a wreck.

Twenty-four years later I STILL find it difficult to maneuver through this day. I mention this because ongoing grief is not something people talk about much. The initial grief that comes from loss we all understand even if someone has never felt it. But ongoing grief is a different beast. It shocks me how it still consumes me. It can be as painful as the day my mother died. And I think I know why.

When I feel genuine love for someone and they feel it for me, it’s like this energy has been created. It’s one of the most beautiful and powerful feelings I have ever felt. Being a mother myself and now having children venturing off to college, I find that their absence, although not permanent (thank you Jesus), still leaves an energy behind. It’s a connectedness that pulls on my heart and makes me want them home with me. And it’s also that connectedness that fuels their desire to return home. The love I have experienced both as a mother and as a daughter does not understand time, distance, physics, or logic. It is almost a stronger KNOWING than faith. This love just … IS. It is a constant. And although it’s not always at the forefront of my mind, it is and (I believe) always will be present. And after 24 years of grieving I can assure you that the energy that came from the love I felt from and for my mother is still as strong as it was when I could reach out and touch her. It has never gone away. I still want her to come home. I still want to hug her and spend time with her. Put simply, I STILL want my mommy. And I’m thankful. Although these ties to her tend to cause me incredible pain on days like this, it is a reminder of the gift that God had so graciously given me. Genuine love. And I will ALWAYS be thankful for that.

Well, I hope you all have a day where love knows no bounds!!!

Advertisements

SUPERMOM …

Today is one of those days when I’m not sure one of me is enough. Yesterday round two of cold and flu season hit our home. Sid and Reese are both sick with fevers again. And these fevers are MUCH higher than the first time around. Ugh. This makes week FOUR of someone being sick here. Heck, I’m still not myself and it’s been almost two weeks since I first got sick. This YUCK lingers! On top of two girls down, George is getting his wisdom teeth pulled today. I got out of bed incredibly early to make sure he ate a huge breakfast since he can’t eat 8 hours before his surgery. I know he’s 18 now and could have made his own breakfast but he’s still my son. Moms lose it a little when it comes to the words CHILD and SURGERY. Well, at least I do. So needless to say I made him breakfast. Which was fine because I was awake anyway. I was up most of the night with Reese who was extremely restless. I was happy though, I was finally able to fall asleep for about an hour. YAY! Then it was time to wake up to do Libs’ hair for choir portraits today. She had to be at school early today. Of course she did. OY. But somehow I managed to get her to school UNUSUALLY early with her backpack, tennis bag, choir dress and hair and makeup done. Nothing forgotten! A miracle, if I do say so myself.

At some point today I’m going to cry. I just know it. My guess is when they take George back to have his teeth removed. I’ll have a moment alone and a second to breath. Let’s just hope it’s more tearful rather than blubber-y.

Clearly most of this crazy day piled up by no fault of my own. I scheduled George’s surgery months ago and we just found out about the portraits. And SICK happens whenever it happens. My friends and I joke that when I have a stressful day it’s not like everyone else’s normal scoop of stress. It’s got extra toppings, HA!

Days like this I am in awe that God trusts me so much. When I look in the mirror I see just one small woman. But God has put some major love, tenacity and determination into this little frame of mine. He’s packed me with everything I need to get through days like this. And I’m grateful. So, so grateful.

Well, I hope you all have a day where you feel like SUPERMOM!!!

2018 and Free …

2017 was a year filled with so much LIFE … and I couldn’t be more thankful.

I started 2017 in full recovery mode. My second round of meningitis at the end of 2016 was no less devastating than my first ten years earlier. I knew the healing process I had laid before me. At times that knowledge made it worse. Other times it made it better because I knew what to expect. I think in a way it made me more compassionate to myself. A rarity, indeed. But I wasn’t myself and I loathed it. I spent months in a fog. My days were filled with naps to combat the unrelenting fatigue and lists because my memory was so poor. My anxiety was at an all time high. I dealt with a significant amount of PTSD that came with an intense amount of anxiety. I was frightened I would have another recurrence. And that pain is NO JOKE. Understanding the severity of my encephalopathy was unnerving. No one can figure out how I was functioning “normally” with the amount of brain swelling I had. But I believe that the terrifying drug reactions I had after I got home really pushed me into a whole new level of fear. I literally thought I was dying. I don’t think I had ever been that scared in my life and sadly it has stuck with me. I can still get to that level of panic with even the smallest of triggers. Yes, healing is a long process. But I am happy to have to the opportunity to do it all again. This could have gone a different way for me and my precious family. And I refuse to be anything but grateful. Refuse.

In January 2017 I somehow convinced my doctors to let me train for a marathon. I truly believe that this was a huge part of regaining my strength again. As the days passed I got stronger and stronger. My memory improved and my fatigue got better with each passing day. If ever there was a time in my life to redefine myself, this was it. And it was incredibly liberating. Who could have ever imagined that the very illness that confined me gave me so much room to grow?!?! Definitely, not me!

When I look back on 2017 it is with mixed emotions. My illness and recovery made it hard. But life still happened. And that made it WONDERFUL. I was able to celebrate George’s high school graduation and watch him plan out his future. I was in awe of the growth that I saw in all of my children. Being a part of their daily lives is a gift from God that I will never take granted. NOT EVER. Summer was just straight up FUN. Having all four kids home for the entire summer was something I needed more than anything. Family heals folks, family heals!

Traveling was also a huge part of my 2017. We took lots of little trips and I was blessed with an amazing trip to Alaska. We celebrated birthdays and accomplishments. YAY, I was there and healthy enough to enjoy all of it! In 2017 I even managed to complete all 16 CEUs to keep my nutrition certification. Now THAT was a miracle having struggled with memory issues, HA! There was so much more too. The privilege of having these experiences and all the others often left me feeling overwhelmed. Like “WOW, thanks God! I’m here, alert and actually living this life!” Words can’t capture how I have felt time and time again. “Humbly blessed” comes to mind but it still falls gravely short.

Anyway, my point of writing about all of this is that regardless of the underlying need to heal and recover, life amazingly still engulfed me and took me with it. Despite the tough times I faced I felt an abundance of joy. I loved every difficult and fantastic moment of 2017 and everything in between. And surrendering to my new journey released me and allowed me to redefine who I was … again.

2017 was hard, but it was also beautiful. THAT sums up life in a nutshell. And as long as I have breath I will cherish every moment of it. If 2017 has taught me anything, it was that I do not have to remain tethered to unpleasant circumstances. That my mind, body and soul can still seek and find the freedom that hope gives us even in our darkest of hours.

So I guess that brings me to my 2018 New Year Mantra. Here goes …

Well, I hope you all have a year where you feel FREE!!!

Thanks, I needed that …

Sleep sleep sleep. I got over 9 HOURS of sleep last night. God and the Universe must have had a hand in this because this is the longest I’ve slept in months. And it felt WONDERFUL. I’m sure my family will appreciate it too, HA!

Well, I hope you all have a day where you say “thanks, I needed that”!

A sticker and a bird …

So I had another stranger encounter. It really shook me up. First, I want to say that they were just fine but when I initially came upon the situation I wasn’t sure. And it REALLY freaked me out. The details are unnecessary. Let’s just say I was really concerned and I was ready to jump in and help if it was necessary. I’m still thanking God that it wasn’t. But the whole thing stuck with me.

I am usually the type of person who allows God and the universe to speak to me, especially in times of stress. Nooooo, not audibly. It’s more of a spiritual comforting and it can come in many forms. Even the smallest “signs” give me tremendous relief. But every once in a while when I’m REALLY stressed out or IN IT, I can’t “hear”, “see” or feel that comfort in the little things. I guess some stressful situations call for a TON of comforting bricks, HA! And today I experienced one of those situations.

Well, I hope you all have day where you don’t need more than an inspirational car sticker and a white bird to calm you!!!

A survivor (times 2) …

One year ago today I woke up early and headed for the gym. I did some speed-work and clocked my fastest 1/4 mile (7:13). Not to shabby! I went home and continued on with my typical morning routine. Then I headed to my dental cleaning. This would be that last time I would feel like myself for months.

Later that day I would find myself in an ER with symptoms I was all to familiar with. I was sick. And despite the fact that no one believed me I knew my body. I had meningitis. Again.

Today is the one year anniversary of my second round of meningitis. Still with so many questions left unanswered. That alone is a demon I must face every day. I have become obsessed with Facebook memories. Trying to find some clue as to how I got so sick so fast. Again. There is nothing there. Nothing. I finished a week of 100,000 logged on my Fitbit. I mention twitchy legs, crazy fast speed-work and a rest weekend. It was to be a well deserved break from my training that was going better than I ever could have hoped for. I was strong and healthy. Race ready. There was nothing in those memories that would indicate that I would become so sick in just mere hours. How can anyone’s brain be that swollen and they not show any signs or symptoms?!?! It’s baffling. Utterly.

There are days that I still feel like a ticking time-tomb. I’m not sure if that feeling will ever go away. The memory of this experience and the fall-out afterward will always be unsettling. The “unknowns” are worrisome at best. But I refuse to cave into fear and let it immobilize me. Life is too precious for that. I thought battling meningitis once was bad enough. Twice, just seems insulting. But I truly believe that life gives us lessons for reasons. Reasons we might not ever understand. And THAT gives me my peace. Trust me, I can easily focus on all the things that this illness has robbed me of. How disruptive it was to, not just my life, but my family’s and friends’ lives as well. I can resent the fact that I still don’t feel like myself and that I fear it happening all over again. I can focus on the anger I feel when I see my precious kids worrying about my smallest of ailments. Children shouldn’t have to worry like that! OH, if meningitis was a person I would have punched it in the throat long ago!

Anyway, as I see it I have two options. I can choose the road paved with anxiety, fear and bitterness … OR … I can be thankful that I even had a road in the first place.

Let’s face it, life is not always easy. Crap happens through no fault of our own. But life can still be beautiful. I’d be lying if I said this illness hasn’t changed me. It has. I am not the same woman who woke up on this day a year ago. I am, for better or worse, the Jennifer I was supposed to be on this day and in this moment. Meningitis helped shaped me. And I’m OK with that. I am an ever-evolving woman who accepts that change and defeat and pain are an acceptable way to form me into the woman I am meant to be. Meningitis was a pit stop. OK fine, TWO. But it wasn’t my final destination. God and the universe clearly are not done with me yet and that’s good … because I still have dreams. And as long as I have breath, scared or not, I will chase them.

Well, I hope you all have a day where you are a survivor (times 2)!!!

A story about faith, love and believing in miracles …

I post these words every year. I don't think I will ever be able to change them. To do so would be an injustice to her. To me. And to all our family and friends who stood by us then and who continue to share this life with us now. This story is about our beginning together. It is a story of faith and love … and believing in miracles.

We were told when I was about 11 weeks pregnant that she did not look quite so “typical” … I didn’t care. I loved our baby. And I prayed.

A few weeks later we were told that not only was our baby “not typical”, but that there was a chance I would be delivering her still born … I wanted our baby even more fiercely than I had before. And I prayed.

Several weeks later, we almost lost our baby … to which I screamed an adamant and angry “NO!” And I prayed.

A month later we were told that our baby had a “very large hole in her heart” … to which I said, “I don’t believe you.“ And I prayed.

Two months later we were told, “Your baby is small” … to which I laughed and said, “Of all the things that you have told us, this seems pretty manageable.” And I prayed.

Two weeks later, on what was supposed to be a brief doctor’s visit before we headed to our local water park, we were told that our baby was not growing, that she was too small and that she was not acting the way she should be. We were told that I would be given another amniocentesis to see if her lungs were developed. If they were, my doctor wanted to take her right away … I felt like my body was failing her. And I prayed.

My doctor gave me a drug to speed up our baby’s lung development. The results of the amniocentesis were not what we had hoped for. My doctor told us that our baby’s lungs were not developed, our baby could not breath on her own. Now we had a team of medical professionals. They hoped nothing would go wrong for the next 48 hours so that the steroid they had given me would have time to help our baby’s lungs grow … to which I said, “OK”. And I prayed.

Less than 24 hours later I had a hospital room full of people wearing blue who were running around and pumping my body full of fluids and drugs. We were told that we could no longer wait. We were told that our baby would not be breathing and that she would be very small and weak … to which I cried in her father’s arms and said, “I’m scared.” And I prayed.

Minutes later I was strapped to a table. I had refused anything that would alter my mental state. I wanted to be there for our baby. It took a long time to get her out. I was told that she was so small that she kept slipping through the doctor’s hands. I kept screaming, “Is she out?!?!” And I prayed.

Then, I heard a cry … to which I thought, “That is a loud cry for a baby who is supposed to be weak, small and not breathing.” And I prayed.

A few minutes later our baby was brought over to me, warmly swaddled, pink as could be, breathing on her own and with no hole in her heart. (Sure, she has some extra chromosomes, but who cares about that?) And when I saw her I thought, “You are my miracle and I love you.” And then, I praised God for our beautiful daughter.

Eight years ago today, through God’s amazing grace, Reese Lindsey Grace was born by emergency cesarean section. She was 6 weeks early. She weighed 2lbs 15oz and was 15 ½ inches long. My world has not been quite the same since … and I would have it no other way.

Well, I hope you all have a day where you celebrate a miracle … and always remember to pray!!!