Friday, March 31, 2017

What "Collateral Beauty" Taught Me

Guest Post by Stepping into Fatherhood aka Nathan Glenn

My wife has been wanting me to write a guest post on this blog for a while now.  I hadn’t known what I wanted to write about until now.  I just watched a movie called “Collateral Beauty.”  Though it really didn’t get very good reviews, I feel that it was a very powerful movie.  In fact I don’t know how you could watch it and not have to wipe tears away from your eyes, especially if you have young children.

Without ruining this movie for you… this movie is about dealing with loss.  Specifically the loss of a young child.  Whenever I watch a movie like this I can’t help butt imagine what that must be like and I can feel the pain as I put myself in the characters' shoes.  It really got me thinking about how we live our lives…more specifically how we live our lives with our children. 

Especially with modern technology, too often we check out.  How many times are you present with your children?  I mean really present???  I got to thinking about this on a personal level and I know that too often, way too often, we are physically present with our children but checked out because we are on Facebook, watching TV, playing games on our phone, doing work, etc, which my wife and I are guilty of all at different moments. Time goes too fast for us to continue to do this and we know it's something we need to really consciously work on.
 The time we have with our children will never be again.  There is no rewind button in life.  We don’t want to miss those special moments because we were checked out on our phone. We can’t get them back again!  We do our best to enjoy our children and cherish every moment, but we both feel we could do better.   As is pointed out in the movie “tomorrow is not promised.”  I could not even imagine losing a child.  My children are my everything and I really don’t know how I would be able to go on. However, I do know that I can enjoy the beauty that my children bring into the world.    Every day my children, your children, bring beauty into this world simply by being in it.  Be it a laugh, a smile, a hug, a cuddle, or a thought there is something every day that is truly special.  Every day we get to spend with them is a gift! 

This also reminds me of something I often tell my wife when she complains about our girls crawling into our bed.  Cherish these moment because one of these days it will be the last of its kind.  The last time crawling into our bed to get snuggles, the last time needing us to do their hair, the last piggy back ride, the last bedtime story, the last, the last, the last.  We are going to miss these things when they are gone so we need to experience as many of these moments as possible.  We can’t do that when we are checked out doing other much less important things.
So from now on we're going to look up from our phone, put down our work, turn off the TV and enjoy what really matters in life… our children.  There is a saying that life is what happens while we are busy making other plans.   Our children love us, they look up to us, and they yearn for our attention.    One day the “mommy, daddy” moments will become less frequent and begin to disappear and I don’t know about anyone else but I'm going to miss these moments.

                                     The Hubby's other Stepping into Fatherhood Guest Post

                               How Marriage is Like Riding a Bike: also written by the Hubby

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

It's Going To Be Okay

Shortly before we found out Lincoln was a boy I had a dream. It was the dream that not only told me he was a boy-which I didn't believe because I kept thinking we were having three girls- but that something wrong or troubling was coming but in the end it would be okay. As those of you that follow this story know not only was the dream correct in telling me he was indeed a boy but that he had heart tumors that first we had to worry could cause fetal death if hydrops developed, and then once he made it through the scariest part of the pregnancy  we had to worry that it was connected to a genetic disorder that would cause tumors to grow on his other organs and cause a variety of other problems for the rest of his life.  They told us he would have to go two years without any other tumors or evidence of the disorder appearing anywhere else on his organs before they would dismiss his case as a rare occurrence with multiple heart tumors that were not in connection to the disorder.

I still experienced a lot of crazy anxiety during that pregnancy but let me tell you that dream is what reassured me time and time again. I believed in it. After my miscarriages I prayed and prayed for something to reassure me about getting through a third pregnancy. Though I have had "visitation" dreams I had never experienced a dream of something in the future like this, and I haven't had one since.

Though I was confident months ago that he was going to be okay, I kept waiting to "experience" that moment in the dark nursery where I knew it was all okay. Though I would sit in that dark nursery rocking my baby boy many times, thinking how I knew in my heart he was okay, and would even ask myself was this possibly the moment I dreamed, it never "felt" like that moment.

Two weeks ago he went for his last EEG of this first year rotation. A couple days ago Kennedy Krieger called me to tell me once again that he was clear of any signs of seizure activity from brain tumors. And that he does not need to have any more EEGs! We're suppose to follow up with Kennedy Krieger this summer, and I'm not sure at this time if they'll have him undergo organ scans like he did at birth again or not. Either way I continue to be confident my baby boy is okay. Not only do I thank God for answering all of our prayers but for even answering the one to ease my anxiety in some way. That dream carried me through my pregnancy and beyond. I truly believed God sent me that dream.

Except then something happened the other night. My cousin that I grew up with was diagnosed two weeks ago with breast cancer at age 34. That has obviously weighed heavily on my mind now these past two weeks. Then one week later my older cousin (my sisters and I are the only other three girls on this side of the family tree)  received the news she also very possibly has cancer so now we are also waiting to hear her prognosis. My mind has been distracted and worrisome of late to say the least.

On Sunday night after we found out our water heater was leaking again for the fourth time in four years, I was tired from a quick weekend trip up north to see my husband's family, and it was almost an hour past my own bedtime, and my fighting daughters who should have also been in bed woke up the sleeping baby I was just ready for one of my own mommy meltdowns. So I grabbed that screaming baby out of his crib and sat there in that dark nursery to rock him. Of course my mind was still wondering if my cousin with the breast cancer had received her PET scan results yet because we were still anxiously waiting to make sure the cancer hadn't spread and it was contained. But as the quiet and peace finally settled around me in that dark nursey I told that sleeping baby, "You know it's all going to be okay. We're all going to be okay." Within moments I realized right then was the moment of my dream! But the "going to be okay" wasn't about my baby boy and his heart and this possible genetic order. It was about my cousin, my family, and this damn cancer. All this time I took the moment in that dream to be about the baby and his heart.

Was the dream meant to reassure me about him after all? Or was it meant to reassure me now? I don't know. But I do know this. I was meant to believe in it. Believe in it this whole past year when I thought it was meant for Lincoln. And believe in it now when I realized maybe it was meant for this moment with my cousin(s) and family. I've always felt that God talks to us and sends us messages if we believe and listen. He's there. We just have to believe and we have to look and listen. I'm listening and I believe. Thanks for always praying for us. We will continue to need them in the months ahead for my cousin as she begins chemo, for my one and only older cousin as she faces her own cancer path, for Lincoln as we hopefully continue working on ruling out this genetic disorder this summer and revisit his cardiologist in May to check on the hopeful continued shrinkage of the tumor he does have, and for all of us on this journey with the ones we love.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Cancer and the Warrior Within

I don't know if cancer has ever walked into your life. It has mine. Once it does you don't walk back away from it the same way. Even as a twelve year old kid when I had to watch my dad and my cousin lose their brother and father to cancer that time in my life marked me. I get and understand now that I'm a pretty emotionally overcharged person, but that's part of why as even a kid when I watched my uncle lose his life to cancer at only 41 years old I understood how truly unfair life is.

From that point on I've spent my life wondering when and who cancer was coming back for. Though it showed it's ugly head briefly for a year with my aunt we were fortunate in it was caught very early and taken care of. Other than that we've gone 23 years since that last battle. But it's claimed one of us again. Possibly two in the same month.

I'm stunned. Stunned that it really did come back for one of us again. Stunned at who it claimed even though I always feared it's returned. Stunned that it struck us again so young. I'm mad. Mad that she has to go through this. Mad that my family has to watch someone they love go through this again. I'm scared. Because I've seen the worst of what this monster can do. I feel so many emotions right now for this person that I love very much. This person that I have spent very little of my life without and has been such a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. But despite being stunned, mad, and scared, I'm also hopeful because this monster didn't come back for the weakest of the weak. It came for the strongest of the strong. The strength of this person has amazed me since I was a kid. We were family, we were friends, but this person is also one of the most the most inspirational people in my life. She can and will beat this, and she will come out the other side even stronger than she already was. Because, little brave, those of us that know you, know there has always been a warrior within you.

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Commercial Break of Life

I can't remember where I heard this from but it always stuck with me. "The happy moments of life are the commercial breaks." I look back at these past three years and there's kind of a dreaded truth to this.

Three school years ago is when I went through two miscarriages in five months. There were months after though that were like the commercial breaks of living life. I remember that spring and summer finding contentment with where I was in life and with our little family, though that nagging question of if and when we were going to have a third child always hung around me in the dark corner of my mind. Now that I know how that story ended-and it did end happily- I wish I would have let myself enjoy that commercial break a little bit more.

Then we got pregnant and it should have been a joyous commercial break as well, but it wasn't. I spent too many nights that school year up in the middle of the night while everyone slept eating yogurt (really loved it while I was pregnant this last time) on the couch, worrying about my unborn son's health. Then after he was born and we made it past the worst part of the danger with his heart concern, I had a wonderful four month long commercial break. I still think back on those four months almost a year ago now and all that time I had to just enjoy my three kids and be a little less stressed than I had really been in a long time. It really was a wonderful time. Then the commercial break ended.

Throughout this third year, the job has really been sucking the life out of me (as well as my department as two just said here's my two week notice and left in the middle of the year so obviously the stress of this job is getting a little ridiculous). Then my grandpa died on my birthday and it's times like those that it's hard to be far from home and away from your family. That was followed by the worst mental crackdown I've ever had or maybe it was the best one because I dropped everything and sought help right away because though I've always "managed" before when my anxiety and stress get the best of me, I couldn't even think about how to move forward. I got better and found myself able to "manage" again. But then we got told my husband wouldn't have his position next year so though they have to give him a position somewhere when you've worked your butt off the way he has you don't just want to be thrown into some random situation into some random school. A month later there has not been one hopeful positive sign for a position for him next year. So once again we felt defeated. Who knows where he'll be next school year and I need a new position myself. I have to get away from that hour plus commute. It gives me way too much time in my own head. Though it may lead to great writing content on here sometimes, I have to get out of there. Especially lately. Then more news came this week and now all of that trouble of the past three years seems like the commercial break compared to the road ahead.

I feel like a pretty blessed person. I don't look at other people and think why do they have it easier  because I know so many have it harder than me and mine. But damn why are some people dealt such a harder hand in life than others?  I know I shouldn't be mad about that, but I kind of am. I talked to my dad this week, the guy I go to when I need someone that can get me out of my own head. He's had a tough year. After growing up without his mom who passed when he was two, he lost his dad this past fall. Then he lost one of his good friends a few months later. This year has really sucked for him. Even he said, "Can't we catch a damn break."

One thing I've learned in my short 35 years is when that much needed commercial break comes hit the damn pause button! Don't fast forward to the next dramatic, gut wretching, having you on the edge of your seats scene of the movie that is your life. I know we all want to know how the story plays out, we want to see the anticipated conclusion. But next commercial break just hit pause. Slow down, take deep breaths, close your eyes and savor that moment, lock it away in your memory box to pull it out when the movie of life resumes. Let's not wish our time away. Let's not let our anxiety of the unknown and uncertainty steal our happiness of the moments that make life totally worth living.

I always think before our life here on Earth and after our life here we watch our whole life story like a three hour Hallmark movie where we laugh and we cry as the characters navigate their journeys. I always like to think just as if we were watching any other movie we see the trials and challenges as the defining moments that make ordinary lives extraordinary; that despite the heartbreaks in the story line it stays with the audience long past the concluding credits, inspiring them to look at their lives a little deeper and live it a little differently.

Life is just in a hard place right now. I know we won't stay here forever, and we will come out the other side of our trials and challenges stronger than before so for now we just pray for the journey ahead and for that next commercial break to get here sooner rather than later.