Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Great Escape

Twelve years ago my life was irrevocably altered when my mother passed away from cancer.  Before her diagnosis I was living in the house we had built four years prior.  It was decorated in the style of college dorm meets daycare.  There was crayon on the walls, stickers on the sliding glass doors and Barbie jeeps in the yard.  My son was just a baby and I was enjoying my days of breaking up fights between little girls and gazing at this beautiful son God had blessed us with that wasn't planned but was such a gift to us.  I couldn't get enough of his tiny toes and making him giggle by blowing on his belly.  My mother couldn't believe a boy could be so wonderful having had brothers and I couldn't either having had no experience at all and being an only child.

We had had some struggles but we were finding our stride.  We were watching more and more houses being built in our neighborhood and making some friends in the community.  I had the family I never knew I always wanted and while I was a floundering fish when it came to having all the answers in raising children I couldn't imagine anything could change what we had finally achieved.

I remember the headaches were what started it all.  I remember the rush to the hospital and the look in the doctor's eye when he broke the news that it was cancer and it was advanced to stage 4.  I remember the shift.  The look on my mom's face of total disbelief and shock.  I remember the appointments that followed.  I remember the argument with the doctor over whether she would lose her hair or not.  I remember the yell from the shower when her hair was indeed coming out and that it was a friend that took her to get her first of many wigs.  I remember eggs and how she always wanted eggs after treatments.  I remember the day that I went to her room and she didn't know me, her only child who had been caring for her.  I remember when her mind came back from wherever she had been and her yelling at me because she had missed a party.  I remember the remission and how short it was.  I remember taking her to the doctor and begging him to fix it and him asking me what happened.  I remember saying I needed help.

I remember the nurse visits and July coming and asking if she would make it to my birthday it was only two weeks away.  I remember the hot sunny July 13th that my family spent in our pool and checking to see if my mom would rebound and be able to speak to me....always checking.  I remember being so tired and peeking in on her and she appeared to just be sleeping and my baby was finally asleep and laying down to rest for just a little while.  I remember my mother in law waking me and asking me if I had checked and saying yes she was asleep and her telling me to call the nurse.  I remember staying by her side through the night and watching a lightening show outside the window of her room in my house and for once not being afraid of the storm outside because my fear of what was coming inside the house had already started to take hold.   I remember feeling Jesus at the foot of her bed and looking to see if I could see him and taking her hand and telling her best friend to take her hand because it was coming to an end.  I remember feeling the life leave her body.  I remember calling the nurse and the funeral home coming to take her away.  I remember the next day and the day after that.  I remember the funeral and coming home and falling to the floor surrounded by funeral flowers and that is when I checked out.

I went through the motions for two years and then with God's help I checked back into my life.  I couldn't escape the pain and loss and I couldn't hide from life any more.  I started making jewelry, I got involved in MOPS and later helped at preschool.  Time started to move quickly but would slow down every year in July.  I started writing this blog before I really understood the purpose of it.  In the writing I found healing.  July being the crux of it all.  I'm not sure if it would have been easier if it hadn't all happened literally right before my birthday or not or if she had passed in a hospital.  Those are questions I will have when I meet Jesus face to face.

I moved 1100 miles away from everything I've ever known.  I moved for several reasons but it didn't escape my notice that it was the ultimate escape from every reminder that I could possibly encounter.  That's the thing about grief really, it has a way of finding you no matter how far you run.  July 13th and 14th will come every year no matter what until Jesus returns.  This year I sit under an outdoor fan and my view is of a pool with the difference being there is a palm tree just beyond it.  My great escape.  I regret not one bit of this escape to my version of paradise.  Not how difficult it was to get a drivers license, not how scary the roads can be, not even knowing exactly seven people in all of the state.  My great escape wasn't really about running away this time.  It was about running to a possibility.  An idea that life could be more than what I had made it no matter how comfortable I finally became with it all.  A what if....God has more for me than what I've allowed myself.  A separation from the comfortable and predictable and an idea that the fear had had its hold on me for too long.

I remember all of it 12 years later.  Grief finds you but it doesn't have to disable you like it did me for far too long.  I miss my mom every day.  I miss arguing with her, shopping with her, eating with her, talking to her on the phone.  I miss her calling me 'Heth' and asking me 'what do you want to do next kong?'  I miss that to her my birthday was a big deal and the one time that I was sure I wasn't a mistake.  No one else can do that for you but your mom.  I have no one left from my side of the family that calls to check in.  I am blessed that God had that covered with the husband and kids and in laws that he gave me to do that.  So yes, I'm still sad and I still kind of hate July.  This year though I'm counting my blessings and watching the wind blow the palm tree and saving my tears for later and not allowing them to take over.  This great escape has more to offer.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

July, Journeys, and Finding a Way Back

It has been six months since we flew caution to the wind and moved away from everything we ever knew.  I still have moments that I wake up and think it was a dream and only when I look for my favorite tree outside my bathroom window does it occur to me that it is not a dream.  We didn't just move to a new house in the same area we moved to my idea of paradise and what mostly makes it paradise is that we all came together.  Being away from everything can be a good thing at times.  This is now home, our new normal.

Perks to being away include the fact that I don't feel like I need to escape to get through the month of July.  I don't walk into rooms and see my mother and have to replay those last days over and over. I don't have to tell myself there was nothing I could have done and that it wasn't my fault.   I don't have to convince myself that if only I could run away I wouldn't have to feel the loss constantly. I am away and I still feel the loss but only now that it is July, and especially now that I have had a phone call from my dad to remind me.

My step brother has passed away.  My dad called to let me know.  The shocking part is that I actually got a call.  We have literally gone years without a word from him.  We moved four states away and he didn't call to see if we arrived safely.  He called three months later.  If there is bad news to be shared or a family function to attend it is my aunt who sends a text or a phone call to inform us.  It is a very sad time.  I'm mostly sad because while our parents are married I nor my children were included in my dad's new family.  Just as my dad's family always referred to me as my mother's daughter and rarely as father's daughter I was never considered a sister or a daughter to his wife and step children, no matter what I did or tried.  I'm a reasonably intelligent person, I can take a hint.  So my step brother has passed away and I am sad for the brother/sister relationship I didn't get to have and I'm sad for his family but I am essentially a stranger looking in from the outside.  This being confirmed by the fact that I wasn't even mentioned as a sister in the obituary.

My dad then went on to ask me if I remembered what day my mother died.  It has been three days since this phone call and I still can't figure how he could think I would forget.  I'm an only child and my mother wasn't married at the time of her death at fifty two years of age.  I was her care taker.  I was 31 with three children ages 7, 6, and 1 to take care of while I took care of my dying mother and I turned 32 the day after she died.  I can't forget that.  He  continued with 'what year was it?' to which I responded it will be 12 years this year it was 2004.  He said, 'it doesn't seem like its been that long ago.'  I said, 'well I get to remember it every year so...'  He said, 'well I guess we all have things we have to carry with us.'  Indeed.  He continued to endear himself to my heart further but I won't share the rest of it.  I just absorbed it all and mostly I just wondered why I'm not worthy of his love.

You know how God sometimes protects you from yourself?  I couldn't respond how I might have, had I not been so stunned to just answer the questions.  My dad may lack compassion and completely lack sensitivity but that doesn't mean that I have to lose those things when speaking with him.  It does not give me the right to be rude and it doesn't even necessarily allow me to tell him how I feel about how I am treated by him or the rest of his family.  His wife once essentially told me I was a mistake and my dad wouldn't have married my mom had she not been pregnant.  It's not true but it sums up how she feels about me and she never wanted my children to call her grandma.  I have tried talking to him and it gets me nowhere.  What it does do is remind me of who I don't want to be, how I don't want to treat people, and sometimes why I really needed to move away from everything I ever knew.

I believe I needed to move so I could be allowed to grow.  God takes us from our comfort zones so we can be stretched and grow into who we are meant to be.  I had become so comfortable I was afraid to do things I had once done.  I was so comfortable I didn't necessarily need to leave the house.  I had become so comfortable it is possible I was beginning to convince myself that I could go on the rest of my life not living life to the fullest and continuing to run from God and what is quite possibly what he had planned for me all along.  I stopped writing.  I convinced myself I had finished that segment in life and that God couldn't possibly want me to do it anymore because no one read what I had to say anyway. I wasn't any good at it and I should spend more time reading instead of writing.  And maybe I'm not good at it but I'm starting to think it isn't up to me to decide that.  I started forgetting who I was.

God knows who I am.  I tend to forget or I tend to think He is wrong and I am right.  I am nobody.  I can't be used for anything.  What could I possibly contribute to the literary world or any part of the world in general?  But what if its not about me?  What if my healing and growing comes when just one person reads what I have to say finds God seeking them out?

I read quite a bit and I love to sing.  Reading is an escape.  Singing is fun.  I'm a terrible singer.  I know this, it isn't my gift.  I still love it. Yesterday I helped with my first demo day and tore down a wall.  Something I may have talked myself out of before.  I was awesome.  I'm trying to find myself.  Maybe you are too.  When I write it is like I'm taking others with me on this journey.  Maybe you can relate to my adventures with my family, maybe you can relate to my journey with God, maybe you just need to feel like you aren't alone in this haphazard road we are all on together called Life. Whatever brings you here, I hope you find yourself too.  I hope God reaches your heart through something He has me write.  So it appears I'm finding my way back.  When God gives me the words I'll meet you here.  Until next time...

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Moving, Doctors, and Finding Joy in the Unknown

Three months ago we followed the dream.  We packed up and moved four states away from everything we ever knew.  While it was and still is exciting there was one detail that I didn't fully think through.  Doctors.  To say that I dislike going to the doctor would be an understatement.  I get it, they are doing their jobs.  Mostly I just wish I wasn't in need of ever seeing one.  I am not a fan of taking medicine, or needles, or tests that could possibly inflict pain of any kind.  My pain tolerance isn't unnecessarily low my tolerance for dealing with things like this is quite low.  

In my delusion with this move, I had this crazy idea that I was going to get out of ever going to the doctor again when I moved.  A small part of my brain (read all of it,..all of my brain) thought that by moving south I would lose twenty pounds when I crossed the border and become so healthy from the sunshine that I would no longer require a medical professional as long as I remembered to wear sun screen.  I also was under the delusion that if I needed anything I could just call the doctor I've seen for over twenty years and he could just send the script to my husband and be done with it...because in "Heather world" this is how things should work.  I get what I need and I never have to enter the cold sterile world of a medical structure.  This however, is not how the real world works.  My doctor sent me in a three month supply at the request of my husband so that I don't drop dead and told him I had three months to find a new doctor.  Apparently there is a law or it is frowned upon to prescribe to a patient you cannot actually see to diagnose.  Whatever...

I spent weeks researching doctors on the internet.  One of my best friends is named Google.  She doesn't send me Christmas or Birthday cards but she is handy for information.  I googled family practitioners near me and then sorted through them all looking at their Vitals and Health Grades online and all sorts of patient reviews. I even went so far as making an appointment with one doctor and then changing my mind and picking a different one.  (The first one didn't sit well and I felt unease about it.)  I made the appointment and then had weeks to stew about it.  

Wednesday I went to this new doctor and it became quickly a "Toto...I don't think we're in Kansas anymore" type of situation.  (The building is two levels for one.) For those of you that are not aware I moved here from a one stoplight town surrounded by corn fields in the Midwest.  We are now in a warmer climate where I haven't seen a single stalk of corn but many a cow and if you can think it, its probably here.  I brought a book because I was sure that I would probably have a wait.  I had to stand in a line to check in and there were two desks across from each other where you could check in.  You have to have your id and insurance card ready before you get up there.  There were many people waiting.

Here are my thoughts and observations before being seen by anyone:

1.  Are all of these people waiting to be seen? This is going to take forever
2.  Shouldn't there be a television in the waiting room playing Little House on the Prairie?  This place seems kind of new-ish, couldn't they afford a flat screen to entertain the masses that are waiting? 
3.  I think there is a rule that I can just leave if the wait time is over 30 minutes.  That's a thing right? 

When I get called up I did ask the gal if the doctor was nice.  She checked to see who I was seeing and then sang his praises.  Note to self: OK he seems to be liked by the staff.  If she checked to see who it was that means there must be someone that is not up to par.  It seems I chose well. 

I didn't have to wait too long before getting called back.  I'd say about 2-3 pages into a book.  There doesn't seem to be any real decor and everything is very sterile looking.  I had to stand on the dreaded scales and then in my head I heard my nurse back home tell me, "We are going to the room with the butterflies on the door."  There are no butterflies on any doors and there aren't any family pictures in the exam rooms.  Mostly it seems cold.  But then I got to talk to this new nurse and she seems really nice.  I then get to meet the doctor a short time later.  He arrives and apologizes for my wait which really wasn't that long.  He looks very doctorly. (Yes it's a word even if spell check disagrees.)  What I got from the appointment was that he seems very knowledgeable and when describing my recent history he doesn't seem to agree with my treatment.  He spent some time shaking his head and put his head in his hands at one point.  What I also found out is that I have spent too much time going to the Wawa and should meet a vegetable or a piece of fruit sometime.  

I explained to him that I had thought I would lose weight when I moved here but then we met the Wawa and losing weight has taken a back seat to everything else.  He seems to have a good head on his shoulders so I think this might work.  

So here's the take away.  Oh don't look surprised you knew a lesson was coming.  Moving is stressful.  Parenting is stressful.  Adulting (this too is a word) is well... stressful.  Sometimes it can all be overwhelming...especially when you have water coming out the bottom of the dishwasher and no clue who to call and really all you want to do is curl in a ball and cry.  I struggle keeping it all together.  I'm not as brave or near as confident as I'd like to believe I could be but here's the thing...  From the very beginning of this journey even when we thought the journey was not going to happen, God has been right there to put people in our path to help us with all of this.  Even with all the stuff that can send you in a tizzy and make you question everything, God is there.  I know very few people here.  I don't have even a handful of people to call for coffee or a movie for a girls night.  I don't have my beloved Bunco group and I sure don't have the surroundings I've known my entire life including my medical team.  What I do have though are possibilities and promises.  I have dreams and sunshine after the storms.  Honestly this week has stressed me and stretched me.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  My life verse plays in my mind followed swiftly by this one found in John 16:33 "I have told you these things so that you can have peace in me, In this world you will have trouble but take heart! I have overcome the world."  I'm holding onto these promises as I learn my way here.  I can do this.  I can live this new life because every step of the way God has made a way for us.  He put things in place, he brought friends before us to show us the way, when we arrived and were living in the mess of boxes he helped us to find all the paperwork we needed for everything.  He placed us in a church where I really like the pastor and his wife and think to myself, "He might be the man who performs the ceremony for my children's weddings."  In this church we found a guitar teacher for my daughter and she learned more in one lesson than ten back home.  In this neighborhood we have met people who are kind and maybe not lets go hang out friends but people we can ask questions or call on to remove a snake.

I'm holding on for dear life.  I am stressed to the point of breaking out in hives but I'm also filled with joy.  I may not be brave but I can rest assured because I am beloved.