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4 posts from December 2010

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

This is True Devotion


I've been in bed and very sick for about 5 days now.  Christmas day I felt terrible too - aches, pains, chills, sweats, runny nose, sinus drainage, congestion, red, itchy, stinging, and watery eyes, fever that comes and goes, cough (a terrible cough), scratchy and sore throat, swollen tonsils, difficulty breathing, and earaches too.  I'm a mess.

No, I haven't gone to the doctor.  Why you ask?  Because I don't have health insurance.  But, I finally broke down and called my doctor and have an appointment tomorrow.  I can't remember the last time I was this sick.  Maybe 20 years ago.  I can't remember.  I've had colds before and I've had the flu, but nothing like this.  Whatever got me this time has taken me for a real tailspin.

Most of the last 5 days I've spent in bed with a box of Kleenex (I've emptied out 4 boxes in 5 days) and fuzzy socks that are on and off every hour or so depending on whether I'm sweating or freezing.  I've polished off an entire box of Benadryl and enough Advil to float a boat.


There has been one consistency, though,  for me these past 5 days -  Adolf.  He is truly the most devoted dog I've ever had.  He has not left my side.  Not once.  Poor guy.  He lays down on the floor on my side of the bed and doesn't even flinch when I toss Kleenex his way.  A couple of times I've sat up on my side of the bed in the middle of the night to discover that I just whacked Adolf upside the nose with my foot.   I would have taken a picture of him lying beside my bed but I thought better of it.  I didn't think you would want to see all my tissue all over the floor and covering Adolf too.  

He sleeps when I sleep and follows me to the kitchen for hot tea and then back to bed again.  No matter what is going on in the house he stays right by my side.  It really is amazing how devoted he is. 

I was just lying here in bed thinking about this and thought I would share it with you.  Matthew and Glen have been sick too, but not nearly hit as hard as I have been.  They've been busy playing with their new action figures and board games and other than a runny nose and an occasional cough, they are doing okay.

I hope you are well this holiday.  Take it from me - get your flu shot.  I didn't get one this year and I am regretting it.  Just know that people die from the flu every year, it isn't something to mess with.  I just wish I had had someone tell me this before I got so sick.

Stay well ...



Wednesday, December 08, 2010

A Symphony of Care for my Daughter and Granddaughter


On September 5, 2009, my daughter, Kimberly, gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Reagan, but unlike most uneventful pregnancies, Kimberly faced life-threatening challenges to her and her baby and she needed the best of care.


Let me take you back a bit in time.  On April 6, 1981, at the age of 21, I gave birth to my second daughter, Kimberly, at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C.  Her birth was going to be the most difficult emotional experience of my life.  Kimberly was born with Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) a hole between her right and left ventrical, and for the tiny baby that she was, born 4 weeks early, any hole was a big one.  Hers was about the size of a dime, but with a heart no bigger than a half-dollar, that almost cost her her life.  She was blue and immediately rushed to the NICU where they monitored her condition.  I held her in my arms for a mere 1 minute before she was wisked away.  My heart sunk, my temperature spiked.  My daughter and I were not faring very well.


The next day I was able to visit Kimberly in the NICU and I breast fed her for the first time.  She didn't do very well with that and I had to pump every day and feed her.  Mother's milk was the best for baby, and I knew it might make the difference between life and death for her.   She had tubes and connections, but holding her close was all that made such deep maternal love possible.  As I looked into her precious blue eyes and felt her tiny fingers wrapped around my index finger, I knew that together, Kimberly and I, would survive, and that she would teach me much about motherhood, mothering, caring, and love - and almost 30 years later I now know those things are true.


When Kim was 3 months old, she had her first open-heart surgery to repair the hole in her heart.  Dr. Head placed a dacron patch over the hole in her heart and Kim quickly grew.  She was pink and healthy and chubby too.  She bounced back like a charm.


When she was 4 years old, doctors discovered Kim had aortic stenosis and needed to correct the obstruction in her aortic valve as soon as possible.  So, during Christmas of 1985, Kim had open-heart surgery again, shortly after this picture was taken.

Kim did great, and I put up a Christmas tree in her room with presents and all.  Santa was going to visit Kimberly in Walter Reed, and he did.  More than anything, Kimberly wanted to go with me each time I left her room to go to the cafeteria for an ice cream.  She couldn't leave the ward because of her tubes and connections.  She didn't like that one bit and would cry every time I left to get her an ice cream.  Shortly after Christmas, her cardiologist came into the room and said "Kim, would you like me to take out those nasty tubes?"  Kim looked at me with a twinkle of apprehension in her eyes and said "yes."  I asked if I could hold her hand and the doctor said "yes." 

Kim was so brave.  Braver than any child I've ever known.  Her doctor pulled out multiple tubes one at a time from her chest and sides.  I cried.  I was a complete mess and I held Kimberly's face to mine and we both cried - but Kim was the braver of the both of us, by miles. 

The doctor said cheerfully "Kimberly!  I'm all done!  You are such a brave girl!" and I popped up my head and smiled at Kim, red eyes and all, and said "He's all done!  Yay! Are you okay?"  I looked at Kim with a lot of concern in my eyes and she said rather coyly, "Mom, does this mean I can go with you to get ice cream now?"  Her doctor and I both laughed and said "yep, you want to go right now?"  She said "Yes!" and with wheelchair and Kim in hand, I strolled her to the cafeteria for her first ice cream out of her room. 


The day she was discharged, Kimberly had a room full of balloons, and being the sweet angel with a heart of gold that she is, Kimberly asked if we could give her balloons to the children on the pediatric unit.  I wish I had pictures, but imagine Kimberly with about 20+ balloons in both hands being strolled through the pediatric ward.  I took her into each room one-by-one and she would give a child a balloon or tie one on a crib and she would say "I hope you feel better soon."  It was a touching moment in my life, seeing so much compassion from such a young child.

When Kim was 10 y/o, she needed surgery again, but this time it was to replace her aortic valve.  Her valve was leaking and she wasn't getting the oxygenated blood that she needed.  She successfully had her valve replaced with a human valve.


When Kim was 15 y/o, she had her 4th open-heart surgery to replace the aortic valve again, only this time they performed a double-valve replacement at the Oklahoma City Children's Hospital, just weeks after the Oklahoma City bombing.  We stayed in the Ronald McDonald House close by during Kim's stay and surgery.  The doctors took her healthy pulmonary valve and replaced her aortic valve that was leaking again, then, they took a pig's valve and replaced her pulmonary valve.  They did this because they knew that her healthy pulmonary valve was a perfect valve to replace her aortic valve, and they knew that her pulmonary, being a secondary valve, would grow with her and not require replacement for about 15 years. It would also be a less risky and invasive surgery to correct any complications with her pulmonary valve going forward.


So here we are nearly 15 years later, and Kimberly has grown up into the most beautiful young woman, wife, and mother.  In 2009, when Kim gave birth to Reagan, it nearly cost her her life.  She had developed gestational diabetes and a number of other complications during her pregnancy and needed to have her heart condition monitored every 2 weeks for the duration of her pregnancy.  The last weeks were the toughest for her and she needed an emergency c-section to save her and her baby. 

Kim's healthcare has always been critical to her life and health since her birth, and the care she received at Lehigh Valley Health Network during her pregnancy was exceptional in keeping her and her baby healthy.


Her story is so remarkable that Lehigh Valley contacted Kim and her husband, Zak, about doing a video story about the care she received during her pregnancy and her heart condition.  The result?  This beautiful video and story - below.  I hope you will watch the video.  It is wonderful, and it brings tears to my eyes every time I watch it.

I am so proud of my daughter, Kimberly, and the woman she has become.  She is beautiful, inside and out.  She has a heart of gold.  She is a good mother and a loving wife.  She is my angel and has taught me much that is good and precious about being a mother.  She loves her daughter like I love her, and this Christmas I will thank the Lord she is alive, she is a part of my life, and that I have a healthy granddaughter too.

This is Kim's story. 

A Symphony of Care


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Her Channel, Videos, and Camera Confidence


You may have noticed the toolbar above my masthead - the black one from the Her Channel.  You may also have noticed that there is a "My Videos" up there with videos from other bloggers.  That is because I haven't made any yet!!  I really need to get on the schtick here and make my craft and sewing videos so that you can visit me on the Her Channel and I can share with you how I do all these crafty things I get my hands into all the time.

I just wanted to let you know what's going on and why that bar is up there.  Her Channel is a wonderful resource with videos from bloggers like myself who share everything from life experiences to cooking, parenting to health, and now, thanks to the request of Her Channel, I am starting a Crafting and Sewing section for them!  It should be lots of fun.  That just means I've gotta get out of my pajamas and into my makeup and something nice.  I have to fix my hair too.  This may be a lot of work.  Maybe I ought to rethink this.  Naaah, I'll manage.  I just have to get my Big Bear to learn how to take decent videos.

So there you go.  I'm busy with everything but shopping this year (and if you've been hangin' around here long enough you know why).  Instead, I'm Santa's elf, making dolls and purses, quilts and stockings, paintings, websites and blogs, for my family, friends, and readers. 

I hope everyone is having a glorious holiday season!  I will let you all know when my videos go live.

Keep your toesies warm and your spirits high -

Blessings Abound!


Thursday, December 02, 2010

This Woman I've Become - Fears and All


Have you ever been in bed at the crack of dawn, and alone with your thoughts just long enough that it scares the bageezees out of you?  So goes this post - as the woman I've become and may surely be in years to come has done just that.  I'm wishing I had a balance right about now.

I don't get it.  I've gone from what appears to be one extreme to another throughout my life.  I'll try not to make this a long post, just a reflective one, in hopes that I am not the only nutty woman out there.  Oh Please, God, I hope not.  


When I was a small child, I was afraid of everything. The dark. Thunderstorms. Being kidnapped.  Dogs.  Strong wind.  Strangers.  Falling down stairs.  Getting lost.  Drowning in our swimming pool. Riding a bicycle.  And, once I hit school age, I was afraid nobody would like me.  That I wouldn't make any friends.  That I wasn't as pretty as Cathy Carr. That some boy would look up my dress.


When I was a preteen (that's me in the background petting our dog, Fouch), my family moved into a big house on 8 acres in Brookeville, Maryland, and I had to change middle schools in the middle of the school year.  Disastrous.  I did become a little more daring, though.  I had a mini-bike that I would drive as fast as I could in our back yard.  I even found a huge rock aiming nicely out of the ground at just the right angle for me to use as a ramp, fly through the air, and land with a thump only to turn around and take flight again.  But, I was afraid of not making any new friends.  I was afraid nobody would like me.  I was afraid of being teased on the school bus.  I was afraid of large animals, big spiders, flying beetles, and roller coasters.  I was afraid of walking up my long driveway to catch the bus because a section of the driveway went through the woods and I was sure someone or something would jump out and get me.  The boogie man maybe?  I was afraid of my orthodontist.  Most of all, I was afraid my brother, Mike, who was drafted, would end up fighting and dying in Vietnam.  The early 70s were scary years, and not just for me.


When I became a teenager, I was a bit more confident, a heck of a lot prettier than my pre-teen years, and a whole lot more academic too.  Only then, I was afraid that no boy would ever marry me, afraid that I'd fail every test, or I'd die in a car accident.  I was also afraid of getting lost.  Wrong.  


I had plenty of boy friends and 3 proposals before I was 18 and I aced nearly every test. However, I was in 1 car accident that sent ravioli flying across the front seat of my new Camaro so that the paramedics thought I had lost more than just my judgment, and that was because I was "lost" and didn't know where I was going.  

Want to know what happened?  I was driving down Bel Pre Road (for anyone who knows Silver Spring, Maryland), after dark, looking for a turn-off to go to a friend's house.  It was raining.  I couldn't read the street signs for the lights reflecting off the road.  I was leaning forward and holding on to the steering wheel trying to find that dang turn-off when "bam!" I came to a dead stop so suddenly I'm surprised I didn't go through the windshield.  I had hit a parked car on the side of the road with no lights on.  My new car was trashed and I was covered in ravioli.  Now, I was afraid of how I was going to tell my parents that I had just wrecked the new car they bought me for my birthday.


When I became an adult (I say that with a high degree  of apprehension), I stressed that I'd never find the "right" boy and that I'd die an old maid.  So, during my teen years, I'd  drive to Annapolis with my girlfriends and we'd hang out with 4500 midshipmen in hopes of coming home with a good catch.  Oh, I caught a few, but "not" the right one.  I was so desperate to find love (my father had found greener pastures and had temporarily left home), that I found myself alone, in love,  and pregnant at 19.  I was afraid of being a mother.  I was afraid no man would ever love me now that I was a mother.  I was afraid of not being able to support myself or my daughter.  I was afraid I'd never get back into those size 4 jeans, and I was still afraid of roller coasters.  But, now that I reflect on it, I was strong.  I took the bull by the horns and dealt with it, albeit with a great degree of difficulty, and I supported myself and my daughter, lived at home and helped my mother through her own difficult times, and I worked 2 jobs.  College was out of the question, at least at that time.


When I was 21, I married the first guy who asked, because I was afraid no more proposals would follow.  I was afraid of running away from it all and believe me, I thought about that a lot.  I was scared, alone most of the time, and knew that I needed help.  I was afraid of messing up royally, and there were a number of times I know I did, but I tried to face my fears head on and I know now that I did my best, mistakes and all.


I was afraid of being a mother without my mother's help.  I was afraid of being a wife.  I was afraid of screwing up.  I was afraid of being broke.  I was afraid that "this" life I had created for myself was the best it would ever be.  Little things and many big things scared me during those difficult and tumultuous years.


Suffice it to say, I got to a point where I flipped off the world and became a motorcycle riding, business owning, college-goin' young mother.  I had different fears, like the fear of large puddles in the road while riding my motorcycle.  Fear of dropping my bike - which I did often (I became known, among my Harley riding friends, as "Stop & Drop").  Fear of losing my business (a nail salon).  Fear of losing my youngest daughter.  Fear of being alone - again, fear of failing college tests, and still afraid of roller coasters.


I continued with college, sold my motorcycle, kept my helmet, and had new fears.   I was so afraid of being alone, even with my daughters, that I felt like I wanted to curl up under my covers with a flashlight and read a book, especially at night.  I think that was because I was afraid I couldn't raise them alone and I didn't feel comfortable being alone at night with my thoughts.  I hated being alone at night, even with the children in the next room.  I was very insecure.  I've been insecure my entire life.  I wonder why that is? I was afraid of being penniless, homeless, and helpless.  These fears led me to make some bad decisions along the way, but nothing that I couldn't ultimately, recover from.


Well, I finally got a grip, got married to the "right" guy, and had 2 more wonderful children.  Funny thing is, if I had just looked over my shoulder while driving head on into a brick wall of life when I was younger, I would have seen that the right guy had been a friend of mine all along since the age of 11.  Strange how that works.  Now I had no fears.  At least for a time anyway.  For the first time in my life, and for most of the years that have followed (18 to be exact) I have felt secure, happy, comfortable in my own skin, and loved.  Even the night didn't scare me anymore.


My oldest daughter began to repeat a series of mistakes of her own which resulted in a sweet baby boy whom we are raising and loving every day.  Glen is almost 11 y/o.  Kathleen is fearless.  Literally.  She is the mirror opposite of me in every way.  And, you know somethin'?  That scares the hell out of me.


I have new fears now.  I'm afraid that Big Bear will not find a job before we lose everything.  I'm afraid that he'll die.  I'm afraid that I'll die.  I'm afraid of losing one of my children due to illness or an accident or some terrible, horrible, event.  I'm afraid of losing my mother.  I'm afraid of losing one of my brothers.  I'm afraid to drive to places I'm unfamiliar with.  I'm afraid Big Bear will be killed on his motorcycle (we're selling it, truly, any buyers out there?).  I'm afraid my youngest daughter will be involved in a serious accident so I don't encourage her to drive.  I'm afraid of break-ins, heights, falling, extreme pain, being involved in a serious car crash, being involved in a plane crash, and not getting the laundry done.  I'm not afraid of roller coasters anymore.  In fact, I prefer the front seat and the steepest, fastest ride. Maybe that's just it - I've learned to love the roller coaster because that's what life is all about - the ups and downs, the twists and turns, the screaming and throwing up, the sick stomach and the panic.  Yep, I think I like the roller coaster now.

So what prompted me to write this story?  I was lying here in bed.  Alone.  Thinking of my sweet Big Bear and all that he does for our family and all the stress I know he is under.  I'm afraid that each time he is rejected from a job opportunity and his hopes are dashed, that he loses a little bit of his faith in God, humanity, and himself.  I can see it in his eyes.

Me too, but not to the same degree.  I was thinking of how strong he is and what a "wittle, weak, and weary" thing I am.  I was thinking of how proud I am of my children - all of them - and how totally amazed I am by their strength of character and judgment (well, 4/5th of them anyway).  


I was thinking of my mother and how she rarely lets anything get to her.  


I was thinking of Kimberly and how she has faced the most difficult obstacles anyone could face in life with her health, yet she has the strength of Hercules.  If she could see herself through my eyes, I don't think she'd have a fear in the world.  She's a new mother now, and new worries will surface in her journey through life as a wife and mother, but she's a lot stronger than I ever was, and I ache with pride for all that she is, and all that she has taught me in this life.


Sarah is bright, beautiful, strong, intelligent, and has definite goals and plans for her life.  She is on the straight and narrow and is more level-headed and responsible than I ever was at her age and beyond.  She thinks and plans before she leaps.  I used to jump off the cliff and then hope for a parachute.

I want to be Sarah when I grow up.

I've learned that no matter what my fears may be, that life will happen with or without them, so I have to make a choice how I greet them in my life - with panic, or as a life lesson in strength.  I tend to live as a "future" thinker, and maybe that is a big part of my problem, because "fear" of the unknown will get me every time.  A lot of good that does.  I can't control it, so why fret over it.

Maybe this is my daily therapy session - journaling.  It amazes me just how therapeutic this blog can be for me.  Maybe I was just thinking about it all - this "thing" we call life.  Probably because Big Bear isn't home right now and I feel lost without him at home.  Whatever the reason, I've learned one very important lesson along my journey and it is worth sharing - Live for this moment.  Bask in the world around you, the sunrise, the sunset, the green grass, a child's laughter, the little things.  

Be amazed at the tools that we have at our disposal like wireless laptops, GPS, and mobile phones.  Never, ever, stop learning.  Love the people in your life.  Never be afraid to tell someone how you feel or that you love them.  Be grateful.  Pray.  Believe.  Have faith.  Forgive. 

Enjoy your comfortable bed, your favorite blanket and pillow, your favorite pair of fuzzy socks.  Hug your children.  Love them with all your heart.  Why?  Because yesterday is gone and tomorrow is never a promise.  They grow up way too fast.  We grow old way too fast.  Which leads to that thing I call fear again ... and roller coasters.



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