Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Nikolai aka "Sasha", our baby boy turns 4

This was a picture of our first meeting with "Sasha" in Moscow, Russia.

When we tell people we have three children, they look at us as if we have multiple heads or body parts coming out the wrong way. I am like "Have you seen the show "Kate and Jon plus 8? , That is 5 more than us. So, in comparison...three is like having one".

It used to be families were large and have 5 or more kids in it. I firmly believe however that the Mom was drinking Moonshine and it was so clear she told her kids it was water and they must always drink their water. That is how they got through big families :)

Today is a special day. Not only is it New Years Eve....But, it is our son's 4th birthday. Sure, I brag about our kids. I am huge proponent of celebrating birthdays!! It is a beautiful So, your life should be celebrated and that you were born to make a difference on this earth.

4 years ago today...our baby boy was Alexandr Nikolaevich Romanov. He was born in a hospital in Moscow, Russia. He was born prematurely and the mothers sac broke too early, leaving him with a condition called ABS. Amniotic Banding Syndrome. Basically, three of his fingers were fused together and the thumb looks like it has a rubber band tightly around it. He had a single mother who I am assuming knew that she could not care for this little boy. In Russia, it is a stigma (which I think is changing) to be a single woman with a boy...because the men don't want to raise another man's son. And strike two would be they classified him as "special needs". I am assuming again that she felt that this was more than she could do. So, Nikolai was left in that Moscow hospital.

He stayed there for 4 months as he was really ill. He was then transferred to a Childrens Home..(we learned that it is not PC to call it Orphanage anymore).

Back in the States....I was having ovarian cyst after ovarian cyst. So, we decided after being so sick with our second baby that we would not try to have another. We thought we were done. Then, in Feb. of 2005...we heard Stephen Curtis Chapman talk about his adoptions in China after they had 3 biological children. Something he said to me stuck forever "We are called to be a Father to the Fatherless". We knew that was a message to us. We hosted a little girl from Ukraine as part of a hosting group over the holidays of 2005. It was not allowed to be an adopting situation....just a hosting one. But, it got our minds going. Hmmm....should we adopt? Then, I got on several Yahoo boards about adoption.

One day, I heard about an amazing woman who an adoption agency. I called her and we talked forever. She told me she knew of a special needs child. It was scary at first, because we had two healthy girls at home and we weren't equipped to handle special needs. I mean, we had experienced the PICU and all of that. But, not long term special needs. That is what everyone thinks at first. She told us about him and my heart melted. We were allowed to see his picture since he was special needs and he had those big blue eyes. With tears in my eyes, I said "That is our son". It took my husband a little longer to think about it, because he was worried about what the International Doctor told us "He will be retarded...he will be this and that" Something in my heart knew that wasn't true.....

As life would have it...I wasn't meant to have anymore biological children anyway. In April of '06..I had an emergency hysterectomy due to a tumor. They felt it was benign, but, high concern for cancer. As this unexpected surgery was happening, we were filling out papers to try and adopt this little boy named "Sasha" translation...Alexander.

We met him in May of '06 in Moscow and we were in love. We had to go to court, fly home and come back 4 weeks later. I missed him so...I didn't even birth him, how could I love another child like that? It isn't about blood that makes a child is in the heart.

Blake and I flew together for the official court hearing where we would hopefully "officially" be his parents. I cried when the Russian judge declared him ours. "Nikolai Edward Ellavsky". We were not to take him out of the Childrens Home for another 3-4 weeks. So, I stayed in Russia and Blake had to go back home. I stayed with a Russian family and frankly loved it.... I took the Metro everyday and literally walked a mile to the Childrens Home. I held him and took him for a walk everyday. I barely spoke Russian, but, enough to get me by. My sweet host counseled me on how to become a Moscovite. "Caroline, you smile too much...people will think you are crazy here. Walk with the crowd...." And on he went. I had my all black attire on (which is what you typically see in the winter there) and off I went on my own everyday. I made friends with the local baker outside of the apartment (think of a row of vendors). She knew my name and I taught her English and she taught me some more Russian. I went with people that I met to the market to buy a leather coat and everything. I went grocery shopping by myself. I ate Russian food. My host would take me over to other families home and I loved everything! I wanted to hear the sounds, smell the smells...experience everything. Because, I was going to be the only baby book that Nikolai would have of his homeland. So, I needed to be able to remember it all.

Blake and Sophia (our oldest) flew out to Moscow when Nikolai was allowed to leave the Childrens Home. He screamed and thrashed and basically was a ball of anger as he got into the car. So, it was not the scene people dream of "Angels came from the sky and trumpets were playing". He was pissed and scared. That is the only life he knew. Soon, with Sophia and Blake and I tickling him and giving him food (always works)...he started laughing.

We had to stay one more week until his paperwork was completed. We took him to Red Square, and everywhere. Most of us have a strong feeling about Russia. For me, personally...I didn't get into the politics. I just took in the life and that beautiful place where our son was born.

Today, he is a thriving 4 year old little boy. He loves life with all his heart. Everyday is a new day for him.

Happy Birthday our beautiful Alexandr "Sasha" Nikoleivich Romanov now Nikolai Edward Ellavsky. Thank you for waiting on your Mommy and Daddy to come and bring you home.

His first time walking on Red Square.

Psalm 68:5-6 tells us that as the Father to the fatherless, God delights in setting the lonely in families.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Our Norman Rockwell Story...Take II..Christmas Day

Christmas morning:

We woke up to gentle music playing and our little angels had made up breakfast in bed...oh my...they are only 8, 5 and 3. Down the stairs we went with lights all a glow....For St. Nick had been here and I didn't even know. We opened the presents one by one and the children laughed with glee....we then left to my parents where the rest of my family would sing and be merry. Our last stop would be at my Uncle's, where all the relatives would gather around and sing "oh holy night" It was too beautiful to even......"

Gotcha didn't I? You really believed me, huh? Sorry....I am jokester like that....

On Christmas morn, I thought I heard the pitter patter of feet. Then, I soon realized that our bulldog was just sounding her horn (she is so gassy) and off to grab the Febreze I went. I raced to get dressed before the children woke up. I didn't want them to see that I looked like death. I put my hair up and dabbed on some makeup. I went to the closet to sit and meditate before the craziness was sure to insist. Soon the door hit my face while my husband let out a yell "What in the heck (hell) are you doing in there". He went to grab his keys, because he thought his wife had gone batty and it was time to take me some where. I assured him I was least not right then.

The children woke up with foam coming out of their mouth...the excitement was too much for them to take. We had a blanket wrapped around the top of the stairs to give the subtle hint to be patient for mom and dad. We tore away the blanket and down the stairs they ran. The stopped abruptly to say "Where is mine?" For the next hour, presents were ripped open and I was smiling...for I knew the trick was to put ear plugs in and it was all for the best.

Everyone was happy, until it was time to eat.. (mind you, it is only 8am and we had been up for quite some time) The screaming and fighting started just as I knew it would. There is something comfortable about the familiarity of it all.

Then, the race begins...we head to my parents with all of our other presents and a group of grumpies in the back because we had to leave the house and our presents behind. I tell them how much fun it will be with such false glee.

There was 13 of us in a small condo trying to move around to hug the other... The children decided not to eat, because the presents looked to them like meat. The carnavores gathered around the Christmas tree stalking it as if it were prey.

It was time to let the chaos begin again. Noises at a deafening level were all about...soon, the children would start to fight. I am still smiling, because no one notices my ear plugs.

As it is every year of my 30 something years (did I mention EVERY YEAR?) My father gets in a panic because it is noon and we must hurry to be at his brother's (my uncle) at half past 3:00. Which honestly, is less than 5 minutes away. So, with 3 and 1/2 hours to go, I thought we were in the clear. But, as tradition dad would wait by the car and bang on it to tell us "WE ARE LATE!!!" Forgot to mention that we still had 30 minutes to go and my Uncle could care less if we came on the dot every year at 3:30.

As the bell struck 3:31 and I am helping my mother find her things and because she has gout that causes her to walk very slow and in pain. I am now panic stricken because I hear the beeping of the car horn and I revert back to childhood...."Mom!! Hurry....Dad is going to be so mad!!!" The remaining 12 of us try to get out the door, when my nephew comes in to tell us that Dad had taken off in the car. Side note here: He is an amputee, just had quadruple bypass and is not supposed to be driving for a while.

My siblings (except for my other sister who is in Florida...boy how I wished she was here...we always make her go first) and I look at each other in shock and awe and I start to take off my boot and run after his car. With his one good leg, the van left me in the dust. I am wishing that I could give him a good swift in the butt.

I held my Mom's hand and muttered underneath my breath. She was too out of breath to hear what I had to say. That is a good thing. The convoy of our family arrives only 2 minutes after my father. The siblings and brother's in law made a pact that we were not speaking to him. But, of little crew quickly proceeded to tell their grandpa exactly this "oooooooooo you are in trouuuuuuubbbbbllleeeee" And ran as fast as they could up the stairs to become the INFORMERS to tell us what they said.

The weather outside was frightful...almost 65 degrees. We are next to Virginia people...we are not in Florida...why is it so hot!! I take off my jacket and try to take off anything else I can, but, of course that wouldn't be prudent on Christmas day (or any other day for that matter). Again, I began to glisten and fume as my father was telling his brothers that we had plenty of time to get ready. Oh, if he only knew what my mother had gone through to get to this day. My face is as red as blood and I proceeded to go where my father was. I told my uncles it was time to eat. He said "go and get your father something to eat". I smiled and said "He is your brother, you were with him go get him something to eat". I turned and walked up the stairs and looked back to make sure my uncle wasn't there....because I couldn't believe what I had just said and I broke out into a run for fear that I would get in time out. I clung to my siblings and we were like children afraid to go downstairs. We ate until our hearts content (don't mom made my dad a plate but had it delivered through my nephew). I tried to be good with my eating...protein first and well...they said it was dinner, I tiptoed to the chocolate truffle and put it on my plate. I can hear in the background my uncles and cousins yelling about the election and corrupt politics. I roll my eyes as I do every year since I was old enough to understand that Christmas time at my fathers side of the family meant yelling and arguing and someone walking out.

My attention is diverted back to the truffle....Hmmm....that bite went down pretty good, I say. So, I took another and well, lets just say I took off running..... again. So glad that there was a bathroom nearby.

Time for presents to be open....20 some odd people in one room and my face is red and my belly swollen from being so sick....I watch the madness as if it were a slow motion picture film.

Wrapping paper went flying and all the children giggled with glee. I sat next to my brother and sister and we held each others knee to wait for Ashton Kutcher because we know we've just been punked .

Finally, my dad asks if I will ever speak to him again. I say "as long as you never leave my mother again." I stick out my tongue and he tries to hit me with his prosthetic leg. I am so glad that we are back to being normal again...

It was late that night, and all of the presents we had gotten were in the back of the car...we waved goodbye and gave our thanks. We get the kids in the car and within a few minutes, they look like they had been gassed as they all had their mouths open, eyes closed and drool coming down their face. My hair and my nerves were completely frazzled...well...let me show you, I looked something like this:

Hubby and I just smile at each other and I look out the window with my Zune in my ears....thinking....

"Thank goodness this doesn't happen but just once a year"

Friday, December 26, 2008

Our "Norman Rockwell" version of the holidays...

The night before Christmas, it was a beautiful sight. Not a creature was stirring...not even our bulldogs mouth. The snow was falling ever so gently and I stepped outside to try and catch a snowflake and hold it in my hand. I looked at my watch and realized it was time for bed...St. Nick would soon be here....the kids were already in bed. Up the stairs I skipped with my husband holding my hand. We woke up to gentle music playing and our little angels had made up breakfast in bed...oh my...they are only 8, 5 and 3. Down the stairs we went with lights all a glow....For St. Nick had been here and I didn't even know. We opened the presents one by one and the children laughed with glee....we then left to my parents where the rest of my family would sing and be merry. Our last stop would be at my Uncle's, where all the relatives would gather around and sing "oh holy night" It was too beautiful to even......

"CUT" (off screen)

Oh, I am sorry....I must have been daydreaming because I just read you a script from well "Mr. and Mrs. Rockwells" home. Silly me. I get confused a lot, you shall see. If my memory serves me well...I think it went something more like this...

The night before Christmas there was much chaos in the house. Our 3 year old thought putting yet another roll of toilet paper in the toilet would be so much fun. The joy of a toilet spilling over is so much fun to see. The bulldog was happy. I suppose it was because she was on pain meds so that her hip would feel better. Poor thing, she had no idea the decibel to which her snores could go. The children fought constantly, and were so jacked up on excitement that they ran around in circles for an hour at least. A lot of screaming happened while giving them a bath, because god forbid that one of them got the red towel when it was time to get out. For whatever reason, that set off a full blown brawl. We finally tazered, excuse me....we finally put the children to bed and two out of three never went to sleep until half past 1:00 AM.

I change into my bathing suit because frankly, it is hot as hell. The only thing pouring down gently was the sweat (no, girls call it glistening) down my head. We thought we were finished wrapping....but, oh no...the spots in which I hid the presents so that I can find them later....well, it took an hour to remember where my clever mind put them.

Finally at 2 AM and it raining outside... I tell my husband " is time for bed". With my hair sideways, and blood shot eyes....I fell flat on the bed and never moved again until 4 hours later.

To be continued........

Monday, December 22, 2008

When Love takes you Home....

When I was a little girl, my favorite time was Christmas...because I knew we were going to get to see my grandparents, a few hours away. Grandma had the tree fixed so beautiful and the tinsel was hanging and she had those big know the ones. I could always smell something amazing cooking in the kitchen. On Christmas Eve, everyone would drop by and see my grandparents and I loved it. Before we would go to bed...Grandma had one of those old timey radios. She turned it to the channel where it told us exactly where Santa Claus was. She would always say "You better hurry up...he's over in England now and it won't take him long" My brother and I would take off running for the bed. My sisters were older, so they shuffled instead of running. :)

It was like magic waking up and being in their home. It felt like a warm blanket being lovingly wrapped around you. You could smell the freshly baked bread, I could smell ham before my feet even hit the floor. I would run through the house and scream for everyone else to wake up. My Pa (grandpa) was already dressed in his always.

Grandma would sit next to me near the tree while I opened my presents and to see her smile made the world alright. There was always laughter, no matter if it was Christmas or any other time.

I loved my grandparents with all my heart. My grandmother (Alva) was my hero. They lived in a very old home and it was sloped sideways just a little because of the length of time that it had been there. In my eyes, and even today when I drive was a Castle. There was love and constant food. I loved going with my Grandmother to take Aunt Ruth (my Pa's sister) a present and food to the nursing home. We would bring goodies and I loved handing out candy canes and skipping down the halls. Aunt Ruth had to be told each time who I was. And each time she would say "Well, lord you've done grown up and gotten fat". I would look at Grandma with a tear starting to form. She would just pat my head. Then, I would just skip down the halls and wave to everyone. ***Side note: Aunt Ruth said that every time until the day she died***

Many years have passed since those beautiful times. My "Pa" died around 1999. He was the finest man on the planet. Loved God with all of his heart. So did my grandmother. God was their whole entire life. My grandmother missed my Pa so much...they had been married for over 55 years. He was the love of her life and he was hers. But, God was the true love of their lives.

On Sept. 29th, 2000, Grandma went to revival at the church they attended and where my Pa used to preach. She got in line at the buffet and I envision her right this minute saying "Well, bless your heart, you go on and get some food, I will get mine in a minute". She probably had that beautiful smile of hers. She had her plate in her hand and she fell to the ground suddenly. Love took her Home on that day. My first born was blessed enough to be held by that Godly, amazing, strong, beautiful woman named Alva. I just wished she could have met our other two children.

I see her all the time, I smell her perfume, I smell her cooking. Most of all, I remember the little things which now are huge. Like rocking on the front porch with her and her just holding my hand as the cars went by. Or when my Pa would let me stay up late when my parents were away. I thought it was awesome to be able to put a blanket on the floor next to my grandparents. The memories are so etched in my soul.

Love took a lot of people Home that have been in my life and those around me. Both my other grandparents, Husband's grandparents (except for Grandma Dot), Siblings, a child, Uncles, Aunts, cousins, friends of both myself and husband. And in 2004, it was time for my Father in Law to go home and live a life in heaven without cancer.

Even though I am surrounded by my whole family, also my Mom and Dad, brother and sisters, sometimes the holidays are hard for me. I am always told how sensitive I am. But, God gave me that trait. So, I am not going to repress it. But, especially at this time of year, I am so sensitive to those in need. I hurt for those that are hurting. I want to do everything to let people know that they are loved. Alva did. She would make bread and hand them out to those that were needy at Christmas time. And yet, my grandparents were so poor that they accepted food from the church. I know she was so humbled by that, but, she was a prideful woman..but, she took the help with grace.

This time of year, I just want to run to Grandma's house and be hit with all the smells, people and laughter. Most of all, I want to put my head on her lap and have her run her fingers through my hair and tell me that "everything was going to be alright, if you just put it in Gods hands" I wanted her to meet our other two children that she never got to see.

There are so many memories from so many people that Love (God) has taken them home.

I know many of you have lost a parent, a child, a friend, a significant other, a beloved pet, sister, brother..the list goes on. If I could, I would give each of you a hug right now. This time of year can bring out loneliness for those that have lost someone through death...or have lost them through breakup or whatever it may be. What gets me through, is that I envision my sweet grandma up there having a wonderful time and laughing and dancing. She is smiling on us right now. So, for those of you that have also lost someone through death...just know that they are up there having the best celebration and feast that our minds can't even grasp. And, they are looking down on each of you and they are your Guardian Angels. Celebrate that fact.

We bake a cake every year for Jesus birthday and for me it is also a time to celebrate those that I loved that were taken home. Sure, I cry and somehow...I know one of my angels are wiping away my tears. So, if you are lonely, depressed, sad, discouraged...bake a cake in honor of your loved one, or if you are with those small candles and get together with your friends or family and light the candle in remembrance. Not so that you can feel the pain all over again. So that you can celebrate their life. Because trust me, they are free from pain, hurt,and all the worldly things. They are having the best time of their life. And I know, they want that for each of us.

We never know when Love will take us Home.....lets try to make each day count and tell the people in our lives that we love them and appreciate them. Not just your family, but, your friends too.. both new and old.

I have attached a video that is about losing someone. For comfort is knowing that Love (God) took them Home.

It is well with my soul and let it be with yours.

This video was made for Maria Chapman (daughter of Stephen Curtis Chapman) and listen to the words. They are so true for any of us who has lost someone.

Friday, December 19, 2008

You know what makes me laugh this time of year?

Things that make me laugh around the holidays:

**Watching white guys (sorry, but, it is true) get out on the dance floor at your corporate party and try to do the running man, because you still think that is "in"

**Trying to back out of a parking space (which happened to me a couple of days ago) and have two women right up on your tailgate to get your spot. One had a handicapped sign, the other had some other kind of sign going with her finger. They got so angry with each other, that I never got to get out of the parking space. Finally, I did...and I think the handicapped woman won...but, I do know some sign language and the other lady well...lets just say had some choice words.

**Why is it that my mother thinks because something is 75% off at a store, that she has to buy it for Christmas just for me. It is always those 1970 gold slippers. What is up with that? Or she buys me a Triple X Large Shirt because it was on sale. I am a Medium. She says, "well you never know when you might need it"

**Tell me please why people are so angry this time of year? If you go into a public setting...there are scowls, and anxiety from not buying that perfect gift, or stress from making 1000 perfect cupcakes or cookies. Somebody enlighten me.

**Why is that Christmas music starts Nov. 1st and by now, you want to throw a brick at your radio. That makes me laugh...

** The funniest thing about this Christmas has been this thing called "Elf on a Shelf". The premise is that the "Elf" has magical powers to move from room to room in the house. He is always watching you, so, he will tell Santa Clause what you have been up to. Our kids wake up and the first thing is to find "Buddy" (after Will Ferrells character Buddy in Elf) and they love it. But, for us...each night we (well, Blake) are scrambling to find the next hiding place. The things you will do....

But, what really makes me laugh this time of year is to watch our children. They LOVE Christmas and the decorations, lights, the whole nine yards. They remind me of everything that we need to do to prepare for Christmas as I am driving them to school.

"Mom...we can't forget to buy the cake stuff so we can make a cake for Jesus birthday. I am pretty sure he wants chocolate with red and green stuff on top".

"Mom, please don't forget to put out the food for the reindeer. Do you think they are going to need a water bowl, there is a lot of them?"

"Mom, I hope Buddy (the elf) doesn't tell Santa that I peed in my pants. Do you think he will tell him?"

It makes me laugh so hard. And watching our youngest son just sit right in front of the Christmas tree and stare and lightly touch the tree. He won't move for hours.

There is laughter in everything....look for it. It is there. Slow down when you are trying to find that parking spot. Who cares anyway? You will find another one. Don't worry so much about the gifts...make someone something from your heart, a picture book with your favorite pictures of them. That will be something what they keep around for a very long time. Don't kill yourselves over the cupcakes and cookies. The children will not care how pretty they were. They just care that it went into their bellies. And instead of getting yet another pair of gold slippers...I am just going to be grateful that I have my mom and dad here near me.

Just laugh...that is the greatest gift.

Monday, December 15, 2008

"Tell me why?" A question asked from a young child

Our children ask me a lot about the little girls in our picture at home. Especially our 8 year old. One is of Philisia whom I have sponsored since 1995 from Africa and Alyona our host child from Ukraine. She asks me " Why does she have no food or water (regarding Philisia), or why does Alyona not have a Mommy and Daddy and does not get to have a bath like we do" Or why does Santa not come and visit them?" I have Philisia and Alyona framed and put on our wall so that they will not be forgotten.

Then comes the questions of our son whom we adopted from Russia in 2006. The girls ask about why he was born with a deformed hand. Or why did his Mommy leave him in the hospital and never come back?. Sophia went to Russia with us and she saw the children in the orphanage. She constantly asked "Why?" Like "Mommy, why can't that boy hold his head up, does that mean he will never get a Mommy and a Daddy?" The little boy was severely disabled.

No one gives us a book on how to answer these questions. Blake and I struggle a lot on the "Why" questions, especially when it comes to tragedy, unfortunate situations, etc. I was blessed going on Mission Trip in the youth of my life and saw things that I never expected to ever see. I try to speak from what I learned from those experiences.

We tell our children that God has a plan. We don't know what that plan is. But, He does have a plan.

About Nikolai....we tell them "God made each person in this world special, including you and you, and Nikolai is no different. He has a special hand that maybe one day, he will throw a wicked curve ball in baseball or find a cure for a rare disease...who knows?, But, God had this woman carry Nikolai in her stomach so that he may be born into this world so that he can meet his Mother and Father and family....and that is us. Sometimes, the family we are supposed to be with is not always in front of our eyes, or from our blood, or they may be half way across the world like us. But, God had a plan. It just may not be the kind you are used to seeing"

Or Philisia in Africa. "God has something just as special for her too. Maybe with our help and those of others, she can learn new things that will help her make a difference in her part of the world"

Or Alyona in Ukraine " God is watching over her. He knows where her family is. It isn't always the people that helped bring her into this world. God picked 2 people to be a vehicle to bring her to the parents that were meant exactly for her. And, blood does not always make a family. It resides in your heart. So, she may be 11 years old. But, God has a plan. And our job is to continue to pray and to support her in any way we can. We send money to help her learn English so that she may have more opportunities."

We don't have the right words. But, even as adults we ask "why". I just told this to our 8 year old lying in bed reading a book. "Mommy and Daddy don't always have an answer to your why's. But, I can tell you this much....we are put on this earth to serve. Not to just get get, get." Of course she said "Serve what? donuts?" Laughing..I say "No, we are put here to help others in anyway we can. So, when you ask us "Why did God let this happen?, how about next time, let us all ask him "What?, instead of Why?"

And truthfully, that is what I believe. We all ask 'Why?" and we may not get our answer today or tomorrow. But, God has a plan.

I say to all of us, especially to myself..."What can I do to help take away their sorrow or help with their burden" Isn't our time on earth about that?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

I am NOT a good sick person. I do not do well at all being made to rest. I get angry and sad. Because, I like to be in control and what has been happening to me....there is no way that I can be in control. Makes me so frustrated!!

I am not complaining though, because I have made it 2 or 3 whole weeks without being in the hospital or ER. Trust me, that is a victory. I have mentioned before how easily I could pass out. Unfortunately, the last 2 times have been much longer in duration. I hear the person coming to my aid, but, I can't do anything with my body. So, last night...I got so sick to my stomach and lets just say, I was so sick that my shoes came out. (i know, I know).

I try with my nutrition and keeping hydrated. That is what helps my kidneys and intestine issues. But, when I get sick like that, there is nothing left. I am deficient a lot in potassium and and what happened last night....I stood up and took a few steps and went face down, out of it for what seemed like forever. I couldn't move my body....but, I did wake up enough to call out for someone. Finally my daughter found me and got my husband. They quickly put me in the bed and Ran for some type of sugar and something to drink. I don't remember much and must have feel asleep and abruptly woke up at close to midnight and then had insomnia. Obnoxious.

The good thing for me is that there is more and more larger time spans in between the major problems or the fainting. I had a wonderful weekend and plan to again this weekend. I take each day one at a time. I am grateful for a lot. All of my doctors and alternative doctors are drilling in my head that I had to do whatever it takes to take out the stress. I don't know how people do it. I do meditation, starting back in Yoga, Pilates. But, I don't know how to remove the stress. I noticed that a couple of days before last night, I had a lot weighing on me and I internalize things and then I don't want to eat or drink and it takes me down a very bad phyiscal road.

At least now, I can look back and see when the stress is happening and what kind it is. So, I am prayerful that I can not let things/people affect me so much. That is going to be a true goal for me.

I feel so terrible that it traumatizes my husband and children so much. But, many times I have no control over it. But, I can at least recognize when I am getting worked up and eat protein and keep my fluids way up.

I am grateful that I have my parents to help me when I am very weak like today, while hubby is out of town.

Frankly, I have sooo much to be thankful for.

I am not going to let this take me down.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Power of Friendship..

The one thing that I have especially learned over the years, is the power of friendship. Friends (and family can do this) can make you feel like you can take on the world. And with that same power, friends with just a few words or no words at all can cut you to the bone.

I have talked about the fact that for the last several years, I have not had a good few years, especially this year with health. Unfortunately, I have actually gone into a shell and did not reach out to anyone. Many different reasons, I didn't want to constantly talk about this and that surgery. And I slipped further and further away. Down to the point, where I was no longer speaking to anyone.

So, I was that friend where the other person didn't know if they did anything wrong and I would always cancel going anywhere. I realized that it does take 2 to be friends and I couldn't keep dumping all the bad stuff on them all the time.

Since my last stay at the hospital (October), I realized that I had to start living and living means to start opening up to old friends and new friends and just try. Because you never know how long you have in life. I had a family member tell me that all I think about was myself and am not aware of what anyone else is going through. It hurt me, but, she made me realize that she was right. I was so self-absorbed with my own issues.

So, that is exactly what I have been trying to do slowly but surely. I am so far behind with so many people. But, with the new invention of Facebook, it has been a blessing in connecting. Some of my old friends would never understand this...but, it has taken a long time to get the nerve up to reach out. I was always the one that was the outgoing one and never really had a problem making friends.

Now, if there is something going on the neighborhood (and assuming everyone is well), I try to get involved or at least write my neighbors, who are on face book.

Good friends will stick with you through the storm, you won't get a lecture while the storm is raging. So, I have to keep my eyes on that and remember that God is putting people in my path that should be there. I have prayed and prayed so much for Him to bring new and old friends in my life that would help lift me up, not bring me down.

So, thank you new and old friends for connecting back with me. You have helped me more than you can ever, ever know.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Way You Love Me

*****I write with a heavy heart today. Albeit, I have much to be grateful for. I never forget that. This is one of my favorite songs. It is so true for many periods of my life. I haven't lost it all right now, but, I could if I keep doing things my way. So, it is time to let go and give it up to Him. Realizing that tears are not a sign of weakness, for me.....Ms. Independence, I can do it all by myself, I don't need any help, I can do it on my own.....tears are a sign to me that I am gaining strength.***

The Way You Love Me - Anthony Evans

This heart breaks slowly tells me “what are you doing to me?”
When I prayed, do what it takes
I didn’t know I’d lose everything

Everything that meant anything to me was gone
Something right has to come from this wrong

It is the hurt that breaks me
It is the pain that pulls me to my knees
And the tears, they’ve changed me
To what I couldn’t see
Become so clear to me
This is the way, the way that you love me

My way destroyed me
I couldn’t see I was my worst enemy
So you took away, till my soul ached
And I knew it was no mistake

Everything that meant anything to me is gone
Something right has to come from this wrong

It is the hurt that breaks me
It is the pain that pulls me to my knees
And the tears, they’ve changed me
To what I couldn’t see
Become so clear to me
This is the way, the way that you love me

You loved me so much that you let me, you let me fall knowing that I would lose it all and hear your call
You loved me so much that you chased me, when I ran away you captured me by letting me run
To the end of myself, to the end of myself

And this is the way you love me
The way you love me

It is the hurt that breaks me
It is the pain that pulls me to my knees
And the tears, they’ve changed me
To what I couldn’t see
Become so clear to me
And this is the way, the way that you love me

This is the way you love me

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Making plans....

My life over the last few years, has been totally and utterly unpredictable. Each and every day is unpredictable, whether I have the best laid out plan or not. Which frankly, is hard on me. Shockingly, there is a part of me that is laid back. It is different though, I am a free spirit. I could pick up and travel anywhere in the world and you could drop me off and I would be happy and I would figure out a plan. I would have a backpack on and ready to see the real world, not the "tourist spots" I mean, I might browse :) But, I do wish that I was like my husband in the sense that nothing really bothers him, bugs him...nada, nothing. He is so laid back that at times, I have to check his pulse and make sure the ole heart is still going. My favorite saying is "It's all good". He uses it back on me all time. However, there is the biggest part of me that likes/needs to have a plan. I need to know what is on the calendar for the day, and for the next week. There is comfort in "knowing".

That is why the physicians and surgeons who have been treating me always remember me. One is that I am always making a smart ass joke. Example: "Caroline, do you have any allergies?" I say "yes", they ask " what kind of allergies?" My standard reply is "I am allergic to hospitals". I get the usual eye rolling. The second reason that they remember me is I am the kid in the movie Jerry McGuire "Did you know that the human head weights 8 lbs. ?" You would have to see the movie to understand what I am talking about. The gist is that I ask a million questions. "What is that you are putting in my arm?, what tool is that?, what is the procedure EXACTLY?, what does that test result mean?, or Mr. Dr. X what you are saying contradicts what the NIH (National Institute of Health) Abstract on the biliary tree on pg. 10, sect. B says it quite differently...." You catch my drift. I like to know what is going on at all times. I suppose it is a type of control issue with me. And truthfully, there is a level of distrust from my side. I had a doctor telling me during my second pregnancy that all that was happening to me was that I was stressed out because I had a full time job and baby". I let him know exactly how I felt. Then, as I mentioned in previous posts about the difficulty I had in my second pregnancy. Well, Mr. so called "stress" was eclampsia. Had I let it go on and listened to his analysis...I would be dead now. Thus the distrust factor.

NOTE: Be your own patient advocate. Make sure you have researched everything and just because someone has a degree that makes them a is your right to question what is going on. Ask questions, right them down on a piece of paper and ask him/her in a very scientific way without the emotion. Doctors are now being so overloaded as are the nurses that they can only help so much, because there are a line of people waiting for them. Know your stuff!

So, you can imagine with all the changes in my life...I have had to figure out how to let go of some things and have a Plan B and if Plan A doesn't work out. Sometimes, I have needed a Plan C or D. And there have have been many times, that I didn't have a plan after Plan D. In those cases, we were just flying by the seat of our pants.

Especially this last year has tested my marriage, my strength, my belief system and has made me question so many things. This year has taught me that I HAVE to lean on people and that I have to give up control to God. Ouch....that has been hard. Also, it has taught me to get "out of my head" and reach out more and ask if someone needs anything. This year has also taught me to reach out and let people that i am close to, or even if many years have passed...I want them to know that I love them and I appreciate them. I apologize for the thing(s) that I had done wrong to that person or not...most of the time they have no clue what I am talking about. But, for me...I can bury that and can move on.

It is hard when 2 weeks ago, I am driving myself to Charleston for a huge 40th birthday party for one of my dearest friends and seeing old friends and laughing until I couldn't laugh anymore. Very little pain, just pain from the laughing and smiling. Then, one week and a few days....I get sick. This time it is pneumonia. It started out as a cold...because my children were sick and my immune system is very weak. So, if they have a cold, I could easily pick up something like some rare disease or something. I am on a ton of vitamins... So, it is hard when one second I am fine, and the next second...I can't talk or breathe and am on bed rest. I don't call anyone because frankly, I don't want to hear "are you sick again?!" as if they are angry at me for having pneumonia which is totally out of my control.

I am writing this post as my husband and children are with our close friends and their children seeing a funny movie and having popcorn and having a wonderful time. I am happy for them, I really am. Because if anyone needed to get out of the would be my husband who has carried so much of the load and our babies (they are still babies to me) are having the time of their life because they are hanging out with their friends too. It is easy to slip into that mode of thinking "why me?" and throw a pity part for 1. Then, I reach down hard into my soul and find the strength to watch a funny movie. Write...which I adore to do. Work on my vision journal. I will cut and paste pictures of how I envision my life to be. I grab my bible and hold it close to my chest and have a feeling of strength.

This too shall pass and really "It's all good" I always say, what matters is not how you fall down, but, how you get back up. I will never stop getting back up, because God has allowed me to live and continues to renew my hope and faith. There are a million people out there suffering. You can do something to help. A kind word, a prayer, anything. Pay it forward my friends. The blessings that you will reap will absolutely blow your mind!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Crazy, silly, now funny moments during my illness.

Sometimes, in the middle of a storm....there are moments where you laugh and they aren't always the most appropriate times. I will go ahead and tell on myself because I can laugh about a lot of things now.

On one of my ambulance rides to Duke, they took me up to my room. I thought that I would be alone. I was, for a brief moment. I was having a bout of pancreatitis and boy was I in a lot of pain!! They bring in my roommate. Lets just call her "Mabel". The second this woman (in her 80-90's) saw me..she started shouting at the top of her lungs "Honey, it has been so long since I have seen you!!" Her sons were with her. They kept telling her that she didn't know me. She looked at her son as if he were crazy and she looked at me "Hell yea I know her. We used to work in the factory together" She motioned for me to come on over and give her a hug. Mind you, I am hooked up to everything. I have a migraine and my pancreas feels as if it was on fire!!! She kept going on and on for many hours. She wanted her son to take a picture of me. He did...with his cell phone. It was not funny at the time, but, when I look back....I did laugh. Here is a 90 year old lady screaming at the top of her lungs that we worked in a factory together. My next roommate was in her 80's. I nodded hello and she didn't speak to me for most of my stay. I am pretty sure she thought I was deaf. :)

One of my hospital stays, I had a doctor that I could not understand for the life of me. He came across rather rude. His foreign accent was so thick. That didn't help along with the pain medicine. I remember him telling Blake and I what the plans were for me. All I know, I must have told him how things were going to work and I was reaching down for my shoes, high heels...whatever. I guess I was trying to take off my shoe and throw it at him. There were no shoes on me...just those nasty hospital booties. The next time he came in, the nurse told me later that he was scared of me and wanted her to accompany him. People please....I am not scary.(or am I?) I did laugh about that one.

The absolute, most horrible embarrassing moment of my entire life happened a few months ago. I have something called a paralytic ileus. That is where your colon is paralyzed and trust me nothing you do will make anything move. This condition alone has put me in the hospital so many times, that and my kidneys.

So, it was this beautiful Sunday and we were just coming back from church, and we got ourselves a nice coffee from Starbucks. Then, we went to see our good friends at a Victorian type Mansion nearby. They are going to turn it into a Wedding Reception/Spa place. Mind you that there is no electricity or plumbing. We thought possibly one bathroom worked downstairs. So, we all took the tour of the place and I was having a great time envisioning everything...where the spa would go and where this and that would go. The kids were loving how huge it was and they could run around and they loved hearing the history behind it.

*****All Sex and the City The Movie viewers will understand this next part, this is what happened to Charlotte****

**Warning to all sensitive people who don't like gross need to read the rest****

All of a sudden my stomach started growling like a tiger ready to make a pounce. Then, sweat started to pour down my face and nausea hit quickly. The noises in my stomach got louder, like the part in the movie (S&C) where Charlotte drank the Mexican water. The noises grew louder and my face started to contort. I was very polite and quick to ask where the bathroom was. I blamed it on my 5 year old and said she needed to go. (Of course, Maya says "I do not need to go to the bathroom!!!") My friend pointed me to the bathroom downstairs. I am in heels and the stair case is very steep. I took off like a cheetah trying to catch its next dinner. I have no idea how I managed not to kill myself running down those stairs. I made it to the bathroom. Ok...lets be honest, I made it to the bathroom door. I will be as delicate as possible. I made it inside the door and trust me when I say that my colon was no longer paralyzed. I shat myself from here to eternity. It never stopped, even when I made it to the toilet that I was told would didn't.

So, it gets better, the high society group was invited for an impromptu tour. One of the ladies was a descendant of this mansion. Here I am stuck in a very dark bathroom with a tiny flashlight and frankly...covered from stomach on down in you know what. I had to scream out to Blake or the kids. Of course, my whole family came busting in the bathroom. The immediate reaction was "OH MY LORD, WHAT HAPPENED IN HERE?!?!?!" I am crying....the toilet doesn't work, no tissues, no nothing. And there was no window to open to help with the aroma lets say..... Blake, as always, is the quick thinker and the rational one. I told him he was going to have to tell my friend what happened so that I could get help. I was in that tiny dark scary bathroom for one hour. Alone with what smelled like a 100 year old poop. Sorry for the visual...but, seriously, I hadn't gone for a month. Blake sneaks in paper towels and some Organic tub cleaner. I didn't care if it was bleach! We took my dress off to clean it with the tub cleaner and seriously sprayed a brand new bottle until it was almost empty. I was on the floor scrubbing everything that well, never made it to the toilet. Then, Blake sees the toilet. I will never ever be able to get that out of my mind. He was like " How can a human being have so much s#@& in them? The toilet was full and there was no water there before. By this time, he had taken off his tie and wrapped it around his face like a doctors mask. My friend brought a few cups of water in hopes that the toilet would flush., wasn't going to move. So, it was time for me to come up with a plan. There were no locks on the bathroom door, so I was holding it with all of my might so that no one would come in. Blake came in and I said I was going to go across the street and find more water. I snuck out the back door so that no one could talk to me, because if they did....lord help them.

I made it across the street to a pizza place. Begged for a huge pale with water. Dragging what felt like a 100 gallon tank, I moved as fast as I could to the secret door and ran into the bathroom. Blake is still manning the bathroom so that no one would come in. His face looks white and I think he was on the verge of a serious throw up session. I begged for him to hang on. All the while, i am crying because I am so mortified. My colon had been paralyzed for a MONTH....nothing was coming out. Why this day? Who knows. Anyway, we poured the bucket of water into the toilet and finally, successfully it flushed. We scrubbed the room down in this pitch black bathroom. We scurried out of there so fast that it would have made your head spin. My friends were trying to console me...I was like "You best stay about 10ft away from me" We found trash bags for me to wear on the ride home. Being a complete baby about it...I cried all the way home. Hubby has his arm on my shoulders and I glance sideways and notice that it is taking everything to keep him from laughing.

My sweet 8 year old said "Mommy, it is ok. I poopied in my pants before too. Except that was when I was wearing diapers " At that moment, I looked at Blake and we died laughing because we had every window in the car down...I am in a couple of trash bags. Hubby says to me.."one day sweetie you will laugh about this". I started crying again...

The next day, we had some sort of party at my sisters house and everyone was there. Word leaked out (excuse my pun) what had happened. At the dinner table, no one would look at me....I notice that everyone's face is red and they have a smirk on their face. My sister busted out laughing that she is probably in the same spot today laughing.... She says to me "So, I guess your new name will be "The Shatter". The whole table finally released what they were holding in and laughed and my brother fell out of his chair and even my Mom was laughing.

I can't believe that I can now say that was funny. We have a lot of potty humor around here now at my expense. Wow...what a day is all I can say!!


Rejection comes in so many different forms. It can create a storm or a tremendous fear of ever trying to put your foot in the water ever again.

No matter how high your confidence level...there still is a fear in the back of your mind of that nasty word "rejection." I know so many people act like rejection doesn't even cross their mind. But, I pause to wonder if they are faking it or really they just don't care. I wished I could be the latter.

Interviewing for a job: We have all been there, worrying that we look our best, did our breath smell?, did we smile enough? did we pass the SAT that they give you now or the Personality Test? Did we survive the grueling recruiter that looks like Helga who could break every bone in your body? You walk away having no clue how the interview went. You wait by the phone as if the phone holds the key to your entire life. Days pass, weeks pass and you send the nice follow up email. You get the answer that the job has been put on hold. Then the call comes, and they tell you they found another candidate. You sit back and analyze the entire interview. Trust me, you will never find the answer. The rejection stings, but, you have to make the choice to sit in the rejection pool or go swimming in the "Next!!!" pool. Don't sit in the rejection pool, it's muddy and stinky

Family: The place where you least expect to get rejected. But, it happens. Sometimes, we reach out and get bitten. It makes you less inclined to try again. I end up saying "I am great" so that I don't have to get a lecture. Or your immediate family. Your children say things that cut through the heart and you have to not take it personal. Sometimes, your significant other walks right past you when you finally have put on a nice outfit, hair done, makeup...the works. But, he never notices. That is rejection, intentional or not

Friends: This is true for new and old friends. Making friends when you get older is not as easy as it once was. And the old friends have their lives and it is hard for me to put my foot back in there. I used to be so outgoing and had no fear (very little) fear of meeting people. But, is different. Especially being sick for so long. I shut a lot of people out because I didn't want anyone to see me like I was or I didn't want anyone's pity. So, in my case...I suppose I am the one that rejected many people unintentionally. I realize now that I hurt a few friends (they told me) and I was completely oblivious living in my own world.

Rejection hurts. But, if you try real hard to disconnect yourself from that feeling. Your head will take over and realize that maybe something really is going on in that persons life. It isn't all about you. Maybe it is the timing in a persons life...who knows? But, try not to get boggled down in the rejection part. Get up, get busy, and do what you are passionate about. One day, those that reject you will either come to their senses or they just don't have any sense at all :)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sometimes when a tear falls, you need to take another look at it, if you look close enough, you will see a rainbow in the tear.

A whole year has almost passed and I can barely remember anything. Because most of those months were spent at any given hospital in the Raleigh/Chapel Hill/Durham area.

As I mentioned, this last hospital stay which consisted of a month give or take a few days, knocked me down farther than I have ever been. I used to think that I was at the bottom before, but, this has taken the cake. Many times, you will have found me lying face first on the ground with my bible and just laying my head on the bible and asking for God to save me, to help me, to heal me. Because I want to live. Live for me, live for my family and friends. Because I completely believe that God has big plans for my life, and if He didn't have big plans, he had plenty of chances to take me. Many, many tears have been shed over the health situation. I try to hide things (although my husband is a MASTER at figuring out what is wrong with me...makes me so mad :) ) But, for most of the year, not many people knew about me being in the hospital or that I was as sick as I was. I would only come out of my house into public when I was well and could put on makeup and nice clothes. And no one would know.

I have really never learned how to ask for help. I just go on the assumption that no one wants to hear anything bad, only good stuff, people are too busy, I didn't want sympathy or I didn't want anyone looking at me different. But, mainly...I didn't want to bother anyone and I was unsure if anyone even really cared outside of my family.

Over the year, I have been able to ask for help on a few occasions and the amount of people that came to my aid was unreal. Completely humbling. But, after each hospital visit, I stopped asking for help. I truly believed that no one would want to hear about yet again another hospital stay. So, I stayed in the house a lot. Then, Facebook came along. And shockingly enough, that was one of the places where I finally said "No, I am not doing ok" and I could share my pain physically and emotionally. The support that I got from friends that I haven't been in touch with for 20 years was amazing. I started feeling like I was coming out of my shell.

I had someone close to me to tell me that my pity party was officially over and it was time to get the hell out. I realized that others needed me. Each day has been a blessing, because i get stronger and stronger. My faith is getting stronger, and all of this has made me look at life a little differently. I am figuring out what I do and do not want in my life. I have tried to surround myself with positive people. I watch movies that make me laugh or that lift me up. I read books that I can go into another world and for a moment, I am not reminded of illness.

The best thing is that I am getting back in touch with people. Neighbors that I barely have seen in a year. Going to Val's Halloween party. I smiled and laughed so hard that night. It was so much fun. Going to my husbands company picnic and riding down the slides with my kids and laughing and laughing. Visiting Pati in put such a fire back into my life to fulfill my dreams. Seeing friends that I haven't seen in a long time. Laughter and feeling alive is what has happened. I get so much pleasure in watching my kids dance and laugh and I can laugh now with my husband over the silliest things. I thank my husband for so much he has done for me. He has carried me through the hardest times of my life.

Note to self:
When you are going through a storm, you will be amazed at the people that can stick with you through the tough times. Then, you will be equally as shocked when you find that others only want the good times. These are the times when you learn what people are made of.

There is so much more to write. But, I believe that when you get knocked down, you HAVE to get back up. Getting back up may take a long time or it may happen overnight. It could mean crawling through the trenches and in my case....crawling out of a gigantic hole on my belly with just my fingernails. But, I see the light and there is no stopping me now.

Is my life perfect? Goodness no.... We live in the messiest house in America, watch our pennies for everything, kids getting sick left and right, father in the hospital, and right now living in utter chaos. BUT, in the middle of this Hurricane...I can see the Hurricane slowly going back out to shore. It is amazing when you are tested beyond what you think you could ever handle...that you just do it. It can make you stronger if you let it. And for me, that is exactly what it does. I can see past all of this and see what lies ahead.

So...if you are in a middle of a Hurricane, don't give up on yourself and believe that others want to help you. Reach out to old and new friends. Talk to people about what is happening. Don't carry the burden by yourself. Keep a vision journal/and or book. That is something that I have done since I was young. It is where I have written down goals for my life, during each phase. And since 2003/2004, I keep a Vision Book. I cut out pictures of places where I want to visit, where I want to live, goals that I want to obtain. Also, realize too that if you do reach out...that sometimes, you have to get out of your own head and realize that the other person may not have the capacity to help you right now. Because they have a storm going on in their own life and you may never know that is happening. So, try not to take it personal if you open up and get a door shut on you. There are plenty of other doors that need to be opened.

When a tear drops, I look at it differently now....I see the rainbow inside of it.

My own personal Hurricane due to Health

I am not even sure where to begin. I could fill a million pieces of paper with what has happened since 2003. I will just put it in a time line as it relates to my health:

2003: Eclampsia during my pregnancy with Maya (where the liver and kidneys start to fail and very high blood pressure...can cause strokes)

2004: Left knee surgery due to too much running and sports. Dr. wants right knee done....NOT

2005: Gallbladder surgery, two Ovarian cyst surgeries

****Somewhere in between this time, I had to have my appendix removed.

2006: Emergency Hysterectomy. ( I had a tumor that was fortunately benign...but, they wanted it out immediately for fear of cancer.

2007: Major abdominal surgery, fixing adhesions left from other abdominal surgeries), Pancreatitis (wasn't a surgery....but, landed me back in the hospital in a step down unit. Meaning not in the ICU, one step down from it)

2008: At a bare MINIMUM...12 hospital stays, 6 surgeries, 3 ambulance rides, and numerous ER visits.

This year alone has been bills, a ton of specialist bills, (even though we have great insurance), A surgery that had to be done at Duke by the Head of Biliary Division. I was originally at Rex Hospital where they had never seen anyone like me before. Sent to Duke. Where two of the best surgeons had to work on my bile ducts near the pancreas. My bile ducts were closed and one doctor had to go into my side and make a path for the other surgeon to come in and cut the ducts and put in a pancreatic stint. Absolutely, positively probably the worst pain that I have ever is up there in the top three.

Other surgeries included internal hernia removals, adhesion removal, exploratory surgeries for what was causing the original pain.

This has led to low blood sugar and low blood pressure....I can faint on you in a heartbeat if I don't recognize the signs. The signs are not too hard to miss for begin to look and sound as if you are in a can and the whole world starts to slowly go dark in my world. Hard to see anyone. It is like an out of body experience. I don't really feel present.

The most recent hospital stays have lasted for about a month. This was where my bladder/kidneys/colon just stopped working. Landed me in the hospital time after time with excruciating pain. I thought I was scared before....but, this last time scared me so bad that I have done a lot of soul searching and literally feeling like I have hit the very rock bottom. I got a type of infection from an IV site (in the hospital), so when I got out my arm ballooned up to the size of a football players arm. That landed me back in the hospital for another week. This time, I was hooked up to every kind of antibiotic that you could imagine, I started to get sicker and sicker just being in the hospital. There were nights that I silently cried because I was truly worried that I would never make it out of there. All I thought about was my family.

The doctor and surgeon wanted to take out my colon...NOT GOING TO HAPPEN unless it is a matter of life and death. The urologist did a lot of tests and found significant problems. Both of these are going to take a long time to fix.

SOOOOOOO.....where is the laughter and looking on the bright side in this? I will write it in my next blog entry....

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Warrior is a Child

I used to love that song by Twila Paris (Warrior is a child). It is particularly true today. As I mentioned my dad went into heart surgery this morning. 5 hours of surgery later, the doctor (who really had a god complex thing going) came to talk to us. He shoots it like it is, no messing around. Says that Dad was a very hard case. He said his lungs were terrible and he would NOT shut up about how big dad's belly was and how if he makes it, he will have to lose weight. First of all....he needs to be saying "When he makes it...not if" He went on to tell us that he had to do quadruple bypass on him. They said they will have to keep him on a ventilator and his biggest concern was dad being able to breathe on his own. Well, the first hurdle is for Dad to wake up. And then, trying to get him to walk...which will be so interesting since he will be so drugged up and he only has one leg....

Anyway, the net is that we wait. I was there all day today and waited as long as I could to see him. But, I had to leave to pick up our children. My brother, sister and mother saw him. My mother cried and she never cries. They said he has tubes coming out of everywhere and his eyes are so swollen and face. Something about the fluid buildup. My siblings called and said that they were glad that I wasn't there because they knew I would take it hard.

It is strange, how last night...he is calling me for encouragement and scripture verses. And today, he is not even breathing on his own.

My family has always looked to me to be the rock, to be the one that has all the answers, the strong one. But, what they don't see and almost everyone I know....that this "Warrior is a child" They don't see me crying, because I don't want anyone to see. Especially today. I was there to help be the entertainment in the lobby. Bringing magazines, telling crazy stories...when, all the while my heart feels like it is going to come out of my chest. I felt like a child again when the doctor was telling us about my dad. I felt like that little girl that hung out with my Dad all the time (that is until my brother came along and they did baseball and stuff like that) ;) and all I wanted to do was to be able to hug him.

As I write this, tears are streaming down my face. I guess it is the unknown and the talk about strokes and all kinds of stuff that I wasn't prepared for. It is interesting, during tough realize who your friends are when things get tough. As much as I have been in the hospital, I have seen it time and time again. And today, I was in awe at the amount of people from everywhere that came to the waiting room just to sit with us and to talk about good, funny stories about dad. There was a lot of laughter. However, we were very tame next to the group that was near us. I swear, you would have thought it was a bar the way that they were talking so loud, and laughing and saying some crazy stuff. That group alone gave me great writing material!!!

So, the beauty of today was family and the outpouring of love and support for my dad and our family. Some of these people drove far....and others didn't know him personally, they were friends of my brother who knew about him. Our group alone almost took over the entire waiting room. They were telling me stories of how my dad inspires them. It was humbling for me to hear.

And I was amazed at just my friends, especially on FB the outpouring of support. The friends who called me to check on me.... A friend who I haven't seen in 20 years was willing and ready to sit with me in the waiting room (Beth S. D.) girl, you are awesome!! Then, there are the people that you think that will touch base with you and let you know that they are thinking about don't hear from them. Then the people you least expect reach out. It is so strange how that out plays out.

Life is funny when you make plans. Dad was planning to go to some big reunion and out of nowhere his chest pain started. God knew what he was doing, because the Dr. said had he not had the surgery now....he would have had the big heart attack. And, for me, the second weekend in a row where I had big plans to get away....well, they pale in comparison when it comes to being near family right now. I wouldn't be able to forgive myself if anything happened while I was gone. So, I hope my friend understands, even though this is a huge weekend for her. I hope she knows how much she means to me, and I would be there in a heart beat. But, I need to be near by. My Mom especially needs the support. She is very weary right now. So, the moral of the flexible in your plans!! Life likes to throw curve balls!!!

It was a rainy, dreary day here. But, for a few hours...we all found laughter and joy. And I called ICU and they said Dad was resting easy. I imagine he must be resting easy being in a coma for goodness sake. Sounds like he gave him the good stuff!! I am sure he is having great dreams of being back at his old farm, or playing baseball or football. But, with some of that medicine....God only knows what he is dreaming of. So, I can be at peace knowing that he is asleep and under constant watch. I envision my grandmother (who passed in 2000) sitting right next to him holding his hand.

As for sad as I feel right now...I know that tomorrow is a new day and I have made plans with an old friend and I can assure you laughter will be had.

When you look around, you can find beauty in everything....

Thursday, November 13, 2008

When the waves from the Storm hit you over and over again...

I shared my story about our daughter Maya when she was born and all that happened. One would think that was enough of a storm to last a lifetime. Unfortunately, that was only the beginning.

I returned to my job about 12 weeks after giving birth to Maya. However, before going back to work...Maya landed in UNC Pediatric Unit for C-Diff. She had to have so many IV's that they ran out of places because she was so dehydrated...they had to put one in her head. Day after day, I sat next to her...never wanting to move. The thought of going back to work had changed all meaning then.

It was a job that I loved and hated at the same time. I loved it so much because we were like family (yes, I drank from the juice of this company). I loved every aspect of my job. I loved the people...almost everyone was at my wedding. I had a hard time with number crunching....that was not my forte. See, I am the creative mind, but, analyzing numbers was like me speaking Chinese. It just wasn't working. I was the manager of a team and one afternoon, I got the call to my bosses office and there was my friend the HR Director looking upset. I knew then what was happening. They dissolved our entire division. I left with a few boxes and stunned that I was walking out of the door with everyone that I thought was family still inside. There was no chance to say goodbye.

I was given an amazing package for which I was grateful. But, they say that men take it so hard when they lose their jobs. Well, some of us women do too. I will write on it later, but, it has taken years to get over.

Only weeks after losing my job, my father in law lost his battle with cancer.

Sometimes, the storms can keep coming. But, eventually...the rain stops for a bit. Where is the laughter and positivity in all of this? I told you earlier about Maya...she is now a comedian and a spitfire, and she is full of love. The job? Trust me when I say, it has taken a LONG time to find anything funny or positive about it. But, now, when I see an advertisement, or newspaper article, or anything from this company....I must make this funny face. My husband ALWAYS knows when that company is on my mind. He will laugh and say "Bitter Betty". Then, I pout like a 2 year old and say "am not!" and for whatever reason....we just laugh..

What about my Father in laws death? Where was the laughter? That again, has taken a long time to find laughter. We tell each other stories that Blake's dad would do to us. He was such a prankster. He would call every Saturday morning and a sound of a trumpet wake up call would come through the phone. Now, we laugh and talk about all of the other pranks he made. We talk about all that he did with his life and what a difference he made on this world.

That my friends is called making over to the other side of grief. You know you are there when you can find laughter after tragic situations.

Thinking about my Dad tonight

My father has overcome so many odds. We all call him "Teflon". Tomorrow morning at 6:15 am, he will have open heart surgery. Everyone says to me "Oh, it is just routine surgery". Hmmm...still doesn't bring the comfort that it should. My dad currently has 12 stints in his heart as it is. When he went to the hospital the other day, they found 3 more closed up and this time, there was no more putting in stints. He called me a couple of times today to confess that he was scared. And now, it was my turn to cheer him on and tell him it will be alright. He has been doing that for me for the past year, every time I was in the hospital and for every surgery.

My dad is an amputee, cancer survivor, diabetic, and obviously has some heart problems. Each time, he has come out swinging. He just keeps on going.

Talk about finding laughter through the Storms... My dad and I have learned to joke about his prostetic leg and we play pranks on the family with his leg. I know it sounds sick to you...but, when it happens to have to find some laughter. Our kids LOVE riding on his wheelie...... He just got this new leg that bends every which way. See, he is here with our daugther and he is always joking around. He turned his leg all the way around to rest his arm. We all laugh at his jokes in the family. But, not everyone else on the outside gets it.

It is still strange after all these years when he says to me "Hey, will you grab my leg for me, it is against the closet". I shake my head everytime laughing....only in my family would we have these conversations. It is hard on him being an amputee. For instance, at the State Fair, he had his wheelie and his prostetic leg on...and our son decides he doesn't want to walk anymore. So, he loves to ride with his "Pa". But, dad was coming out of one of those non-handicapped quick burger place and he leaned too far forward and the wheelie (chair) flipped and at that moment, my dads leg went flying and he did the stop, drop and roll with my son. Nikolai was fine. But, my dad was so embarrassed and scratched up pretty good. Here he had his prostetic leg on the ground, his wheelie knocked over and a wonderful stranger picking him off the ground to help him back in his chair. I was grateful, because most people don't treat amputees with the respect they deserve. He always gets the stares. It always surprises me about people.

He called to tell me about his fall and I felt so bad for him. But, after a few days as we always do...we laugh about it. I say "Lord dad, good thing your leg didn't knock someone upset the head!" He always has a come back for me too.

He is scared tonight and he just called to ask me to read scripture to him. I felt honored. And in his joking way, he told me good night and he was going to ask for the best drugs available to put him to sleep tonight. I said I would bring over some vodka.... He said "young lady you know I don't drink!!" My mom doesn't always get our humor. But that is ok.... we get it.

He is a rock star and he will do amazing tomorrow..... please pray for him and My Mom too who is having her own health problems.

Hope for Harrison. When a Storm becomes a Hurricane

I heard that it was a beautiful sunny day in Columbus, Ohio on Sunday June 22nd 2008. I envision that people were outside enjoying the rays of sun. The local pool, you could hear laughter and splashing.

On this particular day, 3 teenage friends decided to leave the pool and go across the highway to their favorite sub shop. This is something they did all the time. I can see it now, they were probably laughing and talking about skateboarding and letting the sun dry them off after a dip in the pool. Good times were being had.

The two teenagers made it across the highway first and another following not too far behind. The first two teenagers made it to the other side. The third teenager was struck by a car going anywhere from 45-55 miles per hour. The man tried to swerve the boy, but, he couldn't.

That third teenager is named Harrison. Harrison was immediately taken to the hospital with multiple injuries. Some are too graphic to even know how to comprehend. What was once a sunny day, turned into a Hurricane of massive proportions.

I received an email from my prayer warrior friend Michelle. She put out a plea for Harrison's survival. Soon a website was dedicated just for him so that his amazing mother could update everyone. I fully believe that before Harrison even made it to the hospital, hundreds of people were on their knees praying for him. Soon, it would become thousands, and then, it would become hundreds of thousands.

Those first 72 hours in the hospital for Harrison were the most critical, and he suffered such a blow to the head and many broken parts of his body. I never stopped checking for an update. Somehow, this cutie-patootie skateboarder teenager and his mother entered my life and that of our families and I have never even met them. I have never been quite the same since that day. How strange that someone can affect you that much and you don't even know them. Maybe, it is because they show us hope. Colleen, his mother was on the same adoption boards that I was on. So, you kind of find out about people through there. Now we are cyber friends.

Word spread throughout the town like wildfire. An impromptu vigil was held for him at the hospital chapel. Harrison had to have part of his skull removed due to massive swelling. (did you know that they put that part of his skull in like a kangaroo pouch in his stomach, so that the skull would stay alive. The wonders of science). Harrison was in a coma for a long time....He suffered through pneumonia, through blood clots, through just about everything under the sun you could imagine.

Harrison has an amazing mother named Colleen. She taught me so much about finding the positive in the tragic. Here was a woman who didn't know day to day if her son would live or not. But, yet, she blogged everyday with updates. She had the gift of humor in her words. I was amazed and touched how she could be so strong to write like she does. God, I believe, was helping her write. She found something positive everyday.

The Hurricane has raged on and on for months. But, to God be His Glory, it has been downgraded to a Tropical Storm, to now Heavy Winds and the rate H is going, it will be total sunshine before you know it.

Harrison was transferred to Chicago where he is currently in rehab. This is the same boy, who could not move, nor talk, nor eat, may never walk, may never do lots of things. But as I sit here and read the latest journal entry...November 7th tears of absolute joy flow down my face. Colleen has again managed to find the Laughter through this Storm. I am inspired to be a better person because of this young man and because of his mother.

My father got so involved in reading about him everyday that we talked about him as if he was one of our relatives. My dad would write to encourage him. My dad is an amputee, cancer survivor, insulin dependent diabetic and heart trouble. He knew how to encourage Harrison. Even though Harrison can't read what has been written. His mother reads the entries from others every day to him. Colleen, will you read this to Harrison?

"Harrison, my dad is going to open heart surgery tomorrow and you know who has inspired him? You. That is how he knows he is going to make it. Because you are making it."

Just when you think you have it bad, someone is suffering somewhere else and so much worse. If they can find the laughter, so can you...

You are my hero Harrison and my children look at your picture every week. I am little concerned that my 5 and 8 year old girls have a huge crush on him :) But, I am happy he is their hero too.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bringing an Angel into the world amongst a raging storm

There is no good place for me to begin when it comes to my health. So, there will be many entries.

Health, what a thing we take for granted. Especially when I was young. I thought I was invincible. I was a bit of a clutz, still am frankly, even though I was big into sports. I was forever falling down and getting scrapes. I remember a time when I fell off my bike because somehow I managed to get my foot caught into the spokes. As bloodied as my legs were, I just brushed off the dirt and kept on going. I guess that is where I learned to keep picking myself off the ground and getting back onto that bike. That was about as much as I knew about pain. I had your common colds and what not. In college, I was in the mountains and I personally think that I am allergic to the cold. So, I was forever catching a cold. I thought that was bad.

Then...2003 hit and my world as I knew it changed. I was pregnant with our second child. What a happy occasion. We already had a beautiful little girl at home and then soon to be a little sister on the way. I loved being pregnant.

I was working hard during that time....was in Sales and traveling. Constantly worried and stressed about numbers. I had to fly to a conference while only 9 or 10 weeks away from her due date. I started hurting on the plane. As soon as I got home, I went straight to the doctors. They said that I had pre-eclampsia. I was like "what is that?" My favorite doc told me that it was very serious that I could die and the baby could die. So, I was bed ridden for a while. I began to have crushing headaches, my liver count was going awry, and my blood pressure was at stroke level. I was put in the hospital at about 32 weeks. I was in and out. Then, they finally kept me. They did work up on our baby and said her lungs were not, they gave me shots through my belly to help her lungs grow.

With each day, the pain in my body was getting worse and worse. Eclampsia is where the body rejects the baby. I prayed and meditated a lot. Because you don't get pain medicine when you are pregnant. The headaches were blinding, and at times I wasn't sure I could take another day. But, I had a baby that I had to do everything that I could to keep her in. I was getting sicker. Finally, one doc came in and said "I am sorry Caroline, we are going to have to take her, you could have a stroke and she could die or both of you". Talk about being in a middle of a storm. The waves were raging.

I cried into Blakes shoulder and before I knew it, they wheeled me out of there so fast that I had no time to think. They gave me medicine to induce labor. The night passed, and then the morning and I was in tremendous pain. But, I didn't care about me....I just cared about keeping our precious angel alive.

The delivery is supposed to be this joyous occassion. Like with was beautiful.... This time, an entire team of doctor and nurses came swarming the room. My doctor was frantic and said that the babies heart rate was dropping quickly and we had to do a C-section. I saw the fear in Blakes eyes. I think I stopped feeling all together. Then, she stabilized. She finally came out into the world in the afternoon. They whisked Maya away and I couldn't look at her. I was so afraid that she was going to die right before my eyes. When I did look, all I saw was how hard of a time she was having to breathe. The doctors were all over me administering all sorts of medication to stop a stroke. They let me hold her and she was beautiful. Then, she was gone...just like that. We didn't see each other for 2 days. I was still hooked up to all sorts of things and medications to help my body. I saw her in the NICU and I wanted to die. She had every part of her body filled with tubes...coming out of her chest, her nose, and basically everywhere. They took me back to my room where I looked out the window and cried and begged God to let her live.

Then, the storm raged even harder. The Pediatric Doc came in that night in the wee hours of the morning to tell me that Maya's lungs collapsed. I stopped breathing. They said they were going to transport her to a different hospital where there was a Critical Unit. He said she would be there a long time. I don't remember much else, except seeing her in this tube before she got on the ambulance and she seemed lifeless, except for her chest pumping up and down so hard. I didn't understand how we got in the middle of this storm. Why couldn't it be me? Why did an angel have to suffer so?

It took another 2 days for me to be released. I was very weak and Blake took me to see her. It was like being in a HAZMAT were scrubbed down, gown on, and gloves and booties on our feet. I walked into a sea of tiny, tiny critical babies. Some only weighing ounces. Then, we came to Maya. I put my hand through the slot where I could touch her. Something about that moment gave me hope.

Then, the doctors and nurses told us the news. They said " We don't know what happened on the ambulance ride, but, your daughter has turned the corner....she didn't have to be on the ventilator that long". Tears of joy. I rarely left her side nor did Blake.

With each day, tubes came out and we could feed her. I am talking the tiniest bottle you have ever seen in your life. That was my best day....holding her and feeding her. God heard our prayers and what was supposed to be a month ICU stay, ended up being only 5 days.

I am a huge advocate for March of Dimes and the Pre-eclampsia Foundation. Women and babies are dying everyday from this condition. But, somehow, we were spared and given another chance at life.

Today, she makes me laugh until my stomach hurts. She is a fighter....she is witty, she is an athlete....she can run so fast that I am thinking we should be considering Olympic trials. :)

Where did I find the laughter in this storm? I found it in the nurses who would tell me stories of hope or what the babies did that day to make them smile. I found laughter and joy when I saw one of those micro-babies leave the NICU and go home. I found laughter at a NICU reunion a year later and all of those children who were fighting for their lives were now running around the room passing out hugs and kisses. Now everyday, I find the laughter and the joy when I look at her. I call her the scrapper. She says "No, my name is Maya".

The storm stopped raging and laughter followed.

The Storms of a Heart

I know most of you guys out there (if you are even reading this) will not know what I am talking about. But, most of the ladies will. I was watching Sex and the City (The Movie) for the 100th time.

There was the part where Carrie is in her wedding dress and she is walking up the stairs to marry the man she loves and then he stands her up. The pain in her face (although I know that was acting). Then Miranda's husband told her he had an affair and he was one of the nice guys. Watching it felt so real that it brought back so many storms of my heart.

When I love, I love with my whole heart. It is strange...I can be very jaded (well now I am), but there was still that hopeless romantic in me, especially when I was younger. However, that hopeless romantic girl got crushed over and over again. I was a sucker for the bad boys...the kind who didn't know how to commit, or didn't know to do anything other than cheat, or lie or whatever it was. I thought that I could "save them" or "love the pain out of him". Looking back, I cringe at the old me.

Then, there was the good guys that I kept at a distance. There was a tremendous fear that if I let them in, they would hurt me. Especially the Football player. Boy, was I crazy about him. I never let him know how I felt. When it came to the bad some sick way, I knew what to expect. I am not sure why some of us women are like that. My dearest friends would tell me over and over again and I thought that I knew everything.

In my life, pre-husband....I thought that I knew what love was. There were many times in high school where I had the biggest love crush on this guy. The football player that I was nuts over....and although I went out a few times with him...I guess it was my self doubt, but, I believed that I was just one of the many girls that were in line for his attention. I felt foolish for believing. I would come home and smile to my parents and tell them everything was great. Then, my poor pillow would get the well of tears. But, I was young...I chalked it up to that. I still should have told that Football player (who is now Chief of Staff in Cardiology) how much he meant to me. I have a feeling every other girl told him the same thing. I am not one to be one of the many. So, it all works out in the end.

Then, as I got older there were other times that my pillow was soaked with tears. My girls were always there for me....holding back my hair after a night of drinking to drown my sorrows away. Days where I wouldn't come out of the house because the man who said he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me...left me the next day. The Rugby guy that I thought was the "One"...only for us to break up for no particular reason. Oh, and lets not forget to mention the boyfriend who was sleeping with my close friends, or the guy that I thought I "loved" to tell me he had another girlfriend. The same time he was dating me, he said we were exclusive. Maybe in Sweden or something....but exclusive is exclusive where I am from.

Many points in my life, I wondered if I would ever be able to laugh again, to smile, to breathe, for my heart to stop hurting. Then, out of the blue...something happens and you start laughing. Laughing at a joke, laughing at yourself. Having your girlfriends show me how ridiculously silly I was. One day, each time....I learned to laugh. And then, with each heartache....I found humor and a better perspective.

Finally, I learned how to move forward and to laugh more. Then, out of nowhere....The man that I would marry suddenly appeared, just like all my friends told me he would. You know the talk "oh honey, you will find the right one when you least expect it". Each time, I wished I could have slapped them senseless! :) But, they were right. I kept him at arms distance. But, my arms finally gave way. In the end, all those buckets of tears that I shed... helped me. It made my heart grow and open to a whole new world.

You do stop hurting, you do stop crying, life does go on, and eventually you will thank the people in your life for helping mold you into the person that you are now. Then, out of nowhere...that person appears.

For me, laughter was what healed my soul. Well, God healed my soul and then laughter :)