Thursday, November 27, 2014

I Didn't See This Coming

It is good to be thankful.

Yesterday, as I was about to leave work, I opened a window on my computer and googled "Thanksgiving Desserts." I started scrolling through recipes, thinking about what ingredients I had on hand, then a thought crossed my mind: "What am I doing?"

And just like that, I shut the computer down, drove to Kroger, bought a cake and came home.

Contentment.

A quick scroll through my TimeHop App takes me back to Thanksgivings past, when I made Pumpkin Trifle, and Strawberry Scones, and Homemade Bread. And the year Michael was sick and we stayed home and I made turkey and all the trimmings on a whim, that day.
Those were great days.
But that's not where I am anymore. I love where I am now. I never would have thought my evenings would look the way they do.

I come home from work, and dinner is either made, or almost made. By a guy who can't fully use his hands. He has limited use of his arms, and no use of his fingers. I never in a million years would have thought those wrists would peel carrots, chop potatoes, sauté asparagus, make Rosemary Chicken, Pot Roast, the list goes on.
But he does it, y'all. It's crazy. He does it and I come home and sometimes chop the meat and always we eat together and gush over how good it is.

It is good to be thankful. It is good to not have to do it all.

When Michael and I got married there were some things I knew I'd have to do. I embraced the cooking. I love cooking, actually! But it does take time at home. And because I work so much, I have far less time at home. So now we are one of those couples where he cooks and she cleans up.
And now I'm a girl who brings a store-bought cake to Thanksgiving and is totally fine with it. Because my identity is not found in the kitchen. Not that I'm saying yours is if you've cut out leaf-shaped pie crust. Go on with your bad self, girlfriend! That's awesome.

Life is season after season after season. I'm content right here in the middle of this one.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Confession: No Longer Who I Was

I am a girl who appreciates order and color coordination. I am on time, I wake up before my alarm, I read three newspapers every morning and I'm generally annoyingly prepared for anything.

I am a girl who knows what she wants. Once I figure that thing out, I go after it with my whole heart and I almost always get it.

I'm not that familiar with failure. Or heartbreak.

I think that's why you saw me pouring my heart out over coffee and tears here in this blog space a few years ago. Because I met my match. The thing I couldn't outwit, couldn't out perform, couldn't get in front of, couldn't change: my husband's disability.

I have heard from so many of you who tell me my words could be your words. That I gave you a voice. That I inspired you to love your husband and admit that it's hard at the same time. Girls, that gave me so much strength to walk this walk on the days I didn't want to wake up. Thank you.

Thank you for being the community that didn't even exist when I first needed it. Thank you for the flowers and cards and text messages and blogs of your own and pictures of ways to make the little things in life accessible.

We are the quad wife sisters and no one can ever take that away from us. But I have to be honest with you. I've changed.

I am no longer the girl who cries all the time. I'm no longer the girl whose heart is broken when the church people fall all over themselves to help him while the door slams in my face. I am no longer the girl whose hair is falling out and skin is broken out and can't take all of the pressure of doing it all around the house.

A lot has changed. It changed a little bit at a time. I think that's called healing.

What I'm not saying is it's all better. I still have days I cry on the floor. I still have outbursts of anger and fights with God that include lots of "Why?" questions. I still miss the memories I'll never have. I have moments where I see my life as if I'm looking at it from the outside and I can't help but feel a little bit sorry for us. But mostly, I'm just generally happy with what we have.

It's healing. I'm sure of it. I want this for all of you, too. I believe it will come. I think you have to feel it for it to heal, though. So please, poke around here in the archives and cry with me. I'll cry with you. This experience has fundamentally changed who I am. And I'm glad. I'm a better person for it. I never would have made it here without all of you.

But I felt like it was time I came clean. My life is full and disability and caregiving is a part of it but it's no longer the main character. I don't know what that means for this blog. It may be a little more random in the days to come. Less focused? I'm not sure. My boss tells me I suck at poker face. Guess what? I suck at poker face writing, too.

So, I'll write from where I am and you can read from where you are and hopefully, we'll connect some where in the middle and encourage each other to bravely do the hard things and to love like this.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

My Pleasure Vs. My Pity

Have you ever noticed at Chick-Fil-A, when you thank them for your food, they say, “My pleasure.” Note: They’ve started doing this at McDonalds, too. I obviously eat more fast food than I should. Anyway, I’m not writing about fast food, I’m writing about giving.

I give a lot in my life. I guess a lot of giving just comes with the territory when you are a caregiver. I don’t only give a lot at home, though. I give a lot at work, too. I am a leader. I believe leaders should be servants. Servants give.

I often find myself at the end of my rope. I am just empty. I hate it. I want to be able to give more, because I can see more is needed. Honestly, that’s the number one reason I’ve strayed away from writing on this blog – because I just don’t have anything to give. To write. To say. I feel guilty about this.

I think it’s easiest to give when it is my pleasure. I wish it was always a pleasure, but it’s not. Especially before I have any coffee.

We work an overnight schedule. Translation: We don’t sleep. Every Friday, we are exhausted and aim to sleep for about 12 hours. When I really sleep on Fridays, I dream. I almost always dream that I am constantly woken up and asked for things. It’s usually Michael who asks me for things in my dreams. Last night, I had this dream back-to-back about 6 times, then I woke up to him actually asking for something, and I got it for him but I was not nice about it. Failure.

This morning, Michael woke up with a scratchy throat. We decided to stay home from church. I was sweet to him, right off the bat. I got him some medicine, stroked his hair. I was all impressed with myself. I got the thermometer to take his temperature, did that, then he made one unsolicited comment – something about wiping the thermometer off with an alcohol swab and BOOM, I got mad.

No longer my pleasure. My service was tainted. I was annoyed, feeling like a victim, like a slave, like I’m just here to do the work. I actually felt the change happen in my heart. And I hate it! I want it to be my pleasure.

I constantly have to fight for my pleasure. I have to confess, pray, listen to music, have alone time, write, talk to other wives who get it, and eventually I can get back to the place where I can take care of him with a sweet spirit. I hate that I have to fight for this. I wish it was easier.

Earlier this week, Michael’s home health aide called out sick. (We’re thinking that’s where he got the throat thing.) I had already woken up an hour early so I could be out of our bedroom and out of the way, so I was mad I was going to have to step up and get him up and dressed myself, and I had to do it without an hour of sleep I would have had, had I known when we went to bed that she wouldn’t be coming in that night. I started getting him ready and then we were thrown a curveball. I’m not going into detail, but it was not fun.

I have a mode I go into when this happens and I went into the mode. I am a household appliance. I’m a tornado of plastic gloves, washcloths, anti-bacterial spray and laundry detergent. I clean up the mess and theoretically, it’s gone. But the fact that it happened hurts. And the hurt lingers. And I fight with God: Why? How? So many questions. Don’t you see? Don’t you care?

I broke down in tears and laid down with Michael. Snuggled beside him on his right shoulder. He accepts me when I am a mess like this. When I can’t do it. When it’s not my pleasure. When I pity him. When I pity us. When I can’t climb and claw and fight my way to just face the day.

Once I got him up, I made coffee and warmed up dinner and I went upstairs to get ready for work. And the waves kept crashing. I couldn’t rally. I ended up taking a sick day. I fell asleep on the couch. I made it through the night, after all.

I look back at our live together over the last five years and I remember so many days that were filled with pity in those early years. I serve more out of pleasure, these days, thank God! When this happened the other night, Michael brought up Sisyphys. I told him I used to feel like Sisyphus all the time. Now, it’s rare. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing, or not. On one hand, at least I’m not pushing that rock up the hill already exhausted. On the other hand, I am out of practice.

The bottom line here is it’s way easier to serve, to give, out of pleasure than it is out of pity.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Time We Don't Have

Here’s a scene from my imperfect life. Or, maybe I should say Brokaw’s life. See him there, with the toss pillow? Whenever Brokaw is excited, he goes for the closest toss pillow he can find. He carries it around the house, shakes it, tries to get me to take it away from him. This one is off of our bed. 

See Michael’s toes? His shoes? Every night, I get Michael up and dressed and ready for the day (night). I sit on the floor and put his shoes on his feet. Before I slip them on, Brokaw stands on my lap so I can scratch his back with Michael’s shoes. The Vans are his favorite. See that huge scratch on the door? If you are a landlord, and you have a tenant who is in a wheelchair, I suggest you pad your walls. Just an FYI there. 

So much about this picture and our life isn’t Pinterest-perfect. But you know what? We love our little life and each other. And that makes such a difference in facing the hard things. Oh, the hard things. They are plenty. Just last night when I was dressing Michael, he teared up, feeling the unfairness. I rolled him on his side, snuggled behind him and we just laid there snuggled and pep-talking for a good 20 minutes. It was 20 minutes we didn’t have but we had to have.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Best Jobs Don't Feel Like Work

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a doctor. I remember my dad studying to be a paramedic, and I would read his textbooks for fun. So, I figured becoming a doctor would be the perfect thing for me.

Then, Algebra I happened. And I decided I wanted to be a journalist, instead.

I had guilt about this, because I’m a promise-keeper. At the age of 14, I was so afraid of letting the world down, and telling it I didn’t think I’d be able to be a doctor. Then one day, the man who would end up marrying my mom told me I should do what I want. I’m sure Dave had no idea how he was freeing me to be me when he told me that, that day.

I’ve been working in TV news for 15 years. It’s not all puppies and unicorns. I’ve worked long hours, and crazy hours, and filed stories from taxi cabs and bathrooms and I’ve bought gas and groceries with a credit card and cried in stairwells at work. But, I can say that I love what I do. I’ve never stopped loving it.

I’ve been paid to witness history. To record it. To hold the powerful accountable. To tell stories people need to hear in order to be better citizens. And now, I get to lead a team of people who do that, and watching them learn and grow is even more fulfilling than it was to do it myself.

If I could give everyone one thing, it would be Jesus. If I could give them two things it would be Jesus, then a job that doesn’t feel like work. It’s truly a gift.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Early

I like to wake up early, while Michael is still asleep, and Brokaw is still snoring with his eyes open. It’s quiet, and I can feel the peace and possibility of a new day, without immediately being thrust into it.

Sometimes it feels like the world is churning with obligations, responsibilities, and bills, doesn’t it? But a little quiet and hot coffee, alone, first thing in the morning makes it feels like the world pauses.

I beg of the world: Please stop churning for a minute so that I can sleep. So that when I wake up, the things that I haven’t done yet won’t feel even more undone, just the same level of undone I left them at when I laid my head on the pillow.

Wouldn’t it be great if all of the stuff would just stop and wait for us to be ready? But, it doesn’t. It churns. We still have to sleep.

There is a print from Red Letter Words on my desk in the newsroom. I got it at Allume, last year. It says “Hope Waits,” with the scripture reference Psalm 27:14: “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

Easier said than done, right?

We are in a waiting mode in our lives right now. Michael and I are waiting on something big. I can’t elaborate, but it looks like we are in for some sort of life change, we just don’t know what kind yet. No, I am not pregnant. While we wait though, other big stuff is going on. Spin, spin, spin.

We worked together to move this blog from Blogger to WordPress. Hopefully you like the new design! I’m still working on a lot of little things, so please be patient. I’m working with an awesome book coach on my book proposal. It’s a lot of work, but it’s heart work, so it’s dear. I’m enjoying it.

Pray for us in the waiting, though, will you?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Maybe This is Restoration

It's 6:00 on a Saturday morning and it is quiet in our house. The leaves have grown to their fullest on the tree that stands tall behind the white fence in our tiny back yard.
Brokaw barks when the wind blows.
Michael sleeps with the foot of the bed raised.
And I sit on the edge of the couch on the heating pad, macbook pro on my lap, tapping away at the keys. And I need another cup of coffee, as always.

Hello, everyone. I miss you.
My world is busy. Too busy, really.

I have only been to the gym once in more than a month. I feel my wobbly bits growing and I'm not happy about that.
Last weekend, Michael and I didn't leave the house at all. My SUV sat parked in the driveway in the same exact spot from Friday morning until late Sunday night. We ordered a pizza and watched Steel Magnolias and went for a family walk and picked a magnolia. I had no idea how they open and close. That's weird.
The weekend was glorious and way too short. Sunday, I sacrificed church for writing and the muse came and it was good but I missed church.

I read on Facebook this week that Glennon Doyle Melton (a.k.a. Momastery) said that writing is like peeing. It sounds weird, but I can totally relate. Well, I guess I just haven't had to pee on the blog in a while. I've been spending a lot of time learning and preparing to write my book. It's an exciting process but wow does it take a lot of time and energy!

I'm processing some big thoughts about being a wife and being a caregiver and how what I really feel like I am something in between, and I have a feeling when I figure it out, you're going to love it, and I'm going to love it, but right now I'm just so tired and I feel empty and not like I have a lot to say.

I've enjoyed reading a lot lately, though. And here are some books I recommend:
Atlas Girl, by Emily Weirenga
Carry On, Warrior, by Glennon Doyle Melton
Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg
Work Happy, What Great Bosses Know, by Jill Geisler
Perhaps my reading list is a glimpse into my confused soul?

Recently, our 12-cup coffeemaker died and we didn't replace it.
Last weekend, our blender died and this week I made smoothies in the KitchenAid mini-chopper.

Michael has a new home health aide and together they cleaned the downstairs, and I was equal-parts thankful and feeling guilty. The lawn needs mowing and my hair needs highlighting but I'm considering staying in denial on those two.

So much of what I thought life would look like by now isn't so. I realize this post sounds more melancholy than I actually feel, which is an example of how much my writing still needs to grow. Early this year, Michael and I prayed for a year of restoration. We hold tight to 1 Peter 5:10: "The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast."

As I type this verse, my heart opens.
Maybe this confusion I'm feeling is actually restoration?
Maybe this career drive, this all-the-sudden desire to lean back in at work, to hope for the future there, is restoration.

In that time of deep grief after we first got married, when I almost lost myself, so much changed. In some ways, I'm still just a shell of the girl I was before. But in some ways, I'm back.

Maybe this is restoration.
Maybe restoration is exhausting and confusing.
Maybe restoration takes faith.
I pray I'll know it when I see it, and that I won't miss it.







Sunday, June 29, 2014

What if We Traded in Our Wishes For Dreams?


Jill Phillips wrote a song called “Steel Bars.”
I love it. Look it up.

Sometimes I feel so imprisoned inside my own limitations.
Surrounded by my sin.
My discontent.
Not holy discontent.
Sinful discontent.
The kind that causes you to look around and wish for anything and everything that is not your current reality.

I wish I had her arms.
I wish my husband could mow the lawn.
I wish we could afford to go to that concert.
I wish I didn’t have to work.
I wish I could sleep at night.
wish
wish
wish

At the end of each wish is a tastier, greener-grass, more-fulfilling, easier life.
The problem with all of those wishes, though?
They are lies.
Because if I had her arms, I’d want her arms.
And if my husband could mow the lawn, I’d wish he wouldn’t do something else.
And there are never enough concerts.
If I didn’t work, I’d wish I did.
Sleep is something I wish for when I’m exhausted, but something I wish away when I’m on a productive streak.

I’d rather dream than wish, anyway.
Because at least dreams are something I can work towards.
Dreams are possible.
Dreams are actionable.

We can take our dreams to our God and to our friends and to our husbands and mull them around. They can bend and stretch and sometimes die or become something else, but they’re moldable.

We can do something about dreams.

So today, I take my discontent and all my “why me’s” and my wishes to the cross.
Lay them down.
Trade those burden in.
For dreams.
And goals.
And possibility and grace and favor and ask God to partner with me in making change, instead of begging for a different life than the one He clearly has designed for me.

I’ll put one foot in front of the other.

Trust.
Hope.
Pray.
Run towards God with my questions and my fears and my passions and dreams.

A couple of years ago, I was producing a TV interview with a presidential candidate and his wife and there was something she said that stopped me in my tracks. She was talking about a very difficult circumstance they had to face in their life and she said that she was able to move forward when she stopped asking God “why,” and started asking Him “what?”

I stopped the timer on my iPhone, which I was using to time the interview. I opened up my notes app and typed that in there.

I still use that lesson. I knew when I couldn’t sleep last night because of my sinful discontent that I was back in the weeds of the “why.”

It took some crying and complaining and kicking and screaming, but now I’m back at the “what?”

Let’s skip the why step, y’all.
It’s no fun, anyway.
Let’s dream instead of wish.
Pray instead of complain.
Set goals instead of waste time.

I think the easiest thing to do and the hardest thing to do is to decide to love where we are right now.
It’s easiest because the only thing that needs to change is us.

It’s hard because everything inside of us is telling us that we shouldn’t have to/don’t want to/don’t have to/it’s not fair/it’s not our fault/etc.

In the wise words of The Fray “Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same.
The thing is right in font of us.
Let’s love that.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Twenty Years Later




I was in high school on a summer mission trip when my life changed forever. In an instant I would forever become paralyzed. So it is weird this time of year when this date, June 16, pops up. 

For most anyone it's just another day. For any of us that morning in 1994, we didn't expect what would unfold. But everything stopped a moment when I landed face first on that mat. 

I'm forever grateful for the friends who got to work stabilizing me so I'd be safe until medics came. And for friends and family who stayed by my bed. For the church and school who chipped in when we needed help but really just got used to it all with me. For my surrogate family who helped with getting ready in the morning or in bed at night, meals, and errands. For my surprisingly normal life. 

I'm grateful for my wonderful wife who's shared the burden and opened up in a way that's given us opportunities to get to know so many new friends in our shoes. Who has helped me work through the most difficult days as we've traded who's strong for the other. 

They say it's important to commemorate these landmarks. June 16 will always be a day we remember because it redefined my life in so many ways. On this day I always remember the chorus of loved ones who have been faithful along the way. 

Thank you!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Brace-Myself Thursday

You guys are familiar with #tbt, right?
Throwback Thursday, they call it.

I call it brace-myself-Thursday.
It happens on Instagram and Facebook. People you haven't talked to in 20 years post pictures and tag you and when that little red flag comes up in the top right corner of the Facebook app on your phone, you die just a little, because you don't know... is this good or bad?

Will I momentarily be sending a message begging for an untag? Or will I wish I was still that thin?

I couldn't get a couple of pictures old high school friends posted last week off my mind.
I think when I look at these pictures, I'm barely recognizable.
But, I love them both.

Number one:
Okay, you guys.
Bear with me.
I believe this is 1994.
It appears we are having some sort of Valentine's Day party.
This is the JV and Varsity cheerleaders of Indian River High School, sitting on the floor of our coach's classroom.

I'm third from the left, in all my Freshman glory. In a vest and what I do believe may be a bodysuit. Unconfirmed that Chrischa, to my left (who I was undoubtedly sitting next to because she was wearing Pumas and was insanely cool and I looked up to her so much) is making that face because of my bodysuit.

A couple hours later, this #tbt picture surfaced:
This appears to be an Alpha banquet, where the new "Alpha Angels" are being initiated. If I remember correctly, this is actually Sophomore year. I'm on the end on the right, standing next to my best friend, Courtney.

Alpha was a community service club at school. We did nice things for people, and visited churches, and wore tinsel on our heads sometimes, and handed out candy at school. We were a club of the pretty, popular girls, with some normal girls sprinkled in there. We were tight.

I've looked back at these pictures several times over the last week, squinting to see the details. Thinking hard to remember that awkward girl with the dark hair.

I'm fascinated.
I think 20 years gets you just far enough away from that girl that it gives you eyes to see her from the outside.
Not from her perspective, but from the perspective of now.
I can't stop squinting.

I had a great high school experience, thanks in part to the girls and the experiences in these two pictures. By the skin of my teeth, I made it into both of these two groups. I would spend those two years feeling like I didn't quite belong, but thankful to be there. Like at any moment I would be publicly outed for not being as cool as everyone else.

But I got in, thank God. I never would have if I hadn't laid it on the line. If I hadn't tried out for cheering, and had to go out there and do my little routine a second time, because the scores were that tight.

If I hadn't sat through those Alpha interviews in the cafeteria, totally stressing out that I was running out of floral things to wear that weren't technically from the right stores, but were close.

I made it in because I was vulnerable enough to try.

A couple of years later, I got to be on the other side. Not saying I was ever the coolest girl in school. I definitely was not. But I ended up being head captain of the cheerleaders and Courtney was Alpha President, and I was her Veep, and like most Veeps, I did nothing.

And by then, it was all argyle and plaid, not florals. And we had plenty of the right clothes and didn't fear being found out.

I miss high school.
But, I don't miss the dark hair days of fear.
I miss the blonde days, when we were on top of the world.

The other thing these two pictures make me realize is how grateful I am that my mom pulled me aside on family vacation in between my Sophomore year and Junior year, and taught me how to rock a box of Clairol Hairpainting. Highlights equal confidence.