For better or for worse

For better or for worse…

It’s been five days since my post on Entrepreneur’s unexpected brain surgery. Definitely a low point in our 36 years of marriage.

For richer, for poorer…

Emergency Room visit, five-hour surgery, recovery, and in-house rehabilitation; not to mention more CT scans, MRIs and other tests too numerous to count; and we’re not even to the part that involves treatment for any remaining cancer cells…let’s just say I’m feeling the “poorer” part of the vow. We met our deductible in…oh, about the first minute.

In sickness and in health…

In less than a week’s time, my over-achieving, fiercely independent, take-no-prisoners husband…the man who has come back from countless athletic injuries, a hematoma under a shoulder blade, rotator cuff surgery, knee surgery and, most recently, a kidney removal from cancer…has been humbled beyond belief by the need for a walker and help with the most mundane daily living tasks.

Because the cancer mass in his right temple measured 4.7cm and went deep into the brain, this necessitated the neurosurgeon cut around inside his head. And when people cut around inside your head, there’s trauma, swelling, bleeding and other damage that results in diminished physical abilities, capabilities and strength, And that’s in addition to the psychological, emotional and spiritual trauma that occurs when your body and thought processes don’t want to play well with what your brain want them to do.

But I signed on for the long haul. And a long haul is exactly what we’re facing now. Unless someone has faced this type of humbling disability, I’m not sure it’s possible to convey the feeling of sheer terror and helplessness that accompanies stepping into these unchartered waters.

It’s hard to remember that today’s “reality” will not be the reality of a month from now…or two months from now….or six months from now…or a year from now. Success will not be measured by the calendar days but rather, by accomplishments…however long they take.

Our lives are forever changed by this event. I’m not sure I can even comprehend what our family will go through over the coming weeks, months and years. All I know is I will be beside him every step of the way. I will celebrate the small victories as well as the major milestones. I will cry. I will curse the fates. I will pray.

“I will hold you by your right hand—
I, the LORD your God.
And I say to you,
‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.”
~Isaiah 41:13

But I know we are not facing this challenge unarmed. We are not climbing this mountain alone. The outpouring of prayers and support is literally spanning coast to coast…as well as a few across the pond (a shout-out to my international Facebook/Bloggy friends). We are connected to an amazing support system and unbelievable prayer warriors. Earthly angels sent to minister to our family. No, we are far from facing this alone.

Strengthen the feeble hands,
    steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts,
    “Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
    he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
    he will come to save you.”
~Isaiah 35:3-4

And I need to remember this when the days seem overwhelming, when the nights are filled with fear, when the odds look like they are not in our favor.

entrepreneur-surgery

The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.
~CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (1942)

But, I’m sure it’s going to feel more like this…

We’re not doubting that God will do the best for us; we’re wondering how painful the best will turn out to be. 
~Letters of C. S. Lewis (1966)

Thirty-six hours

Thirty-six hours.

That’s all that stood between us and our family vacation to Mexico. Luggage is packed. House sitter scheduled. Last minute cleaning in progress. We were leaving for the airport about 2am Saturday for a 6am flight….on the beach in a short 48 hours.

And then this happens.

Entrepreneur decides he needs to go to the ER. A nagging headache that had been previously dismissed as due to stress, sinus or seasonal changes took a massive turn for the worse. Coupled with nausea and the belief his head would explode, we head to the ER. Oh, and he’s got the flu.

And then this happens.

With a four hour wait ahead of us in the ER, docs send him for a CT scan to try and narrow down the cause of his headache pain. I head to teach my class at the university, thinking I’ll come back to take him home with some meds for his headache. We’ll resume the Tamiflu regimen and be good to go later on Friday.

And then this happens.

He texts me and says it’s not good and is being admitted to the hospital. “We see what looks like blood and a mass in the right temple area of the brain.” I hear phrases like aneurism and brain tumor. I hear the words I never wanted to hear again…..renal cell cancer met. I hear these words, yet they don’t really fully register.

I’m numb and my brain is in a fog. Somewhere in the cloud the word surgery is spoken.

Surgery. Brain surgery. This coming Tuesday. Valentine’s Day.

So not how I’d planned to spend that day. In four hours, we’ve gone from eagerly anticipating a relaxing tropical family vacay….to surgery for a hematoma or possible brain cancer.

All foreseeable plans cancelled. He’s admitted and taken to his room. MRIs and more scans are scheduled for the morning. But those are only to help determine how to proceed with the surgery. He’s in severe pain as we settle him in for the night. The next day will be filled with neurologists, neurosurgeons, oncologists and other medical personnel. He settles into the bed, a nurse finds him some food. Pain meds follow.

I retreat home and begin sending updates to family and friends. No sleep ensues.

So, now, it appears we’re going down this path again. A path I knew might be a possibility but never thought it would ever be this soon,,,,or in this form. Odd how two words can shake me to my core….brain surgery.

Thirty-six hours.

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Fiercely Independent Snuggle Bug

Twix monitoredYesterday, Twix turned THREE! Can you even believe it? To look at her now, you’d never know she was three weeks early. Today, she is a happy, healthy almost preschooler who teeters between fierce independence and being a big snuggle bug.

Following in her sister’s footsteps, Twix is a precocious child that never ceases to amaze me. Her problem-solving skills and deductive reasoning are almost scary. As smart as Peanut is, I believe Twix just might supersede her.

She is perpetual motion from the time she hits the door at 7:50am. Except for (mercifully) her afternoon nap, our days are filled with continual conversation that mainly center around answering her “Why?” questions. She loves everything Dora and putting things together….from Legos to blocks to assembling geometric shapes into different forms. She is mastering preschool academic skills with her Leapstart book and calls it her “laptop.”

twix-3yrs

Mama (aka The Recruiter), Peanut, Nana and Papa are her world right now. We are here to support, comfort, encourage, teach and, yes, discipline during these years that have been filled with more than a few changes. From the anxious newborn nights when she slept on a bili blanket to her first toddler steps, she knew we were there. From those unsteady first steps, she’s growing into a confident preschooler with a “there-is-no-place-I-can’t-climb-to” attitude. Really, nothing is safe. And don’t even think about leaving her alone for more than…oh, about two minutes.

Memories in the making. Our home is full of them. And their significance is not lost on us, even when the days seem impossibly long waiting for The Recruiter to finish with work. Entrepreneur and I know we’re blessed to have this opportunity to be such an integral part of Peanut and Twix’s lives. Nobody knows what the future holds, so we really try and take those good and not-so-good days and file them away under the heading of “thankful for every moment”….even the bad ones! With Entrepreneur’s cancer scare in 2014, we are keenly aware of how precious these moments are. I know it sounds fatalistic, but we are praying, if cancer returns, it won’t be until all our grands are old enough to really remember just how special and strong this bond is between us.

So, Happy Birth Day Twix! May you continue to become fiercely independent, yet always have a snuggle bug heart. Nana and Papa love you to the moon….and back!

 

Photo Blogging Challenge: Express Yourself!

photo blog challenge

The first month of 2017 is almost on the books, and here we are again with PJ’s monthly photo challenge. This month’s theme is Express Yourself. And, I must say it was more than a head-scratcher for me.

In the end, I opted to combine two of my loves to express a little of who I am and some of the mindsets that have made me who I am today. Those two components are photography and quotations. No extra commentary will probably be necessary for this month’s five. All the photos except the first one are from a trip Entrepreneur and I took earlier this month to Meridia Beach, Florida. The amaryllis was a December gift and was suppose to bloom for Christmas. Obviously, it knew my muse would need it for January!

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express-yourself-2-blogBTW, that “star” by the crescent moon is Venus.

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express-yourself-4-blog

express-yourself-5-blog

Be sure to visit PJ’s A ‘lil Hoohaa on January 31st and see what others expressed this month.

 

One Word for 2017

This ended up being a long post, so grab a cuppa and get comfy. I hope to see you all at the end.

Back in 2015 I started choosing One Word for the new year instead of those pesky resolutions that are always broken before the snow thaws in the spring. In 2015 Entrepreneur was facing a cancer diagnosis and my One Word was Fearless (fear less). I believe it helped me focus during that time and continues to be a reminder today.

In 2016, my One Word was Present. I wanted to focus on trying to be more engaged in life, physically, instead of living vicariously through today’s social-media-technology-addicted world. Did I succeed? Overall, I’d say I had mixed results. I did really make an effort to not be obsessed with my phone at the expense of enjoying the moment. Some days were very successful…some were colossal FAILS. But it did make me realize just how easy it is to get sucked into living a virtual life instead of a real one. Last year helped me try and find a balance and use social media more sparingly. Plus, taking care of grandchildren doesn’t lend itself to distractions! In fact, I found myself so present in their well being, work and teaching that a lot of other things took a back seat….like blogging. Which also explains why this post is more than two weeks late.

This year, my One Word is Joy.

I’ve become painfully aware that, while I enjoy a lot of activities and have had many happy moments, a deep feeling of Joy is something that has been elusive the past few years.

Most people would define Joy as feeling extremely happy or something that gives great pleasure. But I think I disagree. Happiness and pleasure are temporary…and most of the time they’re dependent on external influences. Once the source of the happiness is gone, then what? I tend to go in search of the next happy or pleasurable moment. So my life becomes a string of happy/pleasurable experiences…or not.

No, I think Joy is something completely different. To quote CS Lewis,

Joy, must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and Pleasure. Joy has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again…I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world.  But Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is.

And, oh baby, is it ever hard to find Joy in the world today. That is, if Joy is defined as something tangible and measurable. And, who doesn’t equate Joy with the feeling of satisfaction and happiness when our world is all good? But, what happens when our world falls apart? What happens when we suffer bitter disappointment, unbearable loss or extreme suffering? But, let’s not be so fatalistic. What about the days when those technology devices we are addicted to don’t work seamlessly? What about when the basement floods or the (pick an appliance) breaks? What about when, after picking up after a toddler, we turn around to feel like a tornado went through the house right behind us? What about the never-ending stress of worrying about your children’s welfare? We certainly are not happy campers during those times. How is it possible to still feel Joy when it seems as though Life’s purpose is to exhaust us into submission?

I suppose it depends on your worldview. Happy and pleasurable moments come and go. If I base my mental well-being on only the things that go right in my world I’m probably not going to be very enjoyable to be around much of the time.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
~James 1:2-3

So easy to say, so hard to live. Many times I wish God would not test my faith so much.

If I base Joy on having a worry-free, prosperity-filled life….well, let’s just say I’m setting myself up for an epic FAIL. No, I believe Joy is something felt deep in the soul. Something apart from the temporary warm fuzzies of pleasure and happiness. It’s something intangible that grounds the mind, despite the circumstance. Joy settles deep in the heart and soul, creating peace and a strength that makes a person feel they can endure the worst life will throw.

My goal this year is to be more aware of when Joy speaks to me; to pay more attention to my inner voice so I’m not distracted by the temporary elation of pleasure and happy moments when everything is going my way; to be able to feel calm amidst the irritations, inconveniences and injustices of this life.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
~Romans 15:13

And just to begin this journey with a positive attitude, here’s a photo of a recent instance where Joy made an appearance.

meridia-sunset
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
~Psalm 16:11

December Photo Challenge: Tis the Season

photo blog challenge

Imagine my surprise when I realized December was almost over and I hadn’t written one word here since Dec. 7th! And now, it’s time again for PJ’s monthly photo challenge over at a ‘lil hoohaa. This month’s theme is, appropriately, Tis the Season.

Tis the Season for many things around here. Tis the Season for losing my mind with the holidayz…which can put a person in a daze. Tis the Season for birthdays…The Golfer and my Mama. Tis the Season for winter activities…bonfires and snowballs. And, Tis the Season for family.

So, here’s my five:

Tis the Season 1
Tis the Season for Christmas! This was the first year Twix was big enough to be the designated tree topper….much to Peanut’s dismay.
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Tis the Season 2
Tis the Season for Ho Ho Ho Hats. Last year, Twix was not very cooperative with the Santa hat….or any hat for that matter. This year, she couldn’t get enough of wearing it. Peanut is an old pro at this so capturing this shot was much easier this year.
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Tis the Season 3
Tis the Season to burn the brush pile in the backyard. This annual event usually takes place on the first snow so we don’t set the neighborhood on fire. Coincidentally, this year’s bonfire fell during the time when The Floridian golfer daughter was back in town for the holidays. Neighbors are invited so they don’t freak out when they see the flames. We try to make it a time to gather friends and family for “s’more” food and fun. 🙂
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Tis the Season 4
Tis the Season for a birthday for The Golfer from Florida. And since she was home, it was also time to try to capture both daughters and grand girls since they were all in one place.
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Tis the Season 5
And, finally, Tis the Season for family. A rare occurrence when we’re all together in one place at the same time.
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There’s my five for December. Don’t forget to visit PJ’s place on December 31st to see the other seasonal festivities.

 

To the moon…and back

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…He was almost too sleepy to think anymore. Then he looked beyond the thorn bushes, out into the big dark night. Nothing could be further than the sky.
“I love you right up to the MOON,” he said, and closed his eyes.
“Oh, that’s far,” said Big Nutbrown Hare.”That’s is very far.”

Big Nutbrown Hare settled Little Nutbrown Hare into his bed of leaves. He leaned over and kissed him good night. 

Then he lay down close by and whispered with a smile,
“I love you right up to the moon-AND BACK.”

~Guess How Much I Love You, by Sam McBratney

My third quote for the 3 Quote Challenge is more of a passage from a well-loved children’s book titled Guess How Much I Love You. And last month’s super moon was more than happy to help me out with this one.

Guess how much I love you?….in the literal sense of the book it’s a conversation between a child and a parent; a question and answer to reinforce the bond that happens between those that genuinely care for each other.

But what does loving someone to the moon and back really mean? The distance between the earth and moon is almost 500,000 miles. If I wanted to really convey my love, wouldn’t I say I love them “to infinity and beyond”? Yeah, I could and it would probably more accurately represent my feelings.

And why to the moon and not the sun or stars or other planets? Seems a bit short-sighted.

It does until you really stop and think about it. The closest planet to our earthly home, the moon has always been romanticized and the subject of deep mystery and intrigue. Waxing and waning…new and full…the moon’s cycles represent eternity and an endless cycle of life. She lights up the sky, yet not by her own power….but great power she has upon ocean tides that can wield unparalleled force in nature.

And to a wee one who doesn’t understand the logical or statistical nuances of the distance to the moon, “to the moon” is an unimaginable distance to travel.

So the phrase now takes on a new meaning….I love you more than you can possibly imagine, with great power, and endlessly for my whole life!

Mystery solved.