Seasons

treeseasons

Seasons change.  With that change, there can be pain, there can be hurt, there can be heartache.  We may experience anxiety and trepidation as we sense the impending transition.  Our instinct may be to shy away or retreat to our own comfortable space, where things are safe.  Is that what we actually need to do though?

What if God is calling us against doing just that?  What if He is calling us out of our comfort zones, calling us out from our caves on the cliffs?  What if, instead of retreating in fear, He wants us to lean in with hopeful expectations of what He can and will do?  At the very least, what if we lean in with curiosity and faith – trusting that He really does have everything under control?

That unknown though.  It can be a scary place.  We, generally speaking, like control and to know what’s going to happen next.  We want to know what happens at the end of the book, the last part of the movie.  The unknown is a blank void, the loudest quiet place in the middle of the vast sea – creatures and God knows what else lurking beneath the surface.

Color me guilty.  It’s easy for me to deal with anyone else’s confrontation all day long.  Mine?  No, thank you.  Hard pass.  Depending on the situation, I would rather slink down and let things play out without my intervention or involvement.  That, or I abandon the situation altogether.

To clarify… my lack of involvement shouldn’t be mistaken for apathy or laziness.  Again, it’s quite the opposite and stems from feelings of being overwhelmed and not knowing what will happen next.  I might mess up.  I might fail or fall.  Someone might see that I am *gasp* less than perfect.  My true self may end up being less than what others perceive.  Letting others in and being vulnerable creates space for me to be rejected and abandoned as has happened MANY times before.  I freeze.  I retreat.  I lean out.

This is wrong.  I am one who craves accountability.  I crave knowing that the opportunity to take on new challenges, new roles, to lead and learn and step up…  Why then do I retreat?  It is such a conflicting place to be.

Leaning-Tree

The answer is easy.  My fear is bigger than my faith when I lean out and don’t heed His call or His word.  “But… I’m a ‘good Christian’, right?”  Sure… whatever that means.  I’m also human.  We’ve all had situations we’ve faced where leaning out has felt safer than leaning in.

That couldn’t be further than the truth though.  Our greatest safety net is held by the One who holds the whole universe in His very hands.  When we lean out, we make more room for the world and for ourselves to take control and make mistakes instead of giving it all to our perfect and sovereign God.  Leaning out leaves room for doubt.  Lean in.  It sounds easy, but why then is it so difficult to actually do?

be still

The Bible tells us to “be still” and know that He is God.  It doesn’t say to shy away, retreat, or to take matters into our own hands.  We are told to trust, to listen.  Do we question God?  Sure, at times.  We’re human.  Do we doubt God?  Maybe.  That’s a toughie.  There’s a BIG difference between questioning and doubting God.

Regardless, this is where faith can step in and make a difference, if we choose to let it.  Yes, we have to invite faith into our lives.  It doesn’t just happen naturally.  Just as we have to open our hearts to Jesus, we must do the same with faith.

It isn’t always easy, the path can be a difficult one to follow – but trusting Him with our lives here on Earth makes way for an eternal life full of unimaginable joy.  So, while I can guarantee it won’t always be simple, it will always be worth it.  Give faith a chance and lean in.  Step out of your isolated caves and shadows.  Lean into His love and boundless grace.

The seasons will change.  Transitions will occur.  Things of this earth are impermanent.  One thing remains the same though… God.  His word, his love for us.  He is our constant in an ever-changing world.  That is something to count on.

Lean in.  Be still.

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Canine Cancer Bites

Kodi’s tumor with mild rupture on September 23, 2016

I hate cancer.  All forms of it. It’s touched our family in a bit of a different way.  Both of our dogs were diagnosed with cancer on the same day almost 2 1/2 years ago.  Kiara was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma and Kodi with a soft tissue sarcoma.  Kiara passed away almost a year after her diagnosis on April 27, 2015.  

Kodi has hopefully got one week left with us at the time of this post.  We’ve scheduled his final appointment for October 1, 2016 at 9:00 am.  How bizarre is it to think that this time next week, he’s gone.  We had his home visit THE DAY we moved into our home.  He’s literally been in our home as long as we have.  

But it’s time.  In addition to cancer, he suffers from Cauda Equina and this spinal/neurologic disorder is also taking a toll on him.  He’s lost a bit of himself and it’s only progressing faster and faster.  He has good days, but his bad days are rough.  He has had issues with potty time for awhile, but he now has some mobility concerns.  He gets stuck and can’t back out.  He slips and can’t get up at times without help.  He pants constantly and often is confused.  These are all neurological symptoms from Cauda Equina.  It’s a horrible disease that I didn’t know about until our Kodi. 

His cancer is of course an issue as well.  The tumor continues to grow and has had a couple of small ruptures.  He currently had another (see above) that is a bit bigger and is more of a bloody drainage than before.  He doesn’t appear to be bothered by it, but at the same time – I look at him and wonder how he isn’t, you know.  It’s hard (to me, at least) to discern the amount of pain he’s in.  

So, if not before, Saturday it is.  We’ll send our very first husky across what many pet owners call the Rainbow Bridge.  It’s very surreal and difficult to think about as it brings back a lot of emotion about losing Kiara, but again – it’s time.  He deserves to go with dignity and as painful as it is for us, it’s our duty to help him.  

Soon, he and Kiara will be together again – wooing and playing together as they always did.  This time, they’ll both have no more pain and no more illness and will be looking down on us from above.  

Kodi, enjoying some outside time September 21, 2016

National Dog Day 2016!  

Kodi with his prayer blanket!

Happy National Dog Day 2016, y’all!  This is our Siberian Husky, Kodi.  He’ll be 11 years old in November.  We’ve had him 10 of those years on September 1.  We rescued him from Siberian Husky Assist Rescue, located out of Bristol, TN.  I lovingly call him my Google puppy.  On a whim, I searched for husky rescues located in or near my area of Virginia.  SHAR immediately popped up and this guy was listed as up for adoption!  

Kodi, 10 months

I mean, how could I resist?  We submitted our adoption application, had our home visit, and the rest was history!
The older puppy stage was a very, how do I say it… “active” time for us. Lol!  Kodi had that puppy energy for sure!  He ate part of a mini fridge, including a half gallon of milk, pound of lunch meat, and a whole package of cheese with wrappers.  

He also very much enjoyed rice cakes and was an apparent pro at counter surfing.  One time, he placed apple cinnamon rice cakes throughout the house, including a whole one inside my pillowcase.  I did not know there was one inside there until he kept coming up to me and sticking his nose at the pillow.  He was quite pushy about it!  

Little stinker.

Four months after we opened our home and hearts to him, we fostered adopted Kiara.  They were together until Kiara passed away last year due to hemangiosarcoma.  She was my BABY.  

My beautiful baby, Kiara,on the morning she left he earth because of cancer.


Back to Kodi today.  

He was diagnosed on the same day in 2014 as Kiara with a soft tissue sarcoma.  He has a very large tumor on his hind leg that is running the risk of rupturing.  It’s a “contained cancer” as we were told a couple years back.  We could amputate his leg and the problem would be solved.

However…

Kodi also has a spinal condition called Cauda Equina.  This condition compresses the lower part of his spine, which results in physical and neurological issues.  He slips quite a bit now, which could be attributed to both illnesses honestly.  Getting up is hard for him.  I’ve had to physically pull him up at times.  He usually just allows himself to fall in order to lie down.  He has major issues with his bladder and bowels.  He can go outside, do nothing, come inside and… You can figure it out.   We do have potty pads that he tries to aim for.  He just physically doesn’t know when to go.  Point being, we didn’t want to subject him to added physical stress on his spine from losing a leg in combination with Cauda Equina.  

I gave him a bath yesterday.  It was likely his last bath.  This brought back all the emotion of when Kiara was at the end of her time on earth with us.  He didn’t stand a lot of the time.  Getting traction was too hard.  At one point, he actually had a BM in the tub.  I didn’t know it until my foot touched it, which scared me to pieces!  I honestly think he still doesn’t know it happened.  

I’ve called and scheduled an appointment at our vet for next Saturday at 11:45 for what the receptionist called a “quality of life” examination.  This is a nice, respectable, professional way of putting it.  His appointment is with the same doctor who helped Kiara.  She’ll be very honest with us.  If she feels that it’s time, we’ll say goodbye to our first dog, our first pet, our first furbaby as a married couple.  If she feels that he has some time left, he’ll come home and continue to be loved and cared for just as he’s always been.  

I broke the news to our 4 year old this morning.  Yes, I talked to him about it.  Children understand far more than we give them credit for.  I told Kavan that Kodi would be going to the doctor next Saturday.   His face sunk.  “Is the doctor going to die Kodi?  No!”  So, we talked about it.  I put it in the best terms I could for him.  

I haven’t told Keelyn (almost 7) yet.  Not before school.  We’ve talked about it before and it affects her on a deeper level.  We’ll talk this weekend.

It’s not easy.  Is it ever?  I doubt it.  He still eats, still RUNS when he’s taken out.  It’s the other times, the hard times, that are coming more frequently now.  He’s hurting.  He doesn’t show it all the time, but I think he’s starting to feel pain.  He sleeps more and withdraws much more now (though he’s always been a bit of a loner).  He hasn’t howled or talked since the night before Kiara left us.  Their last woos were together.

Here are a couple pictures from where Kodi was a guest of honor at the Smyth County Bark for Life.  We were able to bring awareness to and education of canine cancer to others!

Rockstar Kodi serving as an advocate to bring awareness to canine cancer at the Smyth County Bark for Life event May 2016!

My handsome boy!


Isn’t he beautiful?!

Here he is at home, just yesterday!  I had to help him up…  Look at those sad eyes.

Kodi , hanging out in his kennel.

So, some find it silly… But be in prayer for us as we encounter yet another life change.  Pray for peace and discernment for us as we meet with his veterinarian next week.  Pray for the kids, that they have understanding of what is going on and that they are able to remember all the fun times we’ve had with our Kodi-O!  Okay, all the times he’s stolen their food… He’s a food bandit!

Still, we love our Kodi aka Kodiak, Kodiak Beauregard, Kodi-O, Boo Boo, Boo Boo Bear, Bubba, Bubby, Ko Ko and will do so for all the days he has left with us.  


He’ll live on forever in our hearts.

Finding God in Garbage Bags

Well, I bet that title caught your attention!  Good.

We all have a story of some sort.  It becomes the background music for who we presently are and who we are to be.  Hopefully, we acknowledge God’s presence in our story and see how He has woven Himself into the intricate plot-line.

It’s a chart topping blockbuster of a story-line too!

My story is different than yours.  Yours is different than mine.  That’s the beauty of God’s great and awesome plan.  What is seemingly a big mess of jumbled dissonance is actually a beautiful song filled with harmony to God’s ears.

I was talking with some WONDERFUL sisters today after our bible study at church.  Garbage bags and suitcases became a topic of discussion.  ((Hey, I didn’t say we weren’t having a random conversation!))

 God… You are amazing!  You’ve gotta know that!  

My heart became burdened to tell this part of my past, which is all really HIStory if you really think about it.  I’m an open book about my past.  It’s shaped me into who I am and has brought me ridiculously close to the Creator of the universe.  So, here it goes…

Without divulging all the details in this post (because I’m not writing a book… yet!  Ask me in person – happy to share!), growing up with my biological mom was rough.  Hello understatement!  I lived mainly with her, but occasionally with my grandparents, friends, or whoever would take me in.  Her illness dictated her ability (or inability) to care for me.

Okay, so at the age of 15, enough things had happened in regard to mom’s illness for me to leave.  This has happened before and honestly things were relatively calmer at this point than at others in my life – though that was just evidence of my skewed image of normality and stability at the time.

However, this time had a different outcome.  My boyfriend at the time (who became more like a brother, which is really weird) of course knew about my mom (and stayed!) and all of the challenges living with her brought for me.  I went to church with him and his parents, who were AMAZING people.

They saw it fit to get a lawyer and were actually going to seek custody of me.  Instead, another couple that went to church with us volunteered as tribute (ha!) and stepped up to the (big!) challenge of taking me in.  I knew Cathy from being the most awesome lunch lady at school and her husband Phil from church, who sang and has an amazing voice.

They also lived (literally) right across the road from my boyfriend and his parents, so it was a win win.  HA!

But how in the world was I going to leave my mom?  I mean, yes – I WANTED to, but how could I safely leave?  She was in the middle of a psychotic episode, for lack of better term, and I had to be careful.

So… one evening – my boyfriend came over and was talking with my mom in the living room while I went to my room.

I just got a little nervous even just recalling that evening.

I had some black kitchen garbage bags and started bagging everything up.  Most all of my belongings fit into 5 or 6 garbage bags.  I loaded everything up and handed it out my window to my former guardian’s daughter, my sister Leslie, and she took them to her car.

When we finished, we broke the news to mom.  I feel horrible, but I can’t remember what was said or how she reacted.  I just knew I was done and I was gone.

So, that was that.

I moved in with Cathy and Phil at 15 years old and started over, almost quite literally.

It was difficult and intimidating and insanely risky.  I didn’t do it on my own though; that’s for sure.  God was with me EVERY. STEP. OF. THE. WAY.  (Isaiah 41:10)  God was with me this night and so many others when harm could have VERY easily overtaken me.  He was with me when mom left me in a diaper and took me outside during a snowstorm, when she left me in the car during a severe thunderstorm/tornado weather and wouldn’t let anyone bring me in, when she overdosed (and I found her) when I was 5, when she intentionally gave me food poisoning, throughout all of the abuse – both emotional and definitely physical, and through the insanely embarrassing things that would happen with mom’s behavior during a psychotic episode.  He was with me when mom’s boyfriend attempted awful things (but never succeeded in physically harming me).  He was there when mom stabbed a butcher’s knife into my door yelling at me to get up.  He’s been there through all the pain of feeling alone and unloved and unwanted.  He was there through SO. MUCH. HURT.  He was there through SO. MUCH.

That’s just the “mom stuff”.  That’s just SOME of the big stuff that’s happened in 29 (30 next month!) years of my life.

But what I PRAY that people understand is that God isn’t just there through the big stuff.  He’s there in the quiet.  In the stillness.  He is always there, looking out for us.  He’s in the seemingly meaningless garbage bags that we fill with our life and our belongings and He wants to be there.  He CARES people.  He cares.  He WANTS to be involved.  Nothing is unimportant to Him.  He lives in each one of us.  Are we wiling to WELCOME Him there and care for and about Him?

I am the Phoenix

I am the phoenix

Rising above the ashes of my past

Stretching far away from the hurt and pain

The trials and errors of what’s been done.

I am the phoenix

Reborn in spite of abuse and neglect

To find new meaning, new purpose, new life.

I am the phoenix

Refusing to relive the misery

Of being condemned and forced into silence

Putting on a façade that “all is well”.

I am the phoenix

Reaching and yearning for stability

To grasp and hold onto a thread of hope.

I am the phoenix

Relishing in the discovery that

I can create, can choose, can mold

My life’s destiny for which I was meant.

I am the phoenix

Recognizing my life’s worth and intent

To serve and love without hesitation.

I am the phoenix

Realizing that nothing is permanent,

That we are all on a continuum

Of life, of struggles, of growth, of pain.

I am the phoenix

Resolving to stand for myself and others,

Vowing to advocate for small voices.

I am the phoenix.

I am beautiful,

I am powerful.

I am strong,

I am wise.

I am mythical,

I am logical.

I cry.

I heal.

I rise.

(02/2013)

Parenting: Transforming big fear into bigger faith

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Soak that in for a minute.

“Let your faith be BIGGER than your fear.”

When my friend JUST posted this moments ago on her facebook page; I thought, “PERFECT”!  God’s so cool with His impeccable timing.  If we listen for that still, small voice… It’s there.  We just have to slow downlook, and listen.  Thank you friend for posting this!

“Let your faith be BIGGER than your fear.”

In order to allow our faith to be BIGGER, we have to figure out what our fear is.  What’s yours?  Sure, we all have the general same fears.  Put a random spider near me and I’ll throw down more advanced martial arts moves than Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Chuck Norris could ever achieve in their lifetime of martial arts studies!

Nah, I’m not talking about that kind of fear.

I’m talking about the REALLY scary stuff.

You know… like “Will I ever feel good enough?”  “How can I provide for my family?”  “Am I doing the right things as a parent?”

That last one.  “Am I doing the right things as a parent?”  Ouch.  This one is a biggie for me.  Again, I’ll refer back to previous blog posts for a bit more information why it’s a biggie.

Of course I hope to do the right things.  The best things.

But I think there’s a better way to phrase that question to where it’s not even a question at all.

Let’s try this on for size.

“God, help me.  Help me seek YOUR will as I make parenting decisions.  Give me peace and a calm, loving, and forgiving heart at all times.  Our lives are in YOUR hands.  Thank you for trusting me to be a parent and for blessing me with this precious gift of life.  Thank you for showing me what a heart of sacrifice looks like.  I love you.  Amen”

Much better.  Lengthier, but better.

God wants us to call out to Him.  He’s here through the awesome and not-so-awesome times.  He’s cool like that.

Parenting can be messy.

I’m talkin’ red spaghetti sauce in the hair, up the nose, on the wall, on the white dog’s head because she has zero depth perception when the kid drops food kind of messy.

How’s that for some imagery, y’all?

It also hurts.

Consistency is very important in parenting in more ways than one.  Kids crave it.  They aren’t going to say, “please mom, serve me some more consistency please”, but they need it.  Consistency is more than establishing routines.  It establishes safety, security, healthy attachment.

Then it should be easy, right?

WRONG.

Our kids’ hearts get sad.  We get sad.  It’s easy to give in.  Appease the situation momentarily.  It really goes back to the whole “give a man a fish…” proverb.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Yep.

Teaching.  Scaffolding.  They go hand in hand.  Model the behavior you wish to see.  Your children will build themselves up and learn to self-regulate their own emotions and behaviors.  It’s very cool to see.  Not always easy to do.

Okay, so why all the parenting talk?

This past week has been rough in some ways.  Not all, but some.  Again, there’s that optimist comin’ out!

We have had super frigid temps and snow, so we have had several days together at home all together.  NOT complaining.  I love being at home with my family and would do it full-time if able to do so financially.  Of course, this brings about a few stressors.  Cabin fever.  Issues with returning to daycare after lots of family time.  Plus, when there are other stressful situations, we sometimes have associated feelings that cloud our thoughts and slam that faith door shut.

Those who REALLY know me know that I’ve often had to be a parent to my own biological mom, both as a child and much more frequently as of recent.  I spoke to my former guardian who received a message from my mom (mom doesn’t have my phone number).  Mom needed assistance as she has needed before.  Without giving every detail… it was one of those give a fish or teach to fish situations.  Unfortunately, she hasn’t been able to be taught this particular life skill and it has been very seriously detrimental to her well-being.  She’s only 49 and is not in the best mental or physical health.  I advised my former guardian to call DHR (Department of Human Resources), which is like DSS (Department of Social Services) in Virginia for those in Alabama.  I told her that I would make a follow-up call.

I work in mental health.  I know that it is historically more how do I say… tedious for DHR/DSS to get involved with adults than it would be for children.  So many guidelines, criteria, etc. for agency involvement.

So, my former guardian called.  I was given the name and number of the APS worker assigned to mom.  I called immediately and left a message.  After a bit of phone tag on Thursday, we finally connected and discussed mom’s situation in depth.  Again, I can explain more in person but out of respect, will not post all details online.  I explained my fears for her well-being in regard to falls, health issues, lack of self-advocacy skills, and poor decision-making ability.

That was enough to have a case opened.

That was fast.

Good, I know.

But think about this…

I’ve had to make these calls for my clients.  It’s not an enjoyable phone call, but is necessary when someone’s well-being is in question.  I get that.

But having to call about your own parent?

Ouch.

images

Yep, like that pain that happens when you rip a band-aid off.

Only worse.

It’s just one of those things in nature that shouldn’t have to happen, ever.

I cried and cried.

I’m pretty sure I lost a contact while doing so, because when I tried to take them out later that night… I discovered one was just not there.  I did get a really awesome red eye effect though because I kept trying to get the non-existent contact out.

My heart ached.

But… I HAD to have faith.  I HAD to have my amazing, awesome God hold my hand through calling the DHR caseworker and talking with her.  I was blessed to have family (husband/former guardian) support.  But what I NEEDED was to have FAITH.  That amazing, reassuring feeling that can only come from God to let me know that HE’S GOT THIS!  Mom’s phones are out of minutes, so I couldn’t even let her know.

My heart aches because I know my mom values her independence like whoa.  It’s not likely that it’ll get fully taken away, but I don’t know how the whole investigation will turn out.  I have to have FAITH.

This was Thursday.

I also had a VERY stressful work email that I quite frankly couldn’t deal with at the time since I had just called protective services on my own mother.

Keelyn, our 5 year old daughter, had a rough day back to daycare.  Again, she had been home since Friday evening.  She likes being at home.  She enjoys school too though.  Anyway, she had been pretty upset all morning long.  I’m so thankful that she has loving, caring teachers to be patient with her and who are so concerned and just flat out awesome.

I know it had to do with being at home, but that doesn’t make it easier.

I talked to her midday on the phone and encouraged her to find something positive about school and let her know that it’s hard for mommy and daddy to go back to work after being at home for extra days too.  We discussed what she could do when upset, etc.

So, I get home and wait for the rest of the crew to get here.

Keelyn immediately asks to play with my phone.  I’m cool with electronics and all, but in moderation.  We’ve not really moderated it a ton BEFORE…  So this was a big upset in her sweet little heart.  I offered options, nope.  Even said “no”.  Nope.

It was heart-wrenching.

She was upset, but again… moderation is so important.  As mentioned way above, so is consistency.  No giving in at this particular moment.  She also knows we have a sort of “3 strike rule”.  3 strikes for non-awesome behavior and no TV.  Well, that happened.  She was trying to grab at her TV and it became an issue of safety.  It’s a small TV, but could still hurt a foot if dropped on anyone, so I took it and put it in the van.

That went well.  Not.

2 1/2 hours of crying, yelling, screaming.  No.  Shrieking.

That was new.

She’s so very sensitive.

My husband tried calming her.  Nope.

It was VERY crystal clear that we were in this storm for the long haul.

I cried right along with her a lot of the time.  I kept my voice calm, because really… when does yelling REALLY help?  I mean like really, REALLY help in these kinds of situations?

We finally ended the night by me holding my phone and allowing her to watch 3 videos right before bed.  Needless to say, she was tired.

This was a moment where I felt in constant prayer.  I NEEDED my awesome God to be beside me because my girl was very sad and I wanted to APPROPRIATELY make it right.

He encouraged me to ride out the storm.  I called on Him when needed and He was there each time to help me navigate those tumultuous waters.  (Thank you God!)

It was a very tough evening.

Allowing Keelyn to express how she felt (safely), while knowing mommy and daddy were both there for her was the best thing that we could have done.

No judgment on her.  Just freely allowing her to safely express her feelings.  She needed.it.

The cuddles and talk at the end of the night were all worth it.

I could have been more antagonistic and could have yelled (I’ve been guilty of this and HATE IT!), could have more easily given in to letting her have my phone, iPad, or her TV.

How would that help?

Where would that put my faith?

It makes my daily walk all about ME instead of me learning to trust HIM.

That makes my faith self-centered instead of Christ-centered.

The result of the situation would be more about what I accomplished and what I could control instead of surrendering and submitting to Him.  My daughter would have seen anger instead of acceptance.  Hatred instead of love.

Pretty much the opposite of what God is and what God does.

Thanking Him for those tough lessons can be humbling and it probably should be.  Was Jesus’ life here on earth easy?  Nope.

Faith can be messy.  Much like parenting.

The cool thing?  God is always there to help us wipe up the messes of life.  Huh… He’s like the Quilted, Quicker, Picker-Upper.  Cool!  We just have to trust Him to be able to help us and know that it takes crazy faith to know that He can handle the biggest of messes, the scariest of fears.  Another cool thing?  He wants us to learn and grow.  He’s there when we have our tantrums and is that calm, loving parent.

It’s true though.

Think about it!

I leave you with this song.  “Always” by Seventh Day Slumber.  It’s beautiful.  Though it’s more geared toward a father/son relationship… it is EASILY relevant for a mother/son, mother/daughter, caregiver/child relationship.

Even when I’m far away
I will dream of you tonight
I will pray to God to bless your life
Always, always
As you grow and start to change
I will love you just the same
Always, always

And when you feel like giving up
I will walk you through the pain
And when you feel like life’s too much
Remember Jesus is your strength

“Always” by Seventh Day Slumber

Guess who’s back? Back again. Mojo’s back. Tell a friend.

I’ve been feelin’ bloggy for quite some time.  I’d get the urge to write and know exactly what I wanted to write about, but life happens and I didn’t make time for writing.  Now that I have… total mind blank.

I COULD start off by making excuses for why it’s been nearly a year that I’ve written, but I’m not.  🙂

I COULD do an update of everything that’s happened since the last time I’ve written.  Nah.  Wanna know?  Call me, email me, message me, whatever.  Most of y’all who know me know that I’m pretty transparent with my life.  🙂  Basically… it’s a lot of boring health stuff.  Blah.  Blah.  Blah.

So… we’ll just start with a post from January up until this past week.  I’ll do a separate post.

Bear with me… it’s been awhile.  My bloggin’ fingers are rusty!

SO…

January.  Starts out fine…  Ends fine.  That’s the short and sweet.

That’s really the story of my life though, huh?  (The answer is yes.  Yes, it is.)

See the title of the blog.  You’ll notice a word:  optimist.

In the middle of a situation, sure… I get stressed, feel negatively, etc.  However, I know that there could always be something worse happening and I have FAITH that all things will work out well.  🙂  See me or previous posts for more personal details as to why this philosophy holds true in my life.

So, in November, I started a different position at my agency.  I transferred from being an ID Support Coordinator to being an Outpatient Clinician (counselor, therapist, whatever clients feel like calling me at the moment).  January was really the first month that I felt like I was getting into the groove of things.

Then doctor’s appointments happened.  Womp womp.

Neurology was fine really.  My Vitamin D is still low, even with daily supplements.  So now I have a daily and monthly supplement to take.  Bottom line question from my neuro is “Is it MS or not?”.  He thinks not due to the lesion pattern revealed on my MRI last year.

Now for ENT.  I had a follow-up neck/lymph node ultrasound early January which ended up showing that my submandibular lymph nodes are getting bigger.  At my appointment, a complete excision was deemed necessary of one particular node.  Fine by me.  If there’s any chance of anything ugly bad going on… get it out.  The sooner the better.  I had surgery on January 26.  Man… I did NOT want to wake up from anesthesia.  I felt like once I woke up even the slightest, the hospital was evicting me.  I just wanted to nap.  HA!  I came home complete with stitches and a drainage tube (eww).  My daughter Keelyn (5) said that it looked like I had a worm coming out of my neck.  Thank you daughter.

The fam (dogs included!) and I stayed at my in-laws for the recovery process so I could have adult supervision during the first part of recovery, lol!  🙂  It went great!  Potato soup FTW!

Biopsy results revealed NO CANCER!  Huzzah and yay!  Why were my nodes enlarged?  I don’t know.  But I do know that it isn’t cancer… so again, that’s a WIN in my book!

See, told ya’ the month ended well for me!

Kids?  They’re awesome as usual.  Kavan moved up to a different room at daycare.  I found out the date for Keelyn’s kindergarten registration (whoa!).  My awesome gingerkids are getting bigger!

Shannon’s doing great.  I’m very proud of him.  🙂

We’re both pretty active in church.  He’s doing video many weeks for our Sunday service and is going to be learning to do sound.  I occasionally sing with the worship team.  This was one struggle that was pretty big for me this month.  I struggle with wicked bad self-confidence and this is one area in particular that is a huge struggle for me.  I often wonder why/how I’m on the team and never feel quite like I’m good enough to be next to such AMAZINGLY TALENTED people.  It’s like, there’s THEM and then there’s me.  LOL!  Silly?  Maybe.  Sad.  Sure.  Hey, I’m just being honest.  However, it is totally cool to get to know the team and learn more about them!  🙂  I love looking out into the congregation and seeing their sweet worshipping hearts.  It makes my own heart feel so full.  🙂  I’m incredibly thankful and fortunate for the opportunity to do this and for the “talent” (if you want to call it that) given to me.  🙂

Ahh… writing.  I’ve missed it.  It’s always been a passion of mine since I was a child.  🙂  I need to actually MAKE TIME to do some sort of writing like this AT LEAST once weekly.  It’s an awesome stress relief!

Ooh!  Speaking of which… I invested in a super awesome planner this month.  I’ve been stalking Erin Condren Life Planners for like 4 years.  So, I bit the bullet and bought one!  LOVE it.  L O V E it.  Decorating it with washi tape and stickers sounds juvenile, but it’s awesome for visual learners!  It’s wonderful stress relief too.  🙂

Look!  I kept the post under 1,000 words.  That’s a record!  🙂

Before I forget… I have an Instagram account that’s active now too.  Check it.  @planningmojo  I can’t get into Twitter.  Sorry.  I’ll stick to fb, IG, and here.

Okay, time to publish and write a more focused (maybe) post.  If anyone has read… thanks a ton!  xoxo

MRI with surprise contrast and results

So, that was fun!  I showed up to the imaging center for my MRI and was surprised with having to get contrast dye placed in my veins.  It was not near as bad as CT contrast!  I was in a closed MRI.  It wasn’t bad… I just kept my eyes closed.  I fell asleep twice.  The noises were loud whirring, jackhammery, mechanically vascular sounds that somehow calmed me.  Truth be told, I have way more going on in my life to worry about this.  Avoidance?  Nah.  Apathy?  Not by definition.  We just won’t go there right now.

Anyway…

So today I received my results.  The big concern was a pituitary gland tumor.  Yikes.  Mostly easily treatable, but yikes nonetheless.

And the verdict is…

NO PITUITARY ADENOMA!  Huzzah and yay all around!

But wait, there’s more!  And I promise I’ll get to that!

A few people remember me getting an endoscopy after some violent tummy trouble in November 2012.  My doc was sure it was my gall bladder.  I had an ultrasound, HIDA scan, and the endoscopy.  Gall bladder = fine.  However, I had crazy H Pylori running around my stomach, gastritis (probably atrophic according to the doc), GERD, and wait for it… Barrett’s Esophagus.

Say whaaaat?

The only heartburn I felt was twice while pregnant with Kavan.  I don’t think I ever got heartburn with Keelyn.  I’m a “silent sufferer” and my LES (lower esophageal sphincter) doesn’t care to work so much, if at all.  Barrett’s is a “result” of GERD where the esophageal lining is hurt by the reflux enough to change its structure to be more similar of stomach lining.  This helps protect the esophagus in a sense, but also makes it susceptible to some nasties that won’t be named but starts with the letter “C”.  Greater chance of it – but not like it’s gonna happen for sure.

That rabbit trail was brought to you by the point of:  Amanda has had testing before for one thought illness/problem, but that once thought illness/problem wasn’t the culprit.

See, I told you I’d get back to the MRI!

So, those results.  Not what I expected.  That’s a good and not so good thing.  Again, my energy is focused elsewhere – so that’s “good”, right?

The following is the actual interpretation from the radiologist at the imaging center.

Currently no intracranial mass, mass effect, or extra-axial collections are identified.  The ventricles are symmetric about the midline.

There are several punctate foci (lesions) of increased signal on the long TR sequences in the white matter.  These findings are fairly nonspecific with fairly broad differential considerations (well, that’s fairly vague) and can be seen in patients with migraines.  There is a small focus of porencephaly (WHAT THE WHAT?!?!  Look it up…!) in the right frontal lobe in a subcortical location with minimal surrounding hyperintensity consistent with gliosis (again… SAY WHAT?) and this is likely related to some previous brain insult.  No mass effect or edema or abnormal contrast enhancement are demonstrated in association.  
I appreciate no evidence for any acute infarction or cerebrovascular distribution infarction  No significant areas or foci of abnormal contrast enhancement are demonstrated.  You appreciate it?  Me too buddy, me too.  Also, infarction is a word that always makes me giggle.  It’s fun to say – or think.
The pituitary demonstrates homogeneous enhancement.  No focal pituitary lesions are demonstrated.  The pituitary stalk is midline.  I appreciate no supra or parasellar lesions at this time.  Aww, I’m appreciated!  The cavernous sinuses symmetrically opacify.
Now, here’s where things get a bit interesting again…

Evaluation of the paranasal sinuses reveals the right sphenoid sinus to be nearly completely opacified.  (Oh good…)  Some of the material within the sinuses at T1 and T2 hypointense are consistent with inspissated mucous (Gross!), though fungal sinusitis could have this appearance.  The walls of the sinuses appear grossly intact.  There is mild mucosal thickening in several ethmoid air cells.  There does appear to be small retention cysts and/or polyps within the right maxillary sinus superiorly and inferiorly and mild mucosal thickening throughout the right maxillary sinus.  There is minimal abnormal signal in the mastoids on the right, likely indicating inflammatory mastoid disease.

That should be fun to get out…

Impression:

1.  White matter changes are present which are nonspecific but certainly can be seen in patients with migraines.

2.  Small area of porencephaly and gliosis (Wow again…) in the right frontal lobe likely indicating some previous brain insult.  I do not appreciate any associated acute pathology edema, mass effect, or enhancement.

3.  Unremarkable pituitary.  How rude!  I think it’s quite remarkable!  🙂  

4.  Extensive mucosal sinus disease (Sounds disgusting) involving predominantly the sphenoid sinus, with involvement ofthe remainder of the paranasal sinuses as above delineated.

End Scene.

Well… oh, my PCP wrote on the front of the report that was sent to me “Bad sinus disease – to Dr. ******* Rest looks ok”
So, onward to the ENT doc.  I’ll see my ophthalmologist on the 23rd and will talk about a neurology referral.  Though the “rest looks ok”, I’m concerned that I have surprise lesions, porencephaly, and gliosis.  Hopefully I’ll get to talk to my PCP before then, but we’ll see.  🙂  I’m good either way.  🙂
That’s what I know for now!  Updates as I get ’em!
Blessings,
Mojo
 
 

 

Optimism in Ambiguity

Well… it’s been awhile.  I started this blog with every intention of writing more frequently, but life happens.  Ironically, I think “life happens” was one of my has-been blog URLs.  I think we had some minor family stuff, then the holiday season trumped everything, and well – I started my new job back in December.  So, I’ve been focused on those things first.  But never fear, I’m still here!  Oh look!  She’s a poet too!  

Writing is an outlet for me – a huge outlet for me.  So, that being said – I’m going to plug into that outlet now.

This year has had its different share of ups and downs.  Different in that I’ve not dealt with these kinds of issues before.  I’ll give a brief update of the months leading up to current.

January:  Joined It Works! as a distributor on January 15.  WOO-HOO!  It’s good stuff and worthy of its own blog page!  🙂  Also, I continued to learn about my new job and really got started going with it.  I work as a Support Coordinator (Case Manager) for children and adolescents with intellectual disabilities.  Yes, it’s every bit as interesting and rewarding as it sounds!

February:  Awesome month with It Works!  Growing that business as well as continuing to love my full-time job.  Eye exam at the end of the month.  Failed the visual field test.  Womp womp.  Weird.  My biological mom also told me she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.  She’s 48.

March:  Signed a distributor with It Works!  Huzzah!  Another steady month there.  Finally feeling like the other position is sinking in nicely.  Failed visual field test #2.  Visual field test #3 complete with taped up eyelids.  Yes, it was every bit as uncomfortable as it sounds.  Failed that one too.  Why the taped up eyelids?  To make sure that I wasn’t dealing with something as simple as ptosis (droopy eyelids).  Eye doc thinks I have what’s called drusen in my optic nerve.  These are little calcifications that sometimes show up in the optic nerve.  Mine would likely be located in the optic nerve head.  First appointment with an ophthalmologist for an OCT scan.  The hope was that the drusen would show up and confirm what my optometrist thought.  Nope.  Clean.  Doc still thinks drusen, but that they’re buried.  So, onto scheduling another appointment in April.

Also, I went on a nice, relaxing retreat with the ladies from my church.  I have to do a separate post relating to that later.  It was a much needed break!

Oh, then there was when my biological mom ends up in ICU.  Took me by total surprise.  I was actually at a One Team One Mission team meeting for It Works!  I was getting in line to meet our CNO (Chief Networking Officer) Pam Sowder.  I got the phone call from my former guardian and found out mom was ill.  I called the ICU ward and was told she was brought in for decreased consciousness initially.  Drug overdose?  AGAIN?  Nope.  Her screen was clear.  She had pneumonia and decreased cardiac output (likely a direct result of her recent diagnosis of congestive heart failure).  I decided I would go down to Alabama on Friday with my daughter (I wanted a travel buddy!) if she wasn’t well.  She wasn’t.  She was actually on a bi-pap and still had poor oxygen levels.  So I drove.  From Virginia.  To Alabama.  Yes, this girl.  The one who had a driving phobia (literally phobia) for a very long time.  We were absolutely abundantly blessed with amazing travel conditions both ways.  We visited mom and had a nice time back home.  Mom improved and came home the day we came back to VA – March 31.

April:  Man, this first week… I’ve been so tired and preoccupied!  The trip caught up to me on Tuesday and I was SO groggy and drowsy all day.  Kavan missed some daycare days due to fever/cough.  A virus on top of a bacterial infection (he’s on antibiotics)… fun.

Friday rolls around.  April 4.  This is my appointment in Roanoke at my ophthalmologist’s other location to have a B-scan completed on both of my eyes to try and find drusen.  What’s a B-scan?  It’s an ocular ultrasound.  Also a bit uncomfortable.  I thought being the only person under 70 other than my husband (no joke!) in the lobby was awkward.  Try having ultrasound goo on your eyes… nasty.  Shannon was with me.  We had been enjoying a fun day cruising around Roanoke and getting a few presents for Kavan’s birthday (April 7 – party April 6).

Anyway… so I have the scan and wait to talk to Dr. Eng (I HIGHLY recommend him if anyone needs an amazing ophthalmologist!).  He says “…there are definitely drusen there” located in my optic nerve.  He wants to do another in-office test first.  No real reason explained why here.  I’m a little concerned, but I’m good – really.  So, test #2 consisted of staring at a star (I think it was green) while red flashed brightly on the screen and some other dots appeared.  This ended up being a more in-depth OCT like what I had in Blacksburg.  I wait to talk to Dr. Eng again.

He walks in and gets straight to the point.  He’s concerned.  He looks concerned.  He sounds concerned.  Okay, I’m listening.  Again, I “definitely have drusen in my optic nerve” and he’s “uncomfortable with the size” of these calcifications.

Furthermore, he says that he looked over my results of all the tests he’s completed with the records from Dr. Dovie (my optometrist) and he’s “pretty concerned” with the size of my visual field defect.  Really listening now.  He asked if I remembered talking about the possibility of having an MRI completed to rule out anything neurological.  Yes, of course I remembered.  Oh boy.  The type of visual field defect I have is bilateral (superior quadrants of my eyes) I believe.  There are all sorts of visual field defects by the way (and lots of different bilateral defects too).  Mine are pretty homonymous – both eyes have similar defects.  This is the best I could tell.  I sort of geek out when it comes to medical “stuff”.  These defects correspond with different illnesses.

It boils down that he wants me to have an MRI to rule out anything neurological.  He very specifically mentioned concern with my pituitary gland.  “Growths on the pituitary gland can be bad.”  I was listening before…!  He didn’t say I definitely had a growth… just that he wants to rule it out.  The type of visual field defect I have and how it looks on paper after the testing, combined with apparently large, hidden drusen just happens to be indicative (possibly) of a growth.  No biggie.

Seriously though… I’m doing well with all this.  I don’t care for ambiguity, but I’m trying to process all the possibilities.  IF it is a growth, aka the “t” word – most “ts” are benign.  They have to be removed/treated due to the possibility of overproduction of hormones and “…blindness if the growth presses on the optic nerve”.  The prognosis is good.  Huzzah to medical advances!

If it isn’t a “t” or growth, it could be lesions, it could be nothing.  Nothing would be good – but I’m preparing for multiple outcomes.  That’s how I process.  Not thinking negative, “whoa is me”, just educating myself.

The doc said I’d get a call early next week with a time for my MRI and that scheduling happens based on prioritization of needs of multiple patients.  Are you claustrophobic?  Nah, I don’t think so.  I’m good with wherever – Radford, Roanoke – doesn’t matter.

We leave the office after checking out.  10 minutes later, I get a phone call.  Shannon has gone in an auto parts store to get bulbs to replace on the rear right side of our van since those went dead during the drive in Roanoke.  Yes, may I speak to Amanda O’Reilly, please?  This is she.

Dr. Eng’s office.  Calling me already with my MRI appointment.  Seriously – I left the office at 2:20 pm.  I received the call at 2:29 pm.

That was fast.

Even more shocking to me was that my MRI was scheduled quicker than what I thought.  Tuesday, April 8 at 2:45.  Get there at 2:30.  Shannon and I had driven by the place a few times and I commented that I liked the place’s logo.

So… yep.  MRI.  In 2 1/2 days.  In Keelyn terms:  In 3 more wake-ups, I get to go stick my head (or body – if closed MRI) in a machine for about 45 minutes.  Good times.

I’m good though.  Really.  I’m positive and I know I’ll be taken care of.  That’s a fact.

Why the song?  Umm… I like it?  It’s my blog and I’ll post what I wanna?  You’re welcome for the earworm there.

Seriously, the song is a big reminder for me that I can take a BIG step back and be calm and let faith reign/rain down on me.

What can I do???  Let’s see.  Pray?  That seems to work.  Do that if ya’ wanna.  Don’t pray?  Alrighty then.  I will accept your positive thoughts and vibes or whatever have you until I get answers.  I have the MRI on Tuesday, April 8 and will see Dr. Eng on Wednesday, April 23 in Blacksburg.