More on Words

image of a book

I often wake up tired and not excited about the day before me. I drag myself to the kitchen and start my Keurig. I ask Doug how he is doing and hope for an ‘okay.’

While the coffee is dripping into my cup, I gather up my devotion books and journals, distracting myself from my sleepiness by racing to see I can get back to the kitchen before the cup is full. I open my devotion book and, more often then not, the message is right on for lifting my spirits and reminding me of how much I have to be grateful for.

Though it’s been a while since  I decided that gratitude was the antidote to feeling sad and blue, I need to be constantly reminded. I force myself to write in my prayer journal  things I’m thankful for. Family, friends, our home, cars, jobs, abundance that allows us to enjoy not just needs but wants as well.

Soon I’m on a roll. I feel grateful for the smiles and hugs of my grandkids, FaceTime that allows me to feel close to the three who are in Denver. The smallest, Otto, is a curly headed two-year old angel. I can’t see the image of him blowing me kisses on my tiny phone screen without grinning. He tells me he’s going poop on the potty. I can witness it in the present moment. I would hate to miss that milestone because I’m six hundred miles away.

Soon I have filled a page with gratitude, and my attitude is right with the world.  Nothing has changed physically, but words read and written have renewed me. I move into the day ready to find good things along the path and energy for the struggles. Worry and fear are pushed back into proper perspective. I don’t know what would happen if I didn’t start my day this way, I’m not brave enough to try it.

Words

Words Image

Words  are such a blessing. They can encourage, inspire, comfort, guide, and educate. (Let’s stick with the positive ones.)

Authors and song writers open their hearts and become vulnerable because they have a passion to share their thoughts.The ideas they share can be life changers and make us feel like we are not alone.

On our trip to Mayo, the head hematologist used the word hope twice during our consultation. That word electrified me. We hadn’t heard that used by a caregiver for way too long. He said the goal would be to make Doug feel better in six months and surely in a year. If not there were some other options. I know we can’t hold him to that, but it sure sounded wonderful.  There have been no timelines discussed in our marathon without a finish line. It didn’t hurt to place that in our minds. Uncertainty is a killer of hope and at least we had something now.

I question the doc’s mention of the word hockey.  There seems too be many roadblocks to that dream, but if Doug could skate and participate in stick time (an open skate where hockey players can practice their skills), he would be happy with that.

So though not much has changed in his treatment except maybe a clearer, more assertive plan of what has been suggested by our home docs, those two words have been an elixir. I can imagine a healthy husband and renewed chances to enjoy some of the activities that are only a memory now. What a blessing on the journey.

Can Hope Survive?

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I sit at the deathbed of hope, her breathing barely noticeable
If she dies, will I die too?

Remembering all the times she’s pulled me through
I grasp her hands and beg her to fight.

Hope opens her eyes and smiles. “I was just resting.”

With all the ups and downs of our journey through Doug’s illness, I feel like I have been at Hope’s Deathbed many times – sometimes many times in one day. That pattern continued during our visit to Mayo. Reversals from high hopes to deep despair keep me from sharing news with loved ones. By the time my message is completed, the situation has changed. It doesn’t seem fair to share whiplash like that with people I care about.

Our travel day on Sunday felt like the road trips we used to take. We were so full of hope, we laughed and talked and almost forgot the reason for our six hour drive to Rochester.

Doug thrives on action, waiting is painful. Finally present at Mayo with an appointment the following morning, after the  long process to score an appointment lifted both our spirits higher than they’d been in a long time.

Though there was more waiting to come, the doctors we saw were exceptionally competent, caring and decisive. They spent lots of time with us, thoroughly examining Doug and acting as though he was the only patient they had to see that day. They ordered tests and made referrals to experts in the other disciplines that could possibly help Doug. They turned over lots of rocks as Doug likes to say. They promised no magic bullets, blessed much of the care Doug was already receiving but also tweaked current treatments and offered others.

As many appointments as possible were squeezed in, since we, like many of the other patients traveled considerable distances to be there. They have a system called checking in which patients who have six appointments in one day can go to the various labs or docs and check in to see if time is available. We had very good luck being checkers and ticked off six visits in one day. We had one day to rest at our hotel, lots of reading and I was able to do quite a bit of writing.  We discovered good local restaurants and enjoyed our relaxed time together.

After a week, it was finally time to go home. More waiting – for lab results and for the Mayo docs to consult with our home KU docs. We were hoping they would work well together and a seamless relationship between the two would enhance Doug’s treatment plan.

Unfortunately, we came back with many questions and more challenges to understand Doug’s complicated disease and treatment process, but we  felt so blessed to add these incredible doctors to our team.

 

Mayo Blessings Small and Large

IMG_0934 Since I’ve written about peanut butter sandwiches, I should explain Mayo refers to the famous Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota, not mayonnaise.

Doug and I spent last week there. We came as many others do seeking hope for difficult medical problems at the clinic.  So much has happened, I’m loaded with fodder  for several blogs.

I’ll start with the small blessings and move up. How’s that for keeping you in suspense and anxious to read  future blogs?

Small blessings  at the hotel – Hampton Inn South – created a home away from home for us during our five day stay.  I’ve got a theory there’s something in Rochester’s water that makes people kind, compassionate and welcoming.

The staff at the receptionist desk smiled and asked “Can I do anything for you? or How are you? How’s your husband? Do you get to go home today” each time I passed the desk, many times a day. I got the feeling they meant it. They kept the large newly remodeled lounge spotless and ensured that  hot drinks, cold water and fruit were available 24/7.

A large varied breakfast was complimentary and available from 6 am to 10 am. The staff is well aware that probably 95% of  their guests during the week are patients seeking hope and help at Mayo. I’ve seen the pantry open well passed that for those who sleep in or take extra time for morning routines. Many customers leave for tests and procedures by 6 am. For them brown bag breakfasts are ready for grab and go or they might slip in for a late breakfast after they return from early morning appointments.

A free shuttle manned by drivers who drink liberally from the water leaves the hotel for the clinic every thirty minutes on the hour and half hour and circles back to the hotel after the ten minute trip. They’ll fill you in on the town and its awesome medical capacity, their grandchildren or drive quietly if that’s what you want. The shuttle will also take you to a restaurant in the evening or drop you at Walgreens to fill a prescription. The driver is on call until 7:40 pm. For someone like me who hates to drive in a place I don’t know, a huge burden of stress is removed. Gone is the fear of getting lost or figuring out where to park.

After a long day at the clinic, the shuttle brings you home to  free hot soup, oyster and assorted other crackers and bread if you don’t feel like going out. Their loaded potato soup is amazing. Makes me smile and remember going home when my Mom was still around.

IMG_0932This picture shows two of many valets available to help you in any way they can as if it were a fancy hotel. Large numbers of wheelchairs lined up in front are reminders of the true purpose of the building.  More about the facility next week.

Decisions Decisions Decisions

crossroadsLast week’s writers conference was amazing. Not only did I get inspired and educated, but chance meetings provided answers and offered opportunities I never expected.

My friend and I were discussing whether or not we could deduct the cost of this conference and other writing related expenses, given we had not produced any revenue. A gentleman standing behind us in the lunch line overheard our dilemma and politely interrupted. He armed us with information to take to our accountants and look up on the web. I was so grateful. Facts we’d wondered about for years, were suddenly there in front of us.

That evening after the conference agenda was complete, we chatted with several published authors, aspiring authors like ourselves and, as it turned out an agent and an editor. Strangers soon became friends.  We laughed and told stories loud enough to attract more and more creative souls to our large round table. I spoke briefly with a lady I recognized from a previous conference. She was an editor for a small publishing house.

The next day, I decided to get some questions answered. I’m getting much braver about talking to the big shots at these events. One of the main purposes is networking. Not a place to be shy. The editor from last night appeared to be approachable. If she was busy, so be it. I had nothing to lose. I marched up to her and she was kind, friendly and most surprising of all, asked me to send her my manuscript – the whole thing along with a synopsis. In today’s competitive publishing world, that’s pretty rare and straightforward.  My mouth hung open and then I thanked her, asked more questions and felt like my dreams were possible.

Linda was talking to another lady who was hovering nearby while I continued to quiz the accommodating editor. As we walked away,this lady, another editor, handed me a card and said, “We’re looking for new authors too. Please send me your story.”  What? I had to pinch myself to find out if this was real.

We make a million little decisions every day, but they can land us in a completely different spot. What if I’d decided to skip this conference? What if I decided  to go home immediately after the conference rather than socializing? What if I decided it would be too intimidating to engage that editor?

I’m committed to considering my decisions with more courage, the big ones and the small ones.

 

It’s a God Thing

HeavensI don’t care what you call it, some blessings are too big, too far off my radar to think of as anything less than small miracles, maybe even medium ones.

One week before a writing conference I planned to attend, the one I wrote about last week, Doug was hospitalized. He was released on Monday before the Thursday I was scheduled to leave. The event took place from Thursday afternoon until Saturday about one o’clock.  I waffled about attending with everything that was happening to Doug.

Being the independent guy he is, and knowing how much I looked forward to being there, he encouraged me to keep my plan.  Linda, my writing buddy was coming, and I had only seen her  once in the last nine months. She’d fought and won a long and arduous battle with breast cancer during that time.

I knew it would be difficult to enjoy my time away. Worry would cloud my mind, and make it difficult to shake the expectation that I might have to make a screaming trip home at any moment. Was it worth it?

Doug was adamant that I go. He promised he would keep his medicine and his phone close by at all times.

While in the hospital, I texted his daughter regarding his condition. In response, Katey called. She lives in New York and is unable to visit much.  Her last trip to see us was about a year ago and there was nothing on the calendar.

We chatted about Doug’s condition. “I’ve been wanting to visit.”

“That would be great. He always cheers up when you call, and especially when you visit. When do you think you could come?”

“I’m thinking next Thursday. I could stay until late Sunday afternoon.”

What? My jaw dropped and I couldn’t talk for a minute. “If you do, you will be an answer to an unspoken prayer.”

“Let me check flights and I’ll let you know.”

I left for my weekend with complete confidence. Very levelheaded and practical, Katey would handle anything that might come up with her dad. Not only that, but he’d be enjoying the weekend instead of being alone. It doesn’t get any better than that.

My heavenly travel agent handled everything without any suggestions from me. What a blessing on the journey.

 

 

Peanut Butter Sandwiches

Peanut butterI’m always surprised at how small acts of kindness can turn a day around and pull me from the edge as I creep towards the pit of despair.  People taking time for prayers, calls and texts during their busy week, and even peanut butter sandwiches can make all the difference.

Doug’s recent  stay at KU hospital was extra stressful. He had pneumonia and had to have a bronchoscopy to determine the best way to treat it. He was weak and coughing. To add to the excitement, his heart got into the act. He had a very rapid heart rate and then as is becoming the norm, it bounced all over.  The nurses in the Bone Marrow Transplant unit are not accustomed to dealing with symptoms like that and the Rapid Response Team was called – twice actually – when it happened again a couple of days later. His tiny room nearly exceeded its capacity with all the personnel who responded.

Our anxiety was heightened with all the chaos and a possible transfer to another floor to better monitor his heart. We wanted to go home, not to another floor.

Doug was sleeping and I was worn out. The cafeteria seemed miles away and none too appetizing, but I was starting to get hungry. As if on cue, an aide came in to check his vitals. She noticed Doug asleep on the couch.  “I’ll let him sleep  and come back a little later.” she whispered. “Can I get you anything?”

“Do you have peanut butter and bread up on the floor?”

“Sure, would you like me to bring  you a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?”

“I would love one, but do you have time given all you have to do?”

“Of course.” She smiled.

“Thanks.” I expected small packets of peanut butter and jelly and two slices of bread, but in no time she delivered the most delicious hand-made peanut butter and jelly sandwich I ever hope to eat.

 

Inspirations

writingLast weekend, I attended the Called to Write Conference for Christian writers.  I met up with Linda, my best friend, there.  She is recovering from breast cancer and I haven’t seen her in many months because she lives in Tulsa. Her last radiation treatment was Monday. I couldn’t wait to hug her and see for myself how she was doing.  She tends to minimize the rough times.

Linda has lost over thirty-five pounds and looks great.  Her hair is growing back though she’s still more comfortable with a wig on in public. Her energy seems normal and she is faithful and positive.  There is no keeping this girl down.

She wasn’t the only inspiration. The two main speakers had riveting testimonies.  One had been healed under unusual circumstances. The other was amazing for her willingness to try new things. She’d had careers that seemed unlikely based on her education in broadcasting, but she wasn’t afraid to jump in and learn new skills.  When she finally was led to start her own publishing company, she connected the dots and was shocked to see how all the random things she’d accomplished fit into the puzzle of her life. I was so impressed with her courage to take chances.

Linda and I have been going to these conferences for over five years. We always learn something important, meet lovely people and reconnect with those we’ve learned to care about from past sessions. I also feel overwhelmed with all the editing and extra submission and marketing duties of a writer these days, not the least of which is becoming more tech savvy.

All in all,  the pluses far outnumber the minuses and these conferences are very important blessings on my writing journey.

Next week I’ll blog about the miracle that assured my worry-free conference experience.

Snowflakes

I started this months aSnowflakego when I was finding joy and satisfaction in weekly blogging. Life got in the way and stole those gifts.  I haven’t blogged since January. In the hospital with Doug stabilized and for all I can tell on the road to being much better, I feel like blogging again. His snores as he naps deeply provide a background of hope and renewal so I polished this and now offer it to you.

We celebrate diversity. Teach our children that they are unique and special. Search  to find our own style, purpose and passion.

The other Sunday one of our speakers put words together that really made me think about how true that is, and what a difference it can make in how we treat ourselves and each other. Chuck Mader said, “Each one of us is an unrepeatable miracle.”

I turned that over and over in my mind. Important life lessons seem to be repeated in patterns everywhere. Fingerprints, retinal fingerprints and snowflakes – no two exactly alike. I looked it up. I guess it’s possible with fingerprints, less likely with retinal fingerprints and nearly impossible with snowflakes. But the odds are one in a number that has a lot of zeros in it. It seems a safe bet to use them as examples.

If “each one of us is an unrepeatable miracle”, I’m blown away by the freedom of that reality. We don’t have to compare or compete with another soul on the planet.

As I’ve gotten older, I spend less time comparing myself to others, worrying  about how I look, what I say, and how to decorate my home so I can be a confident hostess. Still thoughts cross my mind and I feel inadequate.

If I am truly unique, I can’t go wrong. My sole job is to become the best me I can be. I know this isn’t really a new idea, there’s even a word for it – individuation – the process by which an individual becomes distinct, distinguished from everyone else.

Chuck’s words, however, uncovered an epiphany for me.  It means I don’t have to struggle with the becoming a unique part of God’s creation because it’s already true. Just like a beautiful, complex “no two alike snowflake”, a gift from God.

The Blessing of Epiphany

Blessings in disguiseDoug felt extremely short of breath and weak after simply making his bed. He checked his blood pressure and heart rate. His vitals were crazy. We were in the emergency room at St Luke’s in less than an hour.

This blog is about what I learned as yet another day skidded off the rails. It was Saturday and we’d planned a day of normal errands. A real treat for us.  The afternoon was reserved for the Chief’s game at my brother’s house.

Heart issues buy you a ticket in the fast lane at the ER. They took us back to an unusually large, remarkably pleasant room with a private bathroom and recliner as well as several comfortable chairs.  Soon Doug was hooked up for an EKG – no shaving necessary since two days before he spent the day in the hospital for a cardioversion which was supposed to shock his heart into normal rhythm.  The monitor showed him flipping in and out of normal sinus rhythm with high heart rates – up to 140. They inserted an IV, probably his 500th in the past three years even though they never had to use it.

The recent problems with his heart came a few weeks after our Christmas miracle. On December 24, Doug visited his cardiologist. Everything looked great, meds were discontinued with a prediction of low chances that problems would recur.  We couldn’t stop grinning. We moved past it to focus on a cure for his excruciating foot pain, and surgery to remove squamous cell cancer spots from his cheek.  Hope dared us to dream of a new med allowing him to taper off prednisone.

Sitting in that room waiting to find out what came next, and dreading another hospital stay, I passed into a mental void that allowed me to be so numb that I surrendered some last shreds of something I can’t find a word for. I’ve been fighting the notion we need to thank God for all things. I couldn’t authentically thank Him for things like the myriad problems that endlessly bombard us with Doug’s health issues.  Suddenly it seemed silly not to obey.

My second epiphany came as we waited for Doug to be moved to a regular hospital room for observation. He was discouraged and ready to go home since his heart seemed to settle down on its own. I realized I had a purpose. What greater worth can any life serve than to support a loved one, a child of God struggling through what life has dumped on him.

I’m not comfortable with these two new insights yet, and they don’t make me smile, but I’ve experienced a shift that may keep me calmer and saner. For that I’m grateful. I won’t be disappointed if Doug is healed and we can resume a healthy active life of easily recognizable blessings, but that mystery is out of my hands. In the meantime, I’ll look for the blessings in our current path and know that some of them will be well disguised.