Life Interrupted. Part 3.

At this point, the team of specialists was suspicious of two possibilities for what was causing Andy’s heart to continue racing. One was a somewhat rare genetic disease called ARVC, which would involve all kinds of genetic testing, not just for Andy, but for each of our kids as well. Of course this sounded scary and awful, especially the idea of our kids possibly facing these same problems. The second was a disease called sarcoidosis. This is an inflammatory disease which can affect other organs, most commonly the lungs, eyes, lymph nodes, and skin. Cardiac sarcoidosis (sarcoid of the heart) is more rare, but seems to respond well to treatment.

It was determined that a biopsy of the heart would be the best way to confirm a diagnosis. The trouble was, it was now Saturday morning, which meant that the biopsy wouldn’t be happening until Monday. So our weekend was spent full of visitors, phone calls, and doctors checking in. The flood of support was overwhelming. People we hadn’t seen in years came to visit Andy; he has that special something. He was upbeat and positive, trusting in the Lord for his future. Over and over, the hospital staff asked, “Who is your husband? How does he know so many people? How many people have come to visit him?”

Later in the evenings Andy was exhausted; between all the conversations and the off and on episodes of v-tach, he was worn out. I was tired from all of it. Andy would fall asleep, I’d turn on Christmas music, sit down, and write. I tried to send out updates, respond to texts, and do some online Christmas shopping because oh-my-word it’s Christmas time and I hadn’t done a thing. When my eyes wouldn’t stay open another minute, I’d lie down and my mind would worry. I’d think about our kids and wonder how they were really doing with all of this. I knew they were well taken care of by family and friends, but how were they really feeling? And sometimes I’d let my mind go to places it shouldn’t; the dark places where hope has no home. Sometimes Andy’s heart alarm would start beeping and I’d sit up watching it like a hawk, while the nurse would come in to check on him. He’d usually sleep peacefully through it all. And at perfect times, someone would text; sending prayers and love, or the perfect scripture for the moment, reminding me of hope. …

Life Interrupted. Part 2.

I had checked in with Andy early in the morning and he said that he slept okay. After getting the kids to school I hurried off to the hospital. I was only there for about twenty minutes before things started getting a little scarier. Andy’s heart rate continued to go up and he was no longer feeling okay. Doctors and nurses came in and out, assessing, giving medications, ordering labs and tests. Andy handled it all with such grace and calm. Family began texting and calling, some of them coming to the hospital. I just wanted answers so we could fix this problem.

This was day one of our journey. Journeys take us to all sorts of places; some places we want to go and some places that make us want to run the other direction. Sometimes you can choose your journey, but other times it’s chosen for you. As Andy and I settled into ours, we talked about accepting it (like we really had a choice). The calls and texts came in and so did the prayers.

The angiogram showed no blockage in any veins or arteries, which was good news. The echocardiogram showed an area in the left ventricle of his heart that was misfiring. A cardiac MRI was done and we were waiting on the results of that. In the meantime, the doctor decided that an ablation procedure would be appropriate to take care of that area.

The night before the scheduled ablation, Dr. Wilkinson, the one who would be doing the procedure, came into Andy’s room. He showed us the echocardiogram again and explained the procedure, but after he explained these things he paused, crossed his arms, put his hand on his chin and said, “Listen, I have a feeling that there’s more going on here. I’m concerned that it’s not just this one area that is causing your problems. I want to be straightforward with you. You won’t be going home in the next couple of days. We have got to figure out what’s causing this and why and properly treat you before sending you home. Your MRI is being read at UW Medical Center by the experts and they will send me their findings in the morning. I will take a close look at that before we do the ablation.” …

Life interrupted. Part 1.

Sometimes you’re going along in life feeling like everything is falling into place quite nicely. Things are working out the way you had hoped and life is good. And then something comes along that changes everything. Life is interrupted.

I was two weeks into a new job; excited about it, but overwhelmed by all I had to learn and wondering if maybe I had gotten in over my head. Still, I was anxious to dive in and learn all the new things. The Christmas season was upon us and life was as busy as ever as our family was adjusting to me not being home to tend to their every need. Our schedule was packed with Christmas activities and concerts, computer training (for me), and parties before Christmas break.

Andy told me he was having some weird episodes of feeling like he was close to passing out. They would come and go and seemed to go away when he laid down. I don’t usually like to jump to any serious conclusions, always assuming it’s nothing. I was quick to tell him it was probably stress and he should eat better and exercise, because I like to think I’m an expert in these kinds of things. So over the next week, we went for a run and I pushed him to get his heart pumping and get some good exercise; while at one point he said he was seeing stars. I did tell him to slow down, since I’m not a total monster.

A couple of days later the near-fainting episodes came back and he made an appointment to see a primary care doctor, he doesn’t even really have a specific doctor because his health has been so good. The doctor didn’t see anything too concerning, but his heartbeat seemed irregular and because of his symptoms, she felt it best for him to wear a heart monitor for 24 hours just to see what was going on. She also recommended giving up caffeine for the time being. He picked up the heart monitor on a Thursday, wore it, then turned it back in on a Friday afternoon, all the while feeling back to normal without anymore episodes. The worst feeling for him at that time was the headaches from no coffee. …

I just clean the bathrooms

I go to this place just to clean the bathrooms. The woman who normally does this job is in the hospital and my friend, who invited me, says there is a need. With cleaning supplies in hand, I step over the dirty, sleeping man to enter the building. I don’t want to admit my fear, but it’s right up front. It stays there until the moment I step into the warm room, which smells of bacon and feels like love. There are only women there at this time sharing a meal, many of them smiling. The line is blurry between who is giving and who is receiving.

Introductions are made as I watch each woman. I see the brokenness intertwined with the beauty. It’s a small little place on a dirty highway where the deeds done right outside its doors are ugly. But inside, music plays, food is served, and women are given the love, respect, and dignity that’s been lost out on those streets.

I make my way to the back where the two bathrooms are. They’re both occupied, leaving me standing uncomfortably looking out the locked back door. A man sits with a woman, half-dressed, sitting on his lap. She looks tired and worn, marks on her body, as she struggles to hold up her head. Maybe she’s drunk, or high, or sick. Or maybe she’s so beaten down she doesn’t know what to do. Maybe it’s all of these things. It’s no matter to the man who pulls her closer, kissing her pale face and neck. I look away, nervous to make eye contact. …

Reading, reading, and more reading…

Reading with my kids is an activity that I have always enjoyed. From the time they were little toddlers and could barely sit through a book, to the age Josie is now where we take turns reading pages to each other. But there is an in-between time in there that is difficult. It’s that learning-to-read time. I’m not even sure difficult is the right word because it’s pretty much torture.

Right around kindergarten/first grade they are going to school and learning letters and sounds and all kinds of new things and they are so excited! But then they have to start putting those letters and sounds together. It’s hard and they need a lot of help and supervision. Maybe this is fun if you are a teacher, or have the patience of a saint, but if you’re just a normal human, it’s the worst. Pronouncing c-a-t can take anywhere from 2-3 minutes and you wait as long as you can before just blurting it out so you can move on to the next three letter word.

Something that adds to this misery is the reading log that the teacher sends home. “Read or have your child read to you for 20 minutes, every night, then record the book title and how many minutes you read”. 20 minutes? When helping a five-year-old read, this feels close to an hour, or also eternity. Lots of deep breaths are required. And so sometimes you make it the full 20 minutes and you feel like you deserve some sort of medal. But then sometimes you just can’t and you wait until your little one is fast asleep before logging their reading minutes and you might fudge it just a bit, strictly for survival. …

Sink or swim

After going to a swimming party this summer, I watched how each of our kids fared in the pool; Charlie jumping off the diving board and never wanting to get out of the pool, Coleman comfortably swimming around with his friends, Judah cautiously jumping off the side, never straying too far from the edge, and Josie kicking around the pool hanging onto a ball to keep her afloat. She whined when I told her that she had to stay where she could touch.

“But Mama! I’m not going to sink if I just keep hanging onto the ball.”

“Right, but that ball is slippery and if you lose your grip, you will sink straight to the bottom and Mama will have to jump in the pool with all her clothes on to rescue you and I really don’t want to have to do that.”

“Trust me, that’s not going to happen!” says the over-confident fourth child who’s never had a swimming lesson in her life.

Swim lessons for our family have been challenging, to say the least, and as it usually goes for a fourth kid, I kind of just forgot, gave up…whatever you want to call it. But because I want to be a responsible parent and not totally give up with the last child, I decided both Judah and Josie needed to learn to swim; or at least get to a point where they could survive if they fell into deep water. I kept my expectations pretty low.  …

The Couches

I grew up on used/hand-me-down stuff. I’ve never minded previously owned treasures, so years ago when my employer, we’ll call her Dr. Smith, offered two gently-used couches for free I jumped at the chance. I was pregnant with Charlie and money was tight. Dr. Smith stated that the couches were a few years old, in good shape, and only needed a good vacuuming. Sounded good to me. Beggars can’t be choosers.

Two of my co-workers, we’ll call them Tweedledum and Tweedledee, said, “You’re lucky! Those couches are nice. They’re a pretty green color and you’ll love them.” They had both babysat for Dr. Smith and enjoyed lounging on them.

A couple of days later, Dr. Smith brought in a cushion so I could make sure I liked it. When I saw it I was puzzled because this was not a solid green color as Tweedledum had told me. It was a blue, green, and maroon striped pattern with different geometric shapes on it.

“Uh, guys, I don’t get it, this definitely is not a solid green color.” I asked, concerned that I might be getting into something that would be hard to back out of.

Tweedledee assured me that the couches she was giving away were green. “Maybe that’s an accent pillow? Maybe she brought that in to show you the shade of green,” she pointed to one of the green stripes. …

Tall tales of stupidity

It’s been two and a half years since working with junior high kids and I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but sometimes I miss it. Or maybe it’s more that I miss the stories that came from being around junior high kids.

Today we went to a “Knights of the Round Table” ceremony for Coleman and other middle school students. His school mascot is a knight and the ceremony is held to honor students who have been nominated by a teacher for something outstanding; being a leader, great improvement, something that makes them standout. Coleman was honored for his improvement in Spanish. He was struggling and had missing assignments, but turned things around and now has a B in the class. We were very proud parents as we listened to his teacher explain why she had chosen him for this award.

Student after student was called to stand in front of the group while their teacher  honored each one. I watched each student walk up, shyly, and listen to the kind and proud words that were spoken. Most of them stood awkwardly, some of them  even let out a smile while hearing of their accomplishments. I loved watching every one of them receive their honor, certificate, and have their photo taken. And I loved those teachers for making their students feel so special.

Middle school, junior high, whatever you like to call it, is rough. So much awkward, so much drama, so many smells. One of the things I miss are the conversations. Oh the endless comments that would come out of their mouths. After hours in a van with ten other kids and a very short lull in the conversation, one of them said, “I bet if I stopped talking for just a few minutes things would get so lame.” I wanted to take her up on that bet, but decided against it.

Once, after returning from a retreat in a very long van ride, I was describing the things I had endured to a friend of mine. “Ah yes,” she said. “The days where every kid is interrupting another to share their tall tales of stupidity.” I never thought I’d miss it, but on occasion, I do. I 100% do not miss the smells though.

When the going gets tough

 

We all have those moments when we commit to something and soon after, wonder what we’ve gotten ourselves into. I have to think that this might have been what was going on in Coleman’s mind when he committed to being on his middle school’s wrestling team. He was excited, but after 2 weeks of intense workouts and practices every day after school, he confessed that he might want to quit.

“It’s really hard, and it hurts. My body is sore and I just don’t know if I want to keep doing it.” Poor Coleman looked exhausted.

How could I blame him? There’s no way I would ever subject myself to such a vicious sport. The workouts alone would be hard enough, but rolling around on a sweaty mat while getting my body intertwined and twisted up in knots with another human being, on top of wearing a body suit (or singlet) as I hear they’re called. Uh, no.

Coleman decided he was not ready to give up just yet as his first meet was the following week. I admired his determination, despite his aching body, but secretly would not have been at all disappointed had he given up this brutal sport. I shuddered at the thought of my baby getting thrown around.

Coleman’s first meet was similar to our experience at Judah’s first gymnastics meet in that we showed up knowing absolutely nothing about the sport. I watched the other kids meet their opponents with courage; some of them winning and some losing. I asked questions of the family sitting nearby who had watched an older son go through this experience already. I tried my best to understand which moves they got points for and what was illegal.

It was difficult to watch, as the mom nearby warned me. Almost as difficult, was sitting on the bleachers waiting, wondering why the meet was almost over and Coleman hadn’t wrestled yet. I made eye contact with him on the other side of the gym and questioned with my hand gestures if he would be wrestling at all. He shook his head no.

Hold up. I just sat here for two hours to watch my son not wrestle? I looked at Charlie and he went to talk to his friend who was helping  the team.

Charlie returned saying, “I guess since he didn’t make varsity, he’s not wrestling today. But my friend is going to see if he can wrestle in an exhibition match.”

At this point I wanted to see something, even though I just expressed how I hated the thought of my baby getting hurt. Two hours is too long to sit for nothing. Next thing I knew, Coleman was taking off his sweatshirt and putting on his headgear. He faced his opponent from his own team who was in his same weight class, and had wrestled the year before. I had my doubts.

The round began and Coleman came out strong tripping his opponent and taking him down. They went the full three rounds and I figured Coleman was holding his own, since he hadn’t been pinned, but I really couldn’t tell who was winning. The family next to me commented on Coleman’s strength and how well he was doing. The whistle blew and I still didn’t know who had won. The referee took both of the boys’ arms and raised up Coleman’s as the winner. We screamed and cheered as if he had won the world championship because it felt that important.

After the meet was over I found out that this win meant that Coleman had beat out the other boy for the spot on varsity. He couldn’t stop smiling and neither could I. He talked nonstop on the way home explaining all the ins and outs of wrestling and how he won. I listened proudly to the boy who one week before was considering quitting.

We have three weeks left in the season and I’m just praying he survives it with no injuries. But more than anything, I’m challenged by the way he tried something completely new to him that he knew nothing about and he stuck with it, especially when it got hard and he wanted to quit. That’s more than I can say for myself.

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Fruitcake and 20 bucks

Our sweet next door neighbor passed away last summer and her house just now went up for sale. Agnus was in her early 90’s and was the original owner of that house, buying it brand new in 1947. She raised a daughter there and outlived her husband. She was an independent, determined woman who had a mind about how things should be. When Andy once did her a “favor” by cutting back a bush in her yard that was growing over the sidewalk, she surprised me with her reaction.

“Somebody decided to just cut that bush in my yard. Do you know who did that?”

“Yes, Andy did. He was trying to be helpful since it was taking over the sidewalk.” I replied, sensing her annoyance.

“Well, he did a terrible job. If he wants to be helpful, he can cut back your tree that’s hanging over into my backyard.”

Point taken. …

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