Sunday, December 14, 2014

The To-Do List

 As my surgery quickly approaches, I feel this nagging desire to get as much done as possible beforehand - you know, before the pain, before my mind is dulled by the medicines to treat the pain, before I find myself on the long road to recovery.  I need to get all the Christmas presents ready; oh I better reorganize my kitchen while I'm at it; I better cook this pork before it goes bad; and the all important: I need to watch all my favorite Christmas movies!!!!!  Most of the things on my before-surgery to-do list are pretty inane.  But there is one task I have found sobering: drawing up a living will.

Don't get me wrong, the odds are with me as far as making it out of this surgery fine goes.  It will take about four hours, an incision will be made and things will be taken out of me, sliced off of me, sewn up and more.  It's not small potatoes, but it's not much of a gamble either.  It's serious enough, however, that I thought I better give some directions on what I want done in the event that something does go wrong. (Resuscitate? Intubate? Etcetera.)  Basically, it gets you thinking about your own mortality.

I wrote in my last post about my training for a 5k before my proctocolectomy.  Well, that race was today.  Ian and I registered, had our trackers on, got our t-shirts and were fully ready to jog (walk...) all around Iroquois Park.  Five minutes before the race, however I got a text: my uncle had died unexpectedly the night before.

Uncle Gale was an amazing man: he embodied godliness and joy, he was always laughing and always praying.  He had a God-given talent for music and his prayers - oh his prayers, I believe they carried enormous weight.  He has been a prayer warrior for me since I was little and diagnosed with Crohn's, into my teenage and young adult years when I was making dumb decisions, and for my parents as they moved across the world.

I was in shock.  I started weeping and knew I could mentally not do this race.  As Ian and I headed back home, I frantically tried to remember the last time I saw Uncle Gale, hoping that it might have made for a good final time together.  My husband reminded me gently that the last time I saw him, and the first and only time Ian got to meet Uncle Gale, was for dinner before we all went to the Billy Joel concert.  I had no idea that would be goodbye, and for many that is just how the final goodbye is. 

All of this to say, my pre-op to-do list has changed.  I need to show my husband how much I love him; I need to play with my son until we're both exhausted; I need to focus on the eternal. No matter how cliche, you truly never know when your time is up or when your time with a loved one is up.  I hope to keep this as my forever to-do list, even after my surgery is done and I am recovered. I am thankful to Uncle Gale for his taste for life, his prayers, and for this reminder to soak it all in as this life is fleeting. "Soon we all will be together."

When I awake, I will see you face to face and be satisfied.
Psalms 17:15b 

Monday, November 10, 2014


After a two hour drive, the hubby and I have arrived in Indianapolis for our much-needed getaway night. There's just one problem: I look down and my bowels are coming out of my stoma - my ileostomy has prolapsed.  A frantic call to the doctor and we are headed straight back to UofL's emergency room.  I am unraveling in both an all-too literal and figurative way.

My stoma generally sticks an inch out of my belly at the most, but I've got six inches pouring out of my abdomen.  It's kind of unsettling to see and it's accompanied with intense abdominal pains.  They think I'll need to be whisked away to surgery in the morning, but thankfully, by then my stoma has swallowed the intestines back in (the human body is nuts. That's the only word for it.) and has reached its normal size. 

I'll spare you the nitty gritty of it and just say this: two nights in the hospital and one ileoscopy later, I tell my doctors it's time to part ways with my colon; it's time to get the surgery that will make my ileostomy irreversible. 

I get asked all the time if I want to reverse my stoma and go back to having my bag-free belly.  Heck no, people! Why would I ever want to go back to running to the bathroom twenty (or more) times a day, never quite knowing if I'm going to make it, and sometimes not?  No, thank you.  I'll take pooping in a bag any day.  So, it's scheduled.  December 17th will bring another life-changing surgery, although with this one there's no going back. 

In light of the long recovery time ahead, I have made the executive decision to "get fit" beforehand.  I might be skinny, but let me tell you, I get winded walking from one side of the food court to the other.  And that is not conducive to a speedy recovery!

So, three days before my surgery will be another life changer: my first 5k.  I might be crazy.  My brain might be unraveling, too. I started training today, power walking for twenty minutes through the park with Dash, running intermittently for 45 seconds.  It was kind of miserable.  Pathetic, I know. 

While I'd love to become one of those annoying running addicts, the main goal is to get this temple as healthy as can be pre-surgery so post-op is smooth. If I end up enjoying running in the meantime, so be it (although at this point, I don't foresee that happening!).

My journey to health and - good heavens - FITNESS begins today! Any tips for a first time (non) runner are welcome.   
"Why are you still walking? The playground is back there"

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Man vs. Baby

It's hard sometimes to not make your child the center of your world when he runs up to you to give you kisses and pose for pictures like these....

And when an adult forgets to turn the oven off and it stays on all night it's a lot harder to forgive them than it is when your nineteen month old screams at you for not letting them watch Space Jam for the, oh, thousandth time...

And I know that as young mommas we think we're supposed to feel guilty for preferring a night away with the hubby and leaving the kid behind...

But it shouldn't be like that.  I need to remind myself daily that, while I need to train my child up in the way he should go, my husband is the one with whom I'll be when the kids are trained and gone.  The hubby takes precedence, people, and to some that might not sit well.

So remember to leave the chitlins behind and do something your hubby loves this week! For us, it was going to Churchill Downs and watching some races - a place I don't understand yet, but is one of the hubby's favorite places to be.  And you know, even though I don't have the money to place a bet or know what the heck a superfecta is, I had a lovely time focusing on my man.

Keep your children close and your husband closer!

Scarcely had I left them,
when I found the man I love.
Song of Solomon 3:4a CJB

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Four Weeks of Frugal: Week 2

I must say, I am rather relieved our fiscal week has renewed.  By the fourth day it's all too easy to be stretched thin budget-wise, especially when that budget is $100 (including groceries) for your WHOLE WEEK!  Let me put it this way: by day five I was microwaving stale honey buns as a snack (I need the calories anyway).  

  • $58.42 on groceries.  And this was the first day.  More than half of our weekly allowance, poof, gone.  Our cashier had read about my frugal challenge, so there's no way I could lie about this one and claim that we spent that money more efficiently than we did! But what is a mom supposed to do, just NOT buy produce? Come on.  I might live off of stale honey buns but my child will not!
    Budget friendly meal I made: if you have Ritz crackers, shredded cheese, and milk lying around, all you need is the chicken and you have yourself an entree!

  • $25.00 on more Christmas gifts.  I feel it should be mentioned that this is the first year ever I will not be freaking out in December over what to get everyone. 
  • Another $6.58 on groceries.  I wanted to feed my mother in law, but I couldn't have her over without some puff pastry and a small bag of ice!
  • $5.80 at Rally's.  If, for some reason, this is the only blog post of mine you have ever read, please let me assure you that we don't limit ourselves to processed MSG-loaded sub-food! But when you've just gotten off a sixteen hour shift, you kind of only want a cheap greasy burger.  Besides, I had two coupons.  
That amounts up to $95.80.  Woohoo!

  • Starbucks.  Luckily I saw on Facebook that Sunday was buy-one-get-one fall frappucino day.  I got myself a nice pumpkin spice while Ian enjoyed a salted caramel mocha. That gift card is, for all practical purposes, completely cashed.
  • $2.98 on eggs and shredded cheese.  I used our old food stamp card which had a little over three bucks left on it anyway. 
    Free dinners are always awesome
  • Dinner at Mojitos Tapas, thanks to my mother- and grandmother-in-law.  
  • I used Ian's Target gift card to pay for a $7.29 chalkboard. 
    Et voila! Hung the chalkboard in the kitchen to keep track of our hectic schedules!
  • Four consecutive trips to the zoo with the membership that was (you guessed it) gifted us. 
    He got to become good friends with this guy
So, while it might not be the way some people would choose to spend their $100, it worked for us.  Not only that but we actually ended up with $77 cash by the end of the week from sales I had made on Craigslist, eBay, and Facebook (and let me tell you, I sold those people some CRAP-ola.  Really Craigslist guy? You want to buy ESPN Jeopardy the Boardgame for $3? Okay.)

I guarantee you, someone will take your clutter, so you might as well SELL IT! 

Another successful (by my definition) week of the Four Weeks of Frugal is in the books! My challenge for week three is to somehow pay it forward, with what little we have.  

One gives freely, yet grows all the richer...
Proverbs 11:24a 

Four Weeks of Frugal Challenge

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Four Weeks of Frugal: Week 1

A couple weeks ago, I happened upon the blog Living Well Spending Less' challenge of 31 Days of Spending Zero.  The basic premise is that, save for bills and bare minimum essentials (we're talking bread, milk, and eggs here), you and your family spend zero dollars for a whole month.  No eating out (even a drink at Starbucks), no outings or dates that would have you fork over a couple bucks, no running out to buy a bottle of wine, nothing.  You live off of creativity to cure your boredom and what food you have in your pantry to keep you from starving.

In light of our recent medical expenditures, I first thought, What a marvelous idea! Oh, the savings! I quickly began calculating how much we might save and asked the hubby if he would be amenable to taking on such a challenge.  Being the compliant guy that he is, hubby went along with it, as long as we allowed ourselves to buy fruit in addition to the French toast ingredients.

We were all set to begin our challenge, when I got an invitation to dinner with some girlfriends.  Well crap, I thought.  I can't even go to a nice dinner with the ladies because of this thing.  After some more time contemplating, I concluded that, while idyllic, 31 Days of Spending Zero was not something I believed my family should take on.  I mean, isn't it a little extreme?  All that self-denial in the name of saving money?

So, I concocted a challenge and tacked a title of my own clever invention on it: "Four Weeks of Frugal".  Each week, we have a total of $100 cash to spend however we so choose - but nothing more.  It can be spent on a combination of groceries, eating out, and clothes; or it could be spent on a night at the movies and a getaway at a hotel.  But we are only allowed the $100.  Bills, tithing, and gas are the only exceptions.

Well, our family has completed its first week on this new (temporary?) budget.  I will say that there are probably wiser ways we could have used some of the money, but I think we did an okay job: we didn't go over the limit and we also didn't have to deprive ourselves of simple pleasures like a double date.

For accountability's sake, our cash was spent as follows:
  • $10 on Dash's Christmas present 
  • $41.76 on groceries
  • $7.25 on a family outing for mini donuts at the mall
  • $40 at the Melting Pot on a double date (Okay.  This one is obviously not super money-wise.  I made a mistake thinking that because we had a Groupon, we wouldn't have to spend any money. WRONG! But, we had a lot of fun and I had leftovers. Boom, justified.)
Frugal fun at the park
This doesn't sound like much, and you're right.  $100 doesn't get you very far in a week.  If you're like me, however, you have gift cards hidden, unspent in your wallet because they aren't gift cards to Target.  I've had some of these gift cards for years and only used them this week because, well, I didn't have anything else to spend! Here's what I bought with gift card money:
  • $9.43 at Starbucks (I mean who can resist a caramel macchiato in this fall weather?!)
  • $41 at Bath & Body Works (We were already at the mall, okay? And who doesn't want an automatic soap dispenser and bubble bath gel?? This is something I would never buy without a gift card, by the way.)
  • $19 at Trader Joe's for produce to juice
Is that cheating and defeating the purpose of the challenge?  Living Well Spending Less blogger might say yes, but I say, it wasn't cash out of my bank account.  It's okay to use.

We did do as many free things as possible.  Dash and I made frequent trips to the park, we fed the ducks, we had family feed us, and today we used our gifted zoo membership to go look at the sad orangutan.  Heck, I actually MADE money this week by selling unused baby toiletries to a fellow momma.
Family fun on the train at the Louisville Zoo!
So, I would call our first week of frugal a learning experience and a success.  How will we spend next week's money?  Only time and my blog will tell...

If you want to see a full set of my "rules" for Four Weeks of Frugal, click here or download here: Four Weeks of Frugal Challenge

Thursday, August 28, 2014

My 30 Lb Weight Loss Trick!

For those of you who haven't seen me in a while, my blog is aptly named.  As of late, however, it might be more accurate to go by "littlest momma".  I am a paltry 95 pounds.  As my aunt lovingly put it, I'm looking a little holocaust-esque.  I get a lot of people either offering me their fat (well intentioned but how, exactly, are we going to pull it off?) and a lot of other people saying they wish they were my weight.  I want to tell them no, you don't want to be in the double digits and that it's really not flattering for anyone beyond middle school. I'm constantly asked, "Why don't you eat something?"  I'd love to tell them, "I wish I had thought of that!!!!" but instead I usually give an unamused chuckle. 

What's my secret? How have I achieved the perfect anorexic model look?  Contrary to popular assumption, I don't work out (at all. Ever. Just a huge no-no.) and I certainly don't ever deny myself food.  That leaves us with option C: a Crohn's flare up.  I can hear the skeptics now: I thought your ileostomy ended all that?  And that presumption is what brings me here today.

Crohn's is a disease of the entire gastrointestinal tract.  It can affect you from your bottom all the way up to your mouth.  It sets up camp in your intestines and makes you double over with gut wrenching pain.  Sometimes, when being attacked internally isn't enough it surfaces on the skin with ulcers that feel like fire.  When life gets stressful, Crohn's will ensure that your mouth is ridden with canker sores that render eating unenjoyable.  My personal favorite is when Crohn's causes poop to come out of a myriad places it's not supposed to. 

The fact of the matter is, most of these symptoms go unnoticed by the person you sit next to in class or even your closest coworker.  The only real evidence I have of this flare up is my rapidly decreasing weight, and I've found that all too often people think I am intending to diet myself into oblivion. 

My ileostomy has thankfully made it so that the diseased areas of my intestines below it are finally getting the rest they need.  The disease there lies dormant for now.  After a year of my body adjusting to the ileostomy, however, Crohn's had to find a new vulnerable area: my upper GI.  This form is not so gory like my disease of yore (pre-ileostomy).  But it leaves me without an appetite, constantly nauseous, and doubling over at night praying that I'll just pass out instead of experience the pain.

I'm not trying to start a pity-party for the littlest momma here, I promise. I'm merely trying to inform, especially as I know there are people who are confused as to why and how I could get sick after my life-changing surgery.  There is no cure-all for Crohn's.  There is no magic diet (as many well-meaning friends have tried to tell me), there is no single medicine or treatment, there is no one surgery that will rid a person of this illness.

Crohn's is not the only one of its kind.  Many other diseases, auto-immune and otherwise, leave people looking relatively healthy on the outside while underneath they are ailing.  So please, please be mindful.  There are a lot of people out there who you would never suspect who are silently suffering. 

Okay, I'll jump of my "soap box", as it were, and remind you that your prayers (not your "thoughts") are coveted. 

We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy.
James 5:11 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Lessons from the Beach

Between clashing work schedules, thousands of dollars in dental work, and a noticeable lack of date nights, it was time for a vacation.  Ian and I needed a vacation.  Ian's mother graciously took off work for a week to tend to our little one, as we were in need of shedding the "daddy-mommy" personas to revive the "husband-wife" dynamic.   So, we packed our bags, grabbed two of our good friends, and headed where all poor young couples (should) go: the white sandy beaches of Destin, Florida.

For six carefree days I reveled in the ocean breeze, the salty air, and the crystal clear water.  I munched on crab legs and went parasailing; I sleepily read books by the pool and played a decent round of putt-putt.

Eating the best popcorn shrimp I've ever had at Dewey Destin
There's something about going on vacation with another couple, though.  You get a deeper glimpse into the mechanics of their relationship: the way they interact, that thing one of them finds annoying about the other, and above all how they treat each other. 

I noticed from day one of our trip something Taylor did for Will: before catering to herself she always asked if there was anything he needed.  How long has it been since I've done that? I sheepishly asked myself.  It was then that I realized I had been sorely neglecting one of my main roles as a wife: being my husband's helper. 
The whole gang before our snorkeling excursion
The competitive nature in me knew I had to keep up with Taylor's kindness, or else Ian would quickly realize what he's missing.  So, I began pro-actively making sure Ian wanted for nothing. "Let me get you a drink," and "What can I do for you?", while sounding more like what you hear from a waitress, became my vacation refrains.  I can hear the groans of progressive feminists as I write about my traditional gender role, but I have this to say:  it made my husband noticeably happier which in turn, made me noticeably happier.  Being Ian's helper was not the drag I had been making it out to be; it was actually quite gratifying.

During this time, I also remembered many of the reasons I fell in love with him in the first place, reasons I regretfully don't acknowledge enough anymore.  I have compiled a handful for your reading pleasure: 
admiring my hubby
  • Ian humors me.  If you know me well, you know I need someone who knows how to humor me when I make my trademark ridiculous and irrational statements.
  • He knows how to perfectly blend being goofy, sarcastic, and witty.
  • He almost always reciprocates with calm kindness (or just wisely saying nothing), when I yell at him that I am NOT cheating at putt-putt!!! You can give up after five putts!
  • He is easy on the eyes. After tanning in the Florida sun for a week, he could aptly be described as "tall, dark, and handsome".

Now, our vacation is over.  We have returned to the realities of working, dental work, and parenting a toddler. School looms on the horizon. As we embark on our second year of marriage I am determined to continue forming habits that fall under this "helper" role, not just because he deserves it, but because I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine.

Then the Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him."   
Genesis 2:18

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Ol' College Try

Billy Madison perhaps put it best when he sang, "Back to school, back to school, to prove to Dad I'm not a fool."  Only, it's not just my dad I'm trying to prove it to. It's everyone around me: my coworkers, my son, my in-laws, my high school classmates who were sure I didn't have great aspirations.  Most of all, however, I'm trying to prove it to myself: I'm not a failure, I'm not a quitter, I can and will finish this race.

Maybe that's part of my problem.  School, to me (along with most things), is a competition, in that whoever gets finished first wins. So to me, all my peers who have their bachelors degrees have beat me, and I am a very sore loser.  What makes matters worse (in my mind) is that I had the head start of going to college two years early! Like, why am I not done with this?!

Unfortunately, school didn't feel like a competition when I felt like I was winning. I cared not a bit for it. My first round at the University of Louisville was butchered by health problems (nixing my entire first semester's grades) and then my own stupidity (failing a class because I never went and subsequently losing my full tuition scholarship - I know, I want to kick me, too).  I wandered from one major to another, no drive to do something I wasn't absolutely passionate about such as "going to class" or "studying".  Then, my final semester I was pregnant, sick, and unmotivated, ultimately finishing with a poor excuse of a GPA for someone who should easily have a point higher.

I haven't taken a class for two years.  I am terrified of going back.  I really mucked up my first opportunity which has totally shaken my confidence for the next go at it.

Then again, a lot has happened in that that time.  I've had a baby, I've regained health I haven't had since kindergarten, I've gotten married, I've become financially self-sufficient, and I realized along the way the dream I have for myself.  I have a son to whom I absolutely, passionately want to give the world and do so by the passion I've found for a career in nursing. Gone are my lazy, unmotivated days of yore!

So I find myself back in school. This first semester will be just a couple online classes that are required for my new major.  I figured it best to ease into the whole routine as I've never gone to school, worked full time, and taken care of a baby simultaneously.   It was clear God wanted me there this fall, no matter how apprehensive I am.  He clearly has more faith in me than I do.

Graduating kindergarten was a lot easier
How this semester will end, academically is up to me (financially...well, we'll see!).  Rest assured, my all will be given. I am accountable not only to my anonymous donor who gave me this opportunity to re-enroll, but to my family, and mostly to myself.  I must finish what I started, and finish strong. So, with butterflies in my stomach, I am a student once more! GO CARDS!

It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.
Lamentations 3:27

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Rescuer

If asked to describe my dad in a single word, my answer might vary depending on the day.  If I was asked after getting in trouble in high school it would be "loquacious", as he daily gave me long lectures on my life choices (as any responsible parent does).  On a day that I'm exceptionally hypochondriacal, I might describe him as "knowledgeable" or "resourceful", as he always seems to know what is wrong with me or how to remedy it (usually with medicine he has in his pocket).  Other times, when I go on my typical rants about nothing, and my dad sits back with an eyebrow raised and arms crossed...on those days I would characterize him as "smug".  If you asked my friends, they would say he is nothing if not "mysterious" - among all my various social circles there are murmurings of his being in the CIA.

All these attributes aside, there is one word that truly encapsulates my dad and his role in my life: he has been my "rescuer".

When I was 14, I went on a mission to an Egyptian orphanage.  I had been gone for a total of about seven weeks, during which I communicated with family and friends solely by handwritten letters (and crappy postal systems).  It was finally time to go home. My team and I got to Charles de Gaulle airport only to find out that there had been a foiled terrorist attack in England.  This delayed our flight from France to New York by six or more hours. 

The French equivalent of the TSA went through each passenger's carry-ons individually before we could board. I paced nervously, my heart pounding from too many shots of espresso.  There is no way I will make my connecting flight home!
Worrying didn't add a single hour to my day, as it never does, and it did certainly didn't get me to the airport on time. I inevitably missed my connecting flight.  I was a tween stranded at JFK with a bunch of my friends who were about to make their own homecomings that I so longed for.  I found a payphone (866-CALL-ATT!) and called my mom to let her know the news.

"Hello?"  I immediately broke down at the familiar sound of my mother's voice.
"Our plane arrived late and now I've missed my flight and I need a new flight and I just want to be home," I blubbered through my uncontrollable sobs.

I will never forget my mom's calm reply.  "I know.  Dad is on a plane right now coming to get you. He'll be there to meet you in less than an hour."

Frantic tears turned into thankful tears.  I hung up the phone and literally jumped up and down with joy all over the airport.  Dad was coming to my rescue, in a big way.  He found his way to me and I ran to his safe embrace.  We left JFK for Newark and stopped at a diner where I scarfed down bacon and basked in this grand gesture of love. 

My dad has swooped in to "save" me several other instances throughout my life and I am so thankful.  I love you, Pops, and want to thank you for being such a godly example to your children: you have loved me unconditionally and, when I went astray, you always came to find me.  Happy father's day. Ani ohevet otkhah, aba.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Owning It

It's been a while since I've posted anything, a fact that isn't lost on me.  The past month I've been looking to my life for blog-worthy anecdotes and have come up short.  It was just yesterday I told my parents that really nothing has been going on except working and rearing my toddler (it doesn't sound right labeling him as such, but it's accurate!).  No more anonymous donors to speak of (duh! I'm not expecting any more either!), no earth-shattering moments, and no patient interactions that I think whoever reads this would find interesting.

But something happened.  I wore a bikini.

Wearing a bikini to the pool is actually a common practice for many 20-somethings like myself.  After my surgery, however, I resigned myself to a life in the one-piece. After all, I have a hard enough time looking at the bag of intestine and poop hanging from my abdomen; why expose the public to such an atrocity?

In the winter, when all the swimsuits hit the stores in preparation for spring, I bought what I thought was the closest thing I could get to normal swimwear: a very nice mono-kini.  It covered up the bulge from my bag decently and allowed me to feel okay enough about my "beach bod".  As long as people can't tell I have a bag, I'm good.

A few weeks ago my husband mentioned he didn't think it would be such a terrible thing to wear a two-piece.  Oh yeah, and flaunt my most major insecurity? Yeah, right! It's one thing to tell people, "I have an ostomy".  It's quite another to go to a very public place with my body on display, and with it, a bag of my waste that, if removed, will show a stub of my intestine that on first glance looks like a very red male reproductive part. No, thank you!

Since then, I have gone to the pool a handful of times.  Every trip I self consciously look down at my bathing suit, silently pleading and hoping that no one will detect an abnormality with my body. 

Last Sunday, I found myself a prime opportunity to read by the pool.  I couldn't find my one piece.  I looked to my old bikinis which were in a give-away pile; they were challenging me.  Maybe I could...  But, my one piece turned up.  How silly of me to even consider exposing my icky insecurity!

Ian's idea of my wearing a bikini came up again today at lunch with my parents.  "He actually wants me to," I said.  To my surprise, my parents agreed that it wouldn't be the worst or the grossest thing in the world.  When it came time to get ready for the pool, I once again donned my one-piece.  Then I got to thinking:

What is so bad about my bag?  Why do I let it make me feel so...freakish?  Is it so freakish?  Doesn't everyone have that one weird thing that bothers them about their body?

I grabbed a bikini from what had been the give-away pile.  I went to the pool in it.  And you know what?  It is the most confident I've felt in the eleven months and one day since my surgery.  I was finally owning it.

My sweetness and me at the pool!
For you formed my inward parts;
You knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Psalm 139:12-14a

Friday, April 18, 2014

Anonymous Donor: Tuition Edition

I am rendered speechless, yet again: by the generosity of others and by God's mercy and provision.  Allow me to explain:

The last time I was in school was the fall of 2012.  My idiocy the semester before led to losing my scholarship at UofL, which had completely covered my tuition.  So, pregnant and clueless I began those fall classes not knowing how or when I was going to pay the five thousand-ish dollars.

Somehow, the school let me go the whole semester without paying a nickel.  Then the bills started arriving, reminding me of my debt to UofL.  I worked out a payment plan of the minimum $175 per month, which has been a financial concern and a burden.  Not only has it been a decent chunk out of the bank account, but at that rate, it would take years before I could pay it off and re-enroll.

I was able to use a gift left to me by my Grandfather to pay off a fraction of the debt, and since then I have been struggling to pay the monthly fee.  The debt has rendered me unable to continue and finish my education, no matter how much I want to.

Two days ago I got this text from my Grandaddy:

You know what they say: "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is....or it's a gift from God."  I looked at my account; and there it was.  I called the company and they confirmed that indeed, the thousands of dollars of debt had been paid. Tears of sheer joy, relief, and gratitude followed.  

I don't know who you are, but I truly cannot thank you enough for this.  You have not only lifted an incredible weight from my shoulders (and heart), but you have also given me the gift of opportunity to complete my degree, and the motivation to do so.  I don't know of a clearer way God could tell me to rise to the challenge and finish my schooling.

So, anonymous donor, thank you.  You have paid a debt that was not yours.  Know that I will work so, so hard.  Know that I will give it my very best because I will not let your generosity go to waste.  Just...thank you.  
 In remembrance of Good Friday:
And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
Matthew  27:50

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My New Role Model

My line of work has allowed me to see people from all walks of life in varying stages of their lives, mostly their most trying times, and how they are coping with it all.  There are the complainers, the curmudgeons; there are the people who have resigned themselves to a death sentence (some ready and waiting; some begging for it; some terrified of it); there are the hopefuls who ask, "Do you think I'll be going home tomorrow?"  Humans in different degrees of misery and hardship. 

Two nights ago, we got a new patient who was, for our floor, very young (forties or fifties).  The man has multiple sclerosis and recently lost the job that helped provide for his four children.  I wasn't assigned to him, but when his nurse and aide came out of his room I quickly wished I was. 

They spoke of him with respect and admiration: his nurse sat down in awe and said, "He just radiates....Jesus".  His aide had only praise as well: "I have never seen a man who is going through all that have that joy. He's the real deal. He's the real deal."  This man made an immediate impression on these people by his obvious love for the Lord and resulting peace and joy in what would otherwise be a desolate time in his life. 

All this to say, I would love for people to walk away from me saying the same things.  Sadly, I know they don't.  Not long ago, I mentioned to a coworker that I went to Portland Christian School in my formative years and she said, "Oh really? I would have never guessed you were a Christian."  Yikes!! Granted, she works day shift and doesn't spend much time with me, but her comment was convicting.

I used to want people to say, "She walks like an ace," after meeting me, per the Beach Boys.  (This never happened.  I have an undeniably weird gait that my physical therapist has even pointed out.) My priorities have since changed, and now the challenge is to radiate Jesus like this man did, leaving people hungry for the Holy Spirit. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

JDK Turns One

My sweet, my all, my precious baby is a year old.  Considering how vividly I remember that Sunday he was born, it does not feel like 365 days have since passed. My water broke, I had a few hours of contractions, then, I heard him.  Right before my OBGYN pulled him out, there was a muffled cry as he was about to trade the womb for the big, cold world.  The five minutes it took before I could see him were an eternity; I was waiting for the best birthday present I would ever receive.
February (Whitney Knutson Photography)
March (Megan Hynes)
I have been brainstorming for about a week what all to write about him for his birthday post.  It would be easy for me to go into every intricate detail of his personality and character for hours on end, but for the sake of any readers I will write the abridged description of my little chunky hunky: JDK.
From the moment he wakes up to the moment I put him down, he is filled with more joy than anyone, and especially any baby, that I have ever met.  There might be some whines and a few crocodile tears thrown in, but even then he'll pause his attempt at being a typical baby to shower me with cuddles and flash his mega-watt two-tooth smile. Speaking of which, he is a SNUGGLER.  Example: tonight after his bath and bottle (now drinking organic whole milk, woohoo!), he laid down next to me on the couch and softly babbled, his head resting on my shoulder.  Almost nothing tops your baby's expressions of love to you.
The kid is a social butterfly.  He thrives in the nursery setting, where I often find him playing with his fellow babies' feet, or when surrounded by cousins at a family gathering, laughing and basking in the glory of being around those little people closer to his age.  I am thankful he's sociable, but boy is he a flirt.  While endearing to the ladies (of all ages) receiving this sort of attention, it terrifies me.  That dark hair and blue eyes thing he's got going on is a rare, lady-grabbing combo.  Okay, I can't think about this anymore!!! Moving on...
 JDK loves to eat.  That baby loves eggs, clementines, meatloaf, cheese, potatoes, crab cakes....just about anything you lay before him.  He's never had a carbonated beverage in his life, but if he sees you drinking one he will try to give you a kiss so he can get a taste.  My sweet is standing up for longer periods every day, and has even taken a hesitant step, but he still loves the ease and efficiency of crawling.  As of yet there is no "first word" but he's fluent in imitating nonsense sounds and squealing.  He knows where his nose is (and momma's nose), and loves to play catch with his football.
One thing I love is that, despite my parents living thousands of miles away and having not been here in a few months, JDK still knows who "Mimi and Papi" are.  We video chat with them frequently and when I ask him, "Want to Skype with Mimi and Papi?" he stops what he's doing and crawls ever so hastily to my laptop.  Granted, he's been known to end a call or two from being too curious with the keyboard. 
Oh yes, I can't leave out what a ham he is.  This quality is programmed in his genes, straight from yours truly.  There is nothing more this baby loves than a captive audience for whom to put on a show.  If he's crying, a camera flash will magically cheer him up.  If you ask (or if you don't) he will gladly do his silly face or his favorite yoga pose for you...again, and again, and again.
Some call him John, a few "J.D.", but his momma calls him Dash: the name that jumped off the page of the baby name book.  My sweet Dash teaches me about kindness and God's mercy day after day.  My daily prayer is that he will always be as joyful and kind as he is now, that he won't be the type of person who has to learn things the hard way, and that he will delight in the Word and not stray from his Creator.  I love you sweet JDK; you have blessed all those around you since day one and I am so excited to see what our second year with you has in store!

Sons are a heritage from the Lord,
children a reward from him.
Psalm 127:3

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Divine Appointments of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

You might have already guessed that, despite the title, this post has nothing to do with a Sandra Bullock movie based on a best-selling book.  Henceforth on my blog, "ya-ya sisterhood" refers to my fellow women who have an ostomy of some sort.  Many call themselves "ostomates", but the term has never quite endeared itself to me. Too sailor-y.

My nursing assistant position at the hospital allows me to work with many new members of the sisterhood, but the population is largely geriatric patients who suffered from diverticulitis.  However, a couple weeks ago I was surprised at the younger age of a new patient who, after suffering from an irritable bowel disease for many years, had gotten an ileostomy.  Over the next week and a half that she was my patient, we traded icky stories and shared experiences which developed that close-knit NA-patient relationship that happens every so often.  At the end of my sixth shift with her (which would be my last), I rushed to meet my five-day weekend and missed the chance to tell her what a pleasure it had been to listen and share with her.

A day and a half into my nice, long weekend a friend texted me asking if I could cover her shift from 3-7 on a Thursday afternoon.  I could always use the extra money even four hours would give, and not wanting to be the type of coworker who doesn't do favors, I told her I could do it.

I was a little apprehensive as I drove into the parking garage that afternoon, as I had never worked during day shift and didn't quite know what to expect.  I arrived early to have quiet time in my car, as is my routine before work.  I sent up a quick prayer for compassion for my patients (something that doesn't come naturally to me) and for divine appointments - something you never quite know what to expect for after you pray for it.

I forgot all about the latter request as I was given report on my patients.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that my ya-ya sister was still there. We could converse more and then I'd be able to give her a proper goodbye.  As it happened there was a lull around 4, so I went into her room to speak with her and pass the time.

I walked in, and she was in a consultation with her ostomy nurse.  After a bit of listening and charting, I let the ostomy nurse in on my secret - that I belonged to the sisterhood as well.  This spurred on a wonderful conversation between the three of us about diet, skin issues, ostomy equipment (Coloplast forever!) and learning how to adapt to the new lifestyle.  After showing off my bag to the two and referring the patient to Ostomy Secrets for bag and stoma-friendly girdles, the nurse requested my information and asked me:

"Would you like to talk to patients about life with an ostomy?"

Now this is an opportunity for which I have been yearning.  There is nothing about my stoma that blesses me more than being able to share experiences with those who are just embarking on the ostomatey journey.  I, of course, gave her a cool "YES, YES, A MILLION TIMES YES!!!" The ostomy nurses only work on day shift, and I couldn't believe how fortunate this meeting was.

At that point my patient chimed in and said, "You know, I really was hoping to go home this morning.  And now I'm glad I didn't.  Isn't it amazing how God works like that?"  She had a point, there.  If she had gotten to go home that morning...if I hadn't taken that afternoon shift...if she hadn't asked her nurse to come back after lunch instead of meeting at the planned time...this whole incident, this "divine appointment", which was clearly meant to be, wouldn't have taken place. 

All this to say, we have a God who has a way better plan for our day than we do and I wish I were more receptive to it everyday.  That time with my patient and her ostomy nurse might seem to my readers as just an anecdote from an ordinary day, but it was an incredible blessing to me and so much more fulfilling than anything else I would have been doing at that time.  I think I'll have to pray for divine appointments more often and see what happens...

Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
Esther 4:14 NKJV

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Rent That Wasn't Due

Ever since Ian and I paid our first month's rent and deposit for our new apartment (which was, to say, 2/3 of our cash in the bank) I have been thinking about the hit our bank account will take every first of the month when rent is due.  I've never had to pay for lodging in my life, so the thought has been daunting.  In an effort to keep adding to our checking account, January has been a long month of me hardly seeing my husband and son. It's always Ian working another 17 hour day or I'm sleeping off my 12 hour nights...

It's been taxing.

After a nice rare morning with my family Sunday, I begrudgingly went into work that night.  I came home Monday morning to sleep until my shift later that day.  Very routine stuff.

Imagine my surprise when I wake up to a text from my husband saying, "We got an invoice on our door and our rent for next month was paid anonymously".  That woke me up quicker than my alarm clock does, I'll tell you what.  "Is this real?" I texted back. "What?"

the invoice
I ran to the door and picked up the invoice.  After seeing it for myself, I broke down into tears.  Tears of relief, tears of joy, tears overwhelmed by the generosity of our anonymous donor.  We hadn't asked for this.  (If you're asking for someone to pay your rent you should probably live at home, by the way.) We hadn't asked for it, but we are very grateful and indebted to whoever did this for us.

On behalf of the family in apartment 6, I want to thank our anonymous donor.  It means more to us than you know, and we will be putting that money away in a "rainy day" fund, as rainy days are as sure to find us as this sunny day was.  And whether you meant to or not, you have impressed upon me that God provides the daily bread.  As hard as we work for our money, we're not the ones taking care of ourselves (although we try).

When we have the means, I would like to do this for someone else one day.  In the meantime, we'll pay it forward in some other way. What I'm trying to say is thank you, thank you, thank you.  I truly wish I could thank you personally.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, 
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. 
 Are you not much more valuable than they? 
Matthew 6:26 NIV

Friday, January 17, 2014

Slicing the Apple

Anybody who has been around me or any of my social media within the past 24 hours knows that my son turned eleven months today.  I flood my Facebook and Twitter with pictures recounting this day, along with reflective anecdotes posing the question: HOW HAS THIS MUCH TIME PASSED BY?!

Let's face it.  This time a year ago, I was an unhappy, lost, broken, and very selfish, little pregnant girl.  They say pregnancy'll make you grow up quick -- they're wrong.  Motherhood makes you grow up quick.  Being someone's lifeline makes you grow up quick.

Before I had my baby, my naïveté led me to believe that carrying him around in my belly was difficult.  I kind of thought that part would spurt the whole "coming-of-age" chapter in my life. However, if I'm really honest here, my only act of selflessness throughout the 36 weeks of pregnancy was trying to eat right (ha ha) and avoid anything that could physically harm the life inside of me.


For years, it's been a running joke in my family about my inability to slice and peel an apple.  At sixteen, my mom told me that before I could get my license, I had to be able to slice and peel an apple on my own.  Admittedly, it's a pretty basic skill.  I tried a couple times (okay, once) and did it clumsily enough that my mom was just like, forget it.  The new standard was to be able to do it before I got married.

With this new deadline and my yearning to someday find a husband, I practiced slicing an apple once at my grandmommy's house.  After observing my abhorrent attempt, she took the apple and the knife away from me and said, "Maybe you aren't ready for this."  It then came up a few times during my pregnancy that I still couldn't slice an apple, which is a little deplorable for a mother-to-be.

Grandmommy was right.  I wasn't ready.  I could have given it the ol' college try and actually worked on it.  But I never followed up because a) I didn't really care to, and b) I could really always get someone else to do it for me. 

Back to the present.  Ian and I recently moved into our very first apartment, and with it all my crap came out of storage and into our new home.  Going through my boxes, I found an old apple slicer/peeler contraption that my mom got a hundred years ago (maybe fifteen years ago).  It did all the work for you!  Hooray! I thought.  I can finally feed my child real apples!!!! I quickly ordered my husband to get a bunch of apples from the grocery store.  

the "Back to Basics: Peel Away"
This evening I decided to whip out the apple slicer for my baby's 11-month-old big boy dinner.  It was time for a change from the routine banana.  I stick the apple on the contraption and started turning the...(turning the what? Is that a knob? a handle?  I'm not sure, but surely you can tell what I'm talking about from the picture).  Just as the first of the peeling begins, the apple breaks off.  I didn't screw it on quite well enough.  This led me to what was truly an epiphany for me:  I am a mother.  I need to get a knife and slice this baby up. Without supervision, without aid, without a kitchen tool as a cheat. 

And I did it.  I sliced that Fuji apple. I sliced it realllllll good. I peeled it.  And, if you can believe it, I diced it.  It was a cathartic moment for me.  I felt like supermom.  Oh, bless her, my readers are disdainfully thinking.  The poor girl is celebrating something very pathetic.  

Pathetic as it might be, slicing the apple was symbolic to me.  It showed me just how much I've grown up in the eleven months that my baby has been around.  That 24 pound smiley little chunk has been the driving force I always needed to transform my life and become the woman I need to be.  And for that, I feel indebted to him.

So, thank you, sweet baby boy, for spurring change in Momma's life!  I love you and in one month I fully expect you to dunk your head in your cake!!!
When I was a child I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: 
but when I became a [wo]man, I put away childish things.
1 Cor. 13:11 KJV
Yay! He's reaching for the apple!!