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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Reflections on Life, turning 39 and the Journey

Summer is in full swing and there is so much to do, so much to write about and reflect upon. We kicked off swim team, enjoyed a family vacation out west, and are dealing with some pretty crushing news and facts of life.  I'll save summer memories and family vacation for another blog, but before I can write about anything, I have to process (by writing about) thoughts about life.  

Last month, I turned 39, and I've developed a little tradition of treating myself to a birthday run and/or writing to reflect on my life (2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010). So on June 16 as I turned 39, I set out to run 9 miles in the Chancellorsville battlefield. As usual, I reflected on life and let the music lead my mind.  
The first song was "Keep your Head Up," and I couldn't help think about BJ.  I enjoyed the sights, alone time, and the feeling of gratitude for health, love and family.  But I couldn't quit thinking about what life will have in store for BJ and me.  To make a long story short, he has been experiencing a tremor in his right arm, and our local neurologist suspects it is early onset Parkinson's Disease.   (He gave me permission to talk/blog about this)

As I was running, I enjoyed the music and about mile 6, the music stopped. I tried to continue running, but I just can't stand hearing myself out of breath as I run, so I walked.  Yet, I still enjoyed myself as I heard different sounds -- the rustle of the trees, the flow of the creek, and my slow, steady breath.  I thought, maybe life is going to be like this -- the sounds might change, we might not continue running, but there are different sounds to enjoy.

From what we've learned you don't actually get a "Parkinson's Disease" diagnosis; you just rule out other things from brain and blood tests, and the doctors make predictions based on symptoms.  The night before my birthday, In went out with dear friends and they encouraged me to try to get the MRI and blood test results before we went on vacation.  I tried to talk to BJ about this, but soon I realized, he really doesn't want to know. 

The night of my birthday, we went out as a family to the same restaurant where BJ and I had our first date; we sat at the same booth. 


He wanted to enjoy our trip. So we headed west and had the experience of a lifetime; my parents and brother's family joined us and it was all lovely. BJ's tremor was quite noticeable, yet it didn't hinder a thing. Before we left, we admitted to each other that we both think it is indeed Parkinson's Disease.


I posted pictures to my social media of choice, instagram, and got a sweet text from my dear friend Whitney about our trip.  I had been meaning to connect with her; if it is on my heart, I have to share it with my friends. So one day at lunch in Hill City, South Dakota, I texted her some niceties about our vacation and about what is going on with BJ; she responded with care and concern as well as the astounding information that with her new job, she now focuses on Parkinson's Disease,  and had just come back from several days with the top experts. 

We finished our vacation, and the night before we left "mountain time" I enjoyed an amazing respite in Denver, Colorado with my dear friend Lisa. We drank wine by her outdoor fire, talked about kids, life, health. . .and enjoyed hot yoga together the next morning. She showered the girls with gifts and hugs as she picked me up and dropped me off at our Denver hotel. 

We returned from vacation to life, to swim team, and on July 2, after swim practice, I dropped the girls off with "MumMum" and met BJ at the neurologist's office. We received the news we both were anticipating. The MRI and blood tests were all clear, and at this stage, it seems like Parkinson's Disease.  

I have presented the news to Anna Cate and Molly like this: your mom is forgetful; your dad has a tremor. He is going to be ok.  All the people I told about the appointment, I felt like I should go back and tell them what's going on, but we have the rest of our lives to let everyone else know.  It seems that some people hide this, but since he has a tremor and is married to me, the most open person possible, we aren't keeping it a secret. 

We are learning about the best treatments, and have second opinion appointments with specialists.   My mantra is we will be ok; we have health insurance, faith, and family.  My dear friend Whitney has helped us connect with an specialist at Georgetown; BJ's brother is connecting him with specialists in Richmond at VCU.  Health insurance covers second opinions and specialists.

We run with music; we walk with different sounds. 

So far, we are positive, and I've even noticed ways this diagnosis may elevate the quality of our life. Like most problems/ailments, exercise is the treatment of choice.  Since the follow-up appointment, BJ is walking Rosie every day, playing "disc golf" with his brother and friends, and making family even more of a priority.

Of course, we are scared and sad.  Well, he says he is not sad; I am. I feel like he has been through enough and I am sorry he has to deal with this.  I have hope, though.  Whitney assures me that there is a lot of research out there; my Dad told me that he is now an expert after scouring the internet  and that early onset PD progresses slowly. I know we have today, and isn't that all any of us are promised?

I'm so thankful I've never rested my faith on circumstances of this world. I neither credit nor blame God for earthly situations; my faith is deeper than that. My faith is in love, light and in the support of the Holy Spirit in every breath I take.  Sometimes, I don't hear that breath -- it gets drowned out by the music or the busyness of life, but lately I find myself leaning into the Spirit, not to ask for anything, but just for its healing presence.  Just like my marriage; in sickness and in health, I seek the companionship of presence. I focus on the breath; the dealings of the present. 

So my take on my birthday, on our summer and on life right now is shadowed by my concern for BJ and the looming diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease.  But as Michael J Foxx says, "if you spend time dreading the worst, you have to live it twice."  So, I'm trying to turn my eyes away from the shadow to the beauty of the present.

We are choosing to live this beauty -- the love of family and friends made more meaningful with the backdrop of faith. Of course our mind drifts to the "what ifs" but we are doing all we can by consulting the specialists, keeping active, and treasuring the journey together. I'm glad we didn't "know" on our vacation, but in hindsight, now that we "know" I'm not sure it would change things.  Nothing will take away our love of family, our faith and the gifts of the journey we take together.  I love you, BJ, and am grateful to take this journey with you.



Forget about your life situation and pay attention to your life. Your life situation exists in time. Your life is now. Your life situation is mind-stuff. Your life is real. -Eckkart Tolle










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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Plans to Celebrate

The end of March culminates a month of remembering and celebrating the births of my children. . .along with regular scheduled activities like laundry, extra-curricular commitments, delivering Girl Scout cookies and working. We enjoyed celebrating both Molly and Anna Cate with visits from family.   Since the lioness of March forced us to cancel her party on it's originally planned day, we were able to reschedule Molly's party and we had a delightful time.




 She was really happy, and as my Dad says all the time, "when your kids are happy, life is good."







We were thankful many of her friends were able to come a week late. 














 Her turning 5 is a big deal to her and to me. 



Coincidentally, we had Anna Cate's 5th birthday party at Splitsville, too. 

The wall has seen some wear and tear in four years.
So has has my parenting. I didn't do handmade favors or have a custom outfit made for Molly's party, as I had for Anna Cate. I reused the hat and made a last minute Etsy order of a #5 tshirt. I could feel guilty and share on this blog (for posterity) all the excuses -- when Anna Cate was turning 5, she went home to TN for a couple weeks before her party and I had a baby going to sleep at 7 every night, so I had time.  I enjoyed the season in my life when I could do the extra touches, yet rather than lament the time I don't have or my unwillingness to lose sleep or workout minutes over those details, I am going to focus on the fact that Molly was happy and my pleasure that there are are places like Splitsville to make parties happen. She knows she is loved and celebrated.


At the end of the month, we enjoyed a visit from Nana, Aunt Becki and Kitty, whose spring break coincided with Anna Cate's birthday.  Molly and Kitty went to DC with Mom and Becki.  I let Anna Cate stay home from school one day for them to go to a movie and enjoy each other's company. On Saturday, we attended a community Easter party.  







This year rather than a party, Anna Cate got an experience.  So on her actual birthday, her experience was a trip to the zoo, dinner and cupcakes at Georgetown cupcakes. The zoo was a hit. 










 After the zoo, we headed to Georgetown for what I thought was the main experience for Anna Cate. 



 And it was fun, I think. . .but to be honest, it wasn't the best part of the day.  Molly and Kitty were tired and traffic was heavy and I got flustered about which way dinner was and Mom got fussy because she didn't get the group picture she had dreamed of. But life isn't always going to work out where everyone in the picture is ready to be there, and we have to accept that it's ok. 


The very next day, at a yoga class the instructor made two comments that really found meaning in my life. The first was in yoga poses (and in life), the struggle is to find balance between effort and ease. I can apply this in celebrating my children.  Sometimes, the effort doesn't always produce more happiness; I had this perfect experience planned to DC cupcakes but it wasn't great for the whole family. 

The other sentiment shared by the teacher is  a call to find yourself in the space between the breaths, that is where life is (I'm paraphrasing of course.

The "in between" moments of family time or the less-planned activities we experience create the life-force available to us in the most authentic ways.  What Anna Cate and Molly might remember about their birthdays might not be exactly what I planned, but it may be more important. 






“If you want to find God, hang out in the space between your thoughts.” Alan Cohen. -- found on a yoga inspirational website

"If you want to find God and happiness with your family, enjoy your children and family time in between all the planned activities." -- Sarah King

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Coins and Tickets

Molly Mae turned 5 last Monday. I have been quite sentimental lately  about this milestone representing a chapter in my life coming to a close; I officially don't have young kids.  While, I haven't carried a diaper bag or sippy cup for quite a while, #5 seems to nail the big kid plaque on the walls of our family life.

  And as everything seems to be with motherhood and my daughters, I often think about their lives linked to existential meanings for me.  Are these these milestones about the passing of time for them or for me?
Is it about the big girl or the lines on my face?  Is it the milestone of her birthday or my trying to grasp this journey? Last week, as I often do even if I don't have the time to sit and write a blog, I ruminate the significance of our life as if I would put words to events and feelings.  In  my mind and heart, I was preparing myself to think about and celebrate the big deal of Molly's birthday. I was thinking of how I would describe her phases and moods, her strengths and frustrations and the way she exudes personality with force and femininity.   I excitedly thought about welcoming my parents for a visit, including a surprise visit from Daddy Doug and celebrating my mother's birthday.  My parents came in on Thursday but on Tuesday, we received some news that has consumed my thoughts and emotions even as I'm trying to focus on Molly and the journeys of our life.  

This blog is a place where I get my thoughts out in the spirit of honesty as I share my heart and mind as our story, yet sometimes what is on my mind isn't exactly our story.  Elise, a little girl in Anna Cate's class, has been diagnosed with brain cancer.   (You can see Elise's beautiful face or read the strong, heart-wrenching, yet beautiful words from her family on their public Facebook page here.) I do not know the family, but have met the little girl at lunch once and heard Elise's name fondly from Anna Cate all year, yet their story has been on my heart and mind ever since. I think about the family so much and can only admit that as much as my heart is breaking, I can not realize what they face, so I just send prayers, including a plea for them to enjoy the present in the face of such struggles. . . absurd as that sounds. 

Needless to say this news has permeated my thoughts on my own life as we go on with our story. So without sounding trite, I hope to relay our story. 

We welcomed Mom and Dad and planned an elaborate surprise for Daddy's appearance. I went to the train to pick up Mom, but BJ went to pick up Dad. In the car on the way home, Molly cried, "I just don't know why Daddy Doug never comes."  After we came home and got settled, Daddy rang the door bell, and Molly could not quit hugging him. It was grand!

Friday, they went to school to have lunch with Anna Cate and that evening,  we enjoyed a lovely dinner to celebrate Mom's 68th birthday. 










On Saturday, we went to an air and space museum. I let Anna Cate take some pictures:







 Clearly she knows how to capture the moment. 


We then enjoyed a lovely meal at our friends' Geoff and Dorinda's home. Dorinda and I have been friends for over 20 years but reconnected really in the last 10, and her husband Geoff is sort of like a clone of my Dad. 

Dorinda is truly a phenomenal hostess. 
 She is like 14 months pregnant and put on a fabulous spread enabling us all to visit in their beautiful home. 

 She does everything perfect. . .including an arrangement of the Tennessee state flower. 

The next day was the day we had planned to do Molly's party, but winter weather forced us to postpone, so we had a family day with movies and pizza. Molly didn't throw a fit about her party being postponed; in fact she lets a lot smaller things drive her crazy.  On Monday, Molly's actual birthday, Mom, Dad, Anna Cate and I took Molly to Chuck E. Cheese for an hour.  



If you've managed to avoid it, let me explain the rouse: you buy coins to play the games and the kids want to play as many games as possible to get as many tickets as possible so they can redeem their tickets for a prize. Both girls had a blast playing the games. . .and trying to get tickets.
After the coins run out, the kids go see the prizes they can get with their wad of tickets, and they are junk . . .the kind of things that come in a McDonald's Happy Meal -- junky as the food and the toys.  Clearly, the joy of Chuck E Cheese is playing the games, not the prize at the end. That translates well to my heart and mind as we celebrate Molly turning 5.

In general, the focus of parenthood and our goals for our dealings with children are long term pay offs, but often the experience trumps the outcome. The coins metaphorically are the present and should not be disregarded.  I am not saying to ignore the values in delayed gratification, yet the theme of life seems to continually call us to savor the journey, and no better teachers of this truth than children. 
Molly grasping her coins on a ride.


 On her birthday evening,  she was happy to have her family around for her. 
 I hope I will always remember the place of my heart and mind as we welcomed the celebration of Molly's 5th birthday. Love and Light.
I don't see all the worries, yelling, frustrations and chores that come with parenthood. I see pure love and light in the hearts of the family surrounding Molly and in the spirit of a little girl.  

So as I think about Molly and pray for a family on my heart, my hopes and prayers are the same.  By the grace of God, in the midst of whatever the tickets will get us, help us to seek love and light in the ride of life.  


All men know their children mean more than life.
 - Euripides










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I love my family, deep thoughts, pure feelings and a good time making lasting memories with people I love. I procrastinate, but love to plan. I'm insecure about my body but confident about my heart and mind. I grew up in a small town, but feel like I'm a citizen of the world. Being a working mother was not in my life plan, but neither was being poor so I'm using this blog to help me focus on the precious time I do have with my family. My husband is the most competent person I know, and in many ways, he is more motherly to our precious girls than I am, since I have the job of being the disciplinarian, more like my Dad. I love to work out, write, eat, drink wine, entertain, decorate and think.

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