Ten Minutes

Two nights ago, I was crocheting in my chair like the little old lady I am inside and Derek was jogging on the treadmill when I heard a strange sound.  I was immediately suspicious and immediately anxious, but brushed it off.  A few seconds later, I heard it again, but louder, so I called for Derek to shut it down so we could listen together and try to figure out what we were hearing.

Subconsciously, we knew, but our brains had not yet caught up.

Let’s back up the truck.  Earlier this year, we determined that we were not going to add to the noise of being parents to kids with special needs.  Sure, there were and are some things that inevitably come up and we discuss openly (within reason) or will answer questions as we see fit.  But, as far as our children’s physical health goes, we know we’ve jumped the hurdles and left them way behind in the dust.  It’s been over two years since any sort of emergency room visit, and all reports for our son bearing his brave scar come back great.  Rock solid, one may even say.  Up until last week, both our kids had perfect attendance at school (it’s preschool, but perfect attendance is perfect attendance).  Unprecedented for our family.

Then last week, Jet got a nosebleed at school–the kind not caused by picking, and the kind that because of his special combination of him and his meds lasts for almost an hour.  The kind that used to be a precursor to illness.  Surely, that was just a coincidence though.  Weird, random, no big deal.

Over the weekend, Jet sneezed more than anyone in the family.  It’s not allergy season.  He wasn’t stuffy or congested and didn’t have a cough.  Again, these sneeze attacks used to be a precursor to the bad colds.  Not those kind, I mean the really bad ones.  But we’ve not had one of those episodes in months.  He probably doesn’t even have asthma.  His pulmonary hypertension is basically nonexistent.

Now it’s Tuesday night, and we suddenly hear barking and gasping and hysterics.  What in the world…?  Our bodies were in action before our brains were.  We haven’t heard a cough that bad, a wheeze that bad, in actual years.

And the routine comes back in an instant.  Sit him up.  Grab the rescue inhaler and backup nebulizer.  Hand over chest to count breaths, feel the heart beating and lungs contracting, retracting.  Phone in other hand with 911 dialed but not connected, just in case.  Shoes on, wallet and keys in reach.  Waiting, waiting, waiting…is it going to get better?  Worse?  Do we connect the call?  Are we overreacting?  Hold it together, don’t cry.  Stay calm.  We’re the adults.

Just like our subconscious recognized what was happening before our thoughts could catch up, Jet’s did too.  Except this time, it’s different.  We have an audience of one scared brother who has never witnessed this before while the other is old enough to panic, old enough to be aware of the crisis, to realize this is beyond his control.  It’s all beyond our control.

And then more decisions.  If we can just get him to breathe.  In and out.  Five times.  And repeat.  It’s not working, and we still have the phone in hand and try to decide what to do.  Stay calm, stay calm, stay calmGod, it’s not fair!  We are past this!  We should be past this!  Knowing that what we do next is going to have lasting effects, we do it anyway.  One of us has to hold him still, restrain his thrashing, panicked movements, and the other has to hold the rescue medication in place.  And he still isn’t taking in enough of the medication to ease the barking, wheezing cough.  He’s breathing too fast for it to work.  Stay calm.  We can do this.  God please, help him breathe! 

Until finally, finally, he takes one breath.  Slow enough that we know the medication will start to work.  Four more.  You can do it!  Here comes another coughing fit.  Move the device and grab a towel because it sounds like something is coming up from his lungs.  If that happens, we have to call, but it doesn’t.  Relief.  Then terror, again.  Phone in hand, again.  Restrain, mask over face, and deep breath.  Too fast.  Try again.  Again.  And now it’s working, slowly but surely.  Then finally, he’s calm.  Oxygen is up to 98.  And he falls asleep with the pulse ox still on his finger.

We leave the room, put our phones down.  One of us hops in the shower just in case.  Laugh with a tinge of hysteria about looking forward to hospital breakfasts.  Fill some prescriptions to pick up in the morning for an extra boost on those lungs.  Sleep a restless sleep waiting for the next episode…and it doesn’t come.

IMG_5892Today is Thursday, and he’s better.  We spent the day yesterday having him practice holding the device during his treatments, every two hours while he’s calm, because he’s old enough to learn how.  Knowing that giving him some measure of control during one of these episodes may help keep him calm.  Showing him old photos of him chillaxing with nasal cannulas and breathing masks that look like duck bills.  He’s totally got this. 

The cough started again mid-late afternoon yesterday, but we’ve got this.  Fresh, cold air to calm down the airways.  Warm bath to loosen up the crud building up.  Lining up all the equipment that had been buried in the cabinet, putting some in each room because we’ve accumulated extras over the years.  Checking on him before we go to bed, no fever, no wheeze, no words…but a look of gratefulness and awareness in his eyes that wasn’t there before.

Ten minutes, tops.  From start to finish, ten minutes is all it took to pop the bubble we’ve been living in.  That even after three and a half years, this is still, occasionally, our reality.  We’re so grateful, so thankful, that this isn’t our daily life.  We know that CHD is so much worse for so many kids and their parents.  His heart is repaired and we are so grateful to his doctors, surgeons, God.  We don’t know why his heart was able to be repaired, giving him the ability to live a full life but others are not, and we don’t take that for granted.  And while our ultimate goal is to not give any sort of special treatment because of his condition, these ten minutes proved that sometimes, we can’t.

But this time gave us something extra, outside of the weird PTSD parents of heart warriors get.  This time, it took ten minutes for our almost five year old son to realize this, this, is what having a brave scar means.

 

How We Dwell

IMG_2186It’s been a hot minute and a half since our last post in January.  Honestly, it doesn’t feel like it should be almost Thanksgiving…but here we are.  I took the last half a year and then some off from blogging and instead enjoyed being.  Honestly, it was kind of nice!  I never want to write because I feel like I have to, and so the break was good for me.  Now, here we are and maybe because it’s this time of year my words are always easier to find.  And even though none of these photos have anything to do with what’s been on my mind, they’ll also give you a glimpse of our summer.  There is something about the in between of fall and winter that always stirs up a lot of memories of all different kinds, but this year, we’ve been learning and focusing on how to remember–and not to dwell.

Aren’t those the same?

Kind of.

IMG_2617I can remember that three years ago Jet was in and out of the hospital.  I can remember the complete and utter helplessness each of those illnesses created in me.  But if I dwell on just those feelings, it can warp the memory and even change my mood today, choosing to feel sorry for myself and even him, instead of celebrating how far he’s come.

EE96880E-9C86-4E4D-A1D6-F4E3A4D73374I can remember that a year and a half ago Judah came home and we thought what have we done.  It’s okay to catalog the experience, to remember and learn from it, but I can’t let what ifs guide our future choices.

IMG_1844I can remember meeting both my kids for the first time.  How excited we were.  Nervous and hopeful.  And if I’m not careful, I can start the comparison game that nothing will ever measure up to those moments ever again.  I can warp happy memories into bittersweet, melancholy ones…wishing for things that didn’t really exist.  Family days are hard, and adjustment periods are even harder.  It’s important to remember the hard too, even if it’s easier to remember only the happy.

img_1950.jpgI can remember how easy things used to be. Friendships, finances, life in general…what I’m trying to say is that remembering isn’t bad!  But the way I dwell on these thoughts can taint my reality.  I can choose to be thankful for the experiences or to learn from my experiences, or I can choose to be bitter, jealous, anxious, etc.

In Philippians 3:12-14 Paul says, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own.  But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the price of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.

I don’t think Paul is saying to erase our memories completely.  After all, our past shapes us–but it does not define us.  If I lived in the past, what future do I have to live for?

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I’m not sure yet how we’ll remember the events of this year.  Ironically, even though so far this year has seemed to be one of our quietest yet, I can also say that so far, not a single thing we’ve planned for has happened and much of the unplanned has thrown us for a loop.  I’m not saying this to be vague, but instead to ponder how I’ll remember 2019.

Like the apostle Paul, I too can choose how I frame my memories.  I’m not saying we should ignore our ups and downs, but instead, how can we use them, ultimately, to glorify God?

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Present

Present: (adj.) being, existing, or occurring at this time or now; current.

I normally don’t do New Year’s resolutions, and I’ve never specifically set out to choose a “word” for my year, but this year I really want (and need) to keep my focus on something to remind me to stay in the moment…and I can’t think of a better word than present.

To stay present, to keep your focus in the moment, for some people might come easily.
For me, it does not.

image2If you suffer from anxiety in any way, shape, or form, you’ll understand why it’s so hard for me to stay present. At any given moment, I can think of at least twenty things that are playing in the back of my mind, much like Shel Silverstein’s poem “What If”. At the same time, I replay conversations and events in the past that I can’t change, yet still keep me up at night.

I came across a saying once, attributed to Isak Dinesen, that reads: You can’t change the past, but you can ruin the present by worrying about the future.

That’s spot on accurate in my case. I believe another, and better, way to phrase this is found in Matthew 6 (vs 34): Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

So…how does one go about staying present, especially when one’s mind is always spinning ahead?

Every day, I’m committing to the following:

  1. Going outside.
  2. Taking time for myself, and just myself, to do something that brings me joy.
  3. Writing down a Bible verse or quote that specifically spoke to me that day.
  4. Writing down something that I am thankful for.

Why those four things?

Going outside helps clear my headspace (especially if it’s 15 degrees outside…that’ll clear anyone’s headspace). It brings my focus outside of the walls of our house that sometimes seem to close in. It gives me a purpose…whether that’s going to get the mail or picking up one of the kids from school or getting an iced coffee and a cake pop.

Taking time for myself doing something that brings me joy…that’s kind of two things in one. Taking time for yourself is important, when you’re constantly being pulled in a hundred directions, or so it sometimes seems. Doing something that brings you joy reminds you of who you are. Again, that small thing that brings you joy could be coffee with a friend, or twenty minutes with the door shut in your bedroom working on a puzzle on your iPad.

Writing things down is a proven tactic to improve your memory. Granted, for some people writing things down might just mean you remember you wrote something down somewhere, sometime; but in theory, writing something down in a designated place helps reinforce what you’ve learned. This gives me a challenge and purpose to study more, read more, and absorb more.

Going along with writing down a Bible verse or quote is also writing down something you’re truly thankful for. The key is to focus on the positive. We can always think of things we need to ask God help with or for, and there are definitely days where one child is in hour three of a hysterical fit and the other has shut down emotionally and the dog has decided to turn the living room into his personal outhouse that make it hard to find something to be thankful for. Finding something, anything to be thankful for, even if it’s as simple as “I’m thankful for iced lattes with classic syrup” is still worth remembering (and maybe worth a laugh down the road). image1

By doing this daily, eventually I hope my mindset changes that it’s no longer a chore to think of things I’m thankful for or to find things that bring me joy. That instead of approaching events or days with dread and worry, I can turn my thought process around little by little. And the reason for always writing all of these things down? To flip back in one month, six months, etc. on a particularly bad day when you’re having a hard time staying present (or even a good day for retrospection) to see your progress and strength and that I can do hard things.

And the only way I can do those things is to stay present. To focus on the here and now, and not worry about two weeks, two months, or two years from now, so that at the end of the day I can say I didn’t waste my time focusing on my worries and anxieties.

We have may exciting things happening in 2019, but with that excitement there’s still underlying fear and uncertainty. To risk a cliche, we don’t know the future, but we know Who holds the future. If you want to join me, or join us, in being present every day, I’d love to do it together with you. Hopefully, these practices we put into place will help bring peace, calm, and clarity along the way.

Happy New Year!

 

 

Looking Another Direction

IMG_2941It’s no secret that our family loves the beach, and specifically the beaches along 30A. Every year, we make it a priority to spend a week together at one of the most beautiful stretches of sand in the world (no, really, I think it’s in Fodor’s or something, even though we still might be a little biased). Of course, the beach town vibes, the food, the shops, the lack of commercialization, the Southern charm, the white sand and warm Gulf coast waters all play major factors in why we choose this location to stop and reset as a family, year after year.

But my favorite part of the each day? My favorite part of each vacation?

Sunset.IMG_3494

Any and each and every sunset, both the time leading up to it and the time just after it goes beyond the horizon. I’ve never not seen a gorgeous sunset there; and if you’re a Pirates of the Caribbean fan, you’ll understand the reference when I say we’ve even witnessed (and recorded) the “green flash”. And when the sun finally sets, the bell rings; signalling that the day is done and time to get ready for the next. Clouds or no clouds, the sky is a painting no one could ever replicate, no two the same, and even a photo never compare to seeing God’s paintbrush in person.

IMG_3626This year though, when we were watching the sunset in Seaside on our what we anticipated being our last night there as a family of four, I happened to look the other way, and saw something just as beautiful: the reflection of the sunset in the eastern sky. I never considered to look the other way; I was always so focused on the obvious beauty in front of me that I didn’t consider the beauty around me.

Adoption can be a lot like that.

At the beginning of this week, we received the shocking news that we could be facing a three year wait time until referral, and three years is what they were hoping for; the possibility that it could be even longer exists. We were also encouraged to look into adoption programs with other countries. I have to admit, I spent a good part of the week angry, confused, and questioning God, His timing, His plan. The added bonus of watching constant content streaming in every feed reminding me that it’s National Adoption Month didn’t help my state of mind either.

Because obviously, since we’re following God’s leading, everything should go our way, right?

In the space of 24 hours, we went from having a plan to having no plan. We planned to adopt internationally from the same country again, the same country of our boys’ birth, knowing the wait might be a smidge longer but ultimately going the way of our previous two adoption with being matched fairly quickly. Suddenly, a possible three year wait is looming ahead of us, along with the unknowns of could we/should we pursue a different country–a country with a whole new set of rules, a whole new set of documents, a whole new process…a whole new everything.

The only way to describe how we were feeling is that we were standing in front of two doors…but were the doors half-open or half-shut? Which door was half-open? Were they both half-shut? Do we push or pull? Did we, after everything so far, do the wrong thing? Should we change our plans completely? Agencies? Countries? Ages? Throw in the towel altogether? Everything we were assuming we knew was suddenly not true, and we felt sucker punched.

And then we remembered, just like a light bulb went off. The country we were encouraged to pursue is the same country we originally planned to adopt from, before switching to the one we actually adopted from–twice. Talk about a full circle moment.

IMG_1856 (1)And look. Just look at how that turned out, even though it wasn’t our original plan.

We’ve been so focused on what was in front of us, the beauty of adoption from where we’ve been twice before, that we failed to consider beauty anywhere else. Because of these changes, we can open our home to a child from yet a different country, a different culture, a different ethnicity. Our focus wasn’t on the end game, providing a child with a home and family. Instead, our focus was on ourselves, and how this affected our own plans for our home and family–while not even being thankful for the family we’ve been given thus far.

So here we are. It may have taken us a week to process and understand and change our mindset–and yes, mourn a little bit–but we don’t have two doors half-closed or closing. We’ve had lots of questions and answers and Facebook messages and phone calls…and still have some questions that are unanswered. When we’re ready or able to, we will answer them. But, we have found out that we can and will apply to two programs simultaneously. Yes, we might be waiting a little longer…or we might not. Yes, we might not know what we’re doing…but really, does anyone? Yes, we might have to pay more, or we might not…but what’s the balance in our checking account compared to the actual life of a child?

These are the truths we came back to. Our heart for adoption has not changed. We are not alone in this journey. And we’ll have two doors to leave open, looking for the beauty from ashes waiting for us from whatever direction our son or daughter, our boys’ brother or sister, comes from; and we’ll be greeting them with open hearts and open arms, whenever that may be.

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