The End …

S366LYDoG:

My kids are playing video games in the next room. They’ve been at it for at least 4 hours now and I can’t seem to muster enough energy to care. I lay here in bed frustrated. I think I have the flu, it feels like I’ve been smooshed between a brick wall and a freight train for days … no weeks, now. It is par for the course at the end of this traumatic year. I hear that it has been that way for everyone, or at least, so it would seem. I guess 2016 has been one for the books on a global scale. I know I’m not alone in my sentiments or suffering. I suppose I can take whatever comfort comes with being in the company of fellow sufferers. Misery does love company, so they say.

I really tried to find gratitude in every day this year. My last few posts (or lack of posts) might suggest otherwise. This is only because most days were emotionally exhausting such that the only gratitude left to find was for my bed at the end of the day where I usually retreat, too tired to lift a finger. At least after Netflix has been started.

I sit here pondering what to say to close this chapter in my blogging history and I feel at a loss. How to sum up such a strange “year of gratitude” eludes me. My heart hurts. Since my last posting, where I think I may have mentioned that my sweet aunt lost her battle with cancer, my mom has been diagnosed with stage IV metastatic colon cancer.

Incurable …

Inoperable …

Terminal …

colon-cancer-awarenessThose words ring with a finality that I can’t escape. She is currently undergoing chemotherapy which has been traumatic in its own right. I’ve seen this before where chemo sneaks up on people I love and takes them for a loop they never imagined. The chemo is meant to extend her life although, for how long, we still do not know. As with anything medical, no promises can be made, nor should they be. She may live many years to come, or it may be only months. We have no way of knowing the answer until this first several treatments are complete and her body allows us a sneak peek into the chapters that follow.

I wish I could say that I have been selfless and brave through all of this. I have not. I have been frustrated and selfish in my fears. Of course I have mourned for her suffering. Of course I have longed to carry her burden. In my deepest, darkest, most selfish place, though, I will admit that I have worried over my own fate and how I will ever move forward without her here to help me. The fact that there is a life-after-death where we will surely meet again has become completely beside the point in the here and now. I have been left to fend for myself and my own struggles with health and well-being and, at the risk of sounding like a toddler, I don’t like it. Not one bit.

There, I said it. Now you know that I am ultimately selfish and human. I cannot escape my humanity. Trust me, I would truly love to. More than you know.

The grief hits in tidal waves that threaten to drown out my voice of reason. That logical voice that is always attempting to convince and console my heart with faith and wisdom. I wish I could hear that voice more clearly, but fear is loud and obnoxious. Fear drives all thoughts of reason away inviting yet more panic and distress.

I know, I get it. The obvious answer is faith. Faith is the antithesis of fear. Whelp … easier said then done, folks. Easier said than done.

In spite of all that has been happening, I will bring my daily gratitude challenge to a close for 2016 with the following:

20161222_211004A single mother celebrates Christmas Eve a day early because her children will be elsewhere this year for that special night and the morning that follows. She sits next to her tree, in her warm house, opening the traditional Christmas PJ’s with her boys. Looking into their chocolate smeared smiles, she sees hope. Hope in their future, hope in hers. Hope that carries the weight of the hard work that brought them here, to the end of this year of all of years. I am still wrapping my head around the fact that this is me. This is my life which I certainly never imagined. But … This! I am grateful for moments where I feel “this.” When I am totally present and basking in  what it feels like to know that I have been blessed with the lives of these two angels (sometimes devils) who capture my heart and expand my soul.

A family meeting with two parents, aging yet still so young, and three adult children. A meeting born of necessity and sorrow as this family faces the loss of a mother, a wife, a grandmother… The discussions based around how we grow closer, how we manage the coming onslaught of stress, how we can best care for one another. How do we face the impossible? Cancer is such a bad way to bring a family together, but it did and it does. It forces us to face each other, to say what we want, ask for what we need, and step outside of ourselves to help one another. Searching for a new perspective together makes the search much more manageable. Navigating the unknown is a little less frightening with family by your side. This, too, brings gratitude to my heart.

dsc_0439I search the faces of each family member present. My father, showing strength and wisdom despite the fact that I know he is hurting. My mother, her struggle to accept the unacceptable. Worried all the while what will become of her children, and their children. My little sister, who is facing the trauma of the past year. Widowed by a husband who felt that this life had become too much to bear. Finding her way, yet again on her own. This picture was taken just hours after we found out about Byron’s suicide. Although we smile, you can see the lines of distress in all of our faces. And finally, my compassionate little brother, working hard to bring his family together. His sweet wife by his side, both willing to do whatever it takes to carry the rest of us through the journey ahead. Them! My family, I am thankful for them.

My oldest son rubs my back in small circles, my youngest holding my hand. I lay in bed crying, completely undone by stress, worry, and loneliness. In the back of my mind I feel guilt. What am I thinking allowing my children to see me in this way? They are growing up so quickly and my suffering only causes their growth to increase. I can’t decide if it is good or bad, but in the end I let them stay because it is real. This life is excruciating at times, how do I even begin to prepare them for it? They are my strength when I should be theirs. These mother moments bring me gratitude. Knowing, first hand, the compassion of my boys. They will be kind-hearted men who understand the importance of patience and hard work. Allowing them to see me like this and comfort me in their way is a tough teaching moment. One that I wish I could spare them but one that they will be better off having learned.

News of my mother’s illness has been a gift in its own way. That probably sounds strange to you, but some people aren’t given the time to absorb and absolve the way we have. We all experienced that earlier this year when my brother-in-law took his life. It was so sudden and traumatic we are all still reeling from the shock of it. So, while it may sound absurd, I am grateful for the gift of foreknowledge we have with my momma. Knowing that our time is more limited than we would have liked gives us the opportunity as a family to pull together; “no regrets” our  mantra these days. I am so thankful that there is time to say and do what needs to be said and done.

This Christmas season has been an interesting one. I wasn’t in the mood. First, I was focused on finishing out the semester at school. Next came the shopping, which I hate. Then came the scheduling which has become increasingly difficult to manage as my health continues to decline. I just can’t be everywhere I want to be. I missed recitals. I had to cancel on gatherings with friends. The spirit of Christmas played a frustrating game of hide and seek with me this year. I am the choir director for my local congregation. My choir worked so hard this year to prepare. Christmas morning came and we sang. The program had its flaws, some of my choir members were unhappy with their performance.

Me?

This is when I finally caught the Christmas spirit!

Looking into the faces of my sweet neighbors as they sang with all their hearts filled me with love and respect for them. They sacrificed time with their families, two families even sacrificed their homes inviting us in for rehearsals. Feeling that love for them brought Christmas around for me in an unexpected way. Was it perfect? Was it our best performance? No. However, I haven’t felt the Holy Spirit like that in a long time. They bore testimony of Christ and I heard from many in our congregation that the Spirit was felt. To close the meeting I was to lead the congregation in a closing hymn, Silent Night. As I was preparing to begin, a voice whispered to my soul, “have the congregation stand.” So I did. Tears were abundant as we sang that simple, yet powerful, hymn. Standing together with our friends and neighbors, united by our faith in Christ. It was powerful and I am grateful.

This brings me to what I am most grateful for. I have felt this one everyday as I learn to rely more and more on the atonement of the Savior.

My Savior.

Your Savior.

The Savior of the world.

Those words hardly brush the surface of their true meaning. Without him I’m just a little pile of dust inhabited by a spirit. Through his help, this pile of dust will be raised again and resurrected to perfection. With his help, one day I will shed this broken and hurting body. I will walk free of the anguish of living inside this prison and my body will be renewed. Because of his atonement I can be perfected and stand again before my maker ready to be received into his kingdom. His atonement is everything. I am learning more and more how to use it in my life. How to allow Him to carry my burdens and release me from sorrow. Even in the midst of great suffering, I can be happy through Christ, my Savior. Him! I am grateful for him and for a loving Father in Heaven who would freely offer his only begotten.

christus_statue

“Christus” by Bertel Thorvaldsen

May you all find the tender mercies that bring you gratitude, joy, and hope even when life hurts. May  you find your own joy and peace in the new year. As always, thank you for reading.

The Lord bless you and keep you,

Stina

 

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So … That Happened …

Days … I’ve lost track, through I’m not sure I care anymore … S366LYDoG:

That probably sounds pretty cynical. That would be my M.O. but, this time I think it’s just sheer exhaustion. Let’s catch up …

Everyone warned me it would happen and, it did.

What do I mean by “it” you ask?

Well, the dreaded “it” was falling down my stairs. You shouldn’t be surprised, really. I know I’m not. It happened a couple of weeks ago and I’m still bruised on one cheek …

… And by cheek I mean bum!

It wasn’t funny at the time but, I just read what I wrote and I’m snickering loudly.

I’ve told you before that I am the klutziest (is that a word? Probably not but, oh well) person you will ever meet. I finally know why though. I thought it was because I was born with a warped super power and, maybe one day it will prove to be just that. Actually, in all seriousness, a doctor educated me earlier this year about my lack of proprioreceptive (google it, I don’t have time to explain) abilities. Apparently people with Ehler’s Danlos Syndrome (look here) have really poor proprioreception which essentially makes you really, really clumsy.

Aha! So it wasn’t just me. Ok, so it is just me. Well, now I’ve confused myself.

You catch my drift …

The point is this. Over the summer I moved out of my parents house (yay!) and into a condo. This condo has a garage underneath it with seventeen (yes, I count them at least twice a day) cement steps leading from the outer door of my garage up to my front door.  Now, you all know I love a good pair of totally nonsensical shoes as in the ones pictured below (yes, these are mine.) On this particular day, however, I was wearing the more sensible shoes pictured below aforementioned ankle-breakers.

20161017_163110

Ankle-Breakers, sexy but dangerous!

20161017_163119

Sensible yes, sexy … no!

Oh, what a klutz that I am. I had my arms full of things to deposit in my car and I can’t tell you what happened exactly, only that I lost my footing around stair five and didn’t stop bumping until stair one. Emphasis on bumping. Luckily my bum took the brunt, at least it cushioned my fall somewhat. Though, to be honest this is the first time since then that both cheeks have been fully functional in a sitting position.

For your entertainment, it went something like this …

That first missed step was a doozie. You feel that sudden rush of adrenaline only to recognize that, in that moment, there is not a darn thing that adrenaline can help you with except to add hype to the situation.

Umph, that was elbow, ow! Crap (except I didn’t say crap … ) I’m going down.

Oh … no … maybe not, there’s the handrail.

OK, never mind, I just hit my head on the handrail. Well that was unpleasant. Crap (not really … ) again that was my other elbow.

Damn it, I’m going all the way down. Shoot (insert other expletive here … ) Right butt cheek down people!

Mayday! Mayday! Left butt cheek completely obliterated! That’s it I need to install a slide.

Did anybody see that? Nope? Oh, good, at least my pride is intact. Kind of.

So there you have it. And yes, I did think this as I was going down give or take a few choice words. Miss Klutz strikes again. No worries, feel free to laugh. I did after I got done crying.

So, you’re probably wondering what my “grateful” is after all of that? I have couple actually.

I’m thankful that nothing other than a couple of giant bum cheek sized bruises were the outcome. It could have been worse. The last time I fell down the stairs I  broke my foot and then ended up in the hospital with a pulmonary embolism. Sheesh! Go big or go home, right?!? I’m grateful that the cheeks were the only real casualty in this scenario!

I’m also thankful for my sons, who after hearing the fall, came out and put my arms over their shoulders helping me back into the house. They were very brave and held back tears as I sobbed on the couch. My oldest, without any prompting, wet a rag, gently cleaned my scraped up elbows and back, bandaged me up, and brought me an ice pack. All while my younger son clung to me and stroked my hair while I cried.

Watch out young ladies, I’m training up a couple of great hubbies for you and I’m afraid I’m going to be a little protective of their loving natures when dating time comes around.

So, to sum up … I’m grateful for fleshy cheeks and good boys who care for their klutz of a momma!

Stina

 

Let It Be

Days … thru … S366LYDoG:

Here I am again. Maybe you thought I’d finally given up on my “year o’ gratefuls.” I wouldn’t blame you. Quite honestly, I had given up. This summer was, in a word, excruciating. However, as with all things that prove difficult in life, come opportunities for self-reflection and growth.

If you had asked me just 2 or 3 weeks ago if I appreciated said self-reflection and growth, I would have told you where you could effectively stick it. Sorry if I offend, but truthfully I was downright ornery about the happenings of the year to date. You read about most of the summer in my last post or the post before, I think. More was yet to come if you can believe it. It has been rough on the best of days.

I’d rather not relive it, though and so it brings us here. Finally, over the past week or so, I’ve felt as though I might actually be able to breathe again. I don’t recall how much I’ve shared my philosophies about finding peace even amidst the struggles of life … knowing me as I do, I would guess you’ve read about them ad nauseam. Sorry about that. Often I find that I have to beat it into my own brain before I can finally accept it into my heart and actually practice what I preach. My abilities to practice were certainly tested over the past while and I must say that, at first, I failed miserably.

Ugh …

Suffice it to say, orneriness ensued until it finally hit me.

“Self?” I said, “This is silly, self. Snap out of it!”

I wish I could say it was just that easy, too.

comfort-in-discomfortNah, of course it took work!

What, you think I’m a miracle worker?

Nope! It took more effort than I like to admit to pull myself out of that funk. I’d seen too much loss, too much suffering, much too much death, and certainly enough disappointment to be able to just “snap out of it.” However, when I look back with my, now 20/20 hindsight, I can see the blessings, the tender mercies, and the good that can come from it all. It required, though, that I sacrifice my pride, my expectations, and my unwillingness to forgive. Those things can be so very difficult to extract from one’s heart but if left there they canker the soul and wilt the mind.

Changing my attitude meant that I also needed to give up and give in on some things that I’d been holding out hope for but are never going to happen. That sounds sad but, truly letting go allowed me to move on instead of remaining stuck. Letting go was the only way I could see the blessings that were right in front of me instead of hoping and wishing for things that probably weren’t in my best interest anyway.

Goodness, it is hard to let go.

I feel free, though.

I know it is probably a lame excuse to say that there is no way I can tell you all of the things that I’m grateful for to make up for the lost time on my blogging. It’s the truth, though. So here is the Reader’s Digest version of my “gratefuls” to date …

My boys have been and continue to be my anchor in this life. They keep me grounded, love me unconditionally, and encourage me to put one foot in front of the other when doing so seems impossible.

My parents, who are doing their absolute best to do what they feel is right for me.

My siblings (both by birth and by marriage) who are my family, my confidants, my friends.

Friends and neighbors who continually step in and step up.

The doctors and other health care professionals who are willing to dig deep and work tirelessly to bring me relief.

Drugs! I’m sorry people but I love my drugs. They help me move, breathe, sleep, eat and more. I’ve certainly maintained my love/hate relationship with modern medicine.

I’m so thankful for my faith with which I am able to hold my head high and walk out of darkness and into light.

Finally my God, His Son, the Savior, and the Holy Ghost. I wish I could say that I willingly kept them in the loop throughout the summer. I’m not that smart, it was more because I knew I’d be in trouble without them. I think I would be curled into the fetal position on my bedroom floor if I did not include them in my day to day wanderings. This is the key to my ability to find peace in the midst of hardship and suffering. The pain is not gone, rather my burdens have been lifted.

As always, thank you for reading. I make no promise as to when my next post will be. It seems the more I try to keep up, the further behind I fall and so I have adopted the following motto. “It’ll be what it’ll be.”

So, let it be.

Stina

Days 188 – 212 Keep on , Keepin’ On

Days 188 – 212 S-366-LYDoG:

Here I go again. I am behind once more however, after I share, I think you may understand my delay.

Shortly after I last wrote it was decided that I was to move out of my parents’ home into a place of my own. This decision has been one of great turmoil. I knew that I had suffered a blow to my self-esteem as a result of the last few hard years of my life. With that perceived self-deficit, I have found that I am scared half witless to make this transition. All who know me are kind enough to reassure me that I am most definitely capable and that my fears are unwarranted. Unfortunately, I am only able of overcoming this fear by facing it myself and realizing my worth from within. Of course you are probably wondering why I have not yet mastered this at my current age. You would think that as I near 40 I would have come into a better sense of my own intrinsic worth. My only excuse is this, I am human and this life is a process in which I feel I am continually working toward a better version of … well, of me!

In other news, we had a very interesting time at our family reunion in July. And by interesting, I mean … I don’t even know how to put it all into words.

We arrived and had one blissful evening with our extended family. Becoming reacquainted and seeing how everyone has grown and changed was pure joy.

The following morning we got word that my brother-in-law, who had stayed behind, had committed suicide. That day is still a blur of emotions and a struggle to come to some form of acceptance. I don’t think that it will ever truly make sense to me. Probably because there is no sense to be made of it whatsoever. I think anyone who has had a loved one choose to take their own life can tell you that it is traumatic, at best, for the survivors. I shall leave that subject there for a moment as I move on to other matters.

20160713_101458It was decided that I and my brother’s family should stay at the reunion. A few days later, upon arriving home, my new place of residence was ready to receive my boys and I. We immediately proceeded with my move, my head still spinning from the days prior. We decided it best that I be moved into my new home by that weekend. Two days before the move Chaos, my sweet companion of 16 years, began to have serious health problems that were no longer bearable to ask him to live with. The picture you see is my last moments with  him here on this earth. My sweet puppy took his last breath in my arms on July 13.

Oh, my heart aches. You can tell me over and over that he was only a pet, that 16 years was a very long time for a dog to live etc … and blah, blah, blah

To me, it has been like trying to breath underwater. A futile experience indeed.

For so long it was just my dogs, Chaos and Havoc, and I. Chaos has seen me through so much heartache and pain that I felt I could hardly walk without him on my way back to the car after all was said and done. In truth though, I know this was my last and most loving gift to him, letting him go despite my sorrows. He needed to be free from the fetters of this life and I was just being selfish.

There you have it. The fallout of the past several weeks has been daunting indeed but, as the saying goes, “life goes on.” Sometimes it just keeps going on whether you really want it to or not. It’s ultimately a good thing but, give me time to catch up to that thought.

I did promise daily gratitude, however; I am going to cheat and use two great big “gratitudes” to cover the past weeks. In light of all that has happened I feel they are an appropriate cheat, if you will. I’d ask you to judge for yourself but, quite frankly, I’ve had enough with judgement, so I invite you to … not.

20160706_190006So let’s call this the first half. Previously I promised a post dedicated to my niece whose birthday we celebrated in June. She turned her sweet sixteen this year however, if you say that to her, you run the risk of a scathing look of death. I think that blogging about how grateful I am for her at this time is perfect as it was her stepfather who took his life. She was there with us at the reunion and opted to stay behind with my boys and I to finish the trip. In many ways I am so very glad she did.

She and I have always had a very special relationship. To say that I am grateful for her one day out of 366 would be a lie. I am grateful for her every single day. When my oldest was born and I decided to be a stay-at-home mom I also began watching her every day as my sister, then a single mom herself, had to work. I have watched her grow from a spunky young girl to a wonderful young woman. She is so very talented and mature for her age. She is kind and patient and so, so good to my boys who, I am sure, give her endless grief. While together, she and I have many talks. Some deep with sentiment, others full of senseless giggling.

I know that loosing her stepfather in the manner in which he chose to leave this life greatly impacted her. I only hope that my presence during that time was even a small comfort to her. I love her so very dearly!

The second I shall talk of is my sweet Chaos. Again, one day of gratitude out of endless years worth is inadequate. I am so thankful for the wonderful years of love and clarity he gave my life. He came to me as a puppy during some of the darkest days I have ever known. He has been the warm body in my lonely bed, the steady companionship I craved, and the unconditional love I certainly never deserved. He was spry and just plain silly as a pup. The perfect addition to my little household of one. He is now happily reunited with his little brother Havoc whom I also miss terribly. I am ever so thankful for the gift these boys were in my life.

As always my friends, find your “gratefuls” and cling to them. I think were it not for my efforts to find the shinning moments of late I would have drowned in despair and distress. As it stands, my gratitude has kept me sane.

Keep on, keepin’ on,

Stina

Days 160 – 187: Playing Catch-Up

Days 160 – 187 S-366-LYDoG

Never Too LateYou probably thought I’d finally given up on this hair-brained idea.

To be honest, so had I. Apparently, I can’t let well enough alone and I figured this year’s worth of gratitude was important enough to me that I didn’t want to abandon it after all.

My silence, in a way, was born out of having nothing to say and too much to say all at once. Often at the end of the day I wasn’t quite sure where to begin. My health took a bit of a nose dive in the past twenty some odd days but, on the other hand miracles were happening in other ways. I considered sharing some of those but I think I’d rather hold them close to the vest for now.

I think the best way to proceed to is to simply offer you a list catching you up on some of the “gratefuls” I have experienced since I last wrote.

Here goes, I believe I technically owe you 28:

  1. I am thankful for two lovely, wonderful sons who love me unconditionally and certainly more than I deserve.
  2. I am thankful for good friends who keep me sane.
  3. I am thankful for laughter.
  4. I have wonderful and wise parents who are striving to wrap their heads around my ever changing life-circumstances.
  5. My dog, who will be sixteen in December, is still here. I know that he fights for life on my behalf. I think he senses that I would be a little more than lost without him.
  6. I am so glad that it is summer, the warm weather is good for both my body and my soul.
  7. I have some pretty darn cute sandals that I get to flaunt all summer long … if I do say so myself.
  8. I am thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to read some fun summer books.
  9. I love the pool. ‘nough said!
  10. I’m glad that I don’t live somewhere humid and hot. The heat is plenty, thank you very much.
  11. Sunscreen … I have recently been reminded of the importance of a good sunscreen.
  12. I am so very thankful for a good doctor who will listen to my concerns and spend  more than ample time answering questions.
  13. I truly have a great family who is invested in my well being and happiness.
  14. think that we might all say we have the best nieces and nephews. Nope! Uh-huh, mine are the best!
  15. To that end I missed blogging about my oldest niece on her birthday. She gets a line here but, rest assured, I shall be dedicating a blog all to her in the near future. She deserves it and so much more. She’s really a great kid.
  16. I am moving out of my parent’s home and into a place of my own. (That about sums that one up.)
  17. I am all at once elated and terrified about the idea of life on my own given my unique health challenges in combination with single motherhood. In the end, I am grateful for the opportunity and circumstances that will allow me to spread my wings.
  18. I’m thankful for my hats. I really, really love my hats this summer.
  19. I’m so glad that I get to be a big “band geek” in these later years. I play flute with the concert band in my local city. These people, especially my fellow “fluties”, are my favorite part of being in the band. That, and the chance to play some really cool music.
  20. I’ve been spending time teaching my boys about poverty and the awareness I feel we could all use in regards to our fellow man. It has been an interesting journey opening their eyes to just how blessed we are and it has reminded me of the same.
  21. I love the diversity of this world. I love that we are not all born with the same thoughts, cloned over and over again with “vanilla” personalities abounding. No, we are much more unique and infinitely valuable in that uniqueness.
  22. I lost part of the nail on my big toe. That’s finally growing back. That’s pretty darn cool.
  23. I was at the pool the other day and suffice it to say, I am ever so thankful for clothing … just clothing. (Um yeah …)
  24. I’m thankful for people who are willing to look beyond the “cover of the book” to discover what my lies beneath, good and bad.
  25. I’m so, so happy that there are people who are generous and kind, again and again without hesitation or reservation.
  26. I’m finding that I can live with used “stuff.” Not everything need be brand new so I’m glad that there are people willing to depart with their gently used items and allow me the privilege of future ownership.
  27. I’m so thankful for people with integrity.
  28. Certainly not least and I hope not last, I m thankful for the great and wonderful blessings that I am afforded in this life. I am far too pessimistic at times especially when I become entrenched in troubles of health. When I peel away at the hurt and frustration I find underneath a feeling of utter astonishment at all I have to be truly thankful for.

May you find more gratitude in your daily journey,

Stina