Friday, January 29, 2010

Working It Out

If my blog has given you emotional whiplash from the quick turns from sorrow and grief to silliness and laughter I do apologize. I just try to keep it real, and right now that is really how my moods are swingin'. Imagine how fun it is for my husband and children who get to live with me.

I'm embracing the mood swings though, because as I've shared here, I am good at just not feeling. And that is scary.

So many people have told me that I just have to take this grieving thing one day at a time. Truer words have never been spoken. The night we got home we had to make a trip to Wal-Mart and for some reason I decided I needed a new calendar. Obviously, it was a new year and I really did need a new calendar, but I'm not sure why at that point I was even concerned with it. All it represented were lots and lots of days that would be lived without my Daddy. Other than my sister's due date I didn't really even have anything to put in it. I'm convinced that is how I ended up planning my high school reunion. I got out my calendar last January and decided I needed something to fill the empty boxes in my planner. So, here I was with a new, empty calendar in my purse. Lots of days that would be dealt with one at a time.

It may seem strange to some that I got on my exercising kick at this time in life. It couldn't be any stranger to me. I am terrible with resolutions, and really self-discipline altogether, and I had no hope of even setting goals this year. I am a professional pit dweller, isolator, and pity party throwing fool and I felt that this time in life others would appreciate and even encourage that. But, something happened. That calendar. My main resolution this year was to start taking vitamins. Consistently. So, I wrote it down on my calendar to remind and to be able to mark it off every day. Then, I had the idea that maybe if I wrote the Shred down everyday and I got to put a checkmark by it, then maybe that would motivate me. Because you know, I'm like 10 and will do anything for positive reinforcement. I think I'm going to start putting a sticker next to it. :) But so far, it has worked!

Is this the saddest thing you've ever heard? Maybe it is sad, but for me it's a big deal. I've often shared the story that when my depression was at it's worst in 2002-2003 I made the New Year's Resolution to make up my bed every day. Obviously making up your bed is a good thing, but for me the significance of it was that I had to be OUT of the bed to make it up. It may have seemed small and insignificant to anyone else, but it was huge for me.

The reason I think I have such a hard time with things like this is that I am an instant gratification kind of person. Chores like dishes and bed making get to me because you have to do them ALL THE TIME. Over and over and over and well, you get the point. The whole exercising thing holds the same problem. Why can't I do it like twice a year and be good? Of course, it just doesn't work that way. Well, you can do that, but your body will pay the price. I've had to learn that even if I can lose weight without exercising, it is not necessarily best for my body, as evidenced by the fact that my resting heart rate was about 235 after I finished the Shred for the first time. I'm exaggerating of course (a little bit). Still, wherever this self-discipline has come from that has allowed me to exercise everyday has completely amazed me at how much my body can change in just a short amount of time. And there is nothing magical or surgical about it. I've just had to work my booty off.

This post is actually not about exercise, but about the way God has been speaking to me during this time of grief. Philippians 2:12 says, 12Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,

That is what God has been speaking to me about. I've got to work this out. In the same way I have to work my body for fitness or work through the stages of grief (I will post about that later), I have to keep working out my salvation. Now don't read this wrong. I do not believe we can do anything to earn or keep our salvation. Not a thing. You won't meet a girl who basks more in the freedom of Christ and seeks to liberate others from the ball and chain of religion and duty. But, my salvation, my relationship with God, it must continually be worked out. I wish so much I could not struggle with doubts any more. I would give my right arm to not deal with anger or selfishness. But I do. Because, as long as I'm here, it is so I can keep working it out. There is no magical prayer to make me perfect on this earth, there is no Bible study I can complete and be done with my spiritual growth. It's a process. And sometimes it's hard.

This morning Sarah was watching me make omelettes (btw, my Dad made the BEST cheese omelettes and he had just taught me the art in the last six months) and she said that the only thing she is good at making is toast. She lamented that her grits never work out. I had to hide my snicker, because, bless her heart, she gets it honest. She went on to say that she couldn't wait until she was a grown up and could fix anything. I didn't have the heart to break it to her that her Mama has been a grown up (according to the numbers on my birth certificate) for quite a while and it has not been long that I've mastered anything other than toast. When she said that it brought back the childlike idea I too once held. The idea that you magically reach a certain age and know it all and know how to do everything. Do you remember believing that way?

Oh how hard the reality of life. The reality that the only way we learn anything or master anything is through repetitive, hard, back breaking and spirit breaking labor.

As if I weren't sure that God was speaking this to me, Josh had to go and preach about the wise man who built his house on the rock. Matthew 7:24 tells us, Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. He pointed out that we often overlook the most important word in that verse. He BUILT. He didn't move into the house after it was finished and professionally decorated. He built on the rock. The old fashioned, hard working, time consuming way. God asks us to grow our faith the same way. To build it, one back breaking lesson at a time.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I'm Sorry, Did You Want Your Food Cooked?

I just wanted to update the 2 of you who read my blog and let you know that last night, I moved up to Level 2 in the Shred! Woo-hoo! I never knew the day would come. It took me seven days to be able to do level 1 without stopping and I decided I should do it a couple of more times to make sure my body wasn't playing a trick on me. And I was petrified to go to level 2. Just sayin'. But, I had stopped being sore and so I thought that meant I probably needed to push myself some more. So I did. And it was ugly, but I've come to accept, I'm just way out of shape and I will probably have to do the 30 Day Shred for 330 days before I will be considered for a spot in Jillian's next workout video. Oh, you didn't know that is my new goal?? NOT!!! Anyway, I can honestly tell a huge difference in my stamina and y'all I went from doing 2 push-ups (girl style of course) to 15 at a time!! I do not say that bragging, I say that in complete and utter astonishment. For real.

Well, I've decided if I'm going to torture my body, I mean workout to be healthier, that I really need to get on board with my diet as well. Wednesday nights are kind of crazy for us with church and so usually we just pick something up. But, I determined that I was going to cook and it was going to be healthy. I found a recipe for Parmesan crusted Tilapia and was excited that I had all of the ingredients. But, I have this funny thing about cooking meat. I don't like to do it. It scares me, I don't ever feel like I know when it is done. That is why I am a casserole girl. I can throw all of the stuff together and cover everything in cheese. Well, I fixed the fish, some black-eyed peas and some broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots. Just so you know, that is a record number of vegetables eaten in one DAY in the Fidler home, much less one meal. Anyway, my fish even looked like the picture so I was pretty excited...

Until we sat down to eat. I cracked up when I saw that picture of the little girl because it is the exact reaction I got from my children. I am not big on fish so I thought they just weren't either. Sarah and Eli made sure to tell me how much they didn't like it and Kate went so far as to chew it up and spit it on the floor. These kids keep me humble I tell ya. Just the other night I was telling Josh that I had read about people who actually do a "chew and spit" diet. I was joking about how romantic that would be on a date and Josh shared that he would be ticked off if he took a girl on a date and she chewed up a steak and spit it back out. That's why he loves me y'all, I DO NOT waste food. :) Anyway, I kept waiting for Josh to take a bite of his because he does like fish and I was just so proud of myself for this new cooking venture. I noticed he wasn't eating anymore after the first couple bites. I was carrying on about my fear of not cooking meat all the way when I realized his face said it all. "It's not cooked all the way is it?" I asked, not needing an answer. He sympathetically answered, "It's okay, it's sushi."

I tell ya, I don't know what else these people expect from me. I do their dishes, I wash their clothes. And now, they expect me to actually cook their food. The nerve of some people.... :)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Movie and Dinner at an Inside Restaurant

Saturday morning I sweetly knelt down beside the chair Josh was sitting in and laid my head on his shoulder. I then sweetly asked, could we please go somewhere? Anywhere???? I was just at that point. Other than church Wednesday night I had spent every second of the week in the house with my kids. It was time to go to somewhere! So, my kind and loving husband, who spent all week going nonstop, agreed that we could go somewhere. Where did I want to go? To the movies!!

We embarked for the movie theater and got there late. (Shocking, I know.) So, we decided to go get something to eat and catch the next show. The kids wanted Cracker Barrel. Yummy! But could we do this? Could we eat at an "inside" restaurant as my kids call it AND sit through a movie? We decided to try. Because really, we can't get two feet from a Cracker Barrel and not eat at it. It's just not possible. As we sat down and enjoyed our meal I was completely in awe. I have actually raised little people who can be taken into civilization and eat at "inside" restaurants and carry on conversations. A-mazing! I was even proud of my healthy side choice of baby carrots until I googled the recipe and discovered they are cooked in sugar, honey and bacon grease. Oh well. Let's go back to being proud of my kids. :)

We went to a movie y'all! And we saw the whole thing! With the exception of a brief moment of panic when I had to walk a flight of stairs to get Kate, it went great. You see, Josh had taken Kate with him to get popcorn and drinks and when he came back he was bearing a tray. Did you know they have trays at the movies? Well, they do and it was huge and Josh put it in my lap so he could take Eli to the bathroom. Kate took advantage of that moment to take a stroll up the stairs in the stadium seating and I had to figure out where to put the tray to be able to get up and catch her. BUT...other than that, it was all good. :)

I am bragging on this experience because it was less than two years ago that we had a VERY different experience at the movies. If you're bored and have nothing else to do you can read about it here. I hope this gives hope to all mothers of babies and toddlers, that you too will one day be able to leave the house again.:)

July 2008 Sarah's Birthday

Yesterday I had a day when I really wanted to quit my job. But, I've already done that!! Then, I have days at home of non-stop cleaning and screaming,fussing kids and I think, 'maybe I should work longer hours!' Well, it's been a while since I've blogged and I just wanted to update everyone and let them know I'VE LOST MY MIND!!!! Ok, so maybe y'all have known that for a while, but I feel I've reached a level of craziness that is a new development.

It all started less than a month ago when I decided that instead of having another party for Sarah's birthday (her mammy had one for her in P.C.) that we should just take her and some of her friends to the movies because she had been wanting to go. Sounds easy enough right? No decorations, messy treats or hours of cleanup. HA! Me and Josh packed up two vehicles (we only have enough room for our crew in one) and headed to Pearl, MS (a 45 minute drive, I promise EVERYTHING is 45minutes from our house)for a night at the movies. Josh had Kate and Eli and I had Sarah and her friends Jacey and Brittany.We jammed on the way although I think I probably jammed the most.It's kind of embarrassing when you know the Jonas Brother's song better than the kids. We got there and had supper at McDonalds. We had bought our tickets before hand which was a good thing because you know what it's like getting kids to leave the playground. Of course we got there late and we had to have all of the concessions even though we had just eaten. So, there's me and Josh, an 11 month old in a stroller, a 3 year old, a 6,7, and 9 year old, 2 HUGE tubs of popcorn, 6 (yes I said 6) drinks, and a box of goobers. ( I felt I had earned some goobers!) As I took out my cell phone and pager to silence them I thougt 'I have become one of THOSE people.' You know THOSE people with the cell phones and the babies at the movies. How did that happen?

Well, about 10 minutes into the movie all 4 kids needed to go to the bathroom. I was glad that at least it was a group trip and they didn't decide they needed to go at 4 different times. A few minutes after we got back things got a little scary on the screen and Eli jumped in my lap and said "I'm ready to get outta this place." We made it a few more minutes and Josh had to take Kate out. Then Eli decided he needed another bathroom break. Josh was pushing Kate in the foyer and after Eli went I stayed with Kate so Josh could go. That's what happens when you have 6 drinks!!!!!!!!! J/K. I took Eli back in and we made it through the rest of the movie. But, as soon as it was over everybody needed to go to the bathroom again. So we headed back. I threw away the leftover popcorn but I held onto mine and Josh's drinks. One, I figured the more caffeine we had the better, and two, those drinks had cost more than our supper! All was fine until we were leaving the bathroom and one of the cups collapsed in my hand and spilled all over the floor and mine and Sarah's feet. Fabulous. It was really the right way to end the night. I can't tell you much about the movie but I can describe the bathroom in detail...

Despite that little experience I again had the idealistic dream that I could take all three of my kids to Target (an hour and a half trip) by myself to do back to school shopping. Oh my gracious! Somebody has been slipping me some crazy juice! All I will say is that we made it home, the kids are in bed, and I'm rocking myself in the La-Z-Boy!

The other day I stayed home to try and do some major cleaning. At the end of the day I took the trash to the dump and then went to the convenience store to pick up some pizzas. Some guy was sitting on a bench outside and he gave me some kind of look. It wasn't until I got back in the car that I realized how bad I looked. I hadn't bathed, brushed my teeth, or brushed my hair. Honestly, I was one beard short of looking like the unabomber! I told Josh that's what he has to look forward to when I'm home all the time!

In the last week I've had a situation where I've been discussing the process of having someone committed with a family. That is not a funny situation, but I must say that I'm not so sure who I am to be trying to have other people committed. I feel like I should watch my back because if I have anymore days like the one where I was pulled over on the side of the road beating my seats because I was convinced there was a mouse the men in the white coats might be coming for me. And when people come to visit and they politely whisper in the hallway, "What pushed her over the edge?" they may speculate it was the stress of my job or the challenges of being a preacher's wife, but Josh will have to tell them "It was the dirty clothes. She just couldn't handle it anymore."

So there you go, I'm certifiable!!

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Today it is one month since my Daddy left us. I wish I could say, "This now concludes the grieving portion of life", but unfortunately that doesn't seem to be the case. I must say that this is the first day in my entire life that I am feeling a high after a football game. In case you didn't see my 1,800 status updates on Facebook, the Saints won last night and are going to the Super Bowl!!!!!!!!!!!! Y'all, I don't know the first thing about football and no matter how hard I try, it rarely ever holds my attention. But last night, I can't explain it. My Daddy was the BIGGEST Saints fan ever and has rooted for them through the good and the bad. I loved that game because I felt close to my Dad. I could see him jumping off the couch, pacing the room, and screaming at the TV. I could hear him saying, "WHO DAT? WHO DAT?" If he had enjoyed hunting or carpentry maybe I would now find comfort in those things. But, my Daddy loved football and specifically the the Saints.`As my family, my Mom, sister, Uncles and cousins "watched" the game together through Facebook, and rooted for that underdog team, I couldn't help but think of the night exactly a month ago when my Daddy was taken off of life support and we were joined together in a tragic way that will bond us forever.

I made sure to grab the Saints stocking that was hanging from an IV pole in my Dad's ICU room to take with us to the private room he was being taken to. I bought him that stocking for Christmas one year and wanted him to have it at the hospital. It had been holding a fake, purple flower that Sarah had made sure to send for Pappy when I had left for Florida on Dec. 19. My family had made the decision hours earlier to take my Dad off of life support and we had waited anxiously for the Dr. to come and sign the papers. Once he had been taken off my cousin, Drew, and Uncle Reggie went to see him so they could come back and prepare us for what we would be seeing. We all made our way to his room and were instantly overcome with grief at the sight of his extremely labored breathing. To make things even worse, although his eyes had been closed since Sunday and he had just looked like he was sleeping, they were now open, although totally unaware. I am scared to even say that I will never witness anything so horrific again in my life, but that moment will definitely be burned in my memory for life. We held hands as a family and prayed over my Daddy. This time the prayers were no longer for miraculous healing, but for Jesus to comfort him and take him quickly. You see, we were told when we made the decision that he could still live for a few hours...or weeks. My Uncle Reggie was the last to pray over my Daddy and just yesterday I thought about that moment. Him praying over the brother who had come into the world at the same time as him and he was releasing him, telling him it was okay to go.

After that prayer we spent a few more hours in ICU waiting for his private room. It was during that time of waiting that my Aunt Trish came back to tell us about the man who had come up to her in the waiting room and told her he had been watching our family all night. He too, had lost a twin brother and someone else on Christmas. When Trish asked him who he was there for, he simply answered, "Oh, I'm just here for y'all." We never did find out who he was or see him again.

They finally came to move my Dad to a private room and that is when I grabbed his stocking. My Mom and I went up in the elevator with him and the nurses. It was such a surreal moment. I was taking my Daddy to the room he would die in. When we got to the room they started trying to round up chairs for our crew. I'm pretty sure we got every chair on the floor. It was so incredibly difficult to watch him struggle to breathe. They had placed an oxygen mask on him because his oxygen level had started dropping so quickly when he first came off of the ventilator. Uncle Reggie told us more childhood stories and I teased him that he was the reason my Dad was such a worrywart. Uncle Reg had spent his life jumping out of trees and off of roofs. I wished so much my Dad would start telling us his side of the stories...

The time moved slow. There were only so many times to go to the drink machine, the bathroom or check messages. There was just no way to ease the suffering. For my Dad or anyone in that room watching him. I thought of a time I was doing my internship in the ER and I sat with a man who was dying. His family hadn't gotten there yet and I had felt that someone needed to be with him. My supervisor, knowing I wanted to work with Hospice, had come in and explained the physiology of dying. She had seen it as a learning opportunity. As I sat with my Dad the physiology of dying wasn't on my mind. His heart was still beating and his lungs were still breathing, but my Daddy had been gone for almost a week. In fact, I think Dec. 19th will be the day that is hardest for me. That is the day I really lost my Dad. That was the day this new learning opportunity I never wanted started.

Things would only get worse that night. The respiratory therapist came in and someone asked her about the oxygen mask and if it was just prolonging the inevitable. She went off. She told us if it were her family member she would never take off the oxygen mask and she used the word "suffocation" which I will be honest, is all I heard. Drew was furious. He said he had never seen anyone mess up a consult so bad. I had to agree that while I wanted someone to be honest with us, it was not professional for her to tell us what she would do in that situation. That sent us all in a tailspin as we all tried to absorb that information and decide what to do. At that point I went to the conference room where the drink machine was and had a mini nervous breakdown. As I finished I looked up to see a hospital employee standing at the other end of the room. Mental note: Always check and make sure a room is empty BEFORE you have a nervous breakdown.

Josh and I found the respiratory therapist and asked her some questions. I was very confused because we kept being told that my Dad couldn't feel pain and then we were told he had some pain reflex. The biggest thing I learned through all of this is that as far as we have come scientifically and medically, there are just a lot of things we still don't know. Especially concerning the brain. Anyway, she explained that if we took the oxygen mask off that it would very difficult for the family to be present when he died. She suggested slowly turning down the oxygen and upping his Morphine. I went back and we had a family conference and we decided that was the best thing to do.

Again, it was so surreal. It was Christmas Eve and my family was discussing which would be the best way for my Dad to die. Finally, about 2:00 Christmas morning almost everyone had left to go home and get some sleep. My Mom and brother, Philip, were having cots brought in to spend the night. Uncle Reggie was staying too. Josh and I left to go do our Santa duties. I cannot say enough good things about my husband. Not only did he have to pack up 3 kids and a dog and make a six hour trip by himself, but he also had to go by our storage shed and load up unwrapped Christmas presents with the kids in the van. He is amazing. He did, however, forget to grab the bag of stocking stuffers and so, at 2:00 Christmas morning we set out to find an open store. There was one. A convenience store. My Mom still has stockings at her house for EVERYBODY. I decided it would be fun to do everybody's. Y'all we spent $92.00!!! At a gas station!! We were carrying armfuls of candy, pens, duct tape, tire gauges, and pickles. (My sister is pregnant. I couldn't resist getting her a pickle. :) The guy ringing it up (who I'm sure hated our guts) told us he had never had anyone spend that much money on anything besides gas, beer, or cigarettes! Leave it to us to break the record! I couldn't help but think that my Dad would have loved that story.

We made it to my Mom's and started wrapping presents. My poor brother-in-law, Dillon, was trying to sleep on the couch, but he got up to help us. I usually have all of the presents wrapped besides the Santa ones, but I hadn't done it this year because Kate is at the age where I couldn't put any presents under the tree yet. So, we had to wrap everything! And, the kids had made a pallet on the front of the tree! We were making so much noise. I just knew we were going to blow it big time, but apparently the kids were as tired as everybody else b/c they never even flinched. (The next day Sarah asked me how Santa had put the presents out without waking them up. I told her Santa is just really good! :) I also found out later that we had eaten the WRONG cookies and thankfully my sister, Jenny, had eaten the RIGHT Santa cookies that morning before she left for the hospital!

After that we loaded up some pillows and blankets to take to Mom and Phil at the hospital. We went back and talked with Uncle Reg some. My Dad seemed a little more restful. Or maybe I had just gotten accustomed to seeing him like that. I don't know. Finally, about 4:30 Josh convinced me to go back to the house and try to get some sleep. I kissed my Daddy's cheek and said good-bye. The whole sleep thing was a bad idea. I don't know what time it was when the kids woke us up, but it hurt! I sat on the floor in a daze while they opened presents. My contacts were glued to my eyes. I've never had cement glue in my eyes, but I imagine that is what it would feel like. I guess non-stop crying and sleep deprivation will have that effect. We survived the opening of presents and minutes after finishing Dillon came and put his arm around me and I knew. My Dad was gone.

I had slept in my jeans and Philip's gray hoodie that I had borrowed the morning before when we went to the hospital. The morning before I knew we would be spending the night watching my Dad die. I took off and headed back to the hospital. I hadn't been there. I hadn't been there when he took his last breath. I wanted to be upset, but there is no doubt in my mind that he would have been upset if I hadn't been with the kids opening Christmas presents.

I have to say that when I got there I lost it. As I shared in my last post, all I could say was, "I'm just gonna miss him." But once, I calmed down, I had such a peace. Because he was finally at peace. My Uncle Jamie hugged me and I warned him that I hadn't had a shower. We went to another room to wait for the dr. to come talk to us. Dr. Adhal had been my Dad's primary doctor for many years. After he finished talking with us I found myself chasing him out of the room. I told him that my Dad had always talked so highly of him and really thought a lot of him. I thanked him. He had a tear in his eye and told me that he considered my Dad a friend and that he was just sorry. I will be completely honest here and tell you that one of the things that made me the saddest is that I don't feel like my Dad knew how much people loved, respected and admired him. So please, if there is someone you love, respect, or admire, you should tell them today.

When I left the hospital I went by CVS because I had not bought Josh a single Christmas present and they were the only store open. Poor Josh, he got a memory foam pillow and a clothes steamer. :) At home Josh and Dillon had fixed a delicious Christmas dinner for us. Dillon said all he did was help peel the eggs, but I considered that cooking for years, so I'm giving him credit too. :)After we ate everybody else decided to go out to the base and hang out with the rest of the family, but I just couldn't do it. I have never been so exhausted in my life. Kate crawled up in my Uncle Jamie's lap and fell asleep so Josh and I decided we would lay her down and we would take a nap too. When I laid down it was the first time that whole week that everything hit me. I have never cried like that in my life. And, then, I fell asleep. I wish I could tell you here that I woke up and it was all just a bad dream. It wasn't. I woke up and the nightmare was even more real than before.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Here I am, up late again. I've always been such a night owl. For as long as I can remember I've been a night owl. My Dad always told the story of when I was two and I stayed up ALL night long when my Mimi came to stay with us.As in, I did not go to sleep AT ALL. Legend has it that I made her fix me a "do dog" (hot dog) at like 3:00 in the morning. Why, you ask, would someone do such a thing? Well, I was obviously spoiled rotten! Anyway, back to my night owl issues. The thing I've noticed about grieving is that it hits me at all different times and in different ways. Maybe something little first thing in the morning or when I'm tired in the afternoon. I just never know. But, without fail, I can count of the grief to hit me as soon as I lay down in bed.

Even my most uneventful days are full of 3 kids and a dog. So, even on good days I still stay pretty busy and occupied. It is easy to pretend that life is still normal and my Dad is in Florida and I am in Mississippi. Then, I lay down and that nightmare (that I still haven't finished writing about)comes back and I am overwhelmed by the fact that I won't talk to him on Saturday morning and I won't see his encouraging "You can do it Em" comments on my Facebook status about my struggles with the kids. I haven't been able to post any new pics because I know this time he won't be the first one to comment, "My beautiful grandkids." Tonight I will think about how he would've gotten a kick out of hearing about our experience taking the kids to Cracker Barrel and the movies. He would be amazed that I've done the stinkin' Shred for 8 days in a row now. He would be impressed at how I handled the puking situation in this house last week as I most definitely inherited my weak stomach from him. I will think about all of these things and how they are of no interest to anybody else, but my Dad would have cared. And it makes me homesick.

I will never forget my many attempts at my first sleepover. I can't for the life of me remember the first time I actually spent the night at somebody's house, but I do remember plenty of attempts. It was the same every time. I would be excited about it all week. My friend and I would make big plans. I would go to their house, we would play, eat supper, play some more. And would be time for bed. And I would get...homesick. I think it had a lot to do with my night owl status. At slumber parties with 8 or 9 girls, I would be the last to go to sleep. Of course, that is when I made it to that point. There were MANY times before that my Daddy would drive across town in the middle of the night to pick me up and take me home.

Josh still tells the story of the day my family dropped me off at college. I was going to William Carey which was 6 hours from home. Who knew that the little girl who couldn't spend the night away from home would one day be able to go to a college where she knew no one and was 6 hours from home? Well, Josh rode there with me in the Little Red Rocket, but left with my Dad in the minivan. He said they both did their best to avoid eye contact with each other as they cried their eyes out. I know so many people whose parents tell them that as soon as they're 18 they are out of the house. Not my Daddy. He made sure to tell me (I think every time I talked to him :) that I could always come back home.

After Josh and I were married I had a moment when it hit me (of course, late at night when I was up by myself) that I couldn't go back home. At least not the way that it had been. I would go to visit and I would always be welcome there,but it wouldn't be the same. At least that is what I thought then. The truth is, my Daddy never stopped being my Daddy. And when I was 7 months pregnant with Sarah and living by myself in a big house while Josh worked out of town all week, my Dad would come hang out at night with his independent daughter who insisted on staying by herself instead of at his house during that time.

So, here it is bed time (or really like 3 hours past it) and I am homesick for my Daddy.
At the hospital when I saw him for the first time with no breath left in his body, my emotional response was, "I'm just gonna miss him." I heard my Uncle Reggie utter those exact same words minutes later. And I do. I just miss him...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Freeze Frame

Has anyone ever hurt you before? I mean, said or done something that hurt you so bad it was like they were punching you in the gut? And maybe it happened at a time when you already felt out for the count and so it was more like getting kicked while you were already down?

I recently experienced this and I was tempted to harbor a lot of anger and bitterness about it. A lot of self-pity, a lot of "Why does this always happen to us?" kind of feelings. Okay, I was more than tempted. I did have anger. I did question. I wanted other people to know about this injustice. I really regret that because I just dragged them into my negativity. On top of that I know it made others think badly of the person. The truth is, it would have been one thing if it were someone who consistently hurt my feelings or did me wrong. They're not. In fact it was the person that made the situation that much harder because they were the last person I would have expected it from. To quote the super spiritual Clark Griswold from "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation", "If I woke up tomorrow morning with my head sewn to the carpet I couldn't be more surprised." :) It was one of those situations.

The person apologized and things were made right. Except my heart. It still wanted to feel angry, hurt and mistreated. Of course, God never lets me get away with that. The more I thought about it the more I felt like He began to bring certain experiences from my life to mind. Things I've said, fits I've thrown, bad decisions from years ago. And I felt like He was asking me, "What if this moment was in a freeze frame and it was all people knew about you?" *Shudder* Have you been there? Do you have those moments in your life? I wanted to get on my knees and beg, "NO! Not that time! Not that moment! Not those words! Anything but THAT time!"

Fortunately, I don't have to beg. I've already been forgiven and those sins wiped away. "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace." Ephesians 1:7 It is tempting to find security in that forgiveness and forget that it is not only offered to me. One of my favorite stories is in John chapter 8. It is about a woman who was physically caught in the act of adultery. In those days the law said that she should be stoned. The "religious" people came to Jesus and asked what he thought they should do. He answered, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first."

Many times we use that story to justify our own sin. To tell people they shouldn't judge us. This story is a different ballgame when we are the ones who have been wronged and realize that we have no stone to throw. My heart was hurt by someone who said something most likely out of their own hurt or just not thinking. I wish I could feel justified in saying that I have NEVER said something I later regretted. I wish....but I can't. I'm just thankful for second chances. And third, and fourth, and fifth...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Plumbing, Puking, Parasites and Push-Ups

Y'all, if I had a shred of hope left in my weary bones for a glamorous life it has been officially shredded from my being. Like old paperwork shredding through the paper shredder. Like a block of cheese being shredded over a salad. Like leather shoes in the mouth of a puppy. You get the picture? Do I seem preoccupied with shredding? Well, I don't want to talk about it...yet.

I use to give grand speeches about grieving and how important it is to not just make yourself busy. You need to think. You need to process. You need to deal. Then...I lost my Dad. And my theories on grieving became a lot like the theories I had about raising children BEFORE I had children. What I'm saying is-things change. I still think it is important to think and process and deal. But sometimes, you just need other things to occupy your mind. Do you know what I mean? I figure God must agree with this because this long weekend assured I had plenty on my mind. I told y'all about my little "shredding" experience Friday night. Saturday we awoke to realize that our plumbing was having issues. What kind of issues you ask? Oh, it was just backing up into our bathtubs!!!!!!! N.A.S.T.Y Well, Josh and one of our church members stood in the rain trying to work on it and just couldn't get it fixed completely. They did a temporary fix to get us through until Monday when the plumber could come. Y'all will think I'm crazy, but plumbing issues make me feel close to my Dad. Bless his heart, he had a fit with plumbing issues and I knew I could've called him and he would have sympathized greatly with me and we could've share war stories. For the record, this little issue was caused by a 2 year old and some paper towels. I'm relieved. The possibilities were endless for what they might find....

Sunday night after we got the kids to bed Josh and I embarked on "The Shred". He had attempted it with me Sat. night and that was most pitiful showing of fitness (or lack thereof) you have ever seen. At one point I was laughing at us so hard I couldn't stand up much less lift my weights. I seriously should have someone videotape us. We could either win a million dollars on America's Funniest Videos or do a public service announcement on why exercise is so important. SO YOU DON'T LOOK LIKE US!!!! I would really consider the whole videotaping thing but I'm afraid my camera might get broken when the person doing the videotaping fell to the ground laughing! I think if this whole ministry thing doesn't work out Josh and I might have a shot at a comedy routine.

Last night was slightly better. I learned something I never knew about myself. I am a high fiver. I felt the need to high five Josh after every circuit. I'm not sure where that came from. I think it was my way of saying "I'm thankful we are both still able to lift our hands to high five." Josh even made us a playlist so we wouldn't have to listen to Jillian. Is that mean? I mean, it's really nothing against her, but we needed some get up and go music. Know what I mean? Well, it got to the place for Smash Mouth's "All Star" and it turns out to be this. I don't know if it was fatigue or what, but it just cracked me up! Instead of our get up and go song it was some guy spelling out the song and at one point spelling "S-n-u-g-g-l-e-s". I have no idea what that has to do with that song but I know by that point in the shred I was wanting to just lay on the couch and snuggle!! Our playlist really payed off when "Eye of the Tiger" came on right during the punching section. I felt like a rock star!

Eli woke up this morning puking (and adding to the glamor of my life). He was so pitiful. He just laid on the couch all day. He finally climbed in the recliner to sit with me and I asked him if he wanted to lay in my bed. He said he was afraid he would get sick in my bed. :( What a sweetheart. I don't think when I was 4 I would have thought to be worried about that. I can tell he is still feeling puny, but he didn't get sick any more today.

Our workout tonight started out with a bit of excitement. When I changed into my workout clothes I noticed...get ready for this y'all....a TICK on my stomach!!!!!!!!!!!!!! For those of you who have been reading my blog for a while you know that I already have a history with ticks. Really, what do I not have a history with besides common sense? I even ended up getting tested for Lyme disease after that last episode b/c of some medical issues I was having and thankfully I was negative. Well, I must have been admiring my shredded abs (hahahahaha) tonight when I noticed the little booger. I did my usual scream for Josh. I asked him where it could have come from and he said when I went outside. Y'all, I walked 5 feet to the storage shed. Seriously, I go out once in 2 weeks and I get a tick??

I wanted to make sure to get something to put it in to have it tested this time. Luckily (and really I am just so lucky, y'all :)I had a sterilized bag that my dr. gave me last time I went to transport my pee to the lab when I have another bladder infection. I came carrying it to the bathroom where Josh was looking for the tweezers and I wish you could have seen the look on his face. "Why do we have that????" he asked. Only me. That's all I can say. Only me. He proceeded to pull that sucker out of my skin and it is moments like that you wonder, "should they maybe be a little more specific in the wedding vows about exactly what you will go through together?" Of course the kids were yelling from the bedroom "WHAT'S GOING ON? WHAT HAPPENED? WHAT'S GOING ON?" It's the most excitement this house has seen in hours I tell ya.

Well, I was tempted to use my "condition" to sit out the shred, but I didn't. I persevered. I pressed on. I cried like a baby during the push-ups. I laughed until I couldn't sit up when we were doing reverse crunches and Josh said, "I never saw Rambo do these." No, me either. Bet he never pulled ticks off of people either.....

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Nightmare Before Christmas: Continued

No matter how much progress I make every day, when I lay down in bed and close my eyes my mind takes me back to the hospital, back to that week. For the first few nights after my Dad was gone I would sit up and ask Josh, "We did the right thing, didn't we?" He would assure me we did.

I guess I need to go back to Wednesday of that week. We had been told Tuesday night that we should hear from the neurologist what the results of the CT scan were on Wed. I won't even pretend that I wasn't scared. I was having my fair share of denial, but I knew the fact that he was still unresponsive was not good. Wed. morning came and no news from the neurologist. I was pretty sure there was a note on the chart that said, "Patient's daughter obsessively asks for neurologist." Finally, my Mom talked to the neurologist on the phone. ON THE PHONE. My dad had been unresponsive since Saturday morning and this was Wednesday and we only got a phone call from the neurologist. Maddening. That's the only word I know to explain it. She told my Mom she wanted to wait until they did the EEG and ANOTHER CT scan before she talked to us. Good grief. I have to tell you, patience is NOT a Strickland trait.

We went home to have lunch during the break between visiting hours. Bro. Randy had reminded us that our family members could stay out at the air force base if someone could sponsor them. My sister and brother-in-law went out to help set up those accommodations and Uncle Reggie called to let us know that he had set up an appointment with a patient advocate so we could discuss some of our issues with Nurse Ratchet and the fact that we still had NO answers 5 days after my Dad being admitted to the hospital. My Mom, Uncle Jamie and I met with the lady they sent to us and I began explaining that while we had been very happy with the care my Dad had received, we were upset with Nurse Ratchet and our lack of answers. She tried to get ahold of someone else we needed to talk to and we told her we would be in Dad's room when that person was ready to meet with us. We finally talked with that lady and it was not long after that we found out Dr. B., the cardiologist, was coming to talk to us. The nurse took us to the conference room. You DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT want a dr. to take you to the conference room. Trust me.

We waited nervously. Dr. B came in and explained that the CT Scan showed some ischemia (damage or deficiency in the brain). He also explained that the neurologist was waiting to read the EEG along with CT Scan. I thought I would remember word for word what he told us, but I don't. In fact, I'm pretty sure I was not comprehending it at all. I asked him what that meant as far as how much damage was done. He gave me a sympathetic look, I started crying uncontrollably and he nodded. Too much damage. At that point, I knew how things were going to end, but I just couldn't accept it until we talked with the neurologist and heard the official report. Before we left the hospital I ran back to my Dad's room to grab my Mom's purse or something. I wish I could tell you I was filled with peace and ready to accept whatever God's Will was. I wasn't. I begged my Daddy to come back.

My cousin Katie and Aunt Trish had fixed us a great supper and I stopped by my mother-in-law's to pick up the kids and some spaghetti she had made. We went out to the base to have supper with everyone and then it was time to head back to the hospital. I had asked on Facebook that other believers pray at 8:30 that night as I was planning to have a special prayer over my Dad at that time. Well, when I stepped off of the elevator 5 of the people we had gone to church with in Panama City we're waiting. Bro.Randy and his wife Mrs.Kathy soon joined them. They joined hands with me, my Mom, Jenny, my Uncle Jamie and Aunt Kat and my cousin Marla had asked that we call her on speaker phone and let her be a part. We cried out to God. It was one of the most amazing times of prayer I've ever experienced. Of course, I don't know if there's ever been anything I've been so consumed with as I was in that moment. I knew what the tests said. I knew that God can heal, but doesn't always choose to. I knew that I just needed to lift my Dad up to Him no matter what. I knew God could choose not to heal him, but it would not be for a lack of prayer on our parts!!! I have to tell you, I know that God's Presence was so real to me because I was so desperate for Him. Psalm 34:18 says, "The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit." My heart was about as broken as it could get and I know that the rest of my family felt the same way. Even those friends that didn't even know my dad well seemed to share that broken heart. As someone who is in ministry I have to say that something I realized that night is that there are no amount of programs or activities we can dream up that invite the Presence of God. We most often find him when our hearts are broken...

The next day was Christmas Eve. The date on the calendar was the only reason I knew that. It certainly didn't feel like Christmas Eve. We were again called into a conference room (actually, there were so many of us we took up a waiting room) and waited again to talk with Dr.B. He pretty much told us the exact same thing he had already told us, but a little more officially. He told us the neurologist would be in that afternoon to talk with us. Finally the neurologist came and at first he was just going to talk to us in the hallway. I got excited. The nurse suggested the waiting room again. I sighed. He was going to give us the same news again. He did. Three times. I told everyone it was like a nightmare having to get the worst news of our lives 3 times. Once was quite horrific enough. The neurologist told us that my Dad was in what they called a "vegetative" state. He was brain dead. The machines were keeping his heart pumping and his lungs breathing. We knew what that meant. No chance of recovery. I'm sure you have seen a TV show or heard news shows talk about taking a loved one off of life support. When I worked for Hospice my primary job was to discuss that very topic with patients and explain how all of that works. Again, so totally different when it is your Daddy. While it was hard to accept that he was gone, it was not hard to make the decision to take him off of life support. He had worked as a nursing home administrator for over 20 years and witnessed enough cases like this that he had made his wishes known to all of us verbally many times. We discussed if we should wait until after Christmas, but decided if we were going to do it we should not make him suffer anymore.

I walked out of the room and was afraid I might fall. My legs were jello. I felt like I was moving in slow motion. It was real. It was official. My Daddy was gone.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


I obviously have not been able to bring myself to write the rest of the story so to speak. It's weird, this last weekend was SOOOO hard. And the week was pretty rough too. I really worried that when I said I would never be the same that part of that meant losing my coping mechanism- laughter. Slowly throughout the week I felt my sense of humor coming back. The day I went to the dump I passed a deer head on a propane tank and it was one of those, "Only in my life" moments. But, it wasn't long after that I was crying on the way home.

Well, last night I learned that even if I do not currently possess the same ability to laugh and be funny right now, I can still make people laugh. Let me tell you about it. You see, one day last week I decided that to get out of my funk I needed something to focus on. Something to schedule everyday to get me moving. Months ago I had read on several other blogs about a workout called "30 Day Shred". It's a workout with Jillian, one of the trainers from the show Biggest Loser. I had heard such great things about it, and also things that scared the mess out of me. She's just scary in my opinion. I was going to order it online and then I heard it was at Wal-Mart. Of course, I couldn't find it at Wal-Mart and I broke down and bought a different DVD. A DVD that to this day I haven't used. Not once. I watched it once....It was a dance workout and while I love to dance, I have to tell you that as an almost 30 year old preacher's wife and mother of 3, there are just some dance moves I can no longer do in good conscience. There also is not enough room in my house for hip swaying. Things will get broken. Just sayin'. So, last week in the midst of my funk I had a moment of inspiration (READ: insanity), and called Josh and asked him to see if the Shred had finally made it's way to our Wal-Mart. It had.

Josh came home bearing the Shred and some hand weights. That was Tuesday. Apparently my rush of enthusiasm that caused me to call Josh at work and ask him to get this DVD right then was short lived because come last night, it was still sitting on the entertainment center, unopened. I had completed my chores and put the kids to bed. I was so tired I wanted to get something to eat but I didn't even have the energy to get off the couch to walk to the kitchen. So, you know what that means right? Yes, I decided to start my 30 day Shred at 8:00 on a Friday night. Makes perfect sense, I know.

Getting the DVD into the player is always a huge step for me, I'm not even kidding. I did that and previews of other exercise DVD's began playing. They have a couple where they actually use Biggest Loser contestants and I was telling Josh how much I liked that b/c usually when I use workout videos I spend the whole time fighting hateful, jealous thoughts towards the superskinny, perfect people they have being the "example". Well, the Shred began and I noticed that the normal people were NOT on this one, only Jillian and 2 super skinny, perfect girls. That is very convenient so that Jillian can say, "Do you see her abs? Aren't they awesome? If you want them you've gotta work for them. They don't come for free!" I wanted to tell her that my mummy tummy did not come for free either, and I have the medical bills, restaurant receipts, and 3 kids to prove it. But, I don't think she was listening to me.

We started out with a warm-up. I immediately began gloating to Josh about how I could handle this. I took dance for 16 years for Pete's sake! Well, we then moved onto strength training, and it turns out it does not matter how long you take dance, if you then go like 11 years without moving. I just knew I could handle the strength training. I carry Kate around!!! That child weighs 35 pounds! Other women marvel at my strength when they see me pick up Kate. Not Jillian, she still wasn't listening to me.

I survived that portion and we moved onto cardio. Lord.Have.Mercy. I started out okay. We were doing jumping jacks and she said something about not having an alternate way to do them. iI asked Josh, "Are there people who can't do jumping jacks?" Y'know, since I am Mrs. Fitness. Jillian (for the first time listening to me) said, "I've seen 400 pound people do jumping jacks." Well, glad we settled that. I was at this point still running my mouth to Josh about how this was really not so bad. Then, 45 minutes later (that time may not be totally correct-she claims the circuits last 3 minutes, but she lies!!!!!!!) I was screaming "Where's my inhaler? Where's my inhaler?" Oh yeah, I don't have one, because I normally breathe fine when I am sitting on the couch.

We made it to the stomach workout and it felt like the biggest relief ever. I got to lay down!! I actually have a pretty strong stomach even if it is covered in pounds of sagging fat and skin. We started doing a different exercise and Jillian told me that it would work on the pooch and get rid of it and I believed her! I want to believe her y'all! It has to be true.

I was feeling good, and then...we started over! Somehow I was confused about the whole 3 circuit thing and because every 3 minute circuit felt like 4 hours and 13 minutes, I kept thinking we were on the last one and we weren't! Horrible. Painful. Jillian kept telling me I couldn't stop if I want to look like her and the perfect girls. 8 hours (I mean 15 minutes) into the workout I started thinking it really is not so bad to not look like the perfect girls. My gloating, bragging, and really my ability to communicate at all had ended at the leg squats and Josh (who was supposed to be working) was watching me and laughing.

So, I don't know what resolutions you've made. Apparently it is time for me to change mine from "exercising every day" to "cause people to laugh hysterically". Oh wait, I think I can cross off both of those together!

(For the record, Josh is doing the Shred with me tonight. Please add us to your prayer lists. Specifically that we won't accidentally hit each other with our weights, we will be able to walk tomorrow, and that we won't laugh so hard we can't workout. Thanks.) :)

Friday, January 15, 2010

I Still Look the Same

Despite my many good intentions, I have been a complete bum for the last week. We got home last Tuesday night and I have proceeded to be as lazy as one human being can possibly be. Fatigue washed over me like a tidal wave and I consigned myself to a life of pajamas, Diet Cokes, and the recliner. In my normal fashion I have attempted to analyze this fatigue. Is it exhaustion from the hospital and funeral home and traveling? Is it emotional fatigue? Is it because I am having trouble going to sleep at night? Is it because I have a 2 year old? Well, by Sunday afternoon when I passed out for 3 hours in the recliner in a room full of playing, noisy kids (don't worry, Josh was here) I came to the conclusion: I'm just stinkin' tired. Doesn't really matter what's causing it, I'm just tired!

So, due to this fatigue I went over a week without ever getting dressed, putting on make-up or entering the real world. Tuesday night I threw on some jeans and a jacket and made myself take the trash to the dump. I knew I needed to get out of the house. The dump seemed like a safe place that would not require hair straightening or communicating with other people. I even ventured past the dump to Sonic. Minimal human contact, but still it was progress.

Finally, I knew I had to emerge from my funk. Last night Josh said he would watch the kids so I could run to the store and have dinner with a friend. I knew this had gotten bad when I had to tell him to make me get ready to go. I mean, LaPinata with Karen is my most favoritest social outing. And I was going to the store to get a new purse, not grocery shopping. I should have really wanted to go. I finally did drag myself to the bathroom to get ready. I straightened my hair, applied my make-up and sprayed some perfume. I pulled some clothes out of my suitcase (yep, they're still there) and put on some jewelry. I looked in the mirror and...I looked the same.

I don't know what I expected. It just seems that after an event like losing your Dad, that you should look different. I don't doubt that the last few weeks have added some lines around my eyes, but when I would make myself smile, I still looked the same. As I shopped in the store and arrived at the restaurant I thought, 'These people don't know. They have no idea that my life has just completely changed in a matter of weeks.' And that is the heart of what always makes tragedy so hard.

When I lost my six year old cousin I was 17. It was my first experience with an event like that and I remember the moment it hit me that while our world was crashing in on us, life was going on for everyone else. It's not a bad thing. It's just a thing. It's just the way it works.

I enjoyed my dinner and especially the conversation. I am blessed with a best friend who knows how to listen and knows the right things to say. We were able to talk about totally unrelated things and then at any moment I could share something really painful and it was okay. And she knows that while I still look the same...I will never be the same.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Nightmare Before Christmas: Part 1

On December 18 I wrote a post called "At the Feet of Jesus." In it I said, "I have so much on my mind. Cleaning, decorating, cantatas, cooking, shopping, how to make a little drummer boy outfit out of a sheet." I wish that in that list of things to do I had included "Call my Daddy and tell him how much I love him and how much he means to me. Check on Daddy and make sure he is feeling okay and ask him about his medicine and how it makes him feel." I also shared, "I'm feeling a little stressed out these days. Are any of you? I've known for a while that this would be "the" week. The week of parties, recitals, and cantatas." I really had no idea what I was saying when I said that was going to be "the" week. I had no idea that the day after I wrote that post my life would be changed forever...

Saturday, December 19th was a busy day. We had our cantata at church that night and Josh's Mom and Mammy were on their way to have Christmas with us. I had been so stressed out all week trying to get stuff ready for the cantata and as Sarah and I returned from a Wal-Mart trip with the final decorations and food for the cantata I started to feel some relief. My house was finally as clean as it was gonna get and I could see the light at the end of the stressful holiday tunnel. If I could just make it through the performance that night we would finally enter the week that I had planned to do nothing but relax and have fun with the kids.

I was in the process of making a lemon pie when my plans devastatingly changed. My phone rang and Josh answered it since I was busy in the kitchen. As he handed it to me he mouthed, "It's your brother." I knew. I knew at that very second that something was wrong. I love my brother Philip and we talk on the phone when I call my parents, but he NEVER just calls me on his own. He very calmly told me that my dad had collapsed and had been taken by ambulance to the hospital and now he was on a ventilator. I was torn between being very concerned and thinking that it could really be not a big deal. I had made 2 trips in the last year and a half to be with him as he went into the hospital to have a cardioversion to get his heart out of A-fib. In fact, one time he went in on my birthday and the next time was on Josh's birthday. I teased him that if he wanted to see me so bad on special occasions that he should just call!I also knew that the ventilator could be extremely serious, or he could just be on it for a very short time.

I got off the phone and did good for about 2 seconds and then I fell apart. I called my friend Karen to ask her to pray and was crying so hard that she had to ask me several times what I was saying. I finally got it out. I wasn't sure what to do because Josh's truck hadn't been running all week and we had family coming to our house. Of course, it didn't matter what I thought logically, I was going to get to Panama City and be with my family. Josh assured me that he and the kids would be okay. Once my mind was made up about going I went into preparation overdrive. I finished 2 lemon pies and the baked beans I was supposed to take that night. I made some tea. I got all of the kid's clothes and shoes that they would need for the cantata and church the next day and laid them out. I waited for T and Mammy to get to our house and we opened presents and had our Christmas with them. Despite my ability to pull the kid's stuff together, I managed to grab a bag for myself and pack only a pair of pajamas and one change of clothes. The truth was I still had no idea what the week held in store...

Looking back I must have known how serious it was. Two of our church ladies caught me in the parking lot as I was pulling out and one told me that she had sent her husband to get our Christmas card and present because she thought I could use it on my trip. While we waited we talked and they told me about losing their dad's unexpectedly at young ages. I had moved into total shock and numbness or I might have realized that they realized how serious this was. Once I was on the road I drove for over an hour with no music. Anyone who knows me knows that I am NEVER in the car without music. My thoughts were running a mile a minute and yet I couldn't think. Does that make any sense? Of course not.

Well, in the midst of my non-thinking thinking, I missed the exit I was supposed to take and ended up taking one of the 3 routes we take to P.C. The one I ended up on just happened to be the one I knew the least. In my attempt to get to Andalusia, Al. I ended up in Opp, Al. and was pretty sure it was not where I was supposed to be. I had stopped to use the bathroom and get some Reese's Pieces and the cashier asked if I had all of my Christmas shopping done. I told her I was close but not done yet. She shared with me that she was behind this year because her mom had been sick in the hospital. I shared that I was also headed to the hospital to see my Dad and asked her mom's name so I could pray for her. I felt like God gave me that moment to show me that we weren't the only ones struggling in a time when most others were celebrating. My first thought when I realized I was lost was that Josh was at the cantata doing sound and that I needed to call my Dad...but I couldn't. I eventually found my way and drove straight to the hospital.

It was about 11:00pm by that point but my Mom had gotten special permission for me and my aunt and uncle who were driving in from Georgia to be in ICU. I made my way to the room and in case you are wondering if working in the ER or for hospice prepares you for something like that, the answer is NO!! I knew my dad was on the ventilator, but seeing him like that was incredibly hard. His eyes were also half open but he was not responding to anybody. They told me he was heavily sedated. I grabbed his hand and told him that it was a good thing they had him sedated because I had been driving around in the middle of the night by myself lost. At that point we still had no answers. We had been told that his CT scan looked normal and I was SO relieved because my greatest fear was that he had a stroke.

Something odd happened that night. When we got to my parent's house I saw his sunglasses sitting on the foyer table and I wanted to sleep with them. I know that is so weird and I didn't, but it just felt like being close to him.

We were up early the next morning for visiting hours. Still no word on what had happened or what was going on. The nurse said that they had tried to take him off of the ventilator that morning and he was still not responsive. As far as I can remember that day was pretty uneventful. Just lots of waiting.

Already, the days have jumbled together in my mind. I think that it was Monday morning when we were unfortunately greeted with a nurse my family nicknamed "Nurse Ratchett". I don't even know what that means but it was one of the nicer nicknames my family gave her. She was on duty that morning and we were of course asking our million and one questions, seeing as how we hadn't gotten a single answer about what was going on. She, like all of the other doctors and nurses started asking my Mom how long my Dad had been without oxygen at home. My poor Mama. Of course she had no idea. She didn't know how long he had been passed out when she found him and then she couldn't remember the amount of time until the first responders got there. That's one of those times when your brain has no concept of time. Do you know what Nurse Ratchett said to us? She said, "This is not TV. This is not ER. Most people who have cardiac arrest outside of the hospital do not make it." Just like that. First, I really wanted to throw her out the window. In fact, I'm sure my sister would have done it for me, but she is pregnant and cannot do any heavy lifting. Second, I wanted to assure her that we were very aware this was not TV as our very real lives had been completely turned upside down. Before any throwing through windows or speaking of our minds could happen the cardiologist came in. He told us that my Dad's enzymes were elevated indicating a heart attack and that he was convinced the medicine he had been taking for his A-fib was actually what caused cardiac arrest. I do not know how to explain how hard that was to hear. To hear that something that is supposed to be helping is what caused this was very tough. The dr. was very apologetic and seemed genuinely concerned. He did assure us that he was not concerned about my dad's heart because they could fix whatever was wrong with it. That put us back to our concerns about any brain damage that occurred during the time he was without oxygen. By this point we had learned that it could actually take 2-3 days for any damage to show on the CT scan.

The cardiologist asked Nurse Ratchett if she had scheduled the neuro consult and she said she had "forgotten" and would get right on that. The Dr. told her he wanted her to get the neurologist on the phone right then so he could talk with them. We were assured the neurologist would be coming around. She had also told us that my Dad had been combative when she tried to take him off of the vent.That was a good sign that he was aware of what was going on. Later in the day my aunt, who is a nurse, told us she had spoken with Nurse Ratchett privately and that she had told her he had no response at all when they took him off of the vent. That was obviously very bad news and I had no idea why she would have lied to us about that seeing as how she did not seem concerned with our feelings the least bit. I told her he had squeezed my hand and she was quick to point it was probably just reflexive. She tried to get him to squeeze her hand and he wouldn't do it. I kept my mouth shut instead of telling her he just didn't want to hold her hand...

The rest of that day was more waiting and praying. Bro. Randy, the pastor who married Josh and I and ordained Josh in the ministry was coming to visit 2 or 3 times a day. Poor thing, he was there at one point when my dad started coughing. I had not seen him do that and no one had explained to me what was going on. I started screaming bloody murder for the nurse. I'm pretty sure nurses in 3 states heard me. When I called Josh to tell him that I thought he needed to come he said that Bro. Randy had already suggested that. Josh and the kids and 3 of my cousins were soon on their way.

Tuesday brought yet another day of waiting. No more news. At this point my dad had been taken completely off the sedation and was still totally unresponsive. My Uncle Reggie, my dad's twin brother kept us entertained with stories from their childhood. He was also determined to wake my dad up. We all spent a lot of time talking to him, rubbing his arms and legs and tickling his feet. We got really excited when he started moving his feet because the day before he hadn't been doing that. We did, however, later get in trouble for overstimulating him. Can you imagine that?? My family being overstimulating? My sister had also requested the night before that we NOT have Nurse Ratchett again and that request was granted. I must say that all of the other nurses were wonderful. Unfortunately, we continued to pay for Nurse Ratchett's mistakes because she was unable to get ahold of the neurologist and had made no note of the order in the chart. Y'know, if we had asked for sweet tea instead of unsweet tea on his lunch tray and she messed that up that would be one thing, but an order for the neurologist was kind of a big deal. To add to our frustration we learned after a day of my dad's sugar being through the roof that the pharmacy had mixed his bag of insulin wrong. It obviously was not a huge deal because his sugar was the least of our concerns at that point, but we were pretty tired and frustrated by that point. My Uncle Jamie and Aunt Kat got into town late that night and the next day would finally bring news...just not the news we wanted.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Facts of Life

For some totally odd and unknown reason I have had the lyrics from the theme song of the 80's sitcom "Facts of Life" playing in my head. You know what I'm talking about? "You take the good, you take the bad, you take 'em all and there you have the facts of life." Weird. I know. As I have contemplated these very deep words I decided I wanted to share some things with you. Yesterday I sat down and wrote out the story of the first few days in the hospital with my Dad. It was hard and yet therapeutic. I didn't feel ready to publish it though. I may never. It may be just for me. But today I decided that even if I never share the horrific details of that week with you, I need to share the many ways that we were blessed and experienced God's presence.

The first incredible blessing we experienced was the presence of my Dad's brothers and their families. My Dad had a twin, my Uncle Reggie, and he and his wife got to the hospital at the same time I did. He asked the hard questions we were too emotional to even think of and stepped in and provided the guidance and leadership for me, my Mom, and my brother and sister that my Dad would have normally provided. He kept us entertained with stories from their childhood. He called in the troops, his 3 kids, Katie, Clint and Drew, to provide support. And man, did they provide support. Drew is a medic and he answered MANY medical questions we had. He and Clint also provided a listening ear and tons of support for my brother. Katie and my Aunt Trish cooked a wonderful supper for us one night and baby-sat when needed, including spending Christmas Eve with mine and my sister's babies. Yes, Christmas Eve. She spent Christmas Eve with my kids and not her own. It still blows my mind the sacrifices they made with their own families to be their for us. My mother in law had also fixed us a big pot of spaghetti and a plate of cookies. She made cookies and let the kids decorate them. She also made cookies for the kids to leave for Santa, something I obviously wasn't thinking about that night. She also baby-sat my kids and my nephew Luke. He is 19 months and you should see he and Kate together. They are quite a pair. :) As if that is not enough to nominate her for sainthood she also took my 3 kids to the Christmas Eve service at church. If you've read my blogs about my church experiences with them, you know what I am talking about.

We actually made the extremely difficult decision to take my Dad off of life support on Christmas Eve. In addition to my Uncle Reggie, Aunt Trish and my cousins, my Dad's older brother Uncle Jamie and his wife Aunt Kat had driven in from Texas. They had bought us lunch and provided so much support for us. Especially me. Uncle Jamie's prayers and hugs meant a lot to me. Not only was our family there that night, but Bro. Randy, the pastor that married Josh and myself and ordained Josh in the ministry, and his wife Mrs. Kathy were also there until probably 11:00 that night on Christmas Eve. My brother's friend was also there with his girlfriend and mom. There are no words to describe the pain of that night, and I feel like there are equally no words to describe my thankfulness for the people who "mourned while we mourned". Josh always gives me a hard time about never deleting my e-mails, but now I am so thankful I have so many still from my Dad. Just a couple of days ago I read one from a time when we were concerned about a family member who was going through a difficult time. He had sent me an e-mail and his exact words were "he is surrounded by family." Oh, how I pray that my Daddy knows how surrounded by family he was. Not just physically, but in spirit as well. I had Josh's blackberry and I was constantly getting messages on Facebook that were so encouraging. I know a lot of times I feel like my words are empty when I tell people I am thinking about them or praying for them. Believe me, there were no empty words. Those sweet words were feeding my soul as I watched my Daddy die. While the whole night was hard, there was a particularly rough time when we had to make, yet another very hard decision. Shortly after we got the news about that I got this message from my Dad's cousin, Al : "Wish I knew the magic words Emily....only one that does is up above, and you know how to contact HIM....prayers are all we can offer right now Dear, and they are out pouring." I don't know if it was the timing or the words. Probably both. I was at a point where I literally needed someone to remind me that I did know how to pray. I just can't explain it, but I truly felt like those people who were praying were there with us.

Earlier that night, soon after my Dad was taken off of life support, my Aunt Trish came back to the room to share something with us. She had been getting some coffee in the waiting room and an older man approached her and told her that he had been watching our family all night. He said that he had lost a twin brother (remember, this is the wife of my dad's twin brother but she hadn't told him that) and that he had also lost someone on Christmas before. They talked for a minute and then Trish asked him who he was there for assuming he had a loved one in ICU. He answered, "Oh, I'm just here for y'all." We never did figure out who we was and we never saw him again.

Another overwhelming moment for me was Wednesday night. We had still not gotten the official news from the neurologist, but the cardiologist had given us the warning that it did not look good. I posted something on Facebook asking other believers to say a special prayer at 8:30 that night. When I got to the hospital that night I had seven friends from our home church in Panama City waiting. They did more than say a special prayer at home. They joined us in the hospital. They held hands with my family (and spiritual hands with my cousin Marla who was on speakerphone from Texas) and we had prayer over my Daddy. I've never experienced anything like it. When I saw them waiting in the waiting room it was like Jesus personally put his arms around me and told me he cared. Although our prayers for physical healing were not answered, I have never felt the presence of God so strong. We had church. In that moment I knew that that was the compassion and love Jesus calls for. Thank you Bro. Randy, Mrs. Kathy, Mr. and Mrs. P, Rob, Jessica, and Brady. I call you by name because while I may have been an emotional wreck the night you were there, I did not, nor will I ever forget that you were there.

My friend and blogging buddy, Philip, showed up a little later that night and spent a good deal of time with us. He had already been by earlier in the week and gotten on his knees in the waiting room to have prayer with me, my Mom, and Jenny and Philip. We went to high school together but never really talked until we met up in the blogging world. I had learned a few months back that he lost his mother not very long ago to breast cancer. I had "accidentally" ended up on a blog post that was a year earlier than what I thought I was reading. Philip had already been faithfully praying for my Dad and visiting him in the hospital during his previous health problems. I have no doubt that God ordained our friendship as I now have someone who understands completely the grief I am feeling. On a funny note, Philip is also a minister at a church in Panama City and my Uncle Reggie teased me at one point saying that I am a preacher magnet. What can I say? I need more spiritual guidance than most. :)

Wow, who knew there were so many good things to write about from that time? I could keep going. Little stuff like the girl at Chick-Fil-A who just gave us a meal when me and Philip forgot to order one. We didn't even explain that we had just made the decision to take my Dad off of life support and that we were picking up food to try and feed my Mom who was too grief stricken to eat. She didn't know. She could have huffed and puffed about us holding up the line and then charged us. But she didn't. She smiled sweetly and told us not to worry about it. Little stuff like that matters in times like those. There was also the day after Christmas when our dear friends, Mrs. Cathy, Kim and Jonathan came to visit. They made a 3 hour trip just to check on us.That is real friendship. And bless their hearts, I hope we weren't totally rude, I don't know if any of us were even coherent that day, but we appreciated them coming even so!

I can't forget to sing the praises of my hubby or my brother in law, Dillon, who I consider just my brother. I had not spent much time with Dillon as he is in the military and he and my sister moved off to Alaska shortly after they got married. They've recently moved closer (another blessing) and I really enjoyed spending time with him. Those boys cooked Christmas lunch for us, they wrapped us in their arms during the most difficult hours of our lives and they held down the fort with 4 kids under the age of 7 and 2 dogs. My Daddy just glowed with pride in the two of them while he was here and I know that he couldn't be prouder of the strength, compassion and love they showed us. Dillon even helped me shop for shoes for the funeral. Somehow we ended up in the shoe department alone and I asked if he thought the shoes I was looking at looked like grandma shoes. He assured me they didn't look like any his grandmother had ever worn. :) Dillon is 5 days older than me, so I feel like I have finally gotten the "older" brother I always wanted.

I know now that I am going to forget somebody and something that happened. Maybe that is good. Maybe it will be good for me to keep remembering more things to be thankful for. I can't end this without telling you what arrived in the mail the first day I was home after the funeral and after our return trip to P.C. I got an envelope and inside was this picture that my friend (and another blogging buddy!) Amber had printed out of one of my Facebook albums and framed in a frame that says Daddy & me. Can you believe that? Is that not the most sweet, thoughtful thing you have ever heard of??

This last week has been really hard for me. So much harder than I anticipated. I have been so tempted to take up residence in self-pityville. It's a minute to minute struggle to be honest with you. And I've decided that's okay. It's just going to take time. And my Daddy deserves for me to grieve over him. He was a HUGE part of my life. But I want to thank all of you who have shown so much love to me and my family. If I have to take the bad, it sure helps to have so much good with it. Thank you.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I Can't Want To

When Sarah was a toddler she developed a phrase that brought laughter into my life during a time of being equally furious. During one of her intense fit throwing phases she coined the phrase "I CAN'T WANT TO!!!!!!!" Apparently I asked something of her that she had no desire to fulfill and that resulted in a full out rolling on the floor kicking and screaming fit. I was reminded of this special little phase when Eli recently repeated those very same words to me. "I CAN'T WANT TO!!!!"

As I mentioned in my last blog, I buried my dad last Wednesday. We came home for Josh to work a day and that was New Year's Eve. I really thought I was doing pretty good. I did laundry, repacked suitcases, went and vacuumed out the Jeep. But, Josh called to let me know that one of our friends had invited us to his house for New Year's Eve, and I became almost paralyzed. I couldn't do it. I couldn't get dressed and put on make-up. I couldn't handle the thought of trying to make polite conversation. I went back and forth all day about what to do. I would make up my mind that the last thing my Dad would want was for me to spend the day sitting around crying. Then, I would sit around and cry.

The next day we headed back to Panama City and I was able to spend some time with my Mom and brother, go to church, have lunch with a friend and celebrate T's (Josh's Mom) birthday. Now, I'm back home. Today is the first time I've been home 2 days in a row since he died. I've taken down Christmas decorations, (and let me tell you, our first real live Christmas tree went two weeks without being watered. I think we may have pieces of that tree with us, and by with us I mean in the carpet, for months to come!!), swept the floors, did some laundry and made some homemade potato soup. You may be thinking that you could care less about those things, but I share them because when I thought about doing them I thought 'I can't want to!' When I thought about writing again I thought 'I can't want to!'

I have always been good at staying strong for other people, but my own personal coping mechanism has always been to withdraw. I prefer to sit in a corner and stare at the wall. The times when I need to talk the most I've been known to not feel like talking. I tend to lose all motivation. It was the trademark of my depression. When life starts hurting too much it is easier to just zone out and not think about things like cooking, cleaning or talking. Those things remind you of life.

So, I'm asking for your help. It is very easy in my life right now to withdraw. I spend 95% of my life in a house in the middle of nowhere with 3 kids. It is easy to avoid human contact and zone out. But I can't. I know I can't. At this time in my life I am thankful for my previous depression because if nothing else I came out of it determined to NEVER go there again. I just can't do it. I can't check out. I have a husband, 3 kids, a dog, a Mom, a brother, a sister and her family. It wouldn't be fair to them. I serve a God who brought me out of that pit, and I know it was for a reason. I'm pretty sure it wasn't to spend my days in my pj's living off of pistachios and Diet Coke.

While every part of my human self is inwardly throwing a kicking and screaming fit saying "I CAN'T WANT TO!!", I know that it doesn't matter what I WANT. It matters that life is still going on and I have to choose to be a part of it. I can choose to be thankful for the many blessings I see through this time of grief. I can choose to remember the good times with my Daddy. I can choose to hold onto those I love a little tighter and make sure I make the most of the days I have with them. I can choose to find the humor in life and I promise, I will again!

I am so thankful for the outpouring of love and caring that has been shown to me and my family. It has been overwhelming. Not only were so many of our family and friends faithful to be there for us and take care of us, but you did it during the holidays when I know you had a million other things to do and places to be. It was not lost on this emotional, basket case of a girl the sacrifices you made to be with us. It was not lost on my needy heart the prayers and words of encouragement and support that were sent our way. I am going to try and write about my experience the week we spent in the hospital with my Daddy, but if I am never up to it, I want all of you who sent me comments and messages on Facebook to know that it was just like you were at the hospital with me putting your arms around me. Jesus tells us that we are blessed when we mourn because we will be comforted.(Matthew 5:4) I had never personally experienced that verse until this time. All of a sudden I got it. I understood what it meant to be comforted.

You do not have to worry that I will forget the kindness and love that was shown. I can't want to. :)