A Recap of the Library

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I, like The Bloggess, have an aversion to the number 13.  So when she came up with the brilliant idea of calling 2013 “the library” to avoid unpleasantness, I jumped on board.  I’m pretty thrilled that it’s over.  It wasn’t such a bad year, but let’s just say I’m happier to be writing 2014 on my dates instead of the other number.

Kristen Howerton of Rage Against the Minivan posted this and she took it from All & Sundry…and I’m taking it and running with it.  Here’s my recap of the library.

1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?

I became an Independent consultant for Thirty-One gifts.  I’d considered becoming a consultant for a few other direct sales companies before, but something about Thirty-One just resonated with me.  I became an aunt for the first time (and the second) this year.  I joined the MOPS steering team and participated in ministry leadership for the first time in almost ten years.  There were of course things like being mom of a 2 year old and cooking with cabbage, but they aren’t as exciting.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I actually didn’t make resolutions for the library, but instead decided to participate in One Word 365.  My word for the library was grace and although it didn’t impact me as much as I would’ve liked (I’m not perfect yet) I’m still looking forward to integrating 2014′s word, which is “intentional”.  I’d like to make more moments count with my family.  I’d like to make better decisions on running my business instead of what just feels right at the time.  And I’d like to eat healthier, read my Bible more, and basically make better use of my life – which means being intentional about the use of my time, energy, and money.  And it’s not really a resolution, but we’re going to try going gluten-free.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Yes!  My brother-in-law and his wife gave birth to my nephew, Jude.  My other brother-in-law and his wife gave birth to my other nephew, Eli.  And my friend Elle had a baby boy, Logan.  Lots of boys!

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Yes, my paternal grandmother passed away this autumn.  I miss her.

5. What countries did you visit?

Um, the U.S.  Which is where I live, so super exciting.

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?

Peace, confidence, and rest.  And a potty trained kid.

7. What dates from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Not specific dates, but some of the moments of my panic attacks will probably stick with me because they were so intense.  The sight of my daughter as she fell onto an escalator in Macy’s and had her fingers ripped open.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Probably not dying.  That feels like an achievement every year.  Getting the flooring replaced in our living room/dining room/kitchen, but that was more my brother than me.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Managing stress.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Yes.  I was diagnosed with depression at the end of 2012, and an anxiety disorder early in the library.  We’re still trying to get my meds sorted as well as trying to get my platelet function where it needs to be after my 2012 stroke.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

My starter kit for Thirty-One gifts.

12. Where did most of your money go?

Probably food and our daughter.  Kids are expensive.

13. What did you get really excited about?

Our new flooring.  Fourth of July.  My daughter’s birthday and her Christmas.  Winning an Xbox One (shallow, I know).  My nephew being born.

14. What song will always remind you of 2011?

Bahaha – What Does the Fox Say?  My daughter loves that song.

As I Lay Dying…

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So a year ago today, this happened.

I’ve not quite gotten to the point where I feel comfortable talking about everything that happened that day from my point of view, but I like pushing myself so we’re going to give it a whirl.

That was not a good week – the day before, Jason’s youngest brother had been denied re-entry into Canada (where he lives with his wife) and we’d gotten news that some of our closest relatives, Jason’s other brother and brother’s wife had suffered a miscarriage.  Our family was under spiritual attack and we didn’t know why, we were all simply reeling.  Jason’s parents were coming to visit and I had let Canadian brother (Scott), entertain Lucy while I picked up the house a little bit and got ready for the latest visitors.  Jason even left work early to come help me and to be there when his parents arrived.

About four o clock, Scott and I set out to run some errands.  This included a run to Dutch Brothers, my favorite coffee stand.  When they handed my drink out the window, I suddenly felt very tired and lethargic.  My left arm felt like it was moving through water, as if I were pushing it through resistance.  I shrugged it off as an oncoming migraine (I’d been having a lot of those lately) and paid, then we went to Target.  Scott wandered off to look at video games and I ran to get teething tablets and diapers.  I had to lean heavily on the cart, I felt exhausted and dizzy.  I was still thinking a migraine, as my medical history has taught me to be aware of arrhythmia and chest pain – there were neither.  In fact, I wasn’t in any pain at all and I wasn’t the slightest bit concerned about what was happening to me, just annoyed.

A side note into all this – the clot was in the right side of my brain.  This is the side which not only manages the left half of your body, but also reasoning, problem solving, and social cues.  The part of my brain designed to tell me that something was wrong is the part that was being suffocated and damaged.  I wasn’t aware that by this point, Scott was very concerned about me.  It also is the part that is mostly likely controlling emotions, which is partly why through the entire stroke event and treatment, I never felt afraid.

Scott asked if I was doing alright as we left Target and it very briefly occurred to me that I should ask him to drive.  But I’m stubborn and proud and it was a little over a mile to our house so I didn’t ask.  He grew more concerned and asked me repeatedly if I was okay when I nearly swerved into a car changing lanes, and had to do three-point turns every time we needed to make a left hand turn (three times).  I just kept thinking I’m just tired, I need a nap.  Just need to get home to nap.  When we pulled into the driveway, I realized I had to lift my left arm off my leg with my right and open the door with my right hand.  I managed to swing my lower body out of the car and placed my coffee in my left hand – and immediately dropped it on the ground.  Which made me irrationally really angry.  I leaned over to pick it up and fell out of the car.

Scott ran to see what had happened and I continued to assure him I was fine, I just needed to get inside and sleep.  He tried to help me up and we couldn’t manage it.  By this point, I was getting confused, slurring words, and mixing up parts of my body as I talked about them.  Scott ran in to get Jason.  When Jason came out, he asked me if I was okay.  I emphasized that I just wanted to go inside and sleep.  I kept telling him something was wrong was my right side, when it was actually my left side that was completely paralyzed.  He gave me that “you’re somewhat ridiculous” look and told me if I could get up on my own and walk to the door, I could take a nap.  Which I obviously couldn’t, so he managed to get me in the car, give brief instructions to Scott and we headed to the ER.

The ride is somewhat of a blur, I do remember him asking me many inane questions over and over (the number of times I had to tell people throughout the evening that Obama was President was ridiculous).  I recall the nurses coming to get me from the car, but everything else is blank until they took me to get a CT scan.  By this time, my parents were there, as well as my pastor.  When they read us the results of the scan indicating a large clot (actually two), I thought well, that’s ridiculous.  That sounds like I’m having a stroke and strokes are for old people.  I’m only thirty.  Guess I get to have my head shaved.  They administered tPA (a stroke medication) but it didn’t have much effect on me.  They were continually asking me if I felt this or if I could move that and nothing was happening, which was frustrating but beyond that didn’t concern me.  I dozed on and off and every time I woke up, there were more people in the room – my sister and her boyfriend, my brother and his wife, my father-in-law and Scott.  I kept wondering why they were allowing so many people to be in my triage room and it was only later that I realized it was because they didn’t expect me to live.  I kept looking at Jason and thinking he looked so worried, I needed to cheer him up and reassure him.

If you’ve read his post, you know they were planning on airlifting me from almost the very beginning.  They prepped me for flight and I said goodbye to my family, borrowing my sister’s chapstick and again getting frustrated that I couldn’t open it one handed.  I later found out that they gave my husband a less than 33% chance I would still be alive when he reached me at Sacred Heart.  The helicopter ride was cold and bumpy – they had to give me something for nausea.  And I still remember seeing the lights glinting off my wedding rings (although that could’ve been my brain filling in what I usually saw on my finger) even though they weren’t actually there.  I was piled in warmed blankets and slept most of the way.  As we landed, I could smell rain.  I went straight to surgery check-in and prep.  The admins kept asking me to sign things and the nurses kept yelling at them that I was having a stroke – and I kept interjecting with “no, I’m right handed, it’s okay!”  And the last thing I remember before surgery was the doctor patting me on the arm and saying, “you’re going to do fine…”

I still don’t think I’ve processed everything that happened that day and week, it may take me a long time of talking and working through it.  I have a lot of thanks to share – with Christ who not only saved my life, but my soul so that if things had turned out differently, I still would be okay.  With my husband and Scott for their quick reaction time to my distress.  With my in-laws for watching LP and especially my father-in-law for driving my extremely distraught husband three hours to the hospital I was airlifted to.  With my pastor for being there for my family, for preaching a timely sermon the Sunday before, for being encouraging through the entire ordeal.  With my Bible Study and small group friend family for providing meals, with my parents for continually supporting us, driving up to visit us in the hospital, for helping out with Lucy, and for helping me the past 12 months as I continue to recover.  With the amazing baristas and baristos at Dutch Brothers who encouraged us, made us laugh, and plied us with decaf coffee this past year, helping me confront my fears of returning to the places I was at when I was suffering from my brain being starved of oxygen.  And with the literally hundreds of people who were praying for me around the world the entire night of my stroke and beyond.  With every single person who donated to our giveforward account and helped us cover medical expenses our insurance denied.  With our lawyer for fighting the insurance company on my behalf, and with the doctors and nurses for skillfully making decisions concerning my care and performing tests and surgeries – both at Kadlec and Sacred Heart. So much to be thankful for, such a family of support, such a blessed life.

Toddler Times – Playing in the Wind

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Where we live, we may be blessed with 300+ days of sunshine a year (although a lot of times I wish we had more rain!), many of those days come packaged along with wind.  Sometimes, the wind brings lots of dust and allergens, but there are a few rare days that it’s just breezy enough to be fun. 

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I’m part of an online knitters mama group where all of our babies were either due in, or born during April 2011.  We try and do a swap every six or so months – we send off packages of knitty goodness and treats to a secret partner and receive one from someone else.  It’s always very fun to see what things you get.  The last swap box we received came all the way from France!  LP was thrilled (and so was I) with the pinwheel and windsock that came along in our swap box, because these were new things we could use to play outside on windy days when it’s not fun to play in the water because it’s too cold. 

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We like to stick to the front yard, because the grass is nicer and there’s a bit of shade from our one little tree.  When it’s windy, we like to play with our pinwheels, our fish windsock, and bubbles.  I haven’t found a homemade bubble recipe yet, but LP got a huge bottle of strawberry scented bubble solution for her first birthday and we’re still using that for the time being. 

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What do you like to do with your toddler when the weather isn’t quite perfect?

Toddler Times – Sidewalk Chalk Paint

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LP loves playing outside.  We have a water table, and a tiny tiny kiddy pool for her to play in, but sometimes I want something creative for her to do as well.  We’ve discovered the joys of homemade sidewalk chalk paint.  I love this stuff because she has painted on everything outside and herself and it hasn’t stained.  Not the sidewalk, or her skin, or the front door, or the windows.  Usually, she just gets to run around in a diaper and paint, but if the pool/water table are out, she wears a swimsuit.  The recipe we use for our sidewalk chalk paint is 1/4 c cornstarch, 1/4 c water, food coloring until it’s the tint you want.  Luckily, cornstarch and water don’t taste very good, so I don’t need to worry about her ingesting a ton of it.  The first time we painted, we used sponge brushes.  I don’t recommend this as the sponges just got seriously clogged with cornstarch and didn’t paint too much.  Brushes worked much better.  And cleanup of this is easy!  I’ve used both baby food jars and muffin tins to hold our colors.  And I put it on a rimmed baking tray to carry in and out of the house.  We even used this at playgroup one week and it was a big hit.

Toddler Times – Zucchini Bread

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I’ve been keeping a journal for LP about everyday life with her and lately, she’s started asserting independence.  Which means, I might have to spend a bit more time thinking about what to write other than ‘ohmyword you were crazy cranky today and nothing made you happy.”  I’ve been trying to find at least fun thing to do with her each day, and I’ll try and share some of them here.
We had some leftover zucchini from a recipe a few nights ago, so I decided to make some zucchini bread.  We try to avoid white flour around here, so it took a bit of searching online to find a recipe for 100% whole wheat zucchini bread.  And then today, I realized I had no idea what LP and I were going to do together.  So I decided to let her help me bake.  Since she’s only 16 months, her part was pretty much just stirring and eating.  I set all the ingredients out and pre-measured them into bowls so she could dump them in.  She wasn’t interested in that.  Of. Course.  But she was interested in stirring.  Our table is covered in DH’s work stuff and things for me to put away, so we utilized the floor.

 

 

 

Of course, we had to bring our goldfish crackers to help us stir…

 

LP also helped me put them in the oven by pushing the “start” button on the timer.

Wow, I didn’t realize how disgusting my oven is.  (We have no self-clean option so I’m lazy about it).  Guess I’ll have to get on that.

 

Then we had to wait for it to cook, and cool.  But finally (after naptime) we got to the best part – eating!

 

Big, big hit.  We’re definitely going to try cooking time again sometime.  The recipe we used was this one from King Arthur Flour – 100% Whole Wheat Zucchini Chocolate Chip Bread, and I substituted coconut oil for the vegetable oil.  This recipe is a keeper.

Assurance

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Just a bit of an update on the whole insurance escapade.

 

As of last week, our insurance company has stated they are not covering my surgery, or my hospital stay in Spokane.  No word on the airlift coverage, beyond the fact that they decided to cover the doctors in the helicopter.  Our medical bills at this point are near $150,000, including the airlift.  Why are things not covered?  The insurance company has decided the brain surgery that saved my life, as well as my entire stay at Sacred Heart in Spokane were “not medically necessary.” It’s okay, you can take a moment to be upset, we’ve been there.

 

We’ve had an overwhelming response from friends and family concerning this.  Several people in several states have helped us figure out the best plan of action to appeal, appeal, appeal.  We’ve even had offers from a state representative to get all up in our insurance company’s business about the entire issue.  We don’t want to post a whole lot of details here because we don’t know exactly how far this is going to go, but our current plans are these:  We have a request in to several doctors who worked on my case in both hospitals to give us a letter stating the necessity of my airlift, surgery, and recovery at SHMC.  We have contacted SHMC and asked them to re-submit our claim to our insurance and work with them.  We’re gathering as much information as we can about my heart condition, my stroke, and the procedure in case we need to further defend my treatment.  We’ve established a giveforward account to raise money.  And we’re working to trust God throughout all of this.  He brought this to us for a reason, stroke, insurance company, everything – and He’ll bring us through it.  Even if we don’t like how it turns out.

 

In the past, our insurance company hasn’t fought us on issues like this past a note from a doctor.  They refused coverage on my pacemaker a few years ago and all we needed to clear that up was my cardiologist talking to them.  We’re hoping something similar happens this time.  Also, it looks like the surgery may have been submitted as an exploratory procedure because a scope was used to guide the “clot-catcher”, so that may be what’s causing a lot of the confusion on the part of our insurance.  We’re trying to approach this situation with tact, grace, and gratitude that we even have an option to get all this paid for somehow.

 

RE: My Brains

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So what is recovering from a stroke like?  I can sum it up in one word – tiring.

 

I’m so tired.  I wasn’t this tired after my pacemaker surgery, or after having LP and was getting no sleep.  Tired in the way that I take a shower, get dressed and think “I’m ready for the day…time for a nap.”  I’m trying to sleep when LP sleeps, which is great in theory, but she seems to be moving from two naps to one, so I never really know how long she’s going to sleep or when she’ll zonk out. They’ve told me this exhaustion will continue intensely for at least 2 weeks as the swelling in my brain subsides, and then I’ll still be “moderately exhausted” for up to three months while new pathways are formed in my brain to replace the ones damaged by the stroke.  And honestly, moderately exhausted is sounding appealing after the past few days.

 

We haven’t found any part of my memory or day to day life that I cannot do, which is an enormous praise.  However, it takes much more concentration to knit and type (you would not believe the number of typos I’m correcting as I go), and is sometimes more frustrating than walking.  My reflexes are visibly slower – as playing Mass Effect 3 multiplayer has revealed.  My right hand and leg will shake, often near the end of the day, tired from trying to overcompensate for the weakness in my left side.  I have to be very vigilant in gauging my energy levels – I walked to get the mail one afternoon (a two block walk) and that was it for the rest of the day – even getting up off the couch sounded impossible afterwards.  I find it hard to focus while reading or following conversations.

 

There are upsides to this.  Sleep has never been so refreshing.  I was told by my doctors that while I’m asleep is the only time my brain can work on repairing itself, so I’m trying to get at least one hour long nap in a day, going to bed around 9 pm, and sleeping at least 10 hours at night.  Husband has been fabulous at getting up when LP wakes, feeding her and entertaining her quietly so I can continue to sleep.

 

Another upside is that I’m getting a glimpse of what daily life is like for my husband, who suffers from MS.  Down to the mental fatigue and the side aching.  At least I don’t have to suffer from the shots.

 

Thank you again for all your prayers and support.  We have felt overwhelmingly blessed throughout this entire journey by all of you, and thank you just doesn’t seem adequate.  We are so grateful for all the prayers, the meals, the encouraging comments, and the support.  If I could give each of you a hug, I would.

Home.

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Yesterday afternoon Sarah was cleared by all four relevant departments (Neurology, General Surgery, Physical/Occupational Therapy, and Cardiac – if I’m remembering right) to be discharged from the hospital.

We arrived at our home at about 5:30pm last night. (It’s ok – you can do a little dance, shout, or even tear up a little bit if you want. We did.) We’ve hugged our daughter, caught up with family, and Sarah got a nice long shower. We slept in our own bed, which is a blessing in and of itself. We are very, very tired, but happy to be home.

And now, of course, comes the hard part. There’s no more doctors or nurses, no more on-call buttons, no more monitors attached to her that reassure us that everything is ok. Now that we’re home we get to worry about every dizzy spell, every little itch or tingle, every little normal thing that might possibly indicate that somethings wrong. We get to begin building a new pattern of life, one that lets us take care of our daughter AND help Sarah slowly get back up to fighting strength. (That’s a figure of speech, by the way. As far as I know, Sarah no interest in competing in any sort of fighting sport.)

We still need your prayer. Maybe not the “every second/all night long” sort that you’ve been showering with us this whole week (though, we’d appreciate that too), but certainly the “keep us daily in your prayers” sort. We’ve seen many miracles this week, and we’d like to keep them coming. We also… need your help. Sarah and I are both very stubborn, and dislike asking for things. But, stepping back, I know we are probably not going to be able to do this alone. And, we probably shouldn’t try and do it along. So, we humbly ask for your help for the next few weeks as we work on taking care of Sarah and helping her to get better. I’ve listed a “ways you can help” section below. I’m sure some further needs may become apparent as we work through this, so I’ll try to keep people updated as we go.

Ways You Can Help

  • We would appreciate meals being made for us.  Sarah is on a special diet, so we would prefer things without potatoes, white flour, and/or sugar.  If you’d like to bring us a meal, feel free to text or call me (husband) to set up a date and time.
  • Prayer – we have a long road of healing before us.
  • Yard work – Even though we have a small yard, the heat prevents me from keeping it mowed as often as it needs to be with my MS.  If you have a teenager who would like to make a few bucks, let us know.  We have an electric mower they can use, as well.
  • Errands – we’ll know more about this as we settle into a routine.  Sarah gets tired very quickly, so sometimes going to the grocery store may be too tiring.  We work on the Dave Ramsey cash envelope system, so we can hand you the money and the list if you want to go for us.
  • Coffee. Decaf anything. (Sarah especially likes Dutch Bros and Roasters.)

Ok. Pride has been swallowed, help has been asked for. Praise and prayer time.

Praises

  • We are home today, instead of having a funeral. This sounds overly dramatic, but this could have turned out very differently. Praise God that Sarah is home, safe, and on her way to becoming healthy.
  • Sacred Heart – I praise God for every single person there. Even the coffee stand people. (ESPECIALLY the coffee stand people?) Every single person at that hospital was committed to keeping Sarah healthy, making sure she was comfortable, listening to our concerns and (sometimes inane) questions, and laughing and rejoicing along with us.
  • Our friends and family – on top off all of your amazing prayers, we’ve had friends and family come to us at the hospital, help out with LP, and come up to help with Sarah this weekend. Thank you. Thanks for sharing our statuses, blogs, and prayer requests. Thanks for liking our Facebook updates. Thanks for your comments – both the ones that encouraged us and the ones that made us laugh.
  • Being home with our daughter is such a relief. Also, she LOVES Sarah’s balloons from the hospital. She’s very happy her Mom and Dad are home. And so are we.
  • Sarah’s wedding rings were found! They may have been here at home all along. Or, God transported them home from wherever they had fallen on the floor in the hospital back here to our house. (The last one is my theory. In case you couldn’t tell.) Either way, it’s an answer to prayer, and we’re happy that they’ve been located.
  • Sarah has been able to knit, and even played a little bit of Xbox last night before she got too tired.

Prayer Requests

  • Pray that Sarah’s brain stays healthy and safe. There’s still swelling, so pray that goes down in a safe and timely manner. Also pray there’s no further bleeding.
  • Pray that Sarah can get the rest she needs to fully recover.
  • Pray that there are no further damaged areas of her brain. We’ve joked that while it’d be ok if she had somehow lost the memories of a few college classes (*cough cough* Intro to Missiology *cough cough*), but we’d really prefer it if all areas of Sarah’s brain checked out to be healthy and happy.
  • Pray Sarah’s physical therapy goes well.
  • Pray for the insurance coverage. Now that we’re out, we begin the fun waiting game where we try and guess what they’ll cover and what they’ll refuse. They’ve already left one automated message for us telling us to call them as soon as possible, but they’re closed until Tuesday. So now we get to stress out about it all weekend. (Yay!) Pray that it’s all covered, because a long insurance fight sounds really exhausting. And stressful.
  • Pray for my brother and his wife, who lost their pregnancy a day before all of this happened. While we’ve been out here in all the craziness they’ve been quietly mourning the loss of their child.