She is beautiful

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She is the envy of many a woman.

She is, to most, perfect.

She is the responsible, put together and dependable one.

She never forgets a birthday or anniversary.

She is, by all accounts, just what every woman dreams to be.

She is beyond beautiful. Her light blueish green eyes sparkle when she laughs and her smile is infectious. Her hair shines in the sun and even in a “mom bun” looks amazing.

She remembers others children as she walks through the dollar aisle at Target and picks up the perfect item “just because”.

She buys Christmas presents in June because they will be just what someone wants and tucks them away for that special moment.

She is smart. Smart like most people want to be. That odd combination of street smarts and book smarts that makes her know how to change a tire and also know who fought in the war of 1812.

She’s comforting. An oasis in a life of chaos that can be called upon at any minute. She always knows what to say. She can make you feel like a million bucks with just a corny joke and the sound of her laughter.

She is the carpool mom that knows all of the other mom’s names and chats with them without effort.

She is the classroom volunteer mom that knows every kids name and develops a way to reach every single one in just an afternoon.

She’s the lunch duty mom that cleans up after your child without a second thought.

She’s the Cub Scout mom who checks homework so diligently during the meeting that others think she homeschools.

She’s the baseball mom that cuts up all the oranges and serves the flavored water and never forgets if that one kid has an allergy.

She’s the MOM.

She’s the mom that reads to her kids every single night. Building their love of literature and enriching their minds.

She’s the mom that plays, acts, sings, dances and generally acts like a silly woman just to see the smile on her kids faces.

She’s the mom that still checks on her kids during the night and sheds a tear just watching them slumber.

She is also the mom that thinks she doesn’t do enough.

That her best is never good enough.

That she should go harder and faster and longer.

Her self concept isn’t what we see from the outside.

She is lost in self doubt.

She is lost.

This is when we step in, Mama’s!

We all know this mom.

We all envy this mom.

We may, in fact, be this mom.

It’s not a competition.

All of our kids are perfect and we are all beautiful.

It’s time we tell each other that.

Tell another woman on the street that you like her shoes. Tell her that her dress is just gorgeous.

You know why?

Because she might have had the worst morning and one comment can make her day.

She’ll believe you, but inevitably, wouldn’t dare believe herself.

The mirror lies to us, Mama’s.

We are all of these things.

Tell another mom she’s appreciated today because, guess what?

It might be the first time she’s heard it in a while and you just might change her view of herself.

You are gorgeous.

You are special.

You are irreplaceable.

You are doing the best you can.

And, honey, that is and always will be, more than enough.

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Happy is hard.

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No.

I’m not ok, but that picture makes me smile. That’s why I put it there.

When you say it’s going to be ok, I know you mean it, but it doesn’t make it so.

When you say, “I’m so sorry!” and I say, “It’s ok.”

It’s not.

 No one could’ve ever prepared me for what I’m going through right now. No one could’ve said, “Hey Al! Guess what? Your life is about to get turned upside down. Ready?”

I would’ve said I was. I think we all think that we can do anything and I’m starting to think I might’ve been wrong.

I started my day at Duke last Friday helping a woman, obviously on chemo, up from the floor in the restroom and back into her clothes. I finished it, leaving my husband there, once again, with an infection that is hopefully on it’s way to recovery.

Karma is a bitch and I think she’s mad at me.

My thought tonight is brief.

I feel as if I’m at the end of my rope. I’m frantically searching for something to grab onto.

What does the one that everyone clings to grab onto?

This is not a pity party, y’all. I swear it’s not.  Chris is doing well and will hopefully come home tomorrow. He’s been fitted for his helmet and it actually looks kinda cute.

I just feel weathered. The storm is taking it’s toll and my eyes look empty. My soul feels pained. And to the best of my knowledge, I’m gaining weight.

Hold the ones that you love dear tonight. Rethink the ones that you don’t. No one or nothing is worth the pain that I’m enduring right now and if I can get just one person to see that, then I’ve done my job here.

Don’t let anyone or anything back you into a corner.

Stand up. Brush yourself off and give it another go.

Life is not perfect, but it’s precious.

Be positive. Do the most good and be the best “you” that you can be.

Surgery number FOUR: Infection NO MORE?!

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So, guys, it happened again.

The man I love has endured, yet another surgery.

This will be number four, if you’re counting.

Here’s the story:

On Tuesday of this week I noticed some clear drainage coming from Chris’ incision. Not a lot, by any means, but enough to make me call the doctors office.

They made him an apt to be seen the next day, but the drainage had stopped and his wound looked great so we didn’t go. (Hindsight says that this was actually a good thing)

Thursday rolls around and he gets out of the shower and his incision has popped open in one place. No drainage or redness. Just a popped stitch. I, again, called the doctor and made an apt for the next day.

Friday he gets out of the shower and there it was. Green pus. (I know it’s gross, but it’s what happened) So, we go to his appointment as scheduled at 0930 and they wouldn’t even touch him. They looked at him and then looked at me like I had brought in a dead raccoon or something. Like they just couldn’t believe it. They called Dr. Friedman’s primary nurse and she came, as well.

Y’all, she looked at me like I had stuck a knife in his head and turned it. She asked me if I had been giving him his antibiotics. Yes. She asked me if I had been cleaning it. Yes. With what, she says? Peroxide and warm water, just as instructed. Well obviously you haven’t been doing that or he wouldn’t have a reinfection. EXCUSE ME?! Um, uh what? I’ve done everything that I was told to do, the way it’s been told to me and I even check on the man while he sleeps. I literally set my alarm to check on him three times a night. Just to make sure he’s ok. So, no, bitch. I’m pretty sure this isn’t my fault. Have you been putting the Bacetracin on him? No. he does that when he gets out of the shower. Well, that’s your problem. Some Medic you are…..

Just like that.

I was so shocked that I didn’t know what to say and I just told her that it’s not possible that something of this magnitude could be happening from me not putting on an ointment.

She took us directly to Dr. Friedman’s office. He was in a meeting, but called us directly in, much to the chagrin of the doctors he was meeting with.

He looked at Chris. He looked at me. He looked at that nurse. “Obviously, the bone flap’s infected and has to come out. No amount of antibiotics is going to get rid of this infection when the bone flap has no blood supply. I’m going to have to take him back into surgery and remove it permanently. He will stay here at least on night and the infectious disease doctors will come see him, too. See you in the OR.”

And the nurse led us down to the pre op area, again, to do his admission. By this time she won’t look at me and Chris is in pain, so I told her to go ahead and take him back and I would sign all the papers and see him back there. She did.

I sign and sign and sign and hope he’s getting comfortable. Then I go sit in the waiting room while they situate him with IV’s and so forth. I sit alone.

Then and angel appears. Our friend Niki takes me back to see him. He’s still in pain. He’s not comfortable! The dr says he can’t sign the consent, so he can’t give him drugs. I’ll sign, I say! So, I did. And just like that, he’s comfortable. His eyes stop tearing and he smiles at me.

The doctors tell me the procedure and I have to explain it to Chris. He didn’t understand from before that they were taking his skull bone. Forever. He just didn’t get it. All he heard was surgery and he stopped listening.

So, I explained to my love that they were going to open him up, clean him out and then take the bone away. For good? Yes, love, for good, but in a few months you’ll get an Iron Man plate and be the coolest daddy ever!! But for now you might have to wear a helmet. A helmet? Yes, love, but we will decorate it and you can put so many stickers on it, it’ll be the coolest helmet anybody’s ever seen!! Ok, he says. Just ok.

Then, he’s gone again. With a swift kiss and I half hug, he’s gone.

Surgery wasn’t long. Maybe an hour and a half. The buzzer beeps!! It’s time to go to the little room and talk to Dr. Friedman…..again. His mom is with me. She’s crying. I’m not and I don’t know why. Maybe I was out of tears at this point.

Dr. Friedman walks in and immediately tells Lisa to stop crying. He says “This is bad, but it’s not those kind of tears, bad. He’s going to be ok.” He explained what they did and that the infection was, in fact, in that bone flap and that leaving it in wasn’t an option anymore. So, they took it out, cut his skin and muscle and stretched to cover the hole. He may have some pain from this surgery. More than before, but he’s going to be ok now.

So, that was that. We return to the waiting room and wait for the buzzer to go see him. What felt like a hundred hours and a meeting with the nurse anesthetist later, it buzzed! I powerwalked like an old lady. Not a full run, but a walk with purpose.

They told me it was time to go see him. Lisa hadn’t come with me because the nurse anesthetist had said he was asking for me (and said his brother’s name:)) But I asked the receptionist if he’d just asked for me this time. She said no. He hadn’t been specific. So, I yelled for Lisa and had her come with me. The light in her eyes made it worth it!

The man we met in recovery was a very, VERY happy man. Ketamine will do that to you. But, he could talk. Same as before, but no set backs this time!! He knew where he was and why he was there. No explanations and rounds of tears this time!!

He got a room upstairs and I had to go home to the kids. The doodles were worried and Chris had his Mama. My babies needed theirs. So, with another kiss and a nice long hug, I left. I was so tired that I had to call my parents on the way home to stay alert, but I did. I got home, ordered chinese food and laid on my empty, but comfy bed. I had the kids come in and I explained to them all that happened the best way I knew how. I haven’t seen Chris’ head yet, so I don’t know how to tell them what to expect, but I told them what I knew.

He called me one time before I went to sleep and I got so excited when the phone rang that I almost hung up on him! It’s him! It’s him! He’s calling ME!! All he said was that he was in pain, but settled into a room and he would call me when he could. But he called me, y’all!!

My man is strong. My man is hurting, but healing. My man will be home soon and I can’t wait to wrap my arms around him and see his smile.

Helmet or not, that man will be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life.

When your Mother in Law becomes your friend

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Can you have a real relationship with the mother of your husband?

Won’t she always see him as her baby and you as the evil person that took him away?

I never thought I’d be able to answer that first question with a resounding YES!! I never thought I would’ve developed the type of relationship that I have with my mother in law.

Her name is Lisa.

Her titles are Mom, “Happy”(her grandmother name), mother in law, daughter, sister and friend.

She will always be Chris’ mom. She will always be the grandmother of my children, but I never thought I’d get the chance to call her my friend.

It has been a long 13 years. Chris and I’s relationship has had many up’s and down’s. MANY up’s and down’s. We’ve loved and hated each other so many times that I, myself, actually have lost count of the times that we’ve been “broken up”. I’m sure many of our friends did, too. I’m also sure that that’s why, in the course of our 13 years, that we’ve lost so many.

Who wants to be a part of constant calamity?

No one.

It has taken many different things to get Chris and I to where we are today. Be it time or just plain maturation. We did it. And we did it together.

Throughout these up’s and down’s there’s always been someone there. Someone who had to endure the drama. Someone who couldn’t leave.

That person is his Mom.

His mom and I have hated each other and loved each other just about the same amount of times that Chris and I have. And she should’ve hated me. I agree with her. I didn’t treat him the way he should’ve been treated. (He didn’t treat me the way I deserved either and my parents felt the same, but that’s another post)

I remember one meeting with Lisa and her anger was so apparent, she actually seemed evil. Her eyes were dark and her soul was full of a sense of hate so deep that I’m not sure it could be explained. She seethed anger.

And she had a right to that anger.

I wasn’t scared of her. Don’t get me wrong. I was trying to explain myself and nothing, and I mean nothing, would’ve gotten through that protective barrier you call a mother’s love. The meeting was futile. My efforts at explanation fell on deaf ears and at the time I thought that I could break down the barrier, but in the end, nothing really can ever break that barrier, can it?

It’s taken years, actual years, for us to gain each others trust. It wasn’t just her that didn’t trust me. I knew in a second she could stop being my friend and turn into my mortal enemy. I knew she could do it in a heartbeat and not blink a perfectly lined eye.

About 5 years ago things changed. She and I were both changing and I’m not really sure the other knew it. I was embracing my mental illness and doing something about it. She was going through a divorce. Both situations, although very different, were turning points in our lives. Our lives individually and our lives together. We both had a storm to pass through and now we were going to go through them together.

My mental illness is something that I’ve written about before, so I won’t get into the ends and outs of it, but I will say this simple statement. Better living through chemistry. It’s my truth and I own it.

But Lisa was going through something that I didn’t understand. She wanted a divorce? From a man she’d been with for 30 years? How could that be?

It turns out that we were searching for the same thing at the same time.

She simply wanted to be happy.

She found her happy and I found my truth and then we found each other.

We have changed. The girl that fell in love with her son is now a woman married to the man of my dreams. The woman that I met is now a butterfly that owns her life and is no longer the caterpillar stuck in the beautiful chrysalis. We are both free to be our true selves.

 I’ve always admired her. I’ve always been a tad bit jealous of this woman that could make a perfect dip, sip a glass of wine, write a thank you note and rock a baby all at the same time. She seemed like Superwoman to me.

And she still is.

She’s just a different kind of Superwoman.

It takes a special person to be a mother. It takes a special person to be a friend. Lisa manages to do both with ease. She always has time for you. She always has a laugh for you and she’d give you the shirt off her own back if you could fit in it!

Through all the pain that I’ve put Lisa through, she still loves me and I’m grateful. She still holds my hand when I cry about Chris and most of the time, cries with me. The light in her eye and the spring in her step is infectious.

I’m lucky to have a mother in law. I’m lucky to have a “Happy” for my babies.

I’m lucky to have a friend.

Reevaluate your NORMAL

What is normal?

What do you consider normal?

Are you normal? Are your friends and family normal?

What qualifies, y’all?

If I’ve learned anything in the last few weeks, it’s been that normal is a frame of mind. If you put yourself in the “box” of normal, you’re not living life the way it’s supposed to be lived. You’re confining yourself.

Normal is a definition. Are you a definition? Can you be defined? I think you can’t. I believe you are more than one word.

I am.

And with that said, we aren’t normal.

And come to think about it, I’m not sure we ever have been.

Chris has had a very hard four weeks. We, as a family, have had a very hard four weeks. I don’t think when we started this cancer journey that we could’ve ever been prepared for what was in store. I think we thought that Chris would have surgery, have a few weeks of healing and we’d go back our “normal” life in as much time.

We couldn’t have been more wrong, could we?

Chris has gone from having no words to now having some. He can almost speak in full (albeit short) sentences. His pain is managed well and his meds have titrated down to a tolerable amount. I’m not having to wake him up every two hours during the night to give him anything, although sometimes I still set my alarm just to check on him. It’s like having a newborn. If he sleeps too long, I worry. If he doesn’t sleep long enough, I worry.

Basically, I worry.

Day and night. He’s had so many things go wrong since his surgery that I feel as if it’s my duty to protect him from any and everything. And I do. I do it because I want him to be healthy. But, I also do it because I want him to be happy again. I want to see his smile and know that I put it there. I want to feel his embrace and know that there is strength in those arms. I am giving him my strength right now. Willingly and without a second thought. I give him everything that I am in hopes that he will return to me with that gorgeous smile and a heart full of hope and love.

He’s my foundation and he is everything to us.

But, is he normal?

The doctors have said so many times that his post op infection wasn’t normal. Well, it seems pretty normal to me.

They have said that his speech delay isn’t normal. Again, it seems pretty normal to me.

What I’m getting at is that normal isn’t normal. It’s just a word that people use to remain comfortable. Staying within the “norm” means that everything isn’t changing and you’re stagnant. Should you be content with stagnant?

I would never wish what I’ve been going through on any other soul. I’d never wish what Chris is and will go through on another person, but I would wish that you would look at your life in a new way.

Don’t be content with normal. Pain brings about change and if you’re changing, you’re moving towards a higher sense of being.

The strength that I’ve had to muster in the past few weeks has been exhausting. But, it has honestly come from somewhere, deep within me, that I didn’t know existed. If anyone had asked me even six months ago, if I could do what I do, day in and day out now, I’d have said absolutely not. I didn’t think I had it in me. I didn’t think that once my foundation was ripped out from under me that I could build my own. Quickly and without a second thought. I would have laughed in their face and said that I’m not good enough.

But, I am.

I’m not who I was. I’m not normal anymore.