Tuesday, November 6, 2012

11/5 & 11/6 (No politics here)

I wanted to save yesterday's thankful post and do two in one day.  Anna is my 11/5 and Daniel is my 11/6 and I just wouldn't have enough room to write them in a Facebook status.


I am so incredibly thankful for Anna.  She is my firstborn and she had my heart the moment I knew I was pregnant.  We got pregnant with her on the heels (less than a month) of miscarrying our twins.  Being pregnant with her gave me hope.  When she was born, we were elated!  When I held her for the first time I felt like my heart might burst because I was so overcome with love for this tiny little piece of Will and me.  For the most part, she was a pretty easy baby.  As she started talking and finding little ways to express herself we figured out that she was going to have a strong personality.  She was very smart and caught onto things quickly, but man, was she stubborn!  She still is :).  She is so smart!  I'm often taken back by her intellect and intuition.  She sees things that people don't typically notice.  I am so grateful that I can add her point-of-view to my own because it makes my world richer.  She's also an incredibly tender-hearted little girl.  Often, her intellect clouds her emotions, which makes her appear less feeling than her counterparts.  She's so type A that she loves to categorize and catalog things and it makes her seem cold about emotional things.  She's all about order and things going exactly as she's planned them out in her head.  I love that about her.  I can be so right-brained and disorganized, so we sometimes butt heads, but she's taught me to be a bit more organized.  She's also taught me so much about how I see the world and the people in it.  A little over a year ago she was diagnosed with an extreme case of ADHD.  It was something I knew, but it was still hard to deal with the diagnosis.  I learned that you can't judge a child or parent based on appearance or behavior.  I had always assumed (until I became a parent) that when children were acting out in public it was a problem of parenting.  I would silently judge the parent and assume that they could not or would not handle their own child.  It frustrated me that people would be so indulgent that their children wouldn't listen to them.  Man, was I naive.  I never even stopped to consider that the children might have a problem without some sort of physical sign.  I didn't think that maybe their parents were harried and exhausted and had to choose their battles because so many things felt like a battle with their child.  Now, we're going to have her tested for Aspergers.  The diagnoses are often confused.  She shows many signs of Aspergers and in an effort to figure out the best way to help her, we're going to visit a new psychologist who might be able to help.  One thing that I can say without reservation is that I am passionate about being able to reach Anna in any way that we can.  I (we) want to help her.  She is our independent, with deep convictions, forward and deep thinker, analyzer, loving, go against the flow little girl.  She often ends up playing alone because she doesn't want to do what everyone else feels like doing and she's not one to compromise.  She frequently gets upset that others don't want to play the way she does, but in spite of that, she continues on the path she's chosen.  It amazes me.  She's very small for her age, but she's not afraid of her larger peers.  She's fearless and spunky.  She has a beautiful soul, and I look forward to the future with her even though I know that we have our fair share of valleys ahead mixed in with the peaks.  In those rare moments when I really feel like I've made a serious connection to her, I feel fulfilled and hopeful.  She's not typically a cuddly kid, so when she chooses to sit on my lap and tell me how much she loves me, my heart soars.  How incredibly blessed I am that God chose her for me, for us. 


I am so grateful for Daniel. He is named after my Papa and my Father-in-Law.  I will never forget the day that we told my Dad that we would name our son Daniel.  We went in for a 3D/4D ultrasound to find out the baby's gender while my parents were in town.  As soon as the technician told us that we were having a boy, we told him that Daniel would share his name.  I could tell that he was so proud.  It still makes my heart swell when I remember that moment.  It means even more now that my Papa is gone.  The pregnancy was so scary.  I had almost every complication possible and I feared for Daniel's life and my own.  I spent so much time praying and reading my Bible in hopes of getting some peace in the storm.  I found it.  I actually felt that "peace that passes all understanding."  I felt that all of the struggle in his pregnancy would be worth it, that he was going to be a special little man.  He is.  He has so much of my personality in him (God, help him).  He's very emotionally driven, he's brave, he loves to put on a show for people, he's stubborn, but he really loves to connect with people.  He's a cuddly little guy who LOVES to cuddle with Mommy.  He will walk up to me randomly and give me a kiss and tell me how much he loves me :)  When I walk into a room he's in, he lights up.  It's so sweet, and it often lifts my spirits on the days when I'm especially down.  He mentions that he misses Papa probably 50 times a day.  My response is always the same, "Me too, Daniel."  He loves so deeply, and this will always make his losses especially difficult. I know that all too well.  He adores being the class clown.  He enjoys making people laugh, but he's exceptionally hurt when he feels that people are laughing at his expense.  His sensitivity often clouds his judgement and makes him turn to vigilante justice (something we have been trying to deal with for a while now).  He's not afraid of anyone.  He's small for his age, like Anna, and it doesn't phase him for a second.  I wish I could get him to understand that he should temper his responses because there are bigger, meaner people out there who might seek to hurt him (oh, and also because violence is a bad response to anger and frustration), but he is still invincible in his own eyes.  He is my extremely loving, feeling, intelligent, humorous, out-going, and affectionate little man.  I was so afraid that I wouldn't be able to love a second child as much as Anna because I felt like there was some fixed amount of love that I had to offer.  I was wrong.  The same swell of the heart to the point where you feel it might burst from loving so much happened with him.  I found that my capacity for love was not some fixed amount.  I love him so very much.  He's my own little heart walking around on display for the world.  I am so blessed by him.  When he runs into my arms after school, my heart skips a beat.  What did I do to deserve this kind of love and joy?  He is so eager to express his love and his little body just can't contain the great amount of joy that he has.  What a miracle!

In this period of loss and mourning, I am especially grateful for my two children.  Their thoughts on loss and the joy that they feel in the midst of pain has kept me going.  My responsibility to them has kept me going each day even when I felt like wallowing in my loss.  Thanks to them, I have put one foot in front of the other even when I wanted to retreat inward.  I owe it to them to show them how to deal with great loss.  If I give up and quit pushing on, I will teach them that defeat is an option.  It's not.  Right now, they are so resilient.  I want them to know that they can continue to live their lives in that way.  There is always hope.  "Even the darkest night must end and the sun will rise."  I thank God that I have them.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Too Many Tangents

I don't really know where to begin with this one.  Let's start by saying that I feel like I've lost my mind.  I will follow that up with anecdotal evidence ;)  I took Daniel to Target this morning (one of about ten errands we had to run).  He didn't push the door close button on his side door, so I pushed it on the remote and then locked the van.  I didn't bother to watch the door close because I heard the beeps signaling that it was closing.  We shopped for about thirty minutes.  As we stepped out of the store, I noticed that there was a van (identical to mine) with both side doors open!  It took all of half a second to realize that it was MY van.  Without paying attention, I had opened the other side door instead of closing the already open one.  The car was locked, but it was wide open...this too shall pass, right?  At some point this freakish absent-mindedness has to ebb.

I have dreaded this week.  Everyone went back to work.  I miss having Will around to keep me laughing.  I also miss being able to run errands with Kim throughout the day.  It's easier to smile through discomfort when you're standing beside someone who really understands.  Baby steps...I'm working on baby steps here.

 I don't feel like I've made much progress when it comes to grieving.  I mean, I guess I could be, but sometimes progress in grief feels like moving backward.  The current feeling is something akin to being weaned off of anesthesia after a surgery.  You're fuzzy-headed, you can't really communicate, but you know that whatever they have given you for pain management is NOT doing it's job. 

I doubt that any of this is unique to me.  It's the worst right after my kids go to bed.  All day, I (we) push through to keep things semi-normal for the kids, and once they go to bed everything rushes at me (us) at warp speed (a nerdy reference, but you get the gist).  I feel bad for Will.  When the kids are tucked in bed, he is left with weepy Catherine who can't stop thinking about the fact that her Papa is gone.  I'm definitely making an effort to be normal-ish, but it can't be easy for him to deal with. 

In a strange twist, I'm starting to feel like a social cripple.  I know that with time, this ought to improve, but for the time being I am avoiding large groups of people who know me.  Is that strange?  It is difficult to deal with the questions and condolences.  It's not that I don't want to talk about it at all.  I talk to my family and close friends about it a lot.  This blog is also a healthy outlet for me right now.  But, the idea of sitting with a small or large group of people who I'm not 100% comfortable with and talking about it sends me into mini panic attacks. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

"Give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light."

I imagined this differently.  I had all of the facts.  I talked to the doctor privately to find out what was really going on all along.  I knew the prognosis, and I had done my research.  I started mourning the loss of my Papa the moment I heard the words "stage 4 lung cancer."  I knew that cancer never leaves a person or family unscathed because we went down this road with my Grandma almost exactly nine years ago.  But, here I am, a complete mess.

The loss of a parent is a completely different kind of ache.  I hurt for my loss, but I hurt so much more for my children, my Mom, my niece, and nephew.  For my children's part, they will only have faint memories of the man who loved them so much and wanted desperately to watch them grow up.  I also hurt for the loss of their innocence in a way.  They're so young to lose someone so important to them.  My nephew Khoner, actually watched Papa die.  He is only ten, and Papa served such a huge purpose in his life.  He was more like a second father than a grandfather, and that memory will probably replay in Khoner's mind for the rest of his life. What a frightening thing to endure for such a young boy.

I believe that Papa is in a better place.  He's with the twins that we lost, which makes me a little bit jealous.  He's also celebrating with my Grandma.  They loved each other so dearly, and it is a comfort to know that they are together again. 

Every day, I watched his misery.  I was helpless against the constant pain and agony he felt.  We all were.  I truly wanted what was best for him, and I told him from the beginning that I didn't want him to feel any obligation to me when it came to fighting.  I told him that when he couldn't fight any longer, I would understand.  So, I know that he's in a better place, and that is a comfort in times like this.  The problem is, he took a part of my heart with him that I know I can never replace.  I am so happy for him.  I am so unbelievably sad for me.

"Time heals all wounds."  I don't buy it.  Time might make them more bearable, but I will always miss my Papa just like I miss my Grandma.  I know that I'll get to a point where I'm not a sobbing mess, but he will always be on my heart and mind.  With my Grandma, it's an ache that catches me off guard on a daily basis.  Just a passing moment when I remember something silly or feel her loss acutely.  I know that it will be different with Papa.

Right now, I'm going through the motions, but I feel like a zombie.  It's like sleep-walking through life.  I smile when I'm supposed to, and I try to be the mother that my kids need, but it's hard.  The grief hits when I least expect it and takes my breath away.   The elephant settles down on top of my chest for what feels like an eternity.  My children don't understand what happened, so it's something that we relive multiple times a day.  I have reminded them every day since Papa died that he was a special person.  I don't ever want them to forget how extraordinary he was.  I will never forget.

I didn't write this to make people worry about me.  I wanted desperately to be honest about what all of this felt like.  I have hope.  I know that day by day, I will learn to cope a little better with the loss of my Papa.  I have an amazing husband who has been so incredibly supportive.  He has held my hand and wiped away so many tears in the last seven months.  He's taken care of the kids on the days when it was rough to get out of bed (I know those days aren't over yet).  I am so grateful to be near my Mom and extended family.  We will all make it through this, but we know the road will be long.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"Open My Hands"

I'm sorry for the blog silence lately.  I had to try to figure out how to blog now that I'm here living beside my family and dealing with the struggle firsthand.  Before, it was all so introspective because I was far away and the struggle was mostly in my head and heart.  I was sick with worry and frustrated by the fact that there was nothing I could do to help.  Now, the focus has to be on Papa and what he's going through.  

"Open My Hands" is a song that I've had on repeat for a couple of days.  It speaks so much to what my heart believes and what my head keeps struggling to remember.  I don't think that I really understood what the chorus meant at first.  I thought it sounded a little "name it and claim it " for my taste.  It took me a few times through to realize that she was saying that she's opening herself up to both joy and pain.  I can honestly say that I'm not to the point where I can nod an "emphatic" yes to both the good and the bad that may be in store.  I really want to be there, and I am truly working on it, but I feel like I cower at the idea of more pain right now.  I want to raise my hand and jump up and down like a little kid, and beg God for the good.    Dear Lord, please help me to accept every thing that You might have in store with a gracious heart.

I can't tell you how much I adore the honesty of this song. "I believe in a blessing I don't understand.  I believe in a peace that flows deeper than pain.  I believe in a fountain that will never dry, though I've thirsted and didn't have enough."  It is all so true for me.  There have been times that my soul has been so dry and weary.  By the grace of God I made it through, but there have been times where it would have been so easy to give up on God.  The blessing promised by God is one that I just can't wrap my feeble mind around.  Why does it rain on the wicked AND the just?  Sometimes we feel a little Job-like at our house.  We get such a stream of bad news or bad days, and it's easy to feel like we're being picked on.  Papa has been the one who has reminded us that there are others out there who are in situations much worse than ours.  It is so easy to focus on the rain that is currently falling on our family and make everything about how awful it is to go through this.  And it is awful.  But, in the midst of this storm, we are immeasurably blessed.

The theme/word at my parent's house for the last week or two has been "Overwhelmed."  We have been so surrounded with love and care.  Our church is constantly covering us with blessings and prayers.  People have given to our family out of both their abundance and their need.  If there was ever a time that I have felt God's love acutely through the church body, it is now, through the love and care of His believers.  We, as the church (and human beings in general), are not always good at living out our calling to love others, but our church is going above and beyond to show God's love to us.  It is indeed overwhelming.  My Father's heart has been overwhelmed by the great acts of love shown to us.  We have all been brought to tears by the love of our friends and family.  If we don't get a chance to tell you face to face, we are so blessed by each and every person who has offered up a prayer or even a positive thought on Papa's behalf.  We are touched by every Facebook comment or e-mail sent to us to affirm us or comfort us.  We could not possibly express our love and gratitude in a way that could do it any measure of justice.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.  We love you and we try very hard remember each of you in our prayers.  

I believe in a blessing I don't understand
I’ve seen rain fall on wicked and the just
Rain is no measure of his faithfulness
He withholds no good thing from us
No good thing from us, no good thing from us

I believe in a peace that flows deeper than pain
That broken find healing in love
Pain is no measure of his faithfulness
He withholds no good thing from us
No good thing from us, no good thing from us

I will open my hands, will open my heart
I will open my hands, will open my heart
I am nodding my head an emphatic yes
To all that You have for me

I believe in a fountain that will never dry
Though I've thirsted and didn't have enough
Thirst is no measure of his faithfulness
He withholds no good thing from us
No good thing from us, no good thing from us

I will open my hands, will open my heart
I will open my hands, will open my heart
I am nodding my head an emphatic yes
To all that You have for me

No good thing from us
No good thing from us
He withholds no good thing from us

I will open my hands, will open my heart
I will open my hands, will open my heart
I am nodding my head an emphatic yes
To all that You have for me

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Where We're At

I apologize for the lack of posts recently.  Life is busy and chaotic, but I think we're starting to settle into our new normal.  Will is here until the middle of next week, and I hate to even think about what it will be like when he leaves.  We've put in the paperwork to get a Humanitarian Reassignment, so if you're the praying kind, please pray that the Air Force approves it quickly so Will can move to Omaha with us, soon. 

I've been sort of intentionally vague about Papa's diagnosis up until now.  I wasn't sure how much of it was out in the open.  He has lung cancer, with metastases to his brain stem, the bones in his shoulder/arm, adrenal glands and possibly one of his ribs.  The team of oncologists he's working with want to be pretty aggressive with treatment because he is young.  He started radiation on Monday.  Friday he'll go in for a Gamma Knife radiation treatment to stop the growth of the tumor in his brain stem.  It's an extremely powerful and precise type of radiation that only has to be done once (in most cases).  He'll start chemotherapy soon.  He is a long road ahead him.  We're all trying to help in any way we can.  I feel like I've asked a million times for prayers for my Papa at this point, but I will probably ask for them a million times more.  He is in a lot of pain right now, and we could really use a miracle.  When we look at all of this without God in the equation, it's scary.  We are so grateful for a loving God who has us in His hands. 

I feel like I'm getting a bit stronger emotionally.  I'm still a wreck, but I'm getting better at managing it when I'm around people (I don't have it down to a science yet, so if I run into you and fall apart, please forgive me).  There's a big difference between being 4,000 miles away and worrying and actually being here and having a chance to help out. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Weary Soul

I'm struggling.  It's a constant fight to calm my heart and mind and just-- be.  I worry about a lot of things these days.  Most of all, I worry about my Papa.  I worry about the immense pain he's in and the fact that medication can't even touch it.  I worry about the fact that everyone else in my family is ten times better at hiding their struggle than I am and that it could make life harder for Papa to have me around.  I am the emotional weak link.  I wear my heart on my sleeve and I have a hard time hiding what I'm feeling.  I also worry about Will's grandma, Will, and his family.  I'm trying to give it all up to God and try to find peace, but I am human.  I'm weak.  My heart and soul are weary from all of the news, but I am trying so hard to be strong.

I don't know that I should post much about what Papa's diagnosis is until they lay it all out some time this week.  It's all very overwhelming and it seems that they only give out little pieces of information at each appointment.  I keep reminding myself that God is SO much bigger than a diagnosis or prognosis.  All of the facts and the figures are irrelevant to God.  Once again, I am so grateful for the hope I have in Him.  All of this would be so much harder for me if I didn't believe that God has a plan for all of us.  He loves us.  I can't say that I don't question His plans or His will.  I do.  I get angry.  I feel like my family has been through enough hurt and pain.  I know that His plans for us are good and we see only a tiny speck of the picture He has in view.  It just gets hard when you feel like your family, and more specifically your father, is under a barrage of attacks. 

We're flying to Omaha tomorrow.  I am more than ready to be in Omaha.  I need to be with my family right now.  Being thousands of miles away has been so difficult.  I feel like my body is in Germany, but every other part of me is there.  I basically spend the mornings stressing out until someone from my family is up and I can find out how Papa slept and if he's feeling ok.  I also worry about how hard this has been on my family there.  None of us are sleeping. 

It will be comforting for me to know that we don't have to leave Omaha.  We're staying for the foreseeable future.  We'll be renting a home for the first year (we're praying for something near my parents to be available).  We will miss all of our friends in Germany, but we really feel like we need to be in Omaha. 

If you see me around, feel free to say hello.   It's always nice to see a friendly face.  Please don't feel like you have to ask how I'm doing.  Chances are I'll either give a pat answer or I'll fall to pieces on you.  We're all hurting, no matter how "okay" we say we're doing.  Please keep Papa in your prayers.  We all worry about him and we appreciate every single prayer more than words could express.  Knowing that people all over the world are remembering him in their prayers is an amazing thing.  I believe that God hears all of our prayers and His will is going to be done here.  We have so many hurting friends right now.  God, please help us to feel your love through these times of trial. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The New Plan

I wanted to give everyone a heads up because things have been changing rapidly and I am having a hard time keeping everything straight and remembering who I've told and who I have not. We did not make it to Omaha yesterday. We tried to fly Space A, but we missed the cut off and couldn't get out. I started planning another attempt on Thursday (the next available flight that would work for us), but I've decided not to leave then. I would be in the air during Papa's appointment with the oncologist and I'd probably find out about his prognosis in an airport I'm not comfortable while trying to take care of both of the kids on my own. I really feel like I need to be with Will (my husband) when I get the news. His love and support have kept me going throughout all of this. If I need to fall apart, I want to be with him.

As soon as we find out the prognosis we will start the process of getting ourselves moved to Omaha.  We are praying that we can get some sort of exception and be able to move quickly. We have been so blessed by a couple who have been dear friends of my family for a very long time who have offered to help us with the process. Their help has been invaluable and we've been so comforted by the knowledge that they're looking out for us.

My sister-in-law, Jackie posted this song to my Facebook profile and I've had it on repeat most of the time since.

I know that a lot of my friends are atheists or agnostic, and that a lot of people think that religion and faith are for those who are weak minded or just plain weak. I don't mean to be shoving my faith down anyone's throat, but I can tell you without a doubt in my mind that I could never survive this without my faith in God and the knowledge that no matter what happens, He has everything under control.

My faith was tested and tried so much during my Grandma's fight with cancer, but when I look back at my life so far, and at all of the pain and trials that I (and my family) have been through, I can absolutely see the hand of God through all of it. It doesn't mean that it all makes sense to me or that I take joy in pain, but I know that God was watching out for me and that He never let me go even when I wanted to let go of him.

My father was healed of Lupus when I was young. We went to a service at church, people gathered around him to pray and a few days later when he went to the doctor the signs of this degenerative disease were miraculously gone. God doesn't always heal people in the way that we want Him to, but He is a God who is capable of healing no matter how dire the situation.

My feeble attempts at understanding Him will never grasp the greatness of His love for us. If I die and find that God does not exist, I have lost nothing, because my faith in Him has made my life so much more rich and full of possibility and hope. I will never regret putting my faith, my trust and my hope in the Great I Am. I am not a great preacher or evangelist. I try very hard to make my life and love a witness to people (I realize that I've often fallen short of the message here so many times, and I truly apologize for any insensitivity I might have shown others), but I just can't keep silent about my faith in this time of trial. To my friends who don't believe, please don't worry. I will not push all of this on you when I see you. I still love you no matter what you believe or even what you think of me and my beliefs. I just can't hide what I'm feeling right now.

I also want to share the great news that Papa is in good spirits :)  In spite of what feels like a constant stream of bad news, he is choosing to be positive and keep living life and loving people the way that only my Papa can.   Please continue to pray for his pain to be eased.  I will update again after we receive his prognosis.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Be Still My Soul

My mind and heart are going in a million different directions each second.  I find myself constantly saying/thinking "Be still."  I often feel the elephant sit down on my chest and constrict my breaths as the fear sets in.  If I could only slow down my heart and mind I might be able to get out a coherent sentence, thought, or a moment of peace.  Right now my world revolves around the fact that my papa (dad) has cancer.  "A very aggressive" cancerous tumor in his shoulder that is causing him more pain than I could possibly imagine.  He goes in for a biopsy today to find out if he also has prostate cancer.  It's shocking and a little frightening that in a second, your whole world can change.  Our lives have changed.  No matter what the outcome, life will never return to the way it has been.

Cancer is an ugly word.  It's a poison, and once is seeps its' way into your life, you're forever in fear of it.  My grandma was diagnosed with cancer and passed away only weeks after.  She was the heart of our family and we all felt such acute pain when she died.  That memory is so fresh in all of our minds even years later.  We don't know anything about papa's prognosis yet.  We're playing an agonizing waiting game until Thursday when he meets his oncologist for the first time.  Until then, we're all going through every possible scenario, and it's scary.

Please bear with me through this.  I will probably be posting a lot of songs about God's faithfulness and trusting in Him on here and Facebook.  When my faith starts to falter, it helps me to listen to songs about how faithful and steadfast God is.  I will not lose faith.  I will not lose hope.  I will choose to trust God through this storm, no matter where He takes us.  I will lean on God and my family when I'm hurting.