The Good

Thursday was a bad day.  The bad mojo actually started on Wednesday evening, when I made the unwise decision to binge watch Bachelor in Paradise instead of going to sleep at a decent hour.  I’m six months pregnant and sleep is my very best of friends, so I have no idea why I thought it would work out to stay up until 11:30 to see who got a rose.  Temporary insanity…wait, scratch that…Bachelor insanity.  I swear, those producers know what they are doing!

So I woke up groggy on Thursday morning, wishing I had thought more about my wellness than my reality television addiction.  And while I set with my coffee trying to readjust my attitude, my husband woke for the day, also in a very foul mood.  We’ve been married for a while now (just celebrated 12 years of marriage).  But even prior to marriage, we had discovered that morning is just not a good time for us.  I know other couples wake together, roll over and look lovingly into one another’s eyes, but that just isn’t us.  We have an understanding in the morning that we just don’t speak to each other.  He gives me my time to adjust to the world, and I give him his.  It works out perfectly for us.  This Thursday however, my husband dearest decided on his own to break our sacred agreement, and he unloaded his frustrations to me at 5:30 in the morning.  Ugh.  Not to sound like the worst wife ever, but I don’t even want to think about my own frustrations at that hour.  He realized his folly and apologized before giving me my morning kiss goodbye and heading out the door for the day.

I began the day’s routine, waking up my son.  Then off to my daughter’s room.  Sitting on the edge of her bed, I kiss her forehead and immediately feel the heat radiating from her tiny body.  Fever…there’s no mistaking it.  She wakes, telling me her throat hurts and sure enough, the thermometer confirms what my ther-MOM-meter already detected: 101.2 degrees.  What to do now?

My mom-planning starts to spin.  I begin to make phone calls and send texts.  I need to talk to my boss, arrange for someone to cover my responsibilities for the work day, find someone to stay with my daughter for an hour while I go to a scheduled OB appointment, write my son a note so that he can walk home from school instead of taking the bus to the sitters, call the school and let them know my daughter will be absent today, message my husband and ask him to request a vacation day for tomorrow just in case there isn’t a quick recovery this go-around.  These are the things that parents go through when life throws a curve ball, the thinking-on-our-feet, the quick reactions to make sure everything in life just keeps on moving along smoothly…we never miss a beat.

I saw my son off to school and snuggled my daughter, and I let the frustration of the unplanned, unscheduled day go.  I let it roll off my shoulders and I focused on my daughter…my puny, sore-throated, coughing, feverish, precious, little daughter.  That is the moment that my phone dinged.  A message, I had a message.  My husband messages me “I’m coming home at 9.  My machine is down today.  You can go to work today.  My work issue should be better tomorrow.”

What?!

Wait….what?!

To be clear, I am an administrative assistant.  I have to communicate with a minimum of five different people to be out for one day.  I had sent all of the messages.  I had made all of the calls.  I had everything lined out to be off of work on Thursday and back to work on Friday.  And now, that was all for nothing.  My mom-mind was spinning….if the husband was off today, then he couldn’t be off tomorrow, then I need to be off tomorrow, so I need to go in today, so I need to call my father-in-law and let him know I don’t need a sitter for my doctor’s appointment, I need to send five more text messages and….ugh, I need to take off my fuzzy pants and shower and brush my teeth, and make the switch yet again from mommy-mode to professional-work-Melissa-mode.  Again, my day turned upside down, and I felt like I was just along for the ride.

I sucked it up.  I showered.  I dressed.  I gave my husband a frosty welcome home.  I was sad, unhappy, frustrated.  There are other things brewing in our life as well.  And to be honest, while all of these circumstantial life events may have shaded my and my husband’s mood for this day, the real culprit…the real, gut-wrenching, terrifying, hard thing in our lives in this moment, in this season, has nothing to do with the happenings of Thursday.

My mother-in-law has been battling renal cell carcinoma for two and half years now.  She has faced brain surgeries, kidney surgeries, radiation treatments, and recently we had moved on to immunotherapy treatments.  I write “we”, but that is a lie.  She has faced these horrible things.  She has been the strong one.  She has endured.  She has survived these ugly things, and we have only been here to support, love and pray for her.  Because that is all there is that we can do.  The immunotherapy was supposed to be the saving grace, the magical medicine that would keep the cancer at bay so she can continue to enjoy this life with us.  We got the news a few days prior that the immunotherapy did not work.

I hesitate to share this at all, because this is not my story.  This is her story, but if I’m going to be completely honest with my readers, this is such a raw, close and intense part of our life, that I have to share.  I have to give you the full picture of the good and the scary parts of our lives.  We are not at the end of this story.  My mother-in-law has an appointment with MD Anderson this month.  She is strong and amazing, and all of the wonderful things that the rest of us can only hope that we have inside of ourselves.  She is truly a rock for us many times, although that is so backwards…we should be a rock for her.  But that’s not the truth.  This is our reality.  She is the strong one.

I left for my OB appointment with all of the weight of the world sitting squarely on my shoulders.  I felt heavy, sad…I felt like I was failing…at life.  My heart hurt.  My soul ached.  I sat in the waiting room.  This was my 23 week appointment.  At my 19 week appointment, we had an anatomy scan in which the doctor was able to clear everything for our little growing bud, except for her heart.  She was still just too small to get a clear picture of her heart structure.  So here I was at my 23 week appointment, heading to get another ultrasound, so that we could clear her heart, showing four beautiful chambers, working just the way they should.  I laid on the table with the lights dimmed, the tech placed the scanner on my belly, and on the screen appeared my baby, my third child, my second daughter, my beautiful blessing.  She had grown over the four weeks and her heart was bright and clear, pumping away, beating like the most beautiful drum.  And then I got to see her face, her perfect sweet little chin, her upturned nose (just like her sister’s), the sweet curve of her cheeks…and I realized, that this moment, this moment was good.

this moment was good

And isn’t that how life is?  The quote popped into my mind, “Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.”  There is so much that is hard in life, so much that drains us and breaks us.  There are moments we want to give up.  There are moments that we cry, and scream, and times that we hate the things we are going through.  But even on the worst days, we are given these beautiful moments.  Even on the worst days, I can look at my son, at my daughter, at my baby bump, at my silly dogs, at my sweet husband, I can look to my parents, my siblings, my in-laws, our family, the cousins.  I can pull back to the memories, the trips, the beaches, the rides in a teacup, the hugs from a princess.  We can feel the breeze on our face, the sun on our skin, the floor beneath our feet.  We can find the good in the worst of times.  That ability is what makes us as humans so very unique, so resilient, so incredible.  The ability to find the good is truly our gift, and it is what makes this life possible.

The ability to find the good is truly our gift, and it is what makes this life possible.

Wherever you are today, whatever life has thrown your way, whatever difficult, unfair thing, I challenge you to find the good.  Hug the good, kiss the good, absorb it into your being, absolutely squish it into yourself until you feel it inside, and you are no longer observing it, but feeling the good.  And if you can’t seem to find the good, I challenge you to be it.  Be the good because I guarantee those around you are in need of it.  We are capable.  We are survivors.  We are strong.  We are the good.

Making This Year’s Resolution Just For You

This is the time of year that we all start to look back and reflect.  Although we know that time is continuous, it is hard not to feel like one door is closing and a new, bright, shiny door is opening. I have been thinking about 2017 over the past few weeks, trying to recall what I have accomplished, where I have grown, what made me smile and how I spent my time.

The single, over-powering memory that crowds my thoughts is the hours upon hours of studying.  I completed six MBA courses in 2017…and it was hard.  It took most of my free time, and the focus and dedication it required, stole some of my happiness.  While I am proud of my accomplishment, a particular sadness hovers over the fact that school is my most vibrant and lasting memory of the entire year.

I woke up this morning and began to look back at my pictures, blogs and FB statuses in order to see where else I spent my time.  I saw pictures and blogs from early 2017 when we were worried that Jera, my then 4-year old, may have cancer due to an asymmetric enlarged tonsil.  It brought back the memories of her tonsillectomy and waiting for test results that followed.  I thought about how grateful we were when those results came back cancer-free.  I am thankful to have a healthy and vibrant 5-year old today.

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I saw Facebook status updates on my mother-in-law’s surgery to remove her second brain tumor.  I thought about the journey she has been on, and our journey with her, as she has dealt so bravely with renal cell carcinoma (and when I say dealt so bravely, I mean kicked a**).  Pardon my language, but it is what it is.  I think about her recent test results that showed no new tumors and how truly thankful we are to have her in our lives every day.

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I thought about losing my grandfather, Linus Knebel, and in doing so, watching my father lose his father.  I thought about how brave my grandpa was the last time I saw him and how strong my dad was in letting him go to be with God.  And in thinking of these milestones, I thought about how grateful I am for my own parents.  How truly blessed I am to have them in my life, in my children’s lives, every single day.

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I saw pictures of happier times too.  Jera’s preschool graduation, which feels like a lifetime ago, but was only months ago in reality.  My son, Jace’s, first day of third grade and Jera’s first day of Kindergarten.  I saw our family vacation to Kentucky and all of the joy we felt being cooped up in a cabin together.  I saw a trip to California to see my sister-in-law’s new home.  I saw pictures of taking my children to Disneyland, venturing to Santa Monica Pier and swimming in the ocean, traveling down to Laguna Beach and watching Jace jump into the waves.  I saw three great friends fly into LAX to meet me (in Christmas sweaters IN JULY!) and then make the drive up Highway One to San Francisco.  I saw a gum wall in San Luis Obispo, an ultra-windy/hilarious boat ride to Alcatraz, and a breathtaking (figuratively and literally) hike through the Redwood Forest.

As I sit here and recall all of these absolutely amazing moments, I am shocked to feel like they happened to someone else.  I am sad to think that the memory that sticks with me is the struggle to balance, the exhaustion, the feeling that I haven’t been good enough, done well enough.  How can that be?  How after so many life changing experiences can I be left with only memories of feeling defeated?

I am well aware of my character flaws, perfectionism being one of my worst.  I work on this every single day, and every day, it is a battle for me.  I have thought a lot about what my New Year’s Resolution could be for 2018.  Nothing has stood out to me.  Of course, there are plenty of things I could work on, but knowing I’m going back into another MBA course in one week is daunting, and I fear putting additional pressure on myself.  In April I will complete the MBA program, and this very challenging goal will have met its end.  I am sure I will find myself looking for my new normal and things like a clean house, working out and fitness, social events and all of the items I currently view as luxuries that I do not have, will find their way back into my priority list.  But for today I cannot think of those things.

So what can I do for the New Year?  How can I ensure that I don’t come to the end of 2018 and only recall the struggle?  The answer is both ridiculously simple and impossible.  I must work to be happy.  I had a lot of happy moments in 2017.  I am so thankful for this year and all of the blessings that I was given, but I don’t remember this as a happy year.  For my New Year’s resolution, I will focus on my happiness.  I will find time to do the little things that make me happy.  It sounds selfish.  It is an absolute truth that in order to make others happy, you must first make yourself happy.  To be the mother, daughter, father, son, sister, brother and friend that we were designed to be, we have to find our heart’s happiness.

Do you do that?  Do you find time for yourself?  Do you find time to do something that YOU enjoy, on your own.  Not for your family, for your husband or partner, not for your children, church, not for your employer, pet, parents, in-laws, friends, neighbors.  There is so little time and we often feel guilty about what that means to those we love.  So we focus on giving what little time we have left to others, which is fantastic, BUT we must give to ourselves first.

We must give to ourselves first.

For me, happiness is writing.  Writing is what makes me happy now in my life and it is just for me.  Whether it be in my blog, or my newly started journal (throwback to junior-high Melissa and I’m loving it!), I will take time, whether it be five minutes in the morning before the crazy day starts, or an hour on New Years Day while my family buzzes along without me (they’re really all okay, I swear…to my amazement they don’t even miss me when I take an hour to myself).

I hope for this New Year’s resolution, you do something just for you.  Take a moment and think about what makes you feel really good.  Not about the reaction or approval of those around you, not even of the result…but think about what you do for yourself that leaves you feeling calmer, happier, more fulfilled.  Got it?  Okay, now can you put a little bit of that thing into every single day?  Do you think you can do that?  I hope you’ll consider it.  I hope you’ll commit to it.  Most of all, I hope you’ll take time to love and care for yourself in the New Year.  You deserve it.

What do you do for yourself that leaves you feeling calmer, happier, more fulfilled…

Happy New Year to all of my readers, friends and family.  Thank you for taking time out of your day today to share with me.  Much love.

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Another Day, Another Diagnosis 

Yesterday I celebrated turning 32 years old…well, sort of. I started out celebrating, but by the end of the day, my birthday had taken a turn for the worse. For those of you following my blog, you know we are anxiously awaiting an appointment with an Ear Nose and Throat specialist next week. The specialist will be investigating my 4 year old daughter’s asymmetrical, enlarged tonsil. We’re not sure what is causing the abnormality but fear the underlying cause could be cancer. Her appointment is on the 10th and we are praying to hear that she just has a big tonsil. 

In the mean time, Jera woke up with a strange rash under her right eye two days ago. With a long history of allergies and eczema, we are no strangers to rashes. So I gave her a dose of Benadryl and we went about our day. However by yesterday morning, the rash had become worse and her eye had begun to swell. Time to get another punch on the old doc card. 

I wasn’t sure what to expect but was utterly shocked to find that my 4 year old has shingles. SHINGLES. Yes, the virus from chicken pox that you normally hear about from your 90 year old grandparent. I left the doctors office in a bit of a daze. Because the shingles rash is so close to her eye we have to get into an eye doctor today to be sure the shingles hasn’t made it into her actual eye. Shingles in the eye can cause many vision problems, even leading to blindness.

So I jumped online to try to understand how my young daughter contracted something that I had never expected. Let me preface this by saying, I realize this is a mistake. I know we should never Google any illness. It’s never good news. But my heart sank when I read that shingles is extremely uncommon outside of the elderly population unless a person has a suppressed immune system due to HIV or cancer. There was that word again. Cancer. 

The tears came fast and hard last night. I am praying my little daughter is fine. I am trying to remain logical and rational. I know it could be and hope it is nothing. But I am scared. The 10th can’t get here fast enough for my little family. 

I continued to peruse online last night and found a blog where another mother has a child with severe eczema, like Jera, whose daughter also had shingles at 4 years old. Jera is prone to skin infections and her immune system is in a constant struggle against her eczema and allergies. She just had the stomach flu two weeks ago and pneumonia a month ago. It makes sense that her immune system would be down. She is bright, cheerful and happy. She doesn’t understand the tears or hugs or worry. 

I am scared but trying to hold fast to my faith that God will guide my family through this crisis. We’ve made it through things I couldn’t have imagined before. This time I lean on Him with my entire being as I struggle to maintain normalcy in a moment where I feel anything but normal. Please continue to pray for Jera. For her strength, health and resiliency. 

I turned 32 yesterday and I continue to learn daily that faith and family are the two things that make this life, not only bearable, but beautiful. Today I choose to believe that anything is possible with the help of God. Today, a year older, I choose to be happy in the face of adversity. I will take it a moment at a time and be thankful for the time I am given with the sweet little monsters I call my children. Speaking of which, I get to wake now and tell my oldest he has a two-hour snow delay…this parenting thing can still be fun! Parenting is both the hardest and most rewarding responsibility I’ve ever known. Today and everyday, I choose to be thankful for it, both the burdensome worry and the great joy. It’s all part of it. Duty calls….off to make the snow day announcement!