Livin’ on a Prayer

Actually, we’re living on thousands of prayers. I am convinced the only reason I can still put one foot in front of the other right now is that we have dozens of friends constantly lifting us up to the Father in Prayer. There are many sceptics of the “church”. It all seems like a bunch of nonsense from the outside. Why would you get up and go to church on the one day of the week we could sleep in and chill out. Why would you go to Bible Study during the week and hang out with a bunch of Jesus Freaks?

Let me just tell you why we do it…. Let me start by recapping the last 17 days of my life. I had bladder surgery on April 10. Lexi Kate broke her foot April 16. Sam is sick on April 18. Grandmother gets sick and starts throwing up blood on April 19, we call an ambulance. April 21 I am in the middle of a home inspection when the hospital calls and tells me I need to come back immediately and make a decision on emergency surgery or sign a DNR put Gran on comfort care only. April 22-23 Gran starts to improve. April 24 Sam says he doesn’t feel well after school, soon after he runs out the back door puking. On April 25 Gran is doing better and we plan on transferring her to NHC rehab in Franklin. In the process, she has a stroke, is left without her sight and cant really speak. We decide to send her to Alive Hospice. April 28 I develop a urinary track infection.

All the while Jeff and I are trying to work full time jobs. I’m closing houses, and working with buyers and sellers to get under contract, and teaching at our local association. Not to mention kids activities and being in charge of the 25th Annual Fourth Grade Walk at Moore.

I’m pretty sure the real me is somewhere in a corner rocking in the fetal position. But, through it all, I’ve actually remained relatively calm. Not to say I haven’t had bouts of tears erupting from my face like Niagara Falls sprung a leak. Because, that has happened- more than once. People keep asking me how am I doing it, how in the world are you holding up? Well, I can’t really explain it other than our people have circled around us and are just being the “church”. I get dozens of calls and texts every day from people telling us they are praying for us. I haven’t been to the grocery, fixed my kids lunches for school, cooked dinner, or folded laundry in over 2 weeks. People are just constantly coming in and out of my house taking care of things, picking my kids up, whatever they can think of to serve us. Even when I tell them we are fine…. So, I am not doing it all, my people are standing with us and helping us through it all. I often worry about how all of this is impacting my children and what type of therapy I’m going to have to send them to. But, then I set back and watch as someone delivers my clean and folded laundry to my back porch as I’m leaving the house. My kids are going to be alright. They are watching and soaking in how much their family is loved and supported. Yes, we’ve had a pretty crappy month. We’ve walked some really, really, really hard roads these past 3 years. But, we have not once walked alone.

So, to answer the question, how do I do it all. I don’t really know the right answer. I do know the saying “God will never give you more than you can handle” is total crap. I couldn’t handle all this if I tried. God is totally handling this, and He’s using His people to bless us in some amazing ways. Beyond that, I’m just genetically wired to be a doer. I’ve offended many a people by letting my “doer” heart over take my “feeler” heart. I’m a Martha, I wish I had more Mary. I’ve always been a little Energizer Bunny task master. You’ve got a problem, I’m here to solve it. Something needs to get done, I am your girl. God just gave me the gift of organization and efficiently handling things. It’s who I am. So, I remove the emotion from the situation, and start making things happen. And, when there’s more problems and things that need to happen than I am capable of handling; God shows up in physical form of His people to do the things I just can’t concentrate on doing. And, we are richly blessed, putting one foot in front of the other, living on your prayers.



Stuck on the Wrong Roller Coaster

I LOVE a good roller coaster: Steep climbs, big drops, speedy twists, sharp curves, a couple loops and OVER in less than two minutes, all while securely buckled in with lots of padding. Then, there bad roller coasters, like the ones at the fair or a mediocre amusement park: rickety, more bounce than spin, too many ups and downs, just enough sharp curves to make you loose your lunch, so rough you feel like your neck will break and they go on forever. Right now, I feel like we are stuck on that roller coaster. The ride is no fun and we just can’t get off. We’ll climb the hill, expecting the thrill that’s coming and it ends up just being a bummer.

Our journey with dementia in general has been like a bad roller coaster ride. Good days, bad days, but stuck in the same ‘ole loop. The last week it’s been like we got buckled in and they just won’t let us off. Last Wednesday, everything was going great. It was a beautiful day so some of the neighbors were over playing in the yard, a couple moms, Gran and I were sitting out in the yard watching the kids play. Life was pretty much perfect. Then, the conductor pushed “Go”. Gran started not feeling well, I take her inside, she has bathroom explosions of epic proportions, she starts vomiting blood, and it took all I had to 911 before I passed out. I am not a nurse. I am not Florence Nightingale. I am barely surviving dementia care, and this mess is so far beyond my pay grade I don’t even know what to tell you.

We get to the hospital around 8:30. Tests, tests, and more test. Around 11:30 we still don’t know exactly what’s wrong, but we know she’s being admitted, so I go home and resolve to come back the next day. When I arrive the next day, I see that Room 316 is no ordinary room, it’s the ICU. Okay, surprise number one, but we’ve got this. Pretty much as soon as I got there, we went down for an upper GI scope. Dr. Parker was amazing and came out and talked to me as soon as he did the scope- clear as could be. No sign of any upper GI bleed or issue. We’ll do lower scopes tomorrow. So, back to the ICU, back to waiting while all is holding pretty stable. Again, I go home for the evening. The nurse calls me in the middle of the night and scares the be-jeez-us out of me. All is technically well. I arrived back at the hospital around 7am Friday morning, and we immediately go back down for Lower GI scope. Her colon wasn’t as clear as it needed to be for testing, but in general the lower GI tract seemed to not be the problem. Back up to the ICU. I left around lunch to try and go work while the Gran was going for a CT scan and EKB. And, this is when the coaster started coming off the track. Around 2:00 my phone started blowing up from case workers, doctors, surgeons, and a whole host of people that said important things that really just sounded like the Peanuts in my head. I immediately headed back to the hospital to make a decision on doing emergency surgery to remove blood clots from the Small Intestine, which basically involved removing the intestine, or removing all life sustaining measures and let nature take it’s course. After talking with the doctors and family, and praying about it. We decided to discontinue medical treatment expecting nature to take it’s course over the weekend. And, the weekend comes, and we started climbing the hill. Gran gets better, the doctor no longer feels that the blood clot is the superior mesenteric artery will be the thing that leads to her death. Improvement continues into Monday and we make plans for a discharge to NHC for Rehab, with the possibility of her actually being able to come home. Gran was pretty agitated Monday evening, and the nurse had to call me a couple times. And, then the rough loop comes Tuesday morning. I got to the hospital around 7:00am with clothes in hand with plans to take Gran to NHC in Franklin. Wheels off the track! Gran has an apparent stroke, leaving her speech slurred, totally disoriented, unable to hold a cup or fork, struggling to swallow, and apparent loss of vision in her left eye. NHC Rehab is no longer an option, as she isn’t in shape for Rehab. I regroup with the Pallative Care team and decide what to do now. We again make the decision to remove life sustaining measure, transition to total comfort care. Gran’s insurance doesn’t cover resident hospice, and I’m not comfortable bringing her home. Thanks to some unsung heroes at St. Thomas West, we are granted a room for in patient hospice at Alive Hospice in Nashville. It truly is a holy place. Gran got moved there about 3:00 yesterday afternoon.

She’s been in and out of consciousness the entire time. She did talk to hers brother and sisters that came to visit. She talked to me this morning, and even appears to be able to see some. So, we continue this roller coaster ride. I honestly don’t know why Gran is still on this earth. She’s suffered so much. She so desperately wants to die. She even says that on her good days. My prayer is that Jesus would heal her pain and settle her heart and call her home….

Her hands have been like this all morning, I can’t help but wonder if she’s praying to get better or praying her way into Jesus’s arms.


Made to Thrive

One thing that I’ve been pondering a lot lately is, When in the world are we not going to feel like we are in survival mode? If you’ve ever been a mom you know the feeling I’m talking about. I can’t quiet describe it, but it’s a deep internal exhaustion that wouldn’t matter if you slept for a week, you just need a nap. You need a reset. You need a break from the curve balls life is throwing your way.

Here’s kinda what I mean….. Jeff and I got married in 2004. Unlike many newlyweds, our first year of marriage was probably our easiest. We were older (at least he was) when we got married, we both had very good jobs, and lived in a condo he’d lived in for years. It was just easy. Then next year we (read primarily I) decided it was time to move our office space, build a house, and have a baby. I found out I was pregnant New Years Eve 2005. I puked for the next 9 months. Then we had a newborn who had a tendency for acid reflux and ear infections…. And when she was about 18 months old we (once again read primarily I) decided we needed another baby. Then, I had 2 babies in diapers with acid reflux and ear infections and then 2 toddlers with ear infections, and just a crazy dandy little life going. Again, if you’ve been a mom you know these are survival years. And, then just as my kids were starting to get “easy”, my mom died unexpectedly in February 2014. Want to talk about a blur of mere survival, that was certainly the next year of our lives. About the only significant thing I remember about that year was an ATM machine in Paris eating our debit card and me screaming at Jeff as to what a terrible idea it was for us to take that trip so soon after Mom had died because I wasn’t emotionally ready to enjoy anything, especially a trip around the world. In 2015, we moved Gran in with us. She certainly wasn’t in terrible shape at the beginning. But, for the most part caring for a dementia patient with heart failure among other health issues has pretty much been like having 15 toddlers at one time. Seriously, I’ve had 15 toddlers in my care at one time and it was easier than most of our days with Gran. We have straight up been in survival mode for the last 12 years of our life, with just a moment of breath here and there.

So, lately my heart has just kinda been thinking there has got to be more to this life than just survival. Don’t hear me saying I don’t feel blessed. Because, I am certainly one of the most blessed people I know. I have a husband who loves me fiercely; great in-laws that support and love us so well; 2 beautiful, healthy, smart children; great jobs; wonderful friends; and an amazing village of support for all we have going on in our life. But, life has thrown us a lot of curve balls and it is just emotionally exhausting regardless of how much help you have. Casting Crown’s song Thrive has been on the radio a lot lately. In some ways it is my anthem right now. Here’s my favorite part of the song:

Just to know You and to make You known
We lift Your name on High
Shine like the sun made darkness run and hide
We know we were made for so much more
Than ordinary lives
It’s time for us to more than just survive
We were made to thrive

Joy unspeakable, faith unsinkable,
Love unstoppable, anything is possible

Read more: Casting Crowns – Thrive Lyrics | MetroLyrics

We know we were made for so much more than ordinary lives, we were made to Thrive. YES! I want to Thrive. And, right now, I don’t feel the Thrive. But, I do know this. We have known God, and have done our dead level best to make Him known. We’re working on the Joy unspeakable. I assure you our Faith is unsinkable, we’ve been surrounded by Love unstoppable and we certainly know that anything is possible.

So we continue the journey of survival. Especially in weeks like this one where Monday yielded a 10 year old with a broken foot, Tuesday yielded an 8 year old missing his field trip to go to the doctor for a strep test, Wednesday yielded the 83 year old vomiting blood all over the house and us calling the ambulance, Friday yielded making decisions on emergency surgery or removing all life sustaining measures and letting nature take it’s course, and Saturday yielded the medical staff telling you that if nature doesn’t take it’s course by Monday they’ll discharge the 83 year old to your care and to the home of your small children and you pray nature doesn’t take its course for them to witness. All of this just one week after I’ve had surgery myself. One foot in front of the other, sucking as much joy as we possibly can out of this life as God as ordered it for now, knowing that anything is possible. This too shall pass, and we will come out on the other side knowing we were made to Thrive.

Sometimes you just have to be willing

So, it appears that my family does lots of big things in April. Those things aren’t the point of this post, but this morning’s “big thing” kinda caught me by surprise. Seven years ago today, Jeff and I realized we had done absolutely all we could do to hold the ship together, and we had to sell our house.

To be honest, I can’t remember what state our marriage was in at the time. I don’t even know if we knew ourselves in the midsts of that storm. We were just hanging on for dear life. The housing downturn of 2008-2009 had finally bled us dry by the spring of 2010. We’d sold cars, got second jobs, lived off savings, retirement, credit cards, and pocket change for over 18 months. We had 2 small children. The only asset we had left was a significant amount of equity in our house. So, Jeff and I prayed, begged, and pleaded; and we decided our only option was to step out in faith and sell the house. Of course I knew it was a terrible time to try to sell a house- I did it for a living. But, we thought if maybe we priced it right, we could sell our own.

You see, my house was about the only since of pride I had left. We had placed a Bible in the foundation of this house, we had prayed over the house and the babies that didn’t even live here as we were building it. We did exactly what we promised God we would do and faithfully hosted Bible studies and church events in this house. We never lost sight of the fact that God’s blessings had provided this house. But, I had totally lost sight of the fact that it was His to take away if He so chose. In the economic downturn, we tried our best to manage it all ourselves. We had a plan, and we worked the plan. But, the plan started running dry. And, there was literally nothing else we could do ourselves. And, I was pissed! I was mad at God for not providing. I was mad at Jeff for not making a drastic change sooner. I had given up so many things I loved, and we truly only ate food I could get for nearly free by shopping sales and using coupons. Lord, please don’t take my house from me too.

But, on that night of April 13, 2010, we decided we had to give the last bit of whatever we had to God. And, we walked in faith that whatever God had planned would be even better than whatever we had planned in this house. And,  you know what happened after we conceded and trusted God by putting our house on the market….. I sold over $1.25M in real estate in the next few weeks. Y’all I hadn’t sold that much real estate in the last 2 years. My listings had been on the market MONTHS. It wasn’t nearly comparable with God providing Abraham with an alternate sacrifice when Isaac was on the altar. But, for us, it was very similar in our faith journey. It was like God was saying, I don’t really want your house- I just want you to be willing to give it to me. We kept our house on the market for a few months after the provision that God provided. Because honestly, we kept asking ourselves, “Was the lesson really to just see if we would be willing to give it over to God?” In the time the house was listed, not many people even came into the house. Even after scheduling showings, for one reason or another, they just didn’t actually look at it. So, eventually, we took it off the market and moved on. Now, don’t hear me saying that God will never take things away; He just wants us to be willing to let them go. Because, one I don’t think that’s biblical. And, two I wouldn’t have the authority to say that. Sometimes God does take things away. But, sometimes, all He wants is for us to be willing to let it go.

Our financial struggles certainly didn’t end there. But, I’d say our worry did. We still had moments of frustration and I’m sure we fought about it a few more times. But, I’ve never once doubted that God wasn’t going to show up just in the nick of time and manage our every need. I wish I could say that I’ve never again put idols in my life that came between me and my Lord. But, if I’m really honest, I probably do that daily. I will say over the last 7 years I’ve matured a little and realized it’s a lot less painful to let go early instead of white knuckling it until my fingers are locked in place.

I guess in this Easter Season it’s appropriate for me to ask what do you need to lay down at the altar? Pride, Shame, Doubt, Money, Life Plans, Kids, Marriage? I don’t know and I am certainly not one to judge. I’ve got a trailer load of stuff within me that I could use to lay down. But, I know that same God that delivered us from a financial burden that we saw absolutely no way out of; is the same God that provided the ultimate sacrifice for us. No coincidence in my mind that I’m reminded of that sacrifice this Maundy Thursday. Yes, my Jesus hung humiliated on that Cross. He bled and died. He paid my debt in amounts I can never repay. But, my Jesus also walked out of that grave. My Risen Savior. My True Provider. And, whatever battle I face, I don’t face it alone.

Why I hate dementia.

Well, I don’t have enough time to sit here and tell you all the 15,000 million reasons I hate dementia. But, just trust me on this one: it is the most awful thing in the world. I seriously think I would rather die of a slow and painful flesh eating bacteria than have to live and die with dementia.

I’ve been real convicted lately about how I respond to Gran and her spells. Part of her behavior, I am 100% certain she can control. I can catch her manipulating situations. But, for the most part, dementia has taken over her brain and she just can’t help it. So, if she isn’t being intentional in her SOB-ness, there really is no value in me responding with a hateful heart. Dementia gets a double victory if I allow it to steal my joy also. I decided this weekend I was going to truly pamper Gran, not fuss, not yell, not get angry and respond in 100% kindness, just to see if my happy heart would rub off on her a little. Because, just maybe I was making the situation worse by feeding the anger.

On Friday, I took Gran to a local meat and three restaurant. Those are her favorite. She ordered enough food to cover the entire table. I knew she wouldn’t eat it, and when the waitress questioned her order, I told her to bring it as ordered. Normally, I would have gone on a tirade about the wastefulness and the diabetes and all the reasons she couldn’t have all the food she wanted. But, I didn’t. And, of course when the food came out, she yelled at the waitress, fussed about having too much food, and on and on. I just kept trying to re-direct her to positive thoughts and behavior patterns.

Saturday was full on make Gran happy day. I took her driving to see Tulips, her favorite flowers. I took her to get her haircut and styled, and get her face waxing done. We went for pedicures. And, we went out for a steak dinner. I spent all but a couple hours of the day with her. We folded laundry together. I really tried to cater to things that make her happy. But, guess what, it didn’t make her happy one bit. She fussed, she complained, she acted out. She told me I was a terrible person. Why?

Because she truly doesn’t know how to be happy. She cannot find contentment. One of the things I have learned about dementia is how as the disease progresses parts of your brain die. Once you lose a skill, it can’t come back. You can’t relearn how to ride the bike once it’s gone. The area that stores those skills isn’t available. It hit me Sunday morning on our way to church that Gran’s part of her brain that controls the emotions of joy and contentment are just gone. Dead. It is neurologically impossible for her to be happy. And, that is so very sad. Just like she has lost her ability to tell when she is hungry or full, she has lost her ability to know when she should be glad.

Just imagine if you had to live for years without the ability to experience joy. It’s truly devastating. And, it’s hard for us to live with. Because, no matter how hard you try to control your own emotions and not let someone else steal your joy- you can only fake it ’till you make it so long. I have to remind myself moment by moment that responding in anger only makes me madder, and it isn’t good for the kids. But, when the shit literally hits the fan, it’s hard not to lose it sometimes.

So, dementia of all the things you’ve take from us, the ability to experience joy and contentment is by far the worse. And, for that I hate you!


Where are the cameras and producers?

Because, I am totally sure I am being Punk’d. For real, sometimes I think my life is a really sad version of a very comical reality TV show; this is all one bad joke and they’re going to clue me in on it any second now. It has to be reality tv, because no one could make this crap up for a comedy or dramatic series.

So, here’s your laughs today. Because y’all I have to let you laugh with me because crying gives me a terrible headache and makes my face get even more red and my rosacea will flare up for days. Karma has a funny little way of sending me life lessons. A few years ago when park assist on vehicles became all the rage I not so secretly made fun of the idea. I mean really, we need cars with cameras and beepers and lines, and shakers to tell us how to get in a parking spot. I don’t know about you, but my parents taught me to parallel park in a freaking Dodge Intrepid that was 600 feet long. Nobody needs park assist on their car. Well, in 2014 I bought a new car, actually a red bus. But, anyway, they didn’t sell the car I wanted without park assist. You know I was never going to use that mess. Because, if I can’t parallel park this bad boy Downtown Franklin next to Starbucks or Mercantile Deli, I ain’t got no business driving it. Well, that was before traffic went crazy and there were no longer parking spots on the street or in the parking garage, and you had to pretty much park in a field in Spring Hill and walk to Franklin. But, I digress…. But, after driving it a couple years, I kinda got used to my backup camera, and my car telling me when I was kinda close, then too damn close to things around me. And, I fell victim to yet another technology and let it start controlling my life. And, wouldn’t you know just as soon as I become BFF’s with my park assist, it went out. Not even kidding. About six or seven weeks ago a little message popped up on my dash “Service park assist”. That was on a Friday. I had crap to do. I mean lots of crap. I was just recovering from my carpal tunnel surgery and really back in the swing of things, and I just pushed the button to make it go away. Because, you know I can parallel park a bus. The very next freaking day, it was raining, I had to be at Father Ryan for a Dance Showcase, my car was loaded with squealing girls, and dance bags, and props, and I was just praying to make it through 2 shows alive. I wanted to figure out what door we needed to go in, where I should park so I didn’t have to carry things so far, yada yada yada. And, I was parking in a freaking normal parking spot. Did I mention it was raining, because it was. And I decided to change parking spots, so I backed out of the one I was in, and BACKED MY BUS INTO A FREAKING CONCRETE LIGHT POLE. Not a small little thing, a freaking 4′ square base, 30′ tall light pole! Who does that? I mean, did I not see it? And, of course this was totally Jeff’s fault for not telepathically knowing that my Park Assist was not working and he totally should have stopped what he was doing that Friday afternoon to get it fixed, and I obviously wouldn’t have backed into a pole if my little sensors had told me to watch myself.

That was mid-February and I still haven’t had my park assist fixed. Because, well, honestly, I’m kinda mad at myself for doing something so terribly stupid. And, I ain’t got time for my car to be in the shop, and I’m not driving a freaking golf cart while they fix my bus. Fast forward to today. I was in a hurry, went to Sonic to grab food, and was backing out of the car hop spot like a bat outta the hot lands. And, guess what! I backed my car right into a concrete wall. I’m not even kidding. Thankfully, I was going like 2 miles an hour, hit it straight on, and it did no more damage than the concrete light pole had already done. Who does these things? Seriously, I think I should turn in my driver’s license. I have obviously forgot all manner of caution my parents taught me 20+ years ago. So, if you see me and the red bus backing up; in your own best interest get out of the freaking way. I am probably not going to see you, and I will probably back right into you. But, I promise to get my park assist fix soon….

So, if you follow my personal Facebook page, you know from the little blips that I’ve been posting the last couple weeks that Gran has been on the hot mess express. She’s been real bad. Like, super mean bad. Sunday, we had our Bible Study group at our house for dinner and a project, so I took Gran to Belvedere for the day. She doesn’t like me setting up for parties, and she really doesn’t like a house full of people. So, she just had to go. She doesn’t ever really misbehave at Belvedere, but Sunday was special. In the midst of my party, they called me to come get her. She has a little fr-enemy we’ll call Miss G that drives her crazy. It makes me laugh alot, because Ms. G does all the things to Gran that Gran does to us that drives us crazy. Like asking the same question over and over, getting in your face when she wants something, taking food off your plate, pooping in her pants and not cleaning it up, and singing all the time. It is annoying, I get it. Trust me, there are times I want to send Gran to the moon for doing these things. Well, apparently Miss G was acting extra special Sunday, and Gran had enough, and Gran decided to send Miss G into next week. The staff was trying to clean up dinner and get the ladies ready for bed, so Gran had to go to the Principal’s office and got sent home. I’m glad she has dementia and can’t remember that little trick. Because, I can’t be picking her up early every day.

Yesterday, Gran was super mean to me at home. I almost ran away. For real, Jeff was worried when I went outside. He followed me to make sure I wasn’t leaving forever. This morning, when I dropped Gran off at Belvedere, I told the nurse I had $300 cash to ensure she didn’t call me today. I mean, call the ambulance, call the sheriff, call the undertaker, call the dog catcher. Call whoever you need to call if there is a problem, but do not call me. And, I’ll be rolling up in here at 7:00pm and not a minute before…… As I was dropping LK off at dance, Belvedere was calling. Thank you Caller ID for protecting me from that trap, but I ain’t answering. I went to Canada, they don’t have service here, see you next week. If she’s being bad, I don’t want to know. I pay good money for you to just handle it. So, I check my VM. “Ms. Woodford, this is P & J from Belvedere. We heard Ms. Roberts was in the hospital and we just wanted to check and see how you all were doing.” WTF? I thought Gran was there. Oh No! Nurse B took me seriously and didn’t call to tell me they sent her to the hospital. I love you B, but I guess I should call and figure this out. So, I call Belvedere to see what the scoop was and tell them I wasn’t aware she was at the hospital….. Totally wrong person. Gran is alive, and kicking, doing just fine on the hall. And, can I just confess a little something without you thinking I am scum of the earth? I was actually sad that she wasn’t at the hospital. Because, for about 5 minutes I thought we were going to have a peaceful night at home and I was going to get to sleep in my bed all night without a cane beating it down hollering my name……

I told you, I can’t make this stuff up. I feel like I am being Punk’d on a daily basis. I have another funny story, but I gotta run. Thank you all for loving and supporting our family well through this journey. We laugh and we cry, but we make it through.