What’s the new story

The honest answer is, I’m still not sure. It’s been nine weeks since Gran left our house in an ambulance for the last time, it’s been six weeks since she died. Part of me has still failed to take it all in. Part of the benefit of Alive Hospice is lifetime grief counseling for all the family members affected. This past week, they called to see when I was coming and if I wanted to bring the kids in for counseling. And, then it hit me, I have still failed to fully grieve. If I went to counseling right now, I don’t have a clue what I would say. And, if you know me well, you know not knowing what to say is a rare situation.

Then, I feel like not having lost my marbles yet, or not being in a state of gut wrenching grief over losing my grandmother makes me a terrible person. On more than one occasion, the kids have asked forgiveness for not being super sad that Grandmother died. And, I constantly remind them, it’s okay. Dementia is a terrible disease, advanced CHF is a terrible disease, diabetes is a terrible disease, and Grandmother wasn’t truly living. Dying, and being restored in her fully glory and living with our Heavenly Father in complete peace is an amazing gift for any of us; especially for Grandmother who was living in such a broken body. We all have moments of little memories of quirky things Gran did and said around the house that bring us back to a moment of tears. But, for the most part we’re still living in the sense of relief of a huge burden being lifted from our shoulders. I would do it all again in a heartbeat, even knowing how long and how hard it would be. Yet, our grief is also tempered with a bit of relief for her, and for us. And, I hope the rest of the world can respect that for us, and be okay that is just the place we’re in.

The last 6 weeks has been a pretty constant blur of movement around our house. The last 2 weeks of school brought many activities, added on top was Lexi Kate’s 4th Grade Walk, and elementary school graduation. In addition, I’ve had a pretty crazy work load, as is pretty typical for my industry. But, I will say that this 2nd quarter was the largest single quarter I have had in terms of volume in my entire real estate career. In fact, in my 10 year real estate career there have only been 2 FULL YEARS that have topped the volume I did this quarter. I don’t say that to boast on my own behalf, but to shout the goodness of God. There is absolutely no way whatsoever that I could have kept it all together had it not been for His mercies new every morning and His grace and strength sustaining me. We’ve also had a family vacation squeezed in. Lexi Kate had the opportunity to take some master dance classes in L.A. with her dance studio. They were at The Edge, Debbie Allen, and Disney Entertainment. Jeff, Sam, and I flew in a couple days after she got there, and added on a few extra days to take in Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood, and San Diego. I should have LK write a guest post about our adventures out West. It was great to have that time as a family, but this Southern Girl isn’t a huge fan of California.

This past weekend I took the kids to my Great Grandparents Family Farm in Dukedom, KY/TN. The farm straddles the KY/TN line, and has been in our family for generations. My Great-Uncles and their kids all still live on the farm. I really wish my Grandfather had kept his portion of the farm so we still had a piece of that. There is just something truly magical and healing to the soul on a farm. The kids got to see momma chicks and ducks with their eggs, saw a duck hatch, cows, sheep, baby lambs, rabbits, beagles, rode horses, went fishing, and climbed hay bails with their cousins. We had no internet or cell service which made working a multiple offer situation a tad interesting. But, it was perfect! I wish we had been able to go back more often. It was so good for me to see my cousins that I grew up playing with and their kids enjoying our family heritage. My uncles now lease out their land for other farmers to work. But, Larry still has the animals. I told Jeff I wanted to sell our house and buy into the farm. I don’t think I could actually go through with uprooting the kids from Franklin, we love it so much. But, I could certainly get used to the pace of farm life. And, the excuse to have a couple dozen dogs.

Because I have a reputation of always having a well thought out plan, and always doing something big, everyone keeps asking what’s next for us. I truly don’t know what’s next. I have to let things continue to simmer down a bit and just trust God in His timing to reveal what lies ahead on the Woodford Road. But, for now, we all need to rest in His presence and recharge for a good long while. Not having a plan, not having a next, or not having a new story is just healthy for all of us. Even for me, as much as it goes against everything I believe in.



So many thoughts have tried to circle my head the last week and a half, but I just haven’t had the brain power to process them all. People keeping asking how we’re doing, what’s next, have I had time to relax. I still honestly don’t know.

We all deal with grief in very different ways. I think we deal with grief in different situations in different ways. I am devastated to have lost my grandmother. I think the biggest thing for me, is that she was the last tangible active memory of my mom left in my life. As long as I had Gran here, I had a piece of my mom. I was still doing something for my mom. And, maybe if I was doing something for my mom, my mom was still kinda here too. Now, I sit and stare at the empty blue chair and realize it’s all over. Then, there’s the guilt that I feel glad that it is over. Care giving is hard in a normal situation. Care giving for a dementia patient is even harder. Care giving for a dementia patient and working full time and taking care of small children is enough to do you in. So, I’m grieving and celebrating all at the same time; and it is just weird.

Throw on top of it all that all of this went down in April and May- the very busiest month(s) for us. Part of me was glad that Gran passed away and her funeral was the week of the Fourth Grade walk. The Fourth Grade walk is like the Mecca event for students at Moore Elementary. This was the 25th Anniversary for the kids to make the 28 mile 2 day hike of the Natchez Trace. It’s a big stinking deal. Kids talk about this from their 2nd day of kindergarten. It is the longest running, longest distance walk by elementary kids in the nation. And, of course I was the parent coordinator for the event and hosted a massive dinner for over 250 people. Having the Fourth Grade walk really allowed me to not focus on losing Gran for 4 days. She died on Tuesday, we had walk events Wednesday, Thursday, Friday; and then drove to KY for the funeral on Saturday. It all just kinda happened and I didn’t have to process. Even on Saturday I didn’t really process. We went through the motions of the funeral, then drove straight back home for events the kids had.

Sunday was Mother’s Day. I’ve pretty much laid in bed on Mother’s Day the last 3 years, and this year was no different. Being a Motherless Mom on Mother’s Day is hard. I get to celebrate being a Mom with my amazing kids every day. Mother’s Day was a day for me to celebrate all my mom had done for me. And, it just makes me sad to not have that. Burying my Grandmother on Mother’s Day weekend didn’t make that any better. So, from grief, exhaustion, or whatever it was, I laid in bed pretty much all day Sunday. I wish I could say I got the best rest ever. But, that isn’t so much the case.

And, then Monday hit. And, I realized how incredibly far behind I was at work and just dove in head first getting the troops gathered and getting back on track. All week long I have been running crazy focusing on work and what had to be caught up. I hate half-assing anything, and that’s pretty much how things have been rolling lately. But, again, having something else to focus on hasn’t given me much space to acknowledge or process reality. And, it’s starting to catch up to me.

As much as I would like to pretend this is all a bad dream and nothing over the last three years has really happened; it did happen. It is my real life, and I really have to deal with it. So, I don’t know how I feel about it all just yet. I’m sad, I’m tired, I’m confused, I feel guilty. And, I have no freaking clue what I am going to do about all that just yet. Today is a sit and soak it in kind of day. I need to rescue my house from 5 weeks of chaos. I have some loose ends to tie up. I’m just going to chill a minute and let myself feel it all out. Not my specialty. But, desperately needed for my soul.

Jesus Finally Called

Mrs. Jo Ann Roberts, age 83, of Franklin, TN, formerly of Mayfield, passed away on Tuesday, May 09, 2017 at Alive Hospice in Nashville, TN.

She was a member of High Point Baptist Church and a homemaker.

Mrs. Roberts is survived by one granddaughter, Misty (Jeff) Woodford of Franklin, TN; two great grandchildren, Sam and Lexi Kate Woodford; one son-in-law, William Baker of Mayfield, KY; three brothers, Jack Hawkins, Billy (Beula) Hawkins and Donald Wayne (Sandra) Hawkins all of Mayfield, KY; two sisters, Patsy Nall and Peggy (Melvin) Alexander both of Mayfield, KY; two brother-in laws, Gail (Anita Sue) Roberts and Larry (Linda) Roberts; one step-granddaughter, Meghan Baker of California; one step-great granddaughter, Julianne Bea of Murphreesboro TN, and several nieces and nephews.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Glen A. Roberts; one daughter, Pam Baker; six sisters, Madele Hicks, Reva Sims, Pauline Jackson, Kink Brown, Helen Drake and Jette Mae Goatley; and her parents, Roscoe and Roxie Rodgers Hawkins.

Funeral services for Mrs. Jo Ann Roberts will be 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 13, 2017 at Byrn Funeral Home in Mayfield, KY. Nic Allen will officiate. Interment will follow at Highland Park Cemetery.

Pallbearers will be Brad Hawkins, Chad Hawkins, Terry Jackson, Stevie Jackson, Cody Drake, Johnny Hicks and Melvin Alexander.

Visitation will be 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 13, 2017 at the funeral home.

How is she hanging on?

The question of the hour for the doctors, nurses and our family is, how in the world is she still hanging on? She’s 19 days past a blood clot in her superior mesenteric artery, she’s 13 days post stroke- neither receiving medical treatment; and she hasn’t had food or water in 13 days. She’s been totally nonresponsive for 8 days. It’s a medical mystery and an interesting journey in watching the human life cycle.

But, here’s what I know about my grandmother’s health journey, and it shines a great big spotlight into how in the world she’s survived this long. Grandmother was most likely born with infant rheumatism and a hole in her heart. She was sick most of her childhood, not expected to live beyond her teen years. As a teenager, she developed severe migraines that led to her getting shots in her skull. (This is where I am glad that I was a migraine patient in the late 90s-2000’s and not the 1940’s.) Not only did she live beyond her teen years, she was a hard working productive member of society. She delivered a child. In her later years, she stripped tobacco for a living in hot and terrible working conditions.

In 1997 the hole in her heart opened up, leading to emergency heart surgery. Several hours into surgery, the doctor came into the waiting room to let us know he was closing up, but didn’t expect her to come off the operating table alive. It was a hard couple days, but she survived. Four days later, a stitch pulled loose from her valve replacement, tearing the valve, and they had to go back in and do the surgery over. Again, the doctor said she was absolutely too weak to survive this surgery. We left the hospital a couple weeks later. In April 1999 the “cow tissue” valve failed and she had a “pig tissue” valve inserted. The surgery went well, no complications. At the time the surgeon told us that this would give her 7-10 years life at most.

In 2003 Grandmother had a heart attack, and needed a pacemaker installed. Again, this bought her a couple years at most. In 2010 her pacemaker was replaced with a pacemaker/ defibulator combination device. I can’t even tell you how many times the defibulator has activated after Grandmother suffered a heart attack. At least 10 times in the 2 years she has lived with me. It’s the craziest thing in the world.

In February 2014, the day after her 80th birthday, Grandmother watched her only daughter die. If anything would destroy a heart, I’d pretty much expect that to do it. I honest to goodness expected to bury my mother and my grandmother that week. And, yet, she is a survivor. She continued to live on her own for another year before moving in with us.

In the time that Grandmother has lived with us, we’ve been told she would not leave St. Thomas Hospital alive 4 times. Four times I have mentally and emotionally prepared for my grandmother to die. Yet, I sit beside her and type, and she is totally alive.

We have racked our brains as to what in the world she could be waiting on. Every family member has been here to tell her goodbye. We’ve all told her it is okay to go be with Jesus. I’ve asked her to go give my mom a hug for me and tell her that I love her. I even brought the dog up here to be with her last night. For the love of Pete, I went and made funeral arrangements for someone that wasn’t dead so I could tell her it was taken care of and not to worry about me.

But, she’s not suffering. She is comfortable, and her time on this earth is not done. So, for whatever she’s clinging to, I accept that she has something else to live for. Her time and journey on this earth is not done. By my math, she’s been defying death for 83 years, and 20 of those very actively defying the odds. She’s a fighter, she’s a tough old bird. And, she reminds me daily that there’s no struggle on this earth I can’t overcome. For goodness sake, if she can beat the hell out of death, I can conquer a few little work problems or parenting issues.

A Huge Thank You Note

I know hand written notes are a thing of the past. But, it is something I really love to do. There’s just something special about writing an encouraging note to someone, or expressing your gratitude for a gift or kind deed. My kids have had personalized stationary since before they were born. I should own stock in a paper company. My kids are required to write thank you notes before they are allowed to play with their birthday presents. I get it, me forcing them to do it takes a little of the sentiment out of it. But, I want to establish the good habit in them while they’re young. LK has taken ownership of this, and now shares my love of writing encouraging notes, and thank you notes to those who’ve helped her or gifted her with something.

Moral of the story, if you do something for me, I want to write you a thank you note. Not out of obligation, but because it truly is something I feel compelled to do out of joy. The last three weeks of our life have presented a huge problem for me in this area. I simply can’t keep up with who I need to write a thank you note to. The list would be in the dozens. Some things, I don’t even know who did them or who brought them. If I did know who everything was from, I really don’t have any minutes left in my day to write dozens of thank you notes; and my brain is so exhausted I don’t know that I could write a coherent sentence to properly express my gratitude. I’m desperately trying to release myself from that responsibility.

So, here is my one huge thank you note for all of you who have so richly blessed us over the last few weeks, and months for that matter. First and foremost, thank you for the prayers and support. We mentally and physically could not sustain ourselves in this situation for this long if it weren’t for God’s mercies new every morning and the joy of the Lord retaining our strength. Honestly, I haven’t had the time or energy that it takes to pour out my heart in prayer like I would want to do. So, thank you for interceding on our behalf.

Thank you for those who have worked wonders for my kids. Just showing up to watch them on a moments notice, taking them to school, picking them up from school, covering dance carpool, fixing their school lunches, giving them money for field trips, and book fair when I forgot. All the mom things that I totally should have been on top of arranging, thank you for not expecting me to have it together and just doing it for me. And, for them. Their tanks are running a little empty from lack of mom’s time and attention. But, your hugs, love, and support have filled them up. It’s been a true blessing for them to see the beauty of a community surrounding them and loving them well.

For food, oh so much food. The great thing about being in the South is when we don’t know what else to do, we show up with fried chicken. I have 2 refrigerators and 2 pantries busting at the seems with food. Seriously, every day people are bringing random groceries and/or prepared meals. I’ve been to the grocery and Costco once in the last three weeks. That wasn’t because I really needed any food, I just needed to do something normal in my life. You have know idea how blissful it was to pace the aisles of Costco last weekend. Normally, I would scream in terror of the idea of Costco on a Sunday, but it was so nice to just be out. I still haven’t prepared a meal for us in 3 weeks. Granted, Jeff has warmed up a few casseroles, but nothing major. And, friends you must think I need lots and lots of wine. Because, we’ve received cases worth. It’s really comical to think about my sweet preacher’s wife mother in law sitting at my house as neighbors dropped off 8 bottles of wine in one day. And, it was still sitting on my kitchen table when one of our pastors stopped by with ice cream. Honest to goodness, I haven’t had a drop of it. I’m afraid to come in and pour a glass only to be good and relaxed, and get a call to come back to Hospice. But, trust me, when this all passes, I’m sure I’ll sample some. Thank you for feeding us so faithfully for 3 solid weeks. I’m sure y’all are as tired of all this as we are.

Laundry, can we just talk about people walking in my house uninvited and doing my laundry. Well, most everyone in town has the electronic deadbolt code to our back door, and our garage code, so I guess we’ve extended an open invitation to our home. But, I would have never expected people to let themselves in to wash and fold my dirty drawers. Seriously, I think Jeff is a little traumatized. But, we are beyond blessed and grateful. Again, when you don’t know what else to do, you find the little things that we just don’t have time to deal with. And, the rest of the world is most grateful that we aren’t walking around with dirty underwear on. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to the at least 3 of you that I know have come in and taken care of our laundry the past 3 weeks.

My work, or should I say your work. Thank you to my fellow realtors for being patient with me as my paperwork isn’t as timely and tidy as normal. Thank you for my clients for understanding I’ve got alot going on, and even in this hot market they aren’t upset that I can’t go show them a house right this very second. I would be worried about losing out, but they’ve just said, if it’s meant to be, it will be. Thank you for the realtors and support professionals that have done my job for me. Showed my clients houses, filled out forms, done research, unlocked doors for inspections, taken pictures, and the whole list of things we do behind the scenes for me. May is looking to be my biggest month ever in terms of dollars closed. And, I’ve worked less in April/May than I ever have in my life. Yet, because of your support, it’s all come together just fine. And, not one of you have asked what my plan for reimbursing you is. Actually, most of you have refused payment when I’ve tried to compensate you. In an industry that is often cut throat and every man for themselves, I am honored to work with and be friends with the most compassionate realtors and clients in the industry. I only hope I can repay the favor someday.

Just caring. In the age of social media and over scheduled lives, I think we can get pretty lonely sometimes. Just because we have disconnected from our social groups and don’t have time to invest in true relationship. But, my oh my, how you all have invested in us. Constant reminders of your care and concern for us are truly keeping us going. LK often asks “Who is your best friend? Who should be my best friend? How do you pick a best friend?” Well, I am here to tell you we have ALL the BEST friends God put on this earth. Love unconditional, selfless service, and genuine compassion. Truly, trying to go over the top and outside your natural ability to make sure we don’t want or need anything. It’s been a true blessing beyond what I can describe.

I am sure there are dozens of other things that people have done for us that I forgot to mention. I’ll beg your forgiveness and promise you I am no less grateful for the things you have done. I’m sure it will come to me in the moment I press publish. So, please accept this very non-personal and specific blog post as my huge thank you note to all of you. The role you have played in our journey is significant. And, I hope the blessings you’ve reaped from serving us so well are as great as what we’ve received. Truly, from the bottom of our hearts we are grateful beyond what words could express.

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!