Matters of the Heart, Part 20,

Boring isn’t something you normally want. Especially me. I like action, problem solving, and being busy.

However, there are times you want things to be boring.

Ben’s surgery day actually started out quite calm and uneventful. Although I didn’t sleep well at all the night before (3 hours isn’t much), Ben slept fine until the dogs woke him up about 4:00.

We were at the hospital by 6:30 am. And quite ready to get it over and done. Naturally we couldn’t help but remember the week before and how we’d been so close, but yet so far. I have to say I still wondered in the back of my mind if it could happen again.

Everything progressed along as it did the previous week. He even had the same nurse who remembered us (how could she not?!) and treated us just as great as the first time.

This time things seemed to progress more quickly. The charge nurse came in a little before 9, and then shortly thereafter his doctor and then the anesthesiologist. We even got to have a conversation with Dr. T about cardiac surgery, discussing the history of heart transplants, and talking about the growing popularity of the TAVR procedure and how there are so many more people becoming candidates for it that more of these specialized hybrid operating rooms are being constructed not only in our area, but throughout the country.

We were even more impressed by this young doctor, obviously one who really, really loved what he did. And that’s certainly just exactly the kind of doctor we wanted to perform such an exacting and complicated procedure. And to think, he and his team do five of these procedures every week!!

Ben went to the OR right around his scheduled time, and we said our quick good byes. As he was being wheeled in there and heard the classical music they were playing and asked the doctors if they couldn’t have something more upbeat, we were settling in the waiting area, checking our watches.

And yes, after we got through the first ten minutes with no one coming in to say it had been put on hold again, I was finally able to relax, realizing the procedure was actually in progress!

After about an hour, Dr. T came out and told us, “Your husband has a new valve, and it’s working just fine! It was a very uneventful and boring surgery!” Just what we wanted to hear!

However, he added, they’d noted he was in A-fib again, and they’d still have to decide what to do about that.

A-fib again??? Well, the results of the ablation had lasted 9 months…. And the heart valve has nothing to do with the A-fib. It’s a separate issue.

I couldn’t help thinking, “here we go again.”

Post-surgery care after Ben’s TAVR procedure was very different from what we’d had with the other valve replacements. Since his chest hadn’t been cut open, he was in a room in less than an hour afterwards. He was awake, although groggy, talking to the nurses and me, and eating ice chips. There were 4 IV lines running, but since he’d only been out for an hour he hadn’t been intubated.

Seventeen years in modern medicine has brought amazing advances!

He even got lunch about an hour and a half later! Of course, he was in a hospital, in cardiac ICU, so his meal was interrupted several times with technicians coming it with portable X-ray machines, echocardiogram machines, the nurse taking his vitals, checking IV’s, etc.

And I kept my eye on the heart monitor, which clearly showed he was definitely still in A-fib.

Although it can be common after this type of surgery and normally rights itself with medication, which he was already being given, because of his history, I knew that wasn’t likely going to happen.

Since his potassium level was still lower than they wanted, he had to have 4 IV bags of potassium, each taking about an hour to complete. Which meant he had to continue laying flat and wouldn’t be able to get out of bed for another 8 hours, since the potassium was being fed through a line which was still in the groin area, and he had to be still for 4 hours after that line was removed (which ended up being 9:30 that night!)

During all of this, the pacemaker team came in to check his pacemaker again, which is when they discovered he’d been back in A-fib over a month. Although his pacemaker can’t correct the A-fib it does record when it happens. Obviously his wasn’t caused from the surgery.

The next morning one of his doctors came in and was quite pleased with his well the new valve was doing, but explained they had to get the A-fib under control, and were hoping the meds he was being given would do it. So far, they hadn’t made much of a difference. Which meant he was still short of breath, even with the new valve.

When I got there later in the afternoon he was starting to get depressed already. He’d expected to feel so much better after the procedure, like everyone had told him, but because of the A-fib, he still had the shortness of breath and was still having trouble walking very far without becoming exhausted.

And as we were discussing it, a doctor walked in, saying, “Mr. Newell, we have to get this A-fib fixed up!” It was the doctor who’d done his ablation…the one who specializes in correcting electrical impulses in the heart!

I was never so glad to see him!

Before we could even begin the conversation his phone rang. He looked at it, and said, “Dr. T is calling me about you. I’ll be right back!”

And five minutes later he was. And told Ben he’d be scheduling him for a cardioversion first thing the next morning to get the A-fib corrected so he could go home!

Needless to say, we were thrilled! And he couldn’t wait til the next morning!

That next morning he waited to hear the scheduled time, but it seemed to take forever. Then the nurses told him his doctor has been called out to another hospital on an emergency, but he’d be back….

Fortunately at 1:00 he was wheeled down the hall and the short procedure was done. He was being wheeled back into his room as I arrived, literally following his bed down the hall!

The procedure had been immediately successful. His heart had been stopped and re-started and it went into perfect rhythm. He was already coming out of the light sedation and talking. And yes, I immediately looked at his monitor and saw the normal heart rhythm, a beautiful sight!

Although he wanted to come home that evening, and as nice as it would have been, because he was still tired and still got a bit winded walking up a flight of steps, we decided to have him stay at the hospital one more night so he could be monitored and get some more strength back.

Which turned out to be the right decision, because Saturday morning he felt so much better. His heart rate was just where it was supposed to be. He had no shortness of breath. No fatigue. He looked healthier than he had in months.

Finally!

I picked him up from the hospital at noon, and we arrived home, just as our granddaughter’s third birthday party was beginning!

Yes, the last five months have been stressful, long, and difficult. But at least for now, Ben is doing great. No shortness of breath. No fatigue. And getting ready to go back to work next week, which will be ten days after his heart valve replacement. After his last valve replacement he was out 6 weeks.

Our journey is still not over. That we know. There will always be follow ups and most likely a few hiccups along the way. That’s to be expected.

But for now, all is good! And of course more will be written as we continue to go through our process.

If you missed any of our installments please click on Matters of the Heart category above for all of the blog posts that are part of our story.

Memorial Day 2019

Looking back on what I’ve written for this day over the years, I think repeating this one is still very appropriate.

The last year has seen not only increases in terror attacks in our country, the majority of them from our own people, and terror attacks continuing throughout the world, but vicious verbal attacks on our citizenry, from those who certainly should know better.

We are still losing military personnel stationed overseas, and sadly, that will most likely continue, especially since we are now talking about sending troops over to another foreign country. And for what reason?

Many of our elected leaders have never served in the military, have no idea what it’s like. I grew up in the Viet Nam war era. Young men from my small home town went to serve and never returned. Throughout the country, boys were rushing to find deferments. Some were real, some were the result of wealthy families buying medical reports that weren’t always totally accurate . Some got those deferments, and still brag about it to this day. Many did not. Many chose to enlist rather than be drafted, and served their country. Some of them came home, but many did not.

And when our Viet Nam veterans returned, many times they were greeted not with welcome home signs, but protesters calling them names, such as baby killers, throwing bottles and trash at them, and refusing them jobs or a normal life.

That was an ugly time for our nation. And for many, the scars are still painfully there.

For the families of the fallen, Memorial Day is a painful and difficult reminder of those no longer around to attend family cookouts, go on a three day mini vacation, or shop the sales at their favorite stores.

It seems everyone’s talking about the fun they’re having. The food they’re eating. The places they’re seeing and the bargains they’re snagging at all the sales. Nothing but fun!

But it’s not for those who’ve lost loved ones fighting terrorism and in the various wars in places most of us have never been, and most likely never will be.

So here is the piece I wrote last year for Memorial Day. I believe it still applies, perhaps today more than ever.

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Memorial Day matters to a lot of people; some more than others. For some it’s a day set aside to remember their own loved ones who died fighting for our country, but yet their families are the only ones who remember that. The empty place at the picnic table still hurts, no matter how long it’s been. A year, ten years, twenty, or in the case of a family in my hometown, almost fifty years.

I’m sure the families still vividly remember that day, that exact time, when they got the notification. The knock on the door; the phone call; the telegram. The moment that changed their lives forever; that turned their personal world upside down, never to be totally upright again.

Wives became widows, or husbands became widowers. Children became fatherless or motherless. Parents lost their child; sometimes their only child. Some parents lost the hope of ever becoming grandparents. Many could still picture the day he/she was sworn in as a soldier, or an airman, or a sailor. How proud everyone was. Now all they they had left was a flag draped casket and memories.

And no one, except them, seems to remember their sacrifices any more.

Not only do people not remember, but today there are now those who desecrate the flag-decorated graves of our honored military dead; desecrate war memorials meant to honor the fallen; and turn Memorial Day parades into riots, bringing only violence and hatred, claiming they have the right to protest, and they’re just exercising their “rights”. Even worse are the ones who decide to shoot a service member in uniform, because they “don’t believe in military service.” And yes, those service members who die in such shootings should be honored as well on Memorial Day, because they also gave their lives to preserve ours.

Yes protestors do have some rights. They have those rights because of the sacrifices of the men and women who are being honored by the flag-decorated graves, the war memorials, and the parades. But those rights are limited by law, something they tend to forget.

But our service members didn’t give their lives so protestors could vandalize their graves and their memorials. They gave their lives to preserve freedom in our country and around the world. But that doesn’t include freedom to incite violence and vandalize property in the name of “protesting”. It’s not an excuse for rudeness, or stealing.

I am tired of the protestors and the violence; I am tired of people putting down those in the military. I personally knew a few of our military who lost their lives in various wars and deployments. I have many, many friends who are in, or have retired from, the military, and many friends whose children are serving in the military. I honor them, and respect them, and admire them for their service and their sacrifice. And I thank them for keeping us safe, even though many times they risk their own lives to do so.

So on this Memorial Day, let’s all thank those who gave their lives for us so we could enjoy our freedom. Let’s thank their families as well.

Because Memorial Day still matters. To them, and to all of us.

The Things We Can’t Control…That Make Us Unique

We complain a lot. We do, you know. We complain a lot about things in our lives we have no control over, or even things we can control but choose not to.

One Sunday morning our pastor listed three things we cannot control, because the Lord determined those three things when we were born. We had absolutely no input into them. It was not our choice to make.

Do you have any idea what those three things are that we have no control over? If you think about it, it’s really quite simple. But I’d never thought about it either.

1. We have no control over where we are born. I’d venture to say most of you reading this were born in the United States, as I was.

How often do you think about that, and thank the Lord for where you were born?

You could have been born in a country with food shortages and lack of clean drinking water. Where there is very little infrastructure, sparse electricity; where you may not always know where your next meal is coming from. Where health care is almost non-existent.

You could have been born in a country where there are very few freedoms; where talking openly against the government could literally get you killed. Where practicing your faith could also literally get you killed if you did not believe as the government told you. Where a dictatorship controls your entire way of life.

2. We have no control over the family we were born into.

Many of us come from a loving family, and are fortunate enough to stay close to our family through the years, even when miles separate us.

But many others are not that fortunate. Many come from broken homes, in which one parent doesn’t really seem to care about their children and hardly ever, or never, see them.

Many have families who want nothing to do with each other, or who literally spend time putting down other family members because none of them want to get along with each other.

Many have families who have ostracized them because they don’t agree with their choices, their lifestyle, their chosen faith, or even their politics.

But that’s the family you were given. You can’t change it.

3. We have no control over what we look like, how tall/short we are, our hair/eye color (well, the hair we can do something about later in in life), our skin color, our body shape and size, and its physical characteristics.

Most of us at one or more times in our life want to change something about how we look because we think it’ll make us happier, more acceptable to others, more attractive, and bring us more luck in finding a spouse, a better job, even.

Now there’s certainly nothing wrong with having our teeth straightened, our hair colored, exercising to keep our bodies in shape. But many people decide they want to drastically change how they look because they just don’t like themselves the way they are, and they’re sure if they make those changes, maybe even try to look like someone else even, they’ll be happy.

But God determined these three things for a reason when He individually created each one of us and determined our life by giving us each these three distinct elements. No one else has exactly those same three elements. Now you and your siblings usually share the first two, but the third, well, unless you’re identical twins, you’re not completely sharing the third one. And even identical twins have a few characteristics that make one just a bit different from the other.

We are all created as individuals, unique individuals. There is no one else exactly like us in this world, and there never will be. Not ever. When we were created, that particular mold was broken, never to be used again.

I am also adding a fourth thing we have no control over, and that is our talent. We all have a special talent; a gift that we were given that is in no way exactly like anyone else’s. Yes, we can learn things like music, writing, or one of the trades that are so important to our every day life. But if we don’t have a special talent, a gift, for that particular thing, we won’t excel in it.

Now we can’t all be a famous scientist like Albert Einstein, a master artist like da Vinci, a master composer like Beethoven, a singer like Barbra Streisand, or a successful writer like Stephen King. They all have a master talent. But each and every one of us is talented in some way.

We each have a gift for something, although we may not know what, may have not yet discovered it. I’ve always wanted to be able to draw. But that is certainly not my gift! As much as I’d like to have that talent, it’s not there. And it’s not something I can really learn, although I’ve tried and tried. But I can write, and I think I’m fairly good at it. And I can use my words to draw “pictures” in other people’s minds.

The surgeons who will be operating on my husband this week have a unique gift for cardiac surgery. They are the best in their field in our area. They may not be famous, but we’re sure glad they are using their gift in the way God intended.

What about you? What is your unique gift? Have you discovered it yet? And if so, are you working to develop it? Because that gift is also specific to you. No two musicians sing or write music in the same way. No two writers have the same exact style. And no two physicians have exactly the same talent, even in the same field.

Your gift is very identical to you, and you alone. Find it. Develop it. And use it in the unique way it was intended for you.

Because you are unique. There is only one of you born where you were born to the parents you had, with the same physical characteristics and the same special talent that’s your special gift.

Celebrate who you are! There’s only one you!

Never Be Ashamed of Your Scars

It simply means you were stronger than whatever tried to hurt you.

Everyone has scars. Some we see, and some we don’t.

A friend of mine recently had a serious surgery. It was going to involve a 6-8 week recovery time, and most likely a lot of pain for the first few weeks afterwards. But that wasn’t her biggest concern. She was more worried about the scar she’d have on the front of her neck, even though the surgeon assured her it would be so tiny no one would notice it after a few weeks.

He was absolutely correct. It’s so small, and unless you’re looking for it, and it’s pointed out to you, you’d never notice it at all. But she still does.

Another friend of mine has a scar on her face where she was hit by a tree branch. The doctor who repaired it did such a good job that I never noticed it for the first several years I knew her. It wasn’t until she pointed it out to me that I saw it, but it’s certainly not noticeable to anyone else unless you look for it. But she sees it every day.

I have a scar on my wrist from surgery to repair a fracture. Yes, it was ugly at first, but by taking care of it afterwards, you can barely see it. No one else would unless I showed it to them. I don’t even think about it any more.

My husband has a huge scar down the front of his chest from two open heart surgeries. At first they were red, and puffy, angry looking, even. Now you barely notice them unless you’re really looking for them. But they are a reminder of two vital procedures that were necessary to sustain his life. He wears them proudly.

One of our daughter’s good friends has a son who needed open heart surgery when he was just a few months old. It was scary, but he’s fine, and that huge scar he had at first is already all but faded into oblivion. She and her husband still see it, and it reminds them of the miracle they experienced for their son, but like my other friends’ scars, I barely notice it.

These physical scars are our badges of honor. We wear them as reminders of things we’ve gone through. And they remind us we’re survivors, and that we can handle what comes against us.

But there are a lot of scars we all keep hidden. Emotional scars that are on the inside that no one will ever see. We don’t even see them, but we know they’re there, because they can come back to haunt us when we least expect it. Those scars aren’t erased except by time, experience, friendship, love, and faith.

Like most of our physical scars, no one notices them except us. We hide them. We know they’re there. But very few other people will ever see them, or even know what we’re battling with.

But the emotional scars are just as real as the physical ones. They just don’t show….physically. But like physical scars, they are reminders of difficult things we’ve gone through in our lives and survived. Whatever caused those emotional scars wasn’t fun, wasn’t easy, but they’re a reminder of a battle hard-fought…and won.

But unlike our physical scars, the emotional ones hurt for awhile. The relationship scars especially. We try to ignore them, but sometimes those scars decide to throb, to turn bright red, and remind us that they’re still there.

And we feel like we’re starting over again.

Our emotional scars are real, and they last for years, and sometimes a lifetime. No matter how deep they’re buried, certain events can trigger emotions related to those scars, and you feel like you’re back where you started.

There’s one important thing to remember, though. Those scars are there as reminders only. Because scars are only the remnants from situations. They represent the healing that took place after the event, albeit surgery, injury, or an emotional trauma. The scars cover over the hurt, the pain, and cause us to heal. They’re supposed to bury that pain and trauma.

So why do we keep opening those old wounds? They only cause us to create new scars over the old. And I don’t want that any more than you do.

Once a painful event in your life is over, there’s no reason to re-open that scar. Like the physical scars I have, and I’m sure you have as well, opening them up again only makes them bigger. More visible. More pronounced. And more of a constant reminder of pain that’s long gone and over with. Why open it up and cause more pain? Let it go. Put it behind you once and for all and watch it fade away to nothing.

As the first paragraph of this says, scars show us you were stronger than what tried to hurt you. Because you survived, and have your badge of courage to prove it.

I have mine, and so do my friends.

Where are yours? And how did you earn them?

Matters of the Heart, Part 19

Sometimes you just go through a day, through the motions, and when it’s over you think back on it and just have to say, “What in the world just happened? And why?”

The day of Ben’s scheduled heart valve replacement surgery was that kind of day. Without a doubt. We’re still shaking our heads in amazement.

Of course the night before the surgery neither of us slept well. I went to bed very early because I was so emotionally drained and almost immediately fell asleep. Ben on the other hand was fine, but woke up at 3 in the morning and couldn’t go back to sleep. He just couldn’t wait to get the surgery done so he could start feeling better.

As soon as we got to the hospital that morning things progressed quickly and quite smoothly. Everyone was wonderful and he was back and prepped ready to go within an hour. Two of our best friends were there with us and we were all joking around and laughing, waiting to get “the show on the road!”

He was supposed to be taken for the procedure at 1:00. But by that time we still hadn’t seen the doctors or the anesthesiologist, so we knew things weren’t on time. Which isn’t unusual with heart surgery, since there are so many complications that could occur, especially when a valve has to be replaced.

The nurses kept apologizing, but of course it was out of their control. Finally his main doctor cane in to let us know two of the cases before him had been more difficult than planned, which of course took longer, but they were certainly going to get his done that day and as soon as possible.

Now heart surgery is something not to be rushed, not to be taken lightly. Although we were anxious, and just ready to get it over with, we all understood that the others before us deserved the same care and precision surgery that Ben would have.

So we waited as patiently as possible. Ben had had nothing to eat or drink since 9:00 the night before and he was starving and thirsty and miserable. The nurses gave him a damp sponge swab to rub in his mouth, which he called his “lollipop.” That helped a bit, but….

By 3:30 we were truly wondering if it was going to happen that day. But they had assured us…

The anesthesia team finally came in around 4:00, explained to us about the sedation, and said it would be soon. Hooray! And at 4:40 they came and got him finally! I said my good byes at the door to the OR suite and went to the waiting room, checking my watch to see when I should be expecting an update, which I figured would be about an hour.

You can imagine how I felt when the charge nurse came into the waiting room ten minutes later asking for the Newell family.

Her first words were “your husband is fine” which calmed me down. But now what??

It turned out that just as Ben got wheeled into the OR, as they were getting ready to transfer him onto the operating table, the word “STOP” was shouted out. Which of course stopped everything. A patient already in ICU was in a life threatening situation which required members of his cardiac team to be dispatched to that patient. Which of course delayed Ben’s surgery.

The charge nurse and I had a brief conversation, and I assured her we understood. After all, if my husband were the patient in critical condition, I’d want the team to switch to his care from someone who wasn’t as critical, even though it meant Ben would have to wait even longer. Or possibly get bumped to the next week.

So it was back to the holding area, and back to waiting. By now it was after 5:00, and we knew chances of having the surgery that day weren’t good.

And we were correct. His doctor came in around 6 and apologized profusely, but explained the other case was going to take at least three hours and by then his team would be too tired to do our procedure. Since they only do them on Wednesday’s he told us he would bump someone else from next Wednesday and put us either first or second for that day. So after a very long day we were sent back home. Ben was exhausted, thirsty, and starving, after almost 24 hours without eating or drinking.

And by the time we got home he was almost too tired to eat.

So once again we’re waiting for Wednesday. This time we’re the second case. Once again he’s back on extra fluid pills and extra potassium to try and minimize the shortness of breath. And of course he’s fatigued.

Several people have asked us if we were angry over what happened, and the answer is absolutely not. Disappointed, yes, but why would we be angry? Someone’s life was at stake, and as I said before, if Ben were the one whose life was at stake, I’d want them to take care of him over someone else. That’s how it works. And hopefully the person who was in that life threatening situation is ok. We may never know, but we’re certainly going to ask.

So once again we’re seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, and this time we’re really hoping it’ll turn out to be sunshine!

More to follow in Matters of the Heart, Part 20, which will be published a few days after the procedure is successfully completed next week.

Matters of the Heart, Part 18

I said last week we’d publish again after the surgery. Well, the surgery is supposed to be tomorrow, but as I’ve said many times before, you just can’t make this stuff up….

Exactly one week before the scheduled surgery, Ben got a phone call at 3 am. Of course he didn’t answer since he didn’t recognize the number. But since I was out of town with our daughter and her new baby, and there had already been one time I’d needed him in the middle of the night and he hadn’t answered, he decided to check his voice mail.

It was the nurse from his cardiologist’s office calling. His last bloodwork had come back and there was a critical problem with his potassium level, and she needed him to call back right away.

In the middle of the night???

But he called, and had to leave a message. And then stayed awake the rest of the night waiting for her to call back, and wondering what in the world could be so wrong! And was it that serious??

And of course he didn’t get a return call until 7:30 in the morning.

His potassium level, as she’d said, was critically low; it was supposed to be no less than 3.5. His was 2.5. And if it didn’t get up to an acceptable level by surgery time, well, you guessed it. Another postponement until it was where it needed to be.

Evidently with all of the extra lasix he’d been taking, plus the stronger fluid pills, his potassium pills should have been increased as well, but obviously no one on his medical team had thought of that.

So now we had another potential postponement as well as an even bigger problem if the potassium went any lower.

He was to immediately double up on the potassium pills, and take the double dosage twice a day. Cutback on the Lasix. And eat bananas, which are high in potassium. And if he started feeling light headed again, he was to call the office, since that’s a symptom of too low potassium.

His blood had to be checked again on Monday. And if the potassium was still too low, then he would have to go in for an infusion of potassium to get the levels up.

So he started the extra meds immediately and ate extra bananas and avocados, both high in potassium, and both foods he really likes. He also received three phone calls to check on him on that Friday. One from each of the surgeon’s offices and one from the Heart Hospital. And no wonder….

I had googled low potassium and discovered that a level of 2.5 could be life threatening, requiring immediate medical attention, especially in a patient already having cardiac issues.

It seemed that light at the end of the tunnel was still a train that hadn’t veered off on another track yet.

Saturday night he said he could already tell a difference because he was getting short of breath again because of the fluid buildup. But he’d take that as long as the potassium levels increased.

And of course Sunday just brought more fluid buildup and more fatigue. He was able to take me to breakfast for Mother’s Day, but had to go home and rest so we could go out later for dinner.

Monday morning he went to the lab for his bloodwork to check his potassium level. Only to be told there were no orders called in there for him to be tested! Why were we not surprised??

A call to the Heart Hospital was made, and he was told his doctor’s office was to have sent the orders over. Fortunately the hospital went ahead and handled it right then, and he finally had his blood drawn and went home to wait for the answers, which of course didn’t come that afternoon.

What did arrive in the mail that afternoon though, was an envelope from his doctor’s second office location which he doesn’t normally go to, with, you guessed it, the blood test paperwork for him to take to the hospital for the testing…totally opposite of what he’d been told last week!

But finally Tuesday morning he got the call that his potassium level had raised high enough for him to have the surgery without having an infusion!! I have to say I was so relieved I almost cried, and I’m sure he was certainly more relieved than me!

So tomorrow is the procedure, and he will come out of the operating room with a new heart valve which won’t be leaking! He will start feeling better and be able to resume normal activities once again. Please keep us and the entire medical team in your thoughts and prayers.

More to follow in Matters of the Heart, Part 19, to be published as soon as I can have an hour or so to breathe and de-stress and write!

Can I Just Skip this Chapter?

Sometimes that would be nice. But unfortunately life doesn’t work like that. You can’t just skip over the parts of your story you don’t like. You have to read every line, and meet every character that’s connected to your story, whether you want to or not.

You’re not going to like all of it. Just like a good book, there are always things you won’t like. Things that upset you, make you cry. Things that make you mad. Things you want to change. Things you wish you’d never read because you can’t forget them.

There are things you really enjoy, really love. Things you want to keep reading again and again so you can bask in the moment, and live it forever. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way either. Because our story isn’t stagnant. It is ever moving, ever changing.

Each day is a brand new chapter, a continuation from the chapter before, but it’s still new. Because characters change. Their storylines change. One day you’ll be going with them in one direction, and the next day everything has changed, and you’re in a brand new story. Whether you like it or not.

And no matter how much you want to skip the rest of that chapter, you can’t. One chapter leads to the next, and if you skip a chapter, you’ll never understand what’s happening in the new one. And unlike a book, these chapters in life cannot be re-read to better understand the outcome. Because the author of your story keeps writing, and as the new chapters are written, the old ones quickly fade, not to be available again. They become only memories.

You don’t have much to say about how the chapters are written. Sure, you know how you want them to be, but there are other characters in your story that know how they want their story to intersect with yours, and that changes the way your next chapter is written.

There’s another part of this as well. You’re not the only one whose story is being written. Every character who interacts with you in each chapter of your story is also interacting in theirs, and so are you. Because even though you’re the main character in each of your chapters, the people around you are also the main characters in their own chapters, their own stories.

And since so many characters intersect with yours in a daily basis, we’re all connected in some way, and whatever happens in a chapter in your life will eventually affect a lot of other chapters in other people’s lives.

Confusing? Too much to comprehend?

That’s how life is. That’s how each of our chapters are. Day after day is a new adventure. If you didn’t like how the last chapter was written, there’s a new one today.

Don’t skip over it, because it just might be the best one yet!

How do you think your chapter will be written for today?

Mother’s Day – The Tears Still Come – 2019

Saturday, May 7, 2016, the day before Mother’s Day that year, I did something that I hadn’t done in ten years. I went into my favorite card shop, which in itself is not unusual, but going to the Mother’s Day card section was. I had no idea that going in to buy a Mother’s Day card for the first time in ten years could be so difficult. Even though it was for our daughter

Looking at the display of Mother’s Day cards that were still left I was suddenly overwhelmed. Especially since I had just written two other blogs about Mother’s Day. I thought after ten years I could handle it. And I did, but not without the tears forming in the corners of my eyes. And sensing that familiar feeling of sobs forming in the back of my throat. You’d have thought my loss was much fresher than ten years ago.

I had just talked to a good friend a few hours previously whose mother passed away two years ago (now five years ago), actually on Mother’s Day. That was still fresh sorrow, fresh grief. She was crying for her mommy, and I felt her pain, and I was crying with her as I tried to comfort her and encourage her. When I told her that her mom knew how much she loved her and was watching over her, that helped some. But such pain takes many years to be healed.

And there I was. Standing in the middle of that card store in front of a display of cards I couldn’t even begin to read. I’d already picked out the gift for our daughter, which also made me start to tear up, since it was a Willow Tree angel of a mother holding her new infant. I certainly had to get her a card, but how many would I have to go through before I found the perfect one for her? Before I could get out of that store before I started actually crying and the other shoppers thought I’d lost my mind?

It’s not that I was sad our daughter was getting ready to have her first baby. On the contrary, I was thrilled beyond measure. But suddenly in that store, I realized once again that my own mother was no longer around, and I missed her more than ever! I wanted to share my happiness with her that I was going to be a grandmother, and she was going to be a great-grandmother. I wanted to see the smile on her face, and the sparkle in her eye, hear the excitement in her voice as we talked about all the wonderful times ahead for all of us. Four generations of amazing women.

But only three generations are still alive. Which includes our (then) soon to be born granddaughter.

Yes, the tears still come on Mother’s Day when you no longer have your mother with you. It doesn’t matter how long ago she left. Ten or fifteen years, two years, two months. It still hurts. It doesn’t matter how old we were when we lost her. I was 56. Another friend was 68 when she lost her mother. Another was only 26, and another 18. We all had more memories we wanted to make with them, but now we can only make them in our dreams.

There will always be reminders of her, and I shouldn’t be surprised at my reaction that day. I’m sure I’m not the only one who had similar experiences.

But I am thankful for the years we had with her. I am thankful for her love. And I am thankful for the promise of spending eternity with her.

The following year was easier. And the year after that. And this year, when I was again getting a card and realized sour daughter now has two beautiful children. And I couldn’t help but wish my mom could see her two great granddaughters. She would be so happy! And so proud!

I like to think that she does somehow see them. No, I have no idea how, but I do know that the Lord loves us so much that He wants us to be happy, and I can’t imagine Him not letting her, as well as my dad, see their great grandchildren once in a while. Because I know that would make them happy as well.

Mom, now I realize how you felt when you became a grandmother. I just wish I could have given you another one, because having two is even more than double the excitement, and double the enjoyment. I can still tell your sister Pauline, and I can send her pictures of them, but it’s still just not the same. I know she loves getting them and hearing about them, but still…..

Mom, I hope your Mother’s Day in heaven is wonderful! I still love you, and I always will. And please watch over our beautiful Rachel and Ryleigh for us.

Celebrating Moms, Part Three

Note: I had already written this when I saw this quote which perfectly sums up this particular blog. **

“We become mothers the very moment we open our hearts to the idea of conceiving a child.”

We’ve talked about moms who had difficult pregnancies and deliveries. We’ve talked about birth mothers who unselfishly decided to give up their babies for adoption.

But there’s one other category of moms we need to talk about for this Mother’s Day.

The women who desperately want to have a baby, but for whatever reason, are either having a very tough time getting pregnant, and staying pregnant, or are just unable to conceive.

And for them, Mother’s Day is a very difficult day. Because in their hearts, they’re moms. But in reality, they’re still trying to get to that place of honor.

It’s a difficult situation to be in. Their friends are having babies, or already have babies. Their relatives are having babies. They’re invited to baby showers and have to put on a strong face and a fake smile to hide their disappointment and envy.

Well-meaning people casually ask when they’re going to start a family and they fight back tears and try to give an answer like “when we’re ready” or something like that, when all they want to do is scream, “We’re trying and it’s not working, and it’s none of your business!”

They see pregnant women and try to fight back their tears while quickly walking away from them.

They avoid the baby department at stores because it hurts too much.

They avoid the greeting card department in grocery stores during this time of year because that’s also a painful reminder of what they don’t yet have. And then the new baby cards are also there…

They hear other women making comments about how they wished they’d never had kids, and want to go up to them and say “I’d gladly take them off your hands if you don’t want them.”

They read stories about women demanding the right to abortions and saying how glad they are to have had that choice, and they just want to die inside from the pain of knowing a woman could choose to abort a child she conceived, when she’d trade places with them in a heartbeat to be able to carry a child.

This, my friends, is the pain of infertility. It’s a terrible thing. And unless you’ve experienced it, like I did, as well as several of my friends, you have no idea what it’s like. It’s an emotional pain that cannot be cured. An emptiness in your heart that won’t go away.

Yes, we were lucky to finally have a child. It took a long time, and a lot of painful and expensive procedures, but we were finally successful that one time. And for that we’re forever thankful to a wonderful doctor who helped us become parents. We were fortunate. Many are not. We also experienced secondary infertility when trying to have another child. And let me tell you this…it’s almost as painful, even though you have one child.

So on this Mother’s Day, let’s also remember the women who so desperately want to be called “mommy”. You may not know who they are, but they certainly do. And let us pray that one day soon they will have that gift of a child that they so desperately want, because that’s the best gift they could ever receive.

** https://nowilaymedowntosleep.org/2019/04/23/internationalbereavedmothersday/

Celebrating Moms, Part Two

Yesterday’s blog celebrated mothers, especially those who had a tough time with their pregnancy. And they are certainly deserving of a lot of appreciation, every day, not just Mother’s Day.

But what about some other very special mothers? The ones who find out they’re pregnant, and are many times in a situation in which they just cannot care for a baby right now, or they know they’re just not ready to take on the responsibility of motherhood. They also believe, as I do, that abortion is not an answer. Once a baby is conceived it is just that: a baby. It is a living human being that is living inside his or her mother until he or she can be born and begin life outside of the mother.

In that case, what does the mother decide to do? It’s not an easy situation, an easy decision. But it’s one that is a life and death matter for that child who was conceived.

Many women, and sadly, not nearly as many as there used to be, make a very difficult decision to have their baby and then let a family adopt their child to raise and it becomes their own.

After carrying a child for nine months I cannot even begin to comprehend how very difficult such a decision is. But I admire each and every one of the birth mothers out there who make that totally unselfish and loving decision, when it would have been so much easier to simply abort the child and move on with their life plans. But they knew that wasn’t the answer.

When my husband and I could not have another child, we began trying to find a child to adopt so that our daughter could have a sibling. Some thirty years ago we were considered too old to adopt, and because we already had a child, we were further deemed to be disqualified. No, it wasn’t right, but those were the rules.

So we tried to find a child through private adoption, searching for a birth mother who wasn’t ready for that baby, but didn’t want to abort it. And that was a very difficult process as well. We finally found one, and met with her. We were hopeful. She already had a five month old daughter and just couldn’t imagine having another child so soon. We were hopeful, but when she and her boyfriend found out it was a boy, they changed their minds. And yes, that was hard on us as well. And I still wonder off and on about that child, now grown into a man.

But to all the birth mothers out there who have had children and unselfishly given them to other families to raise as their adopted children, who know they most likely will never see those children again or know anything about them, please know how very much I admire you. How thankful I am for your gift of life and your gift to parents who otherwise would not be parents. I have some very good friends who benefited from someone like you, and I know they are thankful to you for your gift every day of their lives.

These birth mothers aren’t able to celebrate Mother’s Day in the traditional ways. Even if they’re now married and have other children, there’s still a missing place in their heart for that child they gave up to someone they didn’t know in order to give that child the life he or she deserved.

They may or may not be lucky enough to one day meet the child they placed to be raised with someone else. They may or may not be lucky enough to be welcomed into that now-grown child and his/her family’s lives.

But I can almost guarantee that every one of those birth mothers still remembers the day and time that she gave birth. She remembers seeing that child at the moment of birth, and she remembers how she felt when she made the decision that changed all of their lives forever.

And for the majority of them, it’s not something they tell anyone about, many times their husband doesn’t even know for many years, if ever. It’s just too personal a decision to discuss.

And for those reasons, we celebrate all of the birth mothers on this Mother’s Day, along with all the adoptive mothers who were blessed with that most special gift…the gift of becoming a mom!

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you!

Please don’t miss Celebrating Moms, Part Three, to be published May 10.

Celebrating Moms, Part One

Since it’s almost Mother’s Day, and since our daughter just gave birth to their second adorable baby girl, it’s especially appropriate to write about moms today.

Because without them, none of us would be here!

Each of us had a mother who gave birth to us. She carried us for some 8-9 months (maybe less, depending on her circumstances, but that’s a different subject). In many cases, especially with my own mother and our daughter, she was terribly sick the entire pregnancy.

My mother spent the majority of her pregnancy in bed because she was so sick with me, a fact I only recently discovered. She couldn’t eat much, and had trouble keeping food down. Instead of going to regular doctor appointments her doctor came to the house to see her (yes, 69 years ago when doctors routinely made house calls). She felt so bad she didn’t even tell people she was expecting, because she was so afraid she’d have another miscarriage. How many she had, I have no idea, nor does her sister. My Aunt Mary came over almost every day to help my father out by taking care of her while he was at work. My Aunt Pauline also helped her as much as possible.

When the time came to have me, the doctor told my dad to “Take her to the hospital now. Don’t break any speed limits, but don’t waste any time either.” Because I was a breech baby, and he knew it would be a difficult delivery. My mother didn’t know, and I’m not sure my father did either. But the doctor obviously did.

And my mom said when I was coming out, the doctor was carefully watching the clock in the delivery room, because he knew he had to get me out quickly! No C-sections then! And he did, and knowing that good doctor, I’m sure he was as happy as my parents when I was born safe and healthy!

How many other mothers go through such things that we never hear about, never even think about!

Our own daughter has had two pregnancies so far, both of them very difficult. With each one, she was sick and threw up almost every day. The foods she regularly enjoyed she couldn’t eat. She couldn’t drink water because it made her sick; ice chips were ok, and soda. No milk. Ice cream once in awhile would stay down.

With the first pregnancy she got so dehydrated she had to go to the hospital for IV fluids five times, and even had a port in her arm for home health to give her fluids. This second pregnancy was better and she only had to go for IV fluids twice! But she was still sick almost daily, and that was with taking anti nausea medication.

My cousin’s wife was on bedrest the last 3-4 months of her pregnancy with their twins. Several of my friends or their daughters have been told to do the same because of the risk of early delivery.

Pregnancy is obviously not easy for every woman. It’s difficult. Even if you’re not sick like my mom and my daughter, and many other women, you’re still carrying around a lot of extra weight, and as it gets closer to the due date, your back hurts, you have trouble walking, you can’t get comfortable, and you’re just genuinely miserable.

And then there’s the actual birthing and delivery. The baby has to come out, after all! And he/she is coming when it’s time, whether you are or not.

Even with pain killers, it’s not a fun process. And if you have a C-section, you’re having major abdominal surgery as well as having a baby. Your muscles are cut, making it difficult to move around, much less care for a newborn! I had that, and if I hadn’t had my husband AND my mother (who was 76 years old at that time) to help me out that first week, I don’t know what I’d have done. Our daughter has had both babies by C-section, and the last one was quite difficult for her, and very painful afterwards.

But was it worth it? Absolutely!

So let’s think about all this as we prepare to celebrate Mother’s Day this year. What did your mother, wife, or girlfriend go through to have her baby? Then thank her for what she went through. Because I can tell you, it wasn’t easy, but it was sure worth it!

Please don’t miss Celebrating Moms, Part Two, to be published May 9.

Matters of the Heart, Part 17

You’d think that the time we had to wait for the surgery would go very quickly. After all, we finally had a date, which meant there was light at the end of the tunnel. Ben was feeling fairly good, although more tired than usual, so what was another four weeks to wait? But that’s a long tunnel.

There was a lot going on in our lives, including the upcoming birth of our second granddaughter, so we had to get ready for that, since I was going to be staying with Ashley and her family when she cane home from the hospital that first week. Which left Ben at home by himself, which did sort of concern me, but he assured me he’d be fine.

Well, there was light at the end of that tunnel, but sometimes that light is a train coming at you, and you don’t know if it’s going to hit you or go off on a side track at the last minute.

That first light started heading at us at high speed just a week later, when he started having a lot of shortness of breath, as well as being more and more tired than usual, “like someone took a hose and sucked all the energy out!” It seemed like suddenly he was retaining fluid more than ever. And his regular meds weren’t taking care of it. Of course, he called his doctor and was told to increase his fluid pills.

Which had no effect at all.

He tried to work the following week and was only able to do it one day. Fortunately he works for a company who understands his current health status, and was able to take off with no problem. And even more fortunate, he was able to get an appointment at his doctor’s office the next day. He was given an even stronger medication to take, and told if it didn’t help within 48 hours, he was to go to the hospital. Which would mean staying there for several days of IV meds to reduce the swelling and fluid retention.

It was a tough week. He felt awful, could barely do anything without having trouble breathing, and as a result, was totally exhausted. Going up the stairs was extremely difficult, as was taking out our two Yorkies. Lifting anything was difficult. Even trying to go out and get a quick dinner was exhausting, even if I drove. A short one mile trip to the drugstore wore him out. He felt house-bound and just miserable.

The physical stress was hard; the emotional stress was just as hard. And it affected both of us. It’s not easy to suddenly not be able to do little things that you normally do on a daily basis. When walking a little dog on a leash becomes difficult, leaning over to pick up something makes you short of breath and light-headed, and driving to get lunch makes you so tired you have to take a nap, it’s not good. I was suddenly the one who had to do all of the physical work around the house, which made him feel guilty for having these problems, and gave me no time to relax after work. But even worse, all I could do was worry about him, and wonder how we’d make it til the surgery date.

He was put on a cancellation list in case a surgery slot opened up, which was doubtful, as the nurse told him. Usually no one canceled unless they didn’t make it, and we certainly didn’t want that! But finally the new meds started helping so the situation was a bit more manageable.

Easter was approaching. And one of our Easter traditions was Sunday church followed by brunch and then an Easter egg hunt for our granddaughter. For the first time in years, Ben was unable to make the church service, but he did make it to brunch, because he didn’t want to disappoint Ashley and her family. He made it through brunch, but then came home and sat on the steps and could only watch the Easter egg hunt rather than help. I know it upset him, but what choice did he have?

Fortunately that next week he was able to go back to work, because the shortness of breath had improved since the fluid retention had decreased, but he still took a nap as soon as he came home in order to function the rest of the night.

Then we got a call. There was a cancellation. May 1. The original date and the date of our daughter’s C-section. Of course.

We talked it over and he talked to Ashley as well, and since he was feeling better, and because Ashley was going to need me to help her out when she came home, he elected to still leave the date for the 15th. Plus, he didn’t want either of us to miss Ryleigh’s birth and all those special moments of the day.

He continued taking it as easy each day as he could, napping as soon as he got home, going to bed early, and trying to avoid overdoing it. Which for Ben wasn’t easy.

We got through the week, but then came Sunday morning, when after getting dressed he was so lightheaded he couldn’t do anything but lay on the sofa and go back to sleep, and I was expecting to end up
taking him to the hospital. Fortunately his doctor’s office was apparently correct when they said most likely it was due to his not using his CPAP machine the night before because of the mask not fitting properly.

Two hours later he was doing much better and able to at least go out for a quick lunch.

Two more weeks to go….and I won’t say what else could happen, because I don’t want to know.

The story continues in Matters of the Heart, Part 18, which will be published soon after Ben’s heart surgery which is May 15. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

Don’t miss the previous stories in this series:
Matters of the Heart, Part 1
Matters of the Heart, Part 2
Matters of the Heart, Part 3
Matters of the Heart, Part 4
Matters of the Heart, Part 5
Matters of the Heart, Part 6
Matters of the Heart, Part 7
Matters of the Heart, Part 8
Matters of the Heart, Part 9
Matters of the Heart, Part 10
Matters of the Heart, Part 11
Matters of the Heart, Part 12
Matters of the Heart, Part 13
Matters of the Heart, Part 14
Matters of the Heart, Part 15
Matters of the Heart, Part 16