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Archive for the ‘Renewal’ Category

It would be difficult to describe how busy and stressful the last year of our lives have been in a blog post short enough people would read. So, briefly, a recap would look like this:

  • Continued healing and nurturing from my iatrogenic illness
  • House hunting and purchase of the West Virginia home
  • Moved 1/2 our belongings to WV in December
  • Oversaw renovation of that home from Maryland
  • Renovated Maryland house A LOT
  • Tossed, donated and packed up 20 years of belongings
  • Found an apartment and moved oldest son
  • Listed and sold family home in 5 days
  • UN-BE-LIEVABLE stress from buyers and settlement company
  • More of that last bullet point, grrrrrr
  • Moved rest of belongings and me to WV
  • Doran returned to live with son and work for another month

Part of my mantra after dealing with my debilitating illness during 2013-14 was to appreciate everything and enjoy the journey.  For the most part that has been true, but the last few months, I will admit, were hard to enjoy.  The stress was beyond my coping ability and my compromised central nervous system just said ‘no more.’  By the time I pulled away from our Maryland home, following Doran in the rental car, I felt little.  I certainly felt no joy.  Perhaps that would be normal for anyone, but I was disappointed that the most important lesson of health – to be IN the now, had failed me.

I was also melancholy. Because of buyer demand, we settled earlier than we wanted to which meant driving separately so that Doran could return because retirement date did not align with house selling date.  And by this time games were being played on the real estate end, and the process was not going well.  Rather than he and I driving off into the sunset together free of that home and life, each of us was alone and had concerns about how the house sale would pan out.   I was decidedly un-Christian in my thoughts about real estate, buyers, and even the house made me angry.

And then a funny thing happened on the way to my new life…..God sat next to me on that drive which I thought I was making alone.  He filled my head with decades worth of memories of a van packed with kids and dog and cargo as we headed together to vacation in Canaan Valley.  I smiled and remembered.  And with each mile away from the Maryland location where I felt so much trauma over all I endured when sick…..all the loss I felt from that community….the life which truly ended when I had to hibernate with the brain/cns injury….I felt peace.  twitter

The expression ‘I felt 10 pounds lighter’ was true for me.  I found my smile as I climbed the mountain.  And, God, who we know has a sense of humor, sent me a verbal gift to go with that sense of peace I discovered in the car.  As I made my way up our dirt and gravel road away from civilization the GPS simply said: You have arrived.

Indeed.  I have.

 

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the next steps

My heart is heavy. This is the last night my oldest son sleeps in his childhood bedroom. Tomorrow he moves to his own apartment; Monday I move to another state 4+ hours away. I have defined the last 23 years of my life as ‘mom’. I did it joyfully and with no regrets.

My whole goal has been to raise happier, emotionally healthier children than my mom raised. I wanted my boys to understand with no doubt whatsoever that they are treasured, and valued, and cared for unconditionally, while also instilling in them the strength and confidence needed to go out into the world. All of this because I believe the Lord allowed me to have these boys in order to grow men who are destined for things I can’t imagine.  twitter

When we took our first born son to college, leaving him was something I dreaded. As his stay at home mom, and home school teacher, I wasn’t ready for the next part of the journey. How do you plop your baby in another state and drive away?

The speaker at the welcome ceremony at Grove City College was exactly who I needed to hear that morning. When he finished his talk, I was filled with the faith of the Holy Spirit that God had this and I could let go.

His words then apply now so I share them here to remind me:

You are prepared.
You have been called.
And God has a plan.

Those words 5 years ago were meant for apprehensive freshman at the start of a journey which might be frightening. Today, I repeat them for me as I begin my own new journey as long distance Mom to grown, capable, and most important, Godly, men.

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After years of dreaming of retirement to our beloved Canaan Valley, WV the time is fast drawing near. Our home of 20+ years goes on the market this week. It is one of the moments in time that you thought would never arrive, and in the blink of an eye, here it is.

If you know me, you know I talk to God daily and try very hard to turn to Him in all things, and let Him lead my steps. So, it is inevitable that this sale is a point of conversation He and I are having. One of the main goals in selling a home is getting top dollar, but I won’t be praying to God to “show us the money.”

Instead I’m praying for the following:

1) Let this home be a blessing to the next family. We couldn’t have asked for a better place to raise our kids. This home was full of good times and memories which will last forever. I hope those who follow enjoy it just as much as we did.

2) Let the next people be kind. Our neighborhood is full of amazing people who have enriched our lives. I hope whoever takes our place brings smiles and joy to those who live on this street.

3) Let there be peace throughout this process. It is stressful for everyone and I pray that things go smoothly and each of us is satisfied. We bought from owners who were deceptive and left us with expensive repairs which we made. I pray that we have been good caretakers and leave the property in better shape than when we received it.

4) Finally, I pray that when my children look back at their childhood, they recall happy memories of a loving family. I hope they know we chose people over things for a reason and that tattered furniture was a sign of time well spent with the right priorities.

I found some pictures and each made me happy. Thank you to those who crossed our threshold during our time in Rockville.

We are blessed.

 

 

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I am not a shopper.  I don’t enjoy trying on clothing in super bright, tiny dressing rooms with mirrors larger than should be legal.  While suffering from an iatrogenic illness for two years, I lived in pajamas and leggings.  Friends who visited knew to expect a female Hugh Hefner lounging in pjs no matter the time of day.  My best girl friend even understood when I managed family visits to her home while sick – I showed up in pajamas and brought my slippy socks.

So, today was not wonderful in that I had to go to Dress Barn to begin the chore of finding clothing for my oldest son’s upcoming college graduation.  Cue the abysmal rain and poodle-like hair to put icing on the experience.  Part of my remaining brain symptoms include inability to make decisions and sensory overload from things like muzak, colors, clothes racks, other shoppers, etc.   I met the loveliest sales associate, Marina, who clearly has the patience of Job.  I couldn’t have made a choice with a gun pointed at my head.  The colors all looked too much – too similar and too different at the same time.  Does this fit?  How fat does this make me look? Will this be good inside if it rains, outside if it’s hot?  I kept returning to her for validation and input and even I was frustrated with myself.

God is good and I managed to find two outfits for the two days of events, but most importantly, I managed to do this dreaded chore without a revving of any symptoms.  I found Marina in the back of the store when I was ready to leave because I wanted to make sure she understood the value of her role today.  I wasn’t just a customer.  I am a person reentering the world with some remaining damage who faces each new challenge with trepidation because it’s hard.  blogHad the store employee been unhelpful, snarky, unlovely, I would likely have left with nothing and been frustrated because it was too much.  Instead, she smiled throughout, was encouraging, patient, KIND.  I think people forget the real value of human kindness.

I thanked her for her help and she gave the woman-conditioned response of “no problem.”  I then explained I’m recovering from a brain injury and this was my first time out having to do this and that I only got through it because she was so nice.  And, since I’m now hyper aware of the value of every single moment of life, I began to cry.  Niceness.  That’s all it takes to make me grateful to be back among the living.  Marina understood then how grateful I was and immediately reached out and gave me a hug and well wishes for health and to enjoy the graduation.

I was very lucky during healing to have the support of my husband and sons, several close real life friends, fellow victims of benzos and Facebook friends from various stages of my life.  I hope one permanent effect of damage from Ativan is that I remember how important it is to be kind to people.  We really don’t know the impact we can have on a person….a customer looking for clothes, a lonely senior citizen, a stressed student, a stranger reaching out via social media…..

“I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness or abilities that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer it or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

William Penn

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I have realized over the last few weeks as I experience more good moments, hours and days, that I think my benzo journey is finally over.  Those are scary words to say because we learn on this road that Satan is listening so he can jump on your moments of joy.  But, I am willing to take that risk in order to step out on faith and say that my health is better now.  I am grateful for my family who never wavered in their support, my new friends who partnered with me to get through this awful iatrogenic illness and my old friends who stuck around to see me re-emerge from hell.  God has been good throughout.  blog

So why the title for this post?  Limbo seems like a bad place, especially if you have a background in Catholicism.  But I’m using it as Webster defines: an intermediate or transitional place or state.  After 2 years of living a mostly housebound, isolated period of illness, life can’t revert back to pre-Ativan Sue.  I’m not that person, and the world is different now.  A friend gave a great analogy – returning home after 4 years of college left her feeling like an outsider among lifelong friends.  I’m having that same feeling, except my 2 years away weren’t filled with college adventures and fun memories. 

My husband is eligible to retire in January, and our youngest graduates college in 2017.  We had planned to stick around until his graduation and then relocate to West Virginia.  One lesson we learned from this illness is that life is short and tomorrow is not promised.  We have changed plans and this time next year should be moving into our new home.  My job is to ready our house of 20 years for sale.  I’m going through every closet and room, donating and tossing.  The upside is I see my accomplishments and feel pride that I am able to do this after such a period of inactivity.  It feels great to contribute in a meaningful way to our family again.  The downside?  A lot of tears as I revisit the past.  Every piece of artwork, old photo, notes of encouragement has me emotional.  Improvements to the house are meant for resale, decisions are based on recouping money spent and life still feels tentative.  We begin house hunting in the Fall and I am champing at the bit to begin my next phase.

But, if you have to live in limbo, put on the song and dance your way through it.  Time passes either way, enjoy it while you can.

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I can vividly recall being excited by certain landmark birthdays.  Turning 13 and becoming an official teenager.  The Sweet 16 of blissful youth.  18 and believing that to be the sign of adulthood.  And, of course, 21 because legal drinking and partying at that age seemed like a sweet deal.

After those numbers, though, what woman looks forward to any increase in age?  I was always happy to attend the birthday lunches, buy gifts, celebrate for my friends, but I hated the same being done for me.  There were even birthdays where I insisted that I didn’t want friends to sing Happy Birthday.  So they hummed it.  Which is even longer and more painful than just singing the stupid song.

And then I got sick.  Starting in January 2013 my world changed.  I basically slept, suffered, hid and hurt my entire 48th year of life.  Only about 6 months into being 49 did I start to feel big improvements in my brain and central nervous system and know that I would heal and get my life back.    bday

Today I turn CELEBRATE my 50th birthday.  I rejoice and embrace the fact that I am alive.  Life is better than I deserve.  I’m almost completely healed and I have this sense of awe about how little it takes to be content.  My husband and I have several times wondered if given the chance to turn back the clock, would we rewrite history and delete the part of our lives which involved 2 years of recovering from damage caused by a prescription drug.  Would we avoid all that pain and suffering but also lose all the blessings which came from the experience?  As hard as it is to imagine, we wouldn’t alter our past.

No, this is not the life I envisioned.  I never imagined the level of physical and emotional trauma I endured.  I both needed and hated the isolation as every day brought new suffering.  When my youngest went to college the plan was I would return to work and be the scholarship fund.  Those plans disappeared thanks to Ativan and big pharma.  But on the flip side, I also never understand how strong I could be, and how I could learn to love myself.  I witnessed a husband more amazing than imaginable as he partnered with me.  My boys show compassion bigger than their maturity level should allow as they support a sick mom.  Blessings are everywhere if you stop and look at the world around you.

So…my birthday wish for each of you is to encourage you to find joy where you are in your life right now.  None of us gets the fairy tale we dreamed of as teenagers.  That’s just not reality.  There are disappointments, loss, financial challenges, illness….many things which make fairy tale existence impossible.

But this is our one life.  Embrace what you have, make the most of the gift of time and let your friends sing Happy Birthday as loudly and badly as they can.

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We are making our own rules these days, and decided since I missed the 2013 holiday season we would double this year’s Christmas festivities.  On November 16th my husband and I secretly put up the tree and decorated the house – it’s like being in the North Pole.    blog1

With just the two of us to relive our time capsule of holiday ornaments and memories, I was able to reflect.  We bought the tree we still use the year we married, 1990.  It was our first Christmas together and the first time our cats, Spike & Cal, had ever seen a tree inside the house.  Spike couldn’t resist her cat-nature and climbed into the branches to hide.  Of course, our brand new tree sustained damage.  One large bottom branch was bent and hung limply.  For some reason my husband found a WHITE shoelace to tie up that green branch to at least look normal. 24 years later that same white shoelace holds up the branch.

Now at almost two years since becoming ill, and not quite 100% healed, this year I saw the damaged branch differently.  It didn’t break, it bent.  It didn’t ruin the joy of the next 24 Christmases.  In fact, looking at that shoelace this year was like a movie rewind of my life and I was that 25 year old bride again alone with my husband with our whole life facing us.  Yes, he and I are both more worn, our own branches are bent, we have grayer hair than before, but it does feel like this new stage of life is an adventure that awaits.

The damage we sustain as we live in this imperfect world doesn’t have to beat us.  We can continue to grow.  We can be firmly rooted and know that despite the storms, the battering, the cats who jump on our weakened branches – we are stronger than we could ever have believed.

Find your white shoelace inside yourself. With a faithful partner. Devoted friends. God.

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