Friday, October 31, 2014

What I'm Into: October

Today is the last day of October (aka: Halloween). I wanted to share a little bit with y'all about why we love Halloween in our neighborhood, and why we celebrate at all (since a few people have asked). But I really just needed some cute pictures of my kids in their costumes to include in that post, which means that you're going to have to wait a day or two. Because you know I'm not on top of things enough to take ahead-of-time Halloween costume pictures. Nope. Don't worry though, this year's costume includes Adam being ridiculous (which I'm sure you could have guessed based on last year's banana and the super-hero business from the year before).

The good news is that I'm pretty sure I only ate about half of the halloween candy so far. My new strategy (which I will implement next year) is to buy only Reese's cups, because those don't tempt me in the least.

Mostly, I've just been taking lots of pictures for people lately. Tis the season for Christmas card photos. We did a few of these fun friends in the park, and my kids couldn't resist getting into a few - seeing as these are their best friends forever.
While we were there, one of our all-grown-up kiddos requested a few of her adorable baby girl, I'm guessing y'all are going to be as obsessed with her yummy dimple as I am.
Ok, without any further blabbing. What I'm into this month:
A show that makes me laugh out loud, even when I watch it solo.
And other shows that make me cry, but mostly in a good way.

When a book stays with me long after I read it.
A book about prison that's way better and less risqué than the show (duh, I should have guessed this would be the case).
And I love a good book with a historical story entwined with a present day one. Sometimes these are risky for me, if I care way more about one story than the other. But I'm halfway through this one - and it's definitely working for me so far.

She makes me laugh, which I'm always into.
And this one made me cry, and think about all-the-things.
I adore everything she writes, but this one is crack-you-open beautiful.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

How to Never Forget

I read about Stephen and I cant help but think about Saviour. I always thought he would be ours, I think. And perhaps he will be; possibly always just in a vague and symbolic way. Maybe he taught us things we needed to know. Maybe our hearts are changed because we knew him (they are), and that’s what this is actually all about.
Or maybe it isn’t about us. Maybe he needed someone to actually get down in the trenches and fight for him. To refuse to see him left behind.

We did the best we could, of course. We had to think of our family, our children, our ministry. Boundaries, health, safety.

I already know what you will say. That we did fight for him. That he knows we love him, and he knows we will be here for him whenever he’s ready. That we shouldn’t chase the prodigal son; rather, wait for him to turn towards home.

And we did fight for him. Until we stopped. Because, quite honestly, it got too hard. Life and ministry and “serving” got in the way. And you know what? I might never know what I missed out on. What God might have revealed and grown in me.

I’m not saying we made the wrong decision; or even that we could have made a different one, or changed anything by doing differently. I’m simply saying we did make a decision. And I’m not always sure it was the right one.

One of our girls told us she saw him the other day. They talked, she said, until a police drove by and he ran away. I worry for him, as I drive all of the long-ways-home. But I don’t see him, and I think he must still be running. Running from the police, from us, from school, from life. Running long and hard from hurt and loss and things that wound. I think about him running from the police and worry about the consequences. I worry the police could shoot him, or perhaps a rival gang. I worry that he might end up like two of the friends he watched get killed on one of the corners he frequents.

And his friends will tattoo his name on their faces and arms, and I wonder what we will do so we never let ourselves forget.

I try to muster hope, belief in a different ending. Adam tries to remind me of my own words: But the story cannot be finished, because His kingdom has not yet come. And I know, I know somewhere deep, the truth of these words. But day in and day out in a landscape bumpy and uneven causes me to lose my footing sometimes. To wonder what difference even means, and why I am so desperate to make one.

So we just keep living and following Jesus in a stumbling sort of way. To wake one day with certainty of our calling and purpose, and to lay down that same evening with equal certainty of neither.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Tire Swinging and Reading in the Sun

Let's be honest, I have lost all will to walk or to write about it. I got really off-track as a result of Caden's hospital visit and Adam's travels. And even now that he is home, I still cant seem to motivate myself to continue. Sorry y'all, such a fail!
I did promise an update on Caden's heart following his cardiologist appointment on Friday. He was a champ, sitting still for the echo and everything (although to be fair, he did eat three lollipops in quick succession, because how else am I supposed to keep this kid still?!) So Caden's cardiologist is a gem, he takes such good care of us and we feel so confident in his wisdom and genuine concern for Caden's well-being. That said, I was a little rattled by how worried he was before the ECHO. Because Caden's oxygen sats dropped so quickly and he got so sick, so fast, there were a few things he needed to look at asap. Thankfully, once he looked at the ECHO, he felt much better about it because everything looks about the same as his last appointment, which is great news! He does, however, want to present Caden's case at Egleston next Monday to get their opinions on a timeline for surgery because he doesn't want to wait too long because of how quickly Caden got sick. So we should have another update after they sit down in a week.
 
It's amazing to think how far Caden, and all of us, have come and grown and changed in the last three years. Another thing that has changed a lot since we moved here is our neighborhood, and this made me laugh: Signs Your Neighborhood Might be Gentrifying (DL Mayfield).

Some more good reads from around the internets:
Sufferable Faith - Ethika Politika
On Fighting, Farming, and Feasting - Deeper Story
Dear World, Let's Stop Giving Our Crap to the Poor - We Are That Family
Black Moms Tell White Moms About the Race Talk
Under the Volcano - Anthony Bourdain

As Andrew Golis points out, this might suggest something even deeper than the idea that poverty's stress interferes with our ability to make good decisions. The inescapability of poverty weighs so heavily on the author that s/he abandons long-term planning entirely, because the short term needs are so great and the long-term gains so implausible. The train is just not coming. What if the psychology of poverty, which can appear so irrational to those not in poverty, is actually "the most rational response to a world of chaos and unpredictable outcomes," he wrote. (Your Brain on Poverty  - The Atlantic).

Don't forget, you can donate to our Christmas baskets for the CICU at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. Thank you so much to everyone has already contributed or reached out and offered to help put together baskets, bake yummy goodies etc. Y'all are seriously the best.

I've had a few requests for a comprehensive book list. I do keep track of most everything I read on Good Reads, but I'm also going to work on putting together a big list on here for you guys. Thanks for asking about it. Also, I get a lot of questions about when-in-the-heavens I find time to read, and here's your answer: I stay up too late. I sacrifice at least 20 minutes of sleep every night by staying up a little extra to read and unwind a little.

I just finished reading this book (Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx), and it kind-of wrecked me. More on this coming soon.

Finally, I wanted to leave y'all with this post from Humans of New York (as I'm mentioned, I'm slightly in love). Because this is it, exactly (why we do mentoring and what we believe at Blueprint 58).
"I’m a recovering knucklehead from the South Bronx. Now I run a mentorship program for teens. A lot of the teens we work with are angry, but I used to be angry a lot too. I can’t even say exactly where the anger comes from: the trash, the potholes, the sirens, the cursing, the yelling, the seeing people getting frisked. I can’t say exactly what causes the anger, but it’s hard to grow up around all that and be OK.
Your brain is growing at a rapid rate during adolescence. There’s a lot of emotion, confusion, thrill seeking. It’s a time when you try a lot of things and make a lot of mistakes. We all went through it. But in this neighborhood, there’s not a lot of maneuverability. There’s not a lot of room for teens to make mistakes, and the mistakes have higher consequences. To make things worse, adolescence seems to be prolonged here. Many young people in the community view adolescence as a pinnacle, and not a stage. Girls become mothers at a young age. Fathers are absent, so young boys are forced to act like men. So what you have are adolescents who become authority figures, and spread the adolescent mindset through the community. Instead of thinking through a conflict, young men feel a social pressure to immediately react, so they don’t appear ‘soft’ or ‘weak.’ That’s one of the reasons I feel that mentorship programs are so important. They give adolescents a space to remain adolescents.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Speaking of Caden's Heart . . .

The last week has been quite the reminder for us of all that still lies ahead with Caden's heart. One of the most reassuring things we felt coming out of our (nice and short) hospital stay this time was how completely well-cared-for we feel whenever we are at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. When Caden was born, we had no idea that anything was wrong with his heart (if you're new around these parts and haven't heard the whole story, feel free to take a minute and get caught up). The first question most everyone asked us (including all the doctors and nurses), is whether or not we knew ahead of time. And even though we did not know (eliciting much sympathy), we were grateful to the Lord for sparing us the stressfulness we probably would have experienced during the house-closing-debacle if we had known of what lay ahead for us with Caden. We were particularly grateful knowing that no matter how much googling and other research we would have done before Caden's birth, had we known about his heart defect, we would have ended up in the exact same place. CHOA is one of the leading hospital for pediatric cardiology and we would not have wanted to be anywhere else. We count our blessings for living in a city and a home where we are fifteen minutes from this hospital, making everything easier for us - from childcare for Jayci to showers and laundry and resetting our hearts at home when we had to leave Caden's side for rounds etc. We were grateful for the reminder this weekend of how well-cared-for Caden is while he's in the hospital with CHOA.

All of that to say, we are profoundly grateful to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. They saved Caden's life, for sure, and there is simply no way we can measure in words the ways they helped make some of the hardest weeks of our lives a little easier. The nurses and doctors were amazing, and they deserve celebrating for the hard and holy work they do day-in-and-day-out at CHOA. Because we are thankful, and because we want to pass along some of the encouragement and love y'all showered us with during Caden's hospital stay, every year we put holiday baskets together for the families who have to spend the Christmas holidays in the CICU.

A few months ago, when Adam and I were having one of our many talks about how we can possibly juggle all-of-the-things, I told Adam I really wanted to do the CICU baskets again, but I kind of felt like it was one more ball to juggle that might possibly make me drop all-of-the-balls. I am not good at organization, or having space for putting together baskets, or making sure every bag has one of everything (this is inexplicably very hard for me). Adam suggested asking his superheroes-of-organization sister and mom to handle the logistics for us, and I couldn't agree fast enough.

True to form, they are super-duper on top of things, and have already put together a fundraising page were you can go and donate to make these baskets a reality. I would love for you guys to be a part, particularly since you all played such a big role in making Caden's hospital stay bearable for us.

Truthfully, we don't know the next time Caden will be hospital. It could be Christmas, and I know how helpful and beautiful it would be for us to be the recipient of something like this. So if you could all go and make a donation (every bit helps), we would really appreciate it (and I know all the families with heart babies this Christmas would too). The money raised will go straight towards putting together baskets, as well as some sort of thank-you for all the nurses who have to work on Christmas day (and night) in the CICU.

In case I haven't mentioned it lately, y'all are awesome. For realz. Be sure to go visit the CHOA Christmas Basket page on YouCaring today :-) And thanks again!


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Interruptions

Near 1:30am, Adam tells me it might not be a bad idea to come home. Trying to keep back tears, and stay away from frantic, I gather the stuff I have already scattered across the hotel room. We have only been at Callaway Gardens for the women’s retreat with our church for a few hours at this point. One roommate snores, and the other two help me gather strewn belongings, both of them offering to drive me over an hour back to Atlanta. We have only been on the road ten minutes when we get pulled over for having a headlight out. The officer appears skeptical when we insist that my son is in the hospital, perhaps he gets that story a lot.

Thursday night, Caden slept like a newborn. Awake every two hours, he complained my ear hwurts loudly and often enough that I suggested a visit to the doctor. His checkup that Friday afternoon revealed no earache or fever, but a chest rattle along with slightly lower-than-normal oxygen saturation levels. We called the cardiologist who told us to head to the ER if Caden started acting differently or things took a turn for the worse.

Meanwhile, I headed to Callaway and enjoyed lots of laughter with some neighbors and friends over cheese dip and margaritas (of course) in a tiny-by-the-roadside-sketchy Mexican restaurant on our way. After get-to-know-you games and a pajama party, we camped in our room and chatted until Adam called because Caden was freaking out. He wanted mommy, and couldn't stop coughing. Adam explained over the phone that he felt a little warm and body was shaky-upset. I told Adam that if I were there, we’d already by on our way to the ER. A neighbor came over to watch Jayci, and Adam sat in traffic headed to CHOA while Caden cried and coughed until he finally fell back asleep.

By the time they got to the hospital, the clock tipped past one in the morning, and Caden’s fever had shot up to 102.9. Between his coughing and crying, his oxygen sats were in the 70s, alarming particularly for a heart-kiddo whose normal numbers hover around 98-99. At this point, Adam asked me to come, and I’m not sure he could have kept me away anyhow.

We witnessed enough during the first month of Caden’s life to make it difficult for my mind not to flit quickly to worst-case-scenario. I am calm somehow, but also scared and anxious to be holding my baby. We small-talk and deep-talk and make our way through the darkest-dark with no street lights; until finally we approach the city, bright with neon signs and billboards and cars filling streets even as the clock nears 2:30am. I drop my friend off at her house (just a few blocks from my own), and by this time Caden is sleeping with his temperature and oxygen levels back to normal. He’s still on oxygen and I.V. antibiotics, but my own feverish cough means we are uncertain they will even let me in tonight. Instead, I relieve the neighbor and snuggle Jayci cozy under her blankets. The next morning (or rather, later that same morning), I drop her with my mom before heading to the hospital.

My body somehow recalls viscerally the things that seem in my mind only distant memories or dreams. Circling the parking garage looking for a spot, my heart rate elevates and butterflies flutter in my belly. The ding of the elevator, the smell of the hand soap I use again and again until my hands are raw and scaly but definitely clean. I don't know how, but I somehow nearly forgot the hard and holiness of this space. The big blue button behind Caden’s bed stamped CODE BLUE sends shivers, and I avert my eyes quickly. Clear oxygen tubing snakes behind his ears and under his nose, big pieces of tape hold an IV in place, and his finger glows red from the pulse-ox, while numbers fluctuate gently on the monitor behind him. We are on the oncology floor, because the cardiac unit is full. Which means isolation, and nurses who breathe through masks, and no wagon rides or any leaving the room. The three year old should be climbing the walls, but instead he sits pale and quiet on his bed, playing with the button to lower and raise his feet while he watches football with his daddy.

We realize with jolting clarity how hard Caden’s next surgery will be. He wants his mommy, he needs his daddy, and he screams bloody murder because he cannot fathom what-in-the-heavens they are doing to him. We hold him close, gingerly working around tubes and wires, singing row, row, row your boat in a round, as per his ridiculous request. I notice the tiny freckle between his shoulder blades, and run my fingers through his fine blonde bed-head. I apologize to Jesus for the past three years, and how easily I have forgotten the desperate and constant prayers of the momma with a sick baby. My knees find their way easily back to the floor, and I plead with Jesus not to punish my son for my short-memory, even though I know with stunning certainty that’s not how He works anyways.

The triple-team of cardiologist crowds in his room, all of them in full gown and masks. Everything they say sounds slightly more disconcerting through the pale yellow held over their mouth and nose. Thankfully, they assure us that they are treating this as simply a respiratory infection with pneumonia on top, both unrelated-to, and hopefully not affecting his heart. Because of that, they decide not to do an ECHO while we’re in the hospital, but we should see our cardiologist this week to let him take a look. After all, his sats did hover really low and his last cardiologist appointment showed sharper declines in heart function than they’d like. So this reality, another hospital stay on the horizon, feels sharp and closer than we thought. We stare at the hospital walls and try to entertain Caden in a single room with declining success in direct proportion to his rising health. For which, of course, we could not be more grateful.


So I spend my weekend here beside my son and husband. Nose alternately in a book, singing songs with Caden, and watching Monsters University. We color together and play patty-cake, and quickly say even more prayers for our friends who have to do this longer than three days. I am sad to miss the retreat, I tell Adam. Ironically, the theme was Renewal - something I thought I really needed. I forget, of course, that Jesus knows us better. He knows when we need lessons and time on our knees. When we need our family and each other, and a reminder of just how breathtakingly beautiful the Body of Christ can be. How she, like me, might have more scars or stretch-marks then we’d like to notice or admit. How she can be ugly and petty and certainly competitive or focused on all of the wrong things. But beneath it all, she is also beautiful. She lifts us and carries us, she encourages and covers us with unfailing prayers and reminders of grace.

Mostly, I want to thank-you. For the ways you continue to rally and love and encourage us, even in our darkest moments. The ways that each of you make this road of ministry and parenting and heart-babies easier. Or if not easy, at least shared. I will keep you posted after our cardiologist appointment on Friday, but for now Caden is back to his normal crazy self. His naps are still slightly longer than usual, and he has slept later than 7:15am the past three days in a row (which might be a record), so we are grateful and glad. The antibiotics for his pneumonia seem to be doing their job, and we are still hoping for another year at least before his next surgery. Dont worry, we will keep you guys in the loop as far as what the cardiologist says on that front this week. Thanks again!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

31.15 :: Because We Are People Who Pray

I'm going to spend my time walking today praying for my sweet friend Anita and her little boy Rocco 9 (well, for their whole family really). Since I told y'all about Rocco originally, they changed his diagnosis to Burkitts lymphoma, and he just finished his second of four rounds of chemo. You can follow his journey on his Caring Bridge site. I remember so clearly how this community prayed us through Caden's heart surgery, and I'm not certain we would have made it through that time without it. So I know that y'all are a people who pray, and that your prayers are faithful and loving and helpful and beautiful. Which is why I'm asking for you to raise your voices in support of my sweet friend. 

Rocco's daddy shared a few specific prayer requests on his latest journal entry at Caring Bridge: The next several days will likely be when his white counts drop the most and leave him susceptible to infection .... Please pray that God would once again supernaturally intervene and protect him from exposure. Please also pray that the side effects from the chemo would be radically less than advertised.

Thank-you for the ways you pray for and with me, and even for following me along my 31 miles. Y'all are the bomb. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

31.14 :: When Things Get Real

Yesterday, I wrote about walking in the woods. And yes, it was all true. But here's the thing: beautiful words about how I meet God in the details of walking in the woods cannot quite capture the entirety of the experience that was our camping trip.

We indeed enjoyed a lovely hike, perfect temperatures, and a successful tent and campsite set-up (ok, ok mostly by Adam with the children's "help" while I lay in the hammock and read Orange is the New Black). However, the children found themselves in rare bickering and disobedient form. I always feel somewhat cheated when this happens on a special trip. Like, if we are taking the time to do for our kids something we wouldn't necessarily be inclined to do on our own (camping would fall into this category for me), they should reward that sacrifice with excellent behavior in order to create maximum family-fun memories. Am I right? Someone forgot, apparently, to give Jayci and Caden this memo. They were decidedly not on their best behavior.


I tried not to lose my patience when they asked a million and twelve times if we were almost to camp (Caden, in particular, seemed confused as to our destination and the difference between camping and camp grace). Upon arrival, everything was taking entirely-too-long for their liking, and the endless complaining about drove me to the brink. Deep cleansing breaths and small jaunts deeper into the woods for a few minutes to cool-mama-down were in order.
Jayci's attitude towards me pretty much the entire time can be summed up with this one picture. You might think she's just joking around and sticking out her tongue for the camera, but look at her eyes (it's all in the eyes). 


Anyways, we pulled ourselves together enough to enjoy our afternoon and to cook a nice dinner over the fire. Although, of course,we forgot plates and utensils and ate potatoes with our fingers from red solo cups. We also forgot the marshmallows (which were unfortunately in the bag with the plates), and this caused much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. Caden is in the phase of killer-loud-and-obnoxious-fake-cry, FYI.
 With both kids messy already, they drank a cup of hot chocolate (in place of marshmallows) by head-lamp, and we got them at least semi-cleaned up for bed. Sighing with relief, we slipped into camp chairs next to the fire and listened to the kids giggle in their tent. Looking at Adam with eyebrow cocked, we made bets on how well the tent-sleeping thing was going to well. Hint: we both thought not-neccessarily-well, but I fell on the side of decidedly less-optimistic than Adam did. 

We adjusted sleeping bags and tried to figure out how to pad the ground adequately and zipped and unzipped and tucked and re-tucked. Finally, Caden fell asleep and when Jayci grew silent for a few moments we assumed she was sleeping too. We sipped our own hot chocolate and talked quiet under the stars. Jayci, however, ended up not-so-much-sleeping as getting-sick and freaking-all-the-way-out. She was feeling-some-kinda-way such that Caden woke up, and everything got disastrous and we ended up packing up the camp at midnight and heading home. 

And I spent the next day doing approximately 17 loads of laundry to disinfect and clean-up, and I'm counting that as my walking for the day. Because laundry is far-more exhausting than walking.

So there you have it: real talk about camping trips and walking in the woods.

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