Looking Through the Rearview Mirror

Photo by Jan Kopřiva on Unsplash

Have you ever looked through a rearview mirror and been surprised by what you see? You wonder how you didn’t notice a tree, a person, a plant, or a house as you passed it.  Sometimes our focus is on other things and we miss stuff. You also see things you would have never witnessed if you had not looked back. I have seen some pretty amazing sunsets and also dark storms when I look back. The rearview mirror is similar to obtaining perspective. Time often gives us clarity on circumstances and life events we could not comprehend and understand in the midst of them. After time passes, sometimes, we are just as perplexed as the day it happened.

Today I celebrate my 30th wedding anniversary with my husband, Todd. We have navigated life together since my dad passed away in 1985. Todd was my friend for years, but something shifted after my dad died. I saw a different side of Todd. He was there to comfort me, remind me of the beauty in the world, and often just listen. Todd is a great listener. Although Todd was there for me, he was struggling with his own issues. We were two young adults treading water in a stormy sea, when one went under, the other was there to pull us up.

We have created a vault of incredible, wonderful memories. We have not traveled the globe or lived a life of extravagance, but our life is full of simple and joyful moments. Kissing for the first time at the Westin Bonaventure. We were at a Beatles convention. Awkward teens without a clue just how wild our ride would be. Driving my Mazda 323 up the coast of California to Washington with a boombox on the floor playing tunes from FM Radio. We still laugh at the fact that I could afford either air conditioning or radio in that car. I picked air conditioning. The birth of our children. Buying our “starter” home, which is the place we still call home 26 years later. 

We have experienced more trials and tribulations than many couples, certainly ones that have stayed together through them. We have survived the loss of family, friends, and jobs. Our marriage has experienced mental and physical illnesses, trips to the hospital, and financial struggles to name a few. We have raised two children, one with developmental disabilities. (Most marriages do not survive when they either lose a child or have a child with a disability.) Emily is severely disabled and requires full care for all needs. This ups the ante on the divorce rate.

I remember reading an article a few years ago that discussed the correlation between families that camp together and closeness. The gist of the article was that families that encounter near-death experiences develop a strong bond. Bears invading the campsite, breaking into the car, or a flash flood warning where you are staying are bonding moments. Living to tell the tale and knowing you got through it together strengthens your bond. Our marriage is full of bonding moments.

Our relationship grew from friendship, hardships, and struggles. We leaned into one another through our struggles and love was the result. We grew to love one another. What keeps us together is knowing we are better as a unit than we are alone. We get further and faster. We have more resources. Our ability to overcome the obstacles that come our way is more bearable, manageable, and less fearful knowing we are in the trenches together. We are partners.

1992
2022

Short Lives-Impactful Dashes

Stephanie’s tattoo in honor of her Squishy Love

When we have children, our lives are forever changed. For some parents the changes are minor. The family grows, but the flow, friends, and routines are only slightly altered. When Justin was born, we were in this category. He was so easy. I could take him anywhere, and he just adapted. My routines, friends, and schedules were not disrupted. Emily was born, and she really shook things up. She turned our lives upside down. We were suddenly parents of a disabled child, and our world looked different. We became part of a club we never wanted to be in (or even knew existed). The club is full of people facing challenges, pain, grief, and sadness, but also joy, resilience, compassion, pride, and unconditional love.

A friend and I were talking last week. She mentioned that she has experienced very little loss in her lifetime. I thought she was fortunate, and I began to think of the journey I have traveled. I lost my dad and grandparents when I was a child. These losses were difficult to process, but they were predictable to my young mind. We are born, we grow old, and then we die. Death is the goal. The reality is that growing old is not always the journey for many of Emily’s peers.

Collin and Justin watching cars go by

Emily’s disability has shown us a life of loss. It is not rare but rather a regular occurrence in our community. Many of her peers have passed away over her lifetime. I grew up hearing that no one should outlive their children, yet we experience this regularly in our community. The community of chronic illness, disability, and rare diseases and disorders are one where many parents lose their child. Parents outlive their children and must figure out a way to go on. They are not brave and survivors by choice but because they have to be.

I have attended many services for children. The parents and family share the beauty, joy, and goodness their child, grandchild, sibling, or friend has contributed to the world in a short time. I have personally experienced it myself. They have taught others to slow down and appreciate the joy in small accomplishments. They have brought out the best in others and softened even the hardest of hearts. They have shown me and others what unconditional love looks like. These children do not care about your nationality, skin color, or how much money is in your bank account. They possess the best qualities of humans. These young lives have made a difference. Anyone who was blessed to meet and interact with them has been forever changed. They teach us to love unconditionally. They show those around them that there is joy in even the hardest journey. I have watched these children laugh and smile through physical pain and discomfort. 

It is said that in death, it is not the day you are born or the day you die that matters but what you did in the dash. The dash is everything. These young superheroes have done more with the dash than some people that live to be 100. They have loved fiercely, fought valiantly, and embraced the life they were given. They have taught the adults around them to continue to fight for others in their name after they are gone. Many of their parents have become some of the most impactful advocates for change. They raise money to find cures and start foundations to increase awareness. They preserve the memory of their child and use it as a catalyst for change.They fight for cures and change so that other parents may never have to worry about losing their children.

I remember speaking to one parent a few months after her son passed. I was curious how she was able to move forward after such a tremendous loss. Her response is something I have always remembered and fully embraced. She said, “All life is a gift from God. It is not a given. We do not know how long we will have the gift. Each day we must remember to cherish the gift because one day it will be gone.”

Colline Presley 7/4/2000-8/9/2012
Always Remembered
Steven Spurgeon 11/17/1998-11/21/2013

Stealing Time for ME

photo by Ashlyn Ciara

I have learned the hard way the value of taking care of myself. I used to believe that self-care was going to the spa for a massage or a weekend away at a retreat. While I do believe these are wonderful ways to refuel and recharge, the result is short term. They will rejuvenate the soul and spirit for a short period but won’t do much to manage the day-to-day stress we all face. Truly caring for our emotional, physical, and mental well-being requires small consistent actions taken daily.

Caregivers will often say they do not have time to take care of themselves. I understand this obstacle. The job of caring for Emily is taxing and unpredictable. The intensity is often overwhelming and the stress, unless managed, can be debilitating. I learned quickly that the road to a healthier and less stressful life was not going to happen through an occasional spa visit or weekend away with my friends. I needed to create small daily habits that I could do quickly and fit into and around my schedule. My life is not set up to be at the gym working out daily or meditating for hours and the beautiful thing is I can improve my health without doing these things.

I started to incorporate small and frequent daily habits that would help reduce stress, move my body more, and increase my feeling of joy. Each can be done in 5-minutes or less. The more I can incorporate into my day the better, but even if I do just one a day, it is beneficial to my body. Short and frequent breaks can do wonders to calm the mind, body, and soul.

Here are just a few of my favorite ways to refuel in 5-minutes or less:

  • Enjoy a 5-minute meditation. (Try Calm, Insight Timer, Headspace)*
  • Take a quick walk around the block
  • Step outside and breathe in the fresh air and soak up the sun (or rain)
  • Have a dance party anywhere
  • Make a playlist of your favorite songs and listen throughout the day
  • Start your day with a brain dump (call it journaling, scribing, or a To-Do list) Write about anything that is on your mind
  • Take a minute to do focused breathing: “Take Six” (Six slow breaths is about a minute)
  • Do a 5-minute HIIT workout (YouTube has lots of short options)
  • Stretch (We forget how stiff we get just doing life)
  • Set a timer on your watch to remind you to stand or move each hour (get some blood flowing)
  • Take a power nap or visualize for a few minutes (Set a timer. Close your eyes. Rest.)
  • Grab a healthy snack and eat it without doing anything else (put down the phone)
  • Sit in silence
  • Invest in a pair of noise-canceling headphones (this investment alone has reduced my stress)
  • Read a chapter in a book
  • Flip through a magazine
  • Journal at the end of the day
  • Begin developing the skill of practicing gratitude. Write down three things you are grateful for each day and WHY. The WHY helps you connect and creates a more meaningful practice. You can grow your practice over time.

This list is enough to get you started. Think of creative ways to add more activity into your daily routines. It takes my daughter about 30 minutes to eat her morning oatmeal and applesauce. I stand while I feed her and I take steps or walk around between each bite. It often takes her 28-30 steps to chew and swallow one bite of food. Over 30 minutes I have racked up anywhere from 250-1,000 added steps into my day. I do not have take any time out of my day to do this. I am only switching up how I perform the task. It isn’t going to have a great impact on my cardiovascular wellness or build strength, but it is enough to get the blood flowing and increases the time my body is in action rather than inaction.

Beginning to notice times in your day where you can incorporate a short break will get your brain looking for more times and more ways to quickly recharge and utilize the time you have throughout the day. The most difficult challenge is overcoming the belief that a few minutes is not enough to do anything. Because that is just not true. A 5-minute consistent practice adds up to 1, 825 minutes per year. It is possible to change your life and improve your health 5 minutes at a time.

Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash
Photo by Ana Tavares on Unsplash

Feeling It Helps You Heal It

Photo by Karolina Grabowska

Oh, there is such joy and beauty in laughter. When Emily was a toddler, she giggled and laughed all the time. Her smile and laugh could cheer me up on even the worst day. Laughter lifts our mood and the mood of those around us. It brings inner joy and happiness, but sometimes we do not feel like laughing (or smiling). When we are hurting, tired, sad, and angry, it can be beneficial to cry. Often we suppress negative emotions. We choose to swallow them down, and they get pushed aside. Emotions desire to be expressed. 

When we suppress our emotions, we usually end up doing more harm than good. We may overeat, overspend, over-drink, or binge-watch a show. We do anything not to feel the emotion that our body wants to release. The pain is still there, and unless we process the emotion, it will still be there. We may add extra weight, increase our debt, sacrifice sleep and our health, but the pain does not disappear. If you break your arm and ignore it, that will not solve the problem or resolve the pain.

Crying is an incredible way to release painful emotions. Once we acknowledge our emotions and give them space to be processed, they will slowly (or quickly) dissipate. Crying is therapeutic and healing. It is similar to addressing pain when your body aches. For instance, if you get a headache and stop to address it with pain medication or a natural remedy the pain usually goes away. If the pain is ignored, it will usually get louder until we take action to address it. Emotions are the gauges of our mental wellness, and pain is a gauge of our physical well-being. A quick way to help treat mental pain is to cry. It sounds so simple, and yet it is often difficult. There is science behind the benefits of shedding emotional tears.

Humans experience three types of tears. They are basil, reflex, and emotional tears. Each has a function and purpose. Basil tears maintain eye health and protect the cornea. Reflex tears flush the eyes of toxins. They help eliminate stray eyelashes, dust, smoke, or fumes. All species experience basil and reflex tears but only humans express emotional tears.

What is the purpose of emotional tears? They don’t maintain eye health, and they do not eliminate toxins, so what do they do? Here is just a partial list of the benefits of emotional tears:

  • They help release stress from the body.
  • Crying releases endorphins, and by doing so, boosts our mood.
  • They signal to others that we need support.
  •  Crying can also dull physical pain in the body.
  • Tears help restore emotional balance.
  • They can aid in sleep. Tears can help us rest better.

Did you know crying also helps babies to breathe? I think that is a wonderful reason for tears. Crying is important. Both laughing and crying serve a purpose. Go ahead and have a good laugh when you feel giddy or happy. Also, go ahead and have a good cry when your emotions are calling for one. Releasing emotion is good for your body and soul.

Can We Just Stop Pretending?

This weekend our family went to look at homes a few hours from where we currently live. We are exploring our possibilities after Todd retires in a few years. We scouted out a few areas where we found homes that looked promising for our family. We booked an Airbnb in the community to get a feel for it. Well, Airbnb was just as described. The home was as expected, which was a refreshing change. Everything we see: people, places, and homes for sale appear to be edited and photoshopped until some are unrecognizable. Where does it end? Does it ever?

I may edit a photo to enlarge or make it brighter, but I do not alter my home (or my face and body) for an image. I may try to use the best angle, but if I post something—what you see is what you get. When did our world become so fake? How do we make it stop? I get it. We want things to look nice. I work for a graphic design firm, and our company makes things look good. They make the product or website look pleasing. When the finished product is completely altered, far enough that you do not even recognize it when seen in reality, haven’t we gone too far?

I follow some people on social media that could walk up to me and say hello, and I would not recognize them. It bothers me. I know we want things and ourselves to be aesthetically pleasing, but to what degree and what is the cost? Do we smooth out every flaw and imperfection and put a perfect “Avatar” of ourselves into the world?

Last night when Todd and I reflected on the homes we visited, we were upset. Todd was angry that the homes we scoured on Zillow, and drove two hours to see, did not remotely reflect reality. I know home staging and photography are big businesses. It can help increase profit on a home. I understand the value, but I also know that Todd and I spent 48 hours looking at properties we never would have visited if they were represented honestly on the website. If the descriptions and photos closely represented reality. We laughed at the absurdity of the process. We came home feeling duped.

A world where everything is altered and made to look different must have a long-term impact on society. I began thinking about young girls going on social media only to find a world of women and young girls that are perfectly proportioned and flawless. Their makeup, hair, and body are all perfectly placed and have perfect proportions. Every freckle, wrinkle, and spot of cellulite is erased with the click of a computer key. It is not easy for adults to handle the perfection displayed on our screens. Destinations, locations, people, and places are all represented in flawlessly in videos and photos. We begin to feel insecure or less than. Even people with a strong sense of self can feel pressured to edit or alter what is posted on social media.

I refuse to do it. If you go to my social media, you will see the good, the bad, and the ugly. You will find a woman sometimes wearing a tee shirt, without makeup, and with cellulite. You will also see me in makeup and dressed for some occasions. You will see the real house. (I quit staging the pretend house, even when company is coming over years ago. I am a perfectionist in recovery since Emily was born.) There is often laundry, dog toys, Emily toys, and clutter in the background. Because this is real life. Real life has paint chipping from the house, dirt spots on the windows, and weeds to be pulled, and it also has cellulite, wrinkles, and sometimes bags under the eyes from lack of sleep. The sand is not always white, and the water is not always clear. Life is beautiful, and it is messy. There is no such thing as a perfect home, perfect body, or perfection in nature. Everything has imperfections. Don’t give up on improving yourself, your home, or your environment but be confident enough to display and show up as the real you. The unfiltered, imperfect, and yet totally perfect you.

1st bio pic: no makeup selfie

Caregivers Need Care Too

Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash

I believe caregiving is the toughest job on the planet. I have had a lot of jobs, and nothing compares. The exhaustion I often feel at the end of the day is brutal. Caregivers often feel like they have no choice or other options. They could relinquish the care to someone else, but they want to do it themselves. While we know the job is difficult, it is also rewarding. We know we will care for our family well and meet their needs. We value our ability to provide impeccable care for our loved ones. But what about our care? Are we providing the same impeccable care to ourselves that we lavish on others freely? I would bet that most of us, myself included, would answer no.

Last year I began working with the group We Are Brave Together. This organization, founded by Jessica Patay, is on a mission to support moms caring for children with unique needs. We Are Brave Together wants to be a lifeline for moms to get the respite and support they desperately need. They provide opportunities through local support group meetings and weekend retreats. It is an honor to work with We Are Brave Together.

During my short time with this organization, I have witnessed firsthand the resistance and obstacles caregivers struggle with that prevent them from taking time for themselves. I have heard stories of health issues that went untreated because they did not have the support to care for their child. They are not only lacking time off, vacations, or spa days, but missing out on mammograms, dental check-ups, sleep, showers, doctor’s appointments, proper nutrition, and other basic human needs. Many ignore the care that is required to live a healthy life while making sure every need of loved ones are met. These women have been unable to sustain, create, or find the support they need.

Supporting caregivers is not easy because the obstacles and struggles seem impossible to overcome. Some of the reasons moms have given me for not being able to attend support group meetings or seeking support are:

  • I am the only one that can care for my child
  • I don’t want to be a burden to someone else.
  • I don’t have the money to pay for help.
  • I have no one to leave my child with so I can get a break.
  • It’s my job to care for my child.
  • Other parents do it alone. I should be able to as well.
  • I have no one I can lean on for help.
  • I don’t have time to take care of myself.
  • I don’t know how (or who) to ask for help.
  • Finding reliable (and affordable) care is a challenge.

I empathize with many of the challenges they face. Caregivers are tough, stubborn, and relentless. They are problem-solvers. They are protective. They put everyone else above themselves. They do it mostly without complaining or asking for help. This works well until it doesn’t. The reality is none of us are meant to do this alone. No one is equipped to handle the amount of stress that full-time caregivers experience. Often our children require more time and attention than one person can provide. We are not created to care for others all the time without taking time to rest and recharge. We think rest is optional, but the truth is rest is vital. 

When our cell phone’s battery charge is less than 10% we freak out. We panic to find a charging cable and a source of electricity. We worry about the battery dying and missing a call or something important. A dead cell phone is useless. Maybe if we start thinking of our bodies like our cell phones, it would trigger us to recharge them more often. We cannot continue to give without taking a moment each day to recharge. It is not sustainable. We will crash and burn. If that happens, and it will, then who will be there to take care of our loved ones that we fight for each day? 

Caregiving must start with us first. When we begin to take impeccable care of ourselves, our ability to care for our loved ones improves. When we are healthy, we are more productive. Caregivers cannot hear this message enough. It is imperative that we remind ourselves daily of the value we add to our family. Give yourself permission to take the time to charge your battery a little bit each day. Take one small action daily that will improve your mental or physical well-being. Caregivers are powerful when our batteries are low. Imagine the things we could accomplish if we were 100% charged. 

Disabled Children and Traveling Challenges

Photo by Patrick Rosenkranz on Unsplash

When Todd and I were married, we dreamed of all the places we would travel to and the adventure we would share. Before we had children, we would take trips. We mostly traveled the Pacific Northwest and a few trips to Mexico. We did not have the finances to travel overseas. One day, after the kids grow up, we will have the time and money to travel. This was our grand plan, and then plans changed. Life Changes by Thomas Rhett describes beautifully making plans and then life changes. We had Emily. The plans to travel once our kids grow up and move out were canceled. 

Emily is not a great traveler. She does okay in the car, but planes are a different story. When she was a baby (and toddler), we flew to Colorado to visit family a few times. I also took both kids to Washington when the kids were 4 and 5. It was a challenging trip to do solo. I may have bit off a bit much, but still, things were manageable. When Emily was eight, we flew to Colorado to spend Christmas with Todd’s family. It was awful. She vomited in the TSA line (it isn’t a trip until she does). Emily fussed the entire flight (people are not very kind when your 8-year-old is throwing a fit) and kicked the seat in front of her constantly (I still feel terrible for the tolerant women in front of us). My father-in-law was embarrassed by her behavior. I was so anxious and dreaded the flight home the entire stay. The low-level anxiety impacted the enjoyment of our time with family. I knew then we would never fly commercial again. I have no desire to be the headline on the six o’clock news, “family with disabled daughter kicked off plane for bad behavior.”

Travel is almost impossible for many families in a similar situation. Parents that have children with complex medical needs, intellectual and developmental disabilities, autism, and other disabilities, are often unable to travel and vacation more than a short distance from home. Boundaries are set that are difficult to traverse. Many cannot be far from the medical services that they depend on. The child may have rigid schedules and does not tolerate change well. There is a lack of appropriate housing, restrooms, transportation, and facilities to accommodate our kid’s unique needs. Often our children require equipment and supplies that add up to a lot of extra to bring along for the journey. There is fear and anxiety about dealing with behaviors, outbursts, and/or bodily fluid incidents. I am only touching the surface. There are many roadblocks to traveling.

Going on a trip without our children is not always an option either. Taking a family vacation without part of the family can induce sadness, guilt, and a plethora of other negative emotions. We worry about our children while we are gone. There is also a shortage of good, qualified caregivers to entrust with our children. The cost of such care can be prohibitive as well. The anticipation of the challenges often stops us from planning and executing a trip. Often one parent travels with the typical children while the other parent stays home with the disabled child. When Justin was seventeen we traveled to Disney World for a vacation. Todd stayed home with Emily. It is a world of divide and conquer. One parent usually feels like they got the short end of the stick. Again sadness and guilt come along for the ride. (For the record, Todd thought I got the short end of the stick that trip.)

There are many challenges, but the task is not impossible. We took two road trips last year with Emily. A three-week trip from California to Ohio. We visited so many beautiful places. Emily enjoyed the trip and rose to the occasion, but it was difficult. Todd and I will both tell you that it was not a restful vacation, but it was worth the effort. The entire family went camping and to Las Vegas last November. This trip was easier because we had Justin with us. He prepared our Thanksgiving meal. My friend (and accountability partner), Cheryl, was kind enough to host the family with open arms for Thanksgiving dinner. She is used to Emily’s noises and feistiness since we talk on Marco Polo daily. It was a safe and welcoming environment. Emily was also escorted out of two places by security because she is unable to comply with mask requirements on that trip. Just a bump in the road and a funny memory from that trip.

Last week I decided to renew my passport. It expired in 2020 with not a single stamp on it. The last time we traveled out of the United States was in 2008. Todd’s parents were still able to care for Emily. We took Justin to Costa Rica for a week. I would love to travel and explore new destinations. I am in a listening circle and we have been discussing a meet-up in the future. We are exploring destination ideas. I am not confident that I will be able to make a trip work, and Todd is less than thrilled at the idea of me traveling internationally without him. I am keeping myself open to the possibility. The possibility that quality caregivers will come into our lives and watch Emily for an extended time. Hoping that one day Todd and I will travel together and see new places. The possibility of meeting my friends in a fun or exotic destination. I told Todd this weekend that I am a dreamer. I visualize things that are difficult to imagine actually happening but are not impossible. Adults call this visualization but isn’t that daydreaming for adults? You never know. Because sometimes dreams do come true.

Photo by Rocio Ramirez on Unsplash

A Cup of Coffee and Greater Connection

According to worldpopulation.com, 50% of marriages in the United States end in divorce. That means for every wedding you have attended, half will end in divorce. If the couple has a child with a disability, the divorce rate jumps to 80%, and if the child is severely disabled, some figures show the rate as high as 87%. I knew the statistics were not great, but seeing the recent statistics was startling. This past weekend I attended a support group meeting for moms raising disabled children. Many of them expressed marital issues. Miscommunication, disconnect, lack of support, and lack of quality time with their significant other.

As I listened, I could relate. Raising and caring for Emily has impacted our relationship and ability to spend quality time together. Add our own mental and physical challenges, and the struggles increase. It is hard to create connection and intimacy when you are exhausted and not feeling well. You do not have the energy to invest in your spouse or significant other. It takes effort you do not have. The past two years have been full of things outside our control. We have faced surgeries, a pandemic, illness, job changes, and changes in Emily’s schedule and care. Todd and I have not done a great job of prioritizing our relationship. We have been like two ships passing in the night. 

I have been forthcoming about the struggles of maintaining our marriage under extraordinary circumstances. We have encountered financial trials, mental and physical health issues, and obstacles raising a child with severe disabilities. We have definitely not handled everything with grace and unity. Often we have been on opposite sides, refusing to work together and set in our own ways. Continuing to stay in the relationship is the hard thing. The work is taxing, and it seems it would be easy to throw in the towel and call it quits. Although, I predict this strategy is not as great as it sounds. I will add another divorce fact. Each subsequent marriage has a higher rate of divorce. The divorce rate for second marriages increases to 60%, and the divorce rate rises to 73% for a third marriage. A new partner isn’t going to fix things. Where you go, your baggage follows.

During times of struggle, it is best when Todd and I work together. Todd and I are an incredible team. But what happens when we are out of sync? What changes take place in our relationship that creates distance rather than connection? How do we fix it and get back on track?

After 37 years together, it is easy to take our relationship and each other for granted. We get busy with jobs, commitments, and caring for our family. We fail to create the time and space to connect with each other. The distance grows slowly. It doesn’t happen overnight. These seasons often feel like I am living with my best friend or a roommate, not the person I have committed to love and cherish for the rest of our lives.

How do you get unstuck? How do you regain the joy, intimacy, and connection you are missing? I do not have the answers, but I know it includes hard work, dedication, sweat, tears, and grit. The first step is recognizing the disconnect. We realized in January that we needed to make an effort to work on our relationship. We both wanted to create ways to prioritize, nurture, and support our relationship. Todd and I committed in January to do something together each month. We would go on a date night or an overnight trip. We did a great job of keeping this commitment until we became overwhelmed. In June, Todd’s parents were having health issues. A week into the madness of caring for Todd’s parents, followed by the Covid takeover of our home, I requested that we start the morning with each other. I asked Todd if we could enjoy a cup of coffee together (without glowing screens) before we hustled off to recover or care for others. This small action has been instrumental in closing the gap of disconnect. Just five to ten minutes at the beginning of the day has impacted our relationship positively. It is so easy to get lost in the day-to-day minutiae. It is easy to forget the things I love about my husband and to fall out of rhythm. Disconnection is easy but reconnecting is just as easy. A simple cup of coffee got us back on the same page and working as a team. Each cup of coffee together, I see characteristics and traits in Todd that made me fall in love with him in the first place. 

It takes more than a cup of coffee to maintain and grow our marriage together, but it is a starting point. The closeness I feel after this time creates a desire to spend more time together. This weekend we discussed working on a few projects in the yard. This led to us implementing the projects. We worked together outside for a few hours. We made dinner together. We went to a concert together. We build on the foundation and add other ways to connect. Connection creates a deeper connection. We know we are better as a team than we are alone. We go further and get there faster when we do it together. When we lose sight of that, it only takes a little recognition and course correction to get us back on the road and toward our destination together.

When It Rains, It Pours

I worked at Morton Salt for ten years. I have used their motto for years to describe times when it seems God is piling a lot onto my plate. “When it rains, it pours.” The motto was never meant to be used the way I use it, but that never stopped me. When it rains, salt clumps and gets hard. It will no longer flow. Morton Salt was the first salt company to add an anti-caking agent to the salt, so when it rained, it poured. 

Since my foot surgery in May, it has been pouring. A couple of weeks ago my mother-in-law started having issues. She was having balance issues and kept falling. She was also experiencing memory issues. My father-in-law needed some assistance. Todd and Justin went to Todd’s parent’s house daily to help them. A few days into the routine, Todd’s parents both tested positive for Covid. We knew there was a risk from Todd being there, but there was no one else to help. Todd continued going to his parents daily. The following Saturday, all four of us tested positive. Casa de Chaos was officially Casa de Enfermo.

Todd and Emily were down for a full week. Justin was asymptomatic. I am still testing positive and not feeling great. I just can’t seem to fight it. Our house is typical to others, we all pitch in and help, but as the mom, the majority falls on me. Everyone depends on me to take care of them, and that was no different with everyone having Covid in the house. The boys helped with Emily but the majority of her care was on me. I am certain I have not got the rest my body needs to recover. I have done the bare minimum to keep the home running. I have ordered groceries to be delivered. I do not have the energy to do much or do much well. 

It hasn’t been easy keeping my spirits up. I have been hard on myself for not being able to “rally” or do more. There is guilt about Emily being stuck in the house for a week, although I am sure the general population appreciates that. I am mad that my body is not recovering as well as the rest of the family. 

This past week I have been leaning on a quote from one of my prior articles, “gratitude is always available”. I have to keep reminding myself to look for the good. What am I grateful for in this season of pouring rain? 

  • Grocery delivery service. Seriously, bread and bananas delivered within an hour. Groceries were delivered to Todd’s parents when we were sick and couldn’t shop for them. 
  • The Wiggles. You all know I am forever grateful for them. Those dudes always have my back.
  • My job. I have the best bosses in the world. They have always worked around my crazy life and I am grateful.
  • My Seeing Goodness and Pause Breathe Reflect Communities. These peeps have called me. Texted me. Sent goodies (things I never knew I needed). They have sent me books, quotes, art, and poems to lift my spirits.
  • My mentor, Bobby Kountz, for sending me his art and quotes to encourage me.
  • My accountability groups cheer me on and call me out on my negative llama drama.
  • Streaming. When I have been up at 2 am sick and unable to sleep, I can find something to watch. Thank you Kathleen for sharing your son’s film, Love & Gelato. It was fun, cute, and just what the doctor ordered.
  • NyQuil. Did I mention that this old-school remedy still works to help me catch some zzz’s.
  • Fresh, delicious fruit (delivered to my door). Emily and I have eaten our body weight in cantaloupe, honeydews, watermelon, and pineapple.
  • Homemade soup.
  • Good books, mediocre books, and fantastic books. No matter the quality, I have been distracted from my misery and transported to new places through books.
  • Bleach, Lysol, and essential oils. All have been used with reckless abandon in our home. 
  • My home. It is not huge. It is not flashy. It is small but comfortable. It has everything I need.
  • Corry for bringing me more Covid test kits when we ran out!

Once I started looking for the good, I kept seeing goodness. I am grateful that I have learned to find things to be grateful for in a storm. While I do not always choose gratitude, I know gratitude is always available.

A special thank you to Connie, Kimberly, and Sharon for my packages that came three days in a row. I was grinning from ear to ear. The book is hilarious. Not exactly a doodle book but I am sure I will be seeing Butts on Things everywhere. 

Shout out to DripDrop ORS Dehydration Relief. These are the best things I have ever tried. Healthier than store bought energy drinks, they dissolve quickly and completely, convenient packaging, and they taste delicious. Emily and I are huge fans!

Disability, Communication, and Covid

This week we all tested positive for Covid. This has been challenging for our family. We usually work as a team. If one person is down, another can pick up the slack. (Think Brené Brown’s GAP plan.) Well, we are all down. This would be okay if we could all retreat to our corners and rest, but we can’t. We still have to care for Emily.

If Emily slept, that would also be helpful. We do not know what Emily’s disability is, but whatever she has impacts her sleep. She doesn’t do it. It takes lots of medication to get her to sleep, but nothing keeps her asleep. Someone must stay close by to supervise her and make sure she doesn’t get into trouble. She loves to knock over furniture and rearrange the tables. Her crawling has suddenly improved with Covid. (I am probably just slower.)

Emily’s activity that keeps me on my toes is not my biggest concern. I am worried about her. Her inability to communicate how she is feeling has always been my biggest concern. If she seems unwell, I feel fear and anxiety. I worry and watch. Today she is refusing food and liquids. I can only presume she has a sore throat, and it hurts to swallow. Then I worry she is not getting enough fluids to help her body heal. Rest and hydration are key to recovery, and she is not doing much of either. 

She takes pills with applesauce like a champ, so we give her the same medication we take to manage our symptoms. It is the best we got, but it feels inadequate. I hate the lack of communication more than anything else about her disability. It has always been difficult for me to accept. There are times I can see her frustration too. She knows what she wants (or doesn’t want) but cannot express it.

God willing, Covid will pass. We will all wake up one day and feel better, but Emily will still be unable to express her wants and needs. I am too sick to try to spin my thoughts. It sucks.