I hold his weakening hand. It’s day 18 since the stroke, day 10 since life support was turned off.
Dads breathing stops occasionally. He opens his eyes and moves his head, but cannot see, and cannot speak.
I get hand squeezes sometimes, when I’m reading to him, or just sitting silently with him. He’s there, I know he is, even when doctors tell me otherwise.
These 18 days have felt like months. My eyes and heart are heavy. My first best friend will be with Jesus soon.
The man that built snow-forts with me.
The man that got more into school projects than we did (if only I could find a picture of the volcano I watched him build for my third grade project… we weren’t fooling anyone).
The man that worked tirelessly to provide.
The man that encouraged me my hard work would pay off.
The man that walked me down the aisle.
The man that never tired of telling me how proud he was of Cody and I.
The man that loved on my boys.
The man that came over every other Sunday to have a cup of coffee and catch up.
The man that sat with me at church and renewed his faith.
The man that began playing pool and became part of a community (a hope Cody and I always had for him).
He has not been perfect. He would be the first to admit it, but he loved. He would give the shirt off his back, say “yes ma’am, no ma’am, thank you sir”. He had a goofy sense of humor- one that my brother and I have become proud of inheriting. He never liked or wanted for anything. He was talented, kind, funny and proud.
I’ve been praying for a miracle… to come up to his room and find him sitting up, drinking coffee, and telling his dad jokes.
Only problem is that the miracle I’m praying for, may not be the miracle God will provide.
Gods miracle may be taking my dad. Mentally, physically and emotionally, this life has not been easy for him. You would never hear dad complain of it though.
I am choosing to trust god in this. As hard as it is, and as much as I want to have my way, my control, my say… I can’t.
God has taught me over and over that his ways have always been for the better…
2 days before I planned on committing suicide in college, God intervened.
In the days I never thought I’d marry, I found my fella.
In the six years I prayed and cried over wanting children, god gave Calvin and Miles to us, in his time, not ours.
I want so badly for dad to be with us, but this is a time when I can only trust gods provision.
Calvin and Miles have been so loving, so kind, so nurturing to me through this. In the midst of wiping tears from my eyes, they remind me that “grandpa with the mustache” will be in JesusLand soon.
Anyone else picture a rollercoaster theme park when you hear JesusLand? Just me?
I love it, picturing Dad sitting side by side with Jesus, his nephew Luke, his sister Cindy, grandma and grandpa Cejda. All with big smiles and hands in the air.
Whether heaven is a theme park with rollercoasters or not, I know without doubt that my dad will have freedom, joy, and peace. No more suffering.
So I hold his hand while I can. I tell him every hour I love him. I say every thing I’ve been grateful for in him. I share texts and phone calls of people praying all over the country for him. I sit here journaling and realizing how thankful I am for this time with him, before he passes. Some people don’t get that opportunity. You can look at it as a blessing or a curse, I will always choose blessing.
My brother and I are grateful to god for the 34 and 36 years we have had this man as our earthly dad. We choose to give thanks, we choose to trust.
We choose Gods ultimate healing in our dad, and have joy for dads front row seat in JesusLand.
I had no idea it’d be this hard. I didn’t know the emotions that would come with it.
Here I am sitting on the couch, just after tucking the boys to bed, with tears rolling down my eyes.
Tears of gratitude that I get to be their mom.
Tears of sadness that time seems to be slipping away. Calvin’s starting kindergarten. When did he get old enough for that?
Tears that Miles is speaking full sentences, his voice changing. He’s not so little anymore.
Just as I’m trying to talk myself out of crying, Miles jumps out of his bed and comes running over asking for a hug (we are still sharing a living and bedroom space in the basement, while the upstairs gets renovated).
He squeezes my neck and rubs his chubby cheeks against mine, with a whisper in my ear.
“Momma, you’re the best hugger ever”.
Damn it. Release the floodgates.
“Thanks buddy, but I think you’re the best hugger ever”.
Then Calvin gets out of bed, comes over and says “Love you Mom, can I have one more hug too?”
I am sure they are just killing time so bedtime gets pushed a later, but I’d rather think that they knew mommas heart needed it.
I know there are so many things to be excited about, as they grow, I’ve witnessed so many already. I truly am excited for what’s to come for them both.
Yet, it’s hard to say goodbye to these tender young moments. It’s hard to realize just how quick they grow. When you’re with them, deep in the trenches day in and day out, you don’t notice. Then one day passes, and your kid isn’t fitting in his clothes anymore and looks (and acts) years older after a haircut.
People say from the beginning “It goes quick”. I had no idea. The days felt long, nights even longer when they were babies. I would be excited for their next milestones. Now I just want to hit pause.
But life doesn’t work that way.
So I cry a little, I get hugs from my favorite little men, and I sit in all the feelings. I soak them in, and I smile with the realization that it’s only the beginning.
My son was learning to ride his bike without training wheels this week. After five minutes he had it, and was so proud.
Fast forward a day, and he insisted on going to a park to ride. I kept saying things to him like “buddy, just keep your eyes forward”. Every time his eyes veered he fell. He looked for me, watched others, and fell off his bike. Every time.He grew upset with each tumble, and tried to quit halfway through. I wouldn’t let him.
“We’re going to do the whole loop bud, you got this, stop worrying so much and just ride”.
Metaphor for life? Sure felt like it to me at the time. We spend so much time worried about falling, watching others do well, or just watch others watching us, that we only grow more insecure and frustrated with each of our falls. We just want to quit so no one sees us stumble. I’m 35, and evidently still on training wheels myself. Not wanting others to see my imperfections.
Yesterday I stumbled when I was doing my daily workout. My health hasn’t been stellar with joint pain and feet going numb when I’m physically active. It’s an ongoing issue that has been getting worse with age. It disappears for months and then rears it’s ugly head.
Usually I may quit, or hide it and not share it with anyone. I chose to share. Easy? Nope. Embarrassed? A little. Truth? We all fall, we all struggle.
What if we all took off the training wheels? Practice, fall, get back up? What if we learn to let go of our insecurities and realize that we are human. These same difficulties, can bring us to know, love, and encourage others who also stumble.
In sharing your struggles you are stronger. Find peace with your imperfections, humor in the moment, and encouragement within community.
The title should say it all, (sorry to those who don’t swear, but since becoming a parent, swearing is part of my vocabulary). Friday was a day that we will not soon forget.
We were heading back home after a quick couple of days visiting my grandparents. We had an amazing time that we crammed into those two days; fishing, shell searching, museum and butterfly exhibits, setting crab traps, flying drones, and playing with bubbles. It couldn’t have been more perfect.
We took our time waking up on Friday, thinking we would have a great drive back because the boys did awesome on the way down! We only stopped when we had to eat and go to the bathroom, so it was obviously going to go that way on the way back!
Mistake #1: Assuming Kids will behave as well as they did that “other time”.
Micah decided we would take a different route home, so that we could have a more scenic view than the 4 lanes of traffic he drove through on the way down. It would mean traveling near the hub of Atlanta, GA to get to the mountains in TN.
Mistake #2: If it’s not broke, DON’T fix it.
I also decided to be the person to find the hotel room for the night. We knew our destination, and I figured I could find a good deal.
Mistake #3: Don’t let the cheap/frugal person find the place to stay for the night….
So we load up in “The Beast”(Micah’s truck), and set off as the sun is coming up. Miles had been a little extra cranky the night before, and woke up quite a bear, but we figured he was just hangry and sad to be leaving. We filled his hands and lap with snack foods and promised we would be coming back again.
Hours later, as time for lunch drew near, the boys had been bickering back and forth so this tired mama ran interference as Dad drove and focused on the road. We stopped and ate, used the bathroom, got a little fresh air in our lungs and then climbed back into the beast. It was going to be a good day, we were determined.
20 minutes later, we’re sitting in 4 lanes of traffic, completely at a standstill with no way to get out, and Calvin starts to wine. He says he has to poop. Parents, you know that feeling of complete irritation after telling your kids, “Last chance for awhile, lets go while we can”? Micah and I were irritated. Don’t forget we were in 4 lanes of traffic, on the outskirts of Atlanta, in the farthest lane from the closest exit. As Micah and I read Calvin the riot act for not going while we were eating lunch, Micah inched his way over and sped around the ramp to get to the nearest gas station. We pull in, not paying attention to foul odors, or the Christmas lights that bordered the windows and the doors. Mission” Get our 5 year old to the nearest toilet” was on. Micah grabbed a very upset and embarrassed Calvin (who never has issues) to run him into the toilet. I get out and went to open Miles’ door to get him, and his treasure of shells falls onto the pavement. Miles freaks, as some of his shells shattered, and I try to pick them up and keep my cool. I get him out of the truck, and he insists there’s more shells. I tell him there’s not, but he was focused. He begins to pick up the dried up gum and cigarette butts to put in his basket of shells. I throw them down, carry him in to wash his hands, only to find Micah and Calvin standing frustrated that the only toilet in the men’s restroom is being used by someone that must have had taco bell for lunch. Micah had asked Calvin to go in the women’s restroom, and Calvin came out telling him he couldn’t. So, I get in, grab Calvin’s hand and lead him in, as Micah holds our three year old who is losing it over dried up gum and cigarette butts.
Calvin and I walk in. Toilet 1: filled to the brim, THE BRIM with toilet paper and feces. We both hold our breath, turn quickly, and go to toilet 2. Toilet 2 was worse. The four of us ran to the truck, jumped in, and so began a chase for the nearest bathroom. Curbs were jumped, yelling kids were buckled in the back, and Micah and I were not talking, simply focused on getting Calvin to the bathroom. We knew he would hold it, after all he hasn’t had an accident in over a year.
Nope. After all that jumping, dodging, and literally running into the bathroom, he couldn’t keep it in. Underwear was tossed, Calvin cleaned up, and Miles, on to yelling about something else.
“It’s ok, the worst is over” we both thought. Back in the truck, and more bumper to bumper traffic awaited us for another hour.
I continued to run interference, stuffing kids faces with popcorn, oranges, games, books, and crayons. They were needy. So needy. Never this bad. Micah drove. We made it to where Micah wanted to go: the Smokies. Why was the map showing that the next 45 miles would take over 2 hours? Because for the next two hours we would be going 20 mph through the mountains. Micah an I were tired at this point, but the boys excitement made it worth it. We got excited for each tunnel, each view of a mountain or waterfall. Calvin said at one point, “Mama, can we climb these together someday?”. My heart melted, “Of course buddy! Hiking is one of my favorite things to do!”.
We got out of the mountains and were minutes away from hotels in Knoxville TN. I had found a great deal with an indoor pool and it was going to be awesome!! Free breakfast and place for mom and dad to stretch and regroup! I had a headache and was ready to get out of the truck.
We passed all of the main hotels, and drove through some subdivisions and business districts before finding it. It didn’t look like the pictures I saw. “Oh well” I thought, no big deal! They used stock photos, it’ll be fine. I checked in, we pulled our suitcases out at 7:40pm, and walked to the hotel door. Our room was on the inside of the building, facing the indoor pool. Door opens, and instant odor is smelled. A desk chair is blocking the way to the bathroom, and stuck between the bed and the desk. So it smelled A little cigarette, a little animal, but the beds were comfy, we had tv with basic channels, and damn it the boys wanted to swim! That was our goal for the night. I sat Miles on to use the toilet before we went to the pool, he was screaming because it wasn’t “HIS” toilet seat, so he refused to do anything. I had debated on searching for another hotel, as we all felt a little grossed out, but was told that every hotel was booked for some technical competition at the college. Sure enough, no hotels had a room.
Micah and I are wiped, bags under both of our eyes, but Calvin and Miles were jumping up and down to get to the pool. Calvin and Micah get in, Miles is pacing. We know he needs to go. Micah sees my patience gone, and offers to take him. Calvin and I wade in the water, Micah and Miles come out from the room; nothing. Micah gets back in, Miles offers to sit on the step, still noticeably irritated. He glares at me, and I’m ready for the next meltdown. Micah behind him, says, “He’s going poop Autumn”. In the shallows of the pool, a floater comes out. I scoop it up with my hand and throw it out. No one was around…Thank goodness. More comes out on the cement surrounding the pool. We clean it up quickly and rush to the hotel room. Micah and Calvin stay and continue to swim, because damn it, this is why we’re here! I am silent as I pull down Miles pants in the hotel bathroom to see that it’s diarrhea. He had eaten some dairy, which he shouldn’t have… so I start the water to give him a bath. No plug in the tub, and hairs were found. I sigh, as Miles stares up at me, I clean the tub, stuff the hole with a washcloth, and have him sit down.
There are VERY few things that gross me out. Blood, vomit, cuts, open sores, whatever….I’ve seen a lot of these things with my classroom and my students who typically have medical conditions that need medical attention.
But poop in water. This mama gags. Can’t do it. So as quickly as possible, without saying a word, I scrub Miles up, I clean out the tub. Trying not to vomit. Mom win: I did it.
Calvin and Micah come in, it’s 8:30. No dinner yet. Micah offers to go get it, because nothing is nearby. He leaves, the boys and I watch March Madness while he’s gone, listening to the college kids jumping and screaming in the pool. Footsteps above us, clear as day conversations happening in the rooms to the left and right of us. Micah comes back, I scarf down my food, lay down, and roll over, passing out as quickly as my eyes will shut.
2:50am, I open my eyes to find Micah sitting up out of bed, wide awake. Staring at me.
“What do you think about getting a head start?”
We had a 10 hour drive ahead, and honestly I just wanted to be home. I joked with Micah that he was never going to let me book a hotel again. He laughed, but didn’t say no.
Boys still asleep, Micah loaded the truck up, and we carried each sleeping boy out and put them in their car seats. Young college men and women were out in the hallways, talking and laughing at 3am.
We used to do that. Now we are middle aged, with toddlers, exhausted and praying we find a good cup of coffee.
They slept for another 4 hours, Micah drove, and I tried to keep conversation, but I didn’t have it in me.I passed out.
Later, Micah and I began laughing about the previous 24 hours. Our boys were insane. We saw more poop than we wanted, lost a total of three pairs of underwear to a three year old who refused to poop on a different toilet, sat in traffic jams for hours to get a mountain view, and slept in a hotel that could have been in a horror movie. We were crazy.
I asked Micah if he ever slept, and he said a little. After I had passed out, the boys fell asleep and Micah had heard more conversations from what felt like roommates in our hotel room. He also decided to share that he thought there was a group of guys making meth in the back of a van in our hotel parking lot when he went to grab dinner. I laughed hysterically as I explained about the technical competition that the hotel clerk informed me of (I had forgot to mention that to Micah).
That was the worst travel day we’ve ever had with the boys. Miles is in this “Terrible Threes” that really is difficult. He challenges us all with his attitude, and refuses to be wrong. Calvin is the older brother that has to tease and pick on him. Micah and I felt like we were nonstop telling them to knock it off. Amidst all of the above things that also happened.
Micah told me after he tucked the boys in the bed, they were talking about some of their favorite things from the trip. You know what made the top three?
Mountains and Tunnels.
Perspective can be such a funny thing. Micah and I were so focused on all the crap (literal and figurative) of the travel that day, while Calvin and Miles were elated to be in the mountains. To have the eyes of a child…..
All we wanted was to create memories….mission accomplished!
I think it’s common for people to reflect on the year behind as a new one approaches, and it’s no different for me….
I went to a women’s retreat in April this past year through my church, which was scary for me. It involved talking to women. Ridiculous right? My history with significant female relationships in my life has been turbulent, so to say I was anxious about going was an understatement… but I went because there was a stir in my soul that told me to.
As part of the retreat we had time to pray, to think of one word that would reflect what we are/need(ing)to learn to practice, or to acknowledge in ourselves and write down on a wooden disc to take home with us. As I closed my eyes the phrase “be obedient” kept popping up. Like an annoying mosquito, I kept trying to swat it away for a few minutes, but it kept coming back. I didn’t want to write that down. I knew in that moment it would be a year of learning, challenges, maybe setbacks… damn it. It wouldn’t go away. I wrote it down begrudgingly. Ironic right? Here we go- “be obedient Autumn, write it down….”
Within a month I was thrown a major challenge at work- and was expected to handle it. So, I did. I survived, but there were weeks of sleepless nights, no eating, sky high anxiety, paperwork, etc…and then other major changes happening within my job as the last day of school approached. Literally up until the last day. Nothing I had asked for, but had to been asked to be obedient to. Okay.
In June I had a break. I listened to that still small voice tell me to take the summer off (normally I continue teaching in my room, but I said no for the first time in 9 years). It was the best summer I’ve ever had- camping with my boys, no agenda, spending valuable time with some of the dearest friends I could ask for (I had best friends that were women)!
Add to that a year of being told by the spirit that I need to be more open, more authentic with others…. I started a wellness journey, and am so f’ing proud of that. I have never been in such a healthy place physically as I was January-September. Mentally while I’ve been challenged, I’ve been growing. I’ve read more books on growth and development that have literally changed me for the better. I’m being better for my husband, my kids, my friends, but most of all, myself. I’ve continued to make lasting friendships with other women, that turns out have very similar struggles- I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to know that, had I not stepped out and practiced that obedience. I started going on social media and sharing my struggles, my celebrations , and had others reach out to say “me too!” “I had no idea, thanks for putting into words what I couldn’t for myself”.
During one of my physical challenges in September (a 30-32 hour, 200’ish mile relay with friends/coworkers), I started experiencing a lot of pain… and it didn’t stop when Ragnar (the race) was over.
My workouts slowly came to a halt as the pain continued to be steady and hard. Mentally, it sucked. But again, I had to practice listening to my body. Even doing yoga or stretching gave me such pain that I end up curled in a ball. I lost 15 pounds of muscle I worked hard for, I started sleeping 12-14 hours, I couldn’t play hide and seek with my boys after 5 minutes, because the jogging to a hiding place became excruciating…it has taken away my day to day fun with my boys, and I refuse to be ok with that.
In the past month I have had 3 ER visits, ridiculous amounts of bloodwork, and a colonoscopy, all telling me everything is fine. But my body and mind tell me otherwise. Obedience. Continue to listen and be obedient to my body- don’t push it to pain, but don’t give up on finding an answer..
I have yet another appointment tomorrow…. so to be continued.
All to be said… obedience has been my word this year. Not by choice, but by reflecting, praying, and realizing sometimes the things we don’t want to hear, are the very things we need to.
So. Reflection time friends…. whether it be this past year or this coming year. What is your word? What is your phrase that will lead you to learn, to grow, or to challenge yourself to be better than yesterday?
Whatever it is, lean in. I guarantee the benefits out-way the challenges or hardships. I also guarantee you are not alone….
Yesterday was a long day. After a few weeks of pain, it was at its worst in the morning. Long story short, I spent most of the day away from my boys trying to get answers, and came home with nothing but a script to manage the pain.
This morning our clocks gave us an extra hour. Our boys did not. At 5:15 they were up and ready to go. Micah was going to take them in to grocery shop so I could rest. I didn’t want to spend more time away, and went with. 6:45 in the morning, we found ourselves at the store with a few other like minded parents. It was quiet, and fun to be together. We divided and conquered, and completed the trip with window shopping in the toy aisle.
We ate breakfast at one of our favorite mom and pop shops in town. We taught the boys the penny sliding game and kept them entertained, then inhaled our coffee and eggs.
We came home, unpacked, and kept the tv off. The boys have been in coloring moods lately. So while I zombied out to Instagram pages, my sons colored quietly next to me.
I realized in that moment that these days are few. They are growing before our very eyes. I put down my phone, grabbed some colored pencils, and colored.
We talked about the colors minions usually look like, and then made up our own style. We talked about sports, about sharing, and listened to the scratches of crayons and pencil covering our pages. Calvin tore them out and with tape, hung them on our living room wall with a puff of pride in his chest.
Maybe I could have rested with that extra hour today, rest did sound nice. Or…groceries, breakfast and coloring with my three favorite fellas… well, it was a no brainer.
Time is fleeting, enjoy the moments, Even the day to day routines can be some of the most beautiful.
I’ve been on a cleaning binge. Cleaning out, cleaning up, not sitting still for even a moment.
I have forgotten to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
I slept for two hours in the middle of the day, and woke up at 5pm thinking I could keep sleeping through the night.
During the week, I go to bed at 9 and by 2am I am wide awake.
I thought about this as I drove in on my weekly Saturday night solo grocery shopping trip.
I didn’t start talking to anyone about my anxiety until I was in college. After I found my faith (that’s a post for another day), I realized I needed some help and I needed an “outsider” (ie: therapist) to help me. I went for a couple of months, and had reassurance that it was real.
I take medication for it. I am not ashamed of that.
Lately I have had a lot going on that has been out of my control. I’ve had physical health challenges that don’t have answers, but do come with a lot of pain. I’ve had work challenges that I can’t make better by the snap of a finger. I have mom guilt for not being “present” enough when I get home from a full day in the classroom.
So my anxiety has kicked in. My personal care for myself has spiraled. I forget to take showers, to eat, and focus on trying to fix things around me. I want to be a fixer.
My physical pain is something I’ve been told “is all in my head” by a doctor over 12 years ago, and it haunts me everyday that I am in pain. When new health challenges present themselves, his voice tells me “it’s not real, you’re making it up”.
My mom guilt is my inner mean girl kicking in telling me I’m not good enough for Calvin and Miles. Miles attitude is because I am getting weak (got forbid it might actually be because he’s a 2 year old), that Calvin is getting anxiety and easily panicking because I’ve taught him to be that way….
So last night as I drove in to go grocery shopping. I checked my recent habits. I realized what was happening. I got groceries. I got home. I took a shower, I ate a dinner at 10pm. I talked. I talked to my supportive, encouraging, and loving fella. Who listened. Who offered advice.
This week I’ve set some goals:
I have an appointment to continue to figure out what’s going on with the pain in my body.
I’m going to talk to my doctor to see if starting therapy back up might be a good idea to manage my anxiety.
I will get my meals ready for the week, and set an alarm on my phone to remind myself to eat during the day.
I will exercise, and if my pain it unbearable that day, I will stretch or take a walk.
I will talk to someone if it gets bad. Instead of picking up a rag and cleaning, I will talk. As much as I don’t want to, I know it’s what’s best.
This isn’t something to be ashamed of. I know that now. It’s taken years, but I know it now. So if someone you know, is seeming distant, talk to them. Listen to them.
It its you….check your habits. Talk to a loved one, or, talk to a therapist. It will get better. It isn’t an easy fix, it’s always a work in progress. But don’t give up on yourself.