Day one: Thankful for Bear’s company

(*Important disclaimer: This list is in no way an order of importance… just various things I’m thankful for!)

ImageBear has worked for his company for about 12 years, slowly and steadily working his way up.  He’s a manager in the company, and has proven his worth as a loyal employee.  The heads of the company are die hard sports fans, and as a perk for the employee, they have season tickets to the local sporting events (Stars, Rangers, and Mavericks mainly) that they give away to their employees.  Through it, we get to attend way more events than we could afford, and in much better seats.  On Friday, we were lucky enough to get the Stars tickets.  It was a great night out for us, and we very much enjoyed it- even though the Stars lost. :)

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Thankfulness

After reading the book, One Thousand Gifts, I’ve loved finding things to be thankful for every day, even when life isn’t going my way.  It keeps me looking for the positive instead of focusing on the negative.  So, I’m going to try and keep track of the things I am thankful for in November.  It may not be daily, and I may not finish, but I’m going to TRY. :)  That’s what counts, right?

A year ago today…

A year ago today, I had my spinal fusion/laminectomy on my L5/S1 that was necessary for me to walk again and get out of the eight weeks of bed rest.  Dr. Bianco promised me that if I had the surgery six weeks before the wedding, I could walk down the aisle.  (He’s since told me that my surgery was one of the scariest ones he has ever done because of the promise he made me and he thanks God every day he didn’t have to break his promise.   The man does BRAIN surgery, people.  That blew me away!)

Well, as we all know, he fulfilled his part of the bargain.  Five weeks and five days later, I walked the greatest walk EVER to the love of my life to become his wife. :)Image

Great story, huh?  I think so.  :) 

But, unfortunately, that’s when the recovery process got rocky.  The preparations for the wedding, wedding, reception, and mini-moon were just too much for my little back to handle and I developed an infection underneath the scar that set me back pretty far and caused me to have to almost start over recovery-wise.  After a rough month or two, I got better and made some huge improvements.

Then I went back to work which sent my back in a tailspin.  (My physical therapists later told me that I should never have gone back to work that early, but I was determined and they didn’t fight me on it.)  So, that set me back a bit, but I pushed through and made progress.

In the fall, I went on a school bus for a field trip and triggered my sciatica and we found out I had sacroiliac joint dysfunction (basically really weak hips that will flare up from time to time) which took a few months to get under control.

Then, on the way home from therapy during Christmas break, a lady ran a stop sign and I was involved in an extremely minor car wreck that, of course, wreaked havoc on my back and set me back a few weeks.

And, then in February, I finally got the diagnosis I knew in my gut I had all along- probably since even before the surgery. Arthritis in my spine.  (Spondyliosis)  So, different meds and interacting with all the doctors to figure out the best treatment.

And, here we are, a year later.  It’s been a tough year with a much, much harder recovery than I ever expected.  But, I’ve made SOOO much progress. I’m still in physical therapy to work on some key areas of weakness, but I’m getting stronger every day.

For example, today in therapy, I:

- lifted weights

- did core work with weights on the balance ball

- did 5 minutes on the stairmaster (I normally do 8-10 minutes, but we increased the weights on my legs and they weren’t having it!  lol.)

All after going up 5-10 flights of stairs and a ton of walking this morning at our school field trip.

That, my friends, is progress. 

So, if you’ve prayed, helped, encouraged, commiserated, or just been in my life this past year, thank you.  Thank you for being there for me during one of the hardest times of my life.

And, though the recovery continues, I’m so glad to see what this back can do.  (Don’t you worry, I’m not going to do anything crazy, but I am going to spend less time in the chair and more time experiencing life!)

“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”- Christopher Robin

 

A year ago today…

A year ago today my back began braking. I reached behind a bookcase to pick up a book that had fallen behind and felt a twinge.  It all went down hill from there. :)  (Although it didn’t break completely until March 31st.)

A year ago today, I thought it was just a rough patch and I’d be good as new in a week.

A year ago today, I didn’t know that grocery stores were places you visited on “good days”.  I didn’t know all the ways to get dressed without pissing off my back.  I didn’t know I’d be in bed for eight weeks, unable to walk without assistance.  I didn’t know I’d have the surgery I so adamantly was against, because it was really my only option.  I didn’t know my future husband would have to be my primary caregiver for 12 months, doing all my laundry, cooking most meals, and all around providing (literal) support when I needed it.  I didn’t know I’d go through two doctors, four MRI’s, one cat scan, countless x-rays and prescriptions, and seven months of rehab just to be where I am now- better than I was before surgery, but nowhere near where I thought I would be seven months post-op. 

It’s hard looking at the year mark and knowing how much more work still needs to be done.  I’ve had many setbacks in this journey:  a car accident (the most recent one we’re dealing with), sacroiliac joint dysfunction, going back to work, and infection in my spine.  (And those are just the ones since the surgery!)  I meet with two doctors tomorrow- one to find out what damage happened from the accident, the other a rheumatologist to see if arthritis might be a factor in all this.  I’m praying for answers and a solution.  I’d love it if I got them all tomorrow, but I know now that it’s a process and answers (and solutions) will take time.  And, yes, I’m frustrated that the healing has taken so long.  I’m frustrated that my life now revolves around how my back “feels”. 

But, throughout this rough patch, I’ve learned a lot of great things, too. 

I’ve learned about what true love was and what it looked like.  Bear and I certainly loved each other before all this, (after all, we were engaged!) but nowhere near as much as now.  The movies and television would have you think that true love is wine and roses, but, for me, true love is the feel of his hand that supports my back when I have trouble getting out of my chair or up an incline, the sound of him cooking me broccoli for dinner even though it’s making him gag, the sight of the remote lying next to my chair because he knows when I get home I collapse.  He’s been my rock, my cheerleader, my confidant, and, the man I always hoped for, but never thought existed.  This could have broken us apart, but instead, it drew us so much closer together.

I’ve learned even more about the power of prayer.  Throughout this experience, I’ve been covered in prayer.  Acquaintances from high school, childhood friends, friends of friends, Sunday school classes, and a ton of other people have covered me in prayer this year.  I even have a prayer blanket that has knots symbolizing different church members prayers over me.  It’s one of my prized possessions now.

I’ve been blessed by the company of a lot of great people and learned that some people care a lot more than i thought.  I needed a lot of help on bed rest, so lots of people came to visit me and help out.  I can’t even describe how grateful I am for them.  Others came over and just sat with me and talked.   They helped with my sanity.  People still drive out of their way to pick me up or drop me off when I’m not up to driving.  I’m so blessed by the people in my life.  They’ve all gone above and beyond this past year.

I’ve learned not to DO so much.  I can’t do it all, and I’ve FINALLY become okay with that. (Well, maybe not every day, but most days I’m okay with it.) I do the best I can with what I can for as long as I can. 

And, lastly, I have learned about the day to day living of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18,

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Have I lived it out perfectly?  Absolutely not.  I’ve had my pity parties, shed my tears, etc.  But, at the beginning of all this, I read that depression and back pain go hand in hand.  I knew I couldn’t necessarily prevent depression, but I could fight it the best I could.  I could actively find the good in each situation I found myself in.  I could focus on the positive, no matter how small. And, so I did my best.  I’d like to think I’ve fought it pretty well, all things considering.  These past few months, I struggled more and I found myself sinking again.  A wise friend suggested I start a gratitude journal, and that has also helped a lot.  It’s helped me remember that there is always, always, ALWAYS something to be thankful for. And, I’m thankful for the process, because it’s reminded me of just how great life can be- even when you’re injured.  :)

Friend making Monday… on Tuesday.

Because that’s how I roll… :)

1. Outside my window I see…lots and lots of rain.

2. My kitchen counters are…grayish/brownish/tanish stone.  It sounds ugly, but it’s really pretty!

3. Yesterday I drank…two cups of coffee (one too many if you ask me) and a lot of flavored water.

4. My cell phone is…okay, but being upgraded to an Iphone in March!!!

5. My computer is…in my lap.  It’s also red, which rocks.

6. My favorite reality show is…Project Runway!

7. My workouts are…nonexistant for the past year… unless you count physical therapy. :)

8. The last book I read is…I think book four of the Green series.  It’s set in Northeast Louisiana which is where I went to school and have a total soft spot for.

9. My week will be….low-key this week. Mainly just trying to make it through.

10.  So far 2013 has been…about the same as 2012.  More health stuff, more worries about my family’s health, but a whole lot of gratitude to be given all the blessings I have.

2012 Reflections

Wow!  Another year completed.  I do these every year, and I love seeing the progression of life and my feelings and thoughts about it. :)  I hope you do, too!

1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year?

Without any hesitation, marrying Bear.  This year has been hard, but there’s still daily moments where I feel like I should pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming.  Our life is not perfect, and neither are we, but we are so happy to have each other and it makes life great.
2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened?

Hands down, the back troubles.  January 13th, I leaned down to pick up a book that fell behind a bookshelf and was injured from that point forth.  It steadily got worse until March 31st, when I sat up from the couch and heard something pop. (Months later, we discovered that was the final break in my back.)  I didn’t walk or sit up for long periods of time again until after my surgery May 22nd.  The time since then has been dealing with recovery amidst too many setbacks (infection, going back to work too early, car accident, sciatica/hip troubles, etc.)
3. What was an unexpected joy this past year?

I never realized how loved I was until this back drama began.  My family, Bear’s family (especially his mom), my church, and my friends supported me in so many ways.  They made a hard situation so much easier.  We are truly blessed. :)

Another unexpected joy was literally walking down the aisle on my wedding day.  Because I couldn’t walk unassisted for about twelve weeks, this was a huge prayer request and worry throughout the injury.  Actually walking down the aisle with my husband, when I wasn’t sure it was possible, with the crowd of people that prayed me through it, was perhaps the single best moment of my life so far.

4. What was an unexpected obstacle?

Brad being sick since October has stretched our family in new ways and made us very aware of just how precious life and family are. We’ve rallied around him and Tambry, and although the battle is not over, I’m glad we’ve been able to get through it together.

5. Pick three words to describe this past year.

back, love, trust

6. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe your year—don’t ask them; guess based on how you think your spouse sees you.

back, marriage, rest
7. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe their past year—again, without asking.

help, marriage, change

8. What were the best books you read this year?

I reread the Hunger Games series in anticipation of the movie, and they’re still the best books I’ve read in a while.

I’m currently reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, and that book is stretching me and nurturing me in a new way, as well.

9. With whom were your most valuable relationships?

Bear, my mom, and the people that helped me while I was on bedrest, especially Bear’s mom, Monica, Marsha, Janie, and Debbie.  They all really went above and beyond and  I will always be grateful for their love and support.

10. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?

Perspective.  Although 2012 in many ways was hell for me, it was also full of blessings.  Bear and I grew closer out of our struggle and fell deeper in love throughout this struggle.  This type stuff could have torn us apart, and we are grateful it didn’t.  I also couldn’t help thinking about the people where this wasn’t a temporary setback for them, but a lifetime of pain and struggle.  It’s opened my eyes to the suffering that is happening around me, when I think I was a bit oblivious before.

Also, during the time my brother was sick, I attended three funerals and the CT shooting happened. It made me so aware of how lucky we were to have Brad alive and, although not yet well, a chance to get better.  Christmas, although strange, was filled with gratitude that he was there, even if in the hospital.

11. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?

I think I’ve become a lot more patient with my emotions.  I’ll give in to the fear, the frustration, the sadness, but then I try to find a way out of it, primarily by thinking of my blessings.  It’s been very helpful.  This too shall pass and it could be worse seem to be my mantras these days. :)

12. In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?

There’s a lot of room for growth here, but I think the best way I grew was seeing God’s perfect timing and the power of prayer.  There were so many times where I couldn’t figure out why this was happening to me, and then it would become clearer weeks/months later. 

13. In what way(s) did you grow physically?

Although I’m still leaps behind where I was when I started the year, I am walking again and am making some progress.  I can work, go to the grocery store, not have to park closest to the store, and go to a store or two in the mall.  I can’t wait to see where I’m at this time next year… hopefully I’ll be back to normal… or at least without chronic pain. :)

14. In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?

In many ways, some of my relationships have suffered greatly this year.  I can’t be the go-go-go person that I was before all this, and my life is a lot more day to day than it’s ever been before.  That hasn’t always been well received from some friends, but the ones that have understood have my heart. :)  It’s a long, hard road and I’m so blessed by the people that have stood by me through it all.

15. What was the most enjoyable part of your work (both professionally and at home)?

Before I stopped working due to my back, I was really questioning whether teaching was for me.  Being forced to step away from it for five months really caused me to do some soul searching, and I think it renewed a passion in me for teaching.

Hands down, the best part about my job is my kids.  They’re sweet, funny, intelligent, helpful, insightful, and just an all around good time.  I will be very sad to see this group of sixth graders go.  They’re truly a delight.

16. What was the most challenging part of your work (both professionally and at home)?

Not being there and then coming back probably sooner than I was ready.  August and September were hard and painful.  Had my kids not been so amazing, I think it would have been even worse.

17. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?

Pinterest or Tiny Tower, I’m sure, but I don’t regret much of it.  It truly kept me sane during the bedrest and recovery period.  I’m more grateful for it than anything.  :)

18. What was the best way you used your time this past year?

As always, the time I spent with my family and friends.  Because of my health, Bear and I had a LOT of quiet nights, but I wouldn’t trade them for the world.  We’ve built a life together that’s sweet and satisfying, even amidst the struggle.

Also, my friends and family continue to be my biggest blessings in my life and time with them is never wasted. :)

19. What was biggest thing you learned this past year?

Comparison is the thief of joy.  There were so many times where I looked at other people and got so jealous because of their adventures, good health, easy wedding stuff, etc that could have driven me bonkers, but I had to concentrate on dealing with what I was given and finding the blessings within my situation.  It really helped.

20. Create a phrase or statement that describes this past year for you.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. :)

Typical day in my life…

Monday- Friday

5:30- alarm goes off.  hit snooze.

6:20ish- panic because I’ve hit snooze for way too long.  Get up and get ready.

7:15- leave house

7:45-3:15- teach!

3:15- 4:15- get stuff done.

4:15- leave for therapy

4:45- arrive for therapy.  Change into swimsuit and get on aquatic treadmill and stretch.  Then get out of swimsuit and do land stretches (fully clothed.)

6:30- leave and head home.  Pray I can walk.

6:45- Collapse into chair and bat eyelashes at husband in hopes that he cooks.  He usually does, because he’s amazing.

7:15- eat… hopefully while watching Once Upon a Time and/or How I Met Your Mother.

10:30- begin getting ready for bed.

11:15-11:30ish- asleep. :)

10 people who have influenced me.

  1. Jesus.  As corny as it sounds, I do think of what He would do in a situation I’m struggling in, and I try to go with what I think he would  do.  He’s my #1 influencer, and his scripture helps me more than I can say.  I’m so thankful for scripture, especially the ones I’ve put to memory.
  2. My mom- she’s like my Jiminy Cricket.  I hear her voice inside my head more than any others. :)  She’s also my best friend.  We’ve had to navigate this whole “leavin’ and cleavin’ ” thing this past year, but I think we’ve found a healthy balance.  She’s one of my favorite people, and I know what my momma’s gonna think about most things before I ever ask her opinion.
  3. My daddy.  He teaches me to be more giving.  He gives himself until he doesn’t have anything left to give, and then he gives some  more.  Although I think he does need to learn to say NO more often, I still think he’s an amazing, giving person, and I want to be more like him.
  4. My husband. :)  His unique view of the world and passion to be a better person inspires me.  He’s also so giving and caring.  I can learn a lot from him.
  5. My FCS teachers, especially Mrs. Tuten and Dr. Camp.  These guys can be my Jiminy Cricket’s, too, especially in regards to relationships.  I think of all the conversations I had with Dr. Camp and Mrs. T inside and outside the classroom, and, even 8 years out of college, their wisdom and guidance still stick in my mind.
  6. My godparents, especially my godmothers.  They really should be called my fairy godmothers, because they are that fantastic.  They each have their own unique passions, but I love their view of the world and advice that they dole out.  They, along with their husbands, are a huge part of who I am.
  7. My college minister, Scott.  He was a huge influence in my life in college, and I still hear his passions and encouragement when I’m seeking God’s will over something.
  8. Dr. Christopher, my graduate advisor and professor.  Dr. C has a passion for giftedness and a passion for her students.  She never, ever let me get away with giving anything less than my best and she helped build a passion I didn’t even know I had.  She nearly killed me at times with her high expectations, but I’m so much of a better teacher and person because of it.
  9. My friends.  I can’t just name one or two, because they all have been huge influences.  Whether it’s been how to survive unspeakable tragedies, learning to love yourself- flaws and all, following your heart, or just plain old relationship advice, their influence and acceptance of me makes me a better person.
  10. My students.  They’re amazing.  Children are truly a gift, and their insight and view of the world is something that challenges me on a daily basis.  This crop of students this year is one of the naturally sweetest group of kids I’ve ever encountered.  They ask me about my back on a daily basis, worry about my brother’s health, and genuinely love me and the rest of the students.  They’re a sweet, special group and I’m lucky to be their teacher.