Punctuation, Anniversaries, and End of Life

I am a bit of a grammar nerd. It hasn’t manifested itself yet into a love of sentence diagramming, and I doubt that it ever will, but I do place great value on proper punctuation and magnificent word choice that can make plain and simple text come alive. These little bits of dots, commas, apostrophes, and lines should not be taken lightly, for their application can totally change the premise of a sentence.

Take for instance this classic example of comma usage: “Let’s eat Momma” or “Let’s eat, Momma” have two entirely different meanings. The first is asking for mom to be ON the dinner plate AS the feast, while the latter is requesting her to join you IN dinner by taking a plate and eating the feast as well. One small little swish of a pen or press of a keyboard button makes an adaptation to the sentence that can alter everything.

A little over a week ago, there was an event at church, and I couldn’t remember if lunch was provided for the kiddos in childcare or not. I texted a friend that was in charge and asked “Do I need to pack a lunch for my boys?” Brooke kindly replied “No, food is provided.” In the midst of busy morning, I gave the text a hasty read and quickly began packing lunches, cause after all, “No food is provided.” Turns out I, the English nerd, didn’t take proper notice of the comma she typed. No, accompanied by a comma, means I didn’t need to pack a lunch, cause one would be provided. When my kiddos showed up with their thermals, it all sorta clicked with me on my critical misread.

Punctuation matters, you see.

Commas aren’t the only critical elements. There are colons, semi-colons, even just a simple period. None seem overly important, but when you try to read a piece of writing where none exist, you realize that them being there is essential. If you don’t have any personal experience with such, just trust me on this one, for I have graded enough essays that have missed the mark in these concepts. It’s simply maddening.

I often teach the rules of punctuation in my classroom, yes even the collegiate one, especially the elements that are most easily confused and misused. The period, called a full-stop by the British, is where you stop reading and complete a sentence. Most can handle this one. Frequently avoided or misused due to lack of knowing how to have the right application is the semi-colon. This little gem works to combine two sentences together. When a sentence could have ended, it doesn’t; details continue on thanks to the punctuation combining with more details. Typically this element is applied in order to create a stronger, more effective sentence.


A year ago today, my life could have very well ended
. I blacked out. I wrecked. I was life flighted to the ER. A year ago today, the baby that was in my womb could have very well ceased to exist any more. Instead, today, I look at a beautiful 6 month old child, healthy and happy, even if a bit drooly from some teething. One year ago, on August 19th, my life could have been a period, ending with no continuation. Grammatically speaking, I could have been a “full stop.” Fortunately, God did not see it fit to call me home, and I was allowed a semi-colon; a possibility for things to end existed but ultimately I was given a continuation. I even have a scar on the middle of my chest, formed by shards of glass and the seatbelt, that oddly enough resemble a semi-colon when I look down at it: a small dot on top with a swoosh underneath.

I have more life to live.

This day has been on the horizon for me, a day I emotionally welcomed yet dreaded, a year anniversary of one of the most life-changing, miraculous, and yet scariest days of my life. At one point I had plans to try and fly in a helicopter, since my first experience in one was a vague memory of floating between consciousness and unconsciousness, restrained by a neck brace and an IV. With life’s craziness though, that idea seemed less of a potential. Sometimes I envisioned being alone on this day, reflective and worshipful; I had big plans to cry.

Yet, a bit unexpectedly, Mom’s sickness and cancer battle suddenly was expedited towards its close. That day definitely trumps the impact of this one. She didn’t get a semi-colon, she got a period, a full-stop. My mom died, sooner than a year after her diagnosis. Just like that, her sentence was over. Period.

Or, maybe not.

There is this one element of punctuation called an ellipsis. Often the ellipsis is used in informal writing to show that the thought has been left a little unfinished, not fully ended or complete. The sentence doesn’t continue on like it would if graced with a semi-colon. The sentence doesn’t end like it would if bestowed a period. It instead trails off, in a series of dots to represent the ongoing nature of the idea.

Mom, being a believer in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross, had hope of an afterlife, a better place to call home. Her passing isn’t as simple as a full-stop period, nor is it a physical continuation here on earth like a semi-colon might provide. Now, rather, she operates with an elliptic life, one that has trailed off from here on earth only to continue more in heaven, free from suffering and pain. My momma knew of the Everlasting Life that can only be found in God and a life lived in Him.

Although I mourn that there is not time with her here, I rejoice that I will have time with her there….

Graduation/Pinning Ceremony!

As most all of you know, Thomas has been in an intense graduate degree program with a first year emphasis outside of his general scope of knowledge from his bachelor and master’s degree. The second year of school focused on his primary interest but was rigorous and time consuming. Most of these type of programs recommend and highly suggest that you do not work but rather just attend school, study, write papers, perform clinical rotations, and matters of the like, all school oriented. Thomas, however, not just worked but was crazy enough to begin his very own business at the same time of enrollment. He maintained a thriving, successful practice, while at the same time succeeding in his coursework. This, my friends, would make him exemplary enough by most all standards. Many people I have heard of and know have ceased such programs of study based off much less criteria. It’s just that hard, folks.

Our little family at Thomas's BIG day!

Our little family at Thomas’s BIG day!

 

 

And, of course, our family did not stop there. We managed to have a series of trials during his first year, and absolutely unprecedented difficulties and circumstances during his second year of school. Between my hospitalization, which occurred the first week of his second year, causing him to miss the first “block” of graduate classes for his Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Program. My first week home with a wired jaw was his week to take the NCLEX nursing exam. That was also the same week we found out my mom had cancer, thus beginning her series of hospitalizations, chemo and radiation appointments, as well as doctor visits, many of which Thomas attend as way of support and knowledge base. Oh…..and we added a daughter to our family as well! Again, many have given up and quit programs of this intensity over much, much less, so his endurance and success proves him to be a caliber above most others. He also managed to complete the course criteria at one of the most prestigious colleges in our state, and the country for that matter, Vanderbilt University.

So, when last Friday marked the end of his academic pursuit of this degree, I cried when he got home, as I hugged his neck. When Sunday came, the time for his pinning ceremony, an event to honor and acknowledge nursing students with a special pin that is reflective of their school and study, I was a bit emotional for the capstone moment it represented.

 

 

Thomas got fancied up and looked quite handsome and really stood out from the rest of the 250 students (especially as one of the 13 males in the program).

The GRADUATE!

The GRADUATE (pre-pinning)

 

The GRADUATE (post-pinning)

The GRADUATE (post-pinning)

Family joined us at the event for the big day and then even more joined us after for a spaghetti celebration at a local restaurant. It was a good time together, enjoying Thomas.

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Family— our support network the past 2 years!

Thomas's proud parents, who were very supportive to us during this journey!

Thomas’s proud parents, who were very supportive to us during this journey!

Thomas and my mom, who likely should have stayed at home but knew that she didn't want to miss his moment for anything so she came anyway (and forced him to take a selfie with her to prove she survived the event)

Thomas and my mom, who likely should have stayed at home but knew that she didn’t want to miss his moment for anything so she came anyway (and forced him to take a selfie with her to prove she survived the event)

Now, with just one more test to go (a licensure exam), Thomas is ready to take his private practice as a Mental Health Therapist to the next level. He will also be teaching some clinical courses for a local university at a psychiatric hospital/unit. Additionally, he is entertaining offers from various other companies for some part time work, looking to find the best fit for him and our family in the process.

It is such a huge sigh of relief to have him through this program. The intensity for him and our family has been much, but we’re glad to see him walk this path to fulfillment. I know, full well, that his dedication, wisdom, and knowledge will not go without favor and promise for him and our family in the years to come. Babe, I am so proud of you, I shall now call you by all your initials, my sweet RN, MA, MSN, LPC-MHSP, PMHNP, BC  (how’s that for a signature??!!)

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Being pinned by the Dean of Nursing as VU.

When Someone You Love Is Sick….

When someone you love is sick, like long term sick, it sucks. Some of you have the non-privliedge of knowing such. For that fact, I’m sorry. If that is the case, you will read this and likely agree with much of what I write, and you will perhaps have something even more to contribute. If you haven’t really had someone you love dearly be seriously sick, but someone you know has someone that he/she loves that is sick, well, this post is for you. This is what those people in your life that are managing a sick parent/child/spouse want from you……or so I think…..

My mom is sick; she has cancer, stage 4., along with some other medical conditions that affect her overall well being. I’ve not really made note of it in the blog world. I’ve mentioned a thing or two on Facebook. Many people local to where we live are aware of her condition/diagnosis. With that point in mind, I wanted to share some things that I have learned since her diagnosis in August of 2013, just a week after my wreck and wiring of my jaw.

1. Limit questions.

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Mom’s fresh cut.

One of mom’s biggest issues at the start was that she would be asked questions. “What kind of cancer is it?” “How long did they say you should live?” “When do you expect to lose your hair?” and any other potential inquisitive line of thought that might enter someone’s mind. She’s a private person, more often than not, so potential questions made her worry. At first, those opportunities made her want to skip out on events. In September of 2013, just a few weeks after her devastating news, she tried to skip out on a local street fair because she “didn’t want to talk to people about it.” That was when I was in full wired jaw and no driving mode, so ultimately she decided to go, just so the kids and I would have a ride there since Thomas was working. At that point in time, my news was more readily known, so people were asking ME questions about ME, and I responded via wired jaws. At the close of the day, I told mom, “and you were afraid people would ask YOU questions!” Regardless, she held tight to this question fear. Before her first chemo, I posted a picture of us together on Facebook, from the day we preemptively cut her hair short, full of expectation that it would soon fall out. FB friends near and far pulled through in a resounding way that day. There were hundreds of comments and likes on that single picture. Before she went back for her infusion, I clicked on the comment portion, loading them all for her view. As her eyes filled with tears I said to her “Read them mom. All of them. Each one. There are over 100 comments there mom. And guess what……not one asks you what kind of cancer. No questions, just love and prayers.”

2. Avoid Texts/Calls/Emails That Require Action

For some reason, the whole community in which I live and everyone that I’ve ever been related to seems to have my cell number. If they somehow missed out on those phone digits, they seem to have FB access through which they can send messages. Now, don’t get me wrong, this is totally amazing. I love connecting with people, and I love knowing that people care about her and my family. One thing that is sometimes exhausting though is navigating and managing the needed replies. Often, I know you are just checking up on her and me, that everything is spawning from a good intention. When you ask a question, however, you are by default asking for a response. This then requires action from me. Now, I have a few select friends that I expect questions from about her, cause they are my places of refuge to vent and worry and cry if needed. Outside of those few people, it becomes overwhelming, even when it comes from the right place.

So, rather than text me “How is your mom? Is she feeling well? When is her next chemo?” try phrasing things like this instead: “Praying for your mom today! Hope she is feeling well. May her next chemo go smoothly!” Do you see the difference there? It’s subtle really, but one means I *have* to respond, cause you asked a question. The other means I *can* respond but it’s not inherently necessary. And check this out…..the same reply can be given for both: “Mom has had two good days! We go back to the doctor next week.” So, if I feel like responding, have time to respond, or manage to remember to respond, I can do it! If I don’t, just know the message was received and appreciated, but since no question was asked, no response is required. Same premise applies to voicemails: “Just checking up on your momma!  Praying for a good day for her!”

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All of us before mom’s first chemo treatment.

3. Don’t Ask or Offer, Just Do

People want to help her. People want to help me. I want people to help her, and believe it friends, I want people to help me! It’s been an incredibly stressful time. There aren’t really words to put into perspective how challenging the past near year has been for my family. I’ve had 4 surgeries since August 2013. There has been a stint of physical therapy and a full 6 months of no driving. I’ve added an baby girl to my family. Mom has had chemo treatments, radiation treatments, surgery, a stroke, and two hospital stays. not to mention multiple and reoccurring scans, tests, blood draws and doctor appointments. At one point, I foolishly pondered how many times Hazel had visited the hospital since her birth, and she had averaged about 3 visits a week for her first 4 months of life. It makes my brain spin. So, when you ask me “What does your mom need? How can I help?” my reply tends to be “prayers!” Now, that is a fully true response, cause she and my family do need them, rest assured. But often I just can’t remember immediately. When you say “Let me know if I can help watch the kids!” I appreciate that more than you know. However, when it comes time for the kids to be watched, sometimes I forget who said they could/would, cause I am operating in a brain fog.

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Hazel visiting her Grandma in the hospital.

 

The alternative? Command it/Schedule it/Provide It. Here are some examples of what I mean in action, two of which are from my in-laws, one from a friend:

Soon after mom’s diagnosis, my Mother-in-law gave my mom a gift card to Olive Garden. And guess who else she gave one to as well…..did you guess???….she gave one to me. Do you know what she did there? She arranged time for me to be with my mom by giving us both gift cards for food. At the time, it was even more thoughtful, cause my jaws were just unwired and I needed soft food only, which pasta could provide. She took a meal prep off my hands and off my mom’s. Perfect indeed.

After mom was most recently hospitalized, my Mother-in-law and Father-in-law came down to the house for a full Saturday so I could go and be with mom without having to juggle childcare for Daniel and Wesley. By the time the week was coming to a close, I felt like I had already tapped into all my resources. They didn’t ask to do this, they just said they were coming, even if mom was discharged. They wanted me to have a break. Mom ended up going home that day, and Hazel and I brought her from the hospital to her home and then we traveled back to my home. Once there, my in-laws began to pack up for their hour and a half drive home. As I walked them out to the car, I had a little melt-down. I was five streps past exhausted. They hugged me, encouraged me, and offered to stay longer, until Thomas got off work. I told them it was fine, I would go for a walk with the boys and then put them to bed early. In a completely uncharacteristic move, my mother-in-law takes Hazel from my arms and says, “I’ll hold the baby. You go for that walk–or a run–all by yourself!” Running is a major stress relief for me, and as a mom to three, it is hard to manage logging miles these days. “I’ll be back in 23 minutes or less!” I told her, cause I knew how long it would take me to run the route I had in mind. They had action, which lead to relief for me.

So,  “Let me know if I can watch the kids!” can become, “I would like to watch the kids on Thursday for a few hours” (my cousin Leitte is actually pretty spectacular at this one!). “If I can make a meal, let me know!” transitions to “Wednesday night I will bring chicken soup to you for your mom.” It’s action, and all I have to do is receive it, not think about it. Does that make sense?

10514904_10204467142497988_1158381533_nHere is the final example……a gifted photographer friend from church, Michelle, told me that she would like to take pictures for us. I was floored folks, cause she is talented, and I know taking pictures and editing them takes time. That’s not the kind of trait you just give away……unless you are looking to bless someone tremendously, a person who doesn’t know how many family portrait years might be left. My brother John was in town for a few days, and despite mom not feeling the greatest, she got spiffy looking and we all went across the street to the farmland across from my house. Michelle put forth her best effort and captured some beautiful moments of Grandma with Grandkids, Mom with each kid, My family all together. This was something that I didn’t even have on my radar, but someone told me “This is what I am willing to do…..let’s do it!” and we did! The results are pretty stellar considering the circumstances.

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10510297_10204467142457987_31182829_n4. PRAY & Encourage

The power of prayers has sustained me so much the past few months. Sometimes, I knew that the Holy Spirit was keeping up the promise to intercede for me when all I could manage was groans in my spirit. I never want to minimize this part in the process, and I will never think that you are sitting idly beside as we manage if all you do is pray. Without prayer, I would certainly be lost. May you not stop, but increase, your prayers for my mom. She needs them on the good days and on the bad. We need them when healthy, but most definitely when sick. Encourage her and encourage me in this process, for I feel like it is becoming very easy to grow wary and weary of what is to come. Point us all towards God’s glory.

Please know I don’t write this to then expect you to do these things specifically for me and my family. I write this cause I feel like often we don’t know what to do for others, so with a shot in the dark, we throw something out there. Sometimes, we stifle what God wants us to do for fear of doing the wrong thing. I want to welcome you to move on behalf of Christ, to be his hands and feet, to those near you that need comfort, whether that be me, my mom, or someone else. Just be a blessing. 

 

VBS : Summer Jam 2014

The second week in June our church had our annual Summer Jam event, otherwise known to most as Vacation Bible School.

Last year I was in my early stages of pregnancy and not sharing the news yet. I was the flag football leader and the weather was blazing hot every single day. This year, my baby was in my arms and 3 months old! The weather was much cooler and rained several days, and I worked with 2nd graders all week in order to have the ability to step away and nurse Hazel whenever she needed it.

 

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I was a leader for the basketball group of 2nd grade boys (we had at most 61 kids, so we had to break them all up into small, manageable numbers, and their track time groups were the best choice). It was such a surprisingly good time being with them all week. I enjoyed getting a glimpse into what another year of life will bring my Daniel to developmentally and emotionally. By the end of the week, I had one with a full on crush for me, although he was under the impression I was 21. He obviously got quite a bit wrong in that area. We played quite a bit of basketball, and I can’t tell you how crazy odd it felt for me to be the tall one on the court :)

 

We all had a bit of a rough week too though, cause as I said several times that week: “ain’t no tired like VBS tired.” Anyone who has ever devoted time to the VBS cause will most certainly amen that statement. Tears were a little easier to come by for Wesley and Hazel took some long afternoon naps due to sleeping a little less in her nursery room with her lovely teachers.

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Wesley actually had his birthday the week of Summer Jam and the preschool minister really made him special on the day, just like she did last year. They sang to him, which had a big impact of happiness and embarrassment.

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Daniel, being school aged, got to choose an event to participate in for the week, and his event was archery again this year. At first there was a little glitch that had him in a different week event and he was a little heartbroken. Fortunately, it was made right and he got his choice of archery. He even hit the target about 5 times this year, which made him extremely proud.

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It was very different committing the time to help while having an infant, but I am so happy to say Hazel was pleasant and happy each day. I was glued to my phone waiting for the “Hazel is ready to eat!!” Text that came right around it’s predicted time daily. Fortunately I was always able to get to her working just a few minutes while another adult stepped in briefly to my spot so I could nurse. (Side note: My shirt is intentionally inside out in this photo. It was inside out day, where we learned about being changed from the inside out due to a relationship with Christ, as noted in Romans 12)

 

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All of the wonderful pictures were taken by my friends Kelley (pictured) and Michelle. They are both super fab photographers. All the normal looking pictures were taken by me :)

 

 

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