He Fought the Foam Roller…..and the Foam Roller Won

Wednesday we went out to eat to celebrate Thomas’s birthday. It isn’t until next week, but the kiddos and I have plans to go out of town to visit a friend in Florida for “spring” break, so an early celebration was the plan. When we got home, the boys were taking turns helping Thomas build his birthday present, a new Lego set. While one sat at the table with Daddy, the other hung out in the living room. I was prepping to nurse Hazel and put her in bed. As I went to walk into our bedroom to change into comfy clothes, I saw Wesley playing on a foam roller that I had left in the living room. And since some people have asked me, “what’s a foam roller?” I present to you the object of Wesley’s demise, put next to a baby’s board book to show its non-intimidating scale: IMG_4861 Note that it is smaller in height than the board book , maybe about 3 inches off the ground. Foam rollers are good for rolling out sore muscles from a run or a workout. I was using this the other day because I had read an article on how it helps your posture when you do certain exercises, and as a person with a hunchback tendency, I was wanting to give it a try. Afterwards, I did not take it back to the garage. I told Wesley, “Please do not play on that son; it is not a toy!” as I walked away. Less than a minute later, I hear Wesley say, “Daddy, I want to go to bed. Now.” Thomas asked why, to which Wesley replied, “I just do. I want to go to bed.” Thomas said it was okay, and Wesley headed to put up his shoes. As he walked by, I asked him if he was okay, and he immediately said, “Yes, but I just want to go to bed.” My momma radar went off. I squatted down and said “Wesley, if you hurt yourself on the thing Momma told you not to be on, you need to tell me. You will not get in trouble.” His voice began to crack a little as he told me yes, his arm hurt. Thomas began assessing, in full nurse mode. Wesley could do most of the things he asked him to do. Everywhere Thomas touched Wesley said it mostly didn’t hurt. He begged again to go to bed. I tried to get him to choose a pain scale face, but he refused. We allowed him to go to his room. After he walked away, Thomas and I shared “that look” with one another, the one that says “everything isn’t okay.” I asked Thomas to go back upstairs to check more. As Thomas ascended the stairs, the wailing from Wesley started. He didn’t want to move his arm. He would not pick it up off the bed. He said it hurt so much. He would not put it in a scarf, as a make shift sling. He didn’t want to sit in Momma’s lap. He just cried big tears that soaked his pillow. My suspicion was that he had rolled on the roller, as I had seen him doing, arms on it, arms extended out, and that perhaps he had at least hyperextended it, if not broke it. He couldn’t remember exactly what he was doing when he hurt it, but I know he wasn’t standing on it and jumping. That said, he had fallen less than three inches. We decided to take him to the ER. Thomas said he would go alone, but I didn’t want to stay away from my baby boy during this time, so we called up some friends, Michael and Kelley, and they agreed to watch Hazel and Daniel while we went to get things x-rayed. On the way, Thomas told me where he suspected it was broken (which turns out, he was right!). As we journeyed the interstate, we were traveling in rain, which was planned to convert to snow and ice as the hours passed. Jokingly I said  “Well, we sure know how to do it big…..broken arm in an ice storm!” Thomas chimed in with, “We could have taken an ambulance!” Next, we both said “Or a helicopter!” and followed it up with a few chuckles. By now Wesley had ceased crying and had actually fallen asleep.

After this point, he never cried again! At the ER, Thomas was checked-in and sent back with Wesley before I could even park and get inside. Turns out, when “ice storm” is called for, no one really goes to the ER for those minor things, such as a sore throat and cough, that tend to clog up the efficiency. As we waited and Wesley watched cartoons on the TV, a nice and unsuspecting lady came to get our insurance information. As we rattled off Socials and phone numbers, she asked, “Can I please have the name and phone number of a person outside of the house that can be contacted if needed?” At this point, I put my head down and started to cry, for my instincts had led me to start saying my mom’s name. Thomas rubbed my back and explained to the poor lady how my mom would have been our response but that she recently passed away, and that this moment had taken me off guard. She apologized profusely, while I reassured her it was okay and there was no way should could have know.

A few X-rays later, the doctor came in to deliver the news, as we suspected, of a broken bone. We asked some questions that yielded us a “Are you two in the medical profession?” Thomas said, “Yes, I am an Nurse Practitioner” and I just added “No, but I suppose I am just a person who breaks a lot of bones!”  What we didn’t suspect was that they wanted to keep him overnight and perform surgery first thing in the morning! Being that we were in one car, kiddos separated from parents, with the winter weather in progress, it was a bit problematic. Since I am still a milk maker for the baby and Thomas is more medical, we opted for him to stay and for me to go. I drove home easily in the weather, even at 11PM, but ice was forming on the door handles and the gas pump that I had to use to fill up my tank. We all settled in for sleep at home and hospital.

This morning, I awoke to this: IMG_4851

What isn’t covered in the snow is actually covered in ice. I don’t really have the confidence to drive my mini-van with my two other kiddos in this. Thomas has a Land Rover, which would travel nicely, plus he feels comfortable in this mess, but he was at the hospital, watching Wesley get prepped for surgery….without a way home! The TV newscasters were begging and urging people to stay home. Visuals of the interstate were pretty nasty. I then began operation “find someone brave enough to drive and kind enough to do it.”Turns out I didn’t have to look too far! Our friends Randy and Tracy, who have been such blessings to us before, especially after my accident, offered.

Wesley’s surgery lasted less than an hour. The pin in his arm was needed because the break was a “floating break,” which would serve to have issues in healing correctly if just casted. The surgery was considered quite simple and very common, so we felt comfortable with the process. The pin is partially internal and partially external in one small place, so at removal time, they will just pull it out. The thought of that hurts my stomach more than the fact he broke his arm. IMG_4855

IMG_4854He chose a camo cast! When they had told him at the ER that he was going to get IMG_4856one, he initially wanted black. I asked if he even knew what a cast was, and he replied with a hearty “YES!” “Is it soft? Does it come off?” I questioned, to which he replied again with a hearty “Yes!” Poor fella. He was in for a bit of a wake up call when he awoke with a cast from fingers to right near shoulder on his right arm. By the way, he is right handed. Thomas said everything went super smoothly. It was very hard to be away from him while he had SURGERY! But I knew it was the facts of how things had to be. He was in good hands at one of the best hospitals around, not to mention being with that amazing hubby of mine! Around 10:30 AM Thomas updated people and said: “We are on our way home. We have one broken humerus (at the elbow), one pin, a camouflage cast, and 2 fresh cherry icees for himself and his brother. Thanks for the thoughts and prayers.” They were delivered home by our friends by noon! IMG_4857 So, in one week we go for an initial follow up appointment. In 2-3 weeks, he will go to have the pin removed, at which point he will be re-casted for another 2-3 weeks, depending on healing. He is not suppose to get the cast wet, so we are planning to borrow from a cousin a waterproof cast cover for bathing and such.

As of now, our plan is to still go to Florida for our visit. This momma needs some sunshine, beach time, friend time, and hopefully some sanity saving adventures.

I just can’t believe how fast it all happened and how smoothly it went, all things considered. I have never thought differently, but this is just another one of the many circumstances that have happened in the past few years where I am reminded of how stinkin’ blessed I am to have some of the very best friends, church family, and real family. It is just amazing. Tons of texts, lots of calls, messages of all sorts have been sent to check on him. So many are concerned for us. When our senior pastor called to check in, we discussed how wonderful being a part of a body of believers is for your well-being, in good times and in bad. Thanks so much for every prayer, all the offers, the kiddo watching, and ESPECIALLY the driving to Nashville in the ice and snow! Thomas and I, as well as one very special, precious and extremely tough 5 year old are very grateful.

All Ice, Little Snow, Lots of Family

We have had quite the winter weather here lately! Rather than being all snow, it was mainly ice, so life sorta shut down for a few days. For a whole week, we didn’t travel anywhere by car (other than the short trip up the street in Thomas’s car to go sledding, which you can see below—oh and guess who tumbled–me!). Thomas didn’t go into work one day, he had no patients show another day, and a very low number make appointments on a third day. Schools have been out for 5 days so far, and tomorrow’s attendance is a bit questionable.

4 go sledding. Only one tumbles. #toobaditwasme #icestorm #wewantedsnow

A video posted by Summer V (@vremmus) on

It is times like this I am grateful for the neighborhood feel and community I have right around me. I took soup and baked goods to two single people near us. We had two sets of neighbors come over and play, we rode the 4 wheeler and went sledding with another set of neighbor friends. Being a bit “stuck” has brought back big reminders of what it was like when I was without a car and on driving restriction not too long ago! All in all, however, the brief visits with friends have made the cold and yuck more bearable. In the middle of it all, Hazel had her first birthday, so we ate clean pumpkin muffins with an adapted version of this cream cheese frosting, which was an amazing combo (thanks Pinterest!). I did venture out on Friday for Hazel’s 1 year check-up and to eat at Cracker Barrel, but that afternoon the weather brought another dose.

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I’ve loved having the kids home, Thomas being “off” a bit, taking it easy, wearing layers of comfy clothes, eating lots of soups (like this clean eating sweet potato chili, which I adapted slightly but everyone loved, along with vegetable and potato soups–yum!), making baked goods (like those muffins above and this clean paleo banana bread) , and matters of the like, but I am ready for spring! Things *are* thawing out, and I did manage to run 5 miles yesterday, since our road wasn’t a full sheet of ice in both directions finally. Just holding on a bit more until warmer days!

One Full Year

Right around noon today, our sweet Hazel will have officially been in our lives for one full year.

Today is truly something special.

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Hazel, we are so glad God decided to let us have you, and that he saw fit to let us keep you, even when the odds said you shouldn’t have survived momma’s wreck. Even without that fact, you would be an amazing daughter, but there is truly something special about you, dear one. You are a fierce little girl that will overcome anything. Your laugh is infectious, and your curiosity is exhausting. We can’t believe how much you have grown and changed in one year’s time, from hair to bald to hair again, and everything growth change in between. You are the first child of ours to walk before her first birthday, even if still a bit shaky, and honestly that comes as no surprise. Likely you will always be a trailblazer. There is so much love for you little girl, from those near and those far, those present and those gone. Your story has only begun and it is already a lovely one. We can’t wait to see what the next chapters hold, but please go a little slower as you fill up the pages :)

hazel collage 1 hazel collage 2IMG_7478 IMG_7645 IMG_7668*Very pretty photo credits go to our two photographer friends from college, Simply M Photography and Alison Weakley Photography. 

Currently, at 11 months

I haven’t tracked her growth and development enough, but life has been keeping pretty busy. I am just glad I am getting this one done! It’s true though, Hazel is 11 months old. You can now insert the following phrases into your mind, cause I am sure you are thinking them already:

“That can’t be right!”


“That was fast!”

And it’s all true….. super fast indeed.

Bless this sweet baby! We are glad she is ours, but I can say we would be even more thrilled to call her ours is she slept through the night. Just sayin’


IMG_4379Currently, at her ripe ol’ age of 11 months, she is able to stand without holding on to anything, but I have yet to see her go from sitting to standing on her own. Hazel can also cruise and crawl her way into anything and everything. Earlier this month, Thomas sent me this picture with the words “The peace has ended”

Besides now having to block off the steps, we have also put a baby lock on the kitchen cabinet doors under the sink. We have to close the bathroom door or be sure the toilet lid is down, cause splashing in the water makes her happy, even if it is gross. If the dishwasher is open, or in the process of being open, she desires to be right in the middle of that action, reaching for a knife or rubbing her hands all over a ketchup covered plate. The other day, I was determined to unload the dishwasher while she was awake rather than asleep. I came up with a plan to turn on the TV for the very first time for just her, complete with a PBS kid cartoon. She was watching so diligently and was enthralled. I left the room, opened the dishwasher, and then Hazel jetted straight towards me. I closed it back up and turned the TV off, plan completely thwarted.

2015/01/img_4325.jpgShe finally loves something besides nursing. One of her favorite foods seems to be boiled eggs. I currently boil several at a time to use for a few days, and then I just cut up the whites into tiny pieces for her. As she eats them, you can hear her say “yum, yum yum….mmmmmm…yum yum….mmmmm.” She’s obviously a fan! Other goodies that she eats are applesauce pouches, yogurt drops, black beans, and oranges (she sucks the juice and then spits out what is left). She will try just about anything we are eating that I put in front of her. It was a long process it seems to get her to enjoy any sort of solid, but once she decided she was going to eat, she just took off!2015/01/img_4246.jpg

2015/01/img_4216.jpgAt 11 months, she has 1/2 of one tooth. I don’t honestly remember off hand when the boys got their first tooth or when they got the rest, but I am very certain it was sooner than this. Hazel is working to add three more to the count though, so soon enough they will push through a little. (you can see the one little white spot in the picture below)


When it comes to her brothers, she is in love. They make her laugh by blowing her her belly. They read her books, track down her paci at bedtime and naptime, and generally just dote on her. We’re still working on the fact that they can’t leave anything out or she will destroy it, albeit unintentionally. We’ve had a Pokemon card or two meet their untimely demise due to this fact.

2015/01/img_4203.jpgOne of her favorite activities is to take stuff out of where they are. Markers out of the marker bin. Items out of her diaper bag. Her cloth diapers out of her diaper holder. Kleenex out of the box. You know, typical tasks for her age. (Important side note: we are extremely proud of her double crowns, which create a spiky mohawk in the back. We have Thomas to thank for this great phenomena. Fortunately, she is a girl, so her hair will one day grow long and this will become flat.) 2015/01/img_4353.jpg She also likes running with me. I am also thrilled that she will cooperate so nicely in the running stroller. It’s obviously way too cold to have her out much, but we had some unseasonably warm days and I took to the road with her. She was so peaceful, still, and quiet each time that I would have bet money that she was asleep. Turns out, she was just happy.


Just the other day, she got to touch her first round of snow! We only went out for a second, mainly to just take the picture. THe snow was wet and cold and Hazel was less than thrilled with it. 2015/01/img_4336.jpgFortunately, Hazel will allow just about anyone to hold her or take care of her. I know that might alter soon as her development changes, but for now it is helpful. There might be a tear or two, but she quickly can be distracted so momma can run off to Bible study or to teach the youth at church. I’ve had a few friends watch her here and there, and they speak on how sweet and good she is when they watch her. I am grateful that is the case, cause it has allowed me and Thomas to take a date night or allowed me to complete a task kid free.

Next month, she’ll be a year, so I better savor these last few weeks before it’s official and she is an age that is not counted in months!2015/01/img_4163.jpg

2015, A New Year to Find the Light

It’s 2015 folks! Crazy, right?

Turns out, it’s actually a whole 11 days into this new year, ELEVEN! How on earth did that happen already?

I can honestly say that these days have dragged on but also flown bye. It’s so weird to think such a drastic dichotomy can exist in a single day, but alas it does.

Day one of 2015, I spent a little over an hour crying on and off. We were on our way out of town to visit Thomas’s family to celebrate Christmas, which is a good thing, but my heart was so heavy. I kept fighting back tears while riding in the passenger seat, and when I couldn’t hold them in any longer and some began to fall, I completely took Thomas off guard.

Silently, he just grabbed my hand and held it for a little bit. Then, when the tears continued, he gently asked, “What’s wrong babe?”

“It’s the new year. It’s 2015. This is the first year where I won’t have any memories with my mom. She won’t be a part of anything we do this year.”

And there isn’t really anything to say back to that, so he just held my hand and let me cry. I was thankful the boys were behind me where they couldn’t see and that Hazel was asleep.

So that was day one of the year. After that, I began to take the majority lead of prepping my mom’s house to put on the market. At one point, my brother thought that he would want it, but after seeing what the market is like, noting it’s a house of large square footage and he has a solo state (read no wife, no kids), and his 100% travel job, he figured 2 acres wouldn’t be a good fit either. My other brother lives thousands of miles away, so he didn’t desire my mom’s house, and I just don’t have a heart that wants to live there……so selling the house it is.

That conclusion lead to about four solid days where I did absolutely nothing but clean out her house (more days have occurred and more exist, but these are the number where I did absolutely nothing else but clean out). I sat down only to nurse my baby and to drive junk to Goodwill. I did so much hauling out that I would load my three kids in the car and then add in more stuff for the dump or for giving away. It was maddening, exhausting, frustrating, lonely, and sad, but also a bit therapeutic, cause every item that left was a step in the direction of closure. Not the type of closure that means I forget my mom and move on, but the type of closure that means I no longer have to worry about a house that is full of stuff but empty of a person. She was a keeper of things, for better or worse.  I literally feel like many days I can’t take a full breath due to the burden that all her stuff puts on me. I kinda have lived in a place of anxiety over her cats, her plants, her mail, her HVAC system, her plumbing, etc. A vacant yet occupied house poses worry all on its own. Being rid of the house will also help me be rid of some of those pressures and strifes.

While walking this journey, I realize that not everyone grieves the same, and that is truly okay. For one of my brothers, the idea of keeping everything the exact same, museum style, is comforting. For another, breaking ties and not dealing  much at all seems to be the way of coping. It’s truly hard when 3 people are left to decide and all 3 have different opinions, hearts, lifestyles, and abilities.

Mostly, I just seek to be able to have my head out of water again. I consistently feel like I am drowning. It’s been an unimaginable year. 2012 wasn’t easy, combining a unexpected move, a miscarriage, two job changes, and Thomas entering grad school and beginning his own business. 2013 was worse, providing my wreck, two surgeries, two months of food through a straw and wired jaws, 6 months of no driving for me, financial gridlock from my loss of job due to my injuries, and my mom’s diagnosis and chemos. 2014 dealt much as well, with the adding of baby Hazel, two more surgeries for myself,  Thomas’s intense final months of grad school, mom’s radiations, chemos, hospitalizations, and the worse blow yet, her passing, which lead to a whole new set of challenges. I even left stuff out of that list folks. It’s incredible really, and not in the exciting type of way.

I keep a lot of this floating through my mind often. It’s just so much, and Thomas and I find ourselves saying often, “This can’t be life can it???” We’re ready for a nothing at all awful happened type of year, to say the least.

Then, today, I encountered two things that I think I will cling to in 2015. Oddly, one is a Rocky clip. That’s right, Rocky Balboa baby!

If you don’t actually watch it, let me just clue you in to these lines:

Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward.

Well said, Rocky. Well said.

I just have to keep moving forward, cause that’s what I must do. I am better than that. As Rocky said, “if you let it…” so I am just not going to let it. I’ve been called to walk in Him, no matter how tired I get, even in the messes of life. It’s my faith journey. As put forth by writer Ann Lamott on Twitter:

Faith includes lots of mess, zits, bewilderment, cellulite, separation & limbo, & letting those be there until a little more light returns.

2015, a year for the light to return. I pray it happens.

Can I get an “Amen!”?

Pokemon 8th Birthday

Daniel turned 8 in November! It seems so wild to think that it is almost a whole decade since I became a mom. Seems like just the other day I was treading the trenches of motherhood for the first time to this not-so-little-anymore first born son.

Unfortunately, the week of his party, our whole family, sans Hazel, shared a stomach bug. It was quite disastrous. As if my sleep wasn’t on low enough levels as is, the throwing up of all family members at all hours of the night didn’t help me get rested. Although we all recovered in time, there was still just a whirlwind of things left to do or clean before we had guests, so we considered canceling his party.

It was the saddest little conversation ever. Big crocodile tears welled up in his eyes. He put his head down on his knees and his eyes leaked, even though he tried to will them not to do it. He looked at me and said, “I told you to have my party on my real birthday!” to which I replied, “Daniel, that was a week night. No one would have been able to come.” His next step in defending his party was to say, “Well, you already sent the invitations in the mail, so you have to have it!” It was a sound argument there.

So, in doing due diligence, we consulted the family that was invited, and most seemed fine with still coming, and they even offered to help get some last minute things together for him. With that kind of spirit, we kept the party as scheduled. The only real loss was a few “extra” ideas I had to make it extra special, along with having a fully coherent brain at the time of the party, which was reflected in the lack of pictures that I would have normally taken.


My son had some big plans for the birthday cake. He wanted it to be a Pokeball that when cut open Pokemon characters would fall out of in massive amounts. That character part wasn’t going to happen, at least not from me, so he settled with just having a Pokeball as the cake. Thanks to my friend Alison, I learned that they make some edible sugar sheet paper that could serve as the black lines, and thankfully she just gave me some to use for my cake. A bit of red coloring later, it was a decent looking product.  I was very pleased with how it turned out.

The decorations were pretty simple:

a) some repurposed yellow paper lanterns from his 7th Lego birthday that received Pikachu faces of happy, sad, and angry, which were eventually secured high

b) a goodwill find of a Pokemon sheet to serve as the table cloth

c) a few themed plates rotated with Pikachu yellow plates

c) a clearenced birthday sign that I stuck some Pikachu stickers on to fit the theme and

d) a nice #8 for the middle


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We played a quick game with Daniel’s cousin and one of his best little buddies from school that were in attendance. They had to “find and catch” the proper Pokemons that had been assigned to them.

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We then moved inside to open some birthday presents! He was thrilled with all the items he was given. Thomas and I were so worn out from the days that preceded the party that we completely forgot to give him the present we got him! It was fine though cause it just meant a few days later when I remembered he had another gift to unwrap.


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Overall, it was simple. He had fun, and that was the most important thing for the day. I am glad that we did not postpone, for his sake, and for the fact it might have been next to never that we could figure out another date that worked for most everyone.

We love you, son! So happy to celebrate the beginning of your 8th year of life.

(Little Sister was as cute as could be and was worn out after all the celebrating! The crazy part is, SHE is the next immediate family birthday for our little crew. I am trying to to think about that fact too much!)

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Journeying the Tens

In college, fall of my sophomore year, I broke my leg in three places, resulting in a thigh down, no bending your knee, neon orange cast for 6 weeks and a walking book for 3 or so more.

The day it happened, our co-ed intramural soccer team was out on the field practicing. We had advanced to limited soccer skills, with me falling somewhere in the high middle of that skill set. Being it was just practice, some of us had shin guards on while others did not. You can guess which part of the pack I was in at the time. My shin-guardless shin met square on with my friend Eric’s shin-guarded shin and created an explosion of pain.

At the point of impact, I remember seeing stars and crumpling down on the field. After testing the waters of walking, we opted for someone to carry me back to our college ministry’s house. Little swelling or bruising existed, but lots of pain certainly did. A look-over from an off duty nurse gave the diagnosis of “just a sprain” and to “go gently” the next few days.

That night, my roommate later told me that I talked in my sleep, mostly indiscernible mumbles. The next morning, I couldn’t take it anymore; the pain was becoming simply unmanageable. After Thomas, my then sweet and new boyfriend, transported me to the ER, he went inside the to get me a wheelchair. I remember getting out of his truck with my broken leg having spasms, flopping uncontrollably from the knee down, while all three breaks in my bones rattled and I winced and fought back tears, completely unable to make it settle.

Once inside, I was asked to rate my pain. This was an activity I had never recalled doing before. The worker sat before me a laminated chart with faces to help me choose my level 1-10, with 10 being the greatest and deepest pain. One thing I knew for sure was that it hurt. The level of that hurt was the most I had ever encountered. After thinking briefly, I declared, “All I know this is the worst pain I’ve ever felt. But there has to be something in the world that hurts more………..so I am going to say a 9.”

All the people I encountered treated me like some whiny little college girl, for my leg still wasn’t overly swollen or bruised. The doctor that asked the initial questions and examined my leg before x-rays literally said, “This isn’t really a big deal here. If you will just sit still and let me look at your leg, it won’t hurt.” A few x-rays later, the doctor came back into the room and quickly spoke the words “I’m so very sorry. I really did not think your leg was broken at all. You actually have three separate breaks in your left leg.” Turns out I had a valid reason for the pain. The visit ended in a temporary cast and a pain shot in my butt, at which point I made my new and dear boyfriend turn his head and look the other way.

This event successfully stayed at the top of my pain scale experience until August last year. Breaking your face can rank pretty high as well apparently. I never remember anyone asking me at the scene, during the life-flight, or in the ER about my pain level. I guess when people can visibly see a break in your jaw, with your mandible split clear in half, along with a few open wounds on your chin, they don’t need to question too much about 1-10, cause they don’t want you to talk and the existence of pain is obvious. Later, however, when I would want some pain meds, the scale became a point of conversation. When my headaches were debilitating, while my jaw was wired and pressed so tight my teeth ached in every space, crevice, and place, when the site of the titanium plate insertion itched on the inside of my mouth, and within that closed mouth I vomited due to the pain, I wanted to say 10 but never could. I always, at least to my memory, said 9….cause something worse had to exist.

When mom was diagnosed and we began her frequent doctor appointments she was asked to choose her pain level each visit. I would sit next to her and try to spy on her pain scale choice each week. Mostly, mom would circle a 3. I wanted to often jerk the pen and clipboard from her and yell “that’s BS mom!” but I never did anything that dramatic. Some days though, the 3 actually was believable, thankfully. I never saw her circle lower and rarely saw her circle higher. One day, when she was not breathing well, aching, not eating much, and overall in a poor condition, I saw her circle a 7. That very day she was admitted to the hospital and stayed a full week. I think she might have told doctors and nurses a higher number when I wasn’t around, but 7 was the highest she ever admitted to in my presence, and 3 was her average. Eventually, I ended up telling her, “Mom, you can’t keep circling threes on the scale. It’s just not believable.” Her reply? “I know, but right at that very moment it doesn’t hurt too bad and I don’t want to be a trouble patient.”

A few months later, after Hazel’s arrival, months after mom’s diagnosis, I finally got around to reading a book, _The Fault in Our Stars_ by John Green, that my sister-in-law let me borrow when I was a on driving lock-down and still eating all my meals through a straw. I knew the premise “kids have cancer” but that was all. I ended up reading the book in 2 days, and that was not fast enough. Something about three kids to take care of made me put the book down here and there. Turns out, the main character’s name is Hazel, which is something I did not know of before naming my girl. Little did I know at the time that this book would prepare me for so much that was to come, such as mom’s “Last Good Day” and, ultimately, her passing. It was in this book that my choice of 9 finally became clear. If you haven’t read the book, you absolutely should. If you haven’t seen the movie, it is one you need to watch. But if you want to not be spoiled about it, just stop here…… cause in the book, there is a loss, and with that death, Hazel reflects upon the pain she experienced in the ER with her emptiness from losing Gus:

I called it [my ER pain] a nine because I was saving my ten. And here it was, the great and terrible ten, slamming me again and again as I lay still and alone in my bed staring at the ceiling, the waves tossing me against the rocks and then pulling me back out to sea so they could launch me again into the jagged face of the cliff, leaving me floating faceup on the water, undrowned.

The weeks since mom has died have been full tens at times, thrashings against rocky cliffs. Those moments that sneak up on me are the worse, such as Hazel beginning to crawl and me instinctively beginning to send mom the video. Some things you mentally know will be emotionally draining or sensitive, such as Daniel’s upcoming birthday, her birthday this month, Thanksgiving, etc., but those unexpected occurrences are the worse it seems, and this is a journey I’ve only begun.

It makes me figure, too, why mom kept shooting so low on the spectrum when choosing her numbers. I guess when you lose your husband suddenly, while you have 4, 6, and 12 year old children to care for, your pain scale is completely and irrevociably skewed.

I hate that the pain of losing mom is so great, even if we had some time to expect it and prepare some for it. 62 is still just too early to die, even if others have gone much sooner. And in the sadness, I get angry, cause 32 is just simply too young to not have any living parents, yet that is currently my lot.

I’ll never be able to forget her, feel nothing at the significance of my loss. There really isn’t a pain pill that takes away the pain of loss; the pangs in my stomach will always reside. Amidst the 10, however, I find peace knowing she can’t even fathom the concept of a pain scale now. I’m grateful for a faith that she shared with me that tells me this is true.

It is while journeying through the tens that I cling to scripture that can restore my soul, most recently John 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

HE has overcome, and therefore I can claim the same. I will take heart, even on 10 days, and know that I can have a peace in troubled times.