Another First has Passed

Good Sunday morning, my friends!

Here in the Hill Country of Texas it is a gorgeous morning!  The sky is a lovely shade of blue with wispy white clouds just hanging in the sky.  I think it is setting up to be another hot one…not in triple digits but warm nonetheless.  It is relatively quiet this morning with sounds only of insects, the humming of a lone hummingbird and the breeze blowing through the oaks.  That’s entirely okay with me.  Quiet can be a great blessing!

When I wrote my post last week I had begun to really feel the pressure and sadness of Steve’s upcoming birthday.  I wish I could say that my mood improved over the course of the week but I would be lying and I don’t wish to lie!

The rest of the week just continued to spiral.  I cried every single day.  More than once.  I hate to admit it but I am not one of those women that look sweet and more beautiful when they cry. (Oh, is that only in the movies?!). I am one ugly crier let me tell you.  Red nose, puffy eyes that get smaller as I bawl.  I will leave the rest of the description to your imagination.

Steve’s birthday was on Thursday.  I went by his gravesite in the morning before going over to my daughter’s house. It was a lovely day and the cemetery was dotted with color from flowers brought by people whose loved ones currently reside under the ground at  Holy Cross.  I bawled and wrote yet another letter to him.  Leaving after about a half hour, I called my son, Matthew, picked up tacos for Lauren and Leah and spent the morning over there.  At 2:30, I hauled butt back to my house where I had just enough time to shower, change and get to SA to meet my mom and Lauren’s family at the restaurant.

I made it!

Steve had to be laughing his head off at what happened next.  Lauren and family arrived right as I was walking in so I turned around to help get the kids out of the car.
I had taken great care to wear something bright and with no collar as that was required dress for my evening adventure.  I took Leah out of the car and she cries, “My tummy hurts!” and proceeds to vomit all over me!  As I struggled to comprehend what was going on another volley of stomach contents spewed out and down the front of our shirts.  Finally, my brain kicked in and I put her down where she threw up a third time.  Poor Lauren is standing there, wringing her hands saying, “What do I do?”  “Do we leave?”   I asked for water and cleaned us up as well as I could and we went in to dinner.

A trip to the restroom made me, at the very least, presentable but, oh my gosh, I cannot imagine how badly we must have smelled.  Leah was fine, just car sick and hungry.  We decided to hold our noses and we just laughed and laughed!  Why did I say that Steve was probably laughing at what went on?  Because when the kids were little he was the one onto whom they ALWAYS threw up.  Never me…just Steve.  At the house, in the insurance office, at the doctor’s office, in the truck.  You name the place, he had most likely experienced being thrown up there!  I guess it was finally my turn.

After dinner, Lauren gave me her blouse (yup, she gave me the shirt off of her back) and Mom and I moved on to the next part of Steve’s birthday celebration.  Every time Steve and I drove past the iFly Indoor Skydiving sign he said, “One day we should look into that!”  So I did!  It was such a blast!  The instructor, Dave, was phenomenal.  I felt safe, did a great job of controlling my body and even did some 360s which they said most newbies don’t/can’t do!  I am going back.  I’ve even put “sky diving” on my bucket list.  Steve is probably cringing at that one!

Funny thing is…after Steve’s birthday everything started to fall back into place.  Spirit has improved a bit each day.  Productivity has increased as I have finished binding two baby blankets,  began two more and  designed a wall hanging for a Wounded Warriors event.   I attended a small theatre production of You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown last night which got the juices flowing for a new painting.

Remember…

“weeping may endure or a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Psalms 30:5

Enjoy the photos and have a glorious week!

 

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Choosing Gratitude

I had a very nice week.  I got to spend several days with Lauren, Leah and the new baby.  I LOVE spending time with my children and their children.  There isn’t any experience that is much better in this whole world.  We played at the park, enjoyed good conversation, hugged the littles…a lot…and just loved on the part of the family that was present (missed the part that wasn’t).

This weekend has been a slightly different story.  Saturday was 18 weeks; four and half months, since Steve died and for the past two days I’ve missed my Steve…badly.  Parts of each day have been good, productive and comfortable.  But, just when I think, “I can do this! Yes, I can!” an overwhelming sense of loss just comes in waves threatening to drown me in its sadness. 

So, to follow my own advice, I’m going to find joy by listing those things for which I was thankful for this week:

    • Rain!  It rained hard and long Friday night, twice on Saturday and a little bit today.  We have needed the rain badly in this area and our crunchy grass, hard soil and our wilting oaks appreciated the wet stuff.
    • Naps. I don’t often nap but I took a couple of short ones!  Niiiicccceeee.
    • Cooler weather.
    • My children, their spouses and their children.
    • Lovely breezes.
    • Antelope grazing and lingering in the back yard.
    • Dishes done.
    • Goats bleating on the hill behind the house.
    • Quail flying up out of the prairie grass and across the road.
    • Laundry done.
    • Sewing machine fixed. By ME!
    • Good wine.
    • Better bourbon.
    • Starting a new book.
    • Finding my mother okay in her home after NOT answering her phone for over six hours!  
    • Planning and scheduling two new adventures.
    • Nutritious, tasty meals.
    • Morning coffee, afternoon popsicles and evening wine all on the back porch.
    • Kisses from my pups.
    • The scent of rosemary and lavender hovering in the air after the rain.
    • Hummingbirds.
    • Butterflies.
    • Memories.
    • Texts from friends.
    • Scheduling time with those friends.

Although it is sometimes difficult….Today, I Choose Joy!

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What are you thankful for this evening?  I’d love to hear from you!

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13. 

New Babies

OH my goodness!

Babies!

Our third grandchild was born in mid-July and he is perfect!  Just like the other two, of course.  Our fourth grand baby will arrive in December…a little girl.  We will then have two of each!

Steve would have loved to be here to hold, love on and spoil the two newbies just like he did with Landon and Leah.  Who knows.  Perhaps he got to meet them in heaven before they were born to their earthly mamas!  It’s okay, Honey Bunches of Oats, I will spoil them for you.

Welcome, Baby Jase, to the family who loves you to the moon and back!

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Joy in the Midst of Trials

They say that all of the “firsts” after a loved one dies are the most difficult. I agree with that to a point because, as we are still experiencing the “firsts” since Steve’s death on April 7th, I have nothing yet with which to compare the statement. Every day is a “first” for now.

Since that totally awful day, we have celebrated Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, our what-would-have-been our 35th anniversary, July 4th and today, July 11, our youngest’s 28th birthday without the man that made it all worthwhile. Some days have been harder than others but we are working through it, each in our own way.

Steve has been gone for three months. A quarter of the year!  It has been a tough road yet, day by day, I seem to be able to cope with and come through those crazy moments of sadness and despair more quickly. Honestly though, there was a two and a half week period in June from which I doubted I would be able to recover. Anything that could go wrong did. A lightening storm knocked out the electricity to my home and caused several thousands of dollars of damage to circuits and appliances. Steve’s will was probated during this time and I did not realize what an event that would turn out to be. Probating the will was just so…final. Repairmen traipsed through my home and I wrote endless checks for repairs completed.  I even wrecked my riding lawn tractor!! Some days I literally felt like I was being torn apart at the seams!

Where was the joy? Has there been anything joyful on this new road of life?

Surprisingly, yes! In those darkest of hours when my heart is shattered beyond all repair, when the anger at our loss struggles to escape at everyone I hold dear, when the mere whisper of his name causes unstoppable tears and feelings of intense aloneness and abandonment there has been joy.

There is joy to be found but I caution you…it doesn’t always jump right out at you.

You have to look for it.  Some days you have to dig deep and look HARD for it!

Sometimes joy is as small as our little dog, Darla, curling up next to me in bed, head on paws, staring at me with those deep chocolate eyes as if saying, “I’m still here and I love you.”

Our hummingbirds and the occasional cardinal seem to appear en masse when I am at my lowest. It’s as if God himself (with a suggestion from Steve, perhaps) says, “Go let Laura know that we are here with her. She is not alone.” Oh, when they show up during those moments I bawl even harder but I am grateful and consider it a joy!

An unexpected reimbursement check, a sweet bank employee’s smile, a heart showing up on my phone from a dear friend who is thinking of me, a video sent by my children of their children, an unexpected rain shower, a new flower, FaceTime, a Scripture verse tailor made for me…the list literally goes on and one.

Even in sorrow joy exists.

I challenge you to find joy in your life!!! Even if today has been disappointing or disheartening, I challenge you to look for just ONE thing/person/action that brings you joy.

Write it down.

Tomorrow, write down just ONE thing that brings you joy. The day after, write down ONE more thing and repeat the act on each day following!

Before you know it you will have a long list of things, people, events, or words that have brought you joy and with it you will have developed a new habit of viewing your world through the lens of joy and gratitude.

Life is not easy and the road is not always, if ever, straight and smooth, but our attitude can make the journey more joy-filled!

I’m still sad. I still cry…daily.  There are even days when I think, “Nope. I don’t want to play today!”  On those days, God never fails to show show me something that gives me a smidgen of joy to get through the day.

Ask Him for help to find the joy in your world.

He will!

“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” Philippians 4:4

Loss

t’s been a little more than two months since my last post.

Much has happened.

More has changed

Steve has passed away and all of our lives have been altered. Forever there will be a huge hole in our hearts, our lives and our spirits.

On March 20th, Steve began to run a fever. In cancer patients, a fever of more than 100.5 is the cue to get moving! I hustled him into the car and made the hour trip into San Antonio as quickly as humanly well, as legally, possible.

We ended up spending a little over two weeks in one hospital and three days in another. They thought it was pneumonia. Then they thought it was the cancer. Then it didn’t matter anymore what it was.

Thankfully, he was able to say goodbye to his precious children, to my mom, his sisters and his closest friends and then he went to sleep for a few hours and then he was gone. Just gone.

In my last post I talked about how life goes on.  It does.

I wrote that there is still joy in the world.  There is.

I espoused that I didn’t know what held the future but I know WHO holds it. Still true.

But this is the hardest thing I have ever experienced. It has been a month now since we laid him to rest and tomorrow will be five weeks since he died.  While I find many good parts in most days, I often find myself in the middle of a puddle of tears.

Like right now.

I still take my morning coffee on our back porch. This year, we have more hummingbirds than ever before; more than a dozen visit the feeders. Steve would love that fact! Usually I laugh at their antics but today is not one of those days. Today, I weep over our loss. I miss my best friend. Today, the loss…it cuts to the bone. The pain is real. It is sharp and it is deep.

It will pass.

Sunday is Mother’s Day and the precious man who made me a mom will not be here to celebrate that fact with us. I know the kids and I will miss him horribly on this day.  I suppose that it’s just another one of those firsts  that we will have to move through.

I want Steve back so badly.  Since that is not an option for we mere mortals, I have a box of tissues on the table next to me as I watch our hummingbirds, listen for the turkeys and enjoy the cool, southern breeze as the sun starts to peek out from behind the fluffy white clouds.

I know that joy still exists. I just have to look a little harder for it.

Some days it feels like God is no longer here with me. I know that He is.

In the end, Scripture says, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

I look forward to that day!

Hope in the Midst of Trials

Tomorrow will mark four weeks since we found out that Steve’s cancer has spread.  At some point between the November and early February CT scans the immunotherapy drug stopped working and the cancer exploded in his body.

A couple of months ago, Steve choked on a hot dog.  From that day forward he had difficulty swallowing certain foods.  In an attempt to find out what was causing the trouble he underwent a procedure three weeks ago.  Following the procedure, the doctor told us that there was a significant narrowing of his esophagus.  The doctor stated that the tumor is pushing into the esophagus and that the cancer appears to be trying to infiltrate that area.

To say the least, it has been a crappy month.

Not sounding too joyful today, am I?

I apologize.

As I have said in the past, no one ever promised us a rose garden.  The game of life is not all peaches and cream.

Since the updated prognosis, we have shared moments of deep despair. We’ve cried. We’ve discussed tasks that must be done. We lost a ton of sleep.  We’ve sat in silence thinking about the future.  We’ve held hands and cried some more.

Yet, in spite of the news and intense disappointment, we also continue to wake, to laugh, to find humor during the less than positive hours, enjoy good meals, experience surprises and to love.

Life does go on.

Without question, our favorite time of the day is in early morning.  We sit on our back porch, kick back with a cup of coffee and just enjoy the quiet of the morning.  Birds sing, antelope nibble through the back yard, dogs play and we just…chat.  We’ve done morning like this ever since we moved out to the country.  Some days are more exciting than others and Monday was that kind of day.  We were sitting on the porch admiring the first sunny day in two weeks when Steve noticed a flash of blue in a nearby tree.  He quickly retrieved his binoculars and we took turns admiring the Eastern Bluebird that had graced us with his presence.  The bird was fabulous and we watched him for about fifteen minutes.  When the Eastern Bluebird flew off, Steve looked to the right side of the yard and saw not one but two pair of cardinals.  Those birds gave him great joy on that peace-filled morning. It was a blessing to see him flash his special, impish smile while he watched those birds. That morning was truly magical.

It’s true.  Life really is about the little things.  A smile, shared memories and meals, nature, prayer, God and…time.

I don’t know what the future holds but I do know, without a doubt, who holds the future. We are not going to let this disease ruin what time we have left together.  Regardless of our circumstances, our God is here with us.  He holds us in the palms of his hands.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13. 

 

 

It’s in the Wee Hours

Our German Shepherd, Ella, has a bladder the size of a peanut.  Either that or last night she simply wanted us to be awake with her.  She woke me up at 3:30 a.m., 4:30 a.m., 5:30 and finally 7:10 a.m.  I was ready to wring her neck because Steve really needs his sleep and besides, who the heck wants to be awakened four times in the early morning hours just so the dog can go pee (or chase smells in the back yard)?  Not this girl!!

Once awake I could not, for the life of me, go back to sleep.  My brain was turned on and just would not stop thinking about the future without my sweetheart.  When Ella woke me up at 7:10 I gave up on getting any sleep so I grabbed Darla and the three of us went outside.

It had rained during the night.  The ground was wet and muddy; the air was misty, damp and cool.  Usually the birds that hang around our home during the spring, summer and autumn are missing at this time of year, but when we walked out onto the driveway, the first thing I heard was the trilling of our birds.  The happy chirping sounds that Steve and I love to listen to every morning just broke me.  I stood in the center of the yard and bawled.  How many more days would we get to listen to our favorite sounds together?  How soon would I be listening to them alone?  At that point, I chose to take my own advice and, in the moment, thanked God for allowing me to hear the birds this morning because that meant that Steve would get to listen to them when he awoke!  That little moment of joy lasted not much longer that that single moment but it helped…a bit.

After the 7:10 potty break, the pups and I returned inside.  Not wanting to disturb Steve a fourth time, I just wrapped  in myself in my quilt and curled up on our leather sofa. Every thought of Steve made me cry.  I guess it’s just going to be a weepy kind of day.

People say that these bouts of tears are normal but I can honestly say that I am not a fan.

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;  Yes, our God is merciful.  The Lord preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me.  Return to your rest, O my soul, For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.  For You have delivered my soul from death, My eyes from tears, And my feet from falling.  (Psalms 116:5-8 NKJV)

 

Nine Things to Do to find Joy When Your World is in Crisis

For reasons that cannot be explained in this post, we have had a few very hard days at our home.  In fact, they’ve really sucked and probably won’t improve much in the near future.

I’ve had to reflect a bit on how I can find a little joy when all the joy I had has been knocked right out of me?  I’m not totally sure I have the definitive answer but here are nine things I have done (or have thought about doing) over the last 72 hours to try to brighten our days.

  1.  Eat.  When life really sucks, we usually don’t eat well.  Maybe I should say I don’t eat well when I’m down in the dumps.  Anyway…make yourself eat something healthy at regular points in the day.  Stay away from the processed foods as much as you can.  Eat proteins, vegetables and fruits.  If your sugar levels are relatively stable then your mental state will be, too.
  2. Exercise.  I’m lousy at exercising during the best of times but during a crisis I seem to perform/think better if I engage in some kind of exercise.  We are more than fortunate in that walking in our neighborhood is like walking in a park so it helps me and my state of mind to get out into nature.  If I am really upset I actually intersperse some short sprints while on my walk.
  3. Cry.  Sometimes a good, long, hard cry just cleanses all the crap out of your system. Once I’ve had a good cry I tend to pull up my boot straps and get busy solving problems and getting things done!
  4. Deliberately look for things to make you smile.  A cardinal flying across the field, a deer stepping out of the trees, a colorful leaf, a child’s smile, a musical note from a set of hidden chimes…  Look/listen for things that make your heart go pitter-pat and your mouth turn up at the ends.  There are hundreds of these little moments each day.  Some days we just have to look a little harder and listen a little closer.
  5. Make a To-Do List.  Just making a list of tasks that must be accomplished and putting them on a time line helps to refocus our lives.  We are in the process of making this list now as time is critical.  Once the To-Do List is finished we can move forward calmly and purposefully.
  6. Clean house.  A clean house is a calming house.  I didn’t always understand that but over the past couple of years I have come to realize that, for me, clean equals peace (at least to some extent…it helps).
  7. De-clutter.  Go through and throw out old papers, clothing that is no longer used or fits, clean the fridge…  The more clutter I get rid of the better I feel.  Today we went through three boxes and two drawers of old paperwork.  We didn’t get it all done but we put a definite dent in it!
  8. Talk.  Communicate your thoughts, feelings, worries, anger, etc. to the one you love and, most importantly, listen to what they are thinking and feeling, too.  There is nothing worse than silence when the family is in crisis.  Silence can equal loneliness and there is no room for that!
  9. Pray.  Talk to God about your thoughts, feelings, worries and anger. He understands each of those emotions, after all, He is the one who instilled them in us to begin with.  Pray. Read your Bible.  Talk with your pastor.

Have I gone through each of these ideas in the past 72 hours?  Welllllll, we have done all to some extent with the exception of number 2.  Exercise…shudder.  Can I tell you that accomplishing the tasks above make me feel better about what is going on in our lives?  Not at all because the situation is untenable…it will not get better, but I have been able to eek out some moments of joy and that is enough at the moment.  It has to be!

I may have to get out and walk the dog tomorrow.

When Joy is Hard to Find

Happy Wednesday!

After almost a full week of mostly sunshiny weather, today is cold, wet and drabby. Yuck! Steve left early this morning to meet his buds, Andrew and Brian, for breakfast and since I have some time before I need to head into town to spend the day with Mom I’m writing.

It doesn’t take a genius to notice that I’ve written very little this past year. My last post was in September and since then I have struggled. Yup…struggled to write. Why?

Many writers say that, when bad or unexplainable events occur in their lives, they write. I used to think that I, too, used writing to process life but I have found that, for me, it doesn’t work like that. Apparently I tend to process life, decisions, and fears in my own head. I don’t know why.  Perhaps I just don’t want to put down the darkest, ugliest parts of my thoughts on paper (or in cyberspace) for all to see. But, if that is the case, that’s really not very honest of me, is it? Isn’t the primary purpose of writing to “let your voice be heard”? Maybe I haven’t wanted to write down what is happening in our lives because I don’t want my children, friends and family to know how much I worry on a daily basis about Steve, how sad I am much of the time when I think about life without him…how my heart breaks with every cough and tired sigh he makes.

Maybe…maybe…I just need to write anyway.

Fifteen months have passed since Steve’s diagnosis of non-small cell lung cancer. The diagnosis hit us like a ton of bricks but we’ve managed to maintain a sense of normalcy in our daily lives. Our faith in God and our hope for complete healing helps us through each day. Truth is, the prognosis for this kind of cancer is bleak. Statistics indicate that 50% of people who are diagnosed with this kind of cancer will die within eight months. Of the remaining 50% only 18% will survive five years. So, you see, his future is uncertain at best. Steve has managed to beat the first set of stats…and for that we are more than grateful.

Life, however, has been harder for him the past couple of weeks and I’m so afraid that he is starting to give up. Yesterday, as he struggled to catch his breath after a coughing fit, he said, “I’m so tired of this!” Well, we just cannot have THAT so I find myself teasing him, cajoling him to eat, pushing him to get up and move, encouraging him to go out with his friends and saying, “It’s going to get better”. But is it?

I find myself getting pretty teary when I think of the dreams we had.  Dreams of taking trips and making memories together with the grandkids.  Now those dreams seem so far away. My heart shatters when I think of Steve not getting to know Leah, Landon or the new baby that is on it’s way as they grow older. The thought of my grown children not having their sweet daddy at the other end of the telephone to share their accomplishments, stories of their workday and family life, their hopes, dreams and worries just makes me so incredibly sad.  Tears just flow more easily some days and joy is a bit out of reach.

This morning, as I mindlessly flicked through Pinterest, I read a quote by Kay Warren. She said, “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of ALL the details of my life. The quiet confidence that ultimately EVERYTHING is going to be okay and the determined CHOICE to praise God in all things.”

I agree. So today, in between the bouts of sorrow, despair and worry, I choose to praise God for the life we have been given, for the life we have lived and for the future, whatever that future may look like.

God has provided us a lifetime of joys. This experience with cancer is just a bobble in the time continuum. A rough patch. Even within this tough period, God is here and I believe that Nehemiah had it right when he said, “The joy of the Lord is my strength”.

Dear Lord,

Thank you for the joys of life that you have laid at our feet. Thank you for always being there, when life is joyful and when that joy is hard to find. Thank you for holding my husband in the palms of your hands and, although I pray for his complete healing of this horrible disease, I know that You know best. I only ask that you help me to show Steve how much he is loved on a daily basis and that he feels Your love and presence always.

Amen

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Project Time

I have been in a sewing frenzy lately. From clothing to games to baby items and more…my old sewing machine has been humming like a little fiend.  So many things to make…so little time!

I love any type of creative endeavor and when I get something in my head, Steve just starts to shake his head!  Currently, my list of “to do” projects is quite lengthy.

What is the old saying?  If my memory serves me, it  goes something like, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop”.  I suppose it is a good thing that my hands are rarely idle!  (-:   Bottom line is that, for me, projects are fun, they strengthen my skills and make others happy.  (One of the projects is for a Christmas gift so….shhhhh).

Right after I post this I will return to my cutting board and then I may pick up a paintbrush!  It’s shaping up to be a perfect September afternoon.

Below are a few of my most recent projects.  If you are interested in having any of these made for you just let me know.  You may contact me at onjoyroad@gmail.com