Tuesday, August 28, 2018

25 Weeks and No One Is Pregnant- Josh's 25 Week Update

Please find this as funny as I do.  I giggled when writing 25 weeks realizing women that are pregnant refer to the number of weeks.

Thank you again to each of you who have walked these past 25 weeks with my family.  Josh was diagnosed with Bilateral Vestibular Failure with a Complete Loss of Vestibular Function.  A challenging diagnosis that will have lifelong effects.  Each day is different. Some days he is filled with energy and able to be upright most of the day and even do some fun things with our family. Other days are so very challenging where brain fog and head pressure detour him from doing just about anything. He tries daily to do something. Anything. Sometimes it is to clean the car out. Or go for a walk or bike ride.  Some days it is lunch out at a restaurant. Other days require 4 to 6 times of laying down to rest and a quiet house to just enable him to function.

He has struggled the last few days with extreme brain fog, noise sensitivity and lack of energy. So the days are quiet and we try to keep the noise at a bear minimum. He has a conference call for work this morning and then we are going to attempt to take Zach to lunch before heading to his back to school day at Chanhassen High.  (Lily started 6th grade yesterday at Cologne Academy. She loves Junior High!)

We are praying for Josh that he will be approved to work from home part time starting the 10th of September. He sees his Vestibular Rehab Specialist on the 9th. She wants to assess his progress and well being one more time before she signs off on his return.  We are concerned that he will do too much too fast, so part time from home is a good start.  Josh will now will working in Recruiting for Lunds & Byerly's. He will office generally at home, but technically he can office at any store, and will eventually go to corporate maybe one day a week.  We pray that Josh will slowly be able to work up to full time hours by the middle or end of October.

Praises to Report:
We were able to make it to the retreat center in Wisconsin for a fun filled day a few Saturday's ago.  This time was so good for our family.

We were also able to away for a few days last week with Josh's family. Lots of swimming and boat rides and golfing and playing games together. It was tough for Josh, but we were so glad that we were able to do this as a family, as we had to turn around in July when we attempted to go to the cabin. It was a fun time together.

Lily had a great start to her 6th grade year and junior high!

Zach is super excited to return to school next week!

Prayer Requests:
Please pray for peace and rest. Josh struggles with anxiety (very typical of BVF) and struggles with restlessness. Please pray that he enjoys each day, remains calm and collected in the evenings and that he sleeps well each night.

Please pray as Josh returns back to work hopefully on the 10th of September. Pray for his bosses and coworkers as they learn about Josh and all that he is capable of. Pray for understanding if things don't go as planned. And pray for discernment as Josh works through pain, discomfort, brain fog and all the struggles he faces daily.

Please pray for our kids. Zach (15) and Lily (11) are in the throes of returning to school. Please pray for a successful and learning filled year!

Please pray for me as I jump back into my fall work schedule on September 10th. I am teaching a Tuesday morning bible study and I am now in the full editing phase of two books. I hope to have them completed by the end of October and to move on to the next steps of publishing. With a full schedule this fall, like every mom, please pray for stamina and joy.  That I will not be overwhelmed, but able to approach each day with a positive attitude and rely not on my own strength.

Please pray for fun family times for our family!  We have had a lot of months of quiet and are starting to get back into the swing of things.  We love game and movie nights and family walks. Pray that these times are meaningful and affirming for our kids.

How can you help?
*Summer is almost over, but we are still in need of help with mowing our yard and weed whacking.

*We also need help only for a couple more weeks with pool cleaning and then eventual take down when it gets too cold to swim.

*My family consumes a ridiculous amount of red apples!  If you are swinging by the store or Costco, we would love some apples! Zach alone eats 3 to 6 a day.  And I am only able to make it there about once every two weeks. I thank you for helping us with this weird request. :)

Thank you friends. Thank you family. Thank you for your love, your prayers.

Trying To Heal

Weekly, we are at the library.  Every Saturday morning from 10 am to 11:30 am. Like clockwork. Friends and family often know that this is where we camp out for the morning.  People often text asking if we are there. The answer is always yes.

There is something about the peace and quiet of the Chaska Library that enables people to talk. To really talk. To share their hearts and to unload the heft of life that often weighs them down.  I wonder how many of the conversations have been overheard by others.  I think the listener is probably just as encouraged as I am.  At least I hope they are. I don't ever talk very loud with the intention of others hearing what is being said.  But I have become aware of someone else's physical presence looming while conversations become deeper and more heartfelt.

There are so many things that I hear. People tell me just about everything.  I am often deemed as a safe place to share because I do not gossip and I strive to not judge. I hear about children struggling in school and diagnoses that are so challenging and heartbreaking. I hear about amazing times of re-connection with spouses. How a short time away enabled both the husband and wife to remember why and how they first fell in love.  I hear about the challenges of caring for aging parents. How it isn't something they would want to ever do, but feel obligated to help.  I hear about friendships that have dissolved over foolish childish arguments. I hear about the pain of watching kids struggle with school and friendships. I hear about the desire to return to school and change careers. I hear about the worry that never really leaves when it comes to unfulfilled dreams.

But what about all the things that haven't been discussed? What about all the things that hurt so much that you can't even talk about them?  The pain that has yet to be acknowledged, yet to be vocalized. What about the all the junk that hurts so much to even think about that you avoid speaking of it so it doesn't become real? What about the hurts of the past that you have yet to overcome, yet you refuse to talk about it because you believe that you will face judgement? And what about the secret addictions, the ones that cause shame and guilt and you feel that you are a moment away from being exposed as a fraud? Believe it or not, we all have those private things that we do not discuss.  You are not alone.  Your struggle may be different than mine, but you are not alone.

It is all about time. It is all about working through those hurts and finding a way to process them while letting them hurt a bit less every day. There is no time table. There isn't a for sure fix or formula that will make it better. But there are friends and family. There are the people that love you.  The people who will encourage you. And the people that will uplift you in prayer whenever you ask. Those are your people. Those are the people that will walk by your side, accept you as you are and work through the hurt with you.  Because chances are, they have their own problems that they are working on also.

Sending love to everyone who is trying to heal from the things they do not discuss.


Monday, August 27, 2018


Here is the thing. It stings. It stings more than I care to admit.  When I write something really touching, or post something ridiculously clever, and it goes unnoticed. Unacknowledged. Un-liked.  But it isn't the likes I seek.  It is for the reader, sometimes a specific reader to find what I want to say to them.  When I write, usually short stories and poems, they are for small publishing firms, writers journals, websites and anthologies.  When I blog, it is quite personal, heartfelt and it means something to me. I want it to mean something to others in my life, too. I often write about people in my life and people from my past. I usually don't even go as far to name them.  I wonder if people are able to find themselves in my written words? If they see themselves and smile. If they discover themselves on page 152 and gasp for breath as they realize that same memory is one that they hold dear.

When I share on social media poems and stories that I have recently written and they have been published, it isn't for me to toot my own horn....Another one today! Woohoo! Third one this week! No.  It is advertising, creating a digital profile for future editors, Anthology compilers, and it creates a contact with more writing outlets.  Best two commissioned contracts that I have ever signed were from simple retweets and sharing a post. The people that I want to reach are able to easily access my public posts and read a wide variety of pieces that I have written.

But then there are the stories that I have written for the people that I care about.  My story Hands was recently published with a couple of different sites/anthologies. (I retain publishing rights as author to almost everything that I have written, hence, multiple publishing houses can publish my work.) I wrote that story about 5 people. But the story was meant for one single person. I don't know if they have read it. I will not ask. But I hope when they do, they smile. I hope whatever hurts, is quieted, possibly mended and that the days begin to get easier. My recent story When A Woman's Heart Hurts, was also quickly picked up. I wrote that story about one main interaction with a young encouraging woman in a restroom.  But I wrote it to encourage all woman. To let women know that they are not alone, there is always someone cheering for them, that reaching out might be difficult, but essential and that the heart hurt doesn't always remain.  The "About" and the "For" are usually two different people or groups.  But they are both so important in the overall storytelling.  The words, the actions, the love, the encouragement, and sometimes even the rejection and pain all serve as fuel for my fingers.  When I write, they are stories I feel compelled to share.

I saw writer post...Don't like my work.  Talk to me about it. Share my work.  -I love that.  Not in for the likes. But in it for the connection.  The conversations. The idea that others may also find value and validation in someones written words.

As a reader, when I read other writer's work, I can't help but engage in conversation. What I thought. What I liked. What moved me. Sometimes I even ask questions about what I don't understand. I ask questions about what inspired them. I want to naturally know more. 

My friend Jay Long and John Robbins are perfect examples. They both have published numerous books and they are impressive and thought provoking.  Each conversation I enter, I learn more about the art of writing. Rudy Francisco is a Button Poet. I have read his book Helium 4 times and find something new every time. Jen Mann turns out book after book and makes me laugh daily. I appreciate her approach and outlook at daily life. She understands it is ridiculous, takes it with a grain of salt and encourages others to do the same. My new friend Debjani (India) is a fellow Mercurial writer.  Her beautiful detailed writing about the sites and sounds of her gorgeous country make we want to stay up late and read until my mind understands all of it. Every last word.  My new friend Chloe-Helen Williams (UK) sent a few pieces by email.  I devoured them. Amazingly talented and I expect to see some big things from her in the coming years. Remember her name. You will be glad you did.  I love their work, I engage with them and talk with them about their work and I share their work.  The highest form of flattery to me as a writer is when someone remembers something that I have written because it was shared with them.

We live in a world of instant gratification and countless self esteem boosting social media websites. We have created this world, surrounded ourselves with fake friends, fake affirmation and whole lot of fake lives.

Rarely do we see the whole picture. Those perfect children? It took that mom six tries to get the perfect shot and whole lot of skittles bribing. All that success at sports and dance and every activity they have ever attempted?  Their family may be suffering. They rarely are all at the table at once, and those kids are feeling the pressure to succeed. Constantly. Those constant kissy face pics that are posted? She needs the reminder that their marriage will recover from infidelity. We don't see the whole picture. Only the perfect

Let's stop the fake. Let's stop pretending. Let's be real with each other. And sometimes that means messy buns and chipped nail polish. Sometimes that is peanut butter smiles and smiling children. And sometimes, that is admitting what a mess the day has been and calling in the reinforcements. The people that care about you and your family. The people you do life with.  Talk about that hard stuff. You need to.

I talk about the hard stuff. Sometimes too much.  Sometimes I am in pain. Sometimes I feel so inept at parenting and I need encouragement and advice.  And, as you have read this year, my husbands health has suffered greatly.  But what I write about, what I post, is truth.  It isn't always glamorous, someone is usually making a face at the camera, and sometimes I write in tears.  I have learned to be honest. I have learned to talk about the silly things. Like packing up kid clothes when my daughter now wears women's sizes and feeling sad about it.  Or telling friends that they can help us by bringing us honey nut Cherrio's and apples and fruit. (Thank you again to each of you who answered that bizarre call for help!) And when I need to ask for prayer because my husband isn't able to function, people respond immediately. They get on their knees and pray for relief. They pray for rest. They pray for healing. These real posts, lead to real connection. They lead to relationships with people in real life. Something I will always be grateful for.

So the next time you post something touching or clever, and no one "likes" it, do not despair. People have seen that pic. They have read the article.  They may also bring it up later in conversation.  They will thank you for sharing the jelly smiles, dirty shirts, crusty hair pictures. They will thank you for helping them know they are not alone.  They will hug you and love on you, not necessarily because you need it, but you are deemed safe, and they need the human connection. Be real. Be you. Be kind. Be loving. Then it won't matter if anyone reads your posts.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Climb Every Mountain- Why I Will Always Love The Sound of Music

My Senior year at Forest Lake Senior High School, I played The Mother in Abbess in The Sound of Music. I think it is my favorite role that I have played. I was still a horrible actress but was able to quickly use my singing ability to cover up my dramatic failings. In the stage version, it was the  main 4 nuns that sang My Favorite Things, not the children and Maria like it was in the movie. We had fun and really enjoyed performing this song.  But for me, being able to stand at the very edge of the stage over the orchestra pit and belt out Climb Every Mountain as the VonTrap family was leaving was an experience I will never forget.  I believe we did 7 or 8 performances over two weekends and I was absolutely head over heels in love. In love with this song, with this play, with musical theater. But mostly I was in love with performing.

I began singing when I was 9. My sister was a very talented dancer and had been dancing competitively since she was only 2. I went with my mom and sister to all the competitions and knew that some of them, such as Symposium, also had singing categories to compete in. My mom asked if it was something I would like to do, and I thought yes. She bought me a beautiful white lacy dress with long blue sash and naturally, the first song that I sang at the competition was My Favorite Things.  I won 1st place my first time on stage, and from then on,  I had the performance bug.  I loved the applause, I loved the accolades, and I loved when the judges told me to keep it up.

I joined a music school, a traveling kids choir and started taking private voice lessons.  I knew nothing of breath support, nothing of using my voice as a tool, and for sure nothing about protecting my voice. No more screaming and yelling. No more shouting or cheering.  And absolutely, stop drinking anything other than water or tea.  (It was hard for me to give up the apple juice and orange juice.) But I did everything my voice teacher instructed and then some.  I sang as I walked to bus. I sang in the tub. I sang while playing. I often got distracted and sang while doing homework. I hummed in class and was often reprimanded.  I wanted to sing, and I wanted to sing well.

I continued voice lessons all through Junior High but not as often when I entered High School as my schedule became a bit more full. After school drama practices and youth group events filled my days.  But I kept singing. At Churches, for The Heart Association Annual Fundraiser and other corporate events and dinners, County Fairs and at The Minnesota State Fair, and even found that I could major in Vocal Music Performance at the college I would be attending.

At Crown College, I loved singing in Women's Chorale, continuing voice lessons with a Professor, and Music History and Music Theory Classes and the opportunity to sing often at events. Choir Tour through 5 states the spring of my Freshman year was amazing.  When I was 18 and declaring a major at college, my young mind thought that Vocal Music Performance sounded superb. Learn about music, hone my craft and become an excellent performer. Right up my alley. Until I actually got to Crown and realized that the only major I was interested in wasn't available anymore. I was at a loss. You mean I have to pick something else?

I didn't want to teach music.  I couldn't be a nurse. Didn't want to want to be pre-med. Didn't want to teach school. What was I going to do? I decided to focus on my Bible Minor and learn as much as I could while taking as many music classes as possible. I enjoyed Old Testament and New Testament History, Harmony of the Gospels, Psychology, World History,  Apologetics and many other classes.  I quickly ran out of money after my first semester of my Sophomore year. I knew I was going to have to drop out of school, figure out what would work for me and absolutely get a full time job.

Dropping out of College was a very difficult decision.  I started working full time a month and  half later at a financial institution and then was married four months after that.  No, I didn't abandon my dreams of singing, my dreams changed. They became more realistic.  Would I keep singing? Indeed I would. At county and state fairs, at churches and weddings, at special events, and I would absolutely continue singing in the car and in the shower. Those were where some of my most amazing performances would continue to occur.

While continuing to explore music and lyrics, I rediscovered my love of poetry.  So many beautifully written poems were just waiting to be turned into music.  I adored short beautiful, sometimes heart wrenching stanzas that pierced my heart and would bring tears to my eyes.  I started reading more, not just poetry, but short stories and the classics. I often had long drives to and from work, and discovered books on CD were a wonderful way to digest amazing literary works that I wouldn't have time to read otherwise.  I then started trying my hand at writing again. I had written short stories as a child, poetry as a teen, and found that I was ready to write again.

I have enjoyed experimenting with writing prompts, (some which are using song lyrics to write a story) writing flash fiction, non fiction stories and am currently working on two books.  One, a full length book which is a collection of short stories and poetry. The other is a children's book, written with my son Zach from his perspective. Zach is 15 and has Autism.  He is an amazing artist and the book explores what it is like to be a teen with Autism.

I love singing with my son and daughter.  My son loves Worship music and will request something new every evening.  My daughter Lily has more eclectic taste.  She loves TobyMac, Skillet and Lauren Daigle.  She adores all the Music from The Greatest Showman and knows the entire soundtrack by heart. I do not hold enough musical knowledge to ever write a whole song, but would love the opportunity to create lyrics at some point.  Lily, in her own mind, has already written enough music for an album. We will just have to wait and see. Josh used to play the guitar quite a bit and even accompanied me a few times when I sang at churches and Christmas concerts.  However, he leaves the singing up to the kids and I.

If I ever break into song, it usually is the song Never Enough, anything by Sam Smith or Adelle and worship songs that have made my heart soar. Please be kind and tolerate my musical distraction for a bit.  Music fills my heart with joy and even recharges me as it does for so many others. Now, if I ever start in with a dramatic performance of Climb Every Mountain, shut it down.  That is me trying to show off.  And nobody has time for that.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

When A Woman's Heart Hurts

My heart hurts a little today.  I have shed a few tears, well, more than a few tears in this past week.  My eyes end up stinging and my throat feels constricted. I often have to take a minute, even walk away for a bit and remind myself how to breathe. An action that should be automatic, but I sometimes forget what I am doing. To calm myself down, I even say to myself, breathe in through your noise, out through your mouth. Breathe in. Breathe out. Inhale. Exhale. Doing so, my breathing usually returns to a normal rhythm, I wipe my tears and somehow I find a way to carry on with my day. Other times, I have to sit down, I have to pray, and remind myself that I am alright. I am not in this alone, and this new normal isn't something that will always feel uncomfortable. That the new normal isn't something that I would ever choose, but it is something I must get used to.

Yes, a challenging diagnosis for my husband, a lot on my plate all at once, but sometimes the tears come for other reasons. Today it was from the news that a necessary doctor's appointment was 2 to 3 months out. Yesterday, it was from seeing a loved one cry.  My heart aches and it sometimes feels like a normal rhythm will most likely never be restored.  Three days ago, a joy-filled experience found me in a pile of tears for the better part of an hour. I wiped them away as fast as they fell, but my tears were seen by everyone. There is no hiding what I am feeling. There never really has been a time in my life when I was able to suppress what I was feeling or thinking.  And, even though I have tried, my body language, facial expressions, rapid blinking, and lack of conversation would tell the observer exactly what I am experiencing whether conversation took place or not.

I attended Forest Lake Senior High School in Forest Lake, Minnesota and graduated in 1993.  Although Forest Lake isn't viewed even today as a large town, my graduating class was over 500 students.  I never knew everyone in my school, not even in my class.  Forest Lake was like every other high school in America.  Different groups of kids, hanging out with different types of people.  The athletes, the nerds, the stoners, the gifted.  The gifted were an interesting bunch that found their way into said group because of who they were.  I am not even sure that other people called them this. Maybe it is what I called them, just me.  The gifted were often attractive, dressed well, usually had money, did well in school, were involved in multiple activities and they attracted many of the same people.  They were usually quite kind and inclusive of everyone, rarely had someone speak an ill word of them and strived to be friendly and outgoing no matter what life had thrown at them.

I had gone to Southwest Junior High and then to FLSHS with many of the same people. When I reached 10th grade, the other students from Central Junior High also joined the student body at the High School.  New friendships were formed based on academic interests and extracurricular activities. I was very involved with my church youth group, Choir and Theater.  I loved singing and being in plays where I could sing even more.  Many of my friends enjoyed sports and speech and debate.

My Senior year, I met a Sophomore girl in the bathroom. I guess you don't really meet someone in the bathroom, but that is what happened. We crossed paths under unfortunate circumstances. Tears.  We were both crying in the girls bathroom by the lunchroom. We hadn't met each other before or talked to each other, and we both happened to be moved to tears during the same lunch hour. Seeking solace in the ugly brown walled bathroom, I was struggling. My heart that day too had been hurt. A conversation had taken place that wounded me to the core.  I was afraid I had smeared my makeup and was concerned that I wasn't going to be able to get my act together before the next bell. I had abandoned my half full lunch tray and quickly and as gracefully as I could made my way to the restroom past the choir room entrance.  I quickly locked the stall door and reached for the tissues.  The tears flowed more freely once I was alone and in my own little space. Hidden from any onlookers, I took a deep breath which quickly turned into a sob and then gulp for air.

I long sniffle came from two stalls down. "Um, are you okay?"  I was appalled. I thought I had checked under each stall door before closing mine. Apparently, I hadn't checked thoroughly enough.  "I know you are crying too. What is it about today?  I wish the day was over. I just want to go home."

Against my will, the salty tears assaulted my cheeks as quickly as I could wipe them away. I just needed a good cry. I needed to dispel all this hurt and just move on. I wasn't sure I could do this. Another gulp of air and a sob caught in my throat.

I heard a flush and she exited her stall.  She went to the sink and turned on the faucet. I heard the soap dispenser spit soap into her waiting hands and then I heard her pull on the paper towel dispenser.  There had been silence for a bit and I was trying to figure out if she left the restroom. "I am still here if you were wondering.  I am waiting for you to come out of there so I can make sure you are okay before I go."  I gulped.  My tears kept flowing yet I had my breathing under control.

I grabbed my bag off the back of the stall door and emerged to find her standing against the sink with her arms folded around herself. She was one of the gifted. "Good. You are going to be okay. Half the battle is learning how to breathe when you feel like like every attempt makes you hurt even more." She wasn't bothered by my tears and she made room so I could wash my hands and make an attempt at fixing my face in the mirrors behind her.  "I have some powder and blush if you need it." She rummaged through her large bag and placed both on the edge of the sink. I nodded to her in thanks as words hadn't yet been able to leave my lips.  I looked at her. Her eyes were still red and a bit puffy, but she had fixed her makeup.

I took a deep breath and she reached forward with the edge of a paper towel and dabbed at my right eye. Such kindness to even try to fix what my tears had made a mess of.  "Was it a guy? It is always a guy.  A guy made me cry today. I kinda hate him. But I want do nothing other than be with him. What is my problem?!  My mom said that any guy worth spending time with will never make you cry. I don't think my mom knew some of the guys that I do. They seem to be very good at making me cry."  She laughed a little at her joke and I finished applying powder and blush to her own puffy cheeks.

"Don't waste any tears on them. They aren't worth it...she would say. Well, the tears aren't wasted and he is totally worth it."  I started to wonder if she had realized that I hadn't yet said a word to her.  I nodded in thanks to her again as I handed back both the powder and blush when I was finished.  She took them quickly and placed them in her bottomless bag.  "I have to get going. The bell is going to ring, I have a long walk and need to stop at my locker.  It has been a pleasure.  And may I share one more thing?"  She didn't wait for me to respond. "When you walk out of here, quickly follow behind me.  I will say something funny. You laugh and smile. Smile big. Smile like this trip to the bathroom was the best part of your day.  And keep smiling as you walk back to your lunch table. That smile isn't so much for anyone else, not even the boy that hurt you.  That smile is for you. A reminder that the rest of the day can be amazing if you decide that it will be." She smiled at me and winked and started moving quickly.

She exited so quickly and I fell in step about five paces behind her.  She turned, said something funny and that was my queue. Just as I reached the entrance of the bathroom.  A smile to rival all smiles stretched across my face.  I held my head high and smiled at her as she walked into the crowd.

The rest of the day was a good day.  There were no more free flowing tears and I even smiled in remembering my odd exchange in the bathroom. I headed home, finished my homework, ate dinner, watched a show, and slept deeply.  The next day, I got up, and went back. I went back to school.

I do not know the name of the Sophomore girl that was so kind to me that day in the restroom.  I never saw her again in that restroom. I may have known her name at some point in time, but it has escaped me some 25 years later. But I remember that she was able to help me feel better and even encouraged me without even knowing my name. It was a selfless gesture and one that was always remembered. I have told a few friends about my odd bathroom interaction, and every time a do, a smile spreads across the face of the listener.

Women of all ages, from tiny to 80, have the same thing in common. We are women.  We should be loving, encouraging and kind to each other whenever we are given a chance.  Our world can be harsh and often times cruel, so let's extend kindness to each other.  Give that hug, ask if they are okay, borrow blush, wipe tears and always encourage. Share your story.  Your story may make someone feel not so alone. Your story of being an overcomer may be exactly what another woman needs to take the next step forward. Your story might be what makes them understand that tomorrow is a new day, and worth the effort. The effort of reclaiming your breath, of wiping your tears, of fixing your face, of finding your smile, and moving forward to conquer the new day.  The effort is always worth it.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Absolutely Thrilling- Sam Smith The Thrill of it All

When I was surprised by my husband with Sam Smith concert tickets for this past Tuesday night, I was in a state of silent glee. I cried in disbelief.  I proceeded to tackle my day, grinning from ear to ear.  Dinner at Wildfire was delicious. When we exited the restaurant, I was pleasantly surprised when car and driver met us at the curb.  Josh thought of everything.  We comfortably drove to the Xcel Center in St. Paul where we were dropped at a door not too far from the suite.

His opening number, Burning, (my favorite!) caught my heart in my throat.  My heart was beating out of my chest and my hands were shaking. Tears poking at the corners of my eyes. I never expected this reaction, as I am a grow woman!  But there I was, fangirling all the same. He sat hunched over in a gorgeous black suit sitting in the middle of the slim triangle stage with a single overhead spot light shining down on him.   I knew once the words, "I've been burning, " had been sung, that the concert was going to be amazing.

Overview and thoughts of the night.
1) His smile radiated all the way to suite we were in.  He was smiling ear to ear. You could tell how happy and content he was.  He spoke of just returning from three weeks off. He seemed refreshed, svelte, passionate about performing and excited to be there. His smile is what captivated me. He smiled when he shouldn't be smiling! It could have been the saddest song ever, but he wasn't able to suppress that smile no matter how hard he tried.

2) The back up musicians and vocalists were phenomenal.  As in the best I have ever heard. I would go to a concert of just them singing and playing they were that good.  His musicians played the entire song of Writing on Wall, (from the James Bond 007 movie) the orchestral version before Sam even entered to sing the song. It was breathtaking.  And the backup vocalists reigned supreme on songs such as Him and Pray.

3) He talked about loving what he does. He talked about his love for family and friends. He talked about heart ache and pain, but realizing that his focus on romantic love overshadowed all of the other relationships in his life.  He said that when he refocused and spent time with those that he loves, his male friends from his teen years, his sisters and family, he felt truly loved, treasured and content.  He also talked about how he realized how sad all of his music was. But that he wanted everyone to leave their sadness, heartache and strife at the door. Just for two hours while he performed because he promised we would be glad we did.  He was right. I was.

4)  He has perfect pitch.  3 notes that weren't perfect all night long. THREE!  (And two of those iffy notes were due to poor breath support.) Imagine using your voice all night, top of your range, full volume, and a picky concert goer (me), only finding 3 notes at fault.  I was astounded at his performance.  I have never heard anything like it.  People mess up all the time. Not Sam Smith. He is at the top of his game, an unbelievable performer and I am ecstatic to  hear what music pours out of him next!  (He is working on his third album now he mentioned.)

5) Concert goers aren't always there for the performance.  Some of the clothing choices and behavior at the concert led me to believe that some people weren't there for a Sam Smith concert, but they were there to be seen. They felt the need to shout/sing each song and thought they should be the center of attention. Bless it. No. Enjoy the experience, don't be a distraction please.

6) I will go to every concert that he ever performs from now on in the Twin Cities.  No lie.  These tickets were a gift and we were so very thankful for them.  But this proves my theory, case in point.  Spend your money on experiences, not things.  Go places, see amazing things, participate in everything you can, take in the sounds and sites and taste the food.  Place less importance on the things of this world.  They are passing away, they will rust and crumble.  But memories of amazing experiences last a lifetime.

7) My husband absolutely struggled. He was only able to be present for about 1/4 of the concert, and during that time, he wore ear plugs and headphones, and his eyes were often closed.  It was too much for him. But how I loved that he was so excited that this night was all about making me happy and enabling me to have enjoyable night. We won't go out to dinner again any time soon.  We won't go to any large events again anytime soon. But I will treasure this night and the effort that Josh put into it to make it unforgettable for

Here are a few pictures and videos of the night.  The sound quality makes up for the poor picture quality as I was so far up in the stands.  Enjoy! 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Thrill Of It All - 8/14/18- Sam Smith Is In Town

I love the music of Sam Smith. I wasn't sure about him at first.  That high falsetto was just too much for me. Slowly but surely, he grew on me. It was probably that duet of Lay Me Down with John Legend that got me.  Sam Smith's music quickly became my go to music. When I was showering and doing my hair and makeup, when I was doing the dishes and cooking, and driving to and from work.  I often would put on a full concert of Sam Smith songs in my car. Oh, those poor people who happened to be parked next to me at that light that never changes on Shady Oak. They were privy to many concerts.

I was in tears before 9 am today. Usually I will say that this is never a good way to start the day. But today they were tears of Happiness. Tears of Joy. Tears of Excitement. My husband told me that he was feeling good enough to take me on a much delayed anniversary celebration night out.  I was so confused.  Our 23rd Anniversary was June 24th. My birthday on the 25th and then Josh's birthday on July 30th. These normally fun filled occasions had come and gone quietly as my husband Josh hasn't been well in over 5 months.  (Bilateral Vestibular Dysfunction with Complete Vestibular Failure) I just thought maybe someday would we start celebrating fun events, but wasn't sure when that day would be. I was thrilled at the idea of spending an evening with Josh.  He said he had arranged childcare, and we would be leaving at 5:45pm for dinner at Wildfire. Oh how nice! I love Wildfire.

He then went on to say we had plans after, but he wasn't going to tell me anymore. More. There was something more.  I had just looked yesterday online and saw that there were a few acts coming to town.  Oh. My. Word. I screamed much louder than necessary,      "Are we going to the Sam Smith concert?!"  Josh can't lie. It was written all over his face. A smile from ear to ear.  My tears started quickly.  He told me how much he loved seeing me happy and excited to do something fun.

Josh went on to explain the most amazing story of how he came to have two tickets to tonight's Sam Smith concert. Everyone at the Lunds & Byerly's Prior Lake store entered a corporate drawing to win two tickets to the concert in the company suite.  Someone in his store won! Not only did they win, they weren't interested in the cocnert, knew that Josh would love to have these tickets for me and she gave them to him. SHE GAVE HIM TWO FREE TICKETS!!!  What a wonderful selfless act! And apparently she has done it before.  Absolutely amazing.  So last week when we went to Josh's work and I dropped him off for a meeting and so he could visit with his employees, they presented him with the tickets.  Amazing.

I can hardly contain my excitement.  I joked with Josh that I would have to figure out what shoes to wear because apparently my tennis shoes won't work with a nice outfit. I will have to figure out an outfit too.  This is hard stuff for me. The girl that loves tee shirts and yoga pants or long sleeve shirts and draw string pants.  This terribly casual girl is going to need to step it up a notch.  Might even break out the curlers.

So this is where I will have to keep you posted. I will absolutely post pictures and hopefully a video or two.  Because it is Sam Smith.  What songs do I hope to hear tonight? Drowning Shadows. Burning.  No Peace. The Thrill of It All. Too Good at Goodbyes. Leave Your Lover. Not In That Way. And pretty much every single song he has ever recorded.  I want to hear them all.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

1, 842 Weeks and I Don't Want to Count Anymore-Josh's (23 Weeks for real) Update

Hello dear friends and family. Thank you for your continued help with driving Josh to doctor appointments, entertaining our kids, wonderful dinners and fruit and grocery drop offs. It helps us so very much. 

Josh met last week with a very encouraging Vestibular Rehab Specialist who wanted Josh to decrease his Vestibular Therapy Exercises and try to do more real life things. Go on longer walks, get on the three wheeled bike, go to the store, go out to lunch with the kids and I, go to Costco, and continue putting golf balls.  She wants Josh's brain to learn how to adjust to him doing real life activities rather than just become accustomed to doing VT.  There have been good days and not so good  days. But we are thankful for encouraging docs and the fact that each one desires to see Josh improve.

This past Tuesday, Josh woke in the night with a horrible sense of the entire world spinning. He was miserable and it took hours to calm him and get him settled. We knew he needed be seen at the U of M hospital.  I prayed for a cancellation and there was one. Our friend Tim came and brought Josh to see the Therapist.  She was able to quickly diagnose him with Positional Vertigo on top of his Bilateral Vestibular Dysfunction. She ran him through a number of exercises and maneuvers. She told him he would feel crappy the next couple days but then would return to his new normal, of being dizzy all the time, but the room would stop spinning. She was exactly right and he felt about 50% better by Wednesday morning.  He had been struggling with sleep but finally slept Wednesday night and then slept really well Thursday night. 

Thursday, Josh met with Neurologist who ordered a few additional tests. His eyes are still resetting and it is noticeable.  It might just mean that it is taking his brain a significant amount of time to reset to his new normal of not having any vestibular function.  He has already received his glasses, but isn't able to wear them as of yet because they make him even more dizzy.  The Neurologist is trying to rule out a few more things such as Cogan's Syndrome. These are not scary things for us as we know that the doctor's are trying to be very thorough and make sure that they still aren't missing anything. It has been explained time and time again, that when someone is suffering from significant vestibular dysfunction or complete loss as Josh is,  there can be other medical issues occurring at the same time. They want to make sure that isn't the case.

Josh had an amazing day yesterday.  The best day he has had in over 5 months. He slept well the night before, he was always dizzy but felt good and had more energy than usual. He needed to go into work for a meeting and wanted to see his employees. The kids and I went with and then dropped him off and we went to a few sales and to a few cute shops in Prior Lake. This was a challenging time for Josh as he will not be returning to work in PL.  He got to greet his boss and coworkers and his employees.  He was so pleased to be present with them yesterday.  Some of these employees cried when they saw him. They love him and his amazing ability to lead and encourage.

Josh has been offered a job in Corporate Recruiting with L & B and we are so excited at what accommodations are being made for him. He will be able to work part time once he is cleared for work and they will even get him set up at home.  When he returns to full time, he will be able to continue working mostly from home.  Same pay, same insurance for our family. GOD IS SO GOOD, FAITHFUL AND NEVER HAS LEFT US!!!  We are so incredibly thankful for His provision and guidance. Josh will firm up all the details of his new job this upcoming week. 

After bringing Josh to PL yesterday, we went out to eat as a family. We had such a nice time. It was a busy restaurant with lots of people and Josh did great. When we got home, Josh rested and then was ready to have some fun with the kids. He rode the three wheeled bike with Lily and she loved having him with her.  He was able enjoy a few hands of cards with me and spent time watching sports with Zach.   

Thankful to Dan and Aaron and Joshua for coming over this morning to weed wack, clean the pool and vacuum out the cars.  And thankful to our neighbor Josh for mowing our grass again and for bike tune ups.

What do the coming weeks look like for us?  More of the same.  Rest and quite, and making small attempts to try new things daily. We are going to make the attempt to go away for a day this upcoming week. The drive is about an hour and half.  We are praying that Josh can handle it. And the following week we will see if going away for few days will work.  Slow but sure.

Thank you again to each of you who have loved on us and encouraged us. Who have prayed for Josh and our family without ceasing. Thank you for helping when we need it so very much.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Josh's 22 Week Update-Calmer of the Storm

Josh met with a new Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapist this past Tuesday at The U of M in Minneapolis.  She was very encouraging to Josh and changed up Josh's whole regime of exercises. As in she told him to stop doing all the exercises that he was doing. He was shocked.  She told him that all he was doing was training his brain to do the exercises, not to learn how to function in real life.  

SO what does this mean?  She wants Josh to try real life things. Something everyday.  Not everything all at once, but something.  So, she wants him to listen to music in an enclosed space. Play golf, putting in the dinning room, load the dishwasher, stay upright  for as long as he can. She wants him to go out to lunch with the kids and I. Go to the store. Attempt church with an ear plug for his one hearing ear.  She wants his brain to relax and assimilate rather than constantly being on high alert. 

Yes, bright lights and loud noises are jarring. Yes, he needs to lay down about 4-6 times a day.  Yes, he feels horrible at times, but Life has now become his therapy.  We went to lunch the other day.  It was challenging, but he did it!  We listened to music in the car and when Zach  asked to turn the music up, Josh did it. Josh sat in on a meeting with Zach's social worker on Friday morning. And he mounted the new three wheeled bike and rode a bit with Lily.  Thank you family for this gift. (This was very challenging and took to bed for quite some after. )  But he did these things.  

Josh had a couple good days this week.  He woke up Thursday was was doing alright until about 4 pm, and then struggled the rest of the day.  Friday morning until about noon was challenging but he rested when he needed to, stayed hydrated and was present as much as he could be. 

This week was also the week of a ridiculous amount of doctor appointments.  ENT (extreme facial pressure) , Eye doctor as Josh needs glasses, U of M therapist as I mention and the dentist for a cleaning.  But he went to these appointments. He did it.

This week, I believe 8 friends stopped over for a visit.  Thank you. Thank you for spending time with Josh just talking and sitting on the couch. For praying with and for Josh. Thank you friends for all the fruit and yummy food.  Thank you to Zach's main teacher at Chanhassen High School, Miss Jenna, for stopping over with yummies and to visit Zach and say hi to our family. Zach was elated. Thank you friends for assembling bikes, for fixing the brakes, for folding laundry while I am work and for hugging me longer that necessary when I return. Thank you for your love, your continued prayers and your constant encouragement to our entire family. To each of you that have reached out, THANK YOU!

Josh knows what it feels like when he overdoes it. So each day, he won't do a lot, but will continue to do something.  And that is to be applauded.  This will continue to be a long road that needs to be traveled.  But we are so thankful for The Calmer of the Storm.

Calmer of the Storm

When everything is wrong
The day has passed and nothing's done
And the whole world seems against me
When I'm rolling in my bed, there's a storm in my head
I'm afraid of sinking in despair.
Teach me, Lord to have faith
In what you're bringing me will
Change my life and bring you glory 
There on the storm I am learning to let go
Of the will that I so long to control
There may I be in your arms eternally
I thank you, Lord, you are the calmer of the storm.
You rebuke the wind and the waves
Once again I find I'm amazed, the power of your will
'Cause I'm a child of little faith
I feel the wind and forget your grace
And you say, "Peace, be still."
Teach me, Lord to have faith
In what you're bringing me will
Change my life and bring you glory 
There on the storm I am learning to let go
Of the will that I so long to control
There may I be in your arms eternally
I thank you, Lord, you are the calmer of the storm.
And oh, when a torment blows
The middle of the sea
May I have never trust, never trust in me
'Cause There in your arms I find no tragedy
There on the storm I am learning to let go
The white waves high, it's crashing over the deck
And I don't know where I go
Where are you Lord, is this ship going down?
The mast is gone so throw this anchor
Should I jump and try to swim to land?
There on the storm, teach me God to understand
Of your Will that I just cannot control
There may I see all your love protecting me
I thank you Lord, you are the calmer of the storm.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Green Thumb

I wish I had one. A green thumb that is. Everyone I know seems to have one except me.  The woman down the street had to cut back her rose bushes as they seemed to assault every pedestrian that passed by on the sidewalk. My singular rose bush grows 6+ feet high every summer and hasn't produced a rose in 3 years. Possibly 4.  It also only has maybe 4 long branches so it really isn't a bush.  It is more of a 4 limbed weak attempt at being an octopus that attacks people when it is windy. My peonies are beautiful but the flowers last maybe two days even being watered because they end up withering in the hot direct Minnesota sun each summer.  If I was smart and had done my research before planting, I would have known that they would have done a bit better in partial shade during the day rather than being blasted by the scorcher I like to call the sun.

To be honest, I have had a few indoor green thumb successes. When my friend and partner in crime Laura moved to Georgia, she planted a few cuttings from a plant she loved of her mom's. I was so worried about making it take root so it would live.  It took so much attention and at one point decided to uproot itself in revolt because it didn't like its new owner. Me. It didn't like me.  Now thriving, I have to water it maybe once every two weeks and it warms my heart every time I look at it.  The plant on the huge buffet hutch in my front entryway is a beautiful multi green hued tall fern like plant in a large green planter. I received it as a gift from my mom's assisted living facility when she passed away.  It also staged an attack on a guest one Christmas a few years ago.  I think a sleeve of a thick winter jacket may have hit the plant when it's owner was putting the parka on.  I ended up having to put a few posts in the large pot and string it up with fish wire. Now it is maybe three feet tall. Beautiful.

My mother in law gave me an amazing bright red poinsettia the day after Thanksgiving last year.  It sits in my kitchen window, now in August and has so much beautiful new green growth. I think I can continue helping it along  until it is Christmas.  I kind of want to wrap it in a bow and put it in the center of the table during Christmas Dinner.  I have jade from a client growing strong in the front living room and the kitchen window. I also have a large pot of in the front entry way.  I am nursing two flowering cacti that my sister gave me for Mother's Day. Beautiful. But the aloe. I love it. I have two large pots that were originally from my mom.  My son had a fight with the one in the front entry way last week when he decided that a dog gate should be resting on top of it.  Two chop sticks are holding it upright.  I think it can be salvaged. My sister Angie, now there is natural green thumb if I ever did see one. She had over twenty pots of aloe alone.  They all were so healthy and plump.

My friend Katie gave me a cutting of one of her favorite plants quite a few months ago.  The day she was preparing to give it to me, her middle child, whom shall remain nameless, Reggie, pulled off all the leaves.  I would like to announce it now has 7 beautiful plump green leaves.  I have no idea how this happened, but it did.  The gorgeous orchid that my husband bought me last year on the day I found out I would need to have surgery was a sad sight. I almost threw it away. I thought I would continue adding an ice cube to the tiny beige pot every few weeks and just see what happens. Green growth. New growth. I am so very glad that I didn't pitch the orchid.  When it flowered again this past March, it was then in continuous bloom for over two and half months. What? No clue how I possibly was the recipient of such beauty.

I have come to the realization that I do have a green thumb. I have proven to myself that I can keep plants alive.  I just don't like putting a whole lot of effort into it.  I have also come to realize that I don't have a whole lot of plant knowledge and I should spend some time getting to know the plants that live in my yard and under my roof. As in the actual name of the plants.  Or how often they like to be watered. If they need to be transplanted to a better location.  But let's be real. I love plants. I love the green lush plants, the beautiful colors of flowers and the vegetables growing in my garden that taste oh so good.  I just love that these things sometimes grow and that I get to play a hand in it.  The beauty of God's perfect creation will never be wasted on me. 

I have also come to realize that I love plants when they are gifted to me.  I love the person who gifted to them me and I fervently want to keep the gifted plant alive. Almost as if I want to be able to point out the plant to them when they enter my home. "Katie! Look! It is alive!"  Or to my mom in law, "Kathy isn't that the most beautiful poinsettia ever? You gave it to me over a year ago!"  Not bragging in my ability, more so bragging that I didn't kill it. 

If you are ever at my home, and I take you on a plant tour, know that it is because I love the colors, the textures, and sometimes even the tastes of all of these plants.  So thank you for feigning interest and humoring me in my tour of my 16 plants.  I love the people who gave them to me as much as the plants. 

Thursday, August 2, 2018

She's Like the Wind-Meandering Thoughts Of An Old Patrick Swayze Song

It was 1987 when I first heard the song "She's Like the Wind" by Patrick Swayze.  He co-wrote and sang the song for the movie Dirty Dancing.  The song became very popular and even reached the number three slot on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. I recorded the song using my tape deck in my room off of 101.3 KDWB. I couldn't understand all of the lyrics and thought if I played if over and over, and could stop it and push rewind, I would eventually hear what he was saying.

I feel her breath on my face
Her body close to me
Can't look in her eyes
She's out of my league

Just a fool to believe
I have anything she needs
She's like the wind

My young 12 year old mind found these sappy words absolutely beautiful. I understood that the man felt he wasn't good enough for the woman he loved.  He loved her closeness, but also knew that it was probably temporary. As if there wasn't anything there for her to want to stay.  She's like the wind. I believed that this meant she moves quickly and quietly, and maybe in the opposite direction. Heartbreaking to learn about the reality of relationships from song lyrics. I remember thinking he should firmly take her by the hand and convince her to stay.  I believed at the time, that a firm hand hold was all that was needed for her to reconsider.

My cynical teenage heart was a bit wiser.  After I convinced my mom that I should watch the movie, I learned something new about relationships. Some came in fast and furious and dissolved in much of the same manner.  Most relationships were short, out of control and often ended badly.  But they served a purpose.  They always  served a purpose. 

It doesn't matter if it is a romantic relationship, or one with a friend. It could even be a relationship with a parent or sibling. Each relationship teaches us what we want and what we don't want. They teach us how to love and be loved.  They teach us when we need to walk away and when we need to stay. They teach us how to communicate with others and when we should keep our mouth shut. They serve as a balm for a weary soul, they overwhelm our solitude, they mold us into whom we were meant to be. 

All this from a Patrick Swayze song? It was some song.


I Know What That Means- By: Kelli J Gavin for Writers Unite!

I Know What That Means By: Kelli J Gavin After my family moved to Minneapolis three years ago, my parents refused to visit us in our ne...