part XII… no babies, just maybes

…a continuation of my story from August 23, 2017 … part XI… pregnant??

November 2011

As I boarded the plane to fly halfway across the continent, I looked forward to a week-long seminar that my trainer had worked so hard for a few of us to attend. No babies, so maybe a week independent of family routines, household projects, bills to pay, classroom lesson plans, parent phone calls, testing, etc…. maybe having a week with one central focus would do me good? Maybe this might be a little bonus time for me to figure out what was truly going on with me. Maybe. All I had to do was attend classes all day, do a bit of homework in the evening and relax, right? Maybe I would have enough energy and no nausea and I could even exercise each day? Maybe?!

Day one… the shock of fatigue railroaded me. Day two… I could barely keep my head up at an early dinner with my colleagues. I bowed out before the meal was over and dove directly into bed. Days three and four put me alone for the entire evening after training ended at 4:00. Lying in bed, I struggled to get a snack for dinner and clawed through the homework as if I were dangling off a building holding on by my fingernails.

I really couldn’t understand what was happening to me. My chiropractor insisted that this was part of the residual effects of my concussion. But can a concussion make you feel this way eight months after the initial hit? Can a person truly feel nauseous, fatigued, dizzy and confused off and on for all this time? All the general doctors I had seen for this had only screened me for mood swings… linking these weird symptoms to my concussion only led them to say: “Aren’t you over that concussion yet?”

Well,  that sort of thinking sends a person like me on a path of challenge mixed with spoonfuls of denial! If I am ‘supposed to get over this’ then what is my problem??? I need to buck up and fight. I need to rise above the storm – tackle this head on – overcome this adversity…

“O LORD, you have searched me and known me!   You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.  You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.  Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.  You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.”  

Psalm 139:1-6

Lord, only you know… how can I know?

As I fought my way through the final day of training, an endless day of taxis, planes and a bus… I needed to make a decision if I was going to follow through on next week’s four hour neurological exam. My hope was to cancel it and move past Dr. Jennifer’s noticings. Maybe there was something major wrong with me? Maybe I had cancer? Maybe I was anemic? Maybe that old liver issue had flared back up? Maybe … okay maybe… maybe the concussion did do some lasting damage?

Upon arriving home, all I wanted to do was plant tulips with my daughters and play outside in the extra warm November we had been graced with. But I couldn’t. My pillow was my only warmth and I played and planted in my dreams… another weekend disjointed from my family… missing out on their conversations and not tending to their needs. Survival. That was my only thought… if I can just survive this a little bit longer… maybe then it will go away?

photo-20

 

 

On a delightful note… my daughters planted tulips without me, and as I lay sleeping, they sent me this sweet picture of assurance. The next spring, tulips popped up all over the yard rather than in the gardens… the random placement of these bulbs continues to bring me a giggle and a smile each spring… it’s all going to be okay!

 

 

 

*This document is the sole property of L. Marie Drake © 2017.  Permission granted for printing copies of this page on the basis that they are not used for personal profit or any financial gain. Thank you.*

part XI… pregnant??

September 2011:
Two months back at work and strange things started to happen. Around noon each Thursday I would get super nauseated, beyond tired, often needing to go home sick – sometimes having to spend the next 3 days in bed. Work had begun to make me ridiculously tired – my Tuesday nights began to feel suspiciously similar to Friday nights after a 60 hour week. And then the nausea became more frequent.

PregnantSEMD

Lucie ~ 1998

I took a pregnancy test… because I most definitely had experienced these symptoms twice before in my life!
There is absolutely no way I’m pregnant. I’m 44 years old – I’m pretty sure I’m pre-menopausal for crying out loud! Well it can’t be, I mean, my tubes were tied right after Zella was born. And not just tied, but tied in double knots (if Eddie was finally able to convince the doctor to do it). It’s just not possible, is it? But they say God does have a sense of humor? So…?
Results in. Nope. Not pregnant. Great! But what’s with the pregnant-like symptoms? Hmmm…?
October:
By now my weeks had settled into a consistent pattern:
Monday – exhausted. In bed early.
Tuesday – super exhausted. In bed super early.
Wednesday – whatever’s worse than super exhausted. In bed instantly upon arriving home, then up again and off to church for Wednesday night activities.
Thursday – a little dizzy in the morning… kinda like day 1 concussion back in March… but not that bad… then by noon my body would just sort of shut down. Nausea, Vertigo, Fatigue and Confusion… the Fab Four, all at the same time.
Friday thru Sunday – sick. In and out of bed.

 

PregnantZRD

Lydia ~ 2002

I decided to take pregnancy test #2.  What was that Sherlock Holmes quote… “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains…” something like that?   Yup… I’ll take the home pregnancy test again, just to eliminate that impossibility once and for all.
Results in. Nope. Definitely not pregnant, and definitely at a loss as to what was making me feel this way.

 

Early November:
Sick and tired and desperate for some kind of answer, I took pregnancy test #3.
Oh what the heck. I’ve been taking pregnancy tests for almost three months now, what’s the harm in another? It’s silly. I know that. By this time, if I was actually pregnant (which of course I could not be) I would have had plenty of other evidence of it. But if I’m not pregnant, why do I keep feeling pregnant?
Results in. I’m not pregnant. Of course not. Yay? I guess..?
But my symptoms were getting worse and work was becoming more difficult. And it seemed that I still wasn’t any closer to finding a reason for them. It was getting harder and harder to just shrug the nausea and fatigue off. After finally ruling out pregnancy, and after doctor visits that ruled out any sickness that might have been causing me to feel that way, my thoughts began to turn back to my concussion. Yet all of the doctors had cleared me, hadn’t they? They had shined lights in my eyes and had me follow their fingers multiple times and told me “You’re good to go. Time to get back in the saddle and leave that brain injury behind you. Go get ‘em tiger!” or something to that effect, which was certainly exactly what I wanted to hear.

 

Actually, it wasn’t all of the doctors that said that. Dr Jennifer, my reliable and knowledgeable chiropractor, hadn’t truly given me the green light to resume my life. I had started going to her on a monthly basis about 5 years prior to my head injury, so she knew me very well. After my accident, when I saw her on my previously scheduled appointments, she started asking me entirely different questions than the other doctors had. She noticed subtle differences in me that neither I nor anyone else had noticed. For example, at my very first visit after the concussion, she asked me if I’d noticed that my speech had slowed. She had an insight into my concussion that was so far beyond my grasp… that I kinda didn’t pay attention to her. When I told her of my failed pregnancy tests and the symptoms that prompted me to take them … and I laughed at how silly I’d been, she didn’t laugh. She looked concerned and quickly ordered a thorough exam of neurological testing in Minneapolis.


“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”  Colossians 1:17

In hindsight, I was “sort of” pregnant at that point. Not realizing it at the time, I was awkwardly in the process of unknowingly giving birth to a new era in my life. And like it slowly tipped my world upside down when I had my babies, my life was changing dramatically. As time went on, it was only in him that I was holding together.

*This document is the sole property of L. Marie Drake © 2017.  Permission granted for printing copies of this page on the basis that they are not used for personal profit or any financial gain. Thank you.*

part X… clueless

The blessing of not selling our home to go bigger and better, was 6 years from being fully realized. As I look back on many phases and decisions in my life, I am frequently reminded of blessings that, at the time, seemed like regular old occurrences. When the Lord tells us, “…He will never leave you, nor forsake you.”  (Deuteronomy 31:6) He truly means it. His ability to patiently bless us beyond our present vision… frankly… astounds me.

By the end of March, I ‘passed’ a follow-up MRI with flying colors. So, per the doctor’s orders, all systems were set on “go” to continue my life as it was, pre-injury.

Lucie’s 13th birthday party welcomed in April. We successfully surprised her and let her and her friends stay up ALL night (a persistent request of hers since age 9). It was a great party with nonsense and noise and even a dance party in our garage with me instigating new and crazy moves to the increasingly louder music.

That was Thursday of Easter weekend. By the time Monday rolled around, I found myself unusually tired and having periods of 3-4 hours/day of blurred vision. Very strange.

Shortly after that, it began to occur to me that attending our church services nearly made me pass out. When I sang I got light-headed. Weird. I wondered why and quit singing.

The next Sunday, halfway through the service, it dawned on me that I had just about no idea what our pastor had been preaching about. Instead of concentrating on the teaching from the pulpit (something I looked forward to every week), my eyes wandered all over the place, taking my brain with them. Zero focus. Just random thoughts about whatever and whomever my eyes landed on:

  • “When did the church get ceiling fans? It’s not hot today. Why are they on and why are they spinning so fast?
  • “Oh, there’s Colleen, I need to ask her about getting the kids together on Saturday.
  • “Is that Lani? Is Rich with her? I have to remember to ask them if they can sub for us next week and lead our Bible study.
  • “Why don’t they turn Pastor Fred’s mic down. It’s so loud.
  • “Sara’s got a new haircut. Very cute. What did I need to tell her? Oh, that’s right. I can’t bring Gabe to AWANA Wednesday night, can she?
  • “When did we get all of these ceiling fans!?
  • “There are the Pedersons. Shoot! … I was supposed to bring our girls’ outgrown snowpants for their kids”.

When church ended and I’d talked to the people I remembered to talk to after the service, I would find myself in a surreal sort of daze, wandering to the car. After arriving back home, I went straight to bed for the rest of the day due to sudden and extreme fatigue and nausea, clueless as to the cause.

  • At school (my workplace), I found myself making odd new requests of my students: “Kids, while I read this story, could you do your best to sit super still?”
    • “Why, Mrs. Drake?”
  • “Well, today I feel a little bit like I’m on a boat all the time, and when you move, it’s like the water moves.”
    • “Oh, we understand that, Mrs. Drake! One time when I was fishing…”
    • “My mom and dad said they felt like that on a plane one time…”
    • “My grandpa took me canoeing when it was windy once and…”
    • Etc…. 

(One of the things I love most about children is their willingness to accept you as you are when you are open and honest with them. It’s like one, big, compassionate and endless hug. I miss those hugs).

It was while I was at work, busy writing reports, emails and other notes for the adult literacy coaching portion of my day, that I discovered that I’d begun to frequently leave off the last letters of the words I was writing. Often entire words were missing. Also very weird.

In early May, after an all-school assembly, I found myself feeling like I was floating. A week later at another assembly, I could feel a wave of nausea slowly creep from my stomach to my head, followed by a feeling of guilt for having to ask my colleague, Sue, to take over my class of 28 kids in addition to her 29 while I rushed out the nearest exit to throw-up. Both occasions left me feeling dizzy, unable to function, in need of a driver to get me home, and in need of 24 hours in bed to recover… with me still clueless as to why.

I found myself in a variety of similarly bizarre situations throughout the remainder of the year. As the 2010-11 school year came to a close I was exhausted and perplexed and looking forward to the relief of summer break more than I ever had before. And thanks to the combined efforts of my mom and my hubby, it was actually going to be a summer off, with none of the usual teacher training seminars and tutoring that I typically filled my “time off” with.

My only summer commitment was a no-pressure, fun commitment. Lucie, Lydia and I all tried out for parts at the local community college’s production of Annie.  And to one degree or another (little Lydia was a stage hand) we all got parts!  Lucie had a growing interest in acting and I thought it might be a great stress reliever for me, so why not? What better way to keep my body and brain active and be a kid alongside my girls?

Funny though, with a cast of about 25, it soon became obvious that I was the one getting yelled at most often by the director… even more than the 15 rambunctious kids playing the parts of the naughty New York orphans! Why? What did he have against me?

One day at practice, Lucie figured it out and came gently to my rescue. It seemed that I was not following the script. I knew my lines but I did not know when and where to deliver them … which was odd, because all my life I have been blessed with a deadbolt lock on my ability to hold things into memory and retrieve them as needed. Now, (this increasingly unrecognizable NOW) though my memory seemed fairly normal, the retrieval process was becoming an obvious mess.

Lucie, Lydia and I proceeded to make four maps and posted them at my four different stage entry points. Each map had explicit instructions – for me alone – as to when, where and what I was responsible for. The director’s voice no longer rang in my ears.

At the end of July the play was over. I felt that the past months’ experiences had left me refreshed and recharged and ready for the 2011-12 school year. On August 1st the lights turned green and my school year began. As usual, it was 0 to 60 in 3.9 seconds – engine screaming and tires smoking.

I felt good. I felt in control again. All went so well at the beginning that I felt like the old me was back! I was confident and moving forward fast as a 50% classroom literacy teacher and 50% literacy coach for teachers. The strange symptoms that came with singing or shouting or talking and laughing with friends; the symptoms that came with listening to the wonderful sounds of a classroom; all of those stormy, seasick symptoms… they all seemed to subside. Whatever all those weird reactions to normal, everyday things were, they must have all been just ‘in my head’.

I was ready to roll…

 

*This document is the sole property of L. Marie Drake © 2017.  Permission granted for printing copies of this page on the basis that they are not used for personal profit or any financial gain. Thank you.*

part VIII… home and whole

As the days passed, I spent more time sleeping and not moving than I had since I was about 5 years old and had pneumonia. It didn’t yet bother me that I couldn’t move crossBESTILL.jpg without the walls moving with me. I was more than grateful to no longer be vomiting or worrying about the escalating danger. All had been resolved, to my knowledge.  And, I had yet to be frustrated by all that I couldn’t do or say. I was just too strangely exhausted to even know the losses that were coming.

Blessing #3… Family and friends came and went with food, flowers and house cleaning (wish I could have booked that for a lifetime!). It’s funny… when you cannot see an illness, no one (including yourself) believes it is truly there. So, I gradually felt like anything that seemed ‘off’ about my day, was just a figment of my imagination. When people came and went, I felt a bit awkward telling them my story… as I didn’t look too different.

After about a week of obedient ‘resting’, I figured it was time to get back in the game. Although, I still couldn’t function normally – couldn’t drive, couldn’t walk a straight line, couldn’t hold a long conversation, etc. – my fear was that these stagnant behaviors would be my ruin. So, in an effort to CONQUER these weird new post-concussion actions of mine… I kept going… harder.

Yup… just as I had dreamed of in the ER… I purchased my first Sudoku book and tracked my progress in learning for my own proof that I was not losing my cognitive abilities. The girls and I tried out for a play through our local community theater – believing that should cover my summer respite (normally my job required me to be in training or training others all of June and August… but my mom and hubby put the kabosh on that). We continued prepping the house to get it on the market. We returned to our busy family schedule of sports, activities and church life. Planning for Lucie’s 13th surprise birthday party went from my hospital bed head to emails and action. Week two, I went back to work part-time. Week three, I went back to work full-time. Week four, back to work full-time-plus.

Blessing #4… Did I need a severe concussion to find my true identity even though I thought my heart was in the right place? The miracle was… I began to see His heart desires for my life.

“If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—”  “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings?”  That’s a good question, God! I died to the world’s way the minute I submitted my sins to Your forgiveness and my path thereafter to Your will. So why do I want a better house? Why do I need to work more than is required of me? Why do I desire to fit into the merry-go-round of American expectations? “These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” So, Lisa, why do you think you always have to do more?  You need to make enough money to have all that our family needs and wants. You need to be involved in volunteering, donating, church activities, etc. You need to be a good mom, wife, daughter, friend… but why?  (Bible verses –Colossians 2:20-23)

Am I living life for what I need and want, creating a self-made religion? Or am I truly living life for what God has planned for me? Are my actions too self-driven from pride or are my actions a result of waiting upon the Lord’s design and being filled with a sincere passion for Him?

Who am I?

Deep down… truly… who am I?

 

**When I list blessings… I know that there were, and still are, many that I have taken for granted, and as a result, have gone unnoticed. My God is too great for me to be able to list all of His provisions and blessings that have decorated my life so abundantly!  As I cite them, I feel negligent in not capturing them all… but then again, I feel blessed. The fact that He would continue to bless me, in spite of my ingratitudes or ignorance, reminds me that He loves me more than I can even imagine.

*This document is the sole property of L. Marie Drake © 2017.  Permission granted for printing copies of this page on the basis that they are not used for personal profit or any financial gain. Thank you.*

mid-month news & info ~ july 2017

NEWS & Info

  • How do I explain a brain injury in one sentence or less? https://mildtbi.wordpress.com/2015/04/26/describing-mild-tbi-in-one-sentence/
  • Today, a dear friend reminded me that the words of the truth, the Bible, are something I need to nourish my spirit with over and over again…  “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”    Mark 9:24

  • Here is a wonderful website about a woman whose life was turned upside down by a major injury… http://www.joniandfriends.org/jonis-corner/jonis-bio/ .  Joni became a paraplegic at 17 years old.  Her story tells of how God pulled her out of the pit …thru her disability, other life events and most recently, breast-cancer.  She is full of inspiration!
  • Info from a researcher on a TBI group I follow… Matthew Bennett is a naturopathic doctor, acupuncturist, and athletic therapist who has recently relocated to Vancouver to start up his own holistic practice called Active Solutions Medicine.
    • “Dear TBI Tribe,  I would like to introduce myself [Matthew Bennett] and the project I have dedicated my clinical practice and life toward over the past 7 years.  Prior to this project I was working full-time as an Athletic Therapist with professional teams in the NHL, MLB and CFL. While working with teams such as the Ottawa Senators Hockey Club, I was responsible for the medical pre/rehabilitation of the team along with another therapist. When players were injured, I slept in their homes and hotel rooms waking them up every few hours to simply make sure they were alive. During these quiet hours we spoke about symptoms of moods, relationships, and ability to function while completing simple daily tasks. Countless times over six seasons I was asked, “how are we helping my head?” Sadly, we just said to rest, day after day and often led to medication, depression, suicide, abuse (substance, child, spouse, self).  We had a protocol for every injury, surgery and emergency scenario, except for TBI. Following the 08-09 season I left the NHL and returned to school to study medicine for the purpose of learning how to empower the brain and nourish the nervous system.  While in school I continued to work in a clinical setting and then returned as a clinical director for a large soccer academy mid-way through the school to help cover costs of the tuition.  This exposure to patients and athletes allowed me to complete game changing experiments with active individuals who are extremely tuned-in to the changes of positive and negative effects of their lifestyle habits. What I have been able to complete to date is the first patented formulation to help treat mTBI. The US Patent number is 9,101,580. As well, I have completed an initial 18-athlete study, a follow-up 60-athlete study and am currently developing a third study with various institutes. This single-blind data collected has shown a reduction in symptoms by a factor of three!  In general, the formula works in three ways 1- Reduces inflammation in specific structures within the brain (ex. asataxanthin reduces inflammation in the optic nerve); 2- Increasing energy to the brain (ex. Taurine); 3- Balance Hormones for adequate sleep and rest (ex. Melatonin).  Due to the extensive 16- ingredient blend there are ingredients which help the soft tissue repair often associated from the whiplash mechanism of injury.  I am continuing to collect data and learn to benefits as well as limitations through each patient completing this document: http://bennettschoice.com/injury-form/  
    • I share this information with you as I recently presented at the Ontario Brain Institute. At this meeting it was confirmed the governments involved with the International TBI Initiative (US, Canada, European Union, Australia and China) have collectively spent $160 million in TBI research in the past 5 years. Added to this is the NFL/NFLPA ~$50 million spent in three years. Of this $210 million not a single dollar in any currency has been spent on treatment options. This is truly astonishing. This is confirmed by the Neurologists, Presidents and Board Members of each association. This needs to change, now.
    • The formulation I have developed is simply meant to be used as a single part of any rehabilitation protocol. Re-align, Strengthen and Nourish. Various practitioners do this by exercise, soft-tissue, bone structure and nutrients. My goal is to connect to create authentic and complete protocols which utilize these pillars which will help share knowledge and improve the lives of those suffering as well as the families witnessing the days, weeks and years of symptoms.
    • A few other resources can be seen at:

http://bennettschoice.com/

http://ndnr.com/…/traumatic-brain-injury-impact-assessment…/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MvCUZcUptY

part VII… the blessings begin

On the afternoon of February 28th, I found myself in the local hospital. At the foot of my ER bed, spun a tornado of incoherent conversations between the doctors, nurses and my husband – decisions – options – “the helicopter is ready” – “who do we call first?” – another CAT scan to check the bleeding – more vomit…

phiaSADat13bday …there sat my little Lucie. It was, to me, the only thing I was able to understand, at least partially. I wondered, why is she so sad? Why does she look so pale? Why is she on her phone when she knows it is for emergencies only? Why isn’t her dad paying any attention to her? She looks like she needs a hug. Is she crying?  Ed… quit talking to all these strangers and go to Lucie… I can’t get to her…. something is holding me down.  Would you please hold her? She needs you!

To this day I have never fully been able to crack the shell that Lucie created around herself in those hours in that emergency room. Her 12-year-old heart was breaking. Her mind was whirling with fears and anxieties about her mama that no child should ever have to face. She had to somehow survive it.

She was so brave (she’s always so very brave). She was fighting this battle for me. My little baby was fighting for me. She texted every person in her life… asking them to pray for me.  A gazillion aunts, uncles, cousins, friends… she recruited to be our prayer warriors… she reached out to them all.

Blessing #1… the internal bleeding in my head – suddenly stopped (6:00p).

No more vomiting. No more brain surgery. No helicopter ride to Minneapolis. No more pending death. Eddie’s ‘mad face’ melted and he smiled at me. My condition was finally stable. Gradually, I was wheeled from the ER room to a room in the hospital. Lucie’s texting and phone calls shifted from pleas for prayers to shouts of praises! … her cheeks grew pink papakissingphiaonhead.jpgagain… as they wheeled me down the hall to my new room. My heart smiled while watching her beautiful red hair bouncing as she skipped along and led our little parade of doctors, nurses, and loved ones.

“…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication WITH THANKSGIVING let your requests be made known to God.”   Philippians 4:6

“WITH THANKSGIVING” … Those two words in the above verse have humbled me for years. Getting thrust into a stressful situation and praying to ‘not be anxious’ is one thing. I get that. But going into a stressful situation, (let alone a near death one), with thanksgiving  and trust for what God is already doing according to His plan – in this very situation – well that is an entirely different perspective for me – a perspective that I could barely fathom at the time. Little did I know, that in the coming years, amidst all of the many anxieties that this concussion would bring to all aspects of my family’s lives, it has also, somehow, brought even more praise and thanksgiving for the amazing things God has done for us through it all.

Tender care and prayers from our pastor, our families, friends and co-workers… carried us through the quick hospital days and transitioned us back into our home life. The doctor sent me home on day two and assured us of the phenomenal turnaround in my condition. Her only prescription was: “Take it easy for a couple weeks. Come back if there are any changes in mood or behaviors. Go home and rest.”

Blessing #2… we are all four home and whole, together.

 

Before you leave this page, if you know of someone or you, yourself, have experienced a concussion… mild, moderate or severe… Please do go to the links below from our website. They are a collection of symptoms, resources and post-concussion care tips. It has taken me 6+ years to sift through, find, and collect the valuable resources below. Had I been made aware of them at the time of my injury, I may have healed differently (possibly completely) from this TBI. The minute your brain is altered through an injury (or any traumatic event), it miraculously starts rewiring to accommodate the alteration. As the hours, the days, the months and the years ticked by for me… rewiring occurred. But it occurred incorrectly. Please take action immediately.

post-concussion symptoms & resources

post-concussion CARE tips & tools

U R NOT alone!

 (please also click on the U R NOT alone! TAB to reveal personal stories from many survivors)

 

*This document is the sole property of L. Marie Drake © 2017.  Permission granted for printing copies of this page on the basis they are not used for personal profit or any financial gain. Thank you.*

part V… the family home

 

About two years after living in our temporary Minnesota home, we were ready to flip it and go for that dream home where we hoped to draw pencil marks on the walls showing how tall our kids had grown; plant trees which would someday grow tall enough to decorate with Christmas lights; and create an environment that we hoped our girls would long to return to with their families one day. But life exists outside of our dreams.

The economy fell into a recession… especially the housing market. All brakes went on. Instead of moving forward with our grand plans of a craftsman rendition of a dream home on some lake, we were quietly thankful that our affordable little home remained just that – affordable.

Meanwhile, my career was accelerating. Nope… not in the way of finances (hey – I’m in the world of education – not banking :)!  Rather the velocity increased in the way of  time, training and learning. My career began to morph into part classroom teaching and part coaching other teachers.

My job was to introduce and instruct established teachers in a new and internationally effective reading program, straight out of New Zealand. Because this concept was new to the Midwest and to our district and to its established teachers, it wasn’t always well received. Therefore, in addition to just simply doing my job, the politics of the job began to take up more and more of an already full schedule. Forty hour work weeks quickly grew to 45, 50, 60, 65+ hours a week… along with a nightly ‘to do’ list staring at me when I was home, trying to be “present” with my family.

Now remember, someone like me truly doesn’t mind this much work. In fact, I’m a bit like a gerbil on a wheel – as long as the wheel’s spinning, I’m good. What does happen to folks like me… is we lose sight of the people and relationships right in front of us.

family pic quebec 2006~good one  Our family had become involved in short-term mission work, Bible studies, sports, youth groups, music lessons, etc…. Despite our best efforts, we had become the typical way-too-busy American family. I had too many balls in the air and I was constantly trying to find that elusive balance between my career and my family.  

Amidst everything – the too busy but still happy family life and my too busy but still satisfying job – sometime in January of 2011, we started re-researching the possibility of finding that dream home. The market had found some stability and our house was estimated to turn a profit. By the end of February we had remodeled the basement and repainted the whole house. Our home was ready to be put on the market and the dream house was once again in our sights.

Then, on February 28, 2011,  everything changed. There was a wild glide into mid-air, a thud, a flash of light and a sudden, blinding pain… and nothing has been the same since.

I didn’t understand it – that everything had changed for me. Not then. I didn’t understand it as we raced to the hospital the next afternoon with my head hanging over the puke bucket while I was on the phone with a colleague, asking her to conduct the training I had planned for the next day. I didn’t understand it as the doctors discussed airlifting me to Minneapolis for an emergency brain surgery while I made plans in my head for Lucie’s surprise birthday party now only a month away.

As the doctors explained to me what a Subdural Hematoma is, I was thinking about our house. The realtors would be there in a week to take pictures. Did I have everything ready? Should I take all of the family pictures down like they suggested?  Did I have all my testing done at school, before kids left for Spring Break?  Were my report cards completed?  ...CAT scan (are they the same as CT scans?) Why was Lucie going through so much at school?  Why did kids leave her out?  Am I spending enough time with my children?  Do I know them? Was Lydia truly as happy and as confident as she seemed? … heart monitor?… (why? I get the brain scan but… an MRI now? ) When would I get all the student’s data entered from the testing if I were in the hospital?  How would I be able to analyze the data if I couldn’t even see the bucket in front of me earlier today?  Could I still speak French?  Oh, no!  What if I lose my language abilities in both French and English… let me try it.  OK, no words French or English… just confusion.  I’ll try later. …more doctors shining more lights in my eyes… (I feel like the lights are killing me). Where’s my mom?  Is she still on her trip? Why is Lucie at the foot of the bed?  She looks sad?  How can I comfort her?  My dad looked quite pale when he came to get Lydia for us, why?  What is Eddie doing? … please don’t make me try to follow your finger again… Would someone please get me a Sudoku, so I can prove that I still have a brain?  Wait, I don’t play Sudoku… note-to-self… learn how to play Sudoku!

As unbelievable as this sounds, about four years passed before I was able to understand and come to grips with the fact that nothing was ever going to be quite the same for me again.  There would be blessings, but they would look a bit different and they’d be harder to see. Not harder to see because they were smaller – I don’t think God gives us small blessings. I think His blessings are all infinitely enormous, all equally wonderful.

I think it’s our vision that fails us. His blessings were there through all of this dark period. Some I couldn’t see at all and missed entirely, and others I could barely make out through the fog – I saw only bits and pieces. But He was teaching me to look closer and to try and focus on what He was doing in my life.

Eventually I got so if I squinted, I could start to see the beautiful pattern in what initially looked like a big, ugly mess.

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.”     2 Corinthians 4:8

I believed that verse meant He wanted me to never give up… and I was a stellar model of that in my newly ‘concussed’ predicament. I thought the words were about me and what I could do. But I have since come to believe that this verse isn’t about me at all. It is about Him.  He wants me never to give up hope in Him.

Ever so slowly I learned to give up on myself and to trust in Him. All of my efforts to overcome this injury were failing. Not one of my attempts at a normal life were successful.

Finally, grudgingly I agreed to hit the pause button on all of the many plans I had made for my life.

But the pause button wasn’t enough. He wanted me to hit STOP…

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