Friday, May 24, 2013

Patience and Pain

Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.
John Quincy Adams

Patience has never been one of my virtues. Just ask my husband. Most of the time I want something immediately. A conversation. A result. An answer. In order to get something taken care of quick I will shove it, force it, demand it. Now.

A healthy human being can not function well with impatience. People won't want to be around you. Pushing things (and people) into place breaks them.

Becoming a parent forces you to be patient, or at least face it. First of all, you should model and teach patience to your children. Children are the epitome of impatience. As a singer to my children I made up songs to help them learn certain patience.

"Let's all try to be patient.
Patient is a good way to be.
If I try to be patient
Everyone will want to be with me."

For the last two and a half years I have been a student of patience. The lessons started back in April, 2011. The previous October I began taking water aerobics classes as a way to get fit and healthy. Immediately I saw the benefits of this discipline. Everything was going 'swimmingly' until April. That is when the pain first started. At first I noticed the pain while sleeping. Or trying to sleep. The slightest movement would wake me up from the pain.

Soon walking became impossible without doing so in pain. That meant that walking my dogs each day came to a screeching halt.

In June I lived in constant pain. Sitting, standing, laying down....pain. My doctor at that time increased my Vicodin and began a regiment of cortison shots. These treatments dulled the pain but did not resolve anything. I continued my water aerobics classes and worked through the pain.

By August I was depressed and hopeless. By now even the 10 Vicodin a day did nothing to release me from the pain.

I demanded an MRI from my doctor. She suggested an x-ray. I insisted on an MRI.

My doctor sent me to the fracture clinic to discuss the results of my MRI. I was told that my knee was so bad that I would need a total knee replacement. However, I was too young and overweight. They could offer me a brace that would be fitted at an Orthotics clinic. As this was my only hope I jumped at this solution.

Within three weeks of receiving the brace I was 80% freer of pain and weaned myself from the Vicodin. I asked for physical therapy appointments so I could get ready for a knee replacement once I got older and lighter.

Unhappy with my doctor I began a search through the Kaiser system for someone closer to home and perhaps I could find someone who believed my pain assessment and would be proactive in helping me with my treatments. I found a physician's assistant who could serve as my primary care physician. Once she got to know me she suggested a second opinion on my knee. Terri processed my referral to an orthopedic doctor.

Dr. Rae examined my recent x-rays and looked at my MRI. After explaining to me that my knee was the worst he had ever seen, he also told me that my age would never be a barrier to getting a new one. However, the manufacture would not allow a replacement to be inserted unless I was under a certain BMI. Based on my current weight I only needed to lose 25 pounds.

The biggest barrier to my new knee had been my age and weight. I couldn't do anything to get older faster, and in my mind the weight barrier was big as well. Without seeking clarification I assumed the weight loss would likely be at least 75 pounds, at the time, a huge mountain for me to climb....impossible.

After a brief conversation with Dr. Rae I had renewed hope. The mountain had collapsed.

During the drive home my mind raced with possibilities. Impatience began to creep into my mind. I wanted to lose that 25 pounds immediately. I recognized that starting a drastic diet would be, well, rather silly and I would surely set myself up for failure. By the time I arrived at work I decided that my weight loss quest sould begin after the new year. In the meantime I would step up my exercise routine. Daily bike rides, water aerobics and weight training became my addiction.

Ten days into 2013 I downloaded MyFitnessPal to our iPad. Thus began my strict commitment to calorie counting, which turned into an awareness of what I allowed into my mouth and the importance of exercise. By March 25th I had reached my goal and immediately contacted Dr. Rae's office.

As I spoke with the appointment scheduler impatience snuck it's way into my mind...the first available date with the surgeon I had chosen was April 25, 2013. Hesitantly I accepted it but soon reason smacked impatience out of the way. My first grandchild was due April 7th. An earlier date would cause stress and a potential to reschedule the surgery at a much later date. We all know that babies have their own agenda. Surely he or she would have arrived by that time. The date was actually perfect. Hmmmmm......was somebody at work with me??

Sixteen days after Cyrus was born I had my appointment with Dr. Budge. He determined that I was a candiate for a knee replacement. The official process began.

Along the way there have been some bumps. An earlier post on my blog discusses the birth of my grandson, who by the way is thriving.

If God has had me on this journey to find the true meaning of patience, I wish he would have informed me. My joy and elation in passing the test to be a candidate for knee replacement soon collapsed at the next step in the process....scheduling the surgery date. Several days after my meeting with Dr. Budge I had not yet heard from the scheduler as Dr. Budge indicated. Impatience drove me to email Dr. Budge who affirmed that I should have already heard from the scheduler. He said he would contact her. Three more days went by and nothing. I began making phone calls and leaving messages.

When I finally heard from someone the news dashed all my hope. Looking back now I understand how silly it was to respond as I did. I cried. A new policy had been implemented requiring that before a patient (ha!) could be given a surgery date they needed to have medical and dental clearance. It was more than I could take. I cried. Hard.

As I worked to comply with this new policy, each day brought me closer to achieving their requirements. Before another week would go by I had a surgery date: June 24, 2013. Despite my fear and well laid plans, in spite of my own ideas.....the date is perfect.

Along the way I've learned a valuable lesson about patience. First of all, sometimes you can hurry things along in life and other times you can't. Secondly, a lot of things happen to us because of choices and decisions we have made...or haven't made. Thirdly, we are more impatient when things we have no control over affect our lives, but being rude to those people should not be an option, at least for me. I couldn't live with myself.

Being patient means being pleasant...ultimately realizing that what I do, or how I act has an effect on others.

Pain isn't fun to live with. Over the past three years I have often thought about my father. He had rheumatoid arthritis for most of his adult life and suffered at it's hands more than I can tell you. Yet, when I think of my father I think of the word patient. I'd also add the word joyful. He lived with pain much worse than I but was still patient and joyful.

In 30 days from today I will begin a new life, so to speak. Right now it is important for me to reflect on the lessons learned so I don't pass up the opportunity to grow through the last three years.

Oh, I know that I have not left the valley of pain and impatience. I have done my research. This surgery is going to be painful. The recovery equally so.

While living without pain is a good enough reason to have this surgery, there are other reasons that are more important. First of all, walking the dogs again.

But walking with this litte guy's finger wrapped around mine is the most valuable motivation for me to keep exercising and getting strong so he and I can walk together....and maybe we can take the dogs along. I can hardly wait.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Thousand Words

It is said that a picture paints a thousand words. How many words can I find that go along with this picture?

Joy. Contentment. Relief. Love. Delight. Elation. Jubilance. Comfort. Peace. Pleasure. Gladness.

At last, my daughter and her husband have come home with their son, Cyrus Jones. My grandson. The moment I saw this picture my heart felt relief. A thousand words.

Over the last 17 days my emotions have traveled to places I have never experienced before.

My friend, Abigail Rine, wrote on her blog the words that perfectly expressed what my heart was feeling:

"Being a mother is like living with your heart outside of your chest. You have tethered it to another impossibly fragile life, and there is a wound leftover, a hole that will never heal."

The fragile lives I have tethered my heart to are Brenna, Kalie and Jesse. Seventeen days ago my heart wound extended to Kalie's son. The hole in my heart throbbed. Each day, being separated during this time of uncertainty, the distance between Portland and Seattle, was as vast as the deepest part of the ocean.

Kalie faithfully kept me current on the daily reports of her son's progress. Each day brought more good news about his progress. Despite a diagnosis of Cystic Fibrosis, the most urgent concern was his recovery from surgery for an intestinal blockage.

When I couldn't face another unknown moment, I prayed. My husband comforted me...we both ached for our daughter and son-in-law. Prayers from friends and family sustained us all. Our hearts were heavy at the thought of Cyrus being in the hospital. Our hearts were comforted by the fact that he was in good hands, loved by his caregivers, beholden by his parents. He had so much going for him.

Perspective kept me expressing gratitude. During the first days after Cyrus's surgery we were painfully aware that our little grandson was one of the lucky ones. Born healthy, he was a strapping 8 pounds in a NICU of much smaller infants.

Our heartache is not be diminished by this perspective. God's love transcends what our minds can comprehend. I believe that perspective keeps us humble but does not change the fact that God gives us comfort in our own heartache.

Much of what I have experienced over the last 17 days further confirms that God loves me. From getting to Seattle in time to witness the birth of my first grandson, to the fact that as I write this my three children are together, with the newest member of our family, celebrating my own son's 23rd birthday. On one hand my heart longs to be with them. On the other hand my heart is full of joy knowing that my children love each other enough for Kalie and Aaron, just arriving home from an emotional journey, to host Brenna and Jesse for dinner in celebration of birth.

Joy. Contentment. Relief. Love. Delight. Elation. Jubilance. Comfort. Peace. Pleasure. Gladness.

When I gaze into the face of my daughter in this picture my heart can hardly contain all that I feel. The heart that beats for my children now extends to my grandson. I share the emotions found on Kalie's face, emotions welled up from her heart and poured over into her son.

Now my daughter is a mother who is living with her heart outside of her chest. She has tethered it to another impossibly fragile life, and there is a wound leftover, a hole that will never heal.

Monday, April 22, 2013


I've never prayed so much for bowel movements. And now I am praying for a desire for a breast. What grandma wouldn't do that for her grandson?

At the end of Cyrus' second day alive grandpa and I noticed something to be concerned about. We didn't say anything because Kalie and the other nurses were noticing too. The faces this precious child is making look pained. I thought to myself "It looks like his little tummy hurts." The picture that Wade took confirmed this to me.

So at the end of day three X-rays were taken, a contrast done (shooting dye up his little bum to compare the two x-rays with). They found the reason this precious boy was making those faces. Indeed his tummy did hurt. He couldn't poop. He had a blockage in his intestine and would need to have surgery.

On Cyrus' fourth day of life Dr. Proctor cut an incision under his still corded belly button, removed his colon...all several feet of it, found the blockage, pushed the dried meconium through his colon, sewed him back up and waited for him to poop.

We were told he filled 5 diapers. And he hasn't quit pooping since. Which is what we have feverishly been praying for him to do. Each day was a milestone. He kept on pooping till they allowed him to finally have another bit of Kalie's milk that SHE had been feverishly pumping.

Within the first hour of his birth he ate very well. Turns out he liked the breast. Early on however, with every drop of milk he sucked from his mother's breast his clogged bowels filled up and had no place to go, thus the painful expressions on his face on his second day of birth.

Wade and I stayed around the Seattle area helping Kalie and Aaron in whatever way they needed. But soon it was evident that our presence wasn't needed. It appeared that Cyrus would be in the hospital for at least a week, more likely two.

While I know coming home was the right thing to do, I am aching on so many levels. So I pray. Constantly. For poop.

Each day brought good news. Cyrus is pooping. Peeing. Keeping food down. They increase his mother's milk intake incrementally...5 cc's each feeding, then 10 cc's, then 20, etc....

No set backs, other than Kalie and Aaron are desperate to find normal and get their son home. Yet though they are anxious to get him home, they are handling this hiccup so well. I couldn't be prouder of them.

Day nine a new prayer request. "Please God, help Cyrus desire to nurse from Kalie's breast. Oh, and please let him keep pooping."

Tests are being run to see what caused the blockage. We've all been told what the diagnosis may be. While there may be a difficult road to walk, none of the likely possibilities are too concerning. Thankfully we live in a day and age, and a place in the world where excellent medical care is available.

Praying for poop, well, it's something we all do! Pooping I mean.

I believe as I write this Cyrus is three days away from getting to go home with his mom and dad.

He's done so well at recovering from his surgery. He's pooping and peeing as he should. He's starting to desire his mother's breast, he's smiling, swinging, getting his hair styled.

God's been faithful. He's answered our prayers. Starting with prayers for poop.

Like I said, grandma's will do anything for their grandchildren. I can hardly wait to change his poopy diaper.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Joy Complete - thoughts on becoming a grandma.

Grandparents. My 'older' friends have been telling me for years that the only reason you have children is so you can have grandchildren.

Grandparents. I am told that you can spoil grandchildren and when the results of that spoilage makes their presence unbearable you can return them to their rightful owners.

Grandparents have a do-over with their grandkids.

Just Google "grandparent quotes" to find all the trite and adorable reasons that being a grandparent is one of the best things on earth.

The funny thing about life is that others often interpret experiences for you. As you share similar experiences you begin to realize that your view may be vastly different.

Of course I have thought about being a grandmother...and my husband being a grandpa. Honestly I hope my little grandson calls me something other than grandma. I like Nana Boo.

I don't have years of experience at this grandma thing. Truth be told, as I write this I haven't been a grandma for even 1 day. But I don't need anyone else to tell me what I have seen and what I feel in my heart.

From that day in August when Kalie and Aaron told us they were expecting, my emotions have been pretty even keel. Sure, I've been excited. But I determined to put on my granny pants and not go overboard...too soon.

My actions were tempered. Since the parents decided to keep the gender hidden from everyone but the ultrasound technologist, spending a small fortune on clothes before the birth didn't seem prudent. I focused my time on considering ways to make life long memories for my grandchild, for my little sweet pea.

Two lovely baby showers and still my emotions were in check. Each event I breathed in the experiences and held them close to my heart.

As Kalie's belly grew so did my tempered enthusiasm. Not a day went by (especially if I was with my mom) that I wasn't asked "Are you excited about being a grandmother?" Of course. But what does that really mean? Being a grandmother?

Kalie and Aaron invited me to be at the baby's birth. This birthing process is something that is very important to me. Since I had two home births (Brenna and Kalie) and Jesse was born in a clinic in PNG, as a young mom I did a lot of research into giving birth. Several family members and friends were in attendance at my own births so having the opportunity to witness this miracle was very important to me. My invitation was a gift and I am thankful beyond words. Kalie is a labor and delivery nurse....she's in the business of delivering babies. (Which by the way, must add an interesting dynamic to the lovely ladies who work at Swedish who delivered Kalie's baby yesterday.)

In the days leading to Kalie's due date I grew increasingly least inwardly. The biggest thing for me was the drive to Seattle. I knew that depending upon the time of day it could be a disaster in making it to the birth on time.

Now don't worry, I am not going to give you a moment-by-moment account of the events surrounding the birth but here's a little insight to the day.

As I look back, each step, each decision was perfectly planned. From the phone call from Erin (Kalie's doula and friend) at 11 pm on Monday, April 8th, to each decision by Kalie and Aaron from that point on.

But this grandparent gig. I still don't think it has completely hit me. I deeply love my children..have from conception. Even now they continually amaze and bless me.

Children can become the best parts of their parents. Then what do we say about our grandchildren?

When little Cyrus was born a whole new world burst open for me. I could barely restrain myself from reaching for him still covered in vernix. As his arms and legs stretched out and sweet cries came from his mouth, being a bystander in this moment was difficult.

Once again, tempering my emotions, I kept my cool. As I gazed upon the flurry of activity surrounding the mom, my daughter, who had just delivered my grandson, completely natural, no drugs, my heart swelled with pride and my mind raced to how this tiny little man was going to forever change my family's life. We have a grandson, a nephew, a son.

So I am new at this grandma gig. Today we will welcome him into his parent's home, share some time with his other grandparents, watch them marvel at this little wonder.

Tomorrow and the next day, to infinity and beyond, this little man, Cyrus J. McNelly, and I will together get this grandma thing down. I am pretty sure it will come naturally. And no doubt before too long, I'll believe that what my 'older' friends have been telling me about grandchildren is true.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The reason we have children......

My friend Patty has been telling me for years that the reason we have children is so we can have grandchildren. I've been hearing that phrase long before my kids were child bearing age. (Patty is several years my senior.) Last August Kalie and Aaron announced to us that Wade and I would finally become members of the grandparent club. We are now down to the last weeks of waiting to meet our precious sweet pea. We get to be surprised at the birth as to which gender it will be. There are times when the whole thing seems surreal. I haven't gotten carried away....yet. I have a new chest in my living room beginning to fill with toys. I have great plans for this little one....coming to Nana Boo's house will always be so much fun. Wade is giddy with excitement. He's gona be a blubbering grandpa. He can't decide if he wants to be called papa or grandpa. Or gramps. Or grumpy. Jesse will be Uncle Jesse and Brenna will be the favorite aunt. Roxy will need to love this little bairn.