Wednesday, June 16, 2010

2 weeks, 8 weeks, 20 years later: a reflectiton

Two weeks ago I said goodbye to my first class, my first group of students that were mine for the whole year. It was sad to see many of my students go. Some went on to other schools, and I had the burden of knowing I may not see them again. With all of my students, I carry the hope that I made the impact that God wanted me to make in their lives. It was bittersweet as I packed up my room, as I realized that I had finished well, in spite of many obstacles, in spite of feeling like I was flying blind more than once, I had finished. In this year I learned how better to do just about everything about teaching. How to better work with (and deal with) parents, how to better encourage and discipline students, how to better see them as the precious individuals God created them to be rather than just the kid who was making me feel like a crazy person at that moment. Two weeks ago I packed up my classroom, knowing that by God's grace I had done a good job this year, that I will do a much better job next year.

Eight weeks ago I had my TIA. I am feeling pretty much like myself now, most of my energy is back, and I have had no problems at all since my last entry. When my friend, Dana, checks in with me, she always asks me how my brain is today. Thankfully, it seems that my brain and I are getting along quite well. I praise God that He has given me so much healing and peace, and pray that if it is His will, I will have no further recurrences. Ever.

Twenty years ago I walked down an aisle in a small-town church to say "I do" to my high school sweetheart. I remember how it felt then, both of us fresh out of college with James gearing up for law school that fall, full of expectations and dreams, knowing the world was wide open to us and nothing was impossible. I can honestly say that we are not at all where I thought we would be 20 years later, but exactly where I want to be. I thought I'd be married to a lawyer, be home full-time forever, getting my nails done and volunteering for charities, a woman about town, well known in Sacramento. I am instead married to a computer systems engineer/architect, I am a contented teacher ministering at a private school, and it doesn't really matter to me who knows my name or that I get a manicure maybe twice a year. I couldn't be happier. I look at my wonderful husband and know without a doubt that he is the perfect man for me in every way. I still have the adoration and desire for him that I had 20 years ago, but my love and respect for him has grown so much over this time as I've watched him become an amazing father, watched how he has ministered to so many in selfless ways, watched him take the high road over and over when he could've made other choices, and experienced with him all the highs and lows of our wonderful life together. And he makes me laugh like no other.

Reflection is good. It helps us remember where we've been and how much we are blessed, even in the challenges. I highly recommend it.

Friday, May 21, 2010

1 month later...

I saw my neurologist yesterday and he has great news and mildly annoying news.

The great news is that ALL my test have come back completely normal. Praise God! I am very healthy and everything looks as it should. No evidence is there for any cause of TIA/Stroke. Also no evidence of migraine variant, since that won't show up on tests.

The mildly annoying news is that they may never know the cause. Ever. So can I prevent this in the future? Yes, by continuing to take Plavix. I'm not having an adverse reactions to the meds at all aside form the easy bruising issue, which isn't all that big of a deal. I will continue to be under the care and supervision of my neurologist, but don't have to see him again until August unless I have another episode or other problems.

What I continue to hear through ALL of this is God telling me to just be patient and trust Him.

Jeremiah 29:11 says: "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." He is telling me that I don't have to know the why, the how, and the when, I just need to trust Him with my future and know that his promises can be relied upon. Always.

So on I go. I am feeling really pretty well and fairly normal (for me, at least) these days, still battling fatigue, but am trying to get back to regular exercise at my doctor's recommendation. I am looking forward to the next few months "off" to spend time really resting my body and spending time with so many I haven't seen since school/chaos started last fall. Thank you so much, my loved ones, for all your prayers and support!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Two weeks later...

I don't have a many more answers. I have had two more (much smaller) TIAs (Tuesday, 4/27 and Sunday, 5/2) since I've been home from my Chico adventure. And I have had one Misdiagnosis: An ER doc, during a visit after my 2nd episode, told me I was having migraine variants (w/o pain), definitely not TIA, and I should see a neurologist for confirmation.

I met said neurologist, who I liked very much, this past Tuesday. He reviewed all my prior tests and interviewed me extensively. He performed a few neurological tests, and concluded the ER doc was wrong. Definitely TIA. He added a shiny new med to my life: Plavix. A blood thinner. They tell me I'll bleed a lot more if I get cut and I'll bruise really easily. Side effects include nausea and dizziness, so I'm taking it at bedtime so I can sleep through the worst of it. My neurologist also ordered several more blood tests, a chest x-ray, and a trans-esophagial echocardiogram (TEE) by a cardiologist to rule out heart issues as the cause of my TIAs. I have lots of acronyms, now.

I had the TEE yesterday morning. I had to be at the hospital at 5:30am after fasting since midnight. Basically they put me under completely so they could put an ultrasound camera down my throat to check out my heart from behind, making sure there isn't a hole, arrythmia, problem with the valves, etc. All totally normal and properly functioning. I spent the rest of the day fairly sleepy because of the anesthesia and with a very sore throat. But, this is one big thing crossed off the list of what could be causing my problem. I will see the neurologist again in less than 2 weeks, but until then, we wait, we trust, and we pray.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said "Faith is taking the first step when you don't see the whole staircase." We choose to walk by faith through all of this, knowing that God's timing and purpose is more important that knowing a definitive answer right now. I haven't had any recurrence since I started the Plavix, which is good news. I have been back to work for a few days, with intermittent time off for the many doctor appointments, and am gradually feeling more like myself. It is great to be back with my goofy 6th graders, who actually missed me when I was gone. We have 3 1/2 weeks left in the school year and I really desire to finish well. Limited energy is one of the issues with which I still contend, and I'm trying to listen to my body and rest when I need to.

I struggle mentally with the idea that I can't do everything for everyone all the time right now, but God continues to show me that He is in control and to reveal the great value in stillness and quiet. I really don't know what the next step is going to be, whether or not I will really ever get a definitive answer for the cause of the problem.

I was reminded yesterday of this scripture:

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion says my soul, therefor I will hope in Him."

Throughout these past two weeks, I have definitely seen His mercies new every day. James and the kids have really stepped up these past two weeks, taking on extra chores, helping around the house, ironing their own clothes, and taking great care of me. I am deeply grateful for all the prayers and support form those around us, our amazing family and friends, near and far. God's strength has sustained us because of these prayers and all the practical help.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Exactly what I didn't expect...

I expected to spend this past week with 133 awesome middle school students on Bradshaw Christian's annual Spiritual Retreat at a Christian retreat center outside of Chico. I was all prayed-up, mentally and physically prepared to keep up with them, challenge them, and do my best to help them grow in their walk with God. I fully expected to have not a single moment to myself because I would be constantly interacting with my precious students, my fellow teachers, the wonderful parent volunteer chaperones, pouring myself into these lives. And that's how the first two days of the retreat looked. I was having a ball, feeling completely normal and healthy, enjoying non-classtime with my students. Then came the "storm."

While walking down the dormitory hall Wednesday morning to unlock "my" girls' rooms, I was rocked by an inexplicable wave on the right side of my body. I couldn't see out of my right eye, couldn't control it, couldn't stand straight. Everything started to spin, everything felt out of control, nothing felt like it was okay. My conscious mind was saying "this isn't happening, this isn't real" as I was trying to turn and stagger back toward then end of the hall to find another chaperone. I reeled to catch my balance and was holding myself up against a hallway wall when my friend, Sue, came down the hall and saw me. The next few minutes were a blur, but I ended up in Sue's car being driven to the local hospital. Hours later, after a CT scan and an MRI, I was diagnosed. Transient Ischemic Attack, or TIA is what they call it. A mini-stroke.

At age 43, poster child for perfect cholesterol numbers, active and very healthy, this doesn't compute well in my head. I lay there in my hospital bed trying to get a grasp on all of this. My right eye regained full function immediately, but the right side of my face was still numb at that point, and my right arm and leg were extremely weak. I struggled for hours with "word finding" as I tried to express myself, though my speech itself was not affected. Still having to deal with a bit of that. The "transient" part of TIA means I will regain full function of everything and that no permanent damage was done to my brain, both very good things. Most of my strength has returned to my arm and leg and all the feeling in my face is back. But the why of it all is what continues to puzzle me and the doctors. I desire very much to know what needs to be done to prevent another TIA or possibly a full-on stroke. They thought they had an answer, but it's not as clear as they first thought. I will be taking additional tests now that I'm home and options are being further investigated and questioned.

My "retreat" had changed from being "on" with my students and colleages 24/7 to hours of quiet in a bed 100 miles away from my friends and family. In my "flesh" I should have been an emotional wreck, revelling in one long pity party as I lay there alone in my hospital bed with not one single familiar face around me. But God provided peace that truly passed all understanding. I had time that I NEVER have to be still, to pray, to read the Word, to write, to listen and truly ponder what God was giving me in this time. Sitting still and being quiet is not my natural state of being. At all. I like being in control and really don't like asking people for help. But God is pressing that out in me as I really don't have a choice. It is abundantly clear to me that I don't have control and that I really do need to humble myself and allow others to help me. I am blessed beyond belief with amazing friends and people who will without hesitation support us. I am so grateful.

I got home from the hospital last night and am resting. That's the theme of the weekend. I love that I'm no longer hooked up to an IV and telemetry monitor, that I'm in my own space with my awesome family. But I greatly value all that God has done and will continue to do in this experience He has given me. I will be still, I will listen, and I will give up control.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Spring Break- Day 2

As I pause long enough to breathe I see all the things I've neglected these past few months. I love love love my backyard and it is in a state of woeful neglect. I am deeply shamed. We spend a lot of time back there when the weather is nice and I'm dying to re-claim my "outdoor room" that is my patio. First and foremost, though, there is the need to get everything cleaned up. A new fence is being installed on one side of the yard (new neighbors, fixing up a neglected property) so as soon as they're done, weather permitting, I plan to begin raking up all the dead leaves, something I SHOULD have done last fall when I was up to my eyeballs in figuring out how to function as a full time teacher/excellent wife/supermom. A trip to Home Depot is definitely in order. I need to enlist my able-bodied children to mow and weed a bit, need to put out the cushions on my outdoor furniture, need Grace to help me pick flowers for the pots that will go on the patio (see how I'm enlisting her to give her ownership, maybe she'll even water them...), and need to get some fertilizer and lawn patch to re-grow some of my very sad, patchy back lawn. I have plans, not all of which may be realized this short spring break...but I'll snap a few pics as they are. Our back yard has been an oasis for as long as we've been in this house, nearly 10 years. I need my oasis back!

Spring 1

With spring break comes an inexplicable feeling of freedom that I hadn't really remembered from my own childhood until just these past few days. With only 8 1/2 teaching weeks remaining I can't tell you you much I revel in the pause that is this time off. Much as I love my job, I was truly giddy as I locked my classroom Friday afternoon. My master plan: spend as much time enjoying my family as possible. And maybe a mani/pedi.

Yesterday morning we headed off to Sacramento Executive Airport where James' plane is hangared for an adventure. James has been a private pilot for 11 years, but we haven't flown all that much with the kids. We decided to rectify that situation. James' plane is a Beechcraft Bonanza, which he co-owns with about a dozen other pilots. It can hit about 175 mph. Which makes it possible to travel to unexpected places just for lunch, which is just what we did. It was a perfect morning; no wind, sunny, no haze or fog. After checking the weather in all directions, we settled on a trip to Half Moon Bay, just south of San Francisco.

One thing I've always loved about flying in small aircraft is the amazing things you can see from 4000 feet that you can't see at any other time. When you're in a big jet, you're too far up to see so much of this detail: the texture of the fields as you fly over the valley, the variation in colors, Mt. Diablo in such sharp relief, the delta spreading out in all directions, the green, soft hills covered in yellow and orange wildflowers. We could see the Golden Gate bridge in the distance as we were approaching Fairfield. It was such a cool way the view the scenery, so familiar from the ground, very different from the air. The kids were fascinated as never before with the scenery as we flew down, enjoying Alcatraz, the Bay Bridge, all our usual stops, through a bird's-eye view. Just after clearing Sausalito we had to rapidly descend from 4500 ft. to 1500 to stay out of San Francisco Airports Class B airspace. Beats any roller coaster.

We flew south along the coastline, landed in Half Moon Bay, and walked to Barbara's Fish Trap for the freshest possible seafood lunch. This was a total departure from our usual lives, an escape from the ordinary in every way, peaceful and unhurried, no agenda to keep. Time to laugh, talk, enjoy the company of those I love most. I know this week would fly, so I'm very grateful that this trip was what it was. Exactly what the first day of spring break should be.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

"Keeping up appearances" or "my life through bifocals..."

So this weekend my 14 1/2 year old son decided it would be a good idea to shave his head. Really. He has the most fabulous hair, naturally wavy, very thick, coppery auburn color with black tips from a dye job months ago. And he has cast off vanity. After his play rehearsal on Saturday morning we drove to a salon where he told his "usual" stylist to just shave it all off. This nice young man looked quizzically in my direction and asked if this was okay with me. I nodded, adding that it was his hair and it will grow back. So shave it all off he did. And my son, all angular features and fair skin, emerged with a completely different look. It occurs to me that my vanity is thrown into sharp relief here. While Conor has fully embraced the open and unobscured view of himself that having absolutely no hair (okay, a red fuzz barely visible to the naked eye) will display, I still struggle so very much with appearance. I received the news not so long ago that bifocals were in my future. Now my present. My optometrist said this was normal for "people my age." Harumph. So I struggle with the appearance of looking a bit older, though with glasses that have no visible line that denotes the bifocal nature of these necessary though frustrating instruments. I can see clearly, so can Conor. I guess I need to embrace it as he has.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Here's where I've been...

I promised that I'd make good on my intentions to chronicle my first year as a full-tim teacher. I ran across this reflection I wrote for my Principal after my first week and thought I'd share. This was written early in September 2009 and is a valuable reminder to me as I being the 4th quarter of this school year.

Reflections of my first week…

First and foremost, I feel a huge sense of accomplishment at having “done” back to school for the first time ever. I feel the seating charts, working out procedures, classroom organization, and the myriad other preparations over which I labored were time well spent. The procedures are taking hold, and my desire to instill organization in the students will be realized. Eventually. There have been certain class periods in the first week during which I didn’t have enough planned for the students and they had more “silent reading” time than they should have, something I need to improve on, and I do struggle to remember some students’ names. The getting to know you activities for each of my classes worked well. These activities gave students a chance to interact as well as giving me a chance to learn about each of them as individuals and as students. By Thursday, I had a huge feeling of being overwhelmed with all the initial assessment work and placing students where they could best learn, the experience felt like climbing Everest. Fortunately, I’ve been at “base camp” for a little longer and I am feeling more acclimated.

However when my alarm went off this morning, it awakened me from a vivid dream. My dream involved me driving a semi. It’s fuzzy why I was even attempting this, since I don’t actually drive anything bigger than my little car these days, but I was partially blindfolded as I was driving. I was told by my mother, in this dream, that I had to drive this manual transmission semi, fully loaded, over the Grapevine. I haven’t driven a manual transmission in probably 10 years and have never even pondered how many gears one of these leviathans actually have, much less the level of effort needed to navigate this monster over these mountains in traffic. But I had to learn this seemingly impossible task on the fly and do it safely so as not to endanger my mom, in the car behind me, and the other drivers on the road. My husband laughed when I told him my dream, saying that was exactly what I was doing here in my first year of teaching.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Proctrastinating over oatmeal...OR happiness is a pink yoga mat.

Two full months later, good intentions strewn in my wake, I finally sit down to write again. My two main struggles: lack of time and lack of focus. This year in my life has been SO very transitional, filled with learning how to do nearly everything on the fly, re-tooling the way our home works as I work full-time, and trying to find that sweet spot of balance in the middle of it all.

At the beginning of this school year I intended to start a blog chronicling my first year in full-time teaching, but I didn't (bravo to my lovely friend, Darcy, who is doing that with her first year of home-schooling!). I will definintely revisit some of the highlights and low points in upcoming blogs, because it's been quite a ride, but that's not what this is all about. Nor is it about a new year's resolution. Doing that at the end of February would be silly and not work according to my lovely day planner. I return to the concept of balance.

Now that I'm nearly three quarters through this school year, I am gradually finding that sweet spot. Where it's okay to procrastinate and sit still a bit in the mornings. Where movie night with James and the kids doesn't always involve me ironing or folding laundry as we watch, but actually sitting on the couch. Where I can buy a hot pink yoga mat on clearance at Target (and who doesn't love that) and find time EARLY in the mornings to get back to SOME kind of exercise. Where I can host a house-full of very, very noisy 12 year old girls to celebrate my Grace's 12th birthday and not stress or think I should be grading papers. God is a God of seasons, of rhythm, of order, and He is teaching me so much about rhythm and order in this season in my life. He's teaching me that pausing and being still, listening to my family and my God are more important than having a perfectly clean house (which I don't have anyway). He's teaching me the valuable difference between the urgent and the important. He's teaching me that I don't actually HAVE to do it "all." That I shouldn't even try. In trying to do everything, I accomplish none of what He would have me do. I need to be a good student, and He will give me everything I need to be who He needs me to be.

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness by the power of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 1:3