Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Colorado High

It was about eight years ago that the doctors called in hospice and told my Grandpa (Papa) to get his affairs in order.  It was a scary, sad time-- the usual laughter and joking of their house in Colorado became tearful, somber, and reflective.  The family came and said good-bye.  We cried and grieved.  Then... he rallied.  In fact, he recovered.  He sent out "I got well" cards.   He started going back out to the ranch, even rode in a few rodeos.  It. Is. Incredible.  Then, he restored a truck.  (Don't tell his fancy doctors that he holds his oxygen to the side while he welds!)  My Papa is so full of determination and courage, laughter and joy that I named my second born after him.  There is something about being so sternly reminded that his days are numbered that makes me pause to enjoy time with my Papa that much more. And I want my kids to know him and my Mimi and their amazing spirit.  So, this last weekend my mom and I took the boys for a wonderful long weekend.

The trip out there took 10 hours on Friday.  On Saturday, after nap time, I moved Dekker's car seat and Papa drove us out to the ranch.  Papa asked Dekker if he had a cowboy hat, and Dekker replied, "No, I have a cowboy hood."  That boy is precious.  

When we got there we drove straight into the field of cows.  There were several calves and they were eating from their moms.  Dekker figured out how to roll his window down, and spent lots of time inviting the cows to his window.  "Here cow, come here cow" (in his best "talking to Tucker" voice).  It was so fun to be so near something he had only read about in a book!  

My Papa is a National Champion horse-cutter.  This is a rodeo event.  He started when he RETIRED from ranching, and often beat men half his age.  When his COPD progressed, he rigged up a holster to his saddle to hold his oxygen and cut while wearing oxygen.  His Pulmonary Doctor has a picture of him doing just that in his office.  Can you tell I'm proud of him?  He is amazing.  His cutting horse, Mikey, is still at the ranch.  Papa taught Dekker how to feed him "horse candy" right out of his hand.  Dekker was memorized!  "A horse, Mom.  Look! A horse!  Oh Wow, Mom!"

Then we got back in the truck and found Papa's two other horses.  Papa told Dekker how to hold hay and feed them out of his hand, too.  They eventually warmed up to us, and Dekker loved feeding them.  Again, it was awesome to see the light in Dekker's mind "click"-- I felt like his eyes were saying... "oookkkaayyy, so this is a horse."

Then, as if the day couldn't get any better, Papa parked the truck and announced that we were going on a tractor ride.  Dekker could barely contain himself.  Here is the tractor:

See that door hanging open?  See that ladder?  That is where I "rode" for the tractor ride... praying to God that the huge tire wouldn't run me over and that my scarf wouldn't accidentally get stuck in something where I would traumatically be squashed while my son watched!  (My anxiety never takes a vacation.)  Papa started up the tractor and Dekker was initially a little scared from the noise, but he settled right in and got very comfy.  Papa even let him drive.  My heart overflows!

Nothing like taking a potty training toddler out to the ranch.  Sometimes "nature calls" even out in the nature.  Thank goodness the house out there has a wonderfully working potty! 
The rest of the weekend was just a wonderful.  We relaxed, watched TV, jumped on the trampoline.  I got to spend some time visiting with my Grandma, Mimi.  She is just as incredible as my Papa, and I have learned so much from her-- she knows not a stranger, there is always room for one more at her dinner table, she is caring and generous. My mom got up with Tucker (at 5:30AM thanks to Mountain Time) and I slept in.  We ate yummy food, saw some of my cousins and uncle on my dad's side, and I even had a few hours to read.  I finally  picked up "The Help".  Here are a few more pics before I run upstairs and make sure both boys are breathing.  They have been quiet too long!

I'm sure this was a pic I sent to Dave.  He is getting so big, so cute, so fun!
This is how they go to church when they have company and I love it!
Getting to be such a good sleeper!

"Mom, see me!  Look, Mom!"
Reading night time books with my amazing Grandma, Mimi.

Finally, here is one last picture of sweet Tucker James and Papa James.  I can't wait to visit this summer-- to visit the ranch again and even ride horses-- and for Mimi and Papa to get to see the kids again.  They will have changed so much!

On the Journey,

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


I went to see my counselor for our final visit yesterday after work.  God bless her, I saw her four times.  Did you know that is the AVERAGE season of care?  Meaning, most people see a counselor 4-6 times before taking a break for, like, a long time (or forever).  Don't worry if you want to go more, or if your counselor suggests you go more, but one reason a lot of people don't start counseling is because they are afraid they will never finish. Nah, that is not the case.  They are too busy and your insurance is too picky.  Speaking of insurance, I have a huge deductible, but the $90 some I paid each session out of my HSA was well worth it.  That hospital bill can wait.

I want to share a little about what happens in counseling because I think that is a reason a lot of people don't go. It is not the "bare your soul" that a lot of people think.  In fact, most of the time it is quite specific to the issue to go in with.  For example, we talked a lot about my struggle to accept the changes to my life that having another (crying) baby demand.  We talked about bitterness and forgiveness and God and love and perspective and grief (dog-gone-it I wanted to breastfeed so bad).  And I might literally have paid her just to sit and cry and say "I hate it" without being judged for an hour.  My eyes burn just typing that.  I mean, I love my kids deep down in my being.  My heart beats outside of my body when I see them.  They are the best.  But I can say that and also say that it has been hard, too hard for me to try and function at home and be a good wife and teach and take care of Dekker... without professional help.

I want you to know that going to counseling does not mean you have a poor support system.  My husband is incredible.  My parents, in-laws, small group, co-workers, girlfriends (oh, my girlfriends I love you), even neighbors are wonderful people who I could not do life without.  Going to counseling was a gift to them-- it said "I know you can't meet all my needs.  I know you are not neutral.  I know you are not professionals who can, or even want, to listen to all this and try to help me sort it out.  Thank you for the support you have given me."  Going to counseling does not cheapen my supportive relationships at all.  Quite the opposite, in my opinion. Going to counseling said to my husband (and kids), "I don't want to be crazy, crying, frustrated, bitter, grieving, and a total unjoy to live with all the time.  I love you more than that.  You deserve more than that."

Finally, counseling works.  I don't know what it is, but it does.  I have been to professional counseling three times in my life.  Once just out of highschool, once right after I got married, and now, after the birth of my second kid.  And for the record-- I should have gone after Dekker, but I was too embarrassed-- which today I tearfully find ridiculous.  Also for the record, after looking at that list, I think maybe life transitions are just hard for me.  There is a voice in the back of my head that very clearly says "Buck Up.  Women everywhere have been going through this for decades.  All babies cry.  All babies fuss.  All mom's have some depression and "baby blues."  No one has a postpartum experience exactly like they dreamed.  At least they make formula.  Do you think all the other moms went and spent $400 to talk to a counselor?  No, they were at the grocery store and play dates and investing in the lives of their family.  They are too busy trying to find the positive to sit and cry.  Life is hard, Sister, so get over it already."  But do you know what I did with that voice the second time around?  I told her to Screw Off and I took care of myself.

So, most people don't share about counseling on the world wide web.  And I respect that.  But I also think that sometimes we have to bring things out of the darkness and say "so long" to secrets and guilt and shame.  The nursing doctor told me to see a counselor and I shrugged her off.  Then my OB suggested it.  I told her "I am a counselor you know."  She said "I am a doctor, you know, and sometimes I still need to see a doctor."  That did it for me.  I can not, simply can not, toot my horn about the benefits of counseling, about erasing the stigma associated with counseling, about how the people in counseling are not "crazy" because they are at least "together" enough to make an appointment and get themselves there... without taking my own advice.  I believe in the profession.  I believe it works.  I know that as a provider, and this season of life I was reminded of that as a patient.  Praise. The. Lord.

So I see Dena Crosby at Great Oaks Counseling.  If you need a referral I hope you will call her.  Counselors do not do medicine (you need to see some type of doctor for that), but she does one heck of a job as a "talk therapist."  Tell her if you want to talk about God and Jesus and the Bible.  I hope you will, because she gets it and will remind you of truths you might have forgotten.  But she will not minimize your issue and say "Just pray harder."  Yesterday I went for my final appointment.  I feel good enough that I almost forgot!  I was sitting at work thinking that I still had an hour to finish some grading when all of the sudden it dawned on me that I had to run out.  Please note that this is a major change from our first appointment, where I watched the clock all day and wondered if I could make it until 4:00 to talk to someone, and if I might run into someone I know or a former client (gasp), or if I might just give up on the idea before then.  (I did not. None of the above.)  

Yesterday I was pretty put together, if you ask me.  Sure, I was still in maternity dress pants, but they are cute Gap black slacks that I paid way too much for, and they are baggy.  Does that count?  And I wore a necklace.  It kinda matched, but still-- hellooooooo, I had jewelry on.  And matching socks!  And heels!  And I had got out of the house without a break-down before work AND got there early!  I _basically_ didn't cry, but who cares if I do.  And as we are wrapping things up and even just chit-chatting a little, she says to me, "Stefanie, I think you are at about 30%.  You are recovered physically, emotionally, spiritually... about 30%."  The look on my face must have gave me away.  She asked, "Do you think that's too low?"  I thought about that for a moment.  I thought about my fear and my pride, and what a humbling season of life this has been.  I thought about my sweet boys and how much I adore them-- all three of them.  I thought about my marriage.  My selfishness.  The tears that still well up about, oh, 300 times a day.  About my girlfriends who I only hope one day to be able to repay for their generosity.  My parents, my in-laws, the encouraging texts from family I get.  I thought about the sadness I still feel sometimes, but not all the time.  I thought about how overwhelmed I feel, but that I have a new feeling of I can do this.

Then I answered.

No.  I think 30% sounds great.  If I feel this good at 30%, I can't wait to experience the next 70.

We hugged.  She said my file is "open... come back anytime."  She even said that sometime down the road I might want to see clients again, and that their office supports lots of part time gigs.  She encouraged me to go "all in" to motherhood, marriage, work, and life.  It was the great ending to our meaningful time together.

Here's to the next 70%!

"The man declares, I am weary, O God; I am weary, O God, and worn out."  Proverbs 30:1

"My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 4:19

"But those who wait upon God get fresh strength." Isaiah 40:31

"Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; BUT those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."  Isaiah 40: 28-31

Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."  Matthew 11:28

On the journey,

Monday, February 6, 2012

5 x 5 Update #5

Welcome to the end of the road, Friends.  Yesterday we finished five weeks of doing five small organizational tasks a week.  It felt great, and I am so thrilled with the small but wonderful progress I have made around the house.  It DOES add up.  Not to mention the wonderful new space in the basement, where my hard working husband can work away without being reminded of a long honey-do list.  Have I mentioned that we love it? I am thrilled for several of you, too, who are cleaning out closets, refrigerators, bedrooms, under beds, under stair cases.  We are recycling our goods, clearing our space, and simplyfing our life.  The challenge is over, but maybe this will become a sort of "lifestyle."  I hope it does for me.

Well, I kinda fell off the daily bandwagon, but did get small things accomplished and it did feel wonderful.  Probably the biggest task I accomplished was a second cleaning of that bleepity bleep mail basket.  Are you wondering why I am always talking about my mail basket?  Me, too!  I have NO CLUE how it gets so out of hand so quickly.  It was to the point that I couldn't even put mail in it!  I _try_ to throw away my junk mail when I get the mail, I promise.  I _try_ to sort out my magazines right away into their home.  But never-the-less it piles up terribly.  Sooo.... this week I went through it-- meaning I filed what needed filed, shredded what needed shredded, paid most of what needs paid.  Sorted the medical bills, sorted the HSA stuff, sorted the coupons.  So it is much improved!  It feels great.  The other task I accomplished was setting up a meeting with a Financial "guy".  Finally. It only took me three years.

So, I just want you to know that I am enlisting myself for a final push into Week 6 (and maybe Week 7 depending on how productive this week ends up being-- I have a lot of work to do this week so I'm not too optimistic).  You do not have to join me. But I have a few lingering things that I need to write down and cross off.  Things like:
* Organize the craft "sack"
* Clean out behind the short couch
* Meet with the financial guy.  This goal is not "finished" until I have someplace to transfer money to for long-term savings, and until we regularly do it.
* Set up Nike Plus so I can start jogging my bum off, literally.
* Organize Dekker's toys into four bins-- week one, week two, week three, week four.  I plan to rotate bins weekly to keep the clutter down and the excitement of "new" toys up.
* Fill in picture frames in Tuckers room (this would literally take me 3 seconds if I would just do it)
* Take coats, etc to Open Door Mission

I think that accomplishing these things early in February will start my year off wonderfully.  Then, I can focus more on the day to day tasks of life and family and money management and jogging (being optimistic, okay!), and mix in some 2012 goals here and there-- goals I have yet to write out (and may or may not include an overhaul of the living room decor including paint and furniture placement and wall hangings)!  Hopefully getting these smaller tasks out of the way will motivate and encourage me, and make life just easier to maneuver.  Or maybe I will make them each a goal, so I can say I accomplished them all by March 1.  Not. A. Bad. Idea.

On the journey,