Adoption for the Spectator: It was All His/Her Idea

Husband: “Honey, I think we should buy a house.”

Wife: “Sounds great, how about that one?  It’s $675,000.”

Husband: “Perfect, let’s see if we can sign the papers this afternoon!”

Do decisions in your marriage work that way for you?  Ya, me neither.  How about this?

Husband: “Honey, I think we should buy a house.”

Wife: “No way!  That’s crazy!  Absolutely not!”

Husband: “Too bad, I just bought one.  Live with it.”

Nope, that’s not it either.

I’ve had encounters that made me wonder why adoption is viewed so differently than any other marriage decision.  Most major decisions are initiated by one person, not both.  It’s rare that both people decide it is time to buy a new car at the exact same moment.  And, on top of that, you’ve individually and simultaneously worked out how much you can afford, financing, the exact vehicle you both want, insurance, and so on.  Not in this universe.  In the real world, you work your way through every detail.  Can we afford it?  Will we pay cash or obtain financing?  Do we want a truck or sedan?  What color?  Safety features.  Down payment.  Where to buy.  New or used.  On and on until you figure it all out.  Together.

Most of the time, one person shares an idea.  Then the couple discusses it.  Researches it.  Prays about it.  Eventually they decide together.  Yes, no, maybe, wait, later.  Adopting a child is a decision that couples make together.  Sure it usually began as one person’s idea, but it doesn’t stay that way.  You figure it out together.  Just like all your major decisions.  Jobs, homes, schools for your kids, pets, vehicles, home renovations, grad school.  Heck, deciding on dinner can be a monumental task.  The idea of adoption may start with one person just like the idea to go out for Italian food starts with one person.  But you both have to be on board.  You don’t just end up there by accident.  You both work toward it.

Ask anyone who has been through the foster or adoption process.  No one can drag you through that against your will.  The paperwork, finger prints, TB tests, physicals in which your doctor tries to determine if you’re physically and mentally able to do this.  And then there is the home study.  “How do you resolve sexual conflict?”  And it goes downhill from there.   The process is enough to cause the most committed couple to run away screaming.

conversation tools

So here are  basic tips and thoughts for the spectators of adoptive or foster families when it comes to the question “Did they both want to adopt?”:

  • Don’t assume that it’s your daughter/son-in-law’s idea – Just because no one adopted in your family doesn’t mean your offspring won’t consider it.  Our world is changing.  People are more aware and are compassionately opening their homes.
  • Don’t assume infertility – This is the assumption that biology forced you to adopt.  Maybe it was a factor.  Maybe not.  I have one living breathing example that my hubby and I can conceive.  Yet we have four children.
  • Don’t refer to the children as “his” or “hers” to imply only one person was on board with the adoption – Again, you don’t get here by accident or force.  Its a long hard journey that you make together.
  • Frustrations don’t equal lack of will – Adopted kids can be hard.  They have needs that most bio kids never have.  They have deep hurts.  There are tough days or years.  My exhaustion or tears or breakdowns don’t mean my husband pushed me into adopting.  It just means it’s hard.  End of story.
  • Trust that we communicate – When you act like only one of us wanted this, you imply that we operate in separate universes.  Give us more credit than that.
  • If your spouse isn’t excited about adoption or is unsure, don’t assume its a dead deal – It took us years to agree on the house we built.  We weren’t always on the same page.  It took a lot of time to get to the point that we could build the house that WE BOTH wanted.  Some people jump on new ideas and some avoid change.  Give yourself or your spouse time.  Be open and honest with each other.  Remember to be kind and loving.
  • Ask questions….appropriately – Assuming your know someone’s story because you saw an episode about adoption on Jerry Springer or Oprah isn’t the brightest idea.   If you don’t want me to publicly ask you what brand of tampon you use, don’t publicly ask me about my ability to conceive children.  If we know each other, and you have real questions (you’re not just being a gossip), then let’s sit down and discuss it privately.  Don’t ask me if his mamma smoked crack or if she’s “special”.  I’ll ask the same about you.  Everyone gets to adoption on their own road.  No child is like another.  Every family is distinctive.  Our stories are all unique.  It’s okay to wonder.  Most of our lives aren’t made for TV, so what you see on TV isn’t a good representation of real life.  Remember: Appropriate Time, Appropriate Place, Established Relationship.
  • Voice your concerns….like an adult to an adult – Don’t boss me around or order us to do anything.  We won’t think much of any of your advice after that.  Don’t tell us we can’t or shouldn’t do something….or that we must do something.  NOT.YOUR.BUSINESS.   My parents had questions before our first adopion.  Concerns they tactfully and privately voiced.  We were able to talk through them.  Hopefully, I answered their questions.  As my mom said, “The moment I met him, all my concerns disappeared.”  Before she met him, however, the preconceived ideas she had about adoption had been challenged with facts.  It made meeting him easier and more exciting.
  • Have faith – We have a little clue of what we’re doing.  In fact, we’re doing the best we can.  We read up on raising children from hard places.  We go to classes and gather with parents walking this adoption journey.  Second guessing us only hurts.  It will not build up ANY relationship.
  • Be excited – This is exciting for us.  Scary.  Maybe expensive.  Stressful.  But OH, SO EXCITING!!!! We walked this journey together, and we want you with us!


Did I Cause This Nightmare?

Newtown, Connecticut.

We’re all searching desperately for answers that don’t really exist.  In the wake of over two dozen murders, most of them young children, we want to know why.  We must stop it from ever happening again.  Everything will be questioned.  Too many guns.  Not enough guns.  Asperger’s.  Homeschooling.  Metal detectors.  Police in schools.  Mental Health.  Bullying.  Prayer in school.

The truth is, none of these are the answer.  Because these are all ideas and things and laws.  And it’s people who maim and people who died.  The closest answers are those who call for society to change.  But who is society?  When we talk about it, it’s always the other guy, the other parents, the other kids.

Society starts with me.  And you.  Together we make the change.  Not them changing.  Me changing.

How?  Is it new laws or rules?  No.  It starts in your own life and in your own family.  You love others.  Show kindness.  To everyone.  Especially the forgotten and the rejected.  And those who don’t deserve it.  Just as Christ did.


When my oldest was in kindergarten, a classmate would crawl under the table and bite her ankles.  I spoke with her teachers about it, since it was a recurring problem.  They must have expected the typical kindergarten mom response, because they were a bit surprised at my suggestion.  I asked the teachers to move them so that they sat next to each other.  I knew the boy was having a rough time.  His parents were stationed overseas.  He cried a lot.  And for some reason he wanted my daughter’s attention.  So put them together.  Help him learn how to interact in an acceptable way.  Don’t isolate or punish him.  He’s five and he’s trying to figure out life.  She never had problems with him again, and they became friends.

We have an unspoken rule at our house.  Bullies get invited over for playdates and birthday parties.  Not so I can torment them for making my child miserable.  But to love on them.  To treat them the way I want my child treated, the way they should be treated.  My older children have forged unexpected friendships by simply reaching out.  Maybe we made a difference.  I’m not saying we changed the path of a future Adam Lanza.  I just know my children have turned miserable situations into friendships just by reaching out.  It’s how we change our own world, our own town where this could never happen.

Don’t be fooled, though.  Both my older kids have bullied others.  They’ve pointed out someone’s unusual height, participated in not including someone, bad-mouthed or whined about an unfair situation.  As a parent, it’s my job to step in and set it straight.  It doesn’t matter how bad someone smells, you don’t say anything.  In fact, the unspoken rule comes into play.  I have been known to insist that my rude child sit with his/her victim at lunch or play with them at recess to practice the appropriate behavior.  Being nice isn’t easy.  It’s unnatural.  In times of great tragedy, we step up and our goodness shows through.  Everyday life is so very different.  We have to make ourselves be kind.  Love our neighbors and our enemies.

And then I realize that teaching them kindness and love is much different from showing them how to love others as I love myself.  What do they learn when I comment on someone’s attire or driving skills?  What do they learn when I break the unspoken rule and don’t invite someone over?  How do I handle those who have wronged me?  What have I taught?  Because really, they learn more from what they see, not just what I say or make them do.

I believe the best way to prevent the next massacre is through love and kindness on the individual level.  For me, that love comes from the grace and mercy I received through Christ.  Maybe that love will heal someone’s wounded soul.

Today, I will love more.  I will be kinder.  Will you join me?  We probably won’t know the difference we made, but we must have faith that we can make a difference.

3. If My Husband Made as Much as Yours – Surviving on a Single Income Pt. 3

Welcome Back!

Two months ago, my mother passed away, and well, I wasn’t really up to writing about money.  On my birthday, a sweet friend, Valeh, thanked me for my blog.  She inspired me to get back into it, probably without realizing it.  My hope is that somehow my ideas, successes, and failures might help you along your journey.

If you’ve missed the first two posts, you can catch up with Part 1 and Part 2.

As promised, I’ll delve into how we ACTUALLY save money.  Real life examples.  Some may sound ridiculous or a bit crazy.  I don’t know.  It all seems to work for us.  And to reassure those who are worried like a previous commenter, I don’t suggest wearing your pajamas everywhere you go.  PJs are comfy, but that’s just not kosher these days.  So how exactly do we do it?  It’s the little things all put together!  And when I say little things, I mean some of them only account for a few bucks.  There are plenty of ways to cut costs and increase your income.  Just be realistic when you’re planning.  And you do have to plan.  Most of us can’t drop one income without a little planning.

I know, you’re dying to see if I’m going to give you actual numbers.  Will I post my budget and income?  Nope!  There are some great blogs that do, and I suggest you look at them if you’re serious about living on one income.  They are inspiring and realistic.  My personal favorite is The Peaceful Mom: Living on Less than $28,000 a Year.  So, if I love this blog that gives real data, why won’t I divulge?  There are two big ones.  First of all, I am BIG into privacy.  Frankly, it’s none of your business.  People judge.  And in American culture, you are judged by your money and possessions.  And I don’t want to be judged!  Not by people, at least.  But even more importantly, if I include salaries and budget amounts, you’re likely to tune out or excuse yourself.  Don’t look all innocent!  My first thought when reading The Peaceful Mom’s Blog was “I can’t match her housing budget.  I can’t do this.  This won’t work for me.”  Pathetic.  I mean, seriously.  I was willing to blow off an entire, EXCELLENT series because she pays less in rent than I do.  It’s easy to say that the whole thing won’t work because my mortgage is higher or I refuse to buy mac and cheese.  It is so much easier to say, “I can go on with my spending craziness because this lady is way different than me.  She makes less (or more), eats differently, and has cheaper utility rates, blah blah blah.”  My hope is that you take the ideas and concepts and apply them to your life and your situation.  As you change, along with your family, your life, your needs, and the economy, so will your finances.  But the concept of living on less can always be applied to most any situation if you choose to make the sacrifice.

And here we go!

Housing – Don’t overburden yourself. Repeat this over and over and over!  DON’T OVERBURDEN  YOURSELF!!!  Rent or buy, be careful and be sensible!

Rent or Buy?  Which is better?  Well, it depends.  Don’t assume that home values always go up.  The housing market isn’t great right now.  If you plan to move in just a few years, the closing costs and the cost of selling your home may make renting a better financial move.  Remember that values aren’t going up at the rate they were 10 years ago.  And they are still falling or stagnating in some areas.

Also, look at your credit seriously.  If it’s bad, you’ll end up with a higher interest rate, thus a higher monthly payment.  Avoid Adjustable Rate Mortgages.  At the end of the fixed rate period, the rate WILL go up.  Think about it.  The bank has the option of making less money, making the same money, or making more money.  Hmmmm, which would you choose?  Before you bash them for corporate greed, remember that they wouldn’t offer these mortgages if their customers weren’t greedy too.  People want to buy more than they can afford, so they go for the low introductory rates, ignoring the FACT that the rates will increase.  So if you can’t get a decent mortgage, WAIT!  Pay your bills on time, reduce your debt, increase your savings, and hold a steady job.  These steps will help rebuild your credit, and likely qualify you for better mortgage terms.

If you rent, negotiate with the landlord.  Listed rents are not set in stone.  If you find a place that has been on the market for a few months, the owner is LOSING money.  He’s still paying taxes, marketing, and upkeep while no rent is coming in.  Explain why you are the perfect tenant that he should be begging for.  We usually negotiated about $100-200 per month off our rent and got our security and pet deposits cut in half.  How?  We told the landlord that we were a family, so we wouldn’t be hosting wild parties and destroying the place.  We wouldn’t call him for stupid things like the toilet overflowing or the smoke alarm needing batteries.  We also told him we’d be there for several years.  Make-readies and marketing are big expenses for landlords.  We also did a few upgrades while renting.  One time, we installed a better kitchen faucet.  We gave the owner the old one (it was still working) so he could use it on another property.  We always let him know the things we fixed.  When it came time to renew our lease each year, he always kept us at the lower rent because we were never a hassle.  While we lived there he spent extra on our replacement fence to make sure our child’s bedroom window was enclosed in the backyard.  It pays to be good to your landlord.  And remember, stay in the same place as long as feasible.  Moving is expensive!  Movers, trucks, packing supplies, pizza, time off work, and DEPOSITS.  You really can endure that harvest gold wallpaper.  One day, you’ll look back and laugh at it.  Or so I’m told.

When you buy a home, you may be STUCK there for a long time.  Plenty of factors can keep you from easily selling your house.  Sales and prices drop, neighborhoods become less desirable, new construction creates selling hotspots.  You may need to stay close to your job or not have the funds for realtors and closing costs.  Interest rates may be too high when you need to sell.  So when you buy, expect to be in it for the long haul.  When it came to buying our home, we were blessed that my dad is a real estate investor.  I grew up learning how to calculate repairs and ARV (After Repair Value) and how to determine a safe offer price (so you don’t sink yourself).  After 6 months of making offers on houses, we decided to build instead.  We weren’t going to pay full price on a house that had a broken garage door, nasty carpet, or dead trees that had to be removed.  But sellers are emotionally attached to their homes and think everyone should love the flaws that give it “character.”  We found a house we liked, but it wasn’t in the area we wanted.  We found a subdivision that was starting out and had discounted lots.  So we called the builder of the home we liked and asked him to build it on a lot we picked.  This builder was not a custom builder (savings!).  Since the housing market was starting to slow, he agreed.  He didn’t normally build on lots, rather, he developed entire neighborhoods.  The builder we chose builds a solid house with few frills.  We were able to get more square footage by giving up custom paint and cabinets, granite counters, and plush carpet (with kids and pets, no carpet can survive anyway).  We also did some work ourselves.  The builder left bare concrete and we stained it ourselves.  We skipped the sprinkler system and only had sod laid in the front yard (required by deed restrictions).  Sprinkler systems can be a huge hassle over time.  We seeded grass in the back, a much cheaper option than sod.  With that savings, we were able to get a lower sales price, a more efficient A/C system, and upgrade a few appliances.  Because of this, we paid 30% less for our home per square foot than all the other homes in our neighborhood.  When the housing bubble burst and home values dropped, we weren’t upside down.  In fact, we could probably still sell it for a little more than we paid for it.  Not an easy feat in this market.  Saving on these things allowed us a larger house and lot without busting the budget.  We won’t be tempted to upgrade for a bigger house because we were able to buy bigger for less.

If you buy an existing home, try to do the repairs yourself.  Remember the “We Buy Ugly Houses” billboards?  Ugly houses are cheap houses.  A solid house that has nasty carpet, ugly paint, and a terrible yard can be diamond in the rough.  A little patience and a lot of elbow grease could save you thousands!  Do your research and don’t get in over your head.  Educate yourself!

Property Taxes – There is a myth that you need to let the property tax appraiser keep your home appraisal high to keep your value high.  It’s the opposite.  Your tax appraisal should reflect the market value of your home.  As in, what could you sell it for today? Just the way it is?  Likely, your appraisal is much higher than what you could sell it for as is.  Do your homework and fight your appraisal every year.  Some years you’ll lose.  But sometimes you’ll win a lower tax bill.  In fact, most people who protest their values, will see a reduction of a few thousand dollars.  What can lower your appraisal for tax purposes?  List out what’s wrong with your house and provide a repair estimate.  Give details as to why your house isn’t as good as the rest in the neighborhood.  Provide a list of nearby homes for sale that have a lower price per square foot.  Provide a list of rentals and foreclosures in your neighborhood.  Train tracks or apartments nearby?  That lowers your value.  Provide photos of overgrown yards and ugly houses in your neighborhood.  If you do sell your home, advertise that your tax appraisal is below market thus saving the new owner on their taxes!

This year we had our appraisal lowered nearly $25,000!  We finally noticed a discrepancy in the rating of the structure (the house).  This rating is supposed to represent the quality of construction.  The first odd thing we found out was that our rating was raised.  Our home was 5 years old and mysteriously improved in quality….with no renovations!  We also learned that the original rating was higher than all the other homes built by our builder.  We made an appointment for the county tax appraisers to come out to our home.  We pointed out all the ways our home was either standard for our builder or how it was less (no sprinklers, no sod in the back yard, etc).  We also pointed out how our home was less than those in our neighborhood (lower ceilings, no granite counters, no recessed lighting, etc.).  The Appraisal District agreed with us, lowered our rating, and lowered our appraisal.  We’re now much closer to a fair market value than ever.  It also means our tax bill will be lower.  And for those of you who just think we’re awful for lowering our taxes.  Just remember that the American Revolution was sparked by a protest of unfair taxation.  Appraising your home above market value to collect more taxes is unfair.  Plain and simple.

Be sure to check the details of your appraisal every year.  One year, we got our appraisal dropped by $60,000 because they added an extra 1,000 sq. ft to our house.  A simple mistake in the size of our home would have cost us a fortune in taxes.

Other ways to prove your case: mortgage documents, sales contract, appraisal and home inspections, suggested selling price from a local realtor, builder plans, flyers from similar houses for sale, tax appraisals from identical homes.  Be creative.  Be courageous.  It’s your money.

A final thing we’ve discovered in tax protesting is that the further you go, the better your results.  A phone call to the appraisal office may result in a $2,000 reduction.  A meeting with an appraiser might drop it $8,000.  Filing a formal protest and having appraisers out to your property may bring you a $25K markdown.  We’ve noticed our appraisal district makes great efforts to prevent you from going before the Appraisal Review Board.  This Board holds formal hearings.  My hunch is people see bigger reductions here since they try so hard to keep you from that final step.  We may get there one day.  If we do, I’ll be sure to tell you how it works out!

That’s all for this installment.  How do you save on housing costs?  I’d love to hear your ideas!

Over Reacting

Today I think I probably over-reacted.  I’ll know for sure in the morning.

I looked up at gymnastics to see my daughter, standing in front of me, crying.  She was holding her bloody mouth.  I grabbed my stuff and said we’re out of here.  A coach passing by asked if she was okay, and I asked him for ice.  As he got the ice, I was on the phone with the oral surgeon.

So now you’re thinking, “Ummm, yeah, she way over-reacted!”  Bloody mouth = call to oral surgeon?  Crazy lady!   But you have to understand the saga of my daughter and her front teeth.  She has broken them off.  She had a root canal.  She has braces to fix the damage done when she broke them.  Later she knocked out the same tooth.  Except she had braces, so it took three other teeth along for the ride and traumatized them.  We see the oral surgeon every three months.  Sometimes more often.

These aren’t my daughter’s teeth, but they look similar.

By the end of it, we had three coaches looking at her teeth.  And a mom who was looking at me like I was insane.  I hope she never has to walk in my shoes on this one.  We’re pretty sure it was just a bloody lip.  But as punishment for my over-reaction, we’ll see the oral surgeon at 7:10 A.M.  Hello summer, you just thought you could sleep in!  I have to say I’m a little embarrassed.  Ah well, we all get to act crazy once in a while, right?

In all fairness, I’m usually the mom who tells them to ‘shake it off’ or ‘spit on it’ or ‘lick the blood off.’  I don’t want my kids to be afraid of getting hurt.  But the teeth.  Those teeth.  We have to keep them until the braces come off.  Then they can fall out.  Well, not really.  She’s too young for implants.  The dentist’s goal was to keep her original teeth until she has her own dental insurance and a job.  I like him.  Really like him.

We’ll see how this story ends tomorrow…

…And it looks like I was a bit over the top on this one. X-ray looked good (as good as expected with all that’s happened to those poor teeth).  Passed the sensitivity tests.  We’ll head to the orthodontist to fix the bent wire.  And my sweet hubby took her this morning.  I got to avoid the whole early morning thing and the embarrassment of being a little too paranoid.  I love that guy.  He’s always so good to me.


Thursday, May 17, 2012 my beautiful mom, Deborah Louise Appleby, met her Savior face to face around 8:00 in the evening.  She had battled cancer for two years.

Oh how she fought.  Initially, we were told she would only live a couple months.  She was so frail.  She could not walk or move without excruciating pain.  The reality of it hit me when I had to scoop her in my arms like a baby to help her move in bed.  She was 58 years old.  It really didn’t seem fair.

Mom liked to prove the doctors wrong.  She always outlived their predictions.  And she always responded better than expected to any treatment.

Mom’s last week was filled with tough decisions, pain, and then comfort and peace.  As noted in my last post, Brain Surgery, we had a tough choice on how to handle her pain.  We were told she would not leave the hospital.  Of course, we had heard that so many times.  We knew that, one day, they would be right.  I wondered if Mom passed away during or soon after surgery, would I have regrets?  I can honestly say that I don’t.  The relief of her pain was beyond evident after surgery.  She looked so much better.  She could move.  Her face looked so much more relaxed.  Her eyes were normal and clear.  Her blood pressure and heart rate were normal.  Lungs clear.  I stayed with her around the clock.  My husband gave me a few breaks, but I wanted to be with her.  She would nod her head or makes noises to communicate.  I didn’t want to miss anything.

Thursday started out bumpy.  Her breathing was slightly labored and she had mucus in her throat.  She wasn’t sleeping.  And her kidneys didn’t seem to be functioning.  All are signs of impending death.  As I was talking to Mom, I mentioned that we couldn’t get her to the bathroom because she had just had surgery, so it was okay to use her brief.  She always hated those things.  Within an hour, she had to be changed three times!  Her breathing improved.  I sang “Victory in Jesus” to her.  As I sang, she turned her face to me, smiled ever so slightly, and looked so content.  Peaceful.  She was doing well.  At 12:30, she was transferred back to the nursing home.  When we arrived, Mom looked around her room and seemed to relax.  This was home.  She dozed off a couple times.  Finally she could relax and rest.  I stayed for a couple hours.  Her lungs were still clear.  She was calm and had no pain (morphine is nice that way).  I decided to leave for a few hours.  I hadn’t seen my children most of the week.  As a family, we went to swim and gymnastics practices.  Afterwards, we headed back to the nursing home to check on Mom.

And that’s when we found out.  We were about 5 minutes from arriving, but she was already gone.

I wonder if she waited until I left.  She had worried so much about how my brother and I would handle her passing.  How would my children handle it?  And when I think about it, I really can’t imagine leaving my children or husband.  I’d want them to experience as little pain as possible (none at all, actually).  Would it be hard for them to watch me take my final breath?  Would they relive that moment forever?  She knew I had never been with someone as they passed away.   I think she was still being my mom, even in her last moments in life.  She wanted to protect me from the pain.  She was my shield, even on her last day.

Mom is healed.  Not the way I wanted it.  I want her here, sitting on my couch, telling me to get off the computer, wanting to know if I’ve planned dinner yet.  I want her reading to Joshua and sewing with Madelyn.  I want her to see them graduate and get married.  I want her to hold her great-grandbabies.  I want her to be here when we adopt again.  I want her fussing over how neglected our poor pets are.  But an earthly healing is never complete.  Our bodies are still flawed and still fail us.  And nothing can compare to the presence of the Father. Mom is completely healed now.  New body, worshipping at the feet of her Savior, praising God.  She is reunited with her sister, mother, and father.  No pain.  No disease.  She can talk and walk and leap for joy!  Her eyes can see clearly.  I couldn’t ask for anything better for her.  She can sing!

I can begin to understand the pain God feels when He is separated from us because of our sin, the pain Jesus felt on the cross when His Father looked away.  Separation is painful.  It aches.  It knocks you off your feet sometimes.  But praise, God, this separation is only temporary.

So what have I learned on this journey?  Well, I’ve learned a lot about cancer and health.  But we’ll save that for another day.  The one thing that became more and more real throughout this journey is how it is so easy to get beaten down by the circumstances and not see the bigger picture.  I wish I could say that I cleaned vomit (and worse) with joy every time.  I wish I could say that I counted it a privilege to bath my mom each time she needed my help.  Or drive her to countless appointments.  Or hold her steady as she sat on the toilet.  Sometimes I grumbled.  I was angry that this interfered with my life.  I have children, you know.  But looking back, I realized that I was blessed to be able to do those things.  I’ll never get to feed her again or wash her hair or help her dress.  We humans are like that, aren’t we?  We don’t see the blessings until they’re gone.

Don’t miss out on life.  Even when it seems ugly and burdensome, find joy.  Know that one day the struggles will pass, but so will the good that came along with the burdens.  Sometimes they are a package deal.

Forgive.  No matter how much a person wrongs you or hurts you, we will all meet the same end.  Watching someone wither made me see how fragile we all really are.  I would not wish pain and suffering on anyone.  We will all experience it one day anyway.

I heard an old, 
old story
how a Savior came
 from glory
How he gave his life
on Calvary
 to save a wretch like me
I heard about 
His groaning, 
of his precious blood’s
Then I repented 
of my sin
 and won the victory

Oh, victory in Jesus,
my Savior forever
He sought me 
and he bought me 
with his redeeming blood
He loved me 
e’re I knew him
 and all my love
 is due him
He plunged me to victory 
beneath the
 cleansing flood

I heard about his 
of his cleansing pow’r
How he made the lame 
to walk again 
and caused the
 blind to see
And then I cried
 “Dear Jesus,
come and heal
 my broken spirit”
And somehow Jesus
 came and brought 
to me the victory

Oh, victory in Jesus,
my Savior forever
He sought me
 and he bought me 
with his redeeming blood
He loved me 
e’re I knew him 
and all my love 
is due him
He plunged me to victory
 beneath the
 cleansing flood

I heard about a mansion 
He has built for me in glory.
And I heard about the streets of gold 
beyond the crystal sea;
About the angels singing, 
and the old redemption story,
And some sweet day I’ll sing up there 
the song of victory.

Memorial Celebrating Deborah Appleby
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
2:00 P.M.
Grace Bible Church Southwood
1901 Harvey Mitchell Pkwy S.
College Station, TX 77840

Visitation Noon-2:00 P.M.

Internment to follow at Memorial Cemetery
3800 Raymond Stotzer PKWY
College Station, TX

*Donations may be made in lieu of flowers to Grace Bible Church*

Brain Surgery

The first half of my Mother’s Day was spectacular!  Breakfast in bed with all my favorite breakfast foods.  Some awesome gifts from the kids.  John got me The Hunger Games and 4 hours of quiet time to read.  He cooked a fabulous lunch.  Everyone was in good spirits.  The kids were putting the final touches on a gift for Grandma, and I was getting out of my PJs.  We would head up to the nursing home and spend some time with my mom.

The phone rang.

It was the nursing home.  Mom’s blood pressure was high, and two extra doses of medicine hadn’t touched it.  She was in an ambulance on her way to the Emergency Room.

We get to the ER.  The doctor was already examining her.  I wonder if the kids will be doctors.  They’ve seen so much “medical” stuff at really young ages.  We have no family in town, so they tag along for most everything.  Thank goodness for Nintendo DSIs.  Where was I?  Oh yes, the doctor.  He suspected brain swelling.  He ordered labs and a scan of her brain.  He called a Neurosurgeon in to consult.  You have to understand something.  Mom’s cancer was Stage IV when she was diagnosed two years ago.  We have  never seen a surgeon.  There are some specialists I wish we would have pushed to see.  I can hypothesize all day long, but I’ll never know why Mom didn’t get the whole team-of-doctors approach to her treatment.  Nobody really thought she would live more than a couple months, and certainly not two years.

Wow, I am rambling.  Lack of sleep can do that.  So back to the ER.  Mom had too much fluid on her brain.  That fluid was pushing on her brain.  Her brain panics from the pressure and tells the heart to send more blood.  The blood pressure goes up.  The pressure on the brain increases.  The brain panics.  Ok, you see the vicious cycle.  This happened a year ago.  The pain was brutal.  Even narcotics didn’t touch the pain.  Thankfully, that time steroids worked.  This time, they probably wouldn’t.  Mom was admitted to the hospital.

The next morning, after 3 hours of sleep, I met with the Neurosurgeon.  I was given two options.  1. Send her back to the nursing home on high doses of narcotics to keep her comfortable until she passes away.  2. Place a shunt in her brain to drain the excess cerebrospinal fluid (CFS).  So I talked to family.  I actually consulted more family than usual.  I have Power of Attorney and the final say, but good grief, who wants that burden to oneself?  I even talked to a friend who is a Hospice Nurse PRactitioner (I probably butchered her title).

Option 1 Narcotics:  I would like to go this route.  I want Mom comfortable.  Peaceful.  Pain Free.  Not poked and cut.  This is the norm for end of life.  And I recognize we’re getting there.  And I would be fine with that if I KNEW it would work.  The big problem is narcotics didn’t work last time.  Her mental state was such that she wasn’t showing pain when painful things were done to her.  Was she experiencing pain but her body couldn’t communicate it?  I really don’t know.  And it made me VERY uncomfortable to think she would be in pain and we wouldn’t know or we couldn’t alleviate it.  As I told a friend, I felt like there would be a special room in hell for me if I knowingly let her suffer excruciating pain.  The doctors thought she would pass away in a few days.  Since they have been dead wrong on predicting her death for two years, I couldn’t really count on the idea of her suffering for a few days and then it would be over.  What if she was still here in two weeks?  Two months?  Two years?

Option 2 VP Shunt:  A shunt would relieve the pressure in her brain, thus the pain. It would lower her blood pressure.  All measures that would make her comfortable.  In a normal situation in which the swelling was new, a shunt might offer improvement in body control, speech, continence.  The chance of that in our situation was around zero.  A shunt would likely extend her life.  It would mean more tough choices like this down the line.  Pneumonia.  Problems with shunt.  Feeding Tube blockages.  How far do you go to treat things?  What is comfortable, moral, or just plain cruel?

We decided to go forward with the shunt.  Trust me, I didn’t take this lightly.  I wrestled with this.  I cried more than I care to remember.  There are no good choices here.  In the end, I made a choice that I felt I could live with.  We’ll never know what the other road would’ve looked like.  We can’t go back.  I know I did my best to make sure Mom suffers the least as she completes her journey on this earth.  Some disagree with me.  That’s ok.  I completely understand.  I hope you won’t judge me.  I certainly won’t judge you when you’re making these choices for someone you love.

Oh, and to clarify, I strongly considered what Mom’s wishes were for treatments and end of life stuff.  She never was the end-it-all-fast-no-life-support type.  In fact, I’m probably less aggressive than she wanted.  But she didn’t get to see what this looks like when we talked about this…back when she still talked and drove her car.

So what happened, you ask.  The surgery was last night.  Anesthesia took about an hour to set her up.  Brain surgery requires more stuff than say, ear tubes.  The surgery itself was about an hour, and recovery was a little over two hours.  The surgery went well.  Mom came off the ventilator immediately.  There was a 20% chance she never would, very high for a surgery.  The nurses were very surprised and pleased that Mom was more alert and responsive than prior to surgery.  Remember, we expected pain relief, nothing more.  She was moved to the surgery floor instead of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) as planned.  When she arrived in the room, I asked her how she was feeling.  She opened her mouth and let out a series of growls and groans, the first sounds I’ve heard in a while.  Later I asked if she was okay, and she whispered, “I don’t know.”  Speech!  Words!  A Phrase!  She moved a leg a little, winced and grimaced.  She swallowed her spit.  All very good signs.  And her blood pressure was normal.  Normal, I say!

2:00 A.M.  Blood.Everywhere.  Her head incision was bleeding like crazy.  I’m not good with this.  Never was.  Three nurses wrap her head and give her morphine.  Her blood pressure has been elevated since then, but nowhere near where it was before the surgery.

10:00 A.M.  She’s still bleeding.  I finally remember that she’s a bleeder.  Her Central Line once required three days of sandbags.  Why did I forget this?  The doctor is on his way to put in more staples at lunch.  I think we’ll be here another day.  Please let us be here another day.

How’s the cognitive progress?  Well, she regressed.  She’s more alert.  She tracks you with her eyes.  But that’s all.  The Speech Therapist said this was normal for brain surgery.  Right after surgery, you see big progress.  Then the swelling sets in, and you regress.  Hopefully in several days, she’ll start making steps forward.  But because we saw things like speech, movement, swallowing….there is a sliver of hope.

And this is my mom.  Oh how she loves to prove doctors wrong!  But if she doesn’t, I’ll certainly understand.  She has fought this fight with valor.  We’ve all had our weak days, but on the whole, she’s been strong.

Thank you for all your prayers.  Thank you to the friends who’ve taken our kids.  Thank you for the visits and texts.  Thank you to my hubby who brought me clean underwear and deodorant.  Thank you to God for giving me sanity through all this and hearing my literal cries of frustration and confusion.

Mother’s Day

I’m probably breaking some blogger rule by posting an unrelated article during a series.  Fire me.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day.  Actually, by the time I post this, it may already be Mother’s Day.  This will be the second Mother’s Day that has been, well, different.  A few days after Mother’s Day 2010, my mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 Breast Cancer.  A very aggressive type of breast cancer.  It was in her breasts, spine, liver, lungs, lymph, bones, and brain.  That first year was rough, but I guess I had in mind that the treatments would fix her quickly.  Last year around Mother’s Day, we found out her brain cancer was active and the doctor gave her a maximum of 4-6 months to live.  In August, she had a heart attack and moved back in with us.  In October, she moved to a nursing home.  A year later, she’s still alive, but different.  You see, the brain cancer isn’t growing as much as they thought, but the brain radiation did a lot of damage.  At her worst, she could not move her arms or legs or talk.  With therapy, she’s started moving her legs around in bed.  Sometimes she’ll move her arms, usually if she’s in pain.

She’s not a vegetable, though.  I told her about my hubby’s mom’s trouble with cancer, and she cried.  While the nurse was changing her brief (grown-up diaper), I asked her if that was the worst part of her day, and she nodded.  She reacts with facial expressions or movements.  I guess she’s kind of trapped in her body.

I miss my mom.  I miss talking to her.  I miss texting her.  The kids miss the insane amounts of candy she gave them.  I don’t miss that.

Don’t get me wrong.  My mom wasn’t a saint in her healthy life.  She made plenty of mistakes.  We all do.  But no matter how bad it can get, we all need our moms.  I wish she could still hug me or talk to me.  I wish she could have gone to the kids’ gymnastics meets.

Some days she squeezes my hand and won’t let go.  I think she misses these things too.