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I love birthdays and for one reason: they are an opportunity to celebrate the value others bring to the world. A time to celebrate who they are and why they matter.
Tomorrow, we are celebrating our curly-haired, fun-loving little boy’s fifth birthday. As I took some quiet time tonight to reflect on who he is and the value I observe him add to the world, a scene came to mind.
We attended a friend’s barbecue this evening and there was a lively game of soccer in the backyard, with kids of various ages. As the game progressed, the older and more athletic kids dominated and Jonas (our son) clearly made a choice. He stayed in the game and began encouraging Sam, the oldest boy among them.
“Way to go Sam!” he would say. “Get a goal! Keep working hard!”
Jonas came over to me and said, “Mom, I’m a coach. I am coaching Sam.”
If we look beyond the immediate “cuteness” of this comment and think of it more deeply, it says a lot. Jonas is an encourager. He sees the strengths of others and is excited by their hard work and accomplishments. He cheers them on and screams in joyous excitement when they do something “good.”
I saw the value our son adds to the world tonight. And that makes me happy for him and those he impacts. For is that not the reason why we’re here: to add value to the lives of others?
So, tomorrow, we celebrate Jonas as an encourager. Someone who sees the talents and potential in others. Someone who is a coach.
To the person who didn’t know we miscarried:
It’s been three months since our miscarriage and there’s still a few people who have not heard. This means there’s a few awkward moments when someone says “How are you feeling?” You know they are asking in regard to the baby that was once a part of our life.
I see the sadness in their eyes when I say with kindness and a soft voice, “We miscarried.”
They apologize and keep the conversation brief with a look of sorrow.
To that other person I say this:
Do not feel bad because we have grown from this experience.
We hurt. We cried. We mourned.
And, we moved forward. We reflected on what matters in life. We noticed how we changed by how we let this affect us. This experience made us stronger people, stronger parents, and a stronger couple.
We lead our life with continued gratitude. We see the beauty that exists as we add value to others in our career paths. We see the greatness in the small things.
We see the love in our child’s eyes.
Our son learned, because he knew of the baby. He watched us overcome heartache. He watched us move on and choose happiness. He watched us continue to add value to the world despite our sadness. He experienced our laughter despite the pain.
Our marriage grew as we turned to one another. We experience the hurt in in our own way as only a mother and father could. We experienced the pain in two very distinct ways, but we embraced it together. We talked about it. We identified the realities of our feelings and we chose to move on.
I think about the baby every now and then. The sweet name that resonated with me so deeply, Kinsley Grace, will forever be etched in my heart.
To the person that looks at us with deep sorrow when we say “We miscarried,” it is okay.
We are okay. We have been changed, but we have grown.
And, laughter and love still exists. And, we are grateful for that.
As my husband and I navigate life, talking about things of importance matters to us. It is through the discussion of ideas, along with gaining perspective with a growth mindset, that allows us to move forward.
This is why we are okay with sharing the news of our miscarriage in this manner. Because it’s a topic of importance. A topic that may help someone else. A process that may help us in our grief. And, it’s living by a core value he and I have about courageously discussing ideas that matter.
A few days ago, my husband and I sat in a room and was told our baby was no more, that we had experienced a miscarriage. This was hard to hear, and it’s been even harder to let it sink in the last few days.
This was a baby we thought we would never have. Due to some health concerns of mine, we had accepted that our son, Jonas, would be an only child. And then, those two lines showed up on the pregnancy test and we were ecstatic. It was a mindset shift, a big one, but we anticipated the future with excitement.
We are both very logical and knew the odds of having a healthy pregnancy were in our favor, particularly since I had just gone through a six month nutrition plan with a functional medicine doctor.
But, the odds were not 100%.
We are now walking through life, trying to adjust to our new normal.
I cannot speak to the thoughts of a father, but I can speak to mine.
It’s hard. So hard. It’s a sadness I have not experienced before. There was life in me and now there is not. I’m not sure I can use any words to describe the grief, but I can tell you how I’m navigating it.
It’s a concept that is a core principle of mine. When in tough situations, I try to ask myself, if I were a mentor or coach talking to me in this situation, what would I say?
- Moving forward doesn’t mean not feeling. There are times I am overcome with sadness and the tears are not controllable. At first, I told myself to focus on the amazing things I still have and I can’t get caught up in the grief. But, then I realized, I wasn’t caught up in it. I was simply accepting the grief instead of denying it. And that is part of the secret to moving forward.
- Identify reality. It’s a lonely journey a mother walks. I have to be okay with that. I cannot speak to the father’s journey, but I can say the process of the first trimester, where you accept sacrificing your body for the sake of a baby is an amazing one. What is hard is not just the emotional letting go of the idea of a second child, but the physical letting go. The body ridding itself of the pregnancy is tough, not so much physically, but the pure reality of it. This is tough. But, it is reality and I can do it.
- Be grateful as you move forward in the grief. I find comfort in the fact that my husband and I will walk through this together. We will use this to make us stronger. Not all women are that fortunate. I have in-laws that are supportive. I work in a culture that values people and family, which will make returning to work easier. I live in a country that allows me to pursue my passion. Not all countries have that.
- Find joy. I find my greatest joy in my son. We won’t ever have the baby that was inside of me. But, there is still an immense amount of joy I get to experience in his laugh, in watching him learn, in being his mother. He is a source of great strength for me. He will never know how much he is helping me through this. The love I have for that curly-haired four-year-old is immeasurable.
- Be patient. There will be more tears, but each day will be easier.
- Gain perspective. As we move forward, I will be asking myself: What did I learn from this? How has it changed me? Why do I feel the way I do? How do I use this to become stronger and better for myself and others?
Life is full of joy…amazing, boundless, deep joy. But, there’s also no guarantee of an easy, painless life. We will take the joys with the sorrow, because they both weave the story of our life and who we are.
I love fall, but it has nothing to do with the season.
It has to do with “home.”
I love the smell of fall.
I love how the temperature cools in the evening.
I love the relaxed nature of fall.
I love being near softball fields in the fall.
As a literacy coach, I live and breathe in the world of academics. I’ve always yearned to learn. It motivates me. It excites me.
But, looking back on my high school years, there’s one context that gives me a feeling like no other. The softball field.
As I was reflecting with a friend the other day, I came to realize the magnitude that context played in my life. I always knew my high school softball coach was a pivotal figure in my life. He was a coach. A mentor. And, in some ways, a father.
Why? Because he and that softball field was my safe place.
It was my only safe place.
He was that father figure that said “I am proud of you.”
He was that father figured that passionately cared for me and demanded that I became a better player and a better person.
And, the context he created on that field became my home.
A home where I wasn’t missing a male presence.
A home where I didn’t have to battle emotional abuse.
A home where I didn’t feel isolated and alone.
A home where I was unconditionally accepted.
A home where I could just “be.” Just be me with no pressure. Such freedom came with that.
A home where I was accepted for the value I brought to the world and forgiven for the faults that I had.
I have a great passion for the game of softball and I miss it like crazy. I love the thrill of throwing a runner out as the catcher of the team. I love the thrill of outrunning a throw from the opposing catcher. I love the quickness and agility needed to bunt a ball and get on base.
But, what I miss more is that very temporary “home.” That feeling.
So, coaches, never, ever doubt the role you play. It is immeasurable and invaluable part of the high school experience.
You are a coach. A mentor. A dad.
You are someone’s safe place.
A debt-free life is about so much more than money.
Dave Ramsey’s financial philosophy goes way beyond that green piece of paper.
When my husband I became debt free in 2014 (with the exception of our home), we felt such pressure taken off of us. I began to envision a future. In all honesty, it was one where we would be able to purchase a modest home we really wanted and a life of experiences for our son. Yes, that included vacations, providing him with outlets to experience his passions, and a daily life where we could not worry about spending money here and there.
And, then, things changed.
It started about nine months later. Because we made an unwise decision in purchasing a townhome, we had to pay $13,00o to sell it.
We took the hit, because we could. Since we had followed Dave Ramsey’s financial philosophy, we had 6 months (plus) expenses in the bank.
We opted to rent until we could save up money for a down payment, something that wouldn’t take us too long since we were debt free. I still envisioned the future the same.
It was about that time, I was faced with the yearning for a job change, a place where my passions would better match the needs of an organization. I found it, but it would be a pay cut. The freedom that being debt-free allows is to be able to make that decision not solely based on money. It allowed us to make that decision based on happiness and how I could best add value to the world. That felt good.
I remember telling my boss about this opportunity and she said, “I hope they’re paying you what we are!” It was said so matter-of-factly–as if that would be the sole decision maker. “They’re not,” I replied plainly. “And, that’s okay, because I’m making this decision based on passion. I don’t have to worry about money.”
And, then, things changed again. About a year after becoming debt-free, I was hit with a health crisis that I still battle today. The unsolved health issues has cost us…a lot. So, far, it’s been at minimum $8,000.
My thoughts of envisioning the future changed to just making it through the day, worried about the future of my life and the future of my family.
But, one thing I didn’t have to worry about, was finances. Despite the $21,000 we lost with unexpected financial setbacks, we still have over six months expenses in the bank.
I always knew that Dave Ramsey’s financial peace university was about way more than money. It was about peace of mind. It was about being able to make decisions without the stress of money hanging over your head.
But now, I am living it. I do not like the amount of money our family has lost over the last few years. But, I have peace with it because we are still debt-free with six months expenses in the bank. And, as I continue my unexplained daily health issues, I don’t have to worry about money. I don’t have to be guilty that we have spent the money we have to make me better.
I don’t often share our debt-free story, but when I do, I typically hear “Well, it’s nice YOU did that, but we can’t…”
Don’t believe that lie.
You can. It is a choice.
It’s a choice that can make an impact way beyond money.
It allows you to focus on passions.
It allows you to focus on family.
It allows you to focus on health.
I hold Dave Ramsey and his organization in such high regard. They have impacted my life beyond measure. And, they can for you, too.
Over the last four months, fear has taught me some truths.
Truth #1: Fear is real. Fear is simply a threat to something you care deeply about. It’s a natural and very human reaction that elicits your emotions. It can dominate your thoughts, affect your mental capacity as well as your emotional and physical state.
Truth #2: Fear is real, but it is also a liar. Fear tells whispers in your ear, “You can’t.” Don’t listen; that is a lie.
Truth #3: Fear plays the role you allow it to play in your life.
Beginning on Oct. 10, 2015, life threw our family a curve ball; one that brought about medical conditions that caused severe and continuing headaches, extreme fatigue, numbness in my body and a poor quality of life. We thought it was as simple as degenerative disc disease. I did in fact have that, but I learned that was very manageable.
What was not manageable was what I later learned that I had: sleep apnea and Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS). My condition causes me to quit breathing about 15 times an hour and wake up, on average, 41 times an hour.
I began to have extremely restless nights getting very little sleep that was non-restorative. My muscles were not getting the oxygen they needed and were fatigued to the point where this avid exerciser had to forego anything physical. Just walking up the stairs took a lot of energy.
During my initial sleep study, I unfortunately had technicians who lacked a servant’s heart (in addition to poor bedside manner). During my sleep study, I was supposed to wear a CPAP machine, which is basically a machine, with a mask attached that blows air into your nose or mouth so that your airway doesn’t become obstructed. Long story short, the experience was horrible (one the business later apologized for).
Fear entered my life. And over the course of several weeks, it consumed me.
How long can I go on living extremely fatigued?
How long can I continue with this headache?
Am I going to get extremely sick because my body cannot get the rest it needs and fight off sickness?
What kind of mother am I right now?
Will my husband lose me?
Will my son have to be raised without me?
What will my husband say to my son when he asks “Where’s Mommy?”
With all this said, it’s important to know that sleep apnea is a treatable condition. Unfortunately, CPAP therapy can take weeks to adjust to, accept emotionally, and beat mentally.
I eventually got a second sleep study and was able to wear the CPAP so the neurologist got the information they needed to give me my own machine.
Though a hurdle was jumped, the fear remained. For many, definitely for me, the CPAP wasn’t something I adjusted to easily.
There were emotional breakdowns due to fear. What if I can’t do this? I am failing.
There were tears due to fatigue.
There were nights that fear said, “You can’t do this.” You’re not who you thought you were. You don’t get the life you wanted.”
Honestly, this is when fear consumed me.
But it was also at this point, that I stopped it. I put fear in its place. I had to, because living the life I was choosing to live left me drained in every way possible.
You see, thoughts of that machine and my life expectancy and condition consumed me. Despite that, I kept working full time. And, I attempted to continue to be the mother my son deserved. I continued to try to keep a functioning home. But, what was in my thoughts despite the fact that I kept putting one foot in front of the other was fear.
I knew it had to stop. So, I stopped it.
I quit thinking about it. I put what little energy I had into things I cared about. Impacting others through coaching. Beginning my reading again. Spending time with my husband, not thinking or talking about my condition. Being mentally present when interacting with my son.
Then, at night when it was time to sleep, I just put the machine on, laid down and didn’t allow fear to say, “You can’t.” I tried to make that the only time I thought about the machine.
I put fear in it’s rightful place in my life.
Is it still there, at times? Sure, I’m human.
But, when it pops up, I put it away. Because it’s a lie. Because if I allow it to, it consumes me.
I am now learning to sleep with the CPAP and beginning to get my energy back. It is still going to be a process and there will still be ups and downs, but fear no longer determines my path. I do.
As I walked into work each day, the kids in our school were learning about courage. One classroom had this posted outside their room: “Courage is the ability to persevere through any emotion.” There’s no promises of this being easy. But the chance is there and the path lies in our ability to choose. Choose the role fear plays your life.
The last four months of my life have been the hardest I’ve ever lived. But, it has provided lessons that I have never experienced to this depth. I am grateful for the experience. I am stronger because of it.
“I’m not a superhero, Mom. I’m Jonas.
These words uttered by my three-and-a-half year old caused me to pause.
On the drive home, he was his typical bundle of joy–always smiling, laughing and basking in the joys of life.
I jokingly said to him, “Jonas, you are my superhero, my superson!”
“But, Mom, he said, I haven’t saved the world!”
This caused a chuckle and then he said to me in more serious tone.
“I’m not a superhero, Mom. I’m Jonas.”
I was reminded of all the times he says something similar.
“I’m not a comedian. I’m Jonas.”
“I’m not a goof. I’m Jonas.”
Etc. He says it a lot. “I’m Jonas.”
Though he’s three and doesn’t obviously really get it. This did make me take note that he is very comfortable in his skin. He doesn’t want to be anyone but himself. Not even a superhero.
This made me think of the topic of worth and confidence. These are very profound and difficult aspects to achieve.
At the age of three, Jonas seems to have a sense of worth (that he doesn’t get from me). He doesn’t have to be anything other than himself. He doesn’t have to be “more.” He doesn’t have to perform great feats or impress anyone. He just wants to be him.
A byproduct of going through LifePlan was my contemplating the difference between confidence and worth.
Let’s take worth first. One of the most powerful statements I’ve heard someone say was this: “You are enough. Exactly as you are, you are enough. In fact, you’re fantastic because you are exactly as God intended.”
You see, worth is not variable. Or dependent. A person’s worth is constant and of great value their entire life.
It is not dependent on goals or achievement. So, this brings up the conversation of all those goals we’ve set for 2016. When we don’t achieve these goals we set for ourselves, there is a personal affect. The key is that it can affect your confidence, not your worth. Your confidence is your belief in yourself. When you fail to lose those 10 pounds, fail to get that next big job or fail to spend more time with your family, it’s a reality that we feel bad.
Honestly, I think that’s okay. It means we care about that end result we failed to achieve.
However, your worth has not gone down. Remember, your worth, whether it be from a god or another source, is constant. You are enough, just as you are.
Does that mean we quit striving? Quit goal setting? Quit working to improve?
Of course not. We always want to be working towards our best self. Our best self brings value to others, which is one of the most beautiful things about life.
However, you don’t have to be a superhero.
Take that hidden gem in my son’s comments. It’s truly powerful.
Embracing courage seems so simple in the life of a child.
It’s a little second grader asking a new friend to play with her at recess, risking the chance she’ll say no.
It’s jumping off that first little diving board into the arms of a swimming instructor.
It’s putting their arms out to catch that ball just thrown to them.
I am convinced that courage is the key element in a life well-lived. I’m also convinced that admitting that we’re lacking courage is a profoundly difficult thing for adults to do. Because it’s so easy to just continue our day-to-day lives without any examination of our dreams and the courage it takes to pursue it.
Mid-life, I think, is an interesting time to take on the concept of courage. Typically, this season of life brings about reflection about what has been accomplished and a contemplation of how to make the most impact on others for the remainder of our life. To be willing to “jump off that diving board” into the unknown takes a lot of courage, because honestly, there’s a lot at stake. But, perhaps, there’s even more at stake, if you don’t embrace the courage and jump.
For me, it’s a matter of being being at a point where I’ve found success, but knowing that there’s something more that utilizes my talents in a way that benefits others even more.
I am hearing a whisper about what that is.
I’ve tried to deny it.
I’ve tried to ignore it.
And, I’ve tried to say it wasn’t true.
But, the whisper remains.
Why? Because it takes courage to respond to a whisper that alters the direction of your life. It’s not what was in “the plan.” It’s not how I defined success before. But, it is the truth.
So, my first step in applying courage to this whisper is writing it down. Because then, it becomes real. For me, writing it down, makes it actionable.
Could I easily go on and continue to find success in my current path? Of course I could. That’s just who I am. Progress will always be a part of my life.
But, I’m not going for progress any more. I’m going for impact. I’m searching for passion. I’m looking to be the best me I can be, even if it’s a me I didn’t plan for.
If you hear a whisper, I encourage you to listen. Write it down. Let it blossom. Because that is a life well lived.
Health: it pushes in my brake pedal faster than anything else.
During my LifePlan event, I was able to quickly identify the one thing that slows down my progress the most in life. It was health. This totally made sense to me as in my early twenties, I battled digestive issues that put me on anti-inflammatories, anti-depressants and caused a daily struggle in my life. After a few years, I was able to overcome these issues (without any medication) and really go after life.
Between then and now, I’ve been an active and healthy person, eating right and an avid exerciser.
For the last two months, I have been diagnosed with degenerative disc disease and sleep apnea. The last two months have been a physical challenge. This is a challenge I am unfamiliar with and honestly causes me frustration. The degenerative disc disease has improved with a devoted additional hour of exercises daily, on top of my cardio work. The improvement exists, but the journey continues with twice a week physical therapy.
I’ve recently learned the reason (we think!) for my lack of energy. And, not the normal, I’m a working mother lack of energy. It’s the, “It wears me out to walk up this set of stairs lack of energy.” It’s going from being able to run 5-7 miles this summer to using every ounce of energy to squeeze out 30 minutes of cardio. It’s not being able to sleep and waking up with muscles that are tired. One one shoulder, I hear, “this is so frustrating, I have things to do.” Honestly, I if I let it, it ticks me off to no end. That’s the emotion.
I found myself saying today “My life is just on pause for a bit. Health is the number one thing that slows me down if it’s not going well.”
But, immediately after that I thought,”Wait a minute. That’s not the truth. What’s the real perspective on this situation?” The perspective is that life is not on pause. Do I have to devote my energies to different things? Of course. Are some of my goals for the new year determined for me? Sure, they are. (If I don’t continue the additional hour of exercises the symptoms return). But, I believe with every ounce of who I am that there is a lesson in this struggle–a struggle I thought was ending a month ago. Life is now. I am living, breathing, learning and adding valuing to others (and myself) now.
To say that life is on pause diminishes the value the next several weeks hold for me. It’s an unexpected turn and one that is going to demand a strong mental attitude. But, in the end, I will be better. A better person. A healthier person. A person with improved perspective.
Life is not on pause.
The impact of internal dialogue is immeasurable and can take us into a deep abyss or help us climb a mountain.
I’ve been on a journey over the last seven weeks. I was recently diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, something completely manageable and common. That seems pretty logical and easy to deal with saying it that way.
But, truth be told, there were times when my internal dialogue led me down an unproductive path. Being a person who has been a runner since eighth grade, somebody who has learned to eat healthy due to IBS and someone who is constantly looking for ways to be my best self, it caught me off guard to learn that something was physically wrong with me–beyond the normal cold and flu we all get. I have always been a healthy person.
Unfortunately, over the course of these last several weeks, I did not always effectively navigate through the on-going headaches, neck pain, nausea, dizziness and sore muscles.
I would say to myself…
“What if I have cancer? What will my family do? I won’t see my son grow up.”
“This is so frustrating. If only I didn’t have to deal with this, I could really focus on “x” and excel in it.”
“This is really slowing me down.”
“I’m so sick of having a constant headache.”
On the flip side, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting, looking for the message in it all. Because I know without a shadow of a doubt, this is about more than my physical body.
This is an opportunity to learn.
There is opportunity in the struggle.
I wasn’t familiar with neurology, physical therapy, MRI’s, EEG’s, the structure of my spine, and all the other array of conversations I’ve had with my medical team over the last seven weeks.
I am better because of this. I know more. My knowledge on the human body is deepened and despite the seven-week struggle (that still continues), I am convinced that I will be healthier as a result of this.
This is the opportunity in the struggle. If one chooses to embrace the struggle, learning will follow and life will be better because of it.
Instead of letting my internal dialogue being led with fear, I let it be led with a growth mindset.
“This is pretty exciting to learn so much about the body that I didn’t know before.” (This is so accurate; I find an immense amount of motivation in learning).
“Let’s embrace the joy in the small things today.”
“I choose to embrace the struggle because it is making me a stronger person.”
“This is part of my journey in learning how I choose to balance my life.”
“I am better because of the struggle.”
That’s worth repeating: “I am better because of the struggle.”
For that I am thankful. Because of that, I can climb a “mountain.”