Getting to the Top of the Mountain

This year we went to Chattanooga for our vacation.  I experienced a pretty massive panic attack at a cave on the first day.  You can read about it here. We left the cave and drove 4 hours to our hotel in Chattanooga.  We arrived at 11 p.m.  Brett went inside to check in.  15 minutes passed.  What in the world is taking so long?  He came out and said the hotel had canceled our reservations.  Really?  They had one room left if we wanted it.  Brett didn’t have a good feeling about the place.  But he took the room because it was late and he had 5 exhausted females he was trying to keep happy.  Bless his heart.

The room was awful.  I’ve always said I can stay anywhere for one night.  But this was pushing it. TripAdvisor had steered us wrong on this place.  I went down to the front desk and made one simple request.  My request was denied.  I was mad and the lady at the front desk knew I was mad. TripAdvisor will be getting a negative review from me about this place.  You can count on that.  We were supposed to stay for 2 nights.  There was no way I was staying 2 nights. I grabbed my iPad and I started searching for another hotel.  I found one just up the road that had rooms available. Brett called and made a reservation for the next night.  It can’t be worse than this place.  I was still awake at 2 a.m.

The next day we went to the Tennessee Aquarium.  Mikayla and Hope love animals so we knew it would be a fun place to take them.  As soon as we entered the building Brett noticed the sign beside the escalator.  You can’t use the escalator if you’re wearing crocs.  Great.  The girls have their crocs on since I accidentally brought 2 right tennis shoes for Hope.   We took them to the restroom and then we got on the elevator and headed to the 4th floor.

The girls were excited when they got to pet the stingrays.  We stayed for a long time since Mikayla and Hope were enjoying it so much.  Then we went to the 3rd floor.  We’d only been there for a few minutes when one of the girls yelled that she needed the bathroom.  We couldn’t find a restroom anywhere.  Brett asked an employee and she said there weren’t any restrooms on the 3rd floor.  We’d have to go to the 2nd or 4th floor. Back to the elevator we go.  Our girls go to the bathroom frequently.  When they’re in an unfamiliar place they get anxious and they go even more frequently.  It makes traveling a lot of fun.  At one point I had a little sweetheart crying on the 3rd floor and saying she was going to wet her pants.  I grabbed her and her croc covered feet and we jumped on the escalator.  There was no time for the elevator.  I’m normally a rule follower but during a bathroom emergency all rules can fly out the window.

We enjoyed the aquarium but we spent entirely too much time in the restroom.  Mikayla and Hope eventually started fighting with each other and it became very stressful.  Clearly it was time to leave.  We went to the gift shop so the girls could buy a souvenir.  It was taking forever for Mikayla and Hope to pick something out so Taylor and I decided to walk up the street and look at another gift shop.  When we were done I called Brett to tell him that we would meet him at the van.  He told me he was at the check out and the credit card was denied.  What?  You’ve got to be kidding me.  He asked me to bring some cash in so he could pay.  I paid the cashier while Brett was on the phone with the credit card company.  Then we went to the van.

The man from the credit card company told Brett that our credit card was deactivated because of a fraud attempt.  Brett was on hold forever while the man checked into why it was deactivated.  The more minutes that passed the more frustrated I became.   We’re not going to be able to pay for our hotel if our credit card is deactivated.  I totally flipped out and I told Brett we just needed to go home.  He agreed that we might have to.  Finally the man from the credit card company came back on the line.  The hotel from the night before had charged us 3 times for our room.  Now why doesn’t that surprise me?  They reactivated our card.  The man told Brett he needed to go back to the hotel and get it straightened out.  He said to call him back if they wouldn’t cooperate and he would take care of it for us.

Brett dropped us off at our new hotel.  I was scared to open the door.  What if this place is as bad as the last place?  We opened the door and I was relieved to find out that the place was very nice and super clean. Hallelujah! Maybe I’ll get some sleep tonight.  Brett went and talked to the first hotel and they said it would be straightened out by morning.  I certainly hope so.  We were exhausted and didn’t feel like going out for supper.  Brett and Taylor ran and got milkshakes.  Yes.  I fed my kids milkshakes for supper.  And they liked it.  I collapsed into bed.   This was definitely not how I had pictured vacation.  I hope our trip tomorrow to Lookout Mountain will be relaxing and fun.

As soon as Brett opened his eyes the next morning he called the credit card company.  They told him the hotel had credited back the 2 charges that we didn’t owe.  Phew!  Glad that’s off our minds.  We ate breakfast and headed to Lookout Mountain.  It felt relaxing as we walked the trails.   It was a very hot day but Mikayla and Hope didn’t seem to mind the heat.

The view from the top of Lookout Mountain was amazing.  It was definitely the highlight of our vacation. We could see 7 states from the top of the mountain.  We could hear a waterfall.  There was relaxing music playing.  Mikayla and Hope were happy because they got to hug Rocky the Gnome. What more could we ask for?

We left the top of the mountain and continued our way along the trails.  I was feeling totally relaxed and happy.  It finally felt like we were on vacation. And then it happened.

We arrived at Fat Man Squeeze.  You’ve got to be kidding me!  I didn’t want to see another Fat Man’s anything on this trip.  First it was Fat Man’s Misery at Mammoth Cave.  And now this?  Good grief.  Can’t a claustrophobic woman catch a break while she’s on vacation?  They really need to warn people about these things before they buy a ticket.  I took a deep breath and away I went into Fat Man Squeeze.

Ok.  That wasn’t bad.  Fat Man Squeeze was a breeze compared to Fat Man’s Misery.   I didn’t sweat my clothes through and my heart never started racing.  I’d been to the top of the mountain and I’d conquered Fat Man Squeeze.  This 3rd day of vacation was pretty amazing.

We finished our tour and we all agreed we would love to visit again.  We drove back down the mountain and started looking for a place to eat lunch. And then suddenly one of our sweethearts got that look in her eye.  And I knew what was about to happen.  I grabbed the bucket and got it under her chin right before the vomit started flying out of her.  I might be the gal who packs 2 right shoes for her kid.  But I didn’t forget the puke buckets.

Something didn’t feel quite right.  Looks like my little sweetheart’s aim was a little off.  I could feel the vomit running down my hand and collecting under my wedding ring.  Ugh.  I suddenly was no longer hungry for lunch.  We pulled into the Hickory Pit Bar-B-Que restaurant parking lot, deposited our mountain sickness into a trash can, and then walked into the restaurant.  I convinced my stomach that it needed to let me eat something.  It was going to be a long ride home if I didn’t.  The food was amazing.  TripAdvisor had got this one right.  We finished our meals and started our trip home.

The trip home was uneventful until we were an hour from home.  And then the sweethearts started freaking out.   They were exhausted.  She knocked her french fries on the floor.  And then she knocked her hamburger on the floor.  And then there was a whole lot of screaming.  Are we ever going to get home? There’s no place like home.  There’s no place like home.  I never want to go on vacation again.

I crawled into bed and I felt angry.  That was not the vacation that I’d hoped for.  I’d experienced the worst panic attack of my life.  Our hotel reservations had been cancelled.  Our credit card was deactivated.  And the minor issues of mismatched shoes, frequent restroom visits, elevators instead of escalators, and vomit weren’t fun either.  Overall our vacation was just really disappointing.  In my frustration I asked God “What was that vacation all about, anyway?  Why did all of those things happen? Why couldn’t our vacation be relaxing?”

He answered my prayer immediately.  He said If you’d given up and went home you wouldn’t have made it to the top of the mountain. Wow.  I hadn’t thought of that.  Thank you, God for wrapping up this vacation with a valuable life lesson.  2017 has been an extremely difficult year. We had to make several really tough decisions one right after another.  It’s been exhausting. I’ve had a few disappointments that were difficult to get through.  And I’ve been battling some physical issues in the midst of everything else. Sometimes it’s really hard to get out of bed and face the day. Honestly, there have been days when my family went to church and I stayed in bed feeling sorry for myself.  I’ve felt like giving up at least a million times.  So what does God do to teach me to be an overcomer?  He takes me to the top of a mountain.

This vacation wasn’t about relaxing.  This vacation was about learning to overcome some stuff.  The biggest thing I had to overcome was my this is too hard, let’s just go home attitude.  If my family had listened to me the Chattanooga vacation of 2017 would be remembered as the year that we gave up and went home. But it will be remembered as the year we made it to the top of the mountain.  I was talking to Taylor about our vacation after we got home.  I told her I was sorry it wasn’t the best vacation we’d ever had.  She said “It had its moments of not being easy.  But Lookout Mountain was worth it.”  I want to be like Taylor when I grow up.  The valleys of life make us appreciate the mountaintops more.

Next time I feel like giving up on life I’m pretty sure God will say: Remember Lookout Mountain?  If you’d given up and went home you wouldn’t have made it to the top of the mountain.  Don’t give up now either. This is the valley that you’re in right now.  You have to keep going if you want to get to the top of the mountain.  

Caves, Claustrophobia, and Courage

Chattanooga was our vacation destination this year.  We decided to stop at Mammoth Cave on the way to Chattanooga.  Our oldest daughter loves caves.  I don’t like caves but I love my daughter.  So I was happy to stop at the cave for her.  We parked and changed from our crocs and sandals into our tennis shoes.  I packed a pair of gray tennis shoes for Mikayla and a pair of bright yellow tennis shoes for Hope.  Taylor was helping Hope put her shoes on and discovered I’d made a terrible mistake.  I packed 2 right shoes for Hope.  That’s a twin mom problem I hadn’t anticipated happening on this trip.  Great.  Hope’s going to have to wear her crocs in the cave.  When your child has coordination disorder wearing crocs in a cave doesn’t sound like a good idea.  But we had no choice.  I was irritated because I’d made such a stupid mistake.

We read about the cave tours on the website and we decided to take the Historic tour.  We gathered under the pavilion and the ranger began to describe what the cave tour would be like.  He said we would be going through Fat Man’s Misery.  He looked around and said all of us could physically fit through Fat Man’s Misery.  It’s only in your mind if you can’t get through Fat Man’s Misery.  Fat Man’s Misery?  They didn’t say anything about Fat Man’s Misery on the website!  My husband was standing across the way looking at me.  I mouthed the words “I don’t wanna do this!”  He knew exactly why I didn’t want to do this.

I had a flashback to 1989.  Brett and I were walking some trails at a national forest.  We arrived at a place called Fat Man’s Squeeze.  I was 19 years old and weighed 114 lbs.  Fat Man’s Squeeze should be a breeze.  We started to make our way through Fat Man’s Squeeze and I quickly decided this was not a fun experience.  We were in the middle of a long line that suddenly stopped.  I was trapped in Fat Man’s Squeeze and I felt like I couldn’t breathe.  My heart was racing and I was sweating profusely.  I turned around and looked at Brett.  The look of horror on my face signaled to him that something was wrong.   I’d just discovered that I’m claustrophobic.  He grabbed my hand and told me it was going to be ok.  The line finally started moving again. I survived Fat Man’s Squeeze but vowed I would never go through it again.  And I haven’t.

So here we are in 2017 and a nice ranger just told me I will be going through Fat Man’s Misery.  Fat Man’s Misery sounds a lot worse than Fat Man’s Squeeze.  This is not going to be fun.  The ranger continued to explain what we’d be seeing inside of the cave.  But my mind was racing.  Fat Man’s Misery.  Fat Man’s Misery.  I’m gonna have to go through Fat Man’s Misery?  I just really can’t believe this.  Why didn’t they tell me this before I bought a ticket?  Ok.  Pull yourself together.  You don’t want your girls to know you’re a chicken.  You can do this.

I had trouble enjoying the tour because the fear of Fat Man’s Misery was hanging over my head.  An hour into the tour we finally arrived at Fat Man’s Misery.  The line was moving much slower as people began to enter.  I started sweating profusely as I stood in the 52 degree temperature waiting for my turn to squeeze through the misery before me.  At home I’m freezing if the air conditioning is on 75.  Fear can do really weird things to a person.

I had the words to the hymn I Have Decided to Follow Jesus rolling around in my head.  I didn’t think the words “Though none go with me, still I will follow” fit this particular situation.  I was relieved that some were going with me and that I could follow them.  Sometimes it’s just not good to be by yourself.  And this was one of those times.  There was a man in front of me who was twice as big as I am.  If he can make it through this misery I can make it through this misery too.  God, thank you for putting him in front of me.  The words in the hymn also say  “No turning back.  No turning back” Ain’t that the truth.  I wanted more than anything to run the other direction.  I do not want to do this.  There’s no way out of this situation except through.  No turning back.  No turning back.  Help me Jesus.

With my heart racing and sweat dripping down my back I entered Fat Man’s Misery.  I grabbed Hope’s hand and my uncoordinated sweetheart wearing her crocs instead of her tennis shoes led me through.  We had to squeeze through tight places while also making sure we didn’t bump our heads.  There was one place that we had to climb up.  It was horrible.  Absolutely horrible.  Hope was my guide.  She was fearless.  She never let go of my hand.  We made it through Fat Man’s Misery.  The best part of the cave tour was the moment that I stepped from the 52 degree temperature back out into the 100 degree temperature.  I’ve never been so excited to see sunlight in my life.

As we walked back to the visitor’s center I made a decision.  I’ll never go back in a cave.  Ever.  If my family wants to visit a cave in the future I will sit in the visitor’s center and read a book.  I wish this cave story had a better ending.  I wish I could say that I was courageous and that I overcame my fear.  But I didn’t.  I went through Fat Man’s Misery simply because I had no other choice.  Sometimes life’s like that.  We get up and keep going because we simply have no other choice.  We often have to squeeze through some pretty tight places.  Places where we don’t want to be.  It isn’t always comfortable or fun.  But the good news is that we don’t have to do it alone.  I had a cute 12-year-old who reached out her hand and she took my hand. She helped me through the darkness.  I’m glad the darkness didn’t last forever.  At the end of the darkness there was light.  Glorious light that filled me with joy.  I could finally breathe again.  And it felt good.

Learning to Dance in the Rain

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Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass.  It’s about learning to dance in the rain.  I stumbled across this saying a couple of years ago.  I’ve thought about it often when life’s challenges have me frustrated.   Will I ever learn to take my eyes off the storm? Is it really possible to learn to enjoy life when I’m in the middle of a storm?  A few months ago I bought a wall hanging with the saying on it.   It reminds that I need to enjoy life even in the midst of the challenges.  Even when it’s hard.  Even when things never seem to change.  Even when my heart wants it but my mind thinks it’s impossible.  I need to learn how to dance in the rain.

As I was sitting on the couch admiring my new piece of artwork I was reminded of a day from my childhood.  I was outside playing with my sisters.  It started raining and we ran to the shelter of the block barn that’s across from the house. Once we were safely under the shelter it started pouring. The rain was running down the metal roof and showering down upon the ground.  It was calling us to play in it.  So we did.  We laughed.  We danced.  We were having the time of our lives. And then it happened.

Mom came around the side of the house and yelled at us to come inside.  Really?  What’s the big deal about dancing in the rain?  We’re not fighting. We’re having fun.  We’re not pulling each others hair or scratching each other.   We’re actually being good.  And you want us to go in the house?  I just don’t get it.  Years later I brought up my memory of that day to my mom.  I told her I’d never understood why she ruined our fun that day. She filled me in on the detail that my childish mind failed to remember about that day.

Mom looked out the kitchen window and she saw her three little sweethearts dancing in the rain.  I’m sure she thought we were pretty cute.  But she came outside and ruined our fun because she could see something that we couldn’t see.  There was lightning behind the barn.  She made us come in the house because it was her job to keep us safe.  Dance in the rain unless Momma tells you not to.   Momma knows best.

It’s easy to dance in the rain when we’re a kid. We don’t have anything to worry about.  We don’t worry about the mud splashing up on our clothes. We don’t worry about the lightning.  We just dance because it’s fun.  But then we grow up.  We have bills to pay, food to cook, dishes to wash, and muddy clothes to spray and wash.  Life becomes complicated and downright hard.  If only this would happen then I could enjoy life. Or if only this hadn’t happened then I could enjoy life.

If I could only lose weight.  Then I would be happy.   

I am so sick of washing dishes.  Carol Brady was one lucky woman.  I wish I had an Alice around here to cook and clean for me. Then I wouldn’t have all this work to do.

I’ll enjoy life when my kids start acting right.

It would be easy to enjoy life if I didn’t have to deal with anxiety every day.  

I wish my house looked like her house.

I wish I had her life.  Must be nice.

I finally finished filling out the 65 pages of medical forms so that our girls can see a developmental pediatrician.  Parents of kids with special needs have so many more things to worry about (sigh).  Now I have a headache and I need to eat a bag of chocolate.

Why do our girls have to have sensory processing disorder?  The battle with the socks every morning is frustrating.  I wish they didn’t have to deal with so much stuff.   

I spend so much time every day answering the same questions over and over again.  It’s totally exhausting.

Life would be so much better if someone in this house could hear me when I’m talking to them.  (Then my husband says “Huh? What did you say?”And I roll my eyes and laugh because he’s just so stinking funny.)

I think all of us have times when we wish our life could be different.  But what if it’s never different?  Then what?  Do we just feel miserable and never enjoy our life?  I’m guilty of wanting my storms to just go away.  If it would quit raining then I could enjoy my life.  But what happens if it doesn’t rain? Things can’t grow without rain.  Like the dogwood trees that I love seeing bloom in the spring.  They wouldn’t grow if it never rained. The same is true for my life.  I won’t grow if my life is always easy and I never experience any rain or storms.  We grow during the storms.  We develop character during the storms.  We learn to never give up in the middle of a storm.   And our storms teach us to have compassion for people who are in the middle of their storm.

We had family over a few weeks ago to celebrate Mikayla and Hope’s 12th Birthday.  I was sitting in the living room with a few of our guests and the front door flew open.  Mikayla yelled “Mommy, Mommy.  Come outside.  It’s raining!!!!!”  We all laughed.  She was so excited.  You would’ve thought it was the first time she’d ever seen rain.  If you know Mikayla then you realize this was so much more than just a cute moment.  When Mikayla was little she was scared to death of rain.  If it started raining she would start crying and she wouldn’t let me out of her sight.  She would often go to sleep to escape the rain.  She did this for years.  But then all of a sudden in 2017 the front door flies open and my girl is now excited about rain. That storm in her life has passed.  And I’m thankful.

I jumped off the couch and I ran out the front door so fast that I forgot to put on my shoes.  Brett and the kids were flying a kite in the rain.  I stood barefoot on the front porch and I watched the kite for a few minutes.  Then I went back in the house to visit more with our family.  After everyone left I realized the mistake I’d made.  Why did I just stand on the porch and watch?  Why didn’t I grab some shoes and get out in the rain with my girls?  Am I ever going to learn to dance in the rain?  I missed that moment.  But hopefully I won’t miss the next one.

A few days ago I was tired and frustrated.  I was complaining about something and wishing that it would change.  My husband said “You just need to learn to dance in the rain.”  Well aren’t you cute.  I told him he was right.  Yes, I need to learn to dance in the rain.  I’m definitely a work in progress

Putting My Trash Out For Everyone To See

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I was cleaning the basement and I found a few boxes that needed to be thrown away.  I tossed them onto the ever-growing pile of boxes that’s been in our basement for longer than I care to admit.  As I tossed the last box on the pile I decided it was time to carry them upstairs and get rid of them.  If they are hiding in the basement I’ll never get rid of them.  It was too windy to burn them.  There was no way they would all fit in the trash can for the next trash pickup.  So I decided to put them on the front porch.  If I’m forced to look at them every time I drive up the driveway then I’ll actually get rid of them.  I’ll just add a few of them to the trash each week until they’re gone.

I like things to be neat and tidy so I cringed as I put the boxes out on the front porch.  I was putting my trash out for everyone to see.  And I’m feeling the same way right now as I type these words.  It makes me uncomfortable when I think about everyone knowing what I’m going through.  I’m putting my trash out for everyone to see. Sometimes we have to drag our problems out of the basement so that we’ll actually deal with them.  When we’re forced to look at them we have a greater chance of getting rid of them.  I risk being judged.  But I choose to tell my story anyway because my story matters.  My story may look a lot like your story.  I hope it helps you to know that you’re not alone.  Your story may look nothing like mine but I pray that the words I’m getting ready to share will touch your heart in some way.  I’m glad you’re here to join me in my story.

Anxiety.  I really hate that word.  I hate the way that it makes me feel.  It slowly started creeping into my life 2 years ago.   I tried to ignore it.  Then I prayed for God to take it away.  I looked up scriptures about anxiety and I told myself to be anxious for nothing (Philippians 4:6-7).  I went forward at church and had people pray for me. And yet it continued to torment me every single day.   I was having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.   I was experiencing fatigue that was so severe that walking across the house was difficult.   My mind would frequently go blank.  I couldn’t concentrate and I was extremely irritable. Every day I had moments when I felt  like I couldn’t breathe.  I lived like this for a year.  I finally decided it was time to call the doctor.  Tomorrow.  I’ll call the doctor tomorrow.

That evening a picture came across my facebook newsfeed. The top half of the picture was a pill bottle and it said “What they say you need”.  The bottom half was a picture of a Bible and it said “What you really need”.  The picture sent a message that was loud and clear.  If you’re a Christian then all you have to do is read the Bible and your anxiety will go away.  As I sat on my bed and continued to look at that picture I was reminded of the voices from the past.  The voices that said if you’re depressed or have anxiety then you need to pray more and read more.  Christians aren’t supposed to have anxiety.  If you go to the doctor for medication then you aren’t trusting God to heal you.  I allowed that picture to condemn me.  As I fell asleep that night condemnation covered me like a blanket.   The next morning I didn’t call the doctor.  I chose to continue suffering.

As 2016 unfolded I believed that this year was going to be a better year.  But then a series of events took place that added a great deal of stress to our life.  Our insurance company quit paying for the girls therapies.   We had to begin the process of finding a way for the girls to receive their therapies.  We decided to stop homeschooling and enroll the girls in public school.  I attended several meetings to set up their IEP for this school year.  The girls behavior problems escalated and we decided to attend PCIT (Parent-child interaction therapy).   I spent 10 hours filling out paperwork for our family to start the PCIT.  I jumped through all of the hoops to get us on their schedule only to find out we would have to wait 8 months for our first appointment.  I secretly wondered if our family would survive the long wait. I was relieved when everything was in place for the PCIT and for the girls to start school in the fall. I finally felt like I could rest and that my life was going to get better. But it didn’t.

I started having panic attacks. They would come in the middle of the night, at a graduation ceremony, or even at church. I found myself fleeing from social situations because my heart was pounding and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I would drop the girls off at their class at church, go sit in the sanctuary, and then flee from the room as soon as the worship music started. The sounds of the instruments and the crowd were just too much for me to handle. I didn’t go to church for 3 weeks. Then one morning I woke up, took a shower, and went back to bed because the fatigue was so severe. I did this 3 days in a row. On the third day Brett came into the bedroom and he sat down beside me.  He told me that he loved me and he couldn’t stand to see me like this. He asked me to go to the doctor.  I agreed to go because it was clear that the anxiety was no longer just affecting me. It was affecting my entire family.  The next morning I called the doctor and made an appointment.

As I told the nurse my symptoms she smiled and she told me that I’m not alone.   The physician’s assistant also told me that I’m not alone.   As I walked out of the doctor’s office I felt foolish.   I waited 2 years to see a doctor.   I’d let the anxiety get so bad that I couldn’t even get out of bed.  I’d allowed the fear of what people would think of me become more important than my health and my family.  And I regret it.

I’ve been taking anxiety medication for 4 months.   I’m finally able to sleep and fatigue no longer torments me.  I still have moments each day when I feel like I can’t breathe.  And I’m still irritable.  Ask my sweet husband.    So even though I’m on medication I still have some anxiety symptoms.  The boxes on our front porch didn’t disappear overnight and neither has my anxiety.  But each week a few boxes disappear and the pile gets smaller.  I trust that as time passes my anxiety symptoms will decrease and hopefully one day they will disappear.  But right now I recognize and celebrate each victory along the way.  Last Sunday was a victory.  Brett patted my thigh during the sermon.  He could tell I was having a hard time and he was telling me he was proud of me for coming to church and not fleeing from the sanctuary.  I’m learning that victory isn’t just at the end of the race.  But it’s in each step that you take from the beginning to the end.

God heals.  I know that with all of my heart.  But He doesn’t always choose to heal in the way that we want Him to.  I wanted my healing to come in an instant.  I pray and then God makes all of my problems go away.  Isn’t that what we all want?  But it’s not always what God thinks is best for us.  Sometimes God chooses to walk us through our problems instead of around them.  God is choosing to walk me through this one step at a time instead of instantly delivering me from it.   I will learn lessons through the journey that I wouldn’t have learned if I’d been delivered from it.

I don’t understand anxiety.  It knocked me down like a freight train during a time when I felt like things were finally falling into place for our family.  I wasn’t sitting around worrying.  I was hopeful for the future.  But anxiety knocked me down anyway.  11 years ago I became mom to 2 little sweethearts who have disabilities.  And I now understand something that I never understood before.  People who experience anxiety need to be shown grace instead of judgment.  We have no idea how many meltdowns a mom and dad have watched their child have that day.  Or what the test results said.  Or how many times a mom has heard her child say the same phrase over and over again.  Or what kind of battle took place when a child had to put his clothes on.  Or if the mom and dad we see at the store have been sitting beside their daughter’s hospital bed wondering if she’s going to live or die.  There are so many people in this world going through some really hard stuff.  So let’s pause and think before we hit the share button on facebook.  Let’s make sure that we’re showing people grace instead of judgment.

Anxiety Is Not My Friend

I’m not gonna lie.  The last couple of weeks have been rough.  Anxiety is real.  It’s like an unwelcome guest who just won’t leave no matter how much I want it to.  I drop kick it out the front door and then it sneaks in the backdoor.  After a phone call with our insurance company it latched onto me like a parasite.  And it followed me to bed Monday night and kept me company until 4 a.m. Anxiety is not my friend.

It all started a few weeks ago when it snowed.   Snow makes Mikayla feel anxious.  She deals with her anxiety by following me around all day and talking nonstop.  I began to experience a fair amount of anxiety after spending 4 days with my chatty mini-me shadow.  Wednesday came, the roads were clear, and we headed to church.  I took the girls to their class and I went into the worship service thinking that I would be able to relax and regroup.

We were halfway through the first song and I began to feel claustrophobic.  The drums that have never bothered me before were making my chest pound.  I grabbed my purse, bolted out of the sanctuary, and ran into the restroom.  And then it happened.  The worst ugly cry I’ve ever experienced in my entire life came pouring out of me. As I began to pull myself together the door opened and my friend was suddenly by my side.  She has a lot of experience working with special needs adults.  She listened as I shared what was bothering me and she encouraged me.  And then she said 3 words that sent me over the edge.  She said “I get it.”  As soon as those words were out of her mouth I lost it.  I asked her “Do you get it?  Do either of your children have anything wrong with them? Do you deal with special needs 24 hours a day without a break? Do you have to worry about if your kids will ever leave home?”  As soon as I spit out the last word I wished I could take it all back.  I usually just think those things when people tell me they understand.  I’ve never actually said them to anyone.  But it happened.  I was glad that it happened with a friend who will continue to love me even when I’m unlovable.

Hope had a really bad day at church last Sunday.   Something wasn’t right even before she went to class.  But I was hoping that she would settle down and enjoy class.  I got a negative report from our frazzled friend you was helping Hope during class.  I was feeling as if everything was spiraling out of control.  Things I thought the girls had finally overcome were coming back to haunt us once again.  I was so discouraged.

Our insurance company denied a couple of medical claims that we thought they would pay.  Totally frustrating.  And our insurance is also in the process of reviewing the medical necessity of our girls therapies.  A couple of the therapists met with me to discuss what we need to do if the insurance decides to stop paying for the girls therapies.  It wasn’t an easy conversation.  I didn’t sleep that night because of all of the questions racing through my mind.  What if they quit paying for therapies? What are we going to do then?  How can this be happening?  The insurance will let us know their decision by February 19th.  And so we wait.

So I’m totally stressed out and I look at the calendar.  A mammogram on the 27th?  That should help my anxiety, right?  Oh joy.  I didn’t want to reschedule it so I go to the appointment.  She calls me in and hands me the gown.  She tells me the gown opens in the front.  If you’re wearing deodorant you need to use a wipe to remove it for the test.  Put your clothes in a locker.  Keep your purse with you.  Sit in the waiting area and we’ll call you soon.   Yes.  I know all of this.  I’ve done it before.  But thank you.

I’m reading my book and waiting for them to call my name.  And then I suddenly realize that I didn’t remove my deodorant.  How in the world did I forget to do that? She even told me to do it.  So I ran to one of the dressing rooms and removed my deodorant.  I got back before they called my name.  After the test was over I went into one of the dressing rooms, put my purse on the chair, and then felt like a complete idiot.  It’s kinda hard to put your clothes back on when you forget to stop at the locker and get your clothes.  So I sneak out of the dressing room, grab my clothes, sneak back in the dressing room, and get dressed.  Yep.  There’s nothing wrong with me.  Other than I don’t function well on 8 hours of sleep in 2 days time.  It’s really nothing that a 72 hour nap wouldn’t cure.

I went to church after I got home from my appointment even though I didn’t feel like it.  I didn’t have a full-blown ugly cry in the restroom.  That’s progress.  As we stood for the closing prayer a friend came up to me.  She hugged me and she handed me a paper.

Paper from Amanda

 

So much truth that I needed to hear while I’m in the middle of my current mess.  The Lord will direct our steps.  If we lose insurance coverage for the girls therapies He will direct our steps.  He cares about every little detail of our lives.  He cares about our girls behavior.  He cares about my behavior.  He cares about how much sleep I get or don’t get.  He cares about the anxiety that I carry.  He wants me to give my burdens to Him and He will take care of me.  (Psalm 55:22)  It seems as if I’ve stumbled a million times in the last few weeks.  Yet He still holds my hand and I know that He will never let go.

Let People into Your Messed Up World

My corn dog post was difficult for me to write.  I didn’t want everyone to read about my horrible day. My husband already felt like he had failed and wasn’t there for me when I needed him.  But I never felt like he failed me.  I was thrilled for him to get a break from being daddy for a few hours.  It actually made me happy to see him serving someone besides his family.  I didn’t want anyone in our church to feel bad that this wonderful event had turned into a horrible experience for me.  Our church is extremely supportive and loves our family. But on this day, they were busy.  Really busy.  They were busy loving the community by cooking, serving, dumping trash, and driving golf carts.  But there was another reason I didn’t want to write the corn dog post. I’ve always had this problem with wanting people to think that I have it all together.  Smile and act happy even if you’re dying inside. Don’t ever let anyone know that your life is hard.  Yes, you sometimes have to lock yourself in your bedroom for a time out because your children are driving you crazy.  And you eat too much chocolate because it helps you feel better.  But you shouldn’t let anyone know your little secrets because it makes you look bad.  But I overcame all of those fears and I wrote the corn dog post because I know that special needs parents are lonely.  They need to know that they aren’t the only ones who struggle.  They needed to hear about my horrible day.

Do you know what happens when you let people into your messed up life?  I’ve found out that they want to help.

I told my mom about my day.  She responded very quickly and said that Mikayla & Hope just need to come to their house next year.  Air conditioning, cartoons, and a day with grandma and grandpa would have been great.  Grandmas are the best.  They’re always there when you need them.

I messaged a friend at the end of my horrible day.  She said she wished she had known I was having a bad day.  She only lives a few minutes from the church.  She had went home for a couple of hours and she said she would have swiped up the girls and taken them with her if she had known I needed help. She told me that her house is always available to us when we need it.  She’s amazing.  The girls would have been happy at her house because she has peacocks, ducks, cats, and dogs.

A lady from our church read my blog post.  She messaged me her phone number.  She said to call her anytime we need help getting our family home from church. She lives 30 minutes from our house. Our church is an hour from our house.  She could have taken Taylor to her house and Brett could have picked her up there.  It would have saved Brett an hour of driving if we had asked her for help.  So her phone number is now in my phone.  And there is no doubt that I will text her in the future if I’m ever foolish enough to say that we don’t need to take two vehicles.

Another lady told me that she had heard on her radio at the event that someone had upset children and their vehicle was blocked in.  But she didn’t realize it was me.  She was working in the air conditioned first aid building.  And her daughter, who works with special needs individuals, was there too.  She said she would have stayed with me as long as I needed her.  Then she said that she loves our family.  I’ve seen this lady at church, but I didn’t even know her name.  But I won’t forget her name now.

And then her daughter told me that she would have been there in a heartbeat if she had known what I was going through.  She said that she would be glad to do whatever she could to help us if we decided to attend the event next year.  Then she said she would love to meet me and the girls soon.  I don’t even know her and she said that she would have been there in a heartbeat.  Isn’t that amazing?

Another lady gave me her phone number.  She told me to text her next year before I leave the parking lot.  She said she will get me and our two turtles all the food that we want before we head home.   If we aren’t able to stay for the event, she wants to make sure that we have something to eat on our way home.  Isn’t that thoughtful?

I was blown away by the fact that all of these people want to help our family.  And they came up with so many creative ways to help us.   But before they could offer to help they had to know that there was a need.  I think there are a lot of good people out there who are more than willing to help special needs families.  Yes, there will be people in the corn dog line staring at you and your little sweethearts.  They may jump out of the line because they don’t have the patience to listen to your sweethearts for even 3 minutes.  But I choose to believe that the majority of people are loving and willing to help if they just know what our needs are.  I’m so glad that I’ve stopped hiding our struggles.  My life is so much better now that I’ve allowed people into our messed up world.

 

 

 

I Want a Corn Dog!

korn_dog-451x300

Our church had a huge celebration last Sunday.  Before we left for church Brett asked me if we should take both vehicles in case Mikayla and Hope went into sensory overload.  I told him I thought we should just take the van.  Brett was working in the hamburger stand from noon until 1:00.  I was only going to have the girls by myself for an hour.  Surely I could handle that.  Right?

Wrong.  The atmosphere was filled with live music, bounce inflatables, all the free food you could eat and a huge crowd of people.  I thought the hour that Brett was working would pass quickly if the girls played on the inflatables.  We went to the first inflatable and the girls took off their shoes.   The sun was shining on the entrance and the girls were saying that it was too hot.  They’ve always been overly sensitive to things being hot.  They were done with the inflatables within the first 5 minutes.

I decided we should get something to eat.  It was extremely crowded in the area where the food lines were.  I get claustrophobic in large crowds and I feel like I can’t breathe.  And I knew that the girls wouldn’t be able to stand in line for very long.  I had no idea how we were going to get something to eat.  Then the girls spotted the popcorn.  There wasn’t a line so we walked right up and got 2 bags of popcorn.  That should keep them happy until Daddy gets done passing out hamburgers.  Then he can stand in line and get us some food.

I learned last year when we were at this event that if you mix fried food, bouncing in the inflatables, and humidity together it will make a little sweetheart vomit.  I was the mom holding her girl’s hair back while she vomited in the trash can that was smack in the middle of all of the action. That was a really good time.  I was hoping to not have a repeat performance this year.

We found a tent to stand under while the girls ate their popcorn.  A lady named Amanda was passing out candy to the kids.  I told her that the girls couldn’t stand in those long lines, so they were eating popcorn.  She said that she would be glad to stand in line for us and get our food.  Years ago I would have never let anyone do that for me.  But I’ve learned that it’s ok to accept help.  I told her to get us 3 hamburgers and 3 bottles of water.

Apparently all the excitement in the air makes our girls have to visit the porta-potty frequently.  Oh joy! There’s nothing I love better than a porta-potty.  We made our first visit to the porta-potty and Amanda beat us back to the tent.  The girls were happy to have a bottle of water after eating a whole bag of popcorn.  But they didn’t want the hamburgers.  They started yelling “I want a corn dog!”  Ok.  Let’s go stand in the corn dog line.  That ought to be fun.  I found a friend who took the 2 hamburgers.

We were standing in the corn dog line and the girls continued yelling “I want a corn dog!”  I explained to them that we were going to get a corn dog but we had to wait in line.  “I want a corn dog”  We’ll get one in a minute.  We have to wait in line.  “I want a corn dog”.  I know you want a corn dog.  We’ll get one in just a minute.  The couple in front of us got tired of hearing my girls yelling for corn dogs and they decided to get out of line. Wasn’t that nice of them?  Now we’ll get our corn dogs sooner.  As we got closer to the front of the line they quit yelling that they wanted a corn dog. and they started yelling “I’ve got to pee!”  You’ve got to be kidding me!  What do I do?  I didn’t want to get out of line.  But I also didn’t want either of my little sweethearts to wet her pants.  So we got out of line and made a beeline to the porta-potty.  They were both inside of their porta-potty and they were yelling “I want a corn dog.”  Really?  Do you really want Mommy to cry right here in front of hundreds of people. Because she’s just about to lose it.

We started our trek back to the corn dog stand and both my sweethearts are yelling “I want a corn dog!” the whole way there.  And people were staring at us.  I love it when people stare at us.  It’s my very favorite part of being a special needs mom.  The heavens opened for us and there was no line when we got back to the corn dog stand.  Thank you, Lord!

It was after 1:30 and Brett was still passing out hamburgers.  They were swamped and he couldn’t leave because they still needed his help.  I told him that I didn’t know where I was going but I had to get away from the crowd.  And then I heard my husband’s voice inside of my head saying “Do you think we should take both vehicles?”  If only we had two vehicles I could go home.  I made a mental note that next time he asks if we should take both vehicles my answer will be “Yes….yes we should”.

I always try to find something positive even in the middle of a horrible situation.  As we walked to the van all I could come up with was “at least no one puked this year”.  I was extremely close to having an anxiety attack.  We got to the van and I couldn’t believe what I saw.  Someone had parked behind us and blocked me in.  I just wanted to stand there and cry.  But then I noticed a golf cart coming towards me. The golf carts were transporting people back and forth so they didn’t have to walk.  I stopped them and with tears in my eyes I told the lady “My girls are having a fit.  I’m exhausted.  I’ve got to get out of here and someone has me blocked in”.  She took the license number and said she would have them announce that the vehicle needed to move.  I sent Brett a text that said someone had me blocked in and I was never coming to this event ever again.  A few minutes later the golf cart reappeared.  I told the lady that I was sorry if I had been rude.   I told her that our girls have sensory processing disorder and big events are just too much.  She said she helps in Mikayla & Hope’s class. she’s an OT, and she knew from the look on my face exactly what was going on.  She was so understanding.  The person showed up and moved his car in record time.

As I was driving through the parking lot Brett called to check on me.  He said that they announced that a vehicle needed to move and that it was an emergency. He was worried I was the one blocked in. Then he saw my text and he knew that it was me.  I told him I was fine even though I knew that I might burst into tears at any moment.   I started to drive to the next town and the girls immediately calmed down.  All they needed was to get away from the crowd.  And then Mikayla asked “Where’s my hamburger?”  Sigh.

I bought a sweet tea at McDonald’s for my pounding headache. We went to Walmart to buy some chocolate and then we headed back to church.  I ate too much chocolate.  Then I called Brett and I told him that I needed to go home.  And then it happened.  The tears came like a flood.   He said he would find our older girls.  If they weren’t ready to leave then he would take me home and come back and get them later.  I didn’t care what we had to do.  I just wanted to go home.  Brett drove an hour to take me home.  He gave the girls a bath to get the sunscreen washed off. And then he drove an hour back to pick Taylor up.  He sure does love me.

I think it’s good to push through your fears and do something that’s not comfortable.  That’s why I’ve attended this annual church event for the last 3 years.  It’s been a nightmare every single time.  I was frustrated when I texted Brett and told him that I would never come to this event again. I’ve been thinking about it for 2 days and I’ve come to the same conclusion.  I will not be attending this event in the future.  Part of being a special needs parent is deciding what events you can attend and which ones you shouldn’t attend.  This is definitely an event that we need to pass on.  So next year Brett and our older girls will stay and enjoy the day serving others.  But you will see me exiting the parking lot and heading home with a smile on my face. And I will spend a lovely, quiet day at home with our two upside down turtles.