Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Probably one of the biggest struggles I have faced when dealing with depression, particularly after my sister's incident, is the motivation to get out and do things.

I go to work just fine, but making plans?  Forget it.   I can come up with every reason imaginable to cancel.  Not because I don't WANT to do things, but more because the idea of following through is exhausting to me, for whatever reason.

It is very easy to retreat into my shell.  Stay in my protective bubble otherwise known as my house.  But lately, I have made the effort to break through the anxiety it causes, and really DO something.  Sure, it's a challenge, but I am finding the rewards are great.

For instance, Jay and I started playing on our church softball team.  First off, I don't play softball.  I don't play ANYTHING (and no, this is not depression related.  I am not an athlete AT ALL) so signing up to do this was WAYYYYYY out of my safety net.  You know what, though?  We have a blast!  Our team, to put it nicely, sucks, but I bet we have more fun out there than any other team.  The people on the team are so encouraging, and we laugh SO much.  I've also met some new friends through this adventure as well.  Sure, every practice and every game, I have to literally FORCE myself to get ready and go.  But once I am there, all my worries go away.  It's wonderful.

Another great example is we have met some friends from church.  They have kids that are older than our kids, but we have such a good time with them.  They are very laid back, like we are, and between the four of us, we have stories galore.  Their teen daughter dotes on Allison, and Allison equally adores her.  Normally Allison won't go with anyone other than her parents, or her grandparents.  When she sees Amanda, though?  "Where's 'Manda?  Can I go with 'Manda?"  We never leave Amanda without her first french braiding Allison's hair.  It is so cute, and really warms my heart.

Our new friends have a son who is quite severely autistic.  He is the sweetest child, and full of happiness.  This is one of the first times my kids have really been around someone with a developmental challenge, so it does confuse them sometimes, but they listen so well when we explain things to him, and I truly believe they don't see him as being different or strange.  They see him as the boy who loves to play in the water and dance around (especially if the dancing involves spinning in circles).  They ask me questions, but they are GREAT questions, and it really opens up the door for talk about loving everyone, regardless.

Overcoming depression is like trying to tear down a brick wall with no tools.  But the satisfaction that comes with it when you DO make the steps to regain control are so worth it,

I promise.

Friday, May 25, 2012

When I was 20, Jay and I were engaged.  He purchased his first home in that summer, and we still live here today.

When I was 21, I got married to my first and only love.  We were SO YOUNG!  But so sure.

When I was 22, I gave birth to the most precious baby boy in the world.  Ethan Michael graced us with his presence at 35 weeks, weighing a whopping 5 pounds.  He's now 60 pounds, and I just can't believe how fast time goes by!

When I was 23, I decided to change my career path.  I stopped going to college to be a teacher, and went back to college to be a nurse.  I have never once regretted that decision.

When I was 24, I received my acceptance letter into the nursing program.  I remember calling everyone I could think of, reading them the letter.

When I was 25, I was in the depths of the nursing program, stressed beyond all belief, but also very proud that I followed my heart.

When I was 26 I graduated from nursing school and it was one of the most exciting days of my life.  I also accepted my first "real job" at Henry Ford Hospital on the 6th floor.

When I was 27 I gave birth to my princess, Allison Jaye.  She has been the most amazing blessing and I still can't believe I have a daughter. 

When I was 28 my sister collapsed of sudden cardiac arrest and I learned the true meaning of tragedy and sadness.  I also realized how precious life is and tomorrow is not promised.

When I was 29 I left my position as a floor nurse and accepted a position in a gynecologic oncology clinic.  I realized the true strength of women who battle female cancers. 

Tomorrow I turn 30.  I spent most of my 20's creating my life.  I have never felt such a sense of gratitude, appreciation, and peace.  Bring it, 30's!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

To be literal, we started out as one.  One baby girl, born 50-something years ago, when her siblings were already in their late teens.  She was the princess to my Grandma and Grandpa, who doted on her as their unexpected blessing.

Twenty-something years later, we became two, when my sister graced the world with her presence.  Leslie Nicole.  Named after my Grandpa, who was also named Leslie.

At 6 months old, my parents had their first dose of uncertainty, when they learned Leslie had Cerebral Palsy.  They had no idea what her limitations would be, and it must have been so hard just waiting to see what she could do.  Much to their amazement, it hindered her very little.

In 1982, their second and final daughter was!  And then there were three.

I have such fond memories of my childhood.  We would camp every Memorial Day, in our orange pop-up camper, catching caterpillars in empty butter tubs;  Leslie and I would watch Gilligan's Island every morning before walking to school together, and in the summers, we would stay up until 2 AM watching Love Connection and Studs. 

One of my favorite memories that sticks with me is when my mom would pick Leslie and I up from our Grandma and Grandpa's house after school, and we would stop to get Happy Meals before heading out shopping.  It was the little things that mattered.  We didn't need extravagance.  We just needed each other.

My mom was, and still is, fiercely protective of her girls.  She set firm boundaries with us, but we never questioned how much she loved us.  I remember when I was about 18 years old.  Leslie was heading to Chicago with some friends.  My mom and I were sitting in the living room, talking about things that were stressing us out, and on a whim, my mom decided we should go to Chicago, too.  We planned the trip in 5 days, and had an amazing time.  That started a tradition, and for the next several years, right up until I was VERY pregnant with Ethan, my mom, sister, and I would head to Chicago every summer for a long weekend.  It would take DAYS to list all of those memories, but the ones that stick out the most would likely be Sea Dog, the stinky cab driver, and "the dark side."

I got married in 2003.  Leslie got married in 2009.  She was my maid of honor, and I was her matron of honor.  One thing my mom always stressed to us was that friends come and go, but we would forever be sisters.  Making the decision about standing up in each others weddings was incredibly easy.

Late 2009, I gave birth to my daughter, Allison.  I knew it would likely be my last pregnancy, and Leslie never planned on having children.  She was on my left side as Allison was born, experiencing the entire thing right there with me.  I don't think there is an Aunt in the entire world that was more proud than my sister.  "Sessee" is what both my kids call her.  Ethan is almost 8, and still calls her "Sessee".

2010 is the year things changed.  A little after 2 PM on September 20, we were, in fact, only 2 for several minutes.  Several crucial, intense minutes.  Leslie's heart stopped.  Her breathing stopped.  She was essentially gone.

Something, somewhere said, "No, it is not her time"...and she came back.  Those first few days after September 20, my mom and I both knew that although we were three again, the reality that we might only be two was very, very real.  My mom couldn't imagine life without her daughter.  I couldn't imagine life without my sister.  And WE didn't WANT to be TWO.  We worked as three.  We wanted to be three.  Please, God, let us still be three.

Amazingly, she started to wake up.  She began to regain some function.  Emotionally, it has been a hurricane.  A crazy, torrential ride that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

But guess what?  This year, we spent Mother's Day as three.  The three of us, sitting at the Melting Pot, laughing hard as we shared memories.  Going to the Melting Pot on Mother's Day is another tradition for the three of us.  Last year we didn't go.  Leslie was still quite weak, so we kept it low key.  This year, though, things have changed.  We had a beautiful, amazing day together.  No one actually said the word, but I know we all thought it some way or some how.  "We were meant to be three."

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Last year we raised $1600.00 for the American Heart Association.

This year, we raised almost $1000.00 more, bringing in a total of $2500.00.

Last year I did the fundraising myself.

This year she shared the donation link on her facebook page every so often, and even hosted a 31 gifts party, passing on the hostess gifts and putting it towards the Heart Walk.

Last year we pushed her in a wheel chair through the Walk.  She was weak, and could hardly make it through a grocery store, let alone a walk over a mile long.

This year, she walked the whole thing, at a great pace, and never complained once.

Last year I added her name to the survivors board as she sat in the stands, probably wishing she were laying on the couch instead.

This year, SHE put her name on the survivors board, went down on the field when the survivors were honored, and sported her survivor baseball cap throughout the entire walk.

Last year, she didn't talk much.  There was no such thing as holding a conversation with her.

This year, she chatted away endlessly:  with my mom and I, with my friends, with other walkers, and with my children.

The Heart Walk is over for the year, but can't you see why this is so near and dear to us?  To her?  She is amazing.  She is my hero.  I am so ridiculously proud of her and her achievements.  I love you SO MUCH, Leslie.  I know you struggle with finding what the plan is for your life, now that it has changed, but I am starting to see a sparkle in your eyes that wasn't there before.  I see things happening.  I see you making big changes.  Look how much money was raised BECAUSE OF YOU! 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

It is so amazing how life works.  This week has been really hard on my emotions.  Like, REALLY hard.   Like as in, eyes burning from crying and a pounding headache that no amount of Tylenol will help.

But then, something wonderful happens.  Your 7 year old son approaches you with a card he made at school.  On the back of the card, he wrote:

You love me.  You take care of me.  You are very, very funny.  You help me lots, too.  You are very fun.  You teach me things I don't know yet.  You taught me things like God when I was 4 or 5 years old.  You play with me and you read the Bible to me.

I know I fail.  I fail every day.  I am an imperfect person in an imperfect world, just trying to do the best I can with what I've got.  This, though.  This shows me that I have done one thing very, very right.

I love you, Ethan.  Thank you for being the candlelight that shines, pushing out all of the darkness.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

I remember one of the thoughts that crossed my mind on September 11, 2001 was how scary the world can be, and whether or not I wanted to raise my children when things seemed so bad.  This was 3 years before I even became a mother, but the thought of evil and how it would impact my future children was already starting.

As an adult, you see hatred and bullying all over the place.  People have zero tolerance for anything it seems.  People not only lack manners, but they lack any sort of social skills at all!   It's pathetic, sad, and again, for the future of my children, it terrifies me.

My children come from a home full of love.  They are doted on as though there were nothing in the world more fabulous than them.  Our home is a safe haven.  They are accepted, appreciated, respected, and guided in a way that will make them turn into the same type of adult.

It's the rest of the world that is out of my control.  It's the inability to control what my children face.  What type of people they encounter.  What types of situations they are put in.

I can't control that, and it drives me insane.

What I can control, though, is teaching them how to react.  How to show acceptance in a world where every little difference is criticized.  To appreciate, even when others make them feel unappreciated.  To  respect others, even when there is not much going on in return.  But most importantly, to know, that no matter how cruel the world can be, that they are still the most amazing, wonderful, incredible human beings, and no amount of negativity will ever change that.

...and if they have trouble grasping that concept, I can't force it on them, but I can guarantee that they will forever have that safe haven at home, where there is nothing in the world more fabulous than them.

Friday, May 4, 2012

When my sister's incident happened, Allison was about 18 months old.  Ethan was 6.  When it initially happened, we didn't tell Ethan about it, because we were not sure what the prognosis was going to be, and how do you tell a 6 year old he might never see his Aunt Sessee again?  I just couldn't go there.

I remember the day that I finally did tell him.  Normally, he is quite sensitive to stressful situations, so I was so nervous.  He handled it as though I told him she had a common cold. 

I also remember the day I first took my kids to see her.  She was off the ventilator, but VERY confused and disoriented.  She hardly knew who we were, and I didn't know how Ethan would feel if she had no idea who he was.  I prepared him for this as best as I could, and he handled it, again, like a trooper.

Allison has zero recollection of the Leslie pre-accident.  The Leslie she knows now is the only Leslie she has ever known.  Ethan, though.  Ethan knows.  And even though he is very young, he remembers very detailed memories.

For instance, this past week was take your child to work day.  Jay and I do not have jobs that allow children to go to, but my sister, as a teacher, took Ethan the year prior to her incident.  He absolutely LOVED it.  She loved taking him.  Ethan's teacher sent me an e-mail stating that Ethan told her that he used to be able to do take your child to work day "before Sessee got sick."

My heart broke when I heard this, and I am surprised at the tears that filled my eyes, as I very rarely cry about her incident anymore.  It's just the mere fact that he remembers. 

I carry a picture of my sister when her condition was critical and she was on the vent.  I keep it in the visor in my car, occasionally putting it in my purse or work bag, depending on how I am feeling.  Why I do that, I am not completely sure, but I do.

Anyhow, I was driving the other day with both Ethan and Allison in the back seat.  Ethan asked if he could see the picture.  I handed it to him, and literally at the exact same time, both of my kids looked at the picture and said "ohhhhh" with a strong hint of sadness in their voices.  The picture is not new to them.  They have seen it before.  It was just like they both simultaneously needed that gently reminder.

There is no doubt you learn to adapt when life changes on you without your consent.  You have no choice.  But it is nice, in a strange sense, to have little reminders such as these two circumstances, that you never completely forget.