Sunday, November 27, 2016

On Another Hospital Stay, Christmas Trees + Panic Attacks

The first year we were married, Mark made a rule.  Our Christmas tree could not be up before Halloween, and it certainly must be taken down by President's Day - no earlier, and definitely no later.  The new rule shaved about two months of my usual Christmas tree time, believe it or not.  I loved the holidays.

Last year, I didn't put up our Christmas tree up at all.  Not even one day.  I told most people I didn't want to mess with it, given having two toddlers at home.  They'd definitely rip it down or shred the ornaments to pieces.  

I was mostly lying.

The real reason I never put the tree up was because it reminded me too much of the previous holiday season, when Charlotte had meningitis.  We were in the ER the day after our family Christmas, and we celebrated New Year's in the hospital cafeteria.  Suddenly, Christmas trees and lights and snow and holiday spirit meant fear and death and sickness and worry and shame - which brought paralyzing anxiety and nausea.

Hello, PTSD.

I'm not sure if Charlotte's meningitis was really the cause of the panic attacks I battled, or whether it was the just the last straw.  In those three, short years, we had a big move, a tough pregnancy, a traumatic labor, a son born with seizures and strokes, a NICU stay, a prognosis of cerebral palsy, months and years of physical therapy, a husband with excruciating back pain, another tough pregnancy (this time with an eight-month-old in tow), another traumatic labor, my own ICU stay, and then a five month old with meningitis and another PICU stay, which felt like the straw the broke the camel's back.  

It was a crack that seemed to fracture my mind and heart.  Panic and anxiety became a daily battle.

This year, I told myself it was time to face some fears and put up the darn Christmas tree again.  We tried last weekend.  I only got half the lights on the tree because Charlotte was being a little terror and whining so badly.  

Her whines turned into sniffles which turned into a fever - and then a high fever - which landed us back in the ER and admitted into the hospital.  


I'm just wondering - does it ever get easier?  To have sick little ones?  To feel their skin burn with a fever?  To see their eyes glazed and distant?  To hear their whines and cries and whimpers?  To rock and rock and rock them through restless nights?

I'm not sure it's easy for any mama, but even the tiniest sniffles and thermometers reading 100.8 - let alone 104 - bring me to a full-fledged panic attack, heaving over the toilet.


Charlotte hardly slept that night in the hospital, tangled up in IVs and wires.  I slept even less, doing business with the Lord in between bouts of nauseousness.  It didn't seem fair, I told Him.  Here we were again - the same season, the same day of the week, the same "fever of unknown origin," the same blood work and testing...  

"Do You enjoy playing with my mind?  Letting the enemy wreak havoc in my baby's body?"

I read scripture and let its truth wash over me.  I knew the Lord was a Healer and a Miracle Worker.  Of all people, I knew this - which was all the more maddening.

In three short years, I have seen the Lord open doors to an amazing job and community - only He knew we needed.  I have experienced His sustaining grace through months of morning sickness, and then again through 40 hours of labor.  I have seen Him heal my son, who hasn't had any more seizures and has no signs of strokes or cerebral palsy.  I have seen Him restore my husband's back.  He gave even more grace to weather another hard pregnancy, He gave urgency and wisdom to an incredible nurse to push for an emergency c-section sparing my daughter's life.  He miraculously stopped my hemorrhaging and spared my own life.  He performed several astounding miracles in healing our tiny, five-month-old from the ravages of meningitis.  

Of all people, I know the healing power of the Lord.  I do.  Of all people, I have seen His miracles.   I have!  My mind and heart remember His faithfulness and incredible grace...

...but my body revolts.  Despite "knowing" the truth - even seeing it first-hand, my stomach turns in knots, my breathing is short and labored, my heart races and skips beats, my body shakes, my appetite leaves, sleep evades, and there's a war raging inside me.  And, all the while I should be focused on my sick daughter and caring for her needs.

This is the very worst part - knowing that, in the moments my husband and kids need me to be strong, I am inevitably weak and sick, adding to the stress and compounding the problem at hand.

In just 24 hours, a round of fluids and antibiotics seemed to do wonders for little Charlotte.  Just a UTI, the doctors said...  By the time we left the hospital, she was spunky - singing every Frozen song, complete with dramatic actions and facial expressions, and entertaining the nurses.  

I have been reading Psalm 46 a few times every day since...

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear through the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.  There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.  God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.  The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.  The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Insert a huge sigh here...  

I'm sure my kids will get sick again some day.  The fevers will rage again, my peace of mind may totter, but come what may...  The Lord of hosts is with us.  The God of Jacob is our fortress.  Today, that is enough.

The next day out of the hospital, we slept in, stayed home in our pajamas all day, and finished decorating that damned Christmas tree.  I pray I have the strength to leave it up until President's Day.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Drop-Ins Welcome

I am working on getting over people "just dropping by" our house.  I have so wanted to be the kind of person that always had a door open, ready to receive any spontaneous guests, but alas, I am a staunch introvert with thick boundaries who really, really hates surprises.  It hasn't been a very easy thing, you guys.

Today, four people at four different times randomly stopped by.  Four.  That is probably a world record.  

All four of those people looked cute and put together, as I met them at the door without makeup and unshowered, in the red sweatpants I have had since college that have a hole in the butt.  I had to scoop toys and junk away from the front door just to let our guests inside - that's how messy my house was.  It wasn't just a "two toddlers live here" messy, it was embarrassingly messy AND stinky.  Twice, my kids weren't fully clothed.  The other two times, they were clothed, but terribly mismatched with wild hair.  Once, they were screaming and attempting to kill each other.

Twice, I apologized about the mess.  Three times, I apologized for our "crazy" house.  The fourth time, I took a deep breath, smiled a lot, and apologized for nothing.  

The fourth time felt the best.

It must just get easier?  To let people see your mess?  The zits your makeup usually covers?  The crazy life you'd never dare to post on Facebook?

Come on over, friends.  Don't bother to call.  If practice makes perfect, you can help me move further towards having a spontaneously welcoming home.

And, Jesus?  You had better come help me.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Seasonal Centerpieces for Dummies

I used to kind of hate seasonal decorating.  It seemed a little overwhelming to have entire collections of decorations that needed to be set out every few months.  Storing all of those extra decorations on off-seasons seemed like border-line hoarding, and BUYING those different collections seemed like it'd break my checking account.

BUT I LOVE THE SEASONS.  Fall is my favorite.  Christmas is my other favorite.  The Fourth of July is my other other favorite.  

I really needed to find a way to make seasonal celebrating work.  Minimalist, style, please.

I certainly can't say I've arrived at an amazing-seasonal-decorating-diva place, but I have found little ways to change things up a bit.  The easiest spot I've found to change is my kitchen table centerpiece.

Let's use the word "centerpiece" loosely, mmkay?  Because some of you have watched Sandra Lee's show on the Food Network, and her idea of "centerpiece" is, like, CRAZINESS.  WHERE IS THE SPACE TO EAT AND PUT MY ELBOWS, SANDRA?  WHERE?!

Scrap Sandra Lee for a moment (Sorry, honey.), and stick with me.

For ME, "centerpiece" means a wooden trivet thing with a Target clearance bowl full of ___insert seasonal decor___...

Fall?  Granny Smith apples in September.  A big a$$ pumpkin through November.  Preferably not orange, and preferably not fake.

Winter?  Wal-Mart clearance gold Christmas ornaments in December.  Pinecones through February.

Spring? I DON'T KNOW.  Send help.  My stipulations include - it must be a NEUTRAL color or greenish.  It must not include an arrangement.  I just want to dump stuff into a bowl, people.

Summer?  Limes!  Give me ALL THE LIMES.  I heart you.

I am also working on some seasonal essential oil combinations.  I love using Thieves straight through Fall and Winter, and also love Lavender + Lemon in the spring.  Any summer suggestions?  Or favorite combos all around?  Please comment below.

...and also comment with Spring "centerpiece" suggestions.

Okay, thanks, bye.


Thursday, October 27, 2016

On Politics, The Church + Hot Button Issues

To The Church:

How many of us have real, living, breathing, actual FRIENDS who have had an abortion?  Who have considered abortion seriously?  Who are CURRENTLY considering abortion?

How many of us have heard these same friends tell their stories?  Of fear?  Grief?  Pressure?  Conviction?  Struggle?  Abandonment?  Brokenness?  Healing?  Hope?
How many of us have listened well to these friends' stories?  In such a way that we'd consider what we might have to learn from them, how their experiences might help inform our opinions about policies and politics?  In a way that we'd consider how we can be a better friend and support to them?


How many of us have real, living, breathing actual FRIENDS who are gay or lesbian or bi-sexual?  Who are married to someone of the same gender?  Who have struggled with a gay or lesbian lifestyle?  Who are questioning their gender or sexual identity?  

How may of us have heard these same friends tell their stories?  Of confusion?  Of abuse?  Of freedom?  Of love?  Of faith?  Of brokenness?  Struggle?  Loss?  Of healing or hope?   

How many of us have listened well to these friends' stories?  In such a way that we'd consider what we might have to learn from them, how their experiences might help inform our opinions about policies and politics?  In a way that we'd consider how we can be a better friend and support to them?


Many in The Church (myself included) have extremely strong opinions about abortion and homosexuality, among several other things.  We have incredibly strong opinions about the policies and politics that surround these topics.  Yet, sadly, many of us in aren't seeking out, investing in, supporting, learning from or doing life with men and women who find themselves smack-dab-in-the-middle of these debates.

I'm in favor of reading the bible, listening to the Truth the Spirit may be speaking to your heart, considering what your pastor or other trusted leaders might have to say...  I just know my heart and my views on these hot-button issues have been drastically changed when I've sat face-to-face, across the table and talked with the people we've been talking a lot about in all of our debates.

It seems like many of us are focused on the policies, rather than the people.

I feel like that's really dangerous.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Today's Letters No. 5

Dear Hair,
Last week, I was a little frustrated with you and your extreme (and ugly) reaction to the humidity.  I would like to take this opportunity to say, "I'm sorry."  I misunderstood you.  All along, you were just mad I was using cheap-o products on you again.  Evidently, Suave doesn't cut it for you?  I have come to a life-transforming realization, which brings me to a letter to myself today...  

Dear Self,
Be willing to invest in a great hair cut and great hair product.  Hair is worth spending money on.  Hair is not a place to cut corners.  You wear hair EVERY DAY.  Like, more than your favorite jeans or sweater or shoes or even coat and purse.  If you have bad hair, you may as well throw the outfit away, because you still look ugly.  If you have GOOD hair, you can wear a plain gray sweatshirt and be 10 pounds overweight and still look fly (I know this from experience).  Never forget this.

Dear Moroccan Oil,
Why, hello.  It is very, very nice to meet you.  Also, you are hard to spell.  

Dear Will,
Today you said, with a wrinkly nose, "Mama, I smell sump-in."  Then your eyes got wide, "I fink it's chok-it (chocolate)!  Did you eat some-a dat?  I have some?"  You caught me.  I snuck a section of a Hershey's bar in my mouth a minute before - making sure to chew and swallow before I tucked you in for your nap.  And yet you caught the tiniest whiff and called me out.  ...  Once, when your daddy and I were trying to be really healthy and stay away from sugar, he came home from work and kissed me.  It was just a little peck, really, but I could still smell the purple Gatorade he had snuck on the drive home.  Busted.  Anyway, what I'm trying to say is, welcome to the world of highly sensitive people.  You're in great company.

Dear Charlotte,
I know I am a little biased, but you have the most beautiful, pale, soft and golden hair.  I have never cut it - not once - since you were born.  I am a little nervous for the day it WILL get too long.  You are such a strong lady.  Will you go all Samson on me and lose your strength once we cut it?  The thought has seriously crossed my mind.  I don't THINK you're a Nazarite, but I maybe I missed something...

Dear Papa George + Grammy Pammy,
Thanks for the impromptu visit on Saturday.  Will and Charlie keep asking every day if it's time to go back to Grammy's house and sit in Papa's airplane.

Dear Red,
It dawned on me about a week ago when my mom was trying to decide what color to paint her house...  You are my very least favorite color.  Like, I really hate you.  I just hate red.  I especially hate the way you look in pictures - oversaturated and in-your-face.  Even as I write you this letter, I am envisioning The Day the Crayons Quit book and all the grumbling things you might write back to me in your scratchy penmanship.  Gosh, I love that book.  Do you?  

Dear Friends That Text Me and Never Receive a Response, 
I currently have 97 unread and unanswered texts on my phone.  And, another 15 voicemails.  Just wanted to let you know...  YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  #introvertproblems #infj 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

I'm Dreaming of a ... Caramel Apple Party!

If you've read even two posts on this blog, you know I am a little obsessed with parties.  So because it's been, like, three days since my last party, I'm already dreaming of another one...

How fun would a CARAMEL APPLE Trunk Show be?!  

If you type in "caramel apple" ANYthing in Pinterest right now, the results are endless, but My Name is Snickerdoodle had one of my favorite posts.  Simple and beautiful. 

There's always a fine line in party planning - at least for me.  I want it to be beautiful, but it can quickly become overcomplicated.  The balance between simple and beautiful is a very happy place.  In fact, I might even simplify the Snickerdoodle Caramel Apples even more!  For me, it would look like this...

1. Scrounge through my cupboards and shop my house.  In my cupboards, I'd find leftover chocolate chips, shredded coconut, leftover chopped walnuts, leftover sprinkles, cinnamon and sugar (to mix), and Oreos I could use for apple toppings.  I would also find a little platter for the apples and a cupcake tin for the toppings.

2. I'd go to the grocery store and get: Granny Smith apples, microwavable caramel sauce (it's in the apple section this time of year!), chocolate syrup, two squeeze bottles (I think they are about 50 cents at Wal-Mart) and a pack of paper dessert plates and napkins in the party section (also inexpensive!).

3. To prep, I'd dump all the toppings in the cupcake tin and squeeze bottles.  I would NOT cut or prep the apples and instead leave them whole.  (I tried prepping apples once for a larger party and swore I would never do it again.  Why?  1) Because it takes a long time.  2) Because it involves other ingredients like lemon juice or 7up or whatever else to keep apples from browning.  3) I ALWAYS under or overestimate the amount people will eat.  In this particular circumstance, I OVERestimated, leaving me with many, many, many brown slices of apples.  4) Whole apples look beautiful in a larger bowl or platter.  They are decoration themselves.  Brown apple slices?  Not so much.)  I think it'd be fine to leave the apples whole and set an apple corer next to a platter, right?!  DIY, baby!  Anyway, I'd also lay out the plates and napkins, which will take you 2.5 seconds if you've had some practice...

4.  Then I would have a glass of wine and wait for people to arrive.  ...  Just kidding.  I would be chasing my kids around and cleaning up the trail of mess they leave behind, right up until the second people arrive.  

But really, people.  Even if you don't have a million friends over, and even if you don't host a caramel apple TRUNK SHOW, you seriously should do caramel apples at the very least with your family or best buddy.  BECAUSE IT'S SEPTEMBER.  And that is what you do in September, folks.

Happy caramel appleing! 


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Today's Letters

Dear Humidity,
You are suffocating me.  Please go away.

Dear Hair,

I know it's humid out and all, but seriously.  Your freaking out is a little excessive.

Dear Sioux Center Wal-Mart,

I wish you were Target.

Dear Coffee Pot,

I wish you were Starbucks.

Dear Tuesday,

I wish you were Monday.  I need another day to introvert.

Dear Self,

Stop being so grouchy pants.  You have a lot to be thankful for.

Dear Chatbooks,
Thanks for coming in the mail today.  You were a happy surprise on a lame day.

Dear Ghirardelli Chocolate and Red Wine,

You really can fix a lot of things.  I love you.


Liza Jane DeYounge
© The DeYounge Life. All rights reserved.