Katie & Briscoe

Katie & Briscoe

Sunday, March 28, 2010

About Me...

I recently joined a Christian forum and took the time tonight to create my "About Me" page. I've done this kind of thing plenty of times before, including on this blog, but my fingers just took off tonight and I laid out the who, what, when, where, and why of how I have come to this place in my life. Here it is:

Well, I was born and raised in the Mid-South. (Southweastern TN, Northeastern MS) My parents were each married and divorced before they met and married and decided to have me, so I had 2 maternal sisters who were 13 & 15 years older than me and a paternal sister who was 17 years older than me. Basically, I was an only child AND the baby of the family!
I only remember being happy throughout my childhood and had a mother I absolutely adored. By the time I was in my mid teens, my parents' relationship was coming apart and eventually my father moved out. I was still a happy kid.
At barely 16 I traveled to Indiana with my mother to visit one of my sisters who was living there. The local 4H fairground was right next to her home and her kids' babysitter, who was my age, lived right across the street. We walked over to the fair on the final night and there I met my husband. He was 21, in college at Perdue in the aeronautical engineering department with an eye toward NASA. Yep, he wanted to be an astronaut. We met and hit it off right from that first instant. I always looked older than I was, so he didn't realize at first that I was just 16. He had a motorcycle which he took me for a ride on after church the day after we'd met. We stood outside in front of my sister's home and talked until I don't know how late. Midnight? Later? I don't remember. All I know is that by the time that talk was over I knew I'd met the man I would marry. I walked into my sister's house where my mother was waiting up for me and looked her square in the face and said, "He's the one." Her reply? "I know."
And that was that. We never talked about it again. She didn't tell me I was too young, though plenty of other people would over the next few years. But then my mother knew me like no one else did and I guess she could see the truth in my words.
I tell all this so that you'll understand why I say that God brought us together. He is so wise and loving, so faithful to always attend to our needs. At 16 I wasn't looking for a husband. I'd just had a discussion with the guy I was dating back home about how I didn't want a serious relationship and no, even if we did get serious and date for a long time, we would NOT be getting "physical." :)
But God knew what was coming in my life, He knew that I was about to go through the worst event of my heretofore blissfully content life. And He knew that I would not be able to do it alone. So, He introduced me to my future husband and presto! we were both in love.
So, this was the end of July '87. My hubby gave me my ring in February '88. February 20th, to be precise. (more on the significance of this later.)
Being a late in life child with older parents and siblings, I had grown up with a bit of an adult outlook on life. Or maybe that was just the way God made me. Either way, a lot of my mother's friends often chatted with me almost as freely as they would have with her. More than a few of them clucked their tongues when I showed up with an engagement ring. And even those who didn't voice their doubts out loud managed to convey them with their expressions. But I didn't care. I knew what I wanted and so I went forward.
You have to understand that during this entire time I was living in Mississippi while Mark, my hubby-to-be lived in Indiana. This meant he did a LOT traveling back and forth. He worked an odd shift at the time which meant he had a 3 day weekend every other week. He spent those weekends with my mom and me. My mother adored him almost as much as I did and he loved us both dearly. Mom used to tell people that as soon as we'd met him it had felt like we'd known him all our lives. (God leading us again, maybe?)
So, we got engaged on February 20th, 1988. Everything went along fine until a year later. Mark would work a 12 hr. shift on Wed. and Thurs., then leave directly from work on Thurs. night and drive almost 7 hours to my house. He would stay for the weekend, leaving late Sunday night to return to work on Monday morning. He'd been doing this pretty much every other week for almost a year. But, this time something happened. In late February 1989, Mark arrived at my house in the middle of the night that Thursday night as usual. Sometime Friday morning his mother called to tell him that her father had passed away. Mark said he'd leave to come home right then, but she insisted that he stay with us that Friday and come back Saturday morning. She knew he was tired and didn't want to risk him having an accident from sheer exhaustion. (God again, here.)
My mother had been sick with what we all thought was just a cold. But then my mother was very good at not complaining. Me, I'm a whiner and always have been. She was a rock, though, and stubborn to a fault. My father had moved out of the house and was not making any of the payments. My mother worked 3 jobs to keep us afloat. She was a teacher's assistant, then added bus driver and finally, out of desperation, she tacked on school custodian as well. All the jobs were at the same school, but they made for an awfully long work day. I, and Mark when he was in town, would usually go over to the school to help with the custodial work just so she wouldn't be there half the night. (It breaks my heart to talk about it, to remember how hard she worked and what it cost her.)
So, that Friday she was sick and went to bed early. Mark and I stayed up watching tv for a while, then went to bed as well, (Not together, in case anyone was wondering. We had a downstairs bedroom that had it's own half bath and that's where he stayed.)
Next morning, I got up and went downstairs to watch some more tv with Mark. We're sitting there, dreading the fact that he has to leave and knowing that he needs to get going so he can be there for his mom as she struggles with her grief. Our house was a bi-level, with mine and my mother's bedrooms directly over the living room and the spare bedroom. I heard a muffled sound from above me and got up to go upstairs to see what it was. I found my mother collapsed in the upstairs bathroom. She couldn't get up by herself. I helped her back to bed, then rushed downstairs to call her doctor because she would not go to the hospital. I helped her get dressed and we got her out the car and Mark drove to the doctor's office. Inside, she was getting worse, complaining of back pain and so clearly hurting that I was starting to freak out about it. She didn't complain, remember?
So, the doctor - I use that term loosely here - examined her, was totally unmoved by the fact that she was all but writhing in agony, then proceeded to off-handedly tell me that I might not want to keep rubbing her back the way I was because if she had a blood clot, which was what he suspected, I could cause it to dislodge and kill her. All this he announced as if he was talking about the weather. The hospital was nearby so we took her there and the doctor followed to take a look at the x rays. By this time she was starting to kinda zone out a little and was in so much pain that I had to stand beside her while the x rays were taken to make sure she didn't fall off the table. The doctor still wasn't impressed. He was standing out in the hall, chatting about his golf game when I finally snapped and told him that I didn't care what he gave her, but he better give her something for the pain NOW! This I yelled at him in the hallway just outside the x ray lab where my precious mother was still writhing in pain.
He huffed and puffed and looked like he might explode, but he ordered a muscle relaxant for her. Shortly afterwards, in a tiny little exam room just off the emergency room, a nurse came in to give my mother the muscle relaxant. I asked how long it would take to kick in. She said in 5 minutes my mother would be feeling no pain. She left and returned 5 or so minutes later. My mother was exactly as miserable as she'd been earlier. The nurse was puzzled and took the time to check my mom's blood pressure. That's pretty much the moment everything went crazy.
In seconds, the room was full of people. I backed out the door just to get out of the way because the room really was tiny. From outside I could see them hooking wires up to my mother and all talking at once. It was painfully obvious that something was catastrophically wrong. Mark had been waiting out in the hall and I just fell apart in his arms. Until I heard her call my name and God somehow gave me the strength to wipe away the tears and go back into that room to hold her hand.
They put her in an ambulance and rushed her to a much larger hospital in Jackson, TN. Mark and I followed, but had to stop to get gas and then to pick up my uncle, who lived in Jackson and could lead us to the hospital. He owned a store there and I still remember the look on his face when I ran through the door and told him that Mama was sick. (He was her baby brother and she'd pretty much raised him.) But he wasn't worried. I guess he thought I was just panicking. Until we got to the hospital and he saw her and realized that it wasn't some minor little thing. Her blood pressure had dropped and she was struggling to breathe.
My sister, who lived in Indiana still, was the first person I called. By the time we got to the hospital in Jackson, I was starting to shut down. I'd held it together up to that point, but with my uncle there now, I figured he could take over. He was an adult, after all. And he did. So I just sat there, stunned and shaken. My sister said they'd leave immediately. I think Mama was still able to talk when she finally got there later that night. Our other sister lived in Texas, though, and by the time she arrived, Mama was on a ventilator. Mama's older brother had been born deaf and so she knew sign language. I knew a little, as well, my sisters more. Our uncle had died several years earlier, so we were all pretty rusty. But we could communicate with her a little, at least. That was Saturday, February 18. By Sunday, she'd slipped into a coma. My sisters tried to convince me to go home Sunday night and to go to school on Monday. I looked at them like they were crazy and said, "no way!"
Mark and I had both been at the hospital the entire time. That Monday was February 20th, the one year anniversary of our engagement. I can remember sitting in the hospital when Mark gave me a weary smile and said, "This isn't exactly how I thought we'd be spending our anniversary." Finally, that afternoon, we returned to the house to clean up and get a little rest.  We were getting ready to go back to the hospital when my sisters called and said they were both coming back to the house as well and that our uncle was going to stay. So we were all at the house, in bed when the phone rang in the middle of the night. Mama had had a seizure. Back to the hospital we all went. The doctors explained to us that one side of her brain was dead. The pupil of her eye was fixed. She might wake up and recover, or she might never be the same again.
During this whole time they'd been pumping her full of steroids and blood pressure meds just to try to keep her alive. She had viral pneumonia. So we sat there, trying to figure out what to do. We decided to head down to the cafeteria to get some coffee and we'd just gotten down there when we were called back up. She had a second seizure and now both pupils were fixed and dilated. After lots of questions and a family meeting, we all agreed that Mom would not want to be kept alive by machinery. That kind of thing was still a little iffy back then and the doctors told us they couldn't just pull the plug, so to speak. Instead, they took her off the blood pressure meds and let nature take it's course.
She died just after 7 on Tuesday night, February 21st, 1989. We were in the room, though I can only remember myself and my sisters being there. Mark assures me that he was there as well, though. I was getting close to a complete emotional wreck by this time, and honestly don't remember a lot of what happened. I do remember when her heart stopped beating. I remember that the alarm went off, just like it does on medical dramas on tv. The nurse came into the room and turned it off. And I said, "she's gone."
My throat still locks as I write this. The emotions are not as overwhelming after all these years, but they are still very much alive in me. My sister, who was pregnant at the time, collapsed. Her husband caught her and for a while, we were all distracted with worry about her and the baby. But she was fine, or as fine as she could be under the circumstances.
The following days were a blur to me. We made the arrangements, had the funeral, then my sisters went about trying to figure out what to do with me. We found a letter Mom had written only weeks before her death detailing how she'd like things to be handled in the event of her death. It has haunted us all that she might have somehow known what was coming. She wanted Mark and I to have the house, since we were young and just starting out. My father refused to allow that, though.
A lot of ugly things were said and done by him in those days. Fortunately, I don't remember a lot of it. I was well on my way to a zombie state by then. Eventually, arrangements were made for me to stay with a family friend and my sisters and Mark had to return home. So I was alone. I went back to school, but can't remember much about it. At some point I realized that being there alone was just not going to work. So, in April I left my home and moved to Indiana because my sister and my fiance were both here. I finished school and graduated, then Mark and I moved in together.
(This is not something I'm proud of. I knew it was wrong, but Mark was worried. First of all, I was deeply depressed, worse than either of us could have realized at the time. And he had this fear that I was still too young, that I would "grow up" one day and realize that I didn't really want to spend the rest of my life with him after all. So we lived together and as much as I loved him, I hated knowing we were committing that sin.)
I was a zombie for at least 2 years. People talk about things that happened during that time and I don't have any memory of the event. My depression was that deep. I wanted to die, but just didn't really know how to go about it. I never saw a doctor or therapist. I just kept plodding on until eventually, 2 and a half years or so later the darkness began to lift a little. In this time my father and I had reconciled and in fact grew closer than we'd ever been. He lived in Memphis, TN, but we talked often.
He was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis (scarring of the lungs). We knew it would kill him. Hubby and I decided to take his parents on a vacation that summer. We had made all the arrangements when my dad called to tell me he was going to have to have open heart surgery. He insisted that it was not big deal and refused to allow us to cancel our plans. I called him every day to check on him while we were away. Except for one. Our final night we stayed at a hotel that, believe it or not, didn't have phones in the rooms. There was a payphone outside but it was pouring down rain and the phone wasn't in a booth. So, I didn't call him that day.
We made the drive home the next day and when I walked in the door there was a message waiting for me on my machine. My father had died that day. He'd been awake the day before and if I'd called him, I would have been able to speak to him.
Another funeral, another loss. That was 1992.
I almost forgot. Mark and I were married by now. We had planned to get married on Feb. 20 of '92, but found out at the last minute that the judge in the courthouse wasn't actually in the courthouse and so we couldn't get married that day. (Crying and sobbing ensued, followed by a little yelling when my hubby suggested we could do it the following day. I was NOT  going to get married on the anniversary of my mother's death!)
So, a few phone calls later, we found a different judge in a different courthouse who agreed to marry us on Saturday, February 22. So, engaged on the 20th, mom died on the 21st, and we were married on the 22nd. What a cluster of anniversaries!
Life went on after my dad's death. Until the day after 9/11 when I came home to find a message from my sister in Texas. I called her back and she informed me that she had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. It had already metastasized to her brain and her leg. Shortly thereafter I traveled to Texas for a 3 week stay. She died just before Christmas of that same year.
I did an awful lot of praying during that time. I was fully aware of my depression by now, I'd done all kinds of research on it and knew good and well that I had it. But I still had never talked to a doctor about it. Anyway, God carried me through that loss. I can say I almost felt His physical presence at her funeral. I was on the threshold of an emotional breakdown during the service and I remember closing my eyes and telling God that I couldn't take it, I could simply not handle that pain. The peace that flooded me at that moment was unlike anything I've ever known. It was so real, so incredibly overwhelming that the emotional flood that had only seconds before threatened to drown me simply vanished. See, I'd talked to my sister about her faith and discovered she had gotten her life right with God. So I could see her walking into heaven into the arms of our mother. And I could see the smile on our mother's face as she embraced her middle child. The image is still there in my mind today.
As God blessed me with my precious husband, he also blessed me with a mother-in-law who was my very dear friend. I'm not an introvert, far from it, but I tend to have only one truly close friend and my husband's mother, Vannie, was it for a very long time. She was a sweet spirit in an emotionally devastated body. I guess we held each other up sometimes, though I believe I spent most of my time trying to lift her out of the depression she didn't even realize she was in. Just when she was making a lot of life changes for the better, something odd happened. She started substituting words. "Pond" for "pool" was one of the first things I noticed. There were others and they began happening with increasing frequency. I mentioned it to my husband. I knew something was wrong. Then one day we got a phone call from his dad. She'd woken up that morning and wasn't able to make any sense. She could talk, but it was total nonsense.
A trip to the local hospital and a CAT scan later and we were on our way to a much larger, more well equipped hospital in Cincinnati. After a MRI, a neurosurgeon sat down and explained that she what's known as a GBM. (glioblasoma multiforme if you want the technical term) She had a terminal brain tumor. They took the tumor out and she regained her ability to speak. Then a few months later she started having seizures, lost all the ground she'd gained and nearly died because of malpractice of a bunch of doctors who pretty much just decided that she was a lost cause already. Her neurosurgeon stepped in and confirmed what we'd been telling them all along - that they'd overdosed her on one of her seizure meds - and again she woke up and could speak. She really wasn't ever the same after that, though. She died on March 1, 2007.
In the year before she got sick, I'd finally told a doctor about my depression and begun taking medication for it. I'd also had a couple of visits with a therapist that had helped me recognize some aspects of my depression that I had overlooked. Generally, I was better than I'd been in ages. But after Vannie died, I became deeply depressed again. I knew it was happening, but couldn't seem to stop it. I searched for a therapist when I finally realized one day that I was starting to think about dying again.
I was in therapy for over a year this time. It was some time last year (2009) when I stopped and I've been good ever since, but I know the depression well and never, ever take for granted that it would reach out for me again.
All this loss. So much pain and grief. I don't pretend that I've suffered worse than anyone else, or that there isn't anyone out here who hasn't been through the same thing. I do admit that it is only by God's amazing grace that I am still alive today. My sisters, who both have been through multiple failed relationships/marriages, used to tell me all the time that I was so lucky to have found Mark. (Because he's such a good man.) I have always known that luck had nothing at all to do with it. It was God, pure and simple. How else do you explain the way we met? The way we felt so immediately at ease with each other? The way he was there when my mother got sick, to pick her up and carry her into the doctor's office because she couldn't walk on her own? The way he was there when my father died, even though he never forgave my dad for leaving my mother alone to take care of the house and then swooping back in and taking it after she died. Not to mention a dozen other things he said and did that no one could blame me for despising him for. The way he has stood by me through the dark agony of my depression, even when he could not understand it.
No, I am not lucky, I'm blessed! (I have a tee shirt that says so, too!)
I have done my share of questioning God. I've been angry enough to shout at the heavens. Why! Why have I lost so many people I loved and needed in my life? And though I may not have an answer for each loss, I have peace about each of them. All of them were saved. God had guided me through every moment, even when I did not feel Him there or want to acknowledge Him. After all my father did following my mother's death, I could have hated him. I could have tried to probate the letter my mother left as a will and fought him in court. I could have chosen to turn my back on him forever. But I didn't. I made the choice to let it all go. There were reasons for my choice, but ultimately I believe that God was guiding me.  He knew what the future held. He knew my dad was going to get sick and die and He didn't want me to have to spend my life regretting choices I'd made in the past.
My father apologized for the things he'd done. He admitted he'd been wrong. That was a gift I never expected to receive. And we were closer in the years leading up to his death than we'd ever been before.
After losing my mother, who I was very close to, I can remember telling Mark that I didn't think I could survive the death of one of my sisters. But I did, with God's grace and guidance. I not only survived it, I was able to spend 3 weeks with her, being her nurse and holding her when she vomited and cried and even laughed. What a precious gift that was!
And finally, there was Mark's mother. I said she was emotionally damaged. There's just no way to describe how broken she was. She'd been emotionally abused her entire life and by the time I came along, she just wasn't able to allow herself to heal. She loved me and I loved her, and she loved others as well, but even though she was saved, I don't believe she ever truly believed a person could love unconditionally. She was in the hospital during her illness and absolutely went off on a doctor because he wanted to perform a gastro-intestinal exam on her. (She was anemic and they wanted to make sure she wasn't bleeding into her stomach.) But she was in the hospital because she had a blood clot in her leg and for whatever reason, she just decided she was NOT going to let this doctor run a scope down her throat!
Mark and I were her medical advocates since she frequently wasn't capable of it and her husband is of the "They're doctors, they're always right" mentality. The doctor was very worried about her. Frankly, he decided after her outburst that she was incompetent, which was kinda understandable given the circumstances. Brain tumor, you know. I told him she'd have the procedure, which she had to sign for. He was skeptical, but agreed to come back later.
I went into that room and told her she was GOING TO HAVE THE PROCEDURE!
She said no she was NOT!
An argument ensued that eventually led to me saying something about having taken care of her throughout her illness, to which she replied, "I know, and I don't like it!" This was followed by a painful remark that reminded me I was not her "flesh and blood." Her words. The point is, Vannie's words hurt me very badly. I mean, I just plain broke down and sobbed. Her husband, Harold, was there when all this happened and I'm pretty sure he called her on it after I left the room, which I pretty much had to do so that I wouldn't fall to pieces in front of her. It was all I could do to drive him home that afternoon. If he hadn't been in the car with me I likely would have sobbed the entire drive. Hubby and I barely saw each other during her hospital stays, too, because Vannie was afraid to stay by herself, so he'd spend the nights with her, and I would drive Harold up and spend the days there while hubby came home to clean up and try to rest. That separation wasn't helping either of us cope with the situation, either. So when he called me after I got home to talk about it, I just sobbed some more.
She did have the procedure. There was a whole scene with the doctor that was absolutely hilarious because he seriously thought she was unstable and he never really did lose that "deer in the headlights" look even though she apologized for yelling at him and willingly signed the paperwork. This poor man actually brought reinforcements when he came to get the paperwork signed! LOL
So, a few days later, when she was back at home I'd stopped by to visit and she looked up at me and said, "I thought you wouldn't come back."
And I knew at that moment that she had thought that because of the things she said to me, because of how much it had hurt me, that I would be mad at her and not come to see her.
I took her hand and told her that she was my friend and I loved her and nothing she said or did would change that.
It broke my heart. She loved the Lord and trusted Him, but the fact that I loved her unconditionally was a shock to her. No one should have to feel that unloved and unworthy.
So, this is my story. This is who I am. These are the major events that God has used in my life to help shape and mold me into the person I am becoming. I miss my family desperately. It's a loss that still breaks my heart. But I'm not angry about it any more. At least not unless the depression takes hold. I believe and trust God that it will all work together for good. I know my sister's fight with cancer gave me strength for myself and wisdom to share with my husband's family when his mother was diagnosed. I know my mother was the hardest working person I ever knew and that she'd endured more than a little grief in her life and that now, she is in the ultimate resting place. God is good and extends a degree of mercy to his children that is beyond measure. He has loved me even while I blamed him for my mother's death. He has loved me even as I sank into a pit of despair so deep and dark that I could see and feel nothing beyond my own agony. He has carried me through loss after loss and brought me out the other side a stronger, braver person. And He has given me blessings too numerous to number.
I am His child, and I will never be ashamed to say so.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

10 Things You Might Not Know

Just wanted to make a quick note about Beth's blog from a few days ago.

10 Things You Might Not Know

I'm a notorious procrastinator and so didn't get around to reading it until today. Have to say that I laughed until I cried at some of the responses. Seriously, anyone looking for a good laugh ought to check it out. Beth is funny enough on her own. But there are a LOT of hilariously bent women out there.

Here are my 10:

1. My mother always said procrastination should have been my middle name.

2. I am an absolute shutterbug.

3. I am a virtually unstoppable chatterbox. :)

4. I hate housework of any kind.

5. I adore my husband with every fiber of my being.

6. I generally have a talent for making others laugh.

7. I don't hold grudges. (Thank you, Lord.)

8. I am a massive fan of spicy food. (To my digestive track's consternation.)

9. I talk to my pets like they're people and can understand every word I say.

10. I love to sing and have been known to burst into song from sheer joy.
Yep, I'm a bit of a nut. I know. If you knew me personally, you'd probably be certain that I was loony. But I'm happy and that's all that matters!


God Bless

Yippee!

I consider myself an intelligent person. I'm not generally someone who has to struggle too much with either mechanical or technical issues. But I have spent virtually all day working out how to tweak and customize my blog until it completely suited me. (To be fair, I was actually working on 2 blogs: this one, and my private journal.)

Needless to say, html code is not one of my strong suits. I have an absolutely bare minimum grasp of how it works. So I spent hours searching first for templates that I actually liked and then hours longer trying to figure out exactly how to edit the code to give me the desired result.

Holy cow, it was complicated! I have long since lost track of the number of Google searches I did. The good news is, I found everything I was looking for and now am very satisfied with my finished products. :D Even better, I now know how to get what I want from other templates that I might some day chose to switch to.

I am one happy camper right now!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Don't Make Me Come Over There!

Just had to put this up. A fellow flickr user asked to photoshop Tommy and here is the result. LOL

Friday, March 12, 2010