Moments of Mourning

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Once upon a time I had small children.  My life was full and busy.  Sometimes I resented the demands put on me by motherhood, but most of the time I cherished and enjoyed it.  I actually had children in my home for 37-years.  There’s a big spread between my children.  Their ages are 37, 30, 24, and 21, and I took care of one of my grandchildren for awhile who will be 12 in November.

My children are all grown now and my granddaughter spends most of her time with her mother, which is a good thing.  I am finally, at the age of 58, basically an empty-nester.  My 24-year old son still lives with us, but he’ll be leaving for the mission field soon.

These days, instead of making breakfast and waking kids up for school, I wake up to a quiet house.  I make myself some coffee, turn on some instrumental worship music, and start my day with a devotional.  To young mothers, that probably sounds like heaven and some mornings it is.  Other mornings, not so much.

I try really hard to not make my life completely about my children, to have hobbies and other interests.  I don’t want to be that mom that falls apart without her children to take care of.  Now is the season to be just me again; rediscover passions and interests that there was no room for while raising children, reconnect with my husband in a whole new way and actually have time for him, deepen my relationship with Jesus and spend more time with HIM.  The world is my oyster again!

That’s my attitude some mornings, but other mornings, like this morning I find myself mourning the loss of my young children.  I miss them!  Their laughter, their sweet little faces, watching them play together, the way they’d sit in my lap and say adorable little kid things, and their pure love for their mommy.  Those wide-eyed little faces saying, “I love you, Mommy!”  God, I miss that!  I miss seeing things that I’ve seen a million times, brand new through their eyes.  I miss so many things!

My youngest is 21-years old!  He’s technically been an adult for three years now and still, from time to time, I find myself heart-broken and crying.  Will it always be like this?  Will there always be these moments of mourning?  I really don’t know because I’ve never been here before, in this empty nest.  They come to visit, children and grandchildren, but it’s not the same is it?

Some mornings the peace and quiet is really nice, and some mornings not so much.  Moments of mourning show up uninvited.  The question is will I let them in and visit awhile or will I embrace this new season of life and shut the door on them until they stop coming?  Good question.

5 Things I’ve Discovered That Change as You Age

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“Age Is Change”. That’s an AARP slogan, I think designed to help us feel better about getting older.  That should be a clue right there!  If maturing is so great, why do we need cheerleaders along the way?  “Age is Change”, “You’re only as old as you feel”, “Age is just a number”.  It’s all malarkey!  Some days I feel older than I really am and 58 is not just a number.  It’s the number of years I’ve been tossed around this world, collecting bumps, bruises, and gray hairs!  AARP’s got it right though.  Age IS change. A lot of change.  Some for the better and some not so much.

I feel like I was not prepared for this.  No one warned me about getting older or gave me any kind of advice on what to expect or how to get ready.  Well, I’m here to do just that.  I want my kids and my younger friends to have an idea of what they’re in for.  So, here are the major changes I’ve experienced and the advice I would give my younger self if I could.

  1. Physical ability:  The biggest change that hit me when I was around my early 40’s was the fact that my body was starting to have difficulty doing things that I had been able to do before with no problem.  For example, a somersault.  I can’t even explain the feeling I got after doing one in my 40’s vs. my 30’s even.  It was like an all-over body rush that left me with a killer headache and dizzier than I think I should have been.  Shortly after hitting 45, I couldn’t do any kind of exercise without some sort of pain – all the time – before, during, and after.  We think we’re bullet-proof when we’re young and it never crosses our mind that one day we might be physically limited.  Well, guess what?  It could happen.
    My advice:  Start working out early and keep working out on a regular basis.  Drink tons of water and when your joints start hurting, switch to low-impact stuff like swimming and cycling.  Walk a lot all the time.  Drink tons of water!  I can’t say that enough.
  2. Libido:  I’m not going to go into too much detail on this one.  It’s pretty personal and different for everyone, but trust me, one way or the other it changes.
    My advice:  Other than investing in little blue or pink pills, I don’t have a lot of advice except to communicate with your partner and be kind to each other as you go through this one.  Being on the same page will help a lot.
  3. Bladder control:  This was a surprise!  I wasn’t expecting problems here until I was like 80.  Apparently, it can start as early as your 30’s.  Maybe even earlier. I’m not an expert. What I do know is that the first time you start jumping up and down to your favorite song and all of a sudden you’re so glad that you’re at home and not out in public where you don’t have a change of undies, is a bit unnerving.  To say the least.
    My advice:  This was actually my GYN’s advice – Kegel exercises.  If you’ve ever been pregnant, you probably know what those are.  If not, look it up.  The other option is surgery, and according to my doctor, we don’t want that surgery.  So, start early and do them often.  I’m sure it’s not a guarantee, but it has worked for me.
  4. Complexion:  In my 40’s I started noticing things like skin tags, age spots, and other changes to the skin all over my body, not just on my face.  Spots I had never seen before.  And my face started trying to grow moles!  My dad had those so that wasn’t a total surprise.  My chin started sagging and fine lines started appearing around my eyes.  Seemingly overnight these thing appeared, although I’m sure it wasn’t overnight.
    My advice:  microdermabrasion is your friend.  There are over-the-counter products for getting rid of skin tags now. There are a plethora of high-cost methods for tackling these things, but I don’t invest my money there.  I use a concealer on my age spots, and my moisturizer is coconut oil – all over, even around my eyes.  The best advice I can give on this one though, is keep an eye on any spots that appear.  If they grow or change color, see your doctor.   And let go of vanity.  It’s not worth it.  I’m not saying to stop caring about your appearance.  I’m saying stop obsessing over it.  We all age.  Age as gracefully as you can and throw vanity out the window.
  5. Attitude:  That last one is a good segway into this one.  As I age I seem to have a better grasp on what’s important.  I have come to accept that I am NOT bulletproof and that people and relationships are more important than appearances.  Also, my relationship with Jesus has kept me from crashing into the rocks while navigating these changing waters.  He is my lifeline.
    My Advice:  Meet Jesus sooner and when you find your attitude changing, roll with it.  Enjoy being comfortable in your own skin and the shift in priorities.  Wisdom is setting in.  😉

Now that I’m past middle-age, I’m more aware of my own mortality and that awareness fuels a drive to know my Creator better and make my time here more meaningful.  I care less about what people think of me and more about how to make meaningful connections with them.

Age IS change, some for the better and some not so much.  The best advice I think I could give my younger self is to do what you can about the not so good changes – make the best of them – and focus more on the changes for the better.  The knowledge and wisdom you’ve (hopefully) acquired, the shift in priorities to things that really matter, caring less about what people think and more about the people themselves.  A positive attitude and being anchored to The Rock (Jesus) is essential.

This has all been MY experience.  Everyone’s path is different, but if you share any similarities with mine I hope this has been helpful.  And if you’re not in any of these places yet, I hope a little heads-up to possibilities has been helpful to YOU.  Whatever your season of life, know that the one constant in life is change and the more accepting of that you are, the happier I believe you will be.

Blessings!
Brenda 😊💕

 

C.D. Journals – September 29, 2018

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For the past two days, I have been fighting back tears and pushing myself to keep busy and try to do things as I normally would as much as possible.  I went grocery shopping, I cleaned my front porch and put out some fall decorations, I did laundry and dishes, and I even cooked dinner – a rare occasion these days, but something I’m trying to do more.  Everything takes longer than it used to and all of the above was done with my neck brace on.  Praise God for that hot, itchy neck brace!

I called it a “collar” at first, but Matt didn’t like that.  He said, “Mom, you’re not a dog!” 😂 So, I’m trying to be consistent about calling it a “brace”.  The brace doesn’t stop the muscle contractions or my battle to keep my head straight, it simply keeps my head from turning as far as it wants to and keeps my chin out of my shoulder.   I guess you could say it minimizes the battle.  It feels restrictive and after awhile, especially when the weather’s warm, gets hot and itchy.  It’s less frustrating than trying to do things without it, but frustrating nonetheless and I’m thankful for it.

I wake up every morning and procrastinate about getting out of bed because I’m not ready to battle my brain again.  My poor, broken brain that constantly – all day long – wants to spin my head around.  Some days it’s calmer than others, but it’s always there.  Except when I’m asleep, thank God.  I want so badly to handle this with grace and strength, to be an overcomer, and some days it’s just too hard.  I just want to sit and cry and all the things that aren’t great in my life are magnified; my baby boy is living 7-hours away and I rarely see him, my oldest son is headed to the other side of the world and I won’t see him for two years,  my husband is about to have a very expensive hernia surgery, and the neurologist I’ve been referred to wants almost half of our house payment just for an initial consult.  I could go on, and I really shouldn’t even start.  That’s focusing on the negatives and therein lies the emotional battle.

On the other side of the coin; my baby boy is doing great and getting a college education, my oldest son is serving the Lord and I couldn’t be prouder, my husband is going to be healed of this hernia he’s been walking around with for years, and there is hope of something better for my condition.  It’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it?  I feel better already!

I know that God is not a vending machine or a genie who will grant my every wish right when I ask for it.  He has a plan and a purpose for everything, including my life.  I totally believe that.  I just really wish that healing me right this second was part of that plan.  He healed me once before, after nine years of suffering with Fibromyalgia and His timing was perfect.  That probably sounds weird that waiting nine years was perfect timing, but it was.  The circumstances surrounding my healing blessed a lot of people and the timing was just perfect.

The only people I know who have Cervical Dystonia are the people I’ve met on the two Facebook forums I’ve joined, and I’ve never met any of them in person.  On Facebook, I read about their challenges and their pain.  I read about their small victories and the ways they find joy wherever they can so as not to completely lose hope.  While I may be the only one in my small corner, I’m not the only one in the whole world.  There are so many others who face the same challenges I do – or at least similar challenges.  Each situation is unique.  It helps though, to remember that I’m not the only one and there are others who understand.

I have no idea what God’s plan is here.  Any day I could be healed, or I won’t be healed until I step into glory, I have no way of knowing.  Maybe that’s what actually gets me out of bed in the morning – not knowing what could happen that day and believing that anything could happen?  I think we’re back to me being a dreamer.  Thank God for dreams!  Right now my dream is to be healed and in the meantime, to handle this challenge with the grace of God and strength in Christ.  Actually, I dream of the day when there will be no more tears – no more sorrow, no more pain – only joy at being in the Presence of our Lord and Savior.  I dream of that for everyone.

Life is hard sometimes and sometimes it’s harder for some than for others.  Perspective and attitude are key to handling life’s curve balls, I believe that.  The trick is to maintain the right perspective and attitude.  Some days it’s easier to do that than others.  The past two days have been more difficult and that’s okay.  It’s going to change.  A better day lies ahead.  Don’t stop watching for it!

😊💕

 

 

C.D. Journals – September 22, 2018

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When last I wrote, Rich and I were trying to decide the next step to take in my treatment.  After prayer and discussion, we’ve made a decision.  On October 3rd Rich is going in for hernia surgery and my treatment is going to be put on hold until after that.  We decided that his situation is more life-threatening and that our resources should go there for right now.  We made this decision together and we’re both at peace with it.

As far as dealing with the limitations of C.D., it varies from day to day.  Most days I think I’m doing okay.  I maintain a positive attitude and do my best to make the best of a bad situation.  My soft collar helps me accomplish things and allows me to feel somewhat normal, even if just for a little while.  Those are great days, when movement is less and pain and discomfort are minimal.

Other days, I struggle more.  There’s a lot of movement, pain and discomfort.  I can wear my collar for less time without getting a headache, which means I can accomplish less.  Some days it’s much less.  I feel angry that freedom of mobility has been taken away from me.  I feel fatigued and sad.  Those are good days, when I get to be thankful that I’m still here with my friends and family, and I get to practice patience and acceptance.  Ugh!  Not always easy.

No one promised that life would be easy.  I got this meme from a friend of mine on Facebook recently and I try to remember the truth of it:

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I don’t want to find myself at the end of my time, realizing that I wasted it waiting instead of experiencing.  We humans are so adaptable when we want to be.  We are very capable of figuring out new ways to do things.  Since being diagnosed with Cervical Dystonia, I’ve been challenging myself to do just that.

I am naturally right-handed.  A few years ago I had surgery on both arms and wrists for Carpal and Cubidal Tunnel.  When they did my right arm, it was in a cast for weeks.  I had to rely on my left arm and hand.  I figured out how to do EVERYTHING with my left hand.  It was both difficult and amazing!  I was amazed at what I could do!  I’m trying to adopt the same attitude here.  I’ll admit, this is more challenging.  Trying to look at or focus on something while your head is moving, is a huge challenge.

I may never figure it all out, how to keep doing all the things I did before, but as long as I don’t give up trying I think I’ll be okay.  As long as I remember that no matter what, I have hope in Jesus, I’ll come out victorious.  I need to stay focused on that hope because without hope, the heart grows sick (Proverbs 13:12 paraphrased).  I have always been a dreamer. My dad used to tell me that I live life in a tree.  I’m okay with that if it serves to keep me positive.

😊💕

C.D. Journals – September 14, 2018

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It has been almost a month and a half since my official diagnosis and not a lot has changed.  My experience with the first chiropractic neurologist I saw was a bit disappointing.  She gave me lots of neurological “exercises” to do that took up a big chunk of each day.  I was to see her once a week for four weeks, but after three weeks and not much change she referred me to another neurologist.  One who supposedly has more experience with movement disorders.

Personally, I feel like she gave up too soon.  Surely it takes more than three weeks to reeducate the human brain?  I’m no doctor though, so what do I know?  This second neurologist seems to be a bit of a big wig.  He has written a couple of books, does seminars, and wants $500 for my first visit with him after waiting almost three weeks for a call back from him.  Maybe that’s par for the course?  Again, I have no idea.  This is all new to me.

To be perfectly honest, my husband and I are praying about and discussing seeing this second neurologist.  That’s a lot of money to shell out for an initial consultation on the “chance” that he can cure this incurable disease.  It probably seems like a no-brainer (no pun intended), but that’s a lot of money for us to gamble with. According to everything I’ve read – and I’ve read everything I could get my hands on – the only real cure is surgery to cut the nerves that are misfiring.

Trying to be practical while, at the same time, doing all we can to find ways to deal with this new situation is difficult at best.  We’re a one-income family, so we don’t have unlimited resources with which to seek out every possible solution and try every suggestion that comes our way.  $500 might not seem like a lot to some, especially for a chance at some relief from this mess they call Cervical Dystonia, but it’s a lot for us.  We have a son in college, an 11-year old, another son preparing for the mission field living at home, and my husband needs hernia surgery that’s going to cost over $5,000.

I am still functioning, granted with a neck brace most of the time, but functioning nonetheless.  I guess it comes down to priorities. I’m not in constant pain, and my situation is not life-threatening.  The same cannot be said for a hernia.  I know there have been people who have gone years with one, my husband among them. I also know that if it gets too big, it could get dangerous really fast.

I’m not sure what we’re going to end up deciding.  I just pray that whatever the decision, we are in God’s will because that is where everything is going to work out for the best.

😊💕

Addendum to “58 Years Ago”

Okay.  I think my last post was a little too negative.  For the record, all of my friends and family with whom I share my life are bright spots in it.  My husband being the brightest of all. I am extremely blessed and I well know it.  I’m afraid the fact that my house is basically an empty nest and my health is not where I would like it to be, just served to magnify the fact that I am 58 today and 60 is getting closer.

Also for the record, I had a wonderful birthday weekend filled with sweet family members, lots of laughter, and being completely spoiled by my husband.  Life is full of hills and valleys.  Sometimes we focus on the hills and sometimes we focus on the valleys.  That’s part of being human.  This morning I was focused on the valley and I apologize if I brought anyone else down with me as a result.  I am changing my focus now.

👍🏻😊

58 Years Ago

On this day 58-years ago my mother, Dixie Lee Miller, was in Santa Ana Community Hospital giving birth to an 8lb. 8oz. baby girl.  She would name her Brenda Lee, after the famous country singer of the time.  I believe the hospital is now part of what’s called the South Coast Global Medical Center.  This is what it looked like when I was born there:

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My parents lived at 8002 Carnation Dr., Buena Park, California.

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This is the street view on Google maps today (modern technology is amazing!).  I’m sure the house looked different in 1960, but I haven’t located a picture of it from that year.

For some reason, this birthday is a difficult one.  30, 40, and even 50 were birthdays I celebrated quite happily.  I celebrated all month the year I turned 50!  A lot of changes have come with this birthday; my youngest son is living and attending college 8-hours away and this was the first summer he didn’t come home for the summer.  My eldest son is about to move to the other side of the world for schooling. I was diagnosed with Cervical Dystonia, a neurological disorder that causes my neck muscles to contract and rotate my head involuntarily and spontaneously.  There are just too many evidences of aging this year and I don’t like it.

There are bright spots, of course.  My youngest daughter recently moved back to Texas with her husband and four kids, and we spend a lot of time together which is a total blessing.  In fact, my daughter is coming to spend the day with me today which I am very much looking forward to.  Otherwise, I would be spending the day alone and probably a little sad . . . or very possibly, a lot sad.  I got to go home to California for a visit a few months ago and that was awesome!  I got to see my oldest daughter and granddaughter and met some new members of the family.  Fortunately, that was right before the Dystonia got worse so we had a wonderful trip!

There are always bright spots in life. It just seems that I have to look harder for them as I get older.  Aging is a cruel thing, I’ll be honest.  I don’t know if there is a good way to prepare for it other than taking as good care of yourself as possible, but even that is no guarantee of an active lifestyle in the golden years.  Am I even IN the golden years yet?  I’m pretty sure I’m past middle age.  I don’t know.  I always hear that “age is simply change” and “It’s just a number.”  I can’t decide if those attitudes are optimism or denial.  Either way, today I am another year older and this time, I feel like it.

👵🏻😕

C.D. Journals – August 24, 2018

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I have spent the past couple of days whooping it up in an epic pity party!  Lots of tears, Hallmark movies, Shake’s frozen custard, and hugs from my sweet husband.  Actually, only one Shake’s custard – lots of them would be too much, even for me.  Anyway, I think it’s time for the party to be over.

I think it’s okay to fall down sometimes and fall into the self-pity pit.  I’m only human and I will allow myself that – for a time.  But then, it’s time to pull myself up by the boot straps and carry on.  I am not the only person on the planet with troubles.  In fact, my troubles pale in comparison to some others.  The truth is, no matter how charmed someone’s life might seem, we all have crosses to bear and thorns in our sides.  We are all burdened with something.  That’s the nature of living in a fallen world.

My first advice to my children when they were feeling down was, “Do something nice for someone else.”  I don’t think there’s anything that lifts the spirits better than taking the focus off of ourselves and taking care of someone else’s needs.  I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes that’s easier said than done (as witnessed by the past couple of days).  As soon as we can drag ourselves out of bed or off the couch, I firmly believe that helping someone else is a step toward improving our own emotional well-being.

This weekend is my birthday weekend.  I will be 58-years young on Monday.  This is the first time in years that I’m not particularly excited about my birthday. I’ve always enjoyed them until now.  Despite my lack of enthusiasm, however, I have determined that I’m going to have a good weekend.  I have grandchildren who will be celebrating with me and my sweet sister and brother-in-law are coming into town to be with me also.  I am a blessed woman and I am choosing gratitude over self-pity.

It really is a choice, you know.  Attitude really is everything and an “attitude of gratitude” goes a long way.  I may be struggling with a new reality, but Jesus still loves me, He is still on His throne, and He is and will always be my source of strength and comfort.  Even during the pity-party, He was there encouraging me that all is not lost and that I am still useful.  There are still people who love me and depend on me.  If not just for myself, then for them, the self-pity needs to end.  That’s not to say it won’t ever be back, but I don’t have to dwell there.  I have a choice, and right now I’m choosing joy and gratitude.  Amen!

😊💕

CD Treatments – Week 3

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Dear friends,

I promised to keep you updated on my progress with the chiropractic neurologist I’ve been seeing.  Unfortunately, I won’t be seeing her anymore.  She is handing me off to another chiropractic neurologist who has more experience with movement disorders.  She still insists that there’s relief for me and she believes that I stand a better chance of that with this other doctor.

In addition to this news, Dr. Allen also gave me a written “report of findings”.  I’ll share the highlights with you:

“EXAM:  reveals no sensory changes to her head, face and upper extremity.  She demonstrates a constant contraction and rotation of her head to the left, with eye deviation to the right.  Field of vision demonstrates dysmetria.  She has hypertonicity of her upper thoracic spine and cervical area.

DIAGNOSIS:  Cervical Dystonia, cervical segmental dysfunction.

PLAN:  Patient will receive brain based exercises using her vestibular system, cerebellum, to inhibit her right basal ganglia.”

I had to look up some of these terms and this is what I found:  Dysmetria – inability to properly direct or limit motions – caused by cerebellum disorders (nothing new there); hypertonicity – 1. having increased pressure or tone, in particular  2. of or in a state of abnormally high muscle tone (this definition also had something to do with body fluids, but I’m not sure that applies here); segmental dysfunction – mechanical problems of the individual joints (facet joints) and related ligaments and muscles that link the spinal bones.

Those big words probably make it seem a lot scarier than it is (I hope), but I’ve been crying on and off since my appointment (about an hour ago as of writing this).  I’m not exactly sure what has me so upset; being sent to another doctor when I hoped this one had the answers or seeing my diagnosis in writing?  Or maybe I’m just sore and tired and any emotional upheaval would send me into tears?  I don’t really know.  I just know I feel like crying so that’s probably what I’m going to do.  Then, I’m thinking maybe some ice cream and a good comedy.  🍨🎥👍🏻

Keeping you posted and in my prayers!

Brenda 😊💕

 

C.D. Journals – August 20, 2018

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My husband, daughter, and I took a little trip this past weekend.  The first one since my diagnosis.  We drove eight hours north to visit our son in Amarillo.  It was an interesting experience.

I am sad to say that I have become “that” mom.  The one who can’t do things because she’s not well.  My son’s roommate had his college graduation while we were there and I attempted to attend.  Where we were seated in the stadium was bench seating. I might have lasted thirty minutes, I’m not sure.  I was really enjoying my son’s company and, sweet guy that he is, he did his best to help me out. He even let me lean on him for awhile.  Finally, I just couldn’t hang anymore.  The muscles in the back of my neck were burning and I really needed somewhere to rest my neck and head.  My husband and I went in search of such a thing with no luck.  So, we decided to wait in the car.  About that time, it began to pour rain and our car was parked about a half-mile away.  In the end, we just walked around the lobby area until graduation was over.  Fortunately, it was a small class and the ceremony wasn’t long.  I was still in pain, but walking around was better than sitting and from time to time I rested my head on my husband’s chest.

There was a gathering after graduation that I just wasn’t up to.  My son called his friend and my heart sank when I heard these words; “My mom’s not up for a crowd. She’s not feeling well.  She’s having issues with her neck, so It’ll probably just be me.”  As my daughter would say, “Cry!”  I hate missing out on things!  Especially things with my kids.  I hated even taking naps when I was a kid because I was afraid I would miss something.  I’ve been that way my whole life.  I didn’t want to hear those words come out of my son’s mouth.  Yet, it was the truth.  😢  I was able to do other things while we were visiting, and it was a good visit overall.  I would have to say that graduation night was a low point for me, both physically and emotionally.

I know that I have new limitations now and that there will probably be adjustments that have to be made all along the way.  Knowing that doesn’t mean I have to like it, but I’m doing my best to maintain a positive attitude.  Even when I hear those dreaded words; “My mom’s not up to it”.

🙁💕