Thursday, May 31, 2012

I drive around blaring banjo music.

I'm pretty sure the title of this post is a statement not heard nearly as often as it should be.

Like homeschooling, certain TV shows, and pretty much everything else I will or have talked about in this blog, banjo music is severely misunderstood.
Lets be honest for just about 2 minutes. Close your eyes and picture someone playing a banjo. Now, unless you grew up around them, or you play one, or you have a good grasp on how complicated and beautiful they are, the thought that crossed your mind was of a toothless, barefoot hillbilly in overalls and no shirt sitting on the porch of a shack playing a banjo. Am I right?
If so, don't be embarrassed. This is what we call a stereotype. I'm not saying there aren't banjo players like that out there, but they are much......much.....the minority.
If that wasn't what you pictured. congratulations! You may someday be a bluegrass enthusiast like me.

My delight and love of this instrument hasn't always been, but has grown very slowly over time.

As a very young girl, my parents house was always blasting bluegrass music at me. A sound I detested at the time, but could do nothing about. After all, I was just a little girl, and my dad has to be the most bluegrass loving man I have ever had the privilege to know. Not just any old bluegrass, though. Traditional Bluegrass.  If I were to try and explain dad's definition of traditional, it would have to be this;
You only use guitars, banjos, mandolins, fiddles, and an bass......but it has to be an upright......nothing is plugged in to amplification, and ABSOLUTELY NO DRUMS!

If you were to ask me what caused my hatred of bluegrass, I would have to say I didn't really know. That I can remember, I had no good explanation. It was probably because my dad loved it so much and it was an opportunity to rebel.
My sense of musical taste was very limited when I was young, and I can understand why to a degree. Dad loved bluegrass so much that he just wanted me to love it too, and since I was home-schooled, I was in a controlled listening environment and at least they knew bluegrass was clean. Well, as clean as bluegrass can get. They still have stories about ending up in jail and killing your wife because she cheated on you.......but that's part of it's charm.
So, I had strictly bluegrass at home, and if I was out somewhere, it was normally with my brother and/or sister-in-law (both 17+ years my senior), who loved country music. 90's country music. Lots or Reba McEntire, Billy Ray Cyrus, Tim McGraw.......etc. Feeling the way I did about bluegrass, I went the country direction. Plus, I thought it would score me some cool points with the sis-in-law. I mean, let's face it. I was a home-schooled, sheltered, over-protected loser (in her opinion). I needed all the points I could get!

If you would have told me at age 13 that there was a genre out there called Experimental Jazz Fusion, I probably would have given you a questioning look and asked  "What is a" I could have sworn to you at that time there were only 2 kinds of music, and the queen of both was none other than the great Dolly Parton. She was, and always will be one of my favorite artists. Her talent has never ceased to blow my mind. When I was around 9 or 10, I had lots of cassette tapes of Dolly and I listened to them almost non-stop. Then, when I was about 12, I got my first CD player for Christmas and my first CD was a used "Best Of Dolly" that my mom found in a pawn shop. I still have it, and sometimes when I'm in a real good mood, I'll play the first track, which is "Mule Skinner Blues" and sing with her at the top of my lungs. It brings back memories of when I first learned all the words to that song and would (I'm sure) drive mom crazy by playing it while working in my history book. Many other artists entered my life after my "Dolly phase", but none can ever replace her in my heart.

As I grew older, I constantly battled my growing tolerance of bluegrass. I can remember not wanting to like it, but I can't remember why. Perhaps my mind was full of stereotypes, thus making it not "cool" enough. But this annoying, un-cool music was starting to creep into my head, and that upset me. It was a couple of years after this time before I actually let my dad know that I liked "his music". I mean, I couldn't let him know. He might want me to........listen to some with him, or something.

When I was about 17, I met a man who was more music minded than anyone I have ever met. He liked many, many different types of music.......more than I'd ever thought of knowing, and could tell you about all of them. He was amazing. So amazing in fact, that I married him 4 years later. (We'll talk about our relationship some other time. Although, it is very music oriented.)
When we first started dating, he introduced me not only to bluegrass like I'd never known, but Newgrass, Jazz, Celtic, Folk, Rock, Contemporary Christian, and countless others. I was quite literally shocked and amazed by what I had missed out on all those years. It was as if those bands had just been sitting there waiting on me. I was eternally, hopelessly, completely in love with music.

A band that struck a particular "chord" with me, was the New Grass Revival. Now, there were a couple formations of this band, so I linked to the one I liked the best. If you haven't heard these guys, I strongly suggest that you give them a listen. My favorite line up involved Sam Bush, John Cowan, Pat Flynn, and Bela Fleck. These four men aren't just fabulous as a group, they will individually blow your mind.
They were instantly added to my "favorites forever" list. And trust me, it's not easy getting on that list.

After hearing NGR and some other genres of music, the stereotypes that had been formed in my mind, either by me or someone else, began to fade away and I started to appreciate talent from all forms of music in the world. (Except Rap. I don't think I'll ever understand that one). I had opened up my mind and began to find beauty in the misunderstood.

I am now proud to say that I not only listen to music with banjos in it, but I play one as fact, I play with a bluegrass band. That music that I thought was so awful as a child, is now at the top of my list. Amazing how time changes you, isn't it? No, I don't like everything......and probably never will. But I do give it a chance.
I hope that some of you are going to leave this blog after reading this, and look for a type of music that you don't normally listen to. Who knows? You might just grow to love it.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

God's Miracles----Part 2

Part 2.

So, where I left off in the last post was pretty much where we stayed for roughly 4 years. I went ahead and got married and started a life with my husband, although we were never far away. Mom learned to live with the struggles of doing things with one arm. If you think about it, I mean, really think about it, doing things with just one arm and hand is difficult. Especially when it's the dominant hand you've lost.
(As an aside, I once tried tying my right arm to my side and going about my day. It's not easy to do. Wash your hair.....go to the a meal from scratch........the list goes on.)
The worst part was the Phantom Pain. She'd be in tears because of the pain she felt from an arm that wasn't there anymore. The hospital in Kansas had given her pain pills, but they didn't seem to do a thing for it.
But other than the pain, mom adjusted so well! I remember going to their house one day and on the stove was a pot of potatoes. Peeled! I asked if dad had peeled them and she said no. Mom had peeled roughly 15 potatoes by herself. Her cleverness never ceased to amaze me. When her great-granddaughter was born in 2009, she was so happy. She held her, rocked her, and even changed diapers. She told me it was good practice for when I had a baby. This way she'd be prepared and already know how to handle mine.

Enter 2012

The first couple months were business as usual. Mom had started taking care of her mom (we all call her Mammy--Age 91) almost full time the end of 2011 and by the first of March, we could tell that it was starting to wear her down. She didn't have the energy she normally had, but mom insisted she was fine.
One morning she awoke with a UTI (urinary tract infection). Those are actually pretty common for mom, so we didn't think much about it. She went to her primary doctor and got a prescription just like always. But this time was a little different. The pills didn't help. Instead, they seemed to make her dizzy. In fact, the dizziness started that afternoon and seemed to get worse every day that she took the pills. She stopped taking them over that  weekend, but the dizziness didn't leave, and she still had the UTI. She went back to the doctor the following Monday, telling them she must have had an allergic reaction to the pills they gave her. They prescribed something different and sent her on her way.

Over that week, the dizziness still lingered, and on top of everything, mom starting having "near fainting episodes" at night. It would be almost time for her to go to sleep and her heart would go crazy, not with pain, but by beating very rapidly, and she would feel as though she was already asleep, and if she actually slept, she didn't know if she'd wake up. She never told me about these issues, but dad did. He said that she'd tell him that she loved him and for him to tell her kids how much she loved them, just in case she didn't make it. She wanted to be held and talked to and kept awake for as long as possible. Then her heart would ease down to a normal rhythm and she would drift off. This didn't happen every night, but about every other night. It seemed as though she was having the same issues through the day, too. One good day, followed by a bad day, followed by a good day. A never-ending cycle. So back to the doctor we went. We had ruled out medicine allergy because it had been around too long.  After discussing mom's diet at length, as well as the feelings she would have before and after she ate, Hypoglycemia was a definite possibility. Instead of putting her through the 6 hour test to see for positive, we tried just changing her diet. Lots of protein, eating every 3-4 hours, no sugar except good sugar........etc.  It did seem that after mom ate she would feel better for an hour or two, but it still didn't fix the problem.

So now, I'm trying to look up her symptoms on line, because......that's just what I do. The most logical thing that WebMD says is Hypothyroidism. So we start studying about that next. Mom fits every symptom. It's the most perfect solution. Even with that, there are still issues that she would have to face, but most of it could be cured with a little pill. Back to the doctor we go.
By this time, we're going to the doctor 1-2 times a week to try and figure this out. But when they test for thyroid problems and the test comes back negative, we're really starting to wonder what could be wrong. After they take more blood to run tests for Chronic Fatigue SyndromeRheumatoid arthritis, and Lupus my brother speaks up with an alternative; Charlene. A massage therapist / herbalist, who's a very intelligent woman, that listens to your body to know what's wrong with you. Now, mom and dad aren't really in to alternative medicine, but by this point, we're willing to try anything. Plus, Russ had great luck with her. She had cured his kidney, pancreas, and liver problems with nothing but herbs, and he had't even told her there were problems there. He knew there were problems there from trips to the doctor, but she knew there were problems from the massage. It's quite amazing to watch, really.

We schedule an appointment, and Russ takes mom for her first treatment. Charlene worked and worked and discovered fluid in mom's chest around her heart. She said that could be causing the rapid heart beats, as well as the dizziness. After one treatment, the dizziness is gone. She asked mom about her phantom pain pills, and told her that they were ruining her liver. So those pills went bye bye. Mom stopped taking them immediately, and after about 3 sessions with Charlene, he phantom pain was next to nothing. The only other thing Charlene could find wrong with mom was a signal coming from her head. Based on all the fluid build up (which apparently is common amongst depressed women) and the other symptoms, she felt as though the signal was telling her Depression was the problem. She worked with mom's mood, gave her herbs that were to improve your outlook......all kinds of things. Essentially, mom was better for a couple weeks. She felt better, but she had no strength. She wouldn't eat hardly anything, she was irritable, and confused a lot of the time.
She had to send Mammy to live with my uncle because of the simple fact that mom could no longer care for her. She couldn't even care for herself. Most of the time, it was a struggle to get up and go to the bathroom, and when she did, she was as winded as if she'd walked a mile.

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012, mom woke up and couldn't feel her right leg from the knee down. Couldn't lift her leg by herself, move her foot or any of her toes. She said it just felt numb. She was also having trouble forming words to even speak. Our first thought is stroke. Dad says enough is enough and takes her to the ER. Once there, he explains what's been going on with mom, but all the doctor on duty is concerned with is how she lost her arm. Even though my dad insists there's something wrong in her head, the doctor does a chest X-Ray instead. What does he find? Spots. Roughly a 1/2 inch in size. The same thing they saw in Kansas 4 years before. So he tells mom to follow up with an Oncologist. "After all, this is an Emergency Room. You just need a cancer doctor." He told them. So they left and came back home.

God's works are mysterious. I don't know an actual reason that the doctor didn't find the problem that day, but I know there was a reason.

Mom suffered the rest of that day, as well as the next day before she went back to see Charlene on April 20th. Once Charlene saw mom and how terrible she looked........weak, pale, unable to move her leg, or form simple words....she was scared, as well. Although mom's speech had mostly come back, Charlene's  first thought was a stroke. But once she examined mom, she thought it would be possible that a pinched nerve was involved. I mean, after all, mom had just woke up with the numbness. Maybe she'd moved wrong in the night, and her spine was pinched in a way to cause the nerves to go numb. She made mom a chiropractor appointment for the following morning and worked with her for 2 hours, but nothing changed in her leg. Mom left the massage feeling much the same as when she went in, all the while convincing herself that the leg problem was a pinched nerve.

That night, Charlene called saying she hadn't got mom out of her mind all day. She knew there was something else wrong besides a pinched nerve. She wanted to come to mom's house and bring a friend of hers that was a Registered Nurse to examine mom. Once there, the nurse agreed with Charlene about it seeming very stroke-like, and told mom that it could be a blood clot, stroke, or something else. But she needed to have it checked. She told them that if mom changed at all......AT get her back to the ER and demand a scan of her brain. My parents agreed, and Charlene and the RN left.
Dad checked mom about every hour through the night. He would wake her, ask her how she was feeling, and then make her repeat a sentence to see how she was understanding things and speaking. About 3:15 AM, he woke her and she couldn't form words. At all. She was able to get across to him to call me to ride to the hospital with them, so I was called. I jumped in my clothes and got in the car. That was a scary ride to the hospital. I was trying to hold it together to be brave for mom, yet I was scared to death and praying to God that she'd be alright. I was then reminded that she would be. A few days before, I had been overcome with a need to pray for mom. It couldn't have been more clear to me if an audible voice had said it. A tap on the shoulder, and some words spoken to my head, and my heart; "You need to pray for your mom."
So I did. I don't know what I said when I prayed, or how long that I prayed, but when I finished, I was given peace to know that mom would be OK. Now was the time that I needed my faith to stay strong. I'd been given assurance that everything would be alright, I just needed to believe it.

In the ER, we were given a doctor who wasn't concerned with what had happened to mom's arm, but she was concerned with what was going on in her brain. She ordered a brain scan, and within 15 minutes of arriving, we were called to mom's bedside for the results. The cat scan had revealed a large tumor on the left side of mom's head, on top of her brain. The pressure from the tumor had cut of her ability to move her leg and talk, and it had grown so large that it had ruptured and was now bleeding, which was making everything worse. She was admitted and the rest of the family was called. I put notices on Facebook asking people to pray, we made phone calls and stayed in prayer most of the day ourselves. We knew that prayer was the only thing that could bring her through, so we wanted as many people on this case as possible.
As the day progressed, mom seemed to get worse. We didn't know until that night when Dr. Kutz came in that mom had been monitored all day, and the bleeding had stopped that morning, right around noon. We know who did that. God was on the scene.
Dr. Kutz pulled up the MRI they had done of mom earlier in the day, and I'm pretty sure my heart stopped beating for a few seconds. It was worse that I had thought. It looked as though the tumor covered the whole back left section of her brain. The doctor told us that the tumor needed to be removed, because if it wasn't, she would die. She'd only have a few days left. But if he did remove the tumor, she would probably suffer brain damage. The most likely would be that she would stay in the same condition she was in at that time. Not walking, and not talking. That was discouraging. Mom was there, she understood things we told her, but she just couldn't say anything back. I think that broke my heart worse than anything. Watching her cry because she couldn't talk.
Dad called Russ and I outside the room and asked our advice. He didn't want to lose mom, but he also didn't want her suffering by not being able to express her thoughts. We decided to leave the decision up to mom. Russ worked out a system with her so she could communicate. She would squeeze his hand if the answer was yes.
"Mom, do you understand what the doctor said?"
"Do you want to have the surgery?"
And then she leaned forward on the bed and said "Get it OUT!"
That was what we needed to hear. Words spoken in a sentence, perfectly understood by all. The doctor had said that since the tumor had stopped bleeding, he would be able to wait until the next morning to do the surgery, but if we felt like it should be sooner, he would do it that night. Mom wanted to wait, and we did too. If he had done it that night, he wouldn't have had a team or some of the proper equipment, but the next morning, everything would be as close to perfect as he could get it.
I'll never forget what dad asked him after that;
"Before I agree to let you do this surgery, I have to know something. Are you a man that believes in God and the power of prayer? Do you know where your help comes from? Because if you don't, I'm not letting you lay a finger on my wife." 
My dad's pretty great about that. Dr Kutz reassured dad and even promised to call the family in for a special  prayer right before they wheeled mom in to the operating room.

The waiting began.

Our pastor and his wife came up that night and we all prayed over mom while she slept. She never knew we were there, but God did.
All night mom would drift in and out of sleep, all the while moaning and holding her head. When she would rouse, we would ask her if she wanted some pain medicine, but she'd refuse. We took turns staying in the room with her. First dad and myself, then my brother and sister-in-law. I had sent my husband home earlier in the day, not thinking that they would have the surgery so soon. But now I know why I'd sent him home. It was so I could be there for dad. We'd support each other, boost each others faith, talk about the Scriptures and how as long as we believe, anything we'd ask for would be given us. We also started praying that mom would not only be alright through the surgery, but that when she came out, at least she'd be able to talk. We didn't want her to be trapped within herself.

A pretty Sunday morning dawned bright and early. My husband arrived before 6 because they were planning to take her at 7 AM. When 7 came and she was still in her room, we didn't think much about it, but when 10 AM came and she was still there, we were a little upset. Come to find out there had been an accident early that morning and there was a person with a broken neck that had to be taken first. We were pushed to 11:55. At 12:30 when she was still in her room, we inquired again. More accidents had occurred, so we'd been put off again. Finally at 2 PM they came to get her for the final MRI before the surgery. By this time, more of the family had showed up and were waiting in the waiting room. After they took mom for the MRI, we were all shown to a different floor where the surgery would be held so we could wait there.
After the MRI, Dad, Russ and I were called to wait with mom in the prep room. The doctor came in and we prayed. It was great. Our faith was renewed, and we knew that she'd be OK. We told her we loved her and she was able to say "Love you too".  We were walking out the door when she looked at Russ and I and said "Kids.......I'll be OK."  Such wonderful words to hear. They wheeled her to surgery and we headed to the waiting room.
It was 3:30 PM and we had the assurance of at least 2 hours before we heard anything. In the waiting room, there were about 30 members of the extended family waiting there. My grandmas, mom's brothers and sister, their families, cousins, close friends, our pastor and his wife........and what do you think we did?
That's right. We prayed again. We're not some of those people that thinks you can pray one time and then you're done. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 "Pray without ceasing" If a little does good, we know a lot will do better!
Dr. Kutz came out to talk to us at 6 PM. The surgery was a complete success. They removed it all, and cleaned out all the excess blood. He didn't know how bad her brain had been injured because she was still asleep, but her left side seemed to function normally. We could see her in the ICU in about 1 1/2 hours, but she would be there for roughly 2 days. Then we could expect a 4 to 5 day stay in a normal hospital room, then we'd take it from there.

Dad went in first, but was back to get Russ and I within 2 minutes. As we walked into her room, mom started smiling. Her head was bandaged, but her color was already better than that morning.
"Hey! There's my kids! Look, guys, I'm talkin'!" 
If it hadn't been in the ICU, at night, when everyone is supposed to be quiet, I think we all would have started shouting. Not only had God answered our prayer about her making it through the surgery, but he answered the one about her talking too. I knew then and there that not only would He let her talk, but she'd be walking one day.

She only stayed in the ICU for 12 hours, and only stayed in the hospital from Saturday, April 21st, to Wednesday, April 25th. She started moving her leg again on her own on Tuesday, April 24th, much to the amazement of her doctors. It stayed partially numb for several days after that, and moving it was a struggle, but let me tell you something. She's walking today. She wiggles her foot and toes.
Yes, she is constantly tired. Yes, she still has trouble focusing on things sometimes. Yes, it will take a while. But she's coming back to herself. Every single day she gets more and more normal. The doctors didn't do that.
I'm very thankful for surgeons and doctors that have a God given knowledge of the human body and healing.......but they didn't do it on their own. God's hands are guiding them, and that's what I'm the most thankful for.

When you put both parts of the story together, you can really truly see how God was at work through the whole thing. All the way back from the incident with the weed trimmer. I think sometimes that maybe that was His way of releasing that cancer. I don't know. His timing isn't ours. But one thing is for certain; Mom is a walking, talking testimony of what God can do when we trust in Him.

As for those spots on her lungs, we're going back to the doctor in 3 months. I'm praying for them to be gone. To have just.......vanished. Because I know my God is capable of that. He may not remove them that way. And if He doesn't.......He has supplied us with other options of treatment.

It's a shame that we take life for granted most of the time, and it takes something serious like this to get us back in line where we need to be. After all, every breath you take is a miracle.
Thanks for taking the time to hear my miracle story. I hope it has touched your heart in some way, and you realize how very precious life is.

We want to give all the praise and glory to God, as well as our never ending thanks for this amazing gift!

 We are blessed!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

God's Miracles---Part 1

I know that some readers still don't know me that well, but for the ones that do, you know my wonderful mom has had some problems recently. If you can call a green walnut sized tumor in your brain a "problem".
Anyway, I've been asked by several to tell her story, and why she is "a miracle". So I've decided to do that right here, because I want to tell as many people as I possibly can what happened to my family. I want people to know that God's still performing miracles......every day......even if they aren't as obvious as the one I'm going to tell you about.

I've experienced many miracles in my life. Some I recognize, some I don't, but the biggest one I've had, I want to tell you about now. I'm going to do it in two parts, because the story starts a long time ago.

Rewind the clock 8-10 years.

Mom has always been a hard worker. She'd held a job since before she and my dad married until I came along. Then they were in a financial state to where they felt like she could be a stay-at-home mom. So she home-schooled me, kept the house, cooked all the time, took care of my grandparents, ran errands, mowed the yard........she not only mowed for us, but for others as well. As I grew up, it was just part of my summer routine.
One day, we were mowing for my grandma and I couldn't get the trimmer started. I was getting pretty frustrated, which is the normal for me (especially at that time), so mom came over to help me.
After she had pulled on the cord a couple times, she rested, then gave one really REALLY hard pull. It started right up that time, but she had hurt her right shoulder. She said that she felt like she'd pulled something out of place, but we needed to finish the yard, so the pain was shoved to the back of her mind. Her arm was never the same after that. Her shoulder pain was almost constant, and no matter what she did, it just didn't seem to go back in to place.
Not long after that, she developed a knot on the front of her shoulder. We all thought it was from the shoulder being out of place, but no matter what happened the knot wouldn't leave. It stayed that way for several years, relatively small in size, but it hurt all the way down her arm. At times it even hindered her from playing her guitar.....which she loved.

In 2007, the pain was so bad there were times she couldn't raise her arm, so we convinced mom to see a chiropractor. The knot had grown since it first appeared, but we were all trying to talk ourselves in to thinking it hadn't.
She started seeing a local chiropractor, who told her the knot was a calcium formation, stemming from when she had injured her shoulder with the trimmer. He explained that, even thought nothing was really out of place, there had been a small fracture there, and her body was trying to heal it by sending calcium to the bone, but after the fracture had healed, the calcium hadn't stopped building.
This did make sense, and after all, he was the doctor. He'd taken X-Rays and everything. He started treatments to break loose the calcium 2 times per week. Mom would have a treatment (which hurt so bad it would bring her to tears), then the pain would be gone for a day or two and she would feel normal again. She did that for several weeks, but the relief wouldn't last over 2 days. Nothing ever worked for a long period of time. The knot grew.

Mom had an indication that something else was wrong besides calcium build up, but she never said until years later. I'm pretty sure it was dad that convinced mom to go to an actual doctor (not that chiropractors aren't know what I mean.) I believe it was early September in 2007 that she went to her normal physician to ask about the shoulder. They took more X-Rays and said there was definitely something there, and scheduled her an appointment with a specialist. Dad was working, so I drove mom to her appointment later that same day. I was newly engaged, to be married the following year, and the thought that something serious could be wrong with my mom had never hit me. I just thought she had a shoulder injury that she was too stubborn to see about. When the doctor walked in to the exam room and said he thought it was a tumor, I felt hot fear. The kind that starts at the top of your head and slowly pours down your whole body. We called dad to come up, because mom needed him for support, and he brought my fiance' because he knew I would need his support. She had the MRI and we were called with results that night. It was definitely a tumor that had developed in her shoulder, and she would need to go to Kansas City, KS to KUMED and see another specialist; Dr Kimberly Templeton.

The whole family went to this consultation. Dad, Russ (my brother) and me. Dr. Templeton, we feel, was the doctor that God led us to. She seemed to care, had a lot of smarts, and worked harder than we knew (during the time) to help us. When we met with her, we teased mom that she was the doctor for us because she carried a Diet Coke with her constantly. That got a little chuckle out of mom, but we were all so keyed up, we didn't have many more laughs for a while. Dr. Templeton met with us and explained that she was pretty sure it was a cancerous tumor and wanted a biopsy. The next few weeks are all a blur in my mind. I think it was so surreal to me that I just wanted to block it out. The main key points I remember; The biopsy revealed Chondrosarcoma Cancer at level 2 (with 1 being the best, 3 being the worst), the biopsy caused the knot in her shoulder to grow even more, if there was anything on mom's lungs......she wouldn't last but about 2 months because they couldn't do anything for it, and her arm would have to come off. The prayers started going heavy, even before they scheduled the scan for her lungs. One thing that drives me crazy about doctors is the fact that they know results of tests as soon as they see them, yet they don't want to reveal the results to you for days. We were scared to death after that scan, and we were just supposed to go get in a car and drive home. We did.....and prayed the whole way. About half way home, the cell phone rang. It was Dr. Templeton's nurse. She said she wanted to give us some good news; She had seen the scan, and mom's lungs looked perfect! Talk about a shouting meeting in the car! We felt so wonderful, we knew our prayers had been answered. Mom was still having to loose her arm, but we could keep her, and that's all that mattered.

November 6th, 2007 was surgery day. We didn't know it, but Dr Templeton had gone to Europe to see about an artificial shoulder she had helped develop. If she could have brought that back to the US, the could have saved mom's arm and just replaced her shoulder. But, the US wouldn't allow her to bring it back, so the arm had to go too.

More prayers.

The surgery was a complete success. The doctor said mom had done great, and didn't even need to be given any blood. She had taken biopsies of all tissue behind the tumor to make sure she got it all, and she had. We could see her in recovery in a couple hours.
I don't think I could ever forget seeing mom for the first time after the surgery. She looked really good. It was strange to me to see her right side all bandaged up, but I was just happy to see her. She stayed in the hospital for only 4 days and surprised us all by coming home so soon. As the weeks went by, we slowly got used to seeing mom with only one arm, and she slowly learned how to do things on her own.

We went back for her 3 month check up feeling positive that everything would be good. And it was. We were all on top of the world. But when we went back for the next 3 month check up, something was wrong. The doctor was taking way too long to come talk to us. We could just feel it, and I know mom could too because she hadn't really wanted to go back for this check up in the first place.
When the doctor came in, she said that there was indeed a problem. A couple spots had developed on the top of mom's left lung. They were roughly 1/2 inch in size and she was pretty sure it was the cancer. Once again I felt the hot fear pouring over me. This wasn't supposed to happen. Everything was supposed to be going good! I was getting married the next month, I needed mom to be OK!
Dr. Templeton said that there was nothing she could do except refer us to a lung specialist. Since Chondrosarcoma couldn't be treated with chemotherapy or radiation, surgery was the only answer. When we met with the lung doctor, he didn't really.......suit us. He said;
"Oh yeah. Pretty sure I agree with Dr. Templeton. This is we'll go in, do a lung biopsy, and when it proves I'm right, I'll go in and lop of the top part of that lung. No problem."
No problem. Sure. We just go through stuff like this every day! The odd thing is, the doctor didn't make an appointment with us before we left. He said that we needed to call back the following week to schedule it. We left that day with sad hearts and minds. Now, I know what you're thinking. God didn't answer your prayers because the cancer went to her lungs. Wrong. God did answer our prayers.......and in even more ways that we didn't know about until recently.
Dad mentioned what happened with the doctor at church the following Sunday. It was decided that we would do a healing service for her, and boy, was God there. Mom said she just felt like she had been touched and everything would be OK. After that day, mom called the doctor to make an appointment, and they just didn't have time for her. They promised to call her back the next day and didn't. This went on for a couple weeks, with mom calling every few days. After she called the 5th time, she did some serious praying. She prayed for a sign. If she called one more time and didn't get an appointment, she would know she wasn't supposed to go back. And that's what happened. She called and got put off again, so she didn't go back.

This is about half of the full story, so I'm going to take a break here. I'll be posting part two very soon, so I hope you will check back with me to hear the rest of our miracle.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Why, yes. I am one of "those home-schoolers".

Alright. So maybe that's not a big secret.
Pretty much every single person that lives in this small little town that I was born and raised in knows that. Not mention countless others that I have met in my lifetime, and now even those that I haven't met.
It's not something that I am ashamed of. I'm pretty proud of it, really.
"So what's to be proud of?" You might ask.
Allow me to tell you my story.

I was enrolled in a public school for the very first year of school, commonly known as kindergarten. My mom dropped me off every morning and picked me up after lunch every afternoon. The occasional odd job or late errand caused one of my grandmothers to pick me up.
In the true spirit of "cause and effect", the sight of one of them picking me up instead of my mom caused the contents of my stomach to affect me in ways that I didn't care for. Neither did the janitor on duty. But I couldn't help it. I was terrified.
As a young child, I was somehow convinced that my mom would walk out of the school one morning and decide she didn't want me anymore, so she just wouldn't come back. Or what's worse, she would be rushing back to pick me up, have an accident and die. Thus would be the reason my grandma was there to get me.
(I never seemed to take in to account that my grandma looked so happy to see me. I guess you don't think about things like that when you're 5.) 

Thankfully, none of the above ever happened outside the deep corners of my mind, where these thoughts ran wild from the ages of about 4 to 12. Just for the record, no. That isn't why I was pulled out of school.
(I'm getting there. Don't get your panties in a wad.)

To this day I can still remember some things about that class; My teachers name, some of my friends faces, field trips, a Valentine's Day party, and the very first boy I had a crush on holding my hand in the hall. I remember losing my first baby tooth there, but I don't remember actually "learning" anything there. We played games, looked at books, colored and took naps. Basically, it was daycare.
Even at the young age of 5, I was more of an outcast than a social butterfly. Shy, backwards, didn't express myself well.......all the ingredients of a nerd. I had one girl that I felt close enough to talk to, so I deemed her the honor of being my best friend. (She was so lucky.) For this next part of my story, she'll need a name. So, we'll refer to her as "Little Miss S".

Little Miss S, being my best friend as she was, entitled her to my full attention. I sat next to her at lunch, we played together at know. The full package. Another part of the package, is my full protection. In other words, if you picked on her, you picked on me. Plain and simple. I just felt it was my sworn duty to defend her honor to the death......or the principals office, which was worse. I really can't tell you what made me feel that way, because I was really, really shy. I guess I've always been one to love deeply, and I don't like people hurting those I love.
One day at recess, the richest girl in my class (or possibly the school) decided to start picking on Little Miss S by forcing her to turn over her candy. The rich girl threatened Little Miss S by saying there would be no more friendship between them if the candy wasn't handed over immediately. So, Little Miss S handed the mean rich girl her candy and then proceeded to sit down on the sidewalk and cry like a baby. As I stood there watching, I grew madder and madder. The next thing I knew, I was walking towards that rich bully with the intent of smashing her nose in! In the end, though, my nerves won out, so instead of actually hitting her, I just stood there threatening her, just as I had seen her threaten Little Miss S not 5 minutes before. To this day I don't know where the teacher was when the rich girl was threatening my friend, but I know where she was when I was threatening the rich girl. Right behind me.
My little adventure cost me a time out with the teacher for the rest of recess, a trip to the office, and a call to my mother for "fighting on the playground". I think this was one of the first times my parents realized how school was changing me. Don't get me wrong, my parents didn't have a problem with me finishing a fight, but trying to start one was another story. After that episode, I returned to my normal personality of shyness, and basically tried to stay out of everybody's way

I don't know how they do things now, but at that time they grouped 5 to 6 kids all together at one little table so we could socialize and keep each other company. I never seemed to be able to get along with the kids at my table. Just when I would start to get used to some of them, the teacher would move me around. When we would go to another classroom for music, to the library, or at lunch was the only time I would see Little Miss S, and so I hardly thought that was fair. But I dealt with it. The thing that I never understood was why I was always seated at a table with 2 or 3 boys who would all take turns sitting under the table for half of class. Maybe I should take this opportunity to explain that, my mother, wanting a daughter for the many years that she had, always wanted me to look girlish, so I wore a dress to school every day. I was told some years later why the boys were always sitting under the table, and why I was constantly being moved. So much for being shy.

While I was being shuffled from table to table, as told in the story above, I learned some interesting things.
I learned about a little girl who could cry and get whatever she wanted, a little boy who "fibbed" to his mom about breaking a glass, and I learned a lot of new words that I had never heard before. But I thought "Hey, if these other kids are doing this, I can too." 
So I was at home one day, playing, and I asked my mom to play a board game with me. She said she would in "just a minute". After about 5 of these minutes, I was getting impatient. Here she was, doing laundry of all things, when she should be sitting on the floor playing with me! After she walked passed me for what seemed like the hundredth time, I was just plain angry. And then it happened. I said something my classmates had told me to say in a situation like this;

 "Where the he** do you think you're going?"

One phrase. One.....teeny.....tiny question. That laundry basket dropped out of my mom's hand like it was on fire. She spun around and gave me "the mom look". (If you've never received this look, I don't know whether to feel sorry for you or tell you how lucky you are.)
Once I saw that expression on her face, I was sure I'd get one dickens of a spanking. Instead, she came toward me, got down on her knees, and asked me where I had heard that phrase. When I told her I had heard it at school, she kind of relaxed. Then she explained to me some of the things that were NOT OK to say, and why. I'm pretty sure that's the day that it happened. That was the straw that broke the camel's back.

I'm sure there were other incidents that made my parents decide to pull me out of public school, but these are the main 3 that have stuck out in my mind. But let's face it, they're reason enough.
Homeschooling isn't the weird, cult-like situation that you may think it is. In fact, I would just about guarantee that you've met several people that were/are home-schooled, and if they didn't tell you, you would never know. Grant it, there are other kinds of people that can give homeschooling a bad name, and those are the "stereotypes". Don't judge all home-schoolers by these people. We are not all created equal.
Every year after I was pulled out, my parents would sit down with me before they paid my tuition and ask me if I wanted to return to public school. The very young years that I mentioned earlier, I probably stayed home for the wrong reasons. I was scared of being left, so I decided to stay home. Once I got in to my early teens, I'll admit, it was hard to let go of all those old fears that I had clung to for so long, but I did it eventually. I don't think it helped me to have people constantly nagging me to be someone I wasn't, either. But it happened on almost a daily basis. There weren't too many people homeschooling in my area when I was doing it, so I was really one of the outcasts. To a certain degree, I'm still there. But there's one difference between now and 15 years ago;
Now I like being an outcast.

I hope you all enjoyed hearing my story, because I certainly loved telling it. If you feel like it, leave me a comment. I would love to know what you think.

Until next time,

Monday, May 14, 2012

Just a bit.....

.....of miscellaneous info. This way you can get to know me, if you don't already.

I'm Nikki O'Callaghan and I have a hard time describing myself. Believe it or not, I'm not that good with words, and am a terrible speller. So much so, in fact, that I'm still reveling in the wonder of how I spelled "miscellaneous" all the way through the first time with no mistakes! Gold star for me!

OK, so now we know I'm an awful speller, most of the time I'm grammatically incorrect, and I have a hard time making why am I writing a blog?
I'm not really sure what it is. I guess the strong desire to vent the ideas that are constantly roaming around in my head. As for myself, I love reading blogs and finding out cool stuff about people that I didn't know, or a recipe that sounds good, or reading about their travels to other, I feel like if one person can get some enjoyment out of MY craziness, I'm good.

I was homeschooled for all 12 grades and loved every minute of it! I am a strong homeschool advocate, and have no problems promoting homeschooling to friends, family and even complete strangers. I am thankful to God every day that my parents had the foresight to pull me out of public school.  I don't feel as though I missed a thing. I had a prom, a graduation ceremony, and a class ring. I was in plays, music concerts, choir concerts. We had field trips......everything a public school kid has, and a whole lot more. I won't get in to a whole lot of details right now, but I do plan on doing a post about homeschooling in the near future.

I've been married now for almost 4 years to my best friend. Dan and I met in 2004, we started dating in 2005, got engaged in 2007, and married in 2008. Our story is a very interesting one, and someday, I will most likely tell you the tail. It includes mistaken identity, music, heartbreak, reconciliation (Woo! Another gold star!), and talk of far away travels. I know you won't want to miss that.

My wonderful parents, brother and sister-in-law, nieces and nephew and grandmothers keep my life pretty busy, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I love helping my family! Sometimes do so much for them, my husband tells me I'm putting myself on the back burner, but I can't help it. I've always been that way.
I was born 17.5 years after my brother, and we are the only two children. It's been different, but we know God had a plan by sending me so much later than my brother. It has become obvious in the past few years, when mom was diagnosed with Chondrosarcoma cancer and had to have her right arm removed.  She does so great on so many things, but there are still times when she needs assistance. So, enter me. Dan and I live right across the street from mom and dad, and whilst some people tell me they can't understand how I can live so close, I have no problems. You will be gradually introduced to some of these crazy and wonderfully lovable characters in the near future as well.

That's pretty much all I'll get in to right now, because after all, this is just an introduction, and I don't want to overstay my welcome. I hope that in the future we will be good friends, as I welcome you into my life, and hope that you find it as amusing and lovable as I do.

Until next time,