Thursday, July 24, 2014

Damaged but Brave

A friend of mine has posed some questions to me.  She wants to know about stroke aftermath, "Whats normal and what's not etc."  I have been thinking about what I can say to her.  Unfortunately she and her family have been blind sided by their father having a stroke.  I don't know what to tell her because there is so much heart break involved in surviving a stroke, both for the victim and the family.  In my opinion everyone is a victim when it comes to a stroke. There are people out there that refuse to be classified as victims and I wish so much that I knew their secret because it has hit every aspect of our lives and sent us spinning out of control.  There is no word that describes how I felt when Matt had his stroke.  It was a moment that he and I shared. A moment that I never in my life thought that we would have to share but there it was staring me in the face.  I looked at him in the ER and asked him what was happening and I'll never forget the way he was trying to answer but couldn't because the words were lost in the trauma that was happening inside his head.  I'll never forget watching the side of his face droop and his eyes roll back in his head.  It still didn't click with me what was happening until I heard water.  I was so confused until I looked down and saw that he had lost complete control of his bladder. At that moment it clicked with me what was happening and I called to the nurse who had just left the room or rather screamed out that he was having a stroke. From there is was complete chaos as they began to work on him to save his life.  I stood quietly in the corner in shock watching everything that was happening and I will forever be haunted by this.  Matt was life flighted to the University of Utah and this became our home for over a month.
Now for the answer to my friends questions.  Unfortunately with strokes there is no normal.  It effects people so differently that normal is not something that exists in the world of stroke survival.  We have been told that things will wax and wane for Matt and as that happens it does so for the rest of the family as well.  After the stroke he was a happy person. He did well with rehab and his behavior toward the family was happy.  After a few months he began to get angry.  The slightest things would set him off.  This is where we sought help through counseling.  On an average day Matt gets up and gets to work on the bus.  He calls me on all of his breaks so that I know that he is okay.  Sometimes he calls twice not knowing that he already called.  There are times where he doesn't know what day it is.  Matt's short term memory was drastically damaged.  Our lives are a constant hunt for keys and work badges and remotes lol.  Chances are if Matt picks it up it gets lost.  But he functions so much better than the prognosis he was given.  We are very blessed. Matt is still able to do his job because that is long term memory.  It is easier for him to be at work than at home and although that is a hard pill for me to swallow, I understand.  I cannot speak for Matt but I do know his life is very frustrating.  He does not talk much about how he feels about the stroke.  For me it is a monster that rears its ugly head daily.  Counseling and medication make my days bearable.  I worry about him constantly.  The smallest thing can bring back memories that break my heart over and over again.  So I don't know what to tell my sweet friend.  There is no normal and not normal.  There is just what there is left after the stroke.  You have to get to know them all over again.  You have to be pliable and forgiving.  You have to release your anger and hatred of that monster stroke into the universe because there is no one to be mad at.  You cant be mad at the survivor and being mad at God will get you nowhere very fast.  I realize that my friend is looking for different kinds of answers.  She wants to know what is neurologically normal and what behaviors to look for. I have read so much and studied up on so much so I can give her those answers but for me the word STROKE holds so much emotion that each time I hear it I either want to curl into a ball and cry or scream at the universe and give it the finger.  Neither gets you anywhere but it happens whether I want it to or not.  I cannot watch a movie without it affecting me.  I cannot go a day without the aftermath of what happened to us.  Because of this stroke all of us are damaged in our own ways but we are re-building and dammit that make us BRAVE.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Spit up and Acrylic

There is nothing in the world like being a working mom. C.S. Lewis once said "The homemaker has the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose only - and that is to support the ultimate career."
For 12 years now I have had the ultimate career. I have loved being a homemaker. As a young girl I would occasionally entertain the idea of being a teacher or a veterinarian but I always came back to the idea that I wanted to be a mother. 
Since being married I have had jobs on the side like daycare or an occasional temp position but I have never had a career outside of "the ultimate career"...until now. What do nails and spit up have in common? Me, that's what. An average day around here is full of tears, laughter, macaroni and cheese, bottles and spit up on my newly washed work clothes. In addition to that you'll find acrylic fumes and a large amount of acrylic dust. This summer has proven to be very challenging but I have managed to bring in the clientele I was praying for. God has certainly been good to us. I often feel guilty when I tell people I'm a working mom. There is a stigma that seems to follow it and I'm ashamed to say that I used to fall into the habit of thinking what others think of me now. I used to wonder how in the world women could leave their children for a career that was far less meaningful than "the ultimate career." I have been taught a huge lesson in humility. I have spent days fighting with the children. Sometimes these days are so intense that I completely understand how some women choose to work outside of the home. Some people are better for it. I respect these women. My circumstances being what they are I have  not chosen to work but have had to work to keep a roof over our head. I am blessed to have a career that has allowed me to work from home but it adds so many challenges. This is where the spit up and acrylic nails collide. At the end of the day I have to laugh it off and thank The Lord for both!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Every Now and Then

Today was a good day. Today the kids and I got to spend some time with one of my best friends and her girls, they live in AZ. It was like no time had passed other than the kids are all older. I knew I missed my AZ friends but I didn't realize just how much before today. I love Utah. I never wanted to move to AZ in the first place when Matt was transferred but I knew it was right. I knew it was what The Lord wanted for us. It was so hard to pick up and move away from family and friends here in Utah and head to a place that we knew hardly anything about. What I found out through living there is that The Lord knew we needed the friendships that we made there. We didn't need them to replace the friendships we have here in Utah but to add to them. We met some of the most amazing families in Queen Creek and I thoroughly miss that little community. We were out in no mans land and had to drive quite a ways to get anywhere but I loved it! I miss driving up to the gas station everyday for my coke. I miss daily walks to the park where I could sit and talk to friends while the kids covered themselves head to toe in sand! I miss walking my kids to school everyday in such a tiny community. It was 10 times smaller than Tooele. We lived in a residential area away from the main roads. There were no busy streets and we all knew each other. I loved the diversity among my friends. I miss the landscaping and the parks but most of all I miss the people. I have amazing friends here in Utah and I know that it was The Lord that brought us back home but when we left, a piece of my heart stayed in AZ and every now and then that piece of my heart aches to go back.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Why I Became a Nail Technician

Today was a different day. I usually get up, feed children and get ready to work.  Working from home has been quite a challenge this summer but we're surviving it and my amazing clients are so understanding. My first appointment didn't show and I was a little disappointed until I got a call from the sister missionaries.  I guess that word has traveled that I do free gel for the sisters.  It was meant to be only for the sisters in my area but it was so fun to have 4 sisters in my house and to get to know them.  It had been a hard day and that helped a lot.  This afternoon I had a new client and it was so nice to talk with her.  She too was a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and we had the opportunity to talk about things you don't normally talk about during a nail appointment.  It was just what I needed.  After she left I was tired but I kept myself going.  I cleaned up the house and harvested apricots in the front yard.  From there I went to the store and fixed dinner.  It is more than I have done in a month!  It felt so good to be MOM again.  I have struggled so much with being a working mom but today I finally felt like I can do it.  It felt so good to be everything to everyone today.  My schedule has been a little less busy this week and although it worries me a little it is giving me the opportunity to clean, organize and be the mom I want to be to my children.  When Matt had the stroke, I knew that things would never be the same.  It didn't dawn on me that I would have to work and help support the family as much as I do.  Months after the stroke when Matt had gone back to work I was trying to budget what little income we had.  I couldn't make it work and I was at a loss.  The kids were screaming, the house was a mess and I felt so alone.  It dawned on me that I should get on my knees and pray.  I couldn't find a quiet place in our crazy house so I secluded myself to the bathroom.  I was hoping the kids wouldn't come looking for me or pound on the door.  I needed to speak to my Father in Heaven.  I poured out my heart.  I laid everything on him.  I let him know how scared I was, how I didn't know if my husband was ever going to get better.  I was so afraid that he was going to die and I would be here with the children and no way to support them.  After a while I got the impression that education was the key.  I had been talking to Matt for years about how I would love to nails and the thought came to me that I should give it a try.  I never expected my Father in Heaven to be so specific but the minute I decided I was going to go to nail school I felt calm.  I talked that night with Matt and later that week with the bishop and it was reaffirmed to me that I should follow the promptings I was getting from the Lord.  It was then that a whole new chapter of my life started.  The rest of the story will be told another day.  This experience has taught me to go for it!  If it's hard and scary, hit it head on!  I am so thankful for the strength that this experience gave me.  I'm so thankful for a Savior that loves me enough to talk me into something as crazy as nail school.  He knew that it would be just what my family needed.