Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A First-time Guest Post from John: Flat Tire Gratitude

John recently became enrolled in an online college degree program offered by BYU Idaho called Pathway. For one of his classes, he has had various writing assignments. Since we've never heard from John here on my blog, I thought it would be fun to post the experience he wrote about. Here's John..... :)

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I had promised the kids a picnic on Saturday.  I had to work 4 hours that morning so we got a late start. We borrowed a truck and picked up my 80 y/o Dad who accompanied us while Mom stayed home to get some rest and recuperate from her miscarriage.  The kids wanted to go to an abandoned train tunnel some 25 miles from home in a remote area of the mountains.  On the way up there, one of the 7 y/o twins, out of the blue said, "I know what we can do if we get a flat tire, we can use this can of FixAFlat"..... I congratulated him on being so observant and smart.

We had a great time at the tunnel and the river next to it.  The kids fell in the river the requisite number of times, we got sand in our food, played with moss in the river, floated pieces of wood down the river, fell on the rocks and got scrapped, all the usual things you would want on a fun outing with the kids.  On the way back, suddenly we heard the sickening whoosh, whoosh, whoosh sound of a punctured tire.  We pulled over to the side of the dirt road to change the tire but as I got out, I heard another sound of air escaping...... Sure enough, we had two tires going flat.  With only one spare, facing a 20+ mile hike back to civilization, one of the kids forgetting his shoes back at the river (Mom wasn't there so we weren't organized....), and knowing that virtually no one traveled this road, the initial response was panic.  I said a silent prayer and then I remembered "I know what we can do if we get a flat tire, we can use this can of FixAFlat".  I asked the twin to bring me the can of FixAFlat he had seen.  We put it in the tire with the slower leak and then set about to change the other tire.  As the kids had never experienced changing a tire, it occurred to me that this would be a great chance to teach them all the necessary steps on how to do so.  I wish I had taken a picture of the four little kids huddled around the tire taking off, and putting on the lug nuts as well as their awe as they saw how the spare tire was lowered from under the pickup.  45 minutes later, we were on the road again heading home.

Fast forward to Sunday - My wife asks me to take her Primary class and the lesson is on the Holy Ghost.  It hits me.... The twin was prompted by the Holy Ghost to make the comment about the FixAFlat...... I sat down with him to explain this to him.  He was pleasantly surprised about being part of the larger plan and then the next revelation comes and I asked: What would have happened if Dad would have been mad (ungrateful) about the flat tire?  Who would I have been mad at?  His answer - Jesus. Then this lesson on Gratitude.

So what am I grateful for?

1.  That the the Holy Ghost prompted my young son to make the comment about the FixAFlat that we ultimately used, preventing a pretty big disaster.
2.  The teaching opportunity given me to help my sons learn about the Holy Ghost's influence in our daily lives.
3.  The flat tire / Holy Ghost lesson that I was able to share with the Primary kids (got to love that look of wonder and awe on the kids faces as they are learning.......).
4.  The Holy Ghost teaching me about what really happened that day.
5.  The past Pathway lessons that have helped me to learn to look for the positive and not get angry at situations.
6.  This Pathway lesson on Gratitude and the chance to put all of this in writing.  It helped me to see the bigger picture.
7.  The opportunity to teach my kids how to change a flat tire.
8.  A great bonding experience with my boys and with my Dad.
9.  That it is raining outside right now.  We live in this very dry Sonoran desert and rain is ALWAYS welcome.
10.  A wonderful wife as my companion on this wonderful life experience
11.  A flat tire.....
12.  The chance to go back to bed and get some sleep before work starts.........

It is true that "gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others".

Monday, March 30, 2015

A Musical, A Pregnancy and a Van Explosion

I don't even know where to begin. It's been so long since I've written anything meaningful. But writing has always been therapeutic for me, perhaps because it's a way of releasing creativity and emotion at the same time. So let me start with the musical.

Six weeks ago I was asked to play the piano for the school musical. The school musical is no small thing. I knew this because I had played for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers three years ago. The students, teachers and community volunteers put in from 80 to 100 hours, or even more in some cases, in a six week period to put on the production. At the time, I had a nursing baby and many other young children, and just the babysitting alone cost me over $500 over the course of the rehearsals and performances. Although it was incredibly rewarding, I had had no idea of the toil and time that would be involved and I told myself I would never do it again.

Fast forward three years. I was in my kitchen, peacefully going about my business when I received a frantic phone call that the pianist who can committed to play for the musical had suddenly bailed at the last minute, and was there any way I could come that afternoon and fill in until they could find someone else. I went to the school, and as I sat there at the piano, I knew I had to do this. Two of my kids were in the play, various women with no children in the school were helping, and so why couldn't I? My little boys were old enough to sit during the rehearsals and do their homework and play some games on our electronic devices, so yes, I would do it!

I went home and told John what had happened. I reminded him of the sacrifice our family would be making: floors unswept, dishes undone, frantic simple dinners prepared, little time for anything else but the musical for the next six weeks. The dear man readily agreed to support me.

Things were going well for the first week. I began to bond with the music director in a way we hadn't before, which was rewarding, and I was enjoying getting to know the students. The little boys behaved unbelievably well during the rehearsals and I just knew I was going to have the time of my life for the next six weeks, working with my two teenagers, getting to know people I hadn't before, and creating something amazing, that evokes emotion for hundreds of people, out of nothing.

At the beginning of the next week, however, something happened that would drastically change everything. I was cleaning up lunch and I suddenly realized I had not had my monthly telltale sign. I was a week late. I had been so busy at the school, I hadn't even noticed. Since I stock dozens of pregnancy tests I buy from the Dollar Store for the local women, I flippantly decided I'd just go take a test after I clean the kitchen. I probably had the date wrong. I hadn't gotten pregnant for three years. Why would I be so now? The minute after these thoughts went through my mind, my heart suddenly started pounding and I knew, I knew, that I was pregnant. I gave Baby Hippo his device that he gets to play for a few minutes before naptime (By the way, he will no long go by Baby Hippo, as he is now five years old, and a normal weight. He will henceforth by known as the 5-year-old boy). and quickly went to the bathroom with test in hand. I laid it on the counter when I was finished, then went to put a log of wood on the fire, because I love to take a nap in the winter with a small fire going in the fireplace by my bed. When I went back to the counter, there were two lines on the test. My heart seemed to seize and leap at the same time, so various were the emotions I felt as I saw those two lines. Then I looked at the box again, because I momentarily couldn't remember what two lines meant, although I did know, I just couldn't believe it. I was pregnant. For the twelve time. Ironically, just the week before, I had had two friends over who wanted to learn to make bread. One of them had a baby, and as I watched her struggle with him, I told them both, "Every time I'm around someone with a baby, I feel soooo glad I don't have a baby." That being said, a rush of gratitude came into my heart and I immediately knelt down in front of the fire place where it was so warm, and thanked God for the blessing he had given me, the chance to have another child, to be the mother and guardian of eleven beautiful spirits. I was ecstatic.

I didn't know how or when I would tell John, though. We had lost two babies three and a half and three years ago, both at seven weeks, so I wasn't sure this one would stay. Should I wait to tell him or should I have him involved from the very beginning? The choice would be made for me the next day. John and I needed to do some shopping at the border town three hours away, so we loaded the kids up and began the journey. While we were driving, John began a conversation we had started a while ago and about what kind of vehicle we were going to purchase. Our fifteen passenger van was on its last leg and we had said that when the 18-year-old boy left for his mission, we would get an eight-passenger SUV, which, by the way, is so much cooler than a 15-passenger van. John asked if this was still the plan. It all of a sudden occurred to me that this could no longer be the plan. I said, "Um. Well. That's really not going to work for us now." His quick mind immediately grasped my meaning and asked, "Are you pregnant???" "Yes!" I said. He then went into John mode, saying, "Okay. at the auctions my uncle has been telling me about, you can get a 15-passenger van for about $11,000." He went on in this vein until I finally asked, "Well, are you happy?" He said, "Yes! Of course! And I hope it's twins!" I was so happy.

There is so much more I want to tell you. I want to tell you how I told my mom. I want to share more feelings with you. But there is just too much to write. But the next part I must tell you. I am not going to take the time to write it out like I would have had I known I would be posting it to this blog, but I'm going to copy the letter I wrote to the 18-year-old boy on his mission. It was figuratively scrawled out quickly between answering the door, taking phone calls, answering emails, and responding to countless Facebook messages and comments, all while trying to process all that had happened on our way home from the border town. Here is the letter and accompanying photos.....

Well, Son, do we have some stories for you today! And before you start reading, just know that everyone is okay!

So, on Saturday we had to go to El Paso to watch Landon play a game against Cathedral, which is the all-boy Catholic school. It was also the twins' birthday, so we decided to take them to the zoo and shopping for presents. The boys lost pathetically, only scoring like 14 points, but Landon made like 5 of them or so! Can you believe it? It was pretty awesome. But Bro, Hatch saw that I wasn't watching the game and that I missed seeing one of Landon's shots, so he sent his grandson, Caleb, over to me to tell me that I needed to stop gossiping with Cade and watch my son play! I think Bro. Hatch just needs to worry about coaching his team.

So anyways, we took the kids to the zoo and shopping and eventually loaded up the van to go home. I had also bought a new laptop, had a huge number of oils in a bag from the mail, and John had purchased many things, including 8 wheels for work, a BlueRay DVD player and $600 worth of groceries. 

So we got a late start heading home. It got dark quickly, which we don't like, but we just couldn't get things done on time. It's about 7:00 by this time and we're cruising along at about 70 MPH, which is our normal speed. Cars are oncoming and some have their brights on, so it's hard to see. All of sudden, just as a car is about to pass us, I see the silhouette of two huge cows exactly in our lane in front of us. I say silhouette because we couldn't see them with our headlights because we were somewhat blinded by the oncoming traffic. So I scream, "THERE'S A COW!!!!" And the split second later, we hit it going about 70 MPH. I didn't see it hit our windshield, but I heard the sickening sound of metal and glass crunching and then we were stopped and my glasses were down around my chin. (I would later learn that it was the airbag that had knocked down my glasses, although I never saw or felt it.) It was all so fast. I put my glasses back on and turned around and said, "Is everyone okay?" Some of the kids started crying, but before I could see if everyone was all right, John yelled, "EVERYONE GET OUT OF THE VAN!!! NOW!! NOW!!!" I didn't know why. I didn't know if we were about to get hit by someone else going 70 MPH or if the van was going to explode or what, but I jumped out as fast as I could. Claire had the presence of mind to get Daniel unbuckled and all of the kids jumped out at the same time. Johnny was crying and his lip was bleeding and swollen to the size of a small sausage. I told the kids to get far away from the road, to follow me, but Claire was just standing there. I said, "Claire, come on!" She said, "Mom, I don't have my shoes on!" And I told her to just run anyway, that the van was going to explode. She said that her feet were already full of stickers and she couldn't. So I picked her up like a baby, all 113 pounds of her, and we all ran about 50 yards to get away from the van and off the road. All the boys were crying and saying "Is Daddy going to die?!?!" and I said no, he's just trying to put the fire out and making sure no cars hit our van. Then they started spontaneously getting on their knees in the stickers and the weeds and clasping their little hands together and praying their hearts out. They prayed that Daddy wouldn't die, that we could get a new van and we wouldn't wreck it, that they were grateful we were all alive, that the van wouldn't blow up, but just melt. It was very moving and heart-warning. They did this spontaneously many times throughout the evening, sometimes silently, sometimes out loud.

We were probably sitting there for about ten minutes watching John trying to put the fire out, but then he came up to us and said that he couldn't get the fire out and that the van was probably going to blow, so we should move very far away. So I picked up Claire again, and we ran about a football field's length away. We sat there, the kids sitting on my lap, and Claire standing, and watched our van become engulfed in flames. Claire cried as we watched it burn, saying it was just so disturbing and upsetting to see our van in flames that way. There was a series of explosions as each tire blew, the battery, the gas tank, but no one was hurt. 

Many emergency vehicles started showing up, Federales, municipales, bomberos and ambulances. Everyone was so kind to us. One of the Federales took off his coat and put it on Daniel. A random driver waiting for the van to burn so he could pass through gave me his jacket. The ambulance drivers gave us many blankets and more coats. 

I kept looking at the van, watching it burn, thinking how amazing it was that all of us survived. The thoughts would come into my mind about all the stuff I was watching burn, my purse, with the pass cards in it, my lap top, the new lap top I just bought, my iPhone, iPod, iPad, all of our food, the music for the musical, which costs $300 to replace, but I just kept saying to myself, It's okay. It all can be replaced. All of us are okay, and it's a miracle. 

Then, what to my surprise, Landon and some of his friends from the basketball team walk up to us. Apparently they had been a few cars behind, just stuck in traffic, waiting for the firemen to put the fire out and let them clear. They were quite annoyed with whatever "stupid driver left his van to just burn in the middle of the road." They were teasing Landon, "Yeah, Dude! That's probably your van! hahahah!" Well, after the flames got put out, the bus driver decided to let them go see the wreckage, and then one of the boys said, "Dude Landon! That's your dad!" John saw Landon at the same time and waved him over, telling him to look at the van. I think Landon quickly figured out that everyone was okay by John's demeanor. 

So the boys visited with us for a while, then headed back to the bus. Or so I thought. I few minutes later, out of the dust and the smoke and the glare of the emergency vehicles, I see the entire team emerging from the scene, coming towards us again, but this time carrying all of our things; my purse, my oils, boxes of root beer, ice chests, blankets, pillows, backpacks. Unbeknownst to me, John and a random man had gotten many of the items out of the van after John realized it was going to burn. He kept working to get things out until the top of his head was singeing, then realized he needed to stop and just let the fire take what was left. When Claire saw the boys coming towards us with all of our things, she started crying. I got a huge lump in my throat. The boys set all of our stuff down next to us, and just hung out with us, acting like 14-year-old boys do, laughing, trying to getting passing semis to honk, joking and just lightening the mood considerably. Then the bus driver offered to take us home while John stayed and continued to work with the police. So we all hopped on the bus, the boys loaded all of our stuff into the bottom of the bus, the bus driver took us home, and the boys unloaded all of our things and took them into our kitchen. 

As I was sitting in the front seat of the bus with Daniel asleep on my lap and the other boys playing the tablet that was salvaged and John's phone, I had the most amazing feeling of peace and love. Peace, because we were all safe and unhurt and because God had definitely been watching over us. Love, because countless people showed kindness and charity to us all evening: the police and emergency workers, passers-by and, of course, the basketball team. I think I'm going to throw them a pizza party. smile emoticon

We were so lucky and so blessed and we certainly have a new perspective on life. Things could have ended so differently. The Lord is good.

Our van, after the flames had died down some....

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John took this photo with his phone as we all sat in stunned silence, watching what we thought were all of our things burning...

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Where the kids were sitting an hour before...

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One of the many law enforcement officials we met that night...

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The amazing ninth grade basketball team.....

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But alas, my friends, my story doesn't end there. Allow me to continue.

As you can well imagine, dealing with the aftermath of this accident was an emotional challenge. And for John, it was a physical challenge as well, as his shins endured severe abrasions, bruising and swelling, as they took the brunt of the collapse of the front dash. We had trouble sleeping for many nights and we wondered if our new baby, the size of a sesame seed, had survived the ordeal. I knew that I would know in a matter of time, so I choose not to see the doctor at this time. 

When I returned to play practice, I told the music director that I had discovered I was pregnant a few days before and her face showed immediate concern. She is a mother of seven grown boys, and knows how difficult early pregnancy can be. She became even more concerned when I told her of my previous miscarriages. She worried that I might go through a miscarriage during the six-week rehearsal period. She felt like maybe she should find someone else. I told her no, that I would be okay. I knew how to handle my morning sickness and if I did lose the baby, I would bounce back quickly. She agreed to have me continue to assist her. 

This second week of practice, everything went fine, until Saturday night. Right before turning into bed, I saw pink blood. I audibly gasped and felt immediate devastation. I came out of the bathroom and told John. His face fell and he hugged me and said how sorry he was. I asked him for a priesthood blessing and after he gave me one, we were both comforted. 

I waited for the heavy bleeding and the cramping to come, but it never did. Nothing else happened. No more blood. No cramping. Of course I pored over articles on the internet to try to find out what it all meant, I talked to other moms and I prayed. The advice I latched onto was that I needed rest. This is not something I'm good at, but I wanted so much to keep this baby, so I asked John to go to the house of the lady who sometimes helps us, Esther, and ask if she could come for a couple of hours every day to help with the cleaning until we could find out what was going on. 

On Monday I called the doctor to make an appointment. He couldn't get me in until twelve days hence, which fact caused me much concern. It was torture waiting day after day, wondering if the baby was alive or not. The next Monday, I had another incident of the same type of spotting, so I decided to throw it all to the wind and I simply went into his office and I said I needed to be seen that day. He agreed to see me at 6:30 that night. When I went in that evening, he took my vitals, then I laid on the table. I twisted my head as far as I could, so I could catch a glimpse of my little one on the screen. He quietly measured and changed screens and measured some more, then finally he turned up the volume and we heard a heart beat! My baby was alive! There was a problem, though. He explained in Spanish (and remember that my Spanish is somewhat limited) that he could see that my placenta had a small tear and that my uterus was having a difficult time keeping it attached. He advised that we begin progesterone injections and capsules. He said I needed to rest more and not mop or do anything that strained my abdominal muscles. He said he would like to see me in two weeks. 

I felt like I was on cloud nine. I had heard my baby's heartbeat. I had seen it's little body, the size of a blueberry, the shape of a kidney bean. I was going to do everything I could to keep her safe. I say her, because I believe she was a girl. 

I came home and showed John and the kids the ultrasound photo. I showed them where the doctor had measured the heartbeat. Everyone was so happy. Over the course of the next two weeks, the little boys would say things like, "Mom, when the baby comes, don't buy it any blankets, because I'm going to put my Batman cape on him." and when I dropped off the kids at school and would say I love you, Twin B, who is seven now, would say, "I love you, too! And I love your baby!" The 8-year-old boy would address everything I did or ate and say, "Mom, is that good for the baby? Is that food healthy for it? Are electronic devices bad for it? Is it okay if I lean on your stomach?" They were completely enthralled with the idea of a new baby. 

The first day I took my progesterone capsule, I experienced one of the side effects that was previously unknown to me. As I was driving the 5-year-old boy home, I began to feel dizzy and confused. My eyes couldn't focus and I felt like I was drunk. I carefully pulled up the car to the house and staggered inside. I realized that this must be an effect of the medication, so I looked it up, and sure enough, apparently progesterone can cause dizziness or a spinning sensation. In my body, this also translated as extreme tiredness. I went down for a nap as soon as I could, and I realized that I would need to be very careful of when I took this medication and what activities I participated in while I was on it. 

Thus, my routine became the following. Wake up at 6:30, get the kids off to school, take my medication, go to sleep for two hours while Esther cleaned, wake up, pick up the 5-year-old boy from preschool, make lunch for the other kids, who all return home at lunch hour every day, get them back off to school, take another two-hour nap with the 5-year-old boy, head off to play practice for two hours, come home and make dinner, do the homework and bedtime routine and fall into bed. This went on for two weeks. I did very little around the house, occasionally some laundry, prepared simple meals, and other than that, I sat at the piano at the high school. But there was one problem: I felt too good. My nausea was present, but so minuscule that is hardly bothered me. And I wasn't tired and fatigued, as usual. I thought this was simply because I slept four hours each day, then slept well at night. I talked to friends about this concern. Some said that God was blessing me and taking away my nausea. Others said I had reason to be concerned. And so I waited. And waited. And finally the two weeks passed and it was time to see the doctor again. 

It took him only twelve minutes to beckon me into his office. He again took my vitals. I hadn't gained any weight, and I was thrilled about that. My blood pressure was perfect. I laid on the table. I twisted my head to see the screen. Finally the screen presented my baby. I could see her, still kidney-shaped, but now the size of a grape, as I would tell all of the teenage girls in the musical who would ask about my baby day by day. And I waited. I waited to see that fluttering, grainy, black and white imagine in her chest, her strong heart beat, the heart we had just seen two weeks before, but all was still. I thought maybe I didn't understand what I was seeing. Then the doctor said it. "Jeni. El bebe no vive." I let out a sound that was like I got kicked in the stomach. I felt everything deflate in my body. There was the baby. Lying so still, cradled in the bottom of my uterus. I asked the doctor if he knew why it had died. He said that the placenta was attached and that the progesterone had worked, but that all the bed rest and progesterone in the world wouldn't have saved the baby because 80% of all babies who die at this stage die because of some sort of defect. This was a great comfort to me, knowing that we had done all we could.

I knew immediately what I must do. My normal inclination would have been to leave the doctor's office and let the baby come when it would. I knew my doctor wouldn't like that idea, but it is what I would have done. I would have scheduled the D&C, then called back later to cancel it and let my baby come in its own due time. But the musical was in three days. What if she started to come during one of the performances? I could make preparations for the blood, but could I deal with the pain? No, I could not. Not during three-hour performances where I would need every once of concentration.

So I went to John's office. I called him from the parking lot and asked him if this was a good time for me to come up. He sounded so happy to know that I was there, and said of course it was. I picked up the ultrasound picture that said "Bebe aborto" and the list of doctor's instructions in Spanish, and went up the stairs. He immediately saw the ultrasound picture in my hand and concern spread across his face. This was the first time I had ever been to visit him randomly in his office. I told him that the baby didn't make it. His face fell. He came over to the side of his desk where I was and hugged me. He didn't say anything for a while, and then he said he was sorry. I said I was sorry to.

So I made the appointment for the D&C  for that night. And I didn't call later to cancel it. I had left play practice for my appointment, and when I came back, and began playing the piano, the music director looked at me with concern, and asked if everything went okay. I was playing the piano, and there were many students in the vicinity, so I just smiled and nodded. After my song was over, I sat down next to her and didn't say anything. She then turned to me again, and said, "So everything is okay? Everything went okay?" Then I told her the truth. I had to repeat myself because she had a hard time processing it. I told her that I would go get the D&C that evening and that I would be back for rehearsal the next day. By this time we were having six hour rehearsals every day. She looked at me aghast and said that under no circumstances was I to come back the next day, that if I really wanted to do what was right and be there for the kids, that I would make sure I was healthy for the actual performances. She said that missing practices was not a big deal, but being too sick to perform because I hadn't recovered correctly would be much worse. I finally agreed. 

I then walked across campus to where the 14-year-old boy was playing a football game. Everyone in town was there, or so it seemed, people who I hadn't seen for a week or two, and everyone asked, with a cheerful smile, how my pregnancy was going. If they asked in front of many people, I lied and said everything was fine. And this is not me. I loathe lying. I try never to do it, but I didn't know what else to do. Finally someone asked me privately, and I told her the truth. I then went to find one of my best friends, who was selling concessions for the booster club, and pulled her aside and told her. Other people came up to me randomly, and asked how my pregnancy was going, and if there were many people around, I lied again, and if we were in private, I told them the truth. It was excruciating. My baby was lying dead inside me and I was having to look into the eyes of so many people I love and who love me and feel their sadness and try to be strong and brave and tell them that I was okay, that I thought something might be wrong, so that made it a little easier. I could tell that they didn't believe that little lie either. I couldn't really concentrate on my son's game, but fortunately, one rambunctious father behind me kept announcing what play my son had made. "Jen!" he would yell. "Did you see what your boy did? He just sacked the quarterback!" and "Jen! That was your boy! He just recovered a fumble!" Thus, after the game, I was able to go onto the field to congratulate my son and say, "Son! You sacked the quarterback! That was amazing!" I didn't tell him that I hadn't actually seen his plays, though. 

And finally the time came to go home and make preparations to go to the hospital. I called my mom. She said, "Jen, I just feel so sad right now." I told her I did, too. We talked for a long while, then I said goodbye to the kids and headed to the hospital in the big town, where John would be waiting for me. 

I was very nervous as I drove alone. I prayed a lot. I had had a D&C before and I remembered that it wasn't pleasant. The last time I had had to stay in the hospital for twelve hours, which was longer than my stay when I delivered Baby Hippo. And the epidural. I hate the epidural. The burning of the needles as they are being placed in your back and for some reason the anesthesiologist has to grunt and shove for many minutes until they are in the right place. It's a very disturbing sensation. And although you can't feel the pain of the procedure, you can still feel the uncomfortable scraping sensation, the sensation that seems to go on and on and on, even though it's only 25 minutes or so. Then the recovery, when you can't move your legs for two hours, and when the feeling finally comes back, it's the prickly sensation that your legs have been asleep for hours, which they have been. I didn't want to do this again. But I had to.

When I arrived at the hospital, John was already there with a calming smile on his face. I was assigned a bed and the tech came in and began prepping me for the procedure. He attempted to put a needle in my vein to get blood for lab work, then to attach the IV, but he didn't succeed the first time. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. And he did. John was sitting on the sofa bed beside mine watching. After he attached the vile that was to go to the lab to the needle, filled it up, then removed it, apparently he had made no plan to stop my blood from continuing to flow once the vile was removed. So my blood began forcefully pumping out of the back of my hand onto the floor. It was pumping in spurts. I watched in fascination, thinking, "There is all my blood, going down onto the floor." He became flustered when he realized what was happening and quickly asked John to come and help him. John got up, took the offered vile, and the tech finally was able to stop my blood from being spilled all over the floor. After he left, John and I laughed, saying that that was the sloppiest job we'd ever seen and that he was lucky that John was there to help!

Then we waited and waited some more. I thought I would message a few people to let them know what had happened. One friend I messaged works with her husband in the big town, and said they would be right over. These were the same friends who came to visit me in the hospital when this same procedure was done three years ago. I felt so comforted that I would see them again before going into the delivery room. They arrived only minutes before I was wheeled out, though, but it was still a blessing to have been able to feel of their love before I went in. 

I said goodbye to John and suggested that this would probably be a good time for him to go home and get the kids, as I knew I wouldn't be out for at least another 45 minutes. Earlier in the day John has suggested that we bring the kids to visit me in the hospital. I knew it would be an uncomfortable and perhaps difficult experience for them, but he suggested that it might be good closure, since they would probably have a difficult time understanding and processing what had happened. I felt like this was a wonderful idea. 

So he kissed me goodbye and I was wheeled to the delivery room. I don't like that they do this procedure in the delivery room, because I was there before, giving birth to a big, beautiful baby boy five years earlier, and it brought up so many of the amazing memories a mother feels when she gives birth. I looked at the incubator my baby boy had been in. I remembered when my doula had told me while he was crowning that she could see his hair, and that it was black. I remembered that "gloriously empty" feeling of just having a baby, when all the pain is over and there is nothing but joy and elation. None of that would happen for me now. 

The anesthesiologist entered the room. He is a wonderful, caring man, as most anesthesiologists are. He has a tender smile and comforting eyes and constantly reassured me. When he was finished with the insertion of the epidural, I looked at my heart rate and noticed that it was faster than usual at 88 beats for minute. He said it was probably because I was nervous. So as we waited for the doctor to enter, I laid very still and focused on the most calming relaxing thought I could think of. That thought was of me and the 5-year-old boy taking a nap together, with his little arm around my waist. As I lay there, I could hear the beeps of my heartbeat slowing. It eventually got down to 75 beats per minute. I told the anesthesiologist that I was meditating and that it had slowed my heart rate. He complimented me on succeeding to do that. 

Finally, after what seemed like eternity, the doctor came in and began preparation for the procedure. The prep seemed to take forever, and as the nurse and the two doctors spoke Spanish to each other, I continued to think of my lovely calming thought and to focus on keeping my heartbeat slow. The procedure finally began and I realized it wasn't as bad as I remembered it to be. The doctors started joking with each other and brought me in on the conversation at times, too. Sometimes the doctor would pop his head up and ask things like, "Jeni. Como se dice toz en Ingles?", which, being translated, means "How do you say cough in English?" I answered him and then both doctors tried to say the word in English. Then they both began making coughing sounds using the word "cough" to try to makes sense of it. They asked me about other English words and tried to say them, and then began trying to talk to me in their limited English. I told the anesthesiologist that it was okay if he spoke in Spanish, that I understood enough, and he laughed and said in Spanish, "Oh! So you think that it's easier to understand my Spanish than it is my English and I shouldn't even try!" Then they began talking about the musical that was to take place at the Academy. They asked if I knew anything about it. I laughed to myself and said yes, that that was why I opted for the epidural instead of the general anesthesia because I was the pianist and needed to recover quickly! They confirmed with me that we would be performing Fiddler on the Roof, then they began to hum and whistle "If I Were a Rich Man." This made me laugh along with all of their other antics and before I knew it, it was over and I was being covered with a thick blanket and being wheeled back to my room. It was then, as I was being wheeled down the hall, that I saw John and the kids waiting for me. It was wonderful to see their faces. 

When I was settled into my room, they took turns coming in to see me. The twins seemed somewhat nervous, but I smiled and laughed with them and they opened up soon after. I got hugs from everyone and we said a family prayer together, John having sneaked all of the kids in at one time. It was such a calming, warming feeling to do this. John asked if I wanted him to stay the night with me, but I said I would be fine. I was looking forward to some time to read and rest. 

Mexican hospitals are amazing. The staff never bothered me for the rest of the night but one time to give me an antibiotic. I didn't sleep well, because the mattress was only a four-inch plastic pad, but I felt peaceful and relaxed. The next morning John came to visit me before work, then a good friend who lives in the big town brought me breakfast. I was so relieved because my hospital breakfast consisted of dry toast, orange drink and papaya, which I think smells like throw-up. John ate my papaya for me and I ate my friends delicious ham, egg and spinach mini quiches and a half sliced avocado. John went to work, but she was able to stay with me until I was discharged. We talked about many things, but mostly I was able to process what I had gone through over the previous twenty-four hours. I needed to do that. 

I drove myself home, although the doctor was not happy about that, and I rested in bed most of the rest of the day. I wrote an email to the main director and the music director and let them know the procedure has been successful and that I would be at rehearsal the next morning. They both insisted that that was not necessary and that they would see me on Thursday, the day of the first performance. But I felt good and I knew I also needed to practice a bit more with the kids, so I showed up on Wednesday morning. The music director said, "You're not very obedient, are you. You need a spanking and I know you don't even believe in spankings." We both laughed and got to work. By this time, the word of what had happened had filtered down to many of the students and I don't remember getting so many hugs in one day. Some of the students just came and hugged me, not saying a word. Others came and hugged me and said they were sorry. My nephew, a 6 foot 6 blond and blue-eyed senior, who spends most of our time together trying to make my life as miserable as possible, mocking my food choices, my mothering skills and even my dogs, came up from behind me and leaned down and planted a huge kiss on my cheek. He said nothing, but just smiled and kept walking up to the stage. The kid behind him, who I had never met, seemed very confused and turned to me and said he wasn't going to do that. I told him that's okay.

I spent the next three days at school, and in bed and when all of the performances were over and were a huge success, I felt like I could finally let go physically and emotionally. I stayed in bed most of the day on Saturday. I cried most of the night. And on Sunday, I felt better. I attended church, hosted a large family dinner, then slept some more. As I write this, I feel nearly fully recovered, six days later, but I know I need to ease into things carefully. I've been on partial bed rest for four weeks now and I know it's going to take a while to get up to my normal and preferred speed. The kids have spring break this week, so I won't have to worry about schedules. The house will fall to pieces, I know this, but it will be wonderful to do what we want, when we want and just be together as a family. 

I keep wondering why this all happened during this six-week period of time I had decided to dedicate to the musical, a time that I had known would be taxing in just a normal situation. The discovery of the pregnancy, the explosion of the van, the three weeks of partial bed rest and finally the saddening and disappointing news of the loss of our sweet baby and the subsequent procedure. I have wondered if it was to teach my kids and the kids who knew of my situation in the musical perseverance. I have wondered if we were to learn to place our lives in God's hand and to accept his will in all things. I have wondered if the kids were supposed to experience loss to prepare them for the bigger losses they will inevitably experience at some point later in life. All I know is that I hope I can learn all that God wants me to learn during this journey. In a church meeting I attended this weekend, we were taught that God's plan for us is perfect. I have thought about that a lot. Our lives our difficult, sometimes even full of many burdens to be born, but this is His plan for us. He designs each of our lives as a perfect fit to our individual spirits to help us grow and be refined into the people He wants us to become. It is up to us to choose to become "better or bitter". I hope I am choosing that better path.

As always, thanks for listening. :) I miss you and I hope to write more in the near future. Have a wonderful week.

By the way, here are some photos of the musical, followed by a photo of what I look like now, since it's been so long since I've showed my face to you. The clean-shaven boy on the right in the first photo is my 14-year-old boy, and even the twins (in bottom photo) got to participate... :)

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Monday, June 30, 2014

Internationally-Renowned Multi-Grain Bread

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So I might start blogging again. I've been pretty unreliable and disappointing. I apologize. Forgive me? Thank you! :)

Over the course of the past couple of years, a lot has changed. I'll probably go into all that gradually. But the reason for this post is related to one of my new endeavors. I now have a bakery. And one of my items, the multi-grain bread, has become internationally renowned, meaning that it is popular in a few of the small Mexican towns in my vicinity and in the U.S. border town where I visit my mom regularly.

That being said, because this summer has become filled with wonderful, time-consuming and amazing events, one of which includes the wedding of the beautiful 19-year-old girl, I have temporarily closed the bakery, thus, leaving people in the surrounding towns desperately seeking solutions to the problem of lacking fresh multi-grain bread. Some people have said that they would literally die without it. Some have offered to pay twice it's worth. Some have threatened to discontinue to speak to me in a civil tone. Thus, in an effort to offer a solution of sorts to this grave problem, I will now post the recipe for my internationally renowned multi-grain bread. Don't worry, I'm not giving away a centuries-old family secret, such as on Seinfeld's "The Soup Nazi". I got this recipe at www.allrecipes.com, but just tweaked it a little. As a side note, many have also asked for my internationally renowned chocolate chip cookie recipe. This is also no secret. It is on the back of the yellow Nestle chocolate chips bag.

So here you go.... Enjoy!

Multi-Grain Bread

Yields 6 medium-sized loaves

6 cups water
3 cups oatmeal
6 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups honey
Another 1 1/2 cups warm water to dissolve the yeast
3 tablespoons yeast
6 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup other flour. I usually use maseca or American corn meal, but you can use any flour. I've used quinoa, and white bean flour. Whatev.
2 tablespoons salt
1/4 cup Chia seed
1/4 cup sesame seed
1/4 cup flax seed
8 cups white flour, sometimes more, sometimes less. 

1. Bring water and oats to a boil. Add honey and butter. Let sit for one hour.

2. In a Bosch or other dough mixer, dissolve yeast in water for 5 minutes.

3. Add oatmeal mixture, whole wheat flour, other flour, seeds, and salt. 

4. Start mixing, and add the white flour while it's mixing. 

5. Knead for 15 minutes. The dough should be a little sticky, to where when you dump it out of the Bosch, it sticks to the middle, but not the sides. 8 cups of white flour usually does it for me.

6. Let rise until doubled.

7. Divide into 6 pans and let rise until doubled.

8. Bake at 350 for about 35 to 40 minutes. I like to brush mine with egg and sprinkle it with seeds before it bakes. It's beautiful like that. 

9. Let cool on racks.

Monday, December 2, 2013

40% off Gorgeous Aprons from Flirty Aprons today, Cyber Monday, only!!!!

Hello everyone! Just wanted to share that Flirty Aprons is having an awesome sale today only, on Cyber Monday. Everything is 45% off. Click HERE to go to the site. Enter the code CYBERMONDAY at checkout. I'm getting this one!!!! Remember, the sale ends today!!

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