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Sunday, February 28th, 2010

(I’m sorry these keep getting longer. I guess I have a lot to say within all these lessons…)

Disruptions in the Natural Order Stink

I always thought that parents having to bury their children was particularly devastating. Now, in a way, I am getting to see why that is. It’s so unnatural. Take a good look at this picture. It is really sweet, but it is really sad, too. This is not how things should be. My Dad should no longer be having to push his grown daughter around, like he once did when I was in the stroller. Yes, I think it signifies that we can make it work. Our little train is a solution to getting around, and it shows how we are surviving this hardship, by making things work, but it’s still really sad. In the video Alex Wolf made for the ‘Katherine Lived’ Party, there is some footage of my mom pushing me across the street from UCLA for one of my first visits outside of the hospital with James riding on the tray of my wheelchair. It makes me cry. This sweet 2 year old should not have learn to say words like “Mama’s Wheelchair” and “Mama’s Cane”. Yet I know the disruption of the natural order of things in my life has created a deeper level of empathy in my family and friends for other people whose lives have fallen outside the natural order. I hope that when James gets older his heart will be particularly compassionate toward people who look different or have wheelchairs like mama’s.

There are Still Issues Here

Just like my saddlebags, cellulite, and muffin top that all came back, so did my issues. Well, neither one ever left I guess, they were just on hold while I almost died. Like anyone does, I have issues in my life. I’m not a perfect person and like every other human I know, I am a complicated, with my own special idiosyncrasies on top of interesting family dynamics, which I do not always handle well. There are physical issues, emotional ones, and spiritual ones. They are all hard. Having a medical crisis did not automatically fix everyone or everything in my life. It didn’t fix me. Perhaps I (and those around me) have a little more perspective than we used to, but nonetheless, things can still be hard. There are still broken relationships, poor communication, and complicated interactions. Those (sadly) stayed. In the end, love and grace cover over a multitude of sins. I guess it’s some good fodder for the counseling I’m getting!

Calories In and Out Determine Body Weight

Over the months following my injury, I lost over 30 pounds. I was eating a diet of 1800 calories a day through a tube in my stomach. It’s pretty funny (and kind of scary) that I lost all that weight on 1800 calories! How many calories was my body used to eating? Though losing over 30 pounds might be some women’s dream, at 5’10”, it was too much. I have joked that it was a great post-baby diet, but the truth is that it was disgusting. My bones showed through my clothes, and I looked emaciated. I lost all that weight while on a fixed diet and through working out a ton in rehab. Thankfully, through a concerted effort of eating lots of treats in the past year, I have regained most of the 30 pounds. The challenge is to not gain back too much more! When it boils down to it, your amount of input (FOOD) and output (EXERCISE) determines your body weight. Period. In our childhood, when my sisters and I used to scarf cookies in Manda’s pantry, she would lovingly say, “Calories, calories…” Still true.

Baby Steps Forward are still steps Forward

Quite literally when re-learning to walk, it’s all the little steps that matter. (I do not recommend re-learning to walk at 27 – it is atrocious!) When I practice walking without a cane, Jay tells me that he thinks I look like a little baby taking her first tiny steps. (He thinks that is a very good indication that like a baby, my brain will develop that natural skill of walking one day too.) On the larger scale of my recovery, each little step forward is progress. It’s the whole “you can’t eat an elephant in one bite” thing. You have to crawl BEFORE you can walk. I can (finally) crawl after almost 2 years without that ability. WOOHOO! I choose to celebrate every little progression – no matter how small it may be. Focusing on the mini-miracles along the way help to keep a positive perspective during the often long stretches between the big miracles.

Hydration can Prevent Panic Attacks

I had never had a panic attack in my life. I didn’t even know what a true one was. I had a bad one on my birthday last year. I think it came from knowing it was my birthday and that signifying the passage of time. I also saw the pictures from James’ first haircut the day before. The fact I could not be a part of that haircut (his 1st one) just sent me over the edge. I was sobbing and my hands and feet went totally numb. I was irrational and inconsolable. It was rough. My friend Lauren told me that hydration can be the key to preventing these things. It made sense because I was not getting the normal hydration I would have because of the feeding tube. Now, when I wake up in the night feeling funny, Jay gets some water and I do some deep breathing. I share this sort of random tip because many of you who shared with me that you have had dealt with panic attacks. Drink some water if you feel one coming on!

Miracles Still Happen

At my most recent appointment, Dr. Gonzales told me that still being alive was a miracle, as well as my recovery. He spoke about the miraculous nature of my healing and how different it is than so many other cases he sees. I transposed what he said at Christmas and posted it on here with our Christmas Card. Here is what I think about miracles…My AVM was the largest my doctor had ever seen, in the worst possible location, and with the worst possible blood drainage. The massive pressure was pushing my brain down into my spine which made my case particularly terrible. CT scans and testing done in the emergency room revealed that I was on the verge of death any minute. A medical student told Dr. Gonzales that Jay was in law school which meant he should not fool with me – I was going to die anyway and he needed to think about the liability of a dead girl. Despite all these factors, he couldn’t get me out of his mind and he decided to operate. Miraculously, I lived through surgery! I was so struck by what the anesthesiologist said when I had my eye surgery last August. He had been there the night of my life-saving brain surgery (he and a team of doctors had transfused over 5 times my full blood volume). His voice trembled as he looked at me and said, “you’re a miracle”.

More to come…

More Lessons …

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Focus on the People that Matter

Please Athenians, do not be offended when I say that GA Football is not the most important thing in the world. It’s called a Football GAME for a reason. Now, I love GA football. Growing up in Athens (home of UGA) gave me the deep love I have for “the Dawgs”. I dated a guy who went on to be the kicker for GA Football team. This only intensified my love for the red and black. At my wedding, we rented a separate room and a big screen TV so people could check the score of the away game that was happening during our reception. Check out the picture of James to your left, is there any question what team he will be loyal to? Similar to football, we all have things that probably take up too much of our precious time. We waste emotional energy on small things and place our time and resources in things that truly don’t matter, when it’s all said and done. The night of my life-saving brain surgery, do you know who was NOT in the waiting room? The GA football team. Do you know who was there? Over 70 sweet friends and family who cared deeply about me. The people who love you are the ones that matter. Focus on the people that God has placed in your life. Maybe you would not have necessarily chosen all of them, but they are there for a reason and focusing your love, time, and attention on them will be something that you will never regret!

When Life Gives you Really Rotten Lemons, make Really Delicious Lemonade

A brain injury is some really rotten lemons. I believe attitude is a huge part of healing and the difference between people who get well and people who do not (sometimes). The ‘Katherine Lived’ party was some really delicious lemonade. What started as a little gathering of some friends to celebrate my life, turned into an incredible party with valet parking, a wait staff, and 100 donated Sprinkles cupcakes! I have to be honest, Jay is the mastermind behind this philosophy. Have you seen the website? The T-Shirts? The Prayer Cards? They are all excellent. Jay has encouraged me to do everything in a superb way BECAUSE of my brain injury. We have chosen to not seclude ourselves, sitting around and feeling sorry for ourselves but rather, we have tried to embrace this situation and see what God has for us in it. As you know, I love Romans 8:28. It is so comforting to know that even if I cannot make my own lemonade from my rotten lemon situation, God can and will do it too!

Catharsis is Healthy

Just about everyone I know has a blog these days. Young mommies have blogs to show pictures of what they are up to, some have blogs to complain about various issues or support them, some blog to get the word out quickly about what is going on in their world, and some people have blogs to share what’s new when they get really sick (like me). I think deep down we all want the same thing: Catharsis – a way to cope and the feeling that we are not alone. That feeling that someone else can share our burdens. We all want validation that someone else cares about what we are going through. I consider November of last year to be the low point for me. I was not suicidal, but I have never felt so undeniably sad in my entire life. It was awful. What came out of that time was a little devotional book about who I really am vs. who I feel like I am. It is profound. It is based on the very first lesson I shared – the one about my current situation being a microcosm for how we all feel (ie. we don’t feel understood, satisfied, beautiful, etc, but in Christ we are all of those things). It has been healing throughout this ordeal to express my feelings. Catharsis has been a wonderful way to cope. The incredible next layer is that through my personal expressions to all of you, I think it’s allowed some of my readers to find their own catharsis. So cool how that works!

Contentment is not Based on the Situation

I am learning this lesson in a very powerful way. And I mean, I am still learning it. Instead of waiting to be content until I can walk, eat, see, speak, write, drive or live normally, I just need to be content where I am. In late August of this year, James, Jay and I were ‘helping’ to move Grace in to Pepperdine. On a break, we went down to the little downtown area of Malibu. We got ‘James’ a treat from Crumbs cupcakes and then went outside. There was a guy playing acoustic guitar outside and James began pushing his little mini toy car along a bench in front of me. Jay would chase him down when necessary, and I watched closely. After I had finished the entire treat, I sat there in the beautiful Malibu sunshine and got a lump in my throat. Even in a wheelchair with a hand that won’t work and a mouth that won’t let me smile, I felt content, just watching my two babies enjoy the day. I really felt content. Even if life was never going to be how I wanted it to be, that was OK. I’m OK.

Nothing on Earth can Fully Satisfy

After months of being in a hospital bed, I got to hold my baby in my arms. While I loved getting to hold and cuddle with James, it did not transform my life. It did not fully satisfy me. I lost over 30 pounds and I finally wore a size 2 in pants. I looked skinny in my skinny jeans. Many women would love nothing more than to lose weight and fit into a smaller size. It’s not that great. It did NOT satisfy. After being on a feeding tube for over 11 months, I was allowed to eat food again. I ate so much and so many delicious things that I would feel sick. I ate doughnuts, waffles with big hunks of butter, cupcakes galore, and milkshakes to gain weight. Even though enjoying all these treats was amazing, I never felt completely full, and the experience was strangely anti-climactic. I finally took a few steps on my own not too long ago. It was amazing! There was a strong possibility that I would never be able to walk again. Taking those few steps was great, but it did not completely satisfy me. Nothing can… Well, only one thing.

Use the Good Stuff

Patty Roper, Joanna Martin, Brenda See and their daughters threw me a lovely “Paper and Linen” Shower in Montgomery (it was the first of 13 parties before I got married –I’m not kidding). As the hostess gift, they gave me a gorgeous set of monogrammed sheets. I was saving them to use when we had our own home. Had I died last April, I would have NEVER used those sheets. They would have been saved for 4 years for nothing! I think my situation points to the fact that you should use the good stuff and do all those things you have always wanted to do. Who cares if the baby might stain it or something gets broken. It’s definitely better to find enjoyment in special things now then feeling regretful for having those things sit, uselessly in a closet, never being used and enjoyed. We are not promised tomorrow, and we need to live like it is our last today and celebrate the gift of each day.

Suffering is Universal

I consider my greatest fault/character flaw/sin to be my extreme naiveté; however, I am not naïve to the fact that everyone around me is suffering through something right now. I am not the only one going through a lot. While my situation is extreme, we all face difficult trials every day. Clearly, you don’t have to be experiencing a major medical issue to be able to understand suffering. There are hard and sad things in this world that are awful and painful. There are children who are abused; there is homelessness and people who go to bed hungry. There are unmet expectations and broken relationships. People have affairs. Parents divorce. There is disease, and there are freak accidents. Women miscarry, and couples can’t get pregnant. People die. Life is hard, no matter who you are. Because of this, we need to give each other slack (because we often never know what someone else is going through deep inside), spread love over everyone in our lives, and find hope in the Lord’s promise that our suffering is never in vain.

More to come …

More Lessons…

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

True Love is not Dependant on Circumstances

“Love is not love which alters when an alteration finds” – William Shakespeare. It’s true. I am certain that Jay did not think we would be dealing with this alteration after 3 and a half years of marriage. Early on, someone told Jay that her deceased husband would have paid for the best caretaker money could buy, but he would never have done it himself. Many have echoed that sentiment. I know many of you have already seen that picture where I am on Jay’s back while we hold James’ hand. That picture says a lot. It is actually a beautiful love story. In a culture where ‘whatever feels good’ and ‘instant gratification’ are valued, Jay has gone the opposite way. He has loved me with a love that is not dependant on my circumstances. He has been there for me and supported me, in every way I have needed during this time (and in some ways that I didn’t even know I needed!) He has also adapted his life to my needs, for example, I am extremely sensitive to temperature since the stroke. So whenever I get out of the bath or shower, he has a towel he has warmed in the dryer ready for me. He always heats them and has them ready so I will not get cold after bathing. He is just so thoughtful and I am so blessed. Jay would be the first to say that he is not a perfect person, but the ways in which he has cared and continues to care for me seeks to follow Christ’s example of self-sacrificing service.

Birthdays Connote the Passage of Time

James’ 2nd birthday is on Friday and it is definitely a reminder that time has passed. I really don’t want to start crying. It is really hard though. Birthdays have a way of being undeniable markers of time slipping away. James will never be 1 years old again. I was in a wheelchair the entire time he was 1. Weird. I think the reason for the panic attack on my own birthday was the knowledge that time was passing. I think I freaked because my sub-conscious was freaking out. I just could not process that I was living with this brain injury after all this time. It was and is hard to wrap my mind around. On the occasion of James’ upcoming birthday, there are still so many great reasons to celebrate, even if life is different this year than we thought it might have been. The occasion of this birthday denotes another year of James’ life, a celebration of me being able to share it with him, the progress I’ve made in my recovery as compared to his 1st birthday, and on and on. Birthdays and other milestones give us the opportunity to be thankful for all that has happened and hopeful for all that is yet to be.

Irony is a Strange Beast

Some ironies are really funny while others are really sad. Some make you angry, while others force you to realize you are not in control! There are the really obvious ironies and then the more subtle ones. Yes, I was a model and now I cannot even smile or I used to be wildly energetic and now I am SOOO tired all the time – those are obvious.

The less obvious ironies are the things about my personality that are so different now. Examples: I have always been the one in the family telling everyone not to stand too close to the microwave and to stay away from the tanning bed. In every swallowing test I did, they used a moving x-ray. I was exposed to direct radiation so many times. I have always been a planner/super-organized. Now I cannot plan much of anything. I used to write tasks down that I had already done on a ‘to-do list’ just so I could cross them off! SICK, I know. Now, not only can I not make a list, but nothing would get crossed off.

One of the most painful ironies is my love for cards. I have a very extensive Stationary collection. In college, I was a nanny for a family that had a Stationary business (I love all the Cottens!). I have loved mail since I could write. Now, if you were to look at my extensive stationary collection, you would just cry! Also painful, is how active I used to be. I was deemed “Most Likely to be an Aerobics Instructor” in my senior class and now I’m in a wheelchair.

I have never worn glasses or a retainer growing up, and now I have both. Irony.

I have never been a vain person, but I’ve had a LOT of work done recently! Ironically, at 27, I have scars from my facial surgery where it looks like I got a facelift. I’ve had collagen injections (in my paralyzed vocal cord) and botox injections (in my eye muscle). We say I had all the right treatments in all the wrong places!

Wear the Right Shoes

Growing up, my Dad would always take me to Bulldog Sporting Goods for a new pair of shoes. He thought wearing good shoes was really important. He’s a big time runner and athlete. Now, I agree with him. While relearning to walk, having on good shoes is so important. I can tell a huge difference in how my ankle is protected and the feedback I get from the shoe. Wearing the right shoes is so important to recovery and walking again one day. And for all of you who are blessed with the ability to walk normally, protect it!

You CAN Live Without Part of Your Brain

Recently at an eye appointment, after explaining my injury to the doctor, he said that he had never met anyone who lived without part of their brain. He said he did not know that you could. And he is a DOCTOR. Well, I am proof, that YES, you can. Jay shared with me that he can remember the first time he heard the ICU nurse use the word “removal”. Even he did not understand that they had taken out a portion of my brain during the life-saving surgery. I had over half of my cerebellum removed, and I am not only living but I am recovering that part that was lost and will fully recover it some day. That recovery can take place through the great mystery of the brain’s re-wiring capabilities—called “neuro-plasticity”—which allows other parts of the brain to take over for parts that are damaged. After spending a year and a half with brain injured people, we have often thought that a brain injury is one of the most debilitating, horrific injuries possible; however, this type of injury has such a wide spectrum of potential recoveries that it offers a much more redemptive future than many other more permanent injuries (like spinal cord injury, amputation of a limb, blindness, etc.) The brain is such an unbelievable part of the body, and we have gained so much insight into how it works and have found so much hope from that insight.

Be Careful! Life is Fragile…

Having been in a Neuro-rehab and hospitals for a year and a half has showed many, many things. Above them all, it has taught me to be careful! If you are still reading this you probably care about me and what I have to say, so I am begging you, DO NOT take unnecessary risks. Things like motorcycles, dirt bikes, and 4 wheelers are all very dangerous. WEAR A HELMET or better yet, get your kicks doing something else!! Be wise! I am sure all the people I’m in therapy with thought it could never happen to them either. While my injuries can heal in time, many of my friends at therapy will never have that opportunity because of the physical injuries that they sustained on top of their brain injuries. As sad as it is to be in neuro-rehab for a stroke, like I am, it is so much more sad to be in neuro-rehab as a result of doing something that could have been prevented! There is no point to taking uncalculated risks; life is fragile enough as it is. Bottom line: You don’t wanna end up here, so BE SMART!

‘Do the Thing You think You cannot do’

OK—I didn’t originate this quote, this was Eleanor Roosevelt. I almost titled this one ‘Face your Fears’ or something like that. I’ve been forced to face a lot of my fears (big and small ones) these days. For instance, I am not a writer, and I write these updates all the time chronicling my journey, putting my most personal experiences and insights out into the blogosphere! My mom is a writer (read her blog if you haven’t already) and Jay is a writer (he went to law school), but I am NOT a writer. I also hate having my blood drawn and medical procedures in general. Since the injury, I have had my blood drawn more than 100 times, dozens of “procedures” and several major surgeries. Unfortunately, I’ve got quite a few more in my future! A specific procedure from my days at UCLA, involving blood, where I was actually awake when it was done, was when I had a PICC line inserted in my arm. (A PICC line by definition and per its acronym, is a “peripherally inserted central catheter”. It is a flexible tube that is inserted into a vein in my arm and has several ports.) Getting that put in was horrific—they even accidentally threaded the line up into the vein in my neck! I hate blood, and have never thought of myself as having a particularly high threshold for pain, but by the grace of God, I have been able to endure these things that I never imagined I would be able to endure. Above all, the most basic example of “doing what I thought I could not do” is LIVING MY LIFE RIGHT NOW. There could be such a temptation to just hide in my room, lay in bed, and cry all day. Instead, I get up and get out of bed, embracing the day, and viewing this time as a minor detour. If I can do it, so can you!

More Lessons…

Monday, October 5th, 2009

Thank God for Religious Freedom

HAHA!!!

It is a gift to live in a country and a time where we can believe anything we want to. I am OVERTLY Christian. You should know that I am a Romans 1:16 kinda woman! ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel’ is a mantra I seek to live out and you will see that throughout my writing. I know it’s not cool or ‘PC’, but it’s the truth. The beauty of religious freedom is that as I have dealt with my injury, I have had the freedom to write and express what I am thinking and feeling. Beyond that, no one is forcing anyone to read my updates. I am aware that many people of different faiths or with no faith at all (hey, I live in LA) are reading this of their own volition. I am so grateful they are not being forced to do so.

About my Faith: Being a Christian does not mean that I am perfect (I am far from it), but it means that I have faith in something beyond myself. I have screwed up really bad so many times in my life, but God turns my guilt and shame into something good. When I screw up (which is so frequently), I am forgiven and have a deep, deep peace that God is with me. I believe my Faith is what has seen me through this nightmare. Despite what you believe, it is hard to consider this an accident. My survival seems nothing short of “divine intervention”. At the most basic level, I hope my survival points to the fact that there must be a higher power of some kind. I believe that God is that higher power and he created us. Because we were created, there must be a creator. Having studied the intricacies of the brain since my injury, it has been fascinating to see how incredibly complex our design is. We could not be a biological mutation or cosmic accident of some kind. I have believed in God for many years, I have recently discovered more tangible proof.

A Story to build your Faith/ Perhaps Create Faith:

As Christians, we believe in giving 10% of our untaxed income to our local church. At the beginning of 2007, Jay and I heard our pastor share about giving beyond our usual tithe and giving something more to the Stewardship Campaign. Both Jay and I prayed about it and came up SEPARATELY with a pledge of $5,000. Only 4 days after making the pledge, we found out I was pregnant. I was earning all our money in the entertainment industry while Jay was in law school, so a growing tummy would not mean we would be rolling in the dough. Where would we get $50,000 extra dollars or $5,000 for that matter? In August, I was in line at a coffee shop in a part of town that I do not normally go to, when a casting director approached me and asked if I would like to be on her show. For those who saw it, I won $50,000 on “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?”. Coincidence? What if I would have walked in that Coffee Shop 5 minutes later or decided not to embarrass myself on national television? Pretty crazy, but even crazier…we did not actually receive the check until after the show aired in 2008, after I was already in the hospital! Since Jay has been my full-time caregiver and advocate, that money (plus the generous support of family and friends) has sustained us over the past year and a half. God has never failed to provide for us, as long as we have trusted in Him to do so. He doesn’t always give it when we want, but He always comes through in a manner that could only be attributed to Him.

Being a Parent Changes You

I had a wonderful modeling career. I was breaking in to acting (they say it takes a minimum of 10 years – I believe it!). I had almost booked the lead on two television shows, and I had one of the best agents and managers in town. I loved what I was doing! I had traveled throughout the world – even spending a magical summer in the south of France and a life-changing mission trip to Malawi, Africa. I also lived in Malibu which is considered to be one of the most beautiful places on Earth. All of this – and I do mean all – fails in comparison to being a parent. Having a child in your life means you get to discover what life is really about. You get to see how a tiny mind can fathom the beauty of the world. You get to see what true discovery actually looks like. You get to observe all this and then they get to live with you! Can you believe it? This little person gets to be a part of your story for the rest of your life. No matter where you go or what you do, your child will always there. I am 27 years old, and I still need my mom and dad. I think that is how God designed it. It’s pretty amazing. Had I died in April of last year, I would have never understood this. Since James was 6 months old when I had my brain bleed, I understood what having a baby meant – pregnancy, all the beauty of childbirth, breastfeeding and taking care of a newborn. I would not have ever known the splendor of watching a child grow up, and for that, I am forever grateful to God.

Get good Insurance

Ok- here’s the deal: I was in the Screen Actors Guild, but I was not earning enough money to qualify for their fabulous insurance. Very wisely, Jay had taken out an insurance policy for us—at his father’s suggestion—before we moved to California, after getting married. Also, I remember Jay’s good friend, Wells, telling us to get insurance because you never know what health crisis can happen even when you are young. (He got cancer at age 22). I assumed we were so young and healthy, we would have no need for insurance … we didn’t even have a general doctor. If I did not have insurance, I am not even sure what we would do now. So far, my medical bills are over 2 million dollars—thankfully our payments are a little less! This is not a commentary on health care reform; however, I have experienced firsthand that having good insurance has given me access to the top medical care in the country, exactly when I have needed it. Thank you Blue Shield of California!

It could always be worse

I have said this before, but Perspective is so important. I’m sure many people look at my situation and say “could it be worse?” Well, I have that same thought too but about other people. I have been in a hospital and or neuro-rehab setting for almost a year and a half now, so I am in close proximity to people undergoing the most intense suffering and hardship imaginable. I have a friend at therapy who has no taste buds, which makes me so grateful for my ability to taste (especially since I can eat now!) I look at all the quadriplegics I’m around, and I do not feel as bad about being in a wheelchair and unable to walk normally—at least I will have that opportunity someday, which they may not. I have a friend who knows what words she wants to say, but she cannot say them because of her specific brain injury. I suddenly feel less bad about my weak and distorted voice, and I am just grateful I can communicate. Another fellow rehabber has progressively gone blind since I’ve known him, which makes me so thankful for my ability to see—even if it is really messed up. As I have mentioned before, many of the patients I have been in contact with in therapy have injuries which have completely taken their minds, their social awareness, their cognition, their memories. Mercifully, God spared me from that living hell, which I am immeasurably grateful for. If you ever want to find a reason to be thankful for your health, visit a neuro-rehab facility!

More to come …

More ‘Lessons Learned the Hard Way’

Monday, September 21st, 2009

I do not pretend to have all the answers. I don’t. I have many more questions. The most persistent question is “How could this happen to me?” What these lessons are about is another way for me to cope. As you will read below, Catharsis is healthy!~~

If you are new to my situation: I suffered a massive bleed in my brain and it resulted in a brain-stem stroke. After almost a year and a half, I cannot walk, my face is paralyzed on one side, and I have severe double vision. I also have a retainer-like device that helps me speak and swallow. I am in bad shape, but I feel extremely hopeful about the recovery process!

Jay Wolf is an Incredible Man

(I mean my husband, but Pastor Jay Wolf is an incredible man, too). Beyond the love of a care-taker that I already wrote about, Jay has proved to be a very great man throughout this ordeal. He was a great man before (I did marry him afterall), but I saw much more than met the eye. This Alabama Fraternity boy with a great family who was a preacher’s kid (and we know those frequently have issues) has turned out to be a tremendous person. It is a blessing that the world is getting to see what I saw. He spends hours on the phone with the Insurance company (enough to make anyone crazy) and then he cooks all the meals for us. He picks out my outfit every morning and then dresses me before therapy. He does many things a man should never have to do, much less at our age. Jay has let me mourn and cry throughout this. I used to cry myself to sleep at night and he has allowed me to do that. He would just put a comforting arm around me and whisper that everything will be alright. He is the ultimate encourager as well. He always tell me I am more beautiful with half a frozen face than any girl normally looks. He also forces me to work really hard. He spends hours working with me outside of therapy and helping me relearn to walk. I always knew I married a wonderful guy. I never knew just what an amazing person he really is.

A random testament of his greatness: After my 13 hour facial reanimation surgery, I had had nothing to eat in over 31 hours (because I couldn’t eat a day before the surgery). Jay had been sitting in the waiting room for over 15 hours waiting to see me. When he finally was able to see me, I evidently (I have no memory of this) asked for food because I was so hungry. He said I could not get anything to eat (because the doctors had told him it was not safe for me to eat right after the surgery) and I got really angry. I was still delirious from the anesthesia, and I told him to get away from me and then I slapped him across the face really hard. In his superhuman ability to stay calm and loving, he stayed by my side and comforted me the rest of the night. WOW – what a great man.

Water is Healing

Since I had a feeding tube in my stomach for 13 months, I was not able to submerge it in water and thus was not allowed to take a bath or go swimming during that time. I must tell you that being able to get back in the water has been amazing. I love my pool therapy so much. I feel like being able to move somewhat normally in the water has reminded my brain what it feels like to walk and will continue to be integral in my physical healing. I love and have always loved being in the water. I LOVE taking hot baths espicially. James will get in the bath with me, which is a great bonding time for us. It is wonderful for me to soak in the tub after a long day of therapy. Margie K- I agree, there is nothing a hot bath can’t cure! Now that I am able to, I drink a lot of water. Sparkling water is actually easier to swallow, so I drink a whole lot of that stuff. My favorite is Sparkling Water with lime flavoring – it is so refreshing! I think all this water is good for the body and soul.

Life is Stranger than Fiction

A very brain damaged girl at Casa Colina (known to readers of my mom’s blog as Miss A), would point at me, make horrible gestures, sob, and scream profanity every time she saw me. She claimed that Jay raped her, and she was carrying his child as a surrogate for us. This was especially painful as I came to terms with the fact that I may not be able to have more children. At the time, this was not funny at all, now we can sort of laugh (so as not to cry!) about how bizarre this actually was. You could not make her up. Life is stranger than any movie or TV show I have ever seen. That is just one of the many stories that I could not have ever dreamed up before this happened. Even the events of the past year and a half of my life are a story that I could never have made up.

Nothing is Wasted

I had been saying this frequently even before my brain injury. I believe that everything that happens in life can be used in a very positive way, EVEN a TBI (“traumatic brain injury”). It’s hard to say that now, but I do know that this time is not being wasted and so much is coming from this season. From all the people who are being inspired by my story to all the lessons I am learning about myself, I know this happened for a reason. In many ways, the most difficult times in life really are the most rich and deeply meaningful, as the Lord uses the pain and the reliance on Him to create something new in our hearts. It would be easy to just want to go to sleep and wake up again when everything is “better” but then I would miss out on all of the challenging, glorious, refining, beautiful, redemptive things that God has for me during this time.

The Brain can Rewire

Without giving you a science lesson, the brain has the ability to “rewire” or compensate for areas that have been taken away. It is called Neuro-plastisity. In my case, because the right cerebellum was removed, the left cerebellum is learning to take over in its place. The neurons are transferring over so that I can do the things I need to do like walking again or using my right arm and hand. This very hopeful fact again leads me to believe that God had a meaningful purpose in my injury. Unlike a spinal cord injury, for instance, which I am in contact with every day at therapy, the specific injury to my brain offers an opportunity to be prayed for to a state of restoration and to show God’s unbelievable creation of the brain.

Always have a Goal

In the early days, my goal was to sit up in bed and be able breathe on my own and be taken off life support. My next goal was to be able to love on and hold my precious little boy, speak again, and get the trach out. My goal in therapy right now is to walk again, speak normally, and eat a big ole steak and a loaf of bread! My next goals are all family/holiday related. (I think I could write a book about the importance of family.) I want to be at my Uncle Juke and Aunt Harriet’s house for Thanksgiving (I want Nenie’s cream corn!), to visit Caesar’s Head, see Big Daddy and Bobbie in Palm Beach, be at FBC Montgomery for Candlelight service on Christmas Eve and be with the sweet Simmons family in Florence! Some of my many long term goals are to be able to take care of James, lead more discipleship groups, perhaps model again, encourage people with my story.

[A word about modeling – I never cared much about it, but it enabled me to do some really cool things, get great free stuff, go cool places and it is awesome money! For instance, I highly doubt I would have paid the $70 to get in Disneyland, but when modeling for Disney, you get to go for free…Disneyland Tiki Room Link) — I just cannot imagine why that mummu is on sale!? (It’s OK to let out a deep guttural laugh out after seeing that- that’s why I put it on there!)]

Quite Instantly, Life Can be Turned Upside Down

I went from making pies in my little kitchen to making sticky notes about what day of the week it was and playing UNO with 70 year old men. I went from learning to make the ‘world’s best brownie’ to learning to write my name again. I went from living a happy normal life, to living a nightmare where they kept asking me what year we were in and who was the current president. I went from going on playdates with girlfriends to going to course on “brain injury education”, “cognitive reasoning” and “disability adjustment”. I went from power-walking the hills of Pepperdine to having 4 physical therapists and a walker while I tried to walk one step. I went from wearing a cute outfit every day to wearing adult diapers and hospital gowns. My life changed dramatically in an instant. I put James down for a nap, began making meals for two new mothers and ended up in the hospital. Life is so fragile and so short and can change like you would not believe, in the blink of an eye. Every moment in life is valuable because we all know deep down that the next one could be our last.

Listen to Your Body

Before my AVM rupture, there were not many major warning signs, but looking back, it’s easy to see how my body was trying to tell me that something was wrong. Throughout most of my life, I have dealt with fainting spells. I still have scars from falling down a set of cement stairs when I was in 5th grade at Athens Academy. In college, I emceed StepSing my sophomore year. They had a little platform we stood on that would go up and down between performances. I became so dizzy on it that I actually went to the doctor. He diagnosed me with Vertigo and gave me a prescription. Had he ordered a MRI, then the AVM would have probably showed up. A month and two weeks before my injury, I was in Wyoming and I got a severe headache. I thought it was the altitude. Two days before my injury, I was swimming with James and I got a terrible headache. I told Jay I must be allergic to chlorine! Luckily, once the AVM did rupture, Jay and I knew that it was something incredibly serious. My extremities were going numb and I began to throw up but I was lucid and talking normally. Still, Jay wasted no time in calling an ambulance and getting me to the emergency room without delay. If he had not acted quickly based on how I was acting then, I would not be here today. One of the most incredible examples of this notion of listening to your body is from a woman in my church out here. A couple months after my AVM, she was experiencing headaches and blurred vision. Based on what had just happened to me and realizing that major health issues can happen, even when you’re young (she’s also around my age), she went to UCLA’s neurology department to get checked out and was diagnosed with an AVM in one of the lobes of her brain! She underwent a surgery, also by Dr. Gonzalez, to prevent her AVM from rupturing. Thankfully, the surgery did just what it was supposed to and she is doing great! Above all, I have learned the importance of listening to your body and taking small issues seriously.

All you need is one

I usually say this to young girls about getting married. However, in my case, I am talking about my neuro-surgeon. Dr. Gonzales told us he just felt that he needed to take my case. There is no question, he saved my life. Since my injury, we have heard of several people in our extended circles back South who had similar brain bleeds, like mine that were unable to be saved because there was not adequate medical support where they were. It turns out that being near UCLA was not the only key to my survival, but Dr. Gonzalez specifically being on call that day was literally why I am here today. Months after my injury, Dr. Gonzalez presented my case to a large group of UCLA doctors, and all of them assumed that I had died based on my statistics and emergency room x-rays that he showed them. When he told them that I was alive and doing therapy to make a full recovery, the room burst into applause. Shockingly, every other doctor in that room said they would NOT have chosen to take my case (because it was so likely I would die or be a vegetable) and would NOT have performed my life-saving surgery (because of the great liability of operating on someone who was so likely to die—particularly the wife of an attorney!), but luckily, Dr. Gonzalez “just happened” to be on call that day and “just happened” to have a feeling in his gut that he could help save my life.

More to come…

Extra Lessons

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

I don’t know why I did not share these before. I meant to. Because of the incredible reaction from so many of you, I will be sure I share more lessons as I learn them. Here are a few more lessons God is teaching me from this time of intense suffering…

Never Take Anything for Granted
‘You Don’t Know What You got ‘til it’s Gone’ – I keep hearing the lyrics to that song in my head (the Amy Grant version, of course!) I would love to scrub the kitchen floor. I could think of no job I like less than scrubbing/cleaning/washing the kitchen floor. Now, (since I can’t) I would love to. Before I could swallow, I would have loved to drink a glass of water. We’re not talking Filet Mignon, just a glass of water. I posed for many pictures before my injury, and always hated posing for them. Why did we have to take pictures before opening our Easter baskets or on Christmas morning? How I regret ever wishing those moments away. I dreaded those 2am feedings for little James. Now, I would love to wake up in the middle of the night, walk in the baby’s room, and care for him.

Our Bodies were Designed in 2s
Having been pronounced deaf in one ear, makes me grateful I have another ear for hearing. Not being able to see out of my right eye makes me grateful for my left eye so I can see. Having a hand that has lost all fine motor coordination makes me thankful that I have the other hand that is functioning normally. Lastly, I am so grateful that I have a leg that works normally. Even though I cannot walk yet, I am grateful that I only have to retrain one leg to walk again. There is a purpose for everything.

South Africa is a great Country
Similar to SOUTHERN California and the SOUTHeastern United States, SOUTH Africa is very special. My dear friends, Mia and Francois, have made me love this country even more. I have been to Johannesburg and I have visited Kruger Park (which is beautiful), but I did not have the opportunity to get to know many of the people. From all of the emails, guestbook comments, letters and packages, etc. I have seen how incredible this country actually is.

The Brain is Fascinating
I had a recurring dream in ICU that I was in a motor cycle crash of some kind. Now, I realize that was my mind attempting to make sense of what happened to me. I named my right leg Harley and my left leg Davidson as a way to honor that. I have never been on a motorcycle in my entire life, and yet, in my dreams, I fell off of one and that is why I ended up in the hospital. What is truly fascinating is how I somehow knew I had had a brain injury. I mean why didn’t I think I had cancer or a tumor or something? While I did not have a motor cycle accident, it wasn’t far from accurate. It was a “TBI” or “Traumatic Brain Injury”.

Time is a great Healer
Part of this whole ordeal is the passage of time. Whether I like it or not, the passing of time is what heals the body in so many ways. I had a horrible rash that looked like acne after my facial surgery. Now, 3 months later, the rash is almost totally gone. Time made it go away.

Aging is So Hard
I am around almost all people who are much older than I am. Especially in pool therapy (because of how easy swimming is on the joints), just about everyone is in their 80s or 90s. I am the token 27 year old. We all have a good time in our wheelchairs– I am like their little blonde mascot! Anyway, I have a whole new respect for how hard the aging process actually is. It is so hard. It is also really sad. These people have the most to offer of anyone in our culture, and yet their voices are not often heard. Aging is so hard because elders have so much experience and yet their vessel to share that is falling apart.

Process and Progress are almost the same word
Everything about this story is a process. Just like eating was, progress is slow. I could add food back in really slowly. ‘The Hardest thing about Brain Injury is the Recovery’ is a frequent quote in therapy. I am learning patience in the most radical way I could imagine. It is all a process, but that does not mean I am not progressing.

Even ‘Medical Miracles’ have Bad Days
One day this whole dark season of suffering will be a memory. One day the ‘Glory Story’ will be told. One day the miracle will be fully revealed. However, One Day is not always a huge comfort. It is still hard and sad and painful. While I may tell the world my story one day, it is still horrible today.

Strangers can be so Kind
A guy named Charlie (who I have NEVER met) created and runs the katherinewolf.info website where many of you are reading this. I get mail constantly from people who live all over the country who write that I have inspired them. As much as ‘People say the Darndest Things’, people –even strangers—can be so kind.

Prayer is Powerful
David Martin, Billy Irvin, and Edna Shell have led a group of people who gather and pray for me every Monday at noon since this happened. My Uncle Donald in Texas said that he thinks some people’s lives are spared because of so many praying people. I know I am one of those people.

Keep praying – it is powerful.

More to come…

Love,
Katherine

Lessons I’m Learning – Part 3

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

When everything else is gone, Hope remains
This is self-explanatory. Just about everything has been taken away from me (physically), but Hope remains. I feel Hopeful about my full recovery and also the rest of my life. I feel Hope in abundance. I know God has a future and a Hope for me. My cup runneth over.

Attitude is in fact everything
We all know this, but it is true. Having a positive attitude has been REALLY helpful for my recovery. All my therapists have told me that they know I will recover because of my attitude.

Don’t Compare Yourself to other People
I am currently the patient who has been in therapy the longest at Casa Colina. We say the reason is that I have really good insurance! The reality is that I am still there because there is so much more work for me to do to heal. Almost all my close friends are having babies right now. I have been to a baby shower almost every Saturday in April, May, and June. It could be really painful to sit in a wheelchair and watch these girls celebrate such a special time in their lives, but I am just so happy for them. Instead of being jealous, I choose to celebrate as patients go home, friends have babies, and that I have another day to be alive!

People Say the Darndest Things
I had a friend tell me (before I was swallowing) that it could take six years before I could eat again. Another friend told me he was mad at God because I used to be so beautiful. Careful what you say – both of these comments will stick with me as long as I live.

There is a time to cry and a time to put on your big girl panties and DEAL WITH IT
I have done my share of crying. When I first moved home, I would cry myself to sleep every night. Being at a neuro rehab, I have seen A LOT of crying. There is a time to cry, it is healthy. However, there is also a time to pull it together! A woman (who I did not know) came up to me at therapy and said, ‘I don’t cry because Katherine doesn’t cry’. (I thought to myself, ‘I’m glad you don’t see me at home’!) But, it’s true. At some point, you have to embrace your reality and suck it up!

Medical professionals are amazing, but they are not God
I love doctors, nurses, therapists, and medical technicians. They are wonderful. However, they are not in control of every outcome. They told Jay before my surgery that I probably would not live. They told him afterwards that I would most likely be on a machine for life or in a persistent vegetative state. Early on, a therapist told Jay I would never swallow again. Guess what? I’m alive, on NO machines, and I swallow like a maniac! God is bigger and better than our minds can comprehend.

Eastern Medicine isn’t that weird after all…
Let’s be honest. What good Southern, Christian, Caucasian female doesn’t think Eastern anything is weird. I was so wrong. I get acupuncture once a week and think it is fabulous (I do listen to Romans on my IPOD during every session). I take countless supplements some of which are totally homeopathic. I do many Yoga poses in Physical Therapy and feel they are helping learn to me walk again. Eastern is great with this Western girl!

Life Goes On
The world did not stop on April 21, 2008. My world was turned upside down, but the lives of others have not been. There have been funerals and weddings and babies born to many loved ones of mine. The best man in our wedding, Daniel, got married last Fall. Jay was supposed to be in the wedding and had even purchased the outfit. He thought we would go and I would be wearing high heels and dancing at that wedding. Little did he know, even a year after the injury, I would still be in a wheelchair. We did not get to go to that wedding. 7 of my closest friends have had babies since the injury – Anna, Abby P, Cilker, Mia, Kristin, Liz Sh. and Michelle G. (I love you all and your new babies!) They could not put their lives on hold just because mine was. That would be even more of a tragedy.

True courage is getting out of bed when you don’t want to
There are plenty of mornings when I do not want to go to therapy. I want to pull the covers over my head and pretend this all had never happened. The Courage comes in when I sit up and face my day, knowing that I am severely impaired.

There is a difference between Believing in God and Believing God
I have believed in God for years. I don’t think I have always believed him. There is a difference. I think I finally get it now. Believing God means believing what He says is true. He will not abandon or forsake me – I believe that!

Live like it matters. Your life can change at any moment
I feel like this is the strongest message to come out of this. If you look at my age etc. you would think this could never happen to me. I guess the bottom line that my situation proves is that you need to live today as if there is no tomorrow. You never know, there may not be…

Once again, this is not THE List. This is just a few lessons I’ve learned so far. Selfishly, I love writing these out. I continue to learn these lessons as I share them with you!

Lessons I’m Learning – Part 2

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

So, I have decided to do this in multiple parts. I added a few and took a few out. Thank you for all the encouragement, sweet emails and guestbook comments. I will post the final lessons whenever I finish writing them…

A sense of humor and deep-rooted optimism can take you very far, faith can take you even farther
I have relied on humor and optimism to survive this. Because my voice is so weak and strange sounding, Jay and I will often laugh at how I say certain words now. I used to have the nickname ‘Pollyanna’ because of my tendency to be so optimistic. I do not think I could have survived something this terrible without a positive attitude. Far beyond humor or optimism, my faith is really what has taken me to where I am today. In fact, I am not sure how else you survive something like this. I am fascinated to learn how people with no faith could live through something similar. There would be no Hope. Praise the Lord, I have Hope!

Babies are very Resilient
James has been really strong through all of this. (I have a learned a thing or two from him!) He went from being an exclusively breast-fed mama’s boy to being cared for by a myriad of friends and family. He will still go to anyone and seems to have such a sweet spirit. He has been ultimately flexible and learned how to be very gentle with Mama. Because of his ‘Mimi and Honey’ aka Kim and Mary Ruth, he has grown and developed just like any 1 year old. He also happens to be exceptionally adorable and I can say that because he looks nothing like me!

Live in the moment.
I always thought this was a strange, existential worldview. By nature, I am a planner and enjoy making plans for the future. Now, I cannot even plan what will happen tomorrow. I have realized that living in the moment is key to recovery and a biblical philosophy that I now subscribe to. In Matthew 6, and throughout the bible, we are told to ‘not worry about tomorrow’. It’s true. I’m not.

Accidents Happen, but make Safe choices.
Oh my goodness! Being in a neuro-rehab, I have seen so many tragic accidents and also brain injuries that could have been avoided. In life there are things beyond our control like being hit by a drunk driver or developing a debilitating disease, however, when in your control, BE CAREFUL! Things like smoking and extreme obesity are tragic. Nothing is worth jeopardizing your health.

The South is a Special Place
(Obviously, I love SOUTHERN California. We have recently bought a house here and I think it is a small taste of Heaven. However, the below is true and there is no denying that Southerners are ultimately loving.)

I have received mail every single day but two days of this ordeal. I bet 80% is postmarked from the Southern United States. Georgia and Alabama in particular are wonderful (as are all of the Southern States.) From the first moments I could day dream again because I was out of my coma, my mind would wander to being in Athens and even being at Lake Hartwell. The support has been phenomenal from my hometown! Among my very first memories is day dreaming of being 12 years old at Camp Desoto in Mentone, Alabama. Going to college in Birmingham, marrying a guy from Montgomery and camping in Mentone have made me loooove Alabama. The support of so many Alabamians throughout this time has been a deepener of my love. People like Tanya McLemore in Montgomery, Al. have written me a letter every week for the last year. It should be noted that sweet people as far as Alexandria, Virginia have prayed for me and believed God for a miracle. The South has so many wonderful people!

Hot Coffee is a delicious drug. A true gift from God
Having gone without it for so long, you would think all cravings would have desisted. Not true, I craved it more and more and more. Not a morning went by when I did not want a hot cup of coffee. I have had extremely low energy since the brain rupture. One reason for the cravings could be the effect that Coffee has on your system. In addition to being delicious, coffee would give me a little boost that I love. My brain could be craving it because of the effect and all I knew was I wanted it because it tastes so good!

Caretaking is sacrificial, powerful, and unconditional love
Jay has been affected by this as deeply as if he would have had the brain injury. It has changed his life dramatically. He chose (almost immediately) to be my full-time care giver. Even if we are in the middle of an argument (yes, we still argue), he still has to put Mederma on my scars or put lube in my bad eye. The physicality of our interaction is a lesson in sacrificial love. Jay even shaves my armpits – now that’s love!

More to come —

Love-
Katherine

The Lessons I’m Learning so Far

Monday, July 6th, 2009

For those of you who are new to my story: I suffered a massive bleed in my brain just over a year ago. The Surgeons had to remove part of my brain to save my life and in the process damaged 6 intercranial nerves which meant I could not swallow for 11 months and still have a face that is paralyzed on one side and cannot walk. I was on Life Support for 40 days after my surgery. A year later, I am still in full-time therapy. I have many big issues, but I am alive and grateful for everyday that God has given me.

My best friend/roommate for 3 years from college, Cilker (her bday is today!), recently visited and introduced me to her new baby boy. Her husband asked me what I am learning from this time of intense suffering. It got me thinking and I decided to write down a few ‘revelations’ from this time…

(so many of you have asked me this and I have soooo many lessons that God is teaching me, here are just a few of them…)

What happened to me is extreme, but the feelings and themes are universal
While most people can walk and drive and I cannot, I am willing to bet they do not feel free. While most can eat normally, I doubt they feel fully satisfied. While most people do not have a face that is paralyzed on one side, I doubt they feel beautiful. While most don’t have the trouble I do speaking, I doubt they feel understood. While most people do not have double vision, I doubt they see everything clearly. I am sort-of a microcosm for what we all feel.

Fattening Food Tastes better
Since I did not eat anything for so long and lost over 30 pounds, I have been eating a whole lot of food I would not normally eat. It is delicious! Have you had any whole milk in a while? If you are being really indulgent, you might drink 2%. Never whole, though. It is sooo good. Have you had your favorite King-Size Candy Bar in a while? AMAZING.

Perspective is so important in all situations
This has been horrific, no doubt. However, being at a neurological rehabilitation unit has been great for me. It gives me a picture of what intense suffering really looks like. My experiences at Casa Colina have expanded the borders of my perspective as I have observed the suffering of others. Seeing this suffering has helped me feel gratitude for the problems I am not facing and fighting. I do believe that pain is pain – no matter the form, but perspective is also perspective.

When experiencing extreme humiliation, always laugh
I used to wet the bed every night and I just had to laugh about it. There have been so many embarrassing things throughout my health crisis, and I have always known having a sense of humor about it made them more bearable. Luckily, I am around a lot of really funny people. My Father is hilarious. Amie (my middle sister) is one of the funniest people I know. She would sit in the room with me in the hospital and make me laugh. My Dad said at our Rehearsal Dinner that humor can get you though the hard times. I believe it.

A support system is key to recovery
I had over 100 friends gather in the hospital during my surgery. For the first 3 weeks I was in ICU, someone was in the waiting area 24 hours a day. They actually called my area of the waiting room ‘Katherine’s Corner’. I have told you before about the insane amounts of emails, facebook messages, texts etc. that I have received every single day since this injury. Out-of-town visitors have come in abundance to share their support. In addition to being scientifically proven as a facilitator of healing, my personal experience verifies our deep need for encouragement. With a health crisis like mine, you long to feel that you are not alone. Your online support has been life-giving to me. Isolation is one of the natural responses to intense suffering, but Support is the key to recovery. That leads me to…

The Internet can be used for great good
You have probably heard about the pornography, identity theft, and cyber bullying that happen through the evils of the internet. I agree- those are terrible, but there is also great good from this tool. There are 9 websites dedicated to what happened to me. The two main ones have received well over one million hits in over 100 countries. WOW. This is very unusual. If you are reading this on caringbridge, take a look at any other website. They maybe get up to 10,000 hits after several years. The amount of online support is incredible. This allows people (like you) to track my progress and see how I am doing. Plus the instant information of the internet allows people all over the world to pray with greater efficacy.

Families were designed for a reason
All sides of my family have been incredible throughout this ordeal. There is just a bond I have with my immediate family that could never be changed. Through extreme humiliation, Amie has made me laugh. Through many tears, Mom has comforted me. Through many hardships, Grace has supported me. Through so much heart ache, Dad has kept me from falling. They have sustained me. They have all risen to the occasion! They say when you marry, you marry the family. Well then, I am very blessed. The Wolfs have been amazing. They are just incredible people.

We are all dying everyday
I became (unhealthily) obsessed with Heaven after the rupture happened. Reading 90 Minutes in Heaven was so enthralling to me. Now that I was recently given the Kindle, I am refraining from downloading every book I can on the subject. I think I was so infatuated with Heaven because I knew how easily I could have been there. I think understanding where we are going is crucial to understanding where we are today. I love the verse in Ecclesiastes, “God has set eternity in our heart.” I think we all desire to know that there is something beyond ourselves. – Something that will live on in eternity. Whether today or in 60 years, we will all die. It is very important to know where you are going. I am so glad that I know.

In life there are problems beyond our control. Don’t create more!
I feel very strongly about this one. Horrible things happen in life – TRUE problems. What happened to me is one of those. However, I think so many times we make mountains out of molehills. Things like petty gossip are ridiculous. Let the little things go. I have a whole new take on the expression, ‘well, if it’s not life or death…’. I have a friend who says that, “there are people who have problems and there are people who wish they had problems”. A mentor of mine says that “there are people who have problems and people who manufacture problems.” Amen and Amen.