Thursday, August 27, 2015

Thankful Thursday #146



thank·ful

adjective \ˈthaŋk-fəl\
: glad that something has happened or not happened, that something or someone exists, etc.
: of, relating to, or expressing thanks
Source


Welcome back for this week's Thankful Thursday post!

We are currently winding up Moira's second week back to school. If you remember from last week, I talked about her switching from a traditional brick and mortar school to an online virtual public school. These past two weeks have been packed. Last week, I reflected on some of the things I am thankful for which had to do with this new learning environment.

This week, I really have to expand on that. Not that there's nothing else to be thankful for, but it seems like school is just about all we've done in the last week. The weeks are very busy. I'm not sure if it's typical, but Moira's spending 6-8 hours a day doing school work. Think about it. How much time would a child spend in a regular school doing actual hands-on learning? She's not being slow with her lessons. It is just taking that long. There is that much work.

Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining. One of my issues with her school last year was that she did not seem to be challenged. She never had homework and it seemed like she was just breezing through the work. She was in the gifted and talented track, so she should have been challenged. Can I just say that you should be careful what you wish for! This online school has more than addressed that issue.

I am grateful this week for what seems to be an exceptionally full curriculum which is providing a more challenging learning environment for my daughter. She is learning so much these last couple of weeks. She is loving the platform on which she is learning. She is enjoying the content. She loves the live lessons where she gets to interact with other students in her classes. Her teachers are wonderful so far. We haven't "met" them all yet, but we're working on it!

I am thankful for an excellent start to this new school year. It's a whole new frontier for us. It's got a learning curve, but we're getting the hang of it. As her learning coach (not teacher, but rather encourager, supporter, cheerleader, and question answerer), there's a learning curve for me as well. It's very different. I am thankful for the facebook group which I joined which is for people in our state who are choosing this as their school for their student. There are seasoned learning coaches as well as newbies like me. I am getting so much support and encouragement from these ladies. I've even been able to answer a question or two myself for someone needing help! I am grateful for this support. It would make everything so much more difficult if this group didn't exist!

Here's to a wonderful school year ahead!

What are you thankful for this week?





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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Thankful Thursday #145



thank·ful

adjective \ˈthaŋk-fəl\
: glad that something has happened or not happened, that something or someone exists, etc.
: of, relating to, or expressing thanks
Source


Welcome back for this week's Thankful Thursday post!

I am easing back into this blogging thing having written a few posts last week and none so far this week! Baby steps, right?

This week has been quite busy and by the time bedtime rolled around last night, I realized I didn't even have time to think about a Thankful Thursday post much less write one!

This week I am thankful for the thing that has kept me so busy.

School.

While many people are sending off their little (and not so little) children to school, a great many are choosing to homeschool. After much discussion at the end of last school year, we decided that we needed to change what we are doing for our daughter's education. There wasn't anything necessarily wrong with the educational side of her schooling, but there were many aspects of that particular school which left us feeling like it just wasn't a good fit for our family. We looked at traditional homeschool for a while but, quite honestly, it scares me. There's also a significant financial investment in homeschool curriculum and materials that would be needed to facilitate homeschool.

One of my biggest fears about homeschool is one that may not even be a legitimate fear, but I suspect I'm not alone in having it. I fear the big transition from homeschool graduation to college. Or from homeschool back into regular mainstream public school for that matter. Moira has also been in Gifted & Talented for the past several years as well as being involved in Duke TIP. My biggest fears were her not being able to get the level of education she needs to excel and succeed.

I will reiterate that these are my fears and they may not have a basis in actual fact. I don't know. I did not go to university to learn how to become an educator or an administrator, so I fear that I would not make the wisest decisions to ensure the best possible outcome for my child.

I stumbled upon the world of virtual online school. In this day and age, it is not surprising that this is now an option for children to start as early as Kindergarten. There are some excellent online schools out there, just as there are many excellent traditional homeschool curricula. Again, the online schools come with a hefty price tag. I'm not opposed to paying for a quality education, but for us the timing for this added cost isn't the best. We're trying to save for a house and, being realistic, having an additional bill doesn't help facilitate that!

Then I learned about Connections Academy. This is an online virtual public charter school. It is available in several states (not all) and it falls under whatever school guidelines are set in place by whatever state you are located in. It is public school, so it is free. Well, tax money aside!  The curriculum is state regulated, so there is no worry that students won't meet qualifications for college based on curriculum. It's a public school, so it has teachers. The onus is not on the parent or home educator (whoever it may be) to personally teach every single subject which they may or many not themselves be qualified to teach. It is public school. But it's done at home. It is not homeschool, but it is school that is done at home - or wherever the student happens to be.

After gathering information, we decided that Connections Academy was the best fit for us at this time in our lives. It solved a great many needs for our family without putting additional stress on me (as the "learning coach" as I am called) to be responsible for teaching - and teaching the right things.

This week, I am thankful for this version of "homeschool" - even though it's not technically homeschool. Here are some observations from this, the first week:


  • We can get up as early as we want and start the day when Moira's ready (which has been around 7:00am each day);
  • We can work at Moira's pace - if it takes her 15 minutes to finish a lesson or 3 hours, it's at the pace that she can manage;
  • I can sit alongside Moira all day and watch her learn. She has online lessons and she has "live lessons" where the students are actually in a live presentation listening to the teacher speak while they ask questions in the chat pod on the side. I am right beside her, so when she's having a difficult time on a question, she can turn immediately to me and ask;
  • It offers flexibility. Yes, there are "set" live lesson times throughout the week, but some are recorded so those could be viewed at a more convenient time. Moira had a dentist appointment the other day. We did most of her work beforehand and then picked up the rest when we returned. No school absence, no doctor's note needed, and no missed work! Similarly, she has to go back today for two extractions. Her days have been on the long side so far, but yesterday was lighter. This was very helpful because it allowed her to work ahead and get most of today's classes finished so she wouldn't have to worry about not completing work because she wasn't feeling well after getting a couple teeth pulled;
  • Moira is enrolled in Gifted & Talented classes in addition to her regular 6th grade classes;
  • I can sit with her and spend quality time with her. It's been wonderful to have this time, especially when we can sit and laugh with each other over silly things;
  • No car-rider lines!!!
There are so many reasons we are loving Connections so far. Our first week has been a huge success so far. As of right now, I can safely say that we made the best decision for our family!


What are you thankful for this week?




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Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Turning Point

Seven years ago, we were a family of four living in Houston, Texas.

Ron was working in a decent paying job with limited upward mobility. I was working a full time job and caring for a then two year old child with multiple special needs with increasingly demanding medical needs. In addition, we had a family to take care of like any other normal family. 

I had worked out an arrangement with my work which allowed me to work from home one day a week. This meant on that one day, not only did I have to work an 8 hour job, I had to handle all the medical appointments I had to schedule on that one day a week. It was meant to take the burden off of us as both Ron and I were constantly leaving work to handle therapy and doctor appointments. Realistically, though, it just wasn't possible to maintain this schedule. It was impossible to have 3 days of therapy on that one day a week. It was also impossible for me to work 8 hours AND handle everything Peyton's schedule demanded, which meant I was making up those 8 hours on the other 4 days of the week by going in to work at 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning and working an hour or more past my "regular" day just to make up those 8 hours. Can I tell you that this schedule meant to ease our load actually made it far worse on us?

By May of 2008 I had burned the candle at both ends and was running on empty. I couldn't keep up the pace any longer. We are human - we are not machines. We weren't meant to operate like that. Despite our dreary financial situation at the time, we made the decision that I would quit my job in order to handle all of Peyton's needs and Ron would start looking elsewhere for a job. 

Very quickly we learned that we were going to have to expand the job search out of the state of Texas. We were open to that idea. We'd traveled west many times and loved the Denver area and thought somewhere in the mountains or maybe even in Arizona might be nice. That seemed kind of exciting.

Ron landed an interview with a company in Charleston, South Carolina. Not exactly the direction we were thinking, but hey, it was an interview. And it went well. It led to a second phone interview and ultimately they decided they'd like to fly him out to Charleston to interview in person. Somewhere around the 4th of July weekend in 2008, Ron was making plans to head east for this interview. We were hoping for good things because we really needed an income boost with our new situation. Ron flew out for his interview and he got the job! We went into full on preparing to sell our house and move to the other side of the country, with very little time to do it. They wanted him to start in mid-August! 

The original plan was that I'd stay behind with the girls and sell the house while Ron went out to Charleston. However, we decided that we'd all move out together. It would be easier on the family to do it that way. We moved to Charleston without every having been there (except Ron for his interview). We arranged for an apartment in a brand new complex which ultimately was way over our budget but convenient to many things. We also moved to Charleston without having sold our house. We did manage to sell it, but not before Hurricane Ike paid the Houston area a visit in September 2008. 

What started out as a move to improve our financial situation quickly turned into a financial fiasco. Nightmare might be too harsh, but it wasn't in any way pleasant. We had a mortgage plus a rental that was way more than our mortgage was. We had racked up thousands of dollars in medical debt with Peyton's issues. The housing market crashed right around the time we were settling into Charleston, which meant we made no money on the sale of our house. In fact, a clerical error caused us to have to pay a small amount to get out of our house. Then there there was the insurance deductible for hurricane repairs plus whatever costs we had to pay out of pocket which weren't covered by our insurance. Can I say I'm just glad we got rid of that house in December 2008?

This was our fresh start in Charleston.

We arrived the day after what was then the 7th anniversary of the loss of our son, Jeffrey. Yesterday we remembered 14 years. Today we celebrate 7 years in Charleston, South Carolina.

It was not an easy transition as you can tell. It continued to be difficult for quite some time. We had (and still have) no family in Charleston. Our support system here began as non-existent. We weren't in a church. In fact, we tried, but it was one singular experience in a local denominational church which led us to fall away from that denomination entirely.

The worst church experience of our lives was actually the best thing that church could have done for us. You see, while what happened was horrible, and it left us disconnected from a church for the better part of a year, it was towards the end of those tough months that followed that we were introduced to the church that we call home today.

Our pastor always says that God is at work on a solution before we even know there's a problem.

Seven years ago, we arrived in a city that was completely unfamiliar. We knew not a single soul. We had ever-increasing medical needs with Peyton in addition to being a family that was just trying its best to get by and have some semblance of "normal" amidst the chaos.

Seven years ago, we made a huge life-changing decision for our family based on the needs resulting from the demanding schedule and medical needs of one little person - Peyton.

This is why this day seven years ago is our turning point.

We made a decision that began a chain reaction which led to where we are today. I've documented so much of our journey in this blog and in Peyton's. I can tell you with absolute certainty that if it weren't for Peyton, we wouldn't be living here in Charleston.

If it weren't for Peyton, we wouldn't have been introduced to Seacoast Church.

If it weren't for Peyton, we wouldn't have come to know Christ.

This turning point led to the greatest legacy that Peyton could have left for us in her short almost seven years of life that she would have with us.






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Friday, August 14, 2015

Fourteen

Married in April of 2000, Ron and I knew that we wanted to start a family early on. That vision for our lives became real for us when we found out that we'd be having our first baby, due in December 2001. Excitement was high as we lived in anticipation of the birth of our first child.

Everything was tracking along as planned, but at about 6 months I knew something was wrong with me. I was experiencing weight gain unlike any I'd experienced up to this point. My feet we swelling to the point where it was causing pain. I thought my feet might explode. I sought medical advice, knowing that this wasn't right. I was met with virtually no response from my doctor. "Keep your feet up." was the only response I got. I wasn't satisfied with this because it didn't help. My mother's intuition was telling me this was not right. Unfortunately, the doctor did not take my complaints seriously and I wound up in the ICU clinging to life with severe pre-eclampsia. In fact, the hospital could not handle my situation. I had to be transferred to a large medical facility across town in Houston, TX where they could treat me appropriately as well as the baby should it be born that early. 

There is so much I do not remember about what was going on because I was so incredibly sick. I was going to be in the hospital until the baby was born - should I make it that long. I was hooked up to monitors around the clock. I don't know why they decided to "give me a break" from the fetal heart monitor one night, but they did. It was during that night that our precious baby passed away in utero. I remember the ultrasound in the morning - the one that detected no fetal movement or heartbeat. I remember the ultrasound technician saying nothing but disappearing quickly to get a doctor. I remember the devastating news that our much anticipated first child had died.

Fourteen years ago today, our son, Jeffrey George, was born still.

Labor was induced and I endured the long process of laboring through hours in the same way a woman about to deliver their precious live baby would. In the years that followed, I would endure labor two more times, delivering my daughters Moira and Peyton. Delivering Jeffrey was the same - except that we knew that we would never get to hear him cry. He would never take a single breath in this world. He was delivered and I held on to him for hours following delivery.

One of the most difficult things in life is to lose a child. Letting them go - well, there are no words.

Just a year and three months into our marriage, Ron and I were dealt a tragic blow and our lives were forever changed. We were not in relationship with Christ at the time. We went to church sporadically and we were not being filled when we did go. Ron and I had a good relationship, but this event tested the limits of it.

Looking back, I have no idea how we endured the loss of our son. Our marriage shouldn't have survived what we went through. In fact, there are statistics which show extremely high divorce rates after experiencing such an event. I don't know how ours survived, but it did.

As I sit here today, I know that God carried us through this time of our lives, though it certainly did not seem like it during those painful years that followed. We didn't come to Christ until after 2009, some 8 plus years after losing precious Jeffrey. In the time in between, I suffered another life-threatening event where I developed massive blood clots in both lungs (two weeks following this stillbirth), an early miscarriage, another round of severe pre-eclampsia and yet another massive pulmonary embolism in both lungs (the worst the head of the ER of a major Houston trauma center had ever seen without the person being dead). We've endured even more tragedy and loss since we came to Christ.

Our fifteen years of married life has been marked by numerous tragic and life-altering events. Yet somehow we are still standing together. I know now what I didn't know then - that God's hand has been at work throughout our married life, carrying us through events which seemed insurmountable, events which would would break some people, events which would cause some people to turn their backs on Him.

I have learned much in the last fourteen years. God has been at work through our experiences. I don't understand why we have had to endure so much but I know that He will use these experiences to help others. God "comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." (2 Corinthians 1:4) He has been faithful to us even when we haven't been as trusting in Him as we ought to have been, especially in those early times. 




Fourteen years have passed and I still miss Jeffrey terribly.  I treasure the hours I held him - all 1 pound three quarters of an ounce of him - in my arms before it was time to let go.  I look back on the years of misery that I unfairly put myself (and others) through.

I can't change who I was then.  I didn't know God.  I didn't understand anything about relationship with Christ or walking with the Lord.  I probably would have scoffed at the idea of this being part of a plan.  In fact, I probably did.

I know now that I still don't understand why events transpired the way they did.  I don't understand why anyone has to lose a child at any stage of pregnancy or at any age thereafter.  It's not right.  It's not the natural order of things.  But I do know that God does, indeed, have a plan.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV)
If I knew then that God was for me and not against me.  If I knew then that God was with me no matter what circumstances I found myself in.  If I knew then...

I think in the grand scheme of things, the loss of Jeffrey, as difficult as it was, was the very beginning of our road towards Christ.  A long road to be sure.  A dirty, pothole-filled, gravelly, rocky, scary road at times.  I know I couldn't see how there was any "good" in what happened.

Romans 8:28 says it this way:
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
I may still be trying to discern the purpose in all of this, but I know that our journey - beginning with this great loss - has brought us closer to God than we have ever been in our lives.  I know now that God is for me.  I know that He has been with me through every single trial I've endured.  I know that He is my strength and my comfort.

Yes, things happen that we cannot predict or control.  God knows our journey.  He knows our sorrows and our trials.  He knows us.  He is strength in our weakness and in our weakness we are made strong.
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  Therefore I boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." (2 Corinthians 12:9)



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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Thankful Thursday #144 - A Reboot



thank·ful

adjective \ˈthaŋk-fəl\
: glad that something has happened or not happened, that something or someone exists, etc.
: of, relating to, or expressing thanks
Source


Welcome!

It's been quite a while since I blogged. After the loss of my daughter Peyton in May of 2013, I fell out of writing regularly. Honestly, I just wasn't feeling very inspired to write. I felt a great many things over the past couple years, but "like a writer" wasn't among those feelings.

I have missed the blogging community. As seasons of life change, so do the things we involve ourselves in, and this community is one which has taken a back seat to the more pressing needs of myself and my family. After beginning the year with prayer, I was given the words "Be Still" as my theme. I have tried to honor that in many ways. It has been important for me to try to still myself so that I could hear God's voice. I have been praying for my purpose; my "next". I am still not entirely sure what that looks like, but I have felt like I am finally starting to be able to hear God speaking to me. That's been a hard area for me.

In this blogging life, I have written 143 past Thankful Thursday posts. The last one was written just over a year ago. While I've continued to give thanks, I haven't written down those things for which I am grateful. I'd like to begin again. I have found in my life that perspective can change for the better if you just stop and give thanks for the blessings in your life. It truly changed my life. Gratitude can be a game changer. It can be a life saver.

While I haven't been connecting online through this blog over the past year sharing these blessings, I have had a number of significant things change in my life. I'll focus on one are for now.

My health.

When I wrote my last Thankful Thursday post, I was just short of a year after having torn a tendon in my ankle, which led to surgery - but not before I experienced a massive life-threatening pulmonary embolism. Depression coupled with lack of mobility brought me to the heaviest weight I had ever been in my life, outside of being pregnant with severe pre-eclampsia which had caused massive weight gain. The day I stepped on the scale and saw that weight was the day I was decided that enough was enough and something needed to change.

Last August 17th, I got on MyFitnessPal. A pastor at our church, who is also a trainer, hooked up with Ron and I on the app so that we could be accountability partners. Can I just say that trying to manage new health and fitness goals is so much easier when you have people you can be accountable to? We began tracking everything we were eating - good and bad. Ron had been working out with this trainer for several months already, but he was needing a jump start to get back in gear. I was invited to join in on these intense workouts. Think CrossFit.

Since last August, I have grown to absolutely love working out. Yes. Me. I never in my life would have dreamed that those words would escape my lips. That said, over the last year, I've been working out two or three times a week with this trainer. We did that regularly til early July. In May, Ron and I did a month long #IronTribe 101 at our local IronTribe gym. in addition to our regular two or three times a week with the trainer. Time, finances, and life have us pared down to doing #DailyBurn workouts at home. Today marks 4 weeks since I began my free trial. In those 28 days, I have done 36 workouts through DailyBurn. This is a fantastic program. The workout program I chose out of the many options available was a program most similar to the workouts I'd been doing with a trainer. I wanted to keep up the intensity and level of difficulty that I'd been doing. If you are familiar with DailyBurn, I'm doing #BlackFire with Bob Harper. That program is no joke!!

As far as nutrition goes, I have had a really difficult time for pretty much most of 2015. At one point, I had lost a total of 40 lbs! However, once this summer hit, it became more difficult to keep up with the diet end of things. That said, I am still down 35 lbs from the weight I was in August 2014. I don't consider 5 lbs over my lowest weight to be too tragic. That said, I need to get back on track. I read Bob Harper's "Skinny Rules" and found that it really was helpful. I need to get back on that.

As for fitness, I am currently working out 7 days a week with a couple extra workouts thrown here here and there just to keep it interesting. It is hard. It is challenging. This whole journey has pushed me far and beyond what I thought was possible. I can do things I have never done before. Box jumps? No problem. But they scared the life out of me a year ago. Burpees? Bring it! But I still hate them. I really hate burpees. Weights? Yes. I learned how to deadlift. I pushed myself past my limits. I pushed through pain. I persevered through horrific workouts. I have survived. I have gotten stronger. I am in the best physical shape of my life at age 42.

Don't forget. All of this happened after a torn tendon in my ankle which required surgery, physical therapy, and much work to get to a point where I could even start exercising safely (I started 8 months after surgery). This happened 10 months after life-threatening blood clots in both lungs. I had been released from my Pulmonary doctor's care just prior to starting my workouts. His parting words to me - "Go out there. Be active." I did not leave his office and run to the nearest gym, but little did we know how active I'd become!

If I can do this, there's a good chance you can too!

Health and fitness. That is what I am thankful for right now.

What are you thankful for this week?





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