Feeling Less, but I know I am so much More

**** this is not my normal laugh at what my kids did post. No this time, this one is about me****

Blah blah blah,

That’s how I’ve felt the last few days (okay weeks) This whole hysterectomy thing has really hit me hard in ways I did not expect.

Back in 2006 I had a procedure done where I was told it would be nearly impossible for me to get pregnant again. At the time I was trapped in an unhealthy, abusive marriage so I was fine with not being able to have anymore children. Bringing more children into that situation would not have been good for anyone. So I accepted my fate and moved on with life.

Fast forward a few years and I find myself divorced and personally struggling with not being enough for anyone. I had been told for years I was not smart enough, or pretty enough, and not worth being loved by anyone. In my mind I wondered who would want someone so unworthy like me? Would anyone ever be able to love me and all my brokenness?

Things slowly changed when I was reintroduced to Todd. In 2009 I was still struggling with my self worth but he made me see myself in ways I had never seen myself before. I was lovable and beautiful in my own ways. He loved me for who he saw me to be not the person I had been told for years I was.

After we were married I often wished I could give him a child of his own, I knew it was close to impossible but I held onto that ever so slim chance that one day it could happen. As we became foster parents and eventually adopted our five little loves the personal need disappeared. That was until I heard the words “complete hysterectomy” come out of my doctors mouth.

Those words played over and over in my mind on my four hour drive home a month ago. This phrase meant I would never have another child. That slim chance I had clinched to over our marriage was now gone. I felt the struggles of my old inner self, doubting myself worth. I would be less of a women, less of a person, I would not be whole. I would not be enough. It’s strange how things you have no control over mess with you on a deeper level.

I didn’t want to but I had surgery a few weeks ago. Those first few days after I don’t remember much, other than my mom coming into the room and asking my if I needed anything or asking me what cartoons the kids could watch (eight year old viruses a two year old. Got to find a middle ground) As I started to physically heal my emotions were all over the place. I caught myself thinking What will my husband think of this me? What if I can’t be the same me I was before surgery?

I could not do much of anything so it was the perfect time to dive into the Bible and spend some one on one time with my Lord. Page after page lead me to a story of someone who thought they to were not enough but God used them anyway. In His eyes we are enough. In fact we are more than enough when we seek His guidance and look to Him for our strength. My “inside parts” do not define who God wants me to be. They are not the only things that make me a woman and I am certainly not less of a woman now that they are gone.

Our society has, for lack of a better word, has brainwashed by setting a strong definition as to what a “woman” is. But that’s not ALL a woman is. We are strong, beautiful, independent, confident, caring, nurturing, and loving. Some of us have no children some of us have ten kids. So of us work outside the home some are stay at home wife’s/mom’s. Some of us run marathons while others prefer to dance. We are all different, yet we are all beautiful in the eyes of our Lord. He does not make mistakes He only makes masterpieces.

Do I feel different? Maybe a little. But I know I am still the same person I was. It’s kind of like a jigsaw puzzle. My grandmother use to always work on them. Sometimes we would run across a puzzle she had picked up at a yard sale or at Goodwill and she would have “extra” pieces. After she fixed the puzzle she would just throw the other pieces out because they were no longer needed. The puzzle was already beautiful. I no longer needed my “extra pieces”. God knew I would still be me.

A Little Time for Me

Hello everyone, it’s been a little while. I took a few days (weeks) off from my blog to prepare for all that this summer will hold.

My little loves are now on summer break. We don’t have any major vacation plans so that means for the next few months the majority of my time will be spent at home with our kiddos. So far the first week of their summer break we have spent most of our time inside due to the massive amount of rain we are receiving. Needless to say they are ready for some prettier days so we can be outside. I’m ready. Bring. It. On.

We have all heard the saying In order to care for others we must first take care of ourselves. I for one am not the type of mom that normally goes off to do “fun things” without her husband and children in tow. But this year I took some time for me before our summer actually began. Before the judgement starts let me explain.

My mother has always wanted to go on a cruise. So with her recent retirement and her birthday in mind, my oldest daughter and I planned a Girls Trip for just the three of us. We gave her a photo of the ship for Christmas and giggled as she thanked us awkwardly for the piece of paper. When we explained to her what the paper represented she was in tears. For the next few months my oldest and I planned out the details of the trip to ensure my mom’s first cruise was a success. And it was. From the moment we left the house, to seeing mom see the ship for the first time, to her birthday drink, to her clogging to the country karaoke, to celebrating a young couples engagement and everything in between it was a wonderful trip. I’m so thankful we took it together. I needed some time to just be Crystal and not “that mom of seven” or “the foster mom”

We returned home and my little loves were on their first day of summer break. My wonderful husband, amazing dad, and fantastic son took care of the little ones while I was cruising the Bahamas. I could not ask for a better support system.

When I returned home I was hit with news from not one but two of my doctors offices. News I knew was coming but had kept to myself and tried not to think about it. First I was given my date for my hysterectomy. Mid June. I can do that. And then the insurance company finally approved my next round of injections for my spine, also in June. As I made preparations for both I could not help but think how perfectly timed our girls trip was. I needed that trip to just be me and relax and not worry about all the chaos in our lives. I needed that time so I can be the best me I can be for my kids, my husband, and my family.

As a wife and mom my job is to take care my husband and our children. I can’t do that if I don’t take care of me first. I know things will be fine, I have the best doctors around. And I know that there are far worse things going on in the world, even in our family, that God needs to focus on. I don’t worry about me I worry about how things will affect our family. I guess that’s normal. The next few weeks are going to be crazy around here. Definitely not the summer I had planned but it’s what we have been dealt and we will make the best of it. Together.

It’s important for moms (and dads) to take a little me time every now and then. Most of us can’t take vacations all the time, and even if you can I’m sure your children go with you. I’m just saying it important to spend some time by yourself, come think about it I still had my twenty three years old with me so I was technically not childless but you get my point. I do take a few minutes each day for me. Read a book, watch the sunrise, sip a Dr Pepper and eat a donut in the bathroom, read a devotional, go to the bedroom and just sit in the quiet, or whatever you need to do just make sure you take a few minutes to focus on you. Your husband and kids will thank you. Be the mom you want to be and the your kids deserve. I hope everyone enjoys their summer. Time to go watch a movie with my little loves. Until next time,

TAKE CARE OF YOU! You are smart, you are loved, you are beautiful inside and out, you deserve to be the best you you can be❤️

Missing A Call

Tomorrow is my birthday. Over the last 41 years I have heard the story of my birth from different points of view, but by far one of my favorites is the way my grandmother tells it or should I say never lets me forget.

It was Easter Sunday. And like most God fearing Baptist women, my grandmother had went out and purchased a new dress to wear for the Easter services at church. In today’s society we buy new clothes at the drop of a hat and think nothing of it but back then money was tight. Buying new clothes from the department store was not done often. In fact my grandmother made most of the clothes the family wore, but once a year, on Easter, well now that was a special day and my grandmother had sought out and found the perfect Easter outfit. That Easter however God had bigger plans for her than showing of her new dress at church. Grandma, me and all my kiddos

The story goes she was getting ready when they called to let her know my mom was in labor. Not wanting to get the smell of the hospital on her new dress she quickly changed before coming down to the hospital to wait the arrival of little ol me. She never made it to church that Easter, instead she welcomed a new granddaughter into the world.

She had a sense of humor about her and as I went though my twenties and thirties she would call me on my birthday, to wish me happy birthday and to remind me that she didn’t get to wear that pretty new dress. The conversation was always short and sweet, she didn’t see the need to stay on the phone to long. But her calling made my day. Grandmas are special.

As I was getting ready for bed this evening I realized I won’t be getting my call tomorrow. And that makes my heart sad. I miss her so much. But as I think back over the many things we shared the story of the day I was born makes me smile. We shared so many wonderful memories together. I was blessed to have her for 41 years my children had her in their lives. She taught me to love the Lord, to love my family, to enjoy game shows and candy. She taught me to quilt and she tried to teach me to cook (some things just can’t be done) She may not have got to wear that pretty new dress 42 years ago, but I bet you anything she is rocking an amazing dress just for me this year. And I’m sure she’s looking down laughing saying something like, Looky here baby girl isn’t it beautiful? I finally got to wear it.

Yes, yes you did grandma.

Grandma I’m sure your dress is gorgeous and I know you’re rocking those new angel wings. I know you can’t call me tomorrow but I know you’ll be with me. Let me fell your presence as only you can. Going though life without you these last few months has been hard, I miss you everyday. I will be looking for your sign to me tomorrow, I know if anyone can get a message from heaven to earth it will be you. Continue to guide me until I see you again. Love you ❤️

Mamaw’s Chair

My brother and I spent a lot of time at my grandparents house when we were growing up. They lived just up the holler (up the road for you city folk) which make it easy to see them everyday. We spent our evenings there until mom and dad made it in from work and during school breaks they also watched us during the day. Most of my childhood memories come from that house. Many of those memories are centered around a chair. An old spinning leopard print chair.

For as long as I can remember the chair has been part of our family. From what I can remember my grandmothers brother, my great uncle, gave her the chair. After a few years my grandmother wanted to replace the worn out upholstery. Her brother offered to take it to where he worked and replace the fabric for her with some that the shop was trying to get off their shelf. The end result a leopard print chair that matched absolutely nothing.

My brother and I would spend hours spinning in that chair. I can remember many times we would be in the chair and our grandma was yell in and tell us, You better not be spinning in my chair. You know someone could fall off and get hurt. All the while our grandpa was the one spinning us faster trying not to laugh. Good times. Precious memories. As the years went by grandpa replaced the legs as they wore out. With four different legs the chair did not set level making the spinning even more exciting to my younger self. Keep in mind this was our entertainment, there were no IPhones back then.

After my grandparents passed away the chair ended up at my parents house and when I got married the chair moved in with me. And just like my brother and I, my daughter and son enjoyed countless hours spinning in the chair and using it to make the best living room forts.

Fast forward to three years ago and we were now we are foster parents/ parents to four new little loves that also loved this chair. The forty plus years of childhood spinning had caught up to the chair. And one day while wild man and Diva were playing the back broke completely off. My heart sank and I cried for days. I could not bear to throw the chair out but we could not find anyone willing to repair the chair. So I covered it and placed it in our garage.

The chair moved with us when we came to Tennessee. Everyday I would see it in the black plastic in our garage. After we were all settled in I called around looking for a furniture repair shop. A few could do the upholstery work but not the repair while others could do the repair but not the upholstery. I was being to think my grandmas chair would never be again. Then I found a man named Jack. He told me that he would be more than happy to reupholster the chair and that he was sure his good buddy could repair it. I was excited. So early in December I dropped the chair off to his shop. I gave him the background story and he said he would try to match the fabric. I knew that would be a long shot so I told him if he could not to just do a soft black, grandma always wished it would have been plain to match her other furniture. I was not surprised when he called and said he could not find the print anywhere. Sad but not surprised. He went with a solid black and it was ready to be picked up.

So a few days ago I made my way over to his shop and picked up my grandmas chair. When I walked in and saw it I cried. It was beautiful. He had not found the print to match but he had found the original legs. He loved the story behind the chair and even kept what he could of the leopard print so that I could make a pillow or something with it. I could not thank him enough for saving the chair for me.

I brought it home and it now has a new place in my living room.

I know it’s not the leopard print that it once was but I do believe grandma would be pleased with how it turned out. It still stands out and will now be able to withstand many more years of children giggling while they spin around. And who knows maybe one day down the road my future grandchildren will smile as they recall the good times they had at grandmas spinning in her old chair just as I do. To many this is just a chair, but to me it’s memories, it’s a piece of my grandmother. It’s love and laughter. It’s part of my childhood. I am so thankful to have it back. Me and Sadie girl in Mamaw Sadie’s chairThe next generation of spinners

Then Jesus moments

Hello my friends. I hope the New Year is treating you all kind. So far it’s been good to me.

I was excited to get to back to church as the new year unfolded. I had surgery on my back in November and between the recovery and holidays I had not been able to go. (No worries the kids and I still got our Jesus on with songs and praise here at the house. They love “Jesus music”) I hate missing church and was thrilled to be back surrounded by fellow believers.

The message was out of John. A message that I have heard many times over the years. Short version: Jesus is away teaching when He receives word that his friend Lazarus had fallen ill. By the time Jesus made it back to his friend, Lazarus was died. Then Jesus spoke “Lazarus come out” and Lazarus did. (You can read John 11 1-44 for the full scripture text)

That’s the power of Jesus. That’s the beauty of miracles.

What are your Then Jesus moments? This was the question our Pastor asked. And I have pondered the answer to this question for over a week. Have I even had a Then Jesus moment? The answer is yes. Many actually. They might not be as big as Lazarus rising from the dead, but they have saved my life in more ways than one.

The night my husband (now ex-husband) tried to end my life comes to mind. In the mist of the attack I begged for my life, he laughed and said he could throw me over the banister and everyone would assume I had fallen down the steps. I dangled over the staircase with thoughts of my children and family racing through my head Then Jesus spoke to me and said “You are not alone I have you.” As I felt Gods presence I found myself back on the floor. He had changed his mind about throwing me over.

After my divorce I focused on my two children. I had no interest in finding someone. I would not put myself or my kids in a position to be hurt again. Then Jesus brought Todd into my life. He made me smile again, laugh again, and love again. Things I thought I would never do again. For the first time in years I felt safe, loved and wanted.

Then Jesus placed us on the journey of foster care. Our world has changed in so many ways not only by the children we have been blessed to adopt but also with the children that were with us for just a season. Our eyes and hearts have been opened to things I did not expect. My older children have grown in the process as well. They take their roles as Big Sissy and Big Bubby very serious, it warms my heart just thinking about it.

With our children we have experienced Then Jesus moments countless times. From car accidents to illnesses, college acceptances letters to working IEP’s, from autism diagnosis to RAD diagnosis, and everything in between. The fact is Then Jesus moments happen all the time, we just need to recognize them. They may be moments were you decide what job to take, or how many kids to adopt. They may be moments where you get to make an unplanned trip back home to see your mamaw. You get to sing with her and she asks about all the kids. The following week you get the call she’s gone. They may be moments of healing from illness, or cancer, or pain. They may be moments your autistic son says I love mom. They may be moments of all your kids get along. Then Jesus moments happen everyday everywhere. We have to open our eyes and see more of what is going on around us.

We may not all of moments like Lazarus, and that’s okay. Our moments make us who we are who God wants us to be. Take a few minutes (or days) and think about all the Then Jesus moments in your life. I’m sure it will bring a smile to your face.

Thank you Jesus for all of my Then Jesus moments. You have been with me through my darkest nights and brightest days. Your unending love brings me comfort when I can’t make sense of this world. Thank you for believing in me and providing me comfort when I need it the most. I look forward to seeing what you have in store for us next.

Love and prayers always

Robot Mom 2.0

In order to fully understand this post please go back and read my blog Part Mom/Part Robot sort of.

My last surgery, I was told the new batteries they were placing in my SCS’s (spinal cord stimulators) would last me between five and six years. That was last June. This past Friday I found myself back in the surgery room undergoing the knife one more time to replace the batteries. Where did my five years go?

Dealing with back pain/neck pain has become part of my normal. I do not complain about, it’s just part of who I am. Maybe it’s because I don’t complain that people do not see me as someone who suffers with a chronic pain. Just to clear things up not all illnesses or health issues can be seen. Just because someone is not in a wheelchair, or using an oxygen tank, or someone is not using crutches does not mean they are fine. Many chronic illnesses or pain issues can not be seen with the naked eye.

It is much easier to say I’m fine when someone asks how I’m feeling than to actually go into what all hurts. It’s been my experience that when most people ask “How are you doing?” they are just making small talk they don’t actually want to know how your doing. The truth is most days I am fine. The SCS’s have really made it possible for me to keep a somewhat normal life. But there are days I hurt, days I can’t move, days I wish the accident never happened. On those days I wish people could really see what’s it’s like for someone to live in constant pain. Days like today.

A few months ago my generator started saying it was time to replace my batteries. I thought there had to be a mistake so I called the doctor and scheduled an appointment. When I went in I was met by the doctor and the programming team. They laid me down and ran the scans to see what was going on.

They adjusted the programs and reset the batteries and sent me on my way. That lasted three weeks before my unit started flashing replace batteries soon. I called the office back and scheduled yet another appointment. At this appointment it was confirmed that my SCS’s were in fact dying. Both batteries were going bad, just my luck. After father investigation it was determined that my spine is covered in scar tissue (countless surgeries will do that) making it hard for the electrical current to get from the leds to my spine. This was making the batteries work over time to get push the current through in order to keep the SCS’s working. That in turn drained the batteries, which is why my five to six year battery life only made it a year and four months.

So Friday I had yet another surgery. New larger batteries were placed in my units (one on the left side of my lower stomach area and one on my right side lower back area). They worked on my one on my back first then flipped me over and replaced the one in my stomach. In a few days I should be back to my normal but today I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck.

This will fix the problem short term but there is still scar tissue around my spine so another, more complicated, surgery will be needed down the road. Sooner than later. It seems to be never ending.

But even with all the downsides I am thankful. I do hate surgery but because of it I am still able to walk. The scars will fade and the pain will subside. I am thankful because with each passing year the medical community gets closer to finding a way to permanently fixing those in chronic pain. I am thankful because with my SCS’s I am no longer on pain medication. I am thankful that I am still able to be the mother and wife God planned for me to be. I am thankful because I still believe in miracles and one day I will be healed. And oh what a day that will be.

From our beautiful chaos to yours don’t be so quick to judge others. Just because you can see their illness or see what causes their pain does not mean it does not exist. The strongest people I know cry behind closed doors in pain so they don’t worry those they love.

A Salute to My Favorite Veterans 

In honor of Veterans Day I thought I would talk about a few of the finest men I know.  I am honored to have/had them all in in my life.

I have several uncles that have served our country proudly.  Two however I would like to tell you about, my uncle A and my uncle L.  Both of these men helped shape my life in more ways than one.

When I was younger I belonged to a clogging (an Appalachian form of dance) team.  I along with my brother, mother, and father all danced on this team.  So did my uncle A, aunt and cousin.  We practiced weekly and on most weekends we performed at different festivals.  I loved those days.   Our two families are close thanks to those times.  We also spent many of our “free” weekends at my grandmothers and if we were there you could almost bet my aunt, uncle and cousin were there as well.  In fact most of my childhood memories include them.  I would give anything to have him spin me around the dance floor one more time to one of our old routines.

Now my uncle L is on my dads side.  He has a love for motorcycles and for Jesus.  He is one of the sweetest men I know.  He always has a kind word to share and he makes sure to tells me just how much he loves me every time I see him. When I was younger and still lived at home he, my aunt and their two kids lived less than a mile from me.  Family is everything to him.  And I will never be to old for one of his bear hugs.

I am blessed to have had both of my grandfathers serve our county as well.  Both Papaw W and Papaw L served during World War II.  Papaw W was in the Navy and Papaw L was in the Army.  My Papaw W always had a story to tell and made sure we knew who the greatest hunter/or fisherman was. Later in life he would quiz me on Bible verses or share a passage that he thought was interesting.  My Papaw L was my rock when I was a little girl.  I spent most of my early childhood days at his and mamaw’s house.  Having them as our neighbors made it easy to see them daily.  We would pass the days by working in the garden or playing games of Canasta.  I would ride in the back of his old black Ford pickup truck to the store were he would buy me a soda and candy bar for under a dollar.  Those were the days.  I would love to be able to hear just one more hunting story from Papaw W or to be able to play one more game of Canasta with Papaw L.  I know they both watch over me in all that I do.

I even married into a family that has served our country with pride.  My father-in-law was in the Air Force and my husband was in the Army.  My father-in-law fought in the Vietnam War.  He is the best when it comes to being an all around great guy.  From the first day I met him he welcomed me into his family.  He showed me how to eat chicken wings and helped introduce me to NASCAR. He is the first person people go to when something needs done.  He works with his church making sure all the local kids have food to eat through the back pack program and he is always the first one to offer to help if something comes up.  He would give the shirt of his back if he thought someone needed it. He is also a pretty awesome papaw to our little ones, just ask any of them.  When he says “I love ya girl.” I know he means it.

My husband, my hero, my rock, and my partner.  He fought for our country in Operation Iraqi Freedom.  He always has my back no matter how crazy things get.  He works hard to provide a good life for the kids and me.  He opened his heart up to foster care when many others would have said no.  He makes me happier than I have ever been. He is my shoulder to cry on, my go to guy when I need good laugh, and my stealer of the sheets at night.  My favorite place in the world is in his arms.

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I also have many cousins and friends that have served the Red, White, and Blue proudly.  To all of them I say THANK YOU!!!

The point of this blog is to show that our Veterans are not nameless people or people without faces.  Our veterans are everyday people.  They are someones grandfather, father, uncle, cousin, husband, son, daughter, aunt, mother, or grandmother.  They are real people with real families yet they choose to serve to give us the freedoms we have.  They sacrifice so much to give us opportunities many Americans today take for granted.  Freedom is not free.  It comes with a cost few are willing to pay.

So today, as well as every day, if you see a veteran thank them for their service.  I am honored to be part of a family that has served our country over the years.  To all those that have served or are currently serving I salute you.  Thank you for being you.  And God bless you.