Consider It All Joy … Last post?

I wasn’t sure how this blog was going to end, in fact I’ve been trying to figure it out for quite a while.  I’ve learned so much and want to live differently … but to be honest it’s been hard not to fall back into the same rhythms of life.  Drop-off, work, homework, dinner and do it all over again … my mind keeps thinking “Is this really how my life is suppose to go?  Am I destined for more purpose, a higher calling … something that puts a spring in my step?  I love my husband and my kids, I know there is so much purpose in this life of mine but could there be something else that I am suppose to do?”  Answer … I have no idea, just living each and every day with the goal of thanking God for all the details he has allowed me to experience.  And above all else I am doing my best to slow down, take time for people and love this life I’ve been blessed with.

One quick update, Tuesday I went in for my first MRI.  Good news, the doctor is happy with how it looked.  There are two unknown spots that he is going to keep an eye on … but I got the thumbs up for another 3 months.  Praise God!  I know this journey is not over and as I continue to seek the Lord and increase my trust and reach out to others I know this has all happened for a reason.  Now what the reason is … I’m not sure, but I’m anxiously awaiting to find out and maybe, just maybe it will be my higher calling!

If this is my last post, (not sure but perhaps) then I would like to share what I have learned the most.  It will be a little different because instead of reading you get to listen.  I had the extreme delight of being a seminar speaker at The Awaken Conference at my church two weeks after my surgery.  It was a youth conference so I’m really encouraging students but I also had you all in mind.  I hope you enjoy learning a bit more about me and my story … to tell you the truth, it was hard to share a lot of my past trials but also freeing to be so brutally honest with my struggles and how God can use them for good.

The audio clip is on vimeo.com hope you enjoy and I’d love to hear your responses, answer any questions you may have and please reach out to me if you need someone to walk through a trial with you!  I love you all, thank you for being so amazing through my journey of trust!

Day 17, November 10th – Making it Home … and How Are You? thoughts!

I’ll never forget the day we left the hospital, getting into that wheelchair as Sergio wheeled me out the front doors back to the valet parking area.  It had only been 4 days since I walked in here, and yet it felt like so much longer than that … so much had happened and I’d experienced so many highs and so many lows.  And as I sit here, 10 weeks later, remembering that day … I must say that the highs and lows continue.

As my love quotes when asked how we are doing, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.”  If you haven’t known me long, you don’t know about my extreme fascination with Forrest Gump … it started my senior year of high school when the movie first came out.  He’s referring to me and how every day is different in how I’m feeling physically and emotionally.  It’s hard to even answer or explain when people ask!  If you haven’t noticed, “How are you?” is a very loaded question.  To be quite honest, many people aren’t prepared to hear the real truth nor do they even want to.  I don’t know how the question “How are you?” became so trite.  And the answer even more so … “oh good, I’m fine.” Even when we aren’t fine … why do we all say that??  Is it that we want to appear fine, so we can hide how we really are, not becoming a blubbering mess in the middle of public.  Or is it because we just aren’t willing to admit that life is tough, total denial that sometimes we can’t handle all that is being thrown at us?  Or one more option … maybe we just fall into the HABIT of not being real with each other.  Habits take all shapes and forms and I believe we can fall into this habit if we aren’t very intentional with how we interact with the people around us. Even with those closest to us, we can hide who and how we really are.

I’m not telling you what to do, well kinda … but it’s just my opinion so treat it as a grain of salt if you don’t like what I have to say.  First to the question ask-er … don’t ask that question unless you really want to know and you are willing to listen to the response.  It isn’t something you have to ask, (right?) if you don’t have the time to follow it through.  Several times each week I get the statement … “You look so good, you must be doing good!”  Inside I’m thinking … yes I can shower and dry my hair and get dressed but that doesn’t mean that all is good with me.  But I just smile and say thank you and yes things are going well … because to a certain degree they are going well but I get this feeling that these lovely, well meaning people maybe don’t want to hear the messy truth, it might be more than they can take.  My response lately when asked is  … interesting, it’s been interesting!

Secondly to the responder … let’s be real and willing to let people in to who we really are, not the best version of ourselves we are constantly trying to portray.  I’m all for being the best version of myself, but not when it’s a show.  We all have bad moments, days, seasons and years.  When we are caught in one of those times … we are counted as blessed, “for we know suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”  When suffering comes, let’s face it with purpose and authenticity, it’s the only way we develop our character.  I will be honest that these past 10 weeks have been some great times and some not-so-great times!  As I look back before my surgery, God gave me so much peace.  And while I know that He has been faithful through this season and will continue to give me peace, some days it’s hard to hold on to it … I lose heart and get sad and discouraged, scraping myself off the ground to keep going, knowing that He will see me though!

So we made it home after what seemed like the longest 90 minutes ever.  The road was bumpy and loud and bright.  I needed something to keep my mind off it all so I requested a recap of the James Bond movie that Josh went to see … but I wanted the long version so we would be home by the time the story was over.  You all probably know by now that my husband doesn’t talk much, so this was a labor of love to recount all the details and keep my mind engaged so the drive would go as fast as possible.  We were driving through the village of Arroyo Grande when the credits were rolling, perfect timing!

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This is our first night all back together!

Day 17th – November 10th … The Revealing of the Scalp!

It’s finally Tuesday … Going home day! I confess I was really scared, I didn’t know what it was going to be like at home, if I’d be able to adapt and the kids and all that noise… and then there were those stairs and Josh needing to go back to work. Here I was stressing and I wasn’t even home yet! There was still so much to do before we could even leave, maybe … just maybe I should take it one thing at a time.

Josh headed back to the cottage to pack up, shower and get my meds from the pharmacy. The wonderful Emma, my RN in training, would help me shower and wash my hair … Finally. I was so excited to get the gunk out and my hair wet.  It had been four days since surgery and I still hadn’t seen my incision, I was a little nervous at the reality of it all.  I was so used to seeing the bandage on my head, it seems so not a big deal.  Kate, my nurse navigator, showed up right at this time so she took off the bandage.  Her first response was “Oh Wendi, it is looking really good! Go look in the mirror.” My heart kind of jumped, not knowing what good means when you are talking about an incision in your scalp and staples holding your skin together. So I went into the bathroom and started my inspection… to be honest it scared me!  I was thinking this really happened … I have the war scar to prove it. By this time, Emma was ready to wash my hair so I had to move on, no over-thinking this was going to help anything!

I’ve got to tell you that the warm water over my scalp was heavenly, yes my incision spot was tender but I couldn’t really feel anything, the nerves where they cut in were totally dead by the time Dr. Park sewed me back up.  As I write this almost 7 weeks later I still don’t have much feeling … a brush over my head feels weird, like I have the pins and needles and it doesn’t feel like I’m actually touching it.  Will that come back?  I’m not sure!!  Emma was ever so careful when she brushed out my hair, revealing this crazy, almost Lord of the Rings scar you would see on an orc’s skull.  She was so funny … almost impressed as she finished and said, “That is so bad-ass!  I wouldn’t mess with you!”

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If you look carefully, I have 13 staples … I didn’t realize this until I was home when my mom was washing my hair and I asked her how many there were, just out of curiosity.  If you didn’t catch it before … 13 is my birthday and favorite number and was my Daddy’s sports number and mine too.  My surgery was on day 13 of this blog and now 13 staples … God loves math and numbers, did you know that?  For me He has turned the unlucky, rejected number 13 into such an amazing reminder.  God is in control of it all, even down to how many staples would be put in my scalp.  I’m blown away seeing how He is in all the details, while holding the universe in His hands.  Coincidence some may say … I think not! It is unthinkable to not recognize His handiwork and divine plan. I know there are some of you reading who don’t believe in this amazing God, I so wish you would reconsider.

 

Day 16 – November 9th … Boot Camp & Anxiety Attack … Not a Great Combo

It’s Monday … and honestly the morning went so fast, before I knew it my mom and sister where there. Josh and Brenda gave them the plan for the day and what their responsibilities were … Bren headed home and Josh headed to the movie … This is when that actually happened!

Our first step was a shower and real clothes. This sounds easy but it took a lot of time and I was exhausted by the time I was done… But we did it, clothes on. I had to take a rest … then there were all kinds of people in and out to check on me, clean our room, discharge instructions … And then a spiritual counselor named Lolita came in.  What a sweet lady! She just sat and listened to me and shared Scripture with me and prayed for me … I was so encouraged!

About this time my mom and Heidi were going to get some food so they headed to the cafeteria and I had dinner. I don’t know how it happened but all the sudden this crazy fear struck me and I felt the prickling in my scalp and the mild headache growing on my brow … It was time for more pain meds but it hadn’t been long enough … Only every four hours. I started to panic and texted Heidi that I needed them back there ASAP. Well this started a full-blown anxiety attack … By the time they arrived back to my room I was shaking uncontrollably and the pain just seemed to get worse. I had 10 minutes to wait and they seemed like the longest ten minutes.   My mom and Heidi put pressure on my legs to keep me stablized and we just got through those 10 minutes. Then my nurse, Haley seemed to be taking her sweet time but no it wasn’t true … Just the anxiety talking! She finally gave me the Norco but remember only oral meds today … No IV, we have to wait for them to kick in. This takes at least 30 minutes! I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to have my mom and Heidi with me that day … Angels to be with me and really listen to how I was feeling. I will never forget the way they held me during that anxiety attack. Thank you Mom … Thank you Heidi!

This continued to happen in the hospital and I found a way to get through it … I put on my For All Seasons music and got out my verses to read… Deep breathes and surrender of my will stopped the anxiety. This may be a good time to share about the nasty Norco and how the anxiety continued when we got home, all attached to me taking this terrible drug. I thought that I had the anxiety under control when we got home, but the devil was really trying to get between Josh and I.  You see he isn’t much of a drug person, he doesn’t even take Advil for a headache … Unless he is really hurting. So I think the thought of me being on the pain meds frightened him. He wanted me to be off the Norco like yesterday … but I was scared of the pain and the anxiety.  When we got home I had lots of anxiety attacks that I could cope with, through prayer and Scripture and music.  Then the next time it happened, it didn’t work … I was freaking out and began praying against the devil, telling him to leave in the name of Jesus, that he had no power in my life.  The anxiety attack left immediately.

The next day I got distracted, Brenda was here and all the sudden I realized that I had gone over 5 hours without the Norco, then another 5 hour chunk. Well Brenda left and then all the sudden I wasn’t doing so good, I had quite a headache and another anxiety attack hit. The worst thing was that it all began around 5pm, the kids had just gotten home and I was upstairs pretty miserable. I was in extreme pain but I think it was the anxiety that made the pain so unbearable. This is when I went a little physco … pounding on the wall, demanding Josh to call my doctor, my surgeon, go to the ER … anything to help. It felt like Josh was taking forever and thinking I was a crazy person. I was not myself people … I was even scaring myself! They finally got a call from my surgeon to give me a Zanax to settle me down. It worked right away and the episode was over. My neurologist then warned them that Norco and Zanax is not a good mix and that I shouldn’t take any more.

Well the next day, it happened again and I’m embarrassed to say but I demanded another Zanax. I said the most terrible thing to my sweetie, something I can’t even bear to write, basically threatening him to give in to me. He was stuck and didn’t know what to do … He gave me the Zanax and then said he couldn’t take care of me anymore. For the next three days he just checked out … Joette took the next two night shifts by herself and Brenda came to do the third. We were not in a good place but it was unavoidable. It wasn’t until Tuesday morning when I took the last Norco … we headed to Santa Barbara and things began to get better. Honestly I think I quit cold turkey for Josh, in a way to prove to him that I was choosing him over the Norco.

OK long drug story but let’s get back to the boot camp Monday. After the anxiety episode, I recovered and then we had one more thing to do, walk.  We headed down the hall and made it to the elevators, across from the elevators were those stairs I had walked up the morning of the surgery, there was no way we were going up the stairs. We saw a bench and took a rest for about 5 minutes before I was ready to keep going. We made it to the lobby and rested again before heading back to  my room.

One thing I love is how all my conversations are just more real, no fluff! In the lobby that night was no different and I’ll cherish that time on the “walk” forever. I didn’t think I would be so tired just walking to the lobby and back. To be quite honest I was discouraged and realizing that this recovery was going to be harder than I thought. The pictures are from our walk … you will notice the big zit-looking thing on my forehead … For the record this is not a zit, (even though it looks like one) this is where they secured my head during surgery’ along with two other spots hidden by my hair. That stinkin’ thing is still not healed, but as I write this I’m at Starbucks celebrating one month out from my surgery with a White Chocolate Latte. I’m thinking of you Bekah Pogue … I’m at our Starbucks!

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Day 15 – November 8th … The Monday Plan & Where is my iPad?

Sunday evening was over, Josh returned from his night and we talked about the plan for the next day. We had seen Dr. Park and he thought I was ready to go home Monday. I just didn’t agree, I wanted a practice day at the hospital to be on all oral meds and besides I was so weak. My thoughts were, “How am I going to walk up my stairs at home? I haven’t even walked out of my hospital room.” So we arranged a boot camp day, my mom and my little sis Heidi would come and run the boot camp … Bren was going to head home to her family and they would be perfect. I hadn’t seen Heidi yet, so I was super excited about the next day and I was ready to endure the boot camp. There were a few things I needed to conquer … No more hospital gown, I needed to put real clothes on and a walk on my own two legs out of my room.

That night Josh headed back to the cottages to sleep and Brenda stayed one last night with me. In the middle of the night, of course I was awake after trying my hardest to sleep, I went searching for my iPad, thinking I could kill some time and be productive, (because that’s how I am even right after brain surgery!) Well I couldn’t find it … I guess Josh took it back to the cottages with him, by mistake? This is where the seeds of doubt and anxiety began. This is where Satan started his attack. Now that I’m on the other side, I can see what Josh was thinking or maybe the iPad was taken unintentionally, but at the time it felt like he didn’t trust me, that he thought I was trying to stay up all night when the real thing I needed was sleep. What he didn’t understand was that I just couldn’t sleep. I felt like he was being overly critical about everything and looking at me with different eyes … Eyes that didn’t have any grace in them. Now if you know Josh this does not describe him … My feeling were coming straight from the devil. So in the middle of the night I just got super frustrated, frustrated with Josh … the beginnings of a large stone wall began to form between my sweet, loyal husband and I. So sad … but don’t fret, the story will continue, it always gets worse before it gets better, so be ready for the next few posts.

Day 15 – November 8th … Nani & Kate, A Walk and A Skunk!

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It’s Sunday morning in the hospital and I wake feeling like I slept for an eternity, they did give me a sleeping aid last night before bed … Ambien. Anyway I woke up at like 3am totally energized and got out of bed and shook Bren … who was sleeping on the couch turned into a bed. My words were,  “I slept so long, I feel like I could run our half marathon!” Today was the day that we would have been running the Big Sur Half Marathon.  She was like that’s nice, I’m glad but how about you go back to sleep for a little bit? Now here comes the control-freak part, did I go back to sleep like I needed? No, I reached for my iPad and started writing on my blog. It felt noble sharing all these feelings and this grand adventure God was taking me through, and honestly I just couldn’t sleep. It was like the drugs were keep ping me so alert … So instead of the minutes ticking away this blog was keeping me company.

When morning came, I’m not as energized, after all I was up half the night writing. I’m feeling good though, I have the sense to start my day with the Lord. It’s Sunday and the last time I started my day this way was the morning of the surgery, how does that seem like so long ago. I read a Psalm every day, then read a chapter out of the 1000 Gifts Devo … This was a recommendation from my good friend and mentor De Morey, in fact the copy I have is hers, she loaned it to me. For some reason I think I have already mentioned this in a past post. What a life-changing book … Go get a copy, totally different than the book the Devo way better! Then I started reading a chapter of Isaiah, I told myself I was going to start after surgery and well this is the first chance I get. All I can say is that Scripture has just come to life, I love the book of Isaiah. I kinda read and pick the chapter apart, trying to make sense of it all and then write it down in my own words in the journaling lines on the sides of the page. You see I got this Bible for Raegan about 5 years ago … to write notes, prayers and encouragement. I’m planning on giving her the Bible when she starts high school, the exact time I started really following Jesus.

My last part of my quiet time is something I started with my Hub girls … that is my small group of high school girls that I lead for discussion during the last hour of youth group. Well about two months ago one of my girls, Alexa had an idea. Each week during Hubs we make a goal for the next week and then share it with the group. Now it can be anything … Reading Scripture, inviting someone to youth group, reaching out to someone who needs a friend … ect. Well one week I was really convicted that I live this Christian life and all but not actively hiding God’s word in my heart … Memorizing Scripture was my new weekly goal. So every week, those few weeks leading up to my MRI I was memorizing. Something I hadn’t done seriously for a long time and well .. I haven’t stopped. So I have this notebook and anytime I run across a verse that I just love and want to memorize it goes in the notebook. Every day I go through the notebook, from start to finish, quizzing myself on the ones I know and then reading over and working on the rest. My hope is that eventually all the verses in there will be committed to memory, but at the same time adding more all the time. Right now there are 24 verses in the notebook and I have 7 conquered … I have a ways to go. So that is my quiet time routine, my time with the Lord every day. Now keep in my mind, I am human and sometimes I fail.  I may miss a day or even a whole week because of poor time management or brain surgery! I tell my Hub girls all the time … Don’t read your Bible because you feel like you have to, that just creates guilt and shame. Read because you want to … And if you only have 2 minutes than that is a great start. It is all about your willing heart wanting to hear from our great God. When you don’t do it out of guilt, you will notice that slowly your desire will grow and the minutes will increase. The key word here is grace … God gives it to us, why don’t we give it to ourselves and each other?

Next I eat, bathe and get myself together because Joette, aka Nani and Kate, Josh’s sister are coming to visit on Kate’s way back home from spending the weekend with my kiddos. It’s so good to see them, we visit for about an hour before Kate has to hit the road to make it home to her sweet family. I’m so thankful that she took the time to be with Tobey and Raegan, what a treat for them! Nani stays and it’s perfect because Josh and Brenda can actually both have some time to themselves. So she gets to experience the crazy, somewhat manic Wendi. I seem to be doing so well because I’m so expressive but this is the Decadron giving me these feelings of elation, everything seems so wonderful in my mind.

After we get home, Nani jokes that every meal is the best meal of my life. I must say, it seems that way … And I’m so hungry, a side-effect of the Decadron, that I’m loving all the fabulous meals everyone is bringing us. I’m eating like every hour, which is crazy and not the best considering that the Norco has the tendency to completely paralyze the  bowels. So I’m seriously battling constipation … now my husband is wincing right now because there is no need to involve any kind of potty talk in any conversation, let alone on a blog, or so he believes … But I beg to differ in this case because this is the real deal, no covering up or skipping what really happened … The real story. It’s so bad that I’m in real pain, not head pain but stomach pain! I won’t go into the details but after some consultation from a friend I get back on track.

That night, Nani and Brenda are with me for the evening and Josh is off for a little alone time. He took off for a run from Cottage Hospital down towards the beach … It’s just around 2.5 miles, the perfect distance to blow off some steam and clear his head. After his run, he hits State Street for food and some time to chill. If you haven’t sensed this yet I am totally exhausting. I’m all amped up and talking loud and won’t stop trying to control everything. They are worried about me, I’m not resting and typing my brains off on this blog in the middle of the night.

Our hopes for a walk outside come true, we get a wheelchair and head outside. We laugh at the fact that they let us just go straight outside the front doors … We want to find the courtyard but don’t know how to get there from inside. So we take to the sidewalk, the bump at each line in the cement jolting me. This is my first time out of hospital and it is just past dusk, a little chilly but the air is so fresh. I’m breathing it in like I haven’t breathed in such a long time. We get to the gate of the courtyard and of course it is locked, so we know there must be another way.  Inside again, we find it and head outside … We take pictures and as we are going to head back inside a doctor tells us that we may not want to go back the way we came … There was an “angry skunk” by the back door. We are not thinking this would be a good thing to be sprayed by a skunk, so we brave it back out on the sidewalk, over the deep lines of the cement, into the front entrance of Cottage Hospital … By the way we told the front desk about the skunk!

Day 14 – November 7th … What a long day! Let’s clarify and SLOW down!

Ok folks … I got ahead of myself and I guess forgot when the whole movie thing happened (brain tumor)! The movie happened on Monday … Wow crazy how time can get away from you! How it is even possible that I could think that all that could have happened in one day. Well logic and reasoning have not been at my disposal as of late my friends.

This may be a good time to fill you in on something important that I’ve come to realize since I’ve been home … Something about how I tick. I am a control freak, yes Wendi Lou Lee, concerned about the smallest, silliest things! I like the dishwasher loaded exactly a certain way and laundry folded my way too. Josh may have had some influence on this habit, my all-hang dry man, whose grandfather owned a traditional Chinese Laundry Mat in New York in the 1940’s. I am exact with Tobey and Raegan too … A clean room means everything in its place. Why not is my thinking … For an 11 and 9 year old it doesn’t quite make sense. I also am the worse backseat driver when my hubby is driving, I take charge of all the directions and like to tell him which way is the fastest … Because I always seem to be in a hurry!

My husband on the other hand operates on a different clock, he is so relaxed. This used to bother me … And now I’m learning to embrace it. I want to forever do and be SLOW … For when you slow down and let go, there is so much more to see and people to invest in and a gratefulness in your heart to share how God is working. He is always working if we would just “slow down”.

Day 14 – November 7th … Josh’s Zzz’s and A Walk With Bren … Not!

I guess I got off on a tangent on the last post … If you aren’t used to that yet, then I’m so sorry but it is kinda part of this whole story. I’m telling what happened but at the same time looking into the deeper meaning of things and sharing my heart with you.

Oh .. and I totally forgot about my Mom and Curt coming by for a visit before they headed home.  It was quick, they were heading to Monterey the next day to see my uncle and the gang running in the race. There was one thing I remember her saying before they left … this takes us to another story from long ago. When Brenda and I were in Kindergarten our teacher asked us to draw the first thing that came to our minds when we thought of the word “high.” What we each drew is a little window into each of our personalities. Brenda drew a sky scraper … Strong and ridged and dependable. I drew a kite … Flighty and easily influenced but at the same time really fun! My mom has reminded us of this story throughout our lives and encouraged me to embrace the unique person God created me to be. She brought up this story again and told me with a smile on her face, ” I think my kite is back!” You see, she felt like I hadn’t quite been myself for the last few years … News flash … This tumor had been growing in my brain for they think probably at least 5 years. She felt I was overwhelmed and stressed and just not the joyful daughter she knew was inside me. So we hugged and told them to enjoy their time with Uncle Jake and wish him a Happy Birthday and they were off. So on to the story of Saturday night!

Let me remind you … Josh is back at the Cottage, a little studio that the hospital provides for family of patients, he is catching some Zzz’s and getting food and relaxing. Meanwhile Bren and I are just hanging and thinking about how our race would have been the next day, how we were missing seeing Uncle Jake and Aunt Pam, and how we were so excited to see our cousin Jamie and her new husband Brian … We hadn’t met him yet, they got married earlier this year and we couldn’t make it out for the wedding. Well our intention was to take a walk to the outdoor courtyard of the hospital, it was a beautiful place with landscape and chairs and a water fountain. The night just got away from us and we had to put it off until tomorrow and try to get some much needed sleep.

 

Day 14 – November 7th … James Bond and Josh, His Loves and My Music Favs

Okay on to our afternoon (this is where I have a brain fart and write about what happened on Monday afternoon not Saturday so if the timing seems confusing you are on to something) … The only other thing we had on our agenda was get out into the fresh air of beautiful Santa Barbara. Josh was ready for a shift to himself. He decided on a movie …The new James Bond movie was out and I knew he would enjoy it. He decided on the 1pm showing, I was so glad he was doing this, he needed to get out of that hospital, chill out and have some time to himself.

He loves movies.  We always laugh because Josh can be a hard person to buy a gift for… His famous words around his birthday or Christmas are “I always love books, music and movies.” These three things are for sure the things he enjoys the most. There is always an on-going list of books he wants to read, new musicians to check out and movies to add to his crazy movie library. In fact I’ve at times thought it all to be a little over-the-top…like how many books, cd’s and movies do you really need! But these are his loves and we are all people who get enjoyment from different things, these are his things!  I call him the music man, always finding awesome new artists, from all different genres that have words of such beauty and power and love. So he buys all the cd’s in our house and mostly decides what music is playing at the moment because I just don’t have as strong of opinions in the music world.  If it was up to me the only thing I would have on my iPod would be For All Seasons, All Sons & Daughters and every album of Tyrone Wells… Check them all out my all-time favorites!  I just never get tired of hearing them over and over again.

For All Seasons is this awesome worship band that was the Hume Lake band the last few years up at Pondy … where I spend a week each summer counseling high school students. I’ve never experienced such deep, heartfelt worship to our great God. The last few years I’ve come to almost depend on these albums to bring me comfort and encouragement in my walk with Jesus. All Sons & Daughters is another worship band that Josh found … He knew I would like them and they are another go-to for music.

Lastly we have Tyrone Wells, what can I say? This very talented musician is a friend as well. We went to college with Tyrone at Pacific Christian College in 1996-1997, I believe he graduated that year before Josh did.  He sang in chapel … Our school called it Convo and periodically in church at Eastside Christian Church where we attended sometimes. He went solo in 2000 and has over 10 albums, along with a few single releases that I see I haven’t checked out lately. It’s been a busy year folks… I’ll get to it during these next 5-7 weeks of recovery.

Since Tyrone went solo we’ve been following him whenever we get the chance. He has played a few times at Cal Poly and Downtown Brew in SLO. I even took a friend… the lovely, raw and beautiful Bekah Pogue to Santa Barbara after Tanner, her first-born arrived for a girls nite. We shopped, ate great food and took in a concert at Soho in Santa Barbara featuring none other than my favorite songwriter Tyrone Wells.

The last time we saw Tyrone was a few years ago in Pismo Beach … right on the cliffs, an outdoor event.  It was our first time bringing the kids to a concert … we sat on the grass, ate nachos and sang along with Tyrone. The last two songs of the concert, Raegan and I even went up to join the dance circle and I held her in my arms swaying to the music.  The last two songs were ‘And The Birds Sing’ and ‘Happy As The Sun’ maybe two of my most favorite, as if I could even pick a favorite? We just danced and sang and I twirled her in my arms … this isn’t a common thing for me to carry my kids because of my usually aching back. God must have wanted me to have this memory with Raegan, He gave me super strength that day to hold her. After the concert I stayed back and said hello to Tyrone, like we usually do …  Just a quick hug and how are you and great concert man… See you next time!

Anyway I have almost every album and when a new one is released it’s always on my birthday or Christmas list and have loved seeing him in concert any chance I get. Some of his music is kinda on the lovey, dating and romantic spectrum, very easy on the ears… light, fun and positive messages, but he writes about all kinds of issues too, this guy is truly an amazing artist who has this unique way of putting notes on the page. There isn’t a song I don’t like … Well there’s one that isn’t my favorite but that’s because it is called Jealous Man and it’s just super sad … But still an amazing display of pure genius songwriting!

I hope I’m not boring you with all these details, it’s so strange but this whole experience of having a brain tumor has just given me an appreciation of all the details of this life and it feels like everything matters now … Like everything is worth mentioning!  Just so you know, there is a very clear plan in my brain how this blog will unfold and it will not go on forever.  But for now, there are still so many things I want to communicate to you if you have the desire to keep reading… And if you don’t I’m totally good with that too. I won’t ever know if you don’t want to hear my ramblings so don’t feel guilty if you stop.  I don’t know if you realize but I’m not writing for you … I started this blog for myself, so that I could process and remember where God has brought me through this grand adventure! I must say that the words just flow, it’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Almost like I don’t have to even think what to write, inspiration maybe!

So let’s keep on with the story!  Where was I … Oh yea movie, James Bond. So Josh goes to the movie and that leaves Brenda and I to hang together in my room. We just hang together, we’ve never had a problem being together. There is always tons to talk about and we are so comfortable around each other. We have this incredible bond that’s hard to explain, I guess it has something to do with sharing DNA. Time flies when we are together, we like to talk about kids and spiritual things but also recipes, decorating, birthday parties and our latest project … Her graduate classes and the future and new business ideas. The sky is the limit really on what we talk about, it’s so refreshing to have someone like that in my life. We haven’t always been like this, in fact our relationship has transformed over the last 6 months into this beautiful relationship of trust and honesty and dependency on each other.

You see she has been enduring her own trial, her own journey and it has brought us both to this open, broken spot with each other. We have never been so utterly honest before and at the same time, we understand each other better and will do anything to support each other through these scary times.  I don’t know if you knew but last Sunday, Brenda and I were suppose to run a half marathon in Monterey Bay.  My uncle Jake, who lives just outside of Greenbay, Wisconsin was turning 60.  For his birthday, he and his wife planned a trip to Cali for the race. He’s one of those crazies that trains in the snow for races, sending us pictures all bundled up with white in the background.  Anyway when we found out they were coming, Josh and I decided that we would spend the weekend in Monterey to see them.  We don’t make it to Wisconsin very often!  We weren’t going to run … just visit them. Well that all changed on August 13th, me and Bren’s birthday.

We always try to spend the day together and I got a text from Bren saying lets go for a run or hike.  I responded, “Let’s do a hike, I don’t think I can run with you.” So it was set, we met on our birthday morning at Reservoir Canyon to hike and celebrate our 38 years together. As we reached the top she asked me about that text and what was that all about, that I couldn’t run with her? You see being a twin hasn’t always been the easiest thing … especially when your twin is so talented, driven and successful.  I’ve perhaps always felt a little inferior to Brenda, now don’t get me wrong I know that I have my own set of talents and gifts that God has given specifically to me. Growing up was just so hard … she was so super smart and athletic and married her high school sweetheart, not to mention MVP of every team and Soleutitorian of our graduating class at Atascadero High School … 1995 baby! Anyway you could say I grew up with a complex of comparison that has stayed with me my whole life. Sad huh? Well I really played it off in high school and just threw myself into relationships, thinking I was just trying to find “The One.”  I dated a whole slew of guys, sorry if you are one of the guys I dated and you are reading this right now … You may be understanding why I was so needy and desperately wanted to feel like enough.

So back to the hike… Brenda looked at me and said “I think we are done with this comparison trap, what do you think?” If you know Bren you also know that she is a very accomplished triathlete. She has completed several races of all the different lengths, winning age groups and setting PR’s. Can you see how running together on our birthday may not have been the best for my self-esteem?   So we decided to run the half-marathon together with no competing, no should’s … in fact we made a pact, whoever was having the harder day set the pace. There was no training plan, just run together for the pure enjoyment of being together. So we started training at the end of August and I’ve never enjoyed running so much, there was no pressure to compete, just the joy of conquering Johnson Ranch!

The 17th of October was our last long run before finding out about my tumor. Bren and I met at Johnson for our 10 miler. Ran the 5 on the trail then out to the Bob Jones Parking lot and back to Johnson for a grand total of 10 miles. The run was great, hard at times to keep going, but I was strong and Bren was telling me how proud she was of me, that she could tell I was really working hard … that I had improved my endurance and speed. It was one of the proudest moments of my life finishing that run with my twin sister and not feeling like I was a step behind … And even if Brenda reached the car first it just didn’t matter anymore … I was free from the chains of comparison. I knew that those chains could not hold me any longer and it was the most unbelievable feeling. Not to mention I knew we were going to rock the race and I was so ready to cross the finish line with Brenda right by my side … maybe for the first time ever.

Day 14 – November 7th … A Bath and Killer Food

The rest of the day was a great one … I got my first bath!  I really needed one, it was hard to even bear my own stench… I’ll blame the drugs which had increased odor significantly since beginning to take the steroids after meeting with a Nuerosurgeon in SLO … that first day we found out about the tumor.  Josh got the honors of the first bath … It was kinda funny because I’ve never taken a bath in a hospital before, sitting down with the sprayer nozzle and all. I pretty much drenched him with the wild arm of the shower head … If you know my hubby well you know that he is very particular about things, very type A about cleanliness and order. His best buddy Michael Schanzenbach can attest to it all. In college he was known as “Schaz” and he is Josh’s closest friend.

They have been friends since 2nd grade and played all kinds of sports together and in high school Schaz invited Josh to play in a basketball tournament at their church. This is where Josh first accepted Jesus into his life and Schaz was a big part of that decision, changing his life forever. They were roommates in college and I think that Schaz has a hidden view into how Josh  ticks, they just know each other so well. So Michael is very aware how Josh’s Type A thing goes… It’s not about others, more how he operates within himself …  how he does everything to a T.

So this wet mess spraying water all over was just a little too much for him to handle. I wasn’t trying to get him wet, I promise … but I will say I did get a chuckle seeing him get all riled up, I’m the one who had brain surgery after all… It’s just water!  Now I will say in his defense, I don’t like to get sprayed either or splashed at the pool or cold water splashed on me at the beach. So let’s give this amazing man a break for the whole bath thing!

Our night was awesome more great food from the cafeteria… One of the nurses said the company that does all the food for the hospital is unparalleled. I researched it a little and it’s really a great story … Jordano’s, the food company use to have a local market/grocery store on State Street in 1915. If you have visited Santa Barbara before you know, the food is crazy good!  Anyway this company has been around forever, a family business passed down from father to son again and again. Yes I know what you are thinking do these details really matter… Bear with me it’s a cool story and I get to decide what I write … It’s my blog right?  If you don’t care, you’ll just have to endure it!  In 1925 a 6.8 earthquake hit Santa Barbara and caused lots of damage throughout the city. Frank Jordano, the original owner setup his market on the sidewalk outside his crumbling building for weeks after the quake, still dedicated to the people of Santa Barbara with local fresh food. Jordano’s made it through The Great Depression and World War II and continued to grow and prosper.

In 1999, the wonderful year I got married to the love of my life, Jeff Jordano became the third generation president of Jordano’s. They have since celebrated 100 years in the industry, I’m sure you see those Jordano’s trucks on the freeway all the time!  So all that to say … the food is amazing like ordering from a restaurant every meal and all kinds of choices!  Omelettes, breakfast tacos, parfaits topped with fresh blueberries and slivered almonds … and fresh fruit and smoothies for breakfast, these were my favorites!  For lunch I had chicken enchiladas, spinach salad with grilled salmon, tomato soup and of course my veggies! Dinners were a little different, maybe because by the time it all rolled around I had eaten so much food that my stomach was just too full.  I am also finding that these drugs are … To say it quite honestly … backing me up so dinners weren’t as enjoyable, just too much food to process. As my hubby would say… Too much potty talk, sorry this is brutal honesty friends!

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