Thursday, May 29, 2008

My Momma Wears Army Boots

My mom just left to go back home to California. She came here for two weeks to help me take care of things while Paul was going through his surgery. With my hubby down and five children's schedules, it was truly time in the trenches.

She and I learned how to run the feeding tube machine together. We learned how to give Paul his meds through a huge syringe - we kept a log of his medication schedule - every 4 hours - which of the many bottles he needed to have, which needed to be combined, and which were 8 hour meds or daily ones.

She made her famous cookies. She drew smiley faces on the kids sandwich bags. She drove my kids to school, picked them up from school, helped me cut coupons for groceries . . . pretty much knows how to run things around here. And when she left, every single one of us (including Paul's parents and all of the kids) received a hand written card with a priceless letter from her.

She has been in the trenches with me when I couldn't breathe as I sobbed.

This isn't the first time. She was here for 3 months after my car accident last year. She was here when Paul was in the hospital for cancer surgery years ago. She came when Kaylan was born with health problems.

She's been here for some of my big battles. That lady is not afraid to fight. Her motto seems to be "Pray. Fight. Pray. Fight."

As she goes back home I know I'm stronger for the time she's been here.

My mom wears army boots. Hope my kids can say that about me someday -

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Escape Artist

Some years ago I went through some longterm counseling for my addiction to alcohol. As a mom of five children I really wanted to get better. Thought the drinking every day (all day) was the problem.

To my surprise it wasn't the alcohol that was the problem at all - it was my self-destructive patterns of "escapism". When I didn't like what I was feeling emotionally, I would find an escape path - seems alcohol, smoking, eating disorders, promiscuity, running from relationships - all of those were just paths I had taken in my life to numb out from pain.

With Paul's health situation I've had my flares out, my caution flags waving, and my substance abuse detectors primed to evaluate the slightest twinge of escaping or running away. Thought I knew my patterns backwards and forwards.

In fact, I've done even more studying on my personality type - highly "yellow" based on Taylor Hartmans' assessments. I'm fun driven, people driven and adrenaline seeking. I'd much rather be on a cruise to the Bahamas than be saddened by my husband going through cancer. (which I might add, he being yellow too, is his preference!) Escaping is a yellow's classic pattern.

I'd much rather be at a bubbly beauty pageant, a giddy glamorous fundraiser, a festive 5K, or a happy home makeover - really anything - rather than feel what I'm feeling watching Paul hurt so much.

As I bring this to God I can hear Him telling me I've still got the same patterns - just new methods. More acceptable methods. More discreet methods. I still escape in small ways and big ways - I just wasn't seeing it for what it was.

So, God is still healing that escape artist in me - just to a finer degree. He wants me to be here completely - even through the toughest of times.

"The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold." Psalm 18:2 NIV

Doesn't sound like the Lord runs from pain does it? He is solid, grounded, strong and forever. Guess He wants me to be that too?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Buttprints in Time

I've got a card on my desk that reads "You can't make footprints in the sands of time if you're sitting on your butt. And who wants to make buttprints in the sands of time?"

Ha! That's a funny visual isn't it? Buttprints in time . . .

How many of us can relate to that? Not really walking one foot in front of the other, but more like stubbornly planting our backside waiting for life to come to us. Doesn't happen that way folks. You have to walk right up to life and introduce yourself - it won't come to you. At least the good stuff won't.

Tomorrow night I get to MC a charity event - a "Dancing With the Utah Stars" kind of thing. These celebrities are making footprints in the sands of time - with their volunteer toe-tapping they are raising funds for those who struggle. Every lift and bounce will add to what blesses lives. They didn't wait until life came to them - they pranced and practiced toward it.

So friend, are you sitting or strutting? Pouting or prancing? Cause life ain't going to move forward unless you do. Make tracks - the kind that make a difference.

Oh, buttprints in time . . .

Saturday, May 24, 2008

So Fake It's Ridiculous

Yesterday I arrived at the Covey Arts Center in Provo, Utah for a day of rehearsals and preparation for last night's Mrs. Utah 2008 Pageant.

When I arrived, to my shock I saw my face - larger than life in the window - wow. It was a bit intimidating. I don't look like that up close in real life. After spending much of the last 2 weeks at the hospital - pulling my hair into a pony tail with layers and layers of old makeup - the image in the window made me laugh. It was so fake it was ridiculous!

I don't really look like that. OK, some moments, on a good day, with the handywork of photoshop - I CAN look like that. But for the most part - that's just digital magic for the crowd.

As the night went on, it wasn't only the photo on the billboard that seemed out of context - it was everything. The glitze and the glamour was a stark contrast to the feeding tubes and sterile hospital smell I've become accustomed to lately. The dancing, the lights, the crown - all of it was just so out of context for what's been going on.

And there was my husband - in a handsome black suit that hid the 25+ staples still in his neck, minus the eye patch, and a black sock hiding his bandaged foot and leg. Sitting there with his crutches under the seats, it was very deceiving - people probably had no idea what this man has gone through over the last 14 days.

So it is, for good or for bad - that to some degree we are all able to hide or step away (even if for a moment) from the inner struggles, the day-to-day weaknesses, and the personal crisis that are really going on presently. In good ways and in bad ways we can show a side to the world that is who we wish we were and who we are aspiring to be -

And in that moment we get to do 2 things. #1 - We get to honestly take inventory of who and where we are AND #2 - We get to decide to uplevel and meet that reality (or not, staying how we are). Personally, I like what I saw on the window and I want to work harder to be her. And, I'm excited that my husband felt so compelled and determined within himself to get dressed up even given the difficulty in doing so. It was a labor of love that he did for me to show his commitment to me. He is taking inventory and fighting with all he's got to uplevel passed his current physical issues. Every day that he owns his life in spite of his health crisis, he OWNS his life.

Fake? Mmmmm. Maybe that's not the right word. "Aspired" would be a better word. We're both aspiring to better, positive things. Even if it's just a pretty picture. It's a great direction.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Houston - We Have Lift Off!

Paul was released from the hospital and has been adjusting to life at home. He's got a whole new gang of friends who've visited us - physical therapist, home health care nurse, and the supply people bringing liquid food for his feeding tube, a walker, meds . . . he's got his "peeps" making sure he's good to go!

It's been busy here as my mom and I have learned how to use all of his new equipment and keeping him on a med/ schedule throughout the day and night. He's been a great sport with all of the new adjustments!
We're hopeful that he can remove the feeding tube today. Tonight is the Mrs. Utah Pageant 2008 and Paul wants to be there untethered!

His right eye has been giving him problems so he is often wearing a patch - like a pirate. Landon thinks his dad is the coolest ever - c'mon, who else's dad looks that awesome with 25 metal staples in his neck from a sharkbite AND a pirate patch!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Welcome To The "Five and Dime"

I stepped into the empty elevator at the Intermountain Medical Center - shiny new metal walls only flawed by one or two small toddler handprints at knee level. Evidence of tiny visitors sometime earlier in the day.

I'd been up and down on that elevator now several times with my meetings with the financial office and getting Paul's check-out meds from the pharmacy.

Jumping in right before the door closed a gray-haired man in a suit joined me. I had already pushed the floor "10" button. Out of breath the man touched button number "5". My heart sank for him - candidly and sadly my eyes followed the button, to his shaking hand, to his arm, to his burdened shoulder, to his wearied face - and there focused on his overwhelmed expression. I knew the 5th floor. The 5th floor is ICU.

Immediately I felt connected to this man - and heartbroken for him.

"I know the 5th floor," I said as understandingly and as kindly as I could. "My husband had been there for several days last week. He's now on the 10th floor." Don't know why but I wanted this man to know that people get better even when it looks grim - I wanted him to have hope.

His eyes brightened. "My father is there. Hopefully soon we can move him up and out too."

"They do a great job there. Soon he'll be on a different floor I'm sure." I echoed smiling -

What an interesting thing that can be communicated with simple words.

Underneath all of that small talk was the message - "I understand your grief, your fear, your anxiety - and how this crisis is changing your life today. Please know you're not alone. There is hope in this."

Sometimes there is nothing about the situation today that can be changed. Sometimes just knowing you are not alone is enough to make it through. Sometimes our pain just needs to be seen and validated.

Welcome to the 5 and dime. All of us, on every level, are moving up and out - we just don't want to do it alone. God's mercy and Jesus' sacrificial life says we don't have to. There is always hope.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Identity Crisis

Last night Paul and I were watching tv at the hospital. A commercial came on for a medication - "Depression can turn you into someone you don't recognize anymore." - the announcer went on.

Paul stared hard at the tv screen, "Honey help! I don't recognize that person - or that person - or him either!" - We had to laugh.

That wasn't where they were going with that - but it did give us a chuckle.

Paul's surgery has brought with it some major changes - things he's pointing out to us as he's feeling more and more alert. It could definately challenge a person's identity. His jaw looks different, his face and tongue is mostly paralyzed on the right side, his right eye struggles to close and open in tandem with the left, and his speech is greatly affected -

What's so amazing is that his sense of humor is still intact and his determination and will to live is at an all time high. Even with so many things changing, I still recognize him.

Each one of us has God given qualities that make us who we are. Stripped of cosmetic, material, or physical traits, those nebulous qualities seem to stand out even more distinctly.

I've seen that time and time again as I've worked with individuals whose lives have been altered by accidents or illnesses - these people rise up and tapped into qualities that were there all along. It always makes me take a harder look at who I am.

If nothing else, what I am seeing is what we think we know, what we think we have, what we think we are, can be stripped away to reveal what God saw all along. And maybe that's why He gives us hard times - so we can clearly see who He made us to be. And so we'll reach deeper and grow those qualities and traits - the seeds of which He Himself planted long ago.

Perhaps we each need an identity crisis to see what really matters?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Family Visit

This morning all of the kids were finally able to see Paul - they were so excited!

Glad it is a big room!

God Never Lets Go

There has been a new song in my mind over the past week that has helped me so much - perhaps because it repeats an important message - God NEVER lets go. Never.

Here is a music video of the song -

Paul's Blogging!

I think we've turned the corner here! Paul is doing great this morning! Last night when I left the hospital he had been moved out of ICU and was trying to catch up a lapse in pain meds. Once he was sleeping soundly I tip-toed out to come home and sleep myself.

This morning I'm getting emails from him and he blogged! Check it out - - oh, he is so funny!

The kids and I will head up there at 10:30 this morning - Hannah and Landon were not able to see him in ICU so they are very excited!!!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

New Room!

(10:00 PM) Paul was just moved from ICU to a room on the 10th floor. He will be able to see visitors here - room 1006.

In the process of moving him he was off his pain medication IV for over an hour - and they had to give him something strong to catch up on the pain. Basically he is now in his happy place for a while -

Saturday evening

Paul is feeling much better this afternoon -yesterday was a pretty rough day! He watched horse racing, shopped KSL and enjoyed visitors -

Saturday afternoon update

I'm sitting here with Paul - he is out of bed and sitting in his chair watching horseracing. He's got his money on Big Brown.
I think the meds have done something to his personality - he's always been a Nascar guy and now he's obsessed with the "133rd Preakness Stakes". Weird -

They've gotten him stabilized and his pain and nausea are under better control - he is very happy about that. Oh my gosh - his chair is a rocker and now he's rocking like he's a horse jockey - there he goes, ahead by a jawbone! : )

Yes, we are smiling here - ICU has never looked so good as after a rough couple of days.

Thank you for your prayers!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Paul's Blog from Monday

(this was taken from Paul's blog on Monday, May 12, 2008)

What Now?
The Bible says to petition the Lord in everything... to make our requests known. God also said we need to bring our requests boldly to the throne. My prayer is for life. Complete healing. A miracle. What is yours? I pray always and glorify God in all I do. He is the healer. He can do anything. He is not uncapable of a miraculous healing. With a word He created the heavens and the earth. I put my faith in Him, the Creator and the Healer.Pray with me starting now. Hide in your closets and pray. Pray with a loud voice. Pray with a whisper in your heart. Pray in a song. God knows your heart and the Holy Spirit intercedes where there are no words. Cry out loud and bring your requests to the Lord. I am.


Friday Evening - Thank You For Prayers

It's been quite a long 24 hours - I am home now and think I need to rest (more than a hint from some loving people). Paul in the last two hours was able to open his eyes and say a few sentences. His swelling (face) seemed to be decreasing (or maintaining but not increasing) and his pain was to some degree tolerable.

What a difficult journey this has been since Tuesday morning. In speaking with medical staff and friends it takes time for people to stabilize after a traumatic surgery like this one. There can be many ups and downs as medications work or don't work, and as the person's body accepts the changes that have been made. The ICU unit is set up to make that a safe passage - I'm so grateful for the nurses and doctors that are turning on a dime to accomodate every big and small thing Paul needs right now.

Paul's parents came to the hospital this afternoon and Paul's dad gave him a blessing - I'm thankful for those sweet moments when truly I feel the Lord's peace and guidance. There is nothing visible or tangible that could grant that kind of peace right now watching Paul go through this.

Thank you for the flood of emails and prayers - I know they are helping me, and even though Paul is not able to say so, I know he is being held by those prayers right now -

Pray for Paul

I was at the hospital until 4:30 AM this morning - since yesterday afternoon Paul has not felt well.

He has severe pain/pressure in his head and is incredibly sick to his stomach. It could be a secondary issue, infection, allergic reaction - we're looking at some of those possibilities. But he is not well. His face has swollen and he is heavily medicated - not really talking.

They are keeping him in ICU - and only going to allow myself and his parents to see him.

Please keep him in your prayers. I will update as I can -

Wishing For A Crystal Ball

As Paul slept yesterday I flipped through the channels - stopping at the Dr. Phil show. Curious about the topic on hand, I was reminded that we all struggle -

Dr. Phil was introducing his guest - a beautiful woman about 45 years old - who had for the last four years spent $500 a month on psychic readings to tell her how to live her life, what job to take, how to act in her marriage, and what her future would hold.

The woman looked so together - but as she spoke it was apparent that she struggled to keep her life together. She was scared, vulnerable and unfortunately, duped.

Glancing over at Paul - with tubes and wires, monitors and computer screens, all dedicated to getting him well - I could truly identify with this woman's pain and desperation. I too, wish I had a phone number to call to find out how to live my life, what job to take, how to act in my marriage and what Paul and I's future holds. Oh, wouldn't it be great if we each had a crystal ball!

I believe there is within us a natural tendency to want all of the answers for our lives right now. It is natural to look to tempting sources around us and seek out people who will tell us what we want to hear, as opposed to doing the work and finding out what God wants for us.

And it occurs to me that putting down that desire and even our desperation at the feet of our Savior is part of our surrender to His will.

It is our witness of faith when we say, "I don't know what is ahead, I'm scared, but I'm still willing to put one foot in front of the other and follow your lead."

His leadership, direction and counsel is free - and He is always ready for us to call out to Him.

That's a much better deal than $3.99 a minute.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Here are some images taken over the last couple of days - before surgery and in ICU.
The large group photo is the Utah Home Make-Over team when they came to our home to pray for Paul the night before the surgery -

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Paul Update

Wanted to take 2 minutes and update on Paul's surgery -

There were three teams of doctors (oncologist, plastic surgeon and a dental surgeon) - the surgery ended at about 10:45 last night. Whew! What a long prayerful day!

The surgery was very successful taking bone from Paul's left leg and placing it where the cancerous jawbone was. I stayed in the ICU with Paul overnight - it was a rough night with so many factors, machines and pain - think that is the hardest of all - watching someone you love go through so much.

Today Paul is on a feeding tube - they didn't need to keep the jaw wired! He is talking and resting. Of course there is a lot of swelling and staples, stitches and minor adjustments, but the pain meds are doing their job and we're taking turns being with him all the time.

He will be in ICU for a couple of more days then in the main hospital.

I am so thankful all went well!!! Thank you for your prayers!!!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

When It Sucks You Gotta Say It

My daughter asked me what is the one thing we know about all smokers?

A former smoker for years myself, I scratched my head and thought for a minute. Hmm. "I dunno. What do we know about all smokers?" I asked back.

"They all suck!" - my daughter laughed so hard she had to buckle over! Oh duh! Funny pun on words! Yes, they all suck literally. In the very sense of the word, they do all "suck".

We got some pretty harsh news yesterday. After more and more tests the surgery we knew was going to be awful for Paul will be about 100 times worse. The process, the recovery - all worse. All harder.

Every bit of what we heard completely "sucked". I looked at my poor husband and felt a loss so great I could not breath. As the news continued to sound more and more unreal I could feel my lunch creeping up into my throat - and did I mention it was last week's lunch? Every bit of me wanted to hurl - I truly could not digest what I was hearing.

Today sharing the updates with family and friends, all I could say is "This absolutely sucks. Totally and completely."

There really isn't another word for the situation - no going back and what is ahead is well, I hate it, hate it, hate it. And that is putting it lightly. I hate the thought of my husband going through one inch of this. It's not fair. He is amazing. He doesn't deserve this. It's not right - and at moments I could really let the "s" word fly! (s_ _ k)

I'm grateful that I have friends and family who let me tell it like it is. They are a bit angry for Paul too! They're not offended by my language - they agree.

So class, what do we know about all cancers? They all suck. Literally.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A Ring In a Pig's Snout

I came across a Proverb that made me laugh.

To paraphrase, "A beautiful woman who lacks discernment is like a golden ring in a pig's snout."

Ha! Oh my goodness, that is a visual now isn't it? An expensive gold ring in a slimy, stinky, germ-infested pig's snout. Completely useless. What is the point of placing something so valuable in the nose of an animal who could care less - to say nothing of how it clashes with the rest of a hog's emsemble.

However, the proverb does hit home. Sometimes I do pretty dumb things - truly not intentional but rightly wrong. And, sometimes I would have to say in my humanness I lack discernment. In all of my glory I look about as classy as that pig wearing a golden ring in her snout.

God, bless me with wisdom today - let me not be so oblivious to the needs of others and short-sighted in Your purposes that I wallow in messes of my own making.

Bless me to be beautiful with brains, regal with a sense of purpose and grace, and tempered with tenderness. Bless me that I can be discerning in the words I speak and in the way I live.

And all the little piggies said "Amen".

Monday, May 5, 2008

Thinking Outside The Box

I've been reading a book by Max Lucado called "Traveling Light". It is based on the 23rd Psalm and is about letting go of burdens - and giving them over to God. Perfect reading for me right now.

Parallel to what I'm feeling emotionally and spiritually is the reality that our lease is up in 2 months - and given Paul's health situation I feel compelled to prepare myself and my family for a move. I've been going through every item we own and asking myself - "Is this something essential - or is this something that should be thrown out?"

Emotionally, spiritually and physically I am taking inventory of all I have and all I am. What is going to be needed in the future?

It is a 2-step process really. Once I decide what I am keeping, I also decide how to organize it. A big part of this job has been reboxing all of our family items, photos, memory items, and Christmas items.

I've felt compelled to buy smaller storage bins - feeling impressed that every storage item MUST be in a box manageable enough for me to physically move myself. I want to be independent and ready enough to not impose or require the physical strength of my husband or others to relocate.

This whole process has been going well - with religious zeal I've been implementing Martha Stewart's very own simple home solutions - even checking out books from the library on how to expedite the procedure.

Until, to my despair, on Saturday I came across certain Christmas items that were too large for my new coordinating small bins.

Aggravated I moved the bulky items to the side - mumbling to myself - if they don't fit in the small bins - then, out with them. The stack of large Christmas items grew - as did my anxiety. This completely wrecked my plans - these items would need a large bin - too big for me to carry on my own. UGH. The large bins now irritated me - and they didn't match. I was unnerved. This was wrecking my master plan. Oh how that thought epitomized the frustration in my heart about my past year, my husband's health, and moving again.

For some reason the visual hit home and brought me to my knees sobbing. God seemed to speak, "Tiffany, there will always be things in your life too big for you to carry on your own. I've planned it that way. You are not meant to carry everything or control everything. The bigger the burden or struggle, the more help you will need to put in place to carry it. There will always be things that will require you to depend on other people - and on Me."

This morning I'm back to reboxing. I glanced in on the items I organized over the weekend - and a smile came across my face. There they were - several nice small clear storage bins - and one scuffed up, oversized, heavy green bin of Christmas decorations. (sigh) I will always need help with that one. It is too big for me to carry by myself.

How ironic. It is a Christmas box. God has a way of reminding me - Jesus came to this earth to carry my biggest, most heavy, daunting burdens. It was never the plan for me to carry certain burdens on my own. It is the bad news and the Good News. I will always need help.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Off The Deep End

With Paul going through cancer treatments I receive phone calls and emails throughout the day asking for updates and more importantly, loving family and friends ask, "Tiffany,how are you?". Honestly, I am learning a lot.

So, this blog hopefully will be a place for me to share what God is teaching me. Some of it may be useful in your walk with God and in your challenges - some of it may just be a place for me to share my heart with you.

Today I washed my minivan - something I do weekly (sometimes more if the kids have eaten fast food!).

It struck me as so mundane as we wait for the scheduled day and time next week that my husband will have jaw replacement surgery. Here I am doing something so basic while life as we know it will shortly change. And I thought to myself - I'm thanking God for those moments in the shallow end of the pool. Certainly right now there are more than enough moments spent in the "sink or swim" areas - so, simple things, basic things, like washing my car, doing the dishes, vaccuming . . . even folding laundry . . . have become some of the most theraputic things I can do for myself.

As I fold, as I wash, and as I vaccum God visits me with verses that restore my soul.

"Taste and see that the Lord is good."
"Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life."
"I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
"The Lord has plans to prosper you and not harm you."

Like refreshing water running over me - removing the rough spots - the rebellious spots - the angry spots - the cynicial spots - I see that God is changing me during these moments. Shallow as they may seem - God is taking my heart deeper. And I see God's eternal vision and purpose in my life and in the lives of my husband and children - God wants their hearts just like He wants mine. He wants me to trust Him 100% - not 70%, not 85%, not even 99%. He wants me to let go completely of what I can see with my eyes.

I am now swimming in much deeper water than I ever wanted. I had no intention of going this deep into pain, crisis and separation. Yet, going this deep is showing me the character of God - I can truly trust Him even when I'm going off the deep end.

Do you?