Not A Storybook Marriage

I love what Ann Romney said at the RNC on Tuesday night.  She said that her and Mitt’s marriage was not a storybook marriage but a REAL marriage.  That is what Dennis and I have; a real marriage.

We have laughed, cried and fought.  We have had been through happy and sad times.  We have weathered storms and difficulties and been each other’s rock through it all.  It is amazing to me that in the most difficult of times, neither one of us is weak at exactly the same time.  That, to me, is a blessing from the Lord.

I write this post because today is mine and Dennis’ 11th wedding anniversary.  We have been through ALOT together in 11 years.  We married when we were older (I was 29 and he was 30) and came into our marriage with some baggage, (me especially).  For those that don’t know, Dennis is my 2nd marriage, and having a divorce in my past did pose some obstacles and hurdles to jump through to get past.  Our marriage and life together has been a rollercoaster ride, but I mean that as more fun than not.  Our first 4 years together were bliss, for the most part and these last 7 years have been a whirlwind, but years we wouldn’t trade for anything.

I know that our marriage, after Hannah was born, could really have gone either way.  The health problems we have faced with Hannah could have made us or it could have torn us apart.  I am happy to say, it pushed us closer together and bound us instead of driving a wedge between us.  Don’t get me wrong…..we have had our difficult days, but I can honestly say, through it all, the Lord has proven Himself faithful and sustained us and our marriage.

I can’t imagine going through what I have as a wife and a mom with anyone but Dennis.  He is a wonderful husband who works hard to provide for his family.  His job is not an easy one, but he does his best to leave his work at work and be present as a husband and father at home.  He knows me better than anybody and although he laughs at me alot, (yes, I give him good reason at times), he accepts me and my OCD-self just as I am!  I have, as he calls “blonde moments” and I am sure if he were writing this blog, he would give you examples…..I will not do that!  HA!  We laugh together everyday, even if we are laughing at each other!  He brings a lot of comedy into my life, although sometimes he thinks he is funnier than I think he is!  HA!  But, we still laugh!

He is my rock, my provider, my protector and I know that he would do ANYTHING for me, as I would for him.  I can honestly say that I love him more today than I did 11 years ago.  That love has grown over the years……it has become a love filled with respect, admiration and thankfulness.  Dennis is a proud man, but also a man of integrity, honesty (except when he lies to surprise me) and family values and morals.  When we received Hannah’s diagnosis at week 17 of our pregnancy, he honestly could have run and never looked back.  I know men/husbands/fathers that have done that.  He could have been so proud that having an “imperfect” child was not something he was willing to do and told me to abort her like the doctor wanted us to.  But no, instead he looked at me at times when I didn’t think I could go on and said, WE CAN DO THIS, together and with the Lord!  He instantly, without hesitation, told that doctor where he could stick it (in a gentlemanly sort-of way, of course…..since I am the one that is more brash and rude), and held me up, gave me a shoulder to lean on and got us through MANY difficult days.  A husband that rallied around me, supported me, loved me and carried me (figuratively, not literally) through a very emotional and trying time.

I cannot imagine my life without him.  I cannot imagine a more perfect man for me!  He was Heaven-sent, because after my divorce I told the Lord I was going to be content with Him (the Lord) and my cat, Leroy, unless he dropped a man from Heaven for me.  I know God hand-picked Dennis and me for each other, I have no doubt in that.

Dennis lets me be me……I am sure there are things he would change, but he knows it is pointless to try, and he loves me just the same, flaws and all!  Even my love for Steinmart, he accepts.  He has threatened to take the credit card from me at times, but I digress…HA!  The older I have gotten, the more I don’t care what people think or say about me; the brasher I have become and my mouth tends to speak before anything is filtered through my brain; this is a family trait on my dad’s side….you know, place blame where blame is due!  HA!  But, even though I am not the same, timid, mild-mannered girl who Dennis married…..he loves me and has accepted the changes…..boy, hope he continues to because if I continue following that hereditary lineage, he is in TROUBLE!  In spite of everything…..he loves me, that I am CERTAIN of!

Dennis, I hope and pray you know how much I love you and am thankful that you chose to marry me!  I hope you know that I wouldn’t trade our “rollercoaster” life for ANYTHING…..You are the best thing that ever happened to me and I look forward to growing old with you…..wrinkles, turkey necks, big guts and all!  

Happy Anniversary!

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3 Weeks Today

It is so hard to believe that just 3 weeks ago today we were sitting in a waiting room at UAB with my parents, and some very dear friends while Hannah was in the OR having her 3rd open-heart surgery.  Now, please know every Wednesday I will not be counting down how long it has been; but I needed to today because I am sitting here in pure amazement at how she is recovering and how well she is doing and it is just so hard to believe that she is only 3 weeks post-op and back to herself!

She is running around, laughing, singing, talking, jumping, CLIMBING and being the same little girl that she was prior to surgery.  She is naming ALL the people that she wants to see and hug and talking about wanting to go to school NOW!  I remember thinking 3 weeks ago as we waited in that waiting room, that I just couldn’t wait to be about 2 months post-op, not thinking she would be doing so well so soon!  She has slept through the night the last 2 nights, with a little help with some “happy juice”.  Happy juice is tylenol an hour before bed and motrin at bedtime…..but other than that, she is off all her other pain medications.  Tonight, I will leave off the tylenol and just give motrin and pray that will be enough and then in a few nights come off the motrin altogether!

Hannah goes to see our Pediatrician, Dr. Kim tomorrow.  Can I just say we have the best doctors!  Our pediatrician, Dr Kim; our cardiologist, Dr. Marvin; and our ENT, Dr. Josephson all kept in touch with us while we were in Birmingham.  I received texts, phone calls and FB messages numerous times from each of them checking not only on Hannah, but Dennis and me as well.  They are amazing doctors and friends…..they are family!  We are so blessed.

Anyway, we go to Dr. Kim tomorrow so she can see Hannah, how she is healing and give us an idea when Hannah can return to school.  We have not only her recovery to be concerned about but also her immune system.  We don’t want to jeopardize her recovery with her getting sick.  So, whatever Dr. Kim says, we will do.  Then the week of September 17th, we will go see Dr. Marvin, Hannah’s cardiologist for her 6 week post-op check-up, where they will do an ECHO and EKG and at that time, hopefully, we will be given 6 months until we have to go back and a clean bill of health.  I know it will be 8 weeks before she can return to “all normal activity,” which includes being on the playground at school (which is her favorite thing).

So right now, we are enjoying our days at HOME!  I have been a little on the lazy side and I am trying to get back into our routine, but it has been slow going for me.  Fortunately, Dennis cleaned REALLY good before he came to Birmingham to pick us up and he did ALL the laundry on Sunday, so it has given me a few days to just “rest and catch-up.”  Also, we have been blessed with people bringing us meals…..never knew I would need meals when we got home, but it truly has been the biggest blessing as cooking has not been my #1 priority since we got home.  I will admit, I didn’t know how totally exhausted I was until we got home.  Then, on Saturday night and Sunday night after getting home, Hannah didn’t sleep at all.  Needless to say, I have been a walking zombie all this week, but I am slowly getting back to normal.  I plan on getting alot done today, then the doctor tomorrow and celebrating a VERY special day on Friday…..more about that in another post!

Right now, I am savoring my “down-time” at home with my PRECIOUS MIRACLE CHILD and rejoicing in the fact that this surgery is now behind us and praying it is easy-going for a while!

Home Sweet Home

WE ARE HOME!!!!  YIPPEE!  HORRAY!!  HALLELUJAH!!! 

Can you tell I am happy?!  Honestly, as much as I hated to leave my new friends and a city I truly came to love in a short amount of time; there is ABSOLUTELY NO PLACE LIKE HOME!

The drive seemed so much longer coming home than it did going; but of course, we were heading to do something we had been dreading for literally 2 1/2 years…..the fact of life is that if it is something bad it always happens quicker and faster than you want it to!  I told Dennis tonight after we got home that as horrible as it was that Hannah had to go through another open-heart surgery; I felt so blessed and relieved that it was now behind us!  Dennis did tell me that even though he hated that she had to endure that again, we couldn’t have planned it any better.  It was like God said, “okay kids…..I need you to do this again, but I am going to make it the best possible experience I can for you….everything is going to go better than expected and smoothly and you, my children, are going to learn so much and it is going to change your life for the better.  Just trust me and I know that I have got this.”  What is that saying?  If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.  I love that, and it is absolutely SO VERY true!

So, now we are home and back to reality!  I have SO much to do!  Oh my goodness……HA!  It is all good though and it will all get done, one day at a time!

I have to tell a funny story that happened……okay, first, remember how OCD I am?  That everything has a place and that I have a reason for everything, even though most people (including Dennis) don’t understand?  Well, here is one of those things.

Before we left to go to Birmingham, I cleaned the entire house from top to bottom.  I cleaned out the pantry, freezer and fridge and for the last 2 weeks before we left, we ate whatever we had……I didn’t do any grocery shopping but for the things we absolutely had to have.  Then, I made 3 lists…..the first list was a Publix list for all the groceries I would have to buy when we returned from Birmingham.  The 2nd list was all the things I had to buy from Target when we returned and the 3rd list was my Sam’s shopping list.  Now, I make new lists after each trip to Publix and Target, but my Sam’s list stays the same.  When I make a Target or Publix list it is for the things I have to buy immediately, but my Sam’s list is a list of EVERYTHING that I ever buy from Sam’s.  When I make my trip to Sam’s, I look at that list and write down what it is I need for that particular trip.  I know, sounds kind of dumb; but that is my system.

So, when Dennis was home for that 2 weeks while Hannah and I were in Birmingham, he thought to himself that he would “surprise” me and do all my shopping for me.  He didn’t want to do the Publix shopping because he wasn’t sure when we would be home and didn’t want things to go bad, but he thought he could at least go do the Target and Sam’s.  OH DEAR!  What he didn’t realize was that even though I had a Sam’s list written out, I didn’t NEED everything on that list; frankly I only needed 4-5 of the items; but that he didn’t know.  So, what did my sweet husband do?!?!?  Yes, you guessed it…..he bought EVERYTHING on my Sam’s list!  When he got home and started putting things away, it dawned on him that I already had PLENTY of most everything that he bought and that is when it hit him that I had “just made a list for no reason.”  His words, not mine! HA!

When we got home today, I saw my lists laying there and all the items on my Sam’s list had been marked off.  I asked him why he had marked all the items off and he told me that he had done all my shopping for me.  I looked at him and said “ALL OF IT, I didn’t need all of it.”  To which he replied, “it was on the list…..why would you have a list if you didn’t need it?”  To which I replied, “it helps me remember the things that I purchase from Sam’s…..just because it is on the list, doesn’t mean I need it.”  To which he replied, “why is it on a list then if you don’t need it?”  We were both laughing so hard, we were crying…..it was hysterical!  Now, let me tell you….I have enough of some of my Sam’s things to last me literally a YEAR or more!  I won’t have to go to Sam’s for a very long time!  HA!  When he got up to pay for everything he couldn’t believe I spent that kind of money every 6-8 weeks, but what he didn’t realize is that I don’t buy everything on my list that often.  Most things only get purchased 2-3 times per year!  It was too funny and we are still laughing about it, and probably will for days, weeks and maybe even months!

Anyway, we are finally home…..I have alot of unpacking and organizing to do, but it is late so it can wait!  Can’t wait to get a shower where the shower head hangs above me and I don’t have to hold it and to get in my own bed for the first time in 3 weeks……..

Sweet Dreams!

A Funny Dada Moment & Steel City Pops with Friends

I have to say I seriously thought I would sleep last night, but again, it escaped me…..I thought Dennis being here would be just what I needed to get a restful night sleep, but I think the secret to that is being home and in my own bed with no sirens going past my window every 30 minutes!

Even on no sleep, we had a great day and actually found the Galleria Mall and walked around.  I did find some good deals on summer clothes and bathing suits for Hannah for next year, so I bought a few things for her, but that was it.  It was just really nice to get out and spend some time with my family.

Like I said in yesterday’s post, Hannah wanted Dennis to do everything for her, she did not want me to.  This morning that had not changed and she wanted him to get her ready to go.  So, I laid her outfit out and walked out of the room.  A couple of minutes later this is what I came back to:

Oh dear!  As you can tell, Hannah knew this was not right as she was laughing hysterically….I looked at Dennis and said, honey, you put this on backwards; to which he responded, “all my shirts get buttoned in the front…..who makes a shirt that buttons in the back?”  I was laughing so hard, I was crying…..so, after a quick fix, and me still laughing hysterically, we finally got it right….

Ahhhhh, much better!  Ha!  I was still laughing about this 8 hours later.  I needed a good laugh, and my husband provided it for me, more than once today!

We were blessed with another sweet member of David Platt’s church providing dinner for us which she brought to us around 2pm.  We have seriously been so blessed…..I cannot even begin to describe the love his church has shown us the whole time we have been here and I will never find an appropriate way to say thank you to everyone involved.

At 4pm, we were meeting up with the Theus family.  I have known Matt my entire life.  His parents and my parents were back-door neighbors in Titusville, Florida 45+ years ago.  They went to the same church and have remained the best of friends all these years.  Our family vacations were always with the Theus family.  They moved alot, so some of our vacations to visit them took us from Birmingham to Houston to Connecticut and New York.  I have not seen Matt for more than 16 years and had never had the opportunity to meet his sweet wife Lisa and their boys Daniel and Tim.  In fact, we probably would have left to travel home today but Dennis and I both wanted to see them.  Dennis has enjoyed Matt’s mom and dad on several of occasions when they have come to visit and they are just a fun family.  They suggested that we go to Steel City Pops, a very popular place in Birmingham…..it is a store that sells popsicles.  They are not your ordinary popsicles though…..they have so many different flavors, some “normal flavors like strawberry cream, peach or chocolate.  Then they have flavors like coffee, cucumber lime and sweet tea.  You can read all about them at www.steelcitypops.com  Okay, let me tell you….they were delicious!  Hannah and I had chocolate and it was incredible.  Dennis got strawberry fig and he said it tasted like his Maw-Maw’s jam that she used to make.  We spent about an hour with each other and Hannah took to them like family…..speaking of family, I wanted to take a picture of them as a family and look who just had to be in it with them…..

I have to say that Daniel and Tim were great sports with Hannah.  Hannah hugged all of them about 27 times each, but the boys just let her and hugged her back.  Made this mama’s heart smile.  So many times children don’t understand and they shy away from Hannah and don’t want her touching them, so it makes me happy when kids just let Hannah “be Hannah.”  I am sure Matt and Lisa probably explained to the boys that Hannah was “different” but the boys smiled at her and were so sweet and gentle and normally kids are not like that with Hannah and it endeared me to them that much more!  I was so thankful we had this opportunity to spend time with them while we were here!

Well, tomorrow we pack up and leave Birmingham to head home.  I am so excited to get home to my house and our routine…..but I am truly going to miss Birmingham and all the friends that we have met here.  I have fallen in love with this city and these sweet people whom I now call my friends.  I will be back to visit, as I know of one wedding that I am not going to miss…..she knows who she is!  Until next time, thank you so much to ALL the people who played a role in helping to take care of us on this 3 week journey.  From the food, cards, gifts, snacks, money, gift cards, grocery runs, visits and all the other acts of kindness……there are no words to express our gratefulness for all you have done for us.  You reflected the love of Jesus so beautifully and without wanting anything in return!  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.  To our surgeon, Dr. Dabal we are FOREVER in your debt and to all the nurses and doctors that had a hand in Hannah’s care; thank you, thank you, thank you!  You hold a very special place in our hearts!  God Bless each and every one of you!  Tomorrow we return home, to our lives; but we are forever changed because of all the people we met on this unexpected journey!

Liar, Liar Pants on Fire

After speaking to my husband last night (Wednesday), I was fairly certain it would be Friday or even Saturday before he was able to fly into Birmingham.  I thought this because the weather was not cooperating and he told me that he was really busy at work.  So, I had accepted the fact that it would be a few more days before we would see him and was still contemplating heading to Atlanta, if that was the case.

This morning, Hannah and I took our morning walk to the hospital, even texting Dennis a picture or two.  Hannah and I enjoy our walks, as we run into the same people everyday and we enjoy our chats with all of our new hospital friends.  Hannah has made good friends with the lady that drives the “courtesy golf-cart” around.  Yes, they have a huge golf-cart that helps those that can’t walk all the Concourses in this humongous hospital.  Hannah has asked to drive everyday!  HA!  She doesn’t want to ride, she wants to drive.  Today, we did ride, but I had to tell Hannah she had to wait to get home to drive Mr. Sam and Mrs. Kim’s golf cart.  Our next door neighbors let Hannah do whatever she wants, even drive their golf cart, with Dennis’ help, of course.  Anyway, we had our nice walk and went back to the apartment.  I was going to start cleaning and Hannah was going to play with her iPad.

We had not been in the apartment more than 5 minutes and there was a knock on the door.  I just assumed it was the director of the floor needing to tell me something, so I opened the door and to my utter amazement and SURPRISE…..Dennis was standing there with his bags and a box of Donut Shoppe Donuts from Jacksonville……leave it to a cop to bring donuts on his trip to Birmingham!  HA!  I looked at him and said….”YOU LIAR!”  He just laughed and said he wanted to surprise me!  THAT HE DID, and to be completely honest…..lying about that was a “good” lie!  HA!  I told him he still has to repent though!

Hannah glanced up from her iPad and just stared at him, in amazement, like this couldn’t really be happening.  I had to tell her it was okay to hug him.  She stood up and he knelt down and she put her sweet little arms around his neck and clung to him for at least 5 minutes!  She kept saying “dada, dada, dada!”  She was so happy, and so was Dennis.  I will be the first to testify too, that she has wanted NOTHING to do with me since he has been here!  He had to bathe her, read to her and she has already told him that HE is tucking her in bed!  I am LOVING it!

Dennis was quite amused on our afternoon walk….Hannah knows exactly where to go and how to manuever around the hospital and of course we had to stop and talk to all of our friends….in fact, as we were leaving….Dennis looked at me and said, “I feel like I am with Jerry Stapp!”  HA!  For those that know my dad….he NEVER meets a stranger, talks to everybody and before you leave him, you are good friends!  So, dad, if you are reading this…..I really am your daughter and apparently Hannah takes after us!  The only thing Hannah does differently from me is hug and blow kisses at everybody….I am not a hugger or a kisser!  I like my personal space!  HA!

Anyway, today has been a great day….glad to have my husband back with us after nearly 2 weeks apart and we are going to head home, back to Jacksonville, on Saturday!  Can’t wait to have a REAL shower and sleep in my own bed!

Kudos to all the single parents out there……I only have to do it every now and then, but some of you do it day in and day out, with little to no help and I applaud you!  I have learned so much with this experience over these last 3 weeks and I plan on bringing what I have learned home and applying it to my life.  Paying all the good that has been given to us forward……learning to have more of a servants heart…..reaching out to those in need and ministering to those less fortunate, because now that I have been ALONE and have been provided for by God’s people, perfect strangers to me; I, in turn, want to do that for others!

Every experience, good or bad, is a learning one……I sincerely wouldn’t trade these past 3 weeks for anything.  Watching God’s hand move and the MIRACLE that He performed in Hannah and His provision for us has been INCREDIBLE!  So thankful…..so very thankful

Semi-Wordless Wednesday

There is this thing that alot of bloggers do on Wednesday….it is called Wordless Wednesday.  Well, I am not sure I can do anything without words, but I am going to try Semi-Wordless Wednesday today…..

We haven’t slept…..Hannah is still having VERY restless nights and nightmares (the last 2 nights) and well, I have seen every 45 minutes on the clock each night for almost a week now.  So, there is only one thing that I know to do each day to get me through the day and it is this:

I have about 4 of these before our morning walk and then we usually end up walking to Starbucks for my 10am coffee!  God bless those of you who graciously gave us some Starbucks gift cards…..they are being used to keep me AWAKE and save the little bit of SANITY I have left!  Thank you Lord for creating the coffee bean!

Nightmares and GREAT news

I am going on ZERO sleep, but it is okay because the news we received from Dr. Dabal makes sleep seem of little importance!

Hannah was up many times last night with nightmares.  I am not sure what she is dreaming about, but the poor thing woke up screaming and wanting her boo-boo off and crying for dada!  Fortunately, I was her 2nd choice or we would have been in trouble.  Makes me wonder if she thinks Dennis has left us here and she isn’t going to see him again…..I don’t know…..all I know is that I watched the clock all night.  Finally at 5am, Hannah came and crawled in bed with me; we cuddled for a few minutes and then she wanted to watch Disney.  So, we were up in plenty of time to get ready and walk across the street for our 8:30am appointment with Dr. Dabal.

Can I just say I love that man!  I thank the Lord for bringing him into our life 7 years ago and that he has remained a vital part of Hannah’s medical care and team, even living here in Birmingham.  He is our little girl’s hero, our friend and frankly…..a gift from God!  He was so happy with Hannah’s progress and told me that what Hannah needed was to get home!  Get home to her bed, her toys, her routine and her daddy!  So, doctor’s orders were to “GO HOME!”  Music to my ears!  He did remove Hannah’s stitches from her chest tube sites and it seriously took 5 of us to help…..my little girl is quite the fighter!  But, she was brave and Dr. Dabal and his staff were just as brave, HA!  After it was done, Hannah said “all done” and “bye-bye!”  The head of the cardiology group came in and did an ECHO and saw that there was no fluid around her heart or lungs, YAY!  He said that the sub-aortic membrane that Dr. Dabal removed was gone and there was very little trace of it, which is very good, as it could grow back.  He also said that her LVOT (left ventricular outflow tract) narrowing that she did have was much wider, and looked great!  He was quite impressed with Dr. Dabal’s surgical skills and said she had a near-perfect repair and heart!  MUSIC TO MY EARS!  Of course, I was not surprised by his praise of Dr. Dabal!  I was not surprised in the slightest, as I know he is a GREAT surgeon and I know that he did great work because Jesus himself was in the operating room guiding him!  Remember this picture?

So, now that we have been given our “release papers,” I am trying to figure out my plans.  I am in the process of trying to convince Dennis to let me drive to Atlanta and stay with my “family” there…..the Garrison’s and the Holman’s might not be blood, but they are family and I haven’t seen them in years.  So, if I can convince Dennis; Hannah and I are going to leave here on Thursday morning and go to Atlanta and stay for a few days.  Then, either we will drive the rest of the way home or Dennis can come get us, if he feels he HAS to do that…..but, I honestly know that driving home at that point won’t be an issue for me or Hannah.  So, at this point I am making preparations to leave here on Thursday…..keeping my fingers crossed that my sweet hubby will give me the green light.  I will be honest….sometimes that “wives submit yourselves to your husbands” verse in the Bible is my greatest challenge…..ha!  That is a continual work in progress!

Please pray that I can get everything done….I have to clean, wash the sheets and towels, pack….etc and that the Lord keeps his hand on Hannah and me as we possibly travel and that we stay well.  It is still critical that Hannah stays healthy as we don’t want anything to complicate her recovery!  Thank you for taking this journey with us, for praying for us, supporting us, encouraging us and loving us!