On a Learning Curve

Life may not be easy, but it's always an adventure.


Quite a Week

Running provides all sorts of opportunities for me to sort through my thoughts. On the weekends, I am blessed to have a running partner or two who allow me to share what’s going through my mind. For those of you who don’t run, this is called distraction. It’s what enables runners to keep running long after they want to listen to their legs and other body parts that are begging them to quit!

This morning my friend Tracy and I got a late start on our 7-8 miles. The temperature was still in the 70s, but the humidity was intense. We spent several miles just catching up on the events of the past week. Around Mile 5, I shared two events from my week. I needed some distraction at this point in our run.

On Wednesday, the girls and I hosted some homeschooling friends for lunch. We hadn’t seen these friends in at least 2 years, but our paths recently converged when my girlfriend’s young son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. My 8-year-old S is also diabetic and has been for the past 5+ years. I remember the days during and after her hospitalization vividly. Our family’s life turned upside down: We learned a whole new vocabulary that revolved around blood glucose levels, and we developed new skills like counting carbohydrate grams and administering insulin. We cleaned out our pantry and decided that the entire family would adopt a diabetic diet. We educated friends and family on spotting the signs of low blood sugar, and we carried our glucagon pens everywhere we went. It was an exhausting, terrifying time.

Fast-forward five years, and our life still revolves around S’s diabetic care. We affectionately call diabetes our fourth child, but we are no longer afraid. We can’t change her diabetes, we don’t know why her body decided to attack her pancreas, and we acknowledge that life isn’t fair. In fact, we live as normal a life as is possible. She plays soccer, swims, and rides her bike. She just got out of her first cast for a broken elbow, and she adores her 2 hamsters. But I still count every gram of carbohydrates that pass through her lips; I still lose sleep over late-night BG checks; and Ryan still sneaks out of bed when everyone else is asleep to make sure that she’s still breathing.

I sat and listened to my friend. I answered questions. I promised her that she’s going to get through this first year. I reminded her that I’m still not an expert on diabetes, but I am 5 years past where she is. And I thought to myself, “I can’t believe how normal it seems to have a child with diabetes.”

That was on Wednesday. On Thursday I called a dear friend–a lady from our church who has adopted our family while we are living far away from our own relatives. I hadn’t talked to her since last Sunday’s service, and that’s unusual for me. The first thing she shared was that her niece had lost her baby. You see, this niece whom she had helped raise and considers to be another daughter had recently learned that the baby she was carrying was in trouble. The details aren’t mine to share, but they are heart-breaking nonetheless. Babies aren’t supposed to be born too early or too sick too survive. Her baby was both.

All I said was, “I’m so sorry.” I’ve learned that sometimes these are the best words to say to someone who has just had her heart torn out and crushed. I know this from experience. My experiences are named Seth, Owen, and Lucy. These are the 3 children I knew just briefly on earth but who I will see in eternity. Knowing them and grieving their loss has changed me permanently, which is why all I could say was, “I’m so very sorry.”

There will probably be a funeral service next week, which I will attend. I will probably weep for this mother and father, but I won’t be weeping for myself. You see, I am a changed person. In the 11 years since I said good-bye to Seth and Owen and then to Lucy, I know that life goes on after loss. Grief dries up with evaporated tears, and living children remind us that their needs are important, too. Yes, my heart has several tender spots which don’t like to be poked, but it is a strong heart. It has survived the trials of bearing 6 children and the diagnosis of a life-threatening disease.

When I was pregnant with H, I loved these verses from Isaiah 43:

18 “Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

I don’t think God means for me or for anyone to literally forget the experiences of the past, but He doesn’t want us to cling to them. Dwelling on past disappointments, hurts, and loss clouds our vision and distracts us from the new things that He is doing for us. And this week, I saw these verses come full circle in my life. I haven’t forgotten the experiences of my past, but I have learned not to dwell on them. Instead I am looking for these new things that God has promised me. And perhaps–just perhaps–these new things are the ability to comfort others who are undergoing similar experiences.

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Remember that really cheesy cliche, When life gives you lemons, make lemonade? Well, life never brings us lemons. We get vermin. Yes, vermin. Here’s a quick list:

2007: Weeks after we start homeschooling, G brings home head lice. Astute husband asks, “Aren’t you homeschooling? How did she get lice?!”

2010: Pinworms–or, as we like to call them, a parting gift from the state of Texas.

2011: Pinworms, Part 2: The gift that just keeps on giving–especially if one of your children sucks her thumb and another one digs holes in the dirt as a hobby.

2011: Mice. Not like the cute pet store versions. These guys pooped themselves silly under the kitchen sink and on the pantry shelves. My super brave neighbor promised to throw out any dead bodies that I captured. I held her to that promise.

Summer 2012: Fruit flies. Interesting discovery: they prefer red wine to cheap apple cider vinegar.

2013: Weevils. I posted earlier about having some extra time today due to the canceled swim meet. I thought I would use that time to pick up dinner and take the girls to the neighborhood pool. Nope, it started thundering, so we ate dinner and decided to go play outside. Nope. Kids went outside after I started shrieking that there were hundreds of tiny little bugs all over the floor of the pantry. We pulled everything out, vacuumed the pantry 5 times (no kidding), tossed out a huge bag of birdseed, scrubbed the floor, and checked every food item for signs of creepy-crawlies. In all fairness, G told me that I shouldn’t give the birds this particular type of seed since it’s not their favorite.



For the past decade, I’ve entertained friends and family with the highlights of our family’s life. Okay, mostly I just retell funny stories that will one day embarrass my three beautiful daughters. A ridiculous number of people have suggested that I write my stories down–or, as my mother frequently requests, write a book–before I forget them. Yes, I was an English major, and yes, I taught high school English for five years. But write a book? Keep a blog? Those things take time. For the past decade, the aforementioned children have been using up all of my time. They want me to feed them, find their missing shoes, and explain complicated subjects to them. (I’ll save this tidbit for a later post on why I don’t own a smart phone, or why I’m not going to spend $200 every month to Google “world’s largest rock” or “world’s fattest hamster.”) Oh, and I forgot to mention that six years ago, we decided that I would homeschool our girls; actually, that was supposed to be a two-year commitment to one child, but that is also another topic. So this afternoon I find myself sitting on my front porch with my laptop. As I stared down a couple of brazen squirrels who were eying the contents of the bird feeder, I realized that I had some time today. After all, tonight’s swim meet (Future Topic #3) was canceled for “technical reasons.”

This morning as I was telling my oldest child that tonight’s meet had been canceled, she pressed me for details on those “technical reasons.” Really, those were the only words that the email listed. I told her that my guess is that the computer timing equipment is probably not working. Instantly I knew that some outrageous comment was working its way out of her mouth. Call it mom’s intuition. She adroitly replied, “Yeah, like if swimmers get into the pool with the broken equipment, they could get electrocuted.” Is that really the most likely scenario? Nope. Is this exactly the reason I love this child so much? “Exactly,” I told her.