Sesame and Sunday

Coffee

Our son, Rex, is anaphylaxic to sesame.  In the past, he has needed an Epi-pen® Jr. injection after accidentally eating some sesame chips.  This past weekend, James and I cooked hot dogs and hamburgers for the kids.  We have bought the same hot dog buns for months.  This weekend, we were in a frenzy due to a busy schedule and the fact that I am still tired and not quite up to 100% health yet.

We ate hot dogs Saturday night, and again Sunday afternoon.  Immediately after eating, we drove Rex and Ruby out to their grandparents’ home for a sleepover.  We noticed upon arrival that Rex had quite a few red marks on his neck.  He commented that they were bug bites from the bonfire we were at the night before.

We dismissed it, since he was exuberant and giddy.  We made plans for the two kids to stay in with an extra cell phone while grandma and grandpa went out for a bit, just around the corner.  We hugged our goodbyes and left for home.  20 minutes later, James picked up the hot dog bun bag and yelled, “Gracie! The buns list sesame as an ingredient now!”  I bolted over to him to inspect the bag as David said, “Mom!  Maybe those weren’t bug bites!”

I picked up my phone and frantically dialed the number for the cell phone that the kids had.  No answer…three times.  I texted. No response.

I texted my mom, and told her to call immediately.

She left her husband’s side to call me, and took off for home without even telling him what happened.

I asked if we needed to call an ambulance or not.  She said she would call back when she saw Rex.

Meanwhile, I called the allergist, who called the Emergency Room at the hospital.

Mom called back and spoke to James while I spoke to the Dr.

After I hung up, James and I hopped in our vehicle and took off for the hospital.  We packed caffeine as we assumed that we would be there for a long time.

We were at the hospital first, and I preregistered Rex before pacing and watching for the car that had my son in it.

They arrived, I rushed out and swooped him into a wheelchair, and marveled at the way he was giggling.

We pulled up to registration, and the nurse asked how many hot dog buns Rex had eaten.

I leaned over and asked him.

“None, mommy!  I didn’t eat any hot dogs. I had hamburgers!  A little voice in my head told me NOT to eat any hot dogs, so I didn’t.  Not yesterday either!”

We stared incredulously.  Thank God that this little man listened to that voice of warning!

The doctor checked him over just to be certain that the secondhand exposure hadn’t triggered his asthma, and he passed with flying colors.

James started laughing first, then Ruby snickered, my mom chortled, Rex giggled, and I shook my head as I laughed at our failure to ask the most obvious of questions.

The doctor assured us that we did the right thing, and that we could rest assured knowing that we knew what to do if there had been an actual reaction.  He did join us in snickering over the craziness of our Sunday.

We hugged our two kids goodbye again, and mom said, “Oh, shoot!  I never told my husband where I was going or that I was leaving!”

I quickly sent a text message of explanation so that once he walked home, he could retrieve the phone which he had left for the kids.

James shook his head and snickered every half hour for the rest of the night, as we sat up watching movies (we both had downed more than our share of caffeine!)

So we forgot to ask a crucial question, and made an assumption, and drove in two separate frenzies to the hospital…but at the end of the day, we laughed.

We laughed because Rex is alive.  We laughed because we care so much about him that we would not hesitate to do it all again to keep him safe.  We laughed because perfection is not a prerequisite for parenting.  We laughed because we were together, flaws and all…and we.are.loved.

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A Fear Realized

A Fear Realized (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

A Fear Realized (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

A cold sweat gripped me as I gasped for air.  James traced his finger gently on my shoulder. “Baby, I’m here. You’re safe.  What’s wrong?”  I groggily wiped the tears off my cheeks.  I mumbled, “Bad dream again”.  He wrapped me up in his arms until I fell asleep.

My body is a constant enigma for the medical community.  I react to medications that most people can tolerate without blinking.  For instance, whenever I am on antibiotics, I need around-the-clock antihistamines or else I quickly become covered in hives.

I am thankful for the ability to heal and be on antibiotics, and I also understand from prior experience that my nightly dose of antihistamine produces terrifying nightmares.  Lately, my nightmares have been exposing my fears.

This particular nightmare consisted of me being shut-into our home, helplessly on the couch as life spun on around me.  James continually flitted in and out, kissing me on the head as he said goodbye.  Every effort that I made to get off the couch and join him found me in the same position, unable to move.  I was stuck.

I reached constantly after James and the children, but I couldn’t get my legs to budge.  I felt abandoned, overlooked, and burdensome.

When I divulged my nightmare  to James that morning, I discovered how terrified I am that my health will cause me to miss out on the new and exciting chapters of life that we plan to start together this Fall.

He reassured me that he wants to share all of our chapters with me, and that he is not going anywhere.  He gently reminded me of our honeymoon, when he pushed me around the Colorado Mountains while I was in a wheelchair. I scrunched up my nose and said, “I know, but I didn’t want to make it a tradition!” He laughed and hugged me.

In looking over our options, I can either choose the current state which has me barely functioning, or in constant pain, or medicated and halfway functioning; or I can choose surgery to alleviate the pain, with the hope that I will improve.

The question is, where on the calendar do I even possess 6 or so weeks for recovery? Also, how do I continue to be involved in the life of my family…from bed, or the couch?

I don’t want to be the woman that holds her family back.  I want to be their biggest cheerleader, encouragement, and prayer supporter.  I want to exude love and acceptance.

Ironic that I accept them with injury without any hesitation, yet I can’t quite receive myself with open arms.

James deftly called me out last night.  He reminded me that it’s a privilege for him to care for me, that he takes great joy in meeting my needs.

Throughout my life, I have been deeply blessed by many friends and family members who are “differently-abled” than society’s norm.  Their joy, love of life, and simple faith constantly pushes me onward in my own journey.  Again, I unhesitatingly accept them with their “limitations”…so why can’t I accept myself?

Pensive (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Pensive (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

If I openly admit that I am limited, if I confess that I am physically imperfect, my facade crumbles.  I will then have to admit that I am the one in need.

I am. I hurt.  I am in pain.  I am in need of surgery, and I am a bit scared.  I don’t want to overburden James at such a crucial point in our life, just when things are changing and starting in a new direction.

It’s humbling to need others.  It requires honesty, but also trust.

God pretty much took my breath away this morning when I read the following blog post:

“Ever Upward – Isaiah” by Justine Froelker  

Justine reminded me that He has this.  When I speak the truth about my pain, my fears, and even my insecurities; then I courageously disarm the shame that goes along with silence.

So, my name is Gracie K. Harold.  I have a “mild” case of Ehler-Danlos syndrome, type 3.  I have recently come to appreciate my uterus for the 5 children that it has harbored and held, even if I never got to embrace two of the babies which were embraced by it.  I am planning to undergo a hysterectomy before the age of 40.  One of my ovaries will hopefully be allowed to stay, but the other one has no possibility of not causing me more pain and damage.

I realized this weekend that when there’s an empty space, and I turn my face to God in expectation of His Goodness;  He enlarges my heart and fills me with more than I ever could have imagined.

Don’t believe me? My next post on Monday will give more details. *

Meanwhile, until then, feel free to read my previous posts as you wrestle through to see the Goodness.

I’ll be praying that He enlarges your heart and then makes you speechless as he pours Goodness into your emptiness.

Love,

Gracie

*Please note that this link will not work until Monday, August 11, 2014 around 8 am EST, but the other two links are available right now! =)*

“Across the Street From Normal” Preview

The proof of my book has arrived! I am slipping out a sneak preview because I.cannot.keep.it.a.secret 🙂 20140715-074238-27758244.jpg

The Heart of a Mother – Part 2

A Shattered Reality

A Shattered Reality

 “The Heart of a Mother – Part 2”

by Gracie K. Harold

(Porn Addiction Recovery Link is here)

Trigger Word Warning: rape, miscarriage, drug addict, preterm labor, “bitchy”, life-threatening allergies, physical abuse, grief, domestic violence, threats of murder, traumatic brain injury, amnesia, auto accident, concussion.

In my last post, I shared about the unexpected pregnancy and miscarriage of my first child.  I told of the journey I took into grief, pain, and forgiveness.  Today, my story continues.

Eventually, I married a man who I thought would share my passion for children.  Instead, I found out on my honeymoon that he was an active drug addict.  We were 2,000 miles from home, and I had no money.  I honestly thought my “duty” was to simply love my husband.  I was erroneously counseled by a few others to “stop being so bitchy and just love my husband”.   So I did.

By the time our first anniversary rolled around, I was pregnant with our first son.  I ended up on bed rest for 10 weeks due to preterm labor and contractions.  I was plagued with the terrorizing thought that I would lose my son through miscarriage.  Miraculously, my baby boy was born, seemingly healthy.  We later discovered his life-threatening allergies to peanuts, and many other complicated allergies.

My heart was captured by this determined and resilient little boy.  Before him, I didn’t know how I could ever love another child as much as I loved the daughter I had miscarried.  I quickly realized that a mother’s heart stretches and enlarges with each child; not in a way that replaces the first child’s place in her heart, but in a mysterious ever-expanding way that still leaves me awestruck.

At my son’s 1st birthday party, we announced that we were expecting our next child.  On the 5th year anniversary of my miscarriage, my ultrasound revealed that I was carrying a girl.  This pregnancy also had some complications, as well as 5 weeks of bed rest; but I went into labor with my “firecracker” girl during the grand finale of the local fireworks on the 4th of July. In honor of her big sister, she was given the same middle name.  Her huge tender heart for others constantly stretches me to see the world through compassionate eyes.

I was often taken aback at how much I still grieved over my oldest daughter.  Some people who knew my story and about my loss of my firstborn would say, “There. Now you have a new baby to replace the one that died.”

No child can ever replace one who dies. My children are each uniquely irreplaceable because they are each an individual person with their own distinct personality.  I still have a spot in my heart just for my daughter that I miscarried.  She cannot be replaced; she will always be my daughter. Always.  Just as my other children will always be mine. Always.

Not long after my 2nd daughter was born, my favorite professor and mentor died from cancer.  My grief left my heart raw.  Soon thereafter, we were shocked to discover that I was pregnant again.

That day will be forever etched in my memory.  My husband at the time snapped at me, “What are we going to name THIS child?”  It was said through snarling lips and accompanied by rolled eyes.

I told him we would name the baby after my professor.   While I was pregnant with our little professor; I slipped on the ice, broke my foot and started again with preterm labor.  This time I was on bed rest for the last half of my pregnancy.  I had contractions every single day until my baby boy was born.

He also has life-threatening allergies, and has been close to death at least three different times.  Miraculously, he lives on.  The local firefighters started calling him “Firefighter Boy”, because they responded on more than one occasion to keep him alive and breathing.  They also told me that they called him that in faith, fully trusting that he would grow up to be strong and healthy.

Three months before my little professor was born, my dear grandpapa died unexpectedly.  Grief engulfed me.  My son bears grandpapa’s name as his middle name, and undoubtedly shares his tenacity.

What an incredible blessing to have such a goofy, dry sense of humor in such a compact little body. My heart seemed full, and I couldn’t fathom a more fulfilling experience with motherhood.

When my youngest son was only five months old; my ex-husband’s addictions spun monstrously out of control.  He tried to find someone to kill the children and me, he threatened to kill us and make it look like an accident, and he threatened to harm my family members and friends if we left.

By the grace of God, we managed to escape and had to move to another county in order to stay in hiding.  We moved into a shelter for domestic violence survivors. I felt like a failure at first, until a friend gently pointed out that if I had stayed I would have failed to be a good mother to my children.  She reminded me that in leaving, I had the courage to be a single mother who taught my sons that a woman deserves respect, kindness and compassion.  I was teaching my daughter that she deserves to be treated well by the men and boys in her life.

So, I dedicated myself passionately to being the best single mom that I could be.  I read every article and book that I could get my hands on.   My divorce was finalized, a Personal Protection Order was issued, and his visitation was revoked.  We still continue to navigate the legal system in search of justice.

We attended a domestic violence support group, and sought counseling.  We grieved the loss of our safety; as well as our expectations of a kind, caring father and husband.

Above all, though, I learned that I am a mother.

Single or married, employed or not, in shelter or out, I have the same huge places in my heart for my children.  I am fiercely protective of them.  If threatened, I will become like a mama bear that protects her cubs.

I am stronger than I realized.

We were blessed to find churches along our journey, people who stood united beside us in support and protection.  One time friends from church surprised us with a camping weekend.  They set up a borrowed camper so that the door faced the campfire. The men split shifts sitting by the campfire through the night to ensure that the children and I were safe.  Words cannot express how much that promoted healing in us.

I eventually found a job teaching theatre, and I loved it!  For a short time, I even homeschooled the children while I worked part time.  My job responsibilities and time demands increased, and we found a school for the children.  Life was busy, but fun.  The kids and I cleaned the school every weekend for extra money, and I remember the fun we had playing “vacuum tag” in the school after hours.

One day, I backed out of my parking spot at a local library, and was hit from behind by another vehicle.  It was my third concussion in nine years.  I was diagnosed with Post-concussion syndrome, and suffered from amnesia.  I had to re-learn how to speak, how to put on my make-up, the name of fruits and vegetables (at one point I was confused because I thought black pepper was a vegetable).  I had to re-learn social cues, and I couldn’t sing for 6 days.  I couldn’t drive for 6 weeks.  I had physical therapy for a year.

Yet, I never forgot my children’s names or their individual allergies.  I remembered their recipes for allergy-friendly foods.  I managed their health conditions, and remembered all of the medications.  Despite the fact that my short-term memory would initially reset anytime something changed, my children helped me figure out tools to not only cope with my disability, but to thrive in spite of my disability. I like to tell people that I felt like God covered my brain with His hand in order to preserve the memories of my children and their health conditions.

So even with amnesia, I never forgot that I am a mother.

In the posts that follow, I will continue to share my journey through life, injury, amnesia, and motherhood.