JOY. It surpasses circumstances; it’s greater than happiness. Happiness is based on happenings, but joy comes straight from God. (Fruit of the Spirit, yo!)
I’ve been reflecting a lot on this in the past year. I’ve had so many reasons for joy; not just happiness. Though my grandpa died in January, I experienced joy knowing that he went to heaven and joined my grandma. Though I had many physical obstacles, I overcame them. I was confined to a wheelchair for a long time. But I became able to walk with a walker! I cried when, at my home church, I made it up the stairs to sing with the choir. What joy was brought to our lives when my healthy little daughter joined us at the beginning of September! She brings us more reason to smile every day.
One of the worst moments of my year—not all that many people know this—was the last time I went to the hospital at the beginning of October. We’d been keeping an eye on my rising fever, and when it hit 106, we called 911. By this time, I was septic: paralyzed in strength and my speech was slurred. Both Doug and I thought I was going to die. But God was not done with me yet. Over the next week in the hospital, I was not sad at the fact that I almost died and with my current state. Instead, I was joyful for the little things.
Doug and I had recently watched the movie “Miracles from Heaven.” In the movie, the mom, who tells the story, tells of the everyday miracles she realized she had witnessed over the whole trial. So I started keeping track of the miracles I saw every day. It really puts life into perspective. There are lists for each day I was in the hospital, and though I don’t make a list every day anymore, I am conscious of all the miracles around me. We are financially okay even though Doug is in his third year of med school, and I’m not working. Both sets of our parents are a huge help to us. There are two wonderful caretakers who come and help take care of me and Lydia when Doug is away. I am still walking with a walker, but my physical therapist, Judy, thinks I’ll be able to walk without it (as is my goal)! I AM getting stronger. I cannot take care of Lydia by myself yet, but I can do so much more with her than I could when she was more than half the weight she is now!
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 1:2-3). I have had MS a long time. I know that the joy in me wouldn’t be near what it is now if I had been free of this disease. I’m not saying it’s because of the MS my faith is where it is today; I’m just saying that even though I have MS, God has used it for good. I’ve got joy down in my heart, as the song says. Joy is greater than happiness.
P.S: I do have to share the HAPPY news that Lydia finally rolled over today! Yay!
I ask a lot of questions. I read a lot of blogs and articles that are relevant to what I am interested in/looking for. I have joined the local “MOPS” group here in town. Doug and I only have one more week of our child birthing class, and they have gone into detail about how to care for a newborn. I have gone over my baby registry time and time again, sure I am missing something. I look at my friends’ first baby registries. I ask questions to other mommy friends of mine who have at least two children under 5 (because I refer to them as recent “seasoned” mommies). But. I still feel like I have no stinkin’ idea what to do to get ready for this baby!
Doug takes his Step One COMLEX exam (his board test to be taken THIS summer—there are three before he can become a licensed physician) on July 12. THEN we will begin “officially” preparing for baby. Many women have told me it’s called nesting, but Doug is gonna help me, too! (Which is why we’re waiting until after his test.)
So many people have asked what I still need. Then, I just direct them to my Target registry. I don’t really know, but that registry is a start! When I was born, my grandpa on my mom’s side built my parents a changing table, where the top can come off and it can be a regular dresser, so it can grow with baby. He was very handy with making wood things. Because I’m the oldest AND the first to have a baby, I inherited it. That dresser was in my bedroom the whole time I was in middle school and high school. I am excited that I have something my grandpa made, and excited that I get to use the changing table! We have friends from church who are done having kids, and have offered us things like a pak-n-play or even baby/toddler girl clothes. Doug and I plan on doing the exact same thing after we’re done with kids!
I have written this baby girl a few letters, and I have thought about her and included her in some of my quiet times with Jesus. I will share some pictures of my Bible art journaling to show you, and because I’m just so excited! I have been thinking about her a LOT. Even Doug has baby brain—he recently asked one of his friends, who got married the same summer as us—when they were jumping on the baby train, ha!
I did this one even before I knew the gender! Psalm 139
I LOVED doing this one! I can’t wait until my baby’s little hand grasps my finger! Psalme 127:3.
This picture was actually traced from a friend’s drawing, but it is a child, and I made her blonde, because I imagine my daughter with blonde hair when she is little (we will see!) Mark 10:14
Baby has been super healthy the whole pregnancy. As for me, my health is so much better than it was! I am doing PT, and I keep getting stronger! I’m basically learning how to walk correctly—AKA, re-learning how to walk with a cooperative left leg. And, as I said in one of the first posts published after my pregnancy was announced, I REALLY want to stick with what I learn in PT this time. For the first time, I actually have a reason bigger than myself—my child. I only have a few weeks left of PT, but I am doing so much better than I was before I started! And, my last post (published before this one) talked about me doing the things I love once again. This is as much for my health as it is for my sanity, even AFTER baby arrives!
Any advice from other seasoned mommies out there? Leave a comment below!
So, I’ve been sitting at home, back in Kentucky, since April. I have checked and double checked our baby registry. I have been Bible art journaling. Even though I don’t have a lot of energy to do so, I have tried to help out around the house as I can. And yesterday, I realized. Why am I not writing? Why am I not playing piano every day? These two activities are ones that I LOVE; have much finger dexterity in February or March, but I have it back now! Why is the child in my womb not hearing her mommy play music all the time? Why has my creative slow simply stopped?
So, I am re-discovering ANNA. I have made a commitment to write and play the piano, 30 minutes a day each. I have an author friend who was starting to write a book in October or November, and she published it a few weeks ago. Why do I drag my stinkin’ feet every time I close in on a goal of mine? Yeah, the first book I self-published, I went about it all wrong. But that doesn’t mean I should STOP. I had to cancel piano lessons in January, because of my relapse, which led me to live in Minnesota for a few months while everything was figured out health-wise. But I have heard interest of new students—why have I not been pursuing them super hard? Um, if I leave it all up to them, they won’t be taught!
In the next year, I plan to WRITE. I plan to self-publish more books that I think my audience will enjoy. Books that have been cooking in my head for YEARS, that simply need to be refined and rewritten. I didn’t even sleep very much last night, because my brain was remembering all the things I have wanted to do for so long. I have two months until baby comes. Then, even though I’ll be exhausted, I will still be at home. Even if my body can’t do everything I want it to when I want it to, I can WRITE. I can PLAY. So, what am I waiting for? I even got up at 6am this morning because I couldn’t wait. (I’ll probably crash in a few hours, but hey, I’m up now!)
Shortly after Christmas, I went up to Dr. Wile E. Coyote’s house to spend until New Year’s there. I had not met his family before arriving there. His family was great. I’m a hugger, and I gave them all hugs when I saw them (I’m pretty sure—I’ve given and received hugs every other time I see them!). I was surprised that his mom, Karen, and his sister, Beth, were shorter than me. I’m the shortest one in my family. My grandma is shorter than me, but I think she’s shrinking, so it shouldn’t count. Oh, and an aunt of mine who is an in-law to the family is shorter than me. Barely. And my nine-year-old cousin. I’m getting off-topic. Can I just say that my sisters are taller than Dr. Coyote? They almost wear the same shoe size, even.
Anyway, Dr. Coyote was making all of these secret phone calls and kept holding his tongue when we would talk (the whole previous month), because he’s not that great of a secret keeper (although for this, I applaude him!). December 30th, we were driving home from visiting our friend in the hospital and her new baby and Dr. Wile E. said, “So, we’re going on a drive tomorrow.” It was determined that we leave around 7am, and mentioned that I should bring an overnight bag. “And just so you know,” he added, “in my overnight bag, I am packing a tie.” And I just smiled and thought about which of the two dresses that I packed I should actually bring (he had told me to bring nice clothes, so I overpacked, as usual, and brought nice clothes. When you’re driving places, you’re allowed to overpack).
The next morning, Dr. Wile E. Coyote gave me a sheet of paper with directions to places (except all the destinations were cut out of the paper, so there were little squares missing and stuff) and told me I was the navigator. He wouldn’t tell me where we were going, and I didn’t pry, because I love surprises. As we were driving, Dr. Coyote said he had a thought: “You don’t mind staying in a house if you’re by yourself there? It’s a familiar house.” Not at all. I asked, “Is that because UW La-Crosse doesn’t start school again for another few weeks? And he just shrugged. I peeked at the sheet with the directions, and even though it was just a street address, I kind of recognized the first address (because I had just mailed a bunch of Christmas cards out), but I wasn’t for positive or anything.
MILWAUKEE was the city we went to! First stop? My friends’ Bridget, Kara, Rachel, and Tang’s house, where Dr. Wile E. Coyote picked up some keys from Tang, who was there. Then we left again. (We didn’t even say more than “hi.”) And we went to…Liberty and Truth Ministries! A church that was my favorite place we volunteered at on Project (Doug didn’t work all the same places I did when we were on Project, but we’ve talked about it, and he was taking notes). Apparently, Pastor Seay wasn’t going to come in on New Year’s Eve, but Doug explained that “It’s for Anna…” and Pastor Seay was like, “Oh, well if it’s for Anna, then of course I’ll come in on New Year’s Eve.” Smiley face. It was so good to talk with Pastor Seay and catch up while we were packing clothes, so their clothing ministry could be moved into another building. Gah! Then Dr. Coyote said we should change into our nice clothes there, so we did. Pastor Seay took a picture of us and then prayed with us before we continued our day. It was great! Then, we went to Culver’s, which kind of threw me off. We stood out a lot because 1) we were white in a predominately black part of town and 2) we were dressed up all fancy and it was like 1pm. Dr, Wile E. Coyote emphasized that we were getting a “light lunch.” 🙂 The next place we went to was CITY ON A HILL. Aka, the building where Project was AND the place were we met and all that jazz. I tried not to get suspicious, but really. He brought a duffel bag in and had me wait while someone who worked there showed him to the chapel that he had reserved. I just sat and waited. I chatted with the receptionist. I read all the posters. A few times. I entertained myself. (I’m good at that.) After 5-10 minutes (it probably wasn’t actually that long), he came back and got me and led me to the chapel.
On our way to the chapel, I told Dr. Coyote that “I’m excited!” Because I was– I didn’t know exactly what would happen and I was excited to see what he had planned. He’s like, “I don’t really know what I’m feeling.” Ha. When I opened the door, I saw this beautiful bouquet of purple and white flowers on the pulpit of this little chapel. “Those are for you,” he said. The card read: “Always bringing you smiles. I love you! Doug.” THEN he had plugged in his iPhone to some speakers and started playing some music so we could dance (he made a point to put music on his iPhone THE NIGHT BEFORE, ‘cuz he didn’t have any on his phone before). So we danced to songs like “Your Love Never Fails” by Brandon Heath and other Jesus music that were all about the same tempo. Then he went to go turn the music down. I was thinking that I felt like I needed to sit down, but I also thought that might be a bad idea, and I should continue to stand, because….then he was looking at these papers in his hand and put them back in his pocket. He started telling me all the things he loved about me, sometimes taking out the papers again to make sure he wasn’t forgetting anything. And then he dropped the top page (which felt more dramatic to me than it did to him). The next page, he read a paragraph of the story I’d most recently written, about putting on the armor of God. He quoted me at the end, like one would quote from a book by a specific person and told me that he wanted to fight next to me. I was like, shaking with excitement. And then he let THAT page drop (dramatically) to the floor. The last page in his hands….ahh. HE WROTE ME A SHAKESPEAREAN SONNET. It was all about how he saw God in me and loved it and how God had given him permission to date me, and then God gave him the go-ahead to ask for my hand in marriage. (This is where the “giggle mess” got worse and more exciting, I think.) Then he gets down on one knee and I’m like, “Yes!” except he completely ignores me because he’s not done talking yet. He’s describing the ring and tells me to take a closer look, and I notice that it’s perfect, but that’s about it and I keep squealing “yes” and then he quotes Ecclesiastes 4:12 and asks me to marry him. THEN I said yes (again). 🙂
Ecclesiastes 4:12, “Though one may be overpowered, two can withstand. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.”
That was at like 2, and Dr. Coyote had the whole rest of the day planned. Gah! Then we went to Alterra by the lake (which has a new name that I don’t remember but is my favorite coffee shop in Milwaukee STILL). We had to bring the flowers in because it was winter and they would have frozen in the car. Picture op. Then we went to a real fancy restaurant. We had steak (that was super good), and our waitress brought us champagne ‘cuz we told her we had just gotten engaged. And Dr. Coyote was like, “Save room for dessert. I called ahead and made sure there’s cheesecake.” Btw, cheesecake is like, my favorite dessert. I didn’t even know he knew my favorite dessert! So we ordered cheesecake and our waitress comes back with two desserts. “This is the dessert I was going to bring you before you ordered dessert, and here is your cheesecake. Would you like me to take a picture of you with your dessert?” (We had asked her to take a picture for us earlier, because we were documenting our day. Check out our take one adventure album on Facebook! It’s in Doug’s albums.) So, the desert she brought out had two little cheesecakes and in between it said “Congradulations” in chocolate. Ahh. So we split the big cheesecake the next day when we got back to the Meyers’ house. Then we went to the Urban’s house (this staff family we met at project), who had left their house for the weekend but left post-its how things worked. So we watched Fireproof and cuddled and talked. Then, Dr. Wile E. Coyote brought me back to the four awesome ladies’ house for the night, and he returned to the Urban’s. It was a great day. 🙂
A lot of people were actually not at all surprised, including Ashley and Meg, two of our Project friends who were all like, “I totally called it! Like, two years ago!” So I sent the news to friends and family with a picture. Why not?
Part V, the next segment of this series, will be posted Wednesday! I really hope you are all enjoying this. It is enjoyable to me to be writing this whole story out. Dr. Wile E. Coyote, who has been reading my blog on his study breaks, says that there have been things he didn’t even know that I tell on my side of the story. Not that I wanted to tell it all to him right away. Now is a good time for him to know. “I’ve liked you since Project.” “I knew that you’d marry me.” “I think I’ve loved you since seeing you in person after we started dating—maybe even earlier.” And just so you all know, I did a lot of praying before the engagement, when we were still dating, that he wouldn’t break my heart. Then I got to a point where it would have been okay, even though it would have hurt like heck, because we had taught each other so much. But I am so glad that we did get married and are on this adventure of life. I’ll get off my soapbox (that’s coated with love, because I suffer from a disease called “love brain” that prevents me from thinking clearly) and save it. Like I said, Wednesday is the next post. 🙂
After Summer Project, God took me on this journey of growth that was incredible. I have used the analogy that is was like I was the pinball in a pinball machine—Project took the handle and brought back the thing that drives the ball into the game, and after, the spring let go and I grew like crazy in the Lord. It was incredible. I totally fell in love with the Lord like I hadn’t before. For almost an entire year, I forgot about the little crush I’d had on this Doug person. (Even though we still wrote letters—we were still friends, as we all were from Project.)
And then I student staffed Summer Project the next summer. Mostly new faces on the Project, but all the same that we were working with. And I started thinking about the last time I walked those halls, when I was a student on Project. I reminisced. I loved being a student, it was like a spiritual greenhouse! But being staff? I re-learned what I had the previous summer, and this time, all that I hadn’t had enough room in my brain to process at the time and was lost, stayed! I learned about God’s heart for the poor. I learned about God’s intent for marriage. And out of nowhere, I started thinking about—you guessed it, Dr. Wile E. Coyote. I’d go out for coffee on days off with my friend Jill from Project the year before and ask her what to do. So I prayed. And the prayer continued after the summer ended. Dr. Wile E. and I had been keeping in touch by writing snail mail letters, and sometimes texting. Always, we spoke about scripture, what God was teaching us, our lives, and share prayer requests. We shared if God had answered prayers or if we were still praying for an earlier issue or how it was resolved. D didn’t know he had long ago “sister-in-Christ-zoned” me, and that was a struggle.
Over the NEXT year, I struggled. “Lord, I have feelings for Dr. Coyote, and I don’t want them there. Take them away!” and “God, Dr. Coyote doesn’t like me back, I know it. If he does, I pray that he will tell me!” Jill had told me, “Dr. Coyote has a sister, so he has to know that you like him, right?” But I wasn’t so sure. I thought the only way to get his attention was to hit him in the head with a 2×4 with the words “Anna likes you” imprinted on them, so that when he’d look in the mirror, he’d receive a sign to act upon. But I kept praying.
I’d pray for Dr. Coyote, and then I’d pray for my future husband separately. They were, after all, two different people. I finally came to a point where Dr. Coyote didn’t have to be the man for me—and I began praying that he would meet someone and get married. Someone who he needed, that would support him and ministered to him in the way he needed. Dr. Coyote was one of the first people I’d text if I needed prayer for something. My sister went to the ER? I texted my best girlfriends, Dr. Coyote, and my co-ed Action Group. I needed an opinion? I texted my best girlfriends, Dr. Coyote, and my co-ed Action Group.
The summer of 2013, I was living at home and working on the farm. I had been trying to finish the manuscript of the novel I had been working on for the last year, but I needed some ideas. “What is your favorite story in the Bible? And who is your favorite Bible character in the OT?” I sent a mass text and got a few answers. A couple hours later, when I was in the tractor, Dr. Coyote texted me and said he didn’t get the mass message because he did not have a smart phone. So we agreed to talk more on Facebook after he was done with CNA class that night. (We did that every once in a while, too.) When we did talk on Facebook that night, he mentioned that we should Skype or something the next day.
[Okay. At this point, I was trying NOT to acknowledge feelings for him. He was just a really good friend…And I was excited to be talking more.]
The next night, we Skyped for FOUR HOURS. I loved it! We talked about anything and everything. And the next time we Skyped, it was just as long! But let me tell you a little bit about our conversation that second Skype call (‘cuz it’s important to the storyline):
First we chit-chatted about life and stuff, and then conversation turned to the Word.
Dr. Coyote: [Takes a deep breath, pauses as he has on his “thinking” face, and then looks up.] What have you been reading in the Bible lately?
Anna: I’ve been reading…[talk about what I’d been reading and learning from it]. What about you? What did you read in the Word today?
Dr. Coyote: [Deep breath.] I read Ruth—I was trying to find somewhere in the Word where it talks about dating, and I decided that Ruth and Boaz were a good example. I was looking at how Boaz treated Ruth, and he didn’t keep anything from her—he told it all to her. I don’t want to keep making you guess…why we’ve been talking more and all this stuff. [Anna is getting very nervous here. Also, I don’t remember if Dr. Coyote said much more, because I couldn’t hear it over my pounding head.] I’m interested in pursuing you. [Emphasis mine. I could feel the redness creep up my face, I was so excited. He talked about going to med school and not wanting to mess with God’s plan for my life while I’m thing, uh, maybe God’s plan for my life is you! But I stayed quiet and listened.] What do you think?
Anna: Well, I am not opposed to you pursuing me, ‘cuz I kind of like you, too. I say….we just keep talking like we are, and see where it goes.
Dr. Coyote: Okay!
Later evening, he texted me and was excited. He was wondering what he could tell people what’s going on. I suggested we call it a “strong friendship.” [Lamesauce. Right?] I was actually surprised that he was so excited, because he was almost-dating me. That had never happened before. So we called ourselves “strong friends.” We continued to talk, and my family just shrugged and said we were dating. I would correct them, but they’d be like, “Anna! You guys talk all the time and you like each other. You’re dating.” And I agreed (in my head. Not out loud). I wrote Dr. Wile E. Coyote another snail mail letter, telling him deeper things about me that I hadn’t told him before and asking questions about his own life. I ended it with, “Sincerely, your strong friend who wouldn’t mind being called your girlfriend.” When Dr. Coyote received the letter in the mail, he read it, and then brought it to our next Skype date. He addressed things I had said, asked questions, answered questions I had asked of him, etc. We went all the way through the letter. When he got to the end, I felt my face turn red as he read out loud, “Sincerely, your strong friend who wouldn’t mind being called your girlfriend.” He looked up and shrugged. “I don’t mind, if you don’t mind!” he said. We were both real smiley. “Now what?” he asked. “Um, we make it Facebook official?” I suggested. And so we did, as we were talking over Skype. And before we ended our call, everyone in my family had liked the status.
“Congrats, Anna!” my dad said when I entered his office later that night.
From my friends at school, I received text messages: What? You’re dating someone? Who? How long have you known him? You shouldn’t blindside me like that!
And so, Dr. Wile E. Coyote and I began dating. But we lived nine hours apart. And that, my friend, is when this whole nine-hour long-distance relationship began. 🙂
As usual, stay tuned! 🙂 The next one should be up Friday (‘cuz I don’t want to post the whole series in one week!)
I am going to start a series on this blog of my love story with Dr. Wile E. Coyote. Even though I’ve only started talking about him in the last year (and now we’re married!), we have known each other since 2011. Some of our friends and family hadn’t even realized we’d known each other that long. Anyway, this series, entitled “It’s a Love Story,” will tell you a little more about us. A friend of mine wrote her and her husband’s love story on her blog, and it motivated me. Besides, if I don’t write it down now, how will I remember it later? And now, just for funzies, here are some pics from our wedding!
It was a wonderful day. I just wanted to share some pics here for family– friends and family, all of you! Go check out the rest of our wedding pictures that we uploaded to Facebook! (There are like 400 of them, but it takes you through the entire day.) Also, anybody in SW Minnesota, be sure to check out Tony Miller Photography!
Stay tuned for the series, as I’ll try to upload a new one every week!
Books, books, books. I love reading. I love writing. I love having them on my bookshelf, even if I haven’t had TIME to read them yet. I finished writing my query today, and after I finish a synopsis, I shall start sending in my query and proposal (each agent calls for a different type of submission). Everything has been working out (again). I have had trouble with motivation and with writing just the right words in the past, but it has come together. Maybe it is because Dr. Wile E. Coyote has found his own niche for studying and has been at the library most of the weekend. Goodness, if this keeps up, I could have another three novels written before we get to clinicals! I have a list of things that I want to write but I have to take it one at a time. As I am working on the query and synopsis of my completed novel, I feel a push to begin the sequel. I have been learning so much about writing styles and writing in general from resources that I have been diving into! Also, I have found this whole new genre of books out there that fit mine completely: Christian urban-fiction. I’ve been reading reviews on Goodreads and going to websites and I just want to read all these books now, too! But of course, I don’t have time. I’ve discovered that this genre has been growing a lot since the late 80s, but I didn’t even know that until after I finished my book. And I’m just so excited about it, that I want to talk about it with people, but of course, they have not read it yet, because I am not yet published. *sigh* I’ll get there. (smiley face)
And THAT leads me to the totally awesome job I have at Sound House Music: teaching music lessons to students who are paying me for lessons and are excited because they WANT to learn. In public schools, you get those students that are just going through the motions because band is an “easy A” or their parents want them to play in band. I haven’t figured out how the music lessons and writing exactly will work hand-in-hand, but I have such a passion for both of them that is just erupting from my soul right now. I currently have 3 students, but another wants to get started when school starts up for him (public schools have already started here in Kentucky! Is that early or what?). And when word gets out that I can give lessons in more than just drums and piano, I will hopefully have even MORE students! I am so excited. I may have talked about all this here before, but I don’t care, because I’m just excited. Kind of like I’m excited to start sending my query in. I KNOW I’m going to get a lot of rejection before I will get a book published, and I KNOW that I beat myself up about music stuff too often. Which is great that God has been giving me such encouragement lately! – next paragraph –
I have talked about the friends that Doug and I have been making here, even before school started. Well, us and some friends I’ve mentioned here before, who I’ll call the “Bang!ers” because Bang! is the only game that is played when these particular people gather and play a game, met for a prayer night the Friday before classes started for our students. We first went around sharing prayer requests, and I shared how I didn’t feel “good enough” for my job at times. Among so much more prayer, that lie and those self-esteem issues were attacked. And I have been feeling the prayers. Much more, I can feel when those lies creep in and I throw them away, because God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). He has also given us authority over all the power of the enemy (Luke 10:19), so we can command it away. And this week, the small group I am in began going through Ephesians. We read Ephesians 1 for this weekend, and in our discussion Sunday morning, we talked all about our identity and how Paul tells us over and over of the many spiritual blessings we have received in Christ (it’s every spiritual blessing, actually!). The Lord has been attacking lies before The Student, as well, so we’ve been able to encourage each other. I am continually amazed by God’s incomparable love and blessings, his grace and his peace, and his constancy through EVERYTHING.
How is Dr. Coyote doing after this first week of classes? Well, he was at the library for hours at a time this weekend. It has been a roller coaster. Some days, it’s like, “Uuuuuugh,” and other days , it’s like, “This is the best ever!” Apparently, life of a med student. He has already been changing his study strategies until he found something that helps him study a lot better than his undergrad studying technique. His studying is like a roller coaster, as well. Sometimes, it’s like, “I was just plowin’ through!” and other times, it’s like, “I had to push to get it done.” Doug received his iPad keyboard today in the mail, and is currently geeking out about it. Maybe after supper, he’ll be done geeking out about the iPad, and be ready to geek out about anatomy? 😉
Adapting to this Kentucky resident/med schooler/spouse life! 🙂
Anna (AKA the native Minnesotan/music teacher/writer and science is like, whaaa?)
I asked Dr. Wile E. Coyote to write a guest blog of his experiences dating someone with MS (hence the title) after I wrote this post about the importance of relationships while having MS. Oh, and have I told you, my readers, that I am marrying this man in like, two weeks? 🙂 Enjoy! -Anna
I don’t know everything. I don’t know everything. I don’t know everything. I don’t know everything. I don’t know everything. I don’t know everything. I don’t know everything. This is the phrase that really humbled me and really began to sink in when starting to date Anna. She has a disorder called multiple sclerosis (MS). So what is it like dating someone with MS? I’m not sure if it is the same for everyone because every person is different, every relationship is different, and MS varies drastically from person to person, but I pray that sharing my experiences a little will help people out there understand what it can be like. Anna’s blog is so encouraging and I don’t want to stop that trend with this. I love you Anna! 🙂
The summer after I graduated college is when I really started thinking a lot more about moving our friendship to something more. Anna had shared with me glimpses of her MS and some personal things in day to day living that she struggled with, but not a whole lot of the deep stuff and really personal ways it had and has affected her. I’m not sure if it was soon after we started dating or right before (we will say right after to make things more consistent) I started getting afraid. What if we can never have children? What if she gets the JC virus and becomes a vegetable before we even get married or during our marriage? What if we can never have sex or it won’t be the same because of her MS? What if we can never run or walk together, because I like to run? Can I handle taking care of her in the future if things get worse? Am I ok sacrificing my dreams of being a doctor and beyond to take care of Anna if needed? What if she ends up in a nursing home really young? Can I be there to support her through all this? These are just a handful of the questions that would fly through my head. To add to this fear, my dad would ask questions like, “Do you feel like you will be missing out on some things in life by pursing a marriage with Anna?” Little did he know that was a very bad question to ask that made me doubt if my family even supported my relationship with Anna (not sure if he meant it that way, but that’s how I took it).
Additionally, my first time seeing Anna’s MS in action since we were dating was at her Mayo Clinic visit in Rochester. This was also our first time seeing each other in person for more than a day since summer 2011. This was August 2013. I was really nervous and tried my best to keep an open mind. Anna had described her limp to me multiple times, but to really see it was different. Well, up walked Anna and her mom, linked arms. We hugged and I got Anna’s arm and away we went. I was actually quite proud and giddy at this moment. Locking arms is kind of romantic. The doctor’s appointments raised a lot more questions, more out of curiosity, love, and concern, now. I am a born learner and observer though, especially when it comes to medical stuff and human body stuff.
Backtracking a little bit, leading up to the visit to Mayo with Anna, I did a lot of research and digging into her medicine Tysabri. This really triggered a lot of fears in me and my family when I shared some of the things I had learned with them. To put it simple, this medicine makes a person more at risk of getting infected by a virus known as the JC virus. This virus has the potential to turn someone very quickly into a vegetable with not much to stop it (at least that is what I remembered reading or what I perceived it as). *Disclaimer from Anna: the JC virus just means an increased risk for PML, the brain disease that can transform a human into a vegetable. D did his research months ago, and the risk for PML has also been getting smaller over time.* From what I remember, the odds are 1:1,000 of being infected while on the medicine. What was I getting myself into? For just starting to date a good friend, could I handle all this? Do I love her enough to be by her side if this happens? My doctor side kicked in as well and questioned whether there was other options of medicine (not knowing Anna’s whole story too well yet). So at the doctor’s appointment, her doctor never really mentioned if they found evidence of the JC virus infecting Anna or not. This scared the pants off me and really worried me because I wanted to hear it myself that everything was still okay. Anna and her mom weren’t too worried about it and tried to reassure me that no news was good news. I wasn’t convinced.
Basically, I made MS much larger in my head than it really is. It is a sucky disease, but by no means life threatening or aggressive (for Anna at least and most I know who have it). And with today’s research and medicines, can be controlled quite nicely along with its symptoms. Also, I distrusted Anna’s doctors and the LORD that the best decision was made for her to be on Tysabri. The LORD would protect her from getting the JC virus and has for about 6 years already. He would also give me all the strength and abilities I would need to take care of Anna how she needed it no matter what happened. He brought us together. He will help always.
Something else that made a difference for Anna and I was that I loved Anna for who she is before seeing her MS in full action. I loved her writings A LOT! I loved her optimism in the midst of MS struggles. I loved her musical talents. I loved her desire to hug people. I loved her relationship with Jesus and where they have gone together over time. I loved her spontaneous personality and go-get-um personality. I loved her Minnesotan and Olson dialect. I loved her many smiley faces. I loved her stubborness and affectionate nature. Okay, I love a lot of things about Anna and could go on for a long time with these things, but I must move on with this blog. Honestly, at Mayo clinic walking with her, I still saw her as Anna, not as someone to pity because they limp and have no sense of texture in their fingers. Not someone to feel sorry for because they have a life altering disease called MS and had it since 13 years old. How did I do that?
Two things really helped with this: 1) The love that Jesus has for me overflowed to the way I loved and saw Anna. 2) I had gotten to know who Anna was as a person for about 2 years through letters, emails, phone calls, and Skype. *Note from Anna: Skype didn’t start until summer of 2013. But spending, like, 4 hours at a time on a Skype call pretty much made up for that.* To see inside a person you have to get to know them. Talk to them. Ask them questions. Open up with them about your life and listen to them when they open up about their life. Then, you must remember that Jesus knows, created, uniquely designed, and loves that person and see that person with that same frame of mind.
So more about my experiences (sorry I tend to get more preachy then real). Walking with Anna is tough sometimes. We have to walk slower and I have to be more conscious of where I step or the space we have so we don’t walk off the street or on uneven ground (Anna can handle uneven ground or will walk on it anyway even if it really wasn’t worth it because of her stubborness or impatience). I never thought I would become a unit with Anna everywhere we went, but I grew to like the closeness. It actually made me kind of protective because I wasn’t sure if she could handle walking without support. Of course she reassured me often, sometimes I think biting her teeth, that she can.
On the note of protectiveness, I would be concerned for Anna a lot (and still am) when I don’t see her. She will tell me about her day of little energy or how bad she felt her walk was that day. She will tell me about getting super hot and not sure how she would continue with the day. She would tell me when any of her symptoms would flare up a little. This worried and worries me because I want to be there to support her all the time and be there to comfort her. I don’t want her to overdo it and burnout. I also want to see her care about her body and health as much as I do, so I encouraged her often to stretch and eat a little healthier (I still do both). Through this I learned a couple things and am still learning them. One, Jesus is always there to support, provide strength, and comfort Anna in her time of need. She knows this and looks to Jesus for that support. When we are married Jesus will use me to do this, but not always because her help is ultimately from Him, not me. Second, Anna has to make the decision herself to make lifestyle changes when it comes to her health. I can encourage her, but I can’t force it on her. Just like asking any person to change to or add healthy habits, that person has to find the motivation and need in themselves before the change will take place. I am learning to accept this and be patient with Anna’s decision making on her own health.
The toughest part about dating someone with MS is understanding the nature of the disease. I can never understand it because I can’t experience it without having it, but getting Anna to describe what happens to her body or how she feels in specific and analogical ways is extremely helpful. When I can go through a whole day even on low energy and still stay standing, Anna cannot. It took some time to learn her energy levels vary a lot because of fatigue and MS. I remember shopping at target together a few months ago registering items for our wedding. We walked around the store for a good 1.5 hours I would say. Anna had to stop and sit down. She was beat tired. I was fine. She was not. Also, Anna will get frustrated with her limp or energy swings often. She will try to push herself too far even though I may give her a very concerned look as I think, “I really don’t want you to overdo it.” I cannot fully understand the frustration inside. But I must let her work through it herself. I learned quickly to let Anna be stubborn if she is set out to be (at least to a point). I also learned that Anna is still an independent person. And like all people, needs help with certain things in life. Anna may need help balancing while walking a long distance. I may need help washing the dishes faster. I am not saying I learned this overnight, but trusting Anna that when she needs help, she will let me know. She is learning each day to ask for help when she needs it and it takes time for her to learn this. I try my best to be understanding of her learning processes.
This leads me to why Anna and I are complements. She is a get-r-done kind of person. I am a think-it-through kind of person. She has a disorder that forces her to slow down. I struggle with gettin-r-done when I need to. God has given me a spirit of understanding when it comes to people that is supernatural to me sometimes. I do not boast in this, for it is not of my own. This has helped me tremendously to understand Anna and her MS. I try to get into Anna’s world and perspective. I even looked up how much an average human leg ways to try to imagine what it would be like to limp like Anna. I sometimes think intently about what it is like to walk with a foot-drop and try to mimic it. I told Anna on a day or week when MS is made aware throughout the world, I will wear gloves and weights around my left leg, and potentially a device that forces my foot to extend so that I can experience at least somewhat close to what Anna does each day.
One more thing before I wrap it up. Psychologically, Anna has been to the depths of the dead sea and back. I count it a miracle she came back by God’s Great Grace. This scared me at first that this might happen again. But I see now it won’t. Anna now looks at only the potential for who she can be and what she can do. She loves people more than ever and pursues her dreams without letting MS stop her. Along these same lines, Anna has learned to deal with stares from those who don’t know her. I now get stares when with her. Maybe people pity me and her. Maybe I shine the light of Jesus that I love someone with a limp the way I do. Maybe they think I and/or Anna are both mentally handicapped. After a while, I learned not to care. I know I love Anna and I know who she really is. She is beautiful to me inside and out. A quick note on that: I honestly was kind of indifferent to Anna physically at first. But very quickly that changed. When I knew Anna on the inside, I think the inward beauty started transferring to how Anna appeared on the outside to me. Now she is my babe! And we are getting hitched in 13 days!
The past few days I have been wearing a bracelet Anna gave me that says, “I love someone with MS.” I use to look at that in pride, saying to myself, “That’s right.” or I would smile thinking of Anna. I still do the latter and as I wear it I think of the story Anna and I have to encourage and share with others about MS and our relationship. I am not perfect and do get impatient with Anna sometimes. I do have thoughts here and there entice me that I am missing out on something by marrying Anna. But I know that I will experience far better things then those things I am “missing out on” because I love Anna more than any person on this earth.
In 1928, Clarence and Annabelle Bredlow were married. The next generation of families reflects the heritage of faith, laughter, and love. Now there is another generation, and looking around at the sixty-some of us in Iowa at the family reunion this last weekend, the heritage lives on. The youngest great-grandbaby is nine months, and
the oldest person there was Clarence and Annabelle’s daughter, Nola, who, at 77, has the same fun as anybody. Nola wanted to get her feet wet and walk barefoot into a puddle after it had rained for a while on Sunday morning. Pretty soon, there were a whole lot of them.
It was fun talking with family I hadn’t seen in a while and getting to know family I didn’t know much at all. My mom’s cousin, Judy, is my paper-editor. You know, the late-night, I-need-this-paper-edited-by-8am, college papers. I ask one of her sons which one he is (because keeping track of them is like keeping track of us; hard until you get the names and faces lined up). Then I tell him who I am, and he’s like, “Oh, you’re the one that sends my mom those papers late at night.” Yep, that’s me. “I’ve read some of them, and they’re way over my head. You’re a good writer.” I’m also almost done with college. Interactions like that make me smile.
Many of the related-by-marriage in-laws expressed love at the acceptance of the family. Mom’s cousin-in-law Dave gave a message at our Sunday worship, and comparing being adopted into the Bredlow family to being adopted by Christ. Well, I worded that funny, and that’s not exactly what he said, but let’s take a minute to re-read the previous sentence. It’s awesome being accepted by family, and he was transitioning into talking about being adopted, therefore, receiving inheritance. Nobody can inherit something unless they’re family. Anyway, I’ve heard many stories about first interactions with this family: My grandpa Dennis turning to his oldest’s new husband before a car trip and asking him if he went to the bathroom (car trips didn’t really stop until they got there back then). My mom and her sister creaming her current boyfriend and her brothe-in-lawr at a Sunday afternoon football game, thus getting broken up with the very next day. My great-grandpa Clarence giving a specific mug (one with a frog in the bottom) to a newbie that visited his home. I really like these things. They’re hilarious. So when Dr. Wile E.
said I should ask my family permission if he could come (even though he ended up not), I laid down the perfect set-up (we’ll call it “on purpose”). I winced, but I laughed real hard, too. They were nice. Could’a been worse. 🙂
Fun fact: I was named after Annabelle. However, my full name is “Anna” and not “Annabelle” because apparently, Grandma Annabelle always regretted combining her first and middle names, because her birth name was Anna Belle Carlson. Out of fun, I sometimes combine my first and middle name, Anna Elizabeth, to Annabeth, to be like my great-grandma I didn’t know.
Also to note: a photo does exist of ALL of us (that were there at the time said picture was taken), but I cannot find it. However, I shall share a picture of Dennis’s family (he was one of Clarence and Annabelle’s sons). The only people missing are my sisters, Christina and Laura.
Here’s to a pretty cool family (lifting…coffee mugs high? But not as many of them drink coffee, really. Well, there’s enough of us, maybe).
So, it was a while ago, but I thought it was time to talk about it. The Century Farm Appreciation Party—smiley face. My mother, who wrote this summary of it through her eyes, had been posting other posts about the history of the farm previously, like the fact that green tractors have always graced this farm (seriously, when I was little, a blue tractor pulled in the yard and my mom was all like, “Who the heck is that?” …we’ve since become friends with people who prefer red tractors for some unknown reason), telling about Grandma’s diary from her time at the U of M, and the history of the seed business here. She’s a big agriculture advocate, and many of her posts are about the topic.
Anyway, it was a hustle to get everything ready. The nasty weather the Friday before so didn’t help anything, and some things just didn’t get done. My mom poked her head in my room as I was contemplating getting up. “Good morning, honey. Here’s the stuff I picked up for you yesterday. By the way, Pam is here.” I nodded, but I was super confused. Pam lives in the cities. She got here this morning? It was like, seven. What time did she have to get up? So I got up, and there was Pam, already helping out over in the shop (where the party would be). I got dressed, put on my brace, and my brace wouldn’t work. It was weird. This hadn’t happened since last summer. I looked at where it was flashing “error” (on the flashy noisy thing on my…”necklace”)—between the heel sensor and the brace. Hmm. Battery? As much as I’ve had to deal with the crap put out by this thing, I am much better at finding out what’s wrong. But why today? I sent up a plea to the Lord, adding a complaint that this had to happen today. But then I dealt. Dad had to pick up fruit in town, and he had to stop a few other places. At the hardware store, he looked for a battery. Too bad it was a specialty battery that we couldn’t find anywhere. So, mom started calling places to see if they carried the battery. I was ready to make do and compensate all day. I took over the calling when Mom had to do something else. Finally, I called Radio Shack. They had the battery! “I’ve been looking everywhere,” I said in relief that it was actually somewhere in Marshall. “Yeah, we’re the only place that carries them.” (I got that, thank you. I called everyone else already.) So, when Dad had to go back to Marshall for something else, I told them that they had the battery at Radio Shack, and he picked one (more like three) up for me!
People were showing up, and I was helping out where I could, too. I helped to put signs up for the “Ag Olympics” we had in another shed. Events included Bale Stacking (nine square bales), Bale Toss, Tire Flipping (a TRACTOR tire, that’s fun), Feed the Pigs (running two 5-gallon-buckets of pig feed through an obstacle course as quickly as possible), Water the Chickens (bringing water over by sponge only). I wandered over there in the middle of the happenings and watched two farmers, friends of my parents, competing. Who knew that that farmers in their mid-40’s were so competitive? Did I just say something about “their age?” Of course not. In yet a different shed, we filled a kiddie pool with wheat for kids to play in (you bet they did), a petting zoo of farm animals run by Marshall’s FFA (Lakeview’s FFA did the Ag Olympics stuff), and we had a 5-gallon pail filled with soybeans in which 5 tools or things were lost in it to find. Really, it was like a farming experience, all the stuff we had. (And we’re a crop farm—lots of equipment and seed stuff, and therefore a lot of sheds.)
Anyway, back to the before-hand. Dad had gotten our family polos that said “Olson Organics, Cottonwood, Minnesota, 1913-2013” on them. With his impressive Olson Organics logo, of course. We might alter it to say “Olson Organics at Fairview Farm, Cottonwood, Minnesota”. They can’t decide how it should be worded. My friend Marissa came early, because she needed to head out home before any other bad weather hit. I gave her a tour and she helped set up lawn golf kind of. Two of my awesome aunts, Pam and Heidi, made another set of golf balls—you know, the kind where there’s a rope that goes through them, then there’s a golf ball on each end—they did a fabulous job. The power point I had made was set up and playing on a wall, and the party soon began.
The Dinner Club that Mom and Dad are part of took care of the serving food, and soon, everything was taken care of. It was like a well-oiled machine. Mom and Dad were engaged in conversation until I went to bed that night, and I talked to random people, as well. There were seed buyers, seed dealers, equipment-people, people who have done construction on a shed of ours, neighbors, family, people from church, guys from the elevator and the co-op. Basically, Mom and Dad created a list and tried to include everyone who was impacted by our farm, as well as everyone that impacted our farm. Pretty sure she’ll write a blog about that, too. 🙂 Only about a third of those people could make it, but it was hoppin! (Am I allowed to use that term?) I myself drank like, three bottles of water and was super warm. BUT, I talked to a lot of people—some of them I recognized, but seriously needed a hint when it came to their names, others I met for the first time, and yet more I knew pretty well. It was awesome that my grandpa Kenny, his sister Fern, and Shi, part of that generation and married to Bob, could just sit at a table and people came up to talk with them. History is great, and I loved that the three of them could be there for most of it!
We joke that, “Oh, you couldn’t make it to this one? That’s okay, maybe you’ll make it to the next one, in 3013.” But seriously, I love the history of this farm. In doing research and stuff for it, I have learned so much! I’m even on a genealogy kick, and was elated to see on ancestory.com that my mom has traced the Olson side to southern Norway before coming to the U.S. I can’t wait until someday my great-grandchildren may go through the same process as I did. Remember, everyone, LABEL YOUR PHOTOS!
P.S: My mom has a ton of pics on her posts, but they aren’t on my computer, so go ahead an wander over to hers if you want to check out some awesome pics from the day. Also, be sure to check out this post of mine that I wrote about this farm, as well.