2019: The Best Worst Year

Quality.

The degree of excellence of something.

It’s a simple word. Not even a fancy one. Regardless, it’s the word I am focusing on in my life in 2020. It’s the word I want to embody the year we’re about to live. I want to look back a year from now, and I want to feel as if I’ve made that happen.

I’m going to be honest with you. I walked into 2019 excited for the new year. I’m always excited because we have always been so fortunate to have one amazing year after another. That’s certainly not to say that we haven’t had bad days or that we haven’t been through experiences that have brought us to our knees in tears begging God to change us. We have. We’ve done it a few times – namely in 2010 when we suffered miscarriage after miscarriage trying to have our second baby.

That year brought us to our knees more times than I can count – and we’ve been so fortunate that the rest of our years have been so beautiful (sprinkled with moments that weren’t pleasant, but very, very good as a whole). We’ve been so fortunate, and that is not lost on us.

2019 was a strange year. It was a year I cannot even put into words. It’s a year that is filled with so many amazing memories – I mean, we honestly had the most phenomenal year. But it’s also a year that humbled me. It’s a year that brought me so much clarity. It’s a year that hurt me more than any other year of my life.

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We were only 7 weeks into the new year when our sweet son, only 4-years-old at the time, suffered a Grand Mal seizure. To this day, after four days in the hospital and every single test you can imagine, we have no answers. It was not febrile. It was not the result of head trauma. It wasn’t anything explainable, which is why it’s called an unprovoked Grand Mal seizure.

It was the worst five minutes of my life, followed by the worst half hour of my life when he stopped seizing and was completely unresponsive, followed by the worst four days of my life in the hospital watching his little body go through test after test, followed by the worst year of my life waking up in the middle of the night in a panicked sweat, tears streaming down my face, and fear in my heart as I raced across the house to his bedroom to make sure he was still breathing. Night after night after night.

I cannot even put into words the fear and terror in my heart every single time my phone rings while he’s at school and I see the name of the school scrolling across my phone. I just know that they’re calling to tell me he’s seizing again. I’m wrong – Thank God – every single time, but that fear never subsides. Every single time I hear a thud anywhere in the house or outside, my heart stops in fear as I race to the sound to make sure he didn’t fall and hit his head – because the chance of him suffering another seizure is increased exponentially after suffering from one.

It never gets easier.

I know we are fortunate that this wasn’t worse. I know we are so blessed that every single one of his tests came back negative and void of any complications or health problems or concerns. I know this. I also know that no answers suck because there’s no way to prevent or avoid what you don’t recognize or know to prevent or avoid.

I’ll never forget the moment, about a month after Carter was released from the hospital, when discussing his seizure with a woman when she commented, “I don’t know why you’re so panicked about it. It happens all the time to people, and it’s not that big a deal,” in the most callous, most disgusting display of ignorance imaginable.

It might not seem like the biggest deal in the world when a child is fine, but anyone who can say that it’s not a big deal and that it happens all the time and it’s just a thing has never stared at their child’s seizing body on the ground, foam and vomit seeping from his mouth while his body shakes uncontrollably. They’ve never seen their child go instantly still while turning bluer by the moment as his little body is struggling to take in air. They’ve never looked down at their lifeless child and thought to themselves, “Oh my God. This is the last time I will ever hold my baby,” because there was no breath and no recognizable pulse and you thought your baby was gone.

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To those who don’t think that this is a big deal – keep feeling that. Keep feeling that and keep feeling the bliss that comes from having never been in a situation where your baby’s life was in question. You are the lucky ones. You are the ones who don’t know the fear that grips your heart and the instantaneous nightmare that comes to mind when your child’s lifeless body is suddenly flashing before your eyes when you lie down and close your eyes at night.

You’ve never laid awake in bed for hours on end night after night after night crying yourself to sleep while your husband holds you and worries for you and shares your fears and hopes that you’ll eventually get some sleep. You’ll never know that it’s like to go through almost an entire year living in a total fog from exhaustion and sleep deprivation and worry. You are so lucky you don’t see your son’s lifeless body every single time you close your eyes. At home. In a plane. In a hotel room. When he’s cuddled up next to you on the couch on movie night. You won’t know that terror, and you are living the very best possible life because of that.

That one moment, those 5 minutes, that half hour, that four days, defined an entire year for me. In fact, it may define my entire life. I don’t know. There are aspects of it that do get a bit easier each day, but the fear never settles or becomes more manageable when you’re not with your little boy and the phone rings and it’s the grandparents who are with him, or the school where he goes, or your husband when you’re not home. That fear consumes me. It eats me alive from the inside out, and it’s affected my entire year.

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I can’t just get over it. I can’t just accept it because it happens to people all the time. I’ve had so many beautiful men and women reach out to me to share their stories so similar to ours. My heart hurts so much for each of them, while simultaneously feeling so much appreciation and love and respect for those who do this all the time, for those who live this every single day of their lives. For those who have it so much worse than we did or do. Those people are the real heroes.

That one moment, though. That one moment shaped an entire year. It took so much of the joy from my life in so many small ways while also providing me with the opportunity to learn new ways to feel joy. For example, I feel just a little less joy and excitement and pleasure when I’m away from my kids. I know I need the time away to recharge, even for a few hours on date night, but I feel a little less joy in that time because of my fear. On the same note, I feel so much more joy in the simplest of things. The moments I hear the twins bursting through the master bedroom door and running to my husband’s side of the bed at some ungodly hour where the sun isn’t even up yet on a Saturday morning asking for pancakes and bacon in their ‘inside’ voices (their inside voices are the same as their outside voices, in case you were wondering).

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The joy I feel in those moments is indescribable. They’re alive. They’re well. They’re so normal and so unaffected, and they’re so sweet. I find so much joy in those moments.

It’s amazing to me that a year filled with so many beautiful trips, so many moments that bring laughter and joy, and so many days spent with the people who fill our hearts to the top with so much love and enjoyment, and so many hilarious memories, and fun adventures, and amazing things can be a year I look back on and feel relief when I realize it’s almost over.

I know, realistically, that January 1 is nothing more than a brand-new day just like today was, and tomorrow will be, and the day before yesterday was; but it holds so much more for me this year. It holds so much promise for a better year. A year of healing and of quality.

Our lives in 2019 were filled with quality. We weren’t lacking in it at all, but it was also busting at the seams with quantity. Approximately 30 weekends in hotels. Almost 100 nights in beds that don’t belong to us. More activities and nights spent with half our family here and half there and so very few opportunities to spend just a simple evening together at home.

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None of our travel is work related, at all. The only time it’s even remotely close to work related is the weekend my husband and I spend in Tampa every December for his work Christmas party – and it’s not like that’s mandatory. We just love it. I say that because I’m sure it’s easy to wish for more time at home and less time in hotels and less time in the airport when you’re not really given a choice in the matter because it’s work-related. But, ours is not work related, which alternately makes me feel fortunate and sad at the same time. There’s a certain irony in feeling annoyed and overwhelmed and irritated about packing and traveling and being away from home when all the trips are your choice.

I don’t want to feel like that in 2020. I don’t want so much of everything in the new year. I want more quality, less quantity, and more time to focus on what is good in life. I want more lazy mornings in my own home. I want more weekends spent making spontaneous plans. I want more, but I don’t want more for the sake of more. I want more quality.

I want 2020 to be a year that I can look back on one year from today and know that quality was abundant in our lives and that we derived so much pleasure from each moment rather than simply living the motions. I want this year to be the year that moments of fear and terror are fewer and further between. Our pediatric neurologist told us that if Carter can go a full year without a secondary seizure, his chances of having another one decrease significantly.

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I want February 17, 2020 to be a day of celebration because he made it a year without a second seizure. I want it to be a day of happiness. I am putting a lot of pressure on that one day because I have this feeling in my mind that making it to that day without incident means that I will finally relax a bit, breathe a little bit easier, and maybe even sleep through the night without waking in a panicked sweat. I hope it’s the first night in a year that I don’t get up in the middle of the night and sneak across the house to put my hand on his chest and feel him breathing and still wake up the following morning with a happy, healthy, beautiful little boy to love.

2020 – I have big plans for you.

2019 – I let you own me, and I will never let that happen again.

Important Questions to Ask Before the New Year

Happy Friday, loves!

This year has flown by, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon. December is one of the busiest months of my life in every nook and cranny. It’s Christmas, which brings with it a month of events that are some of our very favorite of the year. It means shopping and planning for holidays and hosting the holidays and spending time with the people I love the most. It means school activities and parties and performances every time I turn around. December is also one of the busiest months of the year for me in terms of work – my clients have so much they want done this month on top of the everyday work I do for them…and I’m exhausted from 5 am wakeups, late bedtimes, and hotel living every single weekend this month (packing is the worst, right?).

But, it’s also the time of year I find myself sitting down and thinking about my life the most. December is like the bedtime of the year. It’s like that moment you lie down in bed and close your eyes, and you start thinking about the day, the things you did, the moments you lived, and everything you accomplished from your to-do list so that you go into tomorrow with a fresh perspective and a calm demeanor.

That’s what December is like, and this year I’ve found myself asking a question I haven’t really asked in a while.

Who am I, and who do I want to be?

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At the risk of sounding conceited or eliciting all the eye rolls, I really like who I am as a person. I have my moments, of course. I drive too fast. I have little patience. I might not be the greatest people person. I’m high-maintenance and I know what I want, and I know that comes across as snobbish and off-putting. I recognize that I will never be everyone’s cup of tea – and I’m not upset about that. I make mistakes, and I’m imperfect. I also know that I’m dedicated. I’m loyal. I will do anything and everything for the people I love the most. I’m a really good mom even if I joke about being mediocre. I’m a good wife. I always have a clean house and car. I’m really, really good at what I do, and I have a long list of clients who are very happy with the world that I do for them. I’m successful and smart. I’m fun. I tell a great story.

Most importantly, I’m imperfect…but I learn from my mistakes. I view them as teaching moments. I like to see where I went wrong, what I can do better next time, how I can re-arrange my thoughts and make them better, more accurate, more meaningful. I’m open-minded, and I can see everyone’s point of view and side of the story (after I have a complete meltdown of impatience, frustration, and rage).

But, who am I versus who I want to be?

I feel this is so important to revisit every so often. I haven’t revisited this in a while, and that’s why I think it’s been on my mind so much this month. And, with the year coming to a quick close, I want to be sure I end this year on a high note and start next one in the same manner. So, here are the questions I’m asking myself; questions I think we should all ask ourselves so we continue to grow and thrive rather than remain rooted and still.

What kind of mother am I, and what kind of mother do I want to be?

I’m impatient. I don’t care much for defiance or rule-breaking. I snap. I lose my patience. I’m playful, loving, kind, and fiercely protective of my kids. But, I’m also sometimes disconnected. I’m busy with my clients and my work, and there are not enough hours in the day. I find myself sometimes asking the kids about their own days only to realize I didn’t hear a word they said. Sometimes, I find myself rushing through the simplest parts of the day just to get them checked off the list, and I find myself not enjoying them.

I can’t change that one hundred percent. We are busy people. We like to travel, and we like to enjoy our lives – work hard, play hard my friends – but I can be better. I’d like to be more intentional with my time, and I’d like to be less connected as a mom. I want to be a more connected and present mom who finds joy in the simplest things. Rather than ushering the kids out of the kitchen while we make dinner, I’m going to make it a point to let them in to help. Sure, it’s going to slow things down. There will be more of a mess, and I’m sure it’ll take every ounce of our patience, but I’d like to more connected to them in those moments. Let them have those little things, stop rushing, stop looking into the next thing rather than the current moment.

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What kind of wife am I, and what kind of wife would I like to be?

Impatient, demanding, and my expectations are very high. Very. Very. Very high. I know this, but I’m going to throw half the blame at my husband for that one. He’s extraordinary, and he sets the bar so high that even I had to move my own expectations up several levels to meet his bar. So, yeah; his fault my expectations are so high, right?

I want to be sure I’m the kind of wife who never forgets to put my husband first, even though sometimes I do forget. I’d like to be the kind of wife who brings out the best in my husband all the time. When I think about het kind of wife I want to be to my husband, my initial thought is that I want to be the kind of wife who is so good at being a wife that every single time my husband sees me or thinks of me or hears my name, he smiles without even realize it. I want to be more intentional, more giving of my time, and less demanding. I want to be more playful and more spontaneous and more in the moment with him. More present, if you will. I think I do a pretty good job of that as it is since I really, really like the guy, but there is always room for growth, right?

What kind of friend am I, and what kind of friend would I like to be?

I like to think I’m a pretty good friend, but I also think it’s because my friends are so amazing that I can’t be anything less than the same in return. I might be a little forgetful sometimes, but I’m always there for you if you need me. I keep my circle small and tight, and I like that because (well, because I don’t like people, if we are being entirely honest) there aren’t too many people who are like my people – and I don’t want anyone in my circle who is negative, petty, ugly on the inside, or lacks motivation.

I learned this year that some people never grow up and mature into the kinds of adults I’m accustomed to surrounding myself with. Some people lack motivation, and they lack purpose and fulfillment – they are idle. They have more time on their hands than they know what to do with, and their unhappiness translates into ugly behavior. It’s unfortunate, but it’s taught me a lot about the kind of friend I definitely do not want to allow myself to become (and, more importantly, it’s taught me to be very careful about who I associate with, because ugly behavior rubs off on people just as much as the great behavior….definitely not something I’m proud of).

I always want to be the kind of friend whose friends know this about. If you are sitting at my table, and you get up and walk away, there will not be any negative discussion about you whatsoever. You will never worry. I want to be the kind of friend who always makes you feel safe, comfortable, and like you want to up your game. I always want to be the type of friend who cheers you on, listens, and celebrates all the amazing thing you do/achieve/say/think/whatever. I want to build you up and make you feel as if you are the most amazing person….with some sarcasm and a lot of laughs.

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What kind of person am I to myself, and who do I want to be?

It’s taken me many years to grow into myself, and I’m good with who I am – mistakes, poor choices, bad moments, and all. I like me. I’m strong, I’m capable, I’m successful, and I live a very, very good life with people I love the most.

I want to be a little more selfish with my me time. I want to be a little more intentional with my kids and husband. I want to be less connected all the time. I want to find a better balance of home and work – which is difficult when your office is in your home.

Here’s what I’m working on right now to become the best version of myself in terms of refining the small things and pinpointing what I need.

  • I use do not disturb on my phone, and it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. I get so much more done with the DND on during the day. But, I’m changing it up a bit. I turn it on during the day so that I don’t have all the interruptions while I’m in my office, and I also have it come on automatically at 8 pm. But, I think I’m turning that to 7 pm, and I’m spending that additional hour being more present and engaged.
  • Wi-Fi Off. My husband turns the wi-fi of fin the house from 5 to 7 each night on every device the kids can use. They have to play outside or play games or spend time with us, but our wi-fi is still on. I’m going to have him shut it down.
  • Put my phone away. I’m okay about this, but I’d like to be better. I will grab my phone after everyone has gone to bed and take it with me to the couch and sit down and peruse or text or whatever. I’d like to stop that, and leave it in the bedroom and be more present with my husband after the kids go to bed. Nothing is so urgent that it needs my attention in the evenings. The kids are home with us. I’m done working until the morning. It can all wait. My brain doesn’t need the stimulation or the emergencies of others or whatever – I’ll check it if I want or need to, but otherwise, I’m putting it away.
  • I’m good at this, but I can always streamline and improve – and I’ll continue to do just that.

I hope that you are all asking yourselves about the kind of person you are versus the kind of person you want to be, and I hope you we all take the time to make improvements. There’s always room for it, and that’s the beauty of being in control of your own life. It’s your life. You make the decisions.