This is Not a Hot Mess Pity Party

So this was supposed to be the post that I had half-written last week, when I was writing the update on Ray’s recovery. But it’s funny how, in the blink of an eye, everything can change and the “I’m doing okay but dang this is a lonely business” post changes to an “I’m a hot mess and I can’t stop crying and there’s no way I can possibly do everything I’m supposed to do and I am having a hard time seeing the good things in life right now” pity party.

Let me start by saying that I think I’m past the hot mess pity party, or else I probably wouldn’t be writing this post. I hate whiners and, while I might whine to close friends and family, I do try to keep it off the internet for the world to read. So, while this might start out negative, I do promise to end on a positive.

IMG_9986.JPGSo here’s how it goes. Last Thursday, I’m coasting along, having had a remarkably good day on Wednesday. In fact, Wednesday night I posted on Facebook, reflecting that I had actually achieved all of my critical “to-do’s” for the day. Of course, when I realized that I had only slept 3.5 hours the night before, and I’d hired help for four hours, I joked that I could stay on top of my work load if I never slept and each day was a half hour longer. Anyways, it was Thursday and life seemed pretty good. Until Ray and I met with the neuropsychologist who coordinates his rehabilitative therapy.

And she told me I wasn’t doing enough.

Okay, okay, she didn’t use those words, exactly. She was very nice, really. But the bottom line is this: Even as I thought Ray was making such remarkable progress (and had just posted a blog post about it, for the love of all that’s good!), the therapists felt that he wasn’t making enough progress, and that it was because we haven’t been doing enough therapy at home.

Exit happy, “I’ve got this” Stephanie. Enter “You’ve got to be kidding me, how can I possibly do one more thing” hot mess disaster Stephanie.

I made it through the meeting. But for the next several hours the words kept playing through my head. I’m not doing enough.

I lost it when I was telling my sister about it. At Dude’s rugby game. For all the world (or at least all those rugby parents) to see.

I lost it again the next day when I called my mom and told her what had happened.

And I lost it again as I watched what seemed to be a pint of blood go down the drain because Ray had sliced his fingers while cutting steak (blood thinners really work).

Reality struck. I had everything under control in the way that a cartoon character carrying a giant stack of dishes has control of those plates. Add one tiny tea cup, a spoon, or – heck! – even just a napkin, and the illusion of control is destroyed.

I’ve told friends that my life right now isn’t much different from that of a single mother with five young children with lots of doctor’s appointments and mountain of long-term-disability/social-security paperwork and medical bills to wade through.

But, seriously? What woman can handle all of that?

Well. Here’s the answer. Not a one. At least, certainly not this one. The reality is that things are going to remain undone and priorities have to be set, and that when that mom is trying to do everything, she’s going to make herself – and most likely everyone around her – miserable.

But here’s where the hot mess pity party ends, and light streams through the clouds.

On Sunday morning, my daily devotional was all about the foundational importance of IMG_9989.JPGhumility. Without humility, we can not continue to grow in the faith. We will always hit a stopping point.

I’ve written before about my need for this virtue, and the opportunity for growth remains. Humility is the knowledge that, without God I can do nothing. When I try to do too much and fail, I come back to the knowledge that I’m trying to do these things on my own. Yes, I can do all things. But I must not forget the last part of the verse. Through Christ, who strengthens me.

And so my hot mess pity party of last weekend was a blessing in disguise. It got me back down on my knees in prayer where I belong. It helped me to refocus and reignite.

I can’t say that I won’t fall apart again, but, with God’s Grace, I will find the courage and strength to acknowledge my weakness, cling to Him, and allow Him to put me back together again.

A Long Overdue Update – Ray’s Recovery from Brain Injury

The crickets have been chirping over here at A Few Beads Short, which probably has many of you wondering how Ray is doing following his heart attack and brain injury (injuries, actually).

So here goes… Ray’s doing well. Like, really, miraculously, incredibly well. I have to remind myself of that IMG_2836every day, and look back at where he was on December 8th, when he first went to the rehab hospital and couldn’t even hold a tooth brush, or on his first day home when he didn’t know how to use his walker in the small confines of our home and preferred to navigate by literally bouncing off of the walls and furniture to keep himself from falling. Or, the days when he’d start confabulating (yes, that’s a word) long, drawn out stories that you knew were absolute B.S. from the moment they started but it was nearly impossible to stop him until he’d gone on and on and on for five minutes or more… without pause.

His balance is still a bit off which means his gait’s a little wide, but all in all he’s walking beautifully. The video below was taken when we were walking into some very fierce wind at the beach during spring break (yes, thank you God – and one sweet, generous friend – we got to go on spring break!).

He brushes his own teeth – without me even reminding him! – and takes his own shower without a shower seat, and without me needing to stand nearby constantly at the ready lest he lose his balance and fall. In fact, he’s quite self-sufficient in all personal care tasks. He just takes a lot longer to do them than he used to. He still confabulates occasionally, but the stories are becoming increasingly fewer and farther between, and – thank God – they’re getting shorter, or maybe I’m just becoming better at politely redirecting the conversation.

Ray’s generally been pretty upbeat and seemingly unbothered by his brain injury. Claudia L. Osborn shares her story of recovering from a brain injury in the book Over My Head, and describes herself as having a “goofy contentment.” I’d say that’s a very accurate summary. However, I think Ray’s beginning to evolve beyond contentment, and reality is setting in. As you can probably imagine, this is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, “goofy contentment” is clearly not normal or healthy. On the other hand, it’s made for a pretty happy-go-lucky Ray when it came to therapy, homework, and dealing with his new lifestyle. The absence of contentment may usher in a whole host of new challenges.

Weird things have changed. His sense of smell has been severely impacted, which is a huge blessing when I’m gassy but very sad when there are flowers to smell. Along with that, his sense of taste has changed entirely. We used to love to eat sushi together, and now he could take it or leave it. In fact, he’d probably rather leave it since chop sticks pose a serious challenge. He used to hate almond milk but now prefers it to cow’s milk. He used to be a stickler for praying before family meals but these days sits down and starts eating the moment the plate hits the table. He’s forgotten some basic table manners and social niceties. One moment, I can almost forget that anything’s changed. The next, he double dips his breadstick and I’m reminded how very different he’s become.

All in all, we’re still early stages, and his recovery is nothing short of miraculous. But, we have a very long way to go. Years and years, in fact. We’ve been told that he won’t work in 2016, and possibly not in 2017, either. He can’t drive, has periodic tunnel vision, appears to have forgotten our lives together, and really has little to no voluntary recall of memories beyond the very recent past.

I hope to write within the next few days about how I’m doing, but bear with me. To say that life is crazy right now doesn’t quite do it justice. For now, I’ll summarize it by saying that I try to remind myself constantly that his recovery is a miracle, and a gift from God. I know that God can and will use all things for his glory, and when I look back at the last six months, I can see how he has done that already, although I believe our story is far from over. But busy-ness detracts from Godliness, and the entire Engelman family could really use your prayers.

If this is your first time visiting the blog, and you’re wondering what on earth is going on, here are a few posts that will catch you up:

Ray had a heart attack and suffered a serious brain injury as a result. Here’s what I wrote the night after it all began.

Here’s how God blessed me (and us) abundantly with his presence, comfort and peace.

Oh yeah, I wrote this book and it was released in the midst of all this.

After nearly three months in the hospital, here’s how we wound up bringing Ray home when we thought we were taking him to a subacute rehab facility.

And it went like this.

Here’s how the baby that no one thought we should have saved his daddy’s life.

 

Seven Riddles to Nowhere Cover Reveal

Author A.J. Cattapan revealed the cover to her new book, Seven Riddles to Nowhere, last week, and I get to share it with all of you, too! Actually, I was supposed to share it on Wednesday but I was busy having a wee bit of a breakdown over time-consuming medical bills, paperwork, and mountains of unfolded laundry so I’m just now finally getting this out.

Seven Riddles to Nowhere won’t be released until August, but I have already been blessed to read it. This is one great bonus to being an author, I’m learning – getting to read great books before they’re even published. Or, at least I’m hoping they’ll all be as great as Seven Riddles to Nowhere, because it would be extremely awkward if they weren’t.

Here’s the book blurb so you know what it’s all about:

7 riddles. 1 fortune. Way too many competitors.

All seventh grader Kameron Boyd wants to do is keep his little Catholic school from closing. It’s the only school where they’ve made life as a selective mute somewhat bearable. As the school faces financial distress, Kam learns he is one of many potential heirs to a fortune large enough to keep his school open.

With the school’s bully as one of the other potential heirs, Kam and his friends race to solve the riddles first. Their journey takes them through the churches of Chicago to decipher the hidden meanings in artwork all while avoiding the mysterious men following them. But creepy men in trench coats won’t stop them! They’re on a quest–not only to keep the school open, but to help Kam recover his voice.

So, without further ado, here’s the beautiful cover to Seven Riddles to Nowhere (drum roll, please!)

7RiddlestoNowhere2 500x750 (1)
I love this cover because it so beautifully highlights the city of Chicago, and gives a real glimpse at the churches the kids visit during their adventure. If you have a fourth through eighth grader, this will be a great late summer read. I’ll keep you posted on it’s release so you can add it to your “want to read” list!
(P.S. I’m reading A.J. Cattapan’s Angelhood right now! I’ll write a review soon but I can already tell you it should be in your teenager’s summer reading pile!)
A.J. Cattapan is a bestselling author, speaker, and middle school English teacher living in the Chicago area. Her debut young adult novel Angelhood won a Gold Medal in the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards for Young Adult Fiction—Religion/Spirituality and an Honorable Mention from Readers’ Favorite Book AwardsShe’s also been a Chicken Soup for the Soul contributor and had numerous short stories and articles published in magazines for teens and children, including Highlights, Pockets, and Hopscotch for GirlsHer next novel, a middle grade mystery titled Seven Riddles to Nowhere, releases in August. You can follow her writing and travel adventures at www.ajcattapan.com.
 
Social Media Links:
Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/author/ajcattapan