Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Beautiful: A Tribute

“When one person is missing the whole world seems empty.”
Pat Schweibert

Yesterday morning one of the most beautiful people I have ever had the privilege of knowing was called home to Jesus. She was only 23. I stare at her pictures and I can hardly believe that only 6 months ago I watched her walk down the aisle and tearfully say her vows to the boy of her dreams. 

This can't be happening. 

But, it is. It is happening. And there is nothing I can do to stop it. 

So on Saturday, we will bury the beautiful blonde haired girl with the sparkling eyes who laughed at my crazy antics, who sat with me countless afternoons while my daughter was a newborn, and who trusted me like I was one of her sisters. I know now more than ever what a privilege it was to be loved by her, and I will forever be grateful. 

Eden, thank you. Thank you for trusting me, for sharing your mother with me, and for being one of the most beautiful friends I have ever had. Thank you for loving me unconditionally, for always being there to pick up right where we left off, and for letting me be apart of your wedding day that was over 3 years in the making. I know that I wasn't always as good of a friend as I could of been, but thank you for accepting my flaws and for treating me like a sister. My heart will always love you, my sister friend. Always. The world is truly a less beautiful place without you here. 

To Jacob, my heart breaks for you. You were her one true love. Even though your love story was brief, it was beautiful and it will ALWAYS be one of my favorites. To Becca, my other sister friend. I know I can never replace your big sister-your best friend. But, I love you as much as I love her, and I hope you know that I will always be here for you. No matter what. Because sometimes you just need a sister-friend's perspective. To Chris-my "mom". I love you. I love you for always being there for me, even when I'm being crazy. I love you and Wilbur for bringing two of the most amazing young women I have ever known into this world, and for sharing them with me. Chris, I see you in both of them, but Eden definitely embodied your strength and your heart. Just like you, she would of done anything for those she held closest to her, and I count myself truly blessed to have been one of them. Thank you. 

To everyone who loved Eden, we may never understand why. We may feel angry. We may feel betrayed. Yes, the hurt will linger, and for some of us, there will always be a hole in our heart that only Eden could fill. I don't know why God would want such a bright, beautiful life up there with Him so quickly, but He did. Maybe He knew some of us were going to need an extra special guardian angel over the next few years, and He knew only Eden would be up to the job. I don't really know. But, I do know that His ways are not our ways, and His plans are not our plans,and sometimes all we can do is just trust Him, even when we don't want too. Today, I am sorry for all of us. But, we should count ourselves blessed to have memories of her. To have been able to call her a wife, a daughter, a sister, a niece, or a friend. 

Eden, I love you. I miss you. And if you see my Grandpa, could you tell him that I'm okay. 

See you soon. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Someday I Know I'll Miss This

Motherhood is exhausting sometimes. SO exhausting. Currently, Emma is going on day #5 of a terrible, croupy cough, a runny nose, and a off/on low grade fever. I feel like I have purchased every type of children's cough syrup Wal-Mart has to offer,and  I'm pretty sure her room is going to permanently smell of Vick's vapor rub. On top of everything else, I spend my days expertly keeping track of medicine doses, and trying to curb the whinyness that seems amplified due to sickness. Gah.

"Mom, you touched my arm too hard." Queue tears.

"Mom, I broke my blue crayon." Queue more tears. 

"Mom, I can't find __________!" Queue LOTS of tears.

Gah. Exhausting. 

Of course, working until 2:00 AM two mornings this weekend didn't help, and by yesterday I was running on fumes. Luckily, I'm off today and as I lay in bed this morning, listening to her yell my name in her sick little voice...I smiled. I smiled as I remembered that THIS is what motherhood is about. 

Because, someday I'm going to miss this. I'll miss the late nights, and her sick little body rolling over to snuggle close into my chest. I'll miss the sound of her calling out my name. I'll miss her little feet coming down the hallway to crawl into our bed, and her asking me to tuck her in and say her prayers. I'll miss kissing hot foreheads and skinned knees. I'll miss picking up toys, hunting for missing Barbie doll shoes and combs, and reading her favorite books for the bazillionth time. I'll miss trips to the library when the library was cool, and her begging me to go to the park even when the weather isn't the greatest. I'll miss playing Candyland and Letter Match. I'll miss cuddle time on the couch, and her asking me how many bites until she can get down from the table. I'll miss the joy on her face every time she swims in a swimming pool. I'll miss bubble beards at bath time, and finger paint on my dining room table. I'll miss when she's not here to put ALL the Christmas ornaments on the very bottom limbs. I'll miss pinky promises and bed bugs. I'll miss random I love you's from the back seat. I'll miss her laugh when her daddy tickles her, and that little pretend voice she uses when she plays with her stuffed animals. I'll miss all of it and more, because someday she'll be too big for these things. Someday she'll be a teenager and then an adult with her own toddler to wear her out, and she won't need me as much anymore. 

So, today despite the exhaustion. I am thankful. I am thankful for these moments and that for today she still needs me. Today, I'm still mom. I can cure anything, fix anything, and find anything. Today, I'm still her hero. Today, I'm her everything.

So, here's to multiple cups of coffee and to Letter Match already strewn all over my living room floor. Here's to motherhood. 

Happy Monday, everyone! :)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Taking Time To Be Thankful

As you all know this past year has been a rough one, and trying to muster the strength to be thankful and count my blessings is pretty much non-existent at this point. But, nevertheless, I know that I have so many things to be thankful for despite everything. So, I know I'm a day late, but this is more for me than for you anyway, because sometimes we all just need to take the time to sit down, count our blessings, and take everything into perspective.

1. I am very thankful for my little family. My husband who gets up every single day and goes to work to work hard for our family, who puts up with my crazy antics, who loves me unconditionally, and who is the best daddy our little girl could ever ask for. My happy, healthy daughter who keeps me grounded and keeps me laughing, who reminds me everyday what my purpose is in life, and who is my guiding light. Every decision I make is for her. She's my everything.

2. I am thankful for my sisters. Those crazy, beautiful girls who keep my life interesting. They are my built in support system, and my cheering squad. They are first people to put me in my place, and the first people to run to my defense. They are part of who I am, and I am grateful.

3. I am thankful for my mom. Really thankful. Even though she drives me insane, and lately it seems like we've been disagreeing about everything, I know she's got my back. Every ounce of good in me is from her, even if lately she doesn't seem to see much of it. She may not understand me at times, and she may dislike A LOT of my choices, but one thing is for sure, I know she is always going to be there, even if it's in the back of mind guiding me to be the best mother I can be.

4. I am thankful for my dad. I am thankful for his unconditional love, the way he never judges me or puts me down, and how supportive he is of me. He is always there to back me up, to offer experienced advice, and he is still the only guy in the world who makes me feel the most beautiful every single day. I am blessed to call him my dad.

5. I am thankful for my crazy, extensive family. My Grandma Amy a.k.a. Fro: our rock, the first person to call me at 7:00 AM every single birthday, and the one whose swimming pool and Sunday lunches are the scene of many of my childhood memories. My Grandma Joyce who has taught me everything I know about how to act like a lady, even if I only act like one when I'm around her. My cousin, Little Jordan, who has been the BIGGEST help with Emma since day one! What would I do without her?! My Aunt Keri whose amazing cakes dazzle at every party I throw. My Aunt Karen whose never afraid to come out to my karaoke competitions and cheer for me while I sing. And for every single amazing person who makes up the 20+ members of my extended family. I am thankful that they never judge me, always love me, and accept me for exactly who I am.

6. I am thankful for my in-laws. No matter what, they are the best grandparents I could ever have wanted for my daughter. She is so lucky to be loved by so many, but especially by them. I thankful for all of the time the invest in her, all of the help they give Randy and I, and for the way they always make me feel like I'm a good mom. I am truly blessed by them. I am also thankful for my sister-in-law who is usually right there with them. My in-laws are good people...the best people.

7. I am thankful for new opportunities, like the possibility of a new job. I'm not sure where this new chapter of my adventure will take me, but maybe it means I'll be able to go back to school and finish my degree, because I'll finally have some extra time.

8. I am thankful for music. I am thankful for how it speaks to me and how I can use it to speak to others. Music is truly the balm of my soul.

9. I am thankful for friendships. Amazing girl friends. Work friends. Those friends who are always game for a good time. Those friends I don't get to see as often as I'd like. And for my best friend. Each one of them plays an important part in my story, and I am thankful that I have had the opportunity to develop a friendship with each one of them, no matter what type of friendship it is.

10. I am thankful for forgiveness and for an amazing God who continually offers it. I have needed a lot of it this year, and I'm sure I'll need it even more in the years to come. I am thankful that He is always there loving me, and offering me his mercy. I may feel far away from Him right now, but I know He's there. I would be truly lost without my faith.

I know it's a short list. I know there are probably 100 other things I could put on here, but for now...for today, these are the things I am the most thankful for.

I hope everyone had an amazing Thanksgiving. I'm pretty sure I'm still full from yesterday, and I even braved a little Black Friday shopping with my sister and my cousin, Jordan last night. It was an adventure :) I couldn't of asked for a better Thanksgiving and I feel so blessed to have been able to spend it with both Randy's family and my own family. It was a busy day, but so worth it.

Happy Friday :)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

One Month Later...

Well, it's officially been a month. One month to wrap my head and my heart around our trip to NYC and Baltimore, Maryland. I'm sorry for the usual. This year has been for my family and I. For the first time in my life, I find myself speechless more often than not. It's hard for me to put insecurity and fear into words. These days, I just simply feel them. I know they are there. I can sense them at every turn and every decision. There is just SO much more to think about now than there was six months ago. I ache. I cry. I get angry. I laugh in amazement at the wonder of it all. And I try...oh, how I try to not let it defeat me. But, some days it just gets the best of me. And how does it come out? As silence. As thoughtfulness. As me searching and waiting for the right time to pour my heart out. If you've been waiting, thank you for your patience. If you haven't, well, I promise there will be a few awesome pictures of NYC in this post :)

As many of you know, on October 5th, my sisters, my mom and I left for Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland to learn more about our recent positive diagnosis for the gene that can cause a rare heart condition known as ARVD. We made a side stop in NYC, which was truly the trip of a lifetime! We saw the sights:

Yep, that tiny blimp in the background, The Statue of Liberty :)

The Phillips girls take on Times Square!

The Statue of Liberty from the ferry to Ellis Island.

Faith and I getting educated at Ellis Island.

NYC skyline from the ferry.

My very first Broadway play, Wicked! 

NYC was an amazing experience. I would go back, especially to see another play, but I could never live there. I'm still a small town girl at heart, and at the end of day, I like the quiet pace of my life here in good ole' Missouri. 

After we spent 2 days in NYC seeing the sights and taking it all in, we headed to Baltimore. This is where the trip got NOT so fun, but we survived and we didn't kill each other...which is always an accomplishment in my book! LOL! We spent day one in Baltimore finishing up some testing. Faith and Randi both received cardiac MRI's, my mom had a few doctor's appointments, and then we nosed around the city a bit. The next day was our meeting with Dr. Caulkin, the heart specialist at Johns Hopkins who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of ARVD. He met with us all in a tiny room and delivered his thoughts on our EKG and holter monitor tests that we had done at home before we came out. He said that all of our test results were okay. There were some rapid heart rates and arrhythmia, but he seemed positive that if we all would take a proactive approach to this disease than there wasn't any reason we couldn't all live long happy lives. 

Granted long happy lives means we will all have to give up any form of strenuous exercise. No more running, women's volleyball league, and I might as well forget about that gym membership I was considering. We also monitor our heart rates a lot more now. Some of it is mental, I'm sure, but I'm definitely more aware of how I'm feeling and the toll that stress truly takes on my body. There are certain medications we can't take anymore, and for the rest of my life an EKG and holter monitor will be apart of my yearly check up. Deep breath. These things may not seem all that life altering to you, and they probably aren't. But, that's where the insecurity comes in. I have NEVER thought about dieting and exercise more than now because I am no longer able to exercise. I have this irrational fear of becoming morbidly obese, and for the first time in my life I have started to worry about calories. Thankfully, I have been blessed with my mother's great metabolism, but I know as I get older, I will have to think more and more about how to maintain a healthy weight now that exercise is out of the question. It's overwhelming to go from never giving something a second thought to having it ever present in your mind everyday. 

I also worry about Emma, now that I have been diagnosed as a carrier of this gene. Emma will have to be tested for it when she's 13. I find myself worrying about things like:

"Should I allow my child who may have a rare, genetic heart disease to play sports?"

"What if I encourage her to play sports, and then I have to make her quit if her diagnosis comes back positive?"

"Should I encourage her to play less strenuous sports like golf?"

"How do I give my child a happy, well rounded childhood without endangering her health or encouraging her to love something I may eventually have to take away from her?" 

I mean, these are the things that go through my mind almost every minute of everyday. My ultimate concern is for Emma, and how this could possibly affect her life. I know your not supposed to borrow trouble, or worry about things that are out of your control, but sports were an important part of my childhood, and I can't imagine not giving Emma the opportunity to enjoy them. I feel very torn. Plus, I have had to watch my sister, Faith, struggle with giving up the sports she loved because of this disease. Sports are a popular way to make friends, and "fit in" during your middle and high school years. I know there are other clubs and activities, but sports teams are by far, the most popular. I have hated watching Faith struggle with this transition and I think about one day having to watch Emma struggle with it. It sucks. 

So, while it isn't as life altering as cancer or other genetic diseases, these are just a few of the ways it has changed my life. I worry. I think about things I never thought about before. I am overtly aware of my body these days. Sure, it may not seem so bad to an outsider looking in, but for me, it's a struggle. Another weight I am forced to carry. My heart is heavy, and I worry more about watching one of my sisters becoming sick like my mother more than I worry about myself. I hate it for them. For us. But, the more I think about it, the more I realize God's unique plan in giving me 3 sisters to carry this load with me. He definitely knew what He was doing when He gave me my own built in support system, and for that, no matter what life throws at us, I will always, always be grateful. 

After our emotional stay in Baltimore, we boarded the train and made a side stop in Washington D.C. I am a huge history buff, so I truly enjoyed this leg of our trip. It was amazing to see so many historical monuments and take in a piece of country history, especially so close to the election. 

The Capital Building

The Jefferson Memorial 

The Washington Monument

The trip home was long, and I have never been so glad to be at home in my own bed. After a few days at home, and once I got over my extreme loathing for train travel, I was able to look back on that week with my mom and my sisters with a smile on my face. Who knows, that may very well be the last time we all get to take a trip like that, and I will forever be grateful for the memories. 

That trip changes us. It made us stronger, wiser, and more aware of the days ahead. We will never be the same. I'm not sure where we are supposed to go from here, but my mom has encouraged all of us to keep living, and that is exactly what I plan on doing. I plan to take each day in stride and be more thankful for every breath. I want to live my life to the fullest and embrace every opportunity to find happiness throughout this journey. God has blessed me with some of the most amazing people to walk this journey with me, and I will never take any of them or the part they have played in my life for granted. Depsite everything, I AM blessed, and I have so much to be thankful for. These are thoughts I try to keep in the front of my mind, because these are the thoughts that have helped me fight back the darkness and defeat. I was given this life for a reason, and I have every intention of really, truly living it to the fullest. 
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