/> Raising Angels: August 2014

Saturday, August 30, 2014

In This Moment

There’s a kind of relief – a release from the pressure of knowing you only have five days of insurance left – when those days are finally over. It’s not a good thing to have no insurance, but it’s better than knowing you only have five days of it.

Strange as that may sound, there is a peace on me today. Okay, maybe not today, but now, in this moment. I have a feeling that this season is going to be about those moments. In fact, life is really about the ability to live in the moment. Not that you can’t plan for the future or look back and learn from the past; but to survive, to live with joy, you have to live in the moment.

Comparison kills doesn’t it? Her house is cleaner than mine. She looks more fit/fashionable than me. Her kids are better behaved than mine. She makes nicer meals than me. All those things – all those thoughts that focus on anything other than where I am right now – they eat at us. They cause discontent. They force us to judge situations we have no right to judge. Those thoughts are not healthy…for anyone.

So here I am today, in the moment I’m in. I did everything I could to max out what insurance we had to use. We are all relatively healthy.  I am grateful for that.

I have a husband who loves me unconditionally. I have five beautiful, well-adjusted children. I am surrounded by a family and friends who support and care for me. I live in a gorgeous home that my husband built. I have a God who cares for all the little details of my life and will not abandon me. That’s the reality of my moment.

Today, right now, I am peaceful in the knowledge of the bigger picture. God will take care of the rest.


Friday, August 29, 2014

Happy 14th Birthday Mackenzie!

Today is Mackenzie’s 14th birthday! What?! When, oh when did that happen? I was thankful for a day that was too busy to dwell on this fact.

We started out at freshman orientation. Can I just say what a surreal experience it is to sit in the same classroom I sat in during high school, in front of the same teacher? So very, very strange and also wonderful.

We jetted from there back home to pick up the rest of the gang. As if it weren’t bad enough that Mackenzie has to go for a check up on her birthday, to a male doctor, who’s no longer her doctor; she also has to have her brothers tag along so they can all get the flu vaccination which just happened to come in the day I called and asked.

All 5 kids, plus me in a tiny exam room is not anyone’s idea of a good time. Thankfully, we’ve been there for 14 years now and they know us. The nurse took the boys into another room for their flu mist while the doctor examined Mackenzie. Everyone came through relatively unscathed.

The original plan was to take Mackenzie to orientation and then to lunch. Being on budget lockdown doesn’t lend itself to taking all of us out to lunch.  As we left the pediatrician, I explained to the boys that because it is Mackenzie’s birthday, we were going to go through her favorite drive thru and pick up lunch for her…not for the rest of us.

They were understandably disappointed but handled it beautifully for the most part. Mackenzie, very graciously, did not eat it in front of all of them on the ride home. She also offered a fry to each of them.

She had made plans with friends to get together and do their nails before their first game of the season that afternoon. Ah, to be 14 again. Nails done…before a volleyball game….definitely a necessity at that age. I mean it is her birthday after all.

We met her at the gym for the game. On the way, I was thanking my lucky stars that the first season is volleyball, which means all the home games are free. Only, when we walked in the door, I discovered that this year, home games are not free.

Funny how perspective changes when income changes. If Nelson was still working, this would have surprised me, but I would have paid the admission price and moved on. Instead, I stood there stunned. Seriously, it was $10 for all of us, but this is still new and I wasn’t prepared.

Someone overheard me say, “What? I thought these games were free,” and paid for us before I could do anything. If God’s going to teach me anything, I feel a bit of humility is definitely on board…yuck. I managed a, “Thank you SO much. Let me pay you back,” which she refused and we both moved on.

Learning lessons is hard.

Mackenzie, you are an amazingly beautiful girl from the inside out. I love watching you grow and mature. I pray that your high school experience is wonderful and that you are able to use all the gifts God has given you. Happy Birthday girl! I love you!

The Final Countdown: T-1 Day Until the Insurance Goes

Yesterday afternoon, after I made sure Aiden was recovering nicely; I headed out to a doctor’s appointment of my own. I was very clear on the phone when I made this one. I wanted to make sure I could be seen. The nurse took a look at my records and told me I’d be good and to come on in.

The office is set up to make you feel like you’re not waiting as long as you really are. There is the sign in area, where you wait to be called. Then you wait in the “vitals” area until you can be weighed, get blood drawn and your blood pressure checked. Then you wait in another area until you’re called into the exam room, where you wait again for your doctor. In each waiting area, you’re waiting with a group of people (except for the exam room of course). A brilliant game of smoke and mirrors, but I’m on to them.

Today, however, when I was called back to the first, and most crowded area, my doctor’s nurse met me. And right there, in front of everyone waiting, she explained how I could not be seen today because it’s too soon. I understand that everyone knows the kinds of things you have done in this office, but it’s still not the kind of conversation I want to have in front of anyone but the necessary people.

She spoke loudly as she restated that even though I had been told I could be seen, that I absolutely could not have a pap smear done today (sheesh, thanks). She spoke with no tenderness or understanding at all. I was forced to press her. “How about a mammogram? I haven’t had one since before I was pregnant.”

Again, in front of the waiting area that had at least ten people in it, she curtly told me that since I was still breastfeeding, this too was a no go.
I was becoming more and more self-conscious of people staring and listening to my plight. Unfortunately, my time was running out and I had to find out what I could have done, if anything. “Can I at least get a flu shot?” I asked sheepishly, trying desperately to turn the attention anywhere else but on me.

She didn’t even look up from her clipboard, as she yelled to the girl in the lab. “Mrs. Parris is coming back for a flu shot. Only for a flu shot okay?” Then she walked away, leaving me standing there feeling as if I had just been put on display naked.

Thank God the lab tech quickly called me back before I had a meltdown in front of everyone. She was a sweet as she could be, having no idea what my situation was or how this had happened. I struggled to put on a good face for her. I have never felt more humiliated.

I was able to get my shot and go back out to the car before the floodgates opened. I was mad, humiliated, and exhausted. I became a number. There was no compassion, no common decency. I felt as if I had been publically flogged.  When I think of the amount of time and money I have spent in that office, I honestly think I deserved more than that.

Understandably, after the week I’ve had, I’m more vulnerable. I did not have the strength to march back in there and demand an apology. I cowered into my car and promptly started to sob. I was done. I no longer had the strength to hold anything in and it all came out right then and there.

On the way home, through the tears that were still falling, I felt drawn to the nearby Perpetual Adoration chapel. My mom was at the house with the kids and was prepared for me to be gone around three to four hours, so I knew I had time.

I blew my nose and got inside. I was no longer sobbing, but the tears were still silently streaming. Apparently, I had been holding on to a lot. I had no real plan. I only wanted to sit in the presence of Jesus until I found some peace.

Sometimes the best prayer is just to be.

Eventually the tears dried up and I was able to ask Jesus for some help. I made my case that I am much more weak than He assumes and that I cannot handle this. Please, please, please, take this cross from me. I am a wimp Lord.

And then I let it go.

For the first time in all of this, I heard the Lord very clearly. “This is not a punishment. This is a test. You can handle this and you will be stronger for it. I will use this if you let me.”

It was if I was a little girl and the Lord had just scooped me up from my pity party, put me in His lap, and wrapped His arms around me. I was no longer shaking and crying. I felt His presence and in that presence, I found peace.

It was only for a moment, but it was profound. After that my prayers changed. Suddenly, I felt gratitude for the ways God has already provided for us.  I did get that flu shot after all. Thank you Lord.

What do people do, who don’t have faith? What do people do when this happens to them and they are not surrounded by people who support and pray for them? What do they do without a family to help them out? What do they do if they don’t have a hard working, positive husband willing to do whatever it takes to provide?

Lord bless all those people, and help me not to forget them when I get through this. Help me learn what You want me to learn so that I can help others through times like this.

It’s amazing what happens, how your world changes, when you allow yourself to fall into the arms of Jesus. Pray with me that I stay there now and always.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Surgery

We were all grateful that Aiden’s surgery was not at the crack of dawn…well, except for Aiden who couldn’t eat or drink from midnight on. Thankfully, he’s taken to sleeping a bit later in the mornings this summer so it wasn’t too much of an issue.

When the lady called me yesterday, she told me that we needed to pay when we arrived. After insurance, she said it was $475.68. On the way to the surgical center, I went over that with Nelson and he said no way. “We’ve had too many things go on. We’ve got to be closer to our deductible than that. Call insurance and let’s work this out before we get there.”

Sure enough, he was right. The insurance representative said it should be $138. That’s a whole lot better than the $400 figure or waiting six months and paying upwards of $2,500!

Aiden was scared but too “mature” to let on. When they called him back, I saw the lump in his throat. We got to go with him as they prepared him for surgery. He changed into his lavender gown and climbed into the bed. “Purple? Really?” was his first line of questioning.

The nursing staff was outstanding. They joked with him about the gown among other things as we waited to see the surgeon. They explained that they wouldn’t even put the IV in until he was asleep and assured him that once that happened, he wouldn’t feel a thing.

Aiden, being Aiden however, wanted to know EXACTLY what was going to happen. “Do you really want to know?” the nurse asked him and then looked at us to make sure it was ok to answer.

“He’s my kid with non-stop questions,” I explained. “He hates surprises. Go ahead and tell him.”

“Well,” she gingerly explained, “they burn them.”

Aiden’s eyes got wide with a mixture of fear and awe. “Okay,” was what he got out. “How do they do that?”

That’s when the surgeon walked in. To our great surprise, it was his doctor, the one who told us he’d be unable to do it because of prior commitments to clinic hours. “Dr. R!” I exclaimed with the excitement of someone finding a long lost relative. “It’s so good to see you. Thank you so much for being here.”

He smiled a confident, happy smile. “Well Aiden, are you ready to get this over with?”

“Yes sir,” he said. “How are you going to get them out?” he wanted to know from the man in charge.

“I stick a long tool up your nose, burn those suckers and yank them out,” he said in the language an eleven-year-old boy could appreciate. “Don’t worry bud, you won’t feel a thing. Say good bye to mom and dad and let’s get those adenoids out.”

We said our goodbyes and prayed over our boy. It doesn’t matter how old they are or how routine the surgery, sending your child into an operating room is not an easy task. For once this week, for Aiden’s sake, I did not cry.

We waited and prayed and talked. It wasn’t long before we were called back again. We sat in a small room where Aiden’s doctor came in and assured us that everything went very well. He said that the adenoids were much larger than he thought so “you definitely made the right decision. He was going to need surgery no matter what.”

We felt grateful and relieved as we went back into the post op area. They were wheeling Aiden down the hall as we entered. “He did great,” the nurse assured us. “He’s a little weepy but that’s the anesthesia, not because he’s in pain.”

Sure enough, my big, brave boy was slumped over in that lavender gown with his head in his hand. “Hey buddy,” I said. “The doctor said it went great and that those pesky adenoids are out.”

He was trying to hide his tears and absolutely convinced he was in pain. Since Max has had two surgeries, I know that coming off anesthesia can be a bear so I went with it. Nelson took the whole, you’re a man be tough route. Sometimes kids just need a mama.

By the time we were half way home, he was in better spirits. I remembered that the pharmacy had called to say they had a prescription ready for Aiden. I couldn’t for the life of me remember what it was for. I asked Nelson to call them and find out with the intention of stopping for it while we were out.

Come to find out, the doctor had called in the steroids in case the surgery didn’t work out. “Out of curiosity,” Nelson asked the pharmacist, “how much is it?” There was a pause and then he asked, “That’s with insurance? Okay. No, we will not be picking that up.”

Turns out the first month’s supply of that steroid he was going to be taking for six months was $125. I took it as one more sign from God that we made the right decision and I was very, very grateful.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Bring on the Pink!

Today I got to celebrate the miracle of life.

My mom and I hosted a baby shower for a friend who has been waiting for a baby for a very long time. Many, many people have been praying for years for her and this shower gave them an opportunity to celebrate a very clear answer to those prayers.

Boy, oh boy...(or rather girl to come), did I have fun! When I was on bed rest at the end of my pregnancy, I discovered Pinterest. Sitting still, I pinned a lot of things. It made me feel like I was doing something. It was so nice to have an opportunity to use a few of my pins.

She was very impressed that I made the tissue paper flowers. I explained to her that I am a child of the 80s. Every dance I went to in high school used these things as decorations. Who knew they'd come back in style?

The invitation had a baby carriage on it so we used that for a lot of things. This fruit bowl was pretty easy and the hit of the party. A simple cut on the watermelon, a peeled cantaloupe, some grape eyes and a pacifier and presto - a super cute way to give the expectant mama the melon she's been craving.

I love the diaper cakes I've seen at showers but I wanted to do something a little different. When I found this baby carriage, I had to try it. A few rubber bands, pins and some ribbons made it pretty simple to assemble.
Isn't she radiant? She is such a beautiful young woman! She brought magnets with scripture verses on them to give to all of us. "They helped me get through a very trying time and I hope when you see them, they'll do the same for you," she explained through happy, grateful tears.

Pink punch, cupcakes and cookies added some festiveness to the table.

It was such a fun celebration!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Final Countdown Continues: A Miracle Story

We headed to Aiden’s ENT appointment this afternoon after a morning of gathering uniforms and prepping for the baby shower.

We walked into the huge complex and signed in. The receptionist asked for my insurance card and a huge lump developed in my throat. I felt as if I was cheating by giving them a card that would only be good for four more days. Crazy right? Hopefully, she didn’t notice my hesitation. The whole wearing my heart on my sleeve is exhausting.

As I sat with Aiden filling out the new patient paper work, I scanned the room. I watched in awe as people checked in, handed over their insurance information, and paid without a second thought. The people sitting around us were gazing at the TV screens, perusing the magazines, and checking their phones without a care in the world.

I, on the other hand, held back tears and tried to steady my hand as I wrote. I told myself that I needed to hold it together for Aiden who would have been befuddled with the waterfalls at that point. I gave myself a little pep talk, “Hey, seriously, the emotions are a little over the top don’t you think? Not having an income or insurance is not the end of the world, nor is it a permanent situation. You’re going to get through this. You’re going to be fine.”

I gave myself a pat on the back for returning the papers and collecting my card with out any tears. I was proud that when I sat down, I had a nice conversation with Aiden that included nothing about sacrifice or money.

I’m focusing on the little victories.

Aiden got called back for the hearing test first. I sat in the little hallway outside of the testing room praying like crazy that nothing would be wrong. What if he’s going deaf? What if something is really wrong and he needs therapy? What are we going to do? “Excuse me self! Did you not hear me the first time? Things are going to work out. You’re going to be fine. Aiden is going to be fine. If something is wrong, we’ll deal with it, but let’s cross that bridge when we come to it. Okay? Get it together girl.”

He came out and told me about what happened as we waited to be put in an exam room. “She made me repeat some words and listen to some sounds.”

“Did you hear all of them?”

“I guess, but how do I know if I didn’t hear them?” he wondered.

“That’s an excellent point bud. We’ll just have to wait and see what the doctor says.”

His doctor came in and told us that the hearing test did show that he was missing those upper decibels. “You know, it doesn’t seem to be bothering him. I’m not sure the test was entirely accurate. A lot of factors can play into those things. Is he under any stress? Anything out of the ordinary going on at home or at school?”

Sheesh. Here we go again, I thought. “My husband just lost his job,” I managed to get out holding my composure.

“I’m so sorry,” he said with sympathy. “That can certainly have an effect. Look, I’m not worried about it. Let’s recheck him in six months and see what happens.”

I mentioned all the symptoms he was experiencing and asked him what the x-rays showed. He hadn’t seen them and they couldn’t get them when they tried. “It sounds like his adenoids to me. Mind if I numb him up and go ahead and take a look while you’re here?”

“That would be great,” I said as Aiden shook his head and widened his eyes.

“How do you look at them?” he wanted to know.

After the doctor told him, he was especially hesitant. I gave him the whole take one for the team speech and he complied.

“They do look enlarged,” was the doctor’s analysis.

“Okay. What do we need to do?” I asked.

“Well,” he explained, “there’s the surgery route, but I like to start with a few months of steroids to see if we can shrink them. The surgery is routine but it’s still nice to see if we can avoid it. Of course, there’s no guarantee the steroids will work. We just have to wait and see.”

As calmly and rationally as I could, I explained the urgency of our situation. After Sunday, there will be no more insurance. Chances are that when my husband starts working again, it will be for himself so that part won’t change. We’re at our out of pocket and money is going to be very tight for a season.
Unfortunately, as calmly and rationally as I could did not prevent the floodgates from opening. There I sat in front of this new young doctor, his young assistant, and my 11-year-old son trying my hardest to keep it together but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t.

It’s like I have this gaping wound and every time I have to revisit the story, it’s like tearing the bandage off with bits of flesh attached. I’m a counselor and I know I’m going through mourning. Knowing that doesn’t stop it from happening though.

After I told my story, I apologized for this emotional display and assured him I was not trying to manipulate him, I just hadn’t wrapped my mind around all of it yet. Still, I managed to ask the impossible. “I know this is asking a lot, but do you think there’s any way we can get a surgery scheduled before the end of the week?”

He was so empathetic. He’d been there, he explained, before getting this job. He had children and he got it. “I have clinic hours the rest of the week, but let me go talk to my partners and see what we can do.”

He was back within minutes with the news that they could get him in. “What would you like to do? I’d hate to see you rush into something like a surgery because of your circumstances. Waiting on the surgery won’t hurt him.”

I was composed by this time and offered, “Why don’t we run it through insurance? I know it’s a long shot. If they give approval in time, let’s do it.”

“Okay,” he said, “I’ll get them started and someone will call you.”

I thanked him profusely. The impossibility of what I was asking did not escape me.

In the car on the way home, I interceded to the Holy Spirit. Honestly he’s not my go to guy, but when I don’t have the answer or the words, I call on him. “Holy Spirit, I know I’m asking for a miracle, but if Aiden needs this surgery, please let the insurance approve it so we can get it done before our insurance runs out. If it’s not your will, show me in no uncertain terms.”

I’ve been given the run around by our insurance on numerous occasions. They rarely approve something like a surgery without some kind of a waiting period.

We arrived home about 25 minutes after leaving the office. Five minutes later the phone rang. “Mrs. Parris, this is Augusta ENT. I’m calling to let you know we have Aiden scheduled for surgery this Thursday. No prior approval was needed. Someone will call you with the time and surgical instructions later.”

We often look for miracles to be burning bushes, parting seas, or physical healings. However, I believe God works miracles every day, all the time. Today I got one. What it showed me was that God cares about my family. He loves my kids more than I do. He will provide for all of our needs.

I am grateful, and shaking, and crying – not because of fear, or worry but because of the reminder of God’s abundant blessings poured out on me.