Big brother training

I didn’t always know if a second child would be in the cards for my husband and me. We didn’t struggle with fertility like so many do but did try to conceive for nearly a year before we were successful.
During that time I kept thinking, I want Miles to have the chance to be a big brother! Of course I wanted all the blessings that come with a second child as well. But I really wanted my son to have a sibling. I knew Miles would be such a great big brother.
After we moved to Evansville and were able to see my sister, brother-in-law and nephew on a more regular basis I realized that even if a second child weren’t in the plans for us, Miles would always have a buddy in his cousin Charlie.

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It has been so wonderful watching the two of them grow up together, and I know that as they get older it will be even more fun to see their relationship strengthen.

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This past weekend was a great example of the boys bonding. We just moved in last weekend and were lucky enough to have close family friends and my mom come from Vincennes to help out with some things around the house, namely the backyard. Sarah and Charlie came over to help as well. After hours of work, the boys had an egg hunt in the backyard.

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Miles loves to help Charlie do just about anything — drink from his sippie cup, find eggs, sit down, play with the ball — you name it he is all about “helping” Charlie do it.
It’s great to see his big brother skills getting honed. And I’m so glad that, even after this baby arrives, Miles will still have a forever playmate and best friend in Charlie.

Identifying as survivor strange, yet rewarding

April 28, 2006, is a day that changed my life.

That’s the day, at age 25, I had a pacemaker implanted. And while I’ve been living with this lifesaving device for almost eight years, I hadn’t given much thought to being a “survivor.”

But a call for participants for the Courier & Press’ team in the upcoming American Heart Association’s Heart Walk tugged at my, well you guessed it, heart.

I am a survivor — a heart disease survivor. And like a lot of stories of survival, mine is far from typical.

I left for Bangladesh as a healthy, idealistic 23-year-old in 2004. I’d spent some time in Haiti while in high school and felt a strong pull to do work on an international level — to change a tiny corner of the world and myself at the same time. I had worked for a year as a cops reporter at the Springfield, Ill., State Journal-Register but was ready to tackle the world before settling into a career somewhere in the U.S.

This was a group of children running and playing through a tea garden in Sylhet. There was a lot of joy there.

This was a group of children running and playing through a tea garden in Sylhet. There was a lot of joy there.

I returned home from Bangladesh a year later a much different woman. Many of those changes were amazing and positive. But along with that came life-changing damage to my heart.

While serving as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Comilla, Bangladesh, I taught English to young adults and did HIV/AIDS awareness and education programming aimed toward at-risk populations. I was loving the amazing cultural experience there and really felt like I was making an impact.

One of the city squares in Comilla.

One of the city squares in Comilla.

After several months, I started to have fainting episodes. They were unexplained by local physicians, so I was medically evacuated to Bangkok, Thailand, where I spent almost a month in and out of the hospital and doctors’ offices looking for a cause. None could be found, so they sent me back to Bangladesh.

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Several months later, the spells worsened, and I left the Peace Corps after about a year for medical reasons. I returned on a plane to Evansville escorted by our Peace Corps medical officer.

Not only was I devastated to be separated from friends that I’d made and those I was working with, but I was also left with this mystery.

After enough doctors’ visits and tests to make anyone’s head spin, doctors determined I’d developed a virus while in Bangladesh that had spread to my heart, causing damage. My heart was stopping temporarily, making me pass out. After about a year of trying different medicines to control the issue, I had my first pacemaker implanted at 25.

Since then I’ve lived a pretty normal and healthy life. I’ve had a few more surgeries and the occasional complication, but I’ve had one healthy pregnancy that led to my amazing 2½-year-old son and now I am in the second trimester of my second pregnancy.

I will be walking in the May 20 Heart Walk at 19 weeks pregnant, pushing my toddler in a stroller and as a survivor. There will be countless other survivors, those who have or are planning to make lifestyle changes to be healthier people; loved ones of those lost to heart disease; and those who want to help raise funds and awareness for heart disease education.

I’ve told my story. Why not come out to the walk and tell yours?

Unexpected goodness

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Sometimes you get so wrapped up in the crazy, or even the mundane, that you forget about all the really awesome. And sometimes you need a reminder to smack yourself in the face that there really is a lot of good in the world.

I received one of those reminders in my mailbox at work today. The only stuff that usually makes its way in there is junk mail or promotional materials and most of it goes into the recycle bin after a quick perusal. Today I had a manila envelope addressed to me in my little mail slot. I didn’t really think much of it, assuming it was flyers for an upcoming event.
I open it up as I’m walking back to my desk and pull out a stained, doodled on and peeling mouse pad.

Strange, I think to myself. Wonder what this is about, eek! I flip it over and there’s a post-it note taped to the back. “Jeffrey Brown, 2/1999, RIP 1/2011.”

The tears are already welling up and start to spill out.

I dig around a little further to find a small white note card with my name written in cursive on front.

The delicate notecard had a tea set and violets on the front, a big change from the doodled and worn mouse pad. Inside was a beautiful note from a former co-worker of my dad’s. I hope she doesn’t mind me quoting some from the card.

The blog that I wrote about the fire we suffered a few weeks before moving (where I lost nearly all of my physical memories of my dad who passed away a little more than three years ago) ran in the newspaper as a column on Sunday. Another employee at the Lawrence County (Ill.) Health Department where my dad worked more than 10 years ago had brought a clipping of the column in to show to some of dad’s other former co-workers.

This woman saw the column and was touched.

She said she wished should could replace the things lost but knew she couldn’t. “But I can pass on a wonderful piece of ‘stuff’ that had been something your dad left me at the office the oh so many years ago (15), and I want you to have it.”

The doodle on the pad was my dad’s.

“I’ve used it and cherished it as my connection to the wonderful man that was your dad. He is irreplaceable.”

The tears that were once slowly spilling were now cascading.

What a beautiful and touching gesture for this woman, who doesn’t know me at all, to do.

It’s a tribute to not only how much of an impact my dad had on her but to how gracious of a person she is. It was an inspiring reminder of the fact that there still is a lot of good in the world.

I have let myself get consumed with the fire, flood and chaos of the move perhaps forgetting to see all the positive around me. And this, this was what I needed to remind myself that there’s still a lot of rainbows!​

Take it easy … on yourself

Moving is never easy.

Moving pregnant is definitely not easy.

Moving pregnant after buying your first house ever, losing the majority of your belongings in a fire and dealing with unexpected stressors like your new house flooding two days before you close your house – yep, that’s borderline crazy when you say it all at once.

So when I misplace my wallet Monday morning in the house full of chaos – boxes and a stir crazy 2 year old and 85-pound dog – leads to streams of tears I probably shouldn’t be surprised.

But the anger and pressure I put on myself about said wallet and getting the house in a reasonable order within days isn’t OK.

Yes, the situation our family is in right now is (thank goodness) temporary. Eventually the boxes will get unpacked. And I did (after HOURS of searching on the part of myself, Michael and even Miles) find the wallet. My son and dog will get used to the new surroundings and sleep later than 5:30 a.m. Peace will once again be felt.

But until all that happens, I have GOT to learn to let go a little and stop being so hard on myself, and my poor husband too I’m sure.

I know everyone goes through these seasons of stress in their life. What did you do to take the pressure off yourself and your loved ones?

What’s your go-to “treat yourself” activity? I’ve got pregnant brain, so my immediate thoughts are ice cream; but give me some healthier suggestions.

 

You can never go back home again

We returned this weekend from an amazing trip to Louisiana. The two-day road trip was exhausting but worth every minute of time with family and friends.

The three of us stayed the majority of the week with Michael’s parents but had the opportunity to see nearly everyone in the family as well as friends and former co-workers.

PawPaw and MeMe with Miles, Eli and Jhett

PawPaw and MeMe with Miles, Eli and Jhett

And of course much of our trip focused around the amazing food and beautiful weather that Louisiana has to offer. There was boiled crawfish, shrimp Po’boys, my hubby’s favorite chicken, burgers from the tiny little shack Michael grew up patronizing up the street from his parents, his mom’s famous and rich chicken and sausage sauce piquante, Miles’ first wienie roast, boudin, brisket and so much more. I think I gained about 10 pounds from our week there!

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Miles helping great-grandpa Monroe play guitar

Miles helping great-grandpa Monroe play guitar

Great-grandpa Monroe and great-grandma Nellie

Great-grandpa Monroe and great-grandma Nellie

Wagon ride with Jhett

Wagon ride with Jhett

Much of the days were spent outside with Miles enjoying one of the many wagons he fell in love with, playing on the swing set and trampoline at MeMe and Pawpaw’s and going on crazy four-wheeler rides. Michael and I got a kick out of watching Miles reacquaint himself with family, most of which he’d only ever met one time when he was just 9 months old. He called out for his MeMe and PawPaw, snuggled with his great-grandparents, giggled and played with cousins and enjoyed tickles from his aunt.

Miles helped give Ray a ride in the wagon

DSC_1154 Miles helped give Ray a ride in the wagon

Miles' wild ride with his cousins

Miles’ wild ride with his cousins

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Miles, Jhett and Eli

Miles, Jhett and Eli

Eli and Miles

Eli and Miles

In addition to spending a ton of time with family, Michael and I had a chance to show Miles our old stomping grounds — where we met (the newspaper office we both worked), where we lived together and our favorite places to hang out.

The trip home for Michael and back to the place I loved and called home for nearly four years for me made us both very sentimental. Of course I love being back “home” in Indiana and being close to family, but there is so much I love and miss about Louisiana. We talked about what it would be like if we moved back.

The good ol’ days had Michael working with his best friend Ray, me with one of mine David and our house being THE PLACE to be for a great social gathering. It had a huge kitchen, a spacious backyard with a privacy fence, a covered patio and an awesome hostess (me). We had an amazing time in that house with a great group of friends.

But when we went back to visit the paper it wasn’t the same. Our closest of friends had already left. When we drove by our house you could tell the last couple of years hadn’t been kind to it. It had fallen into some disrepair.

The whole place, the whole idea of going back to that place at that time seems like an amazing idea. But going back now really has no appeal. There wouldn’t be a place for us where we would feel we belong, where we’d be happy.
And in some ways that feels really sad, like our memories and times there have lost some of their shiny appeal. But that’s not it at all. I think it makes that time and place even more special and magical, makes the memories even more precious. It was a great snapshot in time, some of the best.

Have you ever tried to “go back home again?” How did it work out?