A Year Ago Tomorrow

A year ago tonight, I was sitting in a hospital bed, eating more-than-tolerable hospital food and visiting with my husband, my mama, my mother-in-law, and a friend from work.  I was surrounded by flowers and little presents.  I likely had TLC or the Food Network on and was getting two units of blood to begin the treatment for which I had been admitted a week and a half earlier to start.  Earlier that year, we never expected I would need to start such a medication so soon because my intestines had mild inflammation that could be easily treated with the usual round of meds.  But in the fall, the illness spiraled out of control, and this was our next option.  We were nervous; this was a biologic drug that could have serious side effects and outcomes.  But the possibility outweighed the risk.  So I was admitted, missed Thanksgiving, and had test after test and antibiotic after antibiotic to clear me, to make sure I didn't have TB or any infections that would put me in danger when I started the Remicade.  Of course, when the final TB test came back, it was inconclusive, so we weren't sure when I would begin.  My GI doc called in nfectious disease physicians to examine me, and they finally cleared me for take off...

Little did I know that I would wake the next morning, Thursday, December 1, 2011, in the worst pain I had ever experienced.  I knew something was wrong.  I insisted something was wrong, and as a good patient, that was hard to do--to push my doctors to do something.  After enduring a round of x-rays, they didn't pick up on anything and wanted to push forward with the plan.  But I was so afraid everything would go wrong.  I insisted they check again,  After a CAT scan (the second since my hospitalization), they discovered perforations had formed in my colon while I was in the hospital.  This meant emergency surgery to remove the perforated colon.

A year ago tomorrow, I didn't know what danger I was in.  I didn't know what it meant to have part of your colon removed.  I didn't know that I could die from what happened in my body, by my body, to my body.

This is something I wrote in response to that day in my daily Facebook photo album:

So many people prayed for me, people I do not know, some people I will probably never meet. It brings tears to my eyes when I go on Facebook and see where people said they were praying for me and sending love and support and encouragement. Prayer saved my life. I do believe that. If we had not all joined together, I do not know if I would be doing as well as I am. I have had some setbacks, yes, but, overall, my recovery has gone very well. I have tried to trust God completely and let Him carry me through this ordeal. I still have my moments when I lose faith and worry, but I know it is a result of the prayers we lifted up to Jesus together that have gotten me here. I had been praying the entire morning before my surgery, asking God to heal me from the inside and to bind Satan and to curse this horrible disease. I have been very careful not to say "my" Crohn's Disease anymore; I will not take ownership of it. It is not a part of me; it is part of this fallen world and is not part of God's promise to us. He wants us to be healthy and well and whole in His image. The thing about Crohn's Disease is that your body attacks itself and treats food, especially things that are often considered healthier such as raw fruits and vegetables, as something to be attacked as well. But God has promised otherwise in some of the first words of the Bible: "Then God said, 'I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. '" (Genesis 1:29) I know we often skip through the Old Testament, especially those first passages, but I don't think it can be any plainer than that. I am going to be healed; I am going to be well; I am going to be stronger than before. Food will nourish not destroy my body. This experience has changed my life in so many ways, ways I could have never imagined. I am getting my life back physically and spiritually so I can go out and love and serve and do what I am supposed to do. I believed in prayer before this, but now I have experienced the true power of it, what it does, what it can do. It breaks my heart if you don't believe in God or prayer because I know that He saved my life on December 1 because we prayed to Him. I still have a long way to go and I still need lots of prayers, but I know it will be okay because I trust God has kept me here for a reason.

Tomorrow, we are going to Eureka Springs for a walking tour of Victorian homes decorated for Christmas.  It will be a time of great rejoicing and happiness and fun.  I know Zach and I will reflect on where we were a year ago and how far we have come, but I will not let what is passed be a burden on a glorious day and weekend.  I thank God for giving me back my life, for all those that were instruments in His Hands to do so--my family, my friends, my physicians.  He is my Father, my Friend, my Great Physician.  I thank Him for letting me remember, for helping me not forget, for allowing me to process these memories with both praise and mourning, acceptance and disbelief, happiness and hurt and even a little humor as I remember how my colon crapped out (bathroom humor) and became a semicolon (English teacher humor).  What a life I have!  What a future I have!  And, as the future is now, I will go enjoy the present that the Lord has given me.  :)

Be Grateful #15

1)  I'm thankful for the wonderful Thanksgiving we had!  What a glorious day!  I do wish Zach had been feeling better for the weekend, but he made it through.
2)  I'm pleasantly surprised by how kind folks were at Walmart Thanksgiving night while we waiting to buy $20 sheets.  (Yes.  I was crazy.  I must have had a stroke or something.)  I normally don't partake in Black Friday--or in this case, Grey Thursday--and I was very hesitant in light of the ridiculousness of starting even earlier.  But I thought the sheets were gold, and we have been looking for some for ages, so I thought my mama and I could pop up there, and it would give her a chance to get out and about, which she hasn't been able to do in awhile.  Well, they weren't gold; they were tan.  But I was able to pick up some grey sheets for my MIL and some cream ones for my SIL (she and her husband only have one set of sheets right now, so I was glad to get them some), and I was able to football carry some green ones for my mom (who always uses secondhand sheets).  We really had an enjoyable time, though it got a bit crazy and I don't think I will ever do this again, especially on Grey Thursday.
3)  I'm grateful for the long weekend I had to relax and knit and watch TV and eat lots of ham, cornbread dressing, and pie.
4)  I'm glad my root canal is over and that it wasn't painful.  Right now, since the feeling has come back, it is a bit sore.  Please pray that I stop stressing it is chipped or something; I'm freaked by how rough the surface feels.  (I've got to schedule my crown still.)
5)  I'm so happy that there are just two weeks until finals week!  These next two weeks should be rather  easy for me.  :)
6)  And I'm so happy that we have our Christmas decorations up and are watching Christmas Vacation right now.
7)  Mostly, I'm so blessed to have a wonderful husband...who trudged to Walmart last night after I realized we didn't have enough of the same lights for our tree.  I love that man.

Be Grateful #14

In my part of the nation--that is obviously Arkansas since this is "The Pharr Side of Arkansas" :)  --it is officially Thanksgiving!  So HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL OF YOU TURKEYS!  I hope you have a lovely day with your loved ones and eat and eat and eat...and eat and eat and eat...and eat and eat and eat some more.  ;)

This is the apple pie I made for our dinner.  I first made this recipe for Christmas in 2010, and it went over very well.  So I planned to make it for last Thanksgiving, but we know how that turned out.  I think it looks beautiful with the oak leaf, maple leaf, and acorn cutouts (along with three apple cutouts in the center).  Hopefully, it tastes as good as it looks!  (I'll let you know.)

This year, I feel especially thankful.  Last year at this time, I was hospitalized and battling the worst Crohn's Disease flare-up I've had yet, planning to beat it by starting Remicade.  Eventually, this flare caused perforations in my colon, which led to emergency surgery and a colostomy before starting Remicade about two weeks later.  I almost died last year, and I am so grateful that I am still here.  Things like that really put it all in perspective, don't they?  You can read more about those experiences life-altering experiences here.

1)  I am thankful for my Lord and Savior who loves me unconditionally and saves me moment by moment.  I really would be nothing without God.
2)  I am thankful to be alive and (pretty much) well.  :)
3)  I am thankful for my husband.  God really knew what He was doing when He made Zach and put him in my life.  Since we have been together, he has never ceased to amaze me with his love, kindness, intelligence, humor, thoughtfulness, quirkiness, etc. etc. etc.
4)  I am thankful for my mama and that she is doing better this year, getting back on track, having started some things over, becoming closer with my brother again.
5)  I am thankful for my family--whether by blood, law, or choice.  "No man is an island," John Donne once said.  Nor should he.  We need each other.  I am so glad I need them and they me.
6)  I am thankful for my friends and acquaintances who inspire me, like me, support me, and guide me.
7)  I am thankful for my kitties.  They are our babies, and it's hard to picture our life without them.
8)  I am thankful to have a home with food in our pantries, heat in our house, and running water in the showers.
9)  I am thankful for our Dyson vacuum, so Zach can continue to do a thing he loves (vacuuming--he is so weird, y'all!) and for my Scentsy warmer, so I can make our house smell like oranges, cloves, and cinnamon (Mandarin Moon).
10)  I am thankful for tomorrow, which is already today and will soon become a yesterday.

What are you thankful for this year??

Be Grateful #13

Well, I have been so behind that I missed my gratitude journal last Monday, but I planned to do a post on Thanksgiving, so I figured it would be fine to post it today.  :)

1)  I am thankful for weekends at home and away.
2)  I am thankful for my precious students and that I haven't scared some away so that they feel okay to take me again in the spring.
3)  I am thankful for movie dates and dinner at Denny's.
4)  I am thankful to have finished Christmas shopping for Zach.  (Well, almost.)
5)  I am thankful for the friends I have at work.  Last year, I was still in my shell, but after falling so ill and recovering, I had people pray for us that I had never talked to, and suddenly, I found myself talking to him.
6)  I am thankful to help out my family and friends in any way I can.  And I'm thankful for those that ordered Scentsy to help my niece build her business as well as give me reward points.  I can't wait to get it in and try it!
7)  I'm thankful for clean carpets!
8)  I'm thankful for the kindness of strangers.  Thanks to the Pay It Forward program in our area, an Arvest Bank branch paid for my prescription on Wednesday, which made possibly having an infected tooth and potential root canal in the future easier to deal with.
9)  I'm thankful for my new and old infusion nurses.
10)  I'm thankful for my Gilmore Girls DVDs.
11)  I'm thankful that it is acceptable to put up Christmas decorations and listen to Christmas music this week.
12)  I'm thankful that I work at a place that acknowledges the holidays with Thanksgiving potlucks and a huge Christmas tree in every building.
13)  I'm thankful we have a soda shoppe (but I'm not happy they got rid of our British candy to open it!).
14)  I'm thankful for healthy babies and smooth labors and happy pregnancy for my dear friends.  Introducing my newest best niece, Autumn, who was born on the 13th at 8 lb. 2 oz.  (Y'all.  Her weight is AMAZING.  Her mama, Monica, is TI-EENY.)

Photo a Day in November #15

15.  In My Bag

I saw these at World Market when we were in KC over the summer, and I was DYING to have them. When we were back again in October, I hinted to Zach that these would make a great stocking stuffer. ;) Well, he said maybe he had planned to get some for me, but since i ruined the surprise, I might as well as get them then. So I did. :) I've been waiting to share a photo for an 
appropriate time because I think this catchphrase--"KEEP CALM and CARRY ON"--seems so appropriate for blowing your nose while sick or drying your eyes while crying.

I haven't used as many of them as I have shared them with others. One of my precious students came to see me this week and spilled her heartbreak and her tears in my office. When I handed her one of these tissues from my purse, she paused crying for a second and say, "Awww, these are cute." At that moment I realized that, as a teacher, not only do I deal with students' poor and fabricated excuses, but more often, I share their joys and their sorrows and their shame they feel when they have failed--shame they shouldn't feel at all, bless their hearts, because we all fall down from time to time, especially when it comes to handling things out of our control. I am thankful I got to offer a little comfort to this student and, hopefully, help her see that there is a light at the tunnel, so we need to keep calm and carry on.

Photo a Day in November #14

14.  Man-Made

A few weeks ago, I changed my Halloween banner to a Thanksgiving one.  The banner is made by me with materials made by machines, I'm assuming.  Even I used a  hole punch to thread the ribbon through.  But it will work...and I don't know where my husband put my knitting bag, so I can't show you my nicely knitted stocking for him.  :)

Photo a Day in November #13

13.  Where I Slept

I took a nap. Me likey naps.  Especially when my tooth is trying to kill me.
(Zach went to bed early with a migraine, so I missed out on my opportunity to take a pic of the bed.  I didn't want to disturb him.)
Unfortunately, when I took my nap, that cat was not napping but literally climbing the walls and driving me crazy.  Just like a kid, this cat is.

Photo a Day in November #12

12.  Drink

Yeah, I'm not doing very well with this month's daily photo.  I almost reused my photo of sweet tea!  Oh, well, better late than never, right?  I actually finished the last in our sweet tea pitcher, so the only things in the fridge are OJ, milk, and mojito Crystal Light.  I guess that means I'll be making some more after work tonight!

Photo a Day in November #11

11.  Night

It's hard to see this first photo, but it's a picture of one of our French doors in the bedroom.  We usually keep the blinds closed, but I opened them up today because Zach was sick and thus in a funk, and I was trying to cheer him up.  It looked weird to see the blinds still open at night.

A better picture of night?  Our old-school Denny's from last night.  :)

Photo a Day in November #10

10.  Can't Live Without

Ah, this photo is rubbish, and my attempt to document my daily life this month has been rubbish thus far (I keep posting late.  :( ), and my weekend has been rubbish, but sweet tea is the one thing I can't live without.  It's where it's at, y'all!

(I feel like I talk about sweet tea a lot on here...)

Photo a Day in November #9 (late)

9.  Small

So one of my best friends from college, Katie (in the middle), officially announced on facebook that she is expecting a baby in June!  (I knew a few weeks ago.  :)  And my other best friend from college, Monica (on the left), is having her baby next week.  (I was also informed about another pregnancy of a friend, but it's not official. ;)  While those are HUGE, life-changing events, the babies themselves are small?  (I'm really stretching this here.)  This is an old picture (like five years old--from their December graduation), but that is what I posted in my daily photo album on facebook, and I figured you guys were tired of pictures of our cats (they are small, too, but depending on your perspective, they can be huge).

We used to be the babies, and now we are having babies!  (Not me--I have cats.)  How did that happen?  We are growing up so fast!

Photo a Day in November #8

8.  Something You Do Everyday

I leave my shoes on the floor, which annoys my husband.
(Look!  I'm ahead on my Christmas shopping this year.  Those are two of Zach's presents already wrapped and ready to go.  I think my strengths and weaknesses balance out.  ;)

Be Grateful #12

The Flaming Lips at Barnhill Arena

1.  I'm thankful for a chill weekend in which we got to laze about the house a bit.  We did go out Friday night for the last First Friday:  Bentonville in Toyland (lots of toy vendors were set up on the Square, and we got some free LEGOs).  And we went to see The Flaming Lips Sunday night (mesmerizing!).  But all day Saturday and most of Sunday we just lazed about.  That extra hour of sleep was glorious.
2.  I'm thankful I am able to work from home when I am not feeling too well, like this week when I have a yucky cold.
3.  I'm thankful the election season is OVER.  ;)  Now I pray we can work together as a nation to move forward as a nation.  I've been so saddened and angered by the way some people have behaved (and are still behaving), and I am trying to embrace positivity and hope and faith and above all else, love.
4.  I'm thankful it's November!  I have my Thanksgiving banner over the fireplace and already have my apple pie planned.  :)

Yes, I know, I'm a few days late with this.  Being sick and busy is not a good combo...

Photo a Day in November #7

7.  Reflection

This is me, no makeup and hair all crazy in a t-shirt because I have a cold and worked from home today.  (Yes, my eyes are that uneven.  *lol*)

Photo a Day in November #6

6.  A Favorite Thing

So she's not a "thing," but we got this little lady a year ago!  She is named for Alice's cat (as in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland) and for Guy Fawkes Day (we were originally supposed to pick her up then, and I'm a big T.S. Eliot fan [see "The Hollow Men"]).

Remember, remember, the SIXTH of November...
Happy Homecoming, Dinah Fawkes Pharr!

And don't forget to vote today!

Photo a Day in November #5

5.  Five O' Clock

Around five, I was making some more cider to help with my cold and because it's fall--when else is spiced cider appropriate?  I did leave out the "spiked" part and added some nice orange slices instead.  it is so tasty!  I have gone through half a gallon in about a day.  (We bought a new gallon yesterday.)  I have also had countless cups of hot tea and cocoa (made with water rather than milk to cut down on the mucus).  Last time, a cold came near me, I drank TONS of hot beverages along with eating a tablespoon of local raw honey with cinnamon in the morning and evening to stave off a cold.  (I read that honey + cinnamon prescription on Pinterest.  Everyone is a doctor these days.)  It worked that time.  But I have to admit defeat; I haven't been able to keep it at bay with my home remedies of hot tea and honey; I am fighting to get over a cold.  *boo*  *hiss*  : /

Photo a Day in November #4

4.  TV

Wasn't that extra hour of sleep glorious?  :)  We didn't go to Meeting since I am coming down with a cold and Zach was so tired, so we slept in and enjoyed the longer morning.  I made pumpkin pancakes and happily breakfasted on them while catching up on The Young and the Restless and pinning recipes.  Dinah felt like she had to help me and took a seat behind the computer, then she preceded to attack our tablecloth and gnaw on the side of our Duncan Phyfe table!  Argh!

And the funniest thing happened last night while we were catching up on Revolution.  I put the kettle on to boil some water for cocoa and came back in the living room.  Well, I heard Hobie making some noise.  I walked into the kitchen and searched the floor.  No Hobie.  Then I looked on the counter to find him nosing through our tea and and cocoa tray!  He had found our catnip tea and wanted some.  (Yes, they have catnip tea.  I've never had it, but Zach says it gives you very vivid dreams.  *lol*)  As such, we had to give him and Dinah the hard stuff.  Still, as soon as we turned our backs again, Hobie was back on the counter looking for the catnip tea!  It is never boring with two cats around, I say!

Photo a Day in November #3

3.  Breakfast

Leftover donuts from yesterday.  Not my favorite.  They're not even Krispy Kreme ones.  *lol*

Photo a Day in November #2

2.  Color

So I got this blue button-down with green polka dots at JCP yesterday.  The "CEO" sent little ole' me a $10 off a $10+ purchase to encourage me to check out what they had done with the store.  A few weeks ago, I got an email advertising their JCP Shop, and it featured cute button-downs such as this one, and I had to have it.  Too bad I didn't realize Zach cut out our fun money this money.  OOPS!  He said I could keep it, and I am glad I did because I got so many compliments on this combo:  white polka-dotted green cardigan over the blue button down with green necklace.  :)

Also, this is the first alcoholic beverage I have ordered in over a year.  We went with some friends to Table Mesa tonight after the Bentonville in Toyland First Friday.  I have to say that Ruby Tuesday's mojitos are better, but this did the trick!

Finally, we were quite sad to learn that our new soda shoppe has gone in where the Walmart Cafe was, which means NO. MORE. CRUNCHIES.  :(

Photo a Day in November #1

Yep, that's right!  I decided to do this Daily Photo Challenge again.  :)

1.  Something Beginning with "C"

How about COOKIES?  Halloween cookies to be exact.  :)  I made these using the leftover cookie dough from our fondue party.  There are ghosts, pumpkins, and bats.  I didn't have any black gel, so I frosted the bats white and added Halloween sprinkles and black sugar to bring them to life.  The ghosts are obviously white, and I added brown eyes and scary/surprised mouths; the pumpkins were iced in orange with brown stems, and I added some sprinkles to a few of them.  I put together this "You've Been Boo'ed" bag for our landlords/neighbors to thank them for everything they have done for us and for how kind they always are.  I missed them last night, so I gave them the cookies this evening, and Mr. Tony and I had a nice chat about Halloween and how we didn't get any trick-or-treaters and how my health is these days.  (Great report from the doctor last week!)  They are such sweet folks.  And sweet folks deserve something sweet!