Everything Happens for a Reason

It’s so cliché, “everything happens for a reason,” isn’t it?  But if the saying is a source of comfort and greater understanding, is there such a thing as overuse of the phrase?  As I continue to reflect on Mom Season and other events that have brought our family to this point, I continually take comfort in my belief that, inconsequential things aside, everything happens for a reason.  Of course, at the time, we don’t always recognize or understand the reasoning behind certain events.

Everything Happens for a Reason

This was the case with an event that took place three years ago this month.  It was Memorial Day Weekend and we still lived in Southern California.  My husband had already left for his swing shift at the hospital.  My cousin was having a BBQ and swim party at his home.  I decided to bring the kids to the party on my own.  I let the girls swim with family, while Auggie and I sat poolside.  It was time for us to go home so I went in the bathroom to help my daughter get out of her swimsuit.  I wanted to wash my hands before helping her, so I reached out for the soap and my left arm went limp.  It came down like a ton of bricks and knocked the soap over into the sink.  Before I could even process what had happened, my left leg went limp and I leaned into the sink to hold myself up.  I remember being inside my head saying, “Call for help!  Scream!  Why can’t you talk?!”  No sooner had panic sunk in when all of my strength returned and I was able to talk and move about as if nothing had happened.  Still shaken up from the strange event, I left my daughter in the bathroom to let my aunt know what had happened.  I asked her to check on me if I didn’t come out in a normal amount of time.  I still felt fuzzy headed and disoriented, but I seemed to have all of my facilities about me so I pressed forward.

Not knowing what to do and having no witnesses, except for my unaware daughter, I tried contacting my husband to get his insight.  No answer.  I shared my event with a couple of family members, as I was concerned about driving home.  However, seeing that I was now fine, it was presumed that the heat had gotten to me.  Having lost my strength in my left arm, I had immediately thought that I was either having a heart attack or a stroke.  My heart felt fine, so I crossed that off of my list.  If it was a stroke, it wasn’t what I had understood of them then.  So, I got in my car and drove my three kids home and asked my eldest, who was only 6 at the time, to help keep an eye on me.  What she could have done to save us while driving on the freeway should another episode occur, I knew not, but somehow I needed her eyes on me as back-up.

As soon as we were home, I did the bedtime routine and sat on the couch and did what any sane person would do – hit the Internet.  I went down the Wikipedia rabbit hole in relation to TIA‘s (mini-strokes) that night.  I also happened to remember about how my physician had told me that I should take a baby aspirin due to a blood disease I was born with called Spherocytosis.  The blood disease is noted by the red blood cells being in a spherical shape versus a disc shaped, thus increasing the chance for stroke due to clotting (though Wikipedia is not stating this, multiple physicians have discussed this connection with me).  Somewhere in the middle of the rabbit hole, my husband finally had a chance to call me back.  His first response was, “It sounds like a TIA.”  He then asked some of the Emergency Department (ED) Physicians their thoughts and they all said the same.  I then  realized two things: I should have gone to the ED immediately and I should have been taking that baby aspirin for years.

A round-about diagnosis isn’t iron clad, so I thought I would head to a specialist.  I’ll skip through this part a bit faster, as I don’t mean to draw this story out.  An MRI  was ordered.  It came back clear.  An Ultrasound was ordered for my heart.  It also came back clear.  One final test, per the Neurologist’s orders – an EEG.  As soon as the electrodes were taken off my head and the tester let me walk out the door, I assumed I was fine or else she wouldn’t have allowed me to drive myself home.  A few days later I got the call straight from the physician.  We all know that when the call comes from the physician it is not good news.  So, as I sat poolside again, plugging one ear with my finger and trying to hear the physician through the phone in my other, all I heard was “non-epileptic seizure.”  What the freak was that supposed to mean?!

Oh heavens, I’ve gone and done it again.  Too many details.  Let’s just get to the part that pisses me off, whaddya say?  Based on this lame-I-don’t-even-know-what-that-means diagnosis, my driver’s license got revoked.  That’s right, folks!  Because the physician deemed it seizure related, he notified the DMV that I should have my driver’s license taken away from me.  It still enrages me.  So, I got a second opinion, obviously.  The new physician calls BS on the first diagnosis and signs off on the paperwork for me to get my license back.  The second opinion was that I had a stress-induced episode or severe migraine that resulted in weaknesses.  Also, a pretty lame diagnosis, but it got me my license back.  Plus, by that time, there was no way to prove I had experienced a TIA, though all signs seemed to point in that direction.

The description of this event took me five lengthy paragraphs to convey, but I feel that it accurately captures how the episode disrupted my life for several months.  It was a scary and frustrating process to work through.  But, everything happens for a reason, right?

That same Memorial Day Weekend, my Dad and Step Mom were up visiting Central Oregon to scout it out and see if it was where they wanted to retire.  My husband and I had toyed around with the idea of leaving Southern California, but it never seemed to feel right.  I specifically remember, while driving home from my cousin’s house, thinking, “I can’t do this anymore.”  Whether it was heat stroke, a TIA, a seizure, or whatever, it felt scarier dealing with it alongside the stress I was already feeling in my daily life with the pressures of living in Southern California.  I desperately wanted Central Oregon to be the answer for my parents, so it could also be the answer for our nuclear family.  It turns out that it was.  That episode, whatever it was, was one more confirmation for me that it was time for us to leave Southern California.  As much as I miss my family, friends, Disneyland, the beach, and sporting events down in Southern California, our move to Central Oregon was one of the best decisions my husband and I have ever made.

So, that puts a little purpose behind the actual episode itself, but what about the misdiagnosis? Why call the episode a seizure when the symptoms were the opposite from the way a seizure behaves?  It’s safe to say, based on my very real Stroke of Luck, that the episode three years ago was in fact a TIA.  Had I been taking my baby aspirin, perhaps it would not have happened.  The full stroke that I had recently was believed to be postpartum related, which I have learned is quite common.  The baby aspirin can only take on so much.  Due to my stroke, my current Neurologist has now diagnosed that first episode as a TIA. per the knowledge we now have with more EEGs, MRIs, and CT Scans having been performed.

With the proper diagnosis of my 2012 episode in mind, I recently sat on the couch befuddled about why we had to go through that whole drawn out process.  I told my husband how annoyed I was with that first doctor, his misdiagnosis and the actions he took to revoke my driver’s license.  He simply responded, “He was a blessing to us.”  I sat there trying to come up with any possible reason as to how this physician, who was generally annoying to begin with, could have been a blessing to us.  My husband, obviously seeing my confusion, added, “If he had diagnosed you with a TIA, we would have never had Hans.  We would have known the risk of a postpartum stroke and stopped having kids.”  His words hit me so hard that I immediately thanked my Heavenly Father for His tender mercies in our lives and took comfort in knowing that everything happens for a reason.

Hans

We don’t always see it at the time, but there is a bigger picture with greater purpose in our lives.  I cannot imagine our family without Hans in it.  He completed us.  Yes, the period of postpartum after Hans did result in a stroke, but even that happened for a reason.  That stroke happened for reasons already known and reasons yet understood.  I am truly humbled by my husband’s insight and how it has strengthened my faith.  And this is just one experience of many.  I look back at events that seemed to have no greater meaning than heartbreak and pain, but that is not the case.  I have a testimony that everything happens for a reason.  That reason is that we have a loving Heavenly Father who knows each of us, knows our needs, and knows our potential.  These things happen for a reason, because He wants to give us every opportunity to succeed.  He wants this for everyone, believers and non-believers alike.  I know that if we are pure in heart, He will provide a way for us to return to Him and everything leading up to that moment will have happened for a reason.

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Run with Patience

A new year is upon us, so I took a moment to re-read my post stating my resolution for 2014, Bright New Year.  By the end of the post I found myself getting choked up.  I’m positively awful at keeping resolutions, to the point that sometimes I don’t make them at all.  But, for the first time ever, I can confidently say that I kept my new year’s resolution.  I’m not one to toot my own horn, but gosh darn it, I’m going to on this one.  I made my year bright not because of fortunate circumstances, but because I made it bright in all circumstances.  As a result, I have beautiful memories to show for it, despite the setbacks with health issues we encountered.


While I do have desires for a healthier body and financial situation, I’m going to make this year’s resolution broader, as I did last year.  This year my goal is to have greater patience.  I heard a very inspiring talk in church this past Sunday and it helped me better understand patience and my desire for more of it in my life.  The speaker was referencing the scripture found in Hebrews 12:1 – Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. She then went on to discuss her confusion with the “run with patience” portion of the scripture.  She spoke of her knowledge of the word patience meaning “to wait” and how running to wait didn’t make much sense to her.  I happen to agree.  But patience is more than that.  Patience isn’t just about waiting.  She went on to include a definition she had found in the book Word Meaning in the New Testament, which stated that, “patience is the quality that does not surrender to circumstance or succumb under trial.”  Patience is strength and endurance.  The reason this definition hit me is because it speaks of patience not being affected by circumstance.  This echoes my 2014 resolution.  It wasn’t just that I wanted a bright new year with ease.  I wanted to make my new year bright despite the ease, because let’s face it, life is not easy.  The same goes with patience.  I don’t want to get greater patience by things being handed to me, I want to truly gain the strength and endurance that comes from being patient in all things.  I say that now and I already fear what may come my way.  In 2014, I had resolved to keep a bright outlook in all circumstances and I got challenged with having a stroke and finding a tumor.  Who knows what may come with my desire to become more patient?  I can’t help thinking of the meme I saw regarding patience, which read, “Bless me with patience…Not opportunities to be patient, I’ve had plenty of those and they don’t seem to be working.  The actual patience…”  And here I am hoping to gain true patience, which requires opportunities to exercise the attribute.

Without knowing what’s in store for 2015, my guess is that I will have to exercise patience predominantly with myself.  I’m the type of person to do one workout and then race to the scale in hopes that I’ve magically gone down 5 lbs.  Logical Sara knows that’s not how it works, but pathetically desperate Sara hopes that it is.  I need to realize that becoming healthier physically and financially are not sprints, they are long distance runs.  I guess that means I need to long-distance-run with patience.  HAHAHA!  I crack myself up.  Seriously though, this is going to be quite the challenge for me.  Patience has never been my strong suit, just ask my husband.  Then, when 2015 comes to a close, we can ask him again and see if I’ve made any improvement.

If you are a patient person, please teach me your ways by leaving a comment of enlightenment.  I know my husband is a patient person, but I have yet to figure out how he does it.  He’s so laid back in general that it’s hard for me to comprehend.  I wonder, are men generally more patient?  Is greater patience only accomplished by greater opportunities to exercise it?  I sure hope I’m not opening a can of worms in my efforts to be a little stronger this year than last.

Whatever your resolution is this coming year, I imagine it would be better accomplished with a little bit of patience on your side.  So, be patient with yourself, with others, and with all circumstances.  And remember, patience isn’t just about happily waiting but rather, “a quality that does not surrender to circumstance or succumb under trial.”

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Are You Enrolled in Parenting 505?

This coming Sunday, I will have the privilege of posting on Over the Big Moon (OTBM).  I appreciate the opportunity that I have to contribute to their site.  This week, I’d like to post one of my previous OTBM posts here on my blog.  Since this post was originally written earlier this year, I feel the need to clarify that I am now the mother of four beautiful and delightful children.  It’s always good for me to re-read my past posts, as it reminds me of positive insight I have received that I tend to forget.  Whether this is your first time or fifth time reading this post, I hope you will find it beneficial for you as well.


I have three wonderful children and one on the way.  As any mother of multiple children will tell you, each child comes with their unique personality.  It baffles me how children being raised the same way can bring such a different dynamic to the family unit.  As it stands right now, my eldest is my most challenging child.  I used to say that with frustration, but lately I’ve been feeling pretty darn grateful for the difficulties I face with her.  It sounds strange, right?  But over the past three years, what were once feelings of irritation in raising my eldest have now turned into appreciation for all that I’ve learned.  This transformation did not come without cause.

Almost three years ago, I heard this talk by Lynn G. Robbins that I have referenced several times since.  The portion of his talk that stuck with me and led to my change in perspective was this, “A sweet and obedient child will enroll a father or mother only in Parenting 101.  If you are blessed with a child who tests your patience to the nth degree, you will be enrolled in Parenting 505…With which child will your patience, long-suffering, and other Christlike virtues most likely be tested, developed and refined?  Could it be possible that you need this child as much as this child needs you?”  Those words were enlightening to me.

My eldest is actually a really amazing little girl.  It’s more my struggle in learning how to be a mother that leads she and I to butt heads so often.  Also, it doesn’t help that she’s a lot like me.  I’m still trying to figure out how to handle myself, let alone raise a mini-me.  How do you teach a child to communicate calmly when you yourself are quick to escalate?  Motherhood is just tough stuff and it gets more challenging when you’re raising the child who tends to test your patience to the nth degree.

I think about my various struggles with my eldest over the years and most every incident resulted in me learning a lesson.  The most obvious lesson I’ve had to learn repeatedly is patience.  I will likely be tested on this virtue until I leave this world.  I am just not very patient.  However, if I have made any improvement in this department, I owe it entirely to my eldest who has given me multiple instances to try and try again.  I write these words with sincerity.  Of course, in the middle of our battles, I could not tell you that I am grateful for her behavior nor my own.  But reflecting on how far I’ve come through the years has humbled me.

Another thing that my eldest has taught me is how to refine myself to be the woman and mother that I want to be.  Previously, I just sort of floated through life thinking I was a decent person and likable enough and that was that.  I didn’t feel like I owed it to anyone to be the best version of myself.  I wasn’t trying to be a lesser version of myself, I just hadn’t given it any thought one way or the other.  That can change when you have a child, whether they be the prerequisite to Parenting 101 or Parenting 505.  Realizing that I am the model for my children’s behavior has made me evaluate what kind of model I am giving them.  Many of us are familiar with the saying, “When you point one finger, three fingers are pointing back at you.”  I feel like all the disappointed finger pointing I have done towards my children has led me to really reflect on my role in their behavior.  As a result, I’ve had the chance to work on my shortcomings.

That’s what I love about life.  We can change and grow.  There are exceptions to the rule, of course.  The number one exception being that change will not happen if one does not truly want it to be so.  But I believe that change can happen.  I’ve seen it happen in my own life.  I have terrible memories of how I would respond to my daughter when we didn’t see eye-to-eye.  I still catch myself getting caught up in a moment and reverting back to my senseless yelling.  I thought I was helping by scolding her so much that she would not want to ever see that side of me.  But she’s taught me that my method does no good with her personality.  I have had to humble myself.  I continually pray for guidance on how to best raise her so that she can reach her full potential.  What is more conducive to change and growth than humbling yourself and admitting that maybe you really don’t know what’s best?  That’s what Parenting 505 can teach you.  The child that enrolls you in Parenting 505 is the child that says, “Nope.  You still have more to learn.”

Through out my learning process with my eldest, I have come to realize that the number one trigger to her poor behavior is when I’m not doing well personally.  She feeds off of the vibe I’m sending out.  This has been eye-opening for me, as I have to step back and try to find the true root of our struggle.  Sometimes it’s my sincere irritation with one of her white lies and other times it’s ill-founded frustration that I take out on her because I’m stressed about something else.  The latter being an unbecoming behavior that I long to change.  And then I think again about Robbins words, “Could it be possible that you need this child as much as this child needs you?”

I’m realizing that I need my eldest more than she needs me.  Being a mother to her has strengthened my resolve to be better and do better each day.  I’m truly grateful that my eldest enrolled me in Parenting 505 and I pray that I don’t fail her or the class.

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The Present is Here – Live in It!

You know those truths in life that you know to be true but still have a hard time abiding by?  Most of them were likely taught to you in the form of a saying.  For instance, practice makes perfect, early bird gets the worm, you are what you eat, and so on.  We know these things to be true, right?  But sometimes we don’t want to practice, we don’t want to get up early, and we certainly don’t want to be a carrot when we can be a cheeseburger instead.  Well, all the different sayings that exist that speak to the importance of living in the present is what I wish to write about this week.  And why do I want to share this topic?  Simple.  I want to discuss it, because I seem to be fighting the need to do it.

I know I need to live in the present.  I know it’s a gift and that’s why it’s called the present.  I know it.  Apparently, I just don’t want to do it.  I’m assuming it’s the crazed mind of a 37 week pregnant woman, but I just want to fast forward to the part where I get to deliver a healthy baby and learn the gender of kiddo #4.  The waiting is slowly driving me mad.
This past Monday was a perfect example of a nearly missed opportunity to live in the present.  I got to go to one of my favorite places and I had to continually tell myself to let go of my obsessive thinking about the unknown arrival of our baby and focus on the three babies and wonderful husband I already had with me on this gorgeous day.  It seems absurd to me that I had to struggle to focus on the goodness that was right before me; the magnificent scenery of the lake, hills and trees and the pure joy of my kiddos playing in the clear water.  What a waste the day could have been had I not at least attempted to let go of things I could not control about my future.
As I learned to let go, the time at the lake became more peaceful.  It became more peaceful because I became more present in the moment.  I even had an opportunity to float out on my own and just soak up the sunshine.  Time seemed to slip away in a much more pleasing manner.  
Lately, each minute has felt like hours.  Time feels like it’s standing still, as my induction date seems to be forever ahead of me.  My OB doctor assured me today that he has yet to have a patient stay pregnant forever, but boy do these last few weeks seem to be dragging on forever.  I can’t help but think of this ecard I found on Pinterest that states, “Bless me with patience…Not opportunities to be patient, I’ve had plenty of those and they don’t seem to be working.  The actual patience…”
So, here I am, slowly approaching 38 weeks being pregnant and trying to appreciate the opportunities I have been given to be patient.  I learned long ago that the term, “I’ll be happy when…” never gets fulfilled in the way we think.  I don’t want to live with the idea that, “I’ll be happy when this baby comes.”  I’d rather live with the knowledge of, “I’ll be happy when I live in the present.”  Sometimes, it’s just a little harder for me than I’d like it to be.
For others who have difficulty living in the present, it’s due to their need to hold on to matters in the past.  I feel like I’ve been on that side of it too, but that’s a topic for another day.  
If you’re living in any time other than the present, perhaps it’s best to apply the words that were spoken back in 1989 by the current President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Thomas S. Monson, in a talk titled Go For It!, “The past is behind – learn from it; the future is ahead – prepare for it; the present is here – live in it.”  My goal is to strive to do just that.
The present is here – I’m gonna live in it!
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It’s a Habit!

So, the question is, are you still working on your New Year’s Resolutions?  As we know, from A Bright New Year, mine can’t quite be measured.  However, I read a fascinating article today in the January 2014 issue of The Costco Connection magazine.  It was highlighting the three parts that create a habit.  It made me realize that resolutions are basically either habits we want to start or habits we want to stop.  So, I thought I’d try to help with keeping your resolutions going.

To break or start a habit, it helps to think about the parts that make up the habit.  In Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, he indicates that there are three parts to the habit loop: a cue, a routine, and a reward.  For the sake of an example, I will outline the three components of my bad habit.  A habit that, sadly, I do not want to stop.

I drink one soda a day.  It has all the sugar and all the caffeine.  I am well aware of the negative affects of this habit.  Let’s set that part aside for now though and look at the three parts to the habit loop.  My cue is a time of day for me.  Cues can be a place, an emotional state, or even the presence of certain people.  But my cue is lunch time or shortly thereafter.  I enjoy having a soda with my meal.  Sometimes I sit down to lunch with a glass of milk or water instead, which pushes my soda cue until after lunch.  But the general cue for me is early afternoon.  The routine is the habit itself.  In my case, drinking the soda.  The reward for me is a pick-me-up, the break in monotony of my liquid intake for the day, and the relief from a headache later in the day.  Of course, the latter is merely a symptom of withdrawal and would subside after my body adjusted to life without the soda.

I know the withdrawals eventually subside, as I have taken myself off of soda a couple times.  One time in particular, I did not drink any caffeinated soda for a couple years.  I still had a Sprite now and again to spice up the flavor in my life.  Living on the edge, I know.  According to researcher, Brian Roemmele, the worst part of the withdrawal stage is the first 14 days.  Roemmele’s research indicates that if you can make it through the primary withdrawal, those first 14 days, and hold out for an additional 14 days, then most of the work has been done.  I imagine this is why we get the standard advice that we can create a habit in 28 days.

I remember during my childhood, I wanted to put this to the test.  I had heard that if you did something consistently for 28 days, then it would become a natural habit.  I decided that I would make my bed 28 days in a row and see if it truly got easier.  It must have worked, because I became an avid bed maker.  Of course, being a mother to three now, a made bed isn’t always my top priority.  I am happy to report though that my bed is more often made than not.  And the perk of slipping in under the covers of a made bed at the end of the day is all the reward I need.

Now, none of this works if you don’t have a real desire.  Hence, me not stopping my soda intake.  It just isn’t worth it to me in this point in my life to give up this vice.  As a result, I don’t try to kid myself in to doing so.  The same goes for weight loss.  Once all this child-bearing stuff is done, I would really like to lose some weight.  But I already know that I will not forego a cheeseburger for the sake of less pounds on the scale.  I love cheeseburgers and a lower number on the scale does not outweigh (pun intended) the reward of a delicious cheeseburger in my eyes.  So, I would suggest you be realistic with yourself.  Think about what reward is worth the habit.

If you’re trying to start a habit that is a drag and seems to have no immediate reward, consider creating a separate reward.  For instance, if you want to make sure you are Journaling the Journey but don’t enjoy writing in your journal, give yourself an additional reward for your efforts.  Perhaps one journal entry affords you 15 guilt-free minutes to look at goofy YouTube videos?  Or maybe you are upset with how personal scripture study keeps getting put on the back burner.  In which case, tell yourself you need to read your scriptures for 15 minutes before checking in on your social media outlets.

However you work it out, keep in mind that the 28 days to form or break a habit isn’t a guarantee.  It might work for bed making and easier habits to come by, but I hardly doubt it works for the person who is trying to quit smoking after years of two packs a day.  I’m always leery about studies I find on-line, as they don’t always seem to be credible.  But research from 2009 out of the UK indicates that it takes an average of 66 days to form a new habit.  And researcher, Roemmele, suggests it takes 45-56 days for your brain cells to deemphasize the emotional need for a particular habit.  In other words, count on roughly two months to make or break that habit of yours.

Above all, be patient with yourself.  If you have a hiccup in your goals, don’t give up and give in.  A blogger I read years ago provided one of the best analogies on this matter.  If you get a flat tire, you don’t go and poke holes in the three remaining tires.  You fix the flat tire and get back on the road.

Here’s to your day 66 when someone asks you why you do something positive so consistently and you get to answer, “It’s a habit!”

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