Ready, Not Ready

Like millions of mothers and fathers all over the world, I find myself totally elated and completely overwhelmed by a swollen heart and tear-filled eyes as I think about my son, a college freshman, getting ready to leave home. I am so ready and so not ready for this.

Seriously, can you ever actually be ready to loosen your grip on your child and let them start the next chapter? I’m feeling like it may only be possible to be ready after you have already let go. I think it should not come naturally. All his days, weeks and years are the foundation for the next step. We can’t be beside him this time. Instead we are behind him, hopeful, prayerful and mindful that he is smart and we trust him to be wise. Oh, the places you will go. OH, THE PLACES YOU WILL GO! Yes, he is a high school graduate, he can vote and he can be drafted but he will always be my son. No, he is not a baby and certainly does not want nor need to be spoon fed anything, but when my mind wanders to what our home will be like in a month…sigh. When our youngest was a baby and started walking we used to knock him down. True story. Oh yes, we were excited parents and we were proud, but we knew once they start walking they keep going and growing up so fast! Just like so many other areas of life, we work hard to get to a certain point and when we are on the verge of that cliff the last step can be the toughest.

He is ready and I know that. This is his time and I am the same excited and proud parent ready to see what his future holds. But golly I’m not ready for his empty room, his silent drums nor his brother missing the wrestling matches, front yard baseball games and pick up basketball.

I think ready, not ready is right where I should be. We do all that we can to prepare them for this time, but there are certainly no how to books for watching them go. As I remind him frequently, no matter how old he is, he will always be my son. Ready or not, I can hang on to that grip forever. So I guess it is time to say “Ready, Set, Go!” and then I can hide my eyes and dry my tears once more.

Copyright Gatewood Campbell, July 2016

Here We Go Again, with a Little Less Energy but a Little More Hope

No one told me there is no quick fix. Why don’t they tell you that? I have never been much of a patient person. Don’t ask when I can drive again. I quit counting. I really don’t know. There is still no cure for this cursed thing called epilepsy. This morning I read about a child in Charlotte who is literally dying from her seizures, having tried 19 medicines a day and nothing is helping. When is enough enough for someone to realize this is serious stuff? People are suffering! Epilepsy is serious business and it changes people’s lives every single day.

I’ve been on a new path for several months now. I’m seeing a new specialist at Duke, thanks to the handiwork of my Mom. I had some tests done that showed I was normal…or something like that. Who says that to someone with epilepsy? So in lieu of further lengthy and highly unappealing testing I opted to change meds again. Frankly, I’m a wimp and the medicine seemed easier. I figured after a dirty dozen what’s with another one, right? The doctor said if things are going ok and this is the person we know then we can keep things the same. With resounding force I’m fairly certain Johnny, my Mother and I nearly knocked him over when we said “No, this medicine is not OK.” I will admit, I knew it was bad but when I saw Mom and Johnny look at the doctor and tell him this is not the person we know, it made me so mad that this disorder continues to rob me of so much. And it robs me of things that I don’t even realize! Johnny will say that I’m repeating myself, but I’m certain I’m not, so I have to continue my point because I haven’t made it yet, so I continue repeating myself, and he continues telling me I’m repeating myself…thus the rinse and repeat cycle goes on endlessly. For those that know me well, you can picture me rolling my eyes here right?

So, here we are, one week into a five week cycle of changing meds. The promising thing is that I am moving to a BRAND name med. No more generic crap. We are going for gold here. We read through all my records and in the past, this medicine worked. Granted it was pre-40, so it could be different, but it is promising. It only seemed to stop working when we moved to generic. Lesson #123 at the pharmacy, always double check your prescription because they don’t always fill what the doctor writes. “Thanks, actually the doctor wrote that for the brand name NOT the generic, I’ll wait while you fill it as written.” Lesson #124 if you have a weird name they always remember you at the pharmacy and sometimes that isn’t good. Lesson #125 looking for a new pharmacy.

I’m glad to be going off the medicine that is widely known to turn you into a dope head. I simply forgot that I was going onto a medicine that keeps you in a fog for the 12 hours that you are able to stay awake during the day. I’m thankful for the internet world of epilepsy families that are always available to give advice to fight the side effects that come along with this. They have been through everything before and know what is around every corner and are so helpful with every question no matter how crazy! No one prepares you for this. If I can find a beekeeper with caffeine infused honey I think I kill two birds with one stone!

I dreamed the other night that I snuck out and took the car out and went shopping. I don’t think I even bought anything. I just went where ever I wanted. People are so gracious to offer. It isn’t about needing to go somewhere, it is about the ability to go somewhere, gripping the steering wheel in my hand. Grabbing the gear shift and throwing it into drive and knowing where I’m going without telling someone, planning it out days in advance, working out the timing and having it take four times as long as it normally would. For us, it is about maintaining some level of control in our lives. That is why driving is such a huge issue…because everything else feels so out of our control.

My patience was left somewhere, maybe on a sidewalk, a bus, or an emergency room. I think I have lost my sense of humor… perhaps this week when the boys dropped me off at Target to grab four, only four things and we ended up with a dead battery in the car. Really, I should know better. We all just shook our heads at that because we did know better. We should have gone to Walmart. I’m trying to keep my family fed, keep our house clean and keep them in clean clothes. I’m trying to make sure they get where they need to be and with the constant help of some dedicated friends that is happening. The kids are not missing out and that is the most important thing to me. I’m so SO thankful for that!

The bonds of my friendships have become priceless. There are people that I depend on when I am at my limit and need to vent because I can’t take one more minute of the unexpected. They will listen to me cry, they will carpool me around town or if Justin is at work, Johnny is sick and Hunter has to be at ball practice, these friends will drop what they are doing and come to my rescue. When Mom was in chemo and I couldn’t get to Mom, they helped make sure Mom was ok. They have been in this journey for years now. They didn’t quit on us. Recently we lost a very special friend. He was dedicated to our entire family, four generations! That presence will never be filled. His laughter will never be replaced by another soul. What he leaves is a legacy with which we learn; spread ourselves and share ourselves. Give what we can of ourselves. Be open to listening. Be open to seeing what is around you and be open to helping those around you. He invested in four generations of my family and his impact is deep rooted. This is the kind of friendship that makes me smile, and makes me shed a tear or two. Did he tell me there was no quick fix and I missed that?

Copyright © Gatewood Campbell, April 2015

Just a Little Bit Longer

“How much longer?”

Everyone is asking. Seems like it has flown by to everyone else, and in many ways it has. It seems like forever to me, and to others it has felt like that as well. How much longer until I can get behind the wheel? I have 2 more months. I am so tired, and embarrassed of having to ask people to do something for me. This is so difficult for me. Boy am I really being refined there!

Truth is, the closer it gets the more anxious I am. Each day I am more fearful that I am going to have another grand mal seizure and lose consciousness, thus starting the entire process over again. I am afraid that the black hole that this new medicine has created in my brain will make me too much of a lunatic to drive with any sense. Will I remember how to drive? Or will I more likely resemble an inexperienced 15 year old with a permit? Gasp, been there, doing that….deep breath in through the nose….out slowly through the mouth…and repeat until you reach your destination. 

I’m surrounded by people, loving family and friends, yet epilepsy and the medication we have to take, force us into an obscure place that others cannot understand. So often it isn’t epilepsy that causes the problem, it is the medicine that is the evil. It takes away the person that we once knew when we looked in the mirror. I know that I do not make coffee in the laundry room, yet I found myself walking into the laundry room with coffee and filter in hand looking for the coffee maker. On more than one occasion I have looked at my 10 year old washer and dryer not knowing what to do with the knobs to make them start. I was at the gym and I forgot how to do a sit up. I can’t even explain that one. I just knew from how my body felt that I was doing it incorrectly. I couldn’t form a correct sit up. Simple facts that I have always known and been able to recall are just gone. I hope I can run again without being dizzy. Conversation is so hard. My black box brain is so empty. The words come so slowly, each word is so delicate and so cautious. I’m confused by the smallest challenges. My fourth grader has long surpassed what I can help him with in his school work. I have a college degree and I can’t help him with his homework. It is degrading. Parts of who I was… vanished. So who am I going to become? What am I going to do? Change is hard. No one likes change. This medicine is good; it is keeping me from having seizures. I have to remember that.

This has been a hard winter on many levels. It was so unexpected. I’m not used to dealing with the new side effects of this person that has been created and working so hard to dig up the layers beneath to find me. I want to be the mom that I used to be for my children and the wife that I used to be. I want to be the friend that I used to be. I want to run like I used to. I want to be able to work out like I used to.  I want to juggle those things and more. I want to give as much as I receive. This spot, this place, it is so uncomfortable for me.

On Sunday these words from Always by Kristian Stanfill spoke to my heart. “Oh my God, He will not delay, My refuge and strength always. I will not fear, His promise is true. My God will come through always. Always.”

A few weeks ago I was cleaning out some things and I stumbled on 3  greeting cards that I had tucked away for safe keeping some years ago. They were mixed in with some other things so obviously they were something of meaning so I pulled them out to read. One of them was from my Grandmother. All it said on the inside was

“Peace!

         Emmer”

There was no date. The card had a little bird on the front so it didn’t indicate a holiday, but she wouldn’t have wasted money on a holiday card anyway. She likely just sent me a card during some difficult time. I could see her gentle teary eyes and feel her soft arms wrapped around me. I needed that little hug.

I know God will not delay. I know He is my strength. I know His promises are true and I know He is all I need. I know He hears me when I am anxious, He knows my fears before I know them and I know His ways are better than my own. I know that, I know that, I know that. My God will come through always.

This journey has been a doozie. How much longer is really anyone’s guess, but I am ready for this roller coaster to come to a safe and complete stop. Oh yeah, I can’t ride roller coasters. I forgot.

© Copyright Gatewood Campbell, May 2014

Changing Seasons

Here I sit, the last weekend of summer (before school starts). It marks the end of one season and the beginning of another. Part of me is beyond ready for some routine in our life, can I get an Amen from any other moms out there? Yet part of me remains anxious about the silence that will fall on my house at 7:30 on Monday morning and the demands that will arrive at 3pm Monday afternoon. 4th grade and 10th grade… more changes are coming, that’s for sure!

We have been incredibly blessed with an amazing summer. We had the chance to spend invaluable time with each other and relax in the places I love best. We started the summer with a Braves game on our way to a week of glorious weather at Rosemary Beach, FL. We came home just long enough to get the clothes clean and head to Montreat with my Mom and my brother’s family for a week. Ahhhh. Then home for long enough to get the clothes clean, ship Justin off to youth camp with church and then welcome our family from Germany for three weeks. Justin spent two weeks in Drivers Ed and in a couple of weeks will be ready to test for his permit. It’s been a busy summer but somehow restful.

And here we are. Justin spent this evening doing what he loves most; drumming in his room with his favorite tunes in his ears. Hunter is at church at a back to school lock-in and Johnny and I are watching the Braves battle the Cardinals. The kids are each finding their niche in life and watching them blossom makes a mama glow.

I’m still working to embrace the changes of 2013. It seems like forever and yet it seems like yesterday when this year began. I took a long break from running during the winter and spring. The road wasn’t calling my name as it had in the past. Thanks to some faithful, supportive and determined friends, I’m registered to run a half marathon in Savannah this fall. That is keeping me on a modified workout schedule at the gym and logging minimal mileage each week. It’s all good though. Savannah gives me a goal and something to keep me somewhat focused. If there is one thing I can count on, I will find my way to the finish line in Savannah, with my Mom (my faithful race cheerleader) waiting for me.

I’m learning to say “no” to the things that aren’t good for me and I’m finding people more receptive to my response. I’m learning to accept where I am, but I just haven’t figured out where I am going…yet. It will come, in time, I just have to be patient. Patience with myself, patience with medicine, patience with my future; it is all a frustrating process, but necessary for the payoff.

God is in the details. If there is one resounding theme I have seen this year, it is that God is in all the details. My children are finding their small niche in a big world, deer season is coming and Johnny is hopeful some large rubs will prove profitable and I’m trusting that if God has all that covered He has something waiting for me too. I am about to be 40. I am so far from where I once thought I would be at this stage in my life. I won’t lie, I am struggling with this but reminding myself daily that God’s plans are greater than mine.

Life will continue to bring changes, challenges and opportunities for victories. Seasons will continue to change and I will continue to age (some years better than others). My prayer is that with each changing season, with each challenge, I will recognize the opportunity to seize the victory.

I love Mandisa’s song “Overcomer”. http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=z29olPjFbqg&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3Dz29olPjFbqg . Looking back on a season invested in family, looking back on a season of accepting many changes and looking forward to an unknown season, I want to overcome.

© Gatewood Campbell, August 2013

About Me

It has taken me a long time to find the strength to update my bio without including my role as a granddaughter. I grasp the concept that my Grandmother no longer answers the phone when I call, but her voice, her wit, her style and her legacy are with me each day. My days with her changed my life forever and she would want me to use that for good, for myself and for others. So, here it is….the updated bio about me…

Call me a wife, call me a mom, call me a daughter and call me a friend. I’m closing in on 40 and have reached that point in life where we look back at where we thought life would take us, compare that to where we are and focus our sights on what is next. My future holds the fast paced life with a high schooler and a high energy elementary student. Our boys keep us expecting the unexpected with their love of life and desire to divert from the crowd and be themselves. I am one proud mama!

I’m self-sufficient, independent and I don’t like change. I prefer the organized to the unorganized and I like to have a plan. Ten years ago, with 2 beautiful boys, our family was complete. I was ready to take on the next chapter in my life. I made my health a priority and rid my body of an unnecessary 75 lbs. I had a goal, I had a plan and I lost the weight…and I have kept it off for 9 years. After that, I decided to run a half marathon. I had a goal, I had a plan, and I ran 13.1 miles. Ready for more of a challenge, I decided to run a full marathon. Goal, plan, 26.2 miles; done. Clearly there was a consistency in my approach to life. I moved on in my career too. I was finally developing and running my own programs. I felt like I was on the verge of really blossoming in every area of my life. And then…I had to run an errand for a project at work. I walked into Target, and was later taken out on a gurney. I slipped and fell in the store. My head suffered the impact of my fall. I woke up in the hospital. That was the first of several ambulance rides that year. That fall was over 8 years ago. The results of my errand to Target will stay with me for the rest of my life. I was diagnosed with a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury and eventually developed Post Traumatic Epilepsy, both due to a simple fall in the trashcan aisle.

Since then I have learned to live without a plan. I have learned to live with the unexpected. I have learned there is power in asking for help and there is power in accepting help. There is a greater power in taking the difficult experiences, turning them right side up and paying it forward in a positive way. I’ve learned that adjustment is a necessity. Since that day in Target, I walked away from my career and embraced a life that is full of all that matters most. I flow freely between wife, mom and daughter. I have completed 9 half marathons and 4 full marathons. Through many of those races I raised thousands of dollars to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the Epilepsy Therapy Project. I’m evolving into an advocate for epilepsy awareness by sharing my own experiences and learning from those who have been where I am.

I have a brain injury and I have epilepsy but they will never define me and they will not limit me from setting big goals. I have learned to adjust and I have learned to change. Change can be eternalIy powerful if we use it correctly. I have learned the positive value of embracing change and remind myself to be thankful everyday for the gift of seeing the sun in the sky and walking (even running) on my own two feet.

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© Gatewood Campbell, July 2013