Monday, November 11, 2019

General is in "Dog Heaven"

General and Frankie

There is the sweetest book called "Dog Heaven" by Cynthia Rylant . It is a book about what Heaven is like for "angel dogs". It begins with how angel dogs don't have angel wings because "God knows they like to run best." It talks about all the things they do in Dog Heaven: God makes funny shaped dog biscuits. He makes squirrel biscuits, kitty cat biscuits, and ham sandwich biscuits. When it is time to sleep, they turn the clouds upside down and walk around and around until they find the perfect place to curl up to sleep. All dogs are good dogs in Dog Heaven and sit when angels say 'sit'. All dogs have a home in Dog Heaven, even if they didn't have a home on Earth.

The book ends with how every once in a while, an angel will take them for a walk invisibly around their own home and back yard. Checking everything out to make sure all is well, even checking on the cat next door. It finishes by saying how they will be waiting for their old friends to get to Heaven.

A dear friend bought us this precious book when our dog Ruby Leigh passed away in 2016. It was a great way to help our son, James, process the loss since he was only two.

Unfortunately, about a month ago we had to bring out our "Dog Heaven" book because our sweet old General died of cancer. Watching him deteriorate as he lost the battle with cancer, was one of the hardest things I have ever witnessed. Every day he lost more weight and slowed down a little more. He had the strongest will to live that I could have imagined.

By the end of his life he looked like a skeleton. I'm sure he was suffering but he was so brave. I don't know if he was holding out for me because I wasn't ready. Or if he was worried about Frankie, our Vizsla puppy we got a few months ago, who is still learning the ropes. . But he was such a fighter. He got so skinny, I actually put his pumpkin costume on him because it broke my heart seeing him like that...

James had such a sweet reaction as we read the book after General passed away.  He said, “This is a magical book because now General is in it.”  Then he wanted to “find General” as one of the dogs pictured in the book.  We did find a dog that looked like General and it gave us both some comfort. I love seeing things from his point of view.

It gives us all a little bit of comfort knowing he is no longer in pain. He is now in Dog Heaven swimming in the lakes and barking at the fish and birds. He was the best dog and will always be missed and remembered. We love you General!!

Please say "hi" to my mom too. I miss her every day...

Saturday, September 14, 2019

My Postpartum Struggle

I recently read a truly heartbreaking story about a new mom who was silently and secretly struggling with postpartum depression. It got so bad that when her baby was only 4.5 months old, she took her own life. Click Here

This blog post is the first time I am opening up on social media about my own personal postpartum mental health struggles. Postpartum depression and women's mental health struggles, especially after pregnancy, definitely need to be talked about. I hope opening up about my own experiences will show that these struggles are real and more common than people think.
I pray if you are dealing with something big and "don't feel like yourself", "just feel kind of sad" (and you don't know why), "don't want to get out of bed and unmotivated", "don't enjoy the things you use to", "just want to be alone" (and normally you are so social), that you please seek help. Don't struggle alone! There are a lot of ways to start feeling like yourself again.
I had postpartum mental health issues and luckily sought treatment right away. My symptoms and condition were acute and very, very bad within days of giving birth. The pregnancy hormones and lack of sleep put me into a tailspin. Within a couple days after giving birth, I checked myself into a mental health hospital- the first time. We spent the next year trying to get me healthy and back on track. It took a lot of time for my recovery. I really wasn't back to myself until after our son was a year old.
I still feel like I missed out so much being in and out of the mental health hospitals that first year of James' life. I still have mom guilt about the whole thing. It came down to this: The best thing I could do for my son was to take care of myself first. My husband Kyle fought like hell to keep everything together on the home front. We moved into my in-laws home for 3 months so they could help us out with James, while I was recovering. We had so many friends that showed up for us in our time of need. To you all, we're forever grateful. All glory to God and I hope He uses these trials and experiences for good.
I have been told by my Dr. that I am pretty much at 100% probability I would have to go through it all over again if I carried another child. After years of thinking and praying, we have decided the risks are too high and we will not have another biological child. We are incredibly grateful that we are lucky enough to have ONE healthy, beautiful son. I know so many women struggle with infertility, which is an entirely different conversation of trials and heartbreaks.

I do wish people wouldn't keep telling me we should have another kid, "You need two!!" I know they mean well but I just want to say emphatically, "Mind your own business!" It's hard enough explaining this to my son. "I wish I could have another baby and give you a brother or sister, but I can't. I got very sick and I had to go to the hospital multiple times." That's a conversation I don't like having with him. (Yes, adoption would potentially on the table, but we are not there yet.)
But most importantly, I wish and pray that we, as a culture, could be more open with and accepting towards people struggling with mental health issues. I wish women wouldn't feel ashamed to ask for help and not struggle on their own. I wish people would seek out a friend, a counselor/therapist, and a psychiatrist if necessary. I think if we talked about it more, women wouldn't feel so alone. We all struggle!! We shouldn't struggle alone though. We need to support each other and new moms especially.
Sometimes we are not okay and we need to ask for help.

I am so glad I did...

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Our 9th Wedding Anniversary Trip

Destin, FL 
Our nine years of marriage have been quite the love story... a real life, not a Disney fairy tale, kind of love story. When asked recently what my husband was looking for in a spouse he said these two main qualities: someone who would be loyal and someone who liked adventures. He certainly picked the right person!! (Wink, wink)

Destin, FL
Kyle and I have both stood by each other’s side through thick and thin. We are committed to each other, NOT just committed to our marriage. And... our marriage has been the biggest adventure of my life!

No heart is perfect 
God has blessed us more than I could have ever imagined. But that is the key, God did. Without the Lord and our marriage being built on the Rock of Jesus’ love, grace, and forgiveness, we wouldn’t have been able to give those gifts to each other. 
Destin, FL
We have had the power of prayer guiding and leading us through our journey. Prayer individually, as a couple, with our parents, our son, our married Bible study small groups, close friends, and those of you who have prayed for us on social media. Marriage, when tested, takes a village of prayers to weather the tough times! Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for the prayers over these last nine years.

Dinner on Harbor Walk, Destin, FL
On our wedding anniversary every year, I like to reflect on our marriage. I reflect on the anniversary year we are celebrating and the rest of our marriage. I now also look back on our marriage in seasons: the newlywed season, the year and a half after James was born, starting our business, the incredible growth through the struggles of the first two years, and now the time still with struggles, but being able to bless others and non-profits that we believe in and support.

Harbor Walk, Destin, FL
But when our marriage all began, it started with, “A Promise and a Party.” Andy Stanley, with North Point Ministries is doing a church series called, “Love, Dates, and Heartbreaks.” He points out, “All you need to fall in love is a heartbeat.” Staying in love however, you must not be “...looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:”
Philippians 2:4-5 NIV
This is how you become the person worth staying for. 
(Click for Full Message of "Love, Dates, and Heartbreaks," by Andy Stanley)

When you are thinking of marrying someone, you are hopeful. You are hopeful that the person will keep their promises. You have the party to celebrate your promise to each other. Kyle and I did that nine years ago. Today, nine years later, we have the experiences to show that we are keeping our promises: “to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge myself to you."

I love you Kyle! Here is to hoping we get to 75 years of marriage, Lord willing. Hoping I get to live to be 100...

Monday, July 22, 2019

Cancer Free and Our New Puppy, Frankie

Our Vizsla, General, has been cancer free now for the last 3 months!! We are believing he has been healed and beaten cancer unless he shows signs to us otherwise. We are walking in Faith and continuing to trust our Good, Good, Father and Lord in Heaven. Every day I keep filling up his dog bowl and every day he keeps eating...

Our other really exciting news: We welcomed a new Vizsla puppy to our family! His name is Frankie. He was 12 weeks old when we got him last Saturday. Frankie was the last puppy to be sold out of a litter of 8 puppies. He seems a little small, so I think he may have been the runt of the littler. He is very docile, friendly, and sweet. He is not timid but certainly not an alpha dog. And his eyes... Frankie has the most enchanting green/grey eyes. Green eyes are very rare with Vizslas, maybe only one, if that, in a litter.

It was completely love at first sight when we pulled up and first laid eyes on Frankie!! He was outside with the previous owner waiting on us as we arrived. After the 2 hour drive to the countryside, North East of Atlanta, we were eager to jump out and meet our “Little Man”, as they had nicknamed him. It was all smiles, laughs, and snuggles as we scooped him up and each took turns with little Frankie in our arms. We rode home together with me in the back seat with James, and Frankie in my lap. James has never had his own puppy before so he is so excited! James is already doing a great job helping out and playing with him!! He even made a card board box “crate” for Frankie that we decorated.

General and Frankie have totally hit it off! General already loves his new little brother from another mother. General is like a cool big brother to Frankie too. Frankie follows James and General around everywhere. General is so sweet to Frankie. They are quick friends and play so well together. Even when General wants Frankie’s raw hide. Luckily, we have multiple raw hides and Frankie doesn’t mind getting a different raw hide after General takes his. I think it is a sign of R.E.S.P.E.C.T. to General.

We started talking about getting a puppy last Fall when we tried to breed General with a female Vizsla. We thought we could keep one of the puppies from the litter, as the stud fee. We were so excited that, “General was going to be a Daddy!” General would even wag his tail when we told him that. We fenced in our back yard and first started dreaming about our puppy.

God had different plans, as you know... General was diagnosed with cancer and then the female had a false pregnancy. That means her body thought and acted like she was pregnant, but in fact there was not a litter. Which, both together, was heartbreaking. We were saddened and yet, still trusted in God’s Faithfulness! 

But we didn’t stop dreaming about getting a Vizsla puppy...

and Saturday we made another dream come true by getting a sweet little Vizsla puppy, named Frankie!!

**In my humble opinion, Vizslas are an awesome breed of dogs.There are not a lot of things cuter than a Vizsla puppy. I have a soft spot for Vizslas, though. Frankie marks the fourth Vizsla I have helped raise. Nicknamed the “Velcro Vizsla”, they are loyal and always want to be right by your side. Their fur is very short and soft. They do not shed a lot, and are considered hypo-allergenic dogs. They are very eager to please and quick to train. They don’t typically bark a lot, but they do want a lot of attention and interaction with people. They are great with kids. They are Hungarian bird dogs and can be trained for hunting, as well. They have a ton of energy and need a LOT of exercise!

Monday, June 17, 2019

How buying dog food can be an act of Faith

Courtesy of Bazemore Photography
When a dog has cancer, even buying the economy size 55 lb. bag of dog food, is an act of Faith.

Our sweet Vizsla, General, was diagnosed with cancer 2 months ago. The journey to discovering the cancer started when he kept losing weight. General has always been kind of skinny. We noticed he was getting much thinner than normal. So I took him to our vet, Dr. Haden, at Animal Medical Center of Holly Springs.

The first thing he recommended was doing three different panels of tests. The results were inconclusive but Dr. Haden thought he could have a problem with his kidneys.  He recommended a more in-depth panel of one of the tests. He consulted a veterinarian endocrinologist and they concluded it was probably not the kidneys, and he recommended an ultrasound. The ultra sound revealed he had a large tumor originating from his spleen; however his heart was healthy and he would be a good candidate for surgery to remove the spleen and the tumor. The tumor was pushing against his stomach and was so big it would explain why he kept losing weight. We decided to have surgery on General to remove the spleen and tumor.

By this time General had been continuing to lose more and more weight. He was skin and bones. You could feel every rib and even his hip bones were very pronounced. His once silky fur was dried out and almost brittle. A male Vizsla is typically between 55-60 lbs. The day of surgery General weighed 48 lbs. After surgery, Dr. Haden said the surgery was more complicated because the tumor had attached to the stomach, the intestines, and the wall of the body. The tumor was the size of an orange! The day after surgery we weighed him. After removing the spleen and the tumor, General weighed 43 lbs.

Dr. Haden sent the tumor off for a histopathology tissue biopsy. When the results came back, it was the bad news we were praying it was not. The orange size tumor was actually a cancer sarcoma. Not only that, but, it was a really aggressive type of cancer. Dr. Haden said he may only have a month or two to live if it had spread.

I cried. Then I prayed. Then I asked my family to pray. Then I asked my small group members to pray. Then I asked my other friends to pray.

We had already prayed to find answers. God answered that prayer, but it wasn't what we wanted to hear. Now we had to pray that the cancer had not spread and that removing the sarcoma would be enough to save General's life.

Only God could answer that prayer. Only God could heal General. Only God could decide if the cancer would or had spread.

Only God.

"Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." Mark 11:24 NIV

This is what we did: we asked God to heal General and we are believing He will.

Courtesy of Bazemore Photography
Now, back to buying dog food as an act of Faith...

Right after General had surgery, exactly two months ago today, General was getting really low on dog food. I was standing in Costco wondering if I should buy the dog food there or at the grocery store. Should I buy the 55 lb. bag or the 23 lb. bag? I had a moment. Would I buy the big bag and believe our prayers would be answered? Or the small bag in case he didn't make it?

I took a step in Faith and bought the big 55 lb. bag of dog food, believing God would answer our prayers. I believed we would have our miracle.

Here we are, 2 months later, and General is doing so well!! He has gained 17 lbs., has filled out, his fur is silky smooth, he has energy, and shows no signs of slowing down or terminal cancer.

And today, I bought another 55 lb. bag of dog food...

A special thank you to Dr. Haden for being part of saving General's life!