Posted in Because I Can

Ever Have Doubts about Miracles and Prayers?

Every Tuesday and Thursday, I’m posting excerpts from Because I Can.
This is from
Chapter 15: Miracles, Prayers, and Renewal

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Somewhere along the way with all my reading, journaling and processing, I came to somewhat of a resolution about why I think accidents happen and I doubt if they include a divine being. I began leaning towards believing what Jerry had thought from the beginning.

Accidents are exactly what their name says they are — accidents.

In my situation, multiple drivers made a mistake or two and it resulted in an accident. I don’t think anyone or any being caused it to happen. I went from believing the popular saying that implies a divine being causes everything to happen for a reason to believing that…

Everything happens and a reason (good or bad) may or may not come out of it.

The majority of what did or did not come out of my experience was up to me. The choice was mine. I could stay on the couch instead of going to physical therapy. I could stay selfish and demand others serve me. I could stay bitter or depressed. I could become an alcoholic. I could commit suicide.

Or I could focus on the positive and become stronger. I could find hope in the beauty around me. I could look for love and share love. I could be thankful for many things … my husband, boys, others and that my body healed as well as it did. I could help others going through a trauma.

I still wondered about answered prayers. Prayers were often sited as the reason I survived and my leg was saved. But yet prayers for continued healing were not answered. I know I can be an all-or-nothing kind of person and most things in life don’t seem to work that way. But yet, it seemed that prayer ought to have some rhythm or reason to it.

I took an honest look at prayers, testimonies, reports and statistics. Without a doubt, the practice of prayer can give people peace … whether they are Christians or practice another religion.

But here’s the twist: studies also show that most of the time when people pray for specific life-changing things—healings or winning the lottery—they do not happen. And prayers for everyday things—new jobs, good weather or good parking spots—are answered about fifty percent of the time. Which is the normal ratio for things like that to happen.

Previously if I prayed for good weather for a picnic and it happened, I thanked God (and inwardly felt all warm and fuzzy). Now I realized the statistics were in my favor for good weather to happen in June in Southeast Pennsylvania, which is why I planned my picnics then. (Duh!)

If I really believe prayer affected the weather, shouldn’t I plan an outdoor wedding in January in Alaska and pray for a balmy day?

I wasn’t denying prayer and its connection to a divine being, but I was looking at it more realistically than I had before. I couldn’t help but consider my own circumstances and at times, my thoughts about prayer concerned me. Was I becoming cynical? Dr. Hinika gave God credit for my life being saved. Every doctor I’d seen was amazed how well my left leg and foot had recovered. One or two even called it a miracle.

Did miracles happen? Was I the recipient of miracles and now I was questioning if they happen? Or did I recover naturally? Great doctors, skills and technology can do a lot … and with the right circumstances our bodies can heal.

My sister, Rosene Hoover

Yes, I had traumatic injuries, but research shows many people have survived immense trauma. Some are Christians, some are Muslim, Buddhist or Atheist. So if the God of the Bible produced miracles in my life, who produced the miracles in people who don’t believe in that God or in any god?

Then there was Rosene’s situation to consider. Some of my questions about God through-out my life had been fed by her circumstances. No one should have to live with the limitations she did—Cerebral Palsy and impaired vision (almost legally blind). In spite of all that, she was kind, considerate and loved God. She had amazing faith and she often prayed to be healed.
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But was she healed?

 

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Rosene, my younger sister,  was as bright mentally as you and me, but due to a lack of muscle control over her whole body, she had severe physical disabilities. Because she’s a big part of my life, I also share some of her story in Because I Can. Actually the title of my book comes from what I’ve learned from her.

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are… because you can!

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Other excerpts from Because I Can:
The Prologue
Chapter 1: The Accident
Chapter 2: 50% Chance of Death
Chapter 3: Waking Up
Chapter 4: Paranoid and Anxious
Chapter 5: Questions 
Chapter 6: Flying Home
Chapter 7: Back on my Feet
Chapter 8: Walk On
Chapter 9: California Again
Chapter 10: A Hurricane and My Obituary
Chapter 11: Mentors and Counselors
Chapter 12: Educating this Mennonite Girl from Small Town America
Chapter 13: Quitting God 
Chapter 14: Surgery Again
 
Chapter 16: Embracing Life Again
Chapter 17: Running Again
Epilogue: One Step at a Time… Because I Can!

 

Posted in Because I Can

Surgery Again

Every Tuesday and Thursday, I’m posting excerpts from Because I Can.
This is from Chapter 14: Surgery Again (about 18 months post-accident)

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There were three issues on my left leg I wanted to address — the pain in my thigh from the damaged nerves, the limited range of motion in my ankle and my deformed calf.

…………………..

Late afternoon, I had my final appointment of the day. It was about the appearance of my calf, with a reconstructive plastic surgeon who had spent years in the field. This doctor was impressed with how well my calf and foot functioned considering the massive injury. “I’ve spent my career trying to save limbs of patients with injuries and disease. To see your leg function as well as it does confirms my belief that amputations are done too quickly. Would you mind walking around the room again? I’m fascinated at the mobility you have.”

How do I live with this?

As I did laps in the small room, he asked, “Do you mind some company in here? This is a teaching hospital and I would like my students to see the viability of your injured leg. It could help them make a decision to save a limb in the future.”

I didn’t mind. Though I disliked my leg, I knew life with a leg attached was easier than strapping on a prosthesis every morning, so I was willing to allow my situation to help someone else down the road.

The door opened and a few resident doctors came in. I walked in more circles. The door opened again and this time, a few interns came in. I felt like I was on display, but I was willing to be a ‘model’ because this demonstration had the potential to benefit one of the future doctors’ patients someday.

Hearing their amazement at how well my leg functioned, in spite of how it looked, made me thankful that our bodies can heal and adapt, but I still had a question. “It does work well, but what about the appearance of it? I don’t like the thought of living with this the rest of my life.”

The doctor agreed that it would be nice to improve the appearance. “Another muscle flap like the failed one you had could be done. If it takes this time, it would fill that gaping vacancy. The skin could be smoothed somewhat. Your leg wouldn’t be back to new, but it would look better.”

For a second, I dared to dream of a better looking leg. 

Then he added, “If I needed to do surgery to improve function, I would. But I am not comfortable doing an invasive surgery like that for appearance only. The risks are too high. Your leg and foot are already compromised. A surgery would put you in danger of infections or blood clots that could lead to the loss of your foot.”

I understood what he was saying, yet I was disappointed. “So I have to learn to live with it like this?”

He said, “You walk well and you’ll have even more mobility if you get the Achilles tendon stretched, so its function won’t drastically affect your life. I would encourage you to think about learning to live with the appearance of it. But I do have one other option, I know another doctor that would probably tackle a surgery on it. I’ll give you his contact information and you can contact him if you wish.”

Jerry and I talked about the various surgery options on the way home. During the drive, I thought of the many times we tried to talk about my injuries before. Too often, I ended up bursting into tears about how unfair it all was or accusing Jerry of not understanding me and not caring how I felt. I was so thankful the counseling, the forgiving process and some acceptance of my injuries had happened during the previous year. At least now we were able to have a fairly objective conversation about the best options for my body.

In one way, I wanted Jerry to make the decisions for me, yet I totally appreciated when he said, “It’s your body, you are going to have to decide what to do and not to do. I don’t live with the pain and limitations you do and I’m not the one having to go through surgery.”

After a few days of processing it, I knew I wanted two of the three surgeries — decreasing my pain and giving my ankle more range of motion. I would have loved to improve the appearance of my calf and a few times, I was tempted to call the other doctor, but when I’d think about the negative risks of the surgery, I’d decide it wasn’t worth it. After all I have been through, I didn’t want to risk losing my leg. I threw that doctor’s contact information away.

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Have you ever had to make a tough call when the benefits did not outweigh the risks?.

 

Other excerpts from Because I Can:
The Prologue
Chapter 1: The Accident
Chapter 2: 50% Chance of Death
Chapter 3: Waking Up
Chapter 4: Paranoid and Anxious
Chapter 5: Questions 
Chapter 6: Flying Home
Chapter 7: Back on my Feet
Chapter 8: Walk On
Chapter 9: California Again
Chapter 10: A Hurricane and My Obituary
Chapter 11: Mentors and Counselors
Chapter 12: Educating this Mennonite Girl from Small Town America
Chapter 13: Quitting God 
 
Chapter 15: Doubts about Miracles and Prayers
Chapter 16: Embracing Life Again
Chapter 17: Running Again
Epilogue: One Step at a Time… Because I Can!
Posted in Personal

Amazing Race Casting Call

Since my return to running four years ago after almost losing life and limb, I have been saying, I have a dream (it sounds best read in a MLK voice, which is how I typed it) of being a contestant on CBS’s The Amazing Race.

My friend Linda has helped me with a few MANY things in my life… ‘politely’ dragging my butt to a counselor in the thick of my depression, encouraging me when I returned to running, starting a running club with me, taking the picture for the cover of Because I Can and more!

Plus, she’s done many things I haven’t… she’s been playing racquetball on a mostly men’s league for 20+ years. Plus, she biked 25 miles and ran 25 miles on her 50th birthday  (oh, of course, I haven’t done that, unlike her, I’m not 50 yet) Plus, she won two lean-and-mean contests at her gym (which means she dropped her body fat to -2% or something like that)

So when I thought about a teammate for The Amazing Race… Linda was it. 

Linda and I ready for our Amazing Race auditions

You can apply for the race in two ways… send in a video or go to an open casting call. Linda and I thought we’d be better in person (ha!) than on a video, so when we heard there was a casting call about an hour’s drive from us, we scoured the internet for information and wrote a one-minute audition . We had it critiqued/edited by a friend or two and our adult children. Then we practiced. Practiced. Practiced.

The night before the audition, we found info that said it could be an interview style audition, so we tried to figure out how to fit our dazzling prepared speal into interview questions.

On the appointed day, we head to Seasons Pizza in Wilmington, DE and repeatedly ask each other why they’d have an audition at a pizza shop. (It was a large pizza shop that could almost handle the auditions)

Seasons Pizza, Wilmington, DE

We arrive at 7:30am for the 2 to 5pm auditions and find a few early birds there already. The first two teams had arrived the night before and slept on the concrete sidewalk. We set up lawn chairs and take our place as the 6th team in line. Additional contestants trickle in over the next few hours and then around noon it becomes a steady stream until around 300 teams wrap around the building.

We pass the morning becoming bffs with the other contestants around us and until eleven, when Seasons opens, we take multiple trips to nearby Lucky’s Coffee Shop either  buying something and leaving something.

Local media arrives and we cheer like kids seeing an ice cream truck and we take pictures (bored much?) Feeling excited and optimistic about everything.

.

 

Guys in suits arrive around noon and we respectfully cheer. And get ready… change shirts, brush hair and do makeup. Slightly nervous now.

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Some contestants use their energy to provide entertainment with their superb dancing skills.

Soon after 1pm, one of the suits walks by and says they’ll start in about 15 or 20 minutes. And I spase. (just ask Linda—on second thought, don’t) Extreme nervous energy. 

About 35 minutes later, they come out and call the first two teams in. Nervous, but focused, repeating my schtick in my mind.

Six minutes later, they call the next two teams. More nerves, not focusing on my schtick anymore.

And then five minutes later, we are in the door. I have no idea what I was feeling at this time.

First stop: Registration table. Hand them our signed waivers. Give our name, email address and phone number. Receive a yellow paper and are told to stand in line at another yellow paper taped to a post in the dining room where customers are having lunch. 

Second stop: Yellow sign on post. Except it isn’t really a stop, as we walk toward it a woman approaches us and said, “We’re ready for you.”

Third stop: In front of an empty booth in the back of the dining room facing a camera with one men behind it, one beside it and a woman with a CBS shirt to his side. I notice another audition camera and crew in the other corner of the dining room. I’m handed a mic. (I assume greetings are exchanged, but I don’t remember.)

Camera guy says, “Three, two, one… camera is on.”
“Tell me your names, where you are from and how you know each other.”

I do that and hold the mic over to Linda. I’m sure I have a deer-in-headlights look, because I like to adjust to my surroundings before plunging into anything, especially an audition. 

The nice camera guy asks something about how we met and I hold the mic over to Linda. She answers and we pause… looking at the camera guys like kids waiting to be told what to do next.

This is when I miss our cue!

I should have plunged into the dazzling audition we had prepared which highlighted our relationship and some of our accomplishments and ended with my “Because I Can” story.

Apparently I’m not as good on the spot as I thought I would be.

I think the camera guy asks another question or two about The Amazing Race, which Linda or I answer. I don’t remember the exact conversation, but we mention our running and a few other things, then suddenly he starts saying something about wrapping it up.

I have a severe heart palpitation and finally find my mojo and say, “We have one more thing.”

The nice camera man says, “Sure go ahead.”

I tell them that half the races I had mentioned were done since I have a beat-up body and this leg. Then I pull up my pant leg and pause.

The camera men gasp slightly and ask what happened.

I tell them how I was on a run one minute and the next thing I knew was waking up in a hospital bed to find out that I had almost died and almost lost my leg twelve days earlier. And so on… (I tell my story for roughly a minute, I think) I also show them the copy of my book I’m holding.

Then the interview is over. 

I walk outside because I need to breathe. Alone. Frustrated, flustered, frazzled and…

After a minute or two, I walk back in and find Linda. We debrief and realize that we mentioned everything we wanted, except our Amish/Mennonite backgrounds, but none of it was said as smooth or with as much energy as we thought we would. Thankfully something Linda caught gives us a glimmer of hope. As I showed my leg, Linda saw the CBS-shirt woman lean over to the camera men and say, “You need to get this.”

We join our new bffs in the bar to commiserate with food and drinks. We find out that every single team feels exactly like we do about their audition… it went so fast, they feel like they didn’t get to say everything they wanted to.

At one point, I walk back over to the dining room and see that now they have about five teams waiting to audition lined up at each camera station. Which means they can watch a few auditions before it is their turn. I would give anything to have been able to do that!

On the drive home Linda and I rant and rave about the stupid process, our stupid nerves, the stupid Amazing Race… and about how we’ll do our next audition differently. Maybe a video this time.

If there is anything redeemable in our interview… we could hear from them anytime in the next two months. If not, we’ll never hear from them. (until we send them our dazzling, none-frazzled video)

All in all, it was a fun and entertaining day… and it was a learning day. I’m not as good with unexpected processes, changes, cameras and more as I thought I am.

The Amazing Race casting call - Seasons Pizza

Have you (or anyone you know) ever gone to a casting call?
Posted in Because I Can

Quitting God

Every Tuesday and Thursday, I’m posting excerpts from Because I Can.
This is from Chapter 13: Quitting God

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I saw renewal in many places outdoors. Plants, from tiny buttercups to blueberry bushes to oak trees, go through a time of renewal cyclically. They need these times to continue living … no renewal would mean no life for them. They lose their old leaves or blooms that nourished them and provided beauty. After losing them, new growth happens and then they can continue to provide beauty, nourishment and food.

I’d been feeling stirrings of some dry, lifeless thoughts within. Like leaves before they fall. Should my spiritual renewal include losing the leaves and blooms that had fed and nourished me in the past? It felt odd to think of letting them go … yet how could new elements grow if I clung to the old ones? With time I realized, letting go of old thoughts and beliefs didn’t mean they had been unnecessary. They had been a valid part of my journey, but this was a new time and I needed to allow renewal to happen.

…………………………………….

I’d been honest in my journaling and my prayers about being disappointed and angry with God, but I wondered if I needed to take it another step. Maybe there would be room for a new understanding about God, if I stopped trying to repair my spiritual mess.

Could I quit God as I knew him and start over? Was that even possible?

The scariest part of that thought was not knowing the end result … actually not even knowing the next step. But I reminded myself that when I did my first physical therapy exercises, which consists of lifting my leg five inches off the bed … I didn’t know the next step or the end result. I didn’t know if I would walk again, but that was no reason not to do what I could.

Doing what I could eventually helped me progress to walking again. It would have been crazy to insist on knowing the end result before I did the first exercises. Could I treat my spirit the same way I had treated my body?

After throwing around the idea of starting over in my mind for a few weeks, I figured there was no way of knowing without trying. I stood in front of a mirror. (somehow looking in a mirror made the moment more real)  

“God, I quit.” 

Breathe Janet, breathe …

“I’m done with you as I know you. I have too much confusion and frustration, I can’t go on like this. It’s over.”

I breathed deep and felt … nothing. No lightning bolt struck me, so I breathed again.

Then a twinge of guilt nudged me. I questioned where the guilt was coming from. Though I’ve had questions about God and religion over the years, I’ve always believed that no one other than God should make me feel guilty about my spiritual walk. After all it’s about him, not others. I realized my guilt was coming from years of legalism and doctrine, so I didn’t dwell on it.

I took another deep breath and walked outside on the deck. I had ‘broken up’ with God, so I couldn’t use that name. It carried too much baggage with it. I looked up into the blue sky. “Hi. I want to learn to know you. A clean slate. A fresh start.”

As I stepped from the deck into my flower garden I thought of the saying often used at weddings, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life” and that was how I felt. A lightness. A freeing. A peace. This surprised me — I realized I had expected to feel terror and devastation.

I had quit ‘God’ as I knew him, but I still believed in “something” … a creator, a spiritual being, a divine being, a life source. I experimented with various names to try to find one what expressed what I felt.

A few things fed my belief in a divine being. The primary one being a feeling deep inside me … a sense that there is more to life than things that can be seen, heard, felt, smelled and tasted. Other reasons to believe included interactions with loving kind people that made me think a divine being of love must be real. And reading books from people much smarter than me that had researched and provided some data that made me think there’s truth in the Biblical stories.

Being honest with myself about my beliefs was refreshing, but I didn’t share ‘the breakup’ with anyone. I can be spontaneous about many things in life, but it takes time for me to process big decisions or changes. I like to examine things internally and in writing before I have enough confidence to share my thoughts. Plus, I’d never heard of anyone else breaking up with the divine being, so I figured if I shared it, others would think that the injuries or all the meds had seriously affected my brain.

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Have you ever started over in your spiritual journey and/or made a major change?

 

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Other excerpts from Because I Can:
The Prologue
Chapter 1: The Accident
Chapter 2: 50% Chance of Death
Chapter 3: Waking Up
Chapter 4: Paranoid and Anxious
Chapter 5: Questions 
Chapter 6: Flying Home
Chapter 7: Back on my Feet
Chapter 8: Walk On
Chapter 9: California Again
Chapter 10: A Hurricane and My Obituary
Chapter 11: Mentors and Counselors
Chapter 12: Educating this Mennonite Girl from Small Town America
 
Chapter 14: Surgery Again
Chapter 15: Doubts about Miracles and Prayers
Chapter 16: Embracing Life Again
Chapter 17: Running Again
Epilogue: One Step at a Time… Because I Can!
 
 
Posted in Because I Can

Educating This Mennonite Girl from Small-town America

Every Tuesday and Thursday, I’m posting excerpts from Because I Can.
This is from Chapter 12: Educating This Mennonite Girl from Small-town America

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There was no defining moment when I realized that I was in the midst of a major belief crisis. It was more of a slow realization, which I tried to ignore for a time. I was too old to be having a faith crisis. Wasn’t twenty-something the acceptable age? I was double that age! But I had to recognize it: it was what it was.

……………..

As my personal trauma forced me to look at my beliefs about God, my whole worldview came into question — obviously religious, but also political, economical and cultural. I allowed myself to think about questions that I’d managed to squelch for years. I had never been comfortable with indifference or inequality between genders, races or countries, but now that was more pronounced.

Isn’t everyone equal? Especially if one believed that everyone is created in the image of God. Yet many times people did or said things that showed they didn’t really believe that – even ‘good’ Christian people that should have been the strongest champions of believing everyone is equal.

Inequality creates pain and pain traumatized me, so now I looked at anything that caused someone pain (any kind of pain) differently. 

In previous years when questions surfaced, I stifled them with the pat answer, “God’s ways are higher than our ways” thinking I wasn’t spiritual or smart enough to understand how everything was part of his plan. Now I allowed myself to think about those questions and more.

On one level, I could live with the mysteries; I didn’t feel the need to know all the answers anymore. But not being sure about so many things messed with the belief system that had govern my life. Knowing the ‘correct’ answers is what had held my beliefs together the past two decades. Could belief in God happen without definitive answer pillars to hang my faith on?

Searching—in the Bible, other books, praying, talking to others—continued to frustrate me. I wondered if my frustration was due to my lack of formal education. While some Mennonite groups encourage advanced education, the strict sect I grew up in does not.

There weren’t enough traditional Mennonites in my neighborhood to have their own school, so they partnered with a few local Amish families and had a small private school with them. I went to this school with about twenty-five other Amish and Mennonite students in grades one to eight. All the students were in one room, with one teacher. As she taught each grade, the other students waited or worked quietly at their own assignments until she taught their grade.

Each consecutive year, I went back to the same school, same classmates and same teacher, but I did the next grade of work. After completing eighth grade, I was finished. A religious exemption law put in place decades ago allows this to happen.

A more liberal (relativity speaking) Mennonite church had a high school nearby that I would have loved to attend to continue my education, but that wasn’t an option. My parents frowned on receiving more formal education, plus they wanted me to work full in their store, so my school years were finished.

……………..

When I turned eighteen, I received a high school diploma by taking evening classes at my local high school for about a year, followed by a weekend of tests. I dreamed of continuing my education by going to college someday. Then marriage, business and boys followed and college never happened. During those years, I was always reading … usually having a book or two in the bathroom or under my bed (the two places a mom has enough peace to read)

While on our trip around the country pre-accident, I finally had the luxury of reading a few books a week. And rainy days found us in the closest book store for hours.

Reading had been a big part of my recovery. I’m not a big TV person, but I read anything I could get my hands on. I received many books as gifts, plus I reserved books online from the library and Jerry would pick them up for me.

So as I tried to come to grips with the trauma and the effects of it, I wondered if now was the time to pursue a formal education to broaden my horizons. Maybe that would help me process life better. I talked about the idea of attending college with some of my friends. Some of them had degrees, some didn’t. Some encouraged me to go for it … then Lynne mentioned that most of what a person did in college was read books.

“Read books?” I asked.

“Yes,” She said. “You like reading, so read from a range of books and you’ll be fine. You don’t need to go to college to learn.”

I liked that idea and along with rotating books from the library, I did what I could to keep Amazon and our local UPS man in business. The books I read ranged from classics to memoirs to fiction to self-help to grief to theology.

Book by book, I did my best to educate this Mennonite girl from small town America.

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Other excerpts from Because I Can:
The Prologue
Chapter 1: The Accident
Chapter 2: 50% Chance of Death
Chapter 3: Waking Up
Chapter 4: Paranoid and Anxious
Chapter 5: Questions 
Chapter 6: Flying Home
Chapter 7: Back on my Feet
Chapter 8: Walk On
Chapter 9: California Again
Chapter 10: A Hurricane and My Obituary
Chapter 11: Mentors and Counselors
 
Chapter 13: Quitting God 
Chapter 14: Surgery Again
Chapter 15: Doubts about Miracles and Prayers
Chapter 16: Embracing Life Again
Chapter 17: Running Again
Epilogue: One Step at a Time… Because I Can!
 
Posted in Because I Can

Mentors and Counselors

Every Tuesday and Thursday, I’m posting excerpts from Because I Can.
This is from Chapter 11: Mentors and Counselors

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One week, I mentioned [to my mentor] how disappointed I was about all my pain and limitations. “Life shouldn’t hurt this much! But I feel guilty for feeling this way because I’ve been dubbed “Miracle Woman.” I should be shouting Hallelujah, not feeling sad.”

“That’s not necessarily true,” she said. “Sadness is okay. If that’s what you are feeling, you probably need to allow yourself to feel it.”

That thought messed with tough-no-emotions Janet. I didn’t know I was allowed to be real about my feelings, especially the negative ones.

Audrey continued, “Yes, you survived and are doing well, but you’ve also had major losses. It’s natural to be sad when we experience a loss. You probably need to allow yourself to grieve.”

“Grieve?” I asked. “No one died in our accident, what am I grieving for?”

“Yourself, Janet.” She patted my hand, “You need to grieve the part of you that you lost.”

She gave me a minute as I tried to understand what she meant.

“Grieve for myself?” Just repeating it made me feel selfish. The loss of a loved one deserved grief.

“You lost the active part of yourself. You lost the way your body looks. You lost some dreams for the future,” Audrey explained. “These losses are major. I don’t think ignoring them works.”

“But, but …  grief sounds too severe. Isn’t grief reserved for mourning after a death?” I stammered that and more, trying to comprehend this new thought.

“Yes, the loss of a loved one deserves grief. But any loss, no matter what size, needs to be grieved,” Audrey said. “And disappointments, especially major disappointments like you’ve had, need to be acknowledged and grieved. How is it working for you to stuff the feelings of sadness and not recognize them?”

Okay she had a point — stuffing my feelings wasn’t doing me any good.

Even I, The Mess, could see I was a mess.

……………………………….

Audrey and I talked about grieving again during my next visit. She gave me some information about grief. “Read this and see if anything connects with you. The journey through grief has to be your choice, no one can force you or set a pace for you.”

As I read the papers from Audrey, I laughed and cried as I realized my struggle was normal. Death is a grief all its own, but other losses and disappointments need to be grieved also. I got some books about grief and it was a relief to find out that I wasn’t losing my mind. I was okay — or going to be okay after I worked through the jumbled mess in my mind.

Allowing myself to write this sentence, I am disappointed about the losses I have. with a period at the end was a big step for me. Before that when I’d mention my losses, I would quickly add something about being thankful for how well I was recovering. I did not allow myself to honestly admit my feelings of loss, because I thought doing that would mean I was an ungrateful person and would disappoint God. Most teachings I heard or examples I’d seen had taught me to do that.

I also realized that I thought the world lived by the saying, Laugh and others laugh with you — cry and you cry alone. The truth is, once I got over feeling like I need to hide my pain, my friends and family didn’t abandon me. Most listened to me and were grateful that I was being honest about my struggles. Though I could tell some were more comfortable when I was praising God instead of talking about my disappointments.

With Audrey’s mentoring, I realized neither extreme was good … only dwelling on the positive was not being honest and only dwelling on the negative sent me right into the pit of depression.

Balance, Janet, balance was my mantra. 

Being honest about my feelings didn’t change my world, but with time I began feeling some glimmers of hope. During these glimmers Hurricane Reality lost some of its intensity and breathing felt easier. I watched the ducks at the park. I enjoyed the sun. I read books. I laughed. I hung pictures up in my house. I wasn’t as upset with myself or others. I enjoyed spending time with Jerry and the boys. I was grateful for Jerry’s love and told him so. And Jerry was happy to have a wife that was slightly more balanced.

But the process of grieving was random. I would be floating smoothly along and then faster than I could snap my fingers, I’d be all over the place again and nothing would make sense. I’d be upset at both Jerry and God — blaming them for what happened and angry because neither was fixing my situation.

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Since I wrote this a few years ago, I have processed the bulk of my grief, but whenever I’m in warm weather, I again find myself mourning the loss of not having the two legs I was born with. Knowing this will happen helps me deal with the grief when it comes. I give myself some time to be sad, to cry, to curse, to journal about my disappointments and more. Then I remind myself of all the good that has happened and the blessings in my life.

Then I return to living well…  doing what I can, with what I have, where I am.

Are you living with ongoing grief? How do you process it and live well with it?
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Other excerpts from Because I Can:
The Prologue
Chapter 1: The Accident
Chapter 2: 50% Chance of Death
Chapter 3: Waking Up
Chapter 4: Paranoid and Anxious
Chapter 5: Questions 
Chapter 6: Flying Home
Chapter 7: Back on my Feet
Chapter 8: Walk On
Chapter 9: California Again
Chapter 10: A Hurricane and My Obituary
 
Chapter 12: Educating this Mennonite Girl from Small Town America
Chapter 13: Quitting God 
Chapter 14: Surgery Again
Chapter 15: Doubts about Miracles and Prayers
Chapter 16: Embracing Life Again
Chapter 17: Running Again
Epilogue: One Step at a Time… Because I Can!
  
Posted in Uncategorized

Geocaching in Central Florida

During my time in Florida, I spent a morning geocaching. A sport that many around the world are doing. If it’s as new to you as it was to me, watch this from Geocaching.com.

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I traveled with my friend, Bev, whose brother lives in Florida and is a geocaching expert.

Barry, our fearless geocaching leader

He took us to a reserve where the snakes and alligators roam… seriously!

Marshall Hampton Reserve - Lakeland, FL

And the trees are really cool!

Love these trees!

Let the geocaching begin…

Explorer Bennet leads us with his uncle and aunt watching

Receiving our instructions at the first cache site… “before reaching into a potential cache hiding spot, always use a stick to scare away any unwanted critters.” (at this point, I’m debating if I want to run out of there while I still have at least one good leg) 

Our first Geocaching class

Yes, Bev and I are dressed like twins, because we’re so happy with our new A LADY RUNS Because She Can shirts.

Okay, my turn… time to find a cache. (before I’m attacked by a gator or snake)

Explorer Bennet and his Assistant Janet

The blinking arrow on the geocaching GPS directs us to this tree. Everyone stands back and watches me approach my death the cache.

Hitting every tree, branch and leaf around me before I move a step.

Of course, I hear all kinds of noise and more than once I’m sure I see eyes looking at me.

I see something!

Those caches don’t rise up to meet you… you have to reach into dark places to get them.

If I lose an arm...

I expected a larger cache (after all, I risked my life!) but I learned caches can be various sized waterproof containers. They include a sign-in sheet and trinkets others have left.

I smile because I still live!

After surviving one caching finding expedition… I began enjoying the process.

Bev's turn... studying the flashing arrow

Geocaching success!

Yes, she wins! She found a big official geocaching container.

Rules are when you take a trinket, you leave another one, so a few caches in central Florida now have a BECAUSE I CAN bracelet to replace a bouncing ball and some other trinkets that Bennet claimed.

Restocking the geocaching container

By the time we finished our adventure of finding 5 or 6 caches on our 3-mile walk, I was asking Barry all kinds of questions about it… because I love geocaching!

What’s not to love about being outdoors, getting exercise and finding treasures? 

And the only two gators we saw were at least ten feet away in a pond when Bev and I finished the morning by running the 2-mile path around it. Though I’m glad I don’t have a picture of how high we jumped when we heard the tail of one slap the water. After that, I think we ran faster than we ever have!

Geocaching and running = a happy day!

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Have you ever gone geocaching? When? Where?

A Hurricane and My Obituary

Every Tuesday and Thursday, I’m posting excerpts from Because I Can.
This is from Chapter 10: A Hurricane and My Obituary

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As January rolled around, I couldn’t ignore that normal – the normal life I was used to – was no where to be found. I missed so many things from my pre-accident life. I missed my old body. I missed sitting on any chair in a room. Now I had to sit on a soft chair with my legs propped up. I missed going up steps without having to slow down. Never thought I’d say this, but I missed carrying bags of groceries into the house. I missed running … but what I missed most was being pain-free.

At the time, I didn’t talk about what I was missing, because somewhere along the way I had prescribed to the pathetic idea that talking about my disappointments was not acceptable behavior. I often heard others praise God for all the miracles and even for the ‘blessing’ of the accident. This made me cautious to share my struggles.

They seemed confident that because many had heard about the accident and my miraculous recovery much good would come from it. At times, I believed that … but yet, something about those thoughts was beginning to bother me. My mind swirled as I tried to process everything.

'Why?' photo (c) 2012, Bart Everson - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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Most days, life felt hopeless.

Every now and then, I’d have a good day and life would seem manageable again. Then I’d beat myself up for how negative I was the other days. I felt guilty as I thought of the stories and quotes that say a crisis brings out the true character of a person. So if it brought out this in me, I must be an ungrateful person or a major wimp. Why couldn’t I be strong and celebrate that I was alive and doing as well as I was?

Most times I was cheerful and positive with others. Tough-no-emotions Janet had taught me that skill. But I also knew talking about the emotional roller coaster I was dealing with might be beneficial, so I initiated some conversations about my struggles.

Some friends and family recognized the immense physical and emotional issues I was dealing and said something about being sorry for what I was dealing with. Comments like that brought me a measure of peace because it showed understanding.

Other times, I heard something along the lines of:

At least you are here. 
At least you have your leg. 
At least you are walking. 
At least … at least … at least …

I knew my family and friends meant well and it was good for me to hear that sometimes. But most times comments reminding me how good I had it only added to my misery.

Life was not good!

I began to dislike myself — everything about me. I didn’t like my badly scarred body or the pain I had. I didn’t like my emotional state. And I didn’t like the failure I thought I was for the way I was responding to this crisis in my life. I asked God to make my circumstances better and to take my depression away. When neither happened I vacillated between praying harder and giving up on prayer.

The curiosity about life that I’d been born with wasn’t damaged in the accident, if anything, it was overactive now. I constantly wanted to know why? I not only wanted an answer for why the accident happened and why I got hurt, I wanted to know why anyone, anywhere in the world had pain. I thought if I had an answer life might be better. I searched the Bible, read books, asked people and googled “why bad things happen.” The answers were confusing and varied, ranging from God, the devil, fate, humans … all the above or none of the above.

One recurring thought was that God causes everything to happen for a reason. Some reasons suggested were:

For training
For discipline
To build character
Due to a hidden sin
I was ‘special’ and could handle it
To prevent something else from happening
It was for my own good, I just didn’t realize it yet
So I could be a good Christian example to others 

Oh great! That sent an already destructive hurricane into overdrive, creating more chaos. It added guilt on top of guilt. Now I really didn’t like myself. I didn’t like the undisciplined, bad, ungrateful, sinful, untrained person that I must be.

I thought God was love, but he did this to me … for my good? That felt like manipulation, not something a loving father would do. And I wondered why a powerful God would need to stoop to misery to teach and train me or to show me I was ‘special.’

I was confused about God and I did not like myself. Now what?
………

One night, death looked so inviting that I wrote my obituary…

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Previously, I’ve done a blog post called, “Everything Happens for a Reason” – Really? which has ended up being one of my most well-read posts. I welcome your thoughts on that post or this one about that confusing concept. 
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Other excerpts from Because I Can:
The Prologue
Chapter 1: The Accident
Chapter 2: 50% Chance of Death
Chapter 3: Waking Up
Chapter 4: Paranoid and Anxious
Chapter 5: Questions 
Chapter 6: Flying Home
Chapter 7: Back on my Feet
Chapter 8: Walk On
Chapter 9: California Again
 
Chapter 11: Mentors and Counselors
Chapter 12: Educating this Mennonite Girl from Small Town America
Chapter 13: Quitting God 
Chapter 14: Surgery Again
Chapter 15: Doubts about Miracles and Prayers
Chapter 16: Embracing Life Again
Chapter 17: Running Again
Epilogue: One Step at a Time… Because I Can!
 
Posted in Because I Can

Yoder’s Amish Village Book Signing

One of my gigs while in Florida for the Princess Half-marathon was a book signing at a popular Sarasota local and tourist destination… Yoder’s Amish Village.

Yoder's Amish Village book signing

The location is popular… as far as typical book signings go, it was normal. There were times with people at the table and times without people at the table.

But I met each person with joy and appreciation… because I’m so honored whenever someone shows up at an event I have.

Katie Troyer was one person who came…

 

Janelle Shantz Hertzler and Katie Troyer

Katie might be small in stature, but there is nothing small about her. She is a woman who is willing to ask questions, face the truth and follow her own path in life.

Katie Troyer - Project 365 - Sarasota, Florida

Her questions/wisdom/etc. allowed her to see that that her Amish upbringing was just lifestyle & culture, nothing more and nothing less, so she left that sheltered community and is carving out her own path. Visit her blog… Project 365.

As Katie left, these two men arrived and blessed my socks off…

A LADY RUNS... Because She Can.

The previous week, the day before the Princess Half, I had gone to the race expo. While there, I saw a booth with shirts that said A LADY RUNS… and they had various sayings that you could get printed below that.

The one that caught my eye was … Because She Can.

I had to have one! They offered four colors, which didn’t include my color of choice (green), but I bought a blue one while giving the men at the booth a hard time for not having green shirts.

I also told them why the Because She Can shirts caught my eye handed them each one of my BECAUSE I CAN bracelets.

End of story.

Except it wasn’t.

Allen and Wayne looked up my website (from the bracelets) and saw that I was having a book signing at Yoder’s and came to see me armed with multiple green shirts printed with…

A
LADY
RUNS 

Because She Can

Bev and I loving our Because She Can shirts

I was totally blown away by the fact that they… first, hunted me up and second, graciously gave me shirts.

Thank you Allen and Wayne!

Readers, the shirts are available at Lady Foot Locker… at the moment I can’t find a page to link to, but when I do, I’ll post it.

I played it forward by giving my running/traveling friend Bev a shirt and we proudly dressed like twins on a recent run through the Marshall Hampton Reserve in central Florida.

The strength and the goodness of people amazes me.

For too many years in my childhood and even beyond, I was taught that as a women, I couldn’t forge my own path and also to be cautious of others and to assume everyone was out to ‘get’ me in some way.

I’m thrilled to continually meet people who are the exact opposite of those concepts and who prove those theories wrong.

Folks like Katie, Allen and John inspire me to continue to live life well.
Why?

Because I can!

And so can you… one step, one day, one decision, one moment at a time… you can do it.

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Do you find people surprise or disappoint you with their actions?

Posted in Because I Can

What Does One Say to Paramedics that Save Your Life?

Every Tuesday and Thursday, I’m posting excerpts from Because I Can.
This is from Chapter 9: California Again

Six months after the accident, Jerry and I flew to California for a Healthy Homecoming Celebration at the hospital I had been in. I also met with many of the medical personnel that had taken care of me… here is a glimpse of when I met the paramedics who saved my life. 

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Margery took Jerry and I in through the ER. “Remember coming in here?” She asked.

“No, not at all.” I said.

“This is where Dr. Hinika met your stretcher when the paramedics wheeled you in from the helicopter,” she continued. “One look at you had him calling for additional doctors.”

It was odd realizing my hospital arrival was like an episode from a TV show. The past few months, I’d been so focused on recovering that I had never stopped to think about what happened when I arrived at the hospital.

We finished our ER tour and headed towards Margery’s office. Jerry stopped as Margery opened the door. “I remember this room—it’s where I heard how severely you were injured.” It was hard to imagine what he went through that day, but I tried to understand a tiny portion of the emotional trauma he faced.

Margery gave us a minute or two, then she opened another door into the hallway where the paramedics were waiting. I watched the nine uniformed men file into the room, wondering how I could adequately express thanks to them.

Paramedics from Station 149 in Castaic, CA

“Thank you,” I began.
“Thank you for serving in a job like this.”
“Thank you for being at work on May 20th.”

“You’re welcome. It’s so good to see you,” one of them said.

Another said. “I’m so amazed at how well you walk.”

“Each of you is a part of that. I’m able to walk because you rescued me.” I wasn’t sure where to start with all the questions I had. “I doubt if you were all in the motorhome, so let’s start there. Who was in the motorhome?”

Seven of the paramedics looked around the room and pointed at two of them. “These two, Jose and Craig were with you.”

I stood to shake their hands. “Thank you for taking care of me. What did you see and what was going on when you came in the motorhome?”

Jose, a gentle bear of a man that I loved instantly, said, “There was debris everywhere. I removed a piece or two and asked your name. I checked your vitals and started an IV.”

“I removed all the loose debris I could and helped evaluate your condition,” Craig chimed in. Motioning around the room, he continued, “I also talked to the others that were outside cutting away the debris.”

I tried to envision the scene as they described it.

“It was a crumpled mess of wood, metal and plastic.”

“The back corner of the truck was almost at your knees,” another one said. “The truck was hardly dented. It had no loose pieces and couldn’t be moved, so we had to cut away the pieces of motorhome debris that were pinning you.”

Information flowed through the room—coming freely from them or in response to a question Jerry or I asked.

When I needed a break from the gory details. I pulled out a photo album a friend had suggested I bring along. “Here’s a glimpse into my life before the accident,” I said.

The men took turns looking through the album—pictures and stories of me playing with the boys, working at our garden center and having fun on our trip. And running.

“You were a runner?” Craig was looking at pictures of me crossing a finish line at a race.

“Yes, I was,” I said.

A few of the men said how sorry they were that my legs were injured and that I couldn’t run anymore.

I teared up. It was so meaningful to have them recognize that loss.

“I’m sorry you can’t run, but I’m so happy you can walk.” Jose said. “When I saw your leg after we freed you, I didn’t think they’d be able to save it, no matter how soon the helicopter got you to the hospital. After we slid you out through the hole these guys had cut in the side of the motorhome, I climbed out the window as you were taken to the helicopter a few hundred feet away. I ran over as they loaded you and saw that your skin color had faded even more. I assumed the concern I had about your mangled leg wouldn’t matter. It seemed highly unlikely that you’d arrive at the hospital alive.”

I again realized how clueless I was about all that happened that day. 

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Other excerpts from Because I Can:
The Prologue
Chapter 1: The Accident
Chapter 2: 50% Chance of Death
Chapter 3: Waking Up
Chapter 4: Paranoid and Anxious
Chapter 5: Questions 
Chapter 6: Flying Home
Chapter 7: Back on my Feet
Chapter 8: Walk On
 
Chapter 10: A Hurricane and My Obituary
Chapter 11: Mentors and Counselors
Chapter 12: Educating this Mennonite Girl from Small Town America
Chapter 13: Quitting God 
Chapter 14: Surgery Again
Chapter 15: Doubts about Miracles and Prayers
Chapter 16: Embracing Life Again
Chapter 17: Running Again
Epilogue: One Step at a Time… Because I Can!