Friday, December 31, 2010


One of the questions that was posed to me in the comments recently was this: "I am particularly curious of how you keep your spirits UP, and remain so seemingly serene."

I don't know that anyone who knows me in person has ever thought of me as serene – most of them would probably more accurately describe me as LOUD. [It's true.] But I will say that I feel pretty centered most of the time, and I figured out recently that it has everything to do with my focus on one certain aspect of prayer.


That's why I've chosen Praise to be the word I focus on this year.

This really hit home for me recently when I started a new morning habit. Nighttime is difficult for me in terms of pain and rest. I don't sleep well, and often don't really get sleep until the morning hours when other people are getting up and starting their day. It's hard to keep my body on a sleep schedule because once my medications do kick in and the sleep [albeit restless] takes hold, it's hard for me to fully rouse out of the slumber.

To counteract this, I discovered an app on my iPad that will play music I've selected at a certain time every morning, and it gradually increases the volume to pull me out of sleep more gently. It helps me start to wake, the familiar music gets my brain to start working enough to roll over and take my pain meds, and then I lay in bed listening to songs until the meds kick in and I'm able to get myself into a position where I can get up.

This whole process takes about an hour.

The key here, for me, is the music I've chosen. I listen to Selah's Deliver Me cd, which is an hour long, and each song is a perfect prayer in just the right order. There are messages in each song that bring me to center. They are prompts to pray for certain people, certain circumstances, individual requests. And every one of them brings me to a place where I am praising the One who gave me the privilege to live this life, know these people and pray for them.

So at the beginning of each day when my pain is high and I wake with a bit of dread for what's ahead, my focus is immediately shifted. Rather than letting life run me, I take a simple action. I go from my own circumstance to thinking about others. I remember that this life is not about me and choose to give thanks to the God who loves me.

That is what keeps my spirits up... it's my focus on spirits other than mine. It's my focus on praising instead of dwelling on my own circumstances. It's not always easy, but it is something I have to choose to do if I am going to live the life He needs me to.

There is something that happens on Twitter that I love. I assume it's something people learned in Sunday school or youth groups – whenever someone tweets the message, "God is good!" many other people tweet in response, "All the time!"

I love it. I believe it. I need to remember it.

I want to own that kind of praise this year.

When things are going smoothly, when things are difficult, when life is in that in-between we don't know what to do with, the fact remains that God is good all the time. And that is worth praising Him for. That knowledge, that belief and that attitude of praise is what shapes who we can be in this life for Him.

He knows my past, present and future. He is surprised by nothing. He is with me, never leaves me even when I feel alone, and holds me up even when I think I am standing on my own two feet. He is good. All the time.

And I am going to praise Him through all of it.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

It's Me. In a Video. Be Warned.

So, we did it! I'm in a video.

And I'm as dorky as I feared I'd be.

I wasn't sure for a few days if the video was going to happen, because at one point in the weekend my coloring waned between putrid and then rashy, and I was overdosing on anti-nausea meds in order to stop throwing up blood. No, you don't get to see those photos of me looking that cute. Yes, it is the kind of fun people look forward to when visiting the condo. ;)

Bless their hearts.

But by Sunday the meds were kicked in, I was feeling a million and ten times better and the only thing standing between you and a video of us was... me. I almost forgot. Good old Shannon, though, never forgot about you for a minute. She was packing up their stuff, getting ready to head out the door for their long trip home, and managed to give you a grand tour of the place.

We had talked earlier in the day about how to answer the main question people had about what a day in my life looks like. But seriously, there's not much to tell. The truth is that I don't do very much, move very much or get up very much. Actually, the goal my physical therapist set for me is that I get to a point where I can get out of bed once an hour, walk to the kitchen and get back in bed.

We have to work to get up to that. It's kind of pitiful. But a girl's gotta have a goal, right? :)

So a day in the life consists of me resting a lot. Sitting up in bed when I feel good, processing photos or writing for the blog at some point each day and generally just trying to keep going. I plan my shower based on when I want to try to work on the blog or if my nurse is coming, because I generally am exhausted after I take one. And I plan my bathroom breaks around when I get up to get a snack, which I plan around when I take my meds.

It's a laugh a minute around here. Smile

Speaking of laughing, at one point in the video I get the giggles watching Shannon leaning over and waving her hand in front of the camera and you get to hear my laugh. Which can best be described as a hyena imitating a machine gun.

You're welcome.

So, enjoy your tour of the condo and your introduction to me. Shan did a great job showing you guys around, the girls are adorable, and I tried my best to be lively for you all. Which is probably why I'm dorky. :) Oh, and Eliana had one request... that we end the video with "kthanksbye" because that's what I say to her mama when I'm trying to win an argument and I want the last word.

I can't say it works, but I keep trying anyway.


christmas blog video from gitzengirl on Vimeo.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Bitter and The Sweet

You may have gathered, from the last two days of posts, that I enjoyed having my company here for Christmas. :) Having the Hayward's here and then missing them was, like so many things in life tend to be, bittersweet.

But the bittersweet began earlier in the week for me, as my doctors made the decision to add another narcotic to my regimen for pain relief. It was a patch I would wear all of the time that released a medication into my system, which I would take along with the pain meds I am already on. I was nervous about starting it before company came, but I also knew that if it was going to be helpful, it would make my time with friends and company so much easier.

So I gave it a try.

And it helped. A lot.

While the acute pain was still there, I found myself not jolting in pain so much. My body relaxed a little bit. Despite being on more narcotics, I found my mind clearer, found it easier to carry on conversation. My movements were as limited, but they were easier. I had to think about it less.

The pain reduction itself was subtle to me, but the ramifications... good ramifications of things I was able to do more easily... were amazing.

The medication was able to be in my system almost 24 hours before I started reacting to it, which means I had the majority of one waking day with some relief. I know that should be the most sweet part, but it's not. The sweetness came because it happened to be the day my brother stopped through on his way home for Christmas. The sweetness is in the fact that on that one afternoon, I got to sit up – not in bed – and have a conversation with his family. My niece Avery and nephew Cooper got to see me feeling stronger than they had in a long time.

And I got to enjoy them.






I can see the difference in me in the photos. The Shan Clan came that night and in our first pictures you can see the pain relief in me, too. And you can see the change later on. That night I started with the reaction and was throwing up the next two days. That's the bitter part... where I got a glimpse of what could be if my body would only tolerate the medication.

It wouldn't be a change in my life circumstance or my lifestyle, but it would be a change in my comfort. And I grabbed that for a moment and then lost it. But I am so grateful I got to have my moment with my brother and his family. I'm grateful Shannon got to see me well even if that moment was only an hour long. It doesn't erase the bitter, but I won't let the bitter erase the sweet, either.

And man, was it was sweet.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Gitz Bits 2010: Week 51

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Monday, December 20, 2010


I honestly couldn't think of a more fitting photo to represent Monday than one of my Vicodin bottles. Because that's the day I started physical therapy.

Oh. My. Word.

Guess what I'm able to do in physical therapy? Pretty much nothing. My great therapist, Ted, was so nice. And patient. Because every time he'd say something like, "Let's try and move this joint." I'd say something like, "Oh, I can totally do that."

And then I totally couldn't. I learned in physical therapy that I'm delusional.

So I tried to move a few joints, and then we decided my PT for the day would be to try and straighten my leg a little and move my ankle.

I'm a rock star. :)

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010


How awesome is this? I'm putting it on the blog because:

1. It's cool.

2. I have no idea who gave this to me. So if you did, please come forward so I can say a huge thank you!

It came addressed to me in a Blessings Unlimited box, but with no note. And I love it!!! I moved many of the pictures of kids I love from my fridge to this great wall hanging so I could put my overflow of Christmas card photos on the refrigerator. It has worked out so well and I love getting to see even more faces of people I love around my house.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010


"Lady. We're resting today before company comes. That was the deal.
Now put down the camera and get back to snuggling."

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Thursday, December 23, 2010


This picture just makes me let out a big sigh. That's how I feel when Shannon's family is here. Like I get to exhale for a minute.

I'm such a blessed girl.

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Friday, December 24, 2010


Oh, Santa.

We were so excited for him to come to the condo. I mean, just look at Yodi's face of anticipation. My sister in law, Patience, dropped off some delicious sugar cookies when they stopped on their way home for Christmas, and we knew they were just the thing to leave by the fireplace for when Santa came by.

And we decided he really is magic because he made it in the condo, delivered presents, ate the cookie and left without Riley barking even once.

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Saturday, December 25, 2010


I wish every single one of you could have the privilege of knowing these two people. Jason and Shannon somehow manage to be as beautiful in their souls as they are in their faces. They drive 17 hours one way just to come see me, knowing how slow my life is, content to sit in this little condo and do nothing but spend time simply soaking in life. Even when life includes me in pain, throwing up, needing rest, whatever. They just roll with it and make me feel like it's all just normal and ok.

There are just not words big enough to describe these two.

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Sunday, December 26, 2010


Sunday was our last day together, and I think I held these two this close all day long. I'm so lucky they let me love them. It's a privilege.

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Thanks for once again sharing my week with me! Click on the button below if you want to go to Jessica’s site and check out the other participants showing off their weekly photos as well:

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Little Christmas...

I'll tell you all about my Christmas with the Shan Clan and will share a video this week [yes, we did one!], but for now I thought I'd just give you a glimpse of a little Christmas here at the condo. {Please ignore my death-warmed-over-coloring. I ended up a bit sick this Christmas.}

In a nutshell, there was a lot of this...


and this...


and this...


and this...


And I miss them already.

Friday, December 24, 2010


For anyone new to the blog, I couldn't show you this year's Christmas card without making sure you had last year's card as a reference. Because if you felt bad for Riley and his plea to Santa in the Snuggie card of 2009...

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You're totally going to feel his pain in his letter to Santa this year:

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Poor Blog Dog.

Merry Christmas to you all...
Here's hoping your Christmas wishes didn't get handled by the reindeer.

 Winking smile

Thursday, December 23, 2010


I've been trying really hard the last couple of weeks not to think about Dad and Christmas. I've been trying not to picture years past of being with him on the farm, or at the new house, or when he walked through the door here in the condo with his homemade hors d'oeuvres in hand.

I've been trying so hard not to think about the way he'd pat my cheek or touch under my chin with his hand and speak more with the gestures than he ever could with words. I been trying not to think of that smile or that laugh or those hands that so easily held mine.

He thrived among his family, when his kids and grandkids were around him. But he managed to thrive equally when it was just the three of us here in the condo, too. He took up so much space in this world ... space that contained love and laughter and meaning and depth.

I've been trying not to think of those things so I don't have to think of this year without it all. I've been trying to think instead of all the ways I'm going to fill up my space so it doesn't feel like he's missing.

But, try as I might, he is missing. There will still be that space of silence ... the kind of silence that screams loudly into the void where our world was all at once split open.

In the last five months I haven't been able to look at my world without him. I look at my mom's grief, I look at my siblings longing, and I can talk with them about our new reality. But if I look at my individual loss... what my life is missing... I can't take it. So I've learned to constantly look at the one who this is really all about.

I look at Dad.

Because the truth is, if I make this about me I am destroyed. If I make this about Dad I am rejoicing.

I can't even fathom the emotions Dad has in his new spiritual perspective of being surrounded in Christ, rather than his human perspective of knowing Christ. I can't fathom the joy of complete peace and understanding and acceptance into the arms of the most loving spirit unimaginable.

All I know is that I could not get through Christmas, through life, through this journey of death, if I didn't know a sweet little baby was born in a manger. I couldn't breathe every day if God wouldn't have sacrificed his Son, sent among the simple, just so my life could be redeemed.

Because that baby in that stable was our promise of the eternal.

I can rejoice this Christmas because it's about Jesus' love for us... and His gift of salvation and eternal life and a promise that one day – one day – I'll celebrate this amazing gift with my dad again. He can hold my hand and touch my chin and relay the emotions that words can't touch.

The emotion of being surrounded in Christ on Christmas day.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Smarty Party

Every year of high school, I got an invitation to the smarty party. Otherwise known as the National Honor Society. I don't even remember what the criteria was to be a part of it every year, but every year my grades were good enough to get invited to the party.

We'd all go into the gymnasium that was decorated and set up for a dinner, and we'd get our certificates and photos taken. The best part for me, to be honest, is that I got a new outfit every year to attend "in style." [I say that lightly considering it was the late 80s early 90s.] We wore strict uniforms at my school so having an excuse to go shopping was the highlight.

Yep. I was the girl who loved the smarty party for the clothes.

Later in life, that attitude shone brightest when I took a trip to visit an old boyfriend of mine who was attending Notre Dame. My friends Nicole, Heidi and I had a great adventure getting very lost on our way home, which you can read about and laugh at us by clicking here. But there was a very big lesson I learned about myself that weekend.

I learned that I am not smart enough to attend one of their beer parties let alone their university.

Seriously, people. We had gone to the Penn State/Notre Dame football game earlier in the day, and it seemed like a normal college. We drank, we cheered, we won in the final moments, rushed the field and tore down the goal posts. It was exciting. It was nuts. It was fun. It was college.

And then we went to what appeared to be a normal house party. There was used, beat up furniture, there were kegs in the corners, there was fun and laughter. I was great until people started talking.

About engineering.

And physics.

And the ramifications of political decisions.

Needless to say, I drank a lot and kept my mouth shut so as not to shame the good name of the University of Northern Iowa by admitting I was lost as soon as we handed over our money to get in the door.

But I'm glad I had that experience because now I know I'm not a dumb girl, but I also know what being smart is really all about. And because I know that, I have absolutely no shame in taking this moment to brag as any proud Auntie should by telling you all that


And while I can take no credit for her academic achievement, I can tell you all that she was invited to the ultimate smarty party and when she shows up well dressed in a new outfit, that part will totally be my influence.

I'm a smidge proud.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Gitz Bits 2010: Week 50

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Monday, December 13, 2010


I mentioned on Twitter that it was so cold Riley needed his Snuggie, and my friends wanted proof. Some said he looks a little embarrassed in this photo.

It's true. He may have been. But he was also warm.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010


And if you don't think he needed the warmth, then you need to look no further than the sheet of ice covering my bedroom window.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010


This is what sleet and rain all mixed together looks like coming down. This might be the time someone wants to remind me why I think living in Iowa is such a grand thing. I ended up laying in bed all that night, watching the room spin, as my body tried to adjust to the weather front.

I'm thinking homebound in Hawaii sounds nice.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010


But then I look out at this. This pretty, fluffy, catch the snowflake on your tongue kind of snow. And I have a million memories rush back from my childhood and I think about Christmas and then I don't think Iowa is so bad after all. Especially because the room had stopped spinning and I had stopped throwing up by the time I took this picture.

It changes a girl's perspective. Smile

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Friday, December 17, 2010


You know how it's really rude to give something to someone and then ask for it back?

Yeah. Me, too.

But I did it anyway.

When we rearranged my room this summer, I decided there was no space for me to put my little black fireplace, so I gave it to my friend Susie. Her boys loved sitting in front of it in the morning when it was cold outside.

But then I got ice on my window and put my dog in a Snuggie and totally made room for it in my bedroom. Cuz baby, it's cold outside.

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Saturday, December 18, 2010


Candy dropped by on Saturday with what I can only assume is manna from the heavens. Or pomegranate. Either way, where has this little nugget of yum been all my life?!?! She's just excited she snuck something healthy in my house and I ate it on purpose.

She's always telling me things are so healthy I'll feel it in my cells. My cells said nothing to me, but my taste buds said yum.divider blue

Sunday, December 19, 2010


I think my secret is out. No way people are going to believe I have a green thumb with real geraniums anymore... Winking smile

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Thanks for once again sharing my week with me! Click on the button below if you want to go to Jessica’s site and check out the other participants showing off their weekly photos as well: