October 6, 2018: the Day Three of my Children Could Have Died

I have tried to write in my blog since October, yet no courage could I find. Since January, I have struggled with anxiety and panic attacks. I noticed that as soon as my second child, Sophia, went back to school after her injury on October 6, 2018, I lost it emotionally. Post Traumatic Stress found me, and I cannot seem to write and to suffer PTSD at the same time. However, today, the day before Spring Break for my colleagues and my students, I promised myself that our family has a story to tell. I swore  that I will attempt to tell it. Regardless of how it feels to process it, I must think about that day and recount the tragedy and the terror.

Sophia often takes risks, and she then has to face the consequences. She has abused privileges and acted out in anger, which led to her being grounded for several months prior to October 6th. Finally, the weekend of our Fall Break, her restriction time had ended, and I allowed her to have a friend over for the weekend. It was also the annual weekend of my husband’s family reunion. That Saturday was an ALL day reunion excursion. However, I found myself with a very cranky and loud two-year-old, and I was determined for him to nap before that evening’s auction and dinner. So, I took Bailey, Liam, Angel, Alley, and Sophia home with the intention of returning later.

After returning home, it became apparent that Liam would not nap, so Chris fueled up our Polaris Ranger for the children to ride in the yard while we helped the movers deliver our oven that we ordered. In less than fifteen minutes, Sophia disobeyed us, switched drivers, and left the yard with the Ranger. What happened next would change us all forever. My sister-in-law texted me to get to the end of our dirt road. My babies were all in the road beside the Ranger that was lying on its side. All looked at us except Sophia. She stuck her leg out as it tipped over. Her tibia and fibula were snapped like twigs and were forced through her skin. She was screaming, “MAMA” at a ear piercing levels, and I quickly ran to her. I wanted to know why she left the yard. I wanted to know why she wasn’t driving. I tried so hard to calm her, yet how does one do that exactly?

First responders came. EMTs came. Ambulances came. Helicopters came.

Angel and Sophia were airlifted to the medical center in Macon. I had to tell one of my former students that her child was injured while under my supervision. We never made it back to the reunion. Family members took Liam, Bailey, and Alley back to enjoy the festivities, yet I know they must have felt shock and fear.  Sophia and Angel’s health and recovery were my new objectives. I knew surgery was coming, but I did not grasp the length of recovery. Angel and Sophia spent the first night in the Pediatric Unit at The Medical Center. We parents waited and prayed. Sophia would stay three days; Angel went home after a day.

She received a rod and four pins. The wound even now five months later has not completely healed. I can still see a layer of adipose tissue. It still bleeds. She limps.

sophia's leg
One week post-op

Chris still takes her to see the surgeon each month, and we measure the wound’s progress. The necrotic tissue did fall off. So, she has had to heal and regrow the tissue from inside the wound. Sophia has suffered the most from emotional trauma and guilt from her poor decisions that lead to the accident. Her doctors continue to change medications to help ease her PTSD, and she receives psychotherapy when needed. We talk about her nightmares each morning on our way to school. She returned to school in January and looks almost normal in a group of her peers.

I hope she has learned from this experience. There are many lessons to take away. I am a better person and mother since this experience. I don’t take anything for granted. Chris and I increased our bond over it, and our relationship is stronger. The emotional trauma may not get better for awhile. There were three different families represented in that Ranger accident. I am so grateful and humbled that we all have our children at home to love. Sophia’s military career ended that day; however, I never believed she would have gone into the military anyway.

Unbeknownst to us that Monday in October, Sophia dealt with recovery, and  Hurricane Michael was headed straight for us from the Gulf. His wrath will be my next topic of adventure!

 

My Marriage vs. Background Noise

On my birthday in 2016, my future husband gave me a little black box. I remember looking at that box with such puzzlement. We had only dated for sixteen marvelous days, and yet there I stood, holding a symbol of commitment. I opened the box with bewilderment and found two things: a note and a paper-clip. The paper clip represented a conversation we had earlier that he remembered, and the note stated his intentions for our relationship. I read the note with tears in my eyes, and I turned to look into his sweet face and those dreamy green orbs.

He then took my hand and gave me a promise ring. I must admit that of all my 38 years that no one had ever given me a promise ring. Yet, even today, the ring rests on my left hand. I have barely taken it off for three years. The note stated the ring was a promise. The note read, “I promise to be here for you and your girls as long as there is breath in me.” That birthday was undoubtedly one of the best I have had. I reminisce about that day fondly. However, two years and eight months later, romantic gestures are few and far between.

January 10, 2019, my husband and I will have been together for three years. After so MUCH turmoil and LIFE troubles, making it three years is a huge milestone for us. Although I should be celebrating and focused on the positive, I find myself obsessing with all the NOISE. This week, I contemplate much about how my expectations flounder, causing me to doubt the strength my relationship. Chris and had many expectations when we set out on this journey, and sadly, I must confess that most of those expectations probably have caught fire, burned into cinders, and blown into the air at this point.

Expectations are the root of all that kills (excuse the tweaking of Everclear lyrics). I must admit I had expectations that now seem frivolous. I expected to never cry again. NOT!! I expected to never struggle financially again.  HAHA!! I expected for all of Chris’ family members to love and to accept me with open arms.  WOW, was I deluded. I even expected him to wash his own clothes. Even as I type this list, I see the ridiculousness of it all. There isn’t a man on this planet who could live up to an idealistic woman’s expectations, nor could I ever be the domestic goddess that Chris had imagined me to be. I cried before bed last night because I realized my husband isn’t the man I thought he was: he isn’t perfect

He has mommy issues and for some strange reason he actually believes that after working in the extreme Middle Georgia heat that he smells like a fresh daisy. He is oblivious to his own body odor (B.O.). As preposterous as an odorless working man is, I never believe his NOISE (aka pontification) on the topic. He often pontificates about how his manly pheromones should bring “me to the his  yard” whenever he beckons me hither.  Yet, I laugh, roll my eyes, and move on because commentary on his B.O. can be ignored.

I have no problems ignoring his jeers on the B.O. topic, or about the Republican agenda, or how much GDP has grown since Trump took office (says Chris). I have metaphorically selective NOISE cancellation headphones. Unfortunately, I have chosen recently to take the NOISE cancellation headphones off and pay more attention than I should. Here lately, my expectation flag waves in tatters. I ponder: who’s right, who’s wrong, who’s ignorant, whose turn is it, etc. etc. I write. He welds. I teach. He farms. I mother. He fathers. He this. I that. I should be focused on this fact: me wife. him husband. We are a team, and I need to stop thinking like a whiny girlfriend. Now, as far as my husband goes, he is supposed to love me as Christ loved the church, based on our religious preference. 🙂

This weekend Chris asked me to make a list of things that he could do to make my life easier, and at the time of the request, I did not understand the point of the task. I may not still understand his reasoning, but for my purposes, I have created a list. This list would be necessary for me to consider the NOISE inside our relationship as background noise instead of foreground noise.

Don’t threaten me

Just listen to me

Don’t abuse me

Just love me

I am a highly educated, attractive woman with morals, values, and a purpose just as he is a highly successful business owner with goals, plans, and a dream of a new Ford truck. I am a natural nurturer who will rise to the occasion when the occasion calls for it. I can and will admit when I am in the wrong, and my level of commitment supersedes my emotions at any given point in time. Today, I do not feel reconciled or resolved; however, I am committed to overlook the background noise.

Ultimately, it would be nice if our romantic game would step it up a bit. I got a promise ring for my birthday after two weeks of dating, and I gave Chris a vacation for our first anniversary. A camping trip with just us sounds heavenly. I will begin to plan! I want January 10, 2019 to be as special and as memorable as it was in 2016 where we ordered the same entree at Longhorn and bonded over heartbreak and sweet tea. I want to tear up when I look into his face from the joy derived from a healthy, thriving relationship and a shared commitment and love of family.

wedding pic

The First Sketch of Esmeralda

Esmeralda's first sketch
This is Clare’s first sketch of Esmeralda. My illustrator has made me a happy writer today!! 

When Anya was a baby, I worked on several children’s books to read to her during our year long “term” as mother and child. The year I stayed home with Anya brought many ups and downs for both of us, yet I am so happy that seventeen years after I first imagined this character I see her in reality.  Esmeralda has had so much to do during her imagined childhood that she should be ancient by now. As her first book is illustrated, I feel that I am few steps closer to seeing her in bookstores for many other children to enjoy. Poor Anya has been my guinea pig for more than just my writing. She had to live through my learning to be her mother.

A Middle Child’s Dilemma: Depression Strikes Twice

Sophia at dance
Sophia’s Middle School Dance 

While I was on my honeymoon in St. Thomas, I remember being so happy and excited. Mark (my first husband) and I were so thrilled to be in our tropical paradise, even the iguanas loved living on island time. Unbeknownst to me, my parents did not fare so well at home. In ’99, I was twenty-one and carefree. Yet, my dad found himself struggling with bipolar depression at forty-four, and he felt that his only way out was to end it all. My mentally stable and long-suffering mother took him to get help the day our plane left for the Caribbean. When we returned from our honeymoon, my daddy had spent a week in a hospital with a diagnosis and a gaggle of pills. I remember visiting him and going to therapy with him the Monday I returned.

He looked forlorn, yet happy to see me. He toted a yellow legal pad with him everywhere, and he randomly took down notes as therapists and doctors informed us of coping skills and symptoms we could expect to face in the upcoming months. I learned that the strongest man I ever knew had lived trapped inside a panic stricken brain for years. He had been striving to hold back the chaos inside his mind since I was a little girl. There was a seriously startling statistic that I remember vividly since Daddy’s great depression of ’99: a child of a bipolar parent could face a seventy five percent chance of also having the disorder. My grandmother had bipolar disorder as well, and her mother before her, and her mother, and so forth. My father had lost the genetic roll of the dice. In just two years, I would learn that I lost statistically as well. How would our genetic loss affect the future of my own children?

When my oldest was in sixth grade, I began to notice serious changes in her moods, and her depression and anxiety negatively influenced her school work and relationships. Additionally, by eighth grade, my middle child also developed depression and anxiety. I learned many facts and factors relating to adolescence and depression while helping Anya, my oldest, deal with depression. I thought I “knew it all.” Certainly, with a family history like mine, I would be an expert. UM…NO!!

Sophia’s symptoms and behaviors stumped me, and I have to admit that I had to rely on the professionals to help with her issues. Her depression was there, yet I noticed risky behaviors and odd decisions that did not seem to fit my previous experiences. We saw two different psychiatrists before the medication affected the depression. Her negative self-esteem and self-worth concerned me the most. How could such a beautiful, talented young woman feel so negative about herself?

In fact, on most days if I felt a little less of myself, I might just fit in better with my peers. A negative self-image has not really been a problem for me. My parents told me that I could do whatever I wanted in life, and obviously, I bought into that mentality hook, line, and sinker. Once Sophia’s new doctor adjusted her meds, I can see the smiles on her face again. Yesterday, I heard her cackle. She cackled for several minutes. She hugged me last night—twice. I believe in my soul that one day she will feel happy and loved. I know the coping skills will come. I understand that this is the beginning of a life-long struggle.

However, I am forty, and I have never been stronger. My daddy made it to sixty two, and not even cancer nor pain could unhinge him emotionally and psychologically. My grandmother made it eighty five years—a fighter. Bipolar disorder may have won a few battles, but not the war. Sophia will overcome. She comes from a long line of overcomers.

 

Endure to Persevere” James Douglas Greene  1/14/54 -12/3/16

This post is dedicated to my father. The man who made me. Time passes yet my love for you remains.

Daddy 1

Jimmy Mac, that’s what I am teaching my girls to do: endure to persevere. Every week I take them by the old home place, and I know one day the Lord will rescue the perishing by taking us to our heavenly home. I love you, Daddy.

Reverie

chestnut hair tangled
around the end of my finger
these moments are hushed
except for the remembering to breathe

the moment explodes into mountains
mountains climb into the sky
sometimes I long to die

water spills from my eyes
slips down the corners of a mouth
without any words to say

wasn’t it just yesterday
that I stood a fresh dug grave
dirt like soot covering my face

wind blows twisted hair free
as it longs to save me
from the memory’s reverie

chestnut hair tangled
around the end of my finger
these moments are hushed
except for the remembering to breathe

Jennifer Greene Sullivan

5.17.18

 

MUSE

redbird

the bird pecks
at the window
while atop
its perch of
overgrown shrubs
my voice catches
inside my throat
certainly it knows
how secrets stream
down the eaves
silver and gray
one, two, three
they ooze out of me
as the bird sways
in the breeze
lighting upon
the leaves of a bay

 

Jennifer Greene Sullivan

5.16.18