Changes – big small, and in between

All sorts of changes… and today on Easter, one of the most significant.


My Mom said to me many times when I was a teen, that I would do more changing in my 20s than I ever would in my teens. She was absolutely right.


I guess she didn’t want to overwhelm me, because she never mentioned the volume of changes to take place in your 30s.

You grow up sure.  You have strong opinions.  And slowly… they evolve.

I’d like to say the values I was taught as a youth are still at my core, but my expression of those values has changed over time.

And, while all that was taking place – I managed to meet the love of my life.

Sometime after we married we purchased a true “handyman special,” which we are still polishing up 13 years later.

Then there was this beautiful little girl – rocking our worlds from the very beginning.  NICU, colic unceasing, OT,PT, Speech, hospitalizations, chronic viruses, tests, doctors, surgeries – and eventually Cowden’s Syndrome.

She grew into a beautiful young lady – despite the odds stacked against her.  Her very existence changed my long standing beliefs on modern medicine, and strengthened my faith in God every step of the way.

My family unit is so strong.  We are incredibly blessed to hold each other’s hands through the twists and turns and changes life has in store.

Today was a big one.

On this, Easter Sunday, the Celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord, my family stood in front of the Moravian church and professed our intention to become members of their community.

moravian star

My history, my heritage, my core, was developed as a Lutheran.  My heart is now Moravian.

easter family

And their motto, “In essentials unity, In non-essentials liberty, In all things LOVE,” speaks to my soul.

We make decisions every day – guided by the power of the Holy Spirit, with faith that we are moving in the direction intended for us.

The fact we now attend worship as a family of THREE, leads me to be sure we are on the right path.

my prayers

My 30s have sure been a trip.  I have only a few more months left and I wonder what else is in store.  But heck, then there are the 40s to look forward to.  One day my mom will get a few minutes to sit still, and I’ll  grab a bottle of wine and ask her all about them.

Good Friday – for the “first” time at the age of 9

I grew up taking some things for granted.  And, when you are 39 it is quite easy to forget there are some things even the brightest 9 year-olds don’t know.

It has been a long week.  One of doctors, and appointments.  Lots of homework.  Running errands to try to catch up on our lives. Felix’s grandmother, who Meghan and I barely knew, passed away this week.  Emotions.  Pain.  The hearts hurt. The hand hasn’t healed quite yet.   Physical Therapy.  Lots of processing for my deep thinker.

I know Meghan knew this was “Holy Week,”  if f0r no other reason, than I had told her.

She participated in the Palm Sunday Service last Sunday and understood everything in great detail.

Wednesday our church set up “stations,”  where you could travel to experience Jesus‘ last days.  There was fragrance, 30 pieces of silver, bread, wine, a cross to nail your sins, a stone to imagine the weight of the one in front of Jesus’ tomb. There were 13 stations in all.  Each one a meaningful experience – traveled through alone or in a pair.

At each station there was a Bible passage, and a scenario.  There was a way to put yourself in the situation.  Meghan and I traveled most of the stations together, talking and sharing as we went.  Long productive conversation that night.

We did not make service last night, but tonight, we headed into the “Good Friday” service.


I had never experienced a Tenebrae service, or a service of shadows.  There was a huge cross of candles in the front, extinguished one at a time as various readings were completed.

And, knowing her so well I watched Meghan through the service become increasingly uncomfortable.

When we left and asked her about it, she told us she never knew the story of Jesus’ death.  She had heard it told, but never read from the Bible.  She had no idea the extent of His suffering.  She was amazed that He could still love us after all the awful things that went on.

Long, long discussions.  Just starting to wrap up.

My first reaction was guilt.  Had I failed as a Christian mom?

Then I realized, as always, things were happening as they were supposed to.

I was learning lesson upon lesson just hearing her speak.

We are so weighed down by the earthly problems, that we sometimes forget.  We sometimes lose focus.

Cowden’s Syndrome, cancer, PTEN, AVMs, viruses, surgeries, whatever the suffering,… we are children of a loving, forgiving God.

Jesus died to save us from our sins.  To lighten the load.  To eliminate the judgment and condemnation that sometimes weighs on our hearts – so we can concentrate on the important stuff.

And on the third day He will rise again…

it is finished

How blessed are we?  Sometimes I need my 9 year old to remind me.

Ramblings and Random Thoughts

thankful for the difficult

I am not who I was before.

Before there was Felix.

Before there was Meghan.

Before there was Cowden’s Syndrome.

Before there was breast cancer.

I am just not who I was before.

But every change has been part of a process, a transformation that is still taking place.

Perhaps the biggest change has been in my attitude towards others.

I try to surround myself with positive people.

Knowing full well that we all have our moments.

I deliberately seek out tolerant people.

Tolerant of changes.  Tolerant of others.

Life is short.

Judgement brings anger, hatred, contempt.

I have no time.

let go of the toxic

So one by one I have worked to let them go – the toxic ones.

And I cling tightly to the others.

But such transformations affect your whole self – your core.

When I was much younger I had ideas.  I was sure I was right – all the time.

Not so much anymore.

Now, I am sure that I make mistakes.

I am sure that everyone I truly love does the best they can with what they have where they are.

I am sure that everyone hurts.

I am sure that everyone struggles.

I look with a softer heart.

I see things from the other point of view.

Once I might have said that I found others beliefs to be “wrong” or “immoral.”

Now, I respect that others have beliefs and feelings that deserve to be respected – just like mine.

Maybe its the Cowden’s.

Maybe its the stress, or the fatigue.

Maybe its just me – growing up.

I tend to stay out of politics, and I don’t really comment on religions other than my own.

But I know I was raised to love my neighbor.

I know I was raised not to judge.

Really in the end – I just think if we all loved each other as sisters and brothers…

… well maybe more things would make sense.

I am not who I was before-

I am a work in progress.

I am surviving.

I am beating cowdens one day at a time.

I am embracing lessons learned.

I am wiser and more tolerant than I ever hoped to be.



don't give up

It seems they are happening all the time, probably for everyone, but this week we are really feeling them.

When the week started and I loosely reviewed our schedule for the week Meghan was flat out disgusted at the number of appointments we had.  She is tired of doctors.  I can’t blame her.  So am I.

Watch this.  Scan that.  Come back and see me about that… UGH.


So when she asked me to stop making every vacation full of appointments, I tried to explain to her that with two people with “Cowden’s Syndrome,” and a whole pile of  “every 6 month” appointments, it is almost impossible.  And then when I looked at the tears in her eyes I promised to try.  “I just want a little time to be bored!” So I got a jump on our summer appointments.  So far I scheduled 12 from June 27 to July 16.  I have used only 6 days to do it.  There is one day with 4 appointments, two days with 2, and the other 4 each have their own days.  Now, as long as no one looks for any follow ups… maybe we can plan to have a somewhat normal summer.  At least I can dream


She is also tired of homework.  Even from teachers with the best of all intentions.  She is tired of the stress of the upcoming State exams, even as I work to downplay it.  She was so excited this week when I told her she could read whatever she wanted – whenever she wanted – without needing to write a summary.  You would have thought I gave her candy.  She used to love everything about school.  Now the best I get from her is that she likes her teachers.  What are we doing to these kids?


Her thumb still hurts.  Injured at dance on Monday.  Its been 3 days.  Seems like it is going to linger.  It isn’t – or doesn’t seem to be broken, but she is done dancing.  She told me yesterday.  She just wants to get through the recital.

Transitions. Things are ever changing.

First it was soccer – too tough on her body.  Now its dance.  Sometimes she can hurt herself just walking up the steps.  What next?


No more PT in school.  She doesn’t need it.  Or so they say right now.  We will double check just to be sure.  But there is lots of PT going on.  Strengthening that body.  Preparing her to swim like the fish she wants to be.  More testing in school when we return.  Just to make sure she is getting everything she needs.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.


god helps us handle

Holy Week services at a new church.  Sunday we become members.  Warmly welcomed – attending as a family.  Mixed emotions that always lead to joy and confidence at the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.


Our lives are full of transitions.  Like the lenses on Meghan’s glasses – changing with the environment and the circumstances.  We are growing together.  Learning our roles.  Fighting not to allow Cowden’s Syndrome to define us, but rather to find where it fits into who we are as people.  We are working on our health, and our own maintenance appointments.  We are learning about the effects of the syndrome, and discovering how much is not yet known.

We are finding our new roles, as people charged to raise awareness, and to spread the word.

We are figuring out where we belong.  In school.  In sports.  In extracurricular activities.  In religion.  On our lives.

Big changes all around. God’s plan unfolding.  Eyes and ears and heart wide open.

leap of faith





I fear this is the beginning of the end…


… of dance class that is.

It sounds so dramatic.  I guess maybe its not such a big deal.  But today it feels like one more thing on a list Cowden’s Syndrome has robbed her of.

Meghan was never going to be a performance dancer.  She wasn’t going to do ballet for hours.  But, for the last 3 years, she has taken one dance class a week.

First recital - 2011
First recital – 2011

Hip Hop.

Not because she knows the music, but rather because they dance in sneakers – and that is better for her joints.

I can’t say enough good things about the studio.  The owner is a compassionate, kind, professional, lovely woman who strives to make every child feel like a million bucks.  She revels in their accomplishments.  She celebrates every ability level.  She truly loves children, and dance.

The Proud Dancer with her fans
The Proud Dancer with her fans

This place is the perfect fit for Meghan.

Her joints acted up in the fall.  She missed a month before she could get it back together.  No worries – no sweat.

A few weeks ago she twisted an ankle at dance.  Xrays, a sprain.  A week or two off.

2012 On the Red Carpet
2012 On the Red Carpet

Then there was the shoulder thing.  Not dance related – but it still cost her some time.

And then tonight.  I picked her up from class and her flushed face told the story before her teacher had to.

“She hurt her hand, but we don’t know how.”

I do.


So, I took her home.  There was a shower, and some ice.  Nothing more than a light sprain I am sure.  But her back hurt too.  So we put her to bed very gently. And we spoke about maybe finding ways to increase swimming instead of maintaining dance.

The recital though is such a rush.  She loves it.  She loves being on stage – the energy.  The celebration.

On stage - May 2012
On stage – May 2012

Physical Therapy tomorrow morning.  We will let Dr. Jill input her thoughts – although I already know them.

She is pretty good when she dances.  She is a quick study.  She has made so much progress.  And she has some moves.  (Those are NOT from me!)

She will ultimately get to decide.  Although its probably for the best to back out now – before she really gets hurt.  The final decision will be hers.  So I say.

In reality the final decision has been made by Cowden’s Syndrome, and its ruthless attack on her joints and muscles, and connective tissue.

She is resting peacefully  – for now.  But I am cranky.

Things tend to work out as they should, but I am still waiting for this little girl…(young woman…AAAKK!) to catch a break…


Thinking outside the box



And so began the week that was.

A “simple” annual review – not so much.  But that’s OK.  Mamma Bear remained calm.  I am most strategic that way.

I am however exhausted, and facing another battle.

It was a bit of a struggle to keep the chin up this week, as I often felt like her:


But, I didn’t act like her.  Not even once.  (Well once I cried – but I got yanked past it.) And that’s about all of that story I can share here, for now.

But these last few weeks  months, have left me with a lot of questions.

See, there is this constant battle to do what is right, or what I perceive to be right, as I advocate for Meghan, and for my family.  But inevitably, because I am so introspective – I am left with a ton of questions at every fork in the road.



Last week when we took her to 4 doctors and an ER about her shoulder, I ended up being told I went to the wrong ER – that we didn’t belong there.  But it is a cancer center, she is already a thyroid patient there, and my child grows things.  While we are blessed that none have been cancer yet – I am not of the “wait and see mentality.”  But, still I paused and wondered if I had done something wrong.

In the end, the rheumatologist gave her a muscle relaxant.  We began rehabilitative PT and I am seeing progress.  The shoulder and neck remain wickedly sensitive – but she has back almost full range of motion.

Still we watch the lump behind her shoulder blade, in hopes it continues to decrease in size and doesn’t turn out to be the “soft tissue tumor” we were advised to look out for.

what if

Really – no one has even a bit of a clue.  And it is often just downright exhausting.

Physical Therapy this week was refreshing.  At least I deal with professionals who have made themselves aware of Meghan’s needs and focus with a goal of eliminating, or severely managing, her pain.  Thank God we found them.

Because of them, Meghan will swim in her meet tomorrow.  No freestyle – it hurts the neck.  But that was OK with her.

i love backstroke

Backstroke seems by far to be her favorite. I love watching her swim.  She seems so at peace.

It gives me a time to break from all the questions.  The wondering.  The worry.

It is easy to doubt yourself sometimes when so many things are changing at once.  Whether you are precipitating the change, or reacting to it out of necessity, when there is so much at once I think it is normal to wonder.

We are not super difficult to get along with.  Yet we go through doctors like a toddler goes through shoes.  We have very few close friends – confidants to be trusted.  Those who will be honest and open minded.  We spend a lot of time alone.  We get along really well – thank goodness.

I think what we look for is doctors, friends, associates, people who can practice:



I just wish there were more.  No one really fits in a box.  And that’s not just us, and our “rare disease.”  Everyone is unique, and special.  Everyone needs to be looked at with a fresh pair of eyes.  Everyone needs to be viewed through the perspective of the other person.  Only when we start to look at things through someone else’s point of view do we solve anything.

It is the outside the box thinkers that solve IEP problems, medical problems, friendship concerns, desires to make the world better…

Daring to think outside the box is risky.  It is hard.  It is necessary.

Especially in this season of “test prep” where I have seen this scenario one too many times…

test prep


Mine, yours, all of them – they are individuals.  They have specific needs.  We should never be discouraged when advocating for them and their needs.

In many cases – we are their only voice.  We MUST think outside the box for them.


25,000 – How did THAT happen?

I like math.

It makes sense.  At least to me.  There are questions.  And then there are answers.

I sometimes  often wish life could be a little more like math.

I am a numbers person by default.   I remember dates, and addresses, and phone numbers.

I used to be even better at it, but age and stress have clouded a bit of the clarity.

But, imagine my surprise when I checked in on my blog in the middle of this crazy week to find the stats telling me it exceeded 25,000 views!

25,000 blog views milestone - top injury law blog

I can not for the life of me – even loving numbers- imagine how that happened.   But it did.  And I am humbled and grateful.

Especially on weeks like this.

Where things don’t go according to plan.  And I have to be so careful what I say when the battles are too close to home.

I am tired.  So tired of fighting – all the time.

But you bolster me up, and give a reason to keep fighting,  so that Meghan gets everything she needs, and that I do too!

So thank you… and stick around.  You never know what will happen next!

There is always hope...
There is always hope…
Even on the days we fall hard!
Even on the days we fall hard!



Mamma Bear

Tomorrow is Meghan’s annual review for her IEP meeting.

I will not go down that easy!
I will not go down that easy!

It should have been an easy meeting.  Continuation of PT and the paraprofessional until her triennial next year.

The Cowden’s Syndrome clearly warrants PT.  We already have 2 sessions a week outside, and THEY want her to receive additional services inside the school.

She hurts, (by her own words)  (This is a link to a speech she gave in school)

all the time.  Some days she is just able to make the best of it.

Last week we lost 2 days of school (and work.)  We  saw 5 doctors, including an ER in those 2 days because of severe pain and virtual immobility in the left shoulder.  No obvious trauma.  Just the life of a 9 year old with Cowden’s Syndrome.

Cowden’s Syndrome can often be accompanied by hypermobile joints, making injury during daily activities much easier.

Cowden’s Syndrome is also a condition of over exaggeration by every body part.  The smallest injury warrants a full, and sometimes incapacitating inflammatory reaction.

We manage a lot of things with Celebrex.  But it is not a miracle drug.

We can not keep her in a bubble.  She is 9 and wants to run and play.

But, that doesn’t mean her PT needs “don’t affect school function.”  They do affect it – in so many ways.

So that is my job tomorrow.  To get my point across.  To speak for my girl.

Mamma bear is almost ready…

mama bear

To protect baby bear…  She WILL get what she NEEDS!

Mama and baby bear

Facebook – and other lies we tell ourselves

I went to a wake this afternoon. It seems to be something I have been doing far too often lately.

This one was for an old friend.

Let me clarify – he was far from old.  As a matter of fact he was just 43.  But he was a friend from high school, which apparently was a long time ago.

laugh a little louder

In high school we had a thriving youth group at my church.  We spent so much time together, they became extended family.  We came from different schools, and our ages ranged – but there was a love and peace and acceptance among us that was really something spectacular.

We met at the church sometimes.  We watched movies, played games and talked.

We sometimes went on retreats- Koinonia, Pennsylvania, Virginia.  We traveled to youth gatherings.  We laughed, we cried. We held each other up.

youth group

But time got in the way and years passed.  College led into grad school, and husbands, and wives, and jobs.  Then there were children and houses… and, you know how it goes.

Before you realize it – it has been 10, 15, 20 years since you have chatted with a friend.  Nothing ever happened to cause the separation, just life – getting in the way of keeping in touch with those we love.

I met up with him last year, at the wake for his mother.  We talked for a while – like old times.  Years seem to evaporate in the presence of those we truly love.  You see he was one of the “good guys,” and possessed the capability to light up a room with his sense of humor.  He showed compassion for everyone, and had the ability to make you want to talk to him.  I left that day, not overly confident we would see each other again soon, but still missing my high school youth group, and the security that the net of dear friends had woven for me through some trying times.

So when the news came this week that he had died.  Without warning or explanation.  That he had left behind a wife, 2 children, his dad, 2 brothers, 2 sisters-in-law, and their children – I was absolutely stunned.  That’s just not the way its supposed to go down.  He was one of the good guys.

So I found myself today in a funeral home in New Jersey having an impromptu reunion with my high school youth group.  Most of us are “in touch” via facebook.  I read an article here, see a picture there.  I catch a quick status update from time to time.  Sometimes I click “like.”  And somewhere in my head I have justified that this constitutes remaining in touch.  I was appalled at myself for even allowing the illusion to fester.  Don’t misunderstand me.  Facebook, and its social networking concept is fantastic.  But it does not – nor can it ever- replace conversation, interaction, a hug, or – as we used to say in high school – a “nose pet.”


Facebook has been a blessing for me in so many ways.  I have “met” so many other Cowden’s Syndrome patients.  I have learned about, and shared experiences with others who suffer from rare diseases.  Meghan has connected with two young Cowden’s friends – one on a different continent.  But it still doesn’t fix the inherent problem with being able to look at a computer screen and delude yourself into believing you are “connected.”

I don’t know what the answer is.  I, like all of my friends, lead an incredibly busy life.  But I do know that leaving all my connections, and contacts with the people I love to facebook – reducing them to “likes” on a page, is not the answer.  I looked around the small group gathered in the room, and I felt genuine love for these people.  I enjoy their company.  I find them funny and engaging, just as I did some 20 plus years ago.

As we reflected on our friend – we did our best to catch up.  Then we hugged and went our separate ways.

I hope this will serve as a wake up for me, and that one at a time I will at least find the time to send an Email, or make a call.  Life is busy – but there has to be some time – just a few minutes.  There has to be.

We can’t be destined to meet again only at the next wake, when another one of the good guys is gone too soon.


Mourning his loss… hoping he is getting plenty of “nose pets” in heaven.

“Raising Small Souls” – a must see video

Normally I try to keep my life as a teacher, and a Cowden’s mom separate, but as I prepare for Meghan’s IEP meeting on Monday, I am reminded of this video.

I first saw it many years ago – but from time to time I watch it again.  My Meghan does well in school but has a host of other issues.  And, daily I see, admire, and love children who struggle terribly in school.

I think its about time they all get what they need.  If only I knew how to make it happen.