Unanswered Prayers

Sometimes my unanswered prayers end up being what I am most grateful for.

Sometimes what happens is not what’s “right.”

Sometimes we can fight to change it.

Sometimes we have to stop fighting and move on.

Sometimes we have to consider that there might be a bigger picture we can’t see yet.

There are a handful of songs that have shaped me as a person. Among them is “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers. Somehow the chorus has come into my mind at some of the most challenging times in my life.

“You got to know when to hold ’em,
Know when to fold ’em,
Know when to walk away,
And know when to run.
You never count your money
When you’re sittin’ at the table.
There’ll be time enough for countin’
When the dealing’s done.”

My life, sometimes my very existence, feels like it has been one fight after another.

I don’t mean aggressive battles among peers or friends. I mean battling “the system.” Whether it was fighting the limousine company that tried to change the contract 5 days before our wedding in 2000, (yes we walked away, got to the wedding in another limo, sued them, and won,) or health insurance companies that don’t want to pay for tests, procedures, scans, and surgeries Meghan and I have had, or doctors themselves who sometimes just don’t listen, the list of fights goes on and on.

I have a stellar record in this never-ending stream of confrontations.

But at what cost?

I sometimes worry my memory is failing. There are so many things I can not recall. I am sometimes comforted by the movie “Inside Out” and the notion of my brain making room for the things that matter.

The last decade has definitely been among the most formative of my life. Mom always said you do more changing in your 20s than in your teens. I’m not sure where that leaves your 40s!

Sometimes I shake my head in amazement at the journey that included removing a few organs between us, attacking a few tumors, hospitalizations, appointments, graduations, celebrations, and loss. Sometimes the loss hurts maybe more than it should.

I was lucky enough to arrive in my 40s with grandparents. Not many people can say that, and yet not a day goes by when I wouldn’t gratefully accept another one with them.

My father died in 2013, soon after I turned 40, and the ache from that loss, after we had so recently found each other is constant.

And that brings me back to “The Gambler.”

“You got to know when to hold ’em,
Know when to fold ’em,
Know when to walk away,
And know when to run…”

I’m not sure anyone knows Dad referenced that chorus in December 2013 in his VA hospital room when I was tasked with telling him his kidneys were shutting down in response to a cancerous tumor in his pancreas. He was so calm. I wanted him to fight so badly. I wanted to keep him with me. I wanted to scream. But he simply told me it was time. He had fought plenty in his life. And he had overcome. But, this time he knew…

School was not ever Dad’s strong suit, but he was a student of life. He knew the numbers, the stats, and the odds. He knew the reality of how his situation was going to end.

Unanswered prayers. Maybe they prevented things he never would have wanted. Maybe they were what we all needed. I am not sure, and I look forward to hugging him tightly again one day. But for now, the lesson of the value of those unanswered prayers is something he left behind, that I can call upon right now when I need it most.

I fell in January of 2019 in my classroom. I was teaching and a chair moved as a restless student changed position ever so slightly as I circulated the room. My feet did not anticipate it, I could not have seen it, and my left foot stayed on that chair while the rest of me hit the ground. Hard. It was one of those moments where I just knew things would never be the same.

I filled out all the accident reports before leaving for x-rays and MRIs. And, as so often seems to be the case, things got complicated.

My injury wasn’t properly diagnosed until March of that year, much later than I needed that diagnosis, as the damage done walking on a partial Lisfranc tear during those first 8 weeks proved irreparable.

I have fought for that foot on repeat since 2019. Surgery in 2020 did nothing to make things better. As a matter of fact, the addition of 3 screws, well, let’s just say the foot is unimpressed by their presence. And, the rock/ hardplace scenario continues as the surgeon told me removing them will make things worse.

A year of remote teaching did nothing for my foot, although that year, unanswered prayers brought me closer to some amazing colleagues, students, and families.

Teaching in person seems to accelerate things in the wrong direction.

I applied for accident-related disability retirement in 2021 and again in 2022. The denial that came this time, which follows a transcript of me being berated by a doctor who has never been in a classroom, shook me to tears on more than one occasion. The decision actually reads that the fall was not an accident.

I am pretty sure it is the textbook definition of an accident.

I was chastised for going to work. No one could explain how I should treat this injury if I stopped working and lost my medical coverage.

My foot is in never-ending pain. My left hip aches. My right knee is wearing from a constant subtle limp. Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is quite real if you ever wondered. Sleep is often more of a goal than a reality.

I should fight. I should appeal again. I should write a letter of complaint for the way this doctor handled me. I should. But, I am not going to.

I can’t fight this one.

And as many times as I have modeled for my daughter on repeat that she should fight with all her might, I am going to model this time, that sometimes you need to “… know when to walk away, know when to run…”

“If it costs you your peace; it’s too expensive,” and this fight is way over budget.

I spent a few years pulling back. The world has gone mad. The battle of #beatingcowdens alone is typically enough to keep me busy. In this post-pandemic and politically divisive country, I could not continue to be the additional heaviness in every conversation – so I stopped having them. I missed a lot in other people’s lives I am sure. But I think pausing to reflect on my own unanswered prayers, has put me in a better place than I was before.

People can judge all day about my new desire for some global and systemic ignorance. I know all too well that “knowing” is subjective and often solves nothing.

Unanswered prayers – well, maybe they are answered, just not on my terms. Maybe I just need to pause and think and shift perspective, no matter how hard it is.

And as a 49-year-old mom of one amazing young woman, wife to a seriously incredible human, a rare disease patient, and a cancer survivor, I have decided this battle for my foot has to get set free.

Who knows, maybe the answer came in forcing me to slow my roll and look around with more feeling and sincerity than ever before? The only speed I ever knew before was fast. I did not even know there were lower settings on the dial of life.

I have prayed a lot for the healing of my foot. I prayed a great deal that the medical review board would be compassionate and see the facts of my case. Both were not answered as I asked, but maybe they were answered in a way that was better or necessary.

In just the past few years I have spent a week on my knees as my husband, the healthy one, endured that week in the hospital battling Covid pneumonia. He came back to us, and our relationship, our central triangle has never been stronger.

I have prayed to have my child delivered back to me safely from more operating rooms than I care to count. I prayed fervently for Ella, Meghan’s faithful service dog, to arrive in time for her to transition to college. At college, both Meghan and Ella now flourish.

I have prayed extensively for things that I was blessed to see.

I have prayed for things that did not come to be.

I have prayed for peace, clarity, and understanding when things did not go as I hoped.

I have prayed for patience and wisdom, especially for things I can not comprehend.

And I find, on repeat, that when I sit still and really listen, I can find blessings pretty much anywhere.

I have come to wonder if maybe my unanswered prayers are just answered prayers I don’t quite comprehend…yet.

So, I am looking to take this life one day at a time. I am trying my best to make the world a tiny bit better and find joy in the little things. I am moving much slower. I am noticing things I never saw before.

And, remarkably, I am finding peace in this slow-paced gratitude.

Trying each day to be a better human, we remain…


Romans 5:3-5

Maybe it wasn’t a “Total Loss”

The Insurance Agent called Friday night.  He told me my car was a “Total Loss.”  I think I knew that after I saw this picture the first time, but it was still a little hard to hear.

I really did love my Hyundai
I really did love my Hyundai

Even though I understand the term “Total Loss” has specific connotations in the insurance world, the terminology wasn’t sitting quite right with me.  To me, a “Total Loss” means I didn’t learn anything.  It was a waste.  I took nothing from it.  That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

I have taken something away from every experience I have had in my life, especially the very trying ones that seem to be pelting me like hail on a blustery day.  Sometimes what I take away is positive, and sometimes – not so much.  But I always, always learn something.

1. No matter how long you stop, and no matter how hard you look, and no matter how sure you are that it is safe to go – a speeding car may hit you anyway.

2. If there are no witnesses to an accident – there is no way to “prove” excessive speed. This is the case no mater how many times your car spun around.

3. When you ride in an ambulance its less scary when you take someone you know.   And, there are people kind enough to ride in the ambulance with you even though they hardly know you at all.  There are real live angels among us!

4. When you are in an Emergency Room of a local hospital – burn your socks after walking on the floor, and don’t look too closely at the walls.  Don’t expect the doctors to have any idea – or to really care what Cowden’s Syndrome is, and how it affects your body.

5. There are some really really nice insurance people, and some really obnoxious ones.

6. Many doctors do not accept “no fault” insurance, so finding one to check you out may be a challenge.

7. The pain is worse before it gets better.

8. The pain of being told you are more liable than the guy speeding through the school zone simply because th stop sign is on your side of the intersection may not be physical, but it hurts your pride.  Especially when you know you handled it right.  It  is hard to get over hurt pride, but you can find peace with a clean conscience.  So glad I have one.

9. It doesn’t matter much to anyone that the guy who hit you didn’t even try to stop, swerve, honk, or perform any evasive maneuver before plowing through you.  It’s all about the stop sign.

10. Whiplash, and muscle spasms are real.  Muscle relaxants are useless because they can’t be taken during the day when you have to be a full-time teacher and mom, but they help you sleep a bit at night.

11. When you stop and consider your accident scene, and you realize all the things that could have gone so much worse, you are reassured that the angels really do watch over us.  (Thanks Angel Meghan… and all the others)

12. When you have Cowden’s Syndrome, and hamartomas on your spleen, they will send you for an abdominal sonogram right away, and then – like everyone else around here- be totally unsure what to do with the results.

13. Fax any important test results to a doctor you trust.  I am grateful the spleen didn’t rupture, but for those of you on my team, cheering for it to stay – cheer louder please.  The hamartomas are growing.  I will talk to my doctor at NYU this week.

14. When you are really at your lowest point, hurt, aggravated, and discouraged – make a decision to DO something positive. After realizing a child could have been easily injured in this mess,  I have established a petition for our local councilman to reevaluate the speed limit on the street where the accident occurred, and to label it a school zone, as well as to consider multiple two-way stops and speed bumps.  I have reached out to the local “Improvement Society” who already reached out to DOT on my behalf.  I have parents in my school fully supporting me and working to gain signatures on a petition.  Their children’s lives are in danger every day.  I want some things to change to make the children safer.

15. It is more fun shopping for a new car when you are ready to buy one, but my husband is helping make our current search more pleasant.  Always marry someone with a sense of humor.

16. Wear your seat belt!  Darn it if Cowden’s Syndrome isn’t going to kill me – a car accident won’t either.  So glad I was buckled up.

17. Those silicone implants can take a good hit.  Thankfully – nothing popped!

18.  I am not going on the teacups at Disney World ever again.  I have had enough spinning for a life time!

There… not a “Total Loss” at all…