Sunday, September 29, 2013

I lost my voice

Just now I was talking to my sister and reminiscing about the first time I ever sang in public. I was five, the song was "I am Learning How to Spell" and it was a Relief Society meeting. My dad bribed me with Twinkies.
Since that super scary day I have sung many times. From the state Capitol to private homes, weddings, funerals, in all sorts of choirs but mostly solo, too many religious events to even begin to count, for groups in the thousands to a quiet lullaby for one of my sweet babies.
This is not to say that I would win any awards or singing contracts. Far from it. Faaaaar from it! In fact I have only the most basic knowledge of music in general.  But my mom used to sing professionally so I figured that if she liked it, I must be good. It didn't ever occur to me that she was my mom and was obligated to say she loved my singing. And my dad made me feel like he was the proudest and happiest dad on earth whenever I sang.
My hardest but most special performance was at my dad's funeral. I didn't think I could get through it but my brother (also a singer) grabbed me by the shoulders and, for the first time I could remember, spoke roughly to me, telling me that I HAD to do it and dad was counting on me. I got up and sang one of his favorite songs, "I Hope You Dance", clearly and without shedding a single tear. I did it just for dad and I have no doubt he was proud and happy. As soon as I sat down though...
As I stated, I may never have been the best singer but I love, love, loved it. I thoroughly enjoyed it. My tape, CD, and now MP3 collection is largely made up of silly songs that I would sing at the top of  my lungs. I probably looked and sounded totally weird!
Then I had the stroke. My vocal cords were one of the hardest hit parts of me. I couldn't swallow because they were paralyzed. Finally, and honestly, purely miraculously, they started working enough to allow me to swallow, though still slowly and with great difficulty at first.
However, my voice has never been the same. I sound a bit like a chain smoker mixed with a baby mixed with an old man. My distinct voice is easily recognizable and I rarely have to introduce myself over the phone more than once. The pharmacist and I are good pals. Once I was in a hospital room and my old therapist, who was there seeing another patient, heard me and came in to say hi.  I have difficulty controlling the volume (my kids love that I can't really yell) and carrying a tune is out of the question.
Now I know that my body is very changed in many ways, but losing my voice is definitely one of the hardest effects. At times it makes me really sad or frustrated. Just yesterday my Jain heard "Twinkle, Twinkle  Little Star"  and was excited to tell me that it has the same words as the song I sing to her before bed. Not the same TUNE, just words.  Ugg!
Friday I was listening to music and had it set to random. It played 2 Taylor Swift, 2 Lady Antebellum, 1 Suzanne Vega, 1 song from Tangled, and another Taylor Swift. What happened to my U2 or Mumford and Sons? I guess my phone wanted to rub it in or something. My (good) eye started to tear up a bit.
Just then Jain came in and invited me on a date for that night at Classic Fun Center.
It may not take away all of the future self pity but it reminded me what is really important. Not being able to carry a tune does not matter one little bit at Classic Fun Center. And it is a small price to pay for being able to stay here.
Besides, it's only temporary. In Heaven I plan on singing until others beg me to stop!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Today is my dad's 71st birthday. I listened to "Drive" by The Cars, quoted a few of his favorite sayings like, "The church is true only after 10:00" and made cookies in his honor. I miss him. A lot. Every day.
Dad and Mom in love forever
Jain asked me what kind of cake he was having in Heaven. I told her carrot cake. Then I asked her what present she thought he was getting. She said a little doll that looks like grandma.

Today I took Aleq to soccer practice at a school and had a few minutes to kill so I let Tommy and Ana Jain play.  Since it was in the evening, I drove right up by the playground, which is on school grounds so I really should not have done it. But that's me, a total rebel.
After about a minute, about 30 little kids and a few adults ran up to play. It must have been a (way) after school program or something. I had the windows down and could hear a lot of questions about why a car was by the school.
Then one little girl, looking to be around 7 or 8, walked right up to my car and asked why I was parked there. She wasn't upset, just curious. I told her that I was only there for a minute but now that there were so many cute kids, I should really move. She accepted my answer but didn't go play, instead just looking at me for a second before asking, "What happened to your mouth?" Again, pleasantly curious.
I told her that I had an owie in my head that made my face look funny. She said, "That happened to my mom once. She went to the doctor and they fixed it." I told her that was a great idea and maybe I should call my doctor.
She was adorable! Aside from her talking to strangers, I thought that her mom should be proud of this little girl. She was truly concerned about me and super sweet about it.  She made me happy.
And as for calling my doctor, which one (of the 4 I see regularly) do I pick? Decisions, decisions. If only...

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

At First

I didn't tell about being abused all at once. It came out in smaller parts. Disclosing to different people happened at different times and places and would be longer than I could write in one sitting.

A few months after the abuse stopped, my mom called me into her room for a "closed door talk." Nothing good ever happened in a closed door talk. If you got called in, you were either in big trouble, big trouble.
So I was already on high alert from the start. She got right to the point and told me that she had heard that I told somebody that skip was mad at me and wanted to know why.
I knew I had to answer. I was scared to death. I tried to think of the least that I could tell her without telling her everything. I was still terrified that somebody would find out and blame/hate me.
I told her that skip had kissed me. Once. Then I begged her not to tell my dad.
She accepted my story and assured me that although she was horrified and angry, she would honor my plea for silence.
She regrets that decision now.
Years later, at age 19, I lived with my two brothers and my sister-in-law. My parents had moved to San Antonio and were here visiting for Christmas. During their visit, they went to dinner with skip and his wife, Barbara. I sat home that night, physically sick, worried that, now that they were no longer next door neighbors, skip would tell my parents what a terrible person I was. Little did I know that he was already being investigated by the police and was probably more anxious than I could ever have been.
After that visit, I went to live with my parents in Texas. After only a few days, my mom called me in her room for (you guessed it) a closed door talk. She said that skip had been arrested for sexually abusing another girl. Even then I didn't really get it. I felt sorry for the other girl but it never crossed my mind that I could be a victim. Sexual abuse happened only to little kids, right?  I had been 12 when he started.
A few mornings later, my mom came into my room and woke me up. I have never been a morning person so it was late, around 9. She said that the police had called her and that I had been named as one of skip's victims. Maybe I should get up and come downstairs so we could talk.
It clicked. All of a sudden I realized that I WAS a victim. I remember going into the bathroom and just shaking. I prayed as hard and quickly as I have ever done. I knew I was going to tell her.
I walked down the stairs on shaky legs and went into the family room.
"Mom, there's more." I began to tell her what I could. I had chosen not to think about details for so long so they were slow in coming to my mind.
I just could not handle the thought of telling my dad so my mom did it. He suggested we meet for dinner and we discussed things I could remember and logistics of the coming months, meetings with prosecutors, the court case, etc. For some reason, not one of us even considered not working with the police or not testifying.
We went straight from dinner to meet with the Bishop. He was wonderful, telling me that I had nothing for which to feel sorry, that I had done NOTHING wrong and that he would help in any way he could. He understood, however, that he was not trained in therapy, and recommended that I contact a professional as soon as possible.

That is all for this post. There is much more that happened after that first day but it's bed time and my pillow is calling to me. Loudly!   

Thursday, September 5, 2013


Inside the school is a big fish tank. It is the main decoration in the main entrance. So I was not surprised when Tommy told me that he and his friends had been playing by and looking at the fish.
A few days ago he told me that he and his friend were touching the water. Then on Tuesday he told me that his friend had caught a fish with his hand, taken it outside, and then put it down a sewer where they thought they could see it swim. I did not believe. At all. A 7 year old making things up to impress his friends.
Yesterday Tommy came running in after school, proudly holding his water bottle. "Look inside, Mom!"
So I did.
Inside the water bottle

I know it should have been a teaching moment but I could not keep a straight face. And I was totally impressed with the reflexes required to catch it with bare hands!
After I calmed down, we had a little chat and then I made sure he took it back this morning. Unfortunately he didn't quite make it to the office and instead took it to his class where his teacher saw all the boys trying to touch the poor thing.
He was sent to the principals office where he and his friend had a talk with her reiterating what I had said at home. The whole stealing is wrong especially LIVING things.
When I spoke with her later, the Principal and I had a good laugh.
Good grief, boy!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Dear Tracie

Dear Tracie,
I started replying to your comment on She Was Scared and realized my answer was much too long for a comment. I hope you don't mind if  I answer here.
Your comment brought back so many emotions. I remember feeling so scared, hopeful, angry, lost, etc. My family and I didn't know if I would be 100% in a week or if I would never leave the hospital bed. I felt that the staff giving  me words of encouragement was not one bit helpful because they didn't know much more about my situation than I did. I remember feeling like a novelty when the Neurology students came by for rounds. I even had one doctor who told me, "You're just not in any book." I knew what he meant but it didn't help to calm me.
My Neurosurgeon was a bit different. She had seen younger stroke survivors and I remember her telling me, "This is not your life." For some reason I trusted her and held on to that comment with all my night.
But what really helped me was my Doc in Rehab. He was 1 year older than I was and had suffered a stroke 8 years before. He got it! I trusted him and didn't even feel too bad when I would burst into tears (for no apparent reason) when he was in the room. Although he never shared his beliefs with me, I soon figured out that he shared my religious views, which was rare there, and I learned to seek his opinion on many things. He had some lasting effects of his stroke and had made adjustments. For instance, he had lost a lot of the use of his hands so to perform any procedures he had to have another doctor be his "hands" so luckily it was a teaching hospital and there were lots of other doctors.
They had a support group for stroke survivors there in Rehab. But really, I felt totally out of place. Every other person was at least 30 years older and was pretty much resigned to staying the way they were. I was young and hoped/planned to get better!
Honestly, I never found a support group where I felt I fit in. It's very frustrating at times. I still feel that I am really on my own to figure things out. Of course I have great family/friend support but it's really my deal.
That is why I love to hear from people like you. You get it. You know I'm not crazy (right??)
The best thing I was told was by my physical therapist, Tim. He told me that because I wasn't in the books that just meant I wasn't limited by any expectations. "They don't know you. They don't know what you can do! Put yourself in the books."
As far as my blog, my husband thought of the name. We wanted something that was not too sad but not too light minded. There really isn't anything funny about strokes but the resulting situations are at times absurd. As I have said before, I can either laugh or cry. Crying doesn't help. I know because I have tried.
I found out later that there really is a book called "Strokes For Dummies" and I think it's on Amazon.
I hope that they can find the cause of your strokes. You have 8 kids who need their mommy!
I would really like to hear from you more. Stories like yours always give me hope and inspire me to work harder. Keep fighting...for both of us.