Dear Dexter…

This is your Momma

Six years ago today you went straight from my tummy to the arms of Jesus. I have been trying so hard to think of a way to honour your life this week. Some way to show my love and to keep your memory alive. So this is what I have come up with. A very public letter. To me… the more I say your name and acknowledge your life the more you are alive to others as well. After all you didn’t just exist in my heart… ❤ You existed! You were alive. Just as alive as Izabelle is today. As much as this crazy world tries to tell me otherwise… living to only 19 weeks does not make your life any less important than anyone else’s. You were designed by the same Creator that I or anyone else was!

My little Pumpernickel, I won’t lie… I miss you and have so many wishes…

I wish I could have seen you take your first steps… to hear your first giggle… to watch you grow into a strapping young man… even to just know the colour of your eyes and the colour of your hair. I grieve not what I lost… but what I never got the chance to know.

In some respects you are a complete mystery to me. As I watch Izzy grow up and more and more of her personality come out, it highlights the fact that (for now) who you are is a mystery. To me, you are a big beautiful shiny wrapped present… but I will never fully know what is inside that gift… all the little nuances of who you are… until I reach heaven someday. And  I have to say… what a joyous day that will be! You have made Heaven so real for me.

Don’t get me wrong… I love my life… I know that I too have a plan and a purpose… and until God calls me home I will do my best to live this life to the best of my ability… but I also look forward to the day when I get to embrace you… my Son. My first born. For now, I will be satisfied with joyfully imagining you and everything God has made you to be.

As selfish as I am in ‘wishing’ you were here… I also know that you got to skip this crazy roller coaster of life… full of up and downs. It’s pretty amazing to think that you’ve never had a scraped knee, or a cold. You will never experience heart ache or loss of life. You have never cried or gone hungry. You are living in a Perfect Place! For that I will always be thankful. God is so good and I am so thankful that you went right from the safe haven of my womb to the loving arms of your Creator.

I will also always be so thankful to have been chosen to be your mother. As much as I ache when I think of holding you in my arms, I am always filled with thanksgiving as well. I am thankful to have been chosen to be your mom. I am thankful to God for giving me both my desired Boy and Girl. He completed my family when He created you and your sister… but your special place Dex was that you made me a Mother. There was no going back after that. You changed my heart forever, and your very existence made me ready for Izzy and all the excitement that her entrance into this world was going to bring. As much as I miss you I want you to know that you are a source of Joy in my life. Everyday I thank God for you. ❤ Knowing you are in Heaven with my grandparents and waiting for my arrival brings me such a picture of Joy and more Peace than you will ever know.

I Love You Dexter Pumpernickel Erikson… ❤

Here is me… your mother… sending your name yet again into cyberspace to publicly declare your existence & importance. I may have to wait to fully open my gift of you… but I love that gift no less than anything here on earth.

Love Always & Forever,

Your Momma ❤

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Ten Years And Counting…

Well Shaun we did it…  10 Years! 🙂 The first major milestone of marriage. Let’s check it off the list. Even though I know we are both secure in knowing that we are in it till the end I feel as though it is still good to acknowledge the hard work that we have put in to make it happily and more in love than ever, to 10 years. 😉

Although we both knew Marriage would be hard work and full of surprises I don’t think either one of us realized how much two people can go through in a short span of 10 years…

First came the initial melding of hearts… which let’s be honest… in marriage never really ends… but the first couple years for us were definitely interesting. Mixing a clueless just turned 26 year old optimistic idealistic with an almost 32 year old routine and hobby orientated realist definitely caused some sparks. From having to cancel hobbies to putting up with bike frames by the front door we amazingly made it through those first few years without any ‘forest fires’! 😉

Then came the journey to start a family. Due to my health history we knew it might be an adventure from the start but we really had no idea what we were in for. Reflecting on my pregnancies for me will always come with a flood of emotions… extreme joy & immense sorrow. I remember being so elated when we first found out we were pregnant with Dex. I remember being so cautious and so trying to do everything right. Especially because of my past I was so very careful. I was just about at the point where I was letting down my guard. We were past the 1st trimester and everything was going so great… so normal… and then the world shook. I was loosing amniotic fluid and no one could explain why. I found myself in the worst time warp imaginable… just waiting on my bed, talking to my unborn child and waiting for the inevitable. I felt as though I was in row boat out at sea spinning and having no knowledge of which direction I was going. But the boat did eventually stop spinning, and the direction was chosen, and my little man made his physical appearance but not before he made his true appearance in heaven. Looking back I can truly say that was the hardest time of my life. A piece of my heart was gone forever and there was no getting it back. They say that loosing a child is extremely hard on marriage… it can either bring you closer or tear you apart. I am so thankful that it did bring us closer. There were definitely hard times. Men grieve differently that women and especially because I… being the pregnant one… was the main one at that point who really had any sort of physical interaction, (After all it was my body that was changing as he was growing inside it) But Shaun… you stuck by me. You comforted me. You loved me. You took me away. I can never really express my gratitude for your love during that time. Just not being alone… having you working in the next room while I grieved meant the world to me. You showed me love when all I felt was loss. ❤

Of course… I wasn’t ready to try again right away… but because at the time we still had no idea why we lost Dex, everyone assured us that we were good to go for for baby #2. Once we started trying it actually didn’t take very long to conceive.  Joy mixed with trepidation and fear as I slowly walked out the 9 months. Baby #2 (Poppy) grew perfectly. I remember the tears of Joy I had when we had our 21 week ultrasound, finding out that we had a healthy baby girl growing perfectly in my womb. In fact, aside from a rash that started to make an appearance a couple months before she was born, everything was remarkably boring. But boring never lasts with us and Izabelle’s entrance into this world was anything but. With some much needed help she came into this world and helped us define our priorities quite quickly. All of a sudden we were no longer just husband and wife… we were now Mom and Dad. All decisions had to reflect that fact. And they did. It was hard going for the first month… Shaun, you had to jump on the plane with her and go to Vancouver only hours after her birth and I had to play the waiting game again. It was yet another time filled with turmoil, upheaval and fear… but Love and Faith were at our core so we made it through that crazy month with our love and family in tact. ❤

The first year of being a parent was quite hard. Not only did we have to deal with all the normal first time parenting jitters and ups and downs but we now had a new mountain in our midst… Lupus. The discovery did bring some peace on the loss of Dexter because we now understood that it was most likely the reason we lost him, but it also turned our world upside down. Having a new baby is challenging enough, but having a new baby while dealing with multiple health issues and symptoms is extremely hard. But I was so in love with our daughter… which I think made me somewhat blind to the copious amount of challenges that we endured that first year. In fact… it’s not really until I look back on that year do I really truly realize the amount of challenges that we faced. We were both so in love with our little Izzy. It’s safe to say that she brought so much joy into our lives and into our marriage and continues to do so every day. ❤

The last three years have now been about finding our groove… finding our balance. Still a work in progress but I think we are getting there. Unless there is a cure discovered or it is within God’s plan that I be healed completely I know I will continue scaling this mountain for the rest of my life… but there are ledges of rest… and I can definitely say that it teaches us… or should I say forces us to define our priorities and find some balance in life. The ‘bigger picture’ becomes more important and we really have had to learn to not ‘sweat the small stuff’. 😉

Although we both were not blind going into marriage, I think we definitely did not understand the full extent of what was to come. We knew marriage was going to be hard work and we were right. It’s amazing how the melding of two individuals into one is such a long drawn out process. Of course it’s a process that never really ends but with each passing year you both do start to think alike, you start to gravitate towards the same interests and areas of importance but you never loose your individual identity. I think it just naturally comes with the growth of love. The more you love someone and the more that love grows… the more you are truly putting yourself in their shoes… you start to care less and less about yourself and more and more about the one you love. Of course this process is not an easy one. As much as Hollywood would still lead you to believe that Love is easy… it’s not. It requires sacrifice and action and it requires effort from both parties. I am blessed that I am married to you Shaun… a man who also jumped into this marriage believing that ‘this is it’. It’s a ‘one shot pony’ and we are both in it till God calls one of us home. We both believe that with God’s help we can conquer all problems that come our way. 🙂

All in all, our 10 Years have not been boring. Shaun, I know everyone has a different story and everyone has an exciting adventure to share, I’m just so glad I am on this particular adventure with you. ❤ It has been a roller-coaster and it is probably not going to slow down any time soon. I expect more dips and side-winds and free-falls along the way… but I have you by my side… holding my hand… so I know we are good to go for 10 years… AND COUNTING! 🙂

I ❤ you Shaun,

Thank-you for the past 10 years… and God willing… the many more to come. ❤

Melissa ❤

Until next time… Thank-you for hearing my ‘right-hearted’ side on the matter.

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Thankfulness = Joy

I’ve been thinking a lot about Thankfulness over the last couple months… really since we had our Thanksgiving here in Canada… and now that our neighbors to the south are celebrating Thanksgiving today I thought it appropriate to write out my thoughts on the matter. I am so happy that in this day and age we have a holiday called Thanksgiving… a Holiday that is purely about spending time together as families and enjoying the simple things in life like food and fellowship. It’s so important… especially in a society where we all seem to be stuck on the fast forward button. 😉 After all, it is those simple times that are remembered the most. 🙂

I have found in my own life that there is a huge connection between thankfulness & joy. I am now going to steal, yet another quote from my daughter’s favorite show VeggieTales… “A Thankful Heart Is A Happy Heart”. This for me says it all and is so very true. When I am thankful… even for just the small things… my heart is happy. But if I wallow… if I can’t look around and see something to be thankful for… then I am miserable. It really is a pretty simple equation… Thankfulness = Joy. Of course, as with many things… knowing what to do and doing it are two very different things. Thankfulness is the key to joy, however it takes effort on my part… and depending on the day… it can take a lot of effort.

It can be so discouraging to wake up sick and in pain on a daily basis… and I cannot lie and say that I do not have my moments where I want to wallow in self-pity and tell the whole world how hard life is for me… but thankfully I remember that this will not solve anything. This will not change my challenges or magically make anything better. In fact, all it does is make me more miserable. I then remember that despite my measly challenges (because let’s face it, I am very aware that everyone has challenges… and most of them are more challenging than mine ;-))… I have SO MUCH to be thankful for.

I have an incredible husband, an amazing daughter, a son waiting for me in Heaven, the most loving parents, a roof over my head, a free country to live in, lots of friends and family and really the list could go on and on

The point is… it is possible to take any and every situation and find something… anything… to be thankful for. And I know that if I can do that… then even on my worst days I can look into my daughter’s beautiful blue eyes and experience the joy that comes from having a thankful heart. ❤

As always… thank-you for hearing my ‘right-sided‘ heart on the matter…

Melissa ❤

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It’s A Meaningful Life…

Sometimes the best lessons in life… the ones that really hit home… come from simplistic sources. You watch good and wholesome lessons with your child in hopes that she will get something out of it and then low and behold it’s you that learns the greatest lesson. That’s what happened to me this week. It’s not a lesson that I haven’t heard before but it is a lesson that I needed to hear again.

Izzy loves VeggieTales (For those of you who have never heard of them before… It’s a christian children’s cartoon) and this week she took out of our Church library a Christmas episode called ‘It’s A Meaningful Life’. As you can probably guess by the title it is a  child’s adaptation of the classic ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’. I took the time to sit down and watch the whole thing with her yesterday and I came out the other side crying like a baby. Now before you laugh too hard at my slightly pathetic emotional upheaval let me explain the premise of the story and why it invoked such a meaningful and emotional response.

Larry the Cucumber (the main character) has hopes and dreams about leaving his hometown… about becoming a big football star and supposedly making something of his life. However his hopes are dashed when he misses the touchdown pass and gets injured in the process. He then ends up marrying his sweetheart, running his father’s toy train factory and having 3 kids… twin boys and an adopted girl. He loves his family but he cannot help but wonder and still think that his life would be better and have more purpose if he had just caught that pass.  From there he takes a magical train ride and gets a glimpse of what his life… and the lives of those around him… would look if he had gotten his way. In his alternate reality he leaves the town, becomes rich… but still isn’t happy… never marries and because he never gets married his twins do not exist and his adopted daughter is never adopted. Through the whole process he learns that even though his life did not turn out the way he had originally planned it actually turned out better… because he had his family. He also learned that he had purpose, because even though it may have not looked like much on the outside, God was using him to make a difference in the lives of others. From just having his children, adopting his daughter, showing love by coaching football, employing people at his toy shop… it all meant something… it was all making a difference.

I know what you are thinking… nice story… but why was she crying?

So here’s my confession… I have totally felt like Larry. I have been at that place where I have thought… If Only? Or what can I really do to make a difference? Especially since my diagnosis, I have had times where I have struggled with self-worth. Where I look to Heaven and ask God what good am I really doing here?

So in watching this ‘Children’s Story’ I got a shot in the arm. God tapped me on the shoulder and helped me to see…. yet again… that I do have a planI do have a purpose. Yes, I have struggles, yes I may not be able to do what I once could do… but that’s ok. It does not lessen my purpose in life… it just changes it. My priorities shift (which actually isn’t a bad thing at all) but my purpose remains.

Ultimately, I believe that the whole reason for existence is to show God’s love to others. Whether it’s showing love to your neighbor, your teachers, your parents, your friends, your siblings, your spouse or your children. IT ALL MATTERS! And it really doesn’t need to be as complicated as we make it out to be sometimes. As humans we tend to feel that we will be satisfied with our lives ONLY if everything lines up the way we think it should… but in reality… time and time again… I have seen proof of a Creator in my life because it HASN’T lined up the way I have thought it should. That’s part of the reason why I love my Faith. My relationship with God assures me that I don’t have to be in the driver’s seat. If I would have been in the driver’s seat, I already know my life would be a mess. I love that I can trust that God knows the best for me. And it doesn’t matter what he leads me through… even if it’s hard… or practically impossible… I know He will bring me out on the other side STRONGER than I was going in.

Thank-you God for the simplistic shot in the arm…

I have a Plan… I have a Purpose… 

I have a MEANINGFUL LIFE! ❤

Thank-you again for hearing my ‘right-sided’ heart on the matter…

Melissa ❤

PS. Don’t ForgetYOU too have a Plan and a Purpose! ❤

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (NLT)

For Auntie…

A funeral can be a very beautiful thing. When done true to that individual that passed on, it really becomes a reflection of that person. A simple taste of who that person truly was and a much easier time to say our ‘goodbyes for now’. Recently, I had the honour and privilege of going to my Auntie Marilyne’ s funeral. It was unconventional, broke a few funeral rule books and in doing so, spoke volumes of who my Auntie was in life and what was so very important to her… three main things come to mind… Faith, Love and Family. As I sat, my Mom on one side and my daughter on the other, I was again so reminded of the truly important things in life. God gave us one life to live and it really does matter how we live it. Hearing stories, and thinking of my own treasured memories of my Auntie, I came to the conclusion that what was said of my Auntie was exactly what I wanted people to speak of me someday. I want to be known as someone who put Faith, Love and Family at the top of my priority list. At the funeral, graveside and the lunch that followed I did not have the emotional strength to get up and speak about Auntie’s importance in my life. So, this is me dedicating this post to my Auntie and taking a moment in reflection on who she was, not only to me, but to everyone around her.

Her Faith – From the treasured old hymns that she loved to the hand written sign in her casket stating “I am Home. I am waiting for you! – Marilyne” it was very apparent that my Auntie was a very strong woman of faith. She was dedicated to sharing her faith not only verbally but practically in so many ways. I cannot remember many conversations with my Auntie where some aspect of ‘faith’ didn’t come up. She truly not only talked the talk but also walked the walk… providing us ‘youngin’s’ with such an amazing example of a strong faith walk. She struggled for many years with health issues and yet it never dampened her Faith… in fact, it only strengthened it. She knew the art of ‘Leaning on the Everlasting Arms’. Jesus, was her pillar of strength. She knew that God had her on this Earth for a reason and she did her best to fulfill her God given destiny.

Her Love – Love came second nature for my Auntie. She just knew how to spread it. Whether it was through her amazing cooking and baking, her crazy generosity or just opening up her arms for some of the best hugs I can recall… Auntie knew how to Love. At the funeral there were so many stories of Auntie spreading love… from taking in foster children, visiting prisoners, down to simply baking a chocolate cake for a woman confined to a wheelchair when she found out it was her favorite dessert… that’s just who she was. For me, I will always remember the care packages she would send our way when I was a kid. Especially the ones that came when I was struggling health wise. When I tried on the clothes… especially the princess dress that she would usually send my way… I felt so specialso pretty… despite the iv bruises, lack of weight and horrible hair that came with the copious amounts of medication… and that to me, spoke volumes of my Aunties’ love for me. She knew I needed to feel like, even just for a moment, a normal little girl who dances around her living room in a pretty poofy dress. I know these packages also spoke volumes of love to my parents… who sacrificed so much… including jobs… in order to stand together by my bedside at the hospital. She always saw the gap and filled it with whatever practical love she could find.

Her Family – Family was incredibly important to my Auntie. Even at her funeral, it was mainly just family and those that were considered ‘like family’. Both Auntie Marilyne and Uncle Len knew what it was to invest in their loved ones. They understood how important it is to spread their wisdom to the next generation. And watching not only their three (amazing) daughters share about their mother but also their grandchildren sharing the comfort of Psalm 23 to the family, it really showed. The love between Auntie and Uncle also spoke volumes about Auntie’s love of Family. She knew the importance of having a strong marriage. A marriage that can make it through the ups and downs and come out stronger than ever. Watching my Uncle kneel to the side of the open casket and take my Auntie’s hand showed me just how full of love their marriage was. He insisted on carrying her casket because he wasn’t going to let anyone else carry her… he just loves her that much, which in turn just shows me how much she loved him as well.

Like I said at the beginning of this post… a funeral can be a beautiful thing… especially when it’s the funeral of a beautiful person such as my Auntie. She was not perfect… none of us are… but she was an amazing example to me. Reflecting on her life has yet again highlighted the importance of mine. Not that I am anyone overly special, but like my Auntie believed, I was given this life by God and health challenges and all it is important how I live it. I very much want the same things to be said of me someday at my funeral. Like my Auntie, I want to be known as a strong woman of faith, who believed in loving unconditionally and putting family first.

I love you Auntie Marilyne. Please give my son one of your amazing hugs for me. Until we meet again… ❤

Thank-you for reflecting with me and for hearing my right-sided heart on the matter. ❤

Recognizing the Face in the Mirror…

I’d like to say that I’m not a particularly vain person. I’ve never been obsessed with my appearance. However, like most women, it’s nice to look at the person in the mirror and feel good… to feel attractive. If I’m being honest, this is definitely a day to day struggle right now. It’s particularly bad when I see pictures of myself. Somehow I just don’t recognize myself. Anyone who is on heavy duty medications or has a disease they are contending with, understands the havoc it can ensue on your ‘outward’ appearance. Because of this fact, I feel no need to go into details about every little aspect of what I do not like about my body except for one… it is what I ‘not-so-affectionately’ call… ‘Moon-Face’.

When I look into the mirror right now I see a face that resembles the shape of a basketball and I feel as though I have gained 30 or so pounds… even though I remain the weight (for the most part) that I was before my pregnancies. It’s as though I have stepped  into some weird simulation machine that shows me what I would look like if I just sat on my tush and ate ice cream and cookies all day. Of course, I think that is what is bothering me the most. The fact that I am NOT sitting around and eating cookies and ice cream all day. This ‘Moon-Face’ is not a result of a lack of will power. This is a result of a medication. A medication that on one hand I am extremely thankful for… it allows me the luxury of less pain when I get out of bed in the morning, picking up my daughter and giving her that airplane ride that she so frequently asks for, going for walks, being able to still enjoy the outdoors and riding my electric bike… something that makes me feel a bit like my former lupus self. So naturally the latter definitely outweighs the former, but the frustration of having to choose between the two can be emotionally overwhelming at times. The choice to move and ultimately be in less pain or the choice to like my appearance, are not always as easy as one would originally think because it all becomes a matter of identity. What you see in the mirror is still your initial feelings about yourself. And it certainly doesn’t help that our culture is slightly obsessed with our appearance. We are constantly told and inundated with the pressure to look and be a certain way. So the key I believe is to be able to look past all that… to see not the face but what is beyond the face.

So here is where I talk about my process of trying to overcome. We all have struggles, and this is one I face… but it is so important to not stop at the struggle. That’s when it gets out of control and depression tries to rear it’s ugly head. I have to have a process. A way to deal. I have to take the control back into my hands. The side effects of the medications I am on may not be my choice but it is my choice to take them and to be thankful that there is such a drug because ultimately it gives me a quality of life that I would not have without it. As for getting past the appearance factor. That is a mental challenge but with God’s help I can do it.

There is a verse that I am so grateful to be able to reflect on… 1 Samuel 16:7 “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’” I am so thankful for my faith. It keeps me grounded to know that Jesus loves me no matter what and he is always with me. I can go to Him with these decisions and medication choices and I know He provides me with the wisdom I need to make the right choice. I also know He is teaching me to look past what I see with my eyes when I look in that mirror… to see instead the heart and the smile that He’s given me. To know that it doesn’t matter how ‘poofy’ my face is, my smile remains that same and with His help I can have an inner joy that far surpasses the ‘poofy-ness’ and makes me far more attractive to others. Let’s face it… no matter what society dictates… who would you rather be around? An attractive girl who is conceited, moody and mean or an unattractive girl who is kind and full of joy? (PS. Please know that I am not saying that you cannot be attractive and kind, I am just making a general point ;-P) I think most would pick kindness and joy over outward appearance. 

It is good to remind myself that at my funeral someday, people are not going to be remembering how ‘poofy or not poofy’ my face was, but they are going to remember whether I was a loving and kind person. Whether I was able to smile and laugh through the good and the hard times. These are the things that really matter. These are the things that I should be focusing on when I gaze in the mirror and see those pictures of myself. Not the face, but the smile and the good times that I am having in those pictures. The memories that I am able to create with the help of these medications…

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Someday I hope to see my cheekbones again, but until then, I know that there is so much more to life than cheekbones.

Thank-you again for hearing my ‘right-sided’ heart on the matter…

Melissa ❤

 

My Online Tools Of Encouragement…

My last blog post was about ‘choosing to be positive’ even when the choice is hard… so today I thought I would share a glimpse at the different online tools I use to help me stay positive…

  1. Instagram. Those of you who follow me on Facebook probably think I have an Instagram addiction… and you would be correct. 😉 But I promise my heart has the right motive. I am certainly not doing it to prove what a great perfect life covered in ‘filters’ I have… I do it mainly to help remind myself how much I have in this world to be thankful for. When I take a picture, crop it carefully, choose the filter, position it and of course try to think of the perfect caption… I am constantly smiling as I remember the moment the picture was taken. I have learned that sometimes it’s the simplest moments that are the ones that deserve the most gratitude. It is also part of my creative output and how I choose to document my ever growing Izzy. Some scrapbook… I Instagram. 😉 (I guess I should also confess that deep down I have always dreamed of being a professional photographer… so Instagram is where I get to pretend that dream came true.) 🙂
  2. One To Live By. On my Facebook feed I often try to share some sort of motivational post, add my own little touch and then label it… One To Live By. I do this, in part to motivate myself but mainly to try to be a source of encouragement to others. I have also learned that one of the best ways to help yourself stay encouraged and positive is to stop thinking about yourself and start thinking about others. To build someone else up is the best way to end up feeling encouraged ourselves. I find the more I am thinking of others the less I am thinking about what I am going through and ultimately have no time for a ‘pity party’. 😉 Of course… my One To Live By’s are pretty simplistic but I am a firm believer that it really doesn’t take much to encourage someone.
  3. This Blog. Ultimately this is also why I started this Blog. It is therapeutic for me but most of all my heart wants to encourage. I know sometimes my words can be a bit heavy and full of real life… but I want that real life to be taken, used and ultimately be an encouragement to someone out there…

Like I expressed before… one of the best ways for me to stay positive is to actually stay as far away from me as possible. Of course I mean that in the best and nicest sense. Life happens and we must deal with it and process it. However ‘processing’ can soon become ‘dwelling’ and dwelling can turn into a ‘pit of discouragement’ pretty quickly. But if I start to remember the beautiful moments I am blessed with and focus my attention on building others up, I soon find myself smiling and laughing and enjoying this precious life that I have been blessed with.

Until next time…

Melissa ❤

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The Choice To Be Positive…

By nature I would say that I am way more of a ‘glass half full‘ not a ‘glass half empty‘ kinda girl. For the most part in my life I would say being positive has always been easily. I can attribute that to my God-given personality, my dependence on my Faith and my upbringing. My parents were always amazing at staying as positive as possible… even when situations in the natural looked far from positive. We have cried many times as a family but I know we have laughed a lot more. I remember countless times in the hospital growing up, when the doctors would come in with results that we less than optimal, I would watch the doctors, then look back to my parents. The head-knowledge may have been too much for me to understand, but the ‘heart‘ has always been my specialty. 😉 Anyways… what always amazes me… especially now when being a parent myself… was that no matter what the news was, good or bad, I would see this positive determination come over their faces as they walked back over to me. There was always a ‘non-cookie cutter‘ smile on their faces, and even if it meant another test I had to go through or some other hurtle I had to now climb, than they would always let me know that they were with me… Jesus was with me… and that I could do it. Then, of course there was usually some sort of cheesy joke or song from my dad followed up by my mom teasing my dad about that same joke or song which always brought a smile to my face because that was the love of family that I knew and felt so safe in. So in my training and by my birthright ‘being positive‘ has always been very natural for me…

And then Life happened… again… and again… and again…

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that I have been battling for the past 3 years. It was discovered, but not yet diagnosed, when I was pregnant with Izabelle. I am not currently ready to talk more about this disease. A quick google search will help you find scads of information… but I will warn you if you make the search. Lupus, and especially Lupus symptoms can be different for each individual who has it. Although, certain symptoms are required for an official diagnosis, I have found, yet again, everyone’s story with this disease is a different and individualistic one. And now in the words of Forrest Gump… “that’s all I have to say about that…” right now… except I guess to say that is has definitely rocked my world… and rocking more like an earthquake not an enjoyable rock concert. ;-P

So I must be completely honest and transparent here and say that my ‘natural’ inclination to be positive has hit a few hiccups over the past few years. What once was very natural for me now becomes a daily CHOICE and sometimes STRUGGLE. Even just the other day, I had a test done that I was hoping would shed some light on some new symptoms I am experiencing and the test came back wanting… yet again, no answers to be had… just another mystery that continues to haunt me on a daily basis. Now, coming out of that appointment I won’t lie… I cried. As soon as the doctor left the room, the waterworks came. I don’t condemn myself for them. I do believe it is very natural and healthy to cry… to express when needed… I have also learned about myself that if I do not verbalize or emotionally express at least the bare minimum of how I feel… I tend to ‘eat‘ and ‘suppress‘ those emotions, they do not become dealt with, which then just ends up causing more trouble later anyways. 😉

So, I had my moment. Shaun and Izzy were with me, and Izzy who is becoming more and more aware everyday of emotions and how to deal with them looked at me then turned to her Father and declared… “Mommy is sad…” I believe it was that moment where I found a tissue, took a look at my medicated puffy eyes in the mirror and saw the same look of positive determination that my mom used to wear come over myself. It wasn’t perfect and and not quite as strong as my mother’s but the CHOICE was made. As I held my daughters hand and we walked out of the hospital the next step began. The choice was made and now the step of processing was to begin. Just because it’s a choice doesn’t mean there is no process involved. I do not believe… or at least I know I can’t just go from sad to happy in 2 point 2 seconds. It definitely is a process and this is a sneak peak of what my process looks like…

I make a conscious effort at remembering…

  1. I am not alone in more ways than one. I have an amazing family… which includes but is not limited to… an amazing husband, a beautiful child, incredible parents, great siblings and siblings-in-law, nephews and nieces and many many friends etc… I think you get the point.. lol… and I have my Faith which means that even if I had absolutely no one here on earth I have a friend that never leaves me.
  2. Gratitude & Thankfulness. I mentally go through a list of things to be thankful for and the more I consciously think about it that more that list grows.
  3. To try and remember what could be worse about the situation. I know this is an extension of 2 but to me it helps to make my gratitude about the situation more specific and less general.
  4. To talk to God and read my Bible. Now please note… I am just describing my process. This part is what reminds me and keeps my focused on the first 3 steps. If I denied this step then I’d be denying my whole process. 😉
  5. And repeat… 😉

I have learned in my life that we will always have ‘feelings‘… and they are not always going to be ‘happy-glow-y‘ ones…

I have learned that you can be the most optimistic person in the world (not that I’m saying that’s me ;-)) and still struggle with those feelings on a daily basis.

But thankfully I have also learned that the feelings are just the start… there is the choice that comes after. Sadness, Anger, Disgust, Fear… we all struggle… we all have them… and we all have a CHOICE as to what to do with them. You probably have your own process… your own dealing mechanisms, I’m just happy I have mine.

I know that no matter what ‘Life Happens‘… if I Choose to deal… to move forward… I move on from the initial reaction and move into the life that still has to be lived. And there is so much more JOY to be found in that. If I never move past the let down, the disappointment, the fear, then that is where I reside and there is no Joy to Life.

As much as it can be hard sometimes… the fact that being positive is a choice is ultimately pretty awesome because I am the one who holds the ultimate power in my hands. I can choose to live in the disappointment, and in fact be miserable, or I can make the choice to process… move forward… and enjoy every God-given breath that is given to me. So here is me declaring to the world…

I CHOOSE to be positive… no matter what in life comes my way.

Thanks for ‘hearing‘ my heartbeat again…

Melissa Erikson ❤

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The One I Got To Keep…

First of all… I have to say thank-you to every one of you who read and encouraged my on my first and very emotional blog post… Thank-you for coming with me on that journey. I have decided that this whole blogging experience is very therapeutic for me, so even if everyone decides that I am a little too long winded… (which is entirely true. ;-P)  I will continue… if nothing else, than just for me.  So please know that I am just honoured to have your interest and humbled to know that there are people who may like to read what I have to say. My heart is to always be an encouraging individual and not to bring heaviness and in essence be a ‘drag‘. So please know, that I always have the best intentions when I put these words to paper.

Last time I specifically talked about the beautiful baby boy that I was not able to keep… but immediately after I wrote and shared that post, I knew and felt compelled to share about the bundle of JOY and LIFE that, by God’s grace and mercy, I got to keep.

My ‘keeper‘… Izabelle Poppy Erikson was born on September 25, 2013 and boy did this adventure start off with a bang as well. I say this, because like my explanation of my right-sided heart, my life is full of the abnormal and it didn’t stop with the birth of my daughter. I will say though, that everything went very well in pregnancy… so well actually that it was a little eerie for me. I had just lost my son the year before, so walking through the next pregnancy was a step by step faith process and went very well.

Then it was time for her to make her debut…

Labor started relatively normal although contractions were coming a lot faster than I had expected and heard about. So we (My parents, Shaun and I) went to the hospital earlier than expected and did a lot of walking the halls. Everyone seemed to say everything was normal… just keep moving around and let it happen. So that’s what we did. It wasn’t till a lot later that I felt something was a little off. Contractions were coming fast and furious and my body was telling me to push… but everyone was saying that I was not dilated enough and to hold on. Now I cannot speak for every lady who has experienced labor because I believe everyone’s story is there own… but for me that was horrendous. When your body is in so much pain and then you have to try to suppress the urge to push… I won’t lie or sugar coat it… it was awful.

I can never thank my husband enough for that night because I only made it through by staring into his eyes as he breathed with me never shifting his focus. That and thank my parents because they were the ones keeping the prayerful and watchful vigil with the nurses and doctors…  thus allowing Shaun to keep his focus on me.

Needless to say, they finally realized that although her head was down and she was definitely  trying to ‘escape‘ the womb, her head was just off enough that she could not get out. They convinced me to get the epidural to help relax the situation and encourage her to shift to the right direction. Unfortunately, that too was an adventure because I apparently am one of those few lady’s where the epidural does not fully work for whatever reason. There was some relief to be had but I will admit that I was definitely hoping for more. 😉

By now, poor Izzy was too stressed and it was determined that she needed to come out ASAP… so off to the c-section we went. By that time, I was getting pretty heavily drugged because the epidural was not working as best as it could and they gave me some pretty heavy drugs that completely knocked me out right after she was born. I remember hearing that she was ok and that Shaun was with her and going to the NICU so I finally let myself succumb to the effects… not that I really had much choice. ;-P

Now I am no stranger to waking up groggy and drugged in a recovery room… too many times to count actually… but the urgency of ‘waking up enough‘ to finally meet my daughter was beyond urgent. The nurse was very kind and I know she could sense my urgency and I remember her ushering things along as well. So it wasn’t too long and I was in a wheelchair and on my way to the NICU to meet my baby. I remember still being quite drugged but just so happy to finally see her. She was dirty, covered in tubes, puffy and the absolutely most wonderful thing I had every seen in my whole life. She was alive and she was mine. I got to hold her foot and touch her hand and that’s about it. It was the shortest visit that a new mom should ever have to have but I was elated even just for that small moment.

So with that small cracker crumb of a visit, they sent me back to my room and it wasn’t very long after that that they walked though our hospital room door and told us that she had to make the air ambulance trip to BC Children’s to further her treatment. She had a very bad case of ‘meconium aspiration* and definitely needed the extra help that only BC Children’s could provide. So the adventure was to continue and this time it was up to Daddy to be the watch-horse. I, of course was not well enough to make the trip and we knew that one of us had to be there for her. So steady as a rock, my husband’s mission was about to begin. But there was still one last thing that we had to do before she left the premises… My baby girl was NOT leaving without a Name. You see… I was ultimately waiting until I could hold her in my arms to decide on a name… We had a few picked a few out and I thought we would have some beautiful family time to make the ultimate call. Instead… we had a few minutes.

Thankfully, I think both Shaun and I had a favorite. We both loved the name Izabelle, loved the idea of calling her Izzy for short and I especially LOVED the meaning “consecrated to God“. Izabelle is also the Spanish name for Elizabeth with is not only my middle name but my mother’s as well. It also goes back much further in my genealogy, so it was very important to me to pass it on. ‘Poppy‘ was our affectionate term for her in the womb… started off as ‘poppyseed‘ and then then just got naturally shortened to Poppy, so to me her identity was already wrapped up in that name and had to continue.

It all happened so fast and there I was telling my baby girl and my husband goodbye for now. My heart was yet again being ripped out and yet I knew what had to be done. I clung with every fiber of my being that she was mine and I would see her again. I have no doubts that I had supernatural help and strength that day. Everything was no unknown at this point and I had to cling to the One who I know holds everything in His hands… So that’s what I did. I laid my little ‘Poppy‘ in God’s hands and let go. I couldn’t do anything more… I had to leave the rest up to Him.

And now here we are 2 and a half years later with a healthy, bouncing, challenging, stubborn and completely joyous toddler on our hands. ❤

As many of you know Izabelle’s adventurous beginnings did not stop at me saying goodbye… I was able to ship out (via air ambulance) about a day and a half later and recover in the ladies hospital which is connected to Children’s. We ended up spending a whole month in and out of the hospital (2 weeks in Vancouver and 2 weeks in Kamloops) before we were finally able to bring our daughter home. That month too, was full of adventures that I am sure I will get to as some point on this journey… but it is not the time to write a book… 😉

Instead, I must bring the joy that this post deserves and say that I am so in awe and amazed that since we brought her over the threshold of home she has never had to go back to the hospital for her health… not even for a serious infection of any kind.  She is so happy and healthy and it does my heart so much good just to watch her be her. To grow and change, smile and laugh… she brings bounce and joy everywhere she goes.

In just taking this time to reflect and remember the challenging start she had, I am even more in awe of God’s grace and His blessing that He has bestowed on us in the form of this toddler so full of life (unexpectedness, stubbornness, tantrums and crazy giggles that melt your heart). I am at peace in knowing that her name has a meaning that states my dependence on my and her Creator, but ultimately I know that she is one of God’s greatest gifts to me. So I must publicly declare, yet again, my gratitude to God for ‘my keeper‘. In that gratitude I commit to being the best possible Mom that I can be to the gift that I have been given.

Now I feel as though I have at least declared public affection for both of my children. The love I hold for both is precious and unique, just as I believe it is for every child that comes along. Dexter will always be my first and I will always hold a special place just for him in my heart… and Izabelle will always be my “Joy in the Morning” **.

Thank-you for reading my ‘right-sided heart‘ full of gratitude…

Until my bravery returns…

Melissa Ann Elizabeth Erikson ❤

*PS. For those who are interested in learning more specifics of what Izabelle was struggling with when she was born I have attached a link that explains ‘meconium’ aspiration. I did not want to get into technical details and instead allow you to look up more info if you so choose. This is me… trying to respect your gracious time in reading this blog. 🙂

http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/meconium.html

**Psalm 30 (nlt)

1 I will exalt you, Lord, for you rescued me.
    You refused to let my enemies triumph over me.
O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
    and you restored my health.
You brought me up from the grave,[a] O Lord.
    You kept me from falling into the pit of death.

Sing to the Lord, all you godly ones!
    Praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,
    but his favor lasts a lifetime!
Weeping may last through the night,
    but joy comes with the morning.

When I was prosperous, I said,
    “Nothing can stop me now!”
Your favor, O Lord, made me as secure as a mountain.
    Then you turned away from me, and I was shattered.

I cried out to you, O Lord.
    I begged the Lord for mercy, saying,
“What will you gain if I die,
    if I sink into the grave?
Can my dust praise you?
    Can it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear me, Lord, and have mercy on me.
    Help me, O Lord.”

11 You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
    You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
12 that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.
    O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!

 

 

 

 

DexterCardia

Today I am making a big leap of faith… and I have my son Dexter to thank for it. I have been debating for a long time about starting a blog. I often want to share my thoughts, my experiences, my prayers, my hopes and my dreams. But I am also a very private person so thinking of sharing these thoughts with the outside world can be scary… but today is the day that I conquer the fear and begin. At least I have peace and know that reading a blog is a choice. I’m not forcing it down anyone’s throat like I would be with a Facebook status. 😉 Everyone has a choice whether or not they actually want to read a blog. So for those of you who are reading this…

Thank-you for reading and in essence hearing my heart on certain matters. But this is where I must warn you before I go any farther. On here I plan to be very open about who I am… I will be sappy… I may get emotional… and I definitely know that my faith in Jesus will come up on a regular basis because that is just who I am. This is not meant ‘beat’ anyone over the head or be ‘preachy’. It is just meant to be a true reflection of the person that I am. I know I cannot please everyone with my words but at least with a blog everyone has a choice as to weather or not they want to read those words. So bear with me as I discover what I have to say…

So… why today? and why do I thank my son? don’t you have a 2 year old daughter? and why is it named DexterCardia?

Well, first things first… I was born with dextrocardia, which is not very common and in essence means that my heart is actually located more to my right side than the usual left side. There is more to the explanation but I’ll leave that for a different time. The point is that it makes my physical body quite different from the average and in essence is a reflection of my whole life in general. It has been very different, far from average, but it has been all about ‘the heart‘. You see Dextro means ‘Right‘ and Cardia means ‘Heart‘. But wait you say… your Blog is called Dexter not Dextro Cardia…

Dexter Pumpernickle Erikson is my son’s name and he is my inspiration for starting this Blog. He would be turning 4 today if I would have been allowed to keep him here on earth. I gave birth to my stillborn son on March 9, 2012… He was 19 weeks and he was beautiful. We did not get a lot of time with his precious remains afterwards but I remember a few key features that I will always treasure in my heart. I was able to hold his hand and he had the tiniest long fingers I have ever seen… good for playing the piano like his Daddy. His shoulders were also very stout for such a tiny body. Like I said before… he was beautiful.

Unfortunately I can not remember a ton of other physical features because life seems to blur when emotions are high… and although I tried to take in every fine detail memories tend to fade. Which again leads me to why he is my inspiration. Words are Powerful and once you write them down they become pretty permanent. So by declaring my son’s anniversary here in this blog… I am helping his memory live on and on.

As much as it feels sometimes that life’s experiences are just for one’s own reflection I believe there can always be a plan and a purpose to be shared from those experiences. That’s what makes God so great… He can take any experience good, bad or horrific and if you give it to him He will bring something good out of it. You might not see it at the beginning but God is faithful and always will. I can testify to that fact.

I have had many different, hard, joyous and heart wrenching experiences in my life and in writing about them I am hoping that God can use my words to touch others. Saying ‘goodbye for now‘ to my son was the hardest and most heart wrenching experience that I have ever been through. He is why my heart is even so different now than it was 4 years ago.  So this blog is for him and in essence he has given me the guts to make this leap of faith into the online blogging world. The things I can do to show him love and remembrance are few and far between… but this is something I can do. And by sharing his story and my story I can help his memory live on here on earth… not just in my heart but in the hearts of others as well.

So… Thank-you for being ‘the others’ and for taking this journey of explanation and remembrance with me… ❤

Melissa Ann Elizabeth Erikson (Wife, Daughter, Sister, Auntie, Children’s Pastor and Mother of 2 (one here and one with Jesus).

In Memory: Dexter Pumpernickle Erikson – Lost (to me) and Found (to Heaven) on March 9, 2012. Mommy loves you… until we meet again. ❤