Friday, January 15, 2010

Our Last Two Weeks: A Novel by Bonnie Culp

Caroline sampling Christmas cookies to leave for Santa
(Thanks Tara S. or we would not have had any!)
Right now Caroline is happily playing with a new play-doh set (thanks Meagan and Matt!) and Thomas is enjoying watching her from his bouncy seat-which means I have T-minus 3 minutes until someone needs me!
I have written so many blog posts in my mind these last couple of weeks and it feels so good to be getting some of it actually on my blog right now.

I have to start with yesterday.

Disclaimer #1: If you are queasy skip down to the ****below.
Disclaimer #2: I am not exaggerating one iota about anything you are about to read below.
Disclaimer #2b: Just because I wrote what I did on disclaimer #2 does not mean in any way do I ever exaggerate in my blog posts-I just want to make clear that I am being completely factual and objective in my description below.

At 11:02am yesterday (I know this because I looked back at the time on my phone) I texted Becky that I had finished my class at Leverett. I noticed that I could not see what I what I was typing to her because my right eye was acting as if I had stared into a bright light. I chalked it up to allergies and finished my errand before getting back in the car to head home. When I got in my car I realized that my eye was worse. I called my mom and tried to explain it to her. She immediately described it perfectly-it was like looking through a prism and you are unable to see straight on and then the blindness moves to be just on the periphery. She said that I should head home quickly because this is exactly what happens to her twenty minutes before a migraine starts.
I have never had a migraine before.
I managed to get home and try to help my mom (she had Caroline, Thomas and Jett) before the pain started.
I am having to pause typing this right now and remind myself to breath as I try to describe this.
I put Thomas in his favorite Rainforest stationary jumper and laid down on our guest bed-it was the closest place to lay down.
Every breath I took intensified the pain over and behind my left eye. I gritted my teeth as the pressure built.
I heard my mom come and get Thomas, but I could not open my eyes or acknowledge her presence-I was in a fetal position holding on to dear life.
I tried to think about something else other than the pain and even my thoughts made the pain worse. I felt something wet on my face and realized tears were streaming down and yet I was not crying.
I had begun to feel nautious early on. I now knew I was going to throw up.
(I believe one of the worst feelings is having to frantically look for a container to throw up in when there is nothing available.)
I found a wipey box-dumped the wipes and waited a few moments. My mom came and I told her I needed something bigger to throw up-and then I threw up-a lot-in that stupid wipes container with the Disney movie "Cars" them around the outside.
I then moved to the huge bowl my sweet mom brought and asked her to hold my hair (Don't you love moms) as I threw up more.
I finally collapsed back onto the bed and held on for more pain.
----The three minutes of typing ended-just so you know-Thomas needed a diaper change, Caroline needed help making a red butterfly and now he is down for a nap and Caroline is eating lunch, so an hour later, I am back recounting the worst pain I have ever known in my life----
Where was I? The pain...I have lost all semblance of time, I remember thinking these thoughts: "I remember reading in a magazine that if you have the worst headache of your life that you should go to the doctor-how in the world do I get there, Mom can't carry me to the car, we have three kids here, I can't move from this fetal position (I later find out that I was in the position not moving for around two hours straight with no relief from the pain) someone is going to have to call 911, I wonder if they will be able to find out house?" Other thoughts (more like flashes of thought, because with this much pain I could not think about anything longer than two seconds at a time) "I would rather pass out." "It would hurt less to lose an appendage-at least then my body would be in shock and I couldn't feel the pain." But, at the height of the pain-which I do not know at all how long this went on-all I could think was, "Dear Jesus, Dear Jesus, Dear Jesus." i am not kidding. That was it. I've never taken the Lord's name in vain in my entire life, and I was not then either, it was cry to the Lord to take the pain or take me.
As I mentioned in Disclaimer #2 I am not exaggerating at all. I felt the need to repeat this disclaimer here.
My dear, wonderful, awesome, amazing momma brought me a wet, cold washcloth at some point after the first throw up, I think. I had to have a fan blowing on me, but my body was freezing. I could, at this point, now think more than two seconds at a time. I could think about ten seconds at a time without losing my train of thought. I then knew I was going to throw up again! Good grief.
After that bout of throwing up, I then felt well enough to turn over onto my left side for the first time all afternoon. I lay there hearing my poor mom taking care the kids wishing I could help, but I still could not move. I heard Uncle Travis come in to pick up Jett and I could not believe it was already around 3:30pm. Caroline came in at some point and I was afraid she was going to try to climb on the bed and knock over my bowl of throw up, so I told her not to get up here and she said, "I was just bringing you a puppy dog to make you feel better!" She then kissed my forehead and left. Precious baby.
Around 4:30pm I decided to try and sit up and test it out. My vision was still weird, but the intense pain seemed to be over.
I walked downstairs and saw Caroline smile so big when I told her I felt better. I found my poor momma and she said she didn't think I'd be out of bed the rest of the night. I could not believe I was, either.
I could not move fast, but I could move and that was amazing to me. I managed to smile, talk and begin to feel "normal" again. The headache reduced to just a typical headache pain. (I still have a "whisper" of the headache today and my jaw hurts from clinching my teeth.) I told my mom today that I should have felt in my ear to see if my brain was oozing out from exploding in my skull. She said that was a good description of what a migraine feels like. We compared notes and she began having migraines at about 30 years of age. I am truly hoping this was just a one time thing from all of the stress this last month, but I am still talking to my doctor about at an appointment I made in a couple of weeks.

***************************Queasy people can begin to read here.***********************

(I am including random pictures from the last month throughout the rest of the post-thanks to Becky and Meagan C. for providing pictures.)The 3 Little Bears: Ben, Thomas, Jett

What stress have I been under the last month or so, you might ask? (Ha, I know you wouldn't ask-you can already imagine probably)
Backing up to December (really Thanksgiving, I guess) the dread of the holidays without Thomas and the one year anniversary (that seems like too "positive" a word for it, but that's all I can think of to call it) looming was awful.
On top of that, Thomas got sick in early December with congestion, fever stuff. I took him to the after hours clinic and they made me come back the next morning again to make sure it wasn't pneumonia. It wasn't, but, wow-scary.
Then as I mentioned in the previous post, Caroline got sick right before Christmas (still grateful to Leigh"Ro-ro"Ward) and then within three hours of arriving home after spending a wondeful week at Mimi and Poppy's Thomas fever started. A few friends had come over to spend a quiet New Year's Eve with us at our house (I've realized after being gone any length of time, it helps my emotions tremendously to plan on having someone visit us right when we get home. It helps ease the transition for me and keeps the quietness of our house not so loud-if that makes sense.)His fever started right when our friends arrived, so instead of discussing how 2010 will be better for us than 2009 and enjoying each other's company I was holding Thomas constantly taking his temperature to see how high it was getting. Long story short (moms and dads know what nights are like when kids are sick-I do not need to describe that) his fever got up to 103.5 the next morning, which was of all things-New Year's Day. Our clinic was closed until the next day, so another day of me holding him, checking his temp, making sure he was drinking etc. (BIG thanks to Becky, Travis, Tara and Jacob for letting Caroline play with you all and have another sleep over at the Hudson's. She had a blast.) I finally made it to January 2nd and to the clinic by 8:30 in the morning only to find out what I already knew. It was the same virus Jett had over Christmas and there was nothing they could do for him. So finally by January 3rd he seemed to be doing better and I could breathe in-only to realize how close the "anniversary" was getting.
On January 4th I began to feel the prayers.
January 4th was a Monday this year, in-service for teachers (Just as the day of the accident was the first Monday back for teachers and an in-service.) Only this time we had snow and (visible!) ice on the ground and the in-service was cancelled.
WHY oh Why could that not have been last year!? Why not just a even a hint of snow or ice or even a mention of it in the forecast last year and, for sure, Thomas would have been EXTRA careful (He was always careful.) Why couldn't it have been last year when the in-service was cancelled?--All questions I have already pondered for 364 days, but brought fresh when the snow came this cold, Monday.
I am sure every Springdale teacher thought about how this in-service was cancelled and that I was at home alone with my two sweet kiddos and he should have been with us enjoying hot "toe-toe" and each other's company, excited that we had an extra day of Christmas vacationt to spend together.
I wish I could describe the feelings of those prayers that day. I felt like I was on some sort of "high" all the time knowing it was all from God. Caroline and I (holding Thomas) danced to fast music most of the day and played with her many Christmas presents, enjoying each other so much. It was the best feeling. I told a friend the next night that I wish I could start a rotation with everyone who was praying for me that morning and we could all pray all day for someone and each day do that until every person who prayed for me could feel the way that I did that day.
So the winter storm continued and school was cancelled again, Tuesday, January 5th-the one year mark. I awoke that morning not knowing how I would feel. Good that I made it to one year? Terrified? Of course, sad? I knew that my sister had planned an entire day for me so I decided I would get out of bed for her. My mom was coming to take care of my precious kiddos. I went through the motions, not feeling much until about an hour after waking up and then it was waves of grief. Each crest higher than the last, flashes of that morning one year ago.
The phone call that awoke me, deciding whether or not to wake my almost two-year-old after her first night in her big girl bed. Dori arriving to babysit. Becky arriving to drive me to the hospital-the next few hours (Way too terrible for even me to describe on my blog. You may be surprised, but the darkest parts I cannot even write about.)
I went back to my room once my mom came to take care of Caroline and Thomas to decide if I could make it.
Becky came and told me I didn't have to do anything that day if I did not want to-Have I mentioned how awesome she is?-I knew that she had some special things planned so I sucked in my emotions that were spilling onto my sweater and stood up.
I am just going to list the things we did because my heart is starting to beat faster remembering and I can't handle reliving it all right now.
She surprised me by having some great friends meet us at the accident site. They set up a beautiful cross and we prayed. We went to lunch at a favorite restaurant (this was so much fun) and then I got to go home to take a nap! (Naps are precious for me-Thomas still wakes up several times a night.) Then she got me up to go see the movie New Moon with her (so fun) and then we raced over to Dori's house. Blessedly, the roads were mainly clear so that everyone could make it this amazing celebration of my husband's life that was planned so carefully by my sister and friends.
I was completely amazed at the trouble they went to for me. They had printed color programs for the night, pictures already printed from placing the cross that morning, a book for people to write their memories of Thomas in (I have not read yet, I'm waiting for the right time...,) the words to all the songs printed out for everyone to sing and gobs of food and hot chocolate!
The 35 or so of us visited and ate. Even dear Kimberly came. I know how hard it must have been for her.
We sang a capella (Church of Christ style!) some of our favorite songs. It sounded like heaven (thanks, Jacob for leading us!) Scott and Denise, our precious campus ministers who are about to leave with their family to live in Ireland for mission work came and comforted me. Scott, who was our speaker at Thomas's funeral last year, prayed and shared comforting passages from the bible. Becky played a slideshow she had made of Thomas's life and included encouraging messages about the fun in the years to come with the blessings of new life that happened this past year. We sang some more-it was like being in heaven, truly. Lots of tears-not just sad tears, but also hopefilled tears were shed. And then, the end of January 5, 2010 came to an end. We had made it. We had survived the day.The next days were a little tough, too. The weather continued to leave us with -15 degree wind chills and school was cancelled for the entire week. Caroline, Thomas and I played by ourselved for several days until Becky was able to brave the cold and come visit us.
With the events of the week, the weather and sickness my spring semester of teaching was upon me before I could hardly turn around. I was stressed to the max trying to figure out when I could work on my school stuff. God provided again and Meagan and Chris C. came over to bring dinner and Chris fixed things around the house for me. They even came back the next day after church to let me work for several hours getting my syllabus ready and lesson plans for the week. Mimi then came Monday to let me work some more and attend meetings.
I am so thrilled to be teaching a 7 hour course this spring at the University. It is truly a dream come true and I enjoy it so much. I am just having trouble balancing being a single mom and getting my lessons ready!
All of this on top of our regular schedule of Mother's Day Out for Caroline once a week, dance once a week, me teaching two mornings a week, church, paying bills, laundry (Mimi takes care of this a lot for me!), answering emails and, of course, feeding, bathing, playing and loving on my sweet kids.
I am not trying to get sympathy at all. I am just getting all of this down so that I will have it recorded to look back on in years to come. I realize most of you probably do the same things, but the yucky part is that I cannot look forward to 5:00 pm and the arrival of my husband home for the evening.
It stinks.
I also want to state for the record that I have the most amazing support system of anyone I know and that my mom is here a couple nights a week and usually I get to spend time with my sister on the weekends. So I rarely feel like a "single" mom. I do have help. I also know that there are a ton of you who are ready to help as soon as I say the word. It is still hard for me to ask and sometimes I don't even know what I need-just that I need something!
If anyone is still reading at this point (I don't blame you if you didn't make it!) I have some prayer requests:

I cannot find my card reader for my camera. I know it is silly to pray for a trivial thing like that, but it is so important to me to document my kids lives through pictures-so I have to find it!

My guilt for not being able to respond to emails, calls etc. I know it is silly and everyone understands, but I can hardly stand it. I just do not have the time to keep up.

Our ladies bible study (currently at my house, once a week.) This bible study has been going for around 4-5 years and has gotten me (and others) through some very hard times. Now with a lot of our girls having first (or second!) babies, sickness, the weather etc. our numbers have gotten low. I don't know what I would do without the study and I know God has a plan for us, but extra prayers about it would be helpful.

Caroline and Thomas sleeping issues. Caroline's: Naps and bedtime have become a struggle. Thomas: He's almost 5 months, enough said.

My parents: They are very close to putting their house on the market to move here! They have lived in the same town for about 22 years, so this would be a big move. Please pray for it to sell quickly and for peace about the decision and their future.

My nephew (Ben and Allison's baby) arrived December 18th!
Alisha and Nick's baby girl arrived December 22nd!
Welcome, Matthew Allen Culp and Livia Noelle Ruple

Thomas's four month check-up went great. He is the absolute happiest baby I have ever known. He is so good. He only cries when he is extremely hungry or if Caroline yells too loudly.
He is "talking" up a storm. Cooing-yelling (not screaming, he is yelling about his world!) He is about to roll and is starting to sit up on his own-not for long though.
And he is a whopping 17.4 lbs 26 inches long.
(Before you congratulate me about how well the supplementing is going-let me announce that we have gone to just formula. I am not beating myself up about it anymore so I feel like I can tell everyone now. I just could not keep up with the it all-the pumping, the hour long feedings, cleaning bottles, cleaning the pump parts etc. It was too much for me. We are all happier now. Thanks for all of your encouragement and support.)

The last few weeks, Caroline and I were able to make snow angels together, enjoy movie nights with popcorn and laugh at sweet Thomas's noises and smiles. We have had many happy moments the last few weeks as well as sad. I am still hopeful that 2010 will have many more happy moments than sad.


  1. It was absolutely beautiful, as all of your posts are! God is truly visible in your life. Thank you for sharing it with us. How great it would be if your parents moved up here! I don't think they'd miss the fort with having their grandbabies just a short car ride away! I keep updated by your blog. Take care !

  2. You are such an inspiration. I will continue to pray that God give you the strength you need as you go thru each day. He is faithful!

  3. You are a wonderful person. Keep reminding yourself of that. No one can do it all alone. You are blessed to have such great friends and family. Take each day as it comes and remember that God will provide you with what you need to make it thru.

  4. What a beautiful post. It truly has been an honor to follow your blog this last year... I have seen God's hand in such a mighty way and I am so amazed by His strength in YOU! Know that I check in with you daily/weekly and that you are on my heart and in my prayers. Your children are so blessed to have you as their Mommy.

    Prayers from WA,

  5. I've never commented before but wanted to let you know how valuable your words are and the impact they have on the kingdom. My son passed away nearly five years ago and sharing the journey of grief is a delicate balance - so many things I wish to treasure privately, and the need to share what God has done. May His presence continue to be ever-near to you, Caroline and Thomas.

  6. i sure do love you bonnie. everytime we get to talk or i read your blog i am reminded how honored i am to be your friend. wish we lived closer so i could do more for and with you and those beautiful kids of yours but i'm so thankful for the friends god has surrounded you with there that support you so well.

  7. I started getting the same type of migraines about 4 years ago, which would have made me about 29. I won't ever forget that first one I got and I didn't know what was happening when the vision problems started....thankfully, I have never had the throwing up along with it, just the vision, the pain, and then the DULL ache the following day. Changing my glasses prescription has helped mine and (knock on wood) I have only had 1 in about a year and a half.

    You are truly an inspiration with your strength, love, and belief in God...and your friends and family sound truly amazing. I am glad you have them to lean on even when you don't feel like you need them. Thank you for sharing your story, take care and God bless you all!

  8. I'm so glad you have this blog. In fact, I check it everyday-multiples times. I often think about you and hope you are well! I know it is hard for you to ask for help, but you should call me. It would really be helping me out by getting me and Ava out of the house! We are always looking for good reasons (you and your kiddos is definitely a good reason).

    You will always be in my prayers, and I will be sure to add your requests.

  9. You are right...we are here to help ANYTIME. : ) We love you so much Bon!

  10. I think this was my favorite post of yours!! So beautiful and honest! You really are an amazing woman with such an awesome "prayer net!" Caroline and baby Thomas are so lucky to have such a wonderful mommy!!

    Praying for 2010 to be an easier year!!

  11. Beautiful post, i don't know what to say. I will continue to pray that God keeps working in your life and gets you through these days. oh, I have had migraines all of my life. Even after the 10 plus hours of no pain meds while in labor with Adalyn I told my parents 'I swear to you migraines are worse' Great news is that you can get a prescription that will wipe them out before they really begin..hope you get one! mine is called Maxalt

  12. You are beautiful inside and out. I'm thankful there are people like you in this world Bonnie. I pray God continues to give you beauty for ashes, strength for tears. Blessings in 2010.

  13. Bonnie, you are so amazing. You are always in my prayers, but now I'll be praying for no more migraines too. How awful! But, what a blessing to have such a wonderful mom there to help - will pray that their house sells fast too.
    Love, Caroline

  14. I read this the other day and wanted so much to respond. And yet I don't even know which part to respond to. :) There is so much here. My heart just aches. It does suck. There is no other word that works better sometimes. Thank you for being transparent and sharing your heart. I love you bunches. I will be praying for your parents' would be so awesome if they were here, closer! See you soon.

  15. Hi Bonnie,

    I'm new to your blog and stumbled upon yours from keeping up with Hannah Grace and her fight. I just wanted to say that you are an extremely strong young lady, whether you realize it now or not. You are an inspiration to many. :) Be good to yourself - you are only one woman with many forks in the fire. You have such a great support system and it's awesome that your folks are moving to be closer. Prayers to you and your family!
    I hope that you don't continue to have the migraines! It sounded horribly awful.
    Take care,
    Susan (mom of 4 boys)

  16. I've never commented before, but have been following your blog for the last year. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, memories, fears, etc with those of us in the blog world.

    I'm so thankful to read that you made it through the last couple of weeks. I know it hasn't been easy.

    May God continue to bless you and your family in only ways that He can.


  17. Ok, so this may be a stretch. But, what if your nursing troubles earlier were God's way of getting you to switch to formula so that you are free to start any migraine-prevention meds you need because you aren't nursing? It's just a thought. But, maybe He knew you would need the guilt-free opportunity to take care of yourself.

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  19. Bonnie:
    I read your latest posts. I am happy that you have a wonderful support group. My daughter and son-in-law are both teachers here in Springdale and we thought of you when the in-service was canceled this year. I am glad you made it through this first year, quiet a milestone. I was not as young as you are when I lost my husband but I wasn't old either.
    I wanted to tell you that your comment on one of your post about praying to find something hit close to home for me. Sometimes I loose things and I want to find them right away. My prayer is always, "Lord, you know exactly where it is and I don't please show me." It works.