Sunday, November 14, 2010

Crossing the Red Sea

The Red Sea sparkles in the light, as the rays of sun dance on the peaks of the gentle waves. It is a beautiful and glorious sight. Over 14 years ago, I stood on the shores of the Red Sea, marvelling at the grandeur of my surroundings. The colors, sights, smells and sounds awakened my senses and overwhelmed my mind. I was at peace and at home in a foreign land.

My first journey to the Red Sea, Spring, 1996
Just over 18 months ago, I found myself standing again on these shores, this time in a figurative sense, as I frightfully watched the Pharoah's Egyptian chariots chasing me down, ever nearing the very shores on which I stood. My diagnosis was one that came with enemy soldiers and little chance of escape. But even in the moments of great fear, faith lived on and so God parted the water and I began the long and difficult but miraculous journey across my Red Sea.
A photo of my second time at the "Red Sea".

At some time, we will all face our own Red Seas. My hope for each of you is that when you near the shores of your personal sea, you will know that
You do not have to cross alone.
You can be surrounded by family members, friends, neighbors, angels and a loving Heavenly Father who is waiting to part the water.

"A Miracle for Jodi Brown" is now complete. Healing is still occurring and bumps still occur along my path, but my MIRACLES have happened, first and foremost because of a loving, caring Father in Heaven who granted me a second chance at life. But YOU also played a large part in my miracles. You are the angels who prayed and fasted with faith. You are the friends that brought dinners, cleaned my house, drove my children and took care of my family when I could not. You are the friends and strangers who sent me messages of love and hope, when I had little hope left. Each day as I crossed my Red Sea, you walked by my side, making sure there would be dry ground for my journey.

It is with mixed emotions that after 568 days of fear and faith, helplessness and hope, I bring this blog to a close. I feel total joy in knowing that I AM STILL HERE to be a wife and a mother, a daughter and a sister, a neighbor and a friend. I also feel a strange sadness to see this stage of my life come to an end. Though I will not miss my illness or my physical struggles, I will miss the feelings of being part of something bigger than myself, being part of true miracles from God.

I do know that this is the time for me to start fresh, with new-found hope for a brighter future. Please join me again, this time to help others find the inspiration and hope that make miracles happen! Mine is now a Life Under Construction, with detours and orange cones, but with improvements and beauty waiting ahead!

Go to: http://www.lifeconstructionzone.com/ and click on "Follow" to join me on a new journey, as we find inspiration and hope while navigating through the detours of life!

Before I say my final tearful "good bye" on this blog, can I ask one tiny favor? Please leave just a little comment to say you were here and part of my journey. Many of you have never even told me your names, while others I know well, but all of you are now part of my family, and to all of you, I express my love and thanks for making miracles happen!   Love, Jodi

Saturday, November 13, 2010

18 Months

Exactly 18 months ago at this very moment, I was in the middle of my first craniotomy to remove my tumor. Sometime that evening, I woke up in a hazy and somewhat confused state and realized that my face was paralyzed. Thankfully, time softens everything. Those moments are not so vivid and the pain is just a memory. I still couldn't help but have de'ja'vu as I got my MRIs yesterday and went through the motions at that very familiar place. Walking out to my car, I remembered all the emotions that engulfed me on that very first day, when my whole life was suddenly up in the air...

In total contrast, today I am busily cleaning my house and working in the kitchen, just like most of you are doing on this Saturday "job" day. I feel good and I am optimistic about life and all it holds. Yes, there are still frustrations, but they are not worth wasting precious time over. This morning I was frustrated with the help I wasn't receiving from one family member. But the emotions ran their course and we are back on track now.

It was easy to get back on track after receiving a special phone call from Hawaii. Some dear friends of my family, the Soukops, called me today, just to check on me and see how I am doing. Now, you must understand, they do not know me personally. I think I have met her once, and I only know of him. And yet, they send me letters and emails from time to time, and today they called, just to say hi and to check on me. Their love astounds me and I am so grateful for wonderful people like this sweet couple! If you know them, please pass on my gratitude, love and aloha.

Tonight Tolan and I are taking the kids to "Puss in Boots" at the Treehouse Museum. This wonderful children's museum puts on fabulous, family-friendly shows and tonight is our first of the new season. It is just one more indication that life is good and we have much to be grateful during this special season and throughout the year.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Annual MRI

Friday I will go to the hospital for my annual MRI to check the status of my removed brain tumor. The truth is, while the MRI process itself is not fun, I am not at all nervous about the results. That is not to say that I think I will never have problems again, but instead, I now know that we can handle life, no matter what is in store. Our priorities, as a family, are in the right place, and that is what counts. Live or die, accident or illness, who know what is to come? Though we may not have a crystal ball, we have faith that our family can be strong no matter what stands in our way.

The funny thing is, this MRI almost didn't happen at all. Because of the metal spring in my eye, my MRI was put on hold for weeks until the radiology team could coordinate with my occuloplastic surgeon to find out if I am still eligible for an MRI. Metal can interefere with the imaging results, causing inaccurate results. But after much ado, I found out today that I should be fine and the results should be "mostly" accurate, despite the small piece of metal in my eyelid. Interestingly enough, the large 2.5 inch x 3.5 inch titanium plate in my skull causes no interference, which is why that particular metal is now used over other options. A little bit of trivia for the curious soul. :)

My imaging results will be sent to Dr. Couldwell, and in a few weeks I will probably receive a phone call or letter in the mail, notifying me that the scans were normal. Ahh, to be normal again is a wonderful thing!

Monday, November 8, 2010

And the Winner Is . . . .

Megan C. 
with a guess of $46,500!

The actual total of my eye surgery (at least if we don't get any more bills) is $54, 848.00. Wow, that is a lot for an outpatient procedure! I guess they do things differently in California!  That is nearly 27% of my TOTAL hospital stay of 34 days (and 3 brain surgeries) from last year, and this was only for 6 hours. Yikes. I guess I am blessed to live in Utah, where healthcare costs are low and quality is high.

In any case, congrats to Megan!! A gift card will be coming your way soon! Email me your address so I can get it in the mail ASAP. :) Thanks to everyone who guessed!

It is snowing/raining/snowing/raining outside right now, so I guess the season is finally turning from fall into winter. The ski resorts will be thrilled, as are all my little skiers here at home. Despite the cold outside, I am warm in my house, and warm inside, filled with the excitement that comes with welcoming the seasons of Thanksgiving and Giving! Hooray!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

My Best Friend

It was 14 years ago this weekend that I married my best friend. We have grown and changed in many ways over that time, but I can say for sure that our love for each other is stronger than ever. We have been through wonderful times and trying times, but we have come out of them all as better people. We are more committed than ever to each other and to our family. Thank you, to my amazing husband, for being everything that I never knew I needed in my life!! Enjoy these photos from our special day, all those years ago! (Wow, we look young in these pictures!)




BTW, if you haven't submitted your guess, leave a comment to let me know how much you think the bills are for my eye surgery in August. Winner will be announced in a few days! :)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

. . . . . The Cost of a New Life

The bills from my surgery in August are rolling in. When I make the journey across the street to my mail box, I actually get a sick feeling in my stomach as I go through the little stack of envelopes in our box. Cards and notes are wonderful, but medical bills are not so fun.

So, let's make the process a little more fun, shall we?? :) Here we go... Make your guess for the total cost of my eye surgery in the "comments" section, or email your answer to me at brownjo76@q.com . At the end of the week, the person whose guess is the closest will be the winner!

Here's the info on my procedure in California:
  • 1 consultation visit (3 hours)
  • 1 eye surgery
  • 1 custom-made "spring" inserted into my eyelid
  • 1 prosthetic lift, inserted into my brow
  • 6 hours of anesthesia
  • 1 occuloplastic surgeon, 6 hours total Operating Room time
  • 1 follow-up visit (1 hour)
So, what is the cost to remedy the effects of paralysis??? Well, you give me your best guess, but I can tell you this, no matter the cost, the results are..... PRICELESS!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

. . . . . . Halloween Treats

The kids had the day off on Friday, so we got to start our Halloween weekend early, first with a breakfast outing to IHOP for Halloween pancakes! :) The kids had many fun adventures this weekend and all the costumes held out (some lasted longer than the kids!). Trenden was a "Pop Star", Lindi was a bubble gum machine, Casen was an Indian and Daven was a flashlight. They all chose their own costumes, then Mom was in charge of figuring out how to come up with their ideas. Ahh, all part of the job! :)

The truth is, I got all the treats! Yes, I got to help make their little dreams come true, by making them into whatever their hearts desired. Then I got to spend a fun day with them doing Halloween activities. Then I got to see the looks on their faces as they headed out the door for trick-or-treating fun. See, I was the one who really made out this Halloween! Enjoy!




 The sweetest little gumball machine you'll ever see!
 The nicest little 'injun around.
Trenden looking in total Pop Star fashion.
Getting turned "on" for the fun!

Ready to get some loot!

Heading out for a night of treats! Daven really did shine! ;)
It is no wonder this little guy is the light of my life! :)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

. . . . . . Friends for Life

Thank goodness for wonderful friends!! It seems that good friends step in at the very moment you need them! I needed a few friends this morning - I was at the school for the kids' Halloween parties and I got feeling a little dizzy. This seems to be the way my body reacts now to *everything*, ie. not enough sleep, overdoing it, etc. Luckily, Michelle and Norell were there and noticed I was having a hard time. So, now I am safely back at home and getting the rest I need. I am so grateful for the friends that continue to be angels in my life!

Last week, our good friends, the Rhoads, invited us to hang out with them at their new condo at Solitude Ski Resort. These special friends have been in our lives since the beginning of the Brown family, and we continue to be grateful for their friendship. Our children are best buddies and we all enjoy hanging out together. Their new condo is so fun, and the perfect get away for fall, winter, spring or summer! The kids loved the heated pool, waterslide, hot tub, game room, theater room, and computer room and the adults enjoyed the fact that the kids were busy having fun! We got to relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings! They call it Solitude for a reason! :)
The leaves were blazing with color in the mountains just a week ago, but now the snow is flying and the ski slopes are getting covered.This is what it looked like when we were there...beautiful and serene! (Of course, when our kids were in the pool and hot tub, it wasn't nearly as peaceful!) What would we do without good friends that help us enjoy life?

If this kind of escape sounds appealing to you, the condo is available for rent most of the year. You can visit the Rhoad's blog and check out tons of photos at: http://www.solitudecondo.blogspot.com/

Tonight I get to spend time with another group of dear friends. Every year for my sister Tami's birthday, we celebrate with all the girls by heading to the Cheesecake Factory! I missed last year's celebration, but I am determined to get there tonight. I am riding the train to Salt Lake and getting picked up by my dear friend, Suzy, for the rest of the drive. Ahh, one day I will drive again by myself, but in the meantime, thank goodness for friends!!!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

. . . . . Cold Outside, Warm Inside

It has been raining for 24 hours now. It is cold outside and the season seemed to change in a day. Yesterday, it seemed autumn was blazing, today it feels like winter is on the way. It is the kind of day you just want to stay inside, cuddle up with a blanket and a good movie.

I didn't stay home, though, and I am so grateful. Like every Sunday, we got everyone ready and went to church. Every meeting today seemed particularly good. Each speaker and lesson touched my heart. When the young primary children put on a program, tears filled my eyes as I heard them sing, "I know God lives, I know Christ walked on Earth with men, I know He said that we could live with Him again. We have a prophet to guide us, just as Christ did back then..." The words of this beautiful song, written by my friend and neighbor, Belinda Jackson, are so powerful. I was not the only one wiping the tears out of my eyes as 70 young children sang out this message of hope.

My 3-year old son, Daven, was on my lap as we watched the other children perform. He looked up at me and said, "Why did Jesus die for us so we can live with Him again?" Surprised and touched by the question, I told him how much Jesus loves him, how Christ wants us to find happiness and return to be with Him again someday. Content with the answer, he turned his attention back to the children's program. But my attention stayed.

Between the program and the sweet words of my young one, I felt so warm inside, filled by the Spirit of the Holy Ghost, testifying that God is indeed still part of our lives today. I am so grateful that my young children also know that they are beloved children of God!

Friday, October 22, 2010

. . . . . Getting Younger Every Day

A wonderful thing happened yesterday at the store. From across the parking lot, a neighborhood friend spotted me getting in my car. I noticed a man staring at me, then saw that he took his glasses on and off as he looked in my direction. Finally, as he came closer, I recognized my friend and we approached each other for a hug and a visit. What he said next, however, surprise me and made my day!

"I saw you and thought 'that can't be Jodi, she looks too young'!"

He hasn't seen me since my eye surgery in August and said that between the surgery and my improved facial muscles, I am looking younger and better, every time he sees me! Wow, that made my day! Not too many of us get to age in reverse, so I guess I am just lucky! :)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Do They Know? -- Guest Post

I read this post on my cousin's blog the other day, and I loved it. With her permission, I am reposting it here. It is written by Nichole Giles, mother of 4, wife, and author of 2 (so far) books. Her post follows a previous post about encouraging children to pursue their talents and dreams, even if the world discourages them. It is beautiful. Enjoy!

"After last week’s discussion about encouraging—rather than discouraging—our children in their creative efforts, I started to wonder. Do my kids know how much faith I have in them? Do they truly understand what they can do if they really commit themselves?

My kids aren’t little anymore. In fact, they’re on the cusp of adulthood. As they make this transition, will they spread their wings and take off? Or will they burrow into a hole and be afraid of the desires of their hearts?

Granted, most of us end up somewhere in the middle and walk into adulthood on legs—and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I have to wonder. If we knew—really, truly knew—our own potential when we were teens, would we have chosen to walk? Or would we have run? Or maybe found wings?

I don’t know the answer to that particular what if, and I have no regrets. I love where I am in life. But I wonder about my kids. Do they know what they can do?

I don’t know for sure one way or another. But I can help them realize their potential. I can help them find the things they love most in life and excel at them.

I—their mother—have the power to give my children the ability to fly. I just have to remember to use it."


If you want to read more of Nichole's musings, you can follow her at http://nicholegiles.blogspot.com/ .

As for me, it seems my parents always told me I could fly, I just had to believe it for myself and learn to flap my wings! Now, if only I can teach my children how high they can soar...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

. . . . . . Harvest Time

I love harvest time! I love to reap the rewards of my efforts. I love to see baskets full of veggies that I pick from my own garden. This late in the season, it is rare to find so many treasures still growing, but what a plentiful afternoon it was in my little garden today!

The wonderful thing about life is that our actions are like gardens, they produce long after the work has been done. Our friendships, jobs, family relationships are all the results of our efforts, both good and bad. Whether we spend minutes or hours, our efforts will be known by our harvest.

I need to work harder in many ways so that my all the gardens in my life will be overflowing with homegrown goodness!

BTW - My husband does NOT like to be in the spotlight, but I must take at least a sentence to tell my very best friend, and eternal companion, how much I love him and hope he has a great birthday today!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

. . . . . Confession

I have a boyfriend. His hair is short and blond, his smile is gorgeous and he is totally amazing. He literally shines with light when I look at him, and when he looks at me. His laugh makes me smile and his eyes make me want to dance. He also adores me, I can tell; he doesn't even try to hide it. He is not afraid to hold my hand in public or throw his arms around me and squeeze me tight. That is a feeling I will never be able to replace. It is a feeling of warmth, security, and love.

But alas, I know this won't last forever. One day my little boyfriend will grow up, and he will no longer be a baby. He will be a big boy, and then a man. When that happens, the cuddles and kisses will likely be less frequent, though I hope not. We will not always experience life hand in hand all day, but I hope that someday he will remember how much he is adored by this grown woman, who is totally and completely in love.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Stuck in a Sweet Spot

Wow, what a wonderful few days! Yesterday I started having "twitches" above my lip, in fact my lip was "stuck" in a "snarl" position on and off all day. Now, while many of you would be frustrated with such an event, I was thrilled. It means face muscle #4 (out of 19) is slowly returning!!! I have been "twitching" all day today, too, and I couldn't be happier! Today I can celebrate with laughter and joy, but yesterday I celebrated with tears. It is so emotional to continue to see miracles in my life, all these months later. Oh, wow, today is 18 months exactly since my diagnosis. Amazing to see how much life can change in such a short time. Hooray for continued miracles!

After a wonderful, but busy day yesterday, I fell right to sleep last night and slept for 10 hours. I woke up and felt GREAT! It was amazing, and I have felt good all day today. I have decided that 10 hours is my "sweet spot". If only I could get 10 good hours a night, I would be in great shape every day. :)

That is obviously not realistic (though I still shoot for it), and some days it is very hard to get out of bed and function when my body is acting against me. But, that is the point of life, isn't it? It is when we get up and make the best of the day, even when we don't feel like it, that we are truly living life!

Friday, October 8, 2010

. . . . . For All the Right Reasons

Today I wore myself out. Totally. Completely. But, it was for all the right reasons, so I am trying not to be too hard on myself. :)

The kids had an obstacle course walk-a-thon (run-a-thon) at the school and I went to watch and participate with them. They had 3 sessions, for different ages and grades, and it just so happened that each of my three students fell into a different session and time. So, I spent the whole day at the school, going around the obstacle course and track with the kids. Wow, they ran and played so hard! I ran, did the obstacles and cheered, cheered, cheered, while taking pictures and video.


Now, I am hammered. But, it was totally worth it. These are the moments that make life wonderful! I missed too many of them last year and I don't plan to miss any more! :)










Wednesday, October 6, 2010

. . . . . Steering and Sleeping

Yesterday I drove to Salt Lake for my facial therapy appointment. Yesterday I DROVE to Salt Lake for my facial therapy appointmet. Yes, for the first time in 18 months, I drove on the freeway! Happily, I can report that I survived, and so did everyone else. :) That is a BIG accomplishment for me, and a wonderful step in getting back my freedom and independence.

My appointment was good and Janene praised me for all the progress I am making. I got hooked up to the biofeedback machine and we worked for over an hour on trying to get my facial muscles to move in the right ways. I got a small movement back that I have been working on for months, a very exciting moment.

By the time I got home, I was worn out. The mental energy it takes to think about every small movement you want your muscles to make is exchausting. It is physically draining, too, which is a surprise to many people, since it is "just" my face. And yet, every time I practice these facial movements (every day), I feel like I have run a marathon.

Thank heavens for my understanding husband who took over things at home and let me go to bed. So, I climbed in bed at 8:30pm and did not get up until 7 this morning. To some, 10.5 hours of sleep may sound like a lot, but just like when you are sick, my body still needs all the sleep I can get.

Progress is good, but it only comes with time, practice, and in this case, lots of rest! :)

Monday, October 4, 2010

. . . . . . Soaked and Smiling

Today when I went to pick up my kindergartner and his friends, we were caught in the middle of a torrential downpour. By the time we got everyone loaded in the car and buckled up, my two little boys, our 2 little school friends and I were all soaked, through all of our layers!

We got home and all the kids put on PJs while I threw several shirts and pants into the dryer. There was one exception however. Our little friend Azlin didn't change her clothes. She said she didn't mind that she was a little wet (my pants were drenched to my upper thighs, so I think it is cute that she said she was only a 'little' wet). In fact, with water dripping from her hair and slippery socks on her feet, she declared with a smile that as soon as she got home, she was going to go outside and play in the rain. Her plans included collecting buckets of water and dumping them all over her backyard. :)

This sweet girl reminded me that feeling raindrops on your skin awakens the senses and enlightens the mind. And today, I am grateful for the rain, yes, even the downpour. Perhaps a "little" water was just what I needed!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

. . . . . The Bumper Effect

The third graders went bowling today, and oh, what fun it was! The bowling alley had bumpers up in all the lanes, to assist the kids in knocking down the pins. Some balls were thrown with great strength, while others actually stopped in the middle of the lane. Some bounced from bumper to bumper, while others sailed gracefully down the long, slippery lane. And yet again, a little parable for life hit me, this time at the bowling alley.

On hard days, it seems as if our balls will never go straight, as though we are destined to land in the gutter, no matter what we do. But just when all hope seems lost, a "bumper" appears to straighten us out, give us a little bounce and send us on the Right way again.

In my life, these bumpers are a wide variety of things and people. Friends, neighbors, family and loved ones are often the bumpers that help me, guide me, and even correct me when I am off course. Inspirational books and music can also give me a little bounce when I am leaning too far to one side. My dedicated husband daily gives me extra strength to keep going down the lane when it feels I am too slow to ever make it. And for me, the good words of the gospel of Jesus Christ give me constant help when I am too fast, too slow or too crooked. And, on days when I am sailing straight down the line, my bumpers are there to cheer me on my Savior awaits with a warm embrace and encouraging word, whispered through his Spirit.

No matter how many pins we knock down in any given frame, we can always be grateful for the bumpers that helped us get down the lane. Who and what are the bumpers in your life?


 Lindi's bowling buddies, Madde, Ginny and Maria.
 
 Best bowling buds! Neighborhood friend, Diego, and his teammates.
 Sweet Katie, getting ready for a strike!
Lindi, waiting in anticipation, to see if she can knock down that final pin....
 And the sheer joy of success!

video
Enjoy this little video, celebrating the bumpers! 

Monday, September 27, 2010

. . . . . . Pushing Myself

There have been so many times in the last 16+ months when I have paid a heavy price because I pushed myself to the level of a "normal" person. But lately I have felt that if I am ever going to strengthen my physical body and get back into shape, I need to push myself a little.

For the last 4 weeks, I have been on an exercise routine that is probably similar to what many of you do, but for me, this is a big step in my ladder of progress. I have been exercising 4-5 days a week, for 30-50 minutes each day. I am doing a variety of cardio, weights and strength training, in hopes of re-training my body. (It is amazing how easy it is to mess your body up, but how long it takes to get it all back!!!)

Thank heavens, I have some fun, upbeat music on my iPod to keep me motivated. And, I have a fabulous little 3-year-old dance partner who jumps all over the living room with me when we are tired of the normal workouts. Today, I pushed myself pretty hard and it felt GOOD! I felt like my legs were going to give out from under me, but it was a wonderful feeling.

I still know I have limitations. I am still taking rests every day, going to bed early, getting as much sleep as possible, and trying not to over-do it. But, it feels amazing to be able to push my body a bit, and have it step up to the task and actually keep up with me. This is HUGE! :)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

. . . . . . Crossing the Line

On most days, I'd say 95% of the time, I go about my day in a fairly "normal" manner, rushing kids to school, tumbling, soccer, piano and Tae Kwon Do. Somewhere in between, I also manage to read stories with the little guys, play games, help with homework, cook dinner, exercise and maybe do a load of laundry. But once in a while, life just stops and I am hit by a flood of emotion that washes over me completely. I start to cry, and I start to remember, and as I add my tears to the flood waters, I thank God for the blessing of being alive!

When these moments hit, the power of the feelings is total and complete and I remember that My Life is a Gift.

                                      ****************************
There comes a point in time when faith crosses over a line and becomes knowledge. When that happens, everything changes.

For some, crossing the line will be a momumental event, for others, it is the quiet compilation of many daily events over the course of months or years. For me, it was nearly crossing over another line, the one between life and death, that cemented the knowledge I already had in my Savior, Jesus Christ. When all else left me, when I could barely hear the words of my husband and mother who were standing beside me, it was then that I was wrapped in the loving arms of my Savior and surrounded by a greater peace than I have ever known.

What is it that brings this memory suddenly into my mind and paralyzes me from all else? Perhaps on those 5% of days, I just need a reminder of the glories and gifts that surround me each day. Maybe I need to remember that although my life is becoming more normal everyday, I crossed the line, so nothing will ever be the same.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

. . . . . Lone Rider

My oldest son rode alone on the Front Runner (commuter train) yesterday, to meet Tolan in Salt Lake, for a "guys night" on the town. At 11 years old, he still seems young to me, and yet, so old at the same time. He was ready for this, in fact, quite excited to show he was responsible enough to handle this journey.

The kids and I accompanied him to the station. I purchased his ticket and he was ready for us to leave, but we stayed and waited until the train arrived and we saw him safely board and find a seat on the upper level. I hugged and kissed him goodbye and wished him well, then we waved madly as the train pulled away. He glanced our way and smiled, but only the 4 of us on the platform were waving. He was ready to go.

This was a "small" event, and yet so big. My children are growing up. They are venturing into the world on their own. They are discovering what life has to offer and what they have to contribute. They are turning into young PEOPLE who can make their own decisions and choose their own ways. Now, more than ever, I pray they remember the lessons they have been taught and decide to Choose The Right. :)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

. . . . . We Reap What We Sow

I listened to the teacher in Sunday School today and one particular phrase hit me in a stronger manner than it ever has before. He asked what the message of the harvest is, to which we replied, "you reap what you sow". In this lesson, the message was about our talents and gifts, and developing that which God has blessed us with. To me, this message went even deeper.

Every day I am sowing seeds that will some day produce fruit. What are the seeds I sow? Are they seeds of love to my family, neighbors, children and friends? Do I ever sow seeds of frustration or anger, which could yield sour fruit? Do I sow seeds of kindness and service? Am I daily sowing seeds that will produce the fruit I want to reap later??

We all hope for better and brighter days ahead, and the way we will find those days is by sowing seeds today that will bring us happiness later. I hope we can all be blessed as we do the hard work of digging in dirt and and sowing seeds of love and kindness.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

. . . . . Al Gore was Right

It hit me the other day that Al Gore was right...not about inventing the internet, or global warming, or about any number of policies or politics. But one thing by the former VP does resonate with me:  The truth is inconvenient.

His documentary on global warming is titled An Inconvenient Truth, and that much is a fact. The truth is rarely convenient. If you have ever searched for truth, you know what I mean. When you look for an answer and then you find it, you find the truth behind the matter, that is the moment when everything changes. From that point on, you must decide whether to live a life of convenience and go on with things as you knew them, or do what you know to be right and make a change, even when it is not convenient for your life.

Whether you are deciding which school to go to, whom you should marry, which religion to participate in, which foods to eat, which friends to associate with, which job to take, or anything else in life, the challenge is not in finding the answer, but LIVING THE ANSWER. Because, the truth is inconvenient.

I had a moment of personal enlightenment this week and now I am faced with the choice of deciding how to "handle the truth". Though I don't want to turn my life upside down, or get things out of balance, I know I must make a change, and that is the hardest, most inconvenient part. I am still figuring out how to make some needed changes, but the important thing is I know the truth and one day at a time, I will try to find a way to live it!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

. . . . . . Mother Moments

UPDATE: Is it too late to change this post and beat myself up again?? Monday and yesterday were good mothering days, today, both the 5-year old and I are in tears. In this scenario, no one wins? Anyone for a do-over? (And now, back to the original post...)

My boys (the 5 and 3 year olds) have been fighting lately. They are together for most of the day (minus half-day kindergarten), they share a room, share friends, share toys and just about everything else, too. But, several times a day, they get tired of sharing and they fight instead. Welcome Mother Moments.

This week, however, I am not feeling down on myself for losing my temper or getting frustrated, I am actually pretty proud of a few of my Moments. :) This week I disciplined with love, I tried to help the boys see the results of their actions, I attempted to handle each Moment with the treatment needed at the time. I followed through on promised discipline, I reacted immediately and fairly, and within inserting my personal emotions. Wow, if I do nothing else this week, I will still feel good, because I had these positive Mother Moments.

Being a mom is the greatest calling in the world, but it is also the hardest. Many days I feel discouraged because the task is so enormous and I am often not up to par with the love my young ones deserve. When I am tired and my body is exhausted, my Moments are not ones to be proud of. So, today I am celebrating the things I did right, since I also get down on myself when I mess up.  Please share a few of your proud parenting moments, too. I think we should all get a pat on the back for the days we do things right! :)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

. . . . Great Expectations

I have great expectations for myself. I hope you do, too. This explains why I get a little frustrated when my body doesn't cooperate, as was the case this weekend. Today I am doing well, but Friday and Saturday, well, not so good. And, I have tried so hard not to take pain pills over the last year, that when I do take them, I am out of it. My poor hubby last night, we "tried" to go on a date, but I was miserable and I finally just told him I needed to go home and go to bed.

But alas, after 10 hours of sleep last night (yes, 10 hours!), I am feeling better today, with hope for tomorrow and the rest of the week getting even better.

My biggest challenge continues to be monitoring my expectations of myself with my reality. I suppose I have always been this way, I get big ideas in my mind of how much I can do, but time (and now my body) don't always allow me to finish my big plans the way I'd like.

But, the good part is I have great expectations of myself...that means I am well enough to expect action and accomplishment from my body and mind. Hooray! So, here's to great expectations, even when they are unmet!

Friday, September 10, 2010

. . . . . Learning to Pout

Do you have a good pouty face? Can you stick your bottom lip way out and frown in a "nice" big pout? Well, I have nothing to pout about, but I am practicing my pouty face.

As part of my facial therapy, I practice lip and mouth movements every day, including the pout, the lip press (think of your lips resting together with slight pressure), the pucker and "my lips are sealed" positions. We are trying to retrain my muscles to work in ways that will help me eat and drink normally, and allow my face to go back to a more normal resting position.

There are 19 muscles on each side of your face. I only have 3 that work, so we are hoping to train these muscles to do the work of the other 16. Some days I can drink out of a cup and keep everything in my mouth! Other days (like today) it still drips all the way down my chin and on to my shirt. This is where the pout comes in. The pouting face is one where you hold you lips together in a frown position. I am using this new technique to help my mouth figure out how to eat and drink again, keeping my lips sealed, so it is totally worth it.

So don't be alarmed if you see me around town with a big pouty face, I am just practicing!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

. . . . . The Importance of Tools

Do you ever feel like you are using a fork to do the job of a screwdriver?

I was making Sunday dinner the other day and my hand mixer died right in the middle of a critical mixing job. I had a back-up mixer, which I pulled out for just such an emergency. Well, this "new" mixer had a short in it, so it only lasted about 38 seconds. And so, the scrounging for hand utensils began...

Nearly 40 minutes later, I completed the task that should have taken me 4 minutes to finish.

Yet another modern-day parable in the story that is my life: Even the simplest of tasks can be difficult if you don't have the right tools.

Do you have the right tools for your life? Does your toolbox include an understanding of why you are here, a "map" to guide you where to go, and lifeline help for when you need it most? I am so grateful that I am armed with the tools of the gospel of Jesus Christ, so no matter what else gives out in my life, I will always have the help to finish the job.

My greatest "tools" are sacred books I read every day. If you want a copy of my favorite "tool" book, The Book of Mormon, a companion to the Bible and another testament of Jesus Christ, just email me at brownjo76@q.com and a free copy is on the way.  Love, Jodi

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

. . . . . Quick Family Update - Prayers Please

A few weeks ago, I mentioned some health problem's my sisters' families are having. The good news is that baby Kurt (Tami's baby) is still doing well. His CAT scan revealed the tumor was still growing (quickly), but he is doing remarkably well so far and they hope to give him more time to grow before having surgery.

My sister, Kristi, on the other hand, is not doing as well. Her health problems (still currently "undiagnosed" without a name or known cause) are escalating and causing her multiple problems. She is hardly able to get out of bed some days and this is difficult physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually.

I ask for prayers because I know they work! Your prayers worked for me, please now offer some on behalf of my sister. Suffering is always hard, no matter the cause. Here's hoping for another miracle!

Thanks! Love, Jodi

Sunday, September 5, 2010

. . . . . . Quiet Time

The world is full of noise. There is a constant stream of music, talk radio, TV, computers, trucks, trains and planes. Even the "lovely" sound of children feels noisy after too long without a break.

I find more and more than I need quiet time in my life these days. I need time to meditate, to listen to myself think, and more importantly, to listen to my Savior sending me soft promptings through his Spirit, the Holy Ghost. When it is too noisy or when I am plugged into an iPod, the TV is in the background or children are fighting, I cannot focus on the messages He is trying to send me.

My current goal (as of the last week) is to make more Quiet Time in my life. I need to disconnect from the world and reconnect with myself and my Savior. I need to think and process, without the distractions of the world screaming at me all the time. I need to listen to and hear my body, mind and spirit.

Finding this time is a challenge, no doubt. I have four children and enough school, church, scout, music and sports activities to keep a small taxi company in business. But I need this, for me and for my family. I need to start my day with quiet time, with prayer and scripture study AND I need to take time during the day to refresh myself so I can keep going and show love along the way.

If you already do this, you know what I mean. If not, give it a try and tell me what you discover about yourself when you spend some quality quiet time alone.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

. . . . . Listening vs. Hearing

Every day I listen to music, but I don't always hear it. I can listen all day long and not even know what the words of the song are. I may also listen to my kids in the background and not actually hear what they are saying to me.

Well, I have realized the same is true for my body. I think that I have been listening to it, but it turns out, I haven't heard the messages it is sending me. Last week I had a cold all week. I felt crummy, but just pushed through it, as all mothers would during the first week of school. By Sunday, I felt borderline terrible, and I listened to my body(recognized I felt lousy) , but didn't hear it (respond appropriately). So, instead I wound end making myself 10x worse because I tried to get through the day without really hearing the messages I was being sent.

It wasn't a good day. Lesson learned.

Now I am trying to do better. I am taking the breaks I need and attempting to go to bed earlier. I still don't get near the 10-11 hours of sleep I am supposed to get at this stage of my recovery, but I am honestly trying to hear what my body is saying and rest when I need to. I am learning to take naps and rest during the day when my body is exhausted. That is a good lesson to learn.

The good news is that my eye is doing much better these days! I am closing it (all except about 1-2 mm) and the swelling is nearly gone. My daughter took a few pics to send to Dr. Levine, so check them out. :)

You can see my eye is still open a bit, as is my mouth, both from the paralysis. Still working on learning to close my mouth and keep food/drink inside, but I am getting better!

Though my eye is still swollen, the brow and eyelid surgery have been remarkable in restoring the symmetry to my face and making me look more like me. :)

Here's to more hearing and continued recovery!! :)

. . . . . . . Firsts and Milestones

Sometime yesterday we hit another blog milestone, 35,000 visits since November of last year. Wow, that is fantastic. Still, I am honestly amazed. I want to genuinely thank all of you for sticking with me through the thick and thin of it all. YOU are the best blog readers in the world. I'd love to have another give away contest, but I have nothing to give, and no money to buy anything. If you have something to give, great, otherwise, I am simply going to send each of you a big cyber hug and say "thanks"!

Today was Casen's first day of kindergarten. He is more than ready for school and I am sure he was excited, though his face this morning was hard to read. I don't know if he was nervous or what, but he looked focused or concerned as we entered the classroom today. Still, after a few minutes, I got him to smile and laugh and I think he was good from there. After class, he told me about the fish tank, stamps and codes for getting a drink and going to the bathroom. He didn't even mention the playground until I brought it up. Too funny. :)



I was both excited and sad to see him start school. My little boy is growing up, now I will only have Daven home with me (for half the day, at least). I hope the world doesn't take hold of him too soon. I want him to be my guy as long as possible. :)

Monday, August 30, 2010

.. . . . . . Of Hope and Love

Saturday I went to a beautiful wedding. I cried when I saw tears from the father of the bride as he gave his daughter to her new husband. My heart was filled with hope as I saw the love between the bride and her groom. They, too, were filled with hope, evident in their eyes and their smiles.

They hope for wonderful days ahead, for blessings of health, strength, compassion and love. They hope for fairy-tale endings and real-life miracles. They hope for a strong family and years of growth, until they finally grow old together.

The ceremony, only a few minutes long, reminded me why love is so important. It reminded me that I need to demonstrate love in all I do, as well as in the ways I touch, smile and see others. I am grateful for this event and for the restored hope and joy I feel because of it. I will always remember the look on the bride's face as she stood next to her groom, as he caressed her hand and they said, "I do". A beautiful start to a happy, hopeful, loving life together. My best wishes to Nicole and Patrick as they start out their lives together. And, congrats to my dear friend, Noellee, the amazing mother of the bride!

I pray we can all have that kind of hope and love in our families, this day and always.

PS - Thank you to my dear friends who helped me out at church yesterday when I was feeling dizzy and under the weather. Your loving actions give me hope in mankind. :)

Friday, August 27, 2010

. . . . . . Insomnia

Sleepless nights make for hard days. The last few weeks I have spent hours and hours lying in bed, unable to find rest. Today I decided I have had enough so I called my doc and I am hoping he will have a solution to help. If any of you have suggestions, please share!

Rather than stumble through a long update post, know that I continue to make progress and life is good. I had a facial therapy appointment and Janene gave me a smiley face on my page and said my improvement since June is phenomenal! I could be "conference worthy" because I have changed so much. Great news, and we are still working to make things better.

I hope you are still looking for and finding your own miracles everyday, as we are! Love you all.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

. . . . . School Days

Walking out the door, sun in my eyes, I can hardly see them as they go...
Once so little, now independent and half grown, as off to school they go.
The smell of new shoes and sharpened pencil leads fills the air
And I see the crisp bright shirts and perfectly combed hair.
With sadness and joy I watch them start a new learning year once more
Knowing my "little ones" become big as they walk through the school door.
Off on their own to face the world, I hope and pray I have taught them right
So they can stand tall and brave, kind, faithful and always full of God's might.

Happy First Day of School! Love, Jodi

Sunday, August 22, 2010

. . . . . . The Beginning, Middle or End??

I have long been debating the end... Not the end of the world or any doomsday topic like that, but rather the natural "end" to this stage of my life. For nearly 2 years, my life has been ruled by doctor's appointments, tests, shots, scans, surgeries, recoveries, and medications. But more than all of these things, as the name of the blog indicates, my life has been full of MIRACLES.

I know that many of you are to thank for the miracles. You are the ones who have prayed for, fasted for, cried for and loved me when I needed it the most. Thank you.

The truth is, I am doing so much better now that I sometimes feel guilty "taking" anything more for myself. I believe I have had the miracles I sought from God, so perhaps this phase of my life is coming to an end. The miracles, I believe will never cease, but maybe "A Miracle for Jodi Brown" should. Perhaps it is time to end the blog, so I can turn all my attention back to my family.

When I contemplate this question, I find myself asking one main thing, "Who are you writing the blog for?" Is this for me? Is this for you? Is this for my family? The answer is, yes, to all three. The blog is a place where I can be totally honest with how I am feeling at any moment, I can shed my tears, invest my hopes, pray for miracles and vent to the world, all in my "little" online universe. It is extremely helpful and therapeutic for me, especially on the really hard days.

Someday, I also hope my children and family will be able to read my words, and yours, and know there is a loving God who cares deeply about each of us, and our struggles. I also want them to know that people are good, and they help each other, even those they do not know.

I also have to admit that I have grown to love all of you. I love the "you've got mail" feeling of seeing that some of you have left comments for me to read. They lift my spirits, make me laugh and help me remember what is important in life. Not to mention, they have kept me going when times were really tough. I also enjoy the relationships I have with so many of you, who have emailed, left comments, sent cards and love as you have gone on this journey with me. Some days, I am only thinking of you when I write.

The dichotomy is that I both dread and look forward to the end. I look forward to being WHOLE and fully investing ALL of myself in my family again, but I also dread the thought of losing all of you, as you are so dear to my heart, whether we know each other or not. But, I also wonder if I have "anything" left that is worthy of your precious time and attention.

So, what do YOU think? Where are we on this little timeline of blog life? The beginning, middle or end?? My love to all of you. :)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

. . . . .Finding the Good, Better, Best

Last year, a wonderful talk was given by religious leader, Dallin Oaks. He challenged us to find the BEST ways to use our time, talents and energies. He reminded us there would be many good and better ways to spend our time, but we should focus on those that would be the BEST use of our time.

School starts next week for my children, as so do all their fall activities. I have found myself stressed over the last weeks, trying to fogure out how we are going to have the time and money for the variety of activities our children want to participate in. The calendar began to fill and I quickly realized that every afternoon and evening (plus some mornings) would be taken with activities for our children.

After a long discussion with Tolan, we have decided it is just too much for the family, and not the BEST use of my time, or the children's time, to be engaged in so many activities. So, I have been un-enrolling kids from activities all week. Already I feel a sigh of relief to know that we have been freed from the entanglements of the world, even the "good" ones.

We will all still have plenty of activities to do, but time together as a family is far more important to us now, and we are confident the BEST way we can spend our time is TOGETHER. :)

Monday, August 16, 2010

. . . . . . Surgery Post-Op Appointment

Today I had a post-op with Dr. Kim. He is my normal oculoplastic surgeon and he will be doing all my follow-ups since Dr. Levine is so far away.

The good news is that my eye looks great (for 11 days post-op, that is). There is very little swelling and almost no bruising left. It is truly remarkable, no, more than that, miraculous is more like it. The docs and their patients all told me to expect terrible swelling and bruising for 3 weeks, with complete recovery in 3 months. In comparison to that time frame, my recovery is truly miraculous. :)

My stitches came out and everything from the procedure looks good. I still cannot blink, and I hope that will come in time, as the rest of the swelling goes away and things settles into place. I emailed Dr. Levine with more post-op questions, so I hope to have a few more answers soon.

The bad news is my vision has gotten worse out of my right eye, a lot worse. I was 20/50, now I am 20/200. Yikes. Dr. Kim said it is because I have "shagreen" which is essentially like having scales (they refer to it as crocodile shagreen) on the eye. Some of the "scales" are normal, but mine are particularly bad now, causing the poor vision. This is likely a result of overexposure and trauma to the eye from everything over the last few weeks, including tests, surgery, contacts, dry air..... So, hopefully it is temporary.

I still have a long way to go, but Dr. Kim was clearly impressed with how far I have come. He said the brow lift looked beautiful and makes me look much more normal (I agree!). He also said there are surgeons who can help fix my smile by literally "pinning" it up from my temple and hooking the corner of my mouth. Strange thought, but no stranger than a spring in my eye. :)

So, a good appointment overall, with plenty of room still for improvement. Check out today's eye pics.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

. . . . . . . The Importance of Friends

For making me smile and lifting my spirits, thank you, dear friends. For sending me flowers and cards of care, thank you, dear friends. For calling and emailing and bringing over dinner and treats, thank you, dear friends.

Good friends are sooo important! I truly appreciate all the kindness that has been shown to our family this week. Thanks to Cami and Heidi for wonderful meals, to Randy for his always heartfelt sentiments and card, to the gang at OC Tanner for the beautiful flowers, to my sisters and my mom, for listening when times were tough, to my dad for being so faithful at checking up on me, and to my amazing husband for taking care of EVERYTHING when I couldn't! Oh, and to our dear, dear friends, the Rhoads, thank you for driving up here to spend the day and evening with us. It was a wonderful visit, a fun BBQ, and the kids had a blast at the river!!!






This river is just about 2 minutes from our house, it is just like a scene out of the movies, with a water hole, rope swing and a rafting area! I love where we live! :)

video video

I love you all and the amazing support you give me, especially when times are tough! Thank you!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

. . . . . . Weighty Matters

It is probably good that I didn't write a post yesterday, as I was an emotional basket case most of the day. My apologies to anyone who happened to call or stop by, and therefore became a victim of my tears and blubbering.

Let's just say that it takes me a day or two to get a grip when reality strikes and I realize that there is no such thing as a "fix" to my issues. I am so ready to be better, to be well, to be whole, but that day will have to wait. Until then, the "hard" days will happen from time to time. I guess that is life.

I have finished some of my meds, so I have fewer side effects to deal with now, meaning I should not have as many dizzy spells, balance issues, headaches and mood swings. That is great news.

My eye is looking great, all things considered. I cannot believe how quickly it is looking better. It is still not functioning the way it will, but progress is happening.

After surgery last week, they gave me back the gold weight that was in my eye since last June. Strange to see this little piece of gold and realize that it was part of me.

Notice the curved shape, which was supposed to fit the contour of my eye.
My kids were hoping it would be worth a lot of money, since it is 24 carat gold, however, according to the price of gold today (which is near an all-time high), I figure it is worth about $70. We could melt it down, but it would hardly be worth the effort, I'd rather keep the gold weight as it is. It is part of my history, part of me. And, I KNOW that one day, photos, eye patches and gold weights will be the only physical reminders of my challenges. So, I better keep it, just for proof. :)