Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Lesson from Grief

A month ago, my little brother, Michael Lewis Hunsaker, departed this life. A drunk driver hit the car my mother, sister and he were in. They survived. He did not.

Our sadness has spawned many tears. And I have felt the peace which passes understanding more times than I can count. We see too many small and simple signs that God used this tragedy to take Michael home. It was his time. And while we miss him more than we can say, there is a peace that accompanies this knowledge, and I truly have reason to live extremely well.

There are some strange lessons you learn through grief. I'd like to share just one of them. It is this: People mourn weird. And you have to learn how to graciously accept their offering.

People say things or give things that come from their hearts, and yet fall woefully short of being helpful. Afterwards you may shake your head or just laugh over the absurdity of it with your loved ones. Because there's not much you can do to stop this kind of thing. But man, I didn't really expect this to be one of the lessons to come out of death.

This card I found once sums it up pretty well:
(photo cred)
People mean well. And far and away most of them say and do things that truly help you bear your grief. But now and again, someone mourns weird. They are trying to help, and so you're at least thankful for that. And the laughing with your family about it afterwards? That's kind of a healing thing too.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Reaching out

Today my friends, seen and unseen, heard me cry out in pain (perhaps some of them literally, it wasn't a baby cry, it was a full grown woman bellow). It's been the same hardness of mental anguish over here. Day in and day out. Often I don't contain it well. The anguish, that is.

So during the day I had two friends reach out with texts, and another reach out with food. She remembered how I don't like to cook and brought us a casserole for the future.

And some unseen hands went and got gifts for our whole family. Wrapped gifts for the children, stitching supplies for me, a gift card for Chris for one of his favorite fast food places, and a bundle of blankets. Snuggy flanel ones for each of us. They left it all on our doorstep and ran. Leaving us full of thanks and inability to express it directly.

Thanks for helping me hold on today. Thank you for making sure I couldn't feel forgotten. Thank you for strengthening my feebleness and responding to my cry.

Call it coincidence if you like. I know its something more.

image cred

Saturday, November 11, 2017

three to four weeks

A little bit "stream of conciousness" writing about my demons. For your benefit as well as mine, but please... no pity.

Imagine you wake up every day in pain. It's severe enough that you don't even want to get out of bed you feel so bad. But you have responsibilities that cannot be set aside, so you get up

That pain stays with you throughout the day. There are moments, sometimes even an hour or two, of relief, but like an overbearing house guest, the pain never leaves you alone.

You go see a doctor who knows your condition, prescribes medication to help with the pain and asks to see you in 3 to 4 weeks. After all, that's about how long the medication will take to really work. Oh, and by the way, it's likely that this medication will make your pain worse. If it does, get in to see the doctor sooner, and also, we have a whole slew of medications we can try in case this particular one goes south. But again, each time it will be 3 to 4 weeks before we'll know and your pain might again get worse instead of getting better.

It's not that the doctor is incompetent. No, he's one of the best in his field. You just have to endure life altering pain for days and weeks at best and months and years at worst before you may find any measure of relief.

It's exhausting. It's terrifying. It makes you want to weep. In fact, you often can't do anything but weep.

And it is my life. Every day for months now. Life with a diagnosed, but not successfully treated mental illness.

I'm writing this post for two reasons:
1) because it helps me to write. I can process, make some order out of the chaos in my head. Search for meaning in the moments of mind-numbing anguish. It helps me to write.

2) because maybe you know someone with a mental illness. Maybe you are someone with a mental illness. If you have it, you need to know you aren't alone. You aren't the only one contemplating the deepest abyss and overcoming it hour by hour, day by day. If you know someone, maybe you can understand a bit better what it is they may be facing. You can give an encouraging hug. Some words like, "I see your suffering, and I'm cheering for you." Words that might lift up hands which hang and strengthen knees which are feeble.

I'm NOT writing this post for pity. Unlike others I've talked to, I have almost zero shame about my mental illness. I haven't worn myself to the bone thinking that I'm depressed because I'm just not good enough or because I'm weak. I don't wish to hide the fact that my mind is broken any more than I might wish to hide if my arm were broken. Even my therapist and psychiatrist have made comments concerned about the stigmas associated with these illnesses. And while you could state with some certainty that I'm not exactly of sound mind, all I want to say is, "Who cares?"

I've learned from multiple sources, (parents, family, friends, books, and even TED talks) that mental illness is really the same as physical illness insofar as it's just a part of the body experiencing malfunction. It's different in that the human brain is, as my psychiatrist put it, the most complicated system in the entire known universe. And we haven't exactly cracked the code of fixing it when it's broken.

All that is to say. Be kind to those around you. You never know what darkness they may be facing. It may be that your kindness is just the thing that gets them through one more hour, one more day, or one more round of meds that may not help. Be kind, be encouraging, and above all, be patient.

As Tolkien might say:
Even darkness must pass.
A new day will come.
And when the sun shines
it will shine out the clearer.

photo cred

Friday, April 28, 2017


I love fiber and textiles. So much so that I've at least dabbled in most of the common crafts and have a continuous rotation of deep dives into my favorites.

As of this typing, I have four knitting projects, three embroidery projects and one crochet project that I work on fairly regularly.
Volt shawl I'm currently knitting for my German Knit-Pal
I don't always finish the projects. But sometimes I'll go back to a project I dropped years ago and finally finish it. (or just close the drawer again and think "later... maybe later.")

Part of me really enjoys this, having lots of creative outlets to choose from at any given time. I love bouncing from one project to another. I'll get stuck, (boredom, frustration, lack of tools, etc.) and work on a different project that scratches an itch I have in another part of my brain. Then when I go back to the original project, it feels fresh and hopeful and good.

Part of me feels judgmental about this. Is it because I don't want to be seen as wasteful? I don't want to be seen as excessive or frivolous? I don't want to be seen as someone who can start but not finish a task? I don't want others to think I'm flighty or flakey? I think it's some mixture of all of these reasons.

There's a running theme amongst crafters of all varieties, and that is anxiety about stash build-up, mixed with jokes about how your significant other disapproves of the mess, or of a potential new purchase, or of a barely completed new purchase. It's like we have to justify our stash to the world or at least ourselves, and if we can't come up with a good reason, then at least we can laugh nervously and hope we're not the only one.

I don't know what the answer to this conundrum is. But I've got a few thoughts.

1) This life has a lot of beginnings and endings, but not a lot of completions. Especially perfect completions. When is it that you can check off the box to "Completed teaching my children. Forever. They're fully baked and are whole beings now"? Or "Completed learning. I've perfected all knowledge"? It sounds ridiculous, especially on that scale. But I kinda think it's ridiculous to expect entirely perfect completions of smaller scale things like my craft projects. We might think that a project will be conceived, begun, worked on, then finished, all like a nice little package, but creation doesn't usually work out like that for me. It's more complicated, less linear, more chaotic, less perfect. A little dabbling here, a long-haul effort there and some glorious learning along the way.

2) My fear about "others" judgement is, I think, more about fearing my own judgement. Which sounds kinda silly now that I've typed it out. Don't I like having lots of projects? (yes) Do I really want to change how I'm doing things? (no, at least not at this point in my life) So, where's the judgement that I've been fearing? Not sure, but I suspect it's the virtue of "trying to become," gone awry. I want to grow and become more excellent at everything (including being able to focus and work hard, and not be, well, flighty). But I've come to realize that I can either wait to act until perfection has been attained, or I can keep moving and trying out lots of things and making lots of mistakes (in planning the projects, in executing them, or in both) and growing through doing. And I have a sneaking suspicion that the latter version is the only one that actually leads to growth. The mistakes are sometimes painful and always uncomfortable, but I can't let myself get hung up on them, or hung up on the possibility of them. I'd never get anywhere.

So the moral of the story is, I think I like having a lot of projects. And I'm gonna try to be patient with myself when I feel anxious about having a lot of things I started but never finished. It's all part of the process. And if I keep moving forward with my eyes wide open, I think, in the end, I'll be glad I did.

Now please excuse me while I go back to the knitting project I just started a couple of hours ago...

Thursday, February 16, 2017

I used to have a brain

I used to have a brain. Well, to be perfectly honest, I still DO have one, it's just not functioning the same way it used to.

I told a friend recently about this analogy I've come with about my mind. It goes like this:
Let's say I was an athlete, a soccer player perhaps, and really in shape and working out all the time at soccer practice. Then one day I injure myself. Maybe blow out my knee during a game. Now I can't even do many of the things people just normally do because my knee just hurts too bad, let alone do many of the things I did as a great athlete. My knee needs rest, physical therapy, maybe some pain meds, all in a long slow effort at recovery.  
PPD is like this for me. Except instead of my knee, it's like my mind is damaged. Things I used to be able to do, mental/emotional stamina I used to have is gone. I try to do the things I used to do, and so quickly, I'm in pain. But not physical pain, emotional pain that manifests itself as frustration, irritability, discouragement, anxiety, sadness, overwhelming-ness, etc.
There's so much beauty in the world around me. Smiling, chubby-cheeked baby, giggling toddlers, snuggling children, laughing with my best friend. And sometimes it bowls me over with how wonderful life is.

And yet at the same time, I'm trekking through a mist of darkness. It's like my mind is drudging through a murky bog just to get up, move, do the things that need doing, and have the stamina to do it.

You know the part in The Two Towers when Frodo says to Sam: You and I, Sam, are still stuck in the worst places of the story, and it is all too likely that some will say at this point: "Shut the book now, dad; we don't want to read any more."

I'm in that part of my story. And like Frodo and Sam, I'm going to keep walking. I sometimes want to stop reading the book, too. But I can't. I have to keep walking.

And deep down, I believe the white shores are calling. That's where I'm headed in the end.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Lucy's Birth

July 12, 2016

Think back to the early part of July 2016. That's when this miracle of a baby came into our home. Here's the story of how it happened (written when she was 9 days old. And reading it now I laugh because I can almost hear how sleep-deprived I was, I did a little editing for grammar and clarity, but mostly left my sleep-deprived voice stay the same):
At 38 weeks and 5 days I was still only dilated to a one. Despite the fact that I had way more contractions with this pregnancy than with my previous two, this baby was not going to make a very early entrance. 
So at my appointment, the doctor recommended we set a date for induction. Because of my gestational diabetes she thought it was a good idea, and frankly I was so tired of being pregnant I thought it was a fantastic idea. So we set the date for June 12th all the while hoping that she would come before then.  
On Monday July 11th, we packed clothes for the kids and for us and spent the night at Grandma and Grandpa's Machado. Then July 12th, Chris and I got up early and left the house at about 5:30 so we could get to the hospital for the 6 a.m. induction.  
The check-in process began smoothly, and a nurse named Melissa helped start my IV and various other things. Originally the doctor suggested starting with a vaginal medicine but Lucy's heart rate kept dropping and because of that and because I was contracting on my own, we decided to go straight to pitocin. A little bit after 7 a.m. Melissa finished her shift and transferred her job over to two nurses, Tiffany and Sarah.  
Throughout the whole pregnancy this girl's been a very active baby, and her birthday was no exception. We had issues with the monitors all morning. The nurses had to keep coming in and adjusting the monitors so they could pick up her heart rate. Finally at a little after 8am, we were able to start the pitocin (I really really really really don't like pitocin contractions. Really.) All the morning I'd been having contractions which was uncommon for me to have that many in the morning.  
After about an hour of pitocin contractions, I started thinking about getting an epidural. I asked the nurse for her suggestion and she said because it was my third baby they didn't need to wait to a certain dilation before giving me an epidural, so at about 9:50 I decided I wanted one. The contractions weren't so bad that I couldn't handle them but I could tell they were getting to that point. Tiffany also said that most women seemed to ask for an epidural at about 11 a.m. so if I was going to get one it would be a good idea to ask for one before that so I wouldn't end up at the back of the line as it were. The nurses called the anesthetist, and in less than an hour she had the epidural up and running. The nurses placed a big, orange peanut shaped exercise ball between my legs which was way more convenient than several pillows, and turned me to both sides for a time in order to let gravity help the medicine distribute evenly. By the time the epidural started working I was really having to work to manage the contractions. 
Sometime between 11 and 11:30 they checked me and I was at a 5 or 6. It was hard for them to know for sure because my water hadn't broken. The nurses figured since my water hadn't yet broken they'd call my doctor and have her come break it, and then they figured it would be very quick until the time the baby came.  
Both they and Christopher needed to get lunch, so before leaving the nurses asked a technician to get the birth equipment table ready and then Chris and the nurses went and got their separate lunches. Chris got back just before noon and he hadn't been in the room for four minutes when my water burst like an over-filled water balloon. I just been thinking that I hoped I'd be able to tell if my water broke when, boom! It popped. I pushed the call button right as Sarah was walking back into the room and she and Tiffany helped clean up the huge amount of water. I could still feel contractions pretty well, in fact the best of any of my three children so far. I could also tell there was a lot of pressure from that baby's head starting to head down the birth canal. Since the doctor hadn't arrived yet Sarah told me if I started to feel the need to push I should pant like a dog to get through the contractions to stop myself from pushing. 
Tiffany paged the doctor and I love how she tried to convey a sense of urgency but not emergency to the doctor. She told Dr. King that "she's fully dilated and effaced and is trying hard not to push." "Trying not to what?" I heard Dr. King ask. "Push," Tiffany replied calmly and firmly.  
Dr. King booked it over to my room and quickly got ready to help me push. I was glad that Sarah gave me the advice about panting because I needed it through two or three contractions, I needed to push so badly! 
But I was able to wait until Dr. King was ready. And the next contraction I started pushing and by the end her head was nearly out. Dr. King asked if I wanted to push in between contractions to which I said yes! And we got her head out the rest of the way. Her body soon followed and they placed my little Lucy on my belly so I could see my little girl for the first time. 
I cried so hard. It was just so sweet to hold her and see her face. The nurses wiped her off while the doctor stitched me up. And I just marveled at this little girl who in some ways I've known for months and in some ways I was meeting for the first time.  
Lucy weighed 7 pounds 1 ounce, and was 19 and three quarters inches long. She's smaller than either Nathaniel or Eva were. And she's already stolen my heart. Nathaniel and Eva are so sweet with her baby sister. They love to ask what she's doing, and they love to give her kisses. Eva loves to give her toys to Lucy and then quickly take them back so she can play with them again. So far at Lucy doesn't seem to mind. We have a beautiful family of 5. And now if I can just get some sleep, I might feel like a regular human again.
 So there you have it. Lucy Annalise Machado. Her middle name is a conglomeration of her grandmothers'. Chris's mom and grandma both have the middle name Anne, and my mom's name is Lisa. Lucy we just loved the sound and meaning of, and Machado, well. yeah. of course.

She's almost 7 months old now. We thought her brother and sister were mellow babies, but man. This girl takes the cake. There's a reason #MomIsMyFaveJob.

Christmas Day, 2016

Monday, July 11, 2016

Until tomorrow

Dear Little One,

Tomorrow, if all goes well, you will come into this world. I'm so looking forward to seeing you and holding you. Smelling your baby smell, hearing your baby noises, seeing your squashy cheeks. Ahh.... some of the sweetest moments of motherhood.

You are baby number three in our family. I was also baby number three, as was your Grandpa Dean. I had two older brothers who, when I was born, were almost the exact ages that Nathan and Eva are right now. You have some powerhouse siblings. Your brother loves telling jokes, making Eva giggle, learning about cars and anything that goes, imagining he's a deep-sea explorer, and giving hugs and kind words at just the right moment. Your sister loves to snuggle soft toys, especially her bunny, and say "Awww!" while she give them a hug. She loves singing and joins in on the last word of each phrase of the songs she knows. She's starting to understand that other people have wants and needs and she loves asking about them. Like today when she asked if my crackers were all gone, and then asked, "Mommy, more crackers?" wondering if I wanted more. Oh, and of course she loves food. It's probably her true passion.

Though Eva is a little too young to understand that you're coming, Nathaniel understands quite well, and he can't wait. You should have seen the look on his face when I told him that tomorrow, Daddy and I would be going to the hospital where the doctor would help you be born. He ran right over to Grandma Kimi and excitedly told her the good news, which of course, she already knew!

This pregnancy has gone by so slowly and so quickly all at once. I think about you every day, and I feel a calm assurance that you're coming to our family and coming at this time by design. This pregnancy has been hard on me, and yet, I feel so deeply that you are worth all I've been through and overflowingly more.

I wanted you before I even new you were coming. A week or two before I found out I was pregnant with you, I attended a conference all about families in Salt Lake City. I thought so much about my own family and felt such gratitude for the shape our family had already taken. And I was already looking forward to the day when we'd have another child in our home. Wouldn't it be fun, I thought, if I was pregnant with that baby right now? Well, it turns out, I was pregnant with you. Right then. I just didn't know it.

And tomorrow morning, at 6am, we're to be at the hospital where they'll start the induction process. And then a few or many hours later, I hope to be holding you in my very own arms and kissing your very little cheeks.

Until tomorrow, then. I'll see you soon.