Thursday, April 21, 2011

What's ailing Daisy?

About this time last year we found out that one of Daisy's liver enzymes was too high.  We had x-rays done to rule out cancer, and we started her on injections for arthritis.  She has arthritis, because of an old injury to her hip that happened before she came to us.  Our vet postulated that the inflammation from the arthritis was causing the spike in her liver enzyme.  Daisy didn't much like taking the injections, and they didn't seem help.  We had her liver enzyme level checked a couple of months after starting the injections, and it had climbed even higher.  I stopped giving her the injections at that time, and we decided to get a second opinion from a vet in my husband's hometown.  All our vet knew to do was to keep ordering expensive tests.  After getting a second opinion, we decided to just wait and see if she developed any clinical signs of illness.  She has not acted sick through any of this.  She's nearly ten years old, and she has not slowed down much.  She's still a very active dog.

I took her in for her annual check-up a few weeks ago and had her liver enzymes checked again.  Both of her liver enzymes were high this time, not just one of them.  This means that there is something going on her little body that is causing liver cells to die.  We've had several tests done, and I took  her to see an internal medicine veterinarian.  So far we have determined that Daisy does not have any of the following:
bone cancer (ruled out via x-ray)
lung cancer (ruled out via x-ray)
Cushing's disease (ruled out via low dose dexamethasone suppression test)
liver cancer (ruled out via ultrasound)
gallstones (ruled out via ultrasound)
hyperparathyriodism (ruled out via blood test)
hypo- and hyperthyroidism (ruled out via blood test)

The internal med vet called last night, and she has given us the option to have a liver biopsy done.  It's not cheap - none of this has been cheap - and I really don't want to put a dog with no clinical symptoms through that.  The vet said that her best guess is that Daisy is having a problem with her bile draining too slowly.  We're going to try a medication and see if that helps.  I'll take her back to have her liver enzymes rechecked in 6 weeks.  Sounds like a simple enough plan, but it is just awful trying to get Daisy to take medication.  She has nearly driven me to tears trying to get a pill down her mouth.  She has to take glucosamine and fish oil.  I spent $50 on chewable peanut flavored glucosamine tablets, and she doesn't like them.  We have to grind them up with a mortar and pestal and them mix it with a little bit of Alpo.  The new medication is going to come from a compounding pharmacy.  It will be in liquid form, and they are going to make it "beef" flavored.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Book Review: Experiencing Grief

Our grief counselor recommended that we read this little book called Experiencing Grief.  It is available at Amazon for under $4.  This book is a general book on grief.  It is not just for widows or for parents who have lost a child.  Anyone who is wrestling with grief could gain help from this book.  That's one thing that I liked about the book.  The author writes about the emotions and fears that you may experience while grieving, and he gives practical suggestions for dealing with those feelings.

Here are a few quotes that I found helpful:

"Just remember, you don't need to be fixed."
This winter was hard.  Really hard. After losing Baby D, I cried at church every.single.Sunday. from early November to mid-January.  James wanted to have "me" back.  He's an engineer.  He fixes problems.  He's used to looking at a problem, coming up with a solution, and fixing it.  He couldn't "fix" me.  And that frustrated him.  It frustrated me too.  There just wasn't an easy solution.

"The scriptures are not a medicine cabinet, filled with prescriptions to take the edge off life. They are about a God who, during his most painful experience on earth, refused the wine mixed with myrrh that was offered him."
I had turned to the scriptures wanting to find solace. I couldn't find it.  I'd come across a verse like Deut. 4:31 "For the LORD your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your ancestors, which he confirmed to them by oath."  My heart would sting.  God's mercy was elusive. I felt like we had been obedient in following the call the adopt, and I felt like we'd been abandoned.  When I stopped approaching the scriptures like they were they medicine, I began to enjoy reading them again.

"Grief disrupts your mind and thinking ability.  Confusion moves in and memory takes a vacation."
After the loss of Baby #2, I became incredibly forgetful.  I didn't know what was wrong with me.  One Saturday following our loss, I told James that I could not remember what we had done the night before.  We had gone out to eat at one of our favorite restaurants and then we walked around outside for a little while, taking in some unusually warm February weather.  We had a good night, but in that moment I couldn't recall any of that from my memory.  My forgetfulness concerned me, and I was rather relieved to learn that it is a normal part of the grieving process.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Begone Unbelief

Even with the wonderful news we have received about Baby M, I still find my heart heavy, and doubting God.  This is a song I find myself listening to a lot these days.

This is an old hymn that was orginally penned by John Newton, who also wrote our beloved "Amazing Grace."  Indelible Grace has redone the song, and I've found myself listening to this quite a bit lately.  Here are the words:

1. Begone unbelief, My Savior is near,
And for my relief Will surely appear:
By faith let me wrestle, with God in the storm
And help me my Savior, the faith to adorn
And help me my Savior, the faith to adorn

2. Though dark be my way, Since he is my guide,
'Tis mine to obey, and His to provide;
Though cisterns be broken, And creatures all fail,
The word he has spoken will surely prevail.
The word he has spoken will surely prevail.

Begone unbelief, The Savior is here (3x)
Though cisterns be broken And creatures all fail
The word he has spoken will surely prevail
The word he has spoken will surely prevail

3. Why should I complain, Of want or distress
Temptation or pain? He told me no less
The heirs of salvation, I know from his word
Through much tribulation Must follow their Lord
Through much tribulation Must follow their Lord

4. Since all that I meet will work for my good,
The bitter is sweet, The medicine food;
Though painful at present, will cease before long,
And then, O! how glorious, The conqueror's song!
And then, O! how glorious, The conqueror's song!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Happy Birthday Lily

 Our Lily turned 6 years old today. We got her from a breeder in Northeast Arkansas just after I graduated from pharmacy school. No, she was not a graduation present. We had been waiting for her.  We had been on a waiting list with the breeder, and I will always remember getting the email telling us that she was ours. She is a spunky little dog. At least she is when she's around people she knows. She's rather shy around strangers. Unless you have a beer in your hand. Then she will be your buddy. Ha! I'm not kidding. She's torn up her fair share of shoes.  She got a hold of a pair of James' shoes one day several years ago, and she made such a mess that James waited to clean it up until after I got home from work. He didn't think I'd believe the awfulness of the mess that she had made unless I had seen it with my own eyes. He was right. There were pieces of the shoe strewn all over the living room. Lily is the snuggliest dog I've ever had. She will sleep by my feet all night long.
 We give the doggies cupcakes on their birthdays.  No, gasp, we are not the most fastidious pet parents ever.  This will probably mean that we will indeed give our kids an occasional chicken McNugget.  Gasp again.  I know.  We might as well let them eat wood and glue.  (Can you sense my sarcasm?)
Daisy got a cupcake too.  She ate the cake part first, and then she tried to eat the icing all at once.  That didn't work so well.
We love you, Lily!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Referral Call #3

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who has been praying for us lately!  I know there are people who have prayed for us that we will not meet this side of heaven.  Knowing that our brothers and sisters in Christ, some that we don't even know, have been lifting us up before our Father has been such a blessing.  We are finally ready to share some news that is an answer to prayer!

Monday, March 14th 2011 was an unusual day. I woke up to snow. James was still home because the roads were a mess from the snow. He usually leaves really early in the morning before I'm awake. I had to go to the doctor's office at 9 am to get some lab work done, nothing serious. Just routine stuff. Since the roads were bad, James drove me to the doctor's office. We were scheduled to meet our social worker for lunch at 11:30, and the weather did not prevent us from doing that. James and I meet her and her boss at a little Italian restaurant in St. Louis' Italian district. We talked about our plans and asked about a hundred questions about domestic adoption. We left a little after 1:00 and I drove James to work. I had a little shopping that I wanted to do, so I went to Bed Bath and Beyond. After I was finished in the store, I went back to my car and I checked my phone to see if I had missed any calls. Sure enough, I had a voice mail from our social worker. She had a referral for us to consider, but it was for a child who was outside of our age parameters (1-3 years old).

A word about our age parameters: We had recently told our agency not to hold those as a hard and fast guide. We told them if there was a child who they felt we'd be a good match for, but was slightly outside of our parameters, to let us know.

I called James to see what he thought and we called our social worker. We were on the phone with her for about 15 minutes listening to her tell us what she knew about this little girl. We needed to decide if we wanted her to send us the referral documents or not. We decided to think about it for an hour and agreed to call each other at 4 pm. I went on to Micheal's and picked up some supplies to make a wreath for Easter. I called James back at 4:00, and we decided that we should call our social worker back and let her know that we did indeed want the referral information emailed to us.

We both have smart phones, so we could have opened the email and seen her pictures right away. I wanted to wait. After what we've been through I wanted to clear my head and pray before we got too involved with this little girl. I went to the mall and did a little shopping for James while I waited to go pick him up from work. I picked him up at 5:45, and then we had a counseling appointment. It was about 7:30 before we got home. We finally opened the email together and saw her pictures for the first time.
 She is just beautiful. I'm going to refer to her here as "Baby M." She is 8 months old, and she is doing really well. She can hold her head up, she is getting close to being able to sit up by herself. She can hold her toys and play peek-a-boo. She can stand with support. She can roll over and she is affectionate with caregivers. Our social worker sent us an update today with 12 pictures in it. This is the first update that we have ever received that had good news! We even got a few pictures of the orphanage that she is staying in.  We are praying that we can travel before the courts close for the rainy season in August.  Our anniversary is in June, and we'd love to spend our anniversary in Africa this year.
 These were taken a couple of days later after we signed the acceptance papers.
 We are thankful that God has placed this little girl in our lives, and we are relieved that she is healthy. I will admit that it is hard for me to feel super excited about where we are. After what we've been through, I know that there are still a lot of things that could go wrong. This baby may or may not ever be our daughter. So, we pray. We pray for Baby M and her birthmother. We pray that Baby M will be home with us soon. We pray for God to continue to heal our hearts so that we can once again say, with no reservation, that He is good, He does have a wonderful plan for us, and that He loves us with a love bigger than we comprehend.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Book Review: Choosing to See

James suggested that we pick up a copy of Choosing to See by Mary Beth Chapman.  Mary Beth is the wife of singer Stephen Curtis Chapman. They suffered the loss of one of their adopted daughters, Maria, in 2008.  This book was somewhat helpful, but it was not what I thought it would be.

I thought that the bulk of the book would be about Maria' death and their grieving process.  That was not the case.  Only the later half of the book talks about that.  The first half is about their family.  How Mary Beth and Stephen Curtis met.  Their marriage and the launch of his musical career. The birth of their three biological children. The adoptions of their three Chinese daughters.

Sometimes this book made me jealous.  It was not easy for me to read about how fast and simple their adoptions from China had been, three times over.  China!  I've heard of it taking as long as four years to adopt a child from China, but things moved much faster when they were in the process.  Things made me jealous that I never would have expected.  They had Maria for a few years.  We didn't ever even get to hold our girls, much less less watch them grow and play.  They were with Maria when she died, and they had the sacred, albeit heartbreaking, experience of ushering her into the arms of Jesus.  We will never know for sure what happened to our girls.  I don't even know who was with either of them when they breathed their last.

Mary Beth includes some of her journaling that she did after Maria's death.  This was probably the most helpful part of the book to me.  Here's one thing that I found encouraging:

"We need to understand down to the depths of our souls that whether He is quietly behind a storm cloud or blazing obviously in the bright blue sky right on our faces, Jesus, the Son, is always-not sometimes-present.  No matter what circumstance."

She quotes C.S. Lewis several times throughout the book, and that made me pick up my copy of "The Problem of Pain."  I should have reached for that book weeks before I did. 

Be careful in recommending "Choosing to See" to someone who has suffered loss.  This book is not for a grieving widow, and I don't think that it would be that helpful for a couple who has experienced a miscarriage.  I think that a mom who's had a miscarriage would have some of the same feelings of jealously that I had while reading this book.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Easter Decorations and The Mustard Seed

I put our Easter decorations out this week.  This is my favorite time of year.  I love the rebirth of nature that spring brings. I made a new wreath for our front door.  I got the supplies at Micheal's for under $15.  Here's what I used: two ostrich feathers, 1 small bag of decorative eggs, 2 bunches of silk purple flowers.
Here's what I placed on our kitchen table:
See the colored eggs above?  Those are real, hollowed out eggs that James' grandmother gave us about 8 years ago.  She gave us a dozen of them, and I still have them all.  They have survived two out-of-state moves.  The rest of them are in this basket on our dining room table:
You might have noticed that I have some unusual little bunnies.  I love these!  They are from The Mustard Seed in Brandon, Mississippi - just outside of Jackson.  My sister-in-law introduced me to the organization.  It is an Christian organization that ministers to mentally challenged adults.  They have a gift shop where they sell pottery that has been painted by the people they serve.  The vase in our entryway is also from The Mustard Seed.

I think these are the perfect thing to put out at Easter.  These bunnies are not perfect, and neither are any of us.  Their form looks right, but most would say that they are not painted with the right colors.  Real bunnies don't have green polka-dots. Just as man bears the image of God, but we aren't as we should be because sin has stained us.  They remind me that we are all fallen image bearers of God, in need of a Savior.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8