Raising a Heart Warrior in the “Normal”

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This week is CHD Awareness Week. A week that rides on the coattails of Heart Month, Heart Awareness Month, Wear Red Week, CHD Awareness Month and many other names for February. February has become the month for everything heart related, for obvious reasons. Thinking about this compelled me to write something in honor of our own heart warrior, our youngest daughter. But, what could I say exactly? When I spoke to my husband about it, we both agreed. Sometimes it’s the aftermath that sticks with us. Sometimes the residual, the left-overs, the stuff around the edges, is the part we still struggle with.

Like when this happened…

We were at a swim meet, which is not unusual. We had been to many meets before, more than I want to count. It can be challenging to keep a positive attitude while sweating out of every pore of your body. You have to learn how to sit next to water but not actually participate by getting in the water. It can do funny things to your brain. Just ask any swim parent.

In the past, I would chase down my kids and let’s be honest… hover… to make sure they were actually in the right place at the right time so they could achieve the glory of swimming in a 30 second race. Lately, they have both grown old enough to keep track of their own events.  My daughters had earned the right of responsibility and I had been lulled into a new sense of freedom. I let them go and do their thing, while I was suddenly free to do other things, like volunteer to help organize the new timing system. It’s because I was volunteering that I was watching the meet so closely. It’s because I was volunteering that I ended up looking up at the blocks… and then down at my heat sheet… and then up at the blocks… and then down to my heat sheet… and then…  With a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, I realized that what I saw written on the page did not match the swimmers lined up for the race. One swimmer was missing. My youngest daughter was missing.

The anxiety washed over me like a waterfall. I was paralyzed.

I had just seen her. It had been a mere matter of seconds since she told me how much she was excited about getting to swim in this race. It was totally unlike her to forget. She’s usually that swimmer who lines up at the blocks early. She’s usually anxiously awaiting her turn. So, where was she?

As the panic began to rise, the bile in my throat made me feel like I was going to puke. I couldn’t seem to suck in a full breath. Relax. Breathe. I told myself.  Run through the possible scenarios.

If she had left the pool area she would have told me. She doesn’t wander and she’s not the kind of kid who would run away. Okay, move on.

If she had been taken, someone would have seen it happen. She was with her friends. They would have said something. Okay, move on.

If she had gotten sick, someone would have noticed. Again, she was with her friends. They would have found me and told me. Okay, move on.

So, where? Where was she???

After what seemed like forever, finally, I saw her. She was at the other end of the pool, by the concession stand. She was with her friends. Laughing. Having fun. She had no idea what had happened. She had simply gotten distracted.

Okay. Deep breath. It’s going to be okay.

Except that it wasn’t okay. Not really. It’s never, ever completely okay.

That little girl is more than my daughter, more than my genetic reproduction. She’s my medical miracle. My heart warrior.

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Everyday that she wakes up and says good morning is one more day marked in the “I can’t believe she has made it this far” book. Every moment she drives me crazy is another moment that I almost wasn’t given. Every question she asks over and over, every time she rolls her eyes, and every time she gets sassy, is another moment I was never promised. Every hug, every kiss, every tear is a second chance to love the baby that almost wasn’t.  I could lose my mind if I think about it all. I could lose my mind trying not to think about it all. It makes life here in the “normal” difficult to process.

As a family, we’ve fought the war of survival. We’ve battled the anxiety and fear. We’ve earned our scars. On most days, we’ve already won. We chose to fight rather than give up. In that, we’ve already received our trophy. We’ve already been accepted into the club.

It can be invigorating. It can be exhausting.

Somewhere inside of all that invigorating exhaustion, is exactly where I discovered that missing one race is not the same as missing her life.

She had missed the race, yes, but she was having fun. She had missed a race, yes, but she was also, finally, confident enough to explore on her own… without clinging to me. She had missed the race, yes, but she was happy, secure, and surrounded by friends. Who wouldn’t want that?

Sure, she made a mistake. She had even let the team down, but I didn’t need to scold her. Once she realized what had happened, she felt terrible. There was nothing I could say to her that she wasn’t already saying to herself. She’s the kind of kid who probably won’t ever do it again. At least, not if she can help it.

Guess what? Kids make mistakes. Kids get distracted. Even medical miracles. In my anguish of fear and anxiety, I had forgotten to consider, maybe she had just screwed up. Maybe, she had just acted like an eleven-year-old. Maybe, she was being “normal.” The crowd was so big, the meet was so chaotic, and my panic was so distracting that it kept me from seeing what was completely obvious. She was just a kid being a kid.

No matter what our particular situations may be, I think as moms we can all agree that anxiety and fear come with the territory. I think we all agree that our children are never far from our minds or our hearts. It’s more than a knee-jerk response. It’s like smelly left-overs from a meal you didn’t want in the first place. Something like garlic asparagus or kimchi. It’s the kind of gift that keeps on giving. But, just because my panic is justified, earned even, it doesn’t make it healthy.

That day at the pool, it only took two minutes to find her. Only two minutes had passed between the panic and the relief. Two minutes that of course took another two months off my life. That’s the price I pay for being her mother. It’s also a small price to pay.

The weight of her illness at times surrounds me, engulfs me, and brings me to my knees.  Occasionally, especially once I have recovered from my mommy induced panic, I can see that’s not necessarily a bad place to be. From down low, the best thing I can do for myself and for my heart warrior, is look up.

©2017 Betts Keating. All rights reserved.
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Read more of Betts Keating’s story in her memoir, My Movie Memoir Screenplay Novel, available for purchase at amazon.com.

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©2016 Betts Keating. All rights reserved.

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Read more of Betts Keating’s story in her memoir, My Movie Memoir Screenplay Novel, available for purchase at amazon.com.

 

Click the FOLLOW button to follow this blog.

Still Waiting for My Train

About a month ago, I was at a book signing in my hometown. It was a shared event. I was promoting my book together with my nephew, JJ Calloway, who was there to promote his book. It’s a family thing.

Unfortunately, over the weekend, not only did I discover that my parents had been battling a nasty cold for weeks, but I found out that my nephew was also under the weather. So, it was no surprise that when I got home, I also got a cold. It’s a family thing.

Colds, although annoyingly inconvenient, can be a good thing. They give our bodies the warning alert it needs to slow down. If I have learned anything from my multiple injuries, it’s that it’s always a good thing to let our bodies rest in order to heal. I took advantage of my downtime, and I read a book.

I decided to read Lauren Graham’s, Talking As Fast As I Can. In an effort to be completely honest, I should tell you that I put this book on hold at the library months ago. I am a huge Gilmore Girls fan, so I knew I would like it. I wanted to be at the top of the check-out list. I planned ahead. I looked forward to it. I just didn’t expect to battle congestion and a foggy head space at the same time I was enjoying it.

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While sitting in my favorite chair, tucked under a cozy blanket, drinking tea with honey to try to outwit my obsessive coughing, I happened upon these sentences:

But life doesn’t often spell things out for you or give you what you want
exactly when you want it, otherwise it wouldn’t be called life, it would
be called vending machine.

It’s hard to say exactly when it will happen, and it’s true that whatever
you’re after may not drop down the moment you spend all your quarters,
but someday soon a train is coming. In fact, it may already be on the way.
You just don’t know it yet.
(Lauren Graham, Talking as Fast as I Can).

Someday my train will come? Will it? Currently, I’m not so sure. Some days I feel like my train got delayed, rerouted, or perhaps even derailed. I would like to check the train schedule, radio the engineer, or simply hear its slow rumble coming down the track. But, I haven’t been able to pinpoint the exact location of my train. I’m not even sure it has left the station. I seem to still be struggling with the same things that I have always been struggling with. And, I don’t recognize a solution, at least not yet.

Our circumstances have been wreaking havoc on my spirit again. They have shown up like annoying little monsters of stress and anxiety… all ugly and gnarly. It’s so easy to return to my old patterns of grief and discouragement. It’s so easy to want to wallow. But, that doesn’t get me from anywhere or take me to anywhere. That just leaves me where I’ve been, stuck on the station platform desperately looking down the track for a sign, any sign, that my train is on its way.

I have tried, over and over… and over, to convince myself that the place where I currently reside is not going to be the place I will stay forever. It’s not easy to talk to myself about this. Some days, I just don’t want to listen. Some days, I am just tired of fighting the good fight. Lauren Graham only had to wait five years for her train, it’s been over 15 for me… and I’m still here. Still waiting.

No, I’m not complaining, just stating a fact.

Amazingly, even though it has been so hard for so long, reading these few simple sentences reminded me that it’s worth it to keep looking down the track. It’s worth it to keep hoping. Yes, someday, my train could still come in.

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Inspiration. Creativity. Nuggets of wisdom. Hope. They all work in mysterious ways. They all show up when you least expect them. They always come as a surprise. At least they do for me. It took a perfectly timed book release, paired with a perfectly timed library rental (I wasn’t even first on the list, I was third), paired with an unexpected sick-day, for me to slow down long enough to even read these sentences. Could that all be a coincidence? I don’t think so. I think, everything conspired together perfectly to send me a message.

Sometimes you’ve gotta slow down long enough to listen.

Thank you, Lauren Graham, for writing these sentences. Thanks for reminding me it’s still okay to hope. Thanks for reminding me it’s still okay for me to expect my train to come in.

Wait… is that the solemn sound of a train whistle I hear in the distance? 

I hope so. Yes? Maybe.

 

©2016 Betts Keating. All rights reserved.
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Read more of Betts Keating’s story in her memoir, My Movie Memoir Screenplay Novel, available for purchase at amazon.com.

Find out more about JJ Calloway’s book, Monster Visits the Land of Colors, here.

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©2016 Betts Keating. All rights reserved.
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Read more of Betts Keating’s story in her memoir, My Movie Memoir Screenplay Novel, available for purchase at amazon.com.

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©2016 Betts Keating. All rights reserved.

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Read more of Betts Keating’s story in her memoir, My Movie Memoir Screenplay Novel, available for purchase at amazon.com.

Click the FOLLOW button to follow this blog.

Behind the Scenes – Permission to Laugh

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I’M GIVING YOU PERMISSION TO LAUGH…

Author: Even though I was the one struggling through this moment in my story, it still makes me laugh. What was I thinking???? Anyway, next time you see someone struggling to walk with a walker – be kind. There is a reason they are blocking your way. Don’t judge. Don’t stare. Just go around!

My Movie Memoir Screenplay Novel, by Betts Keating
Chapter Six – Diastasis Symphysis Pubis

Then there was the time we decided to go to a movie. Disney’s Monsters, Inc., had just opened and my sister and I thought it would be fun to take my daughter to her first movie. If you are thinking to yourself, “this isn’t going to go well,” you’re right. It didn’t.

 

OPEN: EXTERIOR NEW YORK CITY STREET

MUSIC: something with big horns that implies “action.” Similar to theme song from Magnum P.I.

CAMERA HOLDS on exterior of apartment building with MOMMY and SISTER coming down stairs.

MOMMY hobbles down carefully with obvious pain putting all of her weight on the guard rail (ironically in conflict with music).

MOMMY is wearing unattractive elastic brace around hips on outside of clothing.

SISTER walks down the stairs without any difficulty, wearing the BABY in front facing baby carrier and also carrying a metal walker.

ALL reach sidewalk, rearrange and begin moving toward street corner. It is torturous how slowly they are moving. Again in direct conflict to music.

The city continues to bustle around them. People zoom past them in a blur of speed. Cars honk loudly.

CUT TO: Close up of MOMMY’s feet and walker on sidewalk. Emphasize sound of MOMMY’s movement.

Shuffle. Shuffle. Thump. Drag.

MUSIC screeches to stop

VOICE-OVER/MOMMY
Ouch

MUSIC starts again

REPEAT: Shuffle. Shuffle. Thump. Drag.

MUSIC screeches to stop

VOICE-OVER/MOMMY
Ouch.

MUSIC starts again

REPEAT: Shuffle. Shuffle. Thump. Drag.

MUSIC screeches to stop

VOICE-OVER/MOMMY
Ouch.

FADE TO BLACK

TITLE: 40 Minutes later

FADE IN: CAMERA HOLDS on front of theater.

Fresh as a daisy SISTER stands next to panting, sweaty MOMMY leaning heavily on walker.

SISTER buys tickets while MOMMY gives sheepish grin to clerk behind window.

CLERK shakes his head in disbelief. The scene before him doesn’t make sense.

MUSIC begins playing again

MOMMY puts on brave face and continues into the theater.

CUT TO: MOMMY as she finally makes it to seat and collapses in giant relief. Sister swoops in and sits down with perfect ease, even while carrying BABY.

SISTER
Are you OK?

MOMMY
Fine, fine, yes, I’m fine.
(brush off – obviously lying)

SISTER looks at MOMMY incredulously (one eyebrow raised). MOMMY’s tough-girl facade dissolves into a slow giggle which quickly turns into loud laughter. Soon both MOMMY and SISTER are crying they are laughing so hard.

VOICE-OVER/MOMMY
Me, myself and I, we’re idiots.

Laughter continues.

FADE TO BLACK

 

The movie theater that I so desperately needed to reach was literally across the street, less than 400 yards away, and yet it took me 40 minutes to get there. It took 40 minutes. If you ever want to really challenge yourself, try walking in NYC with a walker when you have the kind of injury that makes it impossible to pick up your feet. Not pretty, but funny in a thank-God-that-is-not-me-train-wreck, sort of way. I’m giving you permission to laugh, I did.

©2016 Betts Keating. All rights reserved.

______________________________________________________________

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Read more of Betts Keating’s story in her memoir, My Movie Memoir Screenplay Novel, available for purchase at amazon.com.

Click the FOLLOW button to follow this blog.

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©2016 Betts Keating. All rights reserved.

______________________________________________________________

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Read more of Betts Keating’s story in her memoir, My Movie Memoir Screenplay Novel, available for purchase at amazon.com.

Click the FOLLOW button to follow this blog.

Podcast with Mara Watts @ Get Out Mama – Part Two

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Visual Storytelling ~ An Interview with Author Betts Keating. Here is the website link: http://www.getoutmama.com/betts-keating/PartTwo

“I love reading.  I don’t have much time to read anymore, unfortunately, due to the fact that…well…I’m a tad busy raising two kiddos.  BUT!  (There is always a “but”) I have really enjoyed Betts Keatings’ book,“My Movie Memoir Screenplay Novel (…and other disjointed storytelling techniques)”.  It’s like they say, “it is extremely hard to put it down!”  You just really want to know what is next.  The story is so touching.  You laugh, you cry, you smile, you sympathize, you just really feel all the feels when you read her book. It is that good.”