Hunting the Hummingbird - by David C Hoffman

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Friday, January 27, 2017

It was a year ago today that I had emergency surgery here in Kuwait. 

I had a counselor tell me once that our subconscious is so much more aware of dates/anniversaries than we even realize.

That is totally the case for me currently.

Yesterday I just felt off. Distracted. Blue.

When I realized the date last night and made the connection, it was as if I could hear an "a-ha" audibly. 
I got out our laptop and started looking through pictures of last January.
It's so strange to see myself, and think there was a giant cyst inside my person that very moment, twisting on itself to the point of becoming gangrenous...and I no idea. None. I had my annual women's exam in August before we moved to Kuwait, and no cyst was palpable upon exam. By the time the surgeon removed it here in January, it was the size of an infant's head. 
That bastard grew fast. 

I gave Thanks last night having lived through the whole experience, and shared with my family around the dinner table how grateful I am to be here today.

And then I didn't really think about it much more into the night, fell asleep on the couch watching shows with Dave, went to bed about 11:30pm, and proceeded to have a really disturbing night's sleep. I slept tossing and turning until Sister tapped my shoulder at 5:45am asking if it was time to wake up (no) and then if she could crawl into bed with me and snuggle (yes), and then slept again until I awoke sometime later in a state of sleep paralysis. 
I've only experienced it one other time in my life, and it's incredibly disturbing.
I could see the sun shining through our bedroom curtains, so I knew it was day time. I could hear my family making noise in the apartment, outside of our closed bedroom door, so I knew I was alone in the bedroom. I could feel a tear slide down my cheek, but could not will my arms to lift my hand to wipe it away.
Finally I fell back to sleep.

I woke up later to David gently tapping my shoulder. When I opened my eyes, he said "Baby, it's you want to keep sleeping? Or do you want to wake up?"
Um, I want to get up. It's the freaking afternoon.

He told me to take my time, and quietly left the room.

I laid there for a minute, blinking and stretching, and orienting myself.

And then a wave of panic washed over me.

How had I possibly slept so much?

Calm down's likely a result of an over stimulating week. 
(Work was especially loud this week. Think field trip with 120 three and four year olds, and a then party day. 
Also I could tell by the way my ears were all poppy and my nose stuffy that perhaps I had a cold. )

It's just those things. That's all. You are tired, and you are fighting an oncoming cold. That's why you slept nearly fourteen hours last night. Stop feeling so afraid.

And then I found words for why I felt terrified. 
This is how it all started. Last year on the day I went to the ED, I had been awaken by my husband telling me it was the afternoon.

It can't be happening again. It can't. I won't live through it happening again. I can't do it. It'll be okay. It's not happening again. Nothing scary is wrong with me. What happened to me was the exception, not the rule. 

I took some deep breaths, reminded myself I'm alive and healthy, and headed out to the living room to see my family who had been awake for so many hours they'd already had breakfast and lunch. I kissed David and thanked him for letting me sleep for so long.
I headed into the kitchen to make some coffee and get some yogurt and granola. 
I walked back into the living room and sat down to eat my breakfast.
The kids started talking to me, telling me all kinds of things.
It was an incredibly normal experience, but it all felt like SO MUCH. Too much. Words flying at me in rapid succession. I couldn't process what they were saying.
My breaths started getting rapid and short. I had sensory overload. My hands started shaking. 

I was having a panic attack.

I haven't had one in a long time, so it took me a bit to identify it and acknowledge it. 

Not wanting the kids to see me in such a state, and knowing I needed ground myself, I stood up and quickly excused myself to the bedroom for a few minutes. 

I sat on our bed and found five different things to touch. 
I closed my eyes and listened for five different sounds.
I took deep, purposeful, long, breaths.

I knew in my mind that just because I'd slept so much, did not mean in any way that I had another cyst. I knew in my mind that I was fine, and that the odds of such an event happening to me again were incredibly slim.
I knew these things in my mind, but I could not convince my panicking heart.
Such is anxiety.

I couldn't breathe. I was suffocating sitting on that bed.

I ran to the window and threw it open.

I thrust my arms and head outside. 
A sand storm was occurring, so it's not like I had the freshest of air to greet me, but the breeze felt good.

I looked down at the bumpy gravel road leading away from our apartment to the nearest main real road.

Right there. I walked right there while trying to get a cab to take me back to the hospital. I grabbed that pole, that one right there, supporting that carport to try and find my footing again after the pain had taken me to my knees. Right over there was where I had to crawl for a bit, the aching so severe I literally could not stand up. And there, right there was where I had to raise my hand in the air and pray that taxi would see me, because I was unable to use my voice to call out and get his attention. 

I was reliving it all, and it was tormenting. When I read the MRI report again yesterday I noted it said my ovary and tube were "infarcting". The medical term for a Heart Attack is a Myocardial Infarction. My ovary and tube were having a Heart Attack, and my colon was on it's way to being devoured as well. 
At that time as I was making my way to a taxi, I had no idea that's what was happening inside my body. Remember they'd diagnosed me with possible kidney stones (without any imaging) the night prior and send me home with ibuprofen and antacids. 

And then I went back into the ED...and I laid on that gurney...and I threw up into that kidney shaped bucket while being wheeled into the MRI...and I went back to that damn gurney...and they stopped my pain medicine drip...and I moaned and writhed about...and I passed out from the pain...and I awoke to a veiled Muslim woman praying over me, apparently drawn to my bed because of my wailing even in a state of being passed out...and then I passed out again...and I awoke and whisper-cried from that gurney, that effing gurney, "sister! sister! (the Arabic term for nurse) please...please somebody help me!" and I cried and cried at the futility of it all, as no one came. 

I really, truly thought I was going to die right there in that emergency room.

If you've read the original post, you know the story. Tina and her husband came to my rescue and sorted things out with the insurance and the hospital, and finally a competent physician was tracked down (by Tina, my hero :) ) and brought to my side and he fought to get me finally, actually admitted for surgery.  

Being wheeled into the O.R. (or "theater" as it's referred to here...which I can't wrap my head around calling it that as it makes it feel like a show to it's taking the seriousness of surgery all too lightly...) I remember looking around and seeing again that no one was wearing gloves and no one had really understood me when I'd tried to tell them I was allergic to sulfa meds and thinking if God Himself did not intervene I would surely die here and now.

I stood at our bedroom window and took deep breaths. I looked at different sites, smelled different smells, listened for different sounds.
It had all been so very terrifying, yes.
But I lived through it.
I am alive today.
I am a much stronger person for it.
Outside of panic attacks like today, things in general scare me much less than they used to, because I KNOW I'm tough. 
I didn't really know that about myself before this had happened. 
I am tough.

And, I am so thankful for friends, thankful for a husband who heeded my insistence he stay home with our worried children instead of come with me, thankful for the few medical personnel who did take care of me, thankful to be alive. 

Thanks be to God. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


11:15 PM, people. 

For a First Graders birthday.

These Kuwaitis really know how to par-tay.

The twins were stoked to go, and they had the best time at this Lego themed bash...

The birthday boy's mom sent me this picture the next day. These boys are huge fans of one another!

 I'm so thankful for the wonderful friends our kids have made at school. They really, genuinely just love going to school each day, and I know that is largely because of how much fun they have with their buddies. (and I choose to focus on that part and not on how it *could* be seen as a reflection of how they felt about homeschooling with me last year ;))
Our kids look and sound different than the majority of the children in their classroom - and school, for that matter - and yet they've been completely accepted and loved, just as they are.
This is such an answer to prayer for me, and a beautiful example of how children aren't born into racism. 
Even though the school is a private British school, the majority of the students are from an Arabic country - either Kuwait or a neighboring Middle Eastern country - and even though the language spoken at the school is English, most of the students naturally have an Arabic accent to their English.
Our kids stand out.
And yet, they have no clue, because they are just brought into the fold with the rest of the groups. 
The beauty of it all could make me weep until I was dehydrated if I let it.

Also during the Winter Break, we got together with a handful of school buddies at a local park...

We even got a walk-by-hugging from David as he passed by us on his way home from work...


They all thought it was pretty cool to be hanging together outside of school! It was fun for me to get to chat with the parents as well. 
The girl on the left is Sister's best buddy here. She is from Ukraine and has been living in Kuwait for three years. 

I always catch them together when I run into them at recess...

(That was on "explorer day" at school...which means no uniforms, which means I can post pictures ;). 

I had to convince Sister this giant log was not coming home with us...

Right before we left for Abu Dhabi, I stopped into our pharmacy to pick up some travel meds, and saw one of the pharmacists that I hadn't seen in awhile. He asked me if I could bring the kids by to say hi to him the following day.
Not thinking anything really of it, I agreed. 
The following afternoon, we stopped in to say hello, and he high-fived the kids, and said "come with me..." and led us out to the parking lot.
He reached into his car and pulled out two GIANT bags from a toy store. 
Inside these bags were multiple wrapped gifts for the kids!

"Merry Christmas!" he bellowed as he handed them to my stunned children...
I was choking back tears.
(yes, again. I cry a lot. I'm not even ashamed.)
Here is our Arab, Muslim pharmacist helping us (he knows we are Christians) celebrate a holiday he doesn't even observe.
It was just so thoughtful and kind, and we were all so touched.

This is why I get so uptight when people speak with fear about Muslims.
Are there bad Muslims out there? Yes, of course. There are bad people of all kinds. 
But the religion of Islam tells the Muslims to treat their neighboring people - regardless of a neighbor's religious identity - in the best possible manners and not cause any difficulty to them. 
By and large, that has been our experience while living in a country of Islam. 

Okay. Stepping off my soapbox.
The air was getting thin up there.

We were also super excited to spend time with some of our homeschooling friends we haven't been able to see as much since the twins started school. Since we were off, our weekday mornings were free, and we had some fun playdates!

We also enjoyed the freedom of not having to leave the house by 6:30am (and all God's people said AMEN) and enjoyed lazy mornings hanging around the house...

We went to see Moana
(Which I totally LOVED, by the way)

We failed -again- at the selfie, but check out Brother's finger guns...

These two were hamming it up on the way to the cinema...

We met some friends at a new park we'd never visited before. The kids had a blast exploring some new types of play equipment they'd never seen before...

Another day the twins and I met some more friends at a local park, and had a picnic together...

(You'll note the Oregonians are in t-shirts, and the South Africans are in jackets and hats ;) )

This girl is as tough as she is kind, and I'm crazy proud to be her momma!

After awhile it did get a bit chillier, and we put on sweatshirts and had some hot chocolate to warm up...

Another day, another park with another friend! 

The neighbor kids were on Winter Break as well, so there was lots of loudness fun happening out in the hallway during the days as well....

And of course, plenty of laying around in our jammies, sitting on each other while playing PlayStation...

On the last day of our break, I took the kids to a park to enjoy the weather, and run them until they were exhausted so hopefully they'd go to bed earlier that night, since we were going back to our early mornings the following day...

There was a vendor selling bubble wands and kites...

...and my kids talked me into I decided to make a purchase because I am a sucker fun momma...

The twins noted a pick up soccer game happening in one corner of the park, and asked me if they could go inquire about joining up.
I was so proud of them.
When I was six, I was pretty outgoing, but still I don't know if I would have just sauntered up to a bunch of strangers and ask if I could play in their game with them!
But they didn't even bat an eye at the idea, and were thrilled when I said to go for it.
They walked up to the Dad who appeared to be delegating positions, and asked if they could play too...

...he generously said yes, and gave them instructions on what positions they were playing, and off they went!

If you would have told me three years ago that I'd be sitting on a bench in seaside park in Kuwait, watching my six year olds play soccer in a sand pit with a bunch of kids that they'd never met and that were older than them, with a man wearing a dishdasha acting as their coach and sweetly encouraging them...I likely would not have believed you.

And I'm so glad I would have lost money on that bet, because these experiences are simply awesome. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

January 20th, 2017

I woke up, went to make coffee, and flipped the scripture calendar that sits atop our microwave. 

This was the verse for the day...

I love this scripture. 
Micah 6:8 is one of my favorite verses in the Bible, second only to Romans 15:13.

I love these marching orders given to us, God's people, so many years ago. I love them so much, I literally had part of that verse tattooed on my person.

I smiled yesterday as I stood in front of this calendar...this calendar that my mother in law gave me nearly a decade and a half ago, when I was her youngest son's girlfriend. So many years I have flipped the pages over, and read the scripture allotted for that particular day.

Yesterday, on January 20th, 2017, it felt particularly pointed. 

God knew. 

Nothing surprises Him.

He knew all those years ago, when I received this calendar as a gift, that I would need this particular reminder of His calling to us on this particular day.

He has shown me what is good, and what He requires of do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him.

Just the same as yesterday and the days of the past, so is the calling in the days to come.

I am in control of so very little, and it's scary and can take my breath away if I let it.
May I remember to focus on His requirements of me, and trust He will take care of the rest.  

Thanks be to God. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Christmas in Kuwait

Once we were home from Abu Dhabi, we had a small Christmas at home, opening the gifts we hadn't loaded up in suitcases and brought on the plane with us.

Of course, empty wrapping paper rolls become Light Sabers...

The morning started with stocking stuffers...

...then we moved on to the present passing-out...

(just wouldn't be Christmas without the "yule log" on the TV ;) )

Two excited kiddos...

(They look REALLY grown up to me in that picture! )

Ok. So our kids are FAR from perfect siblings. They fight and argue and are downright mean to each other sometimes. I know that's pretty normal and it's just a fact.
But sometimes, they can be so incredibly sweet to each other that I worry my heart may just explode...
Since they were about two, we've taken them, separately, shopping for each other, and as they've grown, they've become really intentional about selecting something their twin would really evidenced in the below picture of Sister's gratitude when she opened the penguin and turtle lovies Brother picked out and wrapped for her...

Sister picked out a tiger shark lovie and some glow-in-the-dark snakes for her Brother, which he really liked.
She also made him this Yoda mask...

...which he super appreciated...

Look how cute he looks, and how proud she looks...
I die.

Sister also crafted me some sweet presents as well!

When I'd taken the kids to pick out something for their Dad, they both picked out Rogue One t-shirts, and there was ZERO convincing them otherwise =)

I'd snagged a few things for him when I was home in October, like a Giants tshirt...

...and a Kurt Vonnegut quotes mug...
(I know that picture has really bad lighting, but I was super proud of hitting the nail on the head with my David gifts this year and want them to be immortalized in blog world for years to come...;)  )

The Boy was the recipient of a Nerf Dart Gun, and since that morning, everything we own has been the recipient of a Nerf Dart being shot at it...

And of course, David was on put-together duty...

We got the kids these really fun remote control cars that can off road and flip over and keeping going and light up...

They each also received a new pair of How To Train Your Dragon jammies...

...which is good, as Sister had been previously refusing to acknowledge that her other pair, in size 4T, were too small for her...

The rest of the day was spent hanging around the house, relaxing and was a low-key, happy Christmas Day!

Brother taking "stockings" a little too literally....

Ya get sunglasses in your stocking when you live in the Middle East...

Playing games that evening...

And there you have it, Christmas 2016 on the books ;)