Throwing parties is not one of my gifts. Just thinking about it makes me sweat profusely with stress. But, with a lot of help, I mean a lot, we did it, and it was awesome! I wanted to take many more pics of the day we spent cooking and decorating in preparation for the festivities, but we were all running around like crazy trying to pull everything together, so I had very little time to get behind the lens.
Steve's sister, Jennifer, and her daughter Brianna worked their magic in the kitchen. Bri is the baby-sitter extraordinaire. Joey is in love with her. Deep, deep love.
My friend, Susan, who happens to be the amazing mother of nine precious souls (so you know she has tons of free time) came to help me decorate for the party. She possesses the rare, yet precious, talent of figuring out how to unravel a mess of tangled balloons!
Both my mom and Steve's mom did SO MUCH to make all of the carefully thought out plans a reality. They seriously moved at lightening speed, and I wish I had photo evidence of all their generosity and effort!
My mom was incredible during the weekend of the party. She was right beside me all weekend helping at home with the kids and the entire day during the set-up process being much more attentive to the little special details that I didn't have the time or energy to focus on.
Steve's mom generously gave me her time and assistance for two solid months making phone calls, digging up pictures, advising, watching kiddos, running errands. It was a gift to bring the event together for her son, whom we both love so much. I was really touched that her entire family was able to be at the party!
Steve with two of his best college buddies from Farmhouse fraternity, Steve and Scott.
One of the most fun decorations we put together was a big 40 that we covered with photos from Steve's life from birth to present. Watching guests gather around the pics to catch a glimpse of his life was such a treat.
A supremely talented friend from our parish agreed to make Steve's birthday cake. She did an amazing job, didn't she?? She not only made the cake for Steve, she gave it to him as a gift!
Our friend, Sara, came from out West and, let me tell you, she was the life of the party!
Stephi and Joe were my picture takers - without them this would be a pictureless post!
Our amazing friends, J.P. and Elizabeth traveled from KC for the party!
These two...oh, my gosh, these two!! They kept us on our toes all night, and we were so happy that they made the long drive to spend the evening (and early morning *eek!*) with us!
Several of Steve's fraternity brothers and their beautiful wives were able to make it to the party. We are so blessed to have been able to stay connected with them over the years since graduating from KSU. His brother, Scott, agreed to give a toast, and it was one that we will never forget.
There wasn't a dry eye in the room as Steve's dad also shared a toast. At least my eyes weren't dry, but that's because crying is something I'm really good at. I should be in a sad movie, because I can cry on cue.
Watching our parents dance together is such a supreme joy!
Annie Up = Most awesome party band evah!
Joey was an absolute trooper. He enjoyed being passed around between the guests, adorned with hugs and smooches, and even twirled around on the dance floor a time or two!
So how did all this craziness come to be?? Last fall, when I realized Steve would be turning forty in December, I knew that I wanted to do something really special, not just because he would be reaching one of those landmark birthdays, but for reasons much bigger than that....
It was almost exactly one year ago when, on an ordinary afternoon of school and chores, I found my husband, whom I thought was in his office fielding business calls, on the bathroom floor completely overcome with uncontrollable anxiety. I immediately dropped to my knees, reaching out to wrap my arms around the broken man who fought desperately to hide his swollen tear-filled eyes behind the cover of calloused hands.
I had hoped and prayed that this day would never come. Just six months earlier, Steve began experiencing sensations of numbness and tingling in his hands and occasionally his feet. The symptoms were sporadic, so we both gave it little attention until one day he came home from work bothered by uncontrollable muscle twitches on the backs of his legs, and a disturbing inablity to concentrate or focus on daily tasks.
I'll never forget the look in his eyes as he explained to me how bothersome the twitching and foggy brain symptoms were. It was a look of both worry and fear. That day was the beginning of a long and arduous process of researching illnesses that might be associated with Steve's symptoms. Eventually, we narrowed the symptoms down to what we believed could be Multiple Sclerosis, ALS or Neurological Lyme Disease.
After weeks of appointments, phone calls, more research and tests, Steve was given the Lyme diagnosis.
The past few months have been filled with many ups and downs physically, mentally, and emotionally for my love. At times it feels as though he is adjusting well to this new way of life, a life that requires Steve (and myself) to be much more attentive than before the diagnosis to his day-to-day habits that affect his health. Being attentive to a healthy diet, regular exercise, proper rest, remembering medications and supplements, tracking and journaling symptoms, and embracing the reality of physical limitations that were simply never there before has been an adjustment for everyone.
Once we put a treatment plan in place (last winter), Steve began to experience some relief from his symptoms, so we were very encouraged and felt as though we were on the right track with regards to his medical protocol. Unfortunately, late last summer, some of Steve's symptoms began to escalate, and new ones popped up with a vengeance. He began experiencing terrible sensations of pulsating frequencies in his head, especially at night time, which often left him completely unable to sleep. Naturally, his ability to concentrate, to remember the names of friends and family, or even simple objects became terribly difficult.
He was exhausted and worried that these new symptoms the Lyme was presenting would not be remedied and could even get worse. The worry was nearly consuming. Nothing can prepare you, as a wife and mother, for the great amount of strength and fortitude required to truly care for a sick spouse, and manage the needs and lives of all the little ones too.
If you are reading this and have dedicated your life to caring for a sick child, spouse, parent or friend, I wish I could reach out and embrace you this very moment. I offer you my deepest empathy. Words cannot possibly describe the weight that presses upon the care-taker's heart, and I know you understand what I am saying and feeling.
Steve's doctor, who was very concerned with his new set of symptoms, recommended that he begin testing for Multiple Sclerosis. Many of the symptoms that Lyme disease can present are similar to symptoms for M.S., Fibromyalgia, Parkinson's, ALS, and a number of other neurological diseases, which is why those very illnesses are often misdiagnosed. The doctors believe a patient has M.S. or some other neurological disease, but he or she actually has Lyme disease.
The days of waiting for his testing to begin were filled with terrible anxiety for Steve. He couldn't help but worry about what the future held for him as the provider and protector of our family. To say that my heart was completely broken for him is an understatement. I simply cannot explain the intensity of my desire to take away all of the pain and worry from him.
I've never prayed as hard as I did during those weeks when Steve was suffering most. It's funny, but I've never been one to enjoy getting up at night with our babies for multiple feedings, but I am truly thankful that Joseph has been waking often in the night to nurse, because I want to be up, ready to help Steve in case he cannott sleep and, if nothing else, just to pray over him again and again and again.
When Steve's doctor encouraged him to begin testing for M.S., I knew right then and there, that I wanted to do something significant to celebrate his upcoming birthday. At the present time, he still possessed a good amount of physical strength and mobility and was trying to carry on through the days as normal as possible.
I couldn't help but think that a year from now, the picture of life could look quite different than the present. Would he be confined to bed or to a wheelchair? Would it be necessary to send the boys to school so that I could dedicate myself to caring for Steve full time?
These were all frightening questions, yet very strong possibilities that we wrestled with day after day as we waited for Steve's test results. During the wait, I decided to move forward with my idea to host a party. I booked a band, locked in a great venue, and gathered Steve's family together to see if they would join me in the planning and execution of the event.
Just days after diving into the party plans, I received a call from a very emotional and relieved husband who called to share the wonderful news that the results of his M.S. tests were negative. I cannot tell you what an enormous relief this was to both of us! Now the question was, what can we do to step up his treatment of the Lyme?
Everyday we are devoted to researching possibilities and opportunities for potential treatments of the disease. Steve's symptoms continue to change from week to week and their frequency and severity is often unpredictable, which makes understanding the disease a monumental task.
To watch someone you love so much, someone who has always been in perfect health, suffer so greatly is a mighty cross to bear. And, yet, as I say that, I can also speak with complete confidence that Lyme disease is not something that has happened to Steve, but rather something that has happened for him. Our crosses are often a gift, a mercy meant to bear a particular fruit in our lives if we are willing to offer ourselves unreservedly to the Father, trusting in his great plan and purpose.
We pray daily for Steve's healing, but we pray even more that he might be a docile and loving servant of the Lord, submitting himself freely to accept with humility the greatest good that can possibly come of all of this. If it be healing than praise the Lord, and if it be to suffer the terrible pains of mind and body as well as the physical limitations that the Lyme brings, then Praise Him Still.
Looking back, I'm truly happy that I decided to surprise Steve on his 40th. There's something so beautiful about friends and family coming together for a celebration. I believe that celebrations can open our eyes to glimpses of heaven, the supreme eternal party, and that glimpse has the power to infuse a deeper sense of hope and encouragement into the heavy hearted, the broken body, the tired soul.
I know that's exactly what the surprise party did for Steve (and for me as well).
If you could be so kind as to keep Steve in your prayers, I will be eternally grateful. We are thankful for your friendship and support, and promise to keep you posted on any new developments concerning Steve's condition.