Celebrating a Birthday and Life

Carolyn Cares Birthday Ride

June 23rd is Jonathan’s birthday. We like to celebrate big here, but this year, Jonathan’s gifts were larger than normal.

Eight years ago today, Jonathan was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. When we went for a walk around the farm yard, and he was telling me what led him to see the doctor, it was heartbreaking. Our oldest daughter had been diagnosed with MS four years before.

One thing I distinctly remember, is how we talked about how we don’t know what the future will bring as far as disease progression goes, and that was a scary thing. I made one request of Jonathan that day. To not give up on life, and to live his life to the fullest.

That request led to a purchase of used jet skis, and a new found hobby that he loves. Those jet skis have had many hours on the water, and many good memories were made. It was time, however, to upgrade. So, for a combination of Father’s Day and his birthday, Jonathan received a pair of Sea Doo Sparks this week. While I am more than content to keep my feet on land and take photos, it makes me so happy to see him have fun. The troubles that often accompany farming are forgotten while he’s on the water. It’s so fun to watch the joy on Jonathan’s and Laura’s faces as they race across the water.

Happy Birthday, Jonathan, and thank you for not giving up on living your life.


A Bend in the Road

Bend in the Road

Sometimes, the road of life isn’t as straight and even as you’d like it to be. My road has a bend in it that I have been ignoring for a little while. It is time to make the turn, for my health’s sake.

When I was expecting daughters two and three, I had gestational diabetes. Both times it went away as soon as the girls were delivered. Since then, my doctors have gently reminded me that if I don’t take care of myself, the diabetes could return. Here it is, 23 years later, and the warning is a little more urgent.

I try to get in for my yearly physicals in the fall, after harvest is complete. This past fall, we were fostering a little guy, which meant I put off going in. That may have turned out to be a blessing. A few weeks before my appointment, I was noticing some things were different, and not in a good way. Turns out, I have two out of three issues that accompany metabolic syndrome. Combine that with the history of gestational diabetes, and I am considered pre-diabetic. It is time to admit that I am not invincible –  as painful as that may be to my ego.

The treatment for this little bend in my road is easy and difficult at the same time. My prescription is to move myself up on my priority list, and exercise a minimum of 30 minutes every day. I now watch my food portions as well, and have cut certain extras out of my diet for the most part. The goal is to lose weight through portion control and exercise, and drop my glucose and triglyceride numbers back down to where they should be. Sounds easy enough, but the week I was diagnosed, we had 8 graduation receptions to attend. Nothing like having your resolve tested right away!

I have been on this journey for just over a month now, and I feel great. I am getting to where fitting in exercise has become a priority over watching TV or catching up on social media, and I’m not constantly worried about what I can and cannot eat when I go out to a restaurant. I’ve lost some weight, and am confident I will hit the goals I can control by my 3 month checkup. The only unknown is how my blood test will be.

So, you may see more postings about exercise, eating frustrations (looking at all the fried foods out there that are calorie bombs, but oh, so tasty!), and other things I encounter on this little bend in my road. And, hopefully, you will be seeing a smaller, healthier version of me this fall.

Guest Post: My 10th Celebration of Life

This post was written by my daughter, Anna (Olson) Meyer. Today, October 13, 2014, is the 10th anniversary of her Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis. Read on about life from her perspective, and learn why we call this anniversary a Celebration of Life. This post is also being published on her blog, Smiles Squared.


On this day ten years ago….my mother and I traveled an hour away from my hometown to visit my neurologist to receive my official diagnosis. The results from the spinal tap had come back, and finally, Dr. Nelson would tell us for sure if I had a pinched nerve, MS, or a brain tumor. He had given all three of these as possibilities as to why my entire left side had stopped working normally, but his theory was that I most likely had MS. That is what we knew before we got to Wilmar, MN. I was CONVINCED that it was nothing but a pinched nerve, and for some unknown reason my name had been on the prayer list at church for the last few weeks.
On that day, ten years ago, I was officially diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I was started on some medical steroids, and I was shown how to use the Autoject for my three-times-weekly medicine shots, just under the skin. (It would be another year before I gave myself those shots….and, of course, I was bribed—because what other way is there for a kid to be willing to do something unless they get something in return?)
Since my diagnosis, we have called the anniversary of that day my “celebration of life.” It is the day when I can look back on a year and see all the things I have been able to do, even though I have MS. On this ten-year anniversary of this life-altering diagnosis, I reflect on the things I have accomplished in my life!

1. I’ve been on all sorts of cool vacations and stuff.

Who cares if I had to rent a wheelchair to go Disneyworld? I went to Disneyworld! I’ve also rented wheelchairs at zoos, and even the Minnesota State Fair. Those places take a lot of walking, and I don’t quite have the energy to walk all that way. But I still got to experience it and enjoy my visits! Those places, by the way, have been the only ones I rented a wheelchair for. I can still walk! ….just not super far. I’ve been to the Wisconsin Dells and the Black Hills of South Dakota, just doing the tourist thing because I could. In high school, I went to a youth gathering with a church denomination, and had an AWESOME time with my cousin Jenni and my aunt Sheryl! In college, I went on TWO summer mission projects. Just because I have MS, doesn’t mean I can’t have fun! So I have to plan a little extra, and the south is typically a bad idea in the summer. I STILL LIVE LIFE.

2. In middle school, there were no cheerleaders, and I wanted to be one, so I petitioned and found a coach for middle school basketball cheerleaders!

Anna and the Lakeview Cheerleaders
Anna is in the front row, second from right

The January after my diagnosis. I am second from the right, front row. You know, the one with the big smile?
We were moderately good. Our most difficult move was when one cheerleader stood on the thighs of two other cheerleaders, but we stayed safe. I wasn’t really into watching sports, but I did notice that when our middle school teams had cheerleaders, the whole “crowd” was pretty riled up. You know, for a middle school game. Smiley face. Of course, this cheerleading team kind of left the middle school when I did. I always wanted to be a cheerleader. Our high school had football cheerleading, but by that time, I just wanted to play in the pep band. (We see why I became a music major?)
I was also on the golf team for a few years before the walking became too much for me and I acknowledged that I wasn’t that great. But it was fun!

3. I got my black belt!

Actually, I started Tae Kwon Do in 4th grade. In 7th grade, I got my junior black belt. I was diagnosed with MS in 8th grade. In 9th grade, I got my 2nd degree junior black belt. After I turned 16, sophomore year, I got my first degree adult black belt. And senior year, I got my second degree adult black belt! I was involved in Tae Kwon Do for 8 years; 5 of those years after having MS. I remember difficulty in my first tournament after being diagnosed, but then I just focused on what I COULD do instead of what I COULDN’T. I taught and I was a referee as my level advanced. I became inactive in TKD after I graduated high school, but I will always be a second degree black belt!

4. I finished high school AND college.

One of my college professors once told me that he had never seen such determination in a student. So I wasn’t the best. Who cares? I did as best I could. I was DETERMINED to finish well and I learned a ton while in those college years. I wrote a post about what MS has taught me over the last decade or so here.

5. I played a senior recital of percussion music.

At that time in my life, I had skill, because I was playing on these instruments all the time. I played a piece on the marimba, the timpani, some toms (drums), the vibraphone, and even flower pots! (Videos of all these can be seen on YouTube.) I loved that season in my life, when I could go from instrument to instrument in the percussion section in an empty band room and just PLAY.

6. I’ve had a “grown-up job” since I graduated.

Even before I graduated, I’ve been giving private lessons. According to some of my other music-major friends, I wasn’t charging enough, but still. As soon as I graduated, I got on the substitute teacher list for a few different school districts. And when I got to Kentucky, of course, I began working at a music store—giving lessons! And now I’ve started up this Mary Kay business! Before I was married, I paid my own rent, bought my own food, and loved when Mom and Dad came to Sioux Falls to take me grocery shopping. And now, I don’t get many visits from Mom and Dad (because I currently live, like, 20 hours away), but I still get care packages of coffee brands that aren’t sold in the south. (Thanks, mom!)

7. I’ve written, like, four novels.

Only one I’ve written is decent enough for me to want to publish it, but I do want to publish it! I also write shortstories and blog posts all the time. And other little things when I feel like it. I’ve kept a journal since I was diagnosed! And things have just kept moving from there. I don’t believe they will ever stop, either.

8. I wrote music for a class in college and directed an ensemble playing it in church one time.

So I maybe didn’t take into consideration that band instruments play better in flats than sharps. And that high school students can’t pick up music as fast as college students. But I was so proud of that piece! I even published my college friends and I playing the piece here on YouTube.


Anna and Doug
Anna and Doug
Photo by tony miller photography

My handsome groom and I at our wedding this last July.
Just this last summer, if you are keeping up with me at all on this blog. (I’ve kinda talked about it a lot….) Never did I ever think I would meet a man who saw ME past the MS that has been so apparent in my life. I have a limp, which is the most obvious symptom to the world and the first turn-off to anybody who sees that instead of me first (which is pretty much everybody). But Dr. Wile E. Coyote, while he notices my limp, only notices if it’s a bad day or a good day and helps me stretch sometimes. Or if he’s walking with me, and I pull him around. (He’s not as sturdy as my sisters when they’ve walked with me, hehe.) I love Dr. Coyote, my best friend, and he is what I need. But God knew that. And I am privileged to be starting this med school journey with him and trusting the Lord until graduation, and beyond! (Like, forever. Every. Minute.)

10. I have become stronger than I thought possible.

Physically, mentally, and emotionally. I have had to push past the limits of where I would want to quit because something is hard. Being diagnosed so young (at 13), I had to face many decisions and situations that most teens shouldn’t have to face. I thank the good Lord for my always-supportive family who helped me so much!

On this day in ten years, who knows what things I’ll accomplish that I’ll be able to remember? The thing about having MS is that though we have to plan a little more, sometimes sleep a little more, and maybe be careful of what activities we chose to partake in, we still live normal lives. I haven’t felt normal for years, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I would love to wake up one day and the Lord tell me, “You’re cured!” But I know that when people see me walking with a limp, unphased, it brings God more glory.
Anna E Meyer


Not Really Fond of Roller Coasters…

Note: This entry was originally written last Thursday…dictated to Anna, as we were heading down the road.

I was thinking this morning about the movie “Parenthood” with Steve Martin.  There is a scene where he is having an argument with his wife about accepting her pregnancy. He is not sure he can handle the chaos and uncertainty of the new child.  The grandmother comes in and starts talking about roller coasters.  She loves them – the anticipation of the climb towards the top (the clicking of the chain as it pulls the cars up), and the thrill once you are over the hill and rushing back down.  She goes on to say that some people cannot handle the roller coasters.  They don’t like the ride. They just ride on the merry-go-round.  Then she leaves the room.  Steve Martin’s character completely misses her point until later in the scene when they are attending their daughter’s school play.  The youngest son charges on stage, thinking they are hurting his sister. Chaos ensues, and the audience starts yelling that Martin’s son is ruining the play.  Then Martin starts feeling like he is on the roller coaster, and you hear the clicking and the screaming associated with those on the ride with him (the camera angles make it look as if the whole auditorium is on the coaster).  Martin looks like he is about to become sick, and is not enjoying this ride at all.  But then he turns and looks at his wife, who is laughing and enjoying the ride.  He then starts to look at things from a different perspective.  The ride doesn’t seem so scary after all.

This last month has been a roller coaster ride for our family.  We started out in May with small grain seeding and Mother’s Day. This was the exciting part of the ride.  The day after Mother’s Day, I hurt my knee while helping Jonathan with the grain drill.  I “bruised the heck out of the knee-cap” as my doctor put it, and wound up on crutches for two weeks.  A month later, I still cannot bend it all the way, although most days are relatively pain free.  I found out that I am not a very patient patient. I had too many plans and activities to have to deal with this.  I had to learn to accept help from others, which is a difficult thing for me to do.  During that time, I started to feel more anxiety and felt a little depressed because I couldn’t help Jonathan or do as much as I wanted to.  The bright spots during this time were when the girls moved home from college and the visit from our exchange daughter’s parents.  Christina and Laura were able to work with Jonathan, helping to plant corn and soybeans along with other field work. I was very proud of the way they jumped in to help.

Viktoria’s parents immediately felt like family, and we all connected like friends who had known each other for a long time.  Melanie and Ulrich helped prepare for Viktoria’s going away party. Ulrich even did some field work! Melanie jumped in and helped out in the kitchen.  As fun as this was, I could hear the roller coaster clicking…  We said good-bye to our German family on May 28th.  Many tears were shed on both sides as the roller coaster came rushing down the hill.

Things were pretty smooth for awhile, until we got word that our Pastor’s wife had passed away.  Candy was a bright spot in many lives. She had many health challenges, but she handled them all with grace.  We loved visiting with her and getting to see hints of her humor along with her compassion.  We will miss her.

The following day, we attended church, where the atmosphere was rather somber.  Late that afternoon, we were outside enjoying the beautiful evening before a game of cat and mouse broke out.  We were having a little fun with the 4-wheeler and Ranger Utility Vehicle, taking turns on who was the “cat” and who was the “mouse”.  This is a game we have played many times. You could say it is a favorite of ours.  But, you know what they say, “it’s all fun and games until someone winds up in the ER at 10:00 on a Sunday night.”   I was the “cat” on the 4-wheeler while Jonathan and Anna played the “mouse” on the Ranger.  The cat was about to pounce, when the mouse darted, tipping the Ranger onto its side.  Anna had her seat belt on and was okay (she would bruise where the seat belt held her, but otherwise was okay). Jonathan went to the house quickly after he crawled out, clutching his hand.  I went into the house to check on him, asking if he was okay.   He asked me to get him an ice pack and take him to the hospital right away.  This is never good coming from him.  He usually argues that it isn’t necessary.  I grabbed the ice pack and a towel, checked on the girls, and then we left for the ER.  After much fussing, pain meds, x-rays, cleaning and stitching, we were able to leave around 1:00 am.  The following morning, Jonathan had surgery to place two pins in his broken left index finger. They also cleaned out the cuts on his finger and stitched them up.  While he was under, they scrubbed the rest of his abrasions to help prevent infection.  His middle finger was also broken, so he now sports a cast surrounding the first two fingers on his left hand, extending up his forearm. They sent him home with pain medicine and heavy antibiotics.  He had quite a bit of pain until later in the week.  He will be in a cast until the first week in July.  Can you hear the screams as we are hurling through the loops on this roller coaster?

Today (Thursday), we attended Candy’s funeral. I am having Anna write this entry as we are driving on our way to Austin, MN to meet her ride to Milwaukee. She will be spending the summer there with Campus Crusade.  This is the part of the ride where the clicking begins again.  Friday, Saturday and Sunday I will be at the SW MN Synod Assembly, where we will spend time in worship and Bible study, business will be conducted, workshops presented, and fellowship will happen. It will be a fun yet exhausting time for those of us on the planning committee.

As much as I fear the anxiety of the approaching descent of this phase of the roller coaster of life, I am finding that it is much better than just going in circles on the merry-go-round.  I am surrounded by people who love me even though I am not completely healed. But more importantly, I am surrounded by the arms of Jesus, who is sitting on the seat beside me riding with me the whole way.

Photo: (back) Jonathan and Ulrich, Viktoria, (front) Carolyn and Melanie

Viktoria’s Parents