Thursday, January 16, 2014

Return of the Kinnairds

Happy Winter!  On principle, I really want to be one of those people who enjoys each season for its own unique beauty… but holy crap, I can’t wait for spring.  I do love the snow, though, and I’m hoping to take the boys sledding soon.  We started what I hope becomes a new tradition back in December; during the first big snowstorm we waited until after we’d eaten supper one night and then we all 5 bundled up and took a walk in the snow at nighttime.  It was so much fun to walk around our neighborhood and look at all the Christmas lights.  The boys loved it so much they would have stayed outside until they had hypothermia.  When we got back, we turned on Christmas music and I made hot chocolate with whipped cream and sprinkled some green and red sugar on top to be extra fancy.  The boys loved it….  Ok, ok, winter has some great moments.  Christmas was great of course, and none of us wanted to take down our tree.  I took this picture on January 3, when I was getting ready to take the tree down and realized that I hadn’t actually taken any pictures of it yet.  I'm kind of the worst when it comes to remembering to take pictures of my kids. 

Caleb is officially out of his strictest isolation period and is now able to leave the house some, which has done wonders for my mental health.  Towards the end of December I was getting dangerously close to losing my mind.  We are still being pretty protective of him.  We try to minimize his exposure to groups of people, and especially groups of kids.  Once flu season is over, he can really be more free. He has had a cold, and survived it, so now that we’ve gotten over that hump, I’m a little less freaked out about the whole thing.  Being a germophobe is a totally new experience to me.  Before Caleb’s heart transplant, I was much more of the so-what-if-he-licked-the-ground mentality.  Now we go through hand sanitizer by the gallon.  Our official position is that we are as careful as we can be, but we want him to live his life.  I want him to do normal stuff.  Like go to Wendy's when his mommy is so cooped up that she is stupid enough to take three kids to a restaurant by herself.  (This really happened, as evidenced below, and it actually was pretty fun.)

It’s funny… we’re starting to do normal stuff, but I still don’t quite feel “normal”.  I still don’t totally feel like we’re “home”.  Even though I am so happy with how my life is going and so thankful for everything I have, I feel a little off.  Well, sometimes more than a little off.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but our new life is a little unsettling sometimes.  It’s hard to put into words.  The best way to describe what I’m talking about is summed up in a scene from Return of the King.  (If you are not a Lord of the Rings fan, I’m sorry.  For you.)  In Return of the King, at the very end, the four hobbits return home after being away for over a year on an epic journey.  During that year, they have traveled so far and seen things they never knew existed.  They faced evil and war and pain and loss.  And after all of it, after eventually triumphing against all odds, they return to the homes they had longed for.  There’s a moment where they go to the old tavern where they used to spend their time and they sit down together.  It all looks exactly the same as it did when they left, and you think they must be so glad to be home.  But they look at each other in silence.  And you know that even though they are home, life will never be the same for them.  They have changed, fundamentally, because of what they’ve gone through.  I watched that movie for the first time in a while and I couldn’t stop myself from crying during that scene.  I cried because I understand that sometimes you’ve just gone through too much to ever “go back”.  

Time makes a big difference.  I know that the longer we are here, the more comfortable we will be.  I know that many parents who have gone through what we have gone through experience post-traumatic stress disorder.  That was surprising to me when I first learned it, but it isn’t now. It makes perfect sense.  The last year of my life was traumatic.  I have gone through something that will always be a part of me, something that leaves me feeling a little separate from the people in my life.  I’m so thankful for Daniel.  We feel like a couple of soldiers that fought and survived a war together and I know in him I have someone who truly understands me.  And I’m so thankful to have such wonderful friends and family in my life who make “home” feel more like home all the time.  I have a beautiful life and my hope is that I am gaining wisdom and strength with each season I pass through.  This season has a lot of value and I’m thankful for it.

To my fellow “soldiers” out there, those who are in the trenches of life and have gone through valleys of pain that felt unbearable at the time, just know you aren’t alone.  And when you come out of that valley, it’s ok to feel like “home” is harder to adjust to than you thought it would be.  You’ve gone through something significant and you aren’t the same person you were.  I don’t have great answers and I don’t know how long this will last.  Just know you’re not alone.


  1. its funny reading this right now laying oncreagain in a hospital bed for totally different reasons than when I met you. Ive been thinking about my own family's time at it was a long battle and how much we all are changed in our own ways through those experiences....and It has helped me gain so much perspective...and just as I did in those dark hours....I somehow found a glimpse of the good in humanity...just a small word or action that restored faith....I used to ask what I ever did to deserve such suffering....but then I realized we are brought to suffer so that we can learn and grow from it so that we can use that knowledge to lift another.

  2. Katie, I totally understand that "a little off" feeling. I remember the day we got to bring Sam home after his surgery ordeal, you would have thought it would have been the happiest day ever. But Brian and I were both very grumpy that day. We stopped for a fast-food to-go breakfast and they gave us the wrong order. VERY VERY unlike my husband, he pulled forward and threw it in the trash can! It was so odd. For a while after it all, back at home, I felt at loose ends and kept thinking about the hospital schedule and what was going on at a given time there within the routine we had there. It was unsettling and it was too strange to even talk about with people. But YES, YES, YES... you said it so well. You've been to a different land and once home, you are changed by that experience so proufoundly that home isn't the same.
    I also had post-traumatic stress issues for years as in "I can't believe what we went through" and stewing over Sam and his health.
    As for you, add to that the general stress of having three children, a NEW BABY and a hard winter. I think you are doing amazingly well at keeping sane! I truly "get it."

  3. Thanks for posting Katie. We still wonder how you all are doing. I can get updates from Matt and Jo, but hearing from you is a real blessing. It HAS been a hard winter, which I'm sure adds to your stress. We are so thankful to see how good Caleb looks, and seeing that precious little girl is a real treat.

  4. As I read through that I kept thinking about a conversation that Heather and I had with you and Daniel one day at Riley. We were all talking and it was early on in our life changing journey and we were so over come with everything that we was going on and Heather and I both noticed how well you both were handling it all. So we asked how you did it and both of you replied with a very inspiring, but simple answer. You guys said that you had to put belief in your faith first and knew that things would all work out (Not those exact words :) ). That gave us the strength we needed at that time. And I would like to thank you for that. Heather and I still talk about that day.
    Remember that strength within you, and that alone will help you get through this trying time.

  5. Katie - thank you so much for sharing your sweet, loving heart and all of its love and truths. Your family has been to the lowest point in human life and then reached the pinnacle. I have never personally been through anything like that. However, many of us - honestly via TV and FB, thousands of us, have seen your family's journey. It was like watching a "rags to riches" movie or something like that. I was so excited to see Caleb with blue lips again--that were from a Colts cupcake and "normal" pictures. Still it is so strong and open of you to share your pain that is still evident. Your journey will never be erased in your heart or mind. At Christmas, I thought of your family's last Christmas. Those places, feelings, friends and hardships will always be there. I don't speak this from experience. I AM, however, a big "anniversary date" person and thoughts of prior times, prior places come back to me, some very unwanted. Sharing with all of us that you are NOT Cinderella and your life is not a Hallmark movie (ALWAYS the perfect ending no matter the trip) is a huge step is helping US all to "get it" and be here for all of you when you need us to understand. My family loves your family and we're happy for you and here for you! Also, we're glad your Mom is, well, I started to say back on her feet but that's a little exaggeration. Glad she is able to be back to work among friends and "normalcy"--bet she feels as if she's been cooped up, especially with the snow. GOD BLESS YOU!

  6. Thanks Katie for just being you. What a wonderful, sweet, humble servant's heart you have. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and being so honest. Your words are truly inspiring. Please don't ever stop sharing your heart. There are so many of us that need to hear what you have to say. Continued prayers for Caleb and your family as you move ahead in this next chapter of your life.