We all have life changing moments that cut us so deep that sometimes it feels like it is beyond repair. I had two situations that simultaneously drop on me that altered my life so drastically in a blink of a moment. I never saw it coming. You know, the kind where you can’t even breathe? See if you can relate. It started one evening a few years ago with a phone call from my Mom, who called to share with me that my Grandma was diagnosed with breast cancer. I held my breath and was about to ask her questions; but she interrupted and proceeded to tell me that she had gone to the doctor to be tested, and that she had also been diagnosed with breast cancer as well. In less than 30 seconds I had two bombshells drop on me. I could not breath! I asked her about our genetic history and said, “I don’t remember any breast cancer?”. She said, “There wasn’t, but I guess we’re making history now”. Tears flowed. Hearts broke. My blue sky turned dark. My Grandma was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer and my Mom’s was identified as Ductal Carcinoma in situ with in situ Tumor Comedo Breast Cancer. Big words for me, but I still knew it meant breast cancer and those words are always scary! My Grandmother chose quality of life and decided to have chemotherapy and not have a mastectomy. My Mom chose both the chemotherapy and a mastectomy. My Mom’s cancer had already spread to her Lymph-nodes and they also needed to be extracted. After the removal of the tumor the doctors did inform her that it was a Stage 2 and it was much bigger than they originally thought.
On top of all this, my Mom was already on her own journey I call “chaos of life” aka–her knee replacements. I can recall a moment when my mom hit around 13 surgeries just with her knees alone. This doesn’t include other random surgeries in life. We had an argument if it was surgery number 13 or 14 on her knees! It was pathetically sad loosing track at this point. I know not everyone has bad experiences with knee replacements, but my Mom is in that small percentage where everything and anything that could possibly go wrong, goes wrong with her from infections to prosthetic breakage. I would say that over the last 10 years my Mom has spent more time in bed recovering from knee surgeries than anyone I have ever heard of. Later we discovered the mysterious culprit, cobalt. A metal that is associated with the materials used in prosthetic knees.
It took many years and over a dozen surgeries for the doctors to finally discover she was allergic to cobalt. Eventually she ran out of her own bone to even attach the prosthetic knee. They inserted cadaver bones, but it still wasn’t enough. She kept developing various infections and her leg simply wouldn’t heal. Time and again, it was always rinse and repeat with her. God can you give this woman a break in life?? Please??
On top of this there was a time for a couple of years I sacrificed my career just to be available to my Grandma whenever she needed me to take her to run errands and go to doctor appointments. I will never regret a day of spending quality time with her and helping her. I believe it helped to keep her mind alert and her body physically moving. However, I didn’t know how to prioritize and structure my days well. I just wanted to give her whatever her needs were on a given day. I wanted to do it to bless her, but also bless the rest of my family by freeing them up from all those tasks. Many of them are also raising families and have full time jobs. Unfortunately, even that took a toll on my emotional well-being.
In the fall of 2013, my parents moved from sunny Southern California to windy Central Oklahoma to be closer to family. This was a difficult move. My Mom was never truly healthy enough to move, but took advantage of a slim opportunity between surgical procedures. After about a week of living in Oklahoma, I took her to Sam’s Club for some Mom & daughter shopping so she could stock the house with supplies. When we were finished meandering the aisles, we headed back out to the parking lot. It took her over a half hour just to transfer from the motorized grocery cart to the passenger seat of my car. The pain was so bad, and I didn’t know what to do. I also didn’t know what was wrong. I drove her home and it was another half hour to get her inside her home. The following day I went back over to her house, and immediately realized something was very wrong with her and it was continually getting worse. In a rush I called 911! At this point she couldn’t even move and the pain was knife stabbing and heart wrenching. Within a few hours her doctor which she hadn’t even met with yet since she just moved from California came in and gave her two options. “Choose…your leg or your life!”. The words nobody wants to hear. The screws in her right knee had broken again. My mom is always at high risk for infections and was currently dealing with an infection which escalated every problem. Now she was dealing with a huge risk that if she moved her leg, the jagged metal would puncture her from the inside out. My mom is consistently taking blood thinners for reducing the risk of blood clots and they were worried that if her leg was punctured that she would simply bleed out. She would lose her life. Immediately following that dreadful 911 experience, my journey in life sunk even deeper. My emotions were already thin enough. We said goodbye to my Mom’s leg and wrote a goodbye note on it just before surgery. Just a quick side note, she is not Diabetic. Often people make assumptions when people loose a limb it is related to diabetes. In her case, it’s not true.
As my Mom was having her leg amputated, my husband received a phone call in the waiting room, and he was informed that he was being laid off from his corporate job! In case you are wondering…Yes, this really did happen at the same time. We had no time to process any of this. To make it even worse, one week later after my Mom lost her leg, my Grandpa had part of his foot amputated resulting from blocked circulation caused by diabetes. For the next several weeks, every single day, I went from hospital room to physical therapy to nursing homes. Taking my Grandma to visit my Mom and/or my Grandpa. My husband losing his job was always on my mind, every single day with every moment. Did I mention I am raising two young kids through all of this? My emotions were so worn down and I felt like hope was gone. The only thing I could hold onto are the people that surrounded me to supply me with patience and understanding.
Over the next five very, very, very long months of no income and adjusting to all the changes with our family, money became a very bad word! Money wasn’t popular in our household and we were just barely squeaking by every month. To be transparent, we almost lost our home and got behind on multiple bills. “NO” became the default word when it came to groceries, most of our bills, outings with the family or anything the kids needed. How did this happen to us? On some days life didn’t feel real or fair. My heart had sunk to a new low, and I never had any time for myself to decompress. I felt like I was neglecting the kids and my husband to focus on my Mom and Grandma. There was no relief! When I spent time with the kids and my husband, I felt like I was neglecting my Mom and Grandma. There was already not enough of me to go around, and definitely no way I could find time to try to make extra money. During this time I had (and still do have) a small eBay business but I couldn’t keep up with the demands. I was sinking very low and very fast; and I didn’t know how or when things were going to start to improve. Then one bright shiny day, my husband was offered a new position with a different company, but the first paycheck was going to take some time before it hit our checking account. I white knuckled every day, just praying to God that we could hold on one more day until we could fix things financially, emotionally and physically–and then four more crazy things happened! My dishwasher, clothes dryer, septic system and my printer all broke within hours of each other. No joke! I decided with very little money available I had to DIY my way through this mess. I began searching YouTube tutorials on how to fix these items, and soon realized the septic system was the only beast I needed to hire somebody as soon as our finances improved. Fortunately, the problem with it could wait a few weeks so that bought me some time. The other items were fixable with DIY tutorials and shopping for the parts myself online. I couldn’t believe how cheap the parts themselves were; and I purchased all the parts and materials and had them sent to the house. I followed multiple tutorials and was blown away by how simple this mess was becoming. There is something to this “DIY” stuff that is in fashion and I was living it up! I saved over a thousand dollars in labor and thought “This is crazy. These things that were broken were so easy to fix and cost me a fraction of what I would have spent if I paid somebody to do it for me!”. All I needed was to be empowered with the information and encouraged to do it. I would have never done it myself if I had the extra money to pay somebody. I felt like God was using my emotions and life experiences of trials and tribulations to give me the nudge to DIY and get those things fixed. I woke up one morning and it hit me that there has to be more people like me out there. Maybe you feel the same? Run down emotionally, physically and financially but knows down deep inside that you have worth and can do anything you put your mind to. There are a lot of good YouTube tutorials out there and let’s be honest some not so good. I went to my husband and kids and said, “Why don’t we start our own blog website and take projects and ideas and simplify them. We can make our own YouTube tutorials and help empower others to do fix-it projects and crafts on their own that are simple with easy to follow guides.” Beginning this journey wasn’t easy. The idea was birthed but then what do we call ourselves? My 12-year-old daughter, Amaris said, “Hey Mom, the website is about crafts from scratch and fix-it solutions; and it’s also about us wanting to raise our own chickens and they scratch and peck. Why don’t we call it Chicken Scratch?”. My head did a double take and thought “What a great play on words!”. However, we thought we should also add “DIY” in the title to make it clear that this site isn’t just about chickens. I give my daughter thanks and credit for her creativity, she deserved a high-five for that one!
Chicken Scratch DIY was born or hatched I like to say, a Do It Yourself (DIY) blog! My goal is to encourage and inspire projects and ideas, simplify them through step by step tutorials, YouTube videos and blogging. I had some hurdles as most start-up businesses have in regards to money, time and how do I do this? One big thing was structuring the development process for Chicken Scratch DIY by forming a LLC and registering the Trade Name. I could have paid someone to do it, but that wouldn’t be “DIY”. So I did it myself. I then started to rearrange my schedule during the day to make myself more available by setting up boundaries with my family. I had to do this to survive emotionally. I was already stretched so thin with my time. I got a few good weeks of work and it came to a halt again. I received a phone call from my family and discovered my Grandfather had a massive stroke. A couple of days later he passed away. This is the same grandfather that had his foot partially amputated. The website was put on hold for a short time. Then, two weeks went by and we received another phone call at 11 o’clock at night. My Mother in-law shared with my husband that his Dad had received a call from the Kidney Transplant Center, a kidney is available and they needed him to come in immediately! He had been on the transplant list waiting for over 8 years. It was emotionally draining on our family waiting for that phone call. He had spent time with being on Dialysis in the interim for several years that carried him through this journey until the kidney became available–and now it was finally here! Another breath-taking moment!