It’s not unusual for us to take two solid weeks on the east coast to visit family and friends over the 4th of July. This year was no different. We enjoyed five nights visiting a friend in the Boston suburbs – and we fully enjoyed being total tourists! Then we rented a car and drove six and a half hours north-west to Twin Mill Farms in upstate NewYork, a working dairy farm owned and run by Will’s uncle and cousin, Pete and Blake Gendebien. 

We stayed in an RV right on the farm (you may recall the past two years where we stayed in the Amish house on the farm) and it was so wonderful, as always, to wake up each morning with the sound of tractors hard at work and hearing the sound of the breeze rippling through the corn fields. 

Farm chores in the afternoon and cooling off in the pond after a long, hot day. Dinner on the front porch watching the sunset and kids running free through the grass with orange smiles from too much Gatorade.

I always love going to the farm. One of the reasons, aside from being with family and helping out where ever and whenever I can, is that I somehow find more time to write and read. At home, those big chunks of time don’t happen very often unless I am extreme with my calendar (and there are times that I am). But at the farm, the pace is different. Time slows down. It’s fully acceptable and enjoyable to spend an entire day lounging with a book or finding different spots to write down my inspirations from what I am experiencing.

I love the farm.

By the time we got to the farm on Saturday evening, I was fighting a sudden ear infection and Zack was enduring a lingering cough. Five days later I spent the afternoon with Zack in the ER, after Will had taken him to urgent care earlier that morning, coming back with a diagnosis of a double ear infection and armed with antibiotics, inhaler, allergy medicine, vitamin C, and proboitics. 

As I watched him sleeping on the couch, I could see his chest and stomach working hard. His little body was struggling to breathe. We woke him up and his pale face echoed the tired exertion of trying to breathe.

It was scary. When your son looks up at you and starts crying because it hurts to breathe, it’s scary. It took all of my strength to not cry with him. I couldn’t let him see that I was scared too.

Luckily, we were with family who knew exactly where to send us, and I had my mother in law, Renee, with me (otherwise I would have been a complete mess).

We got to the hospital and they took us back right away (when you show up with a child who can’t breathe, they take it seriously). A breathing treatment, steroids, ibuprofen, pulse and oxygen monitoring, and a chest x-ray later, Zack was finally starting to feel better – and most importantly struggling less to breathe. 

When he smiled for the first time that day, I felt my heart silently cry a little tear of gratitude and relief.

Back at the farm by dinner time, armed with even more medicine and a nebulizer for breathing treatments, out came my phone and the most important app I have ever been fond of: Medisafe. This app allowed me to track ALL of his medicines and supplements, the doses, the timing, the colors and form of each (liquid or pill), and even checked interactions and reminded me when a dose would be needed soon. It was a life saver! On top of all of Zack’s medicines, I was also tracking my own (remember… ear infection too).

Four nights of no sleep and you can imagine what was going on in my mind and body. Pure exhaustion. The emotions of having to deal with everything and the ER on top of it didn’t aid in my exhaustion. Life was still moving along, and I couldn’t hold it together anymore.

The tears that I was holding onto, so desperately wanting to be strong for my child, burst out on Saturday morning. I couldn’t be strong anymore. Except I was strong. I was strong in my vulnerability to let my fragile-ness and worry show. I was strong in asking for help. I was strong in how much I was loving and caring for Zack. Most importantly, I was strong in letting go of everything else that didn’t matter.

To cut the suspense, Zack is okay. We got home okay, we continued on with modified summer plans, and we’re keeping a close watch on him, making sure he isn’t over-exerted, especially in the heat. Both of us are still getting caught up on sleep (I always say – and believe – making up sleep isn’t one for one, it’s exponential). 

So vacation didn’t quite go as planned. Although we still had a lot of enjoyable moments, and there will be plenty of memories to reflect on, I could do without the health challenges next time! 

It really has made me stop and think about what is truly important. What really matters?  Family and health – those are what really matter. Without either we have nothing. 

Let me ask you, what really matters in your life? Take some time to really ponder that question, and then answer it. Write it down, draw a picture, do something to document what matters and how it makes you feel. I’m doing that, right now, right here.

I mentioned that I let go of everything that didn’t matter. I was clear in that moment (or the culmination of moments during the course of our vacation) the only thing that mattered was the health and wellbeing of my family. 

Checking my email, posting on social media – none of that mattered. Showing up without being completely put together, in sticky clothes from the heat, hair unwashed – none of that mattered. Zack mattered, and he was my priority.

When life gets real, it becomes very clear what you can let go of. You have to be willing, however, to actually let go. 

Here’s to the BEST version of You!
Pamela Zimmer – Author, Speaker, Mentor and Your “Self-Care Concierge”