Yesterday was one of those beautiful sunny early-spring days that makes your heart sing.
After putting in a long day at the office (filling in for a dental office while they search for an office manager) I came home and started chores on our farm.
Feed and water the turkeys, chickens, rabbits. Check the baby bunnies. Check the water in the sheep and alpaca paddock. Make a mental note that the sheep would need to move soon. Play fetch with Gypsy.
All of the critters were happy and healthy.
I was just wrapping up chores and thinking about dinner when a friend of mine pulled up to drop something off.
We chatted awhile, distracted from time to time by the antics of Gypsy and Karma.
When my friend was about to leave I offered to put Gypsy into the house because I knew of her bad habit of running right next to and in front of vehicles. I asked her to wait until I had put the dog in the house.
I did that and when she saw me returning from the back door, began driving forward in order to turn around in the end of our driveway.
That's when I saw Karma bound away from the driveway.
A thought immediately went through my mind - "OH MY GOD WAS SHE UNDER THE CAR WHEN IT STARTED TO ROLL FORWARD?"
I watched her scramble up the front steps and attempt to jump through the cat door.
Her hind end seemed to be dragging a little. She was rumpled as if she had been tumbled on the ground.
She couldn't get inside the cat door and let out a painful, pitiful "mew."
I knew something was terribly, terribly wrong.
I gently picked her up and she clung to my arm as I raced into the house, grabbing the phone and trying to dial with one hand.
I misdialed several times, shaking and all thumbs and swearing, before I got through to my husband.
"I'M HEADING TO TOMAH WITH KARMA, SHE'S HURT. FIND ME A VET THAT IS OPEN!" I screamed into the phone and hung up.
Racing around still holding her on one arm I grabbed a cat kennel, towel and my purse and raced to the truck.
The entire way to Tomah she clung to my left shoulder, claws digging in. Only a few pitiful "mews" sounded from time to time.
She was mouth breathing rapidly, shallowly.
I thought maybe her ribs were broken. All four limbs seemed to have function, as I could feel her shift her feet, all four sets of claws set into my torso. I took this as a good sign.
I got to Tomah then found out when the vet called me back that she was in Sparta, so another 20 minute drive further.
I kept telling Karma it was OK, I was here and I was taking her to the doctor. She just clung to me tighter.
At the vet's office a dog that had been badly injured by a pitbull attack took priority over Karma, so we sat and waited.
She was not mouth-breathing anymore but was still breathing way too shallowly.
Finally they came and x-rayed her. The vet came in a few minutes later. It was clear from the x-rays she had herniated her diaphragm and some of our lower abdomen was starting to push upwards, causing her lungs not to inflate properly.
They could not handle the complicated surgery in Sparta and recommended I head to Madison as soon as possible.
It had taken four hours to travel to two locations and wait for the vet's inspection. It was almost 11:00 pm when I pulled into my driveway and jumped out of the truck, racing around to shut barn doors, feed the baby turkeys, get all the other cats shut inside the house and let my dog outside to go potty.
And change out of my ripped-crotch farm jeans that I had been wearing to do my chores that evening.
A full tank of gas later and I was pushing the boundaries of the speed limits as I zipped along among dozens and dozens of semi trucks heading towards Madison - the only other vehicles on the road at that hour.
I vacillated between crying, shaking from low blood sugar and feeling nauseous with worry and racked with guilt.
Why didn't I check for her before I let that car move? I know Gypsy had a tendency to run too closely to cars, but all of my other cats bolt like lightning whenever they hear a car engine roar to life.
I forgot my new kitten was entirely fearless.
And then a thought occurred to me. As soon as Papa Bear and I made the decision to bring her to Madison to try to save her life, there was nothing else for me to do but get her there.
Whether she lived or died en route was out of my control.
Whether or not they could help her once I arrived was out of my control.
Whether or not she died on the surgery table was out of my control.
The only thing I could control was whether or not to keep my foot on the gas pedal.
Many times in life things happen that are beyond our control. We fret and worry and spend so much time living in the past and worrying about the future that we forget that the only thing we can do right now, today, is decide if we are going to keep going forward, or if we're going to give up and quit trying.
For over ten years we sought medical help for our daughter to cope with the effects of anxiety disorder, ADHD and OCD. Life at times was brutally painful.
We spent more nights than I care to remember driving up and down the streets of our suburbs looking for a child that seemed with unarming ease to disappear off the grid.
I worried about her constantly, and slept very little. We had motion sensors on our doors and kept our car keys locked in a safe. The car batteries were even disconnected.
I wanted desperately to change her behavior. To keep her safe.
But really I only ever had control over one thing - whether or not to keep my foot on the gas pedal and keep looking for her until I found her, or to give up and go home.
Eventually we found alternative healthcare that worked for her where all of the traditional medicine and behavior approaches had failed.
During those ten years of struggling, we had control over only one thing - whether or not to keep looking for answers, for something that would help her, or to give up and quit trying.
We kept on trying, despite all of the setbacks and failures.
Where many parents would have thrown up their hands and given up, blaming God, culture, themselves, we kept looking for answers.
And last night, with the stars streaming across the midnight sky and the tears streaming down my face, I kept my foot on the gas pedal.