Tuesday, December 1, 2009
This is my favorite Bible verse. It hit me like a 2x4 the night I discovered it in my reading. The "give thanks in ALL circumstances" was the part that got me. At the time, I recall going through one heck of a flare. I had lost a great deal of function on my entire left side. We had recently returned from an incredible place called the Family Hope Center, where we sought help for our son, then struggling with autism. My stress level hit "ludicrous", which woke Alice, who then went on a terror spree! Maybe if I'd have coined a name for my immune system back then, I'd have had a better sense of humor about it? But all the tripping, the falling, the fighting to put the turn signal on as I drove, primarily right handed...the beating I put upside my own head as I tried to shampoo my hair - well, it just wasn't all that funny. In fact, it was downright scary.
My neurologist, who normally calms me when I begin to get a little verklempt, was noticeably concerned and quickly put me on a course of 'roids. She also made the prognosis that I would most likely not regain full function on that side. Well isn't that special? Early 30's and that's that? I came home and cried...a lot. Then I prayed. And then I called the Family Hope Center to ask what I could do for myself, since they were brain experts. They told me to do as much cross patterned exercise as I could muster, be it crawling, creeping, cross country skiing, or elliptical machines. They reminded me of what I'd just learned about my son...that the brain is fully capable of forming new pathways around areas of damage.
So I did! Got on my belly and tried to pull my hefty self across the floor. I was about 80lbs heavier than I am today. Oh I'm still a sturdy girl, don't get me wrong...but to pull an additional 80lbs of myself across the floor with hardly any strength on one side was next to impossible! By God's grace, it began to work....slowly and surely. After a few weeks, and only a few weeks, I regained full function. I went in for a check up, which is the equivalent of a monkey's performance. She proclaimed, "this is incredible! This just doesn't happen!" Just another time where God spoke louder than man.
But the most incredible moment in my life where God spoke louder than man...the recovery my son has had from autism. That's the one that I can't speak of without tearing up every single time.
Ask according to God's will
1 John 5:14-15 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
They have a special name tag at my friend's restaurant that says, "Be Nice, I'm In Training:-)". I wished they had one that said, "AND...I have MS and am learning the hard way that I'm not 18 anymore".
I capitalized MS in this blog, because right now, it is bigger than I. But not for long! I will continue on working as hard as I can. I'm working as if unto the Lord!
Thursday, November 26, 2009
1. My Husband - aka The Easiest Guy In The World To Please
I've just received the nod for Wife Of The Year 2009. Why, you ask? Well, I threw a couple of Grands cinnamon rolls on a baking tray, heated them up, iced them, and served them to my husband. I'm thankful that he's easy to please, because I feel as if I often have little to offer. Cooking? Well, I'm great if you don't mind leftovers. Early on in the course of this disease, I learned that my "energy bank" (thanks for coining the term, NMSS) was most full on Sunday afternoons. So what I do is make up a bunch of food and store it for the week. My son adheres to a gluten/dairy free diet, which translates to cooking everything. Not like I can throw a Chef Boyardee in his lunchbox or swing through McD's. He's grown up on leftovers. He's also used to a house that's um...lived in? I keep up with the laundry, the grocery shopping, and well...that might be about it. I might swish a toilet brush around the bowl here and there, but my house looks quite different now than 1978ish, like Mom with the perfect rows of lines the sweeper made in the carpet. Everything smelled like Pledge and Comet. 2009? No. Future wife to my son? You can thank me later for setting the bar...low.
2. My Parents
They're just awesome and that's all I can say to sum them up. It's funny how life comes full circle. Things I do with my kids today are things I did with Mom when I was their age. Things my kids do with Dad are things my Grandpop did with me. I'm also blessed to still have my grandmother. When I was a little girl, I remember Mom and I going to her house for a cup of tea each week.
3. My Mommom
If you're picturing a frail, pinky out, tea drinking grandmother...don't. My Mommom? Yeah, she drove a '72 Corvette with t-tops that displayed a license plate frame, proclaiming "Wrap Your Ass In Fiberglass". She wore stiletto heels, and won some sort of award for Best Bartender. She tended at very upscale dining establishments and knew all the important folks in town. There was one mansion in our town...now a golf course. Mommom tended all their private parties. Today, she's not much different. The Vette is now a convertible Chrysler, the stiletto heels? She still tries to wear them, but it's difficult.
Back when I was in college, she owned a bar. Oh yes, can you see how that would've been the best thing ever? College kid...coolest grandmother ever owns...a bar? Thank you, Lord, for making me a new creation! Anyway, the biggest part of her business was food. No one, and I mean NO ONE, cooks like my Mommom. She wanted a deep fryer so that we didn't have to broil our foods in the tiny oven. She and I argued tremendously over that deep fryer. One night, Dad called to say that Mommom was en route to the hospital. When I arrived, I was told that only 2 of us at a time were allowed in. But then, they called the entire family in, as they didn't feel she would survive the terrible accident she incurred from the deep fryer. As the rest of the family left the hospital room, I stayed. I didn't think she'd really know I was there. I laid my head down on her and cried, telling her I wished it had happened to me. She opened her eyes wide and said, "now THAT would've killed me, but not this". She also had a choice comment for the doctor she overheard as saying, "at her age, I don't really think...". It was something like, " 'F' him!". I knew then and there she'd make it! She spent 31 days in the burn unit and endured several surgeries to reconstruct her foot, as well as grafting to her legs. She used to say, as she'd raise her foot, "I can tell people to kiss my...!" The skin used on her foot during the surgeries was grafted from her backside. Her recovery was quite brutal and lengthy. It's not without lingering discomfort during seasonal changes, and she must be careful about sun exposure. Tough to do, considering she is a former model who built a sun deck on the roof of her home, with her own hands back in the 70s, where she would brown to perfection. But by the grace of God, I still have my Mommom. She still cooks the entire Thanksgiving dinner from beginning to end, and that food is incredible!
4. My Kids
Plainly stated, they are my entire being. Though I'm completely biased, I feel that they are the best kids ever. They're brilliant, considerate, friendly, compassionate, and beautiful inside and out. They already know what it means to live for Christ and often surprise me with the ways in which they handle everyday situations that come their way. Nothing means more to me than they do.
5. My Friends/Family
I seriously have the best friends and family. They know I've had a change in employment and what that change meant to our finances. I didn't even have to tell them, because that's not the way I roll anyhow. It's nothing for me to receive pots of homemade soup, a surprise card in my mailbox with a couple bucks in it, bags of clothing for my kids, or...most recently, the blessing of a television to replace our faulty one. My friends are such that, when they upgrade their personal items, they would rather bless us with the previous good than profit from it. It's been a very hard transition for me to go from the one in a position of abundance years ago, blessing my friends where I could - to break even point - to "uh oh". God has a way of humbling me that's about as comfortable as if I'd try to stuff myself back into a pair of Z Cavaricci pants from the 80s. But my friends? They've taught me that there's no room for pride, just like the Bible teachers. That we're all here in this crazy place for a reason and that reason is to bless one another. I give thanks for my friends/family on a daily basis and pray that God reward them richly. 60" flat screens with Bose surround sound systems for all of them in their heavenly mansions, that's what I pray for! It's rare to know such a large group of completely selfless people. I'm just that blessed.
6. My Pets
We have 4 dogs and 4 cats. They usually just kind of do their thing and are an unnoticed part of the amoeba that is our family. But...they have this uncanny gift of knowing when I'm not feeling my best. If it's been a day where I push to make it through work, drive home barely awake, shuffle into the house, drop the purse and briefcase to the floor, climb the stairs one by one, throw my work clothes to the floor, drag one of my husband's t-shirts over my head, and fall into bed...I soon have 16 eyes focused on me. Nothing says, "I'm here for ya" like a warm Basset Hound situating himself tight to your side as you allow yourself to melt into your fluffy, pillow top mattress. Everyone else just kind of finds a spot on or near the bed. It's a collective, "we got this", and I love it.
7. My Bosses
Lots of people with ms wonder whether or not they should disclose their condition to management. I didn't have to debate that with this job, because everyone I work with knew me for years prior to hire. I now work at the private Christian school my kids have attended since 2003. My condition became obvious way back when my kids were consistently late for school, or didn't make it at all. I went through some times where my eyes didn't show up. Since I wouldn't drive my kids to school with poor vision, we just stayed here. I reluctantly informed their teachers and administrators that I wasn't trying to rebel, I was really just exercising good judgement. So it's not a secret. What's best about them is, they keep it tucked away and don't bring it up. Once in awhile, if I'm looking a hot mess, they will ask if I'm feeling alright. They pray for me. They treat me like anyone else, not like someone with a condition. It's comforting to not have to wonder if there's some sort of underlying scheme to replace me, or that they're waiting for me to slip up, or that I'll be forced out as I was in my corporate job when they learned of my diagnosis.
8. The Little Things
Aren't they the best? I don't even like referring to them as "little things", because they mean so much. Stuff like coffee nights with friends while our daughters learn how to kick unruly boys' teeth in...I mean...take karate lessons, and my son plays chess with a Hungarian Chess Master. Or watching 4+ hours of dek hockey with a rowdy group of girlfriends as our sons play their hearts out. Or the hugs I get from the kindergartners at work in the lunchroom, where I come away with tiny ketchup handprints on my nice dress shirt. Or how about an excellent cup of coffee, extra sugar/extra cream? Or the look of my car after my kids wash it for me, where it's got 3 to 5 wavy clean spots and the rest is still dirty. And the seat warmers it's equipped with, as well as power liftgate that's so handy for grocery loading...especially because I'm short and my vertical jump isn't what it used to be, so closing it becomes an athletic event. The times my son refers to me as, "best mommy ever". The way my daughter waves good bye to me from the bus until we're out of one another's line of sight. The fact that I can see her...clearly...out of both eyes...as I stand upright...without swaying...while hearing...out of both ears...my son tell me I'm the best mommy ever. Thank you, Lord.
9. My Health
Oh yes, I said it. I'm thankful for this screwy condition. While I've always been an appreciative sort of person, it has helped me to appreciate everything a whole lot more than I would have if ms weren't part of my life.
Best for last. I am most thankful for God and the way He has worked in my life. There's this really cool preacher on tv, Bishop TD Jakes, who says, "there is glory in your story". Well, I hope that's something people can say about me someday. And not because I want the glory, but because I somehow glorified God. Thankfully, God met me where I was at. Years ago, I didn't know that was the way He rolled. I felt like I had to win acceptance. That’s religion. Now I know that we don't earn anything from God, it's given to us through grace. Yeah, we have to try to live right, but ultimately, it's all a gift. And I, for one, am thankful for that! Kinda takes the pressure off, ya know?
I wish you all a most blessed Thanksgiving!
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
I spent the entire afternoon in a hospital emergency room with a woman I never met. Well, this woman and my very dear friend. What began as one friend (me!)offering to accompany the other (her!) while she delivered church Thanksgiving baskets to families...suddenly became a medical emergency.
Because this gal's family couldn't get to the hospital for several hours, it meant that my friend and I were to take over all the typical hospital accomplice duties like accompany her to registration, intake, triage, etc. We didn't mind, of course. All that mattered was, and is, her well being. We both felt blessed to be called by God in that exact moment to serve in that capacity, and we'd do it again in a heartbeat.
There were times she was able to articulate rather clearly. She shared that she suffers from a chronic disease, that times are very hard, that she never thought she'd be in this place in life at her age, that nothing ended up like she thought it would, that she was so, so depressed. I stood there looking in her eyes, catching glimpses of when she was fully and totally with me, as well as when she was in that other, more incoherent, slurry speech riddled place. And while her story is SO not about me, I find myself reflecting on everything she said.
I get the whole "chronic disease, how did I get here, this is not the way I imagined life" theme. And the more I listened and digested, the more afraid I got. Enter "What If" game! I ran it all through my head...what if this is me in 20 years? What if my health gets to be such that I can no longer work, my husband's no longer a part of my life, and I find myself being helped out of my home by a stranger I met seconds earlier? What if my stress reaches stroke level? What if my kids are hours from being able to be there for me? What if I'm a burden to them and they actually want to be hours away? The "What If" game never made it to television because, quite frankly, it sucks. In fact, it reaches an unsurpassed level of suckdom. Yet I continue to play on certain occasions.
My little game was momentarily interrupted when the nurse introduced us to the television remote on behalf of our patient, who had fallen asleep. Even in her restful state, she appeared so worn down by life. I decided to put on a channel that played Christian music, turn it down to a relaxing level, and place the speaker next to her. When the staff came to take her down for a CT scan, she awoke and commented on the beautiful "inspirational" music...said she recognized the songs and really liked them. My friend and I spent a couple of hours in the empty hospital room, awaiting her return. As she was wheeled back in to await the results, the first thing she said was that she was glad we were there. The second thing, "where is that music? I really want my music".
As she asked that, I didn't see tears, nor apparent worries. It was plain to see that she was receiving God's comfort, and it came in the form of Christian music. That's when it hit me.
Yep, I know about chronic disease. I don't know how I got here and sure didn't expect this from my life. Times get hard. But I do believe the age old "God only gives us what we can handle" line. Then I really got to thinking...I just might be stubborn enough, strong enough, and dog gone it, crazy enough to get through this according to His plan. Kind of like Stuart Smalley meets the Bible! I believe that if continue to draw close to God, He will comfort me. I saw it in action today, through the eyes of a woman enduring her afflictions. Just another example of how God is good...all the time.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Yesterday, my son and I were on our way home after school and he says, totally out of the blue, "Christmas will be different this year, Mommy".
Ironic, since I happened to be thinking about the exact same thing. While I know full well that Christmas has nothing to do with gifts, and my kids are such that they wouldn't care whether or not they had 50 gifts to open or none, I had self imposed pressure and expectations to fill the space under the tree with stuff. But, this year ain't like last.
Enter sadness. Lately, I'd felt as if I somehow failed my family by losing my clients several months ago. I spent sleepless nights wondering if I could've worked any harder, done any better, been any more profitable. I was already doing the job of multiple people by my lonesome. That came at a cost, however. When you're on pure commission, you can't afford to put yourself on cruise control, not even for a day. The job meant tons of hours+daily effort+holidays included. To raise the stakes, I was the breadwinner at that time. My husband was caught up in the economical climate change before I was. When 20-somethings stopped building million dollar homes, his company folded. Nice while it lasted, but because they wanted their homes built yesterday, and/or in 18 degree weather, it meant forgetting what the man looked like on most days. He was often gone before the kids and I woke, home after we tucked ourselves in for the night. We knew he was around, however, because food was missing and contributions to the bank account showed up each Friday.
So I pounded the pavement, trying to find other clients to serve. If I was the person that others in the business called for advice, surely I'd have no trouble finding another job. I had great relationships with all of the important people at the companies I needed to interface with on behalf of my clients. Surely there would be someone in need of my expertise, right? Nope! The final nail in the coffin of sole proprietorship came when my pc died. So after months of fruitless pursuits and no means with which to actually perform the job that I thought I was so good at...
I teetered on that fine line between having it all together and losing my hole-filled mind. That's never good for Alice (the pet name I've assigned to my immune system, which could benefit from anger mgmt classes). She's a very light sleeper.
"Christmas will be different this year, Mommy", said the 10yr old, while gazing casually out the car window. In a split second, the past 2 years flashed through my mind and I had two choices: Ask him what he meant, or pretend I was sleeping. I decided to go with, "what do you mean by that, buddy?", totally unprepared to counter whatever it was he'd answer with.
"You'll be home the whole day!" Wow. I was immediately reminded of a school project his class did last year. It was a Wish Book, but not for Sears. My son's wish was, "for my Mommy to have a day off".
Is that what he's been thinking of? Spending more time with me? While I've been feeling like I've let him, my little girl, and my husband down? Enter tears in 3...2...
How could I miss the fact that God has been hard at work in this? He paved the way for me to acquire a job at my kids' school doing something I love to do that truly blesses others. Fringe benefit #1 - I get to hug my kids during my work day. Mine, as well as bunches of others who rush to my classroom to say hello and receive their hugs. I'm a little like Norm, but the setting is a Christian school rather than an underground bar. It's the neatest feeling to walk in the door and hear your name be shouted...and you're NOT in trouble!
And my husband? He's a fantastic provider. He's been blessed to find an assortment of jobs that help provide for our needs. Even with the 3 jobs he holds, he's still home much more than he used to be. We do things as a family now. We laugh...a lot. We draw closer to one another and to God than we ever had. I have an incredible family that's always available if we need anything. Great church family and praying friends? We've got that! I recently was blessed with a part-time job that will provide another necessary oar in the financial boat. To top it all off...I still get to see and hang out with the one person I knew I'd miss most from my old job. Her friendship is worth its weight in gold.
So if I change my perspective and begin to tally it all up, I'd say I'm really quite wealthy. My son hit me with a heavy dose of reality. I haven't let my family down. I did my best day in and day out in my previous job and left it all on the table. There wasn't one thing I could've done better, one day I could've worked harder, or one additional dollar I could have generated. God simply reached down to reposition me for His work, which I am passionate about doing. In the meantime, I get to spend entire Thanksgivings, Christmases, birthdays, and Sundays with my family. Not too shabby! It may have taken me nearly a year, but I'm finally getting it.
I don't follow easily, which is probably why this has been a hard situation to wrestle with. Yet again, a song is written all about me. "What It Feels Like To Be Led". Many thanks to the band for thinking of me...
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
I don't know what possessed me to open the mailbox today, because there's never anything uplifting in there. Just a large group of folks who want money we don't have. Nonetheless, I did and found an envelope inside that said, "MS Membership Drive". I cracked a smile. I knew I had blog material...
With a gift of $30, I'll get a membership card and a year's subscription to the Momentum magazine.
A membership card.
When, where, and to whom would I show that off? Do I whip that out before the cashier rings up my groceries? Do I brandish it to Mr. Policeman the next time I'm pulled over for speeding or window tint? Maybe it comes numbered 1-10 so I can present it for my follow up MRIs? Get 10 scans and my copay's waived on the 11th? Movie store? Public library? I could present it to get my late fees waived. "clearly you see why I've forgotten that I took that book/movie out 3 months ago"...
Wouldn't you think part of the perks of having ms is that you just GET the membership card? I mean, anyone can fork out $30 to join. But what about the person who makes a lifelong commitment and actually HAS the lesions? Personally, I think THOSE folks should not only get a membership card, but also a jacket. A Members Only jacket, to be specific.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Yesterday, I was having a casual conversation with my boss about a friend who also has ms. She, like me, has "invisible symptoms". Said friend and I have occasionally had in depth conversations over dessert where she has expressed that her husband just doesn't "get it" and how that can sometimes pose a bit of a problem for the two of them.
I shared with my boss how sometimes I feel like my friend. My husband is a fantastic guy, but he'd just as soon swing from a jungle rope a la Tarzan to get past a laundry basket of freshly folded clothing than carry it upstairs. He'd rather win at Dish Jenga than load the dishwasher. He'd rather take the strands of hair that collect in the tub's drain and fling them up against the shower tile than reach out of the shower to the trash can to properly dispose of them. Sometimes I think he's trying to create a piece of art. Oh come on, don't pretend that I'm the only one who loses half a head of hair each time I wash it. Praise the Lord that I can grow twice that in my sleep...
It's my own fault. In the early days, I gushed over him. I served his homemade dinners to him, retrieved his iced tea, dished out his ice cream, and didn't ask him to raise a finger. Then came a drastic change in energy levels, and a whole lotta focus on self. I went from thinking, "how can I serve him" to wishing he'd have gotten a subscription to Psychic Friends Network so he could know that today was a bad day and I needed his help. And that, when I explained to him that I was feeling weak, not seeing straight, or some other scary thing, he'd go catatonic and I'd angry carry, angry load, or angry de-hair, feeling hurt and offended.
So, as I was sharing some of this with my boss, the following phrase came out. "It's not that these husbands aren't great guys, I mean, when they married us...we were so strong and could do everything. And now, I think my husband wonders if he'll get a call some morning that mommy can't get up out of bed and walk..." Uh oh. Fear struck, enter tears in 3, 2... WHOA! Where'd THAT ultra sad thought come from? Who me? Couldn't be!" But it was. And every scary thought hit me all at once. Well that was just stupid of me. But thankfully, the boss is cool, she is one of my best friends, and she has tissues.
Today, I went on a field trip with my son. For some reason, my health dramatically declined throughout the trip. Lost feeling in my feet, was vibrating from the waist down, I was swaying, and could barely stay awake. If it weren't for my 32 trips to the bathroom, I'd have been asleep on my numb feet.
Last stop was the gift shop. I stood there listening to the beautiful music of "Oh Holy Night". I had to consciously tell myself my legs were NOT weak, I was NOT swaying, and I was wide awake. I was singing in my head when my son decided to take my hand and have a dance with me. Suddenly, the swaying became an asset...as long as I did it along with the music. And I began to get verklempt all over again, but for joy this time and not fear. 'Cause like my favorite parts of that song say:
Long lay the world In sin and error pining,
'Til He appear'd And the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope The weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks A new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! O, hear the angels' voices!
And in His name All oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy In grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us Praise His holy name.
I don't need to cry over what might never happen. I just need to remember that, no matter what happens, it's all just temporary. Forever is a whole lot better.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Here's another article from my Momentum magazine. It should be required reading as part of the ms fan club, in my opinion.
"Cognitive changes in ms are very different from those that appear in Alzheimer's. MS generally affects a few specific functions. Those functions include memory; complex attention; speed of information processing; planning and prioritizing; visual perceptual abilities; and word finding."
As I read, I was all, "check, check, check, check, check, and check!" What's great about it, however, is that these things are intermittent for me. The other great thing is that they never directly impact my children or the quality of my work. And, most times, those around me do not notice. Well I digress...I think my boss noticed that I was 10 minutes late for work today, but what she didn't realize was why. And, because she is pretty incredible, she never mentioned it. I think she knows that no one feels worse about falling short than I do. Speaking of falling short, I've shrunken again. Feeling like Lily Tomlin as Edith Ann in my oversized computer chair.
Occasionally, when I'm feeling generally overwhelmed, I can't get myself together to begin my day. I don't mean the usual outfit critique of, "I look fat in this, let's try again". I mean, "this sock is dark blue, isn't it? Wait, now these socks don't match. That first one WAS black. Ugh, I can't get this necklace clasped because of the tremor in my finger. Are these the brown shoes or the black ones? Close enough. Uh oh, these are two different shoes. Omg, I forgot to put deodorant on. Take the shirt off and do that. Ok that's done...but now I don't like that shirt. Wait, did I put deodorant under my right arm? Nope, shirt off again.
And there you have it, about 8 extra minutes. The other 2 minutes came from choosing the wrong way out of my driveway. Why did I turn left? I never turn left. Well, I do if I'm taking the kids to karate. Do I stop and turn around? No, just circle back. Run in the door at 8:40am with all my might. Don't make eye contact with anyone, just get in the room and start working. Ugh, it's already 9am, time to run back out to the next item on my itinerary. Run, Tina, ruuuuun!
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
I happily paged through and hit p24. Says here "Sleep Debt Warning Signs". Ugh, what is this...Cosmo? And why must we refer to my insomnia as debt? Am I not in enough of that as it is? I spent the last 2 Friday nights on the phone, trying to get our creditors to take one step to the left off our chests. I remember when Friday nights meant going out on the town with friends, racing my car a little, maybe hitting a club. But now, my cool factor has far surpassed that. Oh yes...now I find joy in calling companies and asking for hardship plans. All this to say, you can see why anything with the word "debt" included is exhausting.
Here are the Sleep Debt Warning signs, according to CosmoMomentum:
- If you need an alarm clock to wake up (duh?)
- If you're tired right after you get up instead of feeling refreshed (because the alarm clock woke me?)
- If you either can't fall asleep, or you wake up after a couple of hours and can't get back to sleep
- If you kick off your bed covers (do we not all do this?)
- If you get up frequently at night for any number of reasons (you try giving birth twice in your life and having said babies use your bladder as a punching bag in utero!)
- If you snore (my husband snores enough for the both of us!)
I have all of those but the last one. But don't most of us? Or have I forgotten what "normal" is?
Debt is definitely a four letter word to me. Well, I'll tell sleep as I told a particular, unwavering creditor, "you'll have to get in line behind everybody else!" So there!
Friday, October 30, 2009
Earlier on in my experience with ms, I couldn't stay out of bed. I didn't seem to have much choice in the matter. When my son was very young, I overheard a conversation he was having with another child. The boy was saying how his mother was running in the local 5k, and he asked my son if his mommy would also be running. My son said, "no, my mommy sleeps a lot". As much as that hurt me, it was true. Total tortoise.
I've been the tortoise and the hare intermittently for the past 10 years. I know what it's like to suddenly have my legs not work so well, to lose significant function on an entire side of my body, and to not be able to stay awake longer than a few hours at a time. But as much as I may have struggled through those times is as much as I was blessed to only have those challenges on my plate. I'll take all that and a bag of chips in lieu of having to do another tour at our local childrens hospital!
So basically, I'm trying to figure out if my "hare moments" create the tortoise ones, or if I'm supposed to go at 150mph while that blessing exists. I've fought with this concept for a long while and still haven't come up with the answer. As stubborn as I am, I probably couldn't slow myself during a hare moment anyway! Guess I'll just keep on keepin' on!
Monday, October 26, 2009
Last week was more than stressful. The kind of stress that you can't see the other side of and can't possibly think how you're getting out of it. I consciously sat down and counted my blessings one by one. I'm healthy (with the exception of holes in my central nervous system, but who's counting?), have a fantastic husband, amazing parents and family members, incredible children, and loving friends. My work is rewarding. Our church family is uplifting. I have a beautiful view of the yellow, orange, red, and brown leaves over there in the woods from the picture window of the comfortable house that we call home. My kids are receiving arguably the best education offered in this area. My husband, who drives a tractor trailer, has not had anyone drive underneath of him lately. We have enough coffee to get through the week. And my car started, though slooowly, after the kids left the doors open for hours.
That's a lotta good stuff right there! But when things get scary in one facet of life, be that health, finances, relationships, etc., it's easy to get tunnel vision and forget about my abundance of blessings. Makes me think a lot of myself and whatever stressor is wanting my attention for the moment. God, in His faithfulness, always sends the "snap out of it" message...
This Saturday night, my 10yr old son scored his first goal in hockey. This is the child who, by all intents and purposes, should still have the GI disease he was born with. We were told that, if he survived, he'd have a measurable level of mental retardation. As if that wasn't enough, he was vaccine injured at 18mos and dx'd aspergers. They kept changing the labels from aspergers to autism and back again, depending upon which dr I ran him to. I didn't care much about the label, just cared that he be "fixed". After many years of literal hell, family battles, a tanked marriage, and completely drained finances, I finally went to my knees and handed it over. Yeah, it's where I should've started the journey, but I'm quite stubborn. As pretty much anyone who knows me knows (apologizing for the repeat!)...we were led to the Family Hope Center and given a program that restored him. I was told just 4 years ago by a licensed psychologist all the things he wouldn't be. I don't blame the fella, he really felt I wasn't accepting the hand that was dealt. He was right, I wasn't accepting of it.
So when my son ran into the kitchen 3 mos after beginning that program and said, complete with jazz hands, "Mommy! It's like somebody lifted the clouds!", I cried. When he started to read with ease and earned solid A's and B's on his school work, I cried. When his ped said she considered him free of autism, I cried. When I'd see all the kids wanted to sit with him at lunch and play with him at recess, I cried. When he stepped on the hockey dek for the first time, I cried. And when he took a shot on net and that ball rolled across the goal line...I nearly had a mini stroke! I put my hands over my eyes and it was like all of those "bad" years flashed before me! They were tough, but God brought us out of it. He always does.
I'll screw up again and allow something to stress me out, momentarily placing all of those incredible blessings on the back burner. Alice will wreak havoc. I'll feel like a hot mess. I'll probably even blog about it...but it will pass, because it always does. It's just the kind of God we have.
May you be blessed!
Friday, October 23, 2009
During the course of my day, I drive from one school building to another, sometimes more than once. As ridiculous as it sounds, the task of packing up my laptop + customary 4 bottles of water, lugging them to my car, opening the car doors, shutting the car doors, hurling my seatbelt over me, arguing with traffic to the next building, navigating the parking lot...which is totally NOT ms friendly (dumpster sitting in a weird spot on an angle with buses directly across, like a driving test, but these obstacles will wreck your ride), trying to avoid strangulation via previously mentioned seatbelt upon release, opening car doors, mounting laptop bag to shoulder, shutting car doors, walking to school's door, fumbling for 007 style id card to scan into tiny black box, trying to open door in the 2.2 seconds tiny black box allows you before it locks again...alright already, you get the idea. It's physically exhausting.
And that's not my actual work. I don't include that, because working with these kids is one of my most profound blessings and rejuvenates me. I love them each as if they're my own kids, and I know they love me right back. Today, as I was sitting in my room planning a session, I was pleasantly interrupted by random drive by hugs from a couple of my students. They're just cool kids...
Physical exhaustion is one thing, but I often think mental is worse. That happens at home. I walk in from work, lugging laptop and whatever else my car accrued during my travels. In my line of sight is the kitchen sink. We play this game that I call "Sink Jenga". Like where my husband and I see how many dishes we can stack without toppling the pile? Whoever topples it has to load the dishwasher. Sadly, he's getting pretty good at it. I was undefeated for months. But just the sight of the dishes makes me tired. I know it's my move and the pressure's on. Careful! Watch the placement of that butter knife...it could mean disaster if not properly configured!
And don't get me started on household finances. Even typing those 2 words made me yawn.
But the cool thing is...God is always faithful and gives me the strength I need to get through a day. He also quiets me when it's time to rest, like when I can't possibly stay upright for one more second, so I lay down and wake up 3 hours later. All that to say that I've been circling Mount Fatigue for about 10yrs now and am learning that I need to keep pushing as hard as I can and making the very most of each day, living it for and in Him. He'll continue to bless me with rest when He knows I need it.
Someone once said that each day we live is a day closer to the day we die. Gee, that's uplifting! Not. Guess it's true, though. I'll continue to choose to go, go, go! I will surprise my husband and load the dishwasher tonight, even though I can so put this glass in there without negative effect. If I'm going to give each day my best, I guess that includes every part of it!
Whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward You are serving the Lord Christ."
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
I'm called to display the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. A dear friend once pointed out that these are in a particular order for a reason. You can't have gentleness without love, self-control without faithfulness, yada yada. Last year, said fruits were a part of our school's theme verse. It was the first time I'd seen the verse and I remember thinking, "pffft, that's easy stuff!" Not. In fact, self-control is most difficult for me. I'm thankful that I have a whole lot more of it now than I used to, but I certainly have room for improvement! It's not that I act upon my raw emotions, ie. flipping out...I know enough to keep it under wraps! But it doesn't mean I don't sit and stew over stuff, which negatively affects my joy, peace, patience...you get the point. Plus, though others might not see my inner "Pinky and The Brain" psyche, God does. And I've already got a lot to answer for when I stand before Him, much less adding all of that drama to the mix. All that to say, I've got lots to work on. Thankfully, I'm a work-in-progress!
Stuff is starting to mount, one on top of the other. Underneath the Jenga pile is me, balancing on one foot with my eyes closed. All the while, trying to keep the love of the Lord inside of me, trying to keep shining His light, and trying to fake Alice out. No need to rear your head, Alice! I'm not at all stressed out! Nothin' to see here! You just stay nice and calm, mmkay? Shhhh...
But Alice knows and she's in a bad mood. The mere thought of getting up from this chair to refill my glass with water makes me want to cry, then sleep for a few hours. The fatigue is pretty ugly right now and I'm literally willing myself out of bed in the morning and down the stairs for some much needed coffee, yet I can't fall asleep at night. Sunburn's back. My left eye decided that it was going to put a cloud in my field of vision for much of the day. Thanks for that, eye! You do what you gotta, I have 2 of you and the right eye showed up for work today! All the while, I keep telling myself to tough it out and keep going. "Ruuuuun, Tina! Ruuuuun!" Speaking of, that might look like a hot mess right about now if I were to try. When I bend my head down, I get that little reminder sensation in my right leg. BZZZZZ. It's called L'hermittes Sign. Only the coolest people have it. Definitely a time I can't "walk it off". Oh Alice! You spoil me!
Here comes my daily affirmation. I know that good times always follow the bad. This is just more "refining" in the fire. I have some decisions ahead of me and they've got a little weight to 'em. People are waiting and watching to see how I handle myself. Among the observers are my own kids, my little apples of my right eye...'cause that's the one that's seeing clearly! Not that they know the full drama, but they always know something. Scary. So it's up to me to teach them by example. I want to show them that we don't live this crazy life alone...we've got a loving, awesome God to protect us and guide us through. No matter how hard things might seem, or how uncomfortable we may be, He is faithful and never disappoints. I will choose to find the positives in our current circumstances, because my attitude is my own God-given choice.
There's a song out now that says: What you gonna do? The world is watching you. Every day, the choices you make say what you are and who your heart beats for.
That pretty much says it all!
Monday, October 19, 2009
the brain is involuntarily searching out and activating pleasant, positive information from the memory banks in order to help the brain cope with an incomprehensible threat.
My mind chooses to retro to the mid to late 70s, back to my elementary school days. Can you blame me? I'm the only child of highly protective parents who formed their lives around...me.
Dad worked all the time to provide for Mom and I. When he was home, he devoted all of his attention to moi. He was a highly decorated 'Nam vet, but is one of those guys who never talks about it. I remember how safe I always felt under their roof. Dad could do this super cool thing where he'd be asleep but, like, he wasn't? People have home security systems, but those couldn't hold a candle to Dad. To this day, you can not sneak anywhere near him if he is asleep on his back. Consider yourself jacked up in 3...2...1...
Mom stayed home with me. I was a careful observer in the 2.2 seconds I spent inside the house, enjoying a Twinkie. She ironed, she cooked, she cleaned...she was a whirlwind! I previously shared her protective measures, like "mom arm" in the car. Didn't matter if I was in the front or back, she could catch me with that bionic right hand! Accounts of which are in the Bible, "I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand". That right hand that God blessed Mom with upheld me from flying through the windshield of a 72 Buick quite a few times!
Mom and Dad made me tough. Mom helped me learn to face my fears via winding up that stupid cymbal clapping monkey and laughing at me as I had panic attacks. And Dad? He made me tough by yelling, "WALK IT OFF!" when I'd hurt myself. Run into a tree branch and cut my cornea? Walk it off! Fall off a bike and break my wrist? You got it...walk it off!
I was an insomniac even as a child. I can remember calling out to Mom several times a night. She was also awake. I'd need a drink of water, which she'd bring me in a tiny, 70s maize colored tupperware cup. Many nights, I'd lay awake, staring at my ceiling. I would barely have to whisper and Mom would hear me. She'd always come, no matter when I called out.
I had a plastic elephant toy box. I used to climb inside of it and cover myself with the lid. Everything was better in that elephant. Twinkies included.
Those are the memories I retro to, as well as all the way cool 70s things like avocado colored kitchen cabinets, shag carpet, white denim leisure suits, plaid pants, and the best songs ever.
Sometimes, present day gets pretty scary. Now I'm the mom who's awake. I've got kids who are depending on me just as I depended on my parents. When my son has his insomniac moments, I'm the one laying in the room next door, just waiting to hear from him. I understand Mom a lot better now and often compare myself to her. I don't cook much, don't own a working iron, and become exhausted at the mere thought of cleaning. I want to be able to walk it off when I feel like crap, but walking sometimes makes it worse or creates new problems I didn't have at the get go. Sometimes, I want to climb into a toy box and forget about the holes I have in my head, neck, and spine. I'd also like to forget about how the economy has slammed our household. Problem is, I'm no longer 3'11"...though I've shrunk 3" since graduating high school. Maybe someday I'll get back down to 3'11"! I've even got the toy box...it's in the garage...
Though it's been about 30 years, Mom is still there when I call. And Dad is still protecting me, but not from potential intruders. Now, it's from worry and stress. He tells me it's okay to ask for help. I'm learning that the toughest guy I ever knew is tough because he's smart enough to know when he's weak. Maybe I need to stop trying to fool myself into thinking I've got it all together every minute of the day if it's a time when I really don't. I mean sure, I usually do! But there are other, very scary times. And I set myself up for disappointment, which sets off the spiral of worry, depression, and desire to call my Mom at 2am.
What's a girl to do if she can no longer hop into the elephant or call out for a drink of tepid tap water? Well, I can jump into the Word. In fact, when I start to feel really, really consumed in worry, like TODAY, I recall that I've not been in the Word for a few nights or more. I'm a little slow at times. I seem to need that "slam on the brakes and fly toward the windshield" experience before I realize that God's righteous hand never stops protecting me from crashing through.
If you ever get to worrying like I do, and if songs are a little easier to work with than reading, may I suggest "Great Light of The World"? Or like, you can just click it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdkmcUPxsF4
The light of His grace can fill up your heart, just as my Mom filled up my tiny, maize colored, tupperware cup:-) May you be blessed!
Friday, October 16, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Viruses, colds, and flu! We fear them as the season approaches. We rush out to be vaccinated. We wash the fingerprints from our hands! But me? Say hello to my little friend...superfreak immune system! Let's call her Alice, just because I like that.
Here's the thing 'bout Alice. If I could categorize her, I'd say she has an anger management problem. You figure, if she's angry enough to attack her own body, she's pretty volatile, right? Oh no, I ain't messin' with her! I even changed my diet around completely to try to settle her, and that worked for the most part. It's basically an "anti-inflammatory diet" aka "keep Alice in Chains". Yeah, another shameless musical reference.
Anyway, I came down with a virus a couple days ago, one that a couple of friends also got. Major difference is that Alice kicked its tail in no time, while my couple of friends are still struggling. Alice is the relative no one wants to invite to Thanksgiving. The one you walk on eggshells around, because they could snap at any moment! Oh come on, I can't be the only one with that relative! She's a very freaky girl...the kind you don't take home to mama...
Looking back, I always did have a pretty volatile immune system. Bee stings? Swell up like a house! Eat a slice of watermelon? Ears swell up like cauliflower! Take a penicilin capsule by accident? Hives for 7 months! Xanax, anyone? I'm telling you, she's fierce!
All that sounds like maybe a good thing, right? It is and it's not. Illnesses don't seem to stick around for long, which is great! But, like the relative you don't invite to Thanksgiving, she doesn't know when to settle down. In other words, now that she's fought off this virus in record time and kept viral symptoms to a minimum - as compared to like sufferers - she won't yet have removed the boxing gloves. You should understand that Alice is an MMA fighter, so she's got on those little fingers-cut-out, black leather gloves. The opponent? Me. So now it's game on and I just await her tactics. She may inflict creepy crawlies on my legs, extra large eye flies, sunburn feeling across my back, shaky legs, or all of the above. It's her game, I'm just a playa...
So I wait in anticipation, but I try not to worry. Worry also gets Alice all fired up. Come to think of it, there's not much that doesn't upset her apple cart. But somehow, giving her a name and sharing her with you enables me to laugh at her! I am learning to put her in her place. She will strike, and when she does, I need to do like Romans 5:3 says and rejoice! Now if only someone could remind me of that in about a day? May God bless you all!
Romans 5:3 ...but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope does not disappoint...
Monday, October 12, 2009
There's an article entitled "Should I Tell My Employer I Have MS?" It reads...
Things to consider: Once it’s out there you can’t take it back. Your employer can have preconceived notions about MS and wrongly decide you will not be able to handle your job or additional responsibilities. You may try to educate your employer but may find they are not interested or open to the information.
I had that happen at the big company I worked for when I was dx'd. I remember calling a meeting between my 2 supervisors to inform them. I came in the following day to find that my accounts had been reassigned to other reps. I saw the writing on the wall and decided I wouldn't give the company the pleasure of dragging me through their line of corporate port-o-potties, so I left to work for dear friend/chiropractor. 'Course, I didn't have to tell her...she already knew! I worked there, free of ms judgement and self-consciousness, until God decided it was time to move on.
The door was opened for me to work as an educational therapist with children who learn differently. Worked for me, because I have much in common with every one of my students. Short attention span? Check! Emotions that swing from high to low and everywhere in between? Yep! I'm just older and know how to keep them hidden! Got all the head knowledge but have trouble getting it to paper? Sometimes, sure. But let me tell ya, my students are absolutely brilliant...every single one of 'em. They bless me more than I could ever bless them. And I'm forever thankful that ms moments never affect my work or my own children. It's like ms knows those are 2 areas that are off limits!
Today was In Service and I had to give a presentation to explain what I do all day long. Hate those. I'm outgoing and all, but standing up in front of people and speaking takes me right back to those stupid oral book reports in school. It was also one of those days where I couldn't quite articulate as well as normal, and was even stuttering. So I told myself to chill out, it's a Christian school and Jesus would not let them laugh at me. I have ms for goodness' sake! Who could mock the lady with the holes! I put all this pressure on myself to pull off a perfect speech and stress is NOT a friend to ms. In fact, the more stressed out I get, the more I stutter and have trouble articulating. You see the cycle here, clearly!
I preempted my presentation by running to the bathroom and took the opportunity to pray for God to give me the words. When I walked back into my classroom, bundle o' nerves and a million random thoughts running through my head, the first thing that came out of my mouth was something to the effect of, "I apologize in advance, I'm stuttering today". Nice job. Way to blow the speech before it begins.
But you know, it actually was nice. I was instantly comforted by everyone's smiles and was able to joke it off when I did stutter or found it difficult to piece my thoughts together in just the way I'd meant to. How blessed am I to work with an amazing group of people who love me, holes and all, just as I am?
Just As I Am...one of my favorite hymns. While God isn't someone I can physically see or reach out and touch, I do encounter Him on a daily basis. He shows His face through the kindness and love of others. When someone gives me a basket of food, some homemade chicken rice soup, a supportive smile, a loving hug, or a kind offer to help me out...I encounter God at work. I give thanks on a daily basis for my employer, because I have full confidence in the fact that, if the going gets tough, the tough will be fully supported. That is, if the tough can put their pride aside to allow themselves to be helped. Ahem...seems like the shoe is a perfect fit!
Saturday, October 10, 2009
I've not slept over the past week or so, though. I know enough, medically, to realize that our brains utilize sleep as an opportunity to defrag, clear out the yucks, and start over. I think that knowledge is what keeps me up even longer. I look at the clock and think, "1am...gotta be up in 5 hrs...that's not much rest my brain gets. Ugh, 3am...that's only a tiny bit of repair my brain can do! Uh oh...4am...there's my husband's alarm and I'm gonna be in trouble!" I never knew anyone who could pressure themselves into sleeping, or who could lay in bed, tense up, and say, "I'm going to sleep NOW!" I'm my own worst enemy...
And my mind runs at 150mph, which doesn't help with sleep.
I can go from mentally preparing a lesson for a particular student - to thinking of a pumpkin latte - to thinking which bills will I swap from the "I can't pay you yet" to the "I'll pay you so you stop calling me" piles - to getting up midstream and loading the dishwasher - to recalling another student has a big test on Tuesday - to what meetings do I have this week - to the dogs want out - to I'd like to make a covered dish for this weekend's fellowship meal at church...to a minimum of 8 additional thoughts. And that's all happening in just 5 minutes' worth of time. That's when I'm "on".
When I'm in an "I've forgotten my password" moment, I have to think about thinking about all of those things. I'm a little slower, but can't afford to be, because my life is that fast and I can't miss a beat. It becomes a conscious effort. I've had people ask me if I was angry with them, because I've looked through them as I've walked down the hall, or had a rather blank look on my face. Nope, I didn't even notice you. Not because I don't love ya, but because I'm making a mental checklist and it's like swimming in jello. My brain can only do a certain number of things at once. When the flow is interrupted, I lose capacity to socialize with you AND pull off 189 thought processes. Something has to give, and I suppose my ability to freely mingle is first to get dumped?
I tried to explain it to my husband and he plainly said he doesn't get it. He is perfectly capable of sitting in his oversized chair, finger hanging from mouth, pitcher sized glass of iced tea to his right, changer to his left, and thinking of ab-so-lute-ly NOTHING! Am I jealous? Sure I am. Well, not entirely. I think it's how we're paired up, right? Like, if we both had 150mph minds and ran on 2-3 hrs of sleep, that wouldn't work. Ok, so the house may be a little more clean, but our kids would need pediatric doses of Xanax. And if we both were able to sit around with fingers in our mouths and think of absolutely nothing, our house would be a disaster and there would be no one to play the shell game, Price Is Right style, with our household bills. We balance one another in a crazy yet perfect way...a way that God knew would work. That's why he planned our course so that we'd meet in a head on collision. If I could create a yellow road sign to describe our marriage, it would be "God At Work". And really, isn't that all we can hope for?
Do you like how I just wrapped many thoughts together in no particular order? This is why I exhaust myself...oh wait...the dryer stopped, dogs want in...gotta go plan a meal!
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Disclaimer: The following opinions are not meant to offend anyone who is completely uplifted by said magazine! I'm also encouraged by much of what it says. Truth be told, it's a very nicely done periodical. And let's face it, we all deal with our circumstances in our own ways, and I praise God for giving each of us exactly what we need exactly when we need it to successfully get through our day. In no way do I wish to impose my opinions or coping strategies on others! This is just sharing, nothing more! Now that I've covered my large...self...I'll therapeutically blog away!
Here I sit, listening to my AOL Radio - tuned to "Top Christian" - thumbing through the MS Connection I received today. The following is what I see. Like Mr. Rogers used to say, "won't you join me?"
Page 4 tells me that studies show the Epstein Barr virus is a trigger for ms. Says here "that people who are not infected with EBV do not get ms". Ok, I can accept that. I remember my junior year of high school, I had a wicked case of mono. I couldn't stay awake no matter how hard I tried. Began to doze off in English, was somehow startled, yelled out, and threw my pencil across the room. The poor teacher I had was in her 1st year and many of the boys gave her a run for her money. My "fall asleep/yell/javelin toss of pencil" was the last thing she needed! I had to miss weeks of athletic events so that like, I wouldn't rupture my extremely enlarged spleen. Good times! A couple of years ago, I had some funky tests done and they found a high level of EBV antibodies in my system. Like Hollywood Squares used to say, "X gets the square" MS Connection! What else ya got?
There are lots of fundraising efforts - people who are biking, walking, and swimming - to raise $ for research. I often pray for these extremely caring and selfless folks who endure such physical challenges to raise money for various illnesses. I have two friends from high school who take part in the bike rides and who have placed my name on their team websites. Their thoughtfulness blesses me more than they could ever know. It's overwhelming and heartwarming to be so supported...both by people who've known and loved me for years, as well as people I'll never meet, like the faces of those in this here magazine. May God bless each and every one of you!
Here's an article about a place called Nancy's House. It's for caregivers, but listen to this. They provide the following: Two solid nights of sleep, Restaurant style meals, Massage therapy, Fun classes, A low stress setting. Ok, I'm wondering if I can pass for a caregiver! Betcha I'd get tossed out by 3am on day 1. I'd be in the bathroom 12x and wide awake. I can see it now, "hey...are you a caregiver or an ms'er! Where do you keep running off to! Why are you still awake!" Yeah, I'd stick out like a sore thumb.
Healthcare reform articles, stimulus funds, study invitations, employment suggestions, ads for meds and coping stuff, yada yada.
Oh here we go. "Don't ignore incontinence symptoms". You've now got my full attention! Frequency, Hesitancy, Urgency...oh my! Yep, got all 3 of those. It says right here that I shouldn't be embarrassed and that I should avoid caffeine. I'm sorry, I think I just choked on my coffee! WHAT THE? Clearly they've lost their minds! Forego my coffee? I'd rather jump from my speeding car as I drive down the road to Dunkin' Donuts. Anyway, I recently saw a spot on the news that regular coffee intake by ms'ers was shown to be protective in nature. And now they're saying I have to steer clear of it so I don't have to pee so much? And so that, when I do try to pee, it actually comes out? Oh no you don't, NMSS. No you don't take away my beloved coffee! Continuing on. Says there are meds for this. Since you may recall...I'm "2%", let's take a peek at the side effects that I will experience from said meds.
"Other less common side effects include constipation, heartburn, blurry vision, rapid heartbeat (tachycardia), urinary retention and cognitive side effects such as impaired memory and confusion."
Hmm. I think I'll stick with the current plan of drinking 1 gallon of water/day to flush out the yuckies and continue to enjoy that coffee. I'd hate to be a blurry eyed, confused, reflux suffering mother of two who's full of crap.
But here's where I start feeling a little intimidated. The next ad says "Strength comes from within, summon yours!" And most of the writings beyond this one are headlined with "self help", "I", "me", "we", "you". This is where I used to feel so inadequate. In high school and college, I prided myself on my strength. Play softball with teeth loose in mouth? Complete a field hockey game on torn cartilage in knee? Not break down and cry when something emotionally awful happens? Yes, yes, and yes. I used to think that made me strong among the strong, tough beyond tough. So when I used to see these articles about strength coming from within and summoning mine, it made me feel weak. If I was supposed to be so tough, then why was I falling apart inside? No one knew but me, because I'm a firm believer in never letting 'em see me sweat! But still...depression, emotional drama, and the like? If I was supposedly so strong, according to my own standards, why couldn't I deal with it all? Took me many years, but I know the answer to the $100,000 Pyramid.
Because it wasn't and isn't mine to deal with. It's the Lord's. My adequacy is in Him. And the Bible says His strength is made perfect in my weakness. So like, if I'm thinking I'm so strong on my own...all by my lonesome...that's pretty dangerous. In a moment, my emotions can flip upside down and leave me questioning myself! But if I'm grounded in the Word and understand that my strength isn't my own, I can stop beating myself up on those rare occasions where I begin to feel pretty weak. Truth is, weak is the new strong...like 40 is the new 20! The Bible tells me so! Well, maybe not about 40 being the new 20, but you know what I'm sayin'...
"And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Sunday, October 4, 2009
I was once asked by a family member, "how can you love a God who allowed you to get ms?" My response...He never said bad things weren't going to happen, but I couldn't imagine dealing with it without Him. And please don't think for a minute that I go through every day with hymns playing in my mind, free of worry and care. I can honestly say that I violate Matthew 25-27 on a consistent basis.
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
I copied and pasted it here so I could read it yet again. I've mentally rewritten it to make it more applicable to my life. I don't worry about food or clothes. I have little to no fashion sense, so I wouldn't know enough to worry. I have a friend who wants to nominate me for What Not To Wear. She says it has nothing to do with my style. Oh honey, I may have holes in my head, but I don't have any lesions in the common sense compartment! Eating/drinking? Not an issue, unless Dunkin' Donuts goes out of business and can no longer manufacture coffee. Then it's Game Over!
My worries manifest themselves in the "what if" game. While I don't always partake in it, I do have my moments. God, in His faithfulness, always sends me numerous signs that speak to my worry. For example, yesterday morning, I had woken up all half in/half out of sleep. In my usual morning inventory, I found I could not move my right leg to the side of the bed. Enter PANIC! Oh no...this is it...right leg didn't show up for work and I'm not going to be able to get around well, what if the other leg doesn't show up for work tomorrow, in the words of my grandmom, "this is the worst day ever", husband's already off to work, kids need breakfast...and I'm out of Calgon! Turns out I had it caught up in my blanket and hadn't woken up enough to realize it. Duh.
But I thought of it periodically for much of the day. What if tomorrow's the day I wake up and that inventory doesn't check out? All this was bombarding my mind as I mowed my lawn, you know...the yard I used to mow with a push mower, but now need a Deere to care for...and the worries became so loud that I heard nothing BUT. I started to cry, couldn't quite see through the tears, got a little too close to the drainage ditch and woosh! Right on in it I went, mower stuck in the mud up past the bottom lip of the deck. I jumped off a la Pitfall, the 80s arcade game, and ran all the way up the yard to get my race watching husband. I lied to him and said I was driving along and got sucked into the ditch. He totally saw my tire marks that pretty much drove straight into the ditch. Hey I'm sorry! I retro'ed to little kid mode when I saw how annoyed he was. Truth be told, I get stuck a lot. It's the adventurer in me. I'm the girl who says, "I can make that...oh...no I can't".
The very long and silent walk to the running mower, stuck up to its green parts in quasi-quicksand, was rough. He was surely thinking how limitless his love is for me (not), and I was still in worry mode, thinking, "wonder if he would carry me around if my legs take a vacation". I was standing there entertaining the scenarios, while he was staring down the mower, formulating a plan, wrinkling up his mustache. And then God said, "be still!" Just then, my husband, aka "ox", got down in that ditch, grabbed the backend of the mower, and proceeded to move it up and out to freedom with his bare hands! I thought to myself, "if he can lift 495lbs, SURELY he can carry me!" Have I mentioned lately how much I heart my husband?
Ah yes, Lord...thank you for sending him to me, and for all the other times Your message comes through so clearly via my family and friends. It really helps to comfort me in the storms of life. I honestly have THE best family and friends ever.
And then there are those songs that continue to speak to me at just the right times. I wish Bible verses came to me as readily as song verses, but I guess it's all working toward the same end. This from Addison Road:
If everything comes down to love
Then just what am I afraid of
When I call out Your name
Something inside awakes in my soul
How quickly I forget I'm Yours
I am not my own
I've been carried by you my whole life
So yeah. Why am I afraid? If the inventory doesn't check out, am I not His? 'Course I am. My problem is that I have the head knowledge and something a dear friend and I call "God ego"...where I'm confident in Him. I still need to work on putting it in my heart. Like the title of the post says, bad stuff's gonna happen, but I have the best defense against anything this life can throw my way. Now if I could only stop taking morning inventory and commit myself to focusing solely on God's love for me, I might actually stop worrying! Then again, if I throw caution to the wind, jump up out of bed and a leg doesn't work, I might have to pencil roll all the way to the bathroom. In the morning, I have 2.2 seconds to make it in there before there's a flood. And if I miss the bathroom door and roll down the steps by accident...ok so that visual is kinda funny! Wouldn't be the first time I took a header down those steps...
Here's a link to that song, so you all may be equally blessed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjqZPaiYiRs
Thursday, October 1, 2009
I stood there staring at the moon, breathing in the air, and everything else went away! All the stress and worry of the past couple of weeks? Forgot about 'em. I didn't feel pain, unsteadiness, or discomfort. The peace I felt was so overwhelming that I struggled to keep it together. I felt like THAT would be the thing that pushed me off the ledge into Cryfest 2009! But I looked back up into the sky, just before I lost it, and the urge to cry took a vacation. I stood in awe of God's love for me. I've been praying for peace and it was delivered...tonight.
Again, me with a song...but this time, not Janet Jackson. A song verse came to mind, which could've served as my personal theme music tonight. It goes "all of the sudden I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory. And I realize just how beautiful You are and how great Your affections are for me". The peace of the night, which I saw as His glory, had eclipsed my "afflictions". And I nearly fell face down in awe of His "affection". Then I thought, what if someone sees me fall? Eh, they'll just chalk it up to ms. I so could've gotten away with it!
But seriously, when I'm made to see just how small I am in the grand scheme of things and how He is everything, it'll occasionally weaken my legs. I'm one of the most undeserving people of His grace, yet it's always there. Regardless of whether or not I actively seek Him or only remember to pray hardest when the going gets rough, the grace is there. I guess that's the whole point, right? I fall short. I can't earn it. The only thing we're on is His grace, which is always sufficient. It's just the neatest thing ever. The peace that God grants me really does eclipse everything from health concerns to drama du jour. I knew today would be a better day, but I underestimated just how great it would be!
Here's a link to the song, in case you want to blast it. Watch your computer speakers, though. I can't be responsible for that. Ha! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWgeUrD4MHI
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Like I was saying, emotions...all over the map...due to overabundance of stress over the past couple of weeks. Next usually comes physical pain, which has just started. Every muscle in my feet and calves is tight. The skin across my chest and the top of my back is starting to burn a little. It'll get worse before it gets better, but I take comfort in knowing I'm well into the cycle. I currently have no ability to plan ordinary tasks, such as getting ready for work this morning. Shoes before socks, brush teeth without putting paste on the brush, leave access card for building clipped to the 3rd outfit I tried on and threw back on the bed...check, check, and check!
Once I got to work, because that was a conscious effort in and of itself, God took over. My sessions with my students were flawless. Just as in my days of working in medical billing...ms never interfered. I may have put the butter from my morning breakfast in the freezer, but I knew that we were supposed to get a check from Aetna on such and such day and exactly how much it would be for.
I'm thankful for that ability. At one of my many quarterly check ups with my neuro, she informed me that my "days of multi-tasking are over". Sorry, sister. You've got the wrong lady. I can work circles around lots of people...just don't ask me to pack lunch for the day, because there might be a shoe in your lunch kettle. Dating myself again...I don't think they make kettles anymore. Remember the KISS one? I do. I had that and Charlie's Angels. Oh no...retro'ing again!
Everyone's got a strategy. Heck, I say that word a hundred times a day to my students. "You need a strategy for this math problem", "you need a strategy for studying this material", etc. In reading my friend's post about her current emotional struggles, she is using the "withdraw" strategy. She plans to hide out until the storm passes. When I read that, I caused me to consider my strategy. I realized that I will purposely put myself in situations where I am among others. But sometimes that's not the best route to take.
I liken it to when you go to the eye doctor and they dilate your eyes so that you can try your hand at driving home half blind? You find yourself concentrating very hard to do what you could do as an autonomic response just 5 minutes prior. That light's red, right? That car's coming but I can't tell how fast, so I'll sit for an extra second. Better safe than sorry. Everything you do is second, third, and fourth guessed before you do it. If you screw up, CRASH! Well, this is similar. Interacting with people is automatic for me. But now, I have to second guess everything before I say it...then third and fourth guess how it may have been interpreted! Talk about exhausting!
So all these years, I've thought it best to take the approach of seeking out social opportunities as a coping mechanism for these occasional ms emotional oceans, as opposed to withdrawing. But after yesterday and today, I'm wondering if my friend isn't onto something! Yesterday, I was so off my game in a work meeting that I looked like a goof. I couldn't string a thought together and stuttered like Porky Pig. Today, I was reminded that the only perfection I have is in Christ. He never disappoints, never offends, and is always with me. I can't place the burden of making/keeping me happy on those around me, because who can possibly bear that load? If I can't organize my thoughts, I certainly can't expect someone else to. My Lord is the only one capable. Maybe my new strategy, so as to protect my reputation and safeguard such variable feelings, should be to withdraw...with my Bible! Being alone is scary when I'm feeling like this, but the only 100% safe person to be with is Christ. Well, some Constant Comment tea couldn't hurt as well, right?
Thank you, dear friend, for your posts. They are blessing me!
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
I remember, back when I was a little girl, Mom would yell, "why can't you just be still?" I liked to run around the back of her '72 Buick Skylark, jump on the backseat, and stand dead center on top of the bump for the driveshaft, resting hands on each corner of the front bucket seats to steady myself. Head directly in her field of vision in the rearview mirror. "Why can't you just be still!" The 70's were so cool. Kids today don't get to experience the thrill of laying up in the ledge above the backseat, under the back window. Nor do today's kids understand that we had safety features far surpassing those of a brand new Chrysler. We had......."quick action Mom arm"! They've since tried to duplicate it with things like seat belts and airbags. My car supposedly has airbags in every nook and cranny + a 5 star crash rating. I'll tell you right now, if there was a crash test where it was '72 Skylark w/Mom arm vs my car w/entirely inflatable passenger compartment, I'm going all in on Mom arm! Thinking back, the only time I lost a tooth from being thrown against the dashboard, my Dad was driving. Dad arm is not at all like Mom arm. He was too busy trying to steer out of it, whereas Mom could multi-task. O, M, and G...I'm totally retro'ing! It's been a hard day, this seems to be when that happens!
In fact, it's been a very hard week and it's only Tuesday. Seems like when something completely overwhelmingly emotional happens, it's a red carpet for my old friend - Emotional Ocean. I doubt that's a wikipedia term, though I could coin it. Somebody flicked the switch! I'm happy, but I'm sad. I'm up, but I'm down...in and I'm out. Hey, I'm an Alanis Morissette song! Be still...
The Bible says, "Be still and know that I am God". That's my assurance that I am not alone, ever.
Outwardly, I'm fine. I'm having to consciously decide to be fine, however. I know this is just another way ms presents itself in my life. It'll go as quickly as it came on, and I'll be fine. In the meantime, I'll continue to mirror the song lyrics from Natalie Grant's "Perfect People".
Never let 'em see you when you're breaking
Never let 'em see you when you fall
That's how we live and that's how we try
Tell the world you've got it all together
Never let them see what's underneath
Cover it up with a crooked smile
But IT only lasts for a little while
And in this case, the IT means this Emotional Ocean. I'm an old pro at covering it up and pressing on, however. But I'm hoping one of my friends will tell me if my smile is crooked, because that's a whole 'nuther ms symptom that I should know about!
Sunday, September 27, 2009
My rational mind knows how ridiculous that sentiment is. I have probably THE most incredible support system. My family members are all-stars, my friends are straight from God, I have an amazing job...so what's the problem?
I used to think depression was a state of mind. I have family members who suffered from it and I'd think, "I wonder why they just can't get happy?" And then it came at me about 5 years ago! I remember on one of my many drives to the holistic practitioner, the rain was so hard I could barely see. I had my wipers set on "holy crap" mode. Tractor trailers were zooming by on the opposite side of the road. Car time for me is very reflective. I got to playing the "what if" game. What if I wake up tomorrow and my usual morning "inventory" is off? Usual morning inventory goes like this:
Did I hear the alarm? Ears, check!
Do I see the time? Eyes, check!
Can I swing my legs to the side of the bed? Cool!
Can they get me across the floor? NICE!
When I play the "what if" game with myself, I've taken my eyes off of my Lord. We all remember the story where Jesus tells Peter to get out of the boat and come to him, Peter looks down and goes into the water? I've been in that water A LOT! That day, especially. I thought some very awful things about life and about myself.
I knew I was in trouble. But where could I be completely real in total confidentiality without risking reputation for what I needed to share? Dear friend/chiropractor! That poor woman. Writing these diary-like entries has reminded me of how often she intervened to get me out of sticky situations. Like I've said before, God gives us just what we need when we need it. He does that in many ways, and putting someone in our lives to stand in Christian love and support is one of 'em. Anyway, I had a very difficult conversation with her that resulted in me going to my neurologist and receiving some anti-depressants. The neuro felt it was chemical, ms gets into its little K-Tel chemistry set and plays around at times. It could resolve in time. I took the medicine for awhile and was able to wean off after about a year. What a very dark and hopeless time. Thanks for the chemistry experiment gone wrong, ms! Love ya for it!
Doesn't mean I don't get lonely, though. And you might know the aforementioned song's lyrics, "I get so lonely, can't let just anybody hold me". I often don't want to share my raw feelings with others, not even my husband. If I do, I'll look weak or something, right? And I'm strong, can't let 'em see me sweat! Well, most of the time. But God knows. I worked on putting the next couple of lyrics in my heart and making them all about God. They go, "You are the one that lives in me. Want no one but you". Janet...Miss Jackson, if you're nasty...would be proud to know I turned her song into a Christian one!
I realize that if I base my feelings of happiness/completeness on people, even if they're completely awesome (and I'm blessed to know plenty of them!), I've set myself up for disappointment. People will always disappoint, not because we try to, but because we're imperfect and can't help it. My focus has to be on Christ. He never disappoints, ever. So when I get to feeling lonely and I make the mistake of starting up the "what if" game, or feeling as if someone has let me down, I look to Him to calm the storm. Oh me of little faith, why do I doubt?
Since I enjoy songs so much, I'd like to share this one...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRG9BSYng0A
Saturday, September 26, 2009
I think my daughter was about 9 when I sat her down at the kitchen table to explain my condition. I chose her because she was oldest and, in my opinion, better able to understand without being afraid. My son was 8 and I didn't give him enough credit, plain and simple. So I sat down across from her and proceeded to give my best performance...explaining the condition in an age appropriate manner, just like the magazine said. Checking to see if she had any questions, which she did not. It was so difficult to discuss something like ms as I looked into those big, beautiful eyes. All I could think of was how I idolized my parents growing up. No one was stronger and more perfect than Mom and Dad to me. I didn't need no stinkin' stuffed animals or security blankets...I had them! So like, surely my daughter couldn't think of me as a security blanket personified if I had some weird illness! I was thankful to finish the conversation and get to bed. All the worry of what to say and how it would go was a one-night cure for my insomnia. The talk went off without a hitch, ended well, and I was still in the running for Mother of The Year, 'cause I did what I was supposed to do according to that article.
The next day, we went grocery shopping. At the end of our always endless conveyor belt of items, the cashier asked if I wanted to donate $1 to the ms walk. Oh perfect, I thought! We JUST talked about this and now she'll see that ms is something lots of people have and that there are even walks for it! I proudly donated the $1 and completed my paper shoe for the wall! As we walked to the car, I mentioned to my daughter that it was pretty cool how that store was raising money for ms...right? She looked up at me with those big, beautiful eyes and said, "what's ms?" Me all shocked, gently reminded her of what we talked about the previous night? Ya know, the thing that makes Mommy really sleepy? Her all, "yeah, you get sleepy because you're tired." HA!!! Yes, sweetie...that's exactly it. Clearly, I was premature in disclosing it to her. Mom and Dad, yet again, proved to be right. Always...right.
My son, on the other hand...the one I thought wouldn't get it? He always got it, I just never realized. From the time he was old enough to open a door, he'd open it for himself and for me. He's got a knack for sensing when I'm not feeling well each and every time. It's uncanny, almost as if he has a subscription to Miss Cleo or something. At the ripe old age of 10, he will hurry to my car door to open it. When I pull in after work, he runs out to carry my things in. I've never officially told him, but I don't need to. We've been through lots of scary stuff together, my son and I. He's been in ICU, a trauma unit (twice), and 2 nationally recognized children's hospitals on more occasions than I can count. Throughout those scary visits, he was always locked onto my eyes in a sort of, "I know you're there...and I'm alright" manner. I find myself looking at him that way once in awhile. Guess this is just how we roll.
God always gives us just what we need. And sometimes, that need is fulfilled by a little boy who takes his mom by the hand and walks her to the front door after a long day's work, carrying her briefcase in his other hand.
(2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV) And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.