Wednesday, February 29, 2012

One of those days...

There are always those kinds of days. You may know the kind: the kind where nothing seems to go right; where your tiredness goes beyond weariness or even exhaustion; where your will seems to have been replaced with a need for silence, solitude or just doing nothing at all.

Today is one of those days. If I didn't have to, I wouldn't have gotten out of bed,  taken a shower or gotten dressed. If I had a choice, I wouldn't have left the house this morning.  If I was able to allow myself, I'd have spent a great deal of the day in tears. If there's one thing I'm thankful for today, it's that snow has cancelled activities this evening, so I'm not required to leave the house again until the morning.

This has nothing to do with psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, chronic pain, or celiac disease. It has everything to do with depression and anxiety. It has to do with there being absolutely no palpable reason for me to feel this way, other than brain chemistry gone awry.

Depression consumes my energy, my patience, my thoughts, my movements. Anxiety impedes forward motion, weighs my body down, stifles my breath.

Because of the medicine I take to slow my own body's attack on my joints, I cannot take any medication to combat my depression and anxiety. The decision for physical health needs to come first. Most days this is ok. Today, it's not.

On days like to day, I want to say
Go away.
Leave me alone.
I can't.

Instead I say
Come here.
Let's cuddle.
I'll do my best.
Let's go.

And you know what? It gets better. Ranhygahoots don't allow for quiet and solitude. They do, however love to cuddle and read and watch movies and tell stories and sing songs. They pull me out of bed, out of my thoughts, and out of my mood, if even for a moment. They look to the skies and see the possibilities, pulling me from the dark recesses of my mind toward the stars. Where I see just another day, another hour, another moment to survive through, they see adventure and possibility.  
Some rannygahoots - the littlest ones - curl up with me and help me cry. They see the value in tears and know it's ok to be sad and not know why.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Like Magic

Someone recently commented to me that I make life seem so magical. The only response I could think of was, "Wait - what? But life IS magical."

There is magic in every day.
There IS magic in every day.

See the light filtering through your blinds and all the sun fairies dancing in the sunlight? No, no - that's not dust! They are sun fairies. Trust me. A child told me so.

Look around - just try. Try easier. Yes, easier. When you try too hard, you don't see the magic. As a wise child once told me, "Magic happens, Mama. We can't make magic, we can just see it or touch it or feel it or be it or change our insides to help it happen."

We are enchanted by the sweet face of a sleeping baby, bewitched by a full moon looming large on the horizon, and hypnotized by the images conjured by an expert storyteller. Every breath we take is magic, as we fill our lungs with life and exhale stress. 

Look closely at anything in nature. Look at the detail. Look at the shadows. Look at the movement. Magic lives there.

There is magic in a teenager's scowl, in a toddler's tears, and in a spouse's frustration. Each is an opportunity for love, and love is magic. Love can transform a moody teenager into a content and possibly even joyful young adult. Love can transform a toddler's tears into a giggle and an argument into understanding. See? Magic!

A scent that transports us back to our childhood, a taste that evokes memories of a person or place, or a touch that assures us that we are safe and loved oft seem more a spell than a reality.  

There is magic in the world, you just need to open yourself to the possibility of it. You can spread magic. The contagious nature of smiles and laughter contain their own magic. Try it. Smile as you pass someone in the grocery store. Seek out sounds of laughter as you travel through your day and you may just find it difficult not to smile or laugh in response. Look at the world with wonder and gladness and share it with others - spread love, joy and magic wherever you go. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Resistance is ... Lenten?

I know it's coming.

No, not a Borg invasion. 

Today is a day of making pancakes and desserts in preparation for Shrove Tuesday celebrations at church this evening. It's a day of trying to get too much done while pacing myself so I last through our Mardi Gras celebration at Tuesday Night Sunday School. It's the day I think about that question and how I'll answer it this year. 

You know the one - the Lent question. 
What are you giving up for Lent?

I could give up chocolate, but my God is a loving God and would never want me to torture myself. I could plan to read the Bible more or pray more or myriad other things, but with five kids and chronic illness and pain, any plans I make are derailed more often that not, and I'm fairly sure God doesn't want me to be more stressed out because I'm trying to fit one more thing into my day or failing to do what I'd hoped. 

This year I'm giving up giving up something for Lent. I'm fairly sure I can accomplish that. I've had lots of practice at giving up things lately - many things I enjoy doing but can't because of my physical limitations due to PsA and AS; gluten due to my recent celiac diagnosis; getting an adequate amount of sleep due to sick kids and waking up in pain - and I don't think I have it within me to give up one more thing. 

Instead I'm going to resist the concept of giving up something for Lent and instead I'm going to just plain resist. Resist is a command that is found throughout scripture - from the midwives who resisted Pharaoh to Jesus who resisted temptation. It is a word that has jumped out at me over the past few weeks and stayed with me as I move through my days. 

We gain the strength of the temptation we resist.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Now that I've decided that my theme this Lent is "resist" ... just what is it that I'm going to resist? 

I'm going to resist typical tired/in pain/hurried responses to things and to people. 

Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.

I'm going to resist anger, worry and impatience when things aren't going as I'd planned and have faith that God has a plan and is guiding me safely on my journey.

In their hearts humans plan their course, 
but the LORD establishes their steps.
Proverbs 16:9

I'm going to resist being defensive when someone says or does something I perceive as negative or wrong and instead accept it as a way to grow as a person or a starting point for a conversation - not an argument.

When I am able to resist the temptation to judge others,
I can see them as teachers of forgiveness in my life,
reminding me that I can only have peace of mind 
when I forgive rather than judge.
Gerald Jampolsky

In resisting these things and more, I hope to grow as a person this Lenten season so I may follow the path God has laid before me a bit less clumsily. 

What is your Lenten journey going to look like? 

Monday, February 20, 2012


In a photo taking mood, I decided today to post a  day in the life...

My husband left for work early today, so it was up to me to drag myself out of bed - which was not easy. I must have pressed the snooze four or five times, then finally took my thyroid med and launched myself out of bed. Promptly landing in the computer chair a few feet away, I caught up on emails and such in the early morning silence. Unbelievably, all my kids were still asleep.

Then it was time to get to work. Laundry, then dishes. 

Look who's awake!

And there are more of them! Time for breakfast for the kids.

And coffee for me!

Playtime begins when additional rannygahoots arrive.

 Sleepy baby goes down for a nap.
Time to make some Caribbean Black Bean Soup. 

And play.


And play.

Wait! Is that a zombie or a teenager who just rolled out of bed?

 And play.

 And play.

Then is lunch for the kids.

Then naptime. Aaaah, naptime.

And coffee #2 and Dr. Quinn for Mama

Then more dishes, general cleaning up, rearranging of the sharp kitchen knives, cleaning off of counters, setting up of new toaster oven, slinging baby, changing baby, feeding baby, rocking baby, answering questions, helping with assignments, admiring crafts, having kids take care of their household responsibilities...
 Now it's 3PM, kids are waking up from naps, and my husband just arrived home. We shall see what the rest of the day brings ... and if I'm up to it, I'll fill you in eventually. :) 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Decontamination Day

And it starts. We're decontaminating our household. We shall scrub the counters, cabinets and floors. We are banishing small appliances that contain potential biotoxin. We shall rid the kitchen and dining room of every speck of contaminant. No major appliance will be overlooked. The pantry will be organized, all contaminated food packed up to be donated to the food pantry.

Ok, that sounds bad. We love people who need to visit food pantries and would never harm them. It's up to them whether or not they eat food containing gluten. Since my celiac diagnosis, gluten isn't an option for me, and any contamination makes me very ill.  

Being the only gluten-free person in a household of seven was more than a challenge. Now that our older daughter has decided to give a gluten-free diet a try to see if it helps with her joint pain and exhaustion, we've come to the conclusion that having a gluten-free household might just be a good idea. Said daughter has been told she does not have arthritis, nor celiac, yet presents with the same symptoms as I have for most of my life.

We are sure to meet some obstacles. In fact, we already know one. We shall refer to him as Three of Seven. Three of Seven has what has been diagnosed, but not officially, as Aspergers (but that's another blog post!). He eats around 15 foods. These foods include peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches, pizza, pancakes, waffles, chicken nuggets, pasta, bread/rolls, muffins/sweet breads/cupcakes, bagels, donuts, and cake. He has problems with textures of foods, so gf substitutes of the foods he usually eats should be interesting. We have successfully managed to feed him gf pancakes, waffles and cake. Pasta might prove to be trickier. Bread could prove disastrous. Only time will tell.

Thanks to our tax refund, I've replaced the four slice toaster with a toaster oven and our gluteny bread machine with a new one. We have new cooking utensils, cutting board, food storage containers, and the list goes on.
Former "gluten island" is now breakfast and baking island. The former breadbox (the big metal thing on the left) now houses peanut butter and jelly, with gf cereal on top. Two huge jars are filled with gf snacks to pack for homeschool co-op days and outings.
There are plates and bowls for an easy breakfast,the stand mixer,
 my favorite crockpot and the bread machine all ready for action.

It's not easy to convert a kitchen to a gluten-free kitchen. We've had to de-glutenize our cast iron pans, which involved freezing ourselves with windows open while the pans baked in the oven on the cleaning cycle, and again as the pans were being seasoned in the oven. We have to get rid of wood, bamboo and plastic utensils, bowls, and containers. My favorite strainer has to go as well, as no matter how well we wash it, the gluten will  hide out in the zillions of holes.

One of the side effects of this process is that it's feeding my OCD nicely and I've made the effort to reorganize things as well. Our pantry has never been so organized, nor our spices and dry goods.

Spring cleaning has come a little early, but with the help of many rannygahoots, whom I'm brib....err....paying to help, the decontamination process should be done soon. And then I have to make a trip to Target for more storage bins - and to take the horde to spend their hard-earned money.

Friday, February 17, 2012

That's Life

What I want:

To be relaxing in a hot tub with a very large margarita.

What I get:

To be wrapped up in a blanket soaking my feet in hot water and a tramadol.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Skella Girl

For Alia on her fourth birthday...
From the moment I realized you were in my belly, I knew you were special … and I knew we were in trouble. You are the fifth and youngest, yet you seem to have wisdom beyond your years. You have a way of looking at the world that makes us think, sometimes because your thoughts are so deep, sometimes because you seem to make no sense whatsoever, except maybe to yourself.

Your affinity for skulls started practically from birth and has only gotten scarier from there.  Questions such as “what would happen if I took off all my skin … would I be able to see my bones of would there be stuff in the way – and would my insides fall out?” when you weren’t yet two years old and proclamations such as “Skellas are my friends!” when you were one and “I love everything dead!” at age three have added to our fear of what you may do to the world one day. We just pray you use your powers for good.

You are aptly named and have tried to use The Voice on us on many occasions. You are the little mother and keep track of everyone and what they should be doing. You Oppose the Creation of Disorder and have since you could assert your opinion and/or put things they way they need to be.

As I look back on the past four years, I can’t help but remember the awesomeness your somewhat freakish mind has brought to my life...

Four days before your first birthday

Alia (upon arriving home from a visit to Gramma and Papa's house: "wheredoe Papa?" (where'd Papa go?)
Mama: Papa is at his house.
Alia: Wheredoe PAPA, Mama?
Mama: Papa is at Papa's house with Gramma.
Alia: *growls* Wheredoe baby emote Papa? (where go baby remote papa?)
Mama: *finds Melissa and Doug dollhouse grandpa* This Papa?
Alia: *shrieks* Baby emote Papa papa papa papa!

Age 14 months

Age 14 months (taken from a post on Mindful Village):
Coren appears on the stairs naked, except for a red sash slung over his shoulder and across his belly and a sword. Alia exclaims, "Where sawd doe?" Coren races up the stairs and down again with a sword for fair Alia, who has wiggled herself off the futon. Coren tosses a sword to Alia, who amazingly kinda sorta catches it and stands, feet apart, sword at the ready. Coren moves in for his attack, exclaiming, "Taste my steel!" and they have at it, Alia holding her own against the fearsome Cap'n Moondragon. "tang ting!" exclaims Alia as they battle. Coren turns to say something to Mama, and Alia, seeing her opportunity, growls at Coren and brings her sword up between his legs. Thus ends the great battle.

18 months...
Me: What happened to your nap?
Alia: It fell off.
Me: It fell off?
Alia: It fell off my face and woke my body up.

2 years...
Mama to Alia: "Go wake up Daddy."
A: "No." M: "Please?" A: "No." M: "Go jump on Daddy." A: "No." M: "Go climb under Daddy's blankets and steal all his warmness." A: *maniacal laughter as she runs to wake up Daddy!*

2.5 years...
Alia: "This ferengi I knew once got so sick he was puking or at least he wanted to. He was completely disgusted with everything."

"I'm a nice fairy!"

Age 3...
Upon leaving the Emergency Room with 2 staples in your head after a fall, I asked why you looked so upset. The two reasons you gave me:
1. You only got 2 staples instead of 3 - and you were THREE and needed THREE staples
2. They didn't take x-rays of your skull and you REALLY wanted a picture of your own skull to take home with you.

The One Hiding Under the Stairs

Age 3.5, with friend Fiora:
Fi: "The vampire sneaked through your front door and goed in the closet and disappeared. If you go in there it could be dangerous."
Alia: "Nah. There are zombies in my closet. They like vampire brains. Why do you think there are so many vampire skeletons in my closet?"

So Happy Birthday, my Alia. And you know what? 
I love you so very much!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Productivity of Doing Nothing

Why is it that just when I have a ton of good ideas for better organizing my house and a little money to go toward the project, I hit a wall and just want to spend the day I have hibernating in bed with a good book or three? 

There's a lethal combination here: bed and books. The four inches of memory foam tries to hold me captive every morning when I attempt to regain consciousness and start my day. The books I'm reading, pictured below, suck me in and I don't want to put them down. These books not only tell a story, but open my mind to new ways of thinking, feeling and living. So even when I'm "not doing anything" - just lounging in bed all day - I AM doing something. In sharing these women's lives through their writing, I'm bettering myself ... at least I hope I am.

If I do end up hibernating for a day or three, I won't feel too bad, because in taking care of my self and growing as a person, I'm taking care of those around me in the long run. Besides, the more time I spend in bed, the more children pile in bed with me - and who can resist a pile of rannygahoots? 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Sitting amidst the chaos, a sleeping baby on the couch next to me, parents walking to and fro, children whirling all around, a wave of peace passes over me. My family is blessed to be part of this place.
There’s a rush of cold air as some teens hurry through the door, deep in conversation. One pauses to comment on the adorableness of the sleeping baby, another to help a young boy pick up some papers that he dropped. In one corner, kids are trading Pokemon cards, in another an eleven year old is teaching a fifteen year old about electromagnets, having made one just a couple hours ago. A girl sits and reads, first to one child, then to a few more who filter in – she includes them all in the viewing of the pictures and exploration of the story. Excitedly scattering when I announce classes are about to start, it’s obvious they love where they are and what they’re doing here.

It’s busy here today. The walls are being painted, teachers – some of them children – are teaching, students are learning, babies are nursing, knitters are knitting and parents are chatting. A horde of teens that passed me earlier returns in costume, apparently headed to dress rehearsal. Earlier two huge black dogs headed for the classroom at the end of the hall. A couple weeks ago, it was pigs.

There’s music, laughter, excited chatter, and occasionally, a moment or two of silence. The walls speak volumes: Hope, LOVE, Outreach, Peace, Respect, Be Yourself.

This is a place of learning, a place of growing, and a place of giving. Necklaces, made by Ugandan orphans, are for sale to help fund their orphanage. A box for food bank donations sits nearby. Enter any room here and you may encounter French, Latin, Science, Journalism, Photography, Theater, Literature, various forms of Art, Fiber Crafts, Creative Writing, Hooping , Animal or Nature Studies, and just plain having fun. If you stop by the local coffee shop in the morning, you might happen upon the Current Events class.

The magic of this place exists in the people, the positive environment and the possibilities. Everyone’s different, but everyone fits in. There’s something here for everyone, and there are new opportunities for learning and growth each season. It’s truly Epoch.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


People with all types of arthritis, chronic pain, and/or chronic illness struggle with RA, as do many others. Many fail to see the value of RA. They cannot conceive that RA could be at all helpful to their lives or bring joy to their lives. Instead they become bitter at the limitations that have been thrust upon them. RA is not about giving up on life and giving in to disease, it's about letting go of your own expectations and accepting the new doors that are opening to you.

"The afflictions which come to humanity sometimes tend to center the consciousness upon the limitations. This is a veritable prison. Release comes by making of the will a door through which the confirmations of the spirit come. They come to a man or woman who accepts his life with Radiant Acquiescence."
Divine Philosophy

Focusing on Radiant Acquiescence for the past year has taught me a lot about myself, life, and spirituality. Willing my body to do things it cannot or to go beyond its limits, as well as having unrealistic expectations or goals, has been harmful not only to me but many times to those around me. Doing too much means doing little in the days that follow, which often walks hand in hand with letting people down, including ourselves. Imposing our own will to be, do, or accomplish, leads not only to physical, but also emotional pain when our limitations get in the way. Acquiescence of our will to the Divine Will (to God, Goddess, Allah, the creator, the universe, fate, life - whatever suits you best) can be a struggle at times. Radiant Acquiescence - not only giving over one's will to the Diving Will, but doing it joyfully and radiantly - is a little harder to accomplish.

RA doesn't allow for the why me's that often accompany chronic pain. It doesn't allow for blame or anger. RA opens us to the possibilities of the blessings of our circumstances and the possibility of good that can come from every moment of our day.

Seeing through the eyes of RA, we don't forget our goals and aspirations or passively let life pass us by. We let go of expectations as to when they'll come to fruition and open ourselves to new possibilities for our lives - leaving everything in the hands of the Divine. Actively doing what we can with the time, energy, and capability we have each day and not worrying or stressing about what we cannot do, we look forward to seeing how life unfolds in the days and years to come. Taking joy in each moment (which isn't always easy), life is transformed into something magical and joyful instead of a struggle. Affirming the value in days of rest or quiet contemplation frees us to invite health and healing in the absence of burdens that hinder wellness and wholeness.

Straying from the path of Radiant Acquiescence has led to some of the darkest times I've had in my life. By struggling against the current of my life, worry, fear and depression overwhelmed me. The more I tried to apply my will to a situation, the more imprisoned in my life I felt. When I surrendered my will and accepted my life for what it is, I was set free. I'm not saying we don't have a choice or free will, that it doesn't matter what decisions we make in life because our path is set - I'm saying that Divine Will can guide us to powerful, wondrous places and influence the decisions we make for the better - no, for the best.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Ruby Saturday...

To Mom and Dad on their 40th wedding anniversary:
40 Thanks…

(My parents will be celebrating 40 years of marriage on February 19th and were surprised with a celebration amidst the "winter kids' birthday party" this past Saturday. As part of their gift, I gave them 40 thanks, some of which you may be able to relate to, some of which confuse you. Enjoy!)

1.      Thank you for meeting, falling in love, and getting married, because if you hadn’t, the past 37 years of my life would have been veeery different.
2.      Thank you for having Jen first … as hard as it was being the youngest child, it must have been harder being the test child.
3.      Thank you for setting the example of a loving, committed relationship.
4.      Thank you for choosing our three family house in Ansonia where my earliest memories were born – in Tina and Tony’s garden, sitting on the wall looking at the swaying of the weeping willow, and Grampy ringing the bell and hiding around the corner when we answered the door.
5.      Thank you for choosing to live on Quinn St. in Naugatuck - in a neighborhood full of childhood friends and lots of memories.
6.      Thank you for rocking me and my bear in the wooden rocking chair in your room when I had trouble sleeping as a child.
7.      Thank you for driving me to myriad doctor appointments, trips to the ER, rehearsals, lessons, practices, etc. I now appreciate Talbot’s Taxi more than you can imagine.
8.      Thank you for not being perfect and not having all the answers.
9.      Thank you for being involved in our education, being a band parent/president/vice president/treasurer/pit crew/ and all the other things you were involved in throughout the years.
10.  Thank you for giving me roots, so that I might spread my own wings and fly.
11.  Thank you for putting up with all the craft-making associated with the C#^!$+*@$ B@%@@^ .
12.  Thank you for letting me sleep in your bed when I was very sick or very scared, even if it meant Dad had to sleep in mine.
13.  Thank you for sleepovers at Nanna and Grampy’s house and for accepting “grandparent rules” like chocolate cream pie for breakfast … or did you not know about that?
14.  Thank you for getting up for YEARS at the call of “Mom or Daaaaaayad!” because I was too scared of the snakes under my bed and the alligators in the toilet to go to the bathroom by myself in the dark.
15.  Thank you for our treehouse in the big bush, the jungle gym, and snow forts.
16.  Thank you for letting me wear completely mismatched clothes of every color and then putting up with me when my clothes had to MATCH EXACTLY.
17.  Thank you for letting me walk/ bike to the brick house, then earn the freedom to go as far as Ernie’s Market/Marty’s Corner, then to Legion Field on my own (or with my sister) – each milestone was a memorable accomplishment in my young life and was a great lesson in trust and respect.
18.  Thank you for putting up with last-minute costume changes (who knew a paper bag costume was so cool?)  and for trick or treating with us…especially Dad in his pumpkin pants.
19.  Thank you for believing me when I told you I was doing all the babysitting work when Jen and I were babysitting and trusting me to take care of the neighbors’ kids even though I was still a kid myself.
20.  Thank you for being friends with our neighbors, and with many of my friends’ parents, and even with my teachers.
21.  Thank you for supporting me when I needed time away from school and work to figure out who I was and what I was supposed to be doing in life.
22.  Thank you for … cock-a-doodle-doo!
23.  Thank you for helping Jim and I move back home and for putting up with us and our pets while we found work and a home of our own.
24.  Thank you for not freaking out about Jim and I getting married just after we turned 21 – well, not to our faces, anyway.
25.  Thank you for loving each other through the good, the bad and the ugly.
26.  Thank you for loving me through the good, the bad, and the ugly.
27.  Thank you for attending my children’s births, especially Coren and Alia’s homebirths, which were even more amazing because you were both there, sharing in the joy of a new life entering the world.
28.  Thank you for your faith example.
29.  Thank you for the music of my childhood. I believe it’s in part responsible for the strange person I am today.
30.  Thank you for accepting the radical decisions I’ve made for my family, from homebirthing to homeschooling to nursing little people who can walk and talk and do math.
31.  Thank you for making bank deposits for me, letting my kids hang out at your house while I’m at a meeting or appointment in town and all the other things you do to make my life easier, especially with how difficult my life has gotten over the past year.
32.  Thank you for loving my children for their unique selves and for setting a good example for them … at least some of the time.
33.  Thank you for introducing us to Calumet – you may never find peace and quiet there again!
34.  Thank you for Christmas Eve Brunches and New Year’s Eve Lobster Tosses.
35.  Thank you for being there with financial, emotional, and spiritual support during rough times.
36.  Thank you for listening to NPR and instilling in me a life-long love of classical music and public radio programming and for taking me to classical music concerts, ballets, and other performances.
37.  Thank you for getting cucumbers, but that’s not what they’re called.
38.  Thank you for going seltzer! seltzer! … and sorry you forgot your elephant.
39.  Thank you for lullabies that made me cry, or put images of people leaving on a jet plane, leaving their little girl in Kingston Town, being stuck on the MTA, or best of all, stabbing someone and preparing to be hanged.
40.  And last, but certainly not least … thank you for your sense of humor – it must have served you well over the past 40 years!