Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Rainbow In Somebody's Cloud

"Each one of us has a chance to be a rainbow in somebody's cloud." ~Maya Angelou




With eloquence and humor, Maya Angelou put into words what I've carried in my heart all of my life. "Each one of us has a chance to be a rainbow in somebody else's cloud." With a simple hello, we can brighten someone's day. With a complement or a helping hand, we not only give joy to others, but to ourselves in the process. A kind word holds the potential to radically change a person's life for the better. Adding a little light to someone's day can form a rainbow of hope in their cloudy perspective on life.

Listening to Maya Angelou's words, a rainbow of faces flashed across my mind - the myriad people throughout my life who were rainbows in my cloud.

Some of my earliest memories are of Tina Delmonico, who lived in the three family house we lived in in Ansonia, CT during the first few years of my life. My three-year-old mind recorded the delight in Tina's face when my sister and I would show up on her doorstep hoping for a pizelle or a walk to her garden. Tina, always happy to see us and share her world with us, was a rainbow in my cloud.

Mrs. D, my middle school music teacher, private lesson piano teacher, and mom to my best friend was a rainbow in my cloud. She saw and brought out the best in every one of her students. She was perhaps the first adult in my life who I felt really saw me as a person, not just a child. She helped me to feel that it was ok for me to be myself instead of trying to be who I thought others wanted me to be. Jeanne D'Angelo's genuineness and acceptance of everyone for how they were made her a source of great inspiration, and a rainbow in my cloud.

I once knew a little girl who loved singing, reading, and Bob Ross. We would spend hours reading, playing, and having fun. To her, I was babysitter and friend. To me, she was a reason to get up every morning. During the darkest times of my teenage years, she was my reason to live. She is now a beautiful, intelligent, witty young woman who, incidentally, still loves Bob Ross. Rachel visited not too long ago - a 24 year old introducing me to Alex, a wonderful young man who seems to love her very much and is not scared off by her sense of humor, part of which she inherited from me. The realization that my "test child" trained me so well to be the mother I am today, as well as the fact that she remains in my life and is always in my heart is a rainbow in my could. 

Years ago I met this guy who loved me despite my mental and emotional baggage, who accepted me for who I was and helped me to realize the value I held inside. He seemed thankful that I kinda sorta stalked him for a couple weeks before introducing myself. He wore crazy pants - I mean honestly, no one taking themselves seriously would wear these pants. He found me sexy at a size 8 and continues to find me sexy at 20+ ... which may explain the five children we've had together. That I only need to look into the deep pools of blue that are his eyes to experience his love for me is a constant rainbow in my cloud. 

During the past couple months I've realized just how many people, from those I hold dear to complete strangers, are rainbows in my cloud every single day. From family members and friends being there to meet my needs during recent stresses in life to a youtube video posted in a blog I frequent, my life is full of rainbows. I feel blessed to be able to see the world through rainbow colored glasses - and to hopefully be a rainbow in someone else's cloud every once in a while. 

Who in your life is a rainbow in your cloud? 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Deep Breaths


Today is one of those days when I need to remember to breathe. A stressful phone call this morning from the bank, a body that isn't cooperating with my to-do list, and the mountain of thought and effort it's taking to plan for vacation and camp are conspiring to cause great amounts of stress.


Usually I'd remind myself to take deep breaths and trust that everything would work out. In fact, I did  just that and nearly fell over from the pain. It's amazing that when your brain is going a mile a minute thinking about someone basically robbing you of close to a thousand dollars, you can forget about the arthritis in your chest as you're trying to calm yourself down. 


So, no deep breaths for me. Lots of printing off of bank statements and account histories. Copious highlighting. Plenty of praying. A tad bit of swearing under my breath. And anyone who knows me well knows that there was dish washing in there somewhere. Not that I have OCD or anything. Nope. Not me. 


What I want to know is what Groupon deal did the person pay over $300 for? If it's a "weekend getaway," I could use it right about now. And who the heck spends hundreds of dollars at the UPS store? Nearly $50 in chocolate I can understand. In fact, if I had a functioning bank card, I'd splurge on one form of chocolate or another tonight - but alas, there's a stop on my card so whomever-it-is can't indulge in anymore spending at my expense. 


Instead of further stressing, I'm going to instead orchestrate getting-ready-for-a-sleepover cleaning and hope I have enough time after sorting things out with the bank tomorrow morning to stop and treat myself to some chocolate...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What's the Point?

What's the point in inviting her if she's only going to cancel out on us?


What's the point in asking, if she's just going to say, "if I feel up to it."


What's the point in calling/visiting if she's going to be too tired or distracted to talk for long?




The point is that she wants to live her life, even if that means making plans and having to cancel them. 


The point is, knowing she's still included and her friendship still valued is priceless and helps her get through the rough days. She hopes her friends realize that the invitation means the world to her, even if she can't handle going out or is busy with other things. 


The point is that although many things can interfere with having a coherent, cohesive conversation, it doesn't mean that she won't still have fun, make wonderful memories, or find joy when spending time with friends. 


Whether it's due to having small children, health issues, no transportation, or anything else that might hinder her ability to be socially available whenever she wishes, she wants to enjoy her life and her friendships. She wants to live her life to the fullest NOW. She wants to know people care about her. And it probably breaks her heart when she has to cancel or can't participate, but not as much as it breaks her heart to not be invited, or called, or visited. 


Give your friend a call. Invite yourself over to treat her to coffee or tea. Give her a break. Give her a hug. Give her a hand. Bring her a meal. Include chocolate. Or wine. Or both. Let her know that you miss her. Listen and offer love, even if you don't understand what she's going through.


What's the point? Friendship.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

When I Grow Up

Me as Grandma in my kindergarten
performance of Little Riding Hood. Nice hat!
"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

It was quite the unexpected question, coming from my four year old. Perhaps I hadn't yet realized that I haven't yet grown up - but if you think about it, I spend my day reading kids' books, doing puzzles, helping with crafts, painting, singing, and learning a ton from my kids, so from her perspective I'm not quite fully a grown-up.

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

We heard that question all the time when we were growing up, and I bet some of us ask kids this, too.

My six-year-old wants to be a "space paleontologist." In case you're wondering, that's a paleontologist who digs up fossil remains on other planets. My scary four-year-old wants to be a pathologist - yes, as she says, "the kind of doctor who figures out how people died." 

Throughout my life, I've wanted to be many things including a teacher and a doctor. Life and my views on things changed, I got married, and we started a family. My calling to be a mother was a strong one. Co-founding a non-profit organization wasn't anything I'd ever thought I would have done, but that's where life led me. 


After giving birth to my kids, I fell in love with the idea of being a birth doula. My plan was that, as soon as my kids were all old enough to be home alone, I'd start training to be a birth doula, and by the time they were self-sufficient, I'd start taking clients. Finally I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up!

Then came my psoriatic arthritis flare and diagnosis. The aggressive illness took over my body, causing permanent damage and turning my dream into something completely unrealistic. Spending long hours tending to a laboring mama is tiring physical work - something my body may never be up to again. 

Now I get to once again figure out what it is that I want to be when I grow up. At the moment, I'm not sure. Right now I need to concentrate on learning to live better with my altered abilities. I need to give Sporadic Artie some time and attention. I need to be here for my kids as they grow up and spread their wings. Someday I'll figure out what I want to be when I grow up. Until then, I'll enjoy all the play time I can manage!

P.S. This is my 100th blog post! How fun is that??? 

Now tell me - what do YOU want to be when you grow up?




Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Vision

Each year I make a "vision board" which contains words and images that inspire me to manifest those things in my life. During the first few years of having a vision board, I'd actively work toward the goals pictured and would often get frustrated in the process. Amazing things have happened since I've let go of trying and instead opened myself to the possibility of the things on my board weaving themselves into the fabric of my life. 

This is my vision board for this year:

An odd array of pictures, but they make sense to me! 

We're nearly halfway through the year and despite the hurdles I've had with my health, things are going pretty well. At the very least have a healthy attitude toward life. I'm playing more - both with the kids and just doing things I enjoy doing for fun. I'm giving - little bits here and there as we can - and in fun and exciting ways sometimes ... little things sent to friends in the mail, sharing fundraiser information on facebook for things my family isn't involved in but are good causes. A 12 passenger van seems to now be in our future and will hopefully be joining our family within a month. I have bumper stickers at the ready. I'm resting more. I'm doing more. I'm being creative. I still struggle with the stinkin' orangey flowers. My house is cleaner, and it's no longer a horrid chore to keep it that way. I'm growing spiritually and will return to that green place again this Summer. I'm looking at life and all it has to offer with eyes of love. Ok, most of what it has to offer...there's the whole orangey flower thing. 

Looking at this vision board every day is a wonderful reminder of how I want to live my life, not just the things I want to move toward or invite into my life. 

What would / have you put on your vision board? 


Monday, May 21, 2012

Take Two


Around six months ago I started taking Enbrel to treat my psoriatic arthritis. It did wonders for my hands, wrists, feet, ankles, and knees, but it didn't touch my back and my chest decided to get in on the action. Treatment take two: I start Remicade infusions on Friday.




In the last few days, off all PsA meds in preparation for starting the new med, I've been going downhill fairly quickly. Hand pain has returned, though thankfully not full force. My energy levels have plummeted. My insomnia has returned. Downward spiral take two.


With increased pain levels due to spondylitis in my back, new and intense chest pain, and returning pain in my extremities, my rheumatologist can only suggest an increase in my pain medication. Tramadol: take two!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

How to Choose Your Mate (according to a 4 year old)

A photo essay by Alia with Mama's help. Most of the pictures taken by Alia.

Make sure he's a Fun Guy.











Bring him to a house containing at least five kids and two cats, one of which stares at him from the stairs. A cat, not a kid. 





Get talked into a game of chess by the four year old - points if he helps you not get beaten by the four year old. 






More points if he then plays a game of chess with the six year old and feels slightly guilty for winning. 











Lots of points for his sense of humor. (Why do some melons have to get married in a church? Because they -->)






A zillion points for everyone being able to tell how much he loves you by the way he looks at you, even when you're not looking at him.






Extra points for being polite, cleaning up after himself, and making sure you left with all of your stuff before you even thought about it.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Prelude to a Bath

Looking at the two wee bairns, it was clear they needed a bath. Hair tangled, smudges of dirt and marker on various parts of their bodies, they proved quite content with their state and quite resistant to the idea of a good scrubbing.



Inspiration struck and the scene was set. A glass of water, two paintbrushes and a palette of paint adorned the bathtub floor. Pieces of thick paper graced the walls of the bath surround. The invitation to a bathtub painting soiree was graciously accepted. Soon the artists were at work, minus their clothing, adorning not only their papers, but the bathtub and themselves. 


Masterpieces finished, the artists melted into a bathtub full of bubbles. Hair "massage" and rinsing done, the girls luxuriated in the foamy water until it turned cold. Emerging from the bathroom draped in towels, teeth chattering, they seemed to not notice that they just took a bath.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Will This Post Title Be Good Enough?


I used to be a lot of things. 


Mostly I used to be scared, worried, fearful. I used to worry about everything all the time.  Anxiety ruled my life. I'd worry about whether or not my kids were breathing at night. I'd worry about whether or not the doors and windows were locked. I'd be wracked with fear if my husband was more than four minutes late getting home from work. I'd agonize over how I was going to pay our bills AND put food on the the table. I'd stress out about being a good enough wife, a good enough mother, a good enough friend, a good enough person. I'd become distressed about the little things as well as the big things.


My anxiety lessened over the years, but it was a constant gray cloud hovering overhead, clouding my thoughts, dimming my outlook, often turning my colorful world into shades of gray.


Then I got sick. Not only did I lose range of motion in my ankles that made getting around difficult, but I became overwhelmingly in pain and exhausted. Praying to make it through each day with myself and the kids intact was about all I could do. I could no longer be good enough - at least not by my expectations. I'd fall asleep before starting to worry about whether or not my kids were breathing - and they'd be fine in the morning. My brain was so foggy by the time my husband would get home from work that I seldom noticed what time he strolled through the door. I had no energy for worry - I had just enough energy to get the vital stuff done and make sure my kids were living, loving, learning, and having fun while doing it and that we didn't lose our house.


Without even trying, I'd let go of worry. Through the process of learning to trust that God wouldn't give me more than I could handle and working hard at handling all that life was throwing at me, worry lost its place in my life. 


Faith now lives where worry once dwelled. Prayer has cast aside the obsessive thoughts borne of worry.


Every day I pray for the energy to make each of my children feel loved and feel special. I pray that my children and husband will be watched over and protected. I pray for the ability to pay our bills and put food on the table, despite the increased expenses related to my illness. I pray for continued peace of mind. I pray, then I let it go. 


I won't say it's been smooth sailing, but my life has greatly improved now that I worry less. I still get a twinge of worry every once in a while, but not the all-consuming worry that used to engulf me on a regular basis. I'm calmer, more peaceful. I trust that God will provide, and although we've had our rough patches and money is always tight, we're doing ok. 


Instead of worry or fear, I approach life with acceptance and a sense of humor. The clouds that once hovered overhead seldom appear. Even when they do, and rain does fall, I know eventually the sun will burst through the clouds and light up my life in vibrant technicolor once again. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow?

The result of running my
fingers through my hair after
my shower. 
As if my life wasn't "interesting" enough, one of the few side effects from my meds is hair loss. It's gotten worse lately. Going from Enbrel to Remicade for my PsA is my next step in treatment. One of the ramifications of remicade is that my hair loss may get worse. A lot worse.

Now, I'm not someone particularly fussy about or attached to my hair. I do like to have fun with it. At the moment it's purple. I have an array of funky bandannas and other hair coverings that I wear almost every day.

Bald, however, is something to which I had never given much thought. Although it's not probable, it is possible that I'll lose enough hair for it to be very noticeable.

You know how the more you think about something, the more you notice it around you? Well, I've been noticing bald women lately. Alia's mother in Dune, Lady Jessica, is bald, which I guess is fitting. Borg women are bald. Delenn from Babylon 5 is bald. Too bad my life isn't science fiction - although it's seeming like it more and more these days!

So what do I do should my hair loss get worse? Try a shorter cut? Shave my head? I guess I'll have some time to think about it. Maybe I'll have time to think about it? As always, I'll try to have a sense of humor about it and have fun with it. Hmmm...I wonder if there are any good funky wig shops on etsy.com ...?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Days Like Today

It's days like today when I find it difficult to get out of bed.

It's days like today when motivation seems to be on vacation.

It's days like today when my mind is on overdrive with what-ifs and worries.

It's days like today when I want to remain curled up in bed and not have to deal with the world or my body at all.

But

It's days like today that my family understands and lets me sleep in.

It's days like today when I choose to do only what needs to be done - eating, bathing, doctor's appointment and what I love to do - Tuesday Night Sunday School and church choir rehearsal. You will notice that dishes and any form of housework are not on this list.

It's days like today when I pray. Constantly. For peace of mind, for acceptance of what is to come, for the strength to keep going.

It's days like today when a four year old curls up with me in bed, providing me with an excuse to do just what I feel like doing. We are joined by a cat and a few more kids. A movie is chosen, and love transforms misery into a wonderful memory. There's nothing like curling up in bed under a pile of children watching "The Parent Trap" (the original) on a rainy day.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Inflammatory Blog Post Pitting Parents Against Parents ... or not

If I wanted to, I could write an inflammatory blog post about forced weaning, nighttime neglect, and coerced autonomy. Most people call them by different, more socially acceptable names. I could expound on the many things that I might find wrong with forcing a child to wean from the breast before they are ready and before it’s biologically, nutritionally, and developmentally appropriate, or depriving a child of breastmilk altogether. I could find fault with parents who ignore their child’s nighttime needs. I could take issue with forcing children to be “independent” before it’s developmentally appropriate while not meeting the attachment needs that need to be met to more easily and naturally create an independent person. But what would that accomplish?

Would responding to recent parenting-related media with an attack of my own on a parenting style that differs from my own help the situation? I think not. Instead, I’ll talk to those who want to hear a different perspective. I’ll encourage parents to listen to their children. Listen to their hearts. Keep an open mind.

So instead, I'll write an inflammatory blog post about nursing homes ...or not.

If our grandmother was in the care of a nursing home and they said, "We know she prefers a natural diet that provides amazing nutrition, but we thought it was more convenient to give her nutritional supplement number one for all meals because it has most of what she needs and anyone can feed it to her," we'd be upset, as Grandma needs a proper diet of real food. If they told us she’s too old for real food, we’d think they had lost their minds. If we found out that our grandmother, who wears an adult diaper because she needs assistance to get to the bathroom and doesn't always make it, was left in a wet or soiled diaper for hours, we'd call it neglect. If we discovered she was calling out for help at night because she felt alone, scared, or hungry and no one answered her calls, we'd be livid. Should we find that she cried herself to sleep every night, we'd remove her from their care.

Yet people do this to their children and call it parenting, while at the same time, parents who hold their babies and young children close to their hearts and meet their needs in a timely, biologically correct manner are called extreme. Those parents who choose to keep their babies and young children close, nurture their children at their breast for as long as the child needs to be nurtured at the breast, and respond to their children's needs as they arise, are said to think they are in some way superior to "mainstream" parents. Those parents who meet their children's nighttime needs to feel safe, loved, nourished, and cared for; who nurse, cuddle, sing, read, or soothe their children to sleep, and those parents who hold their babies close to their hearts literally and figuratively are said to be abnormal, over-parenting, or just plain strange. They're accused of following a guru, of spoiling their children, of going to extremes, and the list goes on.


Mainstream media tries to pit parents against parents. Parents themselves judge each other, arguing over which parenting style is better than another.

Let’s take the concept of going to extremes. One huge perceived extreme, as illustrated by Time magazine’s recent cover, is “extended” breastfeeding. Personally, I view extended breastfeeding as what happens when a nursling gets distracted while nursing and turns to look at something, forgetting to break their latch first. The mainstream definition for extended breastfeeding seems to be along the lines of “breastfeeding past an age that is normal to breastfeed.” Many people define extended breastfeeding as nursing a child past a year … or eighteen months … or two years or some other arbitrary amount of time. Extend, according to Merriam Webster, means “to stretch out to fullest length.” That means that extended breastfeeding should really be defined as nursing for the full length of time, which for humans is between 2.5 and 7 years of age according to cultural anthropologist Kathleen Kendall-Tackett in “Breastfeeding: Biological Perspectives.” Nursing until the child is ready to wean. Nursing for the normal amount of time a child would nurse, not forcing a child to wean before they’re ready.

I readily admit that this is not for everyone. When I was in the first few weeks of nursing my firstborn, I was hoping to make it to three or possibly six months. I couldn’t imagine nursing a child over nine months of age. Gaining experience and knowledge, my perspective changed. Nursing is a relationship between two people – and they both need to be comfortable and respected in the relationship. There are many reasons for weaning a child, but why should those who choose to let nursing run its natural course be looked upon as somehow abnormal?


One thing many people don’t realize or seem to forget is that breastfeeding is about more than nutrition. It’s about nurturing your child, comforting your child, building your child’s immune system, protecting your child from illnesses, and promoting proper maxofacial development. It’s about giving your child what is biologically necessary to grow and develop normally. It’s about not putting your child at increased risk for getting certain types of cancer, diabetes, allergies, obesity, and other health issues. It’s about decreasing your own risk of getting breast and reproductive cancers, osteoporosis and so much more. And frankly, there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, breastmilk doesn’t expire, go sour, or become non-nutritious. It changes to meet your child’s needs at their particular age.  

What kind of world would it be if we would stop judging, stop pitting parents against parents, people against people…if we would instead respect each other’s choices, even if we don’t agree with them. What a boring world we would live in should everyone believe the same thing and live life in the same way! 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I Just Want...

I just want...

everyone to be able to touch the gift that's inside of them and use it to make the world a better place. 

people to be accepted for who they are rather than judged for what they look like or whom they love. 

every person to feel their worth as a unique and wonderful human being. 

for people to see those around them as fellow human beings, not beings alien to themselves. 

to leave the world a better place. 

to feel love before anger, always.

to be at peace with my body. 

But today, in all honesty, I just want ...
















a nap.


Monday, May 7, 2012

That's Entertainment

Grown-ups tend to want to be entertained. We watch tv, we get on facebook, we play games online. We go to sporting events, concerts, and other events where there are people to entertain us. 

Kids - they're a different story. Take today for example: the kids in my household entertained themselves in all sorts of ways without anyone else doing anything to entertain them.



Miss M spent twenty minutes laughing hysterically while playing with a pool noodle. Her face lit up as it made contact with the wall, a person, or herself. She shrieked with joy when she figured out how to spin it. She beamed with the other kids commented on the fun she was having.


Miss A and Miss F spent part of the day in a box. They were cats and it was their bed. One was Alice and had outgrown the house she was in. It was their own universe, full of infinite possibilities. 

The kids ventured outside and found frogs and salamanders. 

They worked industriously on lego creations for a contest and essays to go with them.

Conversations between children and cats, imaginary beings, and God abounded. 

When was the last time you did something just for the fun of it? Something childish - not something a grown-up would usually do? 

Give it a try. You might just experience more fun than you have in a long time.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

To Do vs. Did

To Do:
- up early, med, shower, dressed
- grocery store
- thrift store
- put groceries away
- M, R and F arrive
- call to schedule appointment
- crafts
- lunch
- naptime
- dishes
- paperwork for non-profit
- update paperwork for other non-profit
- plan meeting for yet another non-profit
- lesson plans for homeschool co-op class
- watch documentary with olders
- nappers up
- snacktime: make snack with littles
- craft of some sort
- prep veggies for dinner
- outside time with kids
- whip up cookies for tomorrow night
- M, F, R home
- taco night

Did:
- up later than expected, throw clothes on
- M arrives
- run out door, realize I forgot med, go back into house to take med
- back down driveway, realize I forgot grocery list, call family to bring it out
- grocery store
- thrift store
- F and R arrive while I'm out, but Jim has me covered
- home, put groceries away
- get interrupted by children
- read books
- supervise lunch
- realize I have yet to eat 
- make coffee
- get interrupted before I can make food
- help with homeschool co-op assignment
- remember to put kids down for nap
- eat handful of cashews
- banish non-napping kids from first floor of house
- go to the bathroom, locking door as to not be disturbed
- remind kids five times in two minutes that I'm unavailable when I'm in the bathroom and to wait until I'm out
- re-banish kids
- start to make myself some food
- answer phone
- when done with phone call, realize I didn't call to make appointment
- call to make appointment, leave message as staff is out of office for lunch
- remember that I was in the middle of making food
- upon entering kitchen, see groceries that still need to be put away
- finish putting away groceries
- remind children they are banished until I've eaten food and, oh! I made coffee
- make coffee into iced coffee
- finish making food
- settle in to eat food and drink coffee
- R wakes up
- make R bottle, R goes back to sleep
- remember documentary big kids need to watch
- set up documentary for kids in dining room
- assign seats, since everyone wants to sit in the same chair
- eat cold food and room temperature "iced coffee"
- littles wake up from nap
- instead of nutritious snack we were going to make together, feed littles popsicles so I can finish my food and coffee
- clean up from popsicles
- set littles up with craft
- answer phone
- clean up craft stuff
- send kids outside
- realize how late it is
- prep veggies for dinner
- kids who don't belong to me picked up
- taco night - but hand wash plates first
- clean up from dinner
- send kids to bed
- look at today's to-do list and sigh
- make to-do list for tomorrow
- cut and paste all items not done today to to-do list for tomorrow
- look at today's to do list and smile

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Beware!

There is a creature that oft comes at night, seeking body heat from the unsuspecting sleeper. Slithering between your sheets, it sticks its freezing cold appendages in your warmest spots, immediately turning your skin to ice and sending chills throughout your being. Sucking the warmth from your body, it also snatches your blankets and absorbs the warmth they have to offer. Should you vacate your bed, it curls up where your body once laid, making noises of pure contentment and uttering, "warmness ... warmness..." 


Beware the heat-hijacking rannygahoot, with its sweet, innocent eyes and adorable pout...its sonorous voice that steals into your dreams, hypnotizing you into inviting it into your bed.