Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Gifts

I received many gifts today.


First, a hug and a kiss from a four year old.


Then, a do not disturb sign. That will definitely come in handy!


Next arrived a gluten-free veggie pizza.


Then a Christmas tree, fully decorated. 


And to top it all off, a hot tub full of purple bubbly water.


It's amazing the gifts you get from a four year old with a big imagination a little empty box!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Bad Attitude

Sporadic Artie has had quite a bad attitude lately. Intense foot pain will land me in the doctor's office tomorrow afternoon. An aching back and sore ribs drain my resources. Some days I just want to lay in bed and cry out of sheer exhaustion.

If I take a snapshot of how I felt, physically, a year ago and how I feel today, the pictures might be identical. Back then, I may have panicked because of this. At that time I was still really figuring out that it's a Matter of Perspective


Today I have a choice.

I can worry that I'm still feeling horrible, or I can feel thankful that I've tried a couple of medications and am on one that shows amazing promise. 


I can stress about what my current health situation means, or I can find peace in the knowledge that I will have flares, even on medication, and when I do, I need to listen to my body telling me to slow down and enjoy life. 


I can feel betrayed by my body or I can take better care of my body and rejoice in what I can do.


I can shut down and spend most of my day in bed, or I can have my husband throw Ziggy in the van and roll where I'm unable to walk. 


I can choose to fight Sporadic Artie or listen to what he has to teach me about living life to its fullest. 



Having a bad attitude will just make my life miserable - and my family miserable as well. Instead, I'll seek joyful moments ... and take comfort in the fact that if all else fails, there's always the Imperial Walker. 


Friday, July 27, 2012

Secret Treasure




Cleaning out a bookcase, I came across an old notebook, cover gone, pages stained, falling apart. Rummaging through it, I discovered quotes and poetry by famous and not so famous people written there years ago. My heart skipped a beat or two when my eyes rested on words written by a teenager during one of the most difficult times of her life. My life. From the time in my life I was Broken. 


Words as simple as:

A moment of silence
       amidst the confusion
                         is all I ask.


And words capable of transporting me to the dark place I resided much of the time:

There was a time when living meant fearing,
    every second
    every touch
    every one

There was a time when safety was a myth
      to be known 
      only in
      death

That time was then, is now, and will always be
    until death's 
    comforting embrace
    welcomes me
    
So this i choose - 
    death in life
    untouched by fear
    safe for all eternity

The Broken Child was living in fear and despair. The Broken Child was also blessed. She was blessed to have a family who loved her, two children - not her own - who adored her, friends who made her laugh, and someone who reminded her of God's presence in her life, even when she was too far removed from living to feel it. She was blessed to have found a friend who wasn't afraid to believe her and to help fight for her life when Broken Girl felt lost and alone. She was blessed with a life partner who loves her, still-broken pieces included. 

I am thankful to the Broken Child - for deciding to live, for taking a chance, for letting people in, for speaking her truth, for reliving the pain, for continuing forward, and for opening herself to Love. Most of all, I treasure the ability to still see life with her eyes - eyes that see the Brokenness in each person I encounter. 


In every person exists a sadness, fear, or empty place that helps shape who they are and how they interact with the world around them. That we may recognize this and replace aggravation with concern, pity with compassion, and hate with love, the world might be a better place. 




  


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Losing It

You know that moment when you're at the end of your rope - when your rational brain switches off and words are flowing forth from your mouth that are completely insane and unreasonable? That was me tonight. 


Exhaustion, a migraine, and kids who couldn't seem to actually follow the directions that they could repeat back to me conspired to drive me absolutely out of my mind. I'm not sure exactly what I said, but I think it had something to do with getting rid of all of our possessions and living only foods that didn't require cooking. There may have also been something about me running away from home and the kids having to deal with their father for two days while cleaning the house from top to bottom. 


A Very Intelligent Child instead suggested to his siblings that they clean up the living room and dining room, the mess made by not listening, and open windows to let in some fresh air. 


I am happy to report that peace was restored, apologies made, and we did eat cooked food for dinner. 


I can't promise I won't run away, though...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Where is God in All of This?

When tragedies happen, people stare. We watch news report after news report, inundating ourselves with images and information we won't soon forget. We make judgments about those involved. Some use the situation to promote their own points of view. Most concentrate on the horror of the situation, the negativity, what should or should not have happened. We ask how this could happen. We question the whereabouts of God when this tragic situation was occurring. We wonder how God could have let it happen. 



When life's stresses get to us, we worry. We dwell on what's wrong in our lives. We moan and complain. We wonder why God has piled all of this on us and how we're supposed to get through this. We ask "why me?" We wonder how God could have let this happen to us.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we allow the negativity to consume us? Why use someone else's tragedy to push our own agenda? Why not let it be what it is - a tragic or stressful situation? Why don't all of us say, this horrible thing happened - how can we help those involved and their families? How can we make some sort of good come of this? How can we help this to unite us instead of letting fear and politics divide us?

In times of despair, or even just stressful times, some try to comfort others saying it's God's will, or that God doesn't give us more than we can handle. Those are interesting thoughts - but are they true? Yes ... and no. Well, maybe not in the way many people typically understand.


Life often throws unimaginable stresses our way. Things that other people do impact our lives. Our own choices, good or bad, can add stress to our lives. Friends or family members die. Money is tight. Jobs are lost. Something horrific happens and fear permeates our life. Stress piles up until the goodness in life seems out of our reach. We are dealing with more than we can handle.


It is my belief that this is not God's will. God did not put us on earth to be miserable. God did not choose who died in a shooting or whose job was downsized any more than he put the gun in the shooter's hand or tipped the economy one way or the other. Human beings did these things. 


Bad things happen. It's what we do after the bad things happen that matters. If we get away from the noise, we can listen to where God is leading us, listen for the opportunities for growth, and listen to our hearts. It is only when we silence the media, the worry, and the anger that we can make choices that will positively impact our lives, and perhaps the lives of others. 


God also didn't put us on this earth alone. We are here to help each other, to support each other, and to love each other.


God doesn't give us more than we can handle - life does. God gives us people who love and care about us to whom we can reach out for support and a caring heart that allows us to reach out and help others. 

Tragedy is not God's will - it's a human choice. God's will is for us to come together in our times of need and help each other, pray together, and be there for each other.






Saturday, July 21, 2012

Privacy Settings


Frivolity, joys, blessings, gripes, rants, brags – we share all of these on facebook, twitter, in texts, and perhaps even in person. What these say about us pales in comparison to what the things we don’t share say.

In this world of sharing our lives publicly through social media updates, we often leave out the deepest parts of our lives. Nothing that may damage our image or suggest our weaknesses or needs is divulged. Even amongst friends, we are very private people.

This hit home as I sat in church while visiting my husband’s family in Pennsylvania. We were attending worship at Snake Spring Valley Church of the Brethren where we were greeted as we entered the church and then greeted by nearly everyone we passed on the way to our seats.

 Worship opened with the invitation to make announcements. Activities from Vacation Bible School to the Ice Cream Social, to a trip to a ball game were promoted. Updates were given on sick and dying members of the congregation. Thanks were given for help with household tasks and meals delivered during illnesses. Prayers were requested for health, travel, emotional issues, and transitions. A new baby was welcomed.

It was only after this sharing that worship continued. I’d say began, but worship began with the first word of thanks, with the first announcement of an opportunity to come together as a community, with the first request for prayer.

This coming together in support is a current that runs through worship and into fellowship hour afterwards. People continue to share with each other, offer help, find out how family members are doing, and set up times to meet, plan, and help. It seeps into daily life and flows into the next gathering for worship. Nothing is held back. There is no embarrassment about one’s circumstances or need for assistance. Helping and supporting one another is not seen as a job or a duty or even the right thing to do - it’s seen merely as the
right way to live.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Twelve

 Twelve. Zachary is twelve. 12! That's nearly thirteen, which is a scary thought, and of which he reminds me daily. So, in honor of Zachary's birthday, I shall post twelve awesome things about Zachary.


1. Zachary chooses completely insane friends. This may have something to do with his own state of mind, and a lot to do with his upbringing. His friends, like him, have a great sense of humor, are kind and considerate, and love to play video games.


2. Zachary enjoys confusing people. For example, his name is spelled Zachary. When he shortens it, he spells it Zack. Not Zach. Zack. This has caused many a family member and most friends and acquaintances to misspell Zachary. One family member in particular writes it a different way every time, perhaps on the off chance that one time out of five he'll get it right. 


3. Zachary loves potato chips. Now, there was a period of time we didn't have potato chips in the house. Not a one. Then along came Zachary with his puppy dog eyes that plead for just one bag of chips ... one huge warehouse store sized bag of chips. I, being a fan of eating healthy, am also a fan of the potato chip. Alas, I could not bear to see my poor chip-loving child suffer, so I gave in an invited potato chips back into our lives. 


4. Zachary loves his siblings. Now, he's the second of five, has two younger sisters, brother half his age, and an older brother who happens to have Aspergers. Being in this situation must not be easy, especially since there is essentially no escape from anyone in this small house. Zachary has patience, self control (most of the time), and a true love of his siblings. 


5. Zack is smart. Too smart for my own good sometimes. He must get it from his mother.


6. Zack has an awesome imagination. Whether he's writing a story, inventing a game, or creating a character for a play, he always puts a twist on it that's all his own. Zack can conjure creatures of family lore and make them believable, which is why his younger siblings are always on the lookout for the rannygahoots!


7. Zachary sees the positive in people. He looks at people with eyes of grace and compassion. He sees opportunities to help, not opportunities to hurt. He sees people for who they are inside, not what they look like outside. 


8. Zachary is spiritually insightful. If you ever get the opportunity to have a deep spiritual discussion with him, you may be as amazed as I am at his deep faith and faith-filled point of view. He even spent his birthday evening at church - but that may have been because of the ice cream...


9. Zack is a wonderful caretaker. Whether it's cooking eggs for his siblings for lunch, changing a baby's diaper, reading a book to his little sister, or helping me in myriad ways when my body isn't cooperating, his love for others is apparent in the things he does for all of us. 


10. Zachary sees food as another adventure. From toddlerhood, Zack has been mixing up strange combinations of food, and I do believe he has yet to meet a food he's unwilling to try. We once found a food that Zachary didn't like, and then he learned to like it. He's the first child I ever heard say, "I don't like it, but I'll eat it anyway."


11. Zack is a pyromaniac. That is, he likes to build and tend fires. He's my go-to person if I need a fire and my husband isn't around. I had a difficult enough time lighting matches, nevermind an entire fire. Hopefully he'll continue to use his powers for good.


12. Zachary is my son, which is something I find completely awesome. That I was blessed with this kind, loving, crazy, compassionate, creative child warms my heart every time I see his face. 


Happy Birthday, Zachary! May your thirteenth year of life be filled with joy, adventure, and love!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Dear Sir

Dear Sporadic Artie, 


I have treated you unkindly and for that I am truly sorry. I should remember and respect your constant presence in my life even on days when energy is high and movement is relatively easy. 


I am very sorry for overdoing it today. You see, I will have a newly minted 12-year-old tomorrow and was trying to get the house ready for a sleepover and other birthday festivities while unpacking from nine days of camping and wrangling seven children. I realize now that was a bad idea, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. 


Not that that's an excuse - it's just a reality that some days I need to push the limits and pray for the best. I apologize if this tries your patience. 


Please have mercy on me and allow me sleep tonight and the ability to function tomorrow. I'll include Tramadol in tonight's festivities if that would help you feel better.


Good night, Artie! (Please!?!?!)


Me


P.S. If you're going to need Ziggy to come along for the ride tomorrow, please let me know early so I don't have to heft him into the Zgymobile myself tomorrow!


Saturday, July 14, 2012

So Tired...


...she fell asleep standing up


during a performance by 35 6-10 year olds


who were being VERY loud.


Ah, to be four again...



Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Would-be Life


Deep sleep and inspirational dreams give way to chirping birds and children’s whispers. Opening my eyes, I’m greeted by shadows of trees dancing on the tent around me. The crackling of a fire means that coffee is brewing and breakfast will soon be on its way.

Emerging from the tent, I’m welcomed by blue skies, a gentle breeze, and my husband who awoke early to the alarm of a whippoorwill call.

Sitting by the fire, I think about the day ahead of me – Bible study, devotions, lunch, the beach, kid craft or music time, dinner, and more fun. All within walking distance – and I can actually walk!

By the end of the day, I’m tired, but not exhausted. After getting the kids to bed, I sit by the fire with my husband and we talk – about the day, the people, about life. As the fire dies down, I crawl into bed, reading a bit by flashlight before drifting easily off to sleep.

This is the life!



Fractured sleep and crazy dreams give way to pain and a nagging alarm. Opening my eyes, I’m greeted by baskets of laundry that need to be sorted, a floor that needs to be vacuumed, and children’s requests to be entertained. The time on the clock signals that there’s not enough time for breakfast if I want to complete my errands before my husband goes to work. 

Emerging from my bed, I’m greeted by the incessant noise of the air conditioner, and a husband who is kind enough to encourage me to run errands without children.

Sitting in the car, I think about the day ahead of me – grocery store, thrift shop, home, coffee, lunch for the kids, the CSA, dinner, and a 7pm meeting. Nowhere I’d want to walk to – especially not on pavement battling traffic - and especially not after having to do battle with the stairs and steep driveway just to get to and from the car.

By the end of the day I’m utterly exhausted. After getting the kids to bed, I’m too tired to do much at all, and by the time my husband gets home, I’m too mentally tired for much conversation. I crawl into bed, tossing and turning until my muscles stop spasming and my brain quiets down enough for me to sleep.

What kind of life is this?

Transitioning from vacation life to home life isn’t easy. Transitioning from a place that feels like home, that centers me spiritually, where I feel more connected to nature, to the people around me, and to my family, is especially difficult.  There is a peace I find at Calumet that I haven't found anywhere else. Life is different there. My focus is different there. Things are simpler there. Jim and I are better there. I’m better there.

There are no stairs there to kill my body before the day even starts. Errands can wait until the afternoon - there is no morning rush to get things done. There is fresh air, good food, peaceful sleep, daily opportunities to grow spiritually, a wonderful sense of community, and a wonderful balance of activity and rest. We have what we need there ... clothes, food, shelter, a few good books, several fun games, friends, and family. There is no perpetual asking for or thinking about screen time, although both computer with internet and tvs are available.

We come back here to STUFF. A house full of stuff. Stuff to clean. Stuff to do. Stuff to pay for. Stuff to get rid of. Stuff that distracts us from what's important.

Here, our world shrinks to the size of our house, with forays out into other parts of the world. There, we are part of the world around us.

What if we lived with only those things we found important at camp? What if we (gasp) turned off the air conditioner (ok…maybe just at night) and opened the windows? What if we spent more time outside than we did inside? What if we created an environment here that helps us feel like we did there?

That would be the life!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Happy Infusion Day!

The time has come.
The time is now.
Hurry up 11AM! I want my infusion NOW!!!


After two wonderful vacations that proved that Remicade must be doing something for me - and a day of unpacking that totally killed my body - I'm really looking forward to my infusion this afternoon, in hopes that I continue to improve. 


Then why am I having a bit of an anxiety attack over the infusion? 


It must be because I know the risks of taking this medicine and they're scary. Increased risks of getting things that could kill me - or just plain old death. When reading the drug information, I couldn't imagine voluntarily having this stuff injected into my body, yet I find myself doing it. 


It wasn't an easy decision. And yet is was. 


It was a decision for quality of life, perhaps instead of quantity of life.
A choice of mobility and less pain rather than limited mobility and at times unimaginable amounts of pain. 
The best option for slowing down the course of my psoriatic arthritis and the damage it's doing  to my body. 
A choice to LIVE my life, rather than watch it pass me by. 







Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Boom Chicka Ra Ra Boom Boom Boom

Dear Mom and Dad,


I'm having a wonderful time here at camp. After all, we know that Camp Calumet is all sunshine and rainbows and happy thoughts.




Things were going well upon our arrival at camp, but soon odd things began to happen. First Alia turned into a mermaid.




Then Zachary fell asleep on the beach and woke up to find he'd misplaced his body. 
 After we restored the kids original physical parameters, the laws of physics started working against us.




How would one go about scoring this?
















Alia then got infected with some sort of cootie virus by her eldest brother (not pictured, as we seem unable to capture him on film...err... digital whoseymawhatsits) and turned into a monster that was only soothed by blueberries balanced on her face.




 Once the older kids were safely dropped off at Resident Camp and the younger kids tucked into bed in our tent, we figured we could relax by the fire and sip some wine. Thank goodness we remembered the good wine glasses!


Hopefully the rest of our time here at Camp Calumet will be an improvement. How could it not? It is the Best Place in the Universe!!! (According to Coren, anyway.)


Here's to a wonderful week!!!


\

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Assume Nothing


In line at the grocery store, a mother was putting cans of formula on the conveyor belt. A chubby newborn grinned at me from her carseat. Admiring the baby, I felt a twinge of annoyance toward the mother of this adorable little one. You see, I'm a breastfeeding advocate and at the time had a very narrow view of "acceptable" reasons to formula feed. I also tended to jump to conclusions and perhaps wrongly judge formula-feeding mothers.  I was in for one huge lesson. 


Noticing tears falling down the mother's cheeks, I asked if there was anything I could do to help. She thanked me and asked me to get the last few things out of the bottom of her cart. It was painful for her. You see, she'd had a double mastectomy almost immediately after giving birth, as tumors were found in both breasts during her pregnancy. Her lifelong visions of nursing and nurturing her babies at the breast had vanished at the word cancer. Not only physically painful just weeks after surgery, it was emotionally painful as well. 


Had I not spoken with this woman, my annoyance and ignorance of the situation could have ended in me wrongly judging this wonderful person. Instead, I was thankful for a lesson in compassion and an opportunity to let this amazing mama know how blessed her daughter is that she nurtured her inside her body for nine months and how amazing of a job she's continuing to do through surgery and cancer treatment. 


We make assumptions every day. We assume we know what other people's intentions are, what they're thinking, or that they can read our minds and know what we need without us asking. We assume that people we group together are all the same and have the same motives - liberals or conservatives, breastfeeding moms or formula feeding moms, rich people or poor people, straight people or gay people, fat people or thin people - and we judge them accordingly. 


I know a woman who wears long skirts, modest tops, covers her head, listens to Christian music every day, reads the Bible, shares her faith with others, and goes to church at least once a week.


I know a woman who has ten tattoos, purple hair, a tongue pierce, and loves heavy metal music. 


I know a woman who loves to be out and about with her family, going on hikes, to the movies, to museums, and to performances of all sorts. 


I know a woman who is so ill she often spends half her day in bed, uses canes or a wheelchair to get around, and struggles to manage her physical and emotional pain while parenting her children. 

I know a woman who has birthed babies at home, breastfed all of her children until they were at least five years old, had a family bed, and feeds her family mostly organic produce and ethically raised meat. She wears long skirts, beads, and birkenstocks nearly every day.


I know a woman who lets her kids make pancakes for dinner, hosts "junk food movie days" during which the kids eat mainly junk food and watch movies all day, and lets her kids run around in the street, play with fire, and have mud fights. 


I know a woman who was abused and raped as a teenager, who was anorexic/bulemic, and who practiced self-mutilation. She spent a couple weeks in a psychiatric facility after dropping out of college, then lived off savings and financial assistance with no job, no transportation, and little hope for the future.


I know a woman who had a wonderful childhood, amazing parents, and was a member of the National Honors Society in high school. She was involved in the marching band, in a youth symphony orchestra, and babysat the neighborhood kids almost daily. She had aspirations of being a doctor or educator and entered college as a Biology/Pre-med major.


Reading these descriptions, it's easy to make assumptions about these women. The images conjured when reading the descriptions probably pale in comparison to the gut reactions, to the emotions we feel when reading them. We think some of them are strange, we feel badly for some, we think good things about others. 


In real life, this potpourri of people most likely would not get along. The conservative Christian and the heavy metal lover - what could they have in common? The hippie earth mama and the junk food mom would certainly clash. How could the abuse survivor see eye to eye with the woman with the golden childhood? Odds are, if these women were all in the same room together, they'd be making assumptions about each other and judging each other. 


But maybe not. These women all have one thing in common. These women are all me. 


Assume nothing.