Friday, June 27, 2014

Downhill From Here

Some people say, "It's all downhill from here," meaning that the going should be easy from now on. 

Others see downhill in a different light.

My health is going downhill, rather too quickly for my liking, and it's not a good thing. I'm in constant pain. Horrible pain. Sleep at night is difficult to come by, but I can pass out cold just about anytime between 4 and 7pm most days, sometimes earlier. At times, just walking from the house to the car is overwhelming. Other days, I seem to have energy to spare, if only my body would cooperate. 

As my health is declining, I find myself bracing for a plummet in my mood. After all, looking back just one year, to my wonderful Camp Calumet and local hiking experiences, remembering how good I felt, how in tune with my body and out of touch with extreme pain I was, could be quite depressing. Remembering how it felt living in my body last year puts into sharp relief the increase of pain, the decrease in mobility, and the pounds added thanks to pain and prednisone. 

But there's one big difference.

I'm not in that newly-diagnosed with a horrible disease panic. I'm not in an off-meds-for-medical-testing funk, nor am I in the phase of hoping to find medical treatment will work. I'm in new territory altogether - perhaps an even more frightening place that I've been since before diagnosis. I should be terrified that my meds are no longer enough to keep my diseases at bay. I should be angry that I'm in so much pain during what should be the best time of my year.

Somehow I'm not. I know enough now to expect the rollercoaster ride that is autoimmune disease. Medications lose efficacy. Flares happen for no apparent reason. This is what my life is. If I've learned nothing else over the course of the past few years, it's that it's up to me whether this disease drags me down with it, or whether I not only live life to the fullest, but celebrate and cherish every moment I possibly can. 

As I type, I'm battling extreme back pain and a migraine that just won't go away - while my youngest is searching for a lost sandal to pack for our week at Camp Calumet. In a few hours we'll be packing the van, and in twenty-four hours we'll be relaxing on the beach of Lake Ossipee. I may still be in pain then, and most likely every day of our vacation, but no matter if I'm able to hike, or merely able to lounge on the beach devouring book after book, I'll be thankful for what I can do. You see, after going through previous struggles and coming to terms with what the future most likely holds for me, I'm fairly sure nothing can come close to making me go down the why-me rabbit hole of chronic illness. No matter what happens, I will always count my blessings - even the ones that look more like struggles.  

It really is all downhill from here. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Minimal Miracles

It's the small things that bring me joy.

Every Summer we go to Camp Calumet in New Hampshire, where this year our eldest three are in Resident Camp and our younger two are in Day Camp. That means I have to pack for three kids for a week of camp, plus a few days; for two kids who stay at Family Camp with us; and for two adults, including clothing, bathing suits, beach towels, bath towels, toiletries, multiple pairs of shoes, sleeping bags, pillows, and the list goes on. Then there are the bins and coolers of food and supplies needed to prepare, cook, serve, and eat said food. And a very large tent, an air bed, an air mattress, a screen tent, camp chairs... that's a lot of stuff! 

In the past, it's been a mad scramble to catch up with laundry in order to be able to pack everything the kids need, to dig through everything in our garage and basement to gather the supplies we need, and wading through the storage closet to dig out the sleeping bags from amongst snowsuits and boxes of who-knows-what since we haven't opened them since we moved here nearly fifteen years ago. 

But not this year. 

Over the past year, I've worked to minimize the amount of stuff in our house. We've sorted through all of our clothing several times to weed out what doesn't fit and what we don't wear. Systematically going through every room, drawer, and closet in the house, including the basement and garage, we've cast off what isn't needed, what doesn't bring joy or beauty, and what doesn't serve a purpose.Whenever I've thought, "but I might need this some day," it's gone in the donation bin. If someday comes, I'll find that whatever-it-is in a thrift shop or borrow one from a friend. We've donated sheets and towels to a local animal shelter, clothing to St. Pauly's, and household items to our local thrift store. 

So this year, there's no wading through anything to get to what we need to pack - it's all easily accessible. We no longer have a giant pile of laundry waiting to be washed, even though there are seven of us living in this house, so packing clothing is just a matter of deciding what we want to wear and shoving it in a backpack or suitcase. Once Camp is over, the camping items will go back into their respective bins and be stored in a place designated for camping items, and putting the other items away will be easy because everything has a place, and more importantly, there's room for everything. Compared to other years, packing this year has been a cinch. Well, as much of a cinch as packing for seven people can be. 

This year I didn't create more mess in my house by rifling through everything to pull out camping items, so our house will be much cleaner upon departure than it has been in the past. We won't be adding smelly camp laundry to our already overwhelming laundry pile when we arrive home, as there is no pile. That, in and of itself, makes me not dread the task of unpacking and getting back to "real life." Leaving a neat house and coming back with things that can easily be put back into their designated places will hopefully make for a smooth transition, which would be a miracle. 

I, a packrat by nature, never pictured myself as a Minimalist, but it seems that day by day I'm headed in that blissful direction. It's a simple as that.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Twelve is somehow so much older than Eleven. Eleven is still more a child ... Twelve is too close to Teenager. But today we have arrived at Twelve. Well, Haley, my Girl of Fiery Spirit, has. 

I love that she is still that Girl, yet has blossomed even more into herself and into a beautiful young woman. I don't think she'll ever loose her child-like spirit - I love that about her. She loves both the "grown up" role of taking care of small children, but also embraces the joy of playing with them at their level.  

As I glimpse the emotional teen years to come in Haley, I also see that she is well-grounded in faith and family, which should serve all of us all well as she navigates the treacherous waters of Teenager. She impresses me with her motivation to reach goals she sets for herself while dreaming big dreams. 

Twelve. And as Haley reminded me this morning with a sly smile on her face, a year until Thirteen - a year until we will have three teenagers in our household. Until then, I'll enjoy seeing Haley continue to grow and blossom into an even more wonderful young woman than she already is. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Dearest God

Dearest God,
I need a vacation. Not just any vacation, mind you - a vacation from things falling apart, breaking, or not functioning properly; a vacation from accidents and incidents; a vacation from emotional rollercoasters and ever-increasing physical pain; a vacation from financial stresses and to-do lists - a vacation of epic proportions. Now, I'm not asking for an all-expenses paid trip to a tropical island, although that would be nice. I'm asking for a simple, paid-for-by-us week at Camp Calumet during which I can enjoy time alone with my husband kayaking and hiking and relaxing and having fun; quality time with my two youngest, during which we can focus on them without older siblings vying for attention; and blessed time with You, so that I may center myself  and my life in You and regain some of the balance that I am currently finding it difficult to find, nevermind maintain. If you could work on making that happen, I'd be incredibly thankful. My family would, too, as they need a Mama who is not so far off the deep end there's no swimming back. Until then, I'll just keep swimming, just keep swimming...

Faithfully Yours,

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Why Couldn't It Be Follow The Butterflies

Ron Weasley: Why spiders? Why couldn't it be "follow the butterflies"?
After passing through a door labeled Platform 9 3/4, there is a sign ...

Following the butterfly streamer attached to the sign, you pass a plethora of sweets and an array of potions. 

You might stop for a Butterbeer before continuing on, eventually entering a room where a Sorting Hat is placed on your head and you are sorted into your House. You then receive your unique, handcrafted wand. 

More potions, including Amortentia and Felix Felicis, 

and sweets such as Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans 

and Chocolate Frogs await, along with goblets of sourly sweet lemonade and myriad snacks. 

You are in for a night of little sleep and lots of Harry Potter. 

There are surprises here

and there

throughout the house. 

At least that's what you would have experienced had you attended my daughter's Harry Potter Birthday Not-So-Much-Sleepover Party last night.  The epic midnight Spell Duel, involving spitfire sparklers, had to be cancelled due to weather, but other than that, the girls had lots of fun. Not a bad way to celebrate TWELVE!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

When I Die

When I die,
I hope to have 
lived and loved and given enough
so that I cannot leave behind
expensive jewels or great wealth;
a huge, well-furnished home;
or a hundred and one trinkets;
over which family might argue
but rather 
memories of love and laughter;
the spirit of helping and giving;
a spark of faith;
and perhaps a few well-loved books
and myriad joy-filled photographs -
remnants of a well-lived life.