Thursday, December 6, 2018

Anger is easy

What do you guys do when you're in the shower other than, well, shower? I compose blog entries, and then by the time I'm dried and dressed I've usually forgotten what it was I wanted to say in the first place. I tried really hard this time to hold onto my thoughts, because they might be profound...probably not, but there's always that chance!

I was talking with a good friend last night about anger. Anger is by far the easiest emotion to have. I know. I took you by surprise with that one, didn't I? No? Are you angry that I would assume you're angry? I've had this thought for a while. Anger is easy. Anger is safe. Now you're really confused. How is anger safe?

Anger is safe because everyone understands anger. When you display the outward signs of anger, no one approaches you. You barricade yourself behind your anger, and you have nothing to anyone...because they're afraid to light the fuse that might make you angrier. Anger is a fortress. Anger is the easiest and most familiar mask we can wear. Anger is easy to feel, and sometimes our other emotions evolve into anger. Anger allows us to skirt around the emotions we're really feeling. If we stay angry long enough, then there's a good chance we're going to forget all about the emotion we were really feeling when we started feeling angry.

There's always something to be angry about. Soap in your eye = angry at the soap for burning your eye. Cold coffee = angry that your mug didn't keep it hot, or that you were interrupted many times before you got to drink it. Pants too small = angry that you can't seem to eat right and exercise no matter how hard you try. Car won't start = angry your kid left an interior light on that drained your battery. No milk = angry your husband forgot to pick it up on the way home. Behind someone driving 20 miles below the speed limit until you get to a passing zone = I'll show them! but still angry that they would do that just to annoy you. Should I keep going? 

We live in a world that validates and even encourages our anger. Rights groups of all sorts fight for their right to be angry, and to make everyone else angry in the process. Politicians live to make us angry at the "other" party. Social media steeps us in anger every second of every day. Anger is easy. Anger hides the real problems. Anger hides our true emotions. Anger is safe. We all know how to be angry. We are born knowing how to let our frustrations be get our most basic needs met. It takes practice and time to learn how to feel, and to name, our other emotions.

Let's take a look at the characters from Inside Out. At the most basic level we have: Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear, and Anger. I love this movie, by the way. It has all the feels...literally.

The common factor in this lineup is Anger. Feeling Disgust? Anger is easier. Feeling Fear? Anger is safer. Feeling Sadness? Anger is less messy. Joy is the only one who cannot be covered up by Anger. Anger is easy to understand. It is universal. While there are many levels of anger, they are all essentially the exact same emotion. You can't say that about Disgust, Fear, Joy, or Sadness. 

Honestly, the Inside Out analogy just came from nowhere, but it's true. Here's the other thing that is true. Anger takes no practice, no control, no diligence, no explanation, no upkeep. It is easy. It is safe. Feeling is what is hard. When you take a step back from your anger and ask what you're really feeling you might be surprised.

There are times that I am frustrated, stressed out thinking about being an adult, exhausted mentally and physically... but all of those things manifest as anger. There are times that I'm terrified for what the future holds for my children and even for my husband and me, and it comes out as anger. There are a great many times that my heart is torn in gut-wrenching sadness, but the only thing to cover the tears is the shroud of anger I pull down as a scowl, a harsh word, gruff actions. 

There are things that I cannot even allow myself to think about, much less talk about, because the overwhelming sadness I still feel after four years chokes me. When I think about it I can't breathe, I feel like my heart is being shredded all over again. I question why it had to happen the way it did. I wonder what life would have been like if it hadn't happened the way it did. I relive the day I first heard the news. I relive the following weeks. I feel physical pain. It is exhausting. Anger is easier. Not giving in to my real emotions is safer. No one asks what's wrong if I look angry. If my eyes are red, my nose swollen, and my voice tear-choked then people ask...and I have to lie to them and say everything is OK. Anger is easier. Anger is safer. It doesn't take thought. 

When I start feeling those other emotions I have to talk to myself. I have to remind myself that out of great heartache often comes great Joy. I have to remind myself that God has a plan and a reason for the suffering we endure on this earth. I have to remind myself that God created me to feel. God created me to have Joy in the face of Sadness. He created me to have peace in times of Anger. He created me to feel safe and protected in my darkest Fear. He created me to feel love conquer Disgust. I have to remind myself to turn to God when I'm feeling Anger in the driver's seat, to ask Him to be my portion, to take on my negative emotions and to fill my heart with His goodness. I have to remind myself that feeling angry and closed off all the time is not how I was created to live. 

When I allow anger to override my emotions I find it much harder to feel any other way. It is more difficult to feel Joy, even in times that it should be the first emotion I feel. I'm not angry all the time, but I have allowed my life to be robbed by Anger...all because Anger is easy.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

I Have This Hope...

...and she's my daughter. No, really. That's one of her 3 names...Hope. I think I named her well. She is a ray of sunshine, always positive and looking for the good in a situation. She has a huge amount of faith in God, and I'm so thankful for that. I can think we're having a horrible day, and she will say, "I've had a good day today, Momma. Haven't you?" What do you say to that!?

So last week, we were at gymnastics. That is our Tuesday evening activity...or at least it was...until last week. She had been working so hard on getting her back-handspring form good enough to do it on her own, and Tuesday was the day they turned her loose. I noticed she seemed really tired before they started working on it, but when I asked she said she was ok. They did the usual - standing with 2 spotters on the floor, running roundoff back-handspring with 2 spotters on the springy mat, standing with 2 spotters on the springy mat elevated with a folded mat underneath. And then they started taking away their support. She did it! She was so proud of herself. They didn't touch her, just held their arms behind her, and she did it. So then they brought over the wedge mat and put it on top of the already elevated mat. The justification for this (as per the owner) is that the extra incline makes it easier/faster for them to get their legs over. I was across the gym, and I was already as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. They told her, "You've got this!" Except she didn't. They say they had their arm behind her, and when I asked she told me that the main spotter told her to "jump over my arm." I didn't see any hands or arms anywhere near her. What I did see was her "sit in the chair and not spill the milk," jump, and then crumple to the floor with the most agonizing look on her face I've ever seen.

Another mom who was there later told my own mom that I was across the gym in one stride, and that my daughter's pupils were so large that her eyes were black...they should've been blue...but she was in pain. I looked at her and asked if she was ok. With tears streaming down her face she said, "It really hurts!" I knew in that moment that we were not staying to finish class. My child does not cry in pain. She rarely even complains of pain. She is just an even-keeled, calm, collected, un-complaining child. I looked at the main spotter and said, "I'm pretty sure it's broken." I don't even know how we managed to get her up off the mat, but it was with no help from the spotters because they just sat there blinking with their mouths gaping like fish saying nothing. The owner had no clue what had happened.

I barely got her in my van and buckled in because I was shaking so violently from anger, fear, and nerves. We were only a few miles from the hospital, but it felt like a hundred. I immediately tried to dial my husband, forgetting he was in the shower, and then called my parents to have one of them meet me at the Emergency Department. I was freaking out, crying, apologizing to her, praying... she's in the backseat praying, "God please heal me. Please don't let it be broken." And then her tears are gone. She's telling me, "Mommy, it's not your fault. Be brave, it's ok. I'm going to be ok. Don't cry, it only makes it worse." I'm thinking, "How'd you get so wise, you're not even 10 yet!?"

I got us to the hospital, red-lining my van a few times, and my mom met us there. I had finally gotten in touch with my husband who also was on his way. Thank GOD for a local hospital, because I never would've made it to the next one on my list. We signed in, and her eyes start glassing over and she's sleepy. At that point I didn't know whether she'd also hit her head or neck or anything, I just knew she needed to stay awake, her arm did not look like it should, and that I was utterly useless. I was such a wreck that someone else in the ED waiting area brought me a box of tissues because I couldn't have walked to get them myself. I looked like I was having a seizure I was shaking so badly. When my husband got there I was finally able to get her registered, and I did the only thing I could...except I couldn't do that right either because I had no pocket-change of my own on me...I got her a cold Sprite to sip on.

We were finally back in a room, and they came to do x-rays. She did NOT want them to move her arm. She insisted she do it herself, so she positioned her arm on the x-ray film for the portable machine. We settled in and waited...and waited...and waited. I don't even know how many people came in, but her only question was, "Are they going to give me a shot!?" At that point, my child who doesn't complain of pain, said her pain level was a 9.5!

The doctor on the board, Dr. P, was not the doctor who came to take care of her. My mom was concerned because the doctor listed had been hers when we took her to the ED last year for chest pain and shortness of breath just before she had heart surgery. She wasn't a fan of his. 

The doctor who did come in, Dr. S, had worked for 20 years at the university hospital and had decided enough was enough. Her own child has special needs, and she decided that her family and taking care of her own child was much more important than working so many hours and teaching. Her choice was to leave that hospital and teaching position to come to our rural hospital, and she said she loves it. She was the coolest doctor I've ever encountered in an ED, and believe me I've seen more than a few. I don't mean she was hip or rockin', I mean she was cool. She didn't push, she actually listened to my concerns, she talked TO me rather than at me or down to me. She obviously cared, and when I told her how much I appreciated the way she was treating us she teared up.

It took what seemed like eons to finally get the radiology report, and when we did I almost passed out. My ears started buzzing, and my legs felt like liquid. Her elbow was broken. Not just broken... the radial head was snapped off and slightly displaced. Thank GOD again that it was below the growth plate! The doctor said we needed to get an appointment as soon as possible with an orthopedic specialist to get their opinion. She said she could recommend a couple, but I said we already had an ortho who had been watching her pedunculated osteochondroma growing off her right medial distal femur at the growth plate... try saying that 5 times fast! She said that was fine, but that her friend's son had this exact same injury and the surgeon who fixed him did such a good job that he was back at competitive diving in 3 months. I waited and thought about it and waited some more. In the meantime my husband called the gym to tell the owner that her elbow was broken. I could hear her from across the room, and she wasn't on speaker phone. The spotters hadn't even told her that we left or that my daughter had been injured.

When Dr. S came in to do the half-cast I said, "I know officially you can't offer a recommendation for one ortho over another, but if you COULD, who would you suggest." She smiled and said, "I'll get you those names." She contacted her friend with the son who texted her back two names, and she showed them to me so I could write them down. Then she printed off the doctor profile for the one who only did pediatric cases for Shriner's - the other had moved on to trauma and worked mainly with adults. I said I would call first thing the next morning. Instead of a full cast, they did a half fiberglass long arm cast and wrapped it in layer upon layer of ACE bandaging. Unfortunately the way it worked out her fingers ended up smooshed together and the elbow wasn't in a 90-degree after it hardened. But all things considered it did the job it was supposed to do. After 4 hours we were finally sent home for the night, exhausted but relieved to have at least that much taken care of.

The next day, pain level around a 2-3, I called and requested an appointment with the ortho Dr. S had suggested. Of course I had to leave a message, and I fully expected not to get a call back until much later in the day. BUT, they called back in less than an hour! I explained, and the scheduler said, "Dr. T doesn't have any openings until Monday, but Dr. R can see her today at 12:45. Based on her injury, if you hadn't requested Dr. T I would have scheduled you with Dr. R anyway because he is our arm specialist." I said, "We'll take it." I got directions, called all appropriate parties, and breathed a sigh of relief. Things were moving fast, but that was good.

On the way to the hospital, my van started to overheat. I turned the heat on full-blast, and it was blowing icy air. My mom took care of calling my husband who immediately found us the nearest Aamco to get the van taken care of after the doctor. We arrived early for our appointment, and we were immediately impressed with how awesome the lobby was. It was so inviting, and you could tell it was all about putting the kids (and parents) at ease. I mean, there is a woman who works there, and her only job is to sit and color with and talk to kids! How awesome is that!? There was very little wait time involved, and then we got to see Dr. R.

He came in and said, "The radial head break I think we can fix with closed manipulation, and we may have to put some percutaneous pins in to hold it in place. But the other one..." I must have looked as shocked as I felt. "Did they tell you about the second break?" Uh, nope, they failed to mention that. "Well, it's hard to see on the x-ray, but she also broke off the medial condyle, and that one we have to fix with a screw. I'd like to set up surgery for next week." My mom's face went white, her jaw was clenched, and she looked like she was about to faint. Dr. R asked, "Is that ok?" I said, "She's upset because she leaves Saturday for Florida and won't be home for almost two weeks, but if it has to be done it has to be done." He went on to say that it is good she got this injury now. If she had been older it wouldn't have been bone, it would've been a ligament that tore and ligaments are much harder to fix than bones. He also said that the medial condyle connects to the stabilizing ligaments, so there is no way to fix it without surgery. So I had him walk me through the basics of the surgery, what to expect, etc., and he said someone would be in to talk to us some more. And that was Dr. R.

A care manager came in and we selected Tuesday as surgery day. That was exactly one week post-injury, and they said the swelling should be gone by then. She said they would call us the day before to give us the time and pre-op instructions, but if I had any questions or concerns in the meantime she gave me her business card so I could call her directly. 

After the appointment, my husband met us at Aamco where we found out that a hose had blown off and sprayed coolant all over the engine compartment. So my van had the distinct odor of curry powder, and we waited for an hour while they fixed it and changed my oil. We were all hungry, and the injured party (and her brother) requested Chuy's. Chuy's it was! Once we were home, it was all about trying to keep her arm as still as possible until surgery...which was nearly impossible for a child who dances more than she walks.

Sunday morning we had her anointed and prayed over at church. Sunday evening I was putting my computer to sleep, and I caught a whiff of an unfamiliar cologne. I asked my son if he'd put some on, because sometimes my husband gives our son a little spritz too. He said no, but maybe I was smelling Daddy's bodywash. I said I didn't think so since the bathroom is in the rear of the house and I was in the front. I sniffed, and then I smelled it so strongly it was as if someone was standing right beside me. When I breathed deeper to try to figure out where it was coming from the smell vanished. No lingering trace. Just gone. And I felt peace and calm. The anxiety and fear was gone. I think it was my Papaw, who passed away 9 years ago, giving me a hug. He always could settle my nerves with nothing more than a hug and an "I love you." 

Monday she was determined we were going to start our new school year on schedule, so she had her first day as a 5th grader, and her brother had his first day as a 3rd grader. A nurse called and gave me all the info I needed for pre-op prep and what time we needed to be there. Tuesday we went in for surgery, and by then we were all just ready to get it over with. They had an overnight add-on which had to go first because of the nature of that child's injury, so it was almost 2 hours past her scheduled time when they got started on her. She was handling it all incredibly well, especially for a child who had to get up at 4:15am and drive an hour, then wait until well past breakfast time, more than 12 hours past her last meal, and then have surgery. They took her back, and we went to wait. A mom in the waiting area said that Dr. R is the one the university basketball players come to when they break an arm, and that she's originally from Louisiana and has heard that even a few LSU players have come to him as well!

When they scheduled her surgery they gave her a 2 hour block, but they said Dr. R is very efficient and shouldn't need that long. They called when they were starting - they said she went to sleep very well. Half an hour past that I said they should be halfway done - Dr. R had said he estimated an hour for procedure time. It wasn't even another 5 minutes before the phone rang again, and they said, "She's done! The procedure went well, and if you'll wait in the consultation room beside the registration desk Dr. R will be in to see you as soon as her arm is dressed." You could have knocked me over with a feather!

We met with Dr. R, and he said everything went smoothly. He was able to reduce the radial head without opening, and he was able to fix it in a good position WITHOUT using any pins. He did open a small incision above the medial condyle and inserted one screw there to hold it in place. Her ulnar nerve was visible to him when he opened, and he said it was angry and inflamed so she might have tingling or numbness down that side of her arm and into her pinky and ring fingers as the area swelled. So far she has had NONE! The first 48-72 hours are crucial for keeping swelling down, keeping the arm elevated, and resting. They don't force wake the patients, so we had to just wait until the nurse came to get us after she woke up and was talking...which took an hour! She loves her sleep.

When they brought her back to her room, she didn't even look like she'd had surgery! She was awake, smiling, talking, HUNGRY, sipping a Sprite, and covered up in her new Scottie Dog blanket snuggling her new surgery monkey (she named him Dexter in honor of the monkey from Night At The Museum) both provided by the hospital before surgery. She ate some Goldfish crackers (the ones I didn't spill on the floor), and it was about another hour and a half before we were discharged. 

Dr. R told us to take it easy on food, but she had no after-effects from the anesthesia aside from being a little sleepy. She wanted Culver's, and Culver's is what she got - a kids chicken tender meal with bbq sauce, fries, a Sprite, and a scoop of the Flavor of the Day, Brownie Thunder! She ate every bite. Her brother and we parents were famished as well, so we all indulged. She was in such good spirits through it all.

Aside from a pain level of 4 with some burning at the incision site yesterday morning, she's felt fantastic. She's still a bit tired, but considering the trauma she's been through - both the injury and surgery - I'd say that's to be expected. 
She has very little swelling in her fingers, especially compared to what they were last week. When they put on the half-cast this time (it's pink, of course!) they wrapped the cushy stuff between each of her fingers which allowed her fingers and thumb to be completely free so she can actually move them really well, it cuts down on the amount of sweating, and her hand doesn't smell like a "foot" to her.  Her pain is staying very low, typically a ZERO or ONE!! She's been a very cooperative patient, although it completely goes against her nature to sit and do "nothing." She managed well to keep her arm elevated on pillows and as still as possible to avoid further inflaming anything for the first 48 hours, but now she's up playing. She can't wait for Monday to have her post-op checkup to make sure everything is healing well, and if the doctor is pleased with her progress she'll get her real cast and be able to resume a more normal level of activity. Dr. R said she should still be able to participate in at least 2 of her dance recital pieces (ballet and tap, but in jazz shoes), so we are thankful that she doesn't have to miss out on that completely.

Some people question why God lets things like this happen. Believe me I hate that it happened, and I did question whether it could have been avoided if I had just stayed home and finished watching The Jungle Book instead of taking her to gymnastics that night. But it's like she kept reminding me, "God has a plan and a purpose for everything." It could have been much worse, and it was only an arm, and not her dominant arm at that. Sometimes bad things happen. Here's what I do know...

God worked it all out ahead of time: This injury, while traumatic all the way around, could have been much worse. It could have been an open fracture or a leg or even her neck. It happened on a day when there were few people waiting in the ED, and there was a caring doctor who did her best to make us comfortable and help us get the best care for our daughter. When I called to set up her ortho appointment, the arm specialist was the doctor who could see her THAT DAY instead of waiting almost a week. When we saw the ortho he found the second, more serious break, and was confident that it could be fixed easily. When she had the surgery Dr. R was able to fix it with less hardware than initially expected and in one-fourth of the time she was scheduled for. I would never have thought of calling Shriner's to set up an appointment, I would have taken her to her regular ortho, and who knows what kind of care we would have gotten. Yes, things have been rough, but they could have been so much worse.

I did speak with the owner of the gym, which was a very difficult thing for me to do but our insurance company recommended it. She informed me that students aren't asked to pay an insurance fee, and that she has never filed an accident report and doesn't carry any sort of liability insurance on the gym. She also felt like I was wrong to say that her spotters were negligent and that they did their utmost to provide a safe experience for their students. I reminded her that they didn't even have the decency to tell her my child had been injured, and she said that of course they didn't because she was still teaching at the time, but after we called she asked what happened and they told her their version of events, which differed in that they said they had their arms behind her...and they didn't. She also attempted to play down the injury by offering examples of other students who have been hurt doing things that shouldn't have hurt them at all. I must say that just made me very angry. I was trying very hard to remain in control of my anger, emotion, and volume. She, on the other hand, made sure that every word she said was very loud so every person in the gym could hear and know what was going on. My daughter has made the decision that she's done with gymnastics, because next time it might not be an arm that she hurts. 

Frankly I'm glad that she's done. When I took gymnastics from this person she had more safety measures in place, and her equipment was in much better condition. Students had to have a firm mastery of one skill before they moved on to more difficult skills. Classes were skill-based - beginner, intermediate, advanced - and you had to complete one class before moving on to the next. Now the classes are mixed-ability, and every student does everything up to at least a back-handspring on their first day in class. Every week I was nervous that something was going to happen. It has, and we're done. I can choose to be angry, or I can choose to let it go. I made like Elsa and let it go. Anger and resentment will eat you from the inside if you let it, and I don't have the time or energy to be that person. So today I'm choosing to answer with a resounding YES, I am having a GREAT day!

Thank you to all of the people in our family and friends and church families who took the time to pray for our child. I am so blessed to have such a network of believers I can call on in a time of need.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Cloak Of Invisibility

Did you ever wish you could disappear? That you could be like John C. Reilly’s character in Chicago?

Cellophane, Mister Cellophane

Should have been my name, Mister Cellophane
'Cause you can look right through me
Walk right by me and never know I'm there.

Did you wish that when you walk into a room or down the street no one would notice you, no one would bother you, and you could just go about your business? Do you want a cloak of invisibility? How many of you played the game as a child where you choose your super power? Would you rather – be able to fly, have x-ray vision, or be invisible? Did you choose to be invisible? I didn’t. I never wanted x-ray vision, never wanted to be invisible. But I am. I wear a cloak of invisibility…and it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

When you have an invisible illness, it feels like no one sees the real you. You’re still you, only slightly different. Chipped, tarnished, damaged goods...only no one can see it unless they look very carefully. You are screaming on the inside to be noticed, to be validated, to feel like someone gets it, gets you. Instead you feel pitied, scrutinized, brushed off, ignored, looked at with a heavy dose of skepticism. On the flip side of that you also get unsolicited advice or stories of someone else who has the exact same illness and died/got cured/lived in horrible pain/never let it get in the way. And you feel like…less. Less. You feel invisible. You feel like a ghost.

No one sees…unless they notice the way your face tightens as you wince in pain. No one sees…unless they notice that you’re walking a little differently or rubbing a sore spot that won’t go away. No one sees…unless they notice that you’re on edge, anxious, fidgety, short-fused. And even if they notice and ask what’s wrong, they still don’t/won’t/can’t see. To them your illness is not real. Seeing is believing.

You talk about it so much to those who do listen that you feel like you’re a nuisance. You apologize for talking about it. You try to make light of the bad days and the illness itself. You seek out support groups of people you don’t know who have the same invisible illness just so you don’t feel alone. You worry you’re driving away the ones you love because you live in an alternate universe, inextricably (and inexplicably) bound to strangers who get it because they have it. You worry someone will find out about your illness and judge you based upon that one piece of you.

How many times have you heard – That’s not a real illness. That’s all in her head. Doctors diagnose that when they don’t really know what’s going on. She’s just a hypochondriac, attention seeking, Munchausen Syndrome having nutjob. She doesn't even look sick!

It’s really easy to pretend when you have an invisible illness. Others expect you to be fine, because they can’t see you, so you try your hardest to be “fine”…for them. When you’re in between flare ups you can sometimes pretend so well as to convince yourself that you are “fine.” You pray that God will allow you to ignore the symptoms if they aren’t going to kill you. You learn your triggers and avoid them, even if they are things you love doing/eating. You have bad days and good days and are constantly grading yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 – How’s Your Pain Today?

Being invisible is exhausting.

You try to explain to those closest to you. You try to raise awareness. You try to manage your symptoms because there is no treatment, you can’t afford the treatment, you can’t get it where you live, you don’t want to fill your body with chemicals… You try to figure out ways to ease your pain and discomfort. You rethink ways of getting through your day and managing what you have to do. Every single twinge you get you wonder, you over-analyze, you mentally assess whether it’s one you’ve felt before or something new. You never stop wondering.

I’ve had a few ongoing invisible illnesses over the last four years. There have been times I thought that I was dying. Literally dying. Not figuratively, not the exaggerated dramatic statement – I’m dying! These illnesses are things that I have learned to live with, deal with, forget about. They have no identity, no known cause, no treatment that works well. So I pray that God will help me to ignore them and live with them in the background rather than in a starring role. I have felt betrayed by my body, and I have had moments of extreme self-pity and rage. Most of the time I only allow myself to feel thankful that it isn’t worse. Someone somewhere has it much worse – the exact same illness/es – and goes on with life as normal. Writing is cathartic. Poetry. Blogs. It helps me. Does it help you?

For now parts of me, parts of who I am, are invisible.

I am a ghost.

I am cellophane.

I am alive, and I am thankful.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Can ACV Really Do All That?

I keep hearing people tout the health benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar. Homeopathic remedies have long been a part of Appalachian life, and living in the Foothills of Appalachia where the Bluegrass Kisses the Mountains I have heard my fair share of ways to use various plants for medicinal purposes. Despite home-remedies having been a legitimate way of healing for many centuries, the influx of doctor prescribed medicines has overshadowed what our ancestors knew.

Recently there has been an interest in returning to our roots...and leaves, and flowers, and buds. I have a friend who has started a small homeopathic healing business, and I asked her advice on getting rid of sinus congestion. Bragg's Organic Apple Cider Vinegar was the answer. She says she inhales the vapors from a mixture of water/ACV that has been brought to a boil and then removed from the heat. I had heard of using ACV for various ailments before, but I had never personally tried using it. I decided it was worth a shot, though. No harm could be done by having on hand extra ACV with the mother.

When I read the label, it suggested using ACV as an energy pick-me-up. Goodness, could I use one of those! I homeschool and in addition to the energy drain from that I already had longstanding issues with flagging energy and various other sleep disturbances, so if ACV could fix those... Hot Dog! I'd sure try it. I also needed to flush my kidneys to try to get rid of the lower-back pain I'd held onto for going on a month, and lemon water was helping some but not getting rid of it completely.

The first day (05/23/16) I mixed a small batch - 2 tsp ACV and 1 tsp honey to an 8oz glass of warm water (45 seconds in the microwave on high). It wasn't horrible tasting, just a bit tart. The second day (05/24/16) I added in 2 tsp lemon juice, since the ACV lent it a citrus note anyway. It was better. The third day (05/25/16) I went all out - 8 tsp ACV, 8 tsp lemon juice, 1 TB honey, 8 oz warm water (I shook it up to melt the honey), and enough cool water to make 32 oz. I put it in my Nalgene bottle to keep it handy. It tasted much better! The fourth and fifth days (05/26 & 05/27/16) I went a step further to mask the vinegar taste and added 4 oz apple juice. It tasted fantastic. I noticed that I felt better - I was less irritable the more I drank, I was sleeping better (like a rock, if I'm honest) with fewer disturbances. Now, whether this can be attributed to the addition of ACV to my life or simply that I was better hydrating myself I don't know.

The sixth day (05/28/16) I had been away from home overnight and was rushing to go on a homeschool field trip and didn't get a chance to mix my concoction. At around 2:15pm my afternoon drag hit hard. I was sitting watching a superb live performance at Fort Boonesborough, and I fell asleep. My drag usually lasts about 30 minutes, and then I'm A-ok and wide awake. Hmmm... could there be a correlation? The five days prior I had drank at least some quantity of ACV throughout the day, but this day I had not had any. I was drinking water, but it was just plain bottled water.

Right after I bought the Bragg's, I searched for benefits of ACV and found a helpful page listing 25 uses, though they aren't all health related. The Bragg's site has many uses listed as well. Whether the energy boost and kidney cleanse are due to the ACV or simply to the increased hydration I'm getting I don't know. At this point I don't really care either way. I just know that I feel so much better in less than a week - my energy level seems to be improving, and we'll see about the kidneys. I still haven't tried inhaling the ACV vapors, because after drinking the ACV my sinus congestion is much improved as well.

If you're looking for a cure for what ails you, you might want to give ACV a try... you might be as surprised as I was.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Komboskini and Me

A couple of years ago while vacationing in Treasure Island, Florida we took a day-trip.  My daughter loved princesses and nearby Weeki Wachee springs had a show of The Little Mermaid featuring live mermaids.  Okay, so they aren't born as mermaids, but they are women wearing elaborate mermaid tails swimming in a crystal clear natural spring.  Even to me it was amazing, and I was already in my late-20s.  Since Weeki Wachee is close to Tarpon Springs, a place full of childhood vacation memories, we decided to stop by and eat authentic Greek food (Mykonos).  Of course you can't go to Tarpon Springs without at least walking through some of the shops - sponges, handmade soaps, clothes, and trinkets abound.  The last shop we went in before the thunderstorm hit was Greek Town Imports.  At the checkout counter was a display of bracelets, which appeared to be intricately woven.  The graphic on the sign proclaimed they were prayer bracelets handmade by monks in Greece.  I nearly bought one, but since I'm a fairly crafty person I also suspected I could make my own, save $10, and learn something new in the process.  I was wrong...

I researched Orthodox prayer bracelets, found a tutorial, assembled my materials, and proceeded to tie knots...just not the kind I was attempting.  I tied and untied, untangled, and retied the same two strings many times before giving up.  I gave up on the bracelet, but I couldn't get it out of my head.  I revisited the instructional website many times, but I never made any more sense out of it or tried to tie another knot.

Flash forward to July 21, 2015

My brother, sister-in-law, husband, mom, and kids had planned to canoe the Weeki Wachee River with Paddling Adventures (located in the parking lot of the park) and then eat at Tarpon Springs.  When we called the day before to make our reservations, we were told that their canoes and kayaks were booked for the entire week.  In fact they informed us that in order to guarantee a spot you need to reserve 3-5 weeks in advance of when you want to paddle...or bring your own watercraft!  I suggested that we (all 10 of us who were vacationing) go ahead and drive the hour-and-a-half from Treasure Island to Weeki Wachee and at least ride the riverboat, see a mermaid show, and maybe also watch an animal show.  All of that is included in the price of admission.  Unfortunately there was an equipment malfunction in the mermaid diving area, so the only thing we were able to do was ride the riverboat.  However, the park was generous enough to refund the money of all guests (who requested it) who had arrived prior to the first mermaid show and were leaving because the shows were cancelled.  We had arrived less than 30 minutes before the first show, so this applied to us.

Refund in hand we drove back to Tarpon Springs.  If you've never been to Tarpon Springs, I highly recommend that you get there early in the day, find a place to park ($3/day), and very slowly take it all in.  This is a small waterfront town, crowded with people, shops, and boats.  If you have time ride the sponge-diving boat and watch them harvest sponges.  At the very least sit by the water and watch the boats for a while.  We chose to eat at Dimitri's on the Water, and it was A-mazing!  The staff was friendly, we were seated promptly, the service was wonderful, the food was generously piled on plates, and we were able to eat on the covered patio by the water...and watch the boats.  After eating there were a few shops we wanted to check out.  My mamaw and mom went in search of dried sponges, the rest of us headed toward Taste of Greece for dessert.  I love dessert, but I was so stuffed after eating part of a Roasted Lamb Wrap and Spread Sampler at Dimitri's that I couldn't even look at the cases of delectable desserts.  Instead my foursome started walking back toward the entrance to Dodecanese Boulevard in search of the little yellow shop where I saw the bracelet.

We found the little yellow shop, but it had a sign in the window saying it had moved to the corner by Antonia's.  We found Antonia's but it was the corner we walked around the corner.  There were doors for the shop, but they said to use the other door...and there was no other door.  We went inside Antonia's to ask how to get to the other shop and saw that the shops were adjoining.  After walking to the back, instructing my kids to keep their hands off all the breakable pretties, we found the little yellow shop - Greek Town Imports.  I asked if they were open, because the shelves weren't stocked, and boxes were piled everywhere.  Handymen were still hanging fixtures, and several employees were unpacking boxes.  The elderly gentleman said they were open and then, "I told you we were moving."  I said, "It wasn't me, I haven't been here in about two or three years."  He replied, "Yeah, that's when I start telling people we're moving, three years ago."  A younger man asked how he could help me, so I told him - the last time I was in your store you had prayer bracelets, do you still have them?

The man took me to the back and started showing me the different bracelets - thick ones in red and black, or thin ones in black with plastic crosses or blue beads.  I chose a thin black one with blue beads, which he said was the traditional style.  The cord is waxed and lasts longer, so that was also a selling point.  The only problem was that the bracelet was so tiny that I was positive it wouldn't even fit my 4 year-old's wrist.  I asked, "How do you adjust it?"  There was no clasp, or knot and loop, no way to open the bracelet to put it on.  He said, "Basically you point your fingers like this and roll it on.  It will get bigger.  I've had mine on for four years now."  The woman behind him said, "I've had mine on for nine years!  If it gets too big, when you're in the shower, just pinch the knots together like this to tighten it back up."  I thanked them, still skeptical that the bracelet would ever fit me even though I have thin wrists.  I paid, and the woman who rang me up said, "Oh!  You're Greek!?"  I explained about seeing the bracelets before, and trying to learn to make the knot.  She said, "I'm Greek, and I don't know how to make the knot.  These are made by the monks in the Athos region of northern Greece."

Again I thanked them, and we were on our way.  I made my fingers and hand look like the man had shown me, and I started trying to roll the bracelet across my knuckles and onto my wrist.  I tried my right hand...uh uh, not going to work.  I tried my left hand...oops, not going to fit there either.  I contemplated putting it on my key-ring or giving it to one of my kids, but I bought it for a purpose and wanted to wear it.  I kept trying to make my hand smaller and smaller, rolling the bracelet, getting it across two knuckles just to have it roll back up toward my fingertips.  It was frustrating...and painful if I'm being perfectly honest.  Finally!  I managed to get it on my left wrist, which works better for me since I'm right-handed.

The komboskini is used by Orthodox Christians to guide prayer and prostrations.  There are different lengths of prayer rope - short ones with 33 knots to symbolize the years of Christ's life, or longer ones with 50, 100, 300, even 500 knots!  Some use the spaces between knots, larger knots, or beads to guide prostrations.  According to the research I've done, there is one prayer that is said with each knot - Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.  As the monks tie each knot into the rope, they pray.  So not only is the prayer rope used to guide prayer and meditation, it is created while in prayer.  Each knot, called The Angelic Knot, is actually 7 interlocking crosses.  The legend passed down states that a monk wanting to make a prayer rope kept having his knots untied by a demon until an angel of God appeared and taught the monk to tie the special 7 cross knot which was so difficult and full of crosses that the demon could no longer untie the rope.

I am not Greek Orthodox.  I am Baptist.  I do not pray short, repetitive prayers.  I do not bow or make prostrations after each prayer.  That just isn't how I was taught.  So why did I buy this prayer bracelet that is used by a different denomination of Christianity to guide prayers that are vastly different than mine?  To remind me...that I should pray without ceasing, that God is always with me encircling me with His love, that I need to focus my mind when I pray, and that as children of God we are all interconnected.

If you would like to learn more and possibly learn to make the prayer knot, click HERE.
There are numerous YouTube video tutorials as well.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Finding Rainbows in the Rain

I feel like I need to write a disclaimer for this post before I begin.  I typically do not share personal information.  I do not like to open up and bare my soul, especially when there is the risk for criticism or judgment.  I am not sharing this to gain sympathy.  I am sharing in the hopes that someone going through this will have peace that they are not alone.

Have you ever had a day where it seems like it rains nonstop?  You look outside and the sun is shining, your kids are playing happily, nothing specific has gone wrong, but inside you feel like it's raining.  That's the kind of day I was having...actually that's the week I was having.  Small things seemed insurmountable, everything my kids were doing made me feel hot and itchy and irritable, my stomach felt like snakes writhing inside, I was struggling to keep my emotions capped.

It started Sunday at church, sitting behind my mamaw...she just seemed so small and frail, she reminded me of her older sister who passed away last year, and it broke my heart.  When she stepped up to the pulpit to sing - Lord it's just another hill that I'm climbing, Lord it's just another tear to wipe away.  If I can just hold on a little longer, I'll be rejoicing in Heaven someday - I could barely contain my tears.  She sang the first few bars alone, and then the pianist, pastor, and two guitarists joined her.  I have listened to my mamaw sing since I was born, but it just tugged my heart strings that day.  That song in particular gets to me anyway, and when I'm having a rough time I ask her to sing it.  I didn't ask this time, but I needed it.  Sunday was Father's Day, and I was already feeling broken-hearted.  The day just picked the scab trying to cover the small/huge hole in my heart left by someone I love who I never had the chance to meet.  To say it was a rough start to the day would be a slight understatement.

This week has been stressful, rewarding, full of blessings, but stressFULL.  We are wrapping up Vacation Bible School, and this was the first time I have ever been asked to plan and execute the week.  When I was asked I thought about declining.  In fact I never formally accepted the request!  I asked for time to pray about it and talk to my husband, but as soon as I sent that email an idea popped into my head and it snowballed from there into this amazing week.  I felt like God was leading me to what He wanted me to do, gently nudging me by giving me a lightbulb moment that made it impossible to say no.  Amazing as this week may be, and as easy as the week was to plan, it has still been stressful.  I tend to be a perfectionist, feel like I have to be in control of every single thing, and overthink and analyze every little detail until I make myself sick.  

We began VBS on Tuesday.  I managed to have everything organized and a lot of things completed before Monday.  Still there are certain things you can't do ahead.  Each night I have tried to prepare the next day's crafts for four age groups - I had them planned from the beginning, but I wanted an example to show for each individual craft, and I wanted only to take the supplies for that particular night's crafts so I didn't get confused about who was supposed to be doing what.  

On Tuesday my husband's Fatherversary gift arrived - our 10th anniversary was earlier this month - and the box was perfect for the kids to make the rocket they wanted to give to Daddy.  While he fitted the new roll pan on his work truck and drilled holes outside, I helped the kids remake the box into a really nice rocket inside as a surprise for him.  They decorated it with stickers and marker drawings while I made VBS signs and got craft supplies organized and ready to walk out the door.

Apparently the hundreds of stickers the kids used on Tuesday weren't enough.  Wednesday while I was trying to get sample crafts made and supplies together in the dining room, the children decided to decorate the rocket some more.  They were being well-behaved, having fun, using every sticker we have...and we have a lot of stickers.  Earlier in the day we had been in the pool with my mom and our cousin, and the conversation had turned to my upcoming gallbladder surgery.  That put me on edge, because I am terrified of surgery.  Until that point I had been able to distract myself for a couple of weeks - the pain had subsided right after I made my appointment for surgery, I had been able to eat normally for the first time since Easter, I was no longer having the referred pain in my ribs, and I was crazy busy with summer activities and VBS prep.  Talking about the surgery brought it all back.  

After I got Wednesday's sample craft ready, I looked at my pre-admittance testing and surgical orders to see if there was anything special I needed to do based on the information my cousin gave about her surgery.  On the list of things to bring to the PAT appointment was a letter of clearance from your cardiologist.  I started getting the ants-in-my-pants feeling.  No one said anything about clearance!  I have a cardiologist, and what if I was supposed to call him and get an appointment so he could check me out and be sure I'm healthy enough to undergo surgery!?  They're doing an EKG and blood work at my PAT appointment, isn't that enough?  I haven't seen my cardio in a couple of years because after my initial need to see him was explored I was released as an as-needed-basis patient.  What if they won't let me have the surgery because I don't have the paper saying I'm ok, or what if I'm not ok and my heart stops while I'm under anesthesia and I die and my husband has to try to raise our kids without me.  Would they still remember me when they're adults if I die now - they're still so young.  Will they remember how much I love them...  Oh, I tell you, if I was still in pain 24/7 it would be so much easier NOT to have this train of thought.  With the absence of pain driving me toward the surgery comes the influx of depressive anxiety-filled thought processes, which makes me feel like a weenie because it's such a simple procedure that I feel like I shouldn't have any qualms at all.  Back to finding rainbows...

I looked up from my papers when my daughter walked by to get yet another sheet of stickers from the drawer.  I looked into the living room where she was taking the stickers, and I see empty sticker sheets lying on the floor and hardly a bare spot of cardboard remaining on the rocket.  I lost it.  I didn't yell, but I sternly instructed them to stop using so many stickers because they were going to use them all and I wasn't going to buy them anymore because that's not what they are meant for and what are they going to do when all their stickers are gone and they don't have any for the other projects they wanted them for and the stickers are all going to fall off anyway when we put the rocket in the attic because that's where it's going and it's hot up there and the sticky won't last in the heat and don't put another sticker on pick up your mess and put the stickers up.  Even as the words were coming out of my mouth I realized how ridiculous I sounded, how unreasonable I was being, but by that point I was like a runaway train that can't be stopped.  I reached for a bite-size Snicker's (which didn't make me feel like myself, by the way), and the second it was in my mouth I started to hyperventilate.  My nose is highly unreliable right now due to allergies, and the bite-size Snicker's took up all the room in my mouth...I couldn't get it chewed up and swallowed fast enough, and the lump in my throat was growing by the second.  I felt like I was choking.  I walked to the back of the house, and tried to calm down, but it suddenly started raining.

Hot, salty rain poured down my face.  I walked back to the dining room, squatted beside my chair, and tried to get a grip.  By then the kids had done what I asked - picked up the empty sheets, put away some of the stickers, and taken off the excess stickers that were already falling off - and then they came to check on me.  I couldn't squat any longer, because my energy was gone, so I sat in the floor and it continued to rain.  I held my kids close and it rained on their heads.  I lost count of how many times I told them I love them.  Then my son went and got every stuffed animal from his bed and brought them to me to hold in my lap.  When he decided that wasn't good enough, he traded the bears for his Spider Man blanket.  My daughter tried to cheer me up by eating gummy worms, because my kids eating candy always cheers me up (?), and they kept telling me it was ok while they patted me.  When I could finally open my eyes, I was a bit stunned by what I saw.  Our solar-powered rainbow make was throwing the most vibrant and stunning rainbows all around the kitchen.  They were racing across the floor at my feet, soaring across the ceiling, running up the walls.  Rainbows were everywhere.  It has been so overcast, and we've been so busy for the last month or more that I've missed the rainbows, I'd forgotten that little spinning prism in my window, I'd forgotten how beautiful it could be.  *These images are from April*

Eventually my daughter disappeared into her room, where she made me a necklace.  My son covered me head-to-toe in his blanket and got under it with me, where he kept saying, "It's Mommy and brother time, isn't Mommy.  No one else is allowed because it's just Mommy and brother time."  I tell you, that four year old kid is wise.  Being in the dark, under a hot fleece blanket, helped.  I laid back on the floor, and I didn't have the strength to raise my head off the floor.  As I lay there, getting my breathing under control, two things occurred to me:  1) rainbows are God's promise that the storm is over and it will get better, 2) you can't have rainbows without rain.

I've dealt with depression and anxiety since I was 7, and being in stressful situations tends to bring it out - the upcoming surgery combined with trying to make sure everything was perfect for VBS built up the perfect storm for an anxiety attack.  Just remember, even in your darkest storm, when the rain won't let up and the clouds make it hard to see, the Son is out there, and a rainbow is coming.  Don't stop looking for the rainbows in the rain.

"Behind the Clouds"
- Brad Paisley -

When you're feeling lonely, lost and let down
Seems like those dark skies are following you around
And life's just one big shade of gray
You wonder if you'll see the light of day

Behind the clouds, the sun is shining
Believe me even though you can't quite make it out
You may not see the silver lining
But there's a big blue sky waiting right behind the clouds

I've heard it said that this too shall pass
Good times or bad times, neither one lasts
But thinking that your luck won't ever change
Is like thinking it won't ever stop once it starts to rain

Behind the clouds, the sun is shining
Believe me even though you can't quite make it out
You may not see the silver lining
But there's a big blue sky waiting right behind the clouds
Yeah, there's a big blue sky waiting right behind the clouds

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Who's Responsible for This Mess?

Over the last several years the stuff in my house has grown to epic proportions.  Things get bought, brought, borrowed, gifted... but nothing ever leaves.  My mom will tell you that this is how it was in my childhood as well.  At least in my room.  It was bad enough then that I remember coming home from school to 33 gallon trash bags full of my stuff sitting outside the bedroom.  I wasn't allowed to go through it or beg for its salvation.  If I wasn't responsible enough to clean it all up, I wasn't allowed to plead the case for keeping any of it.

When I got married almost 10 years ago, my parents finally got tired of babysitting my stuff and boxed up the contents of my room and said it had to move with me.  Sadly, most of those things are still in the boxes in which they arrived at my new/old house.  It isn't that I don't know how to sort things, throw things away, say goodbye to things.  I know how to do all that.  Decluttering is overwhelming, and my problem always lies in where to begin.  So I'm beginning here...

My name is Amanda, and I am a horrible housekeeper.  

I am not hanging my head in shame.  I am holding my head high, because I know that I can do better.  I'm not admitting defeat, no thing, no stuff, nothing is going to get me down.  I refuse to live another able-bodied day without getting my house straightened out.

I have blustered about the mess for too long without doing anything constructive about it.  
February, being the shortest (and often most hated) month of the year, is a good month to begin a new project.  You're still early in the year, but by February it doesn't quite feel so much like a resolution.  Let's be clear about something:  I have made that resolution many times, and it never stuck.  My house still looks like a wreck.  All.  The.  Time.  There, I said it.  I own it.  When my cousin asked for people to join a February clean-up challenge, I hesitated.  Granted it was only 28 days, but there is so much stuff in my house!  The paper alone might take me a full year to sort through.  In the end I joined, and I felt accomplished for the first time in a long time.  I felt happy about cleaning.  My kitchen looked amazing...until I started cleaning the rest of the house.  My cabinets and pantry are still fantastic, but the floor is a bit crowded.  (Now that I've seen I can manage with stuff in the center of the floor, maybe it's time to petition the hubs for a center island.)  I even started sorting through clothes, which for whatever reason I have a weird emotional attachment to.  I have two tall kitchen trash bags full of clothes I need to donate.  I started going through paper, and just the old bills, receipts, and medical statements took me an entire afternoon to shred and filled a 33 gallon trash bag.  It's sad, really.  Sad that I have let my house get into such a state of junkedupedness.  But after the first week and a half, I slacked off.  Things got busy, hectic, complicated, and I quit unstuffing my house.  And now it's a full month later, and I'm no better off.

I have blamed the husband for the state of our house - after all he hasn't volunteered to clean it up, and when he helps me he asks me what to do with every single thing he finds.  I know he doesn't do it to be difficult, instead he does it because he doesn't want to put anything where I don't want it or to throw away something I might need.  

I have blamed the kids - I mean, really, where does all the stuff come from when you have a kid?  You come home from the hospital with a carseat and a kid and suddenly your home is overrun with stuffed animals, blankets, toys, books, drawings, and life.  And I love every minute of it!  Unless of course I step on a Hotwheels car and bend the axle that my 4 year old will then ask me to repair, and when I repair it the wheel is inevitably going to come off and he will ask me to glue it back on.  No glue on this planet will hold a plastic tire on a metal axle, sorry kiddo.

That brings me to my current question:  who's responsible for this mess?

The short answer is, ME.  I have always blamed everyone but the person responsible.  

Who chooses to read a book (or write this post) instead of sweep the floor?  Who chooses to let the laundry go for one more day?  Who decides that a few dirty dishes don't justify filling a sink and wasting water?  Who can't seem to get a handle on all the stuff?  That would all be ME.  I keep waiting for my small world to change and one day to wake up to a spotless home that isn't piled up, or at the very least for my hard work to actually pay off with a house that remains clean after I've worked diligently for a week to get it in top shape again.  The fact is that unless I change my world, unless I stop being my own worst enemy, unless I care an awful lot about my house being an enjoyable, less stressful environment, nothing is going to's not.  I will be the one who has to concede the victory and let my stuff rule my life.

Last night I had taken all I could.  I simply could NOT look at this mess any longer.  I cleaned on my dining room for four hours, stopping at 1:45am only because I was hungry and my knee was aching.  I found enough pencils to last until my kids graduate college.  I threw things away.  I jammed out to my favorite music...quietly of course, since I was the only one awake.  I felt good about my progress for once, and it was a noticeable difference.  Tonight I am trying to catch up on laundry and dishes that have both been untended for several weeks due to some county-wide water issues.  

My daughter said something earlier that most 6 year olds wouldn't think about - I'm so excited, because tomorrow is a new day!  When did she get so wise!?  Tomorrow is a new day, and I'm so excited because I can decide to change.