Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Who Signed Me Up for THIS?

"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.'"~ Eleanor Roosevelt

I'm sure that quote seems a bit dramatic. Especially coming from a girl who hasn't bothered to blog since May 2016! However, after a whirlwind year and a couple months, I'm back! And I'm ready to impart more thoughts that I'm SURE you've so anxiously awaited.

To recap the last year, here's a list of general life things that occurred:

  • I changed jobs and love it.
  • My oldest daughter went to college and met a boy she's been dating for close to a year now.
  • My youngest daughter learned to drive, got a car, had said car totaled in a not-at-fault accident, got another car and is now a JUNIOR in high school.
  • My son got a new, AMAZING job and moved about 30 minutes away.
  • My husband is still a saint whose business is thriving.
  • The presidential election nearly killed us all - and definitely killed some friendships despite my fervent prayers and absolute commitment to NOT discussing politics with anyone.
  • And.......the big one I will discuss further: I have a disease! Yes - a disease!!
"So, a disease," you ask? Yes. I have a disease. It seems that I have Mixed Connective Tissue Disease - which is basically the Neiman Marcus cookie of autoimmune diseases. (If you've never had an NM cookie, just think of a cookie with 14 different things mixed into the dough and baked. It's not a specific flavor. It's a combo of many flavors.)

Under the name of MCTD are a plethora of specific diseases (combos galore) that you could or could not actually have. Strangely, I've tested negative for any of them - with the possible exception of one that *might* an elevated number because of my initial "flare" with the disease, which landed in my lungs causing me major breathing problems.

This of course leads me to think that maybe I don't even HAVE MCTD. Maybe it's something else fun like Lupus. But that whole argument can be saved for another day. And I highly discourage you from Googling MCTD too much because it'll freak you out. No, really. It'll freak you out.

My point of bringing this up really has more to do with my heart than it does disclosing this lovely little health issue I now carry around. I could go on and on about my hands swelling, the misery of the steroids I've been on, and the fear involved with the drugs I am taking. I could tell you stories of every person I knowing trying to advise me on what I can or cannot eat now that I have an autoimmune disease.  I could even share some stories about the 3 days I spent in the hospital.

But I won't.

I want to talk more about what it feels like to suddenly become a "sick person." Because that's what's really been tough. (And PLEASE do not in any way think that my flippant comments along the way reflect how I feel about the seriousness for myself or anyone with MUCH scarier diagnoses. It's one of my many coping mechanisms. If I don't laugh, I'll cry.)

Yep. We busted out of the hospital on the 3rd night. 
Imagine going to the doctor with what seems like an upper respiratory issue only to land in the hospital, have scads of blood taken and then get told that you now have condition that you will live with the rest of your life. One that will possibly limit your life expectancy, affect your ability to do many things you've always taken for granted and includes treatment which will leave you feeling really, really unattractive for an indeterminate amount of time. (I know some of you know EXACTLY what I'm talking about.)

That's basically what happened to me in June. Going from having a couple "regular" doctors for aches, pains and yearly exams to having a rheumatologist and pulmonologist who both warned me that I'd hate them for putting me on steroids didn't seem like that much of jump. I thought I'd rebound, kick this stuff in the butt and keep on moving at Charee speed. I planned to show everyone exactly how recovery should look - and maybe schedule a photo shoot at the end when I looked healthy and glamorous. (Ok. Not really. I hate pictures of myself.)

Little did I know that I'd start losing hair, gaining weight and getting the lovely "moon face" that comes with prednisone use. And, more than that, I wasn't prepared for the depression that hit m
e like a ton of bricks. Reading about MCTD, researching treatment, and remembering all the pills and supplements required has become a huge part of my life the last 2 months. It's not really the way anyone wants to spend her summer, but not being able to walk across the room without stopping to rest has given me a lot of time to do those things.

And this was BEFORE the steroids. Not so fancy now.
I've found myself waking at night only to lie awake praying that I'd kick this and get it under control so that I'd live to see my grandchildren. Or worrying that I'd become a huge burden to my family if I do survive all of this. (Because I Googled....DO NOT GOOGLE. It turns even the most rational girl into a defeatist basket case!)

I've sat and wondered if my husband will ever think I'm cute again - because make no mistake, there's nothing cute about my hair, face and pudgy belly. I'm operating purely on the ol' personality these days. Suffice is to say, my personality isn't THAT good! (It just figures that we are celebrating our 20 year wedding anniversary in a few weeks too. Poor guy didn't sign up for THIS!)

I've worried about life insurance policies, healthcare bills and just being able to exercise again. And if you do read about autoimmunity, you know that stress and worry don't help! So, it's been rough. A no good, terrible, wish-it-would-go-away summer for this 40-something crazy girl.

But now... 2 months to the day after I was released from the hospital with 37 pages of information about my disease, I am beginning to see the light. I know what I need to do to work on my health. I know that I have to allow myself to recover slowly and know that this part is a phase. This too shall pass and things will get better. I'm learning that I need to get over myself and just make sure that my "after" picture is a lot better than this "before" one.  And remember that so many people have it worse.

I have found myself appreciating my family more and wanting to spend time doing the things I love instead of laboring over the things I don't love to do. And I'm learning that I can still be the "strong one" without carrying the load all by myself. Through trials and adversity, we do become stronger. And we do grow in ways we didn't know we could grow.

So, that's where I am. I'm growing (and that's not a fat joke...although completely appropriate these days).  Life looks different than I thought it would at this point - but I know that as my treatment continues and we get the disease repressed, it's going to be good. Life will go on - and I will continue to be thankful for it!

Stay tuned as I really do intent to blog more often - and I promise it won't always be to talk about this SUPER exciting health stuff. I'll probably throw in a bunch of stuff about my kids, my animals, my general complaining..... all that stuff you love to read! In the meantime, I'd sure love your prayers.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

One More Thing Before You Go...

Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers." Lord Tennyson

So I read this blog post the other day, and I loved it. It was called "Clean is Sexy and 58 Other Bits of Advice for Sons" - and you can read it HERE if you are so inclined.

As you know if you have read my blog, I acquired my son at a much later time in his life. While I knew him, I'm pretty sure any influence I had over his perceptions and choices didn't really start early enough for all of those 58 things to apply to our relationship. Of course, that didn't stop me from posting to his Facebook wall in hopes that he gleans all the good he can out of it.


It inspired me to think of some things I want my daughters to learn. Because, let's face it, Gracey is a senior and will be moving into a dorm room in a few short months. And Sadie is... well.... 15 going on 30. So a list chock full of advice from their mommy is EXACTLY what they want...ok.. need...

Here it goes:

1. Drunk Girls aren't pretty girls.  (Shout out to Kim and Katie for this one. Your words are so true.)

2. Find your boundaries and set them one step further away - just to be safe. Drinking, kissing, driving... ANYTHING can go too far too fast before you even see it coming. 

3. Boys' egos are fragile. It's ok to be just as good as they are - but don't make a habit of berating a boy or rolling your eyes when he wants to show off. If it would hurt your feelings, it will hurt his (sometimes more). Adjust your gloating and competitive nature accordingly.

4. There is NEVER a good reason to video tape or photograph your private parts. Trust me - that will likely backfire and spread like wildfire. You will go from cute to slutty in a nanosecond. And your mother WILL find out.

5. What you are worth has nothing to do with whether or not you have a boyfriend. However, the company you keep speaks volumes about your character. Choose wisely.

6. Communication really IS key. Trouble with friends - talk to them. Struggling with a class - talk to the professor. Not sure what to do about something - call your mom. TALK IT OUT.

7. Yes, he wants to buy you dinner. This one is from your dad, Gracey. He means it. Don't try to beat the guy to the ticket or always try to pay for your dinner. He WANTS to take you on a date and buy your ticket. Don't take it for granted - but don't take away his opportunity to be the man. (See #3.) You can always buy dessert - or grab him some coffee later.

8. If you put something on and have to ask "does this look skanky", then the answer is yes. Take it off and try again. 

9. Take care of your skin. You can buy drugstore eye shadow and dollar store lipgloss. But for the love of all that is holy, use quality skincare cleanser and moisturizer. You'll thank me when you are 50.

10. Last minute road trip opportunity? Do it. Those are moments memories are made from - and you'll never regret losing some sleep and doing something fun and crazy. (But safe... please make sure it's safe.)

11. When your friends tell you how cool your parents are - or want to come home with you - stop and thank them - both of them. Not everyone has a good support system. Be grateful that you have one and that your friends see it too.

12. That little black dress thing? It's a good rule. Have one on hand - and make sure you have shoes to go with it. In a pinch, it'll get you by.

13. Exercise is worth it. Trust me. You don't want your mother's flabby arms. Just work out.

14. Find your tribe. You will have hundreds of acquaintances and friends along the way. But you will slowly build your tribe of friends you can trust implicitly. They will tell you the truth even when it hurts. And they will climb into the mud to pull you out. Don't ever let them go. 

15. Miles may separate you from those you love, but don't ever let those miles make you feel that you've lost the closeness you shared. Make sure you touch base occasionally. Just a quick "are you good" or "sure do miss you" covers a lot of ground.

16. Study all possible scenarios and choose the path that you believe is good, honest, true and worthwhile. 

17. Forgive yourself. When you make a mistake - even a big one - don't be afraid to tell your mom. Get it off your chest and forgive yourself. It's through the mistakes we make that we learn the most.

18. Learn to follow a recipe. In fact, learn to cook in general. Pre-made and processed food is unhealthy and expensive.

19. You can never purchase or rebuild moral character. Make choices that show you were raised with high moral standards. Don't embarrass us. We worked hard to raise you.

20. Always show up to serve. Invited to a party? Offer to help clean up. Attending an event? Make sure you throw away your trash and that of others around you. Do not walk into any situation expecting to be served. 

21. Please and thank you should be as natural as breathing. You've said both all your life so far. Don't stop now.

22. Your parents are the only people who will remember you as a baby. When they are gone, a large part of your childhood is gone too. Start listening to our stories and making notes. They matter - a lot.

23. Siblings offer the most unique relationship there is. Cherish those relationships and work to keep them. It might not work - and you might part ways - but don't let it be because of YOU. Love each other because they are the only people on the planet you can hit and get away with it.

24. Learn to shoot a gun, drive a stick shift and use a hammer. You'll find that you need all three at some point. (Yes, I know. You both already know how to shoot. Work on the other two.)

25. ALWAYS answer your mother's and father's texts or phone calls. If you don't think you need to, then don't expect them to answer yours.

26. Do not get a tattoo before you are at least 25 - if at all. That weird symbol that seems cool will NOT seem cool 5 years from now. Just wait. (And no, your father still won't approve if you get one. Remember, he hates body ink.)

27. Under no circumstance should you change for a man. Be true to yourself. Unless he's just telling you that those shoes don't match that dress, you have zero reason to alter yourself to please him. If you do make a change "for" him, make sure it's because you wanted to.

28. Be a lady. Cross your legs, wear perfume, use lotion and buy good bras. It's ok to be cute and smell good. It's ok to be feminine. Don't let this big equality movement tell you that it's not.

29. Speaking of bras - wear a bra that gives you great support and the least amount of back fat. Those crappy lace things that cost $100 and cover half a nipple are NOT going to make you look nicer in clothing. Save those for your wedding night.

30. Have at least one good guy friend - and don't ever date him. Love him and support him - and do your best to love his wife too. He will give you perspective when you need it and will always treat you as an equal. You'll find his counsel invaluable when you get into the workforce and when you fall in love. 

31. Always carry some emergency cash. Keep a $100 bill on you at all times - and only use it when you have no other option. It's enough to pay for a hotel room, a few meals, or a couple tanks of gas. And ALWAYS replace it if you spend it.

32. Be the friend you want someone else to be. You won't always agree with your best friend about her choices, but you can support her and love her nonetheless. Don't get judge-y. 

33. If any part of an activity could involve a walk of shame - DO NOT DO IT. Don't sleep with a boy because you think you have to or because you think it will make him lif]ke you better. Or.. welll.. see #1. That should be saved for someone that matters. No every boy matters. In fact, most won't. 

34. Watch and read the news. Smart girls are sexy and savvy. Nothing will impress others quite like intelligent conversation. (Especially your future mother in law. Trust me. Show you have a brain.)

35. When you fall in love, make sure he is "the one" by taking into account the whole package. Use your head, listen to your family, and follow your heart. In that order.

36. Stay humble. Don't brag. Your success will shine through without a single word out of your mouth.

37. Be authentic. What is that Dr. Seuss saying, "I meant what I said and said what I meant?" Do that. It won't always make you the most popular one in the room, but it will make you the most trustworthy.

38. Write thank you notes - or texts. Always thank others for making an effort either for you or with you. Even if it's your worst enemy holding the door for you, show gratitude. 

39. Don't quit your job until you have another one ready to go. No matter how bad you think you hate it, always have the next gig on the line. Unemployed people have a hard time becoming employed. Crazy but true.

40. Save money. It's hard and it's not as fun as those cool shoes or that ice cream. But you'll be thankful someday that you didn't spend it.

41. When someone says "I need a favor," you ask "how can I help?" because sometimes you'll be the one needing the favor and know what a gift is it to receive.

42. Always attend wedding showers and baby showers. Hostess when possible. Your friends will always remember it. And it will always matter to them.

43. Life is hard. Everyone has bad days. Don't walk around complaining about yours or keeping a scowl on your face. Smile and laugh your way through it. Trust me - someone, somewhere is worse off than you.

44. I'm sorry goes a really long way. Not "I'm sorry, but". Just "I'm sorry." And don't just say it. Prove it with every action afterwards.

45. Use your study time wisely and strive for good grades. We know "C's get degrees" - but they don't get you scholarships. And F's don't get you anything. So be good stewards of your parents' money and study.

46. Do your laundry at least weekly - and fold it. Nothing is more daunting than a few weeks' worth of laundry when you'd rather be doing something fun.

47. Take naps and don't apologize for it. Sleep doesn't solve your problems but you certainly wake with a new perspective. Life is busy. Don't feel guilty for stopping and resting.

48. Music will provide the backdrop for the next few years. Keep playing that guitar, singing those songs and dancing in the car. Someday all your memories will flood back when you hear a tune on the oldies stations.

49. Keep loving Jesus. You won't make it to church every Sunday - and you won't always read the Bible like you should. But pray every night - and remember who you are. You are a child of God. And your faith will get you through ANYTHING.

50. Stay classy. At all costs, stay classy.