Wednesday, August 24, 2011

{Annmarie investigating the function of the epiglottis on the internet.}

My six-year-old is stubborn and inquisitive. She constantly bombards me with questions and doesn't stop until she gets a satisfying answer. When I'm feeling less patient, I tell her the answer to Life the Universe and Everything is forty-two and send her out to play.

But the questions persist.

I realize part of that is her age and part of it is imbedded in her DNA. When I was six (and twelve and twenty-eight) I wanted to know everything. My mother got so weary of the constant inquisition she bought me a set of world book encyclopedias. I read them cover to cover, earmarked my favorite parts and read them again. I even tried to pack the entire set off with me to college but they fell apart.

I've never outgrown that need for knowledge and doubt my daughter will either. I still want to know everything about everything. So I understand her deep hunger. She doesn't just want to know. She needs to know and can't be satisfied until she has an answer.

Lately, her obsession is human physiology. She want's to know how every system in the body works. Here are a few examples of her recent questions:

"Where's the esophogus and what does it do?"
"Do my kidney's only process drinks or soup too?"
"If my liver is a giant filter what happens to all the bad stuff it separates?"

Thank you Professor Gardner for forced memorization. Had you not forced me to peer inside a human cadaver my sophomore year in college I would have never been able to tell my daughter that the liver is basically a giant coffee filter.

Google helps with the answers I don't remember but it's just not the same as those old encyclopedias. There's just something powerful about holding the answer in your fingertips. We recently purchased a DK How it works book on the human body. It's the size of a coffee table. You should see Annmarie pack it around.

Anyway, while my little one was mulling through Circulation and Digestion. I'd been asking a few questions myself.

One of my physicians suggested cutting things out of my life to help me recover. So I'd been asking myself what can go. I love so many things. Right now I can't do them all. So I'd been trying to do a little selective amputation. What do I give up? Teaching? Writing? Cooking? Yoga?

They all bring me joy. So how do I choose which one to let go?

I'd been wrestling with this subject for a while and didn't feel like I was getting a satisfactory answer. In walked Annmarie with that giant book of the human body under her arm. I could see a question burning in her brain and I was so, so tempted to give her my standard Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy answer but she looked deeply troubled. I dropped onto my knees, so I could look her in the eye, and asked. "How can I help you my dear?"

She wrapped her fingers firmly around the book's binding. "There are so many parts of the body. And they all do important things, but which one is the MOST Important?"

I sat on my feet and pondered the question. Was it the heart? Brain? Lungs? Kidneys?

"They're all important?" I said. "You can't live without any of them. If you take one system away the whole body suffers."

I understand this concept because ONE SYSTEM in my body is out of order and it's impacting ALL of them. Each system of the body supports the others. They are all unique and important.

Well, isn't cutting pieces of my life away akin to cutting out organs? Yes, there are foreign cancers that invade and must be removed to preserve the whole. And sometimes there needs to be surgical adjustments to help organs better function. But how can I choose to eliminate entire parts of myself? They are all parts of my whole.

I don't think my physician meant for me to cut out parts of my life that nourish me. I think he meant that I cut out things that erode, cancerous burdens that seem urgent but are ultimately not important. Like the laundry! Or the ringing telephone! But instead I have tried to amputate parts of myself.

I gave up writing because I thought it was an all or nothing deal. Then I did the same thing with teaching. I've compartmentalized my life, cutting it into segments to make myself well. But these amputations have negatively impacted my health.

Writing pumps my heart and teaching fills my lungs. Gardening, yoga, music, and painting all serve a function. I cannot live my life without them. They are all necessary parts of my whole.

Monday, August 22, 2011

{Down but not out.}

Dear Blog,

Life is not easy. And lately I've been a little testy. You see I had the opportunity to talk to an amazing woman who has had health issues similar to my own. She is a gorgeous wife, mother of eight and grandmother to dozens. She has an amazing attitude and carries herself with spunk and sparkle. As we talked I flooded her with questions which spilled so fast I don't know how she grabbed any of them. But she caught hold of one I've been desperate to have answered.

"What can I do to feel better?"

 She smiled softly and said, "Take care of yourself. Carve out time just for you."

I got a little weepy at the simplicity of that statement and added it to my healing list: Eat bushels of fruits and vegetables, consume my daily allowance of fiber, exercise daily--even if it's just a little light yoga or a ten minute walk. Don't drink alcohol, soft drinks or smoke cigarettes. Cut out all processed sugars. Open myself to guided meditation, eastern medicine and purified water. And live with a rock solid positive attitude, chew on platitudes with breakfast.

But before I could fully process "me time" into my daily regime she added,

"But I can't say you will every fully recover. There will always be physical struggles."

If she hadn't revealed this statement with such kindness I would have thought she kicked me in the stomach. Because I've believed/hoped/prayed a healthy diet and attitude are enough to shrink a tumor and heal a soul. And that snippet of truth is one bitter pill to swallow.

I'd thought I'd been handling things really well. In truth? I've been mired in denial. Things aren't that much better. I have seen improvement. But damn it. I'm only 37, I'm not ready to feel so old. And I am MAD! I'm so angry I want to throw dishes at the walls. I DON'T WANT TO HAVE PHYSICAL STRUGGLES! Sometimes there's so much anger inside me the worlds not big enough to contain my epic tantrum!

But . . .

I really like my dishes and don't want to repaint the walls. And I live with the most patient man in the world. Who tells me it's alright to be angry. Which sort of takes the hissy wind out of my sails. Then I cry and he holds my hand, even though I am sure he wants to throw a couple dishes himself.

He leaves me alone and I pray which lately is really not much more than the muttered word help. Then the tears subside and I find peace and I pray for others like me, who might be hurt, angry and scared. Because the greatest lesson I've learned this summer is that prayers are more powerful when they are performed on the behalf of someone else. I've witnessed miracles for others. And I've received some too. Maybe I will always have physical struggles, maybe I won't. But I know my good days are a gift from a prayer performed by another. And I'm grateful. Thank you. I'm praying for you too.



Friday, August 5, 2011

                                                                                                                                                                         {copyright Jason Stevens}

I believe happiness is a choice. We may not always be able to change our circumstances but we have total control over how we react to it. Sometimes it's easy to let life's ups and downs dictate how we feel. Similar to how easy it is to let the weather affect our mood. I can't control the weather. But I can control my mood.

I can't always control how my body feels. But I can control how I choose to deal with it. I can choose to feel sorry for myself and wish things were how they used to be or I can focus on how I manage today.

Recently,  I let myself have a grand pity party. There were big sloppy tears, teeth gnashing, more tears. All I wanted was to go back to how things used to be. I wanted my old life back and I knew there is no going back. No matter how this chapter in my life ends, life will never be exactly like it was before. I've grown too much, I've learned too much to see my life through an old lens.

There is no going back. I can only move forward, accept the things I cannot change and create my own internal weather.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

{Em on a climbing trip}

My oldest daughter is at a girls camp this week. I miss her. It's the first time in five years I haven't been at the same camp as a volunteer. Wow life turns on a dime, doesn't it? 

But the good news is that I get to spend the week uninterrupted with this kid. 

Which means we will probably be doing a lot of this: 

{She's got an obsession with shoes}

Look at those cheeks! I die over those cheeks. And those toes. Baby feet are one of my top ten favorite things.  I'm not kidding. They made the short list. And that chin is way up there too. I used to bury my face in the folds under that chin and smell that sweet baby goodness. And those chubby fingers. Argh. Stop me now before I get her out of bed just to nuzzle her ears. I'm mad crazy for my offspring. The end. 


So sorry I haven't posted in a while. I've been under the weather. If you've contacted me recently and have not heard back don't take it personally. I'm working on getting better and it's practically a full time job. 

Love you all. Thanks for sticking around. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Happy Summer!

We found a surprise in our brooder boxes this weekend! We were so excited by the first egg we had a mini-celebration. Farm fresh eggs are the best.

And then we had a lovely fourth with great friends. It was a blast! Kim over at Going Gordon posted a great slide show of the festivities.

Wow, I wrote this post while my kids were watching Enchanted. Can you tell?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

{My petunias after the microburst}

Last night a microburst ripped through our cul-de-sac. It took about a minute-and-a-half for the finger of God to tear a hole in our street. The entire neighborhood converged to survey the damage. There were some broken tree limbs, missing lawn ornaments and a few loose shingles. My neighbor's trampoline ended up wrapped around a flagpole. It could have been so much worse, at least everybody was okay.

We were all grateful but sad for the neighbor girls. The trampoline is their most favorite possession in the entire world. They practically live on it. And even though it is just a trampoline, they've had some struggles this spring and a ruined tramp' felt like the last straw on the camel's back.

Sometimes I wonder why we assume we have any control in this world at all. Life can change so fast. As cheesy at it may sound, life is a lot like being on a trampoline. One second you're up, the next you're down and then you're spiraling through the air in a cyclone.

But as devastating as yesterday may have seemed. It was filled with small miracles. A secret angel slipped over to the neighbor's house and with some spare parts and springs from another airborne casualty he made it all better. I heart secret angels!

Tonight the air smells of the rain soaked desert, crisp with sage and russian olives, which is the best fragrance in the entire world! As I clear the dead fall out of my flowerbeds. I find another small miracle: blossoms on my mock orange. I planted the shrub six years ago. Not once has it ever bloomed. But tonight it's bursting, bringing new sweetness to the summer cocktail.

The Norse God and I have adopted a saying, "not all days will be like today." It's meant for the hard days when we don't think we can take anymore to remind us that the pain won't last forever. But it works on the good days too. Life brings microbursts and flowers, sometimes in the same storm. Take it all in. You never know how long it's all going to last.

I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow. I'm still learning to be okay with this part of it. Here's hoping for less rain and more flowers.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Life is good here's why:

Em spilled water on my keyboard, the left shift key died. If anybody know's a quick/inexpensive fix please share.


k (<---see no shifting, RIP, sniff.)

p.s. The song is by The Rouge. They are amazing live and they are still up and coming so if you like, show the love.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

{Annmarie eating her burger.}

Today I spoke to a Girl's Camp from Lehi. I committed to the event a million years ago then forgot about it. I was afraid I wouldn't have the same public speaking skills. Sometimes I can't find the right words. I did alright, though it fried my brain. 

I took Em with me and we laughed all the way home. Hard. It was awesome. I always knew I would love my kids but I didn't know I would like them so much. As people they really do rock the world.

By the time we drove into town I'd crossed the line from tired to punchy. Which is always a great time to have an ice cream and burger with the in-laws. (Insert my big embarrassed grin here.)

The pistachio cream pie milkshake was too die for. I might dream about it later. Piles of pistachio ice cream, nuts, fat cookie crust chunks. Need I say more? 

Monday, June 20, 2011

 My father-in-law said, "Don't wait for a better day. Live your life. Doing will make it better." 

He's right. Don't wait. Make today good. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

{Me in my Ragnar Team Shirt 2009- I can't help thinking of my teammates today.}

Good Luck to all of my friends running this today. I've blogged about my own experiences running this race in Vegas and The Wasatch Back. Who knows, maybe I can be back at it next year. 

I had to have more blood drawn today. It got a little sporty. It's getting harder for the techs to find a vein willing to cooperate. They've been poked a lot lately. All the veins in the crook of my arms no longer cooperate. They roll, jump or let the needles pass all the way through. Little stinkers!

Mercifully, after an hour of experimenting with different veins, tourniquets and needle positions, a nurse came in on her day off just for me. Using a pediatric needle and syringe, she found a decent vein in a weird place on my hand then manually filled the vials. Like I said, a little sporty but manageable. She filled a little more than half a vial before the blood stopped flowing. We were hoping for three. But that should  be enough for the tests. If not I'll have to go back on Monday.

I'm pretty used to the drill. It usually takes at least one miss before a tech can find a good vein. Today almost pushed my limit, almost.

But enough about blood and needles. I've got awesome news!

The big fat silver lining to the blood draw today is that my Doctor only order three vials! That means my hormones have leveled out and we have narrowed down the culprit that's making me sick. Guess what? It's the same old one. The Thyroid. My stinky thyroid does not play nice with the others. It always thinks it needs to show everybody else up but sending out way too many hormones then throwing a tantrum and not sending any out at all.

Which a relief for two reasons:

It's an organ fairly easy to regulate and that means my tumor isn't secreting anything else.

This is very good news. Secreting tumors are almost always benign but they can cause a lot of health issues by throwing off the delicate balance in the body. And when the hormones are out of whack, yikes, you get all kinds of weird symptoms. Maybe I'll share some of the yuckier ones with you but not today.

So for now my tumor is just hanging out, enjoying the scenery. Hopefully once I get my cheeky thyroid reigned in I should feel great!

Okay, "great" is my word. My Doc prefers "better". But he doesn't really get that I'm an overachiever. I'm shooting for  "fantastic", "stupendous", "better than ever". I've got races to run, classes to teach and a million creative projects simmering on the back burner. Believe me, all this laying around has given me one HUGE back burner.

But that is a post for another day.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Em got a bike for her birthday. Isn't it cute? She was so excited she screamed and clapped, and jumped up and down. Then I got all chocked up because I'm getting soft like that. Don't you remember your bike? The one you loved? The one with streamers and a basket or big fat tires you could take over jumps? 

Mine came from a garage sale. My mom painted it lavender then stayed up for two nights while I slept detailing it with little white and yellow daisies. She even painted my name on the chain guard. I thought it was the most gorgeous bike I had ever seen. I rode that bike until the vinyl peeled off the banana seat. 

I love the color of Em's bike, mint green, like the ice cream. She's cool like that. One bowl is never enough. This bike says so much about her personality: classic, intelligent, talented, mature but fun, well-read (okay, maybe it doesn't say well read but she is and this is my metaphor so just go with it). 

The best part about the girl on this bike is that she my daughter she is one of the coolest people I know. (And I know a lot of very cool people.)

Happy New Bike Day Em!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

{N. clowning around.}

Today I had big plans. Mornings are so promising and chock full of possibilities. Think about it, anything is possible first thing in the morning. I'm a sucker for mornings. Mostly because I feel indestructible before ten-fifteen. Well, not indestructible exactly. I'm usually pretty thirsty. An unquenchable thirst is standard for me nowadays and it's the WORST when I first wake up. So I drink (chug) about a gallon of water and wait for my body to absorb my daily dose of hormones. Then I pee for about an hour.

Okay, I'm getting distracted. Where was I?

Oh yes, I had big plans to paint a checkerboard pattern on the floor of the playhouse in white and green. I'm super-psyched about it. I've only been planning to do it for the past three months. It's going to be stinkin' cute. Since I haven't felt so saucy the paint's been sitting in the garage, settling into layers like Native American sand art.

But this morning I felt great. I dusted off the paint cans, walked outside, armed with a chalk line and enough painter's tape to checkerboard a parking lot, and bent down to find the center of the floor. Then I nearly passed out. Standing only made it worse. So I staggered back into the house and called it a day at 10:30 a.m. SWEET!

On the up side, N. entertained me. He cracks me up. I'm not kidding. He's hilarious, like pee-your-pants funny. And I mean for a normal person who doesn't drink two gallons of water daily.

Then I tried to sleep while my younglings fought.

Don't I look dewy and peaceful? I heart photoshop!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Coming to terms with reality

A few weeks ago I was trying to fuel my car when my cell phone rang. It was the Friday before Memorial day at around 4:30 p.m. You can imagine how packed it was at the pumps. Visualize vehicles everywhere, SUVs' with boats, minivans and trailers, compact cars loaded to the ceiling with luggage and pillows. And right in the middle of it was my car blocking two fuel pumps while I talked on the phone. 

You should have seen the venom launched at me, not to mention the hand gestures. I don't blame them. I've probably glared at a women or two for acting like a bone fide idiot on her phone. But I couldn't move. I was locked in a stupor by the news spilling out of the receiver. 

Inoperable what? Sitting where? 

Someone honked behind me and with very shaky hands I shifted my car out of park and pulled away from the pumps and into a sorry parking space between a bread truck and a minivan. I tried to make sense of the words, "inoperable brain tumor sitting against my hypothalamus". What does that even mean?

Of course, I knew the anatomy. I'd prepared myself for every medical possibility of what could be leading to my steady mental and physical decline. But a brain tumor was the Big One, the impossible possibility, the most unlikely reason I'd lost so much of my life and abilities over the past two years. 

I mean, come on, a brain tumor? Really? That's the stupid go-to-plot device for killing characters on T.V. It's not something that happens to real people. Not really. 

Sitting there in my car on the side of the road I tried to make the words sink in and feel something. But I couldn't. For the first time in six years this thing that had slowly chipped away at my life, friendships, career, hobbies, writing and family had a name. Holy Crap! It had an image on a screen. I could actually see the parasitic thing that dogged me, drowning me with doubt, feelings of failure and confusion. 

I have a tumor. I am NOT going crazy. 

For about three days I was freakishly calm. In fact, I was such a pillar of strength I even impressed myself.  I comforted my husband, parents, siblings and closest friends with my seasoned wisdom of what a brain tumor had done for me. "It's such a blessing," "I wouldn't trade it for anything in this world." "It has taught me so much about love, and mercy, and humility." And I meant it. 

But when side effects from the meds sucker punched me and I was reduced to a ball of tears on the floor, I didn't feel like a big hero. The tumor wasn't a novelty anymore and I was ready to get off the roller coaster. 

This is where reality is starting set in for me. There isn't a cure. I have a tumor sitting between my pituitary gland and my hypothalamus. It's most likely benign and I've probably had it for years. And though there are many medications I can take for the symptoms, because it's using my hypothalamus as a lounge chair it's inoperable and I've got to learn to make friends with it. 'Cause it ain't going anywhere. 

Some days I'm okay with that and some days I'm not. But I am deeply relieved to at least see the challenge I'm facing. My husband asked me why I wanted to blog about this. He comes from stoic Vikings who suffer silently. That's part of the reason I love him. Wink! 

I'm not a Viking. I've stumbled a lot over the past few years and feel like I've lost some parts of a very full life but I believe there is still an entire life for me to live and I intend to seize it. 

I just don't feel like doing it alone.