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Managing my Freak-Out

4 Apr


Given all I have to do, sitting here writing a blog post seems stupid. But writing calms me, and I need to spend at least a couple of hours editing this morning, so I’m writing to try to reach my happy place. Right now, that’s a stretch, but if I can reach my “not running away screaming” place, I’ll have accomplished something!

We just got back from 5 nights in the Bahamas. Not a vacation, so I’m not feeling that wonderful relaxed feeling you get from days on a beach with a few frozen adult beverages to cool you off. We did spend 2 nights in Nassau, but at the first hotel there were two HUGE groups of spring breakers, and at the second hotel, a HUGE group of Orthodox Jews with their families. The latter was not much more unruly than the first, sadly – at least their kids. And the adults are rude. I kept thinking, “You’re representing GOD here! You are all wearing yarmulkes and carrying around your Torah and keeping kosher, and then ruining your witness of Yahweh by your behavior!” It was sad. And not relaxing. We did accomplish what we needed to in Andros, which is a story for another blog.

So now I’m home. I made a to-do list, just for the house stuff, on the plane, and it was more than 1 page. I have 8 days to get this house ready to go on the market, and I’m really panicked about it. We’re having a moving sale Saturday, too. I hate yard sales – you say it starts at 8am, and people show up at 6am when you haven’t even had your coffee. They haggle over a dollar. You have to get it all spread out, try to price things… It’s just a pain. Usually I donate everything to Goodwill instead, but we have SO much stuff that this seemed like a better idea. At the time. Right now it seems like a terrible idea, but I have an ad in the paper, so we’ll be doing it.

The house. Is a wreck. Despite all the work I’ve already done, it’s still a long way from ready. We still have some work being done. We’re still trying to live life. We still have a dog who sheds black hair everywhere, and a cat who leaves half her coat behind when she gets off of a chair. I now know the reason we’ve never lived in a house we were trying to sell. It’s impossible!!!

Okay, I feel better now. Sort of. Thanks for your patience. You can go back to your previously scheduled program.

Of kids and hospital stays

29 Jan

I’ve now had both my kids end up in the hospital for multiple-day stays. I can’t say I recommend the experience! We just got home an hour or so ago from the latest saga, my daughter and a seriously wicked norovirus, which led to a 2 night stay, tons of IV fluids, and jello. Well, she doesn’t like jello, so she skipped that. But the rest of the tray was pretty similar to jello, so not very great.

While I was concerned for her and upset at what she was having to go through, I was never afraid for her life. As long as she wasn’t dehydrated and her electrolytes were kept stable, she wasn’t really in any danger, however miserable. Plus we were in the United States, where we have unlimited access to meds, wonderful medical technology, cable in both the ER room and the private room, linens and good food. (Okay, good is a stretch, but the cafeteria wasn’t bad and had a fresh salad bar.) I don’t have a bill, but I’m guessing these 3 days probably cost about $7,000, especially since they did a CT scan to rule out appendicitis.

My son was in the hospital for 4 nights in Uganda about a year and a half ago. We didn’t know at the time that he has asthma, and he fell very ill to pneumonia in about a day. (This was his 5th trip to Uganda and he’d never been sick before!). By the time he was admitted to the ER there, which was on the first day he even felt bad, his oxygen saturation level was 82%. I was in a village about 2 1/2 hrs away and had to arrange for a driver to take me back to Kampala, pay a bribe to a police woman, and only have contact by text message with my friend who’d taken him to IHK. When they got him there, his fingernails and lips were blue (which they hadn’t been able to see at home because they hadn’t had electricity at the house).

My son's room at International Hospital Kampala

My son’s room at International Hospital Kampala

That time, I was scared. Really scared, actually. Throwing up is bad, but oxygen is pretty vital, and he wasn’t getting it. Plus we were in Uganda. Okay, IHK is the best hospital in the country, founded by an Irish doctor who is now in Parliament, and well run. Everything was opened from sterile packs, we had sheets, we paid for a private room that had a bed for me, we had mosquito nets, and everyone was really nice. But the nursing staff was woefully undertrained. The way they do IV medication is to put a shunt in and manually push the medicine through (collapsing my son’s veins every time). They did an arterial blood gasses draw (very painful) and then someone unplugged the fridge so they lost it. They had one nebulizer for the whole hospital and didn’t start using it for 2 days. The tv only got two, very bad Ugandan stations.

My son got better, and the whole experience only cost me 750,000 shillings, which is about $300. When we needed more meds because Delta wouldn’t change our ticket to come back in time to get to our doctor here before the weekend, we just went back to the hospital, met with the doctor, and got another week’s worth for 60,000 shillings, or $23. Everyone was very nice, and they had ice cream at the cafeteria, which is all he ate (food was included for him, which is very unusual in Uganda — usually you have to bring your own food and linens — but beans and rice with chapati isn’t really what you want when you’re really sick!). The main inconvenience was having to go to the finance office every day to pay for that day’s services, and not having towels (my friend brought some to us). But it was frightening and gave me a huge appreciation for our medical system. And I have to give a shout-out to American Express, who was ready to evacuate us to either India or Nairobi if he needed more extensive care — they had a doctor monitoring his case, calling IHK and talking to our young British doctor, and calling me several times a day for updates.

Being in the hospital for days at a time, even when you’re not the patient, is extremely exhausting. (Note to anyone who has to stay with a child or loved one – EAR PLUGS!!) I stayed with my daughter the whole time, even though she’s twenty, because there’s not much worse than being in the hospital alone. Plus the patient really needs someone who can advocate for them. Nurses are great, but they’re really busy, and if you don’t have an emergency sometimes you get lost in the shuffle.

Plus, it’s what moms do… She may be getting married in a few months, but she’s still my little girl. I wouldn’t have been anywhere else!

Happy New Year – and good riddance to 2012!

30 Dec


I won’t bore you with another recap of 2012 – let’s just say that I am overjoyed to close the door on the year and have a fresh start. Of course, that must come with a brief caveat, which is that there were a lot of great things in 2012 (writing, publishing, travel, Uganda, my daughter’s engagement, among others) and I am grateful for all those things, and see God’s faithfulness in them. But physically it was awful. It was the terrible, awful, no good, very bad year. But now it’s almost over – the end is in sight! Whoopeeeeee!

So what does 2013 hold? At least, as far as depends on me? For my writing/publishing goals, you can check out my writing blog here. There’s a lot more to life than writing, and the writing goals also dictate certain things about my life — you know, the interconnected, circle of life, uh-oh I’d better get a schedule kind of thing. So here goes. I’m going out on a limb and putting my hopes, dreams and goals for 2013 out on the internet for all to see. Nothing like a little pressure to keep you on track!

First and foremost, I want/need to get some control of my body back. I’ve come up with a schedule for my days that should allow me to get to the gym 4-6 days a week, even if I end up with a migraine that day (80% or more of my migraines start in the afternoon, so a morning workout should work most of the time). I’ve always been strong, even when I’ve been less than ideally fit, but I’ve lost a lot of strength along with fitness this year, and I want to reverse that. I’ve actually been working on this already, but I’m going to keep going in 2013, and not let any setbacks do more than be a blip on the radar.

Secondly is eating. I eat healthfully… Except when I don’t. I love potatoes. I crave potatoes in all the salty, fried, delicious forms. I know where the best french fries in town are (Coquette), and where the best french fries in towns I don’t even live in are!  And when I’m feeling physically weak, I eat way too much sugar without realizing it – my body is saying “give me energy!” and so I reach for the red hots. So… Back to the free day concept. Free days work really well for me; I did it for years in the past. So I’m going back to that, which keeps me from feeling deprived, but also keeps my body fueled properly and healthfully.

I am also using My Fitness Pal, an iPhone app and online free site, to track calories and exercise. When you’re 47, your body just doesn’t respond to these things like it did at 35, so this keeps me on track. Since my daughter is on it too, we’re “friends” and can see each other’s workouts and how we did with each day’s eating. It’s easy to use, free, and motivational, and helps keep me on track.

Next, as I’ve said on my writing blog, I’ve decided to trick my brain by treating my writing and publishing like a “real” job. Meaning a job I’d go to somewhere outside of my home, and so have to organize my life around it. I have made 2 different schedules which should accommodate everything I want to get done during the week and still allow for some flexibility and for the gym. I’ve moved my drafting table from the sunroom to my office and set it up like a desk. I’m going to make a sign for my door, and I’m letting my calls go to voicemail. After having homeschooled and been self-employed for so long, I need, and my family needs, to see physical barriers and delineations of “home” and “work”. So far, everyone’s on board. I don’t start until the 2nd, though, so we’ll see how it goes!

While it doesn’t seem like a big deal, I’m going to go to the grocery only once or twice a week. Currently I go almost every day. Seriously. Somehow, with only three of us most of the time, I’ve let any sort of planning go by the wayside, and we have 2 groceries within a mile of the house, plus Costco, so it hasn’t seemed like a big deal. But I’m sure I spend more money, and even a quick trip is a half hour by the time I drive, park, shop, load, and unload. And I have the added benefit now of my son working at Harris Teeter, so if we need something, he can get it after work!

Mostly that’s it. Anything else would just be an expansion of these themes, and I know I’ll have to tweak things at first. I am leaving for Uganda on February 15, so I have a built-in “six week trial” to see how it’s all going. Plus, that’s long enough to build some habits that I can jump right back into once I’m home.

How about you? Resolutions? Goals? Let me know – we’ll try to keep each other on track!

Returning to health and fitness – here I go

8 Oct

If you’ve been reading this blog (as sporadic as I’ve been at posting!) you know that 2012 was a seriously crappy year for me healthwise. Here’s the breakdown:

  • January  –  started 2 months of physical therapy for plantar fasciitis. At this point I could wear sneakers. The longest I could wear anything else is 2 hrs.
  • February  –  diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia. Leading up to this was 2 years of chronic sinus infections and bronchitis, and crippling exhaustion.
  • March  –  increasing migraines. I went from 3 a year to 2-3 a month at first. By July I was having 20 a month.
  • April  –  finally have some energy, and iron levels good.
  • May  –  great trip to Uganda, but one of the worst migraines of my life.
  • June  – migraines increasing. Otherwise doing ok.
  • July  –  tested positive on a blood test for celiac disease. Can’t do a biopsy until August.  Also in July, I saw a neurologist and got meds for the migraines. Hallelujah.
  • August  –  have the endoscopic biopsy for celiac. 10 day wait to find out I don’t have it. Same day, I find out I have a “monster” cataract.
  • September  –  have cataract surgery. I can’t read for a week, they think I might have a retinal tear (I don’t) and it takes awhile for my eye to adjust.

Now, in light of this list, you might think it’s stupid for me to assume that this cataract saga is my last 2012 health issue. And you might be right, but I’m an optimist. I’m also just tired of the whole thing, so I’m going with the “I’m done with all that crap” approach to my life at this point. Fall is here. I can wear boots. I’ve been enjoying my gas stove for the first time today. Call me crazy, but I’m moving forward.

So what I discovered today is that this year has left me woefully out of shape. I knew it. I felt it. I’ve felt uncomfortable in my skin for some time, not because I’m “fat” but because I knew I was losing muscle and gaining fat, even while staying about the same size. I’m now cleared for exercise (2 weeks post op and things are going pretty well, thankfully!), so today was the day. Today, I started my “get back in shape” quest. And boy, was it depressing.

Not that long ago (2 1/2 years) I did Insanity. It sucked, but I did it. I’ve always been strong. Today I did the “Intro” workout on a Bob Harper workout DVD and learned a new fact: I’m really not very strong anymore. I’ve done the 1 hour workout on this DVD before, a couple of years ago. The whole one hour. It was hard, and I didn’t do every rep, but I did it. Today, the 20 min workout using 5lb weights was hard. No lie. I couldn’t do all the reps. 90%, but not all. And my heart was beating hard, and I was sweating. Not good.

Obviously, looking at the stupid list of ailments from the year of 2012, none of them were anything I could have prevented. (I eat an iron rich diet, I just don’t absorb it well – my kids have the same problem, we learned.) I haven’t sat around eating bon bons all the time. My calorie count was down from usual because I knew I was being sedentary, both because of the ailments and because I’ve spent this year writing. So I’m not mad at myself like I would be if I just “let myself go.”  That is not to say that I’m happy!

I’ve got a long row to hoe here. It’s going to suck, because, unlike the only other time in my adult life I was really out of shape (post baby, bed rest, etc), I’m not 31. I’m 47. I’m perimenopausal. My hormones are screwed up, my metabolism is in flux, and the things that always worked before aren’t going to work the same now as they used to. I’m in “mid life” now, and whether or not I feel it emotionally/mentally, it’s a reality in my body. I don’t want to look like the Crossfit competitors on Pinterest, I just want to feel well. I want to be strong enough to go to Uganda and get through long days of working and stress and not die. I want to enjoy my family and not have any physical complaints (wow, would that be awesome! Probably for everyone… It’s been a year of complaints, I guess.)

So this isn’t about “I’m going to be a fitness model in 90 days.” It’s not about jumping into P90X or Insanity or any other intense program. I’m going to work my way back to fitness with DVDs and walking, probably some gym time as it gets cold (I don’t like the gym much, I like “real” stuff). I’m tracking calories for a little while until I get my metabolism jump started (my daughter found a great app called MyFitnessPal, and I’m using that). I’m not obsessing (although if I can’t walk down the stairs in the morning, I may have a moment of magic words). I’m just trying to put the “year of ailments” behind me and embrace the other theme of 2012 – the year of God’s faithfulness.

Because ultimately, that’s what it’s been. Through all that crap (I tried to think of another word, but honestly, the others were worse!), I’ve written 4 novels and a screenplay, published 2 with another a week or so away, and will be doing NaNoWriMo next month. I’ve edited 4 books. I’ve had a hugely successful trip to Uganda. I’ve had great family memories. God has carried me through all these problems with, really, only about 3 short freak-outs. I think that’s pretty good! He is faithful. Always. And that will be my memory of 2012… God is faithful, always.

What will be the legacy of your 2012?


“It all falls apart at 40”

21 Sep

I went to TJ Maxx a couple of days ago and overheard two women talking. The younger one was looking at a form fitting dress, and the older said she should get it. The younger woman said, “Well, I’ve had plantar fasciitis and can’t run — I’m trying to get clothes that hide my body, not show it off.”

The older woman said, “Yeah, it all falls apart at 40.”

This is a pretty common mantra, even these days with the “40 is the new 30” math. Things just seem to happen to our bodies that we can’t control, even when we’re doing the things we can control like eating healthy and exercising. Honestly, it’s pretty crappy as universal truths go.

My grandmother will be 99 in two and a half months. I have almost never heard her complain about her body, ever. I grew up in the same town as my grandparents, traveled with them extensively throughout my childhood and teens, and she’s stayed at my house in recent years for a month at a time. suffice it to say, I’ve spent a lot of time with this lady. And I can probably count on my hands the number of times I’ve heard her complain about her physical condition, even when she was going through radiation for salivary gland cancer, after a car accident (she wasn’t driving) where her back kept spasming, when she broke her shoulder years ago.

I asked her a year or two ago how menopause was for her, and she was genuinely confused for a minute. She didn’t remember, she said. Didn’t remember? I can only assume that’s because it wasn’t the terrible, awful, no good, very bad thing it is made out to be these days. I can’t see her drinking barley green shakes or taking whatever Chinese herb is the latest cure, nor using hormone replacement therapy, at any rate. She probably barely brought it up to her doctor!

My grandmother has had remarkable health and longevity, but she still has high blood pressure, has had a blood clot, has been widowed, has lost most of her friends, has had cancer and broken bones and all sorts of regular human ailments. What she hasn’t had is our modern culture’s obsession with her body. She has always dressed to the nines – if she’s in jeans and flats and a casual shirt and we decide to go to lunch, she has to change. She wore high heels until she was 90. She wears makeup, and goes to the beauty parlor once a week to have her hair done. She loves jewelry. But she is now, and has always been in my memory, content with herself.

What I mean by that is, she’s known how to age gracefully. This is not to say that we shouldn’t be as healthy as we can be, and take care of ourselves, and try to present our “best face.” (And yes, I’m guilty of going grocery shopping in my workout clothes, too!) But I, and so many of my peers, are really caught up in looking like we did when we were 20. One glance at Pinterest and you can find 40-somethings pinning women with 10% body fat, six-pack abs, harsh workouts, fad diets, and all the rest. I find myself feeling uncomfortable in my body as much or more as I feel good in it. Am I fat? No.

So what is our problem? Why can’t we be content to just be the best – and normal – forty-something we can be? Mostly, I blame the media. I know, I know, it’s fashionable to blame the media for everything. That doesn’t mean it’s not true.  Madonna. Demi Moore. Heather Locklear. Brooke Shields. Christie Brinkley. Elle McPherson. Cindy Crawford. They’re our age, and look decades younger. Why? Mostly, it’s their job. (Yes, good genes play a part!) They are paid to look good. Their lives really revolve around their physical appearance and what jobs that can get them. And if that were my job, I’d have to have trainers and chefs and nutritionists and plastic surgeons on speed dial, too.


The problem for the rest of us is that we don’t live like that. We live out our regular, albeit extraordinary, lives without a cavalcade of makeup artists and stylists and trainers, in clothes we can afford, with hair going gray and bodies that are, quite frankly, almost half a century old. My body’s given me decades of great service, so why am I always complaining about/to it? Why don’t I appreciate the fact that I am (mostly) healthy, I’m strong, I can do pretty much anything I set my mind to (even if I get a lot more tired doing it)? Why am I obsessed with the fat around my waist?

Just look around you! We have a schizophrenic society. People are either obese or obsessed with being thin. There are fewer and fewer in between, fewer and fewer who, like my grandmother, do their best to be healthy but fully accept that 47 is not actually the new 27, and 67 isn’t the new 47… And that’s ok. We lose something when we are so focused on our bodies. We lose something when we are so discontent that sitting in the car leads to an internal debate about whether our pants fit right. We lose something when all we see is what is wrong with our bodies instead of all the things that are miraculously right.

Elle McPherson

What we need to be is strong enough and healthy enough to live the life we’ve been given. If you’re not that strong and healthy, then by all means, undertake a program to get you there. Not get you in size 6 jeans – get you to the place where you can live. Where you can be all that you were brought into this world to be, and do all that you were brought into this world to do. If you were brought here to be a supermodel, more power to you. I believe people are called to be models and athletes and actors, and the condition of your body will be of much more import to your walk than mine. But if you are called to touch other people in ways that only you can do, and if you are called to travel for the Kingdom (near or far), and if you are called to love… Then be healthy enough, and strong enough to do that. Focus on that. The size of the pants you’re wearing when you give someone the gift of life really won’t matter.

The end of the beginning… or something like that!

28 Jul

This picture has nothing to do wtih the post, except that this is my “baby” with his new car (my grandmother’s former Torrent).

I’m 47, and in my family, that’s not even halfway to the usual life expectancy. (My grandmother will be 99 on December 1 and still lives alone, walks her dog, goes to parties, goes out to lunch, dresses to the nines, and only recently – and rather unwillingly – gave up driving.) My grandmother’s grandparents both lived to be 96, when the average life expectancy was around 50. So, while I never take having tomorrow for granted, I don’t feel particularly stressed about the years going by.

I’m not a Paula Deen fan, but I like her story, that she didn’t start doing things (even leaving her house!) until she was 48. For women, especially, the season of child rearing is a full time job, mentally if not physically. Sure, some people are creative and self-aware and firing on all cylinders in that period. At least, so I’ve heard. Me? Not so much. I dabbled in things, but with kids and homeschooling and their other activities, not to mention our business and, of course, our marriage, there just wasn’t a lot of extra time and energy for creative endeavors or new long-term projects. I might think of them, but they’d stay on the very back burner in my mind. Definite “some day” material.

So the last few years have been really exciting and fun for me. When my daughter went to college – 3 years ago, as hard as that is to believe – I had just started Ten Eighteen, my non-profit to Uganda. In fact, my daughter had visited, but I didn’t visit until September. I had taken a creativity workshop, and was starting to try my hand again at painting and photography, but mostly I was still homeschooling my then-freshman son, doing business stuff, being a wife and mom.

But as my son has gotten older and more self-sufficient, and after we made structural changes to our business that allow us to be very part-time, and after reading “No Plot, No Problem” by Chris Baty, this writing thing took hold. I wrote the non-fiction book back in May of 2011, did the November NaNoWriMo, and have since been on a marathon writing spree (you can read about that in this blog). Ten Eighteen has been doing amazing things in Uganda, and the people are doing so, so well. I’ve figured out some health issues and feel good. Basically, for the last year, I’ve been in the end of the beginning… The end of the very active child-rearding phase, and the end of the self-doubt phase, and the end of the insecurity phase. I am coming into my own.

Now, as a Kingdom Christian, “my own” isn’t really. I try very hard to follow what I hear God telling me, and change course quickly if I get it wrong. But He knows there are seasons, too – He set it up that way, with plenty of examples in nature to follow. Even in Uganda, along the equator, with no winter, they have wet and dry seasons. So this is the season for a new bit of growth. To stretch upward and outward, to try to follow “the next thing”, wherever that leads. It’s pretty darned exciting, I have to say. As usual, I have no idea where it will lead… But I’m loving the ride!