Out With the Old…

I am not going to pull any punches, 2017 was a tough one.

I know, at the end of a year, we are supposed to stop and count our blessings, and, as always, our year has been filled with those; but I would be lying if I sat down and wrote a post about how great the year has been, and pretended it hadn’t been hard.  It’s been a hard year, in a lot of ways, for a lot of people I know.

I am not talking about politics.  I know that the social and political climate has been difficult for a lot of people to navigate, and that has put real strain on familial relationships and friendships.  I know there has been a great deal of social upheaval, and stress, and anxiety, and real life consequences as a result of what is happening in the political arena, because those things impact us all every day.  I don’t want to discount that, or for anyone to think that I am not taking those issues into account ~ they are part of the reason this year has been difficult for a lot of people.  In fact, for some people, that is the primary reason this year has been so difficult; because, for some people, those issues directly impact their daily lives so profoundly that they can’t help but think about them every single day.  So it’s hard for me to come here and say, “but that’s not what I’m talking about.”  Perhaps what I meant to say was, “That’s not all I’m talking about.” I would be remiss not to mention it at all.

There were deaths in families, and deaths of long-admired celebrities, as there always are.

Here, in California, we recently had the fires, and so they are fresh in my mind, but all over there the world, there has been disaster, and violence, and so much suffering, anguish, and frustration.  It’s difficult to even know what to say.  Some days, it felt like the world had gone mad.  It was hard to want to read the news ~ there was a genuine fear there.  What else could possibly have happened?  

On a very personal level, it’s been a difficult year for me, in regard to my health.  If I were to say, “I don’t talk about my health much,” you would probably think I’m being ridiculous.  It seems I talk about my health all the time.  But, really, I don’t.  Or, perhaps, I do more than most people, but there’s a lot I keep to myself.  So, when the CRPS started flaring up, I didn’t mention it, because, frankly, I feel like all I ever do is complain about my health issues, and, quite frankly, people must be tired of listening.  Nevertheless, it did start flaring up.  I figured it was probably because I had slacked off on my exercise routine.  I wasn’t doing my PT every day, and I wasn’t walking as much as I should.  Oh, and also because I had cut the dosage of my daily medication down just slightly because, in combination with the other medication I take daily ~ for that other issue that I am still reticent to discuss, because I STILL don’t have a diagnosis, so I feel weird about actually saying much about it ~ it was making me VERY SLEEPY; but only at night, after I took it, and upon waking, but this matters, when you have school-aged teenagers, who might still need your help, sometimes…and they do, sometimes, and I am their mom, so I want to help. (Do I win an award for that run-on sentence?  I think it was fairly spectacular, ‘though I am not convinced it was actually a sentence.)  So, I decided, first, to try doing all of the Right Things.  I exercised.  I took my medication.  The CRPS kept flaring.

I did the logical thing.  I kept going to my class taking kids to school, doing chores, attending performances, meetings, shopping, driving all over town, picking up, dropping off, running errands… You know, all of the usual “mama” stuff.  I kept tie-dyeing things, and playing my banjo when I had time, but it kept feeling like I had less and less time.  Everything felt like it took so much longer.  You know, because it did.

While all of this was happening, other things were happening, too.  I wasn’t the only one having a hard time.  Other people I knew were having hard times, too; and, while I am not at liberty to share other people’s hard times, you know, when people you care about are having hard times, you want to help, and you probably try to, and I hope that I did.  I think, at least, I tried.  I keep trying, and I will keep trying.  I feel like, a lot of times, I fall flat on my face, or my back.  Sometimes, I feel like I started there, and, if we are both there, maybe we can just lie there, hold hands, look at the stars, and know that, whatever is going on right now, it will all be better someday.  It will.  I promise.  It always is.

Also, while all of this was going on, I was having increasingly terrible digestive issues.  I’m not going into detail, because nobody wants that (and also because I don’t have all of the answers yet), but, basically, it breaks down like this:  I was diagnosed years ago with IBS.  I hadn’t had a lot of symptoms for a very long time.  Then, in recent years, I started having trouble again.  This year has been the absolute worst.  (This is NOT the undiagnosed issue I’m not talking about.  That’s still something else.  Sorry to keep being cryptic about that.  If you know me, I’ll probably talk to you about that ~ I just feel weird putting stuff down in writing and out on the internet about that one.)  So, I saw a gastroenterologist who has put me on a low FODMAP, gluten-free diet.  I was skeptical, but cautiously optimistic.  I have to tell you, after two weeks on the new plan, not only are my digestive problems virtually a thing of the past ~ as long as I stick to the plan, which is very restrictive, and difficult to stick to when I am away from home, and can’t cook my own food ~ but, now that my digestive issues are under control, the medication I am taking for that other (cryptic) issue seems to be working well again, because my body is actually able to absorb and process it.  I still need to return for a couple of tests to make sure we aren’t missing anything, but the good news is, things are much better.

So…back to the CRPS:

While I was busy getting everything else under control, it was still flaring out of control. To the point that I was having difficulty getting around to complete simple tasks like a trip to the grocery store.  Pain was interfering with my ability to concentrate, focus, sleep, eat, remember things.  It was bad.  Worse than it had been in a long time.  I contacted my neurologist and my pain management doctor ~ to see if there was any way we could change either medication, since, in combination, they made me SO SLEEPY.  To make a long story short (and remain as cryptic as possible), neurologist said something like, “This medication is controlling your symptoms, so NO.  We won’t be changing that.”  Upon reviewing that situation, we all agreed, this was a good plan.  After an examination, my pain management doctor determined that the CRPS was not just flaring up, it was progressing.

As you can imagine, this is not the news I was hoping to hear.  He scheduled me for a lumbar sympathetic nerve block, as soon as possible, in hopes that I would get some pain relief, and that we might stop any further progress.  That would be December 21st, and I would need to rest for several days after the procedure.  Perfect timing.  I hadn’t been able to accomplish much shopping, due to pain, and now, I had to be completely done by the 20th, so I could rest until Christmas Eve.

But, there was nothing else we could do, and just that little glimmer of hope that, maybe, we could stop it from progressing…or, at the very least, get a little bit of relief.  So, I agreed.

It’s been 10 days since I had the nerve block.

I think I must be in that “might get worse before it gets better” phase.  This hasn’t happened to me before, but I am trying to be optimistic.  They say you might not know until at least two weeks after how effective it will be.  So, I am waiting.

During all of this, there was this whole swirl of life events going on around us, and, quite frankly, I couldn’t keep up.  I tried.  I tried to attend to events I could attend.  I went to the performances and parties, I smiled, I chatted, I tried to make small talk, but, you guys, I am an open book.  I’m not good at this.  I am a terrible liar.  I don’t just wear my heart on my sleeve; it’s stamped all over my face.  Which is weird, because I’m an actor, right; or, well, maybe I was, many years ago.  But I think that’s different.  I like to think, in my real life, I’m not assuming a character when I interact with people for whom I actually care; and so, it’s different.  In real life, I am an open book.  If I am upset, or angry, or tired, or sick, or sad, or anxious, or lonely, or in pain, the whole world will know just by looking at me.  I thinkI have been every one of those things this year.  I suppose we all have, at some point, every year.

Some great things happened this year, and others are still in the process of happening.  Justice finished her Child Development certificate, and CPR and first aid training, and was accepted to the Music Performance program at her college.  Hallie is a Senior in high school this year, and is busy earning A’s in classes like AP lit and Digital Imaging (things I couldn’t even grasp in high school ~ and let’s review the fact that I didn’t make it through Senior year of high school, so kudos to kids who do), and looking into art schools for after graduation.  Kaia finished middle school and moved on to high school where she is participating in and loving Marching Band. She finished her Computer Science class early, and was allowed to move on to the AP course in independent study.   I took my first ever ASL (American Sign Language) class, and finished with an 87%, which is a B, but a high B, so I’m cool with that.  I probably can’t take another class just yet, but I will keep practicing what I have learned, so I don’t get too rusty before I can continue.  I do plan to continue.  Shane has worked on so many projects that I just can’t name them all ~ and I probably shouldn’t here ~ but I can say that he was recently able to purchase a used 1999 Jeep Cherokee 4×4 that appears to be in very good condition (fingers crossed).  I bought him a repair manual, so he can maintain it.  It’s a vehicle he’s wanted for a long time, and it means that, with Justice’s busy schedule, and with us on the brink of having a 4th driving in the household, we finally have a 3rd car.  I think it should make think easier for everyone.

There have been weddings, and engagements.  There have been children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, grandnieces, grandnephews ~ oh, heavens!  Not all mine!  I just mean, in the world, there have been these things. In lives of my friends and family members, I have watched them unfold.

So, as I look forward ~ ever forward, never back…well, occasionally, wistfully, back, but never, ever with regret ~ it is with the very highest of hopes.

Here’s to 2017, and all of it’s challenges. Here’s to the tears we’ve wept, and the losses we’ve suffered.  Here’s to the lessons learned, and to every victory, every happy memory, every blessing and every joy this year has brought with it, as well.  For some, this might have been the best year yet.  For some of you, this was the year you were married, or the year your child was born, the year you finally bought your first home, or brought home the pet that filled that hole in your heart and made your life complete.  So here’s to 2017, for everything it’s been to every one of us.

2018, we see you on the horizon, and we have pinned our hopes on you.

We’ll see you soon.

 

 

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Nerve-Wracked ~ by Sam

Peace12:21:17.JPGIt’s the evening of December 21st, and I am not rushing around checking things off my shopping list.  I’m not baking sweet treats, wrapping gifts, cleaning up after our annual Tree-Trimming party (or planning for yet another very late one, because we didn’t get it together and plan one). I’m not planning to receive out-of-town guests, or planning my out-of-town trip for Christmas (‘though we will be heading out of town soon after).

Nope.  Not doing any of that.  Which is weird, because, normally, this close to Christmas, I’d be running around like that chicken you always hear about.  Right now, I’m lounging on the sofa after a nerve block at 2:30 this afternoon.  I debated posting about what’s been going on lately.  I feel like I’m THAT FRIEND.  You know the one.  The one that talks too much about their health problems?  And so…I just didn’t really say anything about this for a while.  Honestly, when the CRPS started flaring up again, I thought, “Well, I haven’t been walking every day, and I haven’t been great about doing my PT, and I had to lower the dose of my medication because it interacts with the medication I have to take for that other thing, and makes it really hard for me todo things like stay up late, and get homework finished, or help kids with whatever they might need, or, you know, wake up in the morning and make sure everyone gets off to school without a hitch….so…it makes sense that it’s flaring up now.”  I decided to try fixing those things.  That should work.  Right?

But it didn’t.

So, when I contacted my pain management doctor and explained the situation, he, naturally, wanted to see me.  After assessing the situation he determined it wasn’t just flaring up.  It was progressing.  The pain was moving much farther up my leg than it had in the past, and that is not a change we want to see.  We discussed various options.  Since I can’t stop taking the other medication, upping the dose of the medication I currently take for CRPS is not a great option, since it is already, in combination with the other med, making me very sleepy at night (which, at least, is the right time to be sleepy ~ and, hey, it’s a solution to my longstanding battle with insomnia).  Adding another medication at this time is also not at the tops of our list since a) I currently take two daily meds, and b) the other meds we might consider adding next are things I had already tried, without much success, as treatment for fibromyalgia symptoms years ago, so he doubts they would be helpful here.  Because we have had success with lumbar sympathetic nerve blocks in the past, it seemed like a no-brainer.

The only downside was the timing.  Due to both the amount of pain I was experiencing, and the fact that the CRPS was progressing and we needed to try to nip that in the bud, it was important that we get me in for the nerve block ASAP.  Right now.  You know, at Christmastime.  Me.  Right now. At Christmas.  Because it’s not like there’s other stuff I would rather be doing.  Like going to parties.  And hosting a party.  And baking stuff for teachers, and friends, and family.  And decorating my home.  And buying and mailing gifts. And going to Mass.  And attending shows and concerts. And driving through all of the lights, and walking through the Zoo Lights, and visiting with friends, and shopping.  Did I mention shopping?  Shopping?  Shopping with my kids!  I want to be shopping with my kids.

But instead, I am sitting here, resting, for several days, in hopes that this nerve block does the trick; because, quite frankly, if it doesn’t, I’m back to not doing a lot, which is kind of what I was doing before, in case you hadn’t noticed.

By the way, if you had noticed, recently, that I kind of had my head in the sand, well, now you know why. Things started getting bad while school was in session.  So, I suddenly found myself needing to juggle kids’ schedules, my schedule, Shane’s schedule (you know, the usual stuff), but with a lot more pain than usual.  I am used to pain.  I have pain that I manage ~ hence the pain management doctor ~ but that’s the thing: we work to keep it manageable.  Suddenly it was totally unmanageable pretty much all of the time.  The problem was, I just didn’t have the time to stop and do anything about it.  I had all these things I needed to do (or, at least, that’s what I kept telling myself), so I kept doing them.

I guess it sounds like I’m whining.  I guess that’s because I am.

See…that’s why I avoided talking about this.  It’s hard to do without sounding like that.  Ugh.  I feel bad for dropping so many balls.  I did not give any teacher gifts.  I forgot to RSVP for virtually everything.  Most nights, I looked up and went, Oh, crud.  It’s like 8pm, and I haven’t even started dinner.  Then, we ate dinner (such as it was) at some time between 8:30 and 10:00.  I know.  I totally rock.  More often than not, we ate leftovers, or I told people dinner was “catch-as-catch-can.”  Again.

This isn’t coming off the way I want it to.  It’s frustrating.  I don’t need people who read this to come back saying to me, “I’m sorry you have pain,” or “I’m sorry you have to deal with that.”  I mean, I totally appreciate that sentiment, and I believe that you mean it.  What I mean is, I am not fishing for that.  I just…What do I want?  I guess I want people to understand what’s been going on with me, and why I have been kind of “out of it” recently ~ and that, hopefully, things are going to get better.

I decided to sit down and write this because I figured people have noticed.  I’m a mess.  I am running behind on everything.  Now, you know why.  So, if you’ve been fed up with me recently, I apologize.  I probably should have explained sooner what was happening.  In some ways, it’s just all part of the same old thing, and I guess maybe I get tired of explaining ~ I guess I think people get tired of hearing it, too.  But maybe you can understand that, if I say, “It’s been a rough day (or week, or time, or whatever I might say that sounds similar to that)” or even if I say nothing, but I just don’t do a great job of keeping up with things.  Maybe you can think back on this post, and think to yourself, “Ah, yeah.  I get it.”  Maybe we can all just sort of do that for each other.  Just try to assume that we’re all trying our best all the time, and that, if we aren’t getting things done, or aren’t getting them quite right, there must be a good reason.

Moving forward, I’m hoping to end this year, and start the next, on the upswing.  I don’t want to be just sitting around doing nothing, so I think maybe I will sit here and work on some scarves, and practice my banjo, instead.  Maybe I’ll read a book.  I’ve already managed to do some online shopping.  It was late, but at least I got it done.  The nerve block went well.  I mean, we won’t know for a while whether or not it actually did the trick, but at least I didn’t pass out or anything.  Things are already looking up.  Now, if only I could figure out how to cook and clean while lounging on the sofa.

To Start Anew ~ by Sam

2017 finds us all poised at the breaking dawn of a fresh, new year.  A year full of hope, and promise and possibilities.  The problems, the struggles, the tears, the regrets, the trials, the toils of 2016 and before lay behind us, and what lies ahead is infinite and unknown.  People encourage us to move only forward, to cast off the negative, never looking back; but, like Lot’s wife, we find ourselves compelled to cast that glance aft, and then…

Then what?

Isn’t it our history that informs us?  Isn’t it our past that makes us what we are today?

And so, I offer this advice for the New Year: Don’t attempt to make a brand new start, as people suggest.  That is far too tall an order for anyone, and destined for failure.  Sure, go ahead, move forward.  But don’t just put one foot in front of the other and trudge blindly on.  Move forward informed by the past, strengthened by your experience, hardened in your resolve ~ battle-scarred and imperfectly-perfect, as are we all ~ ready to conquer whatever life happens to throw your way.

In that spirit, I give you my Resolutions for the New Year, in no particular order:

In 2017, I resolve to:

Be Kind.
Listen.
Visit Places.
Make Things.
Plant Things.
Play Music.
Take Care of Myself.
Cook.
Write.
Read.
Dance.
Laugh.
Sing.

I might clean some stuff, too.
Maybe.

I think I can handle that.

Wishing you and yours Peace, Love, Health & Happiness in the New Year and beyond.  With all of those things, how can we possibly go wrong?

Necessity ~ by Sam

I keep trying to come up with something to say about the New Year, and, you know what?  I got nothin’.

I am a work in progress.  If I make any headway, you’ll be the first to know.

I think I started out to write about how necessity is the mother of invention… and I am not even sure now where I was going with that.  I think my brain has gone to bed before the rest of me this evening.  Perhaps, I was going to invent something to write about.  Oh, well.  Whatever it was, it’s gone.  I guess I am not feeling very inventive.

I did have a moment, not long ago, when we got up to Lake Arrowhead for a brief vacation with friends, and I realized I had brought my banjo, but not my fingerpicks.  I could have tried to play without picks, but I have virtually no fingernails to speak of, and, besides, I like to play with fingerpicks.  So, out of necessity, I fashioned some preposterous little fingerpicks out of the poptops (from ginger beer cans) and paperclips.  They were pretty silly-looking, and not the most comfortable thing in the world, but I was able to play, and that made vacation much better.  For me, anyway.  I can’t say anyone else felt about it.

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So, maybe there is hope yet for my inventiveness.  Maybe it’s just napping.  If not, at least I can play my banjo.

When “The Best We Can” is Good Enough ~ by Sam

Yesterday, I found myself (again) lying around on the sofa with my foot propped up, and I happened to look around the house (again) and find myself feeling very discouraged ~ almost defeated, in fact.  The house was a mess.  It was dusty, furniture wasn’t where I wanted it to be, paperwork was piling up ~ mail I needed to sort through, finished homework for which we had not yet created a file, magazines, fundraising information ~ laundry needed to be folded, laundry needed to be washed, the rugs and the furniture all needed to be vacuumed, the hard floors all needed to be swept and mopped, the bathrooms needed to be cleaned and organized, so many half-finished (or not yet started) projects ~ painting, putting up shelves, hanging pictures…And here I sat, with my foot propped up on a stack of pillows, doing absolutely nothing.  Again.

Let me make one thing abundantly clear: Shane and the kids help a lot with the housework, even when I am not injured.  Its just…well, let’s face it: I’m the one who is home all the time.  I used to feel like I was somehow failing my kids if I did the lion’s share of the housework.  I want them to have life skills, to be responsible.  Nevertheless, if they are home for only a few hours each day ~ during which time they are required to complete homework assignments, practice their music, dance, lines for a play, etc. ~ well, it makes sense that, since I am here for many more hours each day, I can do a little more work around the house.  So, I have struggled to strike a balance.  The kids are expected to keep their rooms clean, clear their dishes, and pick up after themselves, and they do about as well as any kids, I think.  They also help with things like washing dishes, cleaning the litterbox, taking out the garbage, doing laundry, sweeping, vacuuming, dusting.  However, since school started, everyone has been exceedingly busy, and I really am the only one home.  The fact is, there are some jobs no one but me thinks to do. So those things tend to go undone.  And, most likely, no one but me notices.  But I do notice, and it bothers me.  As a result, I was feeling like a bit of a failure.  I mean, I know I can’t do much right now, but it was starting to feel like I am NEVER able to do much.  It seems there is always something that gets in the way of my ability to complete home improvement projects, or even just keep up with the housework.  I thought, “Geez.  Why is this so hard?  Other people manage to do this all the time, right?”

It’s true.  Other people do manage to keep up with the housework, and complete home improvement projects.  In fact, I have always managed to do those things fairly well.  So, what was the problem?  Because, really, it seemed like, since we moved in to the new house in mid-December of 2012, I just could not manage to keep up.  Was it because we were doing more projects than we had in the past?  Well, that might be part of it.  The thing was, it seemed like I had been doing so well.  We had painted at least 6 room, built shelves, done extensive work in the garden…I had helped with all of that.  I’d done some of it all by myself.  So…what was going on?  Why couldn’t I just manage to keep up?

Well, I got kind of frustrated, and sort of lost it here at the house all by myself yesterday.  Shane was work, kids were at school, and I was looking at everything that needed to be done.  I got up off the sofa, washed slipcovers, vacuumed all of the floors (rugs and hard floors alike), cleaned bathrooms, washed all of the mirrors, put away a bunch of the clutter… And then, when I was taping a plastic bag over my cast so I could bathe, it occurred to me.  I did some math, and, lo an behold, I found the answer:  For at least 6 of the past 18 months, I have been in a cast or brace of some sort that has dramatically limited my mobility and, therefor, my ability to complete even the most basic household tasks.  So, for the remaining 12 months, I have been in recovery mode.  I have spent some time recovering physically from my time in the cast ~ regaining strength and dexterity, so I could once again function at a relatively normal level ~ as well as time “recovering” simply in the sense of getting back in to my normal routine of household maintenance.  Or, perhaps more accurately, trying to establish a new routine, since I feel like I never really got in to the swing of things at the new house before that first injury, just 2 months after we moved.

So, now I get it.  Now, I won’t be quite so hard on myself.  I did pay for getting up and doing all of that stuff.  My foot swelled up to about twice its normal size, which is not at all comfortable in a cast.  And, so, today, here I sit, again on the sofa, with my foot propped up on a pillow mountain.  Today, however, scented candles are lit, the slipcovers are fresh, rugs and furniture are not covered with cat fur, and, if I felt like getting up and walking over to one, I could see my reflection in any mirror in the house.  Next time, I will try to pace myself, and not do it all in one day.  Next time, I will remember to let myself take the time I need to recover, and not feel guilty about it.  Will I still be frustrated by my lack of progress on those unfinished projects (like the 1/6 of that one room that is not yet painted!!!)?  Oh, you better believe I will.   But at least now I know WHY.  I can cut myself a little slack, just like I cut the kids a little slack because I know they are busy and doing the best the can.  Because that’s what it comes down to, really: I’m doing the best I can.  At the end of the day, isn’t that all we should expect from anyone?  I am always so eager to give others the benefit of the doubt.  Why not myself?

Today, I will rest.  And maybe I will throw in one load of laundry.  And then, I will rest.  And then, maybe I will clear up the clutter on the sideboard.  And then, I will rest.  And it will be okay.

Chronic Illness and Hypochondria ~ by Sam

I decided to tackle this issue today, because it hits very close to home (right smack in the middle of it, actually), and causes a great deal of stress.  Since we talk about strategies for lowering stress in our daily lives, let’s talk about a major contributing factor: chronic illness.  I am chronically ill.  I have fibromyalgia, IBS, Raynaud’s disease, asthma and an assortment of allergies (food and environmental).  My bones are weak, and I am hypermobile (which isn’t really a problem in and of itself, but does leave me prone to injury).  I seem to excel at injuring myself.  (Interesting note: people who have fibromyalgia tend to be more prone to injury, so I am not alone.)  In my life, I have had an assortment of broken bones, sprains, a partial ACL tear, a Type III tear of the Medial Meniscus, and, currently, I seem to have ruptured a tendon in the top of my foot.  I don’t “think” I am sick.  I don’t take my illnesses and injuries too seriously.  I really am sick and prone to injury.  I don’t get bumps and bruises; I get torn ligaments.  It’s different.

Oh, and I have panic attacks.  Hell, wouldn’t you?

But, I am not writing this to say, “Oh, woe is me!” and I am not writing it for myself.  I am writing for the thousands of other people who suffer through chronic illness.  I am writing this because there seems to be a great deal of misconception when it comes to chronic illness.  Some of these illnesses are “invisible,” meaning, when you see me on a daily basis, I don’t look “sick.”  So, it’s hard for people to remember (or believe) that I am.

From the outside, I look lazy, or weak.  So, I am writing to caution you, when dealing with anyone in your life, to remember that you only get to see the outside.  The world only gets to witness what we choose to put on display.   Many of us our very private people, and prefer to keep details of our illness to ourselves (you can Google them all, or ask me questions privately, if you like), and most of us hate being perceived as whiners and complainers.  So, we don’t talk about it.

Except when we do.  Because, sometimes, we DO need to talk about it.  I seek out others who have similar issues, because I know I can vent to them, and they will understand (online forums are great for this purpose).  I rely on the support of my friends and family, who I know love me, warts and all.

When you are tempted to think someone is being weak or lazy, or complains too much, please pause and think.  It’s possible that they have already fought and won numerous battles before they even left the house that morning ~ things you will never know about, like, maybe, that man woke up unrefreshed, feeling like someone spent the whole night beating him with a bag of hammers, but he got out of bed, anyway.  Maybe, that woman cried through her morning shower, because all of her skin feels severely sunburned all the time, and washrags feel like sandpaper; but she showered, anyway, because you can’t just go around dirty all the time.  Maybe, the child had to use a nebulizer this morning, and is jittery and grumpy as a result, because, otherwise, he couldn’t breathe.  Maybe, that incredibly slow walker at the the grocery store moves that way because it feels like she’s stepping on broken glass.  Maybe, your friend is late because he had an attack of explosive diarrhea, and he’s still not 100% sure it’s over, but he showed up anyway, because it’s not like he isn’t used to this.  Maybe your coworker is distracted because she is just in so much pain that she can barely think.  The fact is, we just don’t know what people don’t tell us.

Please, if you know someone who is suffering from chronic illness ~ or even someone who is just “always sick” ~ try to be supportive and understanding.  I cannot count the number of times I was called a “hypochondriac.”  There are two problems with this: a) I am not a hypochondriac, and that person with whom you are irritated might not be, either; and b) hypochondria is a real, serious, and treatable condition.  If you truly believe someone you care about suffers from hypochondria, for God’s sake, help him.  It’s important, here, to caution anyone dealing with a person (yourself, or someone you love) who seems to be “always sick” not to chalk it up to hypochondria and move on.  The fact is, even if no doctor can find a diagnosis, that person may still be suffering from some kind of chronic illness.  Don’t give up.  There are answers.

Lastly, I will offer a few words of caution about those “answers.”  They are just that: answers.  So, now, we know what to call this.  We know how to begin to treat it, and possibly improve the situation.  However, chronic illness is called “chronic” for a reason.  For some people, identifying the culprit means starting on the road toward recovery and improved quality of life.  For others, it means learning to manage symptoms, learning how to live with being chronically ill.  So, don’t hold your breath waiting for a “cure,” but don’t give up on finding one, either.

How do I manage the stress of being chronically ill?  I’ve found this works:

Relax.  Breathe.  Brace yourself.  Soldier on!

Thanks for taking the time to read.

The Master Plan ~ by Sam

I mentioned in my last post that, this year, I am making a concerted effort to (FINALLY!) get our home organized.  To that end, I have been zipping around the internet perusing lots of articles on home organization.  I have been poring through catalogs for IKEA and the container store, visiting the closet organization sections of places like Home Depot and Target, and wracking my brain for ideas of how to better use the stuff we already own, and pare down some of the clutter.  The “100 items” challenge has helped a lot with that last piece of the puzzle.  We are currently at 93 items and counting.  

As I started weeding through all of our stuff, I was struck by how disorganized our home is.  I thrive on order, and I know that kids do, too.  We need to know where things are.  I feel like we waste a lot of time ~ and cause ourselves a great deal of stress ~ just be being disorganized.  Way too much time is spent trying to find stuff an panicking because we KNOW we have it, but we just can’t find it!!  (“I saw it yesterday!  Was it in the laundry room?  Maybe it’s in my car…Did you check all of the bathrooms?  How ’bout the back porch?”)  So, in an effort to conquer the disorder, I have decided to focus on major problem each month.  That might not solve all of our organization issues, but I am sure it will not hurt.  

So, this month, I have decided to go through and reorganize all of the files and paperwork I have around the house.  Between the kids’ schoolwork and artwork, my teaching supplies and materials, our household files, home improvement ideas (I keep paint chips, brochures, and other things that inspire me in a file for future reference), receipts, medical information, reports cards, and all of our craft/art supplies, we are literally drowning in paper.  As I started to go through everything, I saw evidence of my many attempts over the years to get organized.  I guess the news is at least I have tried.  Unfortunately, through all of our many moves, I have not managed to maintain a single system.  As a result, I might have three different filing systems for the same things.  Today, I discovered that I had three separate systems for sorting different types of paper.  Since we are crafty, and we have a teacher and three students in the house, we generally have plain white printer paper, coloured printer paper, lined paper, graph paper, construction paper and a variety of craft papers in our home at all times.  The problem is that, when it is not organized so that we can easily see what we have on hand, we end up panicking and buying more when a project crops up, only to discover later that we already had some.  Thus, the drowning in paper problem.  Just by reevaluating the situation, clearing out all of the unnecessary garbage (we don’t need to keep every spelling test the kids have ever taken, for instance), and consolidating like items into a single space, I was able to completely rid the house of one set of paper trays and repurpose another 3-tier tray to sort items like page protectors and report covers.  We now have all of our plain white printer paper on one shelf, construction paper on another, lined paper on another, and coloured printer paper on another (we are out of graph paper, but it will most likely live on the 3rd tier of the aforementioned tray).  
The hardest thing about this system for me is staying on target.  It is so easy to get distracted by other problems I see and try to tackle them, but I promised myself January would be the month I use to get all of the paper and files organized, and establish a system that I think will work for our family.  In the meantime, the laundry room and the closets are KILLING ME. Actually, Shane spent time this weekend installing shelves in Justice’s closet, because she has the smallest closet int he house, and hasn’t really been able to fully move in to her room because she desperately needed more storage options.  However, we are discussing how to go about all of the this, and I am coming up with a list of things that need to be done.  It is a work in progress, and I make no guarantees that is will actually happen in this order, but here’s what we’re thinking:

January:  paper, mail, household files, etc.
February: closets
March:  bathrooms
April: kitchen 
May: laundry room
June: bar
July: craft/school supplies
August: party room
September: sewing supplies/fabric
October: garage (maybe…if we feel like tackling this)
November: photographs/scrapbooks
December: we’ll be too busy partying 🙂

Well, that’s the rough plan, anyway.  We’ll see how it pans out.  I have no problem working on some projects ahead of schedule, as long as I don’t leave anything undone.  Also, I think it is important to note that we may not stick strictly to this schedule.  Depending on weather, time, budget, etc., we may change the schedule, but those are the projects we really want to accomplish by the end of the year.  Wish us luck!  even if it doesn’t end up perfect by the end of the year ~ even if we don’t get done everything we have planned ~ I think we can plan on being much better organized in the long run.