Monday, October 31, 2011
With November comes the holiday season ~ Thanksgiving... Christmas...
...my 36th birthday.
Unbelievably, there are just about six more weeks until this blog hits 365 days.
Of course, I've slacked a lot lately.
So I'll be working on the "lost" posts for a while after the official December 10, 2011 anniversary.
That is a lot of writing.
Many of my friends have asked me recently what I plan to do after I've completed all 365 days.
Will I keep on going with it?
Will the project change?
I'm not really sure yet.
What I do know is that it's time to look ahead into our future as a family, and devote myself to projects that will help contribute to our goals and dreams.
I started this blog because I was afraid to die.
2009 and 2010 were rough years for me, healthwise. I had three small children at home and my heart was filled with the worry of every mother in the world...
I didn't want to leave them prematurely. I wanted to teach them all of the crucial things about kindness and love, loyalty and devotion, determination and faith. I wanted to give them the gifts of my voice and experience, while I still could.
What I didn't expect was that in many ways, this blog actually played a large role in bringing good health back into my life.
Sure, my autoimmune stuff is still out there. I'm still working daily on making lifestyle and medicinal choices that will keep me thriving, stave off the chronic infections and their long-term toll.
The blog though, it gave me a chance to feel like *something* I was doing in my daily existence had permanence.
It will last. It will stand the test of time, even if my body does not.
I have shared so much of myself in these posts and it felt really good to open my heart and my life. As a shy person by nature, I've always forced myself to be social in situations where I'd honestly rather hide behind a book.
It's been so healthy for me to throw open the doors of our family - our successes and challenges - to the world.
Throughout this year I've made so many friends by sharing our stories, and deepened many of the friendships I already had. More than one person has confided in me that they never really felt like they knew me until they started reading my blog.
Connecting on a more substantive level with people that I already loved, and people that I've grown to love, during this year - it has made so much difference in my inner sense of health.
One of the worst parts of autoimmune challenges (anyone with an autoimmune condition can tell you) is that in many cases you don't look any different on the outside. You feel really lousy and face serious health problems while looking perfectly normal. There is no broken arm, bleeding wound or blistering rash all over your body to show people that you're having a hard time.
Autoimmunity also goes hand-in-hand a lot of times with depression. There's no signpost for that either. Depression can be truly debilitating but, again, there is no flashing neon advertisement above your head as you walk down the street saying "I have diabetes and I'm feeling really sad about it!"
Keeping this blog has made me feel truly connected to others, at times when otherwise I would have felt terribly alone.
Heaven knows... I sure don't have time as a mother to get together with ten, twenty, fifty of my friends in a single day and catch them up on our family news. I'm lucky if I can just chat with my 73 year old mother for ten minutes in the morning before my children climb all over me and demand that I get off of the telephone.
Whole days go by without me speaking in person with a single adult other than my husband.
On occasion, close friends of mine that follow the blog pretty regularly have confided that they appreciate reading about our "real" life as a family because they too have days when they feel completely alone and isolated. We learn from each other that we're NOT alone.
Our struggles may be different, but the love and hope we bring into trying to find solutions for our children, careers, etc. - those feelings and attempts are very similar.
As I look ahead to my next project, which may well be revitalizing the Tasty...and Gluten Free! blog that I began in 2008, I know that in some way I'll want to continue sharing our life as it unfolds.
I'm so grateful to have been born into the information age, at a time when social networks are exploding the way human beings have traditionally interacted.
As a sensitive, shy, emotive person who yearns to connect and actually wants to share the best (and worst) parts of myself with others - it has been a gift and an honor to explore the meaning of life in 365 days through this personal project.
Sunday, October 30, 2011
We went out.
I mean to say, We Went Out!!!
My husband and I went to see a live show in our town on a Saturday night!
Not that we never get out these days...
We've made a big point of sticking to date night this year, and even taken some special trips in the last few months (Santa Barbara, Los Angeles) to celebrate his birthday and our anniversary.
Still, given the matter-of-fact way that most of our companions at the bar accepted being out of the house on a Saturday night after 9pm as though it was entirely commonplace, I feel like I should apply the Caps Lock key here:
WE WENT OUT!!!!!!
My husband and I went out on the town last night in full Halloween regalia to enjoy the first performance his old band has played in a long while.
Amazing how two little words can hold so much significance...
There is no question about it, that band changed both of our lives forever. I could write a book about my years with him while he was in the band; touring and performing at amazing venues. Meeting wonderful people. Connecting through the shared love of music along with shared angst and emotion.
They are a band that writes heartbreakingly beautiful music.
Their live show, though - what a show! It has always been jaw-droppingly good.
Over ten years have passed since I first heard them perform live.
My husband left the band seven years ago. Yet their music still moves me beyond words.
* * *
I am discovering, as we slowly but surely grow older, that musicianship only increases in those who are truly dedicated to their craft. Our musician friends, many of whom I've now known for ten to fifteen years, have continued to develop in their talent and instincts.
Like wine, they've actually gotten better with age.
I have to laugh when I see young rockstars are so adulated by their fans. Kids like Justin Bieber. The kid (who I have nothing against) may be idolized worldwide ~ but he's got *nothing* musically on my friends who, while potentially old enough to be his parents, have racked up decades of experience under their belts.
From what I can tell, time seasons musicians... takes their raw talent and hones it into something much better. They develop a tighter sound, deeper and fuller-bodied tone, and more of a passionate relationship with their music.
Maybe part of it is growing past the desperate urge young bands seem to share to "get signed" by a major record label.
Young bands (and I've known a few of them) seem so anxious... so driven. They're motivated by a lust for fame, a desire to play stadiums and conquer the world.
Young artists are often motivated by the desire to meet attractive people. Seasoned musicians know that kind of thing is merely a side benefit to their real joy in finding success and fulfillment doing something that they love.
Musicians that love their craft and continue working on it almost always get better with time.
I was blown away last night at how well our friends in the band (now edging toward their forties) are playing, singing, composing.
They sound just as good now as they ever did - possibly better. The sound is more nuanced. The lyrics have greater depth. Their cohesion as a performing group is now instinctual.
Faded are the plans for global domination (although they did have several phenomenal tours that spanned four countries).
The band members are mostly all married now. Some have children. One coaches his son's youth soccer team on Saturdays. These days we have daytime barbecues and hit-the-pinata birthday parties.
It would be safe to say that we've 'grown up'.
Yet ~ the music! Their wall of sound!
At night our hardworking friends morph from stable, settled contributing members of society to intensely devoted, wild-haired musicians.
They play with love. They play with virtuosity. They play with abandon.
They play now because they love to play. Not because they hope it will get them anywhere.
They play for fun. They play to give life real meaning. They play to create beauty, and to share that beauty with all of the rest of us that crave it.
* * *
My husband is now 37 years old, and I am nearly 36. In just two months, a full decade will have passed since we met one fateful evening at a bar.
Arguably, neither of us are as taut and chiseled as we used to be. He told one of our friends last night that having children has aged us, and it's true.
I think we bring something a lot more profound to experiencing live music now, though; something we had not yet cultivated ten years ago:
We bring gratitude.
We bring appreciation.
Ten years ago, going out on a Saturday night meant nothing to either of us. We both did it every week. Heck, we often went out four nights a week.
In those days we measured the success of an evening 'out' in terms of major milestones. A show had to be pretty mind-blowing for either of us to love it. A date had to be really earth-shaking to be memorable. A night on the town had to end with a kiss or a telephone number to feel like a success.
Even after we finally met and fell in love, we still took for granted our ability to go anywhere at any time, together.
Having children really put things in perspective for us though.
These days, we're happy if we've left the house in the same car on the weekend, even if it's just a quick trip to the grocery store.
So, getting the opportunity to
(a) dress up;
(b) go out;
(c) eat food we haven't cooked; and
(d) hear live music...
...it seems like almost more good luck than we can imagine having at one time!
Last night, we went out.
WE WENT OUT!!!!!!
My husband and I are both grateful beyond measure.
I guess our younger selves might have worried that we have settled into a life of low expectations.
But I say no.
I say our life is now doubly blessed.
These days, we don't take for granted a single chord or note. Not one.
We stand in the bar side by side, holding hands - listening and smiling. Like children hearing something beautiful for the very first time, we are simply amazed and delighted.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
I was so exhausted, I could barely keep my eyes open. Thinking felt like trudging through molasses.
Worse, the situation was obvious even to people that don't know me well.
I arrived for my first tutoring appointment in the afternoon. The mother opened the door, took one look at me, and asked:
"Rough day with your kids? You look really tired today."
I smiled and nodded, unsure whether to even try to explain my situation with the Lyme disease and recent doxycycline discontinuation.
Deciding to keep my medication struggles to myself, I forced myself to pretend mentally that I felt fantastic and did the very best I could to be a great tutor for the next hour and twenty minutes.
By the time I left their home and climbed back into my car, I felt like I was sitting in a fog bank.
(Self-indulgent, self-pitying tears. They lasted for about one minute.)
Then I wrenched myself back into reality and began the inner pep talk.
"This is going to be okay. When a single pill has the capacity to entirely change the state of your brain and body, there IS a route to feeling normal.
Maybe I'll have to find a new route. But it is GOING to happen. Just gotta hold on and hang in there."
I took a deep breath, and steeled myself to face the rest of the day.
Still I still had another tutoring appointment to get through and I didn't want to look or sound as tired as I had for the last two hours.
What could possibly keep me awake and functional?
Somewhere in the back of my mind I could hear my rheumatologist's voice percolating.
"Coffee is a wonderful antioxidant, even better than turmeric. You must drink it fresh though, with newly ground beans."
I haven't been a coffee drinker for YEARS but desperate times call for desperate measures.
With 40 minutes remaining before my next appointment, I decided to swing by the fancy local health food store and buy some coffee... and some cupcakes. (There, I admitted it. My sugar addiction continues...)
Not having drunk coffee in over a decade, I had some trouble selecting the beans when I got to the store.
There were so many varieties and I had no idea where to start.
I didn't know there were so many different kinds of coffee out there to choose from - coffees from African, South America, Ecuador. Blends. Organic varieties. Others that tasted of chocolate or cocoa. The whole thing was a little overwhelming.
I wondered vaguely if I should be looking for green tea instead, since I know that is a great antioxidant too... and a little less likely to cause GERD symptoms.
Finally I selected their basic dark roast coffee blend and added a little half-and-half, cinnamon and brown sugar.
Realizing that I had less than ten minutes to make it to my appointment, I bought the coffee and assorted groceries, jumped back in my car, and began to sip from the paper cup as I raced toward the home of my next tutoring family.
"I'm ok," I chanted in my head. "This is going to work."
I still felt so, so, so worn down though. The coffee was not kicking in. Not yet.
Then, in a funny twist of Fate, I arrived at my appointment and it turned out that my session had been canceled! The son had come home ill from school - poor guy. His mother had called our house, but I was already out tutoring for the afternoon when she called. I had missed her message.
Unexpectedly then, I found myself heading down the dark hillside toward home one hour early.
As I drove, I continued to drink the coffee.
Nearing our home, I noticed two things -
First, I was feeling pretty itchy.
Second, my head was starting to clear a little.
Within 30 minutes of getting home, a miracle had taken place. Well, a qualified miracle.
On the positive side, my brain was entirely clear. I no longer felt exhausted, rather calm and steady. I could think quite normally and I suddenly had great patience for my kiddos. I became, for the first time all day, the mother I wish to be all of the time - relaxed, humorous, kind.
Unfortunately, the itching continued. I also began to feel a bit flushed, warm all over.
However, the warmth wasn't entirely unwelcome. Two of the major symptoms I have experienced from the autoimmune manifestations of the Lyme disease are Raynaud's Syndrome and anemia. Both can make you feel pretty cold. So, the warm flushed feeling was ok with me - at least for the day.
I'm happy to report that the mental clarity lasted all night. (Alas, so did the flushing and itching...)
Elated by the sense of having reclaimed my brain, albeit briefly, I decided to do some research into the benefits of coffee.
To my surprise there has actually been a lot of research done on coffee in the last decade or so.
Forgive the pun, but coffee has apparently become a hot topic!
In the past coffee had been regarded as detrimental to health, something to avoid during times of illness.
To my surprise, a lot of that old reasoning is being replaced by long term studies about coffee... many of which indicated that it plays a protective role against cancer, diabetes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and heart disease.
For anyone interested, here are a few of the articles and studies I found:
Concerned About Coffee? It May Actually Be Good for You (NIH.Gov)
Coffee intake is associated with lower rates of liver disease progression in chronic hepatitis C
Coffee consumption and risk of liver cancer: a meta-analysis.
Coffee consumption and risk for type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Coffee may lower risk of Parkinson's disease
Coffee, caffeine, and coronary heart disease.
All of these articles are great, but it's too soon to say whether coffee will end up being good for my own particular situation.
I've read in some places that caffeine can actuallyincrease the pain of reactive arthritis from Lyme or other bacteria. There is quite a lot of research now showing that people who suffer from hypothyroid conditions or on thyroid medicines should stay away from green tea and coffee due to their high flavonoid/catechin content... they can make thyroid disease worse.
Just because coffee is great for most folks doesn't mean that it will be great for me.
Drinking that one cup of coffee yesterday night reminded me of something really important:
There is always a reason to keep believing and keep on going. One minute your mind might be a terrible, soggy blur ~ and then suddenly you could take a sip of something special and feel as good as new.
There are new beginnings around every corner, and new hope with every day.
Scientists and researchers are discovering magnificent things all of the time.
If one simple pill had the power to make such a huge difference in the quality of my day-to-day living, something else can too.
For now I'll keep experimenting. Coffee and exercise. Sleep and B vitamins. Fish oils and turmeric. Probiotics!!!
Lots and lots of faith.
Perhaps in a few days, weeks or months I'll be back to a pain-free, anxiety-free lifestyle.
What a wonderful day that will be.
Monday, October 24, 2011
Venting and Sounding Board.
Dialogue With My Children.
Snapshot Of Life.
Shout-Out To Love.
As the 300+ days have passed, I've written my way through a lot of different kinds of events.
Some of them have been joyous, others tragic.
I've typed many of these posts while laughing out loud, and a few while weeping.
Here I am though, still keyboarding my way through life.
Today, a new page flipped unexpectedly.
Not to sound melodramatic though - nobody has died, nor are we making any major changes. I'm not pregnant, we're not moving, we love each other, everyone is okay.
It's probably no big deal at all.
* * *
I just found out tonight that I am going to have to stop taking the medicine that has kept me feeling well for the past eight months.
I don't even know why yet. I got the doctor's message once I returned home from tutoring tonight, too late to call back for more information.
The message was short and simple. His assistant had called.
"Dr. Garcia would like you to discontinue the doxycycline. He'd like to explain further. Please call me first thing in the morning at this number."
That was all.
* * *
Except of course, the call didn't come completely out of the blue.
I've been having these headaches lately.
When the doctor doubled my dosage in September, the headaches started almost immediately. It's felt like a vice grip on my skull. After three weeks (while my doctor was on vacation) I decided to play it safe and return to my original dose.
I'd read a few studies describing doxycycline as the cause of "benign intracranial hypertension" which apparently is anything but benign.
It actually causes severe vision loss in up to 25% of people that experience it.
Severe vision loss = no bueno.
So I'm guessing the message I left this morning, alerting the doctor that I'd reduced my dosage back to the old dose - and explaining why - I'm guessing this was the cause of the sudden and unexpected telephone call tonight.
It isn't possible to connect the dots yet but I'm guessing they look something like this:
Doxycycline + Killer Headaches For 1 Month ==> Unhealthy
There is also the possibility that the Doxy has caused me to come up positive in my recent bloodwork for DILE (Drug Induced Lupus) which would also suck.
* * *
You may wonder why I'd bother getting so worked up over discontinuing a common antibiotic, especially when I don't have an acute infection.
I myself have to laugh. Just a year ago I was terrified to even take antibiotics.
Now I can't imagine living without them.
I guess I'm going to have to, though. At least for now.
Letting go of the doxycycline is probably not going to be a big deal.
Surely there must be something else I can take for the chronic lyme disease and the variety of autoimmune problems I've been outrunning for the past 16 months.
After all, my amazing, conscientious doctor didn't fire me as a patient. He's been doing this for 35 years. Surely he'll know of an alternative medicine I can take. Maybe even another antibiotic!
I'm just scared, that's all...
I'm scared that without the anti-inflammatory affects of the doxycycline I am going to go back to being the woman I was a year ago.
Exhausted all of the time. In constant pain. Anxious. Complaining. Depressed. Ill.
A total pain in the ass to live with. Even worse of a person to BE.
Doxycycline turned my life around last March and reminded me of the vibrant gal I'd been for most of my then-34 years. As soon as I began treating my chronic infections with the doxy, I felt human again. I felt wonderful. I felt normal.
* * *
Yesterday night I wrote about my addiction to sugar, having no idea that tonight I would unexpectedly be writing about a different substance that I guess I've become addicted to.
I've become dependent upon this antibiotic to help me feel well and functional.
I want so much to hold onto this person I have become - someone optimistic, cheerful, energetic, giving and sharp-witted.
I don't want to descend into that dark space again.
I'm taking a deep breath.
A really deep breath.
And I'm going to relax now.
Somehow, everything is going to be just fine. The world hasn't ended.
I'm blessed and fortunate to have access to outstanding medical care, the ability to purchase medicine and supplements, and the incredible luck to be born in the United States of America... a place of cutting edge research and many options for those folks with means.
I'm lucky to have a brain and an education, to help me generate the means with which to pursue treatment. I'm even more lucky to have the support of a loving family behind me, standing by my side even during the rough moments.
My road back to health hasn't ended.
It's just taken a small, unexpected turn.
Maybe the new path is leading somewhere wonderful! (This seems likely... even probable.)
It's time then for me to learn how to adapt to this sudden gust of wind :-)
(I'm definitely not going to break. Time to bend.)
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Sugar and I are having a problem too.
Unfortunately, they're different types of problems.
Lately I've fallen into a Brokeback Mountain "I can't quit you" type of affair with sugar.
I've been married to protein and vegetables for about four years now, and I KNOW it's not a great idea to keep reaching for the French Meadow Yellow Cupcakes.
Try as I may though, I just can't seem to stop. It's that insanely delicious frosting... gets me every time.
After going a long while living with very little sugar, lately I've fallen into full-on addiction again.
I wish I could blame this lapse squarely on stress with the kids; but the problem really goes way beyond parenting. Cupcakes might've been my gateway back into the world of dessert but honestly, it didn't take much of a push to get me swimming in syrup again.
Here are some of the things I find myself gravitating to -
Cookies. Pie. Cake. Muffins. Frosting. Ice cream. Whipped Cream. Meringues. Fruit.
Meanwhile, my always tenuous but once promising relationship with vegetables is really kind of pathetic right now. Lackluster at best. I find myself not caring if the carrots turn yellow right in front of me.
I just don't seem to be able to force myself to eat more than two servings of veggies a day, despite the fact that I really do want to live well into my nineties.
(I really want to set a good example for my children, too!)
* * * *
It isn't that we don't have vegetables in the house.
I buy them. I buy tons of them!
When I go to the grocery store I spend a lot of time picking out bunches of organic kale, collard greens, Swiss chard and green beans. We get a lot of Brussels sprouts, carrots, zucchini. Plenty of mushrooms, sweet potatoes, bell peppers and snow peas.
I select them carefully. Pay for them with money we've worked hard to earn. Bring them home and store them immediately in the cool, crisp refrigerator drawers.
I really plan to eat them, too.
What happens, you may ask?
I get hungry.
Not like, "I think I may be hungry in three hours... time to start cooking."
Hungry. As in, "Shoot, I have exactly ten minutes in which to cook dinner before my children begin melting down."
Hungry. As in, "Drats, I have exactly eight minutes in which to grab some food before I go to tutor for the next four hours."
Vegetables are not fast.
(I am not a Raw Food lover. Raw broccoli - or any kind of fibrous vegetable for that matter - will nearly send me to Urgent Care with its potent effect upon my intestines.)
My vegetables, then, are not fast.
My vegetables take time. They take thought. They take preparation.
Do you know what happens to my vegetables? I'm sure you've guessed.
Some of them actually get cooked and eaten. The others wilt in our refrigerator on a weekly basis. They'd make great compost for your garden.
What then, you may ask, do I eat?
Oh, you know...
Tortillas. Beans. Cupcakes. Sugar sugar sugar sugar sugar sugar.
* * * *
Honestly, I'm so mad at myself about this!
Sometimes when I'm feeling philosophical I ask myself why I have so much darn trouble lately eating well.
The answer that comes to me from the depths of my subconscious is so ironic.
Here it is:
I'm frustrated with eating healthy food, because I'm tired of having to think all the time about whether or not what I eat is going to make me ill.
I'm so tired of worrying about allergies. So bored with stressing over how what I eat is going to impact my health. I'm tired of thinking about being healthy, wishing for health, wishing for normalcy.
I'm mad that I know so much about good nutrition. It's not fun right now.
Tired of having to explain my food situation. Tired of being so skinny, and looking like a skeleton in my photos. Tired of eating thousands of calories and still having my family tell me to eat more because I look like I'm about to vanish.
I don't want eating to be such a chore.
I don't want eating to take up so much of my time.
I just want to live.
So I'm acting like a rebellious teenager... willfully (and stupidly) ignoring the kale and gluten free whole grains in my refrigerator.
Chowing down on all of the stuff that I know can't be good for me...
Eating entire gluten free lasagnas, entire batches of gf cookies and muffins. In one sitting. By myself.
When I eat like this, alone in my kitchen, inhaling in food that I know I shouldn't... it feels SO GOOD for about a minute.
Sixty seconds or so later, the guilt comes.
"What did I just DO?" I shake my head. "I'm never going to make it to 95 on cupcakes."
I feel terrible and stare at the remaining cupcakes in the box.
And then, to emphasize just how awful I feel - and how hopeless I feel -
I eat another cupcake.
By this time, I don't even WANT the cupcake I'm now eating. The sugar doesn't taste good any more. Which doesn't stop me from finishing every bite and licking my fingers. Explain THAT one.
* * * *
I wish I understood what is really going on with me in the kitchen right now.
I love to eat. I like to eat all foods, always have.
These days I look at sugary foods and know they are not good for me. Despite this knowledge, I binge. I then feel guilty. Remorse washes over me.
Then I eat some more, to assuage the guilt...
Somehow this behavior has got to be a metaphor for life, and yet I think overall I'm living an honest and truly blessed existence. There isn't anything awful or secret happening with me that pushes me to snack on sweets. I'm not depressed or overwhelmed right now; if anything, I've been a lot happier lately.
I don't know why I'm struggling to discipline myself in the kitchen.
I wish I found vegetables to be more inspiring!
Let me know if you've got any secrets for greening one's diet, or breaking a sugar addiction. This blog post is my silent cry for help ;-)
Thursday, October 20, 2011
I had breakfast with a dear friend this morning and we spent a little time chatting about what people DO when they go online.
"Which sites do you visit most often?" he asked, and I explained the way in which Facebook has become a key part of the way in which I communicate with the close people in my life since having children.
I then confessed the other way in which I spend time on the net these days, namely, reading about microbiology.
I know it may sound funny that a 35 year old stay at home mother is excited about microbiology, but I am truly fascinated by the "final frontier" of medical research - mapping our inner ecology.
There are over 800 types of bacteria that live within our intestinal tract alone. Keeping them in balance is essential to good health, for more reasons than most people commonly realize.
More and more research is coming out these days tying different kinds of bacteria to major diseases including:
Here are a few examples of cool new discoveries:
This past week, researchers from the Broad Institute and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute announced findings that have huge implications for people with colon cancer, or a family history of colon cancer.
They found that areas in the colon where tumors were located contained high levels of Fusobacteria, a bacteria also associated with appendicitis and inflammatory bowel disease. Some strains of Fusobacteria are known to cause serious inflammation if they are allowed to grow out of balance with other strains of bacteria.
As it turned out in 95 colon cancer patients, 10 to 15% of them showed that more than half of the bacteria in their malignant tissue was Fusobacteria.
Should the researchers conclude that Fusobacteria actually triggers colon cancer, cancer patients that test positive for Fusobacteria might be treated with antibiotics that could potentially shrink their tumors.
Cancer-free patients that test positive for Fusobacteria could take antibiotics preventatively to reduce their risk of developing tumors.
You can read more about their research here:
The Harvard Crimson
US News and World Report
However, there is something even more exciting coming down the pipeline...
More research, that yields a potential CURE for irritable bowel disease, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis and maybe even colon cancer!
(Once again, the discovery relates to the infectious concept and the need to keep a healthy "balance-of-flora" in our personal biome.)
Researchers at Northwestern University have made a slight genetic alteration to a common probiotic found in yogurt and cheese, to create an effective therapy for diseases triggered by inflammation in the gut!
They deleted a single gene in the probiotic Lactobacillus acidophilus and then fed it to mice that had two different models of colitis. They treated the mice for 13 days, by which time the new probiotic strain 'nearly eliminated' colon inflammation in the mice. Disease progression was halted by 95%.
The associate professor of medicine at Northwestern University (Dr. Mansour Mohamadzadeh) who led the study is very enthusiastic about potential applications for their discovery:
“This opens brand new avenues to treat various autoimmune diseases of the gut, including inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer, all which can be triggered by imbalanced inflammatory immune responses."
* * *
I've known for about 15 months now about the relationship between bacteria, viruses and autoimmune disease.
I myself take doxycycline daily for its anti-inflammatory effects, and to kill a particular group of bacteria that are overgrown in my own system (mycoplasma pneumoniae, yersinia enterocolitica, borrelia burgdorferi).
The notion that bacteria and viruses are at the root of many cancers, though... this is a new one to me!
So I decided to look into it further to find out what types of bacteria or viruses are associated with other kinds of cancers.
Here is what I've found so far:
Breast Cancer: Mycoplasma
Prostate Cancer: Trichomonas vaginalis
Gallbladder Cancer: Salmonella typhi
Pancreatic Cancer: Neisseria elongata and Streptococcus mitis
Cervical Cancer: Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
Colon Cancer: Fusobacterium, Streptococcus bovis
Stomach Cancer: Helicobacter pylori
Skin Cancer: Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus haemolyticus and Staphylococcus epidermidis
Lung Cancer: Mycoplasma, Chlamydia pneumoniae
* * *
Happily, I am not alone in my fascination with the role of microbes in creating cancer.
In 2009 gastroenterologists at Rush University Medical Center received $750,000.00 from the US Department of Defense to chart the presence of microorganisms found in the gut and to explore "how microbial imbalances may impact diseases like breast cancer."
The principal investigator from the study, Dr. Ece Mutlu, explained their project further: “Similar to what has been done with human DNA, we want to map out the composition of these microorganisms from their DNA and analyze how they correlate to diseases and changes within the immune system. If we are able to find the microbes responsible for particular diseases, it may increase the likelihood of developing new diagnostic tests and treatments for diseases like breast cancer.”
* * *
I don't know about you, but I've had too many people I love affected by cancer and other "mysterious" diseases. My close friend died at age 15 (two decades ago!) of ovarian cancer. A precious seven-year-old dear to our family has dealt with ulcerative colitis since she was three. One of my best friends just beat breast cancer, having to walk through fire with faith to get through multiple surgeries and painful recovery time.
It's not fair.
I'm so ready for the scientists to solve these puzzles!!!
I love that it looks like this is finally happening :-)
My vision of healthcare in the future?
Chronic medicine will become 'inner biome rebalancing'.
A sample of gut and mouth flora will be taken once every few years (preventatively) and if your flora are out of balance and dangerously inflamed in some way... the doctor will prescribe either a modified antibiotic or probiotic (or both!) to create an 'ideal' balance.
Then, you'll go on your merry, healthy way - disease free!
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
A few months ago during the height of summer I purchased two tickets so that my husband and I could travel to see one of our all-time favorite bands, Portishead, play a show in Los Angeles. They had not toured in the United States for ten years. It would be a very rare, special occasion.
Portishead is a band with a lot of romantic significance for us, given that we were listening to quite a lot of their music around the time when we fell in love nine years ago.
Since then, my husband and I have really looked forward to traveling out of town for this show. We even made it the centerpiece of our 9th anniversary celebration!
Today was the big day, our long-awaited trip to Los Angeles for a special dinner, beloved music, and time alone together. Grandma and her wonderful life partner would be coming to our home to watch our brood.
Which is why, of course, our two year old daughter chose last night (of all nights!) to awaken at 3am for no good reason and refuse to go back to sleep for the rest of the night.
"Mama! I'm hongree!!!"
Bleary eyed, I came to her door. "Time For Bed."
"NO! I HONGREE!"
So I gave her some food - a muffin.
She promptly ripped the muffin into hundreds of tiny crumbs and threw them around the room.
"Mama! I want to PLAY!!!!!!!!!!!!"
"No. Time For Bed."
"I NO BED!!! I PLAY!!!"
So I told the child in my desperately-clinging-to-sleep state that yes, we would play when the sun came out.
"Time For Bed," I added.
"Mama! I watch TV!"
"NO. Time For Bed." I let her crawl in with me, hoping to keep our small house quiet enough to prevent her from awakening her big brothers who had to be up and ready for school in a few hours.
The little imp (who had been terrorizing her brothers in the room they share) lay down in bed next to me for about 30 seconds and then began to kick me repeatedly. After putting up with this madness for too long, I looked at the clock and realized that somehow 3am had turned to 4am.
That was the last straw for me. In my exhausted state I knew it was time to call in reinforcements.
My husband joined the fray around 4am.
"It is time for you to go to bed," he spoke firmly to our daughter. "You cannot keep your mother awake like this."
"YES, I IS!" our daughter replied.
"I am going to count to THREE and then you are GOING TO SLEEP!" said her daddy.
"No, I DIDN'T!"
"Yes, you are!"
"NO, I NOT!"
...and so forth. It went along like this for far too long, until I must have passed out from sheer exhaustion because the next thing I knew I was dreaming (or half-dreaming) that my husband and I were already in Los Angeles but we'd forgotten the show tickets at home.
With a jolt I started awake and jumped up. "The tickets!" I squealed -
"Hmmmmmm?" my husband mumbled.
"WHAT, Mama?" my daughter giggled.
Groaning, I rolled over to face the clock and realized that it was now 6:00am. "NOOOOOOoooooo!" Time to get up, despite an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion.
"I'm going to get coffee," my husband grumbled.
"Mama! I HONGREE!!!" grinned our little girl.
* * *
In retrospect, we were so blessed. Despite the fact that I ended up running on about three hours of solid sleep (and my husband with only slightly more), we actually managed to enjoy a fantastic trip!
Maybe that's one of the crucial things about parenthood - it puts your priorities into stark relief so you don't take anything for granted.
Even though my husband and I were both completely wiped out, we couldn't reschedule our precious time alone for this once-in-a-lifetime show. We needed to step up to find a way to make the time together special and romantic despite our underlying sense that a NAP would have been heavenly.
On the drive we listened to a mix of Portishead, Radiohead and many of our other favorite artists. We also enjoyed companionate silence, something so sacred and rare as parents with young kids.
Once in Los Angeles we were lucky to dine on great food from a few local places we'd scoped out (all of which had gluten free options for me!) and even made back to our hotel with enough time to shower up before the show.
And the show... what a show! It would be hard to rave enough about the quality of the band's live performance, which was far beyond anything I had expected and had even better sound quality than their best recordings. The lead singer Beth Gibbons was completely entrancing, and while her body only swayed gently during the set, her vocals were overpowering - intensely sensual and perfect. We found out today that Radiohead's second drummer was sitting in on the set too!
By the time we made it back to our hotel my husband and I could barely see straight we were so tired, after a day of driving and celebrating on no sleep.
In fact, my husband closed his eyes and started snoring ;-) within moments of sitting down!
I am very tired now, but inside feeling quite radiant and blessed. Despite the groggy lens through which I approached this day, it turned out to be pretty terrific.
Monday, October 17, 2011
My husband returned home tonight after three days away, and I've gotta admit it was awfully nice to see the guy.
I love our kids vastly, and we mainly had a great weekend together, but every single time my husband leaves I find myself in awe of single mothers. Single parents, actually - because I'm sure there are a ton of single dads out there doing their best to raise kids on their own too!
Here are some of the things I noticed that you can't do when your parenting partner is out of town (or if you simply don't have one):
- Use the bathroom in private, or even with the door closed... because you need to be able to keep an eye on your smallest child while listening to make sure that the older children are not (a) beating each other up; (b) stealing dessert from the refrigerator; or (c) endangering themselves in other creative, inappropriate ways.
- Sleep. Because with three small children, someone is always up. Until that someone wakes their sister or brother up. At which point, everyone is up.
- Talk on the telephone. At all. Even for two minutes. (Not even if the President of the United States were on the other end of the line. The kids would STILL start singing and screaming two feet away. Just BECAUSE.)
- Decompress. When you're the only parent around, you're always "on"... Twenty four hours a day, the buck stops with you, which means you can't let your guard down. The second you do, some child will inevitably grow hysterical. It's better to stand ready at all times than to be blindsided by some of the amazing stuff kids can throw at you out of nowhere...
- Be in two places at once. Case in point, this weekend I had two sons with soccer practice at 4pm. Practices located 20 minutes apart. Thank goodness for the generosity of another team mom who graciously volunteered to take my younger son to his practice. I know my children *think* I can be in two places at once, but sorry kids - they haven't figured out a way to clone mommy yet.
- Share precious, spontaneous parenting moments. On Friday my two year old daughter confided in me that she (a) has a boyfriend and (b) loves her brothers because they are funny and nice. She was giggling adorably when she told me how much fun she has with her brothers, and how excited she was for them to come home from school for the day. I wished so much I'd had someone there listening with me to her babbling away, someone I could've turned to and said "Did you hear that? Is it just me or is she not absolutely DARLING???" But no-one was there.
There are a lot of military families in our town and some of my dearest friends have their husbands on deployment right now. Which means they are tending to their large, beautiful families alone.
Due to the nature of war itself and our country's difficult economic circumstances, these friends have no idea when their husbands will definitely be coming home... or how long they'll be able to stay before additional deployments.
I wonder if this is even more challenging than parenting entirely by oneself. When you're always waiting for someone to return, each moment has the potential to be beautiful (filled with memories, hope and love) or excruciating. You never know exactly what to expect. You can't just move forward.
The kids in these families are are always waiting too. Waiting for the other parent to return; waiting to hug them; waiting to have two parents again; Waiting for a reunion that they worry never actually come.
When I compare my paltry stints of single parenthood to these friends, I have to laugh at myself really hard.
Watching military families adapt with such grace and courage to lengthy separations gives a whiner like me quite a reality check. My three days of parenting alone doesn't really stack up to weeks, months, years or even a lifetime of single parenting.
That admitted, I'm extremely glad to have my husband back in town :-)
Friday, October 14, 2011
Happily I've come to a place emotionally, after working on this project for nearly a year, where I can truly accept that.
It isn't perfect and I'll be working wrapping up the missing posts for a few months after we hit December 10, 2011.
In a way, I'm secretly happy about that. It would be rather abrupt to stop writing altogether... especially after a year full of sharing quiet confidences in the wee hours of the night.
Today I had a really special moment with my smaller son's preschool teacher. I'd raced by her to grab him on the playground, with only 20 minutes remaining to get across town to pick up his elder brother from the 1st grade. We were running late as usual.
She stopped me though, and I could tell by the warm and effusive smile that whatever she needed to tell me was positive.
"I was going to send a note home this afternoon," she said, "So I'm really glad to see you. Your son is doing so well! He's really begun to thrive in class. He has mastered a number of skills recently (she then gave me a list) and he has also finally started talking a lot to the other students and to the other teacher and me."
"Yay!" I cheered. "He's warming up! It sounds like he finally feels comfortable here. I'm thrilled."
Indeed, just last night our little boy had pitched an enormous fit when his daddy suggested that he might want to stay home with me today. Enormous crocodile tears rolled down his cheeks (which had turned bright red from caterwauling).
"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I want to GO TO SCHOOL!!!!!!!!!!!!! Tomorrow is SHARING DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! TAKE ME TO SCHOOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
"Wow, hon-" my husband had turned to me. "I think he really likes his school."
* * *
It's great when these parental gambles we take actually pan out. There have been so many times over the past four months when our son actually didn't want to go to school. He even got injured thanks to his ardent desire NOT to go to school.
We kept sending him back though, with a smile every morning and a hug from Mommy and a fully stocked lunchbox. Now - wonderfully - our faith in the school has paid off and it brought tears to my eyes today when, as I was signing him out of school for the day, a little boy yelled at me
"He's MY FRIEND!" pointing at my son. "HE'S MY FRIEND!"
"That's great! Who are you?"
"I'm Remmy... HE" (gesturing emphatically in our direction) "is MY friend."
My son grinned from ear to ear.
At that moment, I could tell that what his preschool teacher had confided was 100% right on. Our boy has really turned a corner.
* * *
If anyone asked me right now for a sixty second window on our lives right now, I'd have to say in all honesty that I'd had no idea just how positive this move to our new home would end up being for us.
I feel so lucky, blessed, relaxed and focused.
So many good things have come into our lives with this move. New friends, new supports for our family (Moms group at the church, play therapist)... tutoring work for me... amazing schools for our kids. Exercise, sports teams, financial solvency, new philosophies of being, renewed health and time to devote to both the marriage and the children.
Things are solid; Real.
When I look back to where we were a year ago, it really feels like a different family living a totally different life. As a now healthy-motivated-optimistic woman on the go, I have trouble remembering the sickly, depressed woman I used to be very clearly; but I do remember that things weren't going well. (I'm good at blocking out bad memories... love focusing on the good ones!)
Not like we've suddenly become perfect...
It's just that, somehow this lifestyle and community are really healthy for us. We are each supported here in our dreams, needs, desires and even flaws. We've found an equilibrium in daily life that had been sorely lacking.
Last October I didn't know that it was even possible for us to be this happy; this contented as both individuals and a collective.
I hope when our kids read this blog someday in years to come they will recognize then that it IS possible to make major changes in a life, family and marriage in order to "re-boot" and have a fresh start. Even when you are 36 and 37 years old, with three small children in tow. (Even when your health is on the line.)
This year we learned that with faith and dedication, anything is possible.
When all is said and done I believe we will look back on this as a pivotal year of transition that set the stage for our bright, beautiful future.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
That is, I've thought a lot about romantic love for as long as I can remember...
...all the way back to my very young years watching "The Sound of Music" with my mother on holidays and thinking how great it was that Maria finally ended up with Captain von Trapp.
That movie taught me many important lessons about finding true love. Here's what I had figured out by the age of four or five:
- Love doesn't always arrive at convenient times, or when both people are ready
- Love isn't always neat and tidy
- Sometimes there are other people's feelings involved (Captain von Trapp's girlfriend, for example...)
- Careers can get in the way of relationships (i.e. "Nun" doesn't go hand in hand with romance)
- Sometimes even religion can pose a serious obstacle to romantic happiness
I also saw that love makes people happy causing them to sing a lot... but other times, it makes them desperately sad - as with Rolf and Liesl. When Rolf chooses career above love, Liesl is left broken hearted and their relationship ends abruptly and painfully.
All in all though, Maria and the Captain made dancing and chatting and hugging (and even bickering) with someone attractive look pretty great. I may have been four years old but already I was sold.
Someday, I would find a true love of my own... and we too would live happily ever after!
Climbing the Alps with our ridiculously large family.
* * *
Of course, it isn't easy to find a handsome Austrian naval captain in southern California. Possibly because Austria, to my knowledge, doesn't have a navy any more ~ and hasn't had one since the end of World War I.
So finding my own Captain von Trapp didn't happen quite as hoped or planned.
Between the ages of fourteen and twenty-six, several lovely guys (ok, and a few lousy ones) floated in and out of my life. Some I dated casually, others more seriously. One in particular broke my heart, while another will always hold a special place in it.
I've gotta say though, in the end those relationships pretty much universally smacked of Rolf and Liesl... starting with attraction, singing and fun; ending with arguments, abrupt conversations, changes of heart and tears.
Ultimately, I always had to steel my shoulders to the wind and start to climb the Alps next to my own family (brothers, sister, parents) again... without a dreamy life partner by my side.
* * *
In 2001 a few important things happened in my life.
First, I returned to my hometown from Los Angeles where I'd been trying to make it in the music business. I enrolled in a one-year teacher credentialing program and got a job at a local school teaching creative writing.
During this time, a good friend of mine who managed a fantastic local band and knew how passionate I was about music asked me if I'd like to work for him. I put together a lot of press kits, contacted a lot of folks at major record labels, enticed A&R guys out to watch their shows, and negotiated gig contracts with bars across the country - clarifying the band's rider (special requests) and hotel arrangements. I saw a ton of live music when I wasn't teaching or taking classes. It was a lot of fun.
Then came September 11th, 2001. A lot of things changed for me around then. My perspective shifted dramatically.
I was in the classroom when the planes hit the World Trade Center and later that afternoon I sat with my parents at their home, stunned by the images we saw on television. I hugged them and held their hands and cried for my country, wept for all of the families in New York, Washington, Pennsylvania and beyond who would not have their mother, father, son, daughter, sister or brother coming home ever again.
I thought a lot about my value system, and what mattered the most to me.
I thought about what I could do to actually change the world for the better.
As much as I loved working with musicians, I couldn't see that working for a record label getting bands signed to contracts would actually help create anything positive for anyone in the world other than, hopefully, the musicians.
Teaching, though - that had possibilities. As a teacher I could positively impact a whole lot of children... and potentially even change their sense of confidence and academic success. I might be able to inspire a kid to go to college, stay out of a gang, get off drugs, stop bullying others or even to become a teacher!
By the time I earned my credential in late December I knew that I needed to teach; teaching was my true calling in life.
In January, right as I was applying for teaching positions in town, the band that I'd been working with made a momentous change. They broke up, reformed without one of their members and the manager that I'd assisted... decided to quit their jobs and move to Los Angeles. My friends wondered if I'd be heading back to LA with them, given my past there and all of my music connections. My five closest friends in the city at that time (two women, three men) were all moving away.
After long hours wrapped in thought at last I made my choice.
I would stay in my hometown and find teaching work. I would say goodbye to my closest friends and the band, at least for a while, and give back to the world a little by focusing on children.
The date was January 19, 2002.
I called a friend from my credential program.
"Nell*," I confided. "I'm not moving back to LA. I'm going to stay here and put down roots."
"Really?" she squealed. "Yay! I'm so happy! I'm glad you're sticking around!"
Then she issued the mandate that changed my life:
"Let's go out tonight to celebrate! Find a band playing at some bar you've never been to before and we'll go have a beer and toast to new beginnings."
* * *
So that is exactly what happened.
I picked a bar. A band was playing that I'd heard of before from musicians I respected, and at the very least it looked like a decent lineup.
Nell and I (along with her boyfriend? I can't remember...) got dressed up and went out on the town. We grabbed dinner and then arrived at the bar about an hour before the headlining band was set to go on.
The bar was crowded. The show went on to sell out. We played pool.
And then, somewhere along the way, Nell (who had a loud, vivacious personality) said to me -
"Check OUT that guy over there. He's been looking at you. He's HOT."
Ever so casually, I glanced in the direction she was mentioning. I saw not one, but three guys hanging out at the bar. I made eye contact with one of them and smiled. Within about twenty minutes, the three of them were talking up the three of us.
One of those guys, the one with the glowing blue eyes and luminous smile, turned out to be my Captain von Trapp.
* * *
Of course, as with Maria and the Captain, it didn't work out perfectly right away.
All told, nearly nine months passed between the day we met and the day we finally "got together" and began to date.
My husband remains the only man I have ever been friends with before we began to date romantically. By the time we shared our first kiss, we'd shared a great deal of history. Made a lot of memories. Gotten to know each other extremely well.
There had been some complications. Misunderstandings. Emotional triangles with other romantic interests. Even some arguments and long silences along our journey toward true love.
By the end of that first summer my husband and I had also been on countless "friend-dates" to the movies, out to dinner, to weddings, to see shows, just hanging out. We'd spent a lot of time together.
I'd dreamt about him for months. Written little notes in my journal about how my heart raced whenever he was around.
You see, I'd known by April 2002 that I had a huge crush on him. I'd had five long months to be sure that he was someone I really wanted to date.
After a long summer, he'd begun to figure things out too.
* * *
One evening in October (the 11th, to be exact) we enjoyed a nice barbecue and then went out to a bar with one of our best friends to get a drink. Unexpectedly, he announced that he had to leave - had to get an early start in the morning.
We found ourselves alone, with newly ordered drinks standing full on the table. The air was thick with sexual tension and we sat staring at each other for a few moments.
When he spoke at last, his words coursed directly into my heart.
"I have so much regret over many things that have happened this year," he said, referring to our complications. "You are an amazing person. I just wish we could go back to the beginning. I wish we could start again."
The room began to spin and in my memory (looking back) it was also illuminated with a golden hue.
He kissed me, right in the middle of that crowded bar - and our world was never the same.
* * *
From that night forward my husband and I have been together. We dated for two years. Got engaged. Married each other. Had 1-2-3 babies!
Sometimes friends have asked us our secret for staying together. This is our response -
"Before dating we'd already seen the best and worst sides of each other... all of the most annoying and frustrating traits, and all of the fantastic ones. We still chose to be together. This is probably why we've stayed together, when most of the other relationships close to ours in the beginning fell apart around us."
I think there is a lot of truth to that.
Here we are, nine years later.
We're right in the thick of the life we've built together, or perhaps more accurately, the lives we've created together.
Our world now consists of books and bicycles, babies and backrubs, cooking and cleaning, working and playing... with some music and a lot of friends thrown into the mix. We're looking forward to a future of traveling, volunteering and giving together. We're looking forward to hiking (biking?) over the Italian Alps together someday... with our young children by our side.
Like Captain von Trapp my husband is a charismatic, brilliant man. He's well-rounded, athletic, kind and sincere. He believes in things. He's an amazing father. He is witty and wise. Like Maria and her captain, sometimes we disagree and then make up. We love each other truly. My husband looks handsome all the time, even when he hasn't had his morning coffee.
On occasion, he even sings.
* * *
So that's our love story, with special thanks to Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer who first made love look really good.
I love you with a full heart, honey. You're worth climbing every mountain.
Monday, October 10, 2011
My body insists that actually, what would REALLY make it feel better would be ice cream. Or maybe a meringue. Possibly some cinnamon toast. Or a homemade pie. Cupcakes?
* * *
Today was supposed to be a fun family day.
We were going to take our kids out to pick fresh apples in the mountains... or maybe out to the valley to get a "real" pumpkin from a patch.
Then we learned that today (Columbus Day) is a school holiday for one of our children, but not the other. Apparently private schools appreciate having the day off (they still get paid and don't have to show up...) but public schools prefer to stay open so that they'll receive federal funding for student attendance.
At least, that's my mother's theory.
So at the very last minute, we were obliged to change our plans.
No mountains, no pumpkin patch. Instead, school lunch was duly packed... son was bathed and sent along his merry way to learn with his buddies.
The other four of us were left sitting around at home wondering how to spend the day.
My husband, being a practical guy, decided that it was time to sort laundry.
Normally this would be great! What a guy ~ helping to sort the laundry! Typically I'd be thrilled.
However there is something vaguely disappointing about going to bed dreaming about family road trips with music and delicious food and laughter; and then walking into the kitchen a few hours later to find a mountain of laundry in the middle of the floor, spreading in all directions.
It didn't feel good.
I do chores six days a week. My whole world as a stay-at-home mother revolves around doing chores. Today was supposed to be a day of rest and relaxation.
My husband will be leaving town for a bicycling trip (much deserved, long awaited) with his siblings and father on Friday. I will have the kids on my own in his absence.
I anticipate that for the 72 hours of his getaway, I'll be doing nothing but chores of one kind or another: all the work I normally do, plus all of the stuff he normally helps me with.
All this to say, I don't want to spend Columbus Day doing laundry.
* * *
Since I'm working tonight, and since I had the kids on my own a lot this weekend, my husband agreed to a compromise. He would do laundry and all of the practical things he's hoping to accomplish with the day.
I will take a break and decompress before a big week ahead.
It was nice of him to suggest this compromise, and I'd be foolish not to accept the kind offer.
I'm just not sure how to spend my time.
I wasn't expecting that I'd have free moments today. I thought we'd be out walking in a pasture somewhere as a family! I didn't expect downtime. I don't have any plans. It's a little late to find a friend to get together with for lunch or a playdate.
* * *
However, there is one thing I'd like to do.
I'd like to do something nice for my husband.
Tomorrow is our 9th anniversary, and lately we've been so busy with the kids, we haven't had a date night alone in weeks.
I think this is pretty common for parents with young kids. One of my best friends recently confided that she and her husband had their first date night out since their nearly 18 month old daughter was born...
A year and a half! That's a long time to go without any private time alone, over candlelight or just holding hands at the movies.
(Then I felt really badly for complaining to her about not having a date night in weeks.)
* * *
Nine years - that's a lot to be proud of. I'm lucky to be married to such a good man and I truly want to surprise him with something special.
We're going out of town soon to see a great show as part of our anniversary celebration, but this surprise for tomorrow will be something more personal and sweet.
On this Columbus Day then, my plan is to put together a lovely surprise (shhhh, don't tell!) for my honey... to celebrate nine extremely full, beautiful, exciting years together.
Looking forward to writing more about that tomorrow!
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
It wasn't until a doctor told me last year that the skin on my body might actually swell and permanently harden (Scleroderma. It didn't happen.) that I realized how much I'd taken the benefits of living in my own skin for granted over the course of 34 years.
That is a literal statement but I mean it metaphorically as well.
There's something really powerful about (finally!) finding peace and comfort within your own skin.
Accepting all of the quirky things that make you unique... letting go of trying to be something you're not.
* * *
I've written in this blog before about the social anxiety I've faced for years when inviting folks to our home.
I used to think everything had to be perfect to have friends over. Clean. Pretty. Well decorated.
I got this from growing up in a home that was (and remains) visually perfect and flawlessly clean. My mom is amazing.
I've inherited her appreciation of beauty... but don't have that kind of bank account. Or time.
So, the lack of money used to hold us back from entertaining.
"How can we invite friends over when we don't have enough matching chairs?" I would moan. "Look at the stains on the walls!" (Our children have many unusual artistic gifts, some of which involve food. Throwing food, to be exact.)
This year, though, I've realized that I can't just sit around waiting for the next thirty years to invite our friends over when we finally have a pretty enough home to entertain in.
That just isn't going to work.
It's time to celebrate the love we have for our friends and family NOW, and to hell with the scuffed up house and shabby decorations.
Which means this weekend we are going ~ for the first time in nearly fifteen years! ~ to entertain some of the people I love most in the world here at our teeny little rental house.
They've been my mentors and kind friends for so long now, and yet this will be their very first time entering my home. I've been invited into their own gorgeous house countless times... first as teacher, then babysitter and tutor, later as friend.
What does this say about me?
What does it say that it has taken me 15 years to invite people I respect so much to my house for a simple meal?
I think it says that I've been ashamed of my home and lack of elegance. Which translates to a shame about myself.
Which is pretty ridiculous.
This equates to me looking down upon our life situation. Absurd, really - especially considering how hard my husband and I both work.
We are well educated, dedicated, motivated, innovative people who have followed the path laid before us by life. We've been so blessed in our families, lifelong friendships and education.
Money surely could have followed us, had we made other life choices. Straight out of college I was given a job as a head technical writer/manager for Oracle Corporation making excellent money with stock options and job availability around the world.
Had I chosen to stay with Oracle, I might be well on my way to a lucrative retirement by now.
My husband is a total genius and earned his degree from the same prestigious university that I attended. He singlehandedly taught himself how to code in at least four (more?) different complex computer languages and has built and run as successful small business for the past 13 years, employing several of his close friends.
Had he chosen to take his massive skill set to work for another company like Microsoft or Qualcomm, he too might be well on his way to a lucrative retirement by now.
Here's the thing though...
We're not those people. We're not the kind of folks that stay in a job for money... although we appreciate money and look forward to having more of it some day. We thrive on independence, autonomy, and changing the world in our own way.
He and I took Robert Frost's road less traveled. (One could argue that this shared value may be one of the many things that drew us to each other, and continues to keep our relationship thriving.)
I chose to teach, accepting half the salary, no stock, no retirement plan.
My husband chose to run his own show, accepting the heavy responsibility of owning a small business in a down economy while navigating the complex international dynamics that affect his chosen industry.
Along the way we've also created three beautiful, smart, athletic children. They are expensive. We wouldn't have it any other way. We adore them.
And here we are...
...in our mid-thirties, renting a house in a good school district. Stomping down anxiety attacks over how we will afford to water the enormous lawn (Rain already, won't you? It's October!!!) and hoping and planning for a time when we will at last join our friends in home ownership.
This is it, though. This is real.
This is the life we are *actually* leading, as opposed to the life we think we "should" be leading.
It's time to embrace the crazy and be proud of that.
I wish I was an artist, a gardener, a fabulous housekeeper. I wish I had painted beautiful murals on my children's bedroom walls... that I knew special tricks for getting marker out of upholstery... that I could cook like my mother-in-law.
I wish I was a lot of things, but I'm not those things.
Instead, I'll celebrate who I AM ~ a loving, devoted mother with piles of laundry to wash and fold; a dedicated tutor who thrives on teaching; a true friend who can't believe I've waited so long to invite my dear mentors into my home. (They are not judgmental at all. I have judged myself and found myself lacking... and that is such a shame.)
* * *
This blog has always been about sharing with my children the meaning of life as I see it.
Today's lesson is an important one then:
No matter how humble your home or your meal may be ~ give of yourself wholly, joyfully and proudly to others. Food, especially when prepared with love, always tastes good when shared with true friends.
Open your heart and your hearth without fear or reservation. Life is too short to worry about what other's think... Love the world, love yourself, and you will be loved.
Sunday, October 2, 2011
Vacation when you're 6, 4 and 2 is all about simple joys.
Where are we right now, kids?
Why did we come here?
"We're having a vacation! We get to sleep here!"
What do we do on vacation?
"We play golf and swim in the REAL ocean!"
What's your favorite part about being on vacation?
Replies the six year old, introspectively:
"I like that when we play miniature golf there are little holes with tunnels in them and the balls go down to a different level of the course."
Adds his four year old brother, "I like to go in the taxi!"
What is the weather like?
"In the morning it is so sunny I cannot even breathe."
What are the people like?
"They're nice. Especially the one at the golf course that let us golf for free."
"Even the one that our sister made friends with at the golf course. That lady! Sister called her "Sarah" all morning even thought that wasn't her name."
Tell me more about the lady at the golf course.
"She was very pretty. Sister followed her everywhere saying, "Hi Sarah!" When we tried to talk with our sister she said, "No! Go away! I'm talking to Sarah!"
Well, who won the golf game?
"My brother and I did."
Where is your Dad right now?
"He's going for a little bike ride until ten o'clock. Then we're going to swim in the REAL ocean."
What else are we going to do today?
"We're going to get ice cream for dessert tonight, from an ACTUAL ice cream shop!"
Oh yeah? What makes the ice cream different than what we'd buy at the grocery store?
"It's special ice cream, mommy. With a big huge cone that looks like a waffle. And whipped cream like crazy on top!"
"We can go hiking again today!"
(Addressing the two year old:) Princess, what do you want to do today?
"Coin-y coin. I find coin for my piggy-piggy." She stuffs a nickel and a penny down the front of her footsie pajamas. "Oopsies!"
What was the boat ride like on the way over?
"It was really bumpy. I saw the waters bouncing on the top of the boat."
What is your favorite thing about going away on trips?
"I love to go and stay at a new house!"
"Sarah!" sings out little Sister. "I make new friends!"
"I like to see islands from the boat, and also see where we live at home."
If you could give travel advice to someone that has never traveled before, what would you say to them?
"It's really fun!"
"Buy food on the boat!"
"Make new friends!"
"Try new things!"