2020 and What Happens Next

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I have been slow about choosing my new Word for the Year this time. I had several in mind, including a second dance with Surrender, but finally the word Progress has risen to the top. “Progress, not perfection” is one of my new favorite mottoes. I want to spend 2020 recognizing and celebrating my progress, however small it might be. There are things I want to accomplish but I know they can’t all spring forth fully formed, so Progress will be my friend this year.

One area I want to Progress in is my writing. I spent much of 2019 thinking about all the things I wanted to write about but not writing much of anything. Part of that was because one of the big things I wanted/needed to write about involved a minor child and I didn’t (still don’t) feel comfortable telling her life story online without her permission. So that’s off the table, and yet it consumed so much of my time and thoughts last year. But we have made some Progress and will continue to do so. You just won’t read about it here.

Spiritually speaking, I have always struggled with making time to read the Bible. I mean, I know all the reasons why I should, yet I just keep letting it slide. I found a new app that reads the Bible to you (it’s called Dwell and this is not a paid plug by any means), and now I am listening my way through Proverbs by using my AirPods at work. It’s not perfect but it’s Progress and I’ll take it.

My health/weight has improved but there is still some room for further improvement. I have twelve pounds to go til I reach my goal weight, although frankly I will still be okay if I don’t lose any more. I did not do much exercising (please see previous post if you need a reminder of why) but hope to change that in 2020. I would also like to add some weight/resistance training to build muscle.

Let’s go back to my health issues of 2019 for a moment: I ended my year in a pretty painful way as I was waiting for my knee follow-up in January. Finally someone suggested (and not for the first time, but this time I listened) that maybe I should get some blood work done to make sure that my pain wasn’t caused by some kind of system-wide inflammation, like an immune system disorder, which would also explain my elevated platelet levels for the past 2-3 years. I called my primary care doctor and asked about it, and they had me come right in. My doctor was shocked at my appearance (to be fair, it was probably my worst pain day ever) and sent me for labs. The next day I had my knee follow up and while the orthopedist didn’t seem to fully appreciate the desperation I felt, he gave me a steroid shot in the right knee (the worst culprit) and some powerful anti-inflammatory meds. Within 24 hours I started feeling better, thanks to the miracles of modern medicine.

But then…the blood test results came back. One of the markers for Rheumatoid Arthritis was positive, and not just a little bit positive. Furthermore, my platelets were higher than before. (for the record, I saw a hematologist three separate times and was assured each time that it was not a big deal). I saw a Rheumatologist who has now diagnosed me with RA, and she believes this explains my shoulder pain as well as my knees and hips. While I am happy to have an answer, I have to admit I am a little annoyed at having one. more. thing. to think about health-wise. It doesn’t seem fair that I lost a bunch of weight and NOW my body is choosing to fall apart.

RA is not uncommon in women my age, and right now I am feeling pretty good. I understand it may have “flares” and other times when it’s hardly noticeable. My RA doctor is planning to start me on a medication to hopefully keep it in check, as soon as she gets the results from the many, MANY tubes of blood she had drawn when I saw her last week.

Another area where I want to see Progress is in my reading. Honestly, I am a spoiled reader. I read what I like, and I don’t necessarily read things that might be “good” for me. Like non-fiction, for instance. I was introduced to the enneagram (7w8, in case you are wondering) this past year and I have been trying to get through a couple of books about it but I just can’t seem to make myself read them even though it’s a subject that interests me. Also, I used to post book reviews on GoodReads fairly regularly and I gave myself the year “off” in 2019 then I discovered that I was forgetting what I had read, and I wanted to know how many books I read last year. So I’m a few books behind on GR but I posted three reviews this afternoon. (even though I’ve already read like eight books this year. None of them non-fiction though.)

2020 may have had a rough start but things are already looking better. Progress is progress, however small the steps, and I intend to celebrate every little baby step along the way. A little bit better, a little at a time.

2019, What Have You Done to Me?

I feel as thounordwood-themes-C0sW3yscQXc-unsplashgh I should wrap up 2019 before I embark on my 2020 journey.

2019’s Word of the Year was Surrender. I hated it and loved it all at the same time. It’s scary for a control freak to surrender anything, yet it was a relief to “let go and let God”, as they say. And believe me, I got plenty of opportunities to practice surrendering.

I started a weight loss plan in January 2019, after having the highest ever (for me) A1c in December 2018. That’s a blood test for type 2 diabetics that shows how much sugar has been in their blood in the past three months. Mine was 8.1 and it scared me. My paternal grandmother had diabetes and it went undetected for years, which led to multiple amputations and strokes. I am 55 years old and I don’t want that for myself, so something had to be done. I signed up for Noom and I am thrilled to report that I have lost 40 pounds in the past year. I could go on and on about Noom and how it has quite literally changed the way I think about food and eating, but I won’t do that here. Different things work for different people, and this is the first thing that has worked for me long term. I have 12 pounds to go until I reach my goal, but even if I don’t lose any more weight I am happy right where I am. I don’t feel deprived and my A1c was down to 6.8 back in September, so things are moving in the right direction.

“Surrender” hit me hard in the area of my parenting. Parenting is not for the weak, and there are always some children who seem to need more directing and yet resist it with every fiber of their being. I have one of those. 2019 was the year when she tested every limit she could find, throwing herself into every barrier we erected to try to reign her in. I kept hearing God tell me that He loves her so much more than we do, and that I need to surrender her to His care. That is totally the opposite of what society says to do. Society says that we should build walls and try to control her behavior. Well, we tried that this year and it completely backfired on us. My husband and I have had to re-evaluate our parenting style with this kid and try new tactics, and so far things have calmed down somewhat. She still participates in activities that we wish she would not, however we have accepted that we cannot force her to stop, so we are currently concentrating on the things we CAN do, with God’s help, and working to maintain a relationship with her and build trust so that we can be there to help her when she is ready to make changes.

In June my middle daughter graduated high school. My mother came to visit and celebrate with us, for only the second time since we’ve been in Virginia. The day she arrived, we received a phone call from my brother with the horrific news that his wife had unexpectedly passed away in her sleep. We put my mother on a plane back home the very next day so she could help my brother through an experience that no one should ever have to endure.

We celebrated a new addition to our family with the birth of our grandson in November. He is gorgeous and sweet and everything we never knew we needed.

And then there was my health. You hear over and over that losing weight is good for your health, and I suppose it is (witness my A1c levels). However, 2019 was the year that the wheels came off healthwise. It all started in March, when I began having trouble sleeping. I was having pain in my shoulders and back, and I was convinced it was due to our old mattress, so we shopped around and bought a new one but it didn’t help. The back pain gradually went away with the help of an orthopedist and some good drugs, but then my shoulders got worse and my hands decided to join the party. I remember on July 4 I was in the backyard pool and telling a friend that neither my hands nor my shoulders were operating normally. I saw the orthopedist again, got some advice, and moved on. Well, sort of. The hands got better but my shoulders continued to hurt, and I was eventually diagnosed with frozen shoulder. I have to say that I had no idea how important full shoulder function could be. Washing my hair was painful. I couldn’t lift my arms over my head or reach around my back. Getting dressed and undressed was difficult. Rolling over in bed was agony. I could barely style my hair because I couldn’t reach up or behind my head. I had steroid shots (ouch!) and a closed manipulation, plus lots of physical therapy. The shoulder never made a full recovery but I figured that I would just deal with it, since frozen shoulder usually goes away on its own in about a year.

But then my knees got into the act. The week of Thanksgiving I hobbled into the after hours clinic at the orthopedic office because my knees were aching like crazy. X-rays showed nothing so I was sent on my way with a knee brace, oral steroids, and a follow-up appointment. I felt great on the two weeks of steroids – even my frozen shoulders felt better – but then they wore off and my hips and shoulders joined my knees in a great bodily chorus of pain. Sleeping was difficult and I could no longer roll over in bed. On more than one occasion I had to have my husband physically pull me out of bed because I could not get up by myself. That’s humbling for someone who has always been as independent as I have. There is more to this story but I will address it in my next post. But surrendering my health issues to God’s hands was nervous-making but oh so necessary.

So weight loss is fantastic. Weight loss while dealing with parenting issues and joint pain is quite amazing, if I do say so myself. I’ve learned a lot in 2019 that I will take into the next decade. Surrendering is not weak, it is an act of courage – a demonstration of faith in Someone much stronger and wiser than I am. Surrender is freeing. More than anything, I have learned that God is faithful and He can be trusted. He has come through for me time and time again and He will do it over and over, now and forevermore.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changing

I have been a terrible blogger. I can’t make excuses, except…Life, with a capital L. I love writing and I love the blogging community, yet I feel it slipping away from me. There is nothing to do about it but sit myself down and start writing.

So. I have been on a journey since December. I’ve been on a spiritual journey for much longer, of course, but this is something new for me and it’s time to come clean and tell the world what’s happening to me. I need the accountability, for starters, and my friends can only listen to my rambling for so long before their eyes start to glaze over. This is a subject that is a frequent topic of conversation all over social media and everyone seems to have an opinion on the best way to go about it.

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Yes, people, we are going to talk about weight loss. Now, don’t get worried – I’m not a “coach” of any kind and I’m not going to try to sell you a program or a system, or powdered drink mix. I just need to talk about what’s going on with me without making my poor husband want to plug his ears.

Back in December I saw my doctor for my semi-annual checkup. I am a Type 2 diabetic and although my medication keeps my blood sugar in check, I tend to eat like I don’t even know what diabetes is. I do this despite the fact that my paternal grandmother lost toes and legs to this dreadful disease. In December the doctor ran my A1C, which if you are a diabetic, is a measure of your averqage blood sugar levels over the past 3 months. They usually like it to be under 7. Mine was 8.1. I have never, ever had an A1C that high in my life. Granted, it was right after Christmas, so I may have had more than my share of sugary treats (that I shouldn’t be eating anyway) which might have affected it. But still, I was shook.  It turns out that I am fairly fond of my toes, feet, and legs, and I do not want to part ways with them. It became crystal clear to me that I needed to change something.

Now, I am going to get public about something that most ladies don’t discuss. My weight has hovered around the 195-205 range for most of my adult life, with a few notable exceptions. I have dieted off and on for much of my life, including a dehydration diet in my teens that promised to pare off 10 pounds in 10 days. It worked, but then again, limiting your fluid intake drastically and keeping to 500 calories a day tends to drain off a lot of water weight. As soon as you start eating and drinking normally again it all comes back. I used to wrap myself in plastic wrap in hopes of sweating off some weight. Nope. I was a size 16-18 all through high school, I hated physical activity of any kind because I wasn’t coordinated and my weight made it difficult, and I loved (still do) sweets and carbs, like any good Southern girl.

I took various weight loss “aids” over the years, most of which you can’t buy over the counter any more, and for good reason. I used to buy Ayds – remember those? They were chocolate candies that were supposed to decrease your appetite. Of course, eating the whole box at once defeats the purpose. I tried laxatives (ew) but never for long. And I hated puking so I wasn’t going down that particular eating disorder path.

One of those notable exceptions that I mentioned was the time I took Phen/Fen. If you are a particular age, you may remember that phenomenon. It was the late 1990’s and people discovered that if you took these two medications together, it caused rapid weight loss.  Why? Because you had ZERO appetite, that’s why. Most medical professionals and some state governments did not look kindly on Phen/Fen but the clinics popped up like dandelions anyway. I had to travel across state lines to have my monthly checkups and get my meds. This one worked, but I felt like a zombie. Some nights I would only have a glass of milk for dinner because I was not the least bit hungry. Eventually it was discovered that Phen/Fen caused heart issues and the fad went away, just like my weight loss did once I began eating normally again.

For awhile I just accepted that this must be my body’s “happy weight” and maybe I’m meant to be this size. I gave away all my “small” clothing and started using real butter because, hey, life’s too short for fake butter, right? I ate what I wanted and counted on the Metformin to keep my diabetes at bay, never mind that I was on the maximum dosage. After all, I couldn’t see myself as one of those people who constantly watched their weight, ate salads without dressing, and used artificial sweeteners. And honestly, I hate depriving myself of anything. I’m a little spoiled, I admit, and maybe even childish that way.

But 8.1. Yikes.

Girl, do you want to live it up, or do you genuinely want to live?

So right afterward I was scrolling through the Book of Face and kept seeing ads for an app called Noom. (I am not compensated by Noom for this in any way, by the way. Just a believer.) The ads touted their psychology angle, which was new for me. It wasn’t free, but you could try it free for two weeks. So I signed up, fully intending to drop it after two weeks.

Except I didn’t, because it was working. Still is. This morning I weighed in at the lowest weight I have seen since my Phen/Fen days.

So I’m not going to bore you with long explanations of how/why it works except to say that no food is off limits, they send you articles and tasks every day, and the psychology was the key for me. My tastes are actually changing! I know, I know – I used to roll my eyes at people who said they’d rather have an apple than a cupcake but it’s true. (I’m sorry to all those people at whom I rolled my eyes) My husband has noticed and so have my kids.

I have goals, people. I want to get off or reduce some of my medications, which right now include Metformin, blood pressure meds, and a cholesterol med. I want to be able to climb the stairs at my office without panting for breath. And I want to be able to do the ropes course at the Adventure Park in Virginia Beach. That’s right – I said it. My goal weight is not that low (150) but I will reassess when I get there. Meanwhile I feel better, I have more energy, and I’m having a clothing crisis because nothing fits but I don’t want to buy new stuff until I’m finished losing. To be honest, I sort of resent how good I feel. Why couldn’t I feel this good when I was eating cornbread dripping with real butter? (yum, cornbread!) I’m learning which foods are my friends and which are not, and I’ve discovered that Greek yogurt is delicious and filling. Who am I?? What is happening to me?? I’m learning new things about myself and my relationship to food every single day.

The main thing I have found is that whatever I do to lose weight MUST be something I can live with for the rest of my life. As soon as I feel deprived, I have a tendency to quit, but so far I haven’t felt deprived. Any time I have been on a “diet” I knew it was short term, until I could lose the weight, then I could go back to “real” life. Well, this IS real life, and I can do this for the rest of mine.

Blowing Off The Dust

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I can’t believe it’s been so long since I last wrote on my little blog! I don’t have any excuses other than…life. There is much to tell about what has gone on since my last post, but that’s not why I’m here today.

It’s January, so that must mean it’s time for a new WOTY, or Word of the Year, OneWord365, or whatever phrase you use to identify it. For the past few years I have chosen a word (or it has chosen me) to give me some direction for that year. Generally I start out strong and then…life.

I have to admit, I am not a fan of this year’s word, which is probably why it chose me. An online friend brought up the One Word question a few weeks ago so I started paying attention to see if a particular word would become obvious to me. I mentally perked up my ears and started considering the merits of the weighty words I heard in my everyday life. Then one morning I was driving to work and I happened to click over to the Christian radio station, and as I was listening to the song, the word “surrender” popped into my head. And like the obedient child of God that I am, I said, “Oh, God – not that one!” and quickly changed the station. But it was too late. Surrender had started to take root in my mind.

A couple of days later I was talking on the phone to my good friend Pam, rehashing our holidays with family and talking about our children. Several times in the conversation she used the word “surrender” until I finally had to ask her to stop saying that word. There have been other instances that confirmed “surrender” so I finally…surrendered to my fate.

As I have thought more about it, I realize that surrender doesn’t always have to simply mean “giving in”. When you surrender you are ceding control to a force that is stronger than yours. You stop fighting. The war is over and peace can now be achieved. Heaven knows I do not like to give up control so this is going to be a year of learning for me. I can surrender to Him because He is trustworthy, and in surrendering maybe I can find some peace. I can stop trying so hard to keep all the plates spinning because He is in control after all.

There is also the aspect of surrendering your worries – essentially laying them down at His feet. (I did consider “Let It Go” as my word but sometimes I get stuck on rules and that is three words, so no. But basically it’s the same.) Surrendering my children to His rule and not my own control. Not holding onto stuff (worries, anger, grudges, not to mention literal “stuff”). I am, after all, a Nerdy Wordy Girl who can turn a word inside out to find all the possible implications.

Clearly this is a something I can work on and maybe by the end of the year I will find myself in a better place spiritually. It’s a scary word and it drums up all kinds of vulnerable feelings, but it feels necessary. Stay tuned.

Beauty in the Broken: Five Minute Friday

I’m linking metaphorical arms with the Five Minute Friday community this morning, where we write for five minutes on a single topic. Today’s word is BEAUTY. Here we go!

It’s not hard to find beauty in the natural world. God, in His wisdom, has created a lovely environment for His children. The ocean, the mountains, the wonder of a newborn baby – they all sing of His glory and His love for us.

But what about the broken things? Broken hearts, broken lives, broken bodies, broken spirits – where is the beauty there? Somehow I find a thing more beautiful to behold when it’s been broken. There is something holy in the way God alone can fit our broken pieces back together, filling up the empty spaces with Himself. Too much perfection might tempt me to worship the thing and not the Creator of the thing. But the broken ones remind me of our need for a Savior.

Oops! Time’s up!

Want to join in? Visit fiveminutefriday.com.

Seventeen Years

So in the midst of all this medical stuff going on, my middle girl turned 17 years old.

She’s one year away from legally being able to vote and make certain other legaldecisions on her own.  This kid. Mercy.IMG_0589This kid took years to get here. Somehow I think she’s more precious for all the time it cost us to bring her into existence. She took her sweet time coming into this world and she’s been living on her own time system ever since. Don’t try to hurry her because it’s a sure way to slow her down.

She loves her music. She’s been singing since she could talk and began writing songs as soon as she was able to put words on paper. She took a few months each of piano, voice, and guitar lessons, and taught herself everything else from there. For her birthday this year she got an electric guitar to add to her two acoustics, one ukulele, and a keyboard.

She loves animals. She volunteers at the local SPCA in the cat room. She is tender toward her grumpy guinea pig and gentle with her sister’s pet rabbit.

This past two years has been like watching a flower unfurl in slow motion. She is stepping out of her shell, competing in a local talent show. She’s getting involved in the theater department. She’s doing improv comedy. She has found her “tribe” at school. We have fascinating conversations about things that matter and she has insight that astounds and confounds me, in all the best ways.

She is stretching her wings, reaching out, and becoming more like a grown woman every single day. It is both thrilling and soul-crushing to see how she needs us less and less. And at the same time I am struck by how much I still need to teach her and how little time I have left to teach it.

I found a video that I made for her several years ago and one of the songs I chose said, “Oh, darlin’ don’t you ever grow up, just stay this little” and while I certainly feel that way, it’s not fair to her to wish she would stay little forever.

As much as I miss that sweet baby face of hers, I want to see her blossom into full-grown womanhood. I want to see her step confidently out into the world, wherever life takes her. I want to see what she becomes.

Happy birthday, Super Seventeen. ❤

 

 

Small World

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It’s a small world. And for my family, it seems to be getting even smaller.

I haven’t written much about it here – honestly, I haven’t written much here at all in the past year – but one of my teenage daughters has been ill off and on for the past couple of years. It started with abdominal pain that we (and the ER doctor) were just sure was appendicitis, but testing revealed a perfectly normal appendix. Since that first ER visit back in December 2015, we have been in the ER quite a few times for stomach pain and just like the first time, they can find nothing wrong except that maybe she could be dehydrated and/or constipated. She has seen GI specialists and had multiple tests done until finally in December 2017 one of them had an abnormal result. We have been held hostage to this pain and we now have a name for our captor – gastroparesis.

This active, social girl of mine used to be a gymnast. She played lacrosse. She went to school, if not joyfully, at least willingly. She hung out with friends. She laughed and joked and was in nearly constant motion. She had sleepovers at home and at friends’ homes.

At the time of that first ER visit in 2015 she was on a competitive cheerleading team. She was a flyer and pretty darn good at it. She tumbled like the former gymnast that she was and relished the whole hair-and-makeup process that came with competitions. She missed a few practices due to random belly pain, but overall it wasn’t a huge factor. She stopped cheer in spring 2016 and took a break from sports for several months, not for physical reasons but for personal reasons.

Early winter 2017 saw my daughter taking up lacrosse. She was very enthusiastic about this new (to her) sport and a fast learner. Even after she broke her wrist while snowboarding, she continued to go to lacrosse and simply learned to use her non-dominant hand for everything. When spring came she again did lacrosse, although she missed a practice or two due to bellyaches.

Summer 2017 saw her taking up gymnastics again and even joining a competitive team. She also did lacrosse again, which was only a six-week program in summer. But this was when things started falling apart for her. Of the six weeks of lacrosse, she made it to three sessions and left early on another day. The only thing she could tell me was that her belly hurt. She was relieved when the season ended.

Gymnastics was hit or miss. After being very excited to make the team, she started missing practices. Her father and I tried to be understanding but it’s hard to do when you consider the amount of money involved in the team commitment. Finally in November she asked if she could stop gymnastics, and we could see how hard it was for her to ask so soon after she begged to do it, but we could also see the pain in her eyes. That’s one of the only visible ways to tell she is sick, because she looks the same on the outside.

Our world started shrinking.

She decided not to do fall lacrosse because she just didn’t feel she could make it through the practices and games. She had plans to try out for the school lacrosse team in the spring but that dream started to fade away. She went on some sleepovers but most of the time after a couple of hours she called us to pick her up because of her belly. It got to the point where she hardly saw her friends, and if she did, it was nearly always at our house because she could lie down if the pain started. She cancelled plans and had to send friends home on several occasions because of the pain as well.

Our world kept shrinking.

After many, many absences in the spring, she started school this fall but almost immediately started leaving early, going in late, and missing days due to the belly aches. She finally stopped going in mid-November. The belly pain, now localized to one particular spot, made it impossible for her to sit up in school all day. In addition to the pain, she started feeling nauseated and on occasion she would throw up after eating.

And our world shrank even further.

We have turned down many invitations and activities because of this mysterious belly pain. We have virtually stopped inviting people over because the pain is unpredictable and we don’t know when she is going to need one of us to sit with her and comfort her. We have left events early and stayed home when we would have preferred to go out. We don’t travel. There are days that I leave home for my part-time job and I have to turn right around and go back home because she needs me. Or days when my husband works from home because she just needs to know someone is close by.

We have seen our world shrink to the size of our home.

We have endured doctors’ appointments, tests, and visits where they not-so-subtly suggested that maybe it is all in her head (it’s not, trust me). We have seen doctors who literally threw up their hands and declared they had no idea what is wrong with her. We have worried over missed schoolwork and despaired that she will complete her current grade level with her classmates. Where we once thought we could at least see an outline of what the next few years with her would bring, now we face an uncertain future. Will she go back to school eventually? Will anyone ever find a way to stop or at least reduce the almost daily pain she is in? We don’t know, and that is an uncomfortable place to be.

She doesn’t eat much because she is full quickly. None of the medications prescribed for her have helped. She is tired a lot. We are living in the in-between and it is such a small space.

And yet we want to keep hoping and planning our lives as though this is going to change. It has to, right? Next month we see yet another specialist, and for the first time we are having to leave our immediate area and drive a couple of hours away for care.

There are good days when she feels almost normal, but then come the bad days when she stays on the couch and tries to sleep it off. We are hoping for the time when the good days far outweigh the bad ones and this period in our lives is only a memory. Meanwhile we keep putting one foot in front of the other and trusting in the One who holds the whole world in His hands.