This time of isolation due to the corona virus is such an odd time. For most, it is a time of fear and concern with fleeting moments of joy and appreciation for the little things. I have come to believe that facing adversity like this in life is a necessary evil for discovering a deep appreciation for the life we formally deemed "normal." When "normal" life disappears, you look back at it and notice all the things about it that actually were quite extraordinary; spectacular even.
I've learned that it takes a very dark night to see the stars. It takes a very hard time to appreciate the easy ones, and perspective is truly everything. You don't know what perspective is when you've never faced adversity, and therefore have no point of reference.
Something happens when you get down on your luck. When your "normal" is suddenly taken from you. When your "constants" are no longer available. You are forced to gather up the shattered pieces of your former "norm" and somehow make what's left of it, "work." Some are better at it than others.
Some fear adversity and will run from it at all costs. They will do anything to avoid "processing" their feelings and "sitting" with their unsettling reality. They will numb themselves up to avoid experiencing it at all. I'm not saying you shouldn't enjoy a strong drink or dive into those cookies face first on occasion. I'm just saying you shouldn't spend all your time avoiding this reality.
Absorb this situation. Feel these feelings, allow the processing to begin, no matter how undesirable it might be... because there is a silver lining to "experiencing" adversity and not merely surviving it, but rising from it stronger. When you avoid it, you think of yourself as merely an "accidental survivor." When you let yourself experience it, you are healing as you go. You are getting stronger as you survive and eventually you begin to thrive. You find yourself benefiting from the lessons you learned, the painful reality you faced head on, and the hardships you endured. You are also building your "hope" muscle.
When you survive and thrive in times of trial, you build a sense of "hope" each time. You look back and are reminded that even in the darkness at what you once thought was a cliff...there was a pathway. This is called hope. You begin to think in terms of "We will either find a path or build one."
We can come out of this stronger if we allow ourselves to sit with the feelings of helplessness. It eases my own anxiety to help others in any way that I can. What are your gifts? How can you use them to help others right now? I'm doing as much as I can to help my students and continue to teach them and read to them online, get them resources and share my strength with them. I know I will only get maybe one more paycheck, but I won't stop teaching because it's something I can give right now to my students and to their parents whom are also scared and might be losing jobs and paychecks.
I'm taking my spare time to try to do things I've been meaning to do like organize my closet, pray more, and especially to write a few notes of thanks to people I never thanked enough for their impact on my life. I've written old teachers, a couple of my amazing doctors that have helped me with my arthritis, and a few others. I try to practice gratuity in times like this because it reminds me of the hope that exists even when things seemed hopeless.
If you are struggling right now, I encourage you to experience the struggle. Face it. And look for the helpers, like Mr. Rogers always said. Look for the people helping. Get inspired by them. Give to others when you can. Lift others up whenever possible. Give people grace whenever you have an opportunity to do so- we are all needing it right now. In the midst of the chaos in your home or total boredom, look at your child's face, pay attention to the way they play. Notice their innocence and joy. Try to experience that with them in that moment. Let go of the little things. Change the rules a little. Try not to control everything and just let yourself go. When the panic creeps in, step outside, watch the animals.
Know in your heart with total certainty that all adversity provides opportunity for growth, strength, and hope. May you find yours.
As a former middle school teacher for 9 years, sensory processing had not been a huge focus of mine. By the time kids are in middle school, they are (hopefully) beginning to take control of their own sensory needs or they have already been identified as suffering from sensory issues and have received interventions. In middle school, I knew I had kids that needed to take a quick walk in the hall before taking a test to get out their nervous energy. I knew I had kids that focused better while gnawing on their pencil or bouncing one leg like a jitterbug under their desk. I even had one memorable child that liked to sit under his desk during instructional time to take notes. He felt he could focus best from there. I got him a front row seat so that he would have a clear view from his spot on the floor under his desk, and that was that. He knew what he needed. Naturally, I felt that if those things were not distracting the rest of the math class, I was 100% fine with kids self regulating as necessary. I didn't think about the fact that these kids were self-regulating, or that they may have some sensory processing needs that they were taking charge of. I didn't wonder how they had come to realize their own sensory needs. I just thought of it as best practice to allow for it.
Now as a Pre-K teacher, I have been through multiple training sessions on how sensory issues affect our little students in the classroom and how we can best support them. I am no expert, but I want to share what I'm learning and trying in my own Pre-K classroom that may help other parents and teachers working with children with sensory needs.
When you hear "sensory processing needs" your mind might immediately race to autism or the autism spectrum. That's a false assumption. Although ALL autistic children deal with sensory issues of varying degrees, many non-autistic kids simply struggle with sensory processing and can benefit from some training (OT Occupational Therapy) and coping skills that will help them self regulate so that they can better function in daily life.
Today's average elementary school classroom is not designed to meet your child's sensory needs. Kids are expected to sit, listen, and actively engage in learning NEW information for 6 + hours a day 5 days a week. Ok people, let's be honest, how many of you could actively engage and absorb new information from a work meeting that lasted 6 hours without feeling like you needed to lay out on the floor in a scissor kicking tantrum ?
Now you can see where our littlest students come in. Beginning in Pre-K, students are being introduced to letters, letter sounds, sight words, the basics of reading, the concept of mathematics, shapes, and even bigger concepts like the fact that we live on a planet called Earth that circles a giant star called the sun and there are a bunch of other planets out there too... Ok, their little heads are spinning now.
Some of these little ones can focus for longer lengths of time, but the average 4-year-old's attention span is only 5-10 minutes max! So here is where their individual sensory needs come in...
Enter *John. He is a kid in a typical Pre-K classroom that struggles to sit in "crisscross applesauce" position on the rug during circle time. He prefers to lay on his tummy or sit "legs out sauerkraut." Well the typical teacher wants *John to fit into her neat little box of what she considers "normal" and so she is a bit irritated by John's inability to get into "applesauce" position. She then corrects him and he can sense her irritation. Next, the teacher gets out a few fuzzy hand puppets to teach about a new concept. *John immediately reaches out and grabs the puppets. He stands in front of all the other children and blocks their view so that he can see and touch the puppets. His "impulsion" to touch those fuzzy puppets is all-consuming. The teacher is once again frustrated with *John! Why is he so impulsive? She reminds him to sit "crisscross applesauce" just like the rest of the kids and threatens a time out if he gives in to his impulsion to touch the puppets again.*John is feeling misunderstood. He needs to touch those puppets. Now he is becoming very irritated and curls up into a ball beating his first on the rug. The teacher has had it and puts him in a time out. Now he lays out on the floor and grips the rug, tears streaming from his eyes. He feels so misunderstood. So frustrated. He feels like a volcano that is finally erupting all over the circle-time rug. *John might even start to dislike school. Dislike his teacher. He senses that he is earning the title "Bad Kid" at school.
*John also struggles greatly with transitions in the classroom and at home. When he is actively engaged in an activity that he is enjoying, like building a tower with blocks, or a half finished puzzle, he DOES NOT want to hear that it is time to move on to something else. At home when it is time to turn off the tv and get into the car, John throws a tantrum and he feels tortured by the transition. He loses all control of his little world in an instant when mom shouts, "Get your shoes on, it's time to go!" How could she be so cruel?!
*John's mom asks him, "Why do you throw these tantrums every day *John?" And *John looks at her with real tears in his eyes, and he simply has no idea why he does this either. *John does not enjoy his tantrums. He is not throwing tantrums purposely to drive his mother and teacher bonkers. He is actually just struggling with self-regulation and his sensory needs are not being met. *John will never look his mother in the eye and say to her, "Mom, I am having trouble self-regulating." That will never happen. *John needs his mother and his teacher to recognize his difficulties and get him the help he needs to better regulate and control his senses to avoid total frustration of everyday life.
To keep it simple here, there are two main umbrella types of sensory issues: Sensory Seeking (like *John, need to touch and feel things, have extra energy to burn, do not do well being expected to sit still) and Sensory Sensitive (easily overstimulated, avoid sensory stimulation, avoid loud noises, avoid bright lights, avoid too much touching and certain textures).
The spectrum of sensory issues out there is a wide one and we are ALL on that spectrum to some degree. Yes, even YOU! You likely have sensory-avoiding/sensitivity behaviors yourself like avoiding loud concerts, wearing certain textures like velvet, or smelling strong perfumes and colognes.
You may also have some sensory-seeking behaviors like needing to go for a run before work so that you can better focus, chewing gum at a meeting to stay awake, or listening to music while you study.
You are an adult and over time, you have discovered the most efficient and least disruptive ways to manage your own sensory needs so that you can function at your best in this big bad world. Your child however, may still need help with this.
How can we support our kids sensory needs?
Here are some things that I have begun to do in my own classroom and with my own child:
1) Give Warnings before transitions. Do not catch your child off-guard by shouting, "Hurry, get in the car! Turn off the tv!"Give a 5 minute warning. Try to time it so that there is a sensible stopping place for your child. Provide a timer if need be.
2) Distract with calming toys (sensory toys). Remember when your child was a baby and you had to tell them "NO"? You found it often worked better to "distract" them, instead of reason with them. These toys work in a similar fashion. If the sensory-seeking child is feeling frustrated by a transition or situation, they can learn to better self-regulate their feelings by squeezing a stress ball, watching water bubbles, stretching putty, even playing with a slap bracelet. I give them to students to look at and touch until all the bubbles fall to the bottom. Then it is time to re-join the group again. We avoid tears, tantrums, and both of us end up feeling understood and respected. I also love using the stretchy balls during circle time for the kids that just need to touch something. I have found that if I provide ground rules like "the toy must stay in your lap at all times and you must sit in the back row to avoid disturbing others." The kids are able to self-regulate and still pay attention to the lesson. In fact, they pay better attention when they are allowed to touch their sensory toy!
3)Use a schedule. Kids with any type of sensory issue, like to know what is happening next. It helps to provide these kids with that information regularly. You can try to verbally remind them of what's coming next, but some may need even more, like a visual schedule that helps them remember what comes next. Try to keep schedules similar from day to day because all children do better with some kind of routine so that they can anticipate what will happen next.
4) Provide sensory avoidance assistance like ear muffs in a loud music class, preferential seating that avoids touching from others, even weighted vests or compression shirts that can provide a calming effect for overstimulated children.
5) Allow for movement. Sensory-seekers will need breaks to burn some energy. Whether they use a mini trampoline or run circles around the playground, burning off some energy often helps with focus. Some kids will not thrive in the crisscross applesauce position. Some physically need to switch positions and will do better with a space provided for them to do so.
The bottom line is that we all have sensory issues. We all cope in different ways. Some of us have healthier ways of coping than others. Your child may already be coping well on their own by avoiding certain situations, calming themselves with hair twirling or even thumb sucking. As parents and teachers, our role is to help our children develop healthy tools and methods for coping with the many sensory challenges our world has to offer. The goal is for your child to manage self-regulation in the real-world on a daily basis so that their individual sensory needs do not interfere with their learning and development.
If you have noticed that your child struggles with sensory issues to a degree that seems to be interfering with their daily life, I recommend having them evaluated by a licensed OT (Occupational Therapist). Even a few visits with a professional can help you, your child, and even their classroom teachers to better understand and meet their needs.
I recommend this because the alternative can be detrimental to your child if they begin to feel "unsuccessful" in the classroom and constantly misunderstood and frustrated at home. Your child becomes labeled as a "behavior issue" and "bad kid" at school. This will be of no help to the child or the teacher. Be proactive and help your child take charge of their feelings and needs. If we can remove the frustration from the child and give them back control of their feelings, it's a win for all of us.
Here are some of my fave sensory toys on amazon. Click to view or purchase. I am not sponsored by any of these toys, these are just examples of what I use in my classroom and at home with my own child.
Sensory Stress Balls
Spaghetti Noodle Fidget Toy
Pull and Stretch Balls
Liquid Bubble Timers
We all woke up this morning to a brand new year. 2018 is gone and we all get to start again. Did you wake up feeling hopeful and full of resolutions? Bursting with ideas about how to make this your best year yet? Or maybe you woke up feeling anxious about what this year might bring? Maybe you've been knocked down by life a little and aren't sure you're looking forward to any more of life's "surprises" hiding around 2019's corners.
I posted this picture because if you know the back story, it sums up 2018 so beautifully. It represents this perfectly imperfect place that I have found myself in. This picture was taken on our front steps, with my cellphone, by my sister, just before eating Thanksgiving dinner. She snapped it in less than 30 seconds and only because I realized we didn't have any family pictures all together for this year's upcoming Christmas card.
None of our outfits are coordinated, Charli had not had a bath in at least 2 days, she had picked out her own outfit and rain boots (which she is likely wearing on the wrong feet), our new pup Rosie had just finished using my husband's retainers as chew toys, and we had 14 guests that mean the world to us inside ready to celebrate Thanksgiving with us. There is no rustic covered bridge that we are crossing together wistfully in flowing dresses with the perfect lighting.
We didn't pay for a professional to beautifully capture us. In fact it was kind of chaotic, but it's really just life. This little group of precious souls on the front steps comes together like the puzzle pieces to my heart. They are wild and imperfect and real. I look at this picture and I see the blue door behind us that I painted last year and I remember how badly I wanted it to be blue and how I had struggled with every brush stroke to paint it almost exactly a year ago. My swollen hands and my knees and back ached so badly. I remember being so proud of myself when I finished. So impressed by my efforts and tenacity, yet also so saddened by my painful reality that had become so limiting. I'm glad that the blue doors are behind us now.
When I look at this picture, I also see my boots that may just look like boots to you, but those boots that I'm wearing are one of the first pairs of non-tennis/geriatric shoes that I have been able to wear completely pain-free in over a year. I'm so proud of those boots. They feel like such a win to me.
I celebrate one year post my inflammatory arthritis diagnosis and beginning to take medication that is not without risk, but has given me back my life. I would trade the risks of my medication any day to have my quality of life. I have never felt so grateful for the little things that I have back now. I marvel at the things I can do with ease now that I just knew I would never do again. Things as simple as doing groceries without needing to elevate and ice my knee afterwards, cook dinner standing up, unbuckle my daughter's car seat using my thumb, and dance with my husband at a wedding. I see the grace that I have received and I'm overwhelmed and humbled by it.
I used to think I was one of the unluckiest young women I've ever known. But now in 2019, looking at this picture... I kind of think I'm one of the lucky ones. I didn't earn it and I don't deserve it, but I'm covered up in grace. Somehow and in spite of myself.
I'm not one to make a bunch of resolutions or expect certain things from a new year. I have hopes and aspirations, but no expectations. Over the years, I've learned that the only thing you can expect in life is that it will not go as planned. And grace is NOT something you can expect to come for you. You can't plan for it's arrival. And often times it's actually disguised as one of life's trials. It's face is covered up by pain and it's hurdles seem insurmountable. It's not something many people recognize, even when it is staring you right in the face.This year, I hope to continue to have eyes that see grace. I hope to recognize it even when it's disguised by life's tribulations. I also hope to extend it. Whenever possible to everyone possible, because grace is something we all need more of.
My husband was expecting this post to be about my resolution to save money this year by becoming super thrifty... I know he is anxiously awaiting my post to go live so that he can read all about my plans to help him retire at 40. Sorry honey, this post took a different turn, but hopefully he will recognize the grace. Have no fear, you can expect lots of thrifty posts in the new year. All hope is not lost.
Cheers to 2019 in all it's newness. May it bring you grace. May you extend grace, And may you recognize it this year in all it's glory.
I grabbed this purse/tote when I was at Walmart- y'all $14.99!!! It has texture and is waterproof and can be wiped down with a wet wipe if it gets spilled on. It's every-thang! I also love the iridescent gold color and magnetic closure. I tried to find it online, but it looks like its only in stores. Hurry, get over there, you won't be sorry!
These leopard print sunglasses by Vans, only $16.99 here. I love the leopard print trend for the fall season, I especially love to wear it as an accessory, like a leopard belt, bag, shoes, or sunnies. Throw these on and you are instantly fabulous this fall!
You need some fun detail athleisure pants this fall. I love these from Sams Club for $15! They have a lace side cutout and give your boring leggings an upgrade. BAM!
There was my life before Wonderpuffs, and my life after Wonderpuffs. Suffice it to say that life post Wonderpuffs has been a monumental upgrade. I use these in the shower with my trusty dove soap on my arms, legs, neck and chest- anywhere you want to exfoliate! I even use them gently on my chin and nose. They make your skin feel like its glowing afterwards. Then slap on some lotion and rock that baby fresh skin. Especially great to use before applying a self tanner.
Velvet curtains!!!! Ahhhhhh so delish right now! I love a great velvet curtain and especially when you can find them on a deal (faux velvet) from Belcor Designs. I paid less than $75 for all 4 panels and got my curtain rods and rings at Walmart for $8.99 each. It pulls the dining room together so well. I love the warmth and texture and the way the coral and teal look together. You really can have a fabulous window treatment without paying a fortune.
My new kitchen wall gallery! I wanted to put something on this wall, but not just a meaningless piece of crap. I wanted to have cozy pictures and display my daughter's art. I saw some similar ideas on pinterest and then found these floating shelves on zulily. I ordered the clips on amazon and my husband drilled them into the shelves and hung them for me. Now I have a place to display save-the-dates, party invitations, birth announcements, Christmas cards, pre-school art work, and even festive holiday candles, and plates. I'm loving it so much and it is everything I wanted. I can't wait to decorate it for each holiday!
I used to struggle with constant guilt and feelings of shame for who I am. Who I have become. Like who I "am" is just not enough for everybody else. I fall short of what I want to be and I fall short of who I want to be for everybody around me.
Life can be rude sometimes, but it's funny how in all it's rudeness, its a magnificent teacher of all things good and true. When I found out that I could not carry a child, it was my first experience with life's rudeness. Life's brutal-ness. I was shaken to my core and felt like this insurmountable brick wall had been placed in the path of my future. Quite literally blocking everything that I'd ever wanted. How could this be???
I spent a long time at the base of that brick wall, crouched in the fetal position with my back, literally up against the wall. I was so shaken by the news that life. does. not. always. go. the. way. you. want. it.to.go.
Not only was I devastated. But more than anything, I was ashamed of who I was. I ashamed that my poor husband had an infertile wife, I was ashamed that I could not bear grandchildren for my parents and his parents. I was ashamed that my sister had to carry my child for me. I was ashamed that my parents would have to tell their friends that their daughter was infertile and that the other daughter was carrying her baby. I was ashamed that I couldn't breast feed. I was ashamed that my husband would never experience the "belly" or maternity photos in white airy dresses on covered bridges. Y'all I could go on, but you get the point.
Pain is an amazing teacher though. It hurt until I grew from it., As time went on and I started to look my shame and guilt in the face and say, "Look, you are who you are. Take it or leave it People. Stop apologizing for who you Are." It was only then that the seemingly insurmountable brick wall started to just... fade away. Sometimes I remember it- in all it's glory. So big. So huge. So unyielding. I wonder if I had imagined it. I wonder if it was never even there at all. If it was all in my head. I think about the time I wasted in front of that wall that was maybe not even there and I wish I had done it differently. I wish I could talk sense into my younger self and get back that time. But then I also think that I must have needed it. I must have needed that time to learn that lesson.
Fast forward, to 36- this past year, as I was finally diagnosed with autoimmune arthritis (immune system attacking joints). I had to start humira injections- Yes, you've seen the commercials. Humira is a scary drug to be on. I'm well aware. It was another brutal hit. I'm only 36! How can this be happening??? What will my future look like? The feelings of shame started to rush in once again. Guilt for my husband ending up with an infertile, and now- arthritic dud-of-a-wife. My poor daughter, with a mommy that is limited physically. My parents who worry about me and want to fix it. I was once again faced with a brick wall in my path.
However this time was different. I cannot tell you that I cleared the wall with a single bound. Or that it quickly faded away when faced with my newfound strength and bravery. I spent some time with my back up against it again. I did some crying, some begging and pleading. Some cursing...
But then I got up and I made a choice to get on with it. I looked at myself in the mirror and I said, "You are you. And that's enough." I took the damn humira injection. I got my life back. My joints are better than they've been in months. I can live a more mobile life than I had ever expected- Infact, most days, I feel pretty much pain free (flares are few and far between). I am aware of the risks of the medication I'm on, but I choose to live now- right here. I want quality in my life. I want to live my best life. I don't want to look back later and wish I'd just gotten on with it and enjoyed my life.
That brick wall still makes an occasional appearance. Sometimes I have a setback. But now I know to expect them. This is life y'all. Expect the setbacks. But now I also expect the comebacks. I believe in the comebacks and I believe in myself. I can honestly say that I'm not ashamed of who I am today. In all my brokenness, I am whole. I am me. And that's Enough.
Ok guys. Summer is finally here. You know what that means. School's out. I will finally have some time to do a bit of blogging again. I have so much to cover with you guys this summer. For starters, we need to get a little serious... About summer rompers. You guys, my head is spinning with my newfound love for rompers. They. Are. Everythang. Not convinced? Just wait, more to come on that one.
Next topic of bloggussion will be swimsuit season- duh. Seriously, your mind will be blown because I will be donning a few two-pieces this season. I know you are like, mama please. Usually, you wear those swim dresses. I know, right?! But, I have a few new theories these days about being yourself and proud of it. Plus, in this day and age, if haters want to hate, they can take it up with the #youdoyou movement, which I'm so loving by the way. So this summer, I will be doing me. More of me. Get excited for that blog.
Summer shoes. So after struggling with arthritis, let's just say my feet are not feeling the high heels, high wedges, flat-as-a-board sandals, and all the junk with no comfort or support. #missionfindstylishcomfysandals and you are invited! Stay tuned.
Summer bod and healthy living updates will be in store for you as well. I'm not back to a gym yet, since my arthritis started. But, I am rocking some pilates moves and weight lifting in my bedroom each night before bed. It helps me unwind and has helped me tone up and stay strong through all my joint issues. This stuff is all about #noexcuses. I was working as a teacher, mom to my 4 year old, and could barely walk due to my arthritis and I started working out. I promise you that if I could do it, you could too. Life changing. Empowering. Plus, I am now 100% gluten-free. I had to cut out some inflammatory foods y'all. It has actually been easy to do. More on that later.
Of course I will be doing a few sappy updates on my autoimmune arthritis situation as well as my infertility. I'm actually rocking my new arthritis medications and am so excited to be feeling like me again. Once again, the silver lining being that you might hit some unlucky bumps along the way, but you are actually quite lucky to get those little reminders about life's little things. The important things. The stuff that matters. The grace that surrounds us. Without the "bumps" the good stuff can be easy to miss. Give thanks for the "bumps."
I'm excited to dive back in with you guys. Hope you are all well!
I have definitely been missing in action, I know. I haven't posted in forever. It's been way too long. But life has just sort of gotten in the way as it does. I've been busy dealing with work, being a mom, and some recent health issues that have turned my old life a bit upside down.
Last June I noticed my left foot began to hurt, it felt stiff and painful to bear weight. I was diagnosed with tibial tendonitis and put in a boot for 4 weeks. The odd part was that I had no injury or real explanation for it. I completed physical therapy and got the boot off, only to get it back on 2 weeks later- this time for 6 weeks. During that time, my right thumb suddenly swelled up like a sausage and became stiff and achy. I could no longer use it to unlock my daughter's seat belt, or even to press the button on my electric toothbrush. I was baffled and asked my orthopedic foot doctor about it. Could they be related? He suggested we run blood work, which revealed sky high inflammation. Other than the inflammation level, my blood work was negative for markers for rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and the other autoimmune diseases I was tested for.
With this information, I was sent to a rhuematologist who quickly reviewed my symptoms and felt that I definitely had an autoimmune disease that was causing inflammatory arthritis. We just were not sure what type since I was negative for all the blood tests. My symptoms very quickly began to get worse. My shoulder and knees were now involved and I was in pain daily. Doing the simplest of things was exhausting and painful.
Standing to cook dinner, getting dressed, opening things, going up or down stairs.. it was almost unbearable. The worst part was the exhaustion. I was just so tired, even holding a conversation was exhausting. As soon as we knew that my immune system was attacking my joints, I read everything I could about the various types and treatments, risks, and worst-case-scenarios. I was petrified and truly felt like my life as I knew it was just slipping through my fingers. Even sitting was uncomfortable.
I began to feel incredibly anxious and depressed. It was hard to "keep up appearances" and to continue going to work as a pre-k teacher, taking care of my daughter, and cooking dinners. Grocery shopping was nearly impossible. I had to get a stool to sit on in the kitchen to cook. Every joint in my body just felt like it was stiff and had a deep bone ache.
My social life changed dramatically too because I was too exhausted to host friends for dinners like I so loved doing, and even meeting friends for dinner out was exhausting because of getting ready and socializing for more than an hour just wiped me out. I had to withdraw from so many social events and literally put my social life on hold completely. I only kept in touch with a few extremely close friends that 100% supported me and lifted my spirits during the whole ordeal, understanding if I couldn't hang out and loving me anyway.
I felt so full of guilt for my husband because while I was still going through the motions of each day, taking care of my daughter, packing lunches, teaching my class, cooking dinners, doing laundry... I felt like I was going to crack and I did not want to let my husband down. We are teammates and he needs me. He has an incredibly high stakes and demanding job as an attorney, and he needs me to pull my weight. I didn't want my daughter to see me cracking or to worry about me. I did everything I could to hide my on-the-verge-of-tears face from her. Only once did she catch me crying.
Thankfully, I live only a mile from my parents house and many nights after I finished the day, dinners, lunches, cleaning, laundry- I was just hurting so much that I had to cry. I'd go over to my parents house and just cry into my moms arms. I'd tell her all the things that I needed to vent about, all my worries about losing all function, my future... everything. And she would hug me and listen.My dad comforted me too. He told me about the time he lost nearly all of his eye sight in one eye due to a virus. I remember this happening when I was a teen, but I just remember my dad being so brave and stoic. I never knew he was so scared and fearful. He just did it. He shared with me about how life just throws us these curve balls sometimes and you just have to dig deep and keep on keeping on.
I thought and thought about what he must have gone through. Several surgeries. Fears for his future. He even did an experimental surgery, which was unsuccessful. Yet he found that strength within himself to decide not to be a victim of his circumstances. He found grace in his struggle.
I decided I was going to do everything I could to feel more in control of my situation. I wanted to feel strong again. I began by removing gluten from my diet, as it can exacerbate inflammation. That helped some. I also started exercising daily like my life depended on it. My sanity actually did. I know you must be thinking, exercising?! How??? Well, I did some crazy things. Somethings that I just hope my husband never got on video. But we both got a good laugh. I could only use certain joints and bend certain ways. I could not stand to exercise, but I could lay on the floor, and there are a lot of things you can do on the floor. I used to teach aerobics so I got quite creative and I started to push myself.
After every floor sweat session I actually felt a sense of pain relief and strength. I felt mentally better because I was showing myself what I could still do. I was proving I was still capable of some things. I listened to the same three songs over and over (Chandilier- Sia, because I was truly, "Just holding on for tonight, don't look down, don't open my eyes." Brave- Sara Bairelles because, "Maybe there's a way out of the cage where you live, maybe one of these days you can let the light in. Show me, how big your brave is." and Chain smokers- Don't Let Me Down, because, "Crashing. Hit a wall. Right now I need a miracle.") I knew I needed leg strength so I did more straight leg lifts than I could count. When it got easy, I added ankle weights. I'd lay on my stomach and lift my legs and arms and pretend to swim to tone my back muscles, legs, and arms. I slowly began lifting weights- only 3 lbs and 10 reps, but worked up to 8 lbs and 40 reps. I can now hold planks, do push ups, both regular and tricep push ups, and my flexibility has improved immensely. When I started, I could only handle about 5-10 minutes of exercises, but am now almost up to an hour. I've also begun several medications to treat my inflammatory arthritis and have had some relief from these.
I am eternally grateful for these medications, and although there are risks, the benefits absolutely outweigh the risks. I know I would not have such a positive result without my mental strength and my physical strength. I am stronger now than I was last June. I've lost 16 pounds since last June and am finally feeling like my life may actually turn out to not be such a tragedy, but more of a story of survival, strength, and accomplishment.
I'm not really sure what my future holds. I'm slowly improving every day. I don't have constant pain and my doctors are watching me carefully. I may not ever be able to go jogging again, but I try to focus on all the things that I can do. If I take breaks and wear my knee braces, I can do most things that I want to do, plus I have most of my function back in my thumb and it's only getting better- so who knows! I expect to deal with flares in the future. I know I will have periods of time when I can do less and other times when I can do more. But ultimately, I know my strength. I know what I'm capable of- even when I felt like I could hardly move.
I feel that my life is worth fighting for. I still believe that God can help me get through anything I'm handed in life. I'm not sure I believe that he chose this for me per se. I just think he helps me get through. He helps me be brave and he reminds me, every single time I look at my daughter, that He is so good. He will hold my hand. And He will never leave nor forsake me. There is grace right in the midst of the struggle, but you have to get your head above the water to see it sometimes. You have to swim on your own right through the pain.
I'm embarrassed by the length of this post. If you've read it all, I thank you and I implore you to take your own battle- whatever yours might be- however big or small... allow yourself to be vulnerable, to be scared by your situation. Don't hide behind the shame that you are not perfect or "just like everybody else." Be brave in your imperfections and put one foot in front of the other. Take care of you, be patient with yourself, and above all- get your head up and just keep swimming.
I've wanted to write this post for a really long time but just had not gotten around to it. See, I just think "forgiveness" is something so many of us (maybe every single one of us) struggle with daily.
When I say "forgiveness," I'm not just referring to forgiving others for doing wrong towards you. I'm also talking about forgiving yourself. People need to forgive themselves for all sorts of things. Many times, they need to forgive themselves for things they are not even accountable for, baggage they carry for others, guilt they hold onto.
People, listen. Life is too short to be at war with yourself or anyone else.
It doesn't matter what you've done. It doesn't matter what you think you may have done. It doesn't even matter what someone did, to you. What matters is how it has changed you. How it made you better. Wiser. Kinder. Stronger. You will never. Never. Be able to control those around you. You can't make them forgive you. But, you CAN... forgive yourself. And you CAN. forgive them. You CAN EVEN be happy again.
I carried the burden of being infertile around for waaaaay too long. I carried around guilt. I felt so sorry for my husband. How could he ever be happy being married to me when I could not carry a child? I was literally crumbling under the weight of the burden I carried... until one day, I just got it. I. Am. Human. I'm not perfect. I was never promised perfection in this life, but I was promised forgiveness.
ALL. Of us. Were promised that. And not that I needed to be forgiven by anyone or anything... But I needed to forgive myself for my broken-ness. I needed to let go of the hate. Hate is heavy. And what's funny, is how I never realized how heavy it all was, until I let it all go...
I hope you can too. I hope you can forgive those that have hurt you and move along- wish them well. Let lessons be learned, but no bridges burned. I hope you can forgive yourself for the things you've done and for the person you are. I hope you can own your life and live it. I hope you won't let the things you carry stop you or weigh you down. Because life. is short. LIve it.
So even though this has been a hard week for me, one thing I have been joyfully celebrating is my newfound perfect vision. 6 days ago I had custom lasik eye surgery at Woolfson Eye Institute in Sandy Springs, GA.
You guys... NO. Seriously. It is THE. GREATEST. THING. EVER. I have had glasses since the fourth grade. At first I only needed them to see the board at school, but by 25 I could not drive without them. My eyes are crazy eyes too. One is super near sighted and the other is far sighted. So my depth perception, menu reading, and eyebrow plucking skills suffered greatly for many years y'all.
I thought about doing this alllllllllllllllllll the time, but I was so nervous. I mean, it is your EYES for goodness sake. You don't just go into eye surgery with bells on if you know what I mean. But after planning for it and sticking 4k in the flex spending account this year. I knew it was now or never.
My eye doctor told me that the only person she would trust to do my crazy eyes was Doctor Woolfson at the Woolfson Eye Institute. Apparently he was a pioneer in lasik eye surgery and is recognized world-wide for his developments in lasik. He has performed over 90,ooo lasik procedures. So, I went right to him. Only the best for these crazy eyes.
They were able to fit me in within 2 weeks for my consult appointment, which took 2 hours because they got my exact prescription, did a full eye exam with dilation, and scheduled surgery with me for a week later. I could not believe how fast it all moved.
I arrived on surgery day (Friday) with my mama. The hubbs stayed home with our daughter. I had to take one last selfie with my mama in the old glasses. We spent about exactly 3 hours there. First they re-checked my prescription, then they went over after-care instructions, performed surgery, re-checked my eyes afterwards, and sent me home.
I was so nervous that I was literally trembling. But it's not so bad. I'm going to walk you through it- in case you are interested.
A group of 6 patients gathers in the pre-op holding room and we are given surgical hats, booties, and a forehead sticker that represents which laser will be used for my eyes. We are briefed by a nurse on how to care for our eyes after surgery and then Dr. Woolfson comes in and answers any questions we might have. We did not take anything to calm or sedate us, so we were all feeling a bit on edge, but numbing drops are put into our eyes as we wait.
We are called in one by one. Each person takes 5-10 minutes.
Once I was called in, I was feeling incredibly anxious. Thankfully, the doctor is funny and reassuring. Rock music is playing in the background and I am pleasantly surprised and somewhat relieved by this. He quickly puts me at ease and talks me through everything step-by-step.
First, I lay back on a dentist-type chair and my mom is invited in to watch my surgery. One eye lid is pried open with a speculum of sorts (this is honestly the worst part and it is not even that bad, just uncomfortable). Next, a big machine is lowered down over one eye and I am told to look at the red light and not move. Another voice calls out which eye (left eye) and my exact prescription. Then they said something like,"ready aim fire," and a machiney-type noise blares loudly. The red light then turns into these colored sparkles- much like the tail-end of a fading firework in the sky, and then everything goes gray to total blackout... and then the red light is back. This time more clear than before and the loud noise has stopped.
Now the doctor is using what looks like a mini spatula, and he is stroking it across my eye to straighten out my lens and avoid wrinkling. It is a very odd sensation because your eye is numb, but you see it happening. It feels like someone cleaning my glasses as I am wearing them. Then, the same steps are repeated on my second eye.
Next, I sit up and the nurse helps me put on my snazzy protective sunglasses. She points out the clock across the room on the wall and I can see it!!! Clearly!!!! We take a selfie with the doctor and my mom and then I'm off to a post-surgery waiting room for less than 5 minutes.
Next, I am called in by an eye doctor who checks my vision and the "flaps" created by the surgery as well as looks for wrinkling. He approves of them and I am sent home.
As we drive home, I feel a bit sensitive to the light, but I can already see well. I have a sensation that I might have a hair or small grain of sand in my eyes. I have the urge to just gently close my eyes on the car ride home. Thankfully this sensation lasts only about 4 hours- and for almost all of that time, I am sleeping.
Once we are home, I eat lunch and take the half pill sleeping medication the doctor prescribed and I take a nice long 4 hour nap. I then wake up and take my first dose of eye drops (2 in each eye 4 times daily). And I relax the rest of the day. I eat dinner later and at night I take the other half of the sleeping medication and I sleep soundly through the whole night.
I have been instructed to wear my taped on "bug eyes" at night, and my protective sunglasses during the day for 4 days. I can shower after 48 hours with my back to the water, no make up (excuse all my no-makeup pics) or face cream for 7 days. I am considered totally healed by 7 days.
My eyes are a bit light sensitive for the first 5 days, but nothing outrageous. I am now cleared to return to all normal activities like swimming, sweating, makeup, rubbing my eyes.. all the normal stuff.
So, this is 35. I made it you guys. I'm official. Not officially "old" but just simply. Official. You know when you talk about someone that did something outrageous and people say, "how old were they?!" And you say, "Not that young,they were like 35!" You know, because by 35, you should not being doing certain things. You are finally at an age of legitimacy. An age that deserves some respect. You've been in your career for about 10 years now. You know, you are legit.
I don't think of turning 35 as a bad thing. Actually, I think aging is beautiful. It's a gift really. A gift that so many of us never receive. Sure there are some more lines on my face and my muffin top is a bit fluffier than I like it. But, you guys... I'm one of the lucky ones.
I've lost two friends this year. One was 31 and the other 36. Both to cancer. Their passing has left an endless wake of of sadness, loss, and heartbreak. More than ever before, I'm reminded that every moment I'm here, every day I live, and every birthday I get to celebrate is a gift. It's a treasure.
This year, I want to be present. I don't want to waste energy on the trivial things in life that don't matter. I want to be healthy, not skinny. I want to laugh more and spend more time with the people that mean the world to me. I want to soak up my precious family and every single moment that I have with them. I want to show others grace and forgive a thousand plus one times.
It's time to live. The time is now. It's more important with every passing day. Living. Truly living. Is an urgent need. Find your happiness. Get out there and find it. You heard me. Don't give it away to anyone else to "handle" for you. There is not a soul out there that can take ownership over your happiness except you. Take charge of your life. Find it. Embrace it.
35 is my lucky year you guys. I fully expect big things. But more than that, I just feel lucky. To be here and do this.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.