Monday, September 22, 2014

Getting Real About Arthritis

Adjust your expectations. "When you get rheumatoid arthritis, you have to adjust your expectations and so does your spouse," Flynn Peters says. The spouse with rheumatoid arthritis may be in bed part of the day and can't contribute to running the household like she did before becoming ill. Everyone must realize the change and adapt, or resentment and more stress will build. If you set realistic expectations — perhaps the spouse with RA agrees to do more on days when feeling better — neither of you will be set up for disappointment.

I just read this in an article this morning. How fitting, as I fell asleep last night at 5:30pm. It describes the exact scene in our home. I have been so frustrated with not being able to keep up with cooking, dishes, laundry and everything. Sometimes I feel like I just can't do it all. And alas, I just can't do it all. 

Some people may not even know that I have rheumatoid arthritis. I guess this is a way to help them, especially my family, understand better. This past 6 months I've been on a diagnosis odyssey. I went back to to the drawing board to make sure the symptoms I'm having are in fact arthritis, although I was once diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis several years ago. The symptoms of pain and fatigue (among others) have become strong enough for me to decide it is time to really do something about it. So I began with my primary care physician. We took lots of general blood tests and when my levels were there for an auto-immune disease we began following the trail taking more specific testing until she finally referred me to a Rheumatologist in South Bend. They would have even more specific testing available. So that is what I did. Along with the examination, it was determined that I have what is called a negative rheumatoid. Which basically means some of the levels are not showing up in my blood work, so it may be a different kind of arthritis, but it is treated as rheumatoid. 

I never, ever thought that I would have some sort of chronic illness, but alas I do. The hardest part in all of this is that to most people, I appear perfectly normal. It is a silent secret that I feel pain in my hands, wrists, knees and now elbow most of the day, though some days are better than others, it is always there. I don't say this to make you feel sorry for me. I don't want that at all. I just need others to know that I may need a little extra help now and again. Also to lower their expectations in some ways. I guess, for myself included, I just need to receive a little more grace when I can't do it all. I need to slow down and accept this new challenge for what it is.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The problem with the real world...

... is that it never quite compares with the illusion in my mind. 

The place in my mind where my house looks like a pin on pinterest, all white and modern and gorgeous. Where I imagine myself primped and in my best little sundress, my hair glimmers with sun flares and palm trees surrounding me. 

When the hardest choices I have to make are which trendy corner cafe to eat lunch, which weekend to do which fun thing? Or what on earth am I going to do with another couple hours of free time?

Instead, it is continually doing things that I don't want to do. 

Waking up when I'd rather sleep in, to dress and feed three little munchkins so they can make it to school on time. Then consequently clearing all the dishes and wiping counters only to sigh, disgruntled over another small mountain of rainbow plastic dishes growing in the sink. 

It is pulling back dirty hair barely brushed.
Slinking on my black yoga pants for the fourth time this week and touching up with a bit of mascara and powder. If the children stay occupied longer, I brush my teeth.

The real world is all about doing things you don't want to do. Even though my season now is raising small children, there will be other kinds of demanding work in other seasons. We all have to do work. 

The particularly challlenging part about this sort of work is that its hard to measure its success, like a mountain of rainbow plastic dishes that never seems to stay clean and put away long enough.
But as the good book says, we reap what we sow. We are sowing everyday. Sowing seeds in the hearts and minds of those little people entrusted to us. The rainbow dishes may seem insignificant, but we are sowing there too. Our home and our habits are a big part of who we are and how our kids will behave when they are on their own. 

The reaping will be evidence of our hard work. What kind of fruit will there be when the time comes?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Sage Advice From My Grandmother (On Her 85th Birthday!)

Lately I've been feeling discouraged. You know the feeling....like you just can't catch up or catch your breath. Mostly I've been worrying about all of our bills and all of the things that my children need.

I'm reminded of a recent conversation I had with my sweet Grandma Gigi. I asked her how she managed with eight children on one income and she responded by saying, "Whenever you are arguing or worried about money or whatever it may be- imagine yourself on a stage. You rise above whatever it is and you are suddenly looking down and watching it all play out. Imagine what will happen next in the story. That always seemed to help."

This has stuck with me and I have practiced removing myself and gaining a better perspective many times since. It's such a simple mental exercise, but so powerful. Thanks Grandma for your wisdom. Your example gives me courage and strength.

Thursday, September 4, 2014


I sat in my icy, cold A/C minivan, parked along the circle drive to Stewart Elementary waiting for them to return. The list for classroom assignments just posted against gridded glass, I waited to see their faces. Jovie babbled behind me in blurts and gaps of silence.

I studied as children of all ages marched and skipped, twirling their summer dresses as they went always holding the hand of a grown-up, usually a mother. The excitement was real. The mothers hugging and laughing and collecting in pools of conversation only to burst away in a hurried manner. School is about to begin.

I couldn't quite see Cal or Jack around the corner, and I wasn't sure if all five of us got out if we would look too much like rookies with my first Kindergartener. So I waited for them. My cheeks all clammy and cool partly from the humidity of late August and partly from the nerves I suppose.

I watched mothers who wore too much makeup and dyed their hair too blonde, entertaining a brood of young boys, quite clearly the "popular mom". I watched another mother with daughter close beside her, timid and with few words of response to the other parents skitter across the sidewalk. I watched a  bubbly, large woman squeeze her daughter several times into her great bosom, picking and swiping her daughters bangs and tucking in her bra straps beneath her small neon yellow tank top.

I wondered about myself. Who am I as a Mother? Who will I become as I age? How will I love my children as they grow and change? How will I love myself? My husband? Have I done a good enough job so far?

I shift the air vent to the left and up, away from my cold cheeks. I catch a glimpse of the boy that was once that little baby I held so close. His face is bright and sweat across his brow sharpens the ends of the hair stuck to his forehead. He skips a little too, still holding onto his Daddy's hand.

I think of my life's work. Pouring hours into worry... Did he eat enough? Is he eating healthy enough? Should I give him organic baby food? Should I let him cry it out? When to discipline and when to let it go? Am I giving him everything he needs? Is he learning enough?

I think of the way God led me through every hard decision. Guiding me, nudging me and giving me the strength to do the hardest job I've ever had to do. I remember the days I closed the bathroom door and cried. Blubbering and wiping tissues all stained black in a neat little pile on the counter beside me. Audibly asking God for help in short command sentences. I remember how I stood up, pulled up my big girl pants and went back to work. Mom work. And how always, the strength came, even if it was just enough. It came.

The sliding door zips open and three happy fellas pile in. The idea of Miss Crockett seems a vague notion to his wandering eyes I can tell, but I also see a child on the brink of discovery and new worlds. The unknown is calling to him and I am so proud of his bravery.