The Good, The Bad, and The Amusing

I know I’m late on this, but…

Happy New Year, Y’all!

I’ve been wanting to write many times lately, but I’ve been in a particularly nasty MS relapse (going on week 7–yuck!), so my brain just wasn’t/isn’t working correctly.  2013 was a horrendous year, so much so that at the stroke of midnight on January 1, 2014, while everyone else was celebrating a New Year, I was screaming, “I survived!  I survived!”  And, even though I was hoping to start 2014 symptom free, that wasn’t in the cards.  It’s ok, I’m hopeful that things will improve soon.

No New Year’s Resolutions for me–I always hated that concept (you don’t need a new year to make a change in your life)–so I intend to do what I’ve already been doing.  Work on my faith, try to be a good mom and wife, fight for my health, and do it all with a smile, especially when I want to smile the least.  I also plan on laughing at myself…because, really, life is just too short to be so serious.  Plus, I find myself funny when no one else does.

I would love to share some wonderful insight from 2013 or say something amazing and inspiring about the upcoming 2014, but this disease messes with my already dim cognitive abilities.  So, since my writing abilities aren’t quite up to par yet, let’s do something easy, shall we?

2013…The Good, The Bad, and The Amusing.  A Year in Pictures:

Captain Jack Sparrow, the...Jedi???

Captain Jack Sparrow, the…Jedi???

 

 

January started with heartache…my paternal grandfather passed away on January 1.  Within the next 5 months, I would also lose my maternal grandmother, then grandfather.  My kids saw a lot of loss last year.

 

 

 

 

ms

 

In February, we finally got a glimpse of why I had been so ill for so long.  On Ash Wednesday (poetic, no?), it was first suggested that I had Multiple Sclerosis.  While researching my newfound friend, I came across this gem.  Since laughter is the way I deal with things, it totally hit home.

 

 

 

The Older Boy placed second in the Special Olympics:

special olympics

 

coffee

 

 

Leaving at 3:30am for one of our trips to Houston for testing, I see this.  Both were for The Husband.  You know it’s a big job when Batman is the back-up.

 

 

 

 

Going to my maternal grandfather’s funeral, I saw these signs posted all over.  So simple, yet so important.  This served as a gentle reminder that we are not alone, even when we feel complete isolation. 

pray

 

The Older Boy came home with this note at the end of the school year, and it completely touched my heart.  He may have a lot of struggles and may not be blessed with the same talents as other kids, but if he is someone who others describe as having a “selfless and giving heart,” that’s ok in my book.

sweet

 

I was very ill most of the summer, spending almost all of July in bed.  So, we tried to make the best of a bad situation with silliness at home:

I love it when I find things like this. Apparently, Superman is kicking butt on the roof, while a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle is getting a pizza from a dinosaur. I love to watch kids play!

I love it when I find things like this. Apparently, Superman is kicking butt on the roof, while a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle is getting a pizza from a dinosaur. I love to watch kids play!

I love the flame-gloves in the middle of summer, thereby proving his awesomeness.

I love the flame-gloves in the middle of summer, thereby proving his awesomeness.

I find these guys on the couch, obviously tired from battle. I'm not sure what happened, but I am sure of this: it was epic.

I find these guys on the couch, obviously tired from battle. I’m not sure what happened, but I am sure of this: it was epic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Older Boy is showing me his muscles after getting 2 shots. Soon after, we hear a baby crying/screaming very loudly, and he says, “you hear that baby? He got shots too! I’m brave. He’s not!”  Well, go ahead with your bad self…

brave

Apparently, his immunizations made him feel invincible, because a few days later, John Edward informed me that he is, in fact, Iron Man.  I don’t know about you, but I will now be sleeping better.

ironman

 

Just another reason why I love my sister…she has my back.  This was actually on the first day of my current relapse.  She has threatened MS many times, usually using terms like “shank.”  (We share the same freak sense of humor.)  One of my biggest supporters, she has been amazing this year.

caitlin text

 

The guys at the end of 'No Shave November.' Not my favorite look for either one of them, but good lookin' fellas regardless.

The guys at the end of ‘No Shave November.’ Not my favorite look for either one of them, but good lookin’ fellas regardless.

 

The Husband and his brother, both fully participating in “No Shave November.”  Jeremy is on the left…see how happy he is with all of that hair on his face?  Many a night I was tempted to shave him in his sleep!

 

 

 

 
serviceFrom one set of brothers to another.  The Younger Boy has waited, quite impatiently, since his First Communion to become an altar server.  Both Philip and John Edward served together–for the first time–during Thanksgiving Mass.  I was so nervous; I just knew that they would fight on the altar, but they proved me wrong, giving me something to truly be thankful for on that day.

 

In the beginning of December, we got great news!  My neurologist finally decided to make the formal diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis!  I know this may not sound like good news to you, but for us, it was a final answer, along with a game plan of how to fight this disease.  I started treatment a few weeks ago, and so far, so good.

meds

A new sign of our lives…

 

This was the scene pretty much every day from Thanksgiving to Christmas morning.  Anticipation, anyone?

anticipation

 

Lastly, a shot of myself.  Here’s how this came about:

“Mom, can I take your picture?” -Philip
“I guess…” –Me
“Will you post it on Facebook?” –Philip
“I’d rather not. I’m tired, I don’t have any make up on, I haven’t even brushed my hair, and I spent most of the day in the hospital. Not really up to sharing this look with others.”
“But you’re my mom, and I love the way you look. Even when you look like a mess. Pleeeease…”

 

How can you refuse that? So, against my better judgment, and throwing all dignity and vanity out of the window, here I am obliging the kid. (This was way after I had enough of this game, and I’m fussing at him to go to bed…according to Jeremy, this is my ‘mean face’ that he always sees. Ha!)

dignity

 

So, there’s 2013 in pictures.  Loss, illness, love, laughter, acceptance, and support.  If you look at the events from this year, it’s easy to say it was a really bad year.  If you look at the people, you can come to a quite different conclusion.

I choose to look to the positives, so I guess I can say it was a pretty good year.

Here’s to more of what’s great in 2014!  Whatever this year has in store for me, I know that I can make it through, especially when surrounded by such wonderful loved ones.

From my family to yours, we sincerely wish you a very Happy New Year.  May you find your positives in 2014.

boys

This’ll Cure Ya!

This morning, while scrolling through my Facebook feed, I kept coming across a story titled, “Study Accidentally Finds Chemo Makes Cancer Worse.”  Hmmm…sounded interesting, so I decided to give it a read.  A rather disappointing read, I must say.  There really aren’t enough facts to back up this claim for my liking.  I’m an obsessive researcher, so when I am reading an article that is supposed to have concrete evidence of scientific findings, I expect a lot of info.  This article (and its links–the ones that will open, that is) lists a bunch of vague findings, without much info on the study groups, percentages, or other things that I would consider to be instrumental to this type of claim.  (To its credit though, the article does have some percentages and good info on all-natural remedies for cancer.)

But this post isn’t really about the article.

One of the people who shared this article decided to give his own little speech about cancer, the dangers of chemo, and how we should NEVER go to the doctor, but instead use all-natural remedies to cure our ailments.  He went on to degrade those who use medicinal treatments, alluding that those people are ignorant and uneducated.

Ummm…excuse me?  Oh, I didn’t realize that you were an expert in the field!  When did you get your medical license?  Oh, don’t have one?  Well, what type of nutritionist certification do you have?  Oh.  Well, what about holistic certification of some sort?  <crickets>

Look!  It's an expert!

Look! It’s an expert!

This has become a huge pet peeve of mine.  Not that he shared the article.  Not that his personal opinion is that drugs are bad and all-natural remedies are good.  Not that he would choose for himself that he would “never” go to a doctor.  No, what irritates me is that he had the audacity to tell others how to make their personal medical decisions, and then to insult them for choosing a path different from the one he would take.

From the moment that Multiple Sclerosis has become a part of my life, I’ve been sent a barrage of articles, all telling me how I can cure my MS.  Now, let me start off by saying something really important: I actually enjoy reading articles about alternative treatments, breakthroughs in the medical field regarding MS, and personal stories of others who are dealing with this disease with some level of success.

I also appreciate the people who send me articles out of care, concern, and love.  But, some people just aren’t like that.  I have gotten some very condescending, judgmental, know-it-all remarks from people, and to be honest with you, I’m fed up.  This has become a huge problem for me, as I’m sure it is for many who are severely ill or diagnosed with a chronic illness.

Since 1995, there has been a claim that aspartame can cause MS, and within the last 6 months, this claim has again become popular.  I have been sent many articles regarding this, some saying that aspartame can cause MS and others stating that aspartame use can mimic MS symptoms.  (Okay, I’m open to those theories, even though there are countless other articles proving these claims false, some from the most respected MS sources out there.  But, who knows?)  Now, most people who sent me some form of these articles did so with a generic caption, such as “Read this and thought of you”…”Don’t know if this info is true but thought you’d like it”… or even a simple “FYI.”  I appreciate those people!  They saw something that could be helpful, and I appreciate that they thought of me and took the time to send me these articles.

However, one person sent the article to me, with a very lengthy commentary about how I should stop drinking diet drinks and how I should drink just water.  It went on and on and on and–you get it.  But, here’s the kicker: this is a childhood friend who I haven’t seen in about 20 years.  So, what makes her the expert on my drinking habits?  If she knew me at all, she would know that I despise diet drinks, I don’t buy soft drinks for my house, I only occasionally drink soft drinks when we go out to eat (maybe once a week), and I do only drink water on a daily basis.

I once received a message telling me that if I’d lose weight, my MS would simply “go away.”  Nice.  Isn’t that sweet?  No, it’s ignorant.  I’ve always struggled with my weight, I don’t make excuses for it, I take responsibility for it.  With that being said, I’ve personally researched if there was a link to being overweight and having MS…there isn’t.  Plus, I had lost 40 pounds before getting sick at all, so why would a disease that is caused by weight gain show up after weight loss?

I also received many emails from people telling me of the evil pharmaceutical companies, who are just out to make a buck.  These few individuals tell me that I need to try this or that or whatever the hell they read about on the internet that day to really cure me.  Again, I’m chastised for seeing medical doctors, for hoping to start medicinal treatment soon, for not living the way they would–or say they would.

todd-goldman-miss-know-it-all_i-G-69-6931-LYWX100Z

Now, I’m about to be really honest with you guys, and it’s not pretty.  One of the people who have given me the most trouble with this issue, who has always said that doctors are evil (seriously), who said that she would never, ever go to a medical doctor for any ailment or bring her kids to one either, has developed a medical problem.  Apparently she pulled a muscle and was in an extreme amount of pain.

And you know what?  She went to a doctor!!!

Not only did she go to a doctor, but she complained about how long it was taking them to give her pain meds!  And, I got really ugly inside.  Before I could filter myself, I immediately thought, “Um-hmm.  It’s not so easy when you are the one suffering, is it?  Where are your all-natural treatments now?”

I know.  It was a completely un-Christian moment.  I wasn’t happy that she was sick, but I did feel some sort of vindication that she was seeking help in a way that she said she never would.  It’s easy to judge situations when you are not in them.  I’m not proud of myself and that moment, but it happened nonetheless.  So, I might as well share my faultiness with you.  I’m a work in progress…

And, maybe I encourage the comments.  People probably have no idea how sick I’ve truly been.  I feel like I’m to suffer in silence, so I don’t complain very much.  I also believe in the power of positive, holy thoughts, so I try to steer clear of negativity, whether that’s to hear it or spread it.  Medically speaking, I have not started pharmaceutical treatments, but the minute the doctors give the “official” diagnosis, I plan on it.  I’m sure I’ll be judged for this decision, and I plan on just ignoring those judgments (although that’s easier said than done).

But, let me offer a different approach for those who feel condescending attitudes and words are necessary…  Instead of passing judgment on someone who chooses to deal with their health in a way different from you, why don’t you try being compassionate instead?  I would not judge you for going an all-natural route, I simply ask the same respect from you.

Maybe take a moment to put yourself in my shoes.  Try to think what it must be like for those dealing with medical atrocities.  Because, unless you have been there yourself, you have no idea.

You have no idea what it feels like:

  • to hear the doctor say that your tests show that you have a chronic disease–to look at my husband, who was fighting tears, trying to keep himself together, knowing that I’m going to have to be strong for him
  • to worry about your children, to worry about how are you going to explain something so serious to an 8-year-old and an 11-year-old (who actually has the mentality of a 6-year-old)
  • the guilt I feel that I am not being the mother I want to be, the guilt I feel when I can’t take my kids to the library like we usually do, the guilt I felt when we had to cancel our first ever family vacation because of my health, the guilt I feel when my youngest says, “I hate it when Mommy is sick.  I miss healthy Mom.”
  • to spend weeks in bed at a time, with no one to help you during the day with the most basic of needs, such as water and food
  • to need someone to help you make it to the bathroom, just 5 feet away from the bed, to need someone to help you get in and out of the shower, to need someone to help you get dressed
  • to be so independent your whole life, now to find yourself completely dependent on others at times
  • to feel so isolated, so lonely, so forgotten by others, with only the internet as a link to the outside world
  • to struggle in your faith and spirituality, wondering where is God?
  • to fear the brain damage that is developing, to fear what function you could lose at any moment, quite literally
  • to have to give yourself IV treatments for a week, just to be able to function again
  • to wonder upon waking, are my legs going to work right today?  Will I be able to see out of both eyes?
  • to rack up $15,000 in medical bills, and to feel so helpless about paying off that debt–because you are so undependable right now, how on Earth could you work?

You have no idea…and I sincerely hope that you never do.  I hope that you never have to make hard decisions for yourself or a loved one.  Nothing can really prepare you…

This is just a snapshot of what my life has been like for the last year.  I feel so sorry for the people who are terminally ill, or those fighting for their lives.  Can you imagine what cancer patients go through?  (I actually watched someone very close to me die from breast cancer.  Even seeing her pain, I know that I cannot imagine what she was truly going through.)  What about their caretakers?  What about parents of seriously ill children?  I cannot imagine.  And I don’t pretend to.

Please, before you judge someone in this way, just take a moment to really think about their journey.  Before you send an article with your personal ugly commentary, why don’t you try calling that person?  They’d probably eagerly welcome the distraction.  And, if it’s uncomfortable to call, text them.  Send them an email, Facebook message, anything.  We live in the age of communications, after all.  Communicate!  Let them know that you are thinking of them with love and compassion, not judgment.

And, if you do decide to share articles, scientific findings, etc, here are some basic tips from me (a complete non-professional):

  • Be wary of any article that claims to cure an incurable disease.  I receive many articles claiming to reverse MS, but upon review, there is never any evidence of a cure.  There is evidence of a reversal of symptoms, but not a reversal of the disease (i.e. reversal of brain/spinal cord damage or a reparation of nerves).  When an article makes such obvious false claims, I tend to disregard the entire article.
  • Be wary of any article that tries to sell you something at the end.  Those aspartame articles?  Many of them are from companies selling aspartame detox kits.  I’ve gotten many articles on various diets, most from sources selling the diet books.  I question the true motives of these companies, especially if you have to buy a book just to get the information.
  • Use your common sense.  Really.  If an article is saying that the cure to cancer is some ginger root, grown in the Fiji mountains during the third month of the year, fertilized by the excrements of an ape, but only on Tuesdays, and said root must be plucked from the ground during the light of a full moon, maybe skip on sharing that one.  (I’m only partially joking on this one.  There really is some crazy stuff out there!)
the official "fertilizer"

the official “fertilizer”

  • Look for articles that actually offer something useful, not just negativity about the pharmaceutical companies.  Share articles that show scientific evidence or personal stories of people who have benefited from all-natural remedies.
  • Don’t make assumptions about a specific disease.  If you’re going to make a claim, research it first.  Or just keep your opinions to yourself.
  • Last, but most importantly, evaluate your reasoning for sharing the article in the first place.  Is it coming from a place of love?  Then, by all means, share it!  And, maybe let the recipient know what your intentions are.  A simple “I hope you find this helpful” can go a long way.

As for me, since I have not been able to start medical treatments, I have tried almost every alternative that was reasonable.  I have tried holistic treatments, special diets, different medicines for the symptoms, and even some all-natural pills and drinks.  Currently, my family practices clean eating (as much as our budget allows), I take B-12 shots, B-6, C, and D vitamins, slow iron supplements, and I’ve been trying an iodine treatment for 3 months now.  I am actually very conservative about medications (believe it or not), so all of this has me in a completely uncomfortable place.  I also have prescriptions for pain meds, which I hardly ever take.

I sincerely hope that this very long (sorry!) blog post has been informative in some way.  If you are ill and get frustrated by all of the “experts” in your life, I hope you find comfort in the fact that you are not alone.  If you are someone who is a sharer, I hope that some of my personal tips can be helpful when you are choosing what to share with your loved one.  And, if you are someone who is looking down on those who live differently than you, I sincerely hope that this can help you see another point of view.

Let’s respect each other.  Let’s love each other.

Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.

its-what-you-learn-after-you-know-it-all-that-counts

Stupid Pumpkin Pie

As a child, I thought that only kids daydreamed.  I assumed that once I was an adult, I would no longer get lost in imaginary worlds.  What a crock!  I still get lost in my imagination.  I still daydream.  Sometimes reality is so intense that I need to escape to a place more heavenly, where there is no loss, no pain, no disease, no hurting children.

I tend to get lost in my own little world.  Often.

My mind also races from one subject to another.  I can start off thinking about what I need to get from the grocery store and end up thinking about muppets.  My husband finds this sometimes fascinating, sometimes frustrating.  I find it exhausting.

Apparently, I have a very distinct look when I’m in La-La Land, because The Husband will ask, “Whatcha thinking about?” with the curiosity of a child who finds a new toy.  And, although I know his question is genuine, I never know how to answer that.  Does he really want to know that I’m wondering why did we have to take trigonometry in high school?  Who uses that?  Or what is the big deal about bacon anyway?  Do I need to water the flowers at the church today?  I wonder if John Edward will be able to live independently when he grows up?  Who will take care of him when I can’t?  I love “The Labyrinth”…I really want to watch that movie when I get home.

So, while driving yesterday, he asks me his usual, “What’s on your mind?”

My response?  “Pumpkin pie.”

pumpkin pie

Since my thoughts are always all over the place, he was content with this answer, but it wasn’t really an accurate truth.  It wasn’t a lie, but it wasn’t a full truth.  The truth was that I was thinking about a meltdown that I had just a few days earlier.  I was making a list of the things that I needed to get together for Thanksgiving.  (Oh, Thanksgiving!  My favorite holiday of the year!  Such a day of simplicity, just a day with loved ones, celebrating the things that we are thankful for.)  I was making a list of the ingredients needed to prepare the dishes that I always bring for Thanksgiving when I got to the pumpkin pie: 2 pumpkin pies.  One for the family.  One for my grandfather to bring home.  Then the realization sunk in.  No, just one pumpkin pie this year.  This is the first Thanksgiving without my grandfather.

The last picture I ever took of my grandfather, exactly one year ago today at Philip's Veteran's Day program.

The last picture I ever took of my grandfather, exactly one year ago today at Philip’s Veteran’s Day program.

I lost it.  Thank God I was at home.  I know that we should be prepared to lose older family members; I know it’s all a part of the circle of life, but it amazes me how it’s the smallest things that make me miss my loved ones.  Like stupid pumpkin pie.

Overall, it’s just been a crappy year.  This will be a Thanksgiving of many firsts.  Not only did I lose my paternal grandfather, but I lost both maternal grandparents.  So, I only have one living grandparent left.  I love her dearly, and I am petrified of the day that will inevitably come when she too will be called Home.

Also, my parents got divorced.  Old friends will be surprised to hear this.  My parents will probably not be happy to read this.  (Sorry Mom and Dad.  I respect your privacy, but this is my story too; I have a right to tell it.)  So, things are different.  I’m getting to know my parents as individuals and not as a couple.  Sometimes it’s great; sometimes it’s saddening.

Health wise, it’s been a really hard year.  My doctors (of whom there are many) pretty much all agree that I have Multiple Sclerosis, but there is not enough clinical evidence of it yet, so no one has given the definitive diagnosis, which means I am on no treatment as of this writing.  (For any medical buffs out there, I don’t have enough lesions on my brain/spinal cord–I only have 2 lesions on the brain. I’ve had signs of MS show up in my spinal fluid and had an abnormal VEP.  Apparently, this isn’t enough for them.)  Of 2013, I have only enjoyed a few weeks of the spring, August and September, and I have been feeling very well the past 2 weeks.  That’s it.  I’ve spent weeks in bed at a time and have had moments of honest hopelessness.

With that being said, this is not a “woe is me” post.  Things are hard; I’m not denying that.  There are definitely days where I have a hard time making it through without locking myself in the bathroom and crying like a baby.  My faith has wavered this year, especially through this last relapse–I’m working on that with the Ninja-Priest-Friend.  I’m angry that my children are suffering.  I’m angry that their childhood is rifled with such seriousness.  I’m saddened at my perceived abandonment of God.  (Note the word perceived…I know that He is with me.  It’s something I’m working on.)

No, I am not in a state of self-pity.  I do wish that things would be different.  But they are not.  I don’t know why this is the hand I’ve been dealt, but it is.  This is my life, and I’ll live it to the fullest.  I am truly thankful for every day that I have.  I am truly thankful that I am writing here today.  I am thankful that you are taking the time to read my ramblings.  I am thankful for you.

And I am thankful for pie.  Even stupid pumpkin pie.

Lost Treasure

I’ve been staring at an empty screen for about 30 minutes, not really knowing where or how to start.  I recently received a message from a reader, which says:

“Hello my sister,

How are you?  Almost 2 months and no new item on your blog.  Are you alright?  You used to share your wonderful emotions and God experiences.  Keep moving with your difficulties.  You are not alone.

May God bless you with good health!”

 

The problem is, I haven’t really had anything to share.  Nothing good, at least.  I try to be a positive person, not focusing on the negative, but life has been pretty hard lately.  So, I’ve kept the negativity to myself…no need to share that, right?

The short version is this: our long-awaited visit to the MS specialist ended up being a total letdown.  The doctor basically told me that it’s possible that I have Multiple Sclerosis, but he does not want to diagnose me unless I get much sicker.  We were expecting to start treatment, but instead, we took about 10 steps backward.

So, the next few weeks were filled with even more testing, some of it intrusive, some of it painful, all of it uncomfortable.

Still no definite answer.

Three specialists say it’s MS, but no one will formally diagnose me, so no treatment.  Don’t get me wrong, not having MS would be wonderful news!!!  But, then what is wrong with me?  (Besides the obvious sanity issues, of course.)  Medically, at this point, I’m just in limbo…a medical purgatory, shall we say?  (Oh Lord, help me.  I just laughed at my own corny joke.  I really need to get out more.)

Besides being utterly disappointed by my lack of progression towards health, I was still very ill.  Though I no longer had vision problems, I still suffered with quite a bit of pain, as well as fatigue and cognitive issues.

I was pushed to the brink emotionally, and my faith was wavering.  I flip-flopped between knowing that God was with me to feeling extremely alone.  One minute I had faith that my trials were to serve some greater good, then the next minute I was angry.  Not only was I suffering, but my husband was missing his wife, and my children were missing their mother.  I physically could not be as available to them as I normally am.

I felt like such a failure to my family, and the guilt was almost too much to bear.  I just could not find the purpose for this…I was not living but merely existing.  I was in an emotional and spiritual funk that I just could not shake.  Even the earnest attempts of the Ninja-Priest-Friend could not help my spiritual desolation.

Then, one day I woke up and felt a little better–emotionally and physically.  And the next day, I felt better still.  And each day progressed with a little more happiness and a little less pain.  For three weeks, I’ve felt decent.  I’m still not at my best and haven’t been since January, but each day is an improvement upon the previous.

So, I’m taking each day slowly, thankful for whatever progression emerges in that particular day.  It’s amazing what you can relish when you feel like you’ve been down to nothing.  Getting out of bed without pain in the morning makes me giddy, and being able to chase the kids around the house gives me the greatest feeling of contentment.

I’ve always been one to enjoy the simple things, but now I appreciate them with a fervor never felt before.  I hope to continue to improve, even if we don’t know why, even if I never know what was wrong with me for the past 5 months.  And, even if I never reach optimal health, I know this:  I will be thankful for whatever is given to me.  Because I know what it feels like to be down to nothing.

Life is such a treasure.  I forgot that for a while.  I lost my treasure and couldn’t find a map.  But life is a treasure that cannot be found in any location; it is found in time, in experiences, in days, in moments.

So, day by day.

Moment by moment.

I’ll cherish it all.

 

Bruised Insight

Our family attended Good Friday services for the first time this year, and I thought the entire service was absolutely beautiful.  I loved every minute of it, from the time the priests lay at the foot of the altar in prayer to the veneration of the Cross.  Unfortunately, I could not be 100% involved because “my friend” decided to make an appearance…stupid MS.

While standing for the very long gospel, I started to get dizzy.  I tried to ignore it for a little while, but it just grew in intensity.  My legs began to get weak, I got extremely hot, my vision got blurry, and I just knew I was going to pass out.  Fanning myself with a bulletin, I desperately looked around for The Husband.  He and The Younger Boy left our pew to go to the cry room so as not to disturb everyone around us.  The Younger Boy had a cough all last week, and although he wasn’t sick (according to our pediatrician) his cough sounded horrible.  We were about five minutes away from being knocked out by old ladies throwing cough drops at us when The Husband and The Younger Boy left.

So, now I’m worried that I’m going to pass out, and it’s just me and The Older Boy in the pew.  I’m not worried about my health; I’m not worried about hurting myself if I fall.  No, I’m worried about the embarrassment of passing out in church.  I’d be that lady.  As in, Did you see that lady who passed out in church?  No thank you.  I’m a big enough embarrassment to myself when I’m feeling fine; we don’t need to add anything new.

Pride will be the downfall of me.  No doubt.

I end up sitting halfway through the gospel, desperately hanging on to what little dignity I have left.  I know I look like a mess; I feel like a mess.  Please God, don’t let me pass out in church.  Please God, don’t let me throw up.  The sitting helps, and after a short while, I was feeling a little better.

By the time we go to venerate the Cross, I’m feeling a little more normal, so I decide to participate.  However, once we were back in the pew, I felt horrible again.  The room was spinning, my stomach was churning, and I felt extremely weak.  Thanks MS for the vertigo…you big jerk.

photo courtesy of WebMD

photo courtesy of WebMD

I’m starting to get discouraged, when I remember the Ninja-Priest-Friend talking to me about carrying my cross.  He’s constantly telling me that, and honestly, sometimes I just don’t want to hear it.  I understand that this is a trial I’ve been given.  I understand that it’s an opportunity to grow closer to Christ.  I understand these things on an intellectual level.  But, on an emotional level, it’s sometimes hard to deal with.  I look at the beautiful crucifix behind the altar, and I remember the homily from Holy Thursday Mass.  Fr. Mario (a different priest) had compared Jesus to the Passover lambs of the Old Testament.  He was completely unblemished, and even after His crucifixion, he had no broken bones.  I looked down at my arms, still bruised from IV treatments weeks ago, and I have an extreme moment of clarity. Continue reading

Leaning In

“Regardless of your personal situation, regardless of your heartaches and pains, remember that it can always be worse.

We are all blessed.  We just don’t always see it.  But, if you quiet yourself, if you look around you, if you listen to the whisperings of your heart, you’ll hear it.  You’ll hear the sounds of God working in your life.  You’ll see Him around you.  You’ll see your own blessings.”

Little did I know that these words–my words–would be a challenge once written.

As I clicked “publish” on the above post one week ago today, my phone rang. And within one minute, my world changed.  Yet again.

My dad was calling with bad news…my grandmother died very unexpectedly.

So, here’s a quick recap of 2013 so far:

I’m not one for superstitions, but I’m starting to think that there may be some truth to the number 13 being unlucky.  At this point, if I’m still standing in June, I think we’re doing good, don’t you?

I had just written about finding blessings in a world full of heartache and pain, and now I felt as if I was being challenged to follow my own advice.  I sat in silence for a moment, letting this loss sink in.  Memories and thoughts of my grandmother flooded my mind and heart, bringing an immense sadness.  I waited for anger.  There was none.  I waited for self-pity–after all, how could this happen to me?  I just finished IV treatments!  There was no self-pity.  I waited for cynicism.  There was none.  I waited for feelings of “that’s not fair!”  That never came either.

All that came was sorrow and loss.

My own feelings puzzled me.  It seemed like I should be angry.  Why won’t God just give me a break this year?!?  Why is it one thing after another?  Why can’t I just have one really good day?!?  I had just finished IV treatment a few hours earlier; I had just taken out the IV.  Why couldn’t I have just enjoyed being MS symptom free for a little while?  These are thoughts I would’ve normally had.  But instead, I had a calm about a very chaotic situation…and that confused me.  I struggled to find the source of the calm.  Good Lord, I’ve actually flipped my lid.  I’m calm because I’ve actually lost my mind. 

And then it hit me.  I wasn’t losing my mind.  In actuality, it was the exact opposite.  I had an unbelievable moment of clarity.  It didn’t matter why my grandmother was gone.  It didn’t matter that this year has been horrendous.  It was completely irrelevant.  The fact of the matter is that bad things happen every day.

Maybe I’ve matured.  Maybe I’ve hardened.  Maybe I’ve gained wisdom.  Maybe I’ve just gotten used to crappy things happening.

Or maybe, just maybe, it’s something more.  Continue reading