I’ve Been Labeled…

Today I had to have blood work done…again.  No biggie, my veins are used to it.  However, today I noticed something quite disturbing on my orders.  On the top of the page, in bold lettering, marked with asterisks, was the following:

***High risk of falling***

Great, my secret is out.

I blame the hospital for this.  See, I had to be hospitalized for a few days back in September, and while I was being admitted into a room, the nurse was asking a ridiculous amount of questions, one of which was “Have you felt dizzy?”

Well, of course I had.  My vision was blurry and my left leg just wasn’t cooperating with the rest of my body.  You try walking normal feeling like Mr. Magoo in a leg sling, without being dizzy.

After admitting that yes, I do feel dizzy, the nurse says,”Well, my friend, that makes you a fall risk.”  He then proceeds to give me 2 things:

1.  This lovely bright yellow hospital bracelet, complete with the words “Fall Risk” boldly printed on it.

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As he fashions this new accessory to my wrist, a sudden thought hit me.

Oh, dear God…  It’s official.

I have a Spaz Tag.

That’s right, people.  Read ’em and weep.  I have a SPAZ TAG!!!  You think you’re clumsy?  Got proof of that?  I do!

Bow down to the Queen of Spaz!

2.  Along with my lovely bracelet, I was also given these nice, warm socks.

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Aren’t they cute?  See the pretty yellow?  Doesn’t that just make you think of sunshine?  No, I instantly thought of Big Bird.  And caution signs.

Just take a minute to look at these things.  Know what I first noticed?  That they have rubber nubs (can I say ‘nubs’?) on both sides of the socks.  Both sides!  Why would you possibly need traction on the top of your feet?  If you are falling because of the top of your feet, I think you need more than just a Spaz Tag.

How does one do that, anyway?

This all struck me as quite funny, and I couldn’t help but laugh.  The nurse probably thought I was crazy.  He would soon get used to my sense of humor.

One night, while taking vitals at 3am, he tells me, “Your temp is 94.5, and your blood pressure is 75 over 41.”  Even half asleep, I realized that these numbers seemed a tad low.  So, I asked the obvious question…”Seriously?  Am I dead?”

He laughed, I laughed.  Was the situation funny?  Absolutely not!  I hated being in the hospital, having people come in at all hours of the night and day, just to violate me.  I hated that my sweet little boys were scared and wanted their mommy.  I hated that my husband was camped out at the hospital, sleeping on a fold out couch.

But I laughed regardless.  Because sometimes, you have to choose to laugh or cry.  I choose to laugh.  Life is too short; my time is too precious.  God gave me a sense of humor, and no matter how corny it may be, I choose to use it to make serious situations less serious.

So, even if you’re labeled as a “Spaz,” just laugh it off.  Find the positive of your situation, because regardless of how dim it may be, there is some light somewhere.  And, if you’re having a hard time finding the positives, turn to someone who can be a little more objective–a friend, a family member, a pastor.  (Just make sure you’re turning to a positive person; no one needs negativity in their life.)

And, if you see me, steer clear.  Because if I fall, I may take you down with me.

skill

Not So Ordinary

It’s November, which means one thing: my Facebook feed is riddled with “today I am thankful for… posts.”  And, although I think these are great for the most part, for some people, I’m like,

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I know.  I’m horrible.  Pray for me.

I very passionately think that we should be thankful every day for the blessings in our lives, regardless of how big or small, and I try to instill this belief into my children.  However, since being thankful is the theme of November, we do have a similar tradition in our household that we started last year.

Behold our family Thankful Tree of 2012:

Our tree from 2012

Basically, every night at dinner, each family member writes what they are thankful for that particular day on a leaf which is taped to the tree.  Here’s a close up:

2012 tree top

My favorite from last year was The Younger Boy’s leaf that read ‘Ninja Turtles.’  Because who doesn’t love the Ninja Turtles?!?  He also had a leaf for ‘good things that God made,’ showing us that once again how exceptional our then 7-year-old is.

This year, the kids were so eager to start the Thankful Tree again, that at the end of October, they were pestering me to cut out a million construction paper leaves.  We had to be ready for November 1!  And, we were.  Here’s our tree so far for 2013:

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And, as usual, my boys don’t disappoint.  On day 1, The Older Boy was thankful for cats.  Not us, not other family members, not his friends.  No.  His cats.  Which reminds me of this post.  Geez…that kid is so obsessive.  Is there such a thing as ‘cat detox?’  But, don’t fear, ‘cuz he’s also thankful for popcorn.  Hallelujah!!!

The Younger Boy is thankful for pilgrims and indians, as well as dolphins and sharks.  Apparently, he is in a contrasting mood lately.  Also, the leaf that reads ‘Jeremy,’ which is his father/The Husband, has devil horns and a tail.  I’m not sure yet if I should laugh at that one  or schedule therapy.

Kids are wonderful creatures.  They love everyone and everything, and sometimes they love these things equally.  My mom?  Awesome.  My cat?  Awesome.  Popcorn?  Aaaaa-mazing!!!

So, taking a cue from my kids, I’ve decided to list some of the not-so-obvious things that I’m thankful for.  God, my husband, my boys, my Church are a given, but there are many things that I am truly thankful for that may not seem so obvious to some.   Plus, after being so sick this year, you do gain a new perspective on things.  Things that I count as blessings today are things I took for granted yesterday.

Without further adieu, here are just a few of the things that I’m thankful for:

  • Every day that I feel well.  People always say that they are thankful for their health, but lose it, and you will really gain a new perspective.  I got dressed by myself today! Like a big girl!  Woo Hoo!
  • Razors.  No, I’m not joking.  The Husband is participating in ‘No Shave November’  and has had a full beard since November 3.  I’m currently resisting the temptation to shave him in his sleep.  So, yes, I’m thankful for razors.
  • December 1.  I know it’s not here yet, but this will be when The Husband, willing or not, will shave his face.  Come on, December!
  • I’m thankful that The Older Boy is oblivious when other kids are making fun of him.  I’ve personally witnessed other kids picking on him for being a special needs’ child.  It breaks my heart; I become enraged; he doesn’t even notice.  He is confident in who he is.  I’m thankful that these little jerks aren’t changing who he is, aren’t making him question his own greatness.
  • Soap.  I’m a germophobe.  ‘Nuff said.
  • Incredible people, who for a lack of a better word, I guess I will just refer to as friends.  These people seem like so much more, I even consider many of them family at this point.  Topping the list would be the Ninja-Priest-Friend, who has been ever-present, bringing Communion when I couldn’t make it to Mass, hearing confessions in my home, and giving spiritual advice when I felt like I was on the brink of a spiritual meltdown.  In addition to him, we have many friends who have surprised us by cutting our grass when we just got out of the hospital, brought us meals, babysat my kids, and called or texted me just to check in.  They have made this whole ordeal a little more bearable.
  • A twisted sense of humor.  I have laughed at myself more this year than I should probably admit.  It should be sad…but it’s not.  Life’s too serious.  Lighten up.
    • For weeks, I couldn’t feel my fingertips, so I went around saying, “Who’s got 2 thumbs that she can’t feel?  This girl!!!”  
    • My left leg was dragging for a little while in October, so I was trying to figure out how to fit it into a gimp costume of some sort.  
    • I had to sort all of my meds into a million-compartment color coded pill-box to keep them all straight, and I laughed about how I could hang with the geriatric ward.  (A week ago, I kid you not, I was visiting with The Husband’s grandmother, and she asked me how many medications I was on.  We had a whole conversation about meds.  Kindred spirits!)
  • I’m thankful that The Younger Boy is a little freak.  I’ve always been a little weird, and apparently the freak apple doesn’t fall far from the weirdo tree.  For example, the kid went to the library a few weeks ago and looked for a biography on Alfred Hitchcock.  You should have seen the look on the librarian’s face; I’m sure he doesn’t get many requests from 8 year olds for that sort of thing.  Philip is so different and unique, and I pray that he remains that way, regardless of how his peers may view him.  He’ll be one cool adult.
  • Indoor Plumbing.  Because, eww.
  • Headphones.  As much as I love my children, and as much as I like spending time with them, sometimes I just need to drown them out.  Enter the headphones.  God bless whoever created them.
  • I’m thankful that I’m thankful.  No, I haven’t lost my mind.  Just stick with me for a moment here.  Gratitude is a virtue, and I believe that true gratitude is a very important part of being a true Christian.  To be grateful calls us to be aware of the gifts that God has bestowed upon us, whether they be big (like family and wonderful friends) or small (like soap and razors).  It calls us to see the things around us not as entitlements, but gifts.  It is quite humbling to realize that we are so fortunate to live in an area that has indoor plumbing and running water when there are areas of the world that do not even have clean drinking water.  So yes, I’m thankful for being thankful.  I’m grateful that God has opened my eyes and shown me how fortunate I am.

There really are many more things that I’m thankful for, and I could go on and on, but I won’t.  Not because I’m worried about boring you–see how considerate I am–but more so because my little blessings are about to get off of the bus and utter chaos is sure to abound the minute they enter the house.  In a few minutes, there will be screaming and crying.  Tantrums will be thrown about homework and chores.  Fights will ensue.

And that’s just me.

So, share with me.  What are the not-so-ordinary things that you are thankful for?

“All that is good, all that is perfect is given us from above; it comes down from the Father of all light; with Him there is no such thing as alteration, no shadow caused by change.”  James 1:17

A Flag, My Sister, and A Pig…Oh My!

It was Saturday afternoon, the weather was beautiful, and I wanted to spend some much-needed time with my 3 favorite guys.  The Husband and I decided we would surprise the boys with a Family Fun Night, but what to do?

I knew I wanted to be outside, and our activity had to be something relatively inexpensive. We are a family on a budget, after all.  I have absolutely no idea where this inspiration came from, but in moments, I knew what we would do.  I explained the concept to The Husband, and he was in immediate agreement.  I set it up, and in a short while, the family was on a city-wide scavenger hunt.

It was easy.  I thought of a few things that the kids could “find” around our hometown.  I wrote these things on slivers of folded papers, and placed them in a basket.  Each child took a turn picking a piece of paper and would then direct us to where that item was in town.  The night went something like this:

First up, Philip chose “A Flag”…and then could not think of where a flag was.  Eventually, he remembered that the library has 3!

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Next, John Edward chose “a place with a letter ‘d’ in it,” and to my utter dismay, we ended up at McDonald’s.  Oh, how I absolutely hate that place!

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The kids were already having fun with this, and I was tickled pink!  They couldn’t wait to see what was on the slips of paper, and they really enjoyed telling me which way to drive.  For the first time in about 5 weeks, we had a stress free evening.  The night continued…

Clue #3…Philip chose “a fountain,” and of course, we ended up at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital because my kids know that place inside and out.

They act so cool, like they weren't running to take the picture...geez...

They act so cool, like they weren’t running to take the picture…geez…

Clue #4…John Edward had to find “a family member,” so we were off to track down my sister, Caitlin!

Caitlin, an amazing aunt and sister!

Caitlin, an amazing aunt and sister!

After this, we decided to stop hunting to take a dinner break, and we ended up at a local restaurant.  I looked at the boys, cheeks rosy from the wind, with smiles over their little faces, and I felt the most serene contentment ever.

That is, until we were introduced to Philip’s newest villains.  Behold his menu creations:

The evils of tomorrow: a stapler with fangs, an alien, and...broccoli?

The evils of tomorrow: a stapler with fangs, an alien, and…broccoli?

Apparently, the broccoli has come to Earth to destroy it.  This is Philip’s very serious belief.  He believes that broccoli was never meant to be eaten, and that it was a huge mistake by mankind.  Can’t say I disagree with him.  Quiver with fear people, quiver with fear.

Back to our Scavenger Hunt!  Clue #5…Philip had to find “a piece of art.”  Now, we live in a city that has a fair amount of art to choose from.  He could have chosen from quite a few paintings, sculptures, statues, etc.

What did he pick?

A painting on the side of a comic book store.  Behold!  Captain America!  Thought provoking, no?  Hmmm…what is your interpretation of this piece?

Well, it IS very good, at least...

Well, it IS pretty good, at least…

Clue #6…John Edward had to find “a church (that wasn’t ours).”

St. Jules Catholic Church

St. Jules Catholic Church

Clue #7…Philip had to find “a park.”

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Clue #8…Last, but not least, John Edward had to find “a statue.”  Again, we are surrounded by beautiful statues in this area, especially spiritual imagery.  So, what was the beautiful statue that my oldest son chose?

Was it something spiritual that will move the soul?

Was it something historical that will rouse the troops?

Was it something beautiful that will stir emotions?

No.  It was this:

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A pig.  With a bow.  A freaking pig with a bow.  And look at my children, grinning from ear to ear, so happy to be with that pig!

Oh well, I’ll teach them culture another day.  For today, we had fun.

Our final stop was at a local candy store to get the boys a treat, and they wanted to turn the camera on us.  After about 6 tries, all of the pictures came out like this:

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I pointed out to the kids that they were all blurry, especially Jeremy, to which Philip said, “I don’t think it’s the camera.  I think it’s Dad.  Dad’s personality is just blurry.”

To which we replied:

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Dang, I wish these were clear!  Oh well, the memories are there, right?  And I hope they stay.  But more importantly, I hope we have more opportunities to make memories.

So, go make memories with your loved ones.  You don’t need money.  You don’t need a fancy plan.  You just need each other.

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