Night Ravings

Life has turned upside down for me these days. I ran my 5K in January, and it seems it went downhill  medical tests prove there was more than I thought brewing in the background. You see, I went from being ecstatic that I finished (really, that is huge, since I had heel trouble and zero energy for a long time), but I felt as if I ran a marathon and couldn’t quite recover. Symptoms I viewed as separate oddities over a span of eight years or so (and have been treating for a while) have compounded and flared up since then in an autoimmune sort of way. I’ve been to two doctors this week without a diagnosis; I guess that’s why Brian calls me a medical mystery.

The thing is, I am tired of being mysterious.

So, a few nights ago Brian and I were reading in bed, and I felt a wild need to pray about this stuff. Sometimes, as we hold hands under the sheets, our prayers are calmly spoken, and other times require nothing less than a relentless pursuit of answers. I heard my voice match my desperate, frustrated, ALL CAPS words.

My night raving went a little like this:

OKAY GOD,

I AM TIRED OF THIS! EVERYTHING IS UP IN THE AIR, AND I’M TIRED OF HURTING! WHAT IS GOING ON?

THERE ARE THINGS WE WANT TO DO TO OUR HOUSE–UPGRADING THE KITCHEN AND BATHROOM, CUTTING DOWN TREES IN THE BACKYARD, OUR DRYER NEEDS TO BE REPLACED. WE’VE SPENT TONS OF MONEY TO FIGURE OUT WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME OVER THE PAST YEAR, AND THINGS HAVE GOTTEN WORSE! WE HAVE BILLS TO PAY, AND I WANT A VACATION! I WANT TO GO TO FRANCE. WE’RE TRYING TO SELL THIS HOUSE, BUT NOTHING IS HAPPENING!

WILL YOU HELP US?!?

I WANT AN ADVENTURE. I WANT SOMETHING FUN FOR A CHANGE. I WANT TO FEEL BETTER! I WANT TO BE HAPPY WITHOUT THE WEIGHT OF ALL OF THIS.

AND IF MY STRATEGY IS ALL WRONG, FINE. MAYBE I SHOULD STOP DICTATING TO YOU HOW ALL THIS NEEDS TO TURN OUT. I’LL TAKE any VACATION… TO FRANCE, NIGER (peeking through my eyelashes at Brian just to see his expression because that idea does not AT ALL appeal to him), COLORADO, ANYWHERE… EXCEPT IN THE SOUTH BECAUSE THAT WOULDN’T BE A VACATION. WE NEED SOME FUN! SERIOUSLY, JUST TELL US ALREADY! WHAT’S THE DEAL? WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME? AND HOW SHOULD WE SPEND OUR MONEY?

…(after a deep breath and more calmly) And thank you for Brian and the pups and our jobs and friends and family.

Amen.

And after all those words, I looked over at my Lovey, who had a touchingly sweet grin on his face. “That’s the best prayer I’ve ever heard you pray,” he said. 

–Jen

How do you feel about questioning God when things don’t make sense?

You’ve Always Been There

Dear Body of Mine,

It’s been up and down with you through the years, hasn’t it? Always, there have been parts of you that I have treasured, like my loving heart and the way this brain provides the ability to laugh and think and learn and BE among all the other amazing things you do (you’ve helped me through a lot of adventures). It’s true, I love all kinds of people well and need to love some better. This includes you.

My green eyes, a child-like explanation for feeling as if I didn’t belong with family members who circled around me, were a quality I came to love–because they were different than everyone else’s blue.

Freckles that sprinkled my face and arms and seemed to multiply each summer after long hours of playing outside. My mom singing, “She has freckles on her butt she’s pretty (rather than but, as if freckles cancel out beauty) helped me see how in this way, I am also like her. Her father sang those same words to her when she was a kid.

IMG_0595Hair that would not grow to be as long and straight as that of my friends. Oh, the prayers for long hair…starting when I was five. It’s sad that I wasn’t okay with my hair then.

Short, fat, all-the-same-length toes that have been a source of laughter (I’ve been called Surfer Toes since the nails on my big toes curve upward like an ocean wave).

IMG_0587A smile so big that my eyes seem to close simultaneously to contain it. I used to complain about these sometimes–slits, but now, I realize just how happy and sleepy content I always looked.

Crinkly eyes and a line-y forehead from all that smiling and crying and laughing and searching and studying and wondering and hard-fought battles.

Oh, green sequins, who cares what people say. You were a good idea for prom at one time.
Oh, green sequins, who cares what people say. You were a good idea for prom at one time.

Stretch marks (how does that happen without having kids and always being small?)?! I’m human; I pretty sure that’s all that means.

I have put a lot of pressure on you to be what I thought you should be OR what I thought others wanted you to be, thinking that straighter hair or bigger breasts or more defined muscles, longer eyelashes, less freckles, smaller thighs, smoother skin, and on and on, would make me happy and/ or keep people around. I didn’t make physical changes I deeply wanted to because I didn’t think I would be accepted by those who loved me most. Because of my looks.

Just wow.

Choosing oh-so carefully how to nourish you after cursing you for all the pain and puzzling mind-fogginess and months of rashes and adult acne (who came up with that idea?). And yet, through all of this, you have shown me how strong and resilient you are, many long prayers answered like a single, twinkling star on a stretch of dark, cloudy nights.

Ever evolving into me (inside and out) and taking care of you in all the ways I am learning to is a challenge everyday, but I am REAL in that challenge. And I mess up. A lot. And more and more, I succeed.

And I remind myself that we are beautiful the way we are and comparing myself to others truly steals every ounce of my joy. I know it. I believe it. I feel it.

So, I am grateful for all you do for me. And I am especially thankful to God who has always been there through every bit of me as long as I have been me. Thanks for helping me to see the beauty in being who I am–loving, curly hair, pale Scotch-Irish skin with freckles, Vienna sausage-toed, smart, green-eyed, adventurous and brave ME.

IMG_0569P.S. Don’t forget to tell me when I can have gluten again. Just a thought. Oh, and ice cream would be nice, too. 

I recently came across this series over at SheLovesMagazine and was inspired by the touching stories I read. Who cares that the deadline already passed! It’s never too late for some healthy positivity.

Surprises

I think this is the key. Ready for something profoundly laughable (because it is)?

Change never ends.

It doesn’t.

Without checking back every now and then and re-assessing and making necessary adjustments, life moves on and takes us for the ride or just leaves us in a mess. And sometimes, there are absolute surprises, like 30 food sensitivities that have caused all kinds of issues in my body…after I thought everything was under control.

I’ve needed some time, from blogging and tomatoes and pineapple and soy and…

Weeks ago, spring burst forth all around me. The sun breathed warmth, the blooms brought color, and pollen left its heavy yellow blanket over everything. As I looked at the wisteria trees in my backyard–the ones I wrote about with certain hate last year–I noticed even they were celebrating new life with their pale purple blooms. During the colder months, it’s been easy to forget about those vines that literally squeeze the life out of those around them if not drastically pruned each year (and yard work is our 194,350th favorite thing, so it not happening). But when I walked outside the other day to take a picture of those wisteria flowers, I was surprised to find they had already shriveled up and died. Now the vines look drab and lifeless, as they did leading up to the first few weeks of spring. But they are different just the same.

I love that seasons bring change. Some changes we can’t help but notice and others can only be viewed by searching eyes: a deep red cardinal in a mess of leafless brambles or hawks soaring above the tallest trees swaying in the wind. There’s just something about new growth on the trees against a backdrop of the deepest blue sky.

fatbird
Look closely. See that splash of red? It’s a Scarlet Tanager (Google is so handy) hanging out in my backyard.

I’m not sure how it all happened, but there is beauty here. Awake. Pleading to be discovered and soaked up by eyes just waiting to see it as it flashes past. In the midst of challenges, there is joy to be discovered each day–if we are open to it.

Life is good. As it goes on without skipping a beat, there is BEAUTY in the changes we live through, too. If we focus on the surprising challenges we think mess up our lives, we might miss those moments and see only sameness staring back. But there is no doubt even when we can’t see it, we are different.

Life is a journey, right?

And it continues.

Healing From the Inside Out

Sometimes you just know something isn’t right.

The second year of my full-time graduate program in 2010, I juggled a counseling internship at one school and a part-time teaching job at another. Night sweats, constant bloating and fatigue, brain fog, as well as headaches and dizziness were some of the worst symptoms I struggled with during that time. The several doctors I went to asked me if I was stressed. Um, yes, of course I am! I wanted to scream. Get some rest, work out, eat right–those words were my prescriptions, but they made no difference.

I went to three medical doctors and left frustrated every single time because no one seemed to really know what was going on, and I didn’t feel like anyone heard me. Anxiety? Stress? And the best of all…(no joke) PMS? Do you know what PMS is?  I really wanted to slap that nurse in the face. Um, thanks, but I’ve been having periods for decades.

Finally, an amazingly kind doctor listened (she listened!) and tested my hormones, finding that my progesterone was low. Immediately I went into research mode and bought Dr. Lee’s What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Premenopause. I felt like the book was all about me (reading about “premenopause” freaked me out a little bit, since I was in my mid-thirties and did not have children). I read that practically any crisis situation during our lives can cause some of these issues later, which made sense, but the tears flowed when  sexual abuse was listed as a potential culprit.

That was the beginning.

Things seemed to clear up a little after using bioidentical progesterone cream for a few months, as Dr. Lee suggested in his book. The off-and-on dizziness remained, as well as a full-body aching that didn’t easily subside. Thinking that I needed to work out more to relieve stress, I continued to go to yoga classes, strength training and cardio. What I found though, was that I actually felt worse after working out–not it in the usual sore kind of way. I had shooting pain down my legs, my hips ached, and I had headaches that only went away with sleep. You wouldn’t think I had been getting chiropractic adjustments practically every week. I was bewildered when I had to walk out of a yoga class because my leg pain was too intense to continue. Really? Yoga is even too much?!?

In May of 2011, I began juicing and started a detox regimen. For years,  I had reactions from dairy, so I cut most of that out of my diet. During that time, I kept a food diary of everything I ate each day, and I noticed I still had some adverse reactions. At Brian’s request, I agreed to have allergy testing done. Through that, I found I am sensitive to chicken, beef and dairy among other things like vinegar and mushrooms. So, essentially, my entire way of eating changed that summer, and now I am vegetarian (ovo pescaterian to be exact, since I eat eggs and fish). The hardest thing to let go of was dairy–cheese…no more chicken nachos smothered with queso or our weekly pizza. What I miss the least? Chicken and beef, without a doubt. I also removed gluten from my diet and I found that with a meals of mainly fruits and vegetables, my symptoms–all of them–subsided.

My first 25 pounds of carrots for juicing
My first 25 pounds of carrots for juicing

As you can probably guess, changing my eating habits has changed my life. Not only am I a healthier person, I feel better, think better and have more energy. Looking back, I honestly don’t know if the hormone issue came first and caused the problems with food, or vice versa. Without a doubt, the crises in my life and resulting unforgiveness in my heart created years of constant and underlying stress (all the normal stress from other areas of my life just made it all worse). I was on the fast road to disease. No medical professional has confirmed that, and you know what? I don’t need confirmation.

I believe it with all that is in me, and that is why my healing journey continues.

(I wish I had impressive before and after pictures, but they would look practically the same. My changes have been made from the inside out. And clearly, I am not a medical professional but simply sharing my experience.)

Rosemary Maple Popcorn

Being in the kitchen is not my first love or 123,712,461,039th love, but I enjoy healthy eating and the end result of cooking. I grew up a peanut-butter-and-crackers-every-day kind of kid (I was quite the picky eater and would not even try sandwiches), but now my world has been opened up to all kinds of wonderfulness. Choosing to be vegetarian and having food sensitivities will do that to a person, well, if the person chooses to dig in her heels and try things she’s never even heard of before (seriously, I had to Google parsnips about a year and a half ago just to see what to look for at the farmers market).

Truly, my world is wildly different than it was before May of 2011, and I am living happier and healthier because of it. And I’m still not eating sandwiches, but I’ll blame that on my body + gluten.

I do plan to share more of that story, but not today. Today is a day for sharing yumminess. A little of this and a little of that made a tasty treat!

My Own Rosemary Maple Popcorn

  • 8 cups popped corn (I pop it on the stove this way.)
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 3 tsp. maple syrup
  • 4 T rosemary
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Pop popcorn and pour into a large bowl. Drizzle olive oil and maple syrup over the corn, and slowly stir until well-coated. Add rosemary, salt and pepper, and stir. Pour onto one large or two small cookie sheets. Bake for 25 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes.

FYI: Putting the coated corn in the oven reduces the stickiness. If you don’t care about that, skip the step and start eating!