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Allow me to be a real trail blazer for a moment and use my little platform on the internet to offer you some passionate, non-degree-backed medical advice:

When a doctor says, “And we can do this procedure without sedation now, so it can be done right here in the office,” you need to focus on that key word “now,” which implies that up to a recent point in history, they were rendering people unconscious for such things. And, y’all, there was probably a very good reason for that. So, if and when those words leave his well-educated lips, it is time to say with all due deference: You, sir, may take a long walk off a short pier, and on your way please book the OR and schedule an anesthesiologist to meet me at the hospital.”

Especially, if there will be FOUR biopsies. 

One. at. a. time. Completely unmedicated. 
I’m not entirely sure in which medical journal he read that this was a viable option, but I would sorely like to meet the author and all peer reviewers who enabled this affront to the hippocratic oath to be published. The only other times I have yelped in a medical setting have been when transitioning a human being from the depths of my body into the world and when having my vertebra popped back into place after an accident. I will admit here and now that after entering that room with the loftiest of intentions to offer up any discomfort for friends who need a little extra spiritual support, I forgot absolutely everything, including how to form coherent sentences. The nurse was truly lovely and did her very best to be comforting. The doctor kept up a steady stream of apologies, and paused half way through to ask if we should just stop, to which I managed to answer, “Finish,” without cursing a blue streak. Out loud anyway.

After relieving me of those four bits and pieces, he informed me that I’d need blood work.
Every other day.
For ten days.

Good times.

I need a new hobby; this whole laboratory guinea pig thing has lost its luster.

::Deep breath:: 


But that said, I’m incredibly grateful for medical insurance, for well-educated doctors, for modern laboratory tests, for efficacious medication, and for a husband who gave me a few hours to rest in bed when I got home. Here’s hoping for good news and successful treatment. 

 
 
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If you consider it TMI that I am female and have the organs which were allotted to me by my XY chromosomal combination and that I see a doctor who specializes in such organs, you may want to skip this. If you’re cool with being female and having organs and seeing doctors, carry on.

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have gotten pregnant and carried two beautiful daughters to term. There is a miracle in every child born, but I feel it even more deeply with my own, partially because of innate maternal bias, but also because my poor, little body is kind of a wreck. Let’s just say that I commiserate deeply with the wretched woman in Luke 8:43 (or Matthew 9:20, if you’re more into the winged man than the winged ox where your evangelists are concerned).

I had a looooooooong wait between pregnancies, I’ve had extensive surgery, I’ve had pain from the moment that I was old enough for such pain to occur. I’ve been doubled over, anemic, and exhausted for far longer than anyone I’ve met could commiserate with. I’ll give you one guess what every doctor I have ever seen about this has recommended. That’s right: birth control pills. And if one didn’t work, well we just needed to try another one. I’ve tried everything, and trust me. None of them resulted even the vaguest semblance of improvement. (I can’t tell you how much converting to Catholicism and reading Theology of the Body saved me from the endless hamster wheel of mainstream gyn “treatments”). Even when I would tell doctors that nothing had changed, they would wave it away, ignore my medical history, distrust my personal account of my own pain and suffering. So I did what most humans faced with similar dismissal would, reverted to learned helplessness. I just shut my mouth, because nothing was going to help anyway.

My long time ObGyn, who was truly a compassionate man (though educated myopically about such problems, as the vast majority of his peers), delivered both my girls after seeing me through extremely difficult pregnancies, but recently retired. After pouting for far longer than I should have, I decided that I needed to stop putting off finding another doctor. Once I got over the initial upset of having to give up my comfortable known, I decided it would be kind of great to start seeing an NFP ObGyn, where at least I wouldn’t have to worry about round little packs of stroke-causing chemicals being tossed at me every time I walked in the door. There was a several month wait, and two days before I went to see this doctor, my appointment was cancelled due to an emergency in his family. Bless their hearts, but ARGH. At this point, I was long overdue for an annual, so I simply decided to see someone in my previous doctor’s practice. Deep down I wondered if maybe this change was good, and I would finally get help. After relating my long history of pain and problems, his first suggestion was a hysterectomy. FIRST suggestion. TAKING OUT A MAJOR ORGAN. After picking my jaw up off the floor, I basically said a big, “Welp! I’ll see ya later!” And I made another call to the NFP doc. One month wait. I decided one month was a small price to pay to keep all of my organs in their proper places.

When I got to my appointment, I was shown to a room quickly. After a brief chat with the nurse, I was left to read in silence for about ten minutes (fellow mamas, you know I didn’t mind this little piece of respite), then the doctor arrived. He was very soft spoken and kind. He took almost an HOUR just talking with me. WITH me, not at me. He was incredibly thorough as we discussed my long history, he took copious notes, asked pertinent questions, and then miracle of miracles, suggested a treatment plan. I had never heard of his treatment, nor the medication he suggested (which floored me because I’ve been through a lot of medical conversations on this issue and also come from a medical family, not to mention some medical background in my higher education). I am not a crying kind of girl, but it was all I could do not to sob with relief. I was being taken seriously, I was being heard, I was being given new options, I was being made a part of my own medical decision. All of this before I even had to put on that breezy gown and partake in the glorious joy that is actual examination. Thank you, sir, for listening. Thank you for making me a part of the process. And thank you for doing all of that while I was fully clothed, because I find it wildly difficult to think about anything other than the draft patterns of the room in which I’m sitting when I’m wearing paper. In other words, thank you for being a true physician.

On the doctor’s recommendation, I’ve started using the Creighton Method, to help the him get a better picture of what is going on. (Up until now, I’ve simply used LH strips to track). He prescribed a (hormone free) medication which I only need to take a few days a month when things are at their worst, and it has already resulted in noticeable improvement. I’m floored. And maybe a little angry that absolutely no one recommended this treatment over the past 18 years of suffering.

The good doctor has several ideas about what could be causing these problems, and a couple of ideas to treat them. Before he can move forward with anything else, I’m going to require three biopsies, which will be performed tomorrow morning. I’m a bit nervous. It’s never fun times having bits and pieces taken out of you, but I’m also very hopeful.

I feel so shy to ask, but if you have a brief moment to offer a prayer for me, for my doctor, and for the discovery of cause, as well as swift remedy, I would be so deeply thankful. 

St. Gianna, pray for us.
St. Anne, pray for us.
St. Luke, pray for us.


If you need me, I’ll just be over here stress cleaning my house for the next 18 hours. 

 
 
Once more into the fray with that lovely little companion that has consumed my days, or rather nights, for the past few months: insomnia. I've finally been put on a med that (to my relief) is not a sleeping pill, and yet seems to be helping. I still have a hard time falling asleep, but once I'm there, I STAY that way, and that in itself is a small miracle for which I am eternally grateful. Wednesday was night three this wonder pill, and I DREAMED! It was awesome. Except for that really bizarre melatonin-fueled dream last week, it's been a very, very long time since I remember actually dreaming. I'm hoping that this is a sign that my sleep cycle is starting to regulate, and I can stop being a zombie 24/7. It's been difficult to drum up the energy to do much of anything, much less the brain power to get bloggy. Frustratingly, on Thursday night I was up for more than 5 hours after taking the pill, though I did sleep solidly (and dreamed) during the rest of the rather short night. Sometimes I think that my body takes medication as a challenge:

“Not effective.”
“Not effective.”
“Not effective.”
“Effective! ...but give me 72 hours and I’ll develop a tolerance.”


This latest round was prescribed when I went in for a full physical and a battery of blood tests to see if any kind of imbalance or illness could be causing my crazy, stubborn sleeplessness. The good doctor was anxious to get me in quickly, but the only way I could be squeezed into the schedule was a 10:30 appointment... for fasting blood work. Hello, Hangry City! When I got there, they were down a nurse (there are only two for the whole office), so things were running quite behind. I wasn't shown back to the room until about 11:30, and it was nearly noon before the blood draw. Which took two stabs. Grrr! I spent a lot of years hitting the tiniest, most hidden veins you'll ever see (Kittens, y’all! They are miniscule and fur-covered, and also armed with teeth and claws!), so I don't have a huge amount of tolerance when people go digging about in my arm. I’ve yet to just ask someone to hand over the needle, but I have been sorely tempted.


In addition to the ridiculous amounts of blood work, the doc added another crazy test. I had never heard of such a thing as this before. It required four mouth swabs. (I felt like I was in an episode of CSI, but hungrier and with fewer pairs of sunglasses.) With it, the lab can apparently tell which medications my body can and cannot metabolize efficiently. Because they tried so many things that didn't even make me yawn, and because I have a history of being incredibly hard to sedate for surgeries or other procedures, this will apparently help doctors to avoid medications which just plain won't work on me. Science: It's wild… and getting eerily specific.


So, now we wait. In the meantime, I have a whole different procedure scheduled for next week to address a different issue with a different doctor across town. Vive la difference! I’ll save that inevitably good time for another post. Do I know how to have fun or what?



 
 
Get ready for some fun and technological excitement. It's another insomnia post, BUT I'm getting all 21st century, pseudo-science up in here! Things have gotten a little better. I'm actually sleeping a bit every so often, which has been such a huge relief. There are still some definite problems in my circadian rhythm. I'm slated to head back into the doc for more workups, but until then, my tech-savvy husband recommended an app that he had been using with his various activity trackers (Fitbit, Jawbone, Withings Pulse-- yes, there are a lot. He's a programmer in the fitness field; Toys... I mean, sports gadgets are being researched all over the place.) The Sleep Cycle app is an alarm clock that "tracks" your sleep and wakes you up in the lightest part of your sleep cycle (nearest your desired waking time). I use parentheses, because for this girl from a medical-field-heavy family, tracking your sleep requires an EEG of the electrical impulses from your brain to truly be giving you any honest feedback on your sleep cycle. I'll admit, however, that this little app, which tracks your movements through the night, is a pretty fun novelty, and I can at least get an idea of how much I toss and turn. 
Wednesday
Wednesday night Eric came up with the idea to add the tracking app to my phone. I rolled my eyes, but did it anyway. (And look who is posting screen captured data to their blog NOW! You win, husband of mine.) This particular night, we had a pint of delicious, fermented adult beverage with our late dinner. I had a hot shower, and expected a fairly decent night of rest, feeling neither anxious nor particularly thoughtful about life in general. The three peaks show when I looked at my phone, the three valleys show when I was apparently still enough to be considered in "deep sleep." It's not great, but it's worlds better than my usual wide awake til 4 and up at 6 routine that I had going for a few weeks there. 

Thursday
Thursday was a pretty rough day emotionally, and by bedtime I was both exhausted and wired with anxiety, so I decided to grudgingly take the sleeping medication the doc prescribed at my last visit. I took the pill and went to bed. See that part on the top left of the chart that looks like Bart Simpson's hair? Yeah, that was me waiting for that stupid medicine to kick in. Finally, I decided to take a second pill (which the doctor said I could do should the first not work, but would probably never need- ha!), and look at that! I SLEPT! Until four in the morning. I laid there for an hour, before it became obvious that I wasn't getting anymore delicious REM, and got up to write instead. Still, that long trip into the valleys of my chart were pretty exciting. 

Friday
Even though, the medicine clearly helped, I'm a terrible, awful, no good, noncompliant patient, and I want to do it MYSELF! I told Eric that I was not happy about using a prescription to sleep, and he suggested trying Melatonin (which I had picked up over a year ago at the recommendation of a friend and just never tried, because again: I WANT TO DO IT MYSELF!) I decided something from the aisle of Whole Foods was probably at least a little less intrusive on my body than a prescription, so I took one 3mg pill. I went to sleep briefly before startling awake, then dozed back off only to bolt upright again. Finally, I slept and had the most vivid and bizarre dreams that I have had in years (of course, that's probably because I rarely sleep deeply or long enough to dream much). I woke up not feeling very rested, but with lots of great dream fodder to entertain Eric with while he got ready for work! 

Saturday
By Saturday night I was thoroughly annoyed by all intervention, and went off to bed without prescriptions or health store hormones or adult beverages. As God intended. This is America! Pull yourself up by your bootstraps! Here's how my stubborn, hard-headed, stiff-necked, Do-It-Myself mentality worked out for me:
Oops. Ah well. It's back to the doctor with me for more testing and a plea for non-chemical intervention. As I've mentioned before, I've tried cutting out the back-lit screens, purging stressful television watching from my life, exercising a lot more, hot baths, lavender essential oils, meditation, yoga, and tai chi. So far, nothing really seems to have an effect. 


So, how about you? What do you do (or not do) to help your body get ready for meaningful rest? I'm ready to shake this crazy insomnia for good! 
 
 
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I judged a book by its cover. Okay, and its title. After seeing Love Idol mentioned on my Twitter feed by various writers I enjoy, I decided to have a look. Despite the title. When I saw the cover, I further thought: A little fluffy. Then my eyes moved down to the subtitle blurb: “Letting go of your need for approval-- and seeing yourself through God’s eyes.” Pause. Spark of recognition. Deep need. I’m hesitant to admit it, but they could have gotten me in half the time: “Letting go of your need for approval.” Or even in a fraction there of: “Letting go.” Because to be honest, I carry some weight. The mental atmosphere of my daily life is roughly equivalent to that of Jupiter.

I find myself in this incredibly odd and lonely no man’s land. I am a Catholic convert. I am surrounded by large and beautiful families, and yet I have a secondary infertility diagnosis. Our second child came six long years after her sister, and after surgery, and after no small miracle. This is not the only result of my body’s difficulties in this particular realm. For at least half of the month, I have not only less than desirable symptoms, I have a lot of pain. This isn’t something that I enjoy sharing, not that people ask; Mostly they assume. I’ve had probing questions about the space between our children and heavy handed “general statements” lobbed in my direction about “faithful Catholicism,” heavily peppered with NFP references. It’s alway enjoyable when people make assumptions about your personal journey.

The other side of that statement, I am a Catholic convert, is that I am living in the most liberal city in Texas. The vast majority of our long time friends have no faith at all. Sometimes, it seems that after my conversion, I’ve been relegated to life as some rare, but dangerous animal at the zoo. Something to definitely be kept at arms’ length. I feel the apartness of being Catholic in a city that scoffs at limits of any kind. I feel the sideways glance of being a homeschooler in a society where the end of summer is celebrated by parents who get their “freedom back.” I feel the dismissal of choosing to stay home with my children, from long time friends and acquaintances who have continued to climb their ladders and add degrees to their walls.

I also live this contradiction of spending most of my life with my kids (which I am so thankful to be able to do every day), and deeply wanting some adult time, but being such an introvert that just thinking about putting myself out there is enough to make me want to sleep for 48 hours. My few friends laugh at this, because I’m known for being outgoing and bathing in the limelight amongst people I know well. (On those increasingly rare occasions when we all have overlapping free time.) When it comes to new people, I find myself almost mute. I’m so afraid of saying the wrong thing or being perceived as unworthy in someway that I can’t seem to find words at all. My close friends already know I’m nuts, they love me anyway. I find this continually shocking and expect that I’ve already pressed my luck on that front as it is.

Even the cyber world can feel intimidating. I’m so fortunate to follow women (and a few men) with amazing talent, but as I rejoice in their abilities, I tend to simultaneously belittle my own. I constantly feel here, as I do so often in “real” life, on the periphery. Desperately wanting to reach out, but forever feeling that perhaps what I have to offer isn’t good enough. (Is this the place where I should insert the confession that I sometimes read the Bloggess, not to simply enjoy her hilarious wit as I usually do, but for the sole purpose of feeling a little more normal (whatever that is) and a little less alone?)

Can you hear it in every single sentence? The crushing self judgment? The desire for approval sending tendrils into every corner of my life? I’m tired. To the point that, barring that gentleman sweating blood in the garden, I can’t imagine that there has ever been anyone so incredibly ready to just let go, to just put it all down. I’d make an allusion to Sisyphus, but at least he had the respite of watching that dang boulder roll back down the hill every so often, so insert Atlas reference here.

All this to say: I bought the book. The one with the title that felt too girly to me, the one with the cover that seemed a bit fluffy and sunshine yellow for my taste. And inside there was gold. Right from the start Jennifer Dukes Lee ‘fesses up:  “I’ve employed various techniques, fake smiles and witty Facebook statuses among them, to make you think I’m okay when on the inside I’m breaking.” You don’t say, Mrs. Lee? Let’s compare notes shall we? After commiserating with her over a childhood filled with the false pride of being a perfectionist, she hit me with: “You can call it perfectionism if you want. But that’s just a symptom of the bigger problem. I’ve wanted to be approved. I’ve wanted to be loved.” Yes. Yes, of course. Isn’t that what we all want? To feel accepted? To be loved? And yet as Lee points out “we fear the facade will drop and our peers or coworkers will discover the flawed us, the perpetually freaked-out us. We cringe over the threat of disapproval, real or imagined. And we feel as if we continually need to explain away any potential flaw.”

Preach, sister.

Maybe this isn’t you. Perhaps you love all that you are and all that you do. You love your body, your every choice as wife and mother, each word choice in every conversation. If so, please write a book and share the secret. I will pre-order a copy. I will pre-order TEN copies. As for me and my brain, we completely understood the words this woman was putting out there. But wait, HERE is the secret. Right here in this little yellow book:

“You can’t run away from your problems in some maddening search for peace. Peace has never been about a place. It has always been about a Person… The moment we stop fussing over the opinions of others might be the moment we start actually living for God.”

I read through each and every hurt that she shares from her life with growing recognition. Embarrassing, public mistakes; Silent, crippling insecurities; False friends, false gods, and repeatedly broken trust. How I understand these things! And how her faith gives me hope. There is only one way to escape this squeaking hamster wheel of fear, there is only One who will never betray you, never abandon you, to whom you are invaluable, by whom you are forever loved. Without conditions, without quotas to fill, without hoops to jump, without fail.

Lee reminds us that it is impossible to look in two opposite directions at once. If we keep our eyes upward, then it is impossible to get caught up looking inward. In reading, I found myself immediately adopting her morning prayer: “Dear God, help me to get over myself today.” I need to let go. I need to stop looking for approval and love from people and places that are fickle and finite. I need to stop handing my heart and ego over to these false idols. I am already loved. I am already enough. There is just One who can give me that, though I’m completely unworthy. There is only One who was willing to pour out His very life, even while I was still deep in sin.

There is no other Way.

I know I will stumble a thousand times in a hundred different ways, but it’s about regaining my footing on the correct path; it’s about refocusing on a goal worthy of pursuit. I say that I long for this love and approval, but the Truth is- it is already mine. To feel it I need only to loosen my grip, open my hands, and let all the rest fall away.

So it is with greatest earnestness that I plead again:


Seriously, Lord, help me get over myself today.
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It's not that I don't write every day, I do! Or rather, I start to write every day. I'm fairly certain that my children possess some genetic modification that results in hyper-awareness of their every need being triggered, the moment I type more than one paragraph on my laptop. Thus, I offer you a patchwork post of the latest happenings. 

The New 'Do

Just in case you don't keep up with the visual news on the 'Gram. I've made a bit of a change. I've been running my mouth about hacking off my hair, and when the VMars movie came out, and I saw Mac with her ridiculously fab new 'do, it pretty much sealed my fate! So, just to stick to the Interweb rules of "pics or it didn't happen", I submit for your consideration my anxious before and excited after: 
I'm already in love with it. It's super easy, requires no daily maintenance beyond wash and go, is AWESOME during workouts at the gym, and delicious in the warm spring breezes that are finally settling in around the ATX. Yay for ch-ch-ch-changes! 

Insomnia Ad Nauseum

If you've been keeping up with my insomnia ridiculousness, I'll confess that I finally caved and called the doctor. Who promptly put me on sleeping pills which he swore were both very effective and would not cause the dramatically bad reaction that I experienced about 12 years ago when I was given something similar. Guess what? He was totally right! No bad reaction: we planned my maiden "trip" (in the parlance of our times) for a night when my hubs was both home and up working late, so he could keep an eye out for me. According to him all was quiet on the Western Front. And I slept! ...for a little less than three hours, when my brain broke through its pharmaceutical chains and was up for the rest of the night. Three hours I can do on my own, y'all (even if not all consecutive), and I wasn't super excited about this plan of action anyway, so I'm back to kicking it screen free and a whole heap of deep breathing and mediation. Someday I'll be too tired to NOT sleep through the night. May that day (night) be soon. 

A Meditative Read

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I've continued to slowly make my way through the book Poustinia by Catherine Doherty. It's almost the perfect anecdote to my insomniac restlessness (at least theoretically). I'm really enjoying it, and trying to take my time and truly digest each new section. What hooked me was her firm grasp on society. She writes: 

"Ours is a tragic century where men are faced with tremendous decisions that shake the souls of the strongest. This is also the age of neuroses, of anxiety, of fears, of psychotherapy, tranquilizers, euphoriants-- all symbols of man's desire to escape from reality, responsibility, and decision making." 

While I definitely do not agree with her inclusion of psychotherapy in that list, I do think that for the most part she is really on to something. There is a constant drive to (at least pretend we are) free from reality, responsibility, and decision making. Whether it comes in the form of alcohol and drugs or the more subversive and I think more pervasive tendencies to buy "lives" far beyond our means, there is definitely a pull to alter reality and steer everything towards the avoidance of discomfort and the maximization of pleasure. 

Which is not to say that we shouldn't eat, drink, and be merry, but I fear a tendency to "fake it" around others, simply increases the weight of anxiety and dread (and the panicked feeling that the end of these lifestyles is constantly nipping at our heels). We can't stand to be alone or quiet because all of the negativity that swarms in during these times. We keep running on the hamster wheel of the material world in desperate fear of what will happen if we stop. 

Doherty admonishes her readers to "Stand still, and allow the deadly restlessness of our tragic age to fall away like the worn-out, dusty cloak that it is. That restlessness was once considered the magic carpet to tomorrow, but now we see it for what it really is: a running away from oneself, a turning from the journey inward that all men must undertake to meet God dwelling within the depths of their souls."

Something in this speaks to me and soothes my mind. I'm looking forward to continuing through and examining the development of her ideas. 


A Memoir Read

I downloaded Elizabeth Esther's ebook, Girl at the End of the World, when it came out this past week. I bought it at about 8:30 at night and stayed up to read it straight through. I know that me staying awake isn't that impressive, but my need to stick with the same book while exhausted is very rare. Her memoir explores her childhood within The Assembly, a fundamentalist Christian cult in which her grandfather was the leader. I will warn other mamas and those with tender hearts when it comes to the treatment of children, it's hard to read some of the things that she went through. I quite truly had to put the book down in several sections and calm down before I could continue reading. However, her journey to God on her own terms later in life is positively beautiful and a testament to Grace and courage. 

Words from the Homefront

My girls have been hilarious lately. I think that the 23-month-old gains a dozen new words a day. It is still flooring me to have this tiny little person toddling around and speaking in full sentences. One of her newest ploys is "Wait, Mama!" She most frequently uses it during bed and nap time as I'm trying to slip out the door. Each time I pause she has a new demand: "Nother kiss fo' me." "Kiss fo' wabbit." "Weed a book." "Kiss fo' awwwww da wabbits." "Seen da Daniel Tider song." (Yes, I caved and added Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood on the list with Signing Time for her allowable screen time options. She adores him. And at least it's not Dora or Barney-- so say we all.)

Bear was rather unfazed by my big change in hairstyles, but by the next day it was all she could talk about. 

Bear: "Mama got hair tut!" 
Me: "Yes." 
Bear: "Mama so pwiiiiteee" (patting both my cheeks with her little hands).
Me: "Aw! Thank you, baby bear." 
8 yo: "Yeah, it's pretty good. I wish I could get my hair cut like that. Must be nice to *finally* be stylin', huh, Mom?"
Thank you, ego booster and vanity checker. 

Later that same day, we were wrapping up homeschool, and Li'l E was arranging some timeline events in order, when she absently started wonder about life in the dark ages. And by dark ages, I mean my ages apparently:
"So, Mom. Did you go to public school or homeschool when you were little? Or, I mean, did they even HAVE school back in those days." 
Not quite the assault on my dignity that being asked by a college student I was tutoring several years ago what it was like during the Civil War, but still... Dang kids. [insert fist shaking here]

The Promise of More

Everything else I've been scribbling is not so easily cobbled into this piecemeal offering, so I'll keep working one paragraph at a time, and hopefully have more to share soon. The shorn locks are the least of the changes happening around these parts. More before you know it, y'all! 

 
 
I’ve never been a real sleeper. According to my mom, I never napped. Ever. When I was in preschool the teachers actually made an exception for me during nap time. I was allowed to sit on my mat and read as long as I was quiet and didn’t disturb the rest of the sleeping children. This worked out quite nicely for all concerned. Even later in high school, when I was supposed to be lazing around, I rarely slept. It’s not that I couldn’t back then. I’d choose to sleep in til lunch on a weekend, if I wasn’t working and there was absolutely nothing else to do. But more often than not, I was up on the phone until 3 or 4 in the morning listening sympathetically to one friend or another as they laid out their latest teenaged crisis, and then up early, working at the vet or out at the barn riding... or at school. I went there occasionally too, I think. I was the de facto therapist to quite a few folks at school. I listened well and was known to never breathe a word to another soul. I think a heavy majority of scribbles in my yearbook contain “Thanks for listening.” It was my pleasure, y'all, and to be honest… I was up anyway.

Even in adulthood, especially after becoming a mother, I've slept lightly. I always get up with the children, because I’m the one that hears even the slightest shift of blankets from across the house. Once they’re tucked back to bed, I usually lie awake for another hour or two, sometimes more. Though I’ve gone through stressful times here and there that manifested in nightmares which awakened me and didn’t allow for falling back to sleep, for the most part parenting is an exhausting enough gig, that I’m usually fantastic at passing out immediately on the pillow. Lately, however, things have not been so easy. Though I feel physically exhausted, I am unable to stop moving, tossing and turning for hours. Though my mind seems utterly spent from a day of homeschooling and just generally daily function, it can not wind down. I have a thousand and one things swirling about behind my eyes that just can’t seem to settle.

I’ve tried going without tea (the only caffeine I consume), getting rid of backlit screens, avoiding any TV adventurous or otherwise. I’ve tried deep breathing, yoga, tai chi. I’ve attempted a soothing routine of hot shower, cold sheets, dark room, and lavender essential oils on the pillows. I’ve tried white noise, gregorian chant, classical music, complete silence. Short of taking medication/supplements, I’ve tried EVERYTHING, but I just can’t get to sleep or stay asleep. It’s making me a little loopy.

Within a 48 hour period, my hubs and three other friends mentioned doing a sleep study. First, I laughed and responded that I though one would actually need to SLEEP in order to be studied. After the fourth person brought it up, I really took a moment to consider it. I can vividly imagine it. A tiny room with nothing in it but a bed and people WATCHING you via monitor while you sleep. I can think of few things more horrible. If I’m not already suffering from some sort of anxiety, I would be after that experience. Yeah… no thank you very much.

I am, however, heading in to see the doctor today. I’m really not sure that they can offer me any advice beyond what I’ve done. And I already know that I can’t take them up on any sleeping medication (after a rather dramatic bad reaction to one during college that I still don’t remember, but the others involved still haven’t forgotten). I desperately hope that they have some alternative, because sleep deprivation makes you do the wacky. And this house already more than enough to spare.


 
 

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It's been a pretty rough week. My insomnia has been fierce to say the least, and I was averaging about 3 hours of sleep a night... interrupted. Oof! Thankfully, I had a night of reprieve where my allergies acted up, so I took two Benadryl. Thanks to the interwebs, I learned that the patron saint of sleep is St. Elijah. Then I read this blog post by a blogger has clearly been through a sleepless night or two, and I nearly cried with the relief of being KNOWN. The good Lord has seen this kind of exhaustion before, and He has ministered to it in His own time. I finally fell asleep meditating on that fact. The Benadryl helped keep me asleep. My children slept in until ten. I got a full night of REST. I know there is no using the A-word during Lent, but just know that in my heart of hearts, I'm hollering it with my hands in the air, y'all. 


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My one reprieve from the exhaustion has been the gym. I know that sounds completely crazy and counter intuitive, but it is a chance for me to take half an hour completely for myself and try to rejuvenate a little, since there's no sleep to do that job as it should. Unfortunately, on the day when I was starting to crumble under the weight of exhaustion, I made it ten minutes in to a workout that was promising to be rather impressive on the energy front, when one of the sweet girls from child care came sidling up to my elliptical. I tugged out an ear plug to learn that the littlest was in the throes of some deep sob. It turned out that there was a little baby in the room that wouldn't stop crying. My sensitive little Bear is so empathetic. She gets very upset when other children are unhappy. If she hears a baby crying on the other side of the grocery store, her little face crumples into worry. Of course, once I came into the room to comfort her, there was no leaving again. I spent 15 minutes attempting to console her, but she had her chubby little arms firmly around my neck and large crocodile tears on her cheeks, so I finally waved the white flag and took them home. I was in a less than stellar mood. 


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PictureCreaky swings facing the big ol' porch.
Thankfully, my sweet friend, Crystal, called up just as I was trudging dejectedly back through the door at home. They'd been having a rather rough day at their place, too, so in her infinite wisdom, she decided that we all needed to go out where the kids could run, and food and cervezas were served by someone other than us. She has the best ideas. We met up at a great little place in the country where they fix up good old fashioned home cooking in a double wide with a huge porch and a heap of playscapes which were right at home on this fine acre in the great state of Texas. 

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Chicken coop themed fort
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Spot the cerveza holder?
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Tractor tires, because TEXAS

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Let's be honest: the outhouse themed facilities at this restaurant deserve their own take, y'all. Yes, that says heifers. Oh, Texas... 

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Later in the week, we joined our homeschool play group at a local bakery. They kids learned all about making bread and got to see all of the industrial sized equipment used to make delicious baked goods. My favorite was the machine that helped fold butter in to dough FOUR HUNDRED AND TWENTY SEVEN TIMES for their croissants. I want that machine. And fresh butter. And lots of baking time on my hands. They had such a good time, and at the end they were able to take their own bit of challah dough, shape it, and add delicious little toppings such as raisins, cranberries, chocolate chips, and white chocolate chips. They had such a blast! And we had a new family join our group. Always exciting! An added bonus was that the bakery is pretty close to my grandparents' house, so I was able to take their great-grandbabies over for a little visit before lunch! 


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I was very excited to get to see my little swimmer head over to the "big kid" lanes. She's been working so hard as she progressed through 20 lanes in the training pool. She is now on the final lane. When she masters it, she will be eligible to join the swim team. The instructors thought it would be fun to take them over and let them join in the fun in the "real" lanes. She was very excited, and seems more determined to ever to master the final nuances of the last couple of strokes, so that she can join the team. Her daddy was a competitive swimmer all through middle and high school, so it's pretty wonderful to see her following in his flipper steps! 

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This is going to be a bittersweet weekend for us. We will be joining a whole heap of people at a party to say farewell to one of our oldest friends and his family. They are leaving the ATX for a new job and a new adventure on the west coast. This guy is one of the most joyful, fun-loving, people I know. He's always at the bottom of the dogpile of a whole heap of our kids. They love his endless energy and willingness to play just as enthusiastically as they do. He is one of my husband's oldest and dearest friends, and the astoundingly awesome and shweaty drummer of every iteration of their bands. He will be very missed in these parts, but I'm hoping this will be a good opportunity to plan a visit to the northwest, and that we'll see them back for visits to home sweet Tejas often. Wishing safe travels and big adventures for you and the fam, CJ! 

Thanks to Jen for hosting Seven Quick Takes. 
For more bloggy goodness that comes in sevens,
head over to Conversion Diary
 

Bird by Bird

03/12/2014

 
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I mentioned recently that I was reading Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Upon finishing it, I can confirm that it is officially my favorite new book on writing. Lamott easily switched between wonderful anecdotes about her life and very accessible and useful tips on writing. It's not a dry book of rules, but rather a hilarious friend giving you a witty, winsome push to get to work. Every single day. She is unafraid to dole out a little tough love and sass with her warm encouragement. All the while, her advice intertwines with her life story and how writing both became a part of living and remembering life, with sober reminders and wild admissions that had me laughing out loud. I wanted to share of my favorite excerpts (and it was incredibly painful to try whittling down such a wealth to so few!) 

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"Publication is not all it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do-- the actual act of writing-- turns out to be the best part. It's like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony of the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward." 

I think it helps to have years and years of background in martial arts when reading this. I felt an immediate kinship, a spark of recognition in these words. Perhaps there is Shangri-La up on top of that misty mountain, but there is a whole heck of a lot to be said for each of the little stepping stones and hand holds along the way. 

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"The obsessing may keep you awake, or the self-loathing may cause you to fall into a narcoleptic coma before dinner. But let's just say that you do fall asleep at a normal hour. Then the odds are that you will wake up at four in the morning, having dreamed that you have died. Death turns out to feel much more frantic than you had imagined. Typically you'll try to comfort yourself by thinking about the day's work-- the day's excrementitious work. You may experience a jittery form of existential dread, considering the absolute meaninglessness of life and the fact that no one has ever really loved you; you may find yourself consumed with a free-floating shame, and a hopelessness about your work, and the realization that you will have to throw out everything you've done so far and start from scratch. But you will not be able to do so. Because you suddenly understand that you are completely riddled with cancer. 
And then the miracle happens. The sun comes up again. So you get up and do your morning things, and one thing leads to another, and eventually, at nine, you find yourself back at the desk, staring blankly at the pages you filled yesterday. And there on page four is a paragraph with all sorts of life in it, smells and sounds and voices and colors and even a moment of dialogue that makes you says to yourself, very, very softly, "Hmmm.""

I wish y'all could understand how my breath caught in my throat at the very first sentence, and how I forgot to breathe as my heart began thudding its way up into my neck, until I felt all purple and apoplectic but absolutely and utterly amazed because this woman had crawled into my actual life and watched my thoughts scramble frantically between my ears as my eyes glazed over staring at a blinking cursor. 
Thank you, God. I am not alone. 

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"Hope, as Chesterton said, is the power of being cheerful in circumstances that we know to be desperate. Writing can be a pretty desperate endeavor, because it is about some of our deepest needs: our need to be visible, to be heard, our need to make sense of our lives, to wake up and grow and belong. It is no wonder if we sometimes tend to take ourselves perhaps a bit too seriously." 

Preach, my sister! Amen, amen, and a thousand times: Amen! (Also, bonus points for the Chesterton reference. She even sneaks Brother Lawrence in there later! I've been perfectly amazed at the quantity and quality of the writers she has chosen to reference in such a slim book.)

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"I don't really think you have that kind of time... I don't think you have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won't be good enough at it, and I don't think you have time to waste on someone who does not respond to you with kindness and respect. You don't want to spend your time around people who make you hold your breath. You can't fill up when you're holding your breath. And writing is about filling up, filling up when you are empty, letting images and ideas and smells run down like water-- just as writing is also about dealing with emptiness. The emptiness destroys enough writers without the help of some friend." 

I would really like for her to just appear in my mirror every morning and remind me of this. For the sake of my writing. For the sake of my life. I don't have that kind of time, and you don't either. Stop holding your breath... Write. Live. 

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"Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul." 

This, my friends, is my Truth. 

For other fabulous Five Favorites posts, head over to the hostess with the mostest at Moxie Wife

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We finally had a weekend where we had no plans whatsoever. The clouds parted, an angelic chorus sang out, and an angelic glow bathed the land all around. More or less. Okay, I exaggerated, it was actually still cloudy and a little rainy to boot. Nonetheless, we enjoyed ourselves. 

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On Saturday we took the girls out for a bagel breakfast and met up with my mom and her best friend who was in town visiting, because they wanted to see the girls. (Parents: second class citizens all the way). When our bellies were full of happy carbs, the ladies headed off for a day of shopping in Salado, and my little family headed to a near by game and comics store. We love board games. Lately our most frequently played have been Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne. One of the greatest things about our oldest turning 8, is that she is becoming increasingly able to join in more complicated games. It's kind of handy to have a third right there in your house for those pesky 3+ player games to which you are completely addicted. (Cough! Settlers! Cough, cough!) Though we adore our regulars, we have recently been wondering what else was out there. I've heard heaps of wonderful things about Ticket to Ride, so that was the first game we picked up. We also grabbed Spot It, Jr., so that our almost two year old would have something that was more her speed. It's probably still a little advanced, but not for long. For now she has a fun time telling us what all the icons on the cards are. 

When we returned home, it was nap time for all good little bears, which left us up with our oldest gamer girl. We set up the board and began reading the directions. About half way in, my attention span decided to make some popcorn, so I pulled up Tabletop. If you haven't seen it, it's pretty fantastic. Especially, if you both love board games and frequently find yourself with a complicated game with which no one has experience. Wil Wheaton gets other tv stars and friends (and on occasion his cute wife Anne) together to play some of the more popular board games, and in the process you get a tutorial. It's a great way to get started when you realize your new game came with a novella of rules, but you just want to PLAY! 
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When we felt we had the hang of the basics of play, we got right down to business. It was a fun game. As usual, the first round was a whole lot of learning, and by the end we we're moving along quickly and confidently through the turns, and had a much better idea of strategies that would help in subsequent games. Despite my TEN EXTRA POINTS for having the longest railroad line, our girl still whipped us! She's a very patient player, and has no trouble biding her time and seeming to do nothing turn after turn as she collects cards in order to lay down a massive play. She's pretty impressive. She clearly did not get that from her uber-competitive and impetuous playing mother. We all had so much fun together. And soon after we finished and were boxing up the game, we got the text that our baby sitter was available for that night! Eek! Everyone wins!

Since our ten year anniversary last August, we have gone out alone without our children exactly once (and that was four months ago after getting life altering news that we needed a quiet hour sans progeny to discuss). So as far as an actual date with just us, a married couple, completely alone... it's been SEVEN MONTHS. I'm wildly embarrassed about this. We need to make a better effort. I will tell you, though, that for a last minute, slapdash date, it was brilliant. 

A thunderstorm brought with it a cold drizzle and (thanks to SXSW) we called and learned that our favorite sushi place had a ridiculous wait of over and hour and were not accepting call aheads. Rather disappointed and with what was probably an unhealthy level of craving for raw fish, I hopped on Yelp and noticed a little sushi joint that I'd never heard of which was REALLY close by. We called and put our name on the list, and were seated immediately upon arrival at the sushi bar. 

If you follow my Instagram, you've already been treated to these images, but they make me so happy that I have to pair some with words as well. The restaurant itself was small, quiet, with minimalist decor, and low lighting, in other words: perfect for a date night! Our server was phenomenal. If you get to know me for any amount of time, you'll know that I have a complete sweet spot in my heart for people in service industries, and when I happen to meet those good at their jobs. It's pretty much high level Nirvana for me (the buddhist spiritual state, not the band, though the band is pretty awesome too... I went to high school in the 90s, sue me). We had one of the most exceptional servers that I have ever encountered. He was quick with witty banter without being obnoxious. He was attentive without hovering. He gave us amazing recommendations without monopolizing our choices. Over all, he made a great dining experience into a spectacular one. Thanks, Steven! 

After selecting drinks (A Cherry Blossom for me and Gin Martini for him). We started with a seared hamachi appetizer drizzled in truffle oil. It was topped with dried kale and some kind of exotic flowers and I know not what else. It was so delicate, with the perfect balance of unique flavors that I almost wept. I'm not even indulging in hyperbole here. My eyes became moist, and Eric and I just looked at each other unable to speak for a moment. This was followed by plate after plate of our sushi selections: Tekka maki, unagi, spicy tuna tempura maki, and a truffle maki (to tie everything together with the appetizer). This final piece of edible brilliance had shrimp tempura, spicy mayo, and cucumber, all covered with seared hamachi and topped with white truffles and sturgeon caviar. Sweet merciful yes, y'all. I have a weakness and it's name is Truffle Maki. We were so delighted by everything, that it wasn't hard to talk us into taking a look at the dessert menu. We settled on their special: A cheese cake, ice cream, and whipped cream all made with Asahi Black (a Japanese beer). The ice cream was nestled on roasted coconut and the plate was presented with raspberry coulis (which I rank second only to (and preferably with) chocolate in my dessert hierarchy of yum). Finally, we cleansed our palate with yuzu butter balls (Yuzu is a STRONG citrus fruit. Palate cleanser? After eating it, your taste buds have amnesia. Truth.) After thanking our waiter profusely and wandering out into the thunderstorm, we went to the bookstore... because my husband knows me best of all. 
I feel so refreshed after enjoying this Saturday with my family. It was such a great day of really reconnecting. My husband has been working so hard lately for incredibly long hours and the girls barely see him at all. I'm lucky just to get to snuggle next to him for a few measly hours at night. To have a day where we could all come together and play without any obligations or schedules, and then to have an unexpected opportunity to reconnect one on one, was truly a blessing and something that we all needed. I didn't even realize how much until after we had be given that gift. I hope to be more deliberate in the future about carving out time for all four of us to be together, and even more importantly for my husband and I to have time outside the house as a couple. Hopefully we will work together to make sure this happens a little more often than every 7 months!