Friday, July 22, 2016

Putting on the Armor of God

This summer I've been participating in Priscilla Shirer's Armor of God study.  On page 99, Priscilla poses the question:

How did the enemy take advantage of an upsetting, unexpected, chaotic event or circumstance to gain access to your life?
Well, I had a heart transplant 17 months ago.

It all happened quickly.  April 2014 I gave birth to my third baby and a week later was admitted to the hospital with congestive heart failure due to a genetic condition that I had been told wasn't very serious and most likely wouldn't be a problem.  Six months later, I learned that I needed a heart transplant to save my life.  Our family had to temporarily move four hours south to live with my parents a few months later as I waited for and recovered from the transplant.  Then we moved back and have been struggling to find the "new normal" since then.

How's that for an upsetting, unexpected and chaotic event or circumstance?

Those days of heart failure were hard to be sure, but at the same time, it was a beautiful time in my life.  I felt loved, supported, at peace and so very close to God.  It was pretty easy to be heavenly minded when the physical body was declining daily and rapidly.

My post transplant spiritual life has been rocky by comparison,

In the months after my transplant, I was recovering physical wellness, regaining energy, regaining strength almost daily.  I was on an emotional high, so happy and grateful to be alive.  I felt so very much better and could hardly believe there was any limit to how much better I could feel.  It seemed within reason that I was going to be "normal" very soon.

Hello, pride.

God had felt so near.  But slowly, He felt farther away.  Who moved?  That would be me.

Old struggles I thought were resolved cropped back up.  From my high school and college days, God had slowly and painstakingly brought me out of perfectionism, legalism, and the bad habit of measuring myself by my accomplishments or comparing myself to others.  In the past 17 months, I let those snares entangle me again.  I struggled mightily to meet my own expectations and the perceived expectations of others, and despaired when I failed.

Why couldn't I keep up? Maybe I was just lazy.... Maybe I needed to push myself harder.  Maybe I just needed better systems and strategies..  I pushed myself and berated myself for not being able to do and accomplish as much as I thought I should be able to do.

All along, the real and biggest problem was that my focus had moved off of Christ and onto myself, to my struggles and circumstances.  I felt irritable, short-tempered, selfish, restless, unbalanced, uncentered. I was half in denial about the limitations living with a transplant places on me, while also resenting those limitations at the same time.

The enemy had used his usual tactics of deception and hitting at my weak points to pull me down to be sure.

I missed the first three weeks of the Armor of God study due to serving at VBS and needing to get my blood drawn to verify my medicine levels.  Last week I went back through the first few weeks of lessons to catch up.

God's word does not return void and it came at just the right time to rescue me from the pit I had fallen back into.  It opened my eyes to the reality of the enemy and the way he works, but more importantly, reminded me about my spiritual identity and spiritual resources.

With a refreshed and renewed understanding of who I am in Christ, I've been able to better come to grips with the truth of my physical reality as well.

I'm accepting the fact that living with a transplant is like living with a chronic illness or condition.  This new level of acceptance sparked curiosity, and I set out to find out as much as I can about the whats and whys of limits.

Here's what I learned:

Although my new heart works so much better than my old thick, stiff, failing one did, it has specific limitations because of the nerve connections that were severed when the heart was transplanted.

The vagus nerve is the most efficient way for the body to adjust heart rate and blood flow as needed to accommodate for changes in activity level, body position, and external temperature.  But God designed a back-up plan: hormones from the adrenal gland.

But there is a catch: The hormonal pathways my body now uses to adjust my heart rate and blood flow is much slower to turn on and shut off than the nearly instant adjustments the nervous system can make.

As a result, I "feel the burn" sooner when exercising or doing heavy housework, and have more soreness afterward that lingers longer than it otherwise might .  Getting up from a seated or squatting position quickly causes momentary low blood pressure and dizziness, which can be bothersome when picking things up off the floor for example.  If I let myself get too cold, it seems to take forever for me to feel warm again,  More bothersome to me is how much lower my stamina is and longer my recovery time is when the weather is hot.

That is part of the terrain I am traversing.  Other features of my terrain are room for improvement in communication with my wonderful husband who has to work longer hours than I'd like, three active and intense children including a daughter with behaviors on the autism spectrum (we are in the midst of evaluations for a diagnosis) ... those are other features of my terrain.

God is with me, and has not left me helpless or defenseless in the face of these circumstances.  He has blessed me with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies, but I have to activate them. Richard A. Burr came up with a clever acronym: Prayer Releases All Your Eternal Resources.

Asking for what I need with gratitude relieves anxiety and promotes peace.  I can cast my cares on Him because he cares for me.        

God has been faithful and good through it all.  Here are a few ways he has provided and blessed me:

In my search for truth, I was led to a website for Christians with chronic illness: Rest Ministries.  There I found beautiful words of vulnerability and dependence on God in the midst of suffering.  The prayer cards they offer for download there have been helpful to me as well.

A sibling rivalry e-course by Connected Families we started last month is equipping our family with practical ways to use the shoes of peace in our family relationships.

These months have not been wasted.  Some of what seemed like backward movement may have been necessary to clear the way for new growth in the future.  Certainly, the process of re-evaluating who I am has led to a better certainty and understanding of my gifts and callings.  Creative communication and teaching along with hospitality, which I share with my husband, round out my top three.

This blog is one way to live out my calling.  Opening my home to host La Leche League meetings starting next month is another.  And last but certainly not least, my husband and I will be exercising our shared gift of hospitality by welcoming an exchange student into our family for the coming school year.

I'll be back soon to share more about my journey and what I'm learning from God's graceful discipline.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Reflections on Deuteronomy 6:6-9

This week I bought a Moleskine journal and set it up to use with the bullet journal method. I also installed YouVersion Bible app on my phone, and began a parenting devotional plan in my new journal.

Yesterday I completed the first lesson on Deuteronomy 6:6-9, using the SOAP method that I have described on this blog before.

First I read the Scripture and translated it into pictures.

Then I made the following observations:

  •  I need God's Word in my own heart first in order to teach it to my children.
  •  It will take diligence, which means lots of repetition. I will fail but I must begin again and not give up, but continually renew my efforts. 
  • Binding God's word on my hand could be literal as the ancient Hebrews interpreted it, but I also thought it could mean to consider God's Word before taking any action. 
  • Similarly, wearing it between my eyes could mean allowing God's word to permeate my worldview and color every thought.

I jotted down a few ideas for application:

Home -- incorporate Scripture into my home decor, clothing and jewelry.  Post notes on the refrigerator, bathroom mirror.  Encourage scripture memorization.  Incorporate Scripture into teaching moments.

Away -- Praise and worship music in the car. Talk about God's creation as we drive.

Bedtime -- Bedtime prayers. Talking about how we saw God at work in our day.

Anytime -- Always be on lookout for opportunities to refer to Scriptural principles and contrast with other worldviews.

What struck me most through the day as I attempted to apply it and reflected on my efforts at day's end is how many distractions there are in my world. There's so little time in the day, and so many competing good things to think and talk about and spend time on.  I thought in particular about my kids' books and screen time and how that is a part of creating their worldview and felt a little overwhelmed by the distance between the standard set in this Scripture and the way we are living at the moment.

I wrote this prayer:

Triune God, you are the only perfect parent. Fill my heart with your truths and nudge me to continually renew my efforts to teach them diligently to my children at all times, in all situations, throughout their lives. I fall far short of this goal moment by moment and it is only by your mercy and grace that I will have any measure of success. Thank you for entrusting me with these precious souls. Amen


In 2010 I wrote the following intending to post it on this blog:

Our 700SF 1BR/1BA condo is listed for sale. It goes up on the MLS tomorrow, and our agents are coming by to take pictures. Although prices are still depressed compared to the 2006 inflated levels, there is buying activity going on, and we're expecting a lot of showings.
All that to say that we've been working hard for the past 10 days or so on "staging" our place for sale. Besides rearranging and removing some furniture, the primary activities of staging have been extreme decluttering.
We rented a 5'x10' storage unit to keep all the stuff until we're ready for it again.
Rather than a feeling of sacrifice, I've been surprised to find the functioning of our day to day lives has not been significantly different without the items in storage. In fact, I love the way our house feels without them. If it is so extraneous, it makes me wonder why I've been holding on to it? Why did I live in such a cramped way just for the sake of hoarding things I might need someday when we might live in larger quarters?
Our bedroom is the first room to be absolutely finished. I love to be in there. It feels cool, relaxing and spacious. 
I'm very encouraged to continue allowing the Holy Spirit to build the discipline of simplicity into our lives.

In February this year, we packed up to move in with my parents while I waited for a heart transplant. Enough clothes for eaxh of ua for a week or so, a basket of toys for the kids.

Once again, I wondered if I could live with such a "barebones" inventory in this situation, why do we have so much more in our day-to-day lives?

Yet I forgot the lesson all too quickly.

We will be returning home in a week or so.  While we've been gone, I started thinking of all the things I'd like to acquire and add to my possessions.

Coming across this old post has reminded me of the joy of simple living and to pursue it as a spiritual discipline.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

My Heart is His

The heart condition I mentioned in There is too much to 'splain... took a bit of a turn for the worse in September, and I grappled with coming to terms with the full extent of my diagnosis.  I posted details of that at my new CaringBridge site.

This morning I woke up early and felt drawn to look at my copy of Jesus Calling, and as it often does, today's entry hit me right where I am, especially this portion:
Instead of regretting or resenting the way things are, thank Me in all circumstances. Trust Me and don't be fearful; thank Me and rest in My sovereignty.

At the bottom of the entry are three Bible verses, including 1 Peter 5:6-7.  I got out my Bible and a notebook that was handy.

I opened the notebook and found some journal entries and notes from 2011 when I was pregnant with Zachary, and rediscovered a structure for quiet time that had been taught to me by Kenton Beshore, the senior pastor at Mariners Church. 

It uses 3 four-letter acronyms: PERS, SOAP and ACTS.

I am a PERSon... how am I doing?

I answered each of those questions, thinking mainly about yesterday and this morning, and identified that although I had a good day physically, some anxiety, loneliness and self-pity had crept in, as well as disconnection in my relationships.

Then I turned to the cleansing SOAP of God's word:

For the Scripture I wanted to use 1 Peter 5:7, cast all your anxiety on the Lord, but I "accidentally" turned to 1 Peter 1:5-6:
This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.

For the Observation portion, I just restated the Scripture in my own words, and wrote about how in general it related to the Jesus Calling message to be thankful and trust in all circumstances.

For the Application, I made the observations more personal, reflecting on what I specifically needed to do in light of that...namely, to thank God for my heart condition.

For the Prayer, I chose to follow the ACTS model:

I praised Jesus as Lord of All and the Healer, I confessed my self-absorption and fear.  Then I did the hard, strange part and thanked Him for my cardiomyopathy, for my heart failure, for my difficulty breathing.  What is there to be thankful for about that? 

It makes the truth that God gives me breath and life very real and immediate.  It presses me to trust and depend on Him more than ever.  It limits my ability to do everything I want to do so I need to seek Him more for wisdom and discernment about what He would have me be doing.  Not only do I feel the need of my Savior all the more, but having been forced to slow down because of my condition, I have time and space in my life to respond to his invitations to seek Him. 

After writing out those praises, confessions and thanks, the Supplications I made were quite different than what I would have said had I started my prayer with a request. 

I'm thankful that God woke me up early this morning to spend that time with Him, that He reminded me of PERS, SOAP and ACTS.  I share it because I hope it might be useful for your own quiet times with Father, Son and Spirit.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Connection Before Content

I said I'd blog once a week but haven't done it.  A month later, I'm ready to post.  Maybe once per month is more realistic for this time in my life?  I'm in a season of learning, of integrating new skills and information.  The current theme is communication skills and emotional intelligence.

I've always loved to learn and I've always enjoyed sharing the information I learn simply because I'm excited and fascinated by it but also because I want to be helpful.  However, sometimes my enthusiasm for sharing information coupled with my social anxiety and sometimes clumsy communication skills meant that I rubbed some people the wrong way. 

For example, when I was pregnant with my now two year old, I attended Celebrate Recovery.  One evening after the session, a fellow attendee was sharing her upset about a recent diagnosis of mental illness in a grandchild.  I wasn't there for the beginning of the conversation, but had walked up and joined the group part way through.  She said something slightly inaccurate about the diagnosis.  I just happened to have read something related to that recently and oh so helpfully, or so I thought, piped up with my correction.

Much to my surprise, she exploded at me, calling me a know it all who always had to be right.  Then she stormed out.  I quickly fled too and cried most of the way home.  I just wanted to help, why couldn't she see that?  Was I really a "know it all?"  Once my hurt was purged, I quickly realized that I owed this woman an apology, and within a few days had done so.   The apology was accepted.

A few days later, one of our mutual friends who had been there said that maybe it was good that this had happened so that I could get a more accurate picture of how well I read people and how I come across to them.  That gave me something to chew on, but that time I didn't spiral into self-pity.  I just made a note of it: "Communication skills are something I need to work on." 

Since then, God has put plenty of opportunities in my life to learn and practice communication skills!  I began going through the application process to become a La Leche League leader shortly after the above incident, and the portions of the Leader Handbook on communication skills gave me some wonderfully useful stock phrases and approaches to sharing information that I've incorporated in every aspect of my life.  Then just this August I attended a MOPS leadership training conference and the topic was communicating well with moms in times of crisis and conflict.  We watched a video of moms roleplaying various difficult conversations with immediate feedback and tips for improvement from a counselor.  Finally, this past weekend I attended a day-long LLL training focusing on listening well and responding with empathy (and sometimes information) rather than giving advice.  Most of the training was active roleplaying between all the participants.

With all I know now, I can see exactly what went wrong that day after Celebrate Recovery.  First of all, it wasn't my conversation to barge into.  Second of all, I responded with information when all she needed was empathy.  Third and worst of all, I also embarrassed her by contradicting her in front of everyone.  No wonder she lost her temper with me!

"Connection before content" is the way the communication skills trainer put it this weekend.  Or as Theodore Roosevelt said, “People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

It's been a journey to incorporate this skill into my interaction with other adults, but I'm starting to feel confident in it.  What has been more challenging has been to consistently apply it in my parenting.  I reap benefits when I do, but it's still so hard and I frequently forget!  This morning I came across this post at Abundant Life Children which has some great tips.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

There is too much to 'splain, I will sum up...

This line from The Princess Bride seems appropriate.  I've taken a very long break from posting because so much has been going on in my life. 

Once this summary is out of the way, my plan is to start posting again the little musings I have about the intersection between my relationship with God as grace-giving Father and how I live as His daughter, especially in the context of parenting and homemaking. 

So, in no particular order:

In the early spring, my almost six-year-old daughter was diagnosed with ADHD, mild gross motor delays and mild sensory quirks that aren't severe enough to require professional occupational therapy.  We started her on Ritalin, 5mg once per day and it helped her tremendously with focus on her school work and helping her be a more flexible resilient participant in social situations.

On Good Friday, I gave birth to a healthy baby boy.  A week later I was readmitted to the hospital with double pneumonia and congestive heart failure.  I stayed in the hospital three days.  Recovery was slow and nearly four months later I'm only now getting to the point where my energy levels feel back to normal for me.  I was blessed to have two mother's helpers come a few times a week in May, and with amazing support from my church family and MOPS friends.  My underlying heart condition is a little more serious than I previously thought and not only am I recommended not to have more pregnancies, but I may need to have a pacemaker or defibrillator implanted eventually.

I finally started on anti-depressants.  I'm currently taking 50 mg of Zoloft which has made a world of difference.  I like my husband and children again instead of constantly feeling a low level of irritation and resentment toward them.  My brain's executive functions have returned and I have ideas and can carry them out.  I feel like writing again.  I feel comfortable at home instead of restless and wanting to escape through the internet or too many activities in the community.  I don't overanalyze every social encounter and can just relax and enjoy the company of people around me.  My spiritual life has reawakened too, no longer feeling flat and cold and distant.

In October, we moved to a new house in town and almost a year later as I heal and regain strength and energy and as my depression, anxiety and ADHD symptoms gradually lift, I've really started to enjoy and improve in my role as homemaker.  I've been able to reorganize things, start routines and set up systems that make our family life run more smoothly and keep the house at a level of tidiness and cleanliness that is comfortable for living and conducive to fun and creativity

I feel like each of these areas could spawn many detailed posts of their own, and perhaps that is a good challenge for me.  This fall, I will blog at least once per week (oftener if inspiration strikes), delving into a specific aspect or thought triggered by reading through this summary. 

When I was depressed early in my married life, one of the internal messages I had to overcome was that I had nothing to say.  I overcame that by beginning to post blogs on Myspace and eventually by starting this blog.  Then there were periods when my brain fog and exhaustion made impossible to turn the swirling grey into black and white words. 

Life has rhythms and cycles.  A pearl in an oyster is formed not all at once, but layer by layer.  One season of growth in my life is ending and another beginning.  The previous season was inward and quiet, but this one is bursting out to be shared.  Isaiah 43:18-19 seems very appropriate:

“Forget about what’s happened;
    don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
    It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
    rivers in the badlands." (The Message)

God is doing something new in me, in my family, in my community and in the world.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Another mental health update

Two weeks ago, I spoke with the psych and told him about my pregnancy and overall results with the Cerefolin. He was pleased with my progress and gave me samples of Deplin 15 to try, and a prescription for the CerefolinNAC that I could fill when the Deplin ran out or if the Deplin didn't work as well.

The Deplin 15 made me super anxious and ragey, (overmethylation?) so I discontinued it. I didn't fill the prescription for the Cerefolin because it costs $4 per pill and is not covered by my insurance.

Instead I researched over the counter options and found Methyl-Life but forgot to actually order anything for a week or so.  I ordered the 2.5mg dose, $36 for 90 pills. I decided to start with that level and bump it up to the 5mg dose by taking two pills if it seemed necessary (the CerefolinNAC is 5.6mg of the l-methylfolate for comparison).

I am pregnant (8 weeks or so!) and of course am going to be tired and emotional, but I think without the methylfolate my brain doesn't work as well and my thinking and mood is more negative overall..

Oh, and I'm still mostly grain free, but on Labor Day, I cheated for my brother-in-law's birthday and mother-in-law's famous corn tortilla enchiladas, with beans and rice (she used GF sauce and left the cheese off for me).

That whole week, I really struggled with anxiety. My thoughts went in circles. I was worried about Curly-Q, about DH, about our new house, about the move, about the new baby, about everything!

I don’t think it was a coincidence that that level of anxiety came on the heels of "cheating" with grains  at my brother-in-law's birthday party, or that I continued to "cheat" for a few days afterward with the gluten-free chocolate chip cookies left over from Curly-Q’s school birthday party.

Between not having the methylfolate and adding grains/sugar back in, it put me back where I started but maybe even worse because I know now the anxiety and depression/dysthymia I was living with isn't normal, and more importantly, what it's like without it!

So finally the Methyl-Life brand of l-methylfolate came in and after a few days of taking it, I started to feel much better.  I started out with the single pill (2.5 mg) dose and then after a few days, increased it to two pills for a 5mg dose.

5mgs is my sweet spot I think. Since starting at that level, I have almost zero anxiety, clear/positive thinking, and an ability to plan ahead and execute tasks.  It’s like l-methylfolate gets me to the place where my coping mechanisms work again!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Mental Health Progress Report

When I was formally diagnosed with ADHD by a psychiatrist two weeks ago, we discussed trying Wellbutrin but decided to try l-methylfolate first because I’m still nursing Ziggy and planning to add more children to our family at some point.  We also discussed that a grain-free diet may be beneficial.

So I started taking CerefolinNAC daily and began moving to a grain-free diet.  And it is definitely helping improve/lessen my symptoms of inattention, distractibility, problems with executive function, and the anxiety and depression that go along with that.  I kept a food log along with noting changes in the way I feel and noticed definite improvement with the CerefolinNAC and days when I stayed grain-free and an increase in brain fog and anxiety on days when I cheated with grains and sugar.

Day 1:

I took the first dose of CerefolinNAC mid-morning after spending time in the park with DH, Curly-Q and Ziggy.  It felt good to be outside and in the sunshine so early in the day.

It was such a relief to get a formal diagnosis and have a treatment plan and have hope that I might not have to struggle so much to stay organized and worry so much about making careless and costly mistakes or forgetting important things.

All day my mood was very positive all and I was much more patient and felt more connected to my kids, but how much was from the relief, how much from the time outside and how much from the CerefolinNAC remains to be seen.

Day 2:

I wonder how long until I can tell if the CerefolinNAC is working or not? I thought I saw positive effects yesterday but then again it could have been the high of the validating diagnosis and treatment plan and the time outside in the sunshine in the early morning just as well, and I don't know if an immediate effect is even possible.

I gave myself permission to be on the computer for an hour this morning to write this and do other work and leisure activities (for me a significant measure of how well treatment is working will be how much/easily I'm able to pull myself away from screens, in particular the internet).


I'm noticing today that I'm still checking the computer a lot but it's easier to get up from the computer and get moving again.
I'm also noticing that tackling small messes as I go is just happening without me having to think about it too much, whereas often I get paralyzed wondering what to do first or where to start.

Even later:

I feel pretty good this evening. Not exhausted, physically or mentally, though I was pretty productive today. I got a lot done but it didn't feel like as much effort. Pretty cool

Day 3:

I have a realization/thought that I'm not sure how to express. So I'll just start typing and hopefully it will make sense.

Before beginning this treatment, I was spending so much effort trying to maintain focus/filter out distractions and organizing myself and accessing executive functions of my brain. I didn't realize exactly how much effort that took me to do until now that that effort is lessened.

Before when I walked through my house, I would see things that needed to be done EVERYWHERE, it was like I couldn't filter out anything, and it was overwhelming and exhausting. And I'd try to do too many things at once, fearing that I'd lose focus/drive and never come back to what I was doing. Like I'd walk around with two different things in my hand and try to pick up a third because now or never.

When I feel overwhelmed like that, I'd feel the pull to sit down and go online. To be in the zone where somehow I feel more in control and able to focus. Yes, I'd have lots of browser windows open at a time and follow lots of rabbit trails, but it was fun/calming.


Other times I'd feel trapped by the computer, by the pull to keep reading, click refresh, wanting to get up but also not able to.

I'm getting carpal tunnel symptoms in my mousing hand but the pain is not enough to dissuade me.

Does that sound like addiction? Just a coping mechanism for the ADHD? Hyperfocus? Some of all of it?

Day 4:

Today and yesterday too but today especially I’m noticing it’s easier to remember parenting strategies in the moment. It’s also easier to be engaged, proactive and the kind of guiding/coaching parent I want to be with Curly-Q and Ziggy. 

Like yesterday I read something in my MOPS magazine and thought I wanted to try it out and then later that day I did try it out.

One of the reasons I decided against homeschooling for Curly-Q was that I felt like I wasn’t present or “with it” enough to be an effective teacher. I knew I’d never be consistent enough to move us through a curriculum and even unschooling seemed terribly daunting because I’d have to be aware of opportunities to strew things and teach her about what we were doing together but we were hardly doing anything together because I was SO distracted and lost in my head that even when I tried to engage her she’d get bored and wander off.

My discipline was becoming so reactive. I’d read suggestions on positive parenting sites to set kids up for success by coaching and talking through social stories and setting expectations ahead of time and it sounded pie in the sky to me. It was like it was so hard to barely keep myself together that I didn’t have mental energy left for all of that.

All that to say I’m definitely feeling more confident about my choice of parenting style and ability to be the mom my kids need me to be.


I wrote the previous post at the high point of my day, and it started declining from there. By the evening I was feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and having trouble again. Right now I feel anxious and a little defeated. 
At dinnertime I kept getting up from the table to work on packing food for a road trip to the beach we are leaving for in the morning. I don't want to spend a lot of money eating out and don't want to have to worry about food sensitivities so we're going to bring lunch to eat in the car and dinner fixings to prepare at my sister-in-law's family's beach house tomorrow night..

I still have to finish packing and I have a feeling of dread like I’m going to forget something important like I always do.

So my suspects for my decline today:
1. My lunch of bunless hotdog with ketchup mustard and relish. Though I had planned to get water I impulsively filled my cup with Sierra Mist (and I've been low sugar and haven't had soda or HFCS in a while). I also had some of Curly-Q's Minute Maid light lemonade.
2. my lack of rest in the afternoon though I felt like I needed one
3. anxiety about the trip (though which came first chicken or egg, I wasn't feeling particularly anxious until this afternoon)
4. "that time of the month"
5. previous improvements have all been placebo effect in my head and this is it crashing down
6. some combination of the above

Day 7
Back from my trip, it was fabulous. 
After a breakfast of rice noodle pad thai from a package, spent the morning and lunch time on a play date at the splash pad and park with a friend with kiddos close in age to mine. Had a great chat with my friend. 

Went from there to Curly-Q's 'meet the teacher' day-before-school open house. At the open house, started feeling foggy and having trouble keeping track of Curly-Q and her excited antics. Started worrying that the challenging/difficult aspects of her personality will get her into trouble at school and leave her without any friends.

Day 8

It was Curly-Q’s first day of school and it was nice to have time at home with just Ziggy and me and he and I had fun together. I did a really good job cleaning my bedroom and was able to easily stay on task. 

That night I went to a Pampered Chef party with my friends and felt super awesome and happy, but though I didn’t eat the gluten-y dessert I may still have had cross-contamination from the things I did eat.

Day 9

For all that I feel and function better, I'm not improved enough. I almost got into a collision this morning taking Curly-Q to school. I focused on the people approaching the crosswalk and missed the cars heading my way as I made a right on red. I was honked at and able to pull out of the way, thank God!

After dropping Curly-Q off at school, I walked about 3 miles with some girlfriends, pushing Ziggy in the stroller. For a snack at the end of the walk I had some Enjoy Life fruit and seed mix, and one half of a small gluten free cracker before I remembered that I’m supposed to eat grain free. I may have also accidentally ingested some graham cracker crumbs that one of my friends gave to Ziggy.

This afternoon I’m feeling very tired. I’m also anxious and a little foggy.

Day 12

Today I’m looking back at these journals and realize that I didn’t write down the good stuff as much as the days when I hit a hiccup, which makes it seem like maybe it didn't "work."  That isn't reflective of my actual experience I don't think.  The truth is that the good things from Days 1-4 carried forward to all the days.  I'm a better mom, better housekeeper, happier and more resilient person lately.  Overall taking CerefolinNAC has made a very positive difference.   

It feels so amazing to just go through my day without my brain feeling like it’s on overdrive but not going anywhere.  I can just decide to do something and get it done without endless distraction and procrastinating.  Before starting treatment just the basics of keeping my house minimally tidy and clean exhausted me because it took so much mental coaching and coping mechanisms to accomplish.  The past 12 days I’ve been able to get lots of extra projects done that just seemed out of reach before, like without much production, I decluttered a corner of my dining room had been mocking me for months.  I cleaned out the gross area under my kitchen sink which I don't think I've had the mental energy to tackle in the three years we've lived here. 

Often in the past I could do these type of "projects" but the daily stuff would suffer.  Not so in this time period.  I kept all the living areas tidied and vacuumed and kept up with the laundry.  (Granted, having Curly-Q in school helps too).  

I'm better able to focus when I want to and shift focus when I need to.  I still sit at the computer and do things I need to do or just to relax but then I finish and am ready to move on to the next task.  I’m not feeling sucked in or stuck.  It sounds so ordinary but really it is HUGE.  It is so very cool to see such a difference in myself.

All that said, I'm not sure that CerefolinNAC is a complete answer.  I think grain-free and low/no-sugar will be another key, and there may be other supplements like CoQ10 or 5-HTP that might be helpful, or perhaps Wellbutrin could still be an option.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Diagnosis and Treatment

This morning a psychiatrist confirmed something I have been suspecting for a while.

As a kid I was often chided for having my head in the clouds, being distracted, being forgetful, procrastinating, not living up to my potential.  I forgot homework assignments at home, lunch boxes at school, forgot to get permission slips signed.  I lost my wallet, lost keys to my dorm room.  I had a terrible time learning to drive and had numerous fender benders, mostly when backing up.

I have trouble connecting socially and keeping up with multiple conversations in a large group.  I hyperfocus on things like reading and the computer.  I have trouble knowing where to start on a big project and get easily overwhelmed with too many choices and information.

Sometimes it feels like I'm just waiting for the next disaster that I will cause.  This year alone, I've washed my phone in my pocket, walked into a pool with the phone in the pocket of my swim shorts.  That's just the tip of iceberg of a list of the ways I've ruined things, damaged things, and cost myself and my family money.

Most recently, I locked my daughter in a hot car and had to call the fire department.  It was terrifying.

I started to get scared of what further problems I might cause for to myself, my belongings or my precious kids.  Someone could get seriously hurt.

And yet, though I suspected ADHD, it felt like I was making up an excuse to say it out loud.  Maybe I am just lazy, forgetful, anxious, depressed ... crazy?

Still, I decided to just go to my doctor.  Let her sort it out.

She referred me to a psychiatrist and after a month waiting for an appointment, I finally met with him this morning.  He diagnosed me with ADHD, said it was common for adults to seek treatment at my age because coping mechanisms start getting overwhelmed.

It's such a relief to have it be official.

As the book title says, "You mean I'm not stupid, lazy or crazy?"

After hearing that I'm gluten sensitive, the psych advised me to eliminate all grains from my diet, not just wheat/rye/barley group.  My kids and I already eat gluten and dairy free.  I used the Paleo version of eMeals earlier this year just for dinners, and since then I've been toying with the idea of going paleo for all meals, but wasn't quite ready to give up rice, corn and sugar.  I think this is the motivation I need to go for it.

The psych also prescribed bupropion (generic for Wellbutrin), an antidepressant and reuptake inhibitor that acts on dopamine and norepinephrine and thus is also used to treat ADHD.

However, when I asked about the possibility of MTHFR gene defects, he offered some samples of CerefolinNAC (active ingredients L-methylfolate and N-acetylcysteine) to try first.

I'm hopeful that the CerefolinNAC  will be effective on its own, because I'm still nursing my little Ziggy and hope to get pregnant some time this year, and it would be nice not to have to make a decision about whether it's more important to treat my symptoms or completely avoid any risk to my kids.

If I do have MTHFR gene defects, then me taking CerefolinNAC or another source of L-methylfolate could be an asset to any developing baby, since the gene defect means that the person who has it has trouble processing folic acid into a form the body can use, which can result in midline defects in the baby, such as the tongue and lip ties that Ziggy has.

I think I might also bring this up with C's pediatrician because sometimes I suspect she's not quite neurotypical either...

Friday, August 2, 2013

Countdown to Kindergarten: Listening for Divine Direction

Back at the beginning of 2013, I started to consider whether or not to send my daughter Curly-Q to Kindergarten in the fall.  She has a September birthday and will be turning five this year.

I had no idea what the right decision would be.  On the one hand, she seemed so young and I know that the trend is to hold kids back to maximize their chances of success.  On the other hand, I knew she could mature a lot in a few months and actually be ready in the fall.  

I worried about her being bored, I worried about her struggling.  I had no idea what the right decision would be and I agonized over it.  I asked for prayer in Bible studies, from my family, from my friends.

I tried to listen for God's voice in our circumstances, and when I failed to see clear direction in the face of a decision along the way, I chose the course that left our options open.  

In March, Curly-Q's teacher made a comment about her not being in any way ready for kindergarten, and so I was leaning toward holding her back.  Still, I took her to register at the local public school just in case something changed by fall.  I also applied for one of the limited seats at an excellent charter school in the next town and a homeschool charter in our county.  So many possibilities, so many options to keep open.

By April, I was seriously considered homeschooling or unschooling as an option after a friend said, "You just seem like the kind of person who would be homeschooling." Another acquaintance who homeschools talked it up and it sounded so wonderful.  But I didn't think I could do it without support and accountability, so I thought getting into the homeschool charter would be a sort of fleece to tell me if homeschooling would be right for our family.

And then came the letter saying we didn't get in.  

For a time, I considered homeschooling anyway.  After all my friend had said I seemed like someone who could/would do it.  And after all my reading I was really entranced by the idea of homeschooling.  It sounded romantic and lovely.  And yet, it didn't feel right for our family, at least not at this time.  I kept waffling, and couldn't commit or say out loud that this was my choice.  Something was holding me back. 

We were also put on the wait list at the excellent charter school, but since it was in the neighboring town and would require a 20 minute drive, I wasn't seriously considering it.  It would be the local school or nothing, or so I thought.  

At the parent teacher meeting at her preschool in May, Curly-Q's teacher commented on how much she had matured and that she felt confident Curly-Q would be even more mature and ready for kindergarten in the fall.

But I was still leaning toward homeschooling, trying to work through my doubts and get to the point where I could claim my decision to friends and family and move forward with planning.

A few weeks later, we were called to take a kindergarten readiness test at the local public school.  Curly-Q passed the test and was declared ready for kindergarten.  

When we got home from the readiness testing, I noticed a voicemail on my answering machine.

It was the excellent charter school.  A seat had opened up.  Did we want to take it or should they move on to the next family?

I called my friends with kids at this school, who advised to take the seat just in case even if I wasn't sure because I could always change my mind and release it again before school started.  I called my husband, who agreed with that plan.  

In June I renewed my requests for prayer from my circles of support, asking for clarity and a final decision.

Around that time, I realized that I only started considering homeschooling when friends said that's what they saw me doing. It hadn't arisen from an authentic desire or calling to do so.  I confidently set it aside for now and started leaning toward the idea of starting Curly-Q at the local public school, although something held me back from calling the excellent charter school to release the seat.  For some reason I just felt I had to keep it as an option.  

July brought some conflict with my in-laws/landlords that made it clear that it was probably time to move.  As we investigated different options for housing, we discovered that not only could we probably afford to buy a home (after 8/24 which is the three year anniversary of our short sale), but it would most benefit our family to move to the neighboring town where the excellent charter school is located.

And with that, our decision was made.  I feel a settled peace about it.  

Curly-Q will be starting kindergarten at the excellent charter school on August 13.  I have purchased school uniforms.  Still need to buy some supplies to donate to the classroom and find her a backpack.  

Everyone in our family is excited about it and we're counting down the days until school starts!

And a few weeks later, the next phase of the journey will start when we can begin looking at houses...

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Managing Computer Time

So, I have a tendency to use the computer too much.  Screens suck me in, and sometimes I do this hyperfocus thing where I miss other things going on around me.

My kids have made some mega messes but fortunately been in no serious danger when I'm off in computer-land.

Nonetheless, I know I need to change.

It's tempting to just pull the plug and leave the computer or at least the internet off altogether.

But, the problem is that it's integral to a few different ways God has called me to use my talents for His glory.

I'm the Publicity person for MOPS, in charge of maintaining our group's public and private Facebook pages and sending out email reminders.  I also use the computer to design monthly newsletters and slide shows for our meetings.

I'm a La Leche League leader, and Facebook and email are part of the job description there as well, as is the ability to quickly do research online.

I'm a homemaker who uses the internet as a household management tool and calendar and cookbook and how-to manual and reference library and sometimes, my social life.

And, once again, I'm heeding the call to be a blogger and share my thoughts and experiences here with whoever cares to read them.

But even with all that, I go online and use the computer much more than is really necessary.  I sit down to nurse my baby boy and think I'll just check Facebook or Gentle Christian Mothers or Television Without Pity quickly and then end up sitting for hours, reading about other people's lives or thoughts, not participating much because it's hard (but not impossible) to type with a baby in arms (or balanced on my knees) at the breast.

I've been convicted that it needs to change and I want to find a solution.

In the past I've used the StayFocusd extension for Google Chrome, but I found it insufficient for several reasons.

Yesterday I searched for alternatives to that program and discovered Productivity Owl, another extension for Chrome.

What I like about it is that it gives me time to look at the sites that suck me in (I set it for 60 seconds at a time before it closes the browser tab).  That's enough time to check in and participate, but not enough time to get sucked in.  Most of the interactions I need to do for LLL and MOPS require about 60 seconds or less, especially if I look at the notifications in my email first.

I whitelisted sites I truly need to be productive, such as email, MOPS and LLL, a few recipe aggregator sites, banking.  Most of the other sites I visit, whether for fun or household management, can be visited in 60 seconds or less and make a nice break.

I'm only on day two of using this extension, but so far so good.  It has made a difference in the way I use the computer and the ease of getting back out of the chair once I sit down to check something or nurse the baby.

I also installed FocalFilter which is a program that allows me to block sites on other browsers too so I don't end up just booting up IE or Firefox to get more time on a site that's triggering my hyperfocus.  I need to set that up still though so far it hasn't been a problem.

In other news, I have a psych appointment to be evaluated for adult ADHD in a few weeks...

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Means of Grace

Today I was at a women's Bible study on Gideon.  Priscilla Shirer made a comment about how prone we humans are to look for the tangible, to give credit to something we can see and feel and taste and touch instead of glory to the invisible God.

And what came to mind for me were the sacraments of Baptism and Communion, what Lutherans call "means of grace."  The simple water, the simple bread, the simple wine.  Water that washes, bread that nourishes, wine that invigorates.

God understands us, and God has compassion for us.  Knowing we have a weakness for the tangible, how kind He was to provide tangible ways for us to understand and receive His grace.

Some Christians understand the water, bread and wine as strictly symbolic, while others are open to a more layered understanding with room for mystery.

Regardless, I think the point of God's mercy in allowing us these tangible rituals is valid no matter where one falls on the symbolic-only to full-transubstantiation spectrum.

Reflecting this way also led me to consider the role of baptism and communion in my family's life.

My husband and I were both baptized as infants (sprinkling) and were confirmed in our faith as young teens and then eventually chose to be rebaptized  as adults (me in a swimming pool, he in the ocean)to claim our faith as our own.

We decided together to present our daughter to the church in a baby dedication ceremony rather than baptize her, expecting that when she made her own decision for Christ she could choose to be baptized to mark that occasion.

Between her birth and the birth of our son, we moved 200 miles and changed churches.  Our current church (the one my husband grew up attending) does infant baptism.  We haven't had him baptized and we haven't pursued a dedication, and now that he is 13 months old it feels a little late for that route.

I guess we could just wait until he makes his own decision to be baptized, or we could decide that both children should be baptized as soon as possible, or something in between.  It hasn't felt like a pressing issue until a few months ago.

A few months ago, my now 4 year old daughter out of the blue mentioned wanting to be baptized "like her cousin."  (We had attended the service where her 8 year old cousin had been baptized by immersion a few months previous to this).  I asked her some open ended questions to determine her level of understanding, and was positive and encouraging, but because I didn't feel certain that she really understood what baptism meant versus as just wanting to be like her cousin, I didn't pursue it.

In terms of communion, it's an issue for me because of my sensitivity to gluten.  I've had to skip the bread part and it doesn't feel complete to me.  I know there are solutions like bringing my own bread or asking the church for accommodation but it hasn't been something I've managed to address yet.

So no conclusions yet, just thinking out loud....

Time to Blog

So, I've been silent here for a while.

Lots of life to be lived, but I've also been whiling away the hours reading about other people's lives on Facebook and message boards.

I get so wrapped up in reading what other people write that I sometimes forget that I also have something to say.

I started this blog when my aunt challenged me that it could be a ministry, a calling, a way to use the gift of words that God has given me to share my thoughts on the intersections between self-discipline and disciplining our children, sharing the amazing ways God's shown his grace to me and the stumbling ways I try to exhibit that my grace everyone but to my children especially, and just in general how grace and faith are woven into the fabric of every interaction and bend in the road and breath I take.

I'm going to challenge myself to blog regularly again.

When I sit at the computer, I want to be productive, to be using my voice for what it was made for and thereby reflect God's glory.

What's a good reasonable goal to have?  Once per week was doable back when I was doing the 52 parenting tool cards.

OK, so at least once per week.

Or oftener if the mood strikes.

Starting .... NOW!

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