Catching Up (otherwise known as break it down, girl)

Linking  up today over at Emily’s for the What I Learned In March link-up

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A FEW THINGS I LEARNED

There are no snakes in Ireland!  Did you hear me?  NO SNAKES in Ireland.  I’ve always wanted to visit Ireland (if I can get over my fear of flying), so this would just be another reason to keep that on the bucket list.  How could I have lived for fifty….well, a lot of years and not have picked up this bit of information.  Seems that you can be an Island unto yourself (without snakes) or something like that.  You can use google to learn more.

Culinary Circle frozen Pizza’s are the best in the freezer aisle.  If you are in a rush and just want to throw a pizza in the oven and call it done, these are actually pretty good little pizzas.  They do not have that frozen pizza taste and they have some great combinations.  The crust does not taste like frozen pizza crust either – you have the option of self-rising or ultra thin.  The sauce is great and they give you plenty.  Toppings are not skimpy either. I’ve been keeping a few of these on hand for those nights I don’t want to cook. Just add a salad.  Our local grocer has had them on sale two for ten this winter, so even the price is great. (I know that homemade fresh is always better and healthier, but I don’t always have the energy for all that.)

Politics sometimes brings out the worst in me.  Especially this year.  I may or may not have made a few comments on facebook earlier in the election season.  Then, one day I commented on a friends post in a way that was opposite than her opinion (ok to have differing opinions).  I later realized that maybe I was getting a little too into proving my points and it wasn’t worth it.  Sanity and friends are way more important than politics.  I’ve pretty much ignored everything since then.  I still have opinions and may even feel the need to express them in future, but I’ll do my best to behave and keep my comments to my page and not interrupt another’s feed.  I don’t watch much news these days either.  I breathe better that way.

Alisan Porter is my new favorite singer -see my comments below under What we’re watching on TV (The Voice)

Yoga pants are the bomb diggity.  Well, maybe not all that, but they are the pants I didn’t know I needed.  Let’s face it I’m a fat girl and so leggings and such are not things I’m going to look good wearing, or be seen in public wearing.  However, yoga pants are not all that bad.  They actually hang better on me and show less lumps than the other, around the house, pants I was wearing (even my husband said so).  I bought them for the gym. I haven’t worn them to the gym yet due to gout flare-ups, but wearing them around the house felt great.  I still don’t think I’d wear them out shopping or around town, but to the gym with a longish shirt I can handle.  I bought the Danskin plus size relaxed fit – they are very roomy and comfortable.  In fact, they are almost too big- if I ever make it back to the gym I can probably be down a size in no time…

READING LISTS

What I’m currently reading:  Roots and Sky by Christie Purifoy; Girl Meets Change by Kristen Strong; Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman; A Writer’s Book of Days by Judy Reeves; Simplify Your Life by Elaine St. James.

On the radar to begin reading: Call To Spiritual Reformation by D.A. Carson; Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton (I barely  started this one a while back and laid it aside, so need to bet back to it.); The Great Divorce by C.S Lewis  I also have several books on my Amazon Wish list.

What I’m coloring:  The casual Artist by Sheryl Lee; Romantic Country by Eriy

New favorite magazine: the Cottage journal (borrowed from my cousin, need to subscribe)

TV SHOWS WE ARE WATCHING

The Voice – we haven’t watched this one in a while, but recently started this season.  Remember the movie Curly Sue?  We watched it a few weeks ago and then the very next week we saw her blind audition on Youtube and decided we needed to keep up with  her.  The girl can sing.  I can’t even.  I think she can win it.  Hoping.

Blue Bloods – Tom Selleck – a classic that gets better with age – what more can I say.  I love this show.  It has the right balance of drama and family dynamics.  I love that they gather around the table as a family on Sunday and I love that they pray and are not afraid to mention faith.

The Good Wife – I’d heard some hype about this show, but never watched it.  Sometime last year it was free on Amazon Prime so we started from the beginning and watched it until we caught up.  Overall it has been a good show.  There are some plots I could have lived without, but the overall storyline has been pretty good.  I’m thankful this is the last season.  I like to finish what I start, but it is time for this one to be laid to rest.

Quantico – this is a new show and I’ve loved the intrigue, but it’s getting old already.  I think I’d be happy if they wrapped it up and it was a one and done.  I want to know who is behind the attacks, but they have dragged it out long enough. I’m not sure I can see them sustaining this one beyond one or two seasons.

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HEALTH UPDATE

I’m holding steady for the most part.

I have started using a CPAP machine for Sleep Apnea.  This has been a love / hate relationship.  Overall I think it may be giving me more energy and flexibility. My shortness of breath seems better and I’m not noticing as much numbness in my fingers and toes.  Probably because I’m getting more oxygen while I’m sleeping.

The gout is another issue – elevated uric acid levels. Both my PCP and Rheumatologist want me to start Allopurinol.  I don’t really want to as I don’t like the side effects.

I’ve been drinking a lemon / tart cherry juice concoction every morning. It is good for gout. It is helping with the stiffness and as an added bonus I don’t feel as bloated.

I’m considering trying the AIP diet.

My inflammation was slightly improved, which means the Plaquenil is doing it’s job.

Still trying to figure out how to live with MCTD, but I know that God is in control.

WHAT MY MOTHER SAID

If you’ve been reading here awhile, then you know my mother has Alzheimer’s.  I see more and more every day how she is slipping away, but she still has such a sense of humor and a zest for life about her.  She loves to talk about Jesus and how he is here with us.  She also loves to tease and laugh.  One day recently we were sitting in my living room chatting and I was in one of my silly moods.  I was humming and singing – nonsense mostly.  In the middle of one of my upward progressions (totally a music term (not), my mom looked over at me and blurted out, “Break it down, girl!”  Priceless.  I do love that mother of mine.

 

Breaking it down in grace,

Teresa

 

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Mustard Seed Faith (learning curve)

 Today’s post is a list of things I’m learning on my health journey series. If you are just now stopping in you may want to read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 before continuing. 

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As you can well imagine, or maybe you know from your experiences, dealing with illness is not an easy thing.  There is a lot of uncertainty and waiting. I’m not going to lie or pretend to have it all together – it is scary to be faced with tests and a chronic diagnosis that has so many unknowns. Some days it backs me up against a wall, and I’m frozen, unable to move or think straight.

Faith is hard fought and trusting God’s plan feels shaky.

Even when I waver, I know God is God, and I know he is sovereign.  I know he walks ahead of me on the path seeing what I don’t see.  I know he is with me even when he seems far away.  And, I know that I need to keep moving forward doing the next thing.  I can’t get lost in what if’s and neither can I bury my head in the sand refusing to acknowledge the realities.  It is a fine line that requires the balance of a tightrope walker.

Faith is hard fought and trusting God’s plan feels shaky. 

But, faith as small as a mustard seed moves mountains and God’s plan is sure.

Slowly, but surely I’m learning to trust his plan. He has been teaching me ways to travel:

  1.  Pray hard.
  2.  Rely on Scripture.
  3. Realize I can’t, but God can.
  4. I’m invincible until God says otherwise (words from our friend BJ that he heard from his minister).
  5. I need to operate under the assumption that I am doing well until I hear otherwise (this does not mean bury my head in the sand, but I shouldn’t borrow trouble).
  6. Extend grace to myself and to others (none of us can do it all ).
  7. A perfectly clean house is overrated (don’t’ be slovenly, but don’t obsess – most people don’t go looking for dust bunnies).
  8. Practice thankfulness (don’t complain).
  9. Be intentional about relationships (I need to plan ahead and pace myself so that I don’t neglect family and friends.  They need me, and I need them).
  10. Make time for things that feed my soul (writing and puttering around my house making it beautiful).
  11. PRIORITIZE – it is essential that I learn to embrace what is most important and let go of the lesser things.

This list is a work in progress, but it is a good reminder to keep me focused on the big picture.  The Mixed Connective Tissue Disease (MCTD) is just one part of my life, and while I want to respect it, I don’t want it to be the boss of me.  I never want to forget that God is the author of my story.  Even in my mustard seed faith, his plan is sure.

Linking up with Emily and others over at Chatting at the Sky for What we Learned in January.  

Learning in grace,

Teresa

Road To A Diagnosis (health journey part 3)

Today’s post is part three in a four-part series about my recent health journey.  What started out as one post, morphed into an impromptu series.  If you want to read them in sequence you can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

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In the fall of 2014 I went through my usual fall depression, except several months later, the realization hit, that I hadn’t bounced back like usual. In fact, I was falling deeper into depression and my stress levels were at the screaming point.  I had an impending sense of doom.  I knew I felt horrible and had such extreme fatigue that many days getting out of bed was just too much. Crying seemed like a good option much of the time.  I didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything.  I felt guilty for all the things I wasn’t doing and all the people I thought I was letting down.  I was afraid to go to the doctor because I was afraid I’d find out I was going to die.  I didn’t want to die; I wanted to live.  But, I wanted to live well, not tired and cranky.

The stretch of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas was especially stressful for me, and I ended up with lower back pain so severe I could barely get around.  When it didn’t go away, I knew I needed to see a doctor.  My husband went with me and between the two of us, we managed to tell him all the symptoms I had been having.  He immediately started ordering blood work and sent me for an MRI.  Thankfully my back got better, and the MRI only showed mild to moderate Osteoarthritis.  But, the blood work showed some possible Autoimmune issues, so I was sent to a Rheumatologist, thus beginning a several month journey that led to a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia, and eventually Mixed Connective Tissue Disease (MCTD) in August of 2015.

I went into denial for a couple of months, and the depression continued.  On the one hand, it was a relief to know that all my symptoms had a reason, and I wasn’t a hypochondriac or lazy.   On the other hand, to know that your body is attacking you and a simple nap won’t cure you, is disconcerting to say the least.  About the time I was starting to make peace with the MCTD and decided that I should just stay away from researching the disease on the internet (too many scary possibilities), I started having more than my usual shortness of breath. Because of the MCTD, there was a possibility that I could be developing Pulmonary Hypertension. To me, this would almost be like hearing a death sentence as it can be very aggressive and depending on how far advanced can significantly shorten your lifespan.

My doctor felt that a CT scan of my lungs was in order as well as an echocardiogram and a pulmonary function test. The CT and the Echocardiogram were both relatively standard.  The CT showed a possible enlargement of my thyroid and a nodule, so I had to have an ultrasound, which showed that I did, in fact, have three nodules, one of which was larger than the standard and required a biopsy. The results came back benign, no sign of cancer.  I am very Thankful and praising God for that piece of good news.  He is good.  But, I need to say, if the diagnosis had been cancer, he would still be good.  I had already told him I’d still praise him if I had to go through cancer on top of everything else.  I’m just thankful that I don’t have to fight that journey.

The echocardiogram showed mild pulmonary hypertension so next on my journey was a visit to a cardiologist who seemed to think, based on my weight, that my findings were not too unusual.  He wants to follow-up in a year.  I am trusting that the numbers will be better in a year and not worse as that would not be good. There is also the possibility that the lung function is a result of the pneumonia I had back in 2011  and not the MCTD.  It is crucial going forward to keep watch as I don’t want worsening symptoms.  Also, the cardiologist seemed to think I should have a sleep study to rule out sleep apnea, so that is next on the medical to do list that seems to keep growing.  Have I mentioned yet that I am so over Doctor appointments?

When I saw my Rheumatologist in August she started mentioning medications, but I didn’t want to start new drugs, and she said we’d wait on the bloodwork.  When she called me a couple of weeks later to tell me that she was officially diagnosing MCTD, she wanted me to start on Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil), which is an anti-malaria drug. It is supposed to build up my immune system and will help with the pain somewhat. It should also help lower my inflammation.  It is easily tolerated, but can cause damage to the retina, so I will have to have my eyes examined often to make sure there is no damage.  So far, it seems to be helping.  After a couple of months on the medication, I noticed that I was having a few more good energy days and less pain.  I go back in February to have everything tested again. So far, I’m not showing any major symptoms of the overlap diseases, other than the mild pulmonary hypertension, extreme fatigue, achy joints and a tendency for my fingers and toes to be cold and feel numb at times. The goal is to get the disease in remission. If we can accomplish that, then my chances of complications from the disease are lower. Prayer request.

The MCTD still wipes me out some days.  The achy joints and muscles that go with both the MCTD and Fibromyalgia slow me down. I’m learning that naps are sometimes necessary, and when my body has had enough, I have to respect that.  I can’t just push through the fatigue as that could cause a major flare-up and make my symptoms worse.  I never know until I wake up what kind of day it’s going to be.  I may have a good day and even feel energetic.  I may go to bed feeling pretty good, only to wake up in pain and so tired I can’t imagine getting up yet.

Some days the effort to get a shower is about all the energy I have. Many days the thought of preparing dinner and doing the dishes is more than I can handle, so we eat take-out way too often.   When I cook, I try to cook enough for leftovers or prepare soup we can eat on a few times.

I say no to a lot of things.  Not because I want to be anti-social (well a little of that could be my introversion) but because I simply do not always feel like getting out, or being around people.  I imagine cooking family dinners, or having friends over, but that doesn’t often happen because it takes too much energy.  At times I will be puttering around the house doing simple tasks such as laundry and poof, just like that, I’m done for the day.  I usually have two to three hours before the energy gives way.  If I time everything just right and get a nap, then some days I can have two energy spurts.

If I take care of myself and stay on a schedule, then I think it can all be very manageable.  However, in addition, to self-care, I’m also my Dad’s support for my mom who has Alzheimer’s.  If you know anything at all about Alzheimer’s, then you know that there is nothing routine.  Even in good health, my mom was not a person that could be predicted by her routine.  So, I have to allow for her needs, which means some days I take care of her, and I rest and everything else gets shoved aside. I realize that my priorities will have to change. I further realize that I can only travel this journey in God’s strength.  And, I need the prayer support of friends and family.

I share this with you because I needed to see it all in writing to know how I’m dealing with the process and possibly to make it real.  I share it so that those who know me and are around me can understand what I’m going through – you can read this and then we don’t have to talk about it so much.  JK, sort of 🙂

Maybe, too, it will help you understand the world of silent diseases a little better.  To most people I look well and I’m sure there are times I sit one out or don’t show up and it seems like I’m just lazy or anti-social. The truth is I may be in such deep fatigue or pain that I can’t fathom being on my feet another moment; it is possible that quiet and rest is the best thing for me.  I can’t plan ahead well and guarantee that I’ll be ok on any given day.  There have been many times I plan for an event and when it arrives it is just too overwhelming.  So, I tend to wing it most days and not plan too far ahead.

I am not complaining, although some days I do fall into that temptation. And although some days my faith wavers,  I am trusting God because I know he is faithful. He is the one who stands beside me, and he is the one who will sustain me.  He is my buckler.

Moving forward will be a learning curve and I’m sure there will be gifts to unwrap in the process.

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Moving forward in grace,

Teresa

Learning in October

I see Fall as both a little bit spicy and practical.  It is no-nonsense, but serendipitous all at the same time.  It is a warm hug as well as a brusque nod in passing. It is a steadfast heart that loves without condition, but won’t be trampled.  It is chaotic and fragile, but stands strong in the storm.  It is a little rough around the edges, as well as gloriously beautiful in spirit.  Like me.  (Teresa L. Hardymon)

PicMonkey Collage.what.i.learned.

I always refer to October as mine.  I mean, I’m happy to share her with you, but she is my October.  And, she did not disappoint this month.  The color came on slow, intensified just when I thought she was going to fade without much splash, then lingered just a few days before blowing away on the winds of change.

I went on a girls excursion last week with a friend.  We left on Wednesday and remarked that there wasn’t a lot of color yet.  By Friday, October had exploded all over the place and the color was wonderful.  It was enough to make me shout praises.  I went crazy and took lots of pictures which I shared here.

Then, a couple of days later, when the color was still good, but falling and the light was more gray than bright, I took a gander around my own small, hometown and took lots more pictures which I shared here.

October sent me several postcards which I shared on several days as part of the #write31days event.  She really loves me a lot, which is why she sent me the cards.  Just to remind me of all she has to offer.

In addition to all the love, there were a few things I discovered this month that I thought I’d share with you just in case they might be of interest or help to you too.

THE PERFECT PURSE –  How did I not discover the perfect purse before?  For years, I have struggled to find a purse that I love to carry and that loves me back.  I find a bag, love the look or color, imagine that we’ll have a long relationship, but then disappointment inevitably settles in and I’m once again on the hunt.   I think the hunt is over!  I discovered the bucket bag (mine is similar and this one is on my wish list too).  It has been wonderful. It was half-price which was great as well.  In September I wrote about what was in my purse.  I loved that orange bag and still do, but it is frustrating to carry, because everything shifts around and I’m always digging to find stuff.  NO MORE!  The bucket bag keeps everything exactly where I put it!  I started carrying this bag around the first of October and I have yet to be frustrated.  Everything has a place and stays there.  I can find things.  The strap is adjustable so I can balance it just right for me.  It sets comfortably on my shoulder without slipping.  I finally have a bag that is stylish, roomy, comfortable and organized.

NEW FAVORITE ARTIST –  I love good music.  I love being in a small intimate group listening to live music.  I had the opportunity earlier this month to do just that.  One of our favorite little pizza hangouts, Pasquales, has been having live music.  Many evenings, it includes my nephew, Austin, and his friend, Andrew, who make up the band The Mountain Sound.  On the particular night we went to Pasquales they were performing with other musicians from the Kentucky Center for Traditional Music which is part of the MSU music department.  They performed as Blurred lines and I met a new favorite singer,  Becki Alfrey.  The girl can sing.  She did a lot of Patsy Cline numbers and it was just heavenly.  She doesn’t have a CD out yet, but I’m hoping she does soon.

GO TO YOUR CLASS REUNION –  I’ve never gone to one of my class reunions. ever. Until this October.  And it wasn’t an official reunion.  It was a non-reunion year, when a group from our class wanted to have a little get together at a local bowling alley.  They set up a Facebook invite and invited everyone they could think of from our class.  I received the invite and thought maybe, but probably not.  My friend T and I discussed it.  We were both leaning towards not.  I said, well, let’s keep our options open.  The day of I was pretty sure I wasn’t going, then T called to check in and said we were going.  So, that was that.  I AM SO GLAD I WENT.  It was just a small group, but it was a great time of catching up and remembering.  We loved it so much that everyone decided to make it an annual thing.  I can’t wait to go next year.  I won the prize for being married the longest (31 years).  I don’t know why I waited so long.  Sometimes it was logistics because I lived too far away.  A lot of times it was the awkwardness of not having seen anyone but a handful of people since high school.  What I learned from this event is that in many ways we are the same people we were then, but in so many ways we have matured into the what I want to be when I grow up version.  We have lived life with it’s challenges, lessons and gifts.  We know how important friends can be.  We have a shared history together, as well as our own history lived apart.  Going forward we will make new history together.

RACCOONS ARE NOT AFRAID OF US, Y’ALL –  My parents have had a raccoon visit them several times this month.  It nearly attacked my dad on the first visitation, brushing against him on it’s way by his chair.  Then, on another evening, when my mom was sitting on the porch by her lonesome, he got a little braver and they made contact which resulted in a few scratches on her hand and ankle.  She yelled pretty loud and I heard her while siting in my kitchen.  I called to make sure everyone was ok, and went over to check on the scratches.  I called our local animal control guy, who said he didn’t have a trap and wanted to know if my dad had a gun (not sure exactly what his job description is supposed to be, evidently it doesn’t cover coons).  We thought about borrowing a trap and trapping him, so we could make sure he didn’t have rabies.  But, since the scratches were surface and the coon hadn’t shown any signs before or after the incident of being rabid, and after reading up about such things on the internet, we decided my mom was safe and not in danger of getting rabies.  Since it is now was well past the incubation period  and nothing has happened yet, I think we’re safe.  The coon showed up a couple more times, but hasn’t been seen recently, so I’m guessing he has moved on.  We hope.

I CAN’T DO EVERYTHING –  I’ve been slowly, but surely, giving myself permission to slow down and not worry if every “i” is dotted or “t” is crossed.  I’m trying to look at what I have done and be thankful, rather than feeling guilty about what I haven’t done.  Sometimes we are harder on ourselves than others are, and we set higher expectations than necessary.

TAKE THE MEDICATION ALREADY – I have also been learning that sometimes taking medication is our best option and if we are willing, it can help us to feel better.  I’ve recently been diagnosed with MCTD, an autoimmune disease (I hate that word). Thankfully, it appears that I’m not showing major attacks on my body yet and my doctor wants to get it in remission before it gets worse, so I’ve had to take a new medication to help build up my immune system and help with pain. The aches and pains are better, however the deep, deep fatigue lingers.  Which is why number 4 is necessary.  Taking naps is also becoming a necessary part of my daily routine and this too is a learning curve.  I’m sure this journey will teach me many things.

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Philippians 4:13 (KJV)

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I am learning in grace,

Teresa

Linking up with Emily P. Freeman and others over at Chatting At The Sky for the October What I Learned.  Won’t you join the party?