Approach life gently. Treat life kindly. Live life fully and with enthusiasm.
Respect life--always.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Wanted: Adrenaline

I haven’t yet gotten the hang of pacing myself, though that one not-so-easy skill would help immensely in my life. Instead, I go like gangbusters, pushing and pushing until I drop, and then I fight sleep, sometimes just giving up, for the next two days, with a full grump locked and loaded. Don’t even talk to me unless you come bearing gifts. Coffee is nice, but chocolate is even better.

Friday, I got up earlier than usual, rising at seven instead of my normal nine or ten. I was cranked up about our plans to go to the RV and Van Show at the Expo Center (a big disappointment, but more on that later). Being the proactive soul I am, I prepared a naturopathic liver detox treatment (aka castor pack) and settled in to my recliner with my cuddly purple afghan and Tinker Belle. I wanted to make sure my day went as smoothly as possible, and having a functioning liver is highly important in that regard. Less toxins in my system means a chance for more energy and less pain. A little meditation and prayer, and my morning was well on its way.

“Get up, baby. Why are you still asleep?” I was so jazzed about our plans that I could not contain my excitement. “I’m already showered, and my pills are all packed, and my backpack and raincoat are sitting by the door." (Raincoat? Wasn’t I just complaining about 90-degree weather a few days ago?) Breathe, girl. Wow. Do I get pumped about the silliest things, or what?


Slow down.

Pace yourself.

Okay. I am better now, at least for a minute. By the time Ken got up and we got ready to head out the door, it was ten. Where did three whole hours go? Despite our delay, we were finally on our way to catch the Max, Portland’s mass transit light rail system. I love Max. It is quick and dependable, especially when traffic is otherwise snarled and crawling.

 My energy was already fading. Not to be deterred, I smiled a big smile and marched my boots towards the Max, sipping my coffee and refusing to answer Ken who was asking how I was doing. Ask me no questions. Tell me no lies. He could tell my energy was dropping by the subtle changes in my expression and the slowing of my gait. But he knew I could not be stopped by anything he said. I was on a mission. My combat boots were at the ready from the moment my feet hit the floor that morning. Too bad I cannot put little boots and helmets on my adrenal glands; then maybe they could keep up with my battle plans. Adrenal insufficiency is the pits. It could suck the fun right out of my life, if I let it.

So, what is an adventure junkie suppose to do when she runs short on adrenaline?

Should I just close my eyes and let life pass me by? No!

Should I wallow in self-pity, and attempt to make everyone else pity me too? Definite No!

When faced by a seemingly insurmountable task, what is this adventure junkie suppose to do?

Take it one step at a time, and pack a semi-nutritious energy booster. What better for adrenal fatigue than a boost of protein with a little sugar as a catalyst? In hypoglycemia, sugar alone will lift you when you are running on empty, but in adrenal fatigue, a boost of protein with that sugar is vital. Don’t ask me about the science behind it. Right now I don’t know or care. I just know it works. When I am at home, I resort to a tablespoon of peanut butter to quickly get me through, but unless I find a vendor selling fast food packets of Skippy, I am S.O.L. while out and about. And I refuse to become D.O.A., thank you very much.

As I alluded to earlier, the RV show was a disappointment. If we were in the market to buy a rig, well, we would have been in seventh heaven. But we already have our rig. I was hoping for more small vendors of innovative RV products. I was hoping for mini seminars on how to live this lifestyle we have chosen. I was hoping to discover a wealth of ideas, tips, and tricks. The only demonstrations involved cooking, and I already know how to do that. If I can manage to feed a dozen people for two weeks from the tiny kitchen that was in our travel trailer, then I am sure I can manage dinner for two. Besides, if I need more space, isn’t that why we have picnic tables and campfires and a portable propane stove? Oh, and I forgot about the option of barbequing everything. Mmm. My mouth is watering already, thinking of all the possibilities.

Besides, you know I loves me a challenge.

Today’s challenge, then, is finding a solution for a lack of adrenaline.

And the answer is . . .

Replace it with a large dose of attitude!

Put on your combat boots, even if you cannot march. Okay, so maybe you don’t have combat boots. Maybe you are more of a running shoes type of person. That’s awesome, too.

Act like a kid, but remember the rules you learned at camp: Always go with a buddy. Holding hands may be optional, but that is my favorite part.

See things differently. Now, that could be putting on your spectacles, or it could be making a spectacle of yourself. I prefer the second option; it is way more fun to
·         Dance to the canned department store music.
·         And don’t forget to sing along.
·         Smooch passionately in the back of the elevator, whether traveling one floor or twenty.
·         Say, excuse me, sir, when you bump into a mannequin. Then compliment her on her dress before walking away.
·         Toss coins into a fountain from four stories up. If they didn’t want you to do it, then they would not have put escalators all around it.
·         Ask total strangers if they know the way to San Jose.

I am tempted to put one of those do not try this at home warnings on this page, but frankly, that would take all the fun out of it.

So, fly. Be free.

Even if you are having a bad hair day, spread your wings and soar.

And don’t forget to pack your attitude.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

It's Cosmic, Baby

Ken boxing up what is left.
In a cosmic collision of two axioms, I have found my own. “If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it is yours.” “Practice random acts of kindness.” Crash. Bang. Boom. “Set your love free through random acts of kindness.”

I have struggled with the setting what you love free thing since I first heard that saying as a teenager. One cousin was saying it to another at a family reunion. They were older and much wiser, eighteen, maybe even twenty. That age sounds so mature when you are the geeky younger cousin, left out of the adult conversations. I was struggling with puppy dog crushes and really didn’t understand love, as all it can encompass, at the tender young age of fourteen. I greedily wanted the affections of this boy or that. I really cannot remember who I was madly in love with at the time. It was probably the bad boy who sat in the back of English class, with his feet propped up on an empty seat, his sandy blonde hair all mussed up and hanging in his eyes. Oh, how I loved what could get me into trouble back then.

Hmm. Oh, sorry. I disappeared for awhile. But enough of the bygone daydreams of a teenage girl.

I have tried in the past to practice daily random acts of kindness, doing these little niceties anonymously as much as I could. That is a very steep asking for one person, making them daily. I failed miserably, and I felt that failure deeply, even though I had helped out many people in the process. My self-imposed sense of failure was only because I tried to build randomness into my to-do list. I discovered it is called random for a reason.

Lately, I’ve come to a new sense of philanthropy, without it really feeling like I am just giving hand-outs or just looking for another tax write-off. Instead of me searching for a need to fulfill, I relax. I let my heart do the leading, and then my hands complete the task. I pray for guidance. Compassionate giving cannot be forced. It must be allowed to bloom on its own. If it is something I love or cherish or covet that I am compelled to give, all the better. Then I know it is Jesus working miracles in my heart, for the joy I experience in the giving far outweighs any happiness I could gain from the keeping.

I can write a check to the Portland Rescue Mission whenever they send a request, but that, although generous and charitable, is not personal. I do write those checks, but actually serving meals or devoting my time and talents in some other way for the homeless would touch my heart even more. If I had it to give, I could bequest a million dollars to a worthy college, but it does not become real for me unless I read the winning scholarship letters myself. The joy, for me, is in the knowing, however briefly, the story of the recipients.

My acts are not so much anonymous now. That is not the important part, though I still do not need the public recognition to make me feel good about myself. In fact, recognition embarrasses me. It makes me feel uncomfortable. It cheapens what I have done, making it more of a human thing instead of the God-inspired act it really is. My recognition comes from knowing I helped an injured animal; seeing the sparkle in a little girl’s eyes; knowing that what I give is appreciated and will be put to good use; being allowed, even momentarily, into the lives, the stories, and the struggles of others, and knowing I can accomplish something good for them.

I have made a decision about our yard sale leftovers. My darling husband is letting me divide up the mess as I see fit, instead of just hauling it all away to the Salvation Army or Goodwill. Each of those two major charities has gotten its fair share today. My main mission this week is to make sure the little guy doesn’t get left out. A young man visited our yard sale a few weeks ago and made an appeal on behalf of his Haitian charity. Five large boxes of clothes, housewares, and bedding will go to his cause. I have been chatting on line with a desperately poor young woman who has recently lost a lot of weight. She hadn’t a thing to wear, until I gave her two bags of the clothing I had had for sale. The Portland Rescue Mission, one of my favorite charities, will get seven boxes of men’s clothing, coats, hats, and bedding. In this way, I spread my joy around. Ken, who will do just about anything to please me, gladly boxed the items as I directed. He really isn’t the toughie he pretends to be. My honey is a big teddy bear.

Now that the sales and donations are done for this year, maybe next I will work on world peace.

Oh, please.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Lemons For Lemonade

This is in honor of Invisible Illness Week. Nearly half of us are affected by an invisible illness, and being invisible, most are unaware of our struggles. I had debated whether or not my blog was worthy of Invisible Illness Week, but then I thought, what better way to boost the morale of other chronically ill people than to show how I am living my life despite my illness.

I was watching the opening ceremony for this weekend’s NASCAR race. The Star Spangled Banner played, and I could only think of this one line: “Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.” How powerful, that one line in a poem from so long ago. Our flag still flies, no matter how many battles she has been through.

How often do we too easily give up, allowing our flags to fall? How often do we let life get the better of us? How often are we held hostage by the things we complain about, yet do nothing to change? We complain about the high cost of groceries, yet we don’t clip coupons and we certainly don’t plant a single tomato plant in our back yard, in an attempt to fend off those high costs. We complain about our houses being cluttered, yet we don’t lift a finger to rid ourselves of that unnecessary junk. We know we wronged a friend, no matter how inadvertently, but we don’t humble ourselves to mend that much needed relationship. Instead we tell ourselves that they should make the first move.

Forgiveness is a mighty powerful notion. Responsibility is another.

More personally, how often do we let our aches and pains keep us from what we enjoy? There are levels of pain, just as there are variations in the colors of the rainbow. When we are chronically ill, each day proves to be colorful, yet we must carry on. We must take charge of our lives and live each day to its fullest despite the pain. Each day with less pain is incredibly valuable. Notice that I did not say, “with no pain.”

For now, I can only manage to watch NASCAR from my recliner. The thrill of the race pounding within my veins. I’ve been known to be somewhat of a daredevil, back in the day. I fondly remember the days before becoming so ill when, late at night, I raced my Grand Prix down 205, just for the heck of it. My top of the line stereo system fascinated me, as the faster I sped, the louder it got. It is a wonder I never got caught, with my ‘80s rock blasting from my open windows and my blonde hair wildly flying. I miss those days, and I mourn the loss of my Grand Prix. It had to be sacrificed for my medical expenses, like so many of my other favorite possessions.

But it is a new day, even if I have the same old issues with pain and fatigue. My flag still flies.

There is a saying, if given lemons, make lemonade. I could mourn all my losses. My Pontiac. My home of 13 years. My sense of freedom granted me by having my own paycheck. My beautiful bedroom set, with the armoire which I coveted for years before acquiring. At least I can visit it, since I sold it to a friend. All the junk the materialistic me collected over the years. My truck, which is the next thing to go on the auction block. I could mourn all my losses, but in the long run, all these possessions mean nothing. Ten years from now, I may not even remember most of them, though my Pontiac still stings when I think of her.

Releasing all these things into the wind allows me to step forward into a life more fitting of my dreams. We cannot travel if overly encumbered. The house, though it broke my heart, I know we could not have maintained it during our travels, even if I didn’t have outrageous medical bills to contend with. We would have had to sell it one way or another. And we have eased ourselves into the sale of our very dependable truck. If we need one in the future, we can rent. Isn’t that why there’s a U-Haul industry?

So, if I can live without all these possessions, the things I just had to have at the time, is there not a way to live with my illness, and still accomplish my goals? Yes, with a shift in perception.

Those who do not suffer pain daily assume we do not have pain when they see us determinedly working towards our dreams and goals. We have a secret, and maybe that is part of the reason we become invisible. We learn to work through our pain. We learn to work through our fatigue. We learn to live despite our ailments, and we put on a good face. We are no different, really, than the marathon runner, who pushes through her pain to finish the race. We just have to push through more often than not.

I no longer envy the marathon runner. I was just not meant to be her, though I used to dream of running as I once had in my teens. I may be slow and no longer able to run, but God will still get me where I am going, one step at a time.

I no longer envy the mountain climber. Denali is just as beautiful to look upon as from. Just to stand in her glorious shadow, I know I will still feel the presence of God, as if I were at the summit. Besides, life is best lived in the valleys. That’s where Jesus walks with us. That is where Jesus carries us after we fall. We learn the lessons in life by getting to the summit (or our goal), rather than from the summit itself. Would you feel the same, having been dropped onto the summit by helicopter, as you would from climbing there yourself?

My adventuresome spirit will still be satisfied despite having Lyme disease. I can enjoy life from the passenger seat of the Raven, allowing my hubby the thrill of determining our course and speed. How I will get my necessary medical treatments while on the road has yet to be determined, but as with all other challenges, I know we will figure this one out, too.

My life may be different than what I had envisioned as a small child, dreaming of being a doctor or a teacher or a dancer. I could never make up my mind, anyway. But my life is mine. It is the only one I have. There must be a reason God gave me these challenges, and therefore, I must do the most I can with what I have been given.

Looking at the lemons, I have lost more than many could bear. Yet as I taste the lemonade, it is wonderfully sweet. I have a husband and a son who are my knights in shining armor when I need them. I have three Pugs and a cat who give me my daily dose of belly laughs and snuggles. I have the freedom to travel, given to me because of my illness rather than in spite of my illness. I have a circle of friends who are willing to rally around me even when I am at my worst. And I have all of you, and because of you, I know I am not alone in my hopes, dreams, and difficulties.

My flag still flies, though a little tattered from many battles. Does yours?
Our grandson with Tinker Belle, Suzie, and Max

Our grandson serenading Julius

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Yes, Dear

“If you are writing every day, why aren’t you working on your book?”

I have complained that I have nowhere to work. I have complained that I don’t feel good. I have complained that there is too much else for me to do and that I feel guilty spending time on my book. Obviously, none of those reasons is the real excuse. Lyme leaves me sitting on my rump more often than I like, so why don’t I work on the final editing process? I am so close to being finished, it is ridiculous.

Frankly, my book is emotionally charged and I am drained. I know me and I know I get worked up every time I start editing again. I cry. I say way too many why me’s. I connect my computer to the TV, yet again, to watch Netflix, instead of working, and then I blame it on the guys, when they enter the room to zone out with me. “Well, if you would let me use my computer . . .”

Enough excuses!

My husband is right. If I have the time and ability to write my blog and play on the computer every day, then I can spend at least an hour a day working on my book. I can carve out a workspace in the house. The table is always cluttered with junk, so why not clear it and claim that space as my own? Get rid of my pill basket (I wish). Get rid of the bill box (oh, how I wish). Get rid of all the stuff that just seems to end up there. The Advil really isn’t homeless. It belongs in the medicine cabinet. That growing stack of medical receipts? Take care of it once and for all. What happened to my New Year’s resolution to enter them into the computer and file them monthly? That went out the window way back in February. Oh, I fear tax time will be upon us in the blink of an eye.

Quit complaining and just do it. And don’t do like your Big Dogs sweatshirt says (tomorrow).

So, my list of things to do today, (as soon as I am done procrastinating on the computer, anyway):

1.      Go through all the mail that has been piling up, pay the bills, file what needs filing, and get that box off the table.
2.      Gather all the medical receipts, sort them, and enter them into the computer for taxes.
3.      Clean out the mystery basket on the far corner of the table. How do you have a far corner on a round table? I don’t know, but there is a hideously huge pile growing back there, nonetheless.
4.      Delay the editing process a little more by making a fabulous dinner for my guys. Maybe we will actually eat at the table, since it will be cleared by dinnertime.
5.      And finally, set up my makeshift workstation so that it is ready for Monday morning. There can be no excuses if everything is ready and waiting for me.

So, honey, yes, I heard you for the thousandth time. I know I need to work on my book. I know I am wasting time on nonessentials. I know also that I need to figure out how to balance working on my book and working on the RV remodel. Hmm. Sounds like another way for me to procrastinate.