It’s been 366 days since I pulled off what has proven to be the most unbelievable self-inflicted injury on the record books: I closed the back of a Toyota 4-Runner on myself while camping last Labor Day. I’ll wait while you re-read that and then try to picture exactly how I pulled that off. It’s ok. I’m used to the incredulous stares.
In the past year, this journey has taught me many things — some good, others not so much. Here are a few of my favorites:
1. Our healthcare system is a mess. I know this isn’t surprising to any of you. Navigating the red tape of the medical community, especially when it became entangled with the insurance companies, was quite honestly, the most painful part of this process. I have been personally seen by nine different medical professionals, including three orthopedic surgeons with a shoulder specialty, two physiatrists and two physical therapists, five of which referred me around just to avoid surgery (which is what I ultimately wanted). There were a few moments where I genuinely felt like my quality of life and well-being were the deciding factor, even when it got to the point of being highly frustrating to me as I waited for relief. For the most part, I felt like I was at the mercy of doctors whose schedules were too busy to fit me in.
In the middle of everything, my company switched insurance plans with very little notice and the new plan didn’t cover the same care team I had before. While the surgeon I got stuck with turned out to be pretty good, the whole HMO thing sucks ass. If you want to hear how I feel about my company dictating my medical decisions, it’s starts with this far before I get to the Hobby Lobby case.
And don’t get me started on the insurance run around.
2. I’m stronger than I thought I was. Believe me, I have never had a high tolerance for pain. But after giving birth without pain meds, I realized something – while pain is very real, it can be mitigated with the power of your mind. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve had more than a few days where it felt like the Wolverine was coming out of my shoulder socket. Up until surgery, I was able to manage the pain and inflammation mostly with diet, ibuprofen and a topical ointment. I did have three injections, two of which helped the pain, and the third caused such excruciating pain that I thought I was going to rip my arm from my socket just to beat myself over the head with it.
It was really important to me not to become a victim to my pain and feel like I needed hare core pain meds. I know how easily those things can become addicting and that’s the last thing anyone really needs. Perhaps if our doctors wouldn’t be so quick to dole out the meds, this wouldn’t be such a prevalent issue.
3. The shoulder is a complex joint. I never realized how much work your shoulder does until I had managed to incapacitate mine. Fortunately, I injured my non-dominant arm, but even then, I grew a whole new respect for those that live with disabilities. Basic tasks like getting dressed, opening a jar, buckling your seatbelt become ridiculously challenging when you don’t have full use of that joint. Even after surgery, when they cleaned the whole thing out so I was like new again, my poor rotator cuff complex, which had managed to escape unscathed, was so atrophied that most of my PT has been focused on strengthening those muscles first, then getting mobility back into the joint.
I still enjoy freaking people out by all the anatomy I’ve learned. “Well the doctor is pleased that I have no damage to my the nerves in my brachialplex, but there is definitely some synovitis in the acromial-clavicular joint that they’ll remove arthroscopically before addressing the tendonesis in the bicep.” I’m ready for my residency now.
4. I have the most amazing support group. Aside from Dale shuttling me to and from surgery (along with the comical attempt to help me get dressed afterward) and picking my mom up from the airport at 1am, I was amazed at all the other friends that jumped up to help and comfort me in my time of need. I still can’t believe it. I really do have a bunch of truly amazing people in my life and for that, I am beyond blessed.
The loss of Robin Williams last week got me thinking about my own battle with depression and how hard it was just to admit what was going on with me. I remember my doctor in Seattle always asking me if I thought I might be depressed. It was in my chart that I had a family history (for those of you that don’t know, my dad is diagnosed type 1 bipolar, which had previously been diagnosed as severe clinical depression), and I’m sure that she was just doing her job, but the question was always framed in such a way that it almost felt accusatory. I understand why so many people are afraid to admit that they might have this horrible disease.
I always lied to her and faithfully defended that although I was exhibiting many of the symptoms, I was fine. I even recall my ex-husband asking me how I could possibly be depressed? Wasn’t I happy? Didn’t he make me happy? We had just gotten married and he could not understand how the circumstances of our life could lend itself to a feeling of depression.
The thing that most people don’t understand about depression is that it isn’t a matter of happiness or gratitude – it’s that in spite of all those things, you’ve still got and overwhelming need to crawl into a hole and be alone. I often wonder if the migraines I experience are a symptom of that self-exclusion; some way for me to make it ok to want to be alone in a dark room all day. They were the worst at a point in my life when my depression went untreated (you know, back in Seattle when I was lying to my doctor about my mental health). I don’t really know what hurts worst, the physical pain of depression or the emotional pain of being a stigma, an outcast, someone who is labeled as crazy.
I will never forget three years ago when I finally “caved” and answered the doctor’s assessment questions honestly for the first time in a decade. They don’t feel so accusatory or direct anymore, but it still sucked. It was like I walked out of that room with a giant stamp on my forehead for all to see: DEPRESSED. I would walk about town with my head hanging low, as if trying to hide my scarlet “A” so that no one would look at me with pity or disgust. The thing is, no one saw me any differently that day. Or any other day.
I went home that day and admitted to my “sister-wife” (my affectionate nickname for my very dear friend whom I lived with for a short time when I relocated back to Denver that year) what had happened at my doctor’s appointment. I was devastated. I had a fear of becoming my dad. She hugged me and admitted that she was also diagnosed with severe depression and was taking the exact medication I was prescribed. Suddenly, I felt more normal – as though this stigma of the diagnosis became as banal as “has a cavity,” or “high blood pressure.” I no longer felt like an outcast of society.
Once the meds kicked in, I felt human again. I still have ups and downs, but most of the time, I feel pretty darn good.
Depression does not discriminate. The best way to make it through is to be open and honest with yourself and others about who you are and what you’re going through. Don’t be too proud to ask for help.
As for the rest of you that are lucky enough not to be tortured by this disease, I offer you the following advice: Love more. Judge less. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and don’t be afraid to seek help. If you see someone who has fallen, be the first to help them up. Depression kills. Kindness and compassion saves lives.
The past few weeks have been incredibly hard for me – physically and emotionally. Between finally getting my shoulder fixed to sending Alissa off on her first solo trip to my parent’s marriage reaching an end, to say I’m a mess would be an understatement.
Back in April, I treated myself to Danielle Donaldson’s creativeGIRL class, mostly because my friend Kirsten is always making cool stuff and she was attending. I had no illusions that I have any talent in the painting or drawing department. That’s how I ended up a photographer. We can’t all be as wildly talented as my mom, who is an artist with every fiber of her being and turns every medium she touches into pure brilliance.
It turns out that with the right guidance, anyone can paint. Even me. I thoroughly enjoyed the class (although I still have one lesson left to watch) and found a whole slew of artists whose work I enjoy.
I’ve had a difficult time with words lately. It’s not that I don’t enjoy writing or journaling anymore because I absolutely do. I’ve just found that I have so many emotions pulsing through me that it’s been hard to get them all out. It’s like someone pulled the fire alarm in my head and all of these thoughts are trying to cram out one little exit.
But the emotion keeps churning, anxious to escape. So I’ve channeled my evening journaling into sketching. For a while, my mom had me into Zentangles, which is really a form of methodical doodling (and super relaxing). But sketching somehow seems even more mindless and that’s what I really need right now. Mindless mind wandering.
Kirsten recently got a Kelly Barton piece that I adore. Something about that piece guided my sketching this week and I ended up with a girl I really liked.
She kept calling to me until finally I did something about it. I had recently watched a Kelly Rae Roberts video and really love her collage style work. The next thing I knew, I was cutting and tearing bits of paper, pieces of my Flow Magazine, and scraps from another project Alissa and I worked on.
I was pulling apart old bubble mailers and searching the house for anything that would make a cool texture. I Mod Podged. I flung paint. I scraped, pressed and dribbled all over my birch canvas.
As I moved through this piece, I could see all the little bits of me – the butterflies, the colors, the textures, the patterns. Even the girl hiding in the background with the camera. Something inside of me was being released and it felt great. I understand now why art is so therapeutic for people with emotional challenges and brain disorders such as epilepsy.
I found this really great Thoreau quote and knew that it would become the final part of this piece – the message that this piece speaks about:
“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”
The words that really jumped out at me was the phrase “find your eternity in each moment.” So often, we get wrapped up in what is to be – the fools looking to another place to find the moment they are standing on, forgetting to take stock in today, hoping for a better tomorrow.
Despite the anguish of the emotional part of my life these days, I must choose to find the opportunities where I stand, to cherish the moments that are now. Tomorrow will bring new opportunity, new moment, new eternities. Or it may not. Life is now.
This painting took me a total of about three days. It’s a mixed-media piece with paper, acrylic, watercolor and pencil. I unlocked so much joy in creating it, and had fun sharing snippets of it on Instagram while I polled my artistic friends for their opinions on details that were baffling me. I had debated whether or not to add eyes, and even Googled “eyes” and “big eyes” (the images that came up in the the latter search will haunt you) and it was a unanimous choice to leave her eyes from the painting. I have to agree with everyone that it does add a bit of mystery.
all photos courtesy of my iPhone
Several summers ago, it seemed to be the summer of potlucks and barbecues. Every single one I went to were laden with tubs of store bought potato salad or gooey mayonnaise-laden pasta salads alongside endless bags of chips. I really wanted to find something that would be different, healthy, and could withstand sitting on a hot picnic table for hours without potentially giving my friends food poisoning.
I can’t exactly remember where I nabbed this recipe from – if it was in one of my many recipe card collections, or something I stumbled across in one of my cooking magazines, but it has become my go-to recipe for summer salads, potlucks, or just a quick and hearty dinner.
For this meal, you’ll need:
1 – 9 oz package of tortellini (you can find it in the deli section of the grocery store or in the freezer section), cooked to package directions
1 – carton of grape or cherry tomatoes
1 – 6 oz jar marinated artichoke hearts
1 – 6 oz tub of pesto (also found in the deli section, usually next to the packaged tortellini)
1 – large broccoli crown, cut into bite sized pieces
Parmesan cheese, to taste
Salt & pepper, to taste
And this is my favorite part: dump all of the above ingredients into a big bowl and mix together. You can serve up right away or refrigerate. I find that it’s delicious when the tortellini is still warm, but it’s always better the second day.
Do you have a favorite summer barbecue side that you always serve up?
Don’t we all wish that motherhood came with a manual? Sure, we’ve all tapped in to every motherhood resource out there, from What to Expect When You’re Expecting to every blog on Circle of Moms, but there are some parts to motherhood that seem to be elusive details of this secret society.
Shortly after Alissa was born, my sister delivered a care package that included an eye mask, a bottle of stool softeners and a subscription to People. Having put in three years in the motherhood club at that point, she said to me, “these seem like weird gifts, but you’ll understand.” Within a week, I had used every item she had brought me.
I have since continued to pass the torch with all of my new mom friends.
The thing that’s been missing for me, however, is the secret mom kit for the period when your kids get older and are on the move. The items you want in your super mom tool belt for those harrowing days when your kiddo decides that today is when they are going to kick off their stunt double career, they have to get from school to gymnastics practice, you just didn’t get enough sleep last night, or you would rather lock yourself in the linen closet and cry your eyes out.
Thankfully, I’ve discovered a few things that I will always have handy in my super mom holster.
1. Neosporin® Neo To Go! I’ve learned to accept that my apple didn’t fall far from the tree. In fact, I’m convinced that the apple didn’t even fall off the tree. Alissa is her father’s child – every bit the daredevil, but with the extra bonus of her mom’s clumsiness. Hence, I carry a half dozen band-aids and the Neo To Go with us everywhere we go. With us, you really never know when you’re going to need it. I may or may not have been the one that needed the first aid kit on occasion.
2. Ivory Soap. This has been our standby since Alissa was a baby. When our pediatrician told us that the commonly gifted baby soap in the yellow bottle was about a step away from pure lye, I found something that would be less irritable on Alissa’s skin. Turns out, it’s also makes for great homemade laundry detergent as well as a super fun playtime!
3. Puffs To Go. Between allergies, cold season, and just your regular alligator tears, Puffs have long been my favorite brand for facial tissue. Unlike other tissues, I don’t get the rawness on my face from constant wiping and dabbing. Plus, they are super thick and soft. What’s not to love?
4. AVON Anew Reversalist Express Wrinkle Smoother. Honestly, I don’t have wrinkles. I know that most of my friends would probably slap me for saying that. But I have found that this stuff is AWESOME as a primer for my eye makeup. You know, so I can hide the bags under my eyes when I’m dropping Alissa at school at 6:30 in the morning before heading in to work.
5. Shell Fuel Rewards Network Card. I’ve participated in the grocery store discount programs for years. It’s always nice to save 10 cents a gallon on gas, especially this time of year when fuel rates are inflated for summer travels. What’s different about the Shell FRN is that you can attach your debit and credit cards to your account and rack up savings that way. In June, our 25 cents a gallon reward worked out to a $5 saving when we filled up Dale’s truck. The way I see it, I can now justify my Starbucks habit.
Bonus: Breyers® Gelato Indulgences. I am so happy that Breyer’s added this to their lineup. This is, by far, the creamiest, richest gelato I’ve ever had! It’s true what they say about ice cream being the cure to everything. Whether it’s to cheer up a kiddo or to reward a tough mom day, this is the way to go.
These are products that I recommend all moms add to their tool kit. What items can you not live without?
Disclosure: I received all of the above items complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes. All of the opinions are my own.
Okay, so I kinda blew it on this posting every day in May thing. Perhaps I was a little too ambitious in my goal of jumping back into blogging with both feet. I should have known better. When it comes to habits, I am terrible at sticking to the good ones.
Even so, I’ve got a lot going on and a lot to share with all of you. I feel like my life is in an incredibly exciting place and I look forward to blogging about the change that I feel swirling all around me.
I’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking about intentional living and it’s been so freeing to realize that when you make conscious choices, life just feels so much better. I choose happiness each day, and while that doesn’t mean that I spend time with a smile falsely plastered on my face all the time, it does mean that even in the difficult moments, I can still be content with where my life is headed.
I’m looking forward to what the future brings, but until then, I’ve got some stories to catch up on from the past few months.
When I first picked up this product from the store, I was trying to think of how relevant this product really is. I am not a calorie counter and I have no qualms about eating an entire block of cheese in one sitting. So the selling point that it’s only 45 calories per slice doesn’t resonate with me. I need a better benefit for paying $4/package for this product.
For me, that selling point was convenience. I love the convenience of sliced cheese for all sorts of things – from sandwiches to snacking, it is a convenient product to buy and use. But on my sandwich, I don’t like anorexic cheese slices. This was TOO thin. I had to put twice as much on my sandwich to have a good cheese-to-meat ratio and harness the flavor of the cheese (the plus side: I really felt like I could enjoy the true flavor of the cheese with a thinner slice). If Sargento could find the happy medium between this slice and their regular slice, it would be perfect.
(note: I was the recipient of a complimentary package of this product as a member of the Sargento Ultra Vox Box campaign from Influenster)