Saturday, August 23, 2014

Ice-bucket Challenge response, sort of...

I am not going to lie, I've gotten some pretty good entertainment from watching so many people have ice cold water dumped on them. I think it's great to see awareness for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis spreading so quickly across the world.

My husband, James, graduated from Dupo High School in 2004. As a student he was a member of Air Force Jr. Reserve Officers' Training Corps and was taught by Chief Master Sgt. Donald L. Blanchette. "Chief" served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War and Desert Storm and retired after twenty-three years of service. After which he went on to teach ROTC at Dupo from 1997 to 2008. I have heard so many good stories about James' time with Chief. And I finally had the privilege to meet him about one year ago at an ROTC reunion I attended with my husband. Although it was neat to go and meet people he went to high school with, the purpose of the reunion was to honor Chief Master Sgt. Blanchette. Chief had recently been diagnosed with ALS and the disease was progressing quickly. By the time I met him, he was already wheelchair bound, unable to walk or move his arms and legs. He was a very friendly man, smiling and talking with his former students. I didn't even know him, but it was so sad to think that this well-accomplished man only had a short time before he would no longer be able to turn his head, talk, and eventually swallow or breathe. It was hard on James to see someone that he had such good experiences with, and learned so much from, to be dying slowly with no way to stop it. Chief passed away May 20, 2014 after his battle with ALS.

I remember meeting a red-head in physical science at Collinsville High School, probably in 2001. Since I never graduated from high school, I'll just tell you that Nikki graduated in 2005. She is one of the sweetest, most enjoyable persons to be around, and quite smart. And even though we haven't been as close since we have each started our families, I still think of her as my best friend. We've known each other through many awkward phases and break-ups from bad boys. Sometimes I wish we could go back to the days of playing broom ball or sand volleyball until midnight. I knew her mom and her aunt. And as the years went on and I started working at a local hospital in 2007, I got to know her dad. Darin was an IT Tech at the hospital and I worked in the lab. He was always happy and would tell lame jokes and was just plain easy to talk to.

In January 2009 I had the honor to be in Nikki's wedding. And Darin was so sweet! It was his only daughters wedding and he selflessly prepared all of the food for the wedding reception! It was my job to make sure he knew when to come up from the church basement to see his beautiful daughter walk down the isle! Four and half months later, Nikki was in in my wedding and Darin was our personal chef. It was wonderful. And everybody loved the food :)

We moved to Carbondale had a baby, and moved back eighteen months later. I started working at the hospital again. Nikki had a baby. I had another one. She had another one. I quit my job when baby #2 came, so I haven't seen Darin since then.

Earlier this year, a friend from the hospital asked me if I knew that Darin had been diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy. At the time I didn't know exactly what MSA was, but from what I knew, it wasn't good. My heart sank for my dear friend. The relationship that I have with my dad means the world to me and I can't begin to imagine all of the thoughts and feelings she and her family are having. I have been a horrible friend as of late because I haven't brought it up. Even when I know it stares them in the face every day. I haven't asked about him because I don't care. I care a lot. I care so much that when I am at home playing with my boys and I start thinking about it I just start to cry. I hurt for them so bad. I hurt for the loss my friend is experiencing in a slow and painful way. What I need to do is grow a pair and talk. People need people to be real. To experience life with them, to share joy, to help carry the burden.

ALS and MSA are similar, but here is the difference: ALS is a neuromuscular disease that destroys motor neurons whereas MSA is a neurodegenerative disease that destroys motor neurons. ALS is usually more aggressive than MSA, but both diseases are a devastating battle ending in death.

I originally thought I would expound more about why I am choosing to not do the ice bucket challenge, but I'm actually going to leave that part pretty short and sweet. I don't have all of my facts straight yet, but from what I've been reading, the ASLA may support embryonic stem cell research. I think stem cell research is an brilliant discovery and has helped MANY people already. It is truly amazing how God created the human body and how stem cells can, for example, be taken out of a knee and injected into the back of the same person and those cells just go right to work, transforming into the cells needed to promote healing. That's probably one of the reasons God made them! I just cannot, in good conscience, support embryonic stem cell research. I think IVF is awesome because once the embryo is made, it is then implanted into a uterus to CONTINUE its formation into life. But to fertilize an egg to create an embryo and then never implant, but end the process of life that has already begun? I just can't do it. I would love to understand more where the ALSA stands exactly on this topic. Until then, I will find a way to donate to ALS/MSA research without funding embryonic stem cell research. And I continue to pray and ask you to pray for Darin and his family :)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


I found a journal entry that I wrote almost exactly two years ago. Two. Years. Ago. I read through it and it felt as though I could write it now. Sometimes it's frustrating when I think I'm in the same spot in life that I was years ago. But at the same time, I'm grateful I feel hope. Grateful I am loved by Him. Grateful I can be encouraged by something I wrote two years ago.

"...I am loved and approved. I am beautiful. I have a purpose.

Oh, what it would feel like to believe with my entire being. To be so sure of who God has made me to be. To fearlessly live in that truth and boldly love. Why then would I choose to believe anything different? What causes me to settle for anything less? What do I really have to be afraid of?

Nine months ago I could have never imagined that I am thinking, processing, learning, struggling, the way I am today. Nine months ago was far from just an experience. It was more like God put jumper cables on my heart and shocked me back to life; where since then I have been learning how to breathe, walk, love, and be loved again. In the past nine months I have had glimpses of freedom in my life that I never knew existed before. I have also seen some of the deepest, darkest, parts of my soul.

As far back as I can remember, I have always thought, "Is this it?" towards life. Only recently have I been hearing from God, in the midst of my messy life, "No, I have more." I remember the first time I realized there was actually hope in my heart. How relieving! Holy crap, how terrifying! How uncomfortable; would God really think that much of me to actually have a purpose for my life? To care how I feel, or how I am unable to feel? And he didn't just stop there, he has been teaching me how to feel. In ways I have never felt emotion before. I don't know exactly how to explain this yet, but it is definitely there.

So why am I so afraid? What is keeping me from giving all I have to just bask in the freedom I have already been given? How do I get past these fears that paralyze me and make me believe I will never change? What is it that's so threatening?

Approval (addict). I don't believe God is sufficient to meet my needs, therefore, I starve for all the approval I can get. Which leads me to being trapped; which leads me to fear. How much of my life is driven by fear? I've been shocked as I have been realizing that my whole life seems to be driven by fear. Afraid people won't like me if they really knew who I was. Afraid what would happen to my body if I stopped micromanaging everything I put into it. Afraid if I try to change people will think I am a fake. Afraid what my family thinks of me. Afraid how people view/judge my parenting, or lack thereof. Afraid to speak my mind because what if someone tells me that I really don't know what I'm talking about.

Through much fear and hesitation, I have decided it is time to start making my way through this forest of lies I have lived in for too long. There are definitely times I feel like quitting, or like I am wasting my time and energy. But it's in those moments of freedom that I know there is more."

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Cedarwood and Sleep

Whether five hours or nine hours, we all need sleep. And unfortunately for some us, the quality or quantity of our sleep changes throughout life for many reasons.  Take for example, my grandmother.  She is eighty-seven years old, has raised five boys, has thirteen grandchildren and four great grandchildren.  And judging from the stories my father has told me about his childhood, I can guarantee that my grandmothers sleep was affected.  Although her boys have been long gone from her house, she has never adjusted back into healthy sleep habits.  Growing up we would drive to Chicago at least once a year to visit her and other family.  We knew not to worry if we heard footsteps at 3am.  It would be Grandma, having an ice cream cone.  Then she would go back to bed.  As she has gotten older, getting to sleep and having good sleep have become even more difficult.  So I started to look into a few things for her.

One thing I came across was Cedarwood essential oil.  I learned that when you inhale cedarwood, or apply it directly to your skin, the limbic region of our brain is stimulated, specifically the pineal gland.  Now I just finished taking a psychology course, so the many functions of the brain are fresh in mine!  The pineal gland produces hormones, one of which is melatonin. Melatonin is what influences our sleep and wake cycles.  Melatonin also helps regulate other hormones and keeps our body on "rhythm".  This rhythm is our internal clock that plays a critical role in when we fall asleep and when we wake up.  Because our body produces more melatonin when it's dark and less when it is light, being around bright lights close to bedtime, or dim lighting during the day,  can disrupt ones normal rhythm, or melatonin cycle. Melatonin plays an important role in reducing stress by thwarting excess cortisol production, so it's good for everybody.

Knowing this, I bought my Grandma two bottles of essential oil.  One is a blend from Young Living Essential Oils called Tranquil, and the other is the single oil Cedarwood.  Tranquil has cedarwood in it, but also has lavender, roman chamomile, and (for a carrier) coconut oil.  I gave her both in case she didn't care for the cedarwood scent alone.  I brought these to her at the end of June when I was driving through Chicago to pick up my boys at my parents. She came with me to Waukesha and I showed her how to easy the oils could be applied with the roller fitments I had attached. We applied them before she headed home that night.

My grandma called me the next day and told me how shocked she was that she actually slept through the whole night for the first time in over thirty-five years. She sounded well-rested and didn't complain once during the phone call, which is rare! I think that getting ones sleep/wake cycles straightened out is the first step in achieving overall health and I'm so glad that my grandma is experiencing just that. She says the Cedarwood and Trainquil help her calm down at night and sleep well.

I've also read a little about how cedarwood can stimulate hair follicles for hair growth. So I've been experimenting with that by putting a few drops on my fingertips and massaging my scalp at night. I've only been doing this for about a week, so I haven't noticed growth yet. However, my hair feels healthier and I have been sleeping GREAT.

...and sometimes I experiment with essential oils on my children... Silas is a great sleeper, logging at least twelve straight hours a night. Jacob, well he sleeps ok.  He sleeps through the night most nights out of the week, but on the others you can find him crawling into our bed at 2am.  I do not sleep well with an extra person in our bed.  More power to you if co-sleeping is your thing, but it is definitely not mine.  So on the nights he comes into our bed, I don't sleep from then on.  One would think I would put him back to bed, but for some reason, although I'm awake, I'm not awake enough to escort him to his room.  So after seeing the oils help my grandma and improve my sleep, I didn't hesitate to try it with Jacob.  Most of the time I apply essential oils on the boys, it is on the bottoms of their feet or directly where needed.  I know this oil is safe for children over two years of age, so I put two drops on the top of his head and rubbed it in.  He calls it "the oil that helps me stay in my bed all night."  Jacob is still his normal self in the mornings so I'm unable to tell if the quality of his sleep has changed, but he does stay in his bed, so the quality of my sleep is definitely better :)

Friday, August 1, 2014

I love a good thrill.  Not a scary movie thrill, but an adventure type of thrill.  I've been known to climb abandoned silos with my camera to take pictures of mountains.  On canoeing trips I get excited about white water and steer toward it (I've never tipped my canoe.)  When I lived at home, I used to love taking our dog rollerblading because with her I went so much faster than I could on my own.  Skydiving is on my bucket list.  And I love working in an ER.  Just talking about his has me on edge wanting to do something fun!  Anyway...James and I were at the Grand Canyon six years ago this month and there was this ledge that I just had to climb out on.  I don't recall there being a sign or anything saying you weren't supposed to...I just had to climb over a fence to get there, no biggie.  It was beautiful. I would totally do it again.
And then I had my second child. And he is exactly like me. Silas throws the most dramatic fits about the littlest things. He is a climber and an adventure seeker. Totally different than when Jacob was his age. We have had to buy a gate for the stairs. I take him down from desks, tables, and other furniture multiple times a day, by which he is so confused. If he gets used to these adrenaline rushes this young, he's going to be doing some crazy things in another twenty years.

One of Silas' thrills used to be to see how hard he could rock his high chair. His high chair isn't a stand-alone, it's one that attaches to a regular kitchen chair. And at the time we had a high table with high chairs.  So when he would thrust his body forwards and backwards, I would have to quickly swing my foot over to the bar of his chair and catch him before he would tip himself over. He would respond in one of two ways: frustration for stopping him, or excitement because he felt a little bit of a thrill.  I kind of enjoyed the thrill, too, of catching him at the last second, but I came to the conclusion that it probably wasn't the safest way to operate things.

So I decided to get a different kitchen set. I put it on Craigslist and it sold rather quickly. So I found a different kitchen table and chairs rather quickly.  I tend to not judge anything by its appearance, rather imagine what I can do with it to turn it into what I am looking for. So the set I found wasn't particularly pretty, but I had Pinterest ideas stored up and got to work.  I sanded, primed, and painted until it was done. In the mean time, there were a few nights we had to have dinner as a picnic in the living room. I'm happy how it turned out. And because of the lower style chairs, with the legs being further apart and more angled, Silas cannot tip himself over. It was funny because the very first time we put him in his new chair, that's what he tried to do.


    LATELY, it seems the norm around here looks a lot like this.  If someone dropped by unannounced chances are likely that one child would greet you at the door in his birthday suit while I come trailing behind, holding the other while he has a mid-life crisis.  There would be toys all over the living room, dishes in the sink, and overflowing laundry baskets.  Your feet might stick to my kitchen floor, so use the front door.  I try to remind myself this is a season, but sometimes I just don't feel like a good-enough mama.  I try not to add up my self-worth from my children, but when they consistently defy how I handle things, I start to question my own judgment.  This sets me up for a tailspin of going over all the ways I feel like I am not succeeding as a parent. 
    I know this is just a season, but parts of just suck.  I want to try to enjoy them in the midst of the suckiness.  I want to really soak up every piece of life they have to offer.  I want my heart to be in a spot where I can help guide theirs.  I don't want the meltdowns and defiance to throw me for a spin.  I want to be able to love them more through it all.  I want to focus on the main point, which is loving Jesus, rather than getting caught up in petty things. 
    People have a tendency to only share their highlights on social media.  And I totally get it, because that's exactly what I do.  But I want to do it differently, although from an outsiders perspective it will probably look the same.  When I share things I want it to be with intention.  I want to intentionally engage with my children more.  I want to intentionally guide their hearts.  I want to listen to them better and understand how God made them and appreciate their uniqueness.  I am supposed to be an example of what God's love is like, so I choose to love.
    What's not to love anyway? Once I stop focusing on the crazy stuff, I am captivated by their beauty. Their smiles and laughter. And how their little arms wrap around my neck. I never want to lose sight of theses things.