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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Holiday Wrap-Up

I really love this book-tree!
Our Christmas "marathon" is officially over. And, it's now time to start the holiday recovery.

Last week, we were able to have some friends over for dinner one evening. It was nice to be able to sit and catch up with them, over a delicious (and easy to prepare) meal.

We divided Christmas Eve day into more bite-size pieces... see, I'm trying to work on pacing. The morning was spent with Jeremy and my sister preparing a dish for the family lunch. Then, we spent a few hours with my extended family. We left early because the gift opening part of the get together was just too much for me... there are a lot of kids, which translated into a lot of noise and chaos. We spent a few hours taking it easy at home, and then we went to church with both sets of parents. It had been a full day, so we went home and crashed.

Christmas Day brought a different story... I woke up feeling miserable. I took my migraine/pain medicine before we even left the apartment. We spent the first part of the day with my immediate family (including siblings and my brother's twin girls), and the latter part of the day was spent with Jeremy's parents. Despite feeling drugged, I enjoyed myself. We each received some great gifts. But, we really enjoyed watching everyone open the gifts we got them, and simply spending time with our families.

The day after Christmas was another day of celebration. We went and spent time with my grandparents (on my mom's side). We had a good time - visiting, eating, and exchanging gifts. Jeremy and I left early, so that we could spend some time with his entire family (including his brother, sister-in-law, and nephew). It's so much fun watching kids open gifts and play with new toys. I was starting to have more trouble with my head, and the extra noise (from an excited almost 4 year old) and harsh lights made things worse. Again, we ended up going home and crashing, after a long day.

The following day, one of my best friends came over for a visit. We had a great time catching up, and re-living past adventures that we've had. It was so great to see her... to visit and laugh with her.

Overall, it was a SUCCESSFUL holiday week. Jeremy was (as usual) my biggest cheerleader, which really helped me to feel better about how I was doing with all of the added activity. I think we both enjoyed ourselves, but we're glad it's behind us for a little while.

I have some holiday photos that I want to get uploaded, but I haven't gotten to it yet. I'll see what I can do about getting them together and posting some here...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Journey to Christmas: Knowing Our Christ

This is Part V of "Journey to Christmas"
"A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.


He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist.


The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them."
(Isaiah 11:1-6)

"And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.

Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“ Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them." (Luke 2:1-20)


Nothing was ready on the first Christmas - Mary and Joseph were a young, unprepared couple; the Christ-child was born in a dirty barn; the lowly shepards were there to witness the birth. Nothing was prepared or ready... and, we don't have to be completely "ready" before doing what God is calling us to do. He wants to dwell in the midst of the muck of our lives. So, even though we might feel like we must have everything in order and "just right" before we do God's calling, we don't. He'll take us from wherever we are, however we are.

On that first Christmas, nothing was ready and that night didn't change a single thing in the reality of the world that night... except for the people. The people were changed that night. And, we're meant to allow Christ to change us.

Lord, there is so much darkness in this world - pain, grief, broken relationships, and so forth. Please let the light of Christ shine on the darkness in me and the world.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Migraine Research Foundation: Matching Donations

http://migraineresearchfoundation.org/
Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, all new donations made (to the Migraine Research Foundation, MRF) this last week of the year, December 26-31st,will be matched dollar-for-dollar! That means your gift of any amount will double its value to MRF!

Your donation strengthens our mission to invest in critical new research -- the only way to prevent migraine, develop effective treatments, and cure it! With your help, we can continue our fight to end the debilitating pain of migraine and help the 1 in 4 American families affected by this disease.

Since all of our costs are underwritten, 100% of your donation goes to fund research and support sufferers!

Please consider making a donation... every dollar helps. 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Journey to Christmas: The Sounding Joy

This is Part IV of "Journey to Christmas"

The Sounding Joy (12/18/11)

Okay, so this day's sermon wasn't online... I think it was mostly (or all?) a music-filled service. So, I'd like to share a song that I love for the holidays. This song is simply AMAZING! I'll just let it speak for itself... I hope that everyone has a safe and merry Christmas!


Where's the Line to See Jesus by Becky Kelley

Christmas time was approaching; the snow was starting to fall,
Shoppers choosing their presents, people filling the mall,
Children waiting for Santa with excitement and glee,
A little boy tugged my sweater, looked up and asked me,

Where's the line to see Jesus?
Is He here at the store?
If Christmas time is His birthday,
Why don't we see Him more?

As I stood in amazement at this message profound,
I looked down to thank him, he was nowhere around.
The little boy at the mall might as well have had wings
As the tears filled my eyes, I thought I heard him say,

Chorus:
Where's the line to see Jesus?
Is He here at the store?
If Christmas time is His birthday,
Why don't we see Him more?
Where's the line to see Jesus?
He was born for me.
Santa Claus brought me presents,
But Christ gave His life for me.

In the blink of an eye, at the sound of His trump,
We'll all stand in line at His throne.
Every knee shall bow down, every tongue will confess,
That Jesus Christ is Lord.

[Chorus]

Stay tuned for Part V (Knowing Our Christ) of "Journey to Christmas"

Friday, December 23, 2011

Journey to Christmas: Knowing Our Part

This is Part III of "Journey to Christmas"

Knowing Our Part (12/11/11)
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”

I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:26-38
Mary was a young girl that had a set of expectations, hopes, and dreams (a path) for her life. But, with one brief moment / interchange with the angel, all of these things were gone and she was told that she would have God's baby (and the world would have expectations of this baby). Mary was "most perplexed" (i.e., freaked out) by the news that the angel brought her.

Her life was turned upside down / completely changed... she was now faced with the path that God lay before her, a life that she had not chosen. But, amidst all of the change and chaos, Mary said, "Here I am, a servant of the Lord. Let it be with me not according to my way, not to my desire, not to my plan, not to my list of right and wrong, but let it be according to God."

The Christ-child didn't just change Mary's life... he changed everyone's lives. That's the Christmas story... an encounter witht he Christ-child is supposed to change us - to change the way we think things should be, the way we want to organize things, the paths that we've set out for ourselves, and the journey that we've picked for out lives. When we encounter the love, grace, and forgiveness of the Christ-child, we're supposed to say, "Here I am, a servant of the Lord. Put me on whatever journey / path you want. Put me in whatever circumstance you want. I'm not going to try to do things my way, I'm going to do them your way, God.. not my way, but your way."

Christmas is supposed to change, and we're supposed to be different because of it. If we really find the truth in Christmas (the joy, hope, peace, and love), we can't keep going down the same path we've always been on... we can't keep living life the way we want to... we can't keep assuming that we have the right answers and that we know what's best... we have to change in the face of the light of Christ, and say with humility, hope, and joy: "I'm scared to death to not do things my way, God. I'm perplexed at how I can possibly live life on your journey instead of my own. But here I am, a servant of the Lord, send me."

Mary wasn't "qualified," per se. But, she had a willingness, an open heart to do things God's way, not hers. That's what God is looking for! He's not looking for us to be perfect. He's not trying to call those that have it all figured out. He's interested in those that are willing to say, "I'm scared to death. I'm perplexed. But here I am, a servant of the Lord... use me."

"God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called."

All of the chaos and busyness of life tends to get in the way of us being as open and willing as Mary was. We get uncomfortable with all of the complexity and change around us that we become rigid. It's engrained in us that we're supposed to have all the right answers, but we forget that God is the only one that does. We become so commited to the path that we've set for ourselves that the idea of getting off that path and doing something different (even if it's an angel telling us to do so) seems crazy to us. Even when God brings opportunities to us, we're often too busy on our own paths that we don't even see God's path / opportunity right in front of us. We mustn't let the opportunities to be the light and the hope of Christ slip right by us because we're so caught up in thinking we have so much to do and that we have all the right answers.

I pray that we might have the eyes and the ears of a child. That we might finally come to understand that there's more... more to this life... more to Christmas than just a day. It's about seizing the opportunities in front of us and saying (like Mary), "Lord, here I am, your servant, use me."

Stay tuned for Part IV (The Sounding Joy) of "Journey to Christmas"

Journey to Christmas: Knowing Our Preparation

This is Part II of "Journey to Christmas"

Knowing Our Preparation (12/4/11)

God wants so much more for us than all of the hype, to-do lists, planning, and other chaos of the holiday season. Christmas is not just a birthday party or memorial for Jesus - it's so much more.

God didn't send His son, so that on December 26 we can just go on living the way we have been (or living how we lived back in November) - He doesn't want us to go back to "business as usual." Christmas is supposed to be about a change... about something happening in our lives and in our hearts, so that we wake up on December 26 different than we were on December 24. We should be able to make a list for the things that will change because we remember Christ has been born unto us... and we must hold ourselves accountable to that list.

God wants Christmas to change our lives and our hearts. But, it takes intentional preparation to get what God wants for us. First, we must recognize / realize that we need a change... that we need something different (see Part I). Then, we must do some things intentionally so that we can prepare ourselves and the world for what Christ wants to do.

OURSELVES

In Mark 1:1-8, there's a description of how we can prepare so that Christmas can really make a difference and transform our lives... and perhaps even the world around us with Jesus Christ as change-agent. In Mark, the people came out of the woodwork and into the wilderness to repent of their sins, to admit that they'd fallen short, and to so aloud and publicly, "I can't live this life successfully on my own... I need help," and then to be claimed, forgiven, and loved by a God who said, "I'll always be there for you."

John the Baptist Prepares the Way
The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way”— “a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:1-8)

We must repent...
  • of all those times we believed we were good enough on our own
  • of all those times we think we have all the answers
  • of all those times we think we're better than somebody else or that we've got the right way of doing something and sombody else doesn't
We must repent and admit that we can't do it by ourselves... we need God. Because, how can God even begin to give us a gift of something wonderful, something changing, something dynamic... if we don't think we need anything?

When times are good and we feel like we have all the answers and like we have it all figured out, Christmas may just go by unnoticed because we don't think we need the gift of Christ. But, when we realize how inadequate we really are, how we don't really have any of the answers, and how much we really can't do... the gift of Christ means so much and makes such a difference.

Individually, we must prepare ourselves by making room for the needs that we have. We have to admit that we need a gift, so that when the gift comes, it means something to us and it does something for us. In preparation, we must ask ourselves...
  • Are we admitting to it (i.e., our sins, need for God's help)?
  • Are we asking for forgiveness?
  • Are we talking about our shortcomings?

THE WORLD

But, Christmas isn't really about us (as individuals) - Christ came to change the world. We are responsible for preparing the world for the coming of the Christ child... preparing them to receive the good news of Jesus Christ... by helping others to be ready to understand and to know that Christ can make a difference for them, too.

"A voice of one calling: 'In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God [make straight the paths of our God]. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.'" (Isaiah 40:3-5)

Our world is full of valleys / pits / ditches - where people live so deep down that they can't see the light, no matter how bright it is. We are to reach out to those that suffer from depression, physical pain, loneliness, oppression, discrimination, etc... It's our job to raise these people up... to look for those people that the world has pushed down (those that have been told they're not good enough / they're wrong / they don't fit in)... and to pull them up and make the ground more level, so that they might see the light of Christ.

Our world is also full of mountains, where some people live so high up on mountains (thinking they've got it all figured out...) that they won't see the light either.

The glory of the Lord will be revealed for ALL to see.

Christmas is about getting the world ready to see the glory of Christ's love. We're supposed to prepare the way by making a highway (straight, narrow, directly to Christ), to knock down any barrier / burden / or ditch between every single person, and to develop an understanding of how unconditionally loved and accepted they are by God.

Ultimately, when we allow Christmas to be about the world around us (rather than about ourselves), it becomes about letting others journey to Christ along side us.

THE SEASON OF ADVENT

The season of Advent has come to be celebrated as a time of expectation and anticipation. There is a hope that comes with the season, as we anticipate a King who will come and rule with peace, justice, and righteousness. But, part of the expectation that comes with the anticipation is a judgment on sin. The world will be called to accountability before God. However, we must remember that we are contributors to the sin of this world, and we will be held to the same judgment and accountability as "the rest of the world." As the prophet Amos warned, "Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord! to what end is it for you? the day of the Lord is darkness, and not light. As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him. Shall not the day of the Lord be darkness, and not light? even very dark, and no brightness in it?" (Amos 5:18-20).

Still, the season of Advent is celebrated as a time of expectation and anticipation, a longing for God to restore all things and vindicate the righteous. Thus, during Advent, we also anticipate the Second Coming of Christ. Thus, we begin the journey (as the disciples did) with the anticipation and joy of Advent, which slowly fades into the realization (and subsequent repentance) of the sins that we have made... leading to the awful reality of Good Friday. And, it is through this realization that we can be ready to receive the Good News on Resurrection Sunday.

The Parable of the Ten Virgins expresses the spirit of Advent well (Matthew 25:1-13). The ten virgins await the coming of the bridegroom, with joy and anticipation. And, yet, the parable provides a warning of the need for preparation.

Stay tuned for Part III (Knowing Our Part) of "Journey to Christmas"

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Journey to Christmas: Knowing Our Need

Keller UMC
Unfortunately, I haven't been able to make it to church at all this Advent season. I'm grateful that my church posts the full-length sermons online, so I've been trying to listen to and reflect on them (I'm a little behind, but that's just how it goes sometimes). So, I thought I'd share some of what was included in the sermons, as well as my own thoughts and reflections on them.

Advent is a season of preparation. It is a time of celebration, preparation, and anticipation. Christ has come, He is present in the world today, and He will come again.

Knowing Our Need (11/27/11)

We must consider what it might look like to really think of ourselves as clay, in the hands of the Master Potter. He is an artist, seeing something fantastic in the lump of clay that we are. But, it's a process / journey to be molded from a lump of clay into a beautiful finished piece... a masterpiece.

Each year, the birth of Christ is to be experienced as a real (rather than just a memorial) event - the birth of Christ can mean new life in Christ, if we allow it to. Christmas-time is a time to remember that God is still at work in our lives - He is not done with us. Each year, He forms / molds / shapes us in new ways, slowly transforming our lumpy clay-ness into a beautiful masterpiece.

But, even a Master Potter needs good clay. We must be ready... ready to allow Him to shape us. Sometimes, we find ourselves too hard, dry, rigid... believing that we're okay the way we are and don't need work - OR - too soft and wet... believing that we're too busy and/or think that we're not good for much of anything (not worthy). Thankfully, God is willing to work with anything. Even if we are too hard or soft, we can never get to a point where God is unwilling to work on us. But, we should try to make ourselves ready for Him to shape us.

We have a need to be molded / shaped, but we must realize / recognize that we both deserve and need God to shape us... to change us. We must know that there's a need to change, and then really believe and expect that something really will change. When you assume and expect nothing to change, not much changes.

Especially around the holidays, our lives can get so busy, distracted, and chaotic that we forget where we were going; but God doesn't want us to "just get through it," He wants so much more... but we have to be ready.

"Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you! For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you. Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways. But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry. How then can we be saved? All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and have given us over to our sins. Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be angry beyond measure, Lord; do not remember our sins forever. Oh, look on us, we pray, for we are all your people." (Isaiah 64:1-9)


Stay tuned for Part II (Knowing Our Preparation) of "Journey to Christmas"

My First Cyborg-iversary

© 2010 Jamie Valendy.
One year ago, today, I had a neurostimulator permanently implanted. My family and I had such high hopes that the stimulator would be the answer to our prayers - to help me better control my chronic migraines... leading to a more 'normal' life. Unfortunately, the stimulator hasn't helped as much as we'd all hoped for and expected (including my doctor).

I don't regret having it implanted, but I wish it provided more relief than it has. When I had my stimulator trial (a few months before the permanent implant), I was able to do a lot of things that I couldn't do before (including eating / drinking trigger foods / drinks, spending time outside in the sunlight without wearing sunglasses, etc...). I haven't really been able to do much of those things, since then. We're not sure why it seems less effective, now that I have the permanent one - it even baffles my doctor.

I think the stimulator has made my 'good' days better, even if it may or may not have decreased the intensity / duration / frequency of my migraines. Just the simple fact that it's made my 'good' days better makes it worth keeping. So, I'm definitely not ready to give up on the stimulator. My doctor and I will keep adjusting things and trying to get it to work as well as possible for me.

My experience with the stimulator has also given me some great opportunities to come into contact with some great individuals - sharing with them a possible way to help treat their chronic migraines. It's been great to be able to share my experience with others, and to make some great friends along the way.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thankful for Friendship

Willow Tree "Forget-Me-Not"
Holding thoughts of you closely -
she represents timeless friendship
and love that spans any distance.
Yesterday, I received a gift from a dear friend that I met through the online chronic Migraine community. She's one of the sweetest, strongest, and most loving people I've ever known. Since the first time I came across her blog (almost a year ago), I've felt a strange bond with her... though our journeys are different, we understand each other in a special way. And, it's been my pleasure to get to know her more, and to communicate with one another through emails, texts, etc... perhaps, one day, our paths will cross and we'll have a chance to meet. I cherish this beautiful friendship, and I'm thankful for the heartfelt gift

It has reminded me that I still have friends out there that care... these friendships may not look like previous friendships I've had (especially since I haven't met most of these wonderful ladies), but I feel much closer to many of them than I do to some people I've known for years (and in person). There's nothing better than knowing that there's someone else out there that cares for you... someone that keeps you in their thoughts, their prayers, their heart. I'm so blessed!

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

The Gift of Uncertainty

The Gift of Uncertainty
I've written about the difficulty of not knowing, but I'm trying to view uncertainty as more of a gift than a curse. As I was searching for an image for my previous blog post, I came across a website that included a great article, "The Gift of Uncertainty," by Preston Parrish.

One of the many things it addressed is why God doesn't reveal His master plan to us... why He only reveals life one step at a time. Simply put, "we can trust God and His plans for our lives; He just can't always trust us!" We are very impatient beings. If we knew the grand plan upfront, what would keep us from doing things prematurely? On the other hand, we are lazy beings... we may drag our heals and procrastinate on taking the next step in God's plan because it might be uncomfortable. But, there are other reasons that God doesn't reveal the whole plan to us upfront.

God wants to spend time with us. He's our loving Father, and He wants to be intimately involved in our lives... He wants us to get to know Him, as He knows us. If He were to lay out the whole plan upfront, we would have no need to return to Him for guidance... no need to build a relationship with Him. By laying things out step-by-step, He offers us the opportunity to have an intimate relationship with Him. He wants to walk through life with us, not just hand us a map and step out of our lives.

I'm still trying to really let go of the fact that God is never going to give me the whole plan at once... or even a chunk of the plan. It's difficult to do. But, I believe that letting go of that can open me up to truly embrace my interactions with Him, the security of having such a loving God, and the mystery of His presence in my life. Releasing the desire to have the whole plan will allow me to focus on spending time with my loving Father... to build a closer relationship with Him... to "be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10).

There's a great part of the article, where the author writes about taking up a hobby (that he was horrible at), just so he could spend time with his Dad. He writes, "The whole point was to be with him; that was it! There was no other agenda... And sometimes, I think that might be the whole point of the water hazards and the sand traps that we have to go through. Sometimes I think that that might be the point of all the things that we have to lose in life along the way. Sometimes I think that the whole point is just to spend time with our Dad!" I love that! He wants us to spend precious time with Him. But, He's not going to just leave us without any direction...

The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit work together to guide our steps, direct our paths, and help us avoid the obstacles of life... to bring us safely home. Ultimately, it's really all about living our best life here on earth and getting to Heaven to be with our Father. God may not have given us the whole plan, but he did give us a map and a destination... "Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). So, we are called to seek and follow God's instruction, and then continue to do the last thing He told us to do, until we receive His next instruction. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Image by vintageteaparty
All of this speaks to me, reminding me that I've been struggling so hard against the uncertainty, while I should be allowing God to grow patience (among many other lessons) during this season of my life. I must remember, above all, that I can trust Him... He is in control!


"Uncertainty is a quality to be cherished, therefore – if not for it, who would dare to undertake anything?" - Auguste de Villiers de L'Isle-Adam

"The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers." - Erich Fromm

"Embrace relational uncertainty. It's called romance. Embrace spiritual uncertainty. It's called mystery. Embrace occupational uncertainty. It's called destiny. Embrace emotional uncertainty. It's called joy. Embrace intellectual uncertainty. It's called revelation." - Mark Batterson, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day: How to Survive and Thrive When Opportunity Roars

Monday, December 12, 2011

Not Knowing

For me, one of the most difficult aspects of living with chronic pain is simply not knowing. Not knowing when my headache will get worse. Not knowing whether my medications will help this time. Not knowing if I'll be able to attend an event. Not knowing how the pain will affect my life from day to day.

Unfortunately, I don't think that dealing with the uncertainty is going to improve or even get easier with time. Even in "good" times, when my migraines aren't completely out of control, it can be difficult to enjoy myself because there's always that little voice in my mind wondering when things will be bad again... when the next migraine will knock me down.

Right now, I'm trying to face this uncertainty in my life. I've been pacing myself, in order to make it through and actually enjoy the holidays. Besides the weekly migraine due to weather changes, I felt like I was actually doing alright (now that I think about it, though, I'd deal with a couple days of migraine pain, and then have to deal with the migraine "hangover"... just in time to start the prodrome of the next big one). Anyway, I was doing relatively well, but then I had a huge crash late in the day on Thanksgiving.

When this migraine hit, it hit HARD... perhaps some of the worst pain I can remember. But, the pain just kept going... and going... and going. I called my doctor, and he had me take a course of a corticosteroid, but I don't think it really did a whole lot. I took my normal migraine med (a narcotic painkiller) late last week (around day 10 of the migraine), and I was able to get out of the house a very little bit (you know, groceries and visit a little with family). These outings exhausted me, but I was going crazy being stuck inside the apartment.

The pain has eased up some, so it's not constant unbearable pain... but, I've been on a roller coaster ride (just at or below migraine-level... to well-above migraine-level) this past week. The pain would start to get a little better, giving me this (false) sense of hope that the migraine was finally breaking. But, even later that same day, the migraine pain returns full-force, and I wonder if / how long it's going to stay around this time. It's scary.

Each night, I say my prayers and (finally) get to sleep... hoping that the pain will be at a bearable level the following day. And, at least lately, I find myself disappointed, when I wake up to bad pain. It's frustrating and discouraging.

A bit of a tangent... The mind is so fascinating to me. Somehow, it "forgets" some of the most painful things we've encountered in our past. Our memories of bad times sometimes seem muddled, perhaps in an attempt by the mind to protect itself... by graying over the memories of how bad the pain was, how long it lasted, how much it affected us. And, yet, there's enough memory for our minds to worry about when the pain will return, when the pain will dissipate, how it will affect us.

Thanksgiving was over 2 weeks ago, and Christmas is in 2 weeks. I want so badly to be able to enjoy the holidays and spend time with my family. I'm trying to take things easy now, so that hopefully I can better manage my migraine pain through the holidays.

"Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security." - John Allen Paulos

"Uncertainty is the refufe of hope." - Henri Frederic Amiel
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Holiday Wishes

What are you wishing for this holiday season? I've found that living with chronic illness can change what's on your list of holiday wishes. Most of the things I'm wishing for are things that simply cannot be bought (I have some other stuff on my wish list, but I'm going to focus more on the things that cannot be purchased):

DIRECTION. I wish to have more direction in my life. I feel lost in a vicious cycle of pain. I'm not quite sure what I'm supposed to be doing. I don't know what God is calling me to do in the midst of these trials.

HEALTH. I wish to have my health better under control. Ultimately, I'd want my health back... no chronic migraines, no back and neck pain, no stomach problems... But, realistically, I'd just like to find ways to better manage these health issues.

COURAGE. I wish to have the strength and courage to keep going, even when things are bad... such as, when my pain levels are very high and it seems like the pain will never end. I want to have the courage to continually face my trials.

I've been BLESSED with so much already. I have a beyond-wonderful husband and family. I have a roof over my head, food on the table, and clothing on my back. I have a merciful God that loves me unconditionally. What more could I really ask for?!

This post was written for the December 12, 2011 edition of the ChronicBabe Blog Carnival.

Reducing Holiday-Related Migraine Triggers

The theme for the December 2011 Headache & Migraine Disease Blog Carnival is: "Reducing Holiday-Related Migraine Triggers: Share your best advice, tips, and tricks for minimizing triggers while still fully enjoying the holiday season."

I've been wanting to write about holidays and migraines, so this gives me a great opportunity to share and to learn some tips from others. There's a great post that I think approaches this topic so well - Surviving the Holidays: Give yourself the G.I.F.T. of a stress-free holiday - Guilt must go. Importance rules. Family matters. Think ahead.

Since my main challenge is dealing with chronic migraines, I'd like to write about the holiday season... how there are a million different triggers that can present themselves... all in just a matter of weeks... and all wrapped in tinsel and twinkling lights.

First, let's take a look at 3 triggers that we have the ability to manage / control:  food, sleep, and stress.

FOOD
The holidays often involve get-togethers and parties, many of which will have foods / drinks that might be migraine triggers. Sometimes, you simply don't know what ingredients were used to prepare the foods provided at the event. Though there is no universal list of migraine triggers, there are foods / drinks that have been found to be common food triggers.

Tips: Try to keep your eating schedule - eat small meals throughout the day, make sure not to go too long without eating (don't skip meals). Eat around the same time each day, and keep your food portions consistent. Going all day with little to eat and then splurging at an evening dinner can trigger a migraine. And, if you're going to a party or dinner, offer to bring a dish... at least then you know that you'll be able to eat at least one thing there.

SLEEP
Just as holiday events can affect your eating schedule, it can also lead to disruption in one's sleep routine / pattern. We may find ourselves staying up later, sleeping in later, napping, etc...

Tips: Try to keep your sleep pattern - go to bed and get up at the same time each day, and refrain from naps.

STRESS
The holiday season increases stress for everyone, regardless of whether someone has a chronic illness or not. But, for those living with chronic pain, there is stress in: not knowing whether or not you'll be able to keep plans with others, missing out on special events, being around crowds of people, spending precious energy and money on gifts, etc. While stress may not be a migraine trigger, it certainly renders the individual more susceptible to his / her triggers... so, it's important to try to reduce stress levels.

Tips: Begin holiday planning and preparation a month or two in advance. That way, you can get a little done each week, and you'll still be "on schedule," if you end up having some bad days. Set aside time for yourself - take frequent breaks and retreat to a cool, dark, quiet room as you need to. It's also important to monitor how you're feeling, and take care of yourself.

Now, let's take a look at 3 triggers that we have a lower (or no) ability to control:  environment, travel, and weather.

ENVIRONMENT
There are some environmental factors that simply cannot be controlled (see WEATHER, below). But, the holidays introduce another set of environments that we often have very little control over. Stores have fluorescent lights, different smells, a lot of people, etc... Holiday parties / events have smells, noise, lights, foods, drinks, crowds... a lot that we can't really control. Often there is no way to escape these triggers or the migraines that they generate.

Tips: If you're going to a party or dinner at someone else's house, offer to bring a dish. If you know the person well enough, perhaps you can ask them if there's a cool, dark, quiet room that you could escape to, if you need to. You may also ask him / her to not burn candles that may be a trigger for you.

TRAVEL
Traveling to other cities / states to visit with family and friends is common around the holidays, but it can lead to increase in migraines. Holiday travel can disrupt our eating and sleeping habits, and raise our stress-levels.

Tips: The holiday season comes with short tempers / fuses and long lines. Keep in mind that everything will take more time during the holiday season, so pace yourself. If you find yourself traveling during the holidays:
Car travel - stay hydrated, keep your regular sleep and eating schedules, take frequent rest stops to get out and stretch.
Air travel - stay hydrated, keep your regular sleep and eating schedules, and take your headache medicine as a preventive (if air travel is a problem for your migraines).

WEATHER
Changes in weather can also trigger some people's migraines - possible weather change triggers include: changes in temperature, changes in barometric pressure, storm systems, humidity.

Tips: Sometimes, by knowing when there are weather changes coming, you can take your abortive medication and prevent the migraine altogether. Also, by getting or keeping other triggers under control (such as sleep, food, etc...), the weather changes may impact your migraine levels less.

THE PERFECT STORM
The holidays tend to be a perfect storm of triggers: food, sleep, stress, environment, travel, weather, and so on. Even though migraine triggers aren't the same for everyone, the holiday season tends to bring on a multitude of different triggers that can wreak havoc with many Migraineurs.


Tips: Try to control the triggers that you're able to. Determine what's most important for you and your family, and let the other things melt away. Be patient, pace yourself, and go with the flow.

Ultimately, remember that the holidays are not about the parties and the gifts. It's about celebrating the birth of our Lord, with our family and friends. We shouldn't feel guilty, if we can't muster up the energy to meet the expectations we have of the "ideal holiday scene." Living with a chronic illness places limits on what and how much we can do, and we must stop being so hard on ourselves for listening to and taking care of our bodies. Be patient, pace yourself, and go with the flow. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

PFAM Is Now Up

The current PFAM Blog Carnival is up at Bed, Body & Beyond. The topic was: "Why do you write?" And, there was a GREAT response. I haven't quite made it through the 15 blog posts that made up the carnival, but I've enjoyed all the ones that I've read so far. If you wonder why some people write, what keeps people with disabilities writing, etc, take a look at these wonderful stories.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Why I Write

Patients For A Moment (PFAM) is a patient-centered blog carnival to build connections within the community of people who blog about illness, disease, and disability. Sharon, at Bed, Body & Beyond, is hosting the next edition of the PFAM blog carnival. The topic is: "Why do you write?"

I've always loved writing. When I was a kid, I enjoyed reading and writing... and that love has stayed with me. Writing is part of who I am - it allows me to express myself, it gives me a voice, and it helps me to process information and emotions.

EXPRESSION

Writing offers me a way to express myself, in ways that nothing else can. I've always been one to where a mask / facade, and only reveal to others what I wanted to... which often was very little. I'm still not incredibly comfortable opening up to others, but writing helps. Of course, I also had to get past the initial fear of sharing my writing with others. Besides school papers, work reports, and some select poems I'd written for specific people... I'd very rarely shared my writing with others. So, I had to overcome my fear and give myself permission to both express and share myself through my writing. It's been such a freeing experience to allow myself to be seen, through my words.

A VOICE

Sometimes I feel like others don't hear me. I've never been a loud, "in the spotlight," attention-demanding type of person. It can be quite aggrivating because there are times that I have something to say (or times that I actually say it... over and over... and no one hears or listens). Writing allows me to say what I want to say, without interruption. And, the beauty of writing (at least for me), is that it's not essential that others even read it. I enjoy writing, regardless of whether the audience is one or many.

PROCESS

Simply put, writing is how I process things - information, emotions, experiences... life. I don't always know what I'm going to write, I just place my fingers on the keyboard and let the words flow from them. This was incredibly fascinating to me, in college. I'd have to write a paper... I procrastinated and waited until the last minute... but, thoughts were formulating and processing inside my head... and then I just sat down and typed it up (followed by a lot of editing, lol).

Being able to write things out is especially important for me, now, because my mind works differently than it did before my accident. Things don't make sense, I can't find the right words, I forget what I'm talking about, I have trouble focusing and completing thoughts, my memory doesn't work very well, etc... All of these things were completely foreign, and writing has helped ease some of the cognitivie difficulties I've experienced... writing helps me to form complete thoughts and to remember what I've done, how I felt, and so forth.

JOURNALING

I kept a journal through part of college, and I've tried to start a new journal because I really enjoy writing in it... there's just something about putting a pen to paper that I've always enjoyed. But, I wasn't able to write much for a long time after the accident, due to me injuring my right shoulder (typing hurt, too, but I was able to do it more quickly than writing). Since, blogging is essentially journaling online, it was a natural "fall-back" to writing in a journal... and it's been an interesting outcome of my chronic illness.

BLOGGING

I guess, technically, I started a blog (does anyone remember Xanga?) back in college, so that I could keep family and friends updated on my adventures in Europe during my semester abroad. But, I didn't start my Chronic Migraine Warrior blog until a couple months shy of the 2 year anniversary of my car accident. I wanted to write about my thoughts and experiences... and, if it helped someone else, that was just a beautiful bonus. I don't know that I would've started up a blog, if I didn't have a chronic condition / disability.

Before my accident, I didn't really have a need to keep track of how things were going or what was going on because my memory worked just fine. However, that changed with my accident. Suddenly, I was being bombarded by doctors and insurance companies asking me detailed questions about my life with chronic pain. The problem was... I couldn't remember! I had no idea what I had done yesterday... sometimes, I couldn't even remember what I'd done a few minutes before.

So, I utilized my blog as a way of keeping track of some of what was going on and sharing things that I learn through my own journey (about meds, migraines, insurance, etc...), but I also wanted to have a way to help keep family and friends up-to-date. It's a bit ironic, actually. With one of the driving forces being to update family and friends on how I'm doing... there are only a small handful that actually keep up with it at all (and I'm so thankful for you guys!!!). Most have just melted away. Thankfully, I've been blessed to find a community of bloggers that are so supportive, many of who have become dear friends of mine.

WRITING & DISABILITY

Writing has definitely taken on a different meaning, since my chronic migraines began (in October 2008). I (foolishly) thought that being unable to work would give me the opportunity to read and write more... while that's great in theory, it simply isn't the case. Sure, I have the time to read and write, but I don't have the energy (or cognitive ability).

I've heard that a quite a few individuals didn't really begin writing until they were faced with a life with chronic pain. I find it interesting. I've always loved to write, but I really hadn't done much of it, after I started working full-time (out of college). I quickly got pulled into the "rat race"... I sometimes wonder, when or if I would've returned to my passion for writing... or, would my dreams of writing just melted away?

Now, one of the reasons I keep writing is to (try to) keep my sanity. It can feel like I have so many thoughts and ideas inside me, but I can't get them out. It's frustrating, when I'm not able to write for a while (physically, mentally...). I admit, it can be difficult to keep writing, while enduring constant pain, cognitive difficulties, depression/anxiety, and so many other aspects of living with a chronic illness. But, the rewards can be tremendous. As I continue on my own journey, living with chronic pain, I'm learning how to pace myself and take baby steps toward my goals of writing.

By the way, I wrote a post back in April about Why I Write About My Health. It was actually interesting to read it and see what I'd written (of course, it didn't even dawn on me that I'd written it until after I'd already written this lengthy blog post)... So, I apologize for: 1) this being such a long post, and 2) clearly not being as concise and straight-forward as my previous post... Damn you, migraine-brain!

"The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say" - Anaïs Nin

"Be yourself. Above all, let who you are, what you are, what you believe, shine through every sentence you write, every piece you finish" - John Jakes

Saturday, December 3, 2011

International Day of People with Disability

Today is International Day of People with Disability. According to the IDPwD website:
International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD) is a United Nations sanctioned day that aims to promote an understanding of people with disability and encourage support for their dignity, rights and well-being. The day also seeks to increase awareness of the benefits of the integration of people with disability in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.
IDPwD brings together individuals, businesses, community organisations, and governments from every corner of the world to celebrate and acknowledge the contributions, skills and achievements of people with disability.
In 1992, at the conclusion of the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons (1983-1992), the General Assembly proclaimed 3 December as the International Day of Disabled Persons.
The theme for IDPwD 2011 is "Together for a better world for all: Including persons with disabilities in development."

Approximately 15% of the world's population lives with disabilities. Many people are unaware of the great number of persons living with disabilities worldwide, as well as the challenges they face. To me, IDPwD is a day to educate others. Oftentimes, people without disabilities don't understand the magnitude of the challenges people with disabilities face on a daily basis. We must help share our experiences and educate others, in order to help remove the stigma behind living with disabilities.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Holiday Checklist

I've been determined NOT to let the holiday season completely wear me out, so I started preparing a few weeks ago. I buy gifts throughout the year, so I don't have to deal with the holiday rush.

þChristmas Cards (ready to send out)
þChristmas Decor Up (we really don't have a lot of decorations, but what we have is up/out)
þGifts Purchased (well, I'm technically about 95% finished... I have a few joint gifts to finish up with)
¨Wrap Gifts (I started wrapping gifts about a week ago... so, I still have some wrapping to do, but I'm doing pretty well pacing myself)

I know that the weather roller-coaster that overtakes Texas this time of year is going to continue to beat the crap out of my head, so I'm trying to take baby steps to get stuff done. Jeremy is helping me to celebrate how much I've gotten done, especially since it's so far ahead of time. So, mini-celebration-dance for me.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Quiet as a Mouse

Let me preface this by saying that most people won't understand my excitement about this, but I'm beyond thrilled! My husband ordered something several days ago that was an "investment in our relationship." I had NO idea what it could be...

www.quietmouse.com
He got a QUIET MOUSE for his computer! You can't hear it click AT ALL! My husband enjoys playing computer games, and I can't handle the clicking. So, this is an AMAZING product for us both!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Play That Horn

Today's challenge is: "Play that horn. Want to hear a secret? You're awesome. (It's actually not even really a secret). This is going to be hard for you, O Modest One, but you gotta give yourself props today. Write 3 things you love about yourself - things you're great at - or just want to share."

Yikes! I'm not good at complimenting myself, or "tooting my own horn," so this is a quite a challenge.

First, I have to give myself props for successfully completing the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM) - 30 posts, in 30 days. I tried to take things in stride... writing whenever I was feeling well enough to, so that I could try to rest more on the days I didn't feel up to doing it. I'm learning to adjust to living with chronic migraines... I'm still not good at it, but I'm learning.

So, here are 3 things that I love about myself:

  • I am determined. Living with chronic illnesses, I'm faced with a lot of obstacles. But, even if they are tiny and slow steps, I continue to put one foot in front of the other. I am determined to remain steadfast in my faith, and to make the most of my life, despite chronic pain. I may falter, but our God is forgiving and merciful.
  • I am honest. I try very hard to be an honest person. It was a very difficult, though invigorating, decision to start a blog and share my experience, openly and honestly. I have no reason to be dishonest because I have nothing to hide... not to mention, it takes a lot of energy (that I definitely don't have) to keep up with lies. LOL.
  • I am smart. Sometimes, it's difficult for me to remember that I really am smart. I did so well in school, all the way through to earning my Bachelor's degree. But, the cognitive difficulties that I've faced with my chronic migraines has had me questioning myself so much. I've always been my worst critic and had a fear of failure, but I've been given a great gift.

Thank you, WEGO Health, for hosting this inspiring month-long challenge that helped me get back into my writing. I'm looking forward to the next challenge!


This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Greeting Card

Today's challenge is to write a greeting card for someone in my community to help them express themselves about a new diagnosis, treatment, or experience.

Front:
Everything can seem so confusing and overwhelming,
but there's always HOPE!

Inside:
Look up,
Reach out,
Never quit!

This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Monday, November 28, 2011

Say What?!

Today's challenge is to write about the most ridiculous thing I've heard about health or my condition.

Image by Migraine Chick
I really hate when people say things out of ignorance. There are MANY ridiculous statements / remarks that people say about Migraine.
  • "It's just a headache" - Oh, how I wish this were true! I have Chronic Migraine, but I think that even the days that aren't full-blown migraines are more than "just a headache." Aspirin, Tylenol, Advil... it's not going to cut it. And, that's just the head pain part of it... I have all kinds of other symptoms that accompany the throbbing head pain.
  • "You're too young..." - This one has been completed with "...to be in so much pain / to hurt so much / etc..." Migraine disease doesn't care how old you are! Not to mention, my chronic migraines started due to a car accident... that just so happened to occur when I was "too young" (i.e., 23 years old).
  • "It must be so nice to not have to work" - I've written about this before (Apartment Hunting), but it continues to come up. Yes, it would be nice to not have to work... but to not be able to work is horrible!
  • And, some of the stellar advice that I've received for my chronic migraines... "Get pregnant / have a baby" - It's true, pregnancy sometimes reverses the symptoms of migraines... BUT, it sometimes doesn't (I think it's a pretty even split: reduced and same/worsened migraine pain). Plus, what am I supposed to do AFTER the pregnancy with migraines and a baby?! I don't think it's fair to roll the dice on having a baby, just in hopes of a few months of relief.
Overall, I know that much of what is said is due to people being mis- or un- informed. That's one reason I try very hard to share some of my knowledge and experience about migraines with others.


This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Quote Unquote

Today's challenge is to grab a quote and use that quote to set you for writing.


Life has been knocking me down quite a bit. The past few days have been horrendous. I'm trying hard to keep getting a blog post up each day, so that I can complete the NHBPM. I need to finish something I start. So, I'm trying to remember that "When life knocks you down on your knees, remember you're in the perfect position to pray."


This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Black Friday


Continued from yesterday...

Jeremy and I decided to stay up and do a little Black Friday shopping at midnight. Jeremy napped some, and I almost fell asleep, while waiting to head out... it had been a really long and exhausting day. But, we ended up going. Now, I don't think I've ever done Black Friday... at least not when stores open (I normally try to stay in on Black Friday, at all costs). Let's just say, it was INSANE!!!

We went to Target first. YIKES! The amount of people that were waiting outside, and continually streaming into the store was incomprehensible. We stood and just watched for a few minutes, and then we hiked to the end of the line. We knew exactly what we were there to get, and we were able to get in and out surprisingly quickly; but I hated the crowds. Target had everything set up very well for Black Friday. I was impressed that everything moved (relatively) smoothly and orderly. And, it was the first time I've ever seen ALL of the checkout lanes open. From arriving at Target at midnight to returning to our car, was only 50 minutes... it just seemed longer because of all the craziness.

Our next stop was Kohl's. My head was getting out of control bad, at this point. Thank goodness my husband is so encouraging... it really helped me a lot (it always does). We knew that there was no way that we were going to shop and checkout, from the moment we walked inside and saw the line of people waiting to checkout... we don't actually know where the line(s) started, but it was OUT OF CONTROL! So, we looked at the few things that I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted (double-checked colors, made sure I like the items in-person), I wrote down the information, and we went home so I could order online. GENIUS! I will never stand in a Kohl's line like that! Online is the way to go (and with the same perks... well, more because I didn't have to wait!).

It was quite an experience... It's definitely NOT my kind of thing, though! I can only see us doing it again, if there's just an amazing deal that there's no way to pass up. I'm glad that we were able to get what we did, but it came at a price. I had a migraine all day Friday (up and down head pain) - I put up the Christmas decor that we have (we don't really have a whole lot, but I like the feel in the apartment). Other than that, Friday was a take-it-slow kind of day.


This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving

We had a great Thanksgiving with family! I had a few productive days leading up to Thanksgiving day (thankfully!). I tried to be mindful of my stress and pain levels - this included frequent rest breaks. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I got done (I'm starting to really re-define my definition of "productive"). I rested quite a bit the days before Thanksgiving, so that I could make it through the long day (spent several hours at my family's house, and then the rest of the day at the in-law's house).

I actually did pretty good at my family's house. I wore my sunglasses, made sure to stay hydrated, stayed away from the loud football games on TV, and snuck away to my old bedroom for some quiet time away from all of the people / action. My head was slowly starting to get worse through the day (though still bearable), but it worsened quickly a little later in the afternoon. I ended up taking my migraine meds (when we got to my in-law's house). Thank goodness! My head got significantly worse, off and on through the rest of the evening / night. I was able to really enjoy visiting with everyone, though (there were a lot fewer people at my in-law's, so it was easier to visit and not feel overstimulated and overwhelmed).

To be continued [here].


This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread


Jeremy and I stopped at a Mrs. Baird's Bakery Outlet the other day. We've been meaning to stop in for a while because it's only a few miles from where we live. We were both dumbfounded by the deals we got. A lot of the bread products have "best by" dates that are in the next few days, but it still felt fresh and was sooo much cheaper than the regular grocery store. So, we're definitely going to start going there for our baked goods.


This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful

There are so many things that I'm grateful for. I've been blessed, and I really need to remember to be more thankful every day. Here are just some of the things I'm thankful for:
  • Having the essentials (food, shelter...)
  • Having a wonderful family (my family and in-laws)
  • Jeremy having a good job
  • Living in Texas again (near our families)
  • Having a loving and caring husband
  • Having an amazing, forgiving God

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, everyone!!!

This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

AHDA - Action Needed!

Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy




Help end the federal neglect of chronic disabling headache disorders

The Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy (AHDA) is working toward ensuring that our lawmakers appreciate the urgent need to ease the tremendous burden of migraine and headache disorders. Please take a moment and sign this petition.

There is so little funding for migraine and headache research, and yet the impact of these disorders extends to so many people.
  • Chronic headache disorders, including migraine, are among the top 20 causes of disability in the US according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • 19% of Americans will experience an attack of some form of migraine this year.
  • 75% of Americans with episodic migraine are women, predominantly of child-bearing age.
  • 4% of Americans experience 4 hours of headaches per day, at least 15 days per month.
  • Among veterans of the Iraq/Afghanistan conflicts, 37% of servicemen and 57% of servicewomen reported ongoing migraine if there was a deployment history of concussive injury and any pre-deployment history of migraine.
  • Migraine results in an increased risk of cardiovascular disease which has been linked to more than 1500 additional deaths in the US annually.
  • Headache disorders, including migraine, are responsible for more than $31B in economic costs in the US annually.
  • The WHO estimates that migraine causes more lost years of healthy life in the US annually than multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, ovarian cancer, and tuberculosis combined...
  • ...in 2010, the combined NIH research funding for these four disorders ($684M) was more than 45 times greater than that for migraine ($15M).
  • NIH funding for all research on headache disorders comprised less than 0.05% of the NIH budget in 2010.
  • Only one innovative drug (sumatriptan), discovered, developed, and priority reviewed specifically for migraine treatment, has been FDA approved in the past 50 years.
  • A total of only 290 American physicians have received Headache Medicine specialty training and are certified by the United Council on Neurologic Subspecialties.
  • The US Congress has never held a public hearing devoted to headache disorders.

So, the AHDA is asking each of us to sign an on-line petition urging congressional hearings to be held on the impact of headache disorders. It takes only a minute to sign and they will deliver the signed petition to Congress. Please take a moment and sign this petition.

This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Be Present

Today's challenge is to describe something peaceful with as much sensory imagery as I can (describing the sights, sounds, scents, and feelings).

Rhythmic breathing, a small breeze against my skin, the sound of each footstep in succession, and pure drive and determination to complete the challenge.

While it may not sound like something peaceful, running was the best outlet for my emotions (all of them). I found peace in being out running on the road... competing, fighting the urge to quit, and working through my thoughts. There's nothing like it. I haven't been able to run in... 10 years. Can that be right?! I injured myself in 2001, went through physical therapy, and was injured again in 2002. I miss it terribly!


This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ekphrasis Post

Today's challenge is to find a Flickr Image in Creative Commons that inspires me in some way (positively or negatively) and free write about it for 15 minutes. Brave bonus: Publish your free writing without editing!
Photo by ghayty
The caption that ghayty included with the above photo was:
"We must always have old memories and young hopes" (Arsene Houssaye)
I think that those living with chronic pain tend to try to hold tightly to their memories of a time without pain (or at least when it was more manageable). It can be difficult to come to terms with having to face life with chronic pain, and we shouldn't abandon our memories, but we mustn't live in (or stay in) our memories. We need to live in the moment. We can look toward the future... from where we are now, not where we'd hoped we would be. Our hopes from before the chronic pain may have to be changed or adapted... some may no longer be possible... but, we should continue having hope.

There's another quote that would work beautifully for this photo:
"God gave us memories that we might have roses in December" (J. M. Barry)
I love this quote. I absolutely love roses, and this quote paints such a lovely picture... roses in the cold, harsh winter months. Our memories are extremely powerful. They can bring us to tears, make us laugh, or otherwise re-live that moment.

In the photo above, the brightness of the roses beautifully contrast the black and white beneath them. I think it's important to remember that, even in the darkest times (e.g., pain, depression), there is always hope and beauty... if only we look.

This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).