Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Anxiety, the challenge and the gift


Anxiety is one of my challenges.

"Normal" bodies always have a certain amount of white blood cells circulating to keep the body safe. Generally, if you have an above average amount of white blood cells, it is because your body is fighting an infection.

My body is always above that average range; it is like my body is always on high alert, even when I am perfectly healthy. My mind mirrors this, I am always on high alert and I battle with anxiety.

How do I deal with anxiety? I try to listen objectively to what the anxiety tells me and analyze whether there are any facts to support it. This process can take awhile and takes practice and sometimes I cannot do it. Maybe I have to go and investigate whether the oven is on or my kids are still breathing or if the door is still locked. When I can mentally acknowledge there are no facts to support my anxious thoughts, I practice calming techniques that work for me until I am ready to move forward again. I give myself permission to deal with the anxiety--this unseen enemy-- as a real, tangible thing, just like cleaning up vomit, or staying close to the toilet when you have diarrhea are real things. I let my body slow down and recover.

That is the pattern of coping that has sustained me for awhile, and it is not a terrible pattern, but I am starting to shift into a different pattern. In a process similar to mediation, I focus on being present and passively watch my thoughts without judgment. This requires a great deal of comfort with ambiguity, with not knowing the answer and acknowledging that I do not have the answer. This seems to be closely tied to the concept of humility, which I define as confidence in God, His timing, His purposes, and my confidence in His guiding hand in my life. Humility to me means I do not have to have the answers because I know where the answers come from and I have the confidence that He will give me answers as He sees fit. Humility requires trust. Trust develops from experience and from remembering experiences.

I have learned that anxiety causes real, tangible physical symptoms for me. When my brain sends those anxious feelings to my body, I have to wait it out. Wait and trust. Let my body slow down and recover. For me, this is the same idea as "...let your hearts be comforted... for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God." (D&C 101:16). I like the language of this scripture. He says, let your heart. The choice I have to make is to allow, to let. It is not me swimming against the mental onslaught; it is me letting go because I trust that God does want to comfort me. Then, I have to "be still". Being still, like letting my heart, is not my efforts to actively slay the dragon, it is passive, it is waiting to receive. When the dragon is breathing fire down on me, or the waters are threatening to pull me under, it takes trust, that I have developed over time, to "let [my] heart be comforted" and "be still".

I read a poem recently that I love, in the Deseret News.

It's relaxing to be humble

And exhausting to be proud

I saw an important man —

Center of attention,

Watched, looked to. Deferred to.

Earnest, trying to live up to it all,

Others giving him answers he wanted to hear

But couldn’t trust.

Weight of the world,

People depending on him

Hiding his secret fear of failure,

Of letting people down,

Burying it beneath his energy,

Always stoking up his can-do attitude.

He looked exhausted,

The exhaustion of proving himself

Over and over again.

I saw another man,

Smaller, humbler, happier,

Whistling in fact.

Somehow his load was light, though he led a church.

He’d learned not only to believe in

But to depend on Higher Power,

So he was a relaxed messenger,

A stewardship servant,

Full of love but without pressure,

A simple, can’t-do attitude

With a footnote:

“But he can”

He looked relaxed,

Even refreshed.

The escape of knowing it wasn’t

About him.

Anxiety is a mental health issue, and the key word there is health. We do not yet have good language or cultural understanding for talking about the needs of the mind. Those conversations are changing, and I am grateful to live in this time, but we still have destructive language and conversation for dealing with mental health.

Why do I need to write about this issue today? Well, I do hope that my search for clarity helps someone else gain clarity for their own situation. Writing has power, sharing with others has power. So, yes, this post is to help me organize my thoughts, but dear reader, it also for you. I have been blessed by listening to the experiences of others and using those experiences to better understand my own. I feel I am paying it forward by sharing my experience, contributing, in my small way, to the ongoing human conversation.

Anxiety is one of my challenges.

Anxiety is also one of my gifts.

Anxiety gives me the push to develop resilience, faith, and trust. Anxiety gives me the push to develop humility. My patriarchal blessing reads, "always feel secure in your strength, for it is the strength of the Lord". I think the "strength of the Lord" means, in part, humility.

God makes beauty from ashes. I know He does in my life. 


Monday, April 24, 2017

My brother is married!

My sibs and I have not been in the same place, at the same time in a looooong time. 

Grandma says we need to get together again sooner. 

I agree. 




We got our boys are gussied up, but I think Joe was the only one who liked the fancy clothes. 


Rae thought they were itchy, and could only be appeased with lots of electronics. 


Caleb had to be woken up from his nap, and so was less than impressed. 


This picture makes me giggle. 


Tish and I went to get our hair done. It was nice spending time with her. 


And here's my crew: 


Grandpa loved talking to the boys. 



And I dared Jim to order a virgin Sex on the Beach. He did, and it was pretty good. 


Grandpa gave Joe his flower, and Joe loved it. 



I feel bad, but I don't have any pictures of Cassie! Ah! 
We're happy to have her in our family and excited for the two of them to start their life together! 

Congratulations, Will and Cassie! 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Guest Post by Jim!

Guest post today by Jim! Jim told me about his day, I laughed and told him he should write a blog post about it. I got to go to church solo (and listen!) and teach. It was awesome. Anyway, back to Jim's day...

*********

Today, all of our boys were had runny noses, scratchy throats, and mild temperatures, so they didn't go to church. After enough time trashing the house and obviously having nothing to do with their extra energy, I took them to the park.

Yeah, the park instead of church. Because they're sick.

Anyway, I think most people take their kids to the park for the playground. Ours get bored of the playground equipment very quickly and start running off to do other things. Today, we walked right past the playground and kept going to the racquetball court. It has a wall for them to throw tennis balls at and then chase down. It's pretty cool.

It took a while to get them all in the same picture.

After we played there for a while, we went and got some water, then played at the playground until Rae made friends with someone who had a bike. They raced up and down the sidewalk a few times, and then Rae convinced the boy to let him ride the bike, without much in the way of experience or shoes. It did have training wheels, and I did get him to wear the helmet that was swinging on the handlebars. Sorry I didn't get any pictures of that. You'll be glad to know that Rae did not injure himself riding down the hill, though.

Calebinius the Dog Whisperer practicing his arts

More water, running in circles, and petting random dogs that happened to be in the area, all the boys went back to the racquetball court. Rae's new friend Reuben went with them, and playing ball meant that Reuben would throw all three of the tennis balls, and my boys would go chase them down and bring them back to Reuben.

After a setback or two. You see, by this point Rae and Caleb had both taken off their shoes. (Not Joe. Good for him.) Caleb ran about six feet onto the racquetball court, then stopped and wailed, "Daaaad!"

"What is it, Caleb?"

"Feeeeet!" I was halfway to where he was by that point, and could see him trying to stand on his heels and keep all the rest of his feet up off the ground.

"Is the ground really hot?"

"Yes."

I picked him up and explained to him that we wear shoes to protect our feet. After splashing water on the soles of his feet, we put his shoes on his feet and he ran back to the game like nothing had happened.

Rae, of course, was still barefoot, and the pavement was still hot. He just stuck to the ledge on one side of the court and the twelve inches of shade on another. After a few minutes of watching and laughing, I suggested he put his shoes on, too.

"Oh, yeah..."

Because I'm short on pictures for this post, here's the younger two getting some water. They don't want any help at all using the water fountain, thank you very much. Rae gets his water this way, too.

Caleb came home soaked. That was half the fun, I'm sure.

We came home and had some water and cookies, and then Joe put himself to bed. Caleb No-More-Naps also went down pretty easy, and is in fact still asleep as I type this. I guess that was a good trip to the park.

Bean bag chairs for the win.

That, or they're still sick...

Monday, April 17, 2017

Chattanooga

When we went out to Atlanta, my Dad was super excited to take us to one of his favorite places:

Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

We rode the Incline Railroad, walked around Lookout Mountain, 
and ate genuine Tennessee BBQ. 

The railcar is made at a 18 degree angle. If I hadn't been worried about tripping and killing myself, I would have taken a picture of the wonky stairs walking into it. It's trippy, and trippy. 

When you sit down (at the bottom of the mountain) your seat is like a lounge chair because you are leaning back and extra 18 degrees. The stairs in the car are shallow and wide, but again, 18 degrees off of normal stairs. My kids were in heaven. They raced down the stairs and plastered their noses on the window looking out. 


The Incline Railroad is billed as the "steepest"  incline in the world. In the winter, when the roads at the top of the mountain are impassable, but the schools are still open, the Incline Railroad works like a school bus, taking kids down the mountain to school. Some people really do still use it to commute. It's also been used to transport medicine and mail. 


When you are riding on it, you pass houses on either side, 
and the locals pleasantly wave at you. 


While we were waiting to go back down the Incline Railroad, Joe desperately wanted to plaster his face against the plate glass door which showed the giant, red wheels and cables used to pull the railcar up the mountain. But, there was a gate, and Mom said no. So he threw Dog over the gate and looked right at me as if to say, "Well, you won't let me go over there, but surely you would let me get my dog back!" No such luck, Joe. I retrieved Dog and everyone stayed on the right side of the gate. 


The boys loved Aunt Tish, with good reason. 


She helped us corral them (bless her!) 
and helped them squish pennies into flat souvenir pennies.  
Ode to joy. 


When we got back to the base of the mountain, I tried to get a picture of how high up the railcar had taken us, but it doesn't really stand out in these two pictures. If you look at the top of the tree line in the middle, you will see a square-ish tree. It's not a tree, it is the visitor's center and the white speck below it is a railcar making it's way up the mountain. It's is slightly to the right of my sister.  



You don't see the white speck railcar in this picture, and the Visitor's Center is in between Tish and Dad in this picture. 



After the Incline, we had some really awesome Tennessee BBQ. There were half a dozen different BBQ sauces on the table, we had fun experimenting with them. 
The wait staff even brought hot damp towels to help us wipe up after eating. 
That's how you know it's good. 


On the side of the restaurant there were a few goats. You know, just right off the highway exit. 

When we headed back south, a section of the northbound lanes of the same highway collapsed. Apparently, someone had set fire to construction materials that had been stored underneath the highway overpass. Forty-five minutes of intense heat later, it fell.

 We lead the exciting life. 


(That's watching tv at the hotel. Can you say jet-lag???)

Monday, April 10, 2017

Calebinius the Dog Whisperer

Caleb can find a friendly canine anywhere. 

He loves dogs. 

We've taught Rae to ask permission before touching a dog, but with Caleb we have to beat him to it and hurry and ask the owner before he gets there. The black dog here played fetch with Caleb for a long while. Caleb was sad to leave. The dog might've been, too. 


One day, he met five dogs in half an hour at the park. He was busy. 






We saw Caleb walking away from the playground and Jim ran to catch him (it was a huge playground and there was a Persian festival going on, so lots and lots of people, dogs, and children were around), only to find him petting another friendly, shaggy pooch, almost as big as him. 



That's my baby! The dog whisperer.  


And, no, I am not getting a dog for a long time. 
I have boys. 


Monday, March 20, 2017

WOOHOO!

I can walk again! 

The surgeon cleared me to be full weight bearing ten days ago. Woo! He says that to get back the strength and endurance I had before I broke my leg, it will take about 18 months (from surgery), so June 2018, here I come! I'm doing physical therapy and I can already see vast improvement in my ankle. So, I hope that 18 months is overestimating how long it will take. 

I don't walk evenly; I still baby my right leg. And going down stairs---that's a hoot. My right ankle doesn't let my right leg bend far enough forward to get my left leg down the next step, so I grab the wall and try to make it go as far as it can. My ankle gets tired and swollen quickly, so even just routine cleaning and chasing boys is tiring. But, I can do it, which is a vast improvement. 

I took this picture so I could see the swelling. My right ankle is swollen, and maybe you can tell that my right calf has atrophied. I'm not going to take a picture of my hamstrings, but my right hamstring has atrophied too! It is amazing how quickly our bodies adapt to a lack of use. 


And here is my fancy new scar. Fun fact, you have to massage the scar so that the skin can move across the stuff underneath easily. Otherwise it gets stuck down and hurts.


The day I got cleared to go full weight bearing, I walked the boys to the park (it was raining, so we went puddle jumping), walked into my ASL class, and then went shoe shopping to celebrate. It was liberating. 




Jim made a walking rope for the boys. Each boy has a loop and holds onto their handle so we can all walk together. Today we made them practice walking to the corner and back using the walking rope. Joe and Rae did pretty good. Caleb finally got the concept but exercised his two year old right to protest, so Jim carried him. So, we're hoping repetition will finally sink the message in before we fly to Atlanta for my brother's wedding. 

Jim gave me earrings, and I had to take a picture. 

For Valentine's, Jim bought me a hammock! Love that man. 


The rope wasn't long enough to string between the trees at the park, so Jim boy-scouted a new rope with cool knots. The boys loved my hammock and they look like peas in a pod. 

I love homeschooling, and it was one of the few things I felt like I could still do well with a broken leg. Rae's our resident artist, and our living room floor is often littered with his prolific creations. For me, I like how much bonding time I get with Rae, and I how I get to watch him progress. He's bright and does not like to be told how to do things ("I got this," he'll tell me), so I mostly facilitate learning for him. I model a new skill and let him go for it, and then drill him on the stuff he knows.


Here Rae wanted to spell helmet, but we didn't have the letter e, so he used his hands to sign "e". 


Reading to Caleb in his couch fort. 


Caleb came up to me a few weeks ago, pointed at my phone and said, "Rectangle!" I was so surprised that I asked him to say the names of other shapes. 


My boys love to play with my phone's camera: 



This face cracks me up. 


Joe got the "Na Hoku" award for Most Improved. 


He had an MRI on his brain to see if there was anything to suggest why he has so many different physical issues. The scan came back normal, which is great news, but means Joe's condition is still a cross between an elephant and a rhino: 'elephino. 



Napping with Cat. Cat is a pretty central figure in Joe's life right now. Dragon got badly singed in a campfire last year, and Dog went missing, so now Cat goes everywhere with Joe. 


Rae is so fun to watch because he is always coming up with new things to try, like this: 


So, hooray for full weight bearing! And here's to getting strength, flexibility, and endurance back to my ankle! Bring it, 2017. I got this. 








Anxiety, the challenge and the gift

Anxiety is one of my challenges. "Normal" bodies always have a certain amount of white blood cells circulating to keep the body...