Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What to Post About? What to Post?

It's been a few days, but that certainly doesn't mean I haven't been contemplating things to post about. Should I post about having my toddler catch my cold and sitting up with her until after 11 at night? Or should I post about the kids taking up all my computer time now that they're running out of things to do while they're off track? Or perhaps I should post about my poor husband being stranded at the gas station for two hours as he waited in the freezing cold for his darn family to get off the Internet so we could come tow him home when his truck stalled???

Nah, you wouldn't want to hear about all that. So instead I'll post about my Monday doctor's appt. My husband and mother were in cahoots to get me to go to the doctor. I haven't had a physical done in many years. Mostly this has been due to the fact that I knew what he'd say: you need to lose weight (which I do), you've gained 80 pound since you were last here, and your cholesterol is too high so here are a few hundred pills to take in the hope it'll lower in three months time. Then I'd try to convince him it's really not my fault that things got so bad, and he'd give me the look that says, "yeah, right."

I've been rather unwell the last few months, with all sorts of little things. The last straw for my hubby was when I struggled with breathing as the air worsened, and got a cold at the same time. He kept telling me to call and get an appointment for a physical. I'd say, "sure honey," and not do it. So unbeknown to me he...are you ready for this...called my mother!!! Mommy dearest called me and we talked for a while - nothing unusual in that - and we eventually got around to talking about needing to get in to the doctor.

She's a sneaky one, that woman.

By that time the idea had been working on me for a few weeks, and she convinced me I could set the appointment for a few months in advance if I wasn't ready yet. Several days later I finally did it, then found out if I hadn't by the end of the week, she was ready to come pick me up one day and "take me for a ride." Like a dog blissfully ignorant of heading to the vet.

In any case I got into the doc a lot earlier than any of us thought, a mere week away. I did NOT sleep well the night before. Of course the actual appointment went well. In fact, it turns out I'd lost four pounds since the last time I'd been there. Okay it's not much, but at least I hadn't gained anything! Doc. listened to me, which I appreciate, and gave me some great suggestions. He told me I have a bit of tendinitis in my right ankle, and that was the biggest news I received that day :) Lovin' it!

When my husband came home later that day I crashed. Holy cow did I crash. He sent me off to bed for a nap and 2 1/2 hours later I forced myself to wake up. This sweet man took care of the kids, made dinner and washed the dishes so I could catch up on some z's. Awesome, I know.

Still, I was dreading the blood test results. I can't begin to tell you how much I don't want to go on cholesterol medications. Beyond the occasional antibiotic for sinus stuff I rarely take prescription meds (OTC is an entirely different matter). So imagine my utter and complete surprise when it turned out my cholesterol is fine. Fine! My triglycerides are an entirely different matter, and I'm doing some research on how to fix that. But I'm so happy. I'm so thrilled. And after worrying myself out of sleep I feel so very hopeful that things are going to be okay. I'm even finding time to exercise.

So that's what I decided to post about today. Hope you all enjoyed the ride.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sunday Inspirations January 25, 2009

Over the last week a bunch of ideas for my Inspirations post came flitting through my mind. Some would flit a little longer than others, and I’d almost settled on just one idea…until I attended an absolutely beautiful funeral yesterday.

My husband and I knew the parents of the young man who’d passed away. I had worked with his mother about 13 years ago, and my husband works with her still. Their son was a special spirit, trapped in a body that didn’t work as well as we might have hoped. He was only 29 years old. So young to most of our ideas regarding mortality, but he’d lived about ten years beyond all expectations. Though, perhaps, not long enough for my friends.

At the funeral his sweet mother was one of the speakers. Had it been me, I’d have been too much of a mess. Not Carol. In my eyes she could stand nose to nose with a tornado and not flinch. Yet even this rock of a woman, who’s endured things I cannot comprehend, could not completely stop the flow of tears as she imparted some of the things she learned from her son. I’d like to share a few of them with you now.

1. Keep things simple. Her son’s favorite thing in this entire world – besides Mom and Dad – was a plastic hangar. He could love it, play with it, and hold it for hours on end. One simple thing brought him endless amounts of joy.

2. Clothing should be optional…or at the very least, comfortable. The first thing to come off were shoes and socks. Even if it wasn’t the most proper of places. As their bishop spoke at the close of the funeral, he recounted times when he’d see a stray shoe or sock lying in the hallway of the church, or a bare foot at the bottom of a certain young man.

3. Find some sun and lay in it every day. This extraordinary spirit knew how to look for the good things in life, even if it’s just a bit of warm sunlight to take a short nap in.

4. If you don’t want to deal with someone, close your eyes and maybe when you open them again he/she might have gone away. We all laughed as Mom described how he’d be sitting in a hospital bed, hangar being played with one moment, then the second a doctor or nurse (who’d been known to do mean things like give shots or insert needles) walked through the door they’d look back over and he’d be lying down, still as night.

5. A hug from someone you love is goof for your blood pressure and your heart rate. A few years ago they were experiencing a bad time. He was in the hospital, hooked up to tubes and wires galore. They couldn’t seem to get his heart rate (blood pressure?) down, and Carol’s bp (heart rate?) wasn’t doing so well either. At one point she couldn’t take it anymore, weaved her way through the tubes and wires, and gave her boy a much needed and well-deserved hug. The effect was immediate. His heart rate slowed down almost twenty points.

6. Love everyone. Forgive freely and immediately. Like any child, this young man had boundless limits to those he loved. Though he couldn’t express it in ways we might consider “normal,” to those who knew him best, it was not difficult to understand when he tried to let them know he loved them.

7. You don’t need ears to hear. You can listen with your heart. This young man was deaf. Carol told us at his passing she realized he’d never heard her voice utter the words, “I love you.” Yet there was no doubt in her mind that her boy knew of the intense love in her heart.

8. Be happy in the life you chose, and keep an eternal perspective. This is such a “Mormon” doctrine, one I didn’t realize was strictly believed by us. We lived before we were born. We participated in planning out what we would be called to endure in our lives. Her sweet boy chose the body he’d spend his life in, and even though it was by no means perfect, it was his mortal experience. Carol chose to have this extraordinary spirit in her life. His spirit is now free, and they will be a family for eternity.

9. Keep the commandments as best you can, and trust that the Lord will step in. Though his limited mind never grew beyond that of a little boy, in whatever he was capable of doing he did his very best.

10. His greatest gift in this life was to love those who served him.

I don’t know if you got out of these ten simple lessons everything I did, but I’ll not go into my own thoughts. I think the lessons needing to be learned are just as individual as the person reading this post. If, however, you’d like to discuss anything you’ve read, please feel free to post a comment and I’ll be happy to respond.

There were so many more wonderful things spoken, in particular by his father, but I feel as though I need to end here. I want to end with a poem that had been written on the back of the program. Though there was no author listed, I would not be surprised to discover it was Carol herself who penned the beautiful words.


A meeting was held quite far from earth;
“It’s time again for another birth,”
Said the angel to the Lord above,
“This special child will need much love.”
His progress may seem very slow,
Accomplishments he may not show,
And He’ll require extra care
From the folks he meets way down there.
He may not run or laugh or play,
His thoughts may seem quite far away.
In many ways he won’t adapt,
And He’ll be known as handicapped.
So let’s be careful where he’s sent,
We want his life to be content.
Please Lord, find the parents who
Will do a special job for you.
They will not realize right away
The leading role they’re asked to play.
But with this child sent from above,
Comes stronger faith and richer love.
And soon they’ll know the privilege given
In caring for this gift from Heaven.
Their precious charge so meek and mild
Is Heaven’s very special child.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Violinist in the Metro

I really want to thank my friend Cynthia for passing along this e-mail. After checking with to ensure the accuracy of this e-mail, I was delighted to go and find the original article (the link to which can be found at the end of the e-mail), and decided right away to pass this gem on.

Violinist in the Metro

A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousand of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats average $100.

Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of an social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

For the full article, it's long but highly recommended, go to Pearls Before Breakfast

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Catching Air

I was flipping through photos, trying to find one to place on my creativity blog (which I did, go take a look) when I came across this one. At our Thanksgiving party B found someone to toss a football with him. This was the one and only cool shot I managed before the batteries pooped out on me. I thought it was awesome that he was sorta in focus while the football's all blurry. Anywho, hope y'all enjoy it as well.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sunday Inspirations January 18, 2008

I hope you don’t mind, and I have a feeling you won’t, but this is going to be a rather short inspiration as I’m feeling a bit under the weather. I was thinking back to a few months ago, when I took upon myself the impressive and (seemingly) easy job of changing the P-trap under the bathroom sink.

I had what I like to call an “AH HA” moment when I first took the pipe off and had a gander at what really lay within. Of course anyone who’s looked inside a pipe that’s had several years worth of gunk and grime build up can know of the horror I experienced at that moment.

And in that excruciating moment a thought popped into my mind: we need to take care of what’s inside our Spiritual Pipes as well.

Ah ha! Right? When we don’t go to church every week, when we don’t pray, when we neglect our scripture reading, when we don’t hold weekly family activities and etc., we allow our spiritual pipes to be lined with the gross and grimy things of this world. Those things will cling to the sides of the pipe, will begin to build up over time, until we can barely feel the trickle of spiritual inspiration our Father tries to send our way. No matter how hard we might try to scrape the gunk away, something always remains.

That’s why we have the mega-ultra cleaning power of Draino Max. Or, in this allegory, repentance! When we repent of the things we’ve done wrong, our pipes can become as new. When we do our best to attend church, to pray with a sincere heart, to read our scriptures diligently we can maintain our pipes, to keep the gunk and the grime from building up. How wonderful, don't you think?

So the next time you see a revolting pipe, ask yourself how your own spiritual pipes are doing.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Blog Award

I feel as though I've been so serious lately (which I totally blame on seasonal depression which hits me this time every year), I wanted to do something fun and uplifting. My friend Emily put me down as one of her "assignees" and so I'm going to sit here and have a bit of fun filling out my blog award :)

This award comes with some to-do's :

1. Say one nice thing about the man in your life.

Like Ems herself said, how can I possibly say just one thing? Is it truly possible to explain in one lifetime the love, the respect, and the gratitude I have for such a remarkable man? He's my greatest supporter, my biggest fan, my protector, my guardian angel, the father of my children, a worthy priesthood holder, the most extraordinary example anyone could hope to have. He is everything I could have ever hoped for in an eternal mate.

2. List at least 6 ways you measure success in your life.

This one's hard, especially for someone who is constantly listing every way she comes up short. I suppose one would include the Spirit that resides in our home. My children consider this a safe place to be. Though we may not be wealthy in the riches of this world, no one could deny the love that is felt the moment they walk through the door.

Second would be the friendship between my children. Though they may not realize it, this is unique. I hope it always stays that way.

Third, the service our family strives to provide, not only for those we love, but for those we don't know that well. It makes my heart sing when even the kids suggest things we can do to help those around us.

Fourth, that my children believe so wholeheartedly in their Heavenly Father, in their brother Jesus Christ, and understand the power and blessings that come from prayer and the priesthood. Even at such a young age, they are able to know the faith of their parents, even when we go through the hard times.

Fifth, close relationships with extended family members. I never really had that growing up. It was quite a shock to marry into a family where cousins and aunts and uncles for generations back were not only constantly getting together, but always worried and praying for one another. I'm so grateful my children can grow up in such an environment, on both sides of our families.

Sixth, and on an extremely personal note, that I was able to marry in the temple, knowing I'd stayed strong and pure, and could kneel across from a man who was the same. I can only hope we can impart the importance of this to our own children, so that they may know the true and everlasting happiness it can bring.

3. Assign 5 other bloggers this award.

This makes me laugh. Basically I'm tagging five other people, which I'll do, but anyone who feels as though this would be a good thing to do for their own blog I'd encourage to do so. Oh, and I'm totally going to cheat and invite way more than five.

1. This first one's a two-fer, since both sil's on my side of the fam are pregnant. So Emily and Melanie, get to it! I will also include Ellen, even though she's not pregnant. But I adore her and want her to do it!
2. All my nieces with a blog. Yep, that means Jen, Talena, and Josie (that I know of), all three of you preggers get to do it too. (Seriously, what's in the water????)
3. Old friends. Not that they're old, or anything. Just that we've known one another longer than five or so years. So let's see. I believe that includes Cynthia, Marti, Mayor Mike, Artist Mike, Ingrid, Brent AND LaDawn (hey, ya have your own blogs, so it can be done) and anyone else I accidentally skipped over. Sorry. But I am getting on in years...
4. Newer friends. This includes Errin, Natalie (even if you're no longer blogging), Jared (I had to do it, since your wife didn't), Alysha, Val, my friends from the blogger group, etc.
5. Everyone else I may have inadvertently left out. Have fun everyone!!!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Feeling Helpless in Trials

I'm struggling this morning, as my status on Facebook openly states. It's hard when you're enduring trials, whether they be physical, emotional, or spiritual. Yet rarely seen, but just as harsh, are the hearts breaking because there's nothing they can do to help those enduring the pain.

My younger son, B, has had headaches for close to four months now. At times these aches are fairly mild, to the point he rarely says a word, even though they never actually go away. Other times, such as these last two weeks, the pain is bad. He can barely sleep at night. His tummy feels upset most of the day long. He keeps to activities that don't require a lot of action, like playing on the computer or having Mom read to him.

Yet through it all he rarely complains. He seems to contain a giant of a man, one who is courageous and perservering and strong, placed into a little boy's body. He's everything tender and loving, always giving hugs and kisses, cuddling, and telling me how much he loves me.

So when he looks up at me with those big, blue eyes, and says, "Mom, my head really hurts," my heart absolutely breaks. I know for him to utter those words the pain has to be pretty bad, and I feel utterly unable to help. Normal pain meds don't take away the pain. I've tried the same methods we used on his big sister when she started getting headaches, but it doesn't do a thing.

I know it's only through great pain that we learn the greatest lessons. But it's never easy to watch it happen in someone so innocent. This little man, this beautiful example of what it means to submit to the Father's will, is my hero.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sunday Inspirations January 11, 2009

My thoughts this morning are on the Doctrine and Covenants, and I thought to take some time out to explain a bit about what the Doctrine and Covenants are. For those who have grown up with them, you might discover (as I did) something new, or simply have your testimony reinforced. For those who don't know much, if anything, about the Doctrine and Covenants, I hope this helps to make things a little clearer.

Joseph Smith Jr., prophet of the newly organized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (nicknamed the Mormon Church), received many revelations over the course of his ministry. These revelations were eventually collected and bound into what we members refer to as the Doctrine and Covenants, or the D&C.

One thing that makes the D&C different from all other works in the Mormon standard works (or cannon), is it was never translated from an ancient language. The Old Testament, the New Testament, and even the Book of Mormon were all translated. When one word didn't seem to fit correctly, there had to be a "best guess estimate" to find a replacement word.

This was not the case with the Doctrine and Covenants. Every word in the book was given directly from the Lord to His prophet.

At this point I would love to have a picture to help illustrate the next point, but I'm afraid you'll all have to turn on your imaginations. See in your mind a stone building, four corners, and arched doorway, and on top of the raised roof a rounded cap. Within this building are three stones, ones vital to the stability, strength, and steadiness of the building.

First is the Cornerstone. This stone must be fixed, precise in it's placement, and strong. Without it the rest of the building will come tumbling down. For those of us in the Mormon Church, as well as every other Christian faith, the cornerstone is Jesus Christ. His life, His teachings, His example (which we read and study about in the Holy Bible) is the cornerstone of our lives. It is the foundation of our lives. Without it the rest of our lives will crumble.

Next is the Keystone. It is the top of the arch. Without it the doorway leading to rich joy, love, and happiness cannot stand. It too will collapse. For those of us in the Mormon Church, the Book of Mormon serves as the keystone. It does not replace the Holy Bible, but reinforces it, magnifies it, and gives us a firmer testimony of our purpose here on earth as well as how to help live the commandments of God. It also stands as a reminder that no matter where we may reside on this big earth, we are always under the watchful and loving eye of our Father in Heaven and our Savior.

Last is the Capstone. It is the finishing touch, the final necessary stone. Without it our building is incomplete. Without it the natural elements could cause our building to erode with time. For those of us in the Mormon Church, the Doctrine and Covenants are the capstone to our religion. It was written specifically to and for those in our dispensation, to the members of the Lord's restored Church. It serves as a template for our lives in these latter days. Within the first section (or chapter) we are given the purpose of the D&C.

If you would like to read through the verses, go to D&C 1:20-28, but the specific purposes are:

So our faith might be increased. The Lord has told us we will be given two or three witnesses, and the D&C stands as yet another witness of Jesus Christ as our Savior.

It establishes the Lord's covenants in our times, covenants that were set up thousands of years before He was born, covenants He personally instituted.

To encourage His Church to proclaim His gospel.

To bring people, both members and nonmembers alike, to an understand of their sins.

To bring these same people the opportunity to partake of the Atonement, to repent, and to be forgiven of those sins.

To show us how we might humble ourselves so that we might be more readily taught in His ways.

To be strengthened!

Most of all, and it is this last thought I'll leave you with this day, the Doctrine and Covenants was given to help us prepare for the coming of the Savior.

The Lord's hand was truly in the making of all three of these works, of this I truly witness. I love all three. They have blessed my life more than I could possibly have guessed. When read with a humble heart and a contrite spirit, with a true and abiding desire to know for certain of the truth of their words, you can know the same blessings.

Friday, January 9, 2009

When Mom Gets Mean

My sweet husband took the kids over to his dad's house today for a little visit, leaving me to my own devices for about an hour and a half. I had a good time doing a few loads of laundry and catching up on Facebook - anything can feel like a good time to a mother who needs an hour to herself (and I'm not talking about 11:00 at night when everyone's asleep).

About 4:30 they all came tumbling back into the house and immediately went into the boys' room to play until I got dinner ready. At one point, I watched J run through the kitchen, frantically open the back door, and laugh as he headed outside. I chuckled to myself when I realized he forgot to unlock the doorknob, and readily jumped up when I heard the expected knock.

To my surprise both my boys came walking in. My mind quickly ran over his lack of coat, socks and shoes, all the while recognizing precisely how he managed to get outside.

He'd jumped out his bedroom window.

I - was - furious! He was immediately placed in the corner while the other two were ordered to start cleaning up the bedroom. None of them would get dinner until the job was complete. After an appropriate amount of time I called B into the kitchen to tell me precisely why he thought going out the window was a good idea.

"The glitter fell out and J and I wanted to race to get it and M told me it would be faster if I went out the window so I did."

Makes perfect sense, right? It apparently made sense to him. We had a serious talk about what could have happened: limbs could have been broken, he didn't even have shoes on, he could have fallen on his head, and the screen is now busted. We then went into the bedroom to have the same talk with the other two (M especially, as the oldest), and so he could help finish cleaning the bedroom.

I am emotionally exhausted from it all. I don't like getting mean with the kids. I hate feeling so angry about such dumb decisions. I get scared wondering what they'll think of when they're teenagers! But they all still know I love them. And I'm pretty sure they all still love me. We read together so I could regain composure and assurance that I am, in fact, a good mommy.

It took about twenty minutes for them to come in for dinner, but I think there was a big lesson learned. Don't let Mom find out you jumped out the window!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Masterful Compilation of Vocabulary

The title sounds a bit pompous, doesn't it? I'd like to apologize to Jared now, as I'm about to use an offhand statement he made to my husband a few weeks ago as an example to start out this post.

It'd been a while since he'd posted on his own blog (Cowboy Thoughts - link can be found in my blog list), and I commented on how much I'd been missing him. The next day he said something like this to my husband, "Your wife used a word I didn't know," to which my hubby replied, "Yeah, she does that to me all the time."

I had to chuckle, but it's stuck with me since. I've always loved words, and the bigger they are the smarter I sound, lol. Right? RIGHT?

Yet the power a word holds is too often skimmed over in these days. As I stood outside my son's school class waiting for it to end, there were three men talking music and laughing. As I tuned in to what they were actually saying, my ears were assaulted by the use of awful language from one particular young man. The swearing wasn't done in anger, or to insult anyone, it was simply a natural pattern of his conversation. With each word, however, I found myself shifting away from them, chanting internally for the doors to open so I could leave. At one point I covered my ears (with the pretense of keeping them warm) and tapped my teeth so I wouldn't have to listen anymore.

My mind drifted back to one of the most poignant times when the value of words was brought home to me. Believe it or not, I was watching the movie "Hook", the one with Robin Williams. For those who are unfamiliar with it, Robin plays a grownup Peter Pan, who's forgotten who he is. He cannot fly. He cannot fight. This doesn't stop Captain Hook from taking his children, in the hopes of one last, final fight between the two. Tinkerbell promises to get Peter back into fighting form with the help of the Lost Boys.

At one point, they've all sat down to dinner, though you can only see (and eat) the food if you use your imagination (which Peter forgot how to do a long, long time ago). The leader of the Lost Boys, Rufio, begins making fun of Peter, calling him names and such. At last Peter is goaded into taunting the boy right back, and a battle of words commences.

As both Peter and Rufio try to outdo one another we begin to see the value of knowledge in confronting someone who is ready to bring you down. Rufio's name calling eventually deteriorates under Peter's extensive use of words none of the kids understand, until, in a last and desperate attempt to regain ground Rufio shouts out, "You stupid, stupid man!"

It sounded like something a child would shout in anger and frustration. It sounded lame.

The next thing that came to mind was an experience I had a few years ago as I (once again) stood outside waiting for my oldest to come out of class. My youngest was a tiny little thing at the time, and my boys had headed towards the playground to have some fun until the bell rang. A group of girls (about 11 or twelve) gathered nearby, all ready for a confrontation. The fight ended up being one of words, and the words were deplorable! I found myself wanting to cover my baby's ears, and to be honest it took me days to recover from the damage it did to my spirit. Because they had such a limited vocabulary, they had to resort to using the basest and ugliest of words, ones which damage them more than the objects of their hatred.

Words have power. The words that come out of your mouth speak volumes about the person you are. Knowledge is power. The more you learn the better equipped you are to deal with people. If you don't know a word someone uses, look it up. Empower yourself. Empower others. Use these words to uplift and enlighten those around you. One of the most beautiful gifts we can give those we love is a kind word.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Sunday Inspirations January 4, 2009

Good morning everyone! I can hardly believe we're already several days into a new year. As anyone who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (nicknamed the Mormon Church) knows, the beginning of a new year brings about a change in church meeting times, and I find myself with minutes to spare this morning before we have to start getting ready to go.

Though I've spent some time reading through our Sunday School assignment in the Doctrine and Covenants, I decided to do a different sort of inspiration today. I'm not exactly certain what I hope to get out of it, nor what I hope you will get out of it, but I've felt strongly impressed to share some insights with you that I've learned over the years. These insights have been pounded into my head through personal experience, and my recent post about the Bell's Palsy brought so much of it home again.

I have never claimed to be a beauty. A little striking, perhaps, but the large orifice sticking off the end of my face (a.k.a. my nose) has never allowed me the pleasure of living in a delusional world when it comes to my looks. I had fantabulous skin, and always loved my eyes. After several years with braces I could claim a fairly fantastic smile, and I love to smile. Then there's my hair. I spent a lot of years hating my red hair, as children felt far too welcome to make fun of it. As I grew up I learned to appreciate it so much more, but as anyone who is a redhead knows, it's not easy to find clothes in colors that match both hair and skin tone.

Then there's my body. My frame is patterned after a football player...a very short football player. My unfortunate love of everything food bad for me has added substantial padding over the years. I had times of fitness, and actually love to exercise and jog. Weight lifting was one of my favorite classes in high school, as I built up muscle quickly.

Having children seemed to have awful effects on my body from the moment I became pregnant with my oldest. Not only did I gain at least twenty pounds with every kid, but I began to develop skin rashes. I went from soft, clear skin to dry, crackly, painful splotches covering me from head to foot. Literally. I would wake up scratching in the middle of the night. My arms and legs would be covered in scabs. At times I could barely stand to have anyone touch me.

Another effect of the rashes is I struggle to exercise. While I'd feel great doing it, after was absolute torture. I can't even begin to tell you how bad my skin was after I exercised. So I stopped doing it, thus increasing my weight gain.

I'd given up wearing contacts once my prescription wore out, as I couldn't see myself putting precious dollars into something that frankly costs a lot, especially when I could see just as well with glasses. So now my eyes were hidden.

For those who read the previous post here on my blog, you already know what happened next. I awoke one New Year's morning unable to move the entire left side of my face. It took three months before I was able to make a voluntary movement. I had so much hope for complete healing, but after several months it was obvious this wasn't meant to be. In fact, as my nerves reconnected, too many of them didn't make it back to the right place. I still can't smile all the way, my left eye squints when I smile, and if I try to close my eye or raise my eyebrow, the muscles along my cheek pull up.

So, let's sum up. I've lost what little figure I had, my skin is no longer soft and clear, you can't really see my eyes, and my smile is not my smile. I'm sort of waiting to see what happens to my hair. It's the only thing left I can call pretty.

Here's where we start to see the lesson I've learned over the years. First, beauty is fleeting. This is never more obvious than to those who never really had it in the first place. Is it nice to have? You bet! In a perfect world we'd all be stunningly gorgeous. Even when we have it, there's no guarantee it'll stick around.

Second, sometimes giving up the things that help make us beautiful is for the better, at least for a time. I rarely wear makeup, as my skin reacts afterward. I would love to begin exercising again, yet I am aware it's not in the cards at least until my youngest can watch me "Walk Away the Pounds" without having fits. This is not to say I shouldn't take advantage of any chance I have to exercise, but for the most part I realize it's more important for me to attend to the welfare of my children, and that's okay. It's also okay for those who are able to find time to exercise (and congrats to you!).

Third, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It's trite, but it's true. My children think I'm beautiful. My husband tells me how beautiful I am several times a week, and when he looks at me in a certain way I know it's true. I think of those people who are the most beautiful to me, and none of them would consider themselves even remotely pretty, which leads me to...

Fourth, beauty is not just skin deep. Some of the least attractive people in the world become breathtaking when another person bothers to look past the outside. A kind and compassionate heart, a willingness to serve, the incredible gift to bring light and laughter into the lives of others can make the plainest person beautiful. We miss out on so much when we allow the outside shell dictate who we will get to know, and I have known many an attractive face that covers a selfish heart.

Last, and perhaps this is a lesson just for me and what may lie in my future, but one doesn't feel beautiful until one is told he or she is beautiful. Perhaps through learning beauty is more than what is on the outside, one of my missions in life is to help those around me feel as though they truly are beautiful.

I would encourage you to look at those around you, to see more than what is on their outside, and to say what you find to be most beautiful about them.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

An Odd Anniversary

New Years Day of 200_ I awoke to the sound of laughter in the kitchen. What didn't have me jumping right up was a sound I didn't hear - that of a newborn baby crying. This particular child was only three weeks old and it hadn't been an easy time (anyone who's given birth for the third time in three years and did the last one around Christmastime might possibly understand where I'm coming from). I'd actually ended up back in the hospital shortly after the birth because a portion of my right lung had collapsed due to how big the baby was, and a tendency of tiny feet to press upon the aforementioned portion of my body.

Like I said, not the easiest time.

Realizing I might have the chance to catch a few extra minutes of precious sleep I turned onto my side, closed my eyes, and tried to recapture any sort of pleasant dreams that had escaped me. The only problem was my left eye didn't close. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get it to close. I began to notice other oddities: the skin on the left side of my face felt odd - like the feeling one gets as the Novocaine wears off after a dental appointment, my tongue also felt a bit numb, and the whole side felt sluggish.

I immediately got up and dressed, then went to the bathroom where I brushed my teeth and took a good look at my face. There was no doubt about it, something was wrong. Even as I watched for those few minutes, the symptoms grew worse. I walked into the kitchen, tried to act nonchalant, and told my husband I think we needed to head to the local Insta-Care.

He went straight into action, and before long my mother was watching the kids while we headed off. I distinctly recall trying to remember if I'd suffered a stroke during the night. I didn't think so (I laugh at myself now, but it was quite traumatic at the time!), but how was I to know.

Just a note - I'm much more familiar with the actual signs of a stroke now.

The doctor reassured me first thing that I hadn't suffered a stroke, then told me I had something called Bell's Palsy. I had never heard of it before in my life, and to be honest the doctor wasn't able to tell me a whole lot. Because it's not a life threatening disease there hasn't been a whole lot of research put into it.

Basically "they" (don't ask me to define who they are, please) believe BP is related to the Herpes Virus (which produces things like cold sores and Shingles), though no one can tell just what will trigger the condition. There is no rhyme nor reason to it - it attacks all ages, all races, both genders. It can appear on either side of the face, or even on both in extreme cases. People have been known to experience partial paralysis which disappears within a few days, will have complete paralysis which heals completely over time, while few will have permanent lasting effects. While most who experience this only get it once, there are others who have had it more times.

For myself, I had the complete paralysis. The doctor gave me a choice at the office. Odds were much of the paralysis might leave if I took a heavy dose of steroids and a viral medication, but I would have to stop nursing during that time. I simply wasn't willing to do so. I'd had the experience of not nursing with my first child due to extreme problems and didn't want to risk not being able to continue to do so even after the meds were out of my system.

For the first three months I endured an awful lot. I had to put a medicine on my eye at night at tape it shut, the effects of which I still struggle with as the eyelid retrained itself not to close without pulling up my cheek. Another side effect was the inability of my eardrum to work correctly, so everything came across as loud. I took to wearing an earplug every time I went outside, and a lot of the time when I held the baby. I still occasionally have problems with loud sounds. My eye began to water a lot, especially every time I ate. It's a bit ridiculous to have to hold a tissue in my hand so I can wipe away the tears so they wouldn't drip into my spaghetti. And yes, I still have a problem with the occasional watering eye, in particular when it's cold and windy outside.

There was a lot of pain as well, specifically on an area behind and below the ear, sort of right underneath the jaw. That side of my face became extremely sensitive, at times so bad I couldn't sleep on it at night. My sweet baby (whom we lovingly and laughingly referred to as our "Bobble-head Baby") would frequently bang his head on my face.

The psychological aftereffects were just as bad. I found myself developing defensive gestures, and recognized it even as I was doing it. For example, when I laughed or smiled my hand would automatically rise to cover up that side of my mouth. My hair parts naturally on the right side, and I began to wear my hair down more often so it would cover the left side of my face. I took to placing my finger on the corner of my mouth and pulling slightly so I could be understood better (one of the greatest ironies of Bell's Palsy - because there is no control of lip muscles you can't really say the letters "B", "P", "F", and "M").

I hated being introduced to new people, not knowing if I wanted them to ask about it, or just ignore it altogether. It put people off, and I can't say I blame them. I remember one morning just before we were heading off to church, I found some pictures in a bag I hadn't had a chance to look at yet. I'd tried to smile, and the effect was horrid. I began crying. It couldn't be helped. My first instinct was to rip the picture up, but I think it's still lurking around the house somewhere. I never wanted to have another picture taken of me again. I felt beyond ugly. Smiling no longer happened naturally, which was particularly heartbreaking as I love to smile.

The first ray of hope occurred almost exactly three months to the day. I was in the bathroom looking in the mirror, and tried to smile. And for the first time in three months I made a movement on purpose: there was a tiny move at the corner of my mouth! I'd experienced a lot of involuntary muscle spasms, but this was the first thing that happened because I wanted it to happen!

Healing was slow going, and has never been complete. You can mostly tell when I take a picture, especially when I'm not aware it's being taken and smiling wide. I still hate having pictures taken, and try to be the one behind the camera. But I have hope.

That first day my husband gave me a priesthood blessing, where I was promised a full recovery. I've received enough blessings and promises over the years to know it doesn't always happen in the ways and times we expect, but I have faith that one day I'll be able to smile without feeling self-conscious about it. I was given an extra special booster the same day I saw the picture of myself - mere minutes after I'd stopped crying my oldest came into the kitchen and told me I was beautiful. You have no idea how much that was needed.

Almost two years later I got BP again, but this time I knew the warning signs, wasn't nursing or pregnant, and was able to take the meds. There was no paralysis that time.

In the hopes I can help someone else who might possibly experience this same thing, here are some of the symptoms you might experience before the paralysis hits in the hopes you can get into the doctor:

I'd begun to get a cold in my neck. In particular there was a pain in the area towards the front, sort of next to the throat. It felt like a stiff neck I couldn't get rid of, not even with pain relievers. Food and liquids tasted weird on that side of my tongue at least a day beforehand. I was excessively tired (but blamed it on the baby. Others I've talked to have said they were tired as well). Remember to keep an eye on the other symptoms I mentioned above: drooling, sensitive ear, numbness in the face, sluggishness of the facial muscles, and a watery eye.