Tag: Health

My father-in-law knew all the idioms that have become American Proverbs.

The squeaky wheel gets oil.

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Don’t cry over spilt milk.

You have to know when to which.

I didn’t always understand them or how they fit but he seemed to pull one out for every situation. Do you remember the father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding? Remember how he used Windex for everything? Yeah, sort of like that.

Unlike the Windex (I think) some of those idioms fit. Maybe all the door joints need oil to keep them performing at optimum capacity but it’s only when one squeaks that you notice it.

For me, it’s plants. They need water regularly. And, apparently, plant food. I water them when I see them start to droop. When they are starting to literally die from thirst, I realize, oh, guess I should water them.

There are times our soul is dying of thirst but no ones knows until we collapse from depression. Our heart is broken but until the anxiety squeaks loudly we hide it well.

Do we want to get well or do we just want to get better?

I was at urgent care recently. I knew the problem but the over the counter stuff wasn’t the cure. The Dr. asked the usual questions and when I told her what I was taking, she said “that only treats the symptoms, it won’t get rid of the infection.”

Isn’t that what we often do? The drinking is only treating the symptoms of our fear of flying, our lack of self-esteem, our unknowing of who we are.

Over using prescription drugs treat the symptoms of an overcommitted life: too many yeses without room to breathe. Our need to please everyone while ignoring self-care.

It’s just so hard to say ouch. I’ve worn the mask that looks like a permanent smile. You put it on to make others feel good but you’re the one who needs to be healed of the hurts you’ve carried too long.

Getting well means letting people know what’s really wrong.

The doctor at urgent care performed the usual procedures. She looked in my ears, nose and throat. She listened to my lungs and heart. She also needed to know my symptoms.

Since I was sitting in urgent care it was obvious something was wrong. Now wasn’t the time to lie or try to mask the problems.

It’s easy to hide the emotional ills like worry and anxiety. We can explain them away as concern. We strive to get better rather than get well.

We get up and show up. We lead a group or are the hospitality queen of the neighborhood. We’re killing ourselves with our drive for Instagram perfection.

Getting well means going deeper than the surface. It means full honesty with ourselves and those who care for us. It means being brave to let others hear our squeaky hearts.  It means allowing Jesus to break the cycle of fear or striving.

Do you want to get well or just get better?

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“This will be the last time. I need it once more and then I’ll be OK. I know it costs too much, I know what it’s doing to me but I can’t take it…I have to have it today.”

Did you think I was talking about drugs? Sex? No, sadly this daily conversation happens in my head on the way to the adorable coffee shop next to my work. I’ve created a deep neural pathway in my brain that says, “If you don’t get your medium latte and chocolate chip cookie each morning then….” Then what? I’ll die? I won’t be able to function? There is no answer to what would happen because even after white knuckling it at my desk for hours, I always end up back there.

Did I mention the chocolate chip cookie is made with dark chocolate, has a sprinkle of sea salt, and is the perfect balance of crispy to chewy consistency?

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coffee cookies

Yeah, I have an eating disorder. I wish I could say it was a cool one that ends in an ‘a’. The kind where people feel pity for you and support you in your quest to get healthy. No, I have EDNOS; Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. Basically you have to meet specific criteria to be diagnosed with Anorexia, Bulimia or Binge Eating Disorder, and I don’t quite fall into any of these categories. The pain is the same.

I was in group one time and a severely anorexic woman told a story about being in inpatient treatment, where a rude nurse noticed how thin she was and compared her to her obese roommate who struggled with binge eating disorder. She said, “Wow! You two must have nothing in common!” The woman replied, “What are you talking about? We’re twins! We’re both obsessed with food!” Powerful.
Though I’ve had the clinical diagnosis over 10 years, my relationship with food was bad from an early age. One of my first diary entries at 6 was about needing to go on a diet. My first memory of bingeing was around 8; slice after slice of Roman Meal bread. I liked to squish it into a tiny cube and nibble at it. And I couldn’t stop. Overeating – Restriction – Stuffing – Starvation – New Diet – Failure. This has gone on for decades.
Food is always accessible. Food is used for celebration and for grief. Food is given as a reward. Food is delicious. Food gets me high. In Overeaters Anonymous (I stopped going because their name gave me too much shame.) they talk about how different it is for someone struggling with food compared to drugs or alcohol. With drugs and alcohol you know when you’ve maintained sobriety by not using anything. We “have to get in the cage with the tiger 3+ times a day”.
My relationship with food feels like dating a narcissist boyfriend. I love him even when he’s bad for me. He knows how to lure me back and can be good sometimes. He hurts me and I feel the shame from it. I don’t know how to quit him. It doesn’t take a therapist to realize that our twisted connections with food really aren’t because we happen to love eating so much. It gives us what we aren’t getting in life. It comforts us in ways nothing else can. It’s something we have control over, even when out of control, as we get to make the decisions.
So for today, I make the next right decision. For today, I breathe through hard moments. For today, I reach out for help. For today, I take my life back.

Kimberly is a 46 year old woman from Minneapolis who despises the cold, married 20 years, has a 17 year old son, an executive assistant by day and yoga teacher at night, blogger, heretic/Jesus lover/skeptic/tired. Images in this post courtesy of Unsplash.Kimberly

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Jack Sprat could eat no fat, His wife could eat no lean; And so betwixt them both, They lick’d the platter clean. 1639 England

I met Mel, virtually, through her blog. Her words were raw and exposed a vulnerability as she wrote through her pain. She spoke of her therapist and swimming and working her way back to health. Mel was bulimic.

A daughter of a friend of mine started talking to me about her internal food fight. She had a beautiful singing voice and caring smile. She had been a little over weight but was finally losing the pounds. People at church were complimenting her, friends were praising her shrinking body as she felt a mixture of pride and shame. Her weight loss was a direct result of purging several times a day.

One of my accomplishments mama seemed to be the most proud of is maintaining an acceptable weight. She struggled with extra weight for years. It’s a dangerous genetic marker in our family but perhaps the mental stigma is worse.

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What if it all started with that apple?  (Or pomegranate, as some believe it was.) What if our food fight started when Eve took her first bite of the forbidden fruit?

God told Adam and Eve eat from all the trees except that one. That one will kill you. Caution was given, like it’s been given to us time after time. A lie was told by the father of lies and it pricked the pride of Eve who ignored the caution given by her creator. The consequence has been felt by all of mankind. We continue to believe the lies we’re too fat so we starve ourselves. We fight depression with another carton of Ben and Jerry’s.

We live, and die, by food. We will not survive without it and too much will kill us. While food triggers happy memories for the majority of us, for some, food is their daily adversary.

Thursday, Kimberly will be bravely sharing her personal battle with an unspecified eating disorder. What about you? Are you a stress eater or when you’re bored? Do you lose your appetite when you’re depressed or going through a period of grief?

This is a community of grace-givers. Open hearts to listen and welcome your celebrations and your tears. Let’s do this together, friends. Keep sharing your food stories with us. There’s always room for an extra chair.

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This is my third, or maybe 5th, attempt to write something about Mother’s Day. I’ve started from this way and that and clicked “move to trash” every single time.

No fluff or sweet stories. No whining about the dementia or trips down memory lane. Just words she can’t read and wouldn’t understand but the heart wants to shout to whoever is reading:

Thank you Mama!

Thank you for not being perfect but still being strong. Strong convictions, strong opinions and strong faith. Your faith was the foundation you built your life on and was evidenced in serving others. All kinds of others, not just those who looked like you.

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You showed us what the bible meant when it said love your neighbors as yourself because you usually took better care of others than you did yourself. You were tireless helping with the annual postal carrier food drive and our Mother’s Day phone calls had you telling me how many pallets of food were collected. (And mama, you’d never believe what they’re doing with pallets these days!)

Thank you for not being about drama but being about kindness. For all those times you clucked your tongue and wagged your finger at me when I said something unkind or snarky, I remember them, mama, and you were right. I’m still working on it. I’m afraid the snarky might be here to stay. Maybe it was from daddy’s DNA 😉

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Mom with our daughter at Heather's wedding 2004
Mom with our daughter, Heather, 2004

Thank you for all the times you flew across the country when I think you really didn’t want to but it was the only way to see us and your grandkids. Ours were the only two for a good long while and because of your sacrifice of time and money they got to know you. They remember your laughter, just like people say they remember mine. Thank you, mama.

And all those phone calls during the long years we’ve lived apart, I miss them so much. We talked about how many families you (through the Salvation Army) were helping at Christmas about how cold it was at the fair grounds that year but it kept the food boxes cold. When I told you we gave gift certificates to the grocery store instead of food boxes you asked why and you laughed when I told you it’s not cold in Florida even in December and those food boxes would spoil faster than they could get them home. Then you’d tell me how many aunts and cousins and kids showed up for the family Christmas dinner. You had to have it at the church because so many came, usually 70 or more. Don’t know how you made it through the noise but you seemed to tolerate family noise a little better. Thanks for keeping me part of the family even though we lived thousands of miles away.

We had so many good times together. I wish you could remember them mama but I’ll remember for you for now. Someday, we both believe in that someday that will come when we’ll be healed and all things will be new and we’ll rejoice together. Maybe you’ll even be able to sing because I think you always would have liked to.

You were a doer and taught by example before your words. Thank you for that mama, because I know what you do matters more than what you  say.

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Mostly, thank you for loving God. It was when you got the most quiet, when your voice would crack just a bit, because you were overwhelmed at God’s love for you. I wish we had talked about that more.

I had plans for us, mama. Plans for you to spend more time with us in your retirement but God had something else in mind. I don’t understand his plan for you. I don’t need to understand to know he loves you and all of us who miss you. I know that. I know his love is greater than your dementia and surpasses all the memories we won’t be able to make. It hasn’t come without tears, tears that still form. I think you’re already with Jesus, mama. You aren’t here so you must be with him and I am so thankful, so grateful that he is your resting place.

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“Just wait”, he said. “These people really do care.”

He makes me smile when I see him but most of them do because I know every day they’re here they have a chance. A chance at sobriety, a chance at life.

“I never believed it before. I thought it was a hoax. Recovery? What recovery? I never even heard of it until 2007, all this AA crap. I didn’t need a meeting to show me how to drink why do I need one to show me how to stop?”

That was then and now? Now is the better part of a year later and he gave himself a chance. He waited. He watched others who had what he wanted. He waited. He believed.

There is waiting to be done when we are trying to change.

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I can’t imagine the courage it’s taken him or any of these men who are really trying to change. Courage to leave behind old ways, courage to be still, to listen, to wait.

You instruct me through them, O Lord. You show me my arrogance and pride in not waiting on you. Teach me, show me, and while some of them are hoping to be like “us”, help me be like him. Like the one learning to wait on You.

 

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Family Thanksgiving 2009
Family Thanksgiving 2009

Before him was her. That summer, the only time I attended that camp in Georgia, a not so good week at all for me but that’s when I first saw her and she left an impression on me right then. I was fifteen. She was teaching the morning bible class. Before him, her firstborn son, the one I would later marry, was her writing on the board the different personality types and explaining them and how they connected with us and connected us to God.

She taught faith when nothing shook hers. Not the loss of her second son, not breast cancer, not teenagers, not a husband diagnosed Bi-polar or when he had emergency bypass surgery. Not when she had a tumor on her optic nerve and had to have her head shaved and speech therapy not once but twice. Her faith held firm. Her commitment to God, her marriage, her family, her church, never wavered.

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her first grandchild, and only granddaughter
her first grandchild, and only granddaughter (our daughter)
Her first and last grandchildren (cousins)
Her first and last grandchildren (cousins)
with her great-granddaughter 2011
with her great-granddaughter 2011 (Christabel)

She taught grace with her smile and her kindness and her acceptance of others.

We are celebrating her home. Her, the one it took me years to call “mom”, the one who was before my husband and the one who loved me as her own. She is home with Jesus, the place she’s been longing for these past months. Her body weaker and weaker and for the first time since I’ve known her, her spirit weakened too. Weakened in the way that she was ready to go. Ready to let go physically and be with her Savior.

my favorite picture of her
Ruth Marion Hudson

We are never ready to let go. We say we are because we know it will end her suffering, her pain, but we aren’t. Not really. And now that she’s gone that is clear. Our minds flooded with the ways we’ll miss her. Our memories making more clear what we’ll miss. Henry had her teach him how to make her sausage stuffing for family Thanksgivings and I’m sure as it’s passed around the table they’ll retell the story about the time she used spicy sausage by mistake. We’ll tell about her as a grandmother and her sons will tell about the things they think they got over on her. We’ll hear about Henry being told to go find Steve and the spanking he got that should have been his brothers. We will laugh as though we’ve never heard the stories and we will miss her being in our midst and we will fight to hold her in our memory.

That’s what we do when we celebrate a life. That’s what happens when the mourning is turned to laughing and we celebrate her home.

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I want to retreat. To hide out from people, people I know, and just pretend I have this normal life where I’m a housewife (I was good at that role) and I can tidy up things that are a bit in need and cook a healthy dinner for us and maybe pay attention to the art class I’ve had to ignore due to schedule or do something else creative, but solitary.

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I’d rather do that than prepare for this conference (that I love you know) and spend 2 1/2 days of go-see-do-sleep repeat. I’d rather ponder quiet thoughts and put fingers to the keys than wait for Ruth to die not knowing when, again, we’ll pack a bag and take a journey that feels so unnecessary and too much.

I am feeling selfish and needy and I just want to take a nap. And I don’t nap! Yeah, that’s where I am.

It will pass. It always does. Some caffeine and a game day face and I’ll benefit from the need to carry on.

But….this feels more. A little. This time. I think it’s death. I think it’s the waiting and the life that won’t wait. I plan. I need plans. But life, and death, have plans of their own leaving me to choose my response.

The game day face hasn’t worked too well today and I’m afraid people have seen more of the real me than they ever should. I could feel it in my walk, fast paced with purpose. My words clipped and the anxiety crawling across my shoulders.

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We are using the chapel this Sunday. Period. There are chairs in it and the piano was put in today and will be tuned by the end of the week. We will be in there Sunday because I need to be there where we all sit together and I am not apart from them. Dorothy needs a piano to play and not the junk she’s be struggling with to get a melody played.

We don’t know how to use the new audio/visual system and the installers have made no attempts to train us. A call today informed us the techs are installing a system for someone – IN THE BAHAMAS! No matter. We can go low-tech. We have chairs, we have a piano and we have the Word.

Henry and I were trying to see what we could figure out on our own and as he was trying to get audio I was crouched on the small platform, bowed over when I knew I had to stop. Stop fussing, stop rushing and release, again, it to God’s control. To His purpose. Again. And in those few moments I knew it will be okay. If I step out of God’s way, if calm down and let Him be, He will.

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He will care for my mother-in-law in her dying moments as He’s cared for her all these years.

He will care for our family as we sort out the details and make room in our lives for another loss that will mean eternal joy.

He will tend to audio and air conditioning and time limits.

He will be thanked for his graciousness toward me when I don’t deserve it.

He will surprise me with his truth in a new way and I will praise His name.

He will get me through today and that’s all I have.

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We were laughing as we often do. Eric telling John about something I’d written and John cringed and said, “that’s messy”. I stood defiant as I replied, “I’m messy.”

There was one thing mama didn’t tolerate and that was a mess. My hair was cut in the short pixie until mid way through grade school because mama wanted it neat. I was allowed to let it grow only with the understanding it would be kept from hanging in my face. (You can’t imagine the compulsive ways that manifest itself).

rebellion ;)
rebellion 😉

Neat, uncluttered, organized, these are the things that help me breathe comfortably and feel accomplished. I’ve conquered our stuff!

But life is messy because fear and pride can’t be hidden away for long. Selfishness and self-pity, arrogance and defiance cannot be dusted and tucked inside a basket on the shelf.

At five, our granddaughter lines up her toys. They are in a neat row and we smile and wonder if these are tendencies being revealed. DNA from great-grammy?

There are no neat rows for addiction and relapse and turning away from the Beauty and Love that chases us all. There is no way to clean up Alzheimer’s and the guilt and long grief it brings to families. All we can do is muddle through the mess trying to clear a space for love.

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Mamas hands black and white

 

Laughing mama

There is no way to avoid living a messy life when you believe the One who turns life upside down when he uses addicts to teach this church girl and expose the mess I thought was so well-ordered. When he takes my words, rehearsed and regurgitated from years of listening but seldom learning, and like a boomerang they come back  at me, this time filtered through the lens of grace and I know I am the mess.

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I’m finding the best way is to live through our mess together.  I’m finding the mess has always been me. Hair brushed back out of my face, books all neat on the shelf and bed made first thing each morning makes me neat. Compulsive a bit or maybe I can say I’m just honoring mama. Neat but choosing to walk in the mess of service just like she did. Choosing to love others right in their mess because He still loves me in mine.

This is an updated post to the original published in 2013 and part of the Woman2Woman link up.

 

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They tell you these days won’t last. People who’ve lived life and have been where you are but you don’t listen. These days are unending and some days you just want them to move, faster. Diaper and teething days and the lack of sleep days, these days seem to last far too long.

The days of youth and life and living full, these days will last. Won’t they?

And you blink a few times and find they’ve gone too. Youth and what the world says is beauty and value have gone in time but you keep thinking this, this time, will last.

Your nest is empty now and these days seem like they are lasting too long but you will blink again.

When I search for things that last, I find few. The banana’s and bread will spoil in a few days. Size 4 no longer hangs in my closet. The granddaughter has started kindergarten and the memory of my dearest friend, my mama, has failed.

Love is first and it is last. It is lasting.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

Linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker at Five Minute Friday, click here to read more.

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“…in the absence of clarity I have learned to trust.” Mother Theresa

We’ve tried to make sense of mom’s dementia. It’s crazy to even try but it’s what we do, all of us I’m sure. We ask ‘why her’, and go through the family tree asking if anyone else had it and we talk about how sharp she always was and we never, never, expected this would happen to her. There was no answer in the beginning and there is no answer five years later.

I’ve not seen her since last November and don’t have a trip planned this year. That decision leaves me in a quandary, questioning myself if it’s the right thing, the acceptable thing, or a selfish thing. I turn it over and over in my head knowing it makes no difference to her as she doesn’t know me when I’m there and that brings me back to the whole selfish thing. There is no answer to this either. Not for me.

In between the visits, which have been annual for most of my life as we live on opposite sides of the country, I depend on updates from my sister. Sometimes the director of the mom’s residence will post a picture of an event with mom on their Facebook. The last one she posted I saw the vacant look in mom’s eyes. Joan was sitting next to her smiling big holding a well-deserved recognition with mom next to her oblivious to anything and anyone.

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Family friend, Jasper Davis, with mama.

Earlier this month we were blessed by some long time family friends who took a vacation from their home in Arkansas to the Pacific northwest and made a point to stop by the little town where mom lives. They knew mama probably wouldn’t know them even though we’ve hoped the old stories of long ago would spark something (like all the experts say). It didn’t. They took pictures with mom to send and it was good to see her smiling and enjoying their visit though she didn’t know them.

Then yesterday, that moment of clarity that (thank you God!) is still with her, that still holds her was there. My sister stopped by to visit and sit with her in the church service at Sheffield Manor. Lisa’s face is familiar to mom but she doesn’t know it’s her daughter. She doesn’t recognize her grandchildren who’ve lived next door to her all their life or the man who has been her son-in-law nearly twenty years. Our faces, our names don’t bring mama clarity.

As my sister sat with her singing the hymns, the leader asked “Who’s going to heaven, raise your hand” and that clarity was there. Crystal clear her word “yes” and her hand raised and never did these words from Mother Theresa make as much sense as they do now. “In the absence of clarity I learned to trust.”

I don’t understand this. I have no clarity about dementia and why mama and what will happen next. But I have learned to trust in the One she still knows and trusts. This is her clarity, her truth, her faith and it is mine too.

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