Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Poetry, Instead of Tacos on Tuesday


I left my heart unguarded
From its bony cage be free.
It took a walk upon my arm
And rested on my sleeve.

There it sat alone
A beating mass of vulnerability.
It basked in love and love and hope
And then began to bleed.

It hurts to love, it cried
As it bled upon my arm.
Turn it off and make it stop
lock me up, safe from harm!

So I lifted it, tender and aching
And stuck it back within my chest.
Shut the bony bars around it
Locked it tightly, no more mess.

Now I keep a close watch on it
No more feelings no more pain.
The price we pay since then is
No more loss but no more gain.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tired of Being Tired: Natural Cures for Insomnia That Don't Include Death and Propofol

Sleep.  That thing we hated to do as kids but pine for as adults.  It's strange, really.  Our bodies need so much of it, to heal, to grow, to rest.  And yet it seems that the older I got, the harder it became for me to get good, quality sleep.  The kind where you actually wake up in the morning feeling refreshed.

I blame my children, because (for one) I have to get some blaming of my own in before they grow up and blame me for everything bad in their lives! Those kids!  Always ruining my fun AND spotless floors!  My insomnia took a turn into scary sleep-deprivation territory during the sixth month of my first pregnancy.  This wasn't your typical get out of bed a hundred times a night to pee because you're pregnant, on top of that I had heartburn so bad that I couldn't lie down flat.  And in case you're wondering, YES she was in fact a hairy baby.  But don't worry, she has grown into a lovely not-so-hairy girl.  So during this phase it got so bad that my OB prescribed me Ambien.  Yes, while pregnant. I was desperate.

And you parents know the drill.  The baby finally arrived and we entered a Brave New World of sleeplessness, but at least now we had something to display to account for our crazy-eyes.  My husband deployed four weeks after our first daughter was born and I (once again) moved back in with my parents.  Though I still didn't sleep well, I somehow made a routine that worked and time passed.

Fast forward a couple of years and baby number two was headed our way.  If you've been reading this blog for any length of time then you know that I had complications during that pregnancy that caused me to lose sight and have our baby a few weeks early during what I thought was just a visit home to Indiana.  You can read about that by clicking HERE and HERE aaaaaaaand HERE.  At one point doctors thought I had toxoplasmosis (which is gross and scary) in my eye and that's what was causing my blindness and infections, BUT... since then I have been told it is some form of autoimmune reaction, to what we do not yet know.  But my eye apparently hates me and wants to leave.  I've offered to poke it out if it doesn't straighten up, and apparently my threats worked because it hasn't reactivated in three years, THANK GOD!

During that time though I began researching my health and came across a way of eating called paleo, which you can also read about at length if you scroll back through posts on this blog. In a nutshell, it eliminates the most common inflammation-causing foods.  Changing the way that I ate changed my health and I firmly believe that is the reason why my eye hasn't flared up since then.  But…despite those positive changes (and they really have been amazing, beyond just my eye's health) I still suffered from my chronic insomnia.  I really think that being on subconscious alert for noises coming from a baby monitor for years on end through two back to back children does give you some form of parental PTSD.  Sneeze or shuffle your feet under the covers and I'm all:  WHOISITAND WHATDOYOUNEED?!?!  And so I took drugs to sleep.  Again.  But the odd thing about it was that the sleep they afforded me still didn't seem completely restful.  This had been going on for five years and I was pretty sick of it.  Jeremy liked to lecture me about my phone and how blue light kills melatonin and how HE KNOWS BECAUSE NIH TOLD HIM SO!!!!  To which I would always reply by pulling the covers off of him and telling him to hush while I looked at my phone under the covers.

And then we moved across the world again and he deployed again and I moved back to my parent's…again.  All these huge life changes not only added a lot of stress to my life, but they threw my sleep into an even bigger maelstrom.  New bed, new house, new sounds, new time zone ALL THE WAY ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD.  I completed my third Whole30 (which is a very strict form of paleo intended to reset the body and eliminate more problem foods).  If interested, you can read about that HERE and HERE.  I was able to finally stop the sleep meds for a while but my sleep still felt fitful and I would wake feeling like I wasn't rested.  So. Over. It.  They call it Beauty Sleep for a reason, and I wasn't getting it.

Among the kabillion other changes we made when we got home, I joined a gym and hired a personal trainer (because I like to pay people good money to yell at me and make me do painful things, I blame my father)  I talked to him about some of my nutrition and health issues and he referred me to Austin Dossey, who was the first person EVER that I had talked to who understood what I was saying about the connection with food and inflammation.  Do you know how awesome that is after doctors and the majority of your family blow you off and act like you're crazy for years?  They're all: Shhhhh, don't start talking to Jillian about food, she's got some "unorthodox" ideas about how it can actually impact your health.  THE NOTION!!  PSHAW!

I talked about my insomnia and how I felt that my lack of productive sleep was really a big factor to my seeming inability to ever feel really good despite my dietary changes.  He recommended I take some supplements and change a few things, which I will lay out for you in detail.  YOU GUYS!  I have to tell you, it all worked!  I did everything he said, some of which I had never heard of and some I already knew but I guess was just never desperate enough to do (*cough* get rid of the phone in bed*cough*). I have been sleeping-medication free for a week now and not only is that a triumph but something unheard of has happened:  As soon as I fall asleep, I don't wake up again until morning, meaning I don't even remember turning over (I am a chronic pillow flipper, COLD SIDE RULES!).  I literally fall asleep and wake up in the morning like a doe-eyed Disney princess sprinkling cheer like glitter at a kindergarten craft party.  Ask my husband, ask anyone who knows me, I don't do that.  I am the evil, scowling morning person.  At least until the second cup of coffee.

I thought that was just my personality.  Morning bitchy lady.  I have snarled at my husband for being too cheerful before I had coffee, but I now think it was because I was never truly rested.

So here is what Austin recommended I take and what I did:

Multi-vitamins with Relora

Lifestyle changes:
Stop using blue light in bed (this includes iPhones, iPads, computer screens) I am sooooo going to hear about a year's worth of I TOLD YOU SO's from my husband but HE WAS RIGHT!

Get out of bed when your body wakes up, this allows your  body to develop natural circadian rhythms. For me, this had been around 5:45 every morning.

Stop drinking alcohol…this was hard. I like my wine.  And I confess I had some this weekend, but I didn't sleep as well as the nights without it.

Eliminated caffeine after 3'oclock

It seems (from a plethora of late-night Facebook statues) that many people I know suffer from the same affliction as I did.  I wrote this in the hope that it might help someone out there.  Someone who is tired of being tired.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Letter to a Spider

Dear Spider Outside My Bedroom Window,

If I am being completely honest (which I usually am, it's a sort of curse) then I must confess that I neither like you nor your species.  But, over the past several weeks I have observed your life with a morbid curiosity since you took up residence on the post outside my window.

I misjudged you.  Though still terrifying and nightmarish, you aren't the complete monster I presumed of you.  You would work tirelessly every morning to repair your web with fastidious dedication, and then…you would wait, still and silent, and with the patience of Job.  Your legs outstretched in pairs, making it look as if you only had four, a trick perhaps or was it just more comfortable that way?  When your unsuspecting lunch or dinner would come flying into your stringed trap of viscosity, you attacked with lightning speed.  This was the part that always disgusted me, I reduced you to a merciless killer.  I would watch in horror as you put to death and mummified insect after insect.  But I suppose we all have to eat, and just like you, I too feed on things that were once living.  I'm just far removed from the killing process. My food comes to me already dead and wrapped.  You are the butcher and the diner at your own feast.

As I watched you kill, I began to realize that you are not as merciless as I had presumed.  You would complete the process as swiftly as possible and my respect for your kind grew, if only a little.   Don't get me wrong though, I'm not inviting you or your family for tea.  We still aren't friends.  But perhaps I understand you better.

And now after countless sunups and glorious flaming orange and pink ocean sundowns (to which you have had an excellent vantage point by the way), I see that you are dying.  Your web has remained in broken disrepair for several days now and you lie in a crumpled heap in the middle of it.   Your normally outstretched legs curled inward and sideways.  Your body moves only occasionally but it is sharp and spastic as if a convulsion of pain has overtaken it.  I am watching you die with what I realize is sadness.  You are all alone in your broken web.  And I want to tell you that you were not all alone.  I watched you and I observed your life.  I resisted the urge to smash you, an urge which comes from a very instinctive place I might add.  It is almost knee-jerk for me to kill your kind.  Your life was short and still and at times, supremely violent.  You hung silent above the green grass where my children run barefoot and laughing.  We saw the same stars at night, only you saw them with so many more eyes, I wonder what that looked like.

Window Spider, does it hurt to die? Does the blazing sun shine brighter as the light inside of you fades and you fall to the Earth to become part of it?  Do you even know that you are dying? I will watch you from my window and when your spindly frame no longer shows black in the glass, I will sometimes remember you, because once you lived, just like me, even if you were only a spider.  I have seen you and so have the eyes of God.

Goodbye little spider.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Things They Love

I awake in the early morning hours, before dawn.  Shuffling to the bathroom in a haze of lifting sleep, I stumble over something on the floor and hit my foot on the wall.  A flash of pain shoots up from my foot and meets a burst of anger in the middle where it has raced to my gut in the form of a stifled scream.  Don't wake the children.  Bending over, I pick the thing up that caused me to trip and see that it is a doll.  Four plastic limbs and a head full of strands of blond plastic hair attached to a soft cloth body.  A Christmas present I often find lying on the floor these days.  I set her outside the door of the children's room, and make a mental note to remind them to keep their stuff put away.  It's a thing I say a lot these days.

11:30 am and I arrive home from errands to an empty house.  Everyone has gone to their respective jobs. Husband to work, making smiles more beautiful, children to school, filling their heads with bits of this and that that the world deems essential.  I am alone and it is quiet.  A dehumidifier hums a melancholy, monotone tune from two rooms away and I can hear a cat playing with a bit of paper not far from me.  Scanning the kitchen I notice that there are little messes everywhere.  An empty box, left on the counter.  Three stuffed toys, on the floor, forgotten in the haste of the early morning rush.  The telltale signs that someone had a banana and possibly a yogurt recently lay on the table, voiceless tattle-tales in the din of silence.

I feel myself beginning to become angry as I survey the mess that I bear in my perpetual state of domestic martyrdom.  I find myself becoming a broken record lately. Am I the only one who cares about the messes around here?  If you can't put this away, I'm going to take it.  All I EVER do is clean!
My life is so many things, so many thoughts begging to be heard, begging for a few moments of my time, but it rarely comes.  In my self-pity I realize that I have become reduced to a simple maid, and not even one that gets to wear a cute costume and have a French name like Babette.  No, the scullery kind, in clothes that children use to wipe their noses on and muddy-pawed canine's jump onto in gleeful abandon.  Is this what is to become of my life?  MY life.  Is this my future?  My mind's eye envisions a home, decades from this one in which I am chasing grown children and their children around begging them to hang up their coats in the proper location and for the love of Pete, put your dishes in the dishwasher! as I drag behind them, gray and wizened, clothes still full of boogers and muddy paw prints, only from a new generation.

And then I look to the three stuffed animals on the floor…and I stop.    Two puppies and a cat, having tea.  They sit in a small circle and in the midst of them sits a tiny tea pot, pink and painted with a picture of Hello Kitty, her likeness framed in yellow flowers.  Next to that sits a matching tin plate, and on it three cloth petit-fours.  They are having tea.  I am given clarity in this moment and I see something outside of toys not in their proper homes and more messes for me to rectify.  This is the imagination of my child, laid out in still-life before my eyes, magic that I can behold.  My beautiful child, full of wonder and mischief, set this scene before me and ,in that moment, I understood that she loved those toys as if they were real.  To her they are real.  This deep understanding came in a flash, like lightning, and it pained my heart.  All of this magic happening around me and I, lost outside of it, trapped in the agony and seeming redundancy of my own predicament, was missing it.

Suddenly, I had new eyes.  There was love and magic everywhere I looked.  The empty box on the counter had contained something that the man I love had been waiting for for a long time.  Its arrival had made him as happy as a child at Christmas but I had failed to see that because I was too busy bemoaning the sink full of dishes.  The shoes kicked off in haste and hiding bottoms up half way under the sofa were no longer another burden for me to bear.  They were the vessels that carried the precious little feet of my child to whatever adventures awaited her.  An unmade bed was no longer another chore, but  a place that harbored and facilitated dreams, and I carefully set it to right, smiling at the sleepy visions that would come and praying for them to be full of fancy and wondrous things as I smoothed the sheets and placed each stuffed animal in a different animated position.

So often I value time with my own thoughts so highly that I become lost inside of my own head and it becomes my prison, shutting me out from the rest of the noise and the magic.  My eyes begin to grow blinders and my world shrinks to a tiny microcosm of my own feelings and pain.  But how much more is life than this!  What a greater joy there is to be had when we behold our circumstances through eyes that seek to find the love and magic that is always present before us, if only we take the time, and lose enough of ourselves to see it.    Because in the end, we are our own greatest hindrance.

So now, as I empty the dishwasher for the second time in a day, it is no longer a tedious chore, keeping me from what I REALLY want to do.  Now it is a time to reflect upon the hands that lifted food to their mouths from these plates, the words and stories that were shared as we gathered around them and fed ourselves.  Love happened here, even if I didn't notice it. I lean over to the dishwasher to set the plate inside and it slides out of my soapy fingers and comes to rest with a clink next to the others.  As I look around the room again at what I once beheld in anger and frustration, I now see tiny moments of lives that have forever slipped into the black, velvety folds of the past. Moments of laughter and pretend, chaos and joy, and each one of them beautiful for its uniqueness and humanity.

It is a beautiful mess.