Sunday, August 17, 2014

Lagniappe–August 17, 2014

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It’s been a busy week around here. I never even got around to doing my 7 Quick Takes Friday. Well, I guess today’s Lagniappe will have to do. (I also have a movie reviews post in the wings, but it will be another day or two before it gets done.)

1. Monday through Friday were low-headache days!! Yay! The weather was calm and so was my head. I totally loved it.

2. Wild Man had a dental appointment on Monday and was found to have 6 cavities. Yep, 6!! Apparently, they’re from drinking so much soda. We’ve really loosened up our lifestyle over the summer, so we’re tightening things back up and keeping a closer eye on Wild Man’s diet and tooth brushing.

3. Wild Man told me when we got home, “Don’t make a big deal about the six cavities to Dad.” So, when PWM came up from the basement, I said, “I’m not supposed to make a big deal to you about the fact that Wild Man has six cavities.” PWM said, “Really. OK, I’ll make the big deal, then.”

4. I had two cavities filled on Tuesday. I love my dentist. He made sure to numb up the whole lower side of my face so I didn’t feel a thing. I couldn’t eat for several hours, but it was completely worth it.

5. On Wednesday, I did a cooking-palooza! We get veggies from a CSA, but it’s sometime hard to eat all of them if I don’t feel like cooking (which I haven’t lately). So, on Wednesday, I cooked. I made Roasted Onion and Garlic soup with a bunch of the onions and garlic. I made Beet Brownies with two pureed beets, although they did not cook as quickly as I’m used to beets cooking, so there were some little bits of beets in the brownies. We couldn’t taste them, though. I used a very large zucchini to make Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread which froze very well.  While I was at it, I also made some French Bread in the bread machine, which was my first time using the bread machine. And, before I was done, I made sure to clean up the kitchen. Yippee!!

6. Yes, I did start getting a migraine on Saturday, but it wasn’t terrible. The bad thing was that I had insomnia and the headache last night so I didn’t get out of bed today until noon, but my headache is still there. I should have just gotten out of bed.

7. While I have a migraine, I have decided to rearrange the living room. Great timing, huh? Actually, I have developed the plan, that we’ll carry out when the migraine is better. I want to do it while I still have the kids to help.

How has your week been? Do you have anything of great depth or insight to share? No? How about a cat story?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Normal Day!

So, what did I do today? Well, I didn’t have a migraine (at least as of now – 7:41pm). I got up at about 8am. I spent some time on the computer, did some reading. I had breakfast. It was a slow morning. Let’s call it leisurely.

At about noon, I started my cooking odyssey. We’ve gotten a lot of veggies from our CSA, but haven’t had a lot of time to cook them, so we needed to do something to use some of them up. I made Roasted Onion-Garlic soup, Beet Brownies (brownies with pureed beets hidden in the batter), French Bread (in the bread maker), Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread, and Meatballs. And then I cleaned up.

Sounds like a normal day, right? Not for me. I’m lucky to be able to cook dinner most days. Well, I don’t cook dinner most days. By late afternoon, I’m either too tired or too headache-y to do much. The crock pot is my friend.

What was different about today? I have no idea. But, I’ll take it. This may be my one good day for the next couple of weeks or the next month. That’s OK.

I was normal. Even if just for one day.

Thank you, Jesus, for normal.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams, Suicide, Depression, and Migraines

Yesterday, we lost an amazing actor and comedian and, by all accounts, a wonderful man. He had an often fatal disease called depression. And one of the worst complications of depression is suicide.

I have depression. Thank God, I’ve never been suicidal. I can’t attribute that to anything I’ve done. It is purely that the course of my illness has never been that severe. But, I’ve had days where it took every bit of energy to get out of bed. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have darkness so bad that you are willing to end your life.

One of the worst things about depression is how it takes over my life when it flares up. Everything becomes about how bad I feel. Instead of thinking about how great it would be to take a walk with a friend, my brain tells me how tired and miserable I am and how a walk would be a terrible idea. Every fun thing in the world seems like more work than it’s worth.

People sometimes say that suicide is selfish, that a person who commits suicide is thinking only of themselves. Well, they are. But, that’s the illness. A person with depression can’t imagine that anyone else would want them around anymore. When I’m down in the black hole of depression, I don’t feel loved and wanted, no matter what people say. Depression is more than sadness. The illness consumes me. And I’ve never even been sick enough to consider suicide. It must be a million times worse for someone who will take their own life.

Migraines and chronic pain are the same way. I don’t want to be a hermit when I have a migraine, but I am. Pain takes over every part of my being. And it’s usually accompanied by nausea, sound sensitivity, and other symptoms. Even when it’s just head pain, it still takes over my consciousness and doesn’t allow me to function. That’s part of how pain works. When the body works properly, pain is supposed to tell you that something is wrong so you can fix it. In chronic pain, the signals are not working correctly, so you get all discombobulated. Pain demands to be heard. All. The. Time.

Some Christians are hesitant to use medications for depression because they think depression is just a bad bout of sadness or it is purely “spiritual”. Sometimes, sadness is normal and just needs some time, particularly if it is a normal grief reaction after a death or significant social or emotional change.

But, true depression is a physical illness caused by messed up neurotransmitters in certain parts of the brain. Sometimes, depression is part of other illnesses, like bipolar illness or schizophrenia. In any case, medical intervention is necessary. In mild cases, counseling alone may be effective, but in more serious cases, medications along with counseling and lifestyle changes will be needed.

But, is God really OK with us using medications to treat mood disorders? I sure hope God’s OK with me using medications to treat my headaches! And my mood disorder (depression) goes right along with the headaches. In fact depression is a “tag-along” illness with many diseases, including migraine, fibromyalgia, and even things like after open heart surgery. God gave us the ability to diagnose and treat lots of illnesses, including illnesses of the brain. I assume he wants us to use these abilities!

Where does God fit into the depression thing, though? I believe God does want us to feel better. I’m sure that he sometimes supernaturally heals people, but most of the time, he works through the laws of nature. We get better through medications and counseling. Depression is treated by medical professionals like diabetes or hypertension.

In my walk with Jesus, I know that my depression affects my spiritual life, just like it affects the rest of my life. When I’m really depressed it’s hard to pray. But, it’s also hard to talk to my husband and kids. I have found, though, that there are certain passages of the Bible that are particularly helpful for me to read and meditate on when my mood is low. My prayer and meditation time are very important to me as part of my depression treatment. Worshiping Jesus is part of my life. I know that he wants me to be emotionally healthy, so I try to keep to practices that I know are good for me.

And, I would be completely remiss if I didn’t tell you that if you are depressed, you don’t have to live this way! Get help! Tell a friend, call a help line, go to an Emergency Department! Suicide is not the answer, but neither is feeling rotten all the time. Medications can really help you feel much better and live a better life. And check out your local church. Jesus wants to help you, too.

What are your thoughts?

 

R.I.P.. Robin Williams

Friday, August 08, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday–August 8, 2014

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1. We took family pictures on Wednesday!! For the first time in at least 8 years! We kept putting off scheduling them because of my headaches, but we finally just put the date on the calendar and hoped for the best. Yes, I was on Maxalt when we took them, but the two that the photographer put on Facebook so far look really great!

2. Rosie Girl left home yesterday afternoon with her usual light brown hair. When she comes home tonight after spending the night at a friend’s house (and going to the tap dance festival in Stevens Point), she’ll have orange-ish red hair. Yep, they’re doing henna! I guess it will calm down to red over the course of a week or so. I can’t wait to see it.

3. I’ve been freaking out a bit about the whole school supplies thing. I’ve never had to buy stuff for a kid to go to public school before. Does he need notebooks or binders? Folders? How many pencils or pens? Guess what? They put that info on the school website, even for juniors in high school!! My stress level is way down.

4. My headache level is NOT down, however. Bummer. I had a long migraine last week that I think was triggered by a dental cleaning. Next week, I have to have a cavity redone. I’m making Wild Man drive me so I can take my muscle relaxers beforehand. I don’t have much to blame this week’s headaches on, though.

5. My counselor has encouraged me to do one thing I enjoy every day to help with my depression. Yesterday, I had a milkshake and then drove home the back way which is more wooded and less commercial and, mostly, less familiar. Central Wisconsin is gorgeous in the summer!!

6. Wild Man now has three jobs! He started as a cook’s assistant at a local restaurant. Right now, he only works once a week or so. And, on busy nights, he just washes dishes. But, it will be good for him when school starts and his job and the laundromat finishes, but he still needs gas money!

7. I finally got Something Other than God from the library!! Yes, I know I’ll be the last one of this blog’s readers to read the book, but, better late than never, right? Winking smile

So, what’s up with you these days? Check out Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes Friday!!!

To Survive or To Thrive

 

John 10:10 “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” NIV

John 10:10 “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” KJV

I’ve been feeling like I’m just surviving these days. Even now that the depression is starting to lift, I’m still just “getting by” most days. I read a blog post (but I can’t remember where – sorry) about thriving as Christians. It was really inspiring, but when I finished reading, I just thought about how sad and depressing my life is.

Jesus was very clear that He came not just to save our souls, but give us “abundant life” and to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth. I don’t think he intended for any of us to mope around here waiting for the day of our death. Our life is important, if for no other reason than to be part of God’s kingdom here on earth.

Paul wrote in Philippians about how he didn’t know whether he’d rather be in heaven or earth, but then concluded that he could be joyful and content in any circumstances here on earth because of faith in Christ.

So, yeah. I’m having a hard time with that right now. Chronic pain takes over everything in my life, it feels like. What I can do each day is determined by how much my head hurts and how bad the nausea and other symptoms are.

I know that some days, all I can do is survive. I’m not able to do much more. But, overall, I’d like to thrive. I’d like to feel like I’m making an impact in this world, even if it’s small. Maybe just getting up and getting dressed is enough. Maybe working in the shop once or twice a week. Maybe occasionally blogging.

What do you think? How do you do more than get from one day to another?

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Is God Angry with Liberia?

It appears that some of the clergy in Liberia think so. I disagree. At least as far as God is angry with anyone. The clergy who made this statement believe that God is angry with Liberia for the sin that the those in the country have committed and allowed to be committed, so God is permitting the Ebola virus “plague” to spread throughout the country.

God can certainly judge cities and nations as He did in the Old Testament. He is, after all, God. But, in the Old Testament, He made it very clear to a city or country that He was judging them before He wiped them out or allowed them to be conquered (i.e. Sodom and Gomorrah). In more recent times, natural disasters haven’t been accompanied by clear warnings or words from God. And this Ebola catastrophe doesn’t appear to be an obvious judgment since it covers multiple countries and is affecting people of all ages, races, occupations, etc.

A few years ago, a tsunami occurred that was devastating to Indonesia and other countries.  Was this God’s anger for something that Indonesia did? In the 19th century, the volcano Krakatoa erupted and killed many people. What about the Lisbon earthquake? And we can’t forget the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

We live in a world that God created with these natural forces that sometimes cause upheaval for the humans that He also created. Ebola virus lives naturally in fruit bats without too much fuss. Every once in a while, it will get into a human and cause a small epidemic. But, now that humans don’t always live in villages, Ebola is able to spread farther and cause more havoc.

Why does God allow these things to happen to us? I ask that a lot. Why does God allow me to have chronic pain? If God is so good, why do natural disasters happen? Why is there cancer? Why can’t we all live to a ripe old age and die quietly in our sleep? (Of course, if that was the case, my medical career would never have been needed.)

I have no idea. And the Bible is not clear. The book of Job is a whole book asking this question with a couple of chapters with God answering “Because I’m God”. Jesus talks about the rain falling on the just and the unjust. God is God. And He’s big enough that we don’t always understand Him.

The question of a good God allowing bad and evil is the one thing that shakes my faith sometimes. I don’t understand why God allows what He allows. But, if I could understand Him, would He be God? No. God is bigger than I am. In every way. And, in my experience, obeying God and walking with Jesus has worked out, so I’m sticking with Him.

No, I don’t think God is angry with Liberia. I believe Liberia is experiencing a natural disaster which is pretty miserable. I agree with the three days of prayer and fasting. I believe that God answers prayer. And the rest of us should also pray for Liberia and the rest of Africa affected by Ebola.

What are your thoughts?

Friday, July 25, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday–July 25, 2014

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2 Fridays in a row? Is that possible? I believe it is. Here we go!

1. It’s been a headache-y week for me, mostly because of the weather. I’m also fighting a cold that my darling daughter gave me. In any case, I’m having to work a little harder today to keep my mood from slipping. Here’s hoping tomorrow is a little easier on the head.

2. Tonight, we watched “Ragamuffin”, a movie based on the life of Rich Mullins. (Rich Mullins was a Christian musician who was killed in a car crash about 15 years ago. If you’re not familiar with him, look him up and listen to some of his music. It’s wonderful!!) The movie was very good, centering on a couple of main themes that permeated his life. Of course, the music was excellent. It’s on Charter On Demand right now for those of you who have Charter Cable.

3. There are advantages to having teenagers who have driver’s licenses. Wild Man went out tonight, so he stopped by the pharmacy to pick up my medications on his way. 

4. The kids went to Appleton today and Wild Man bought a djembe, which is a hand drum. He’s borrowed hand drums from church several times in the last year, so having his own will be convenient. My hopes of having a quiet house are slowly being dashed.

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5. We are down to just one cat, but she is trying her best to require the maintenance of three cats. She does not like to poop in a less-than-pristine cat box. We still keep three cat boxes, but once she uses one two or three times, she start to poop on the floor near the boxes. So, in an attempt to properly serve our cats, we are trying to clean the boxes every day. All hail, Queen Sophie!!

6. My daughter’s friend got me the cutest book from Goodwill the other day called Knit Your Own Cat. Yes, it’s a book about how to knit a stuffed animal cat that looks rather realistic. I wonder if knitting a cat from that book and adding catnip to the stuffing would be funny or cruel to Sophie. Or both!

7. As I’m thinking about Wild Man starting school in a month, I realize I know nothing about the whole school thing. I think I’m going to email another mom to ask how I know what kind of notebooks, etc. he needs. I’m being paranoid, I realize. But, what kid doesn’t need a psychotic mother stressing over his backpack, what to about lunch, and whether he’ll be able to take notes?!

7 Quick Takes this week is being hosted over at Svellerella, so check it out!! What have you been up to?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Book Reviews–July 23, 2014

It’s the middle of the day, so I have some time to review books. Since my last book reviews, I feel like I’ve started, but not finished a lot of books. There have just been a number of books that I couldn’t get interested in within 100 or so pages, so I stopped. I think that’s why I rate all the books I finish with As or Bs. If it was just a C or lower, I likely stopped before I got to the end.

Dallas, 1963 by Bill Minutaglio. (audio) This is another book about the Kennedy assassination, but this one focuses on the atmosphere in Dallas before the assassination. Many players are introduced and their motives exposed. The inner workings of the upper echelon of Dallas society are exposed and the rift between Dallas and the Kennedy administration are explored. It’s a fascinating book. A

The Spellmans Reunited by Lisa Lutz. I LOVE the Spellmans series of books. This family of private detectives is wonderfully dysfunctional, but in a loving way (if that’s possible). The reader, as usual, is dropped into the story in the middle of an impossible situation. As things play out, though, things work out. This book is a bit more serious with characters with significant illnesses and facing mortality. Actually, that’s one of it’s strengths. It’s also the last of the Spellman books, which makes me sad. It’s definitely worth a read. A+

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert. The main character in this complex novel is a woman who is raised in 18th and 19th century Pennsylvania by her botanist parents. She becomes a botanist in her own right, specifically, a bryologist. However, she stays in the Northeastern US until her 40s, when she travels after a love affair. In the long run, she visits Tahiti and ends up living in the Netherlands and doing some significant writing and thinking. I loved this author’s writing style; the characters were deep and real; the plot was twisting and full of interest. Overall, a great book. A+

Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead. This story of a ballerina in New York who leaves the ballet to marry her high school sweetheart, have a son, and move to the suburbs in California. But there’s so much more. It’s a story about the ballet, love, passion, honesty, and betrayal. And it’s a well-told story. A

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. A young orphaned Irish girl in the last 18th century in Virginia is brought into the house of a prosperous farmer as an indentured servant. She becomes an integral part of the slave society, but has to relearn a great deal when she grows up and becomes part of the well-to-do society. A good story about class, race, and the blurring of the lines even in plantation society. B+

Hidden Girl by Shiyma Hall. This autobiography is about a girl who was born in Egypt but sold into slavery by her parents. Her captors brought her to the US when she was 8 years old, and she was rescued by US social services a couple of years later. The book tells the story from her early life in Egypt to her adulthood in the US. Compelling. A

The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta. Yes, I read this because of the HBO series, although I haven’t seen the HBO series. This is the story of a town trying to deal with the aftermath of a global “rapture-like event” in which apparently random people just disappear. The fact that those who disappear were not particularly religious or particularly good makes it different from the “Rapture” of pretrib evangelicalism – and very disorienting to the characters. The plot is basically a year or so in the life of different characters in this town, so it wasn’t a very strong plot with a definite climax. Otherwise, I thought it was a good read. There were lots of significant conflicts and things to think about. A good read. A

JesusLand: a memoir by Julia Scheeres. The author and her brother were raised in a strict Christian home (not particularly Evangelical from what I can tell, probably more Reformed) and were the youngest of a number of children. Actually, Julia was the youngest of the biological children and her brother was her age, but an adopted African-American. Their upbringing was strict and bordering on abusive for Julia and clearly abusive for her brother. When they were in 11th grade, they were both sent to Escuela Caribe, a Christian boarding school for “troubled teens” in the Dominican Republic, where they stayed until they were 18. The story is primarily of their time in this school, which was also emotionally and physically abusive. The memoir is well-written and interesting. A- (Note – There is a documentary out that I’ll be reviewing in an upcoming post called “Kidnapped for Christ” about Escuela Caribe which I found out about a month after I read this book.)

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. The disappearance (and, it turns out, death) of the oldest daughter in a family is the event that starts out this book about the seemingly well-adjusted family in a small city. In fact, the family is anything but stable. Underneath the shiny veneer, each family member has it’s own set of emotions and turmoil that can’t be disclosed or discussed with others. And when Lydia dies, they find out how little they really know about each other. This is an exquisitely written book about family dysfunction that I highly recommend. A+

Ruby: a novel by Cynthia Bond. I just don’t even know where to start in describing this book. The story is wound around Ruby, a black girl from East Texas who could pass for white, who grows up “in a white lady’s house” and then moves to New York as soon as she can only to come back to Texas when her cousin dies. But, her hometown in East Texas has gone on like nothing has changed  while Ruby has been gone. And, when Ruby gets back, she starts the acting crazy just like her mother did. But, is she crazy or is it the gris gris from all those years ago? The story is told in bits and pieces, fits and starts, but it eventually pulls itself together into a coherent whole. It’s about black and white, North and South, mental illness and magic, power and seduction. And it’s worth reading. A

Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerwin. (audio) OK, everyone on the planet practically has seen at least part of the HBO series “Orange is the New Black”. I eventually watched part of one episode, but I decided that I really didn’t want to watch such graphic sex, so I gave up on it. But, from the little I watched, I could see it didn’t have that much resemblance to the book I read. This memoir of a young woman who committed a drug crime, got caught, and then had to wait 10 years to serve a 15 month (I think) sentence in a federal detention facility is well-written and very  thoughtful. What stood out to me were the scenes that humanized the women in the federal penal system. It’s so easy to think of them just “getting what they deserve” (and often they are), but they are also people who are trying to live life however they can behind bars. I was also very impressed by her observations about the effectiveness of our justice system. Many of those behind bars are apparently there because of minimum sentencing laws when more thoughtful sentencing might produce more restorative justice. In any case, it’s a good book that I highly recommend. A+

The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout (audio) I had no idea what to expect from this book, but I found it worth listening to. This is a story about two brothers and a sister and the sister’s son. The sister’s son gets into some trouble when he throws a pig’s head into a local mosque which is complicated by the fact that the Muslims in town are almost all refugees from Somalia which makes the townspeople very nervous anyway. The brothers, both lawyers, come from New York, back to their hometown in Maine to help. From there, things get more complicated and all the family dysfunction starts to show.  By the end, things may not be rosy, but wounds are starting to heal. A

So, what have you been reading or listening to recently?