Friday, August 31, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday–August 31, 2012



1. On Monday of this week, I had a little black spot removed from my face by our local surgeon. It was an enlarged vein or “venous lake” – completely benign – but I wanted it off because my dad has had several very early stage melanoma lesions removed in the last couple of years. And I grew up with my fair Irish skin exposed to the Florida sun for the first 18 years of my life. So, nothing to worry about with this lesion. But, I know to keep a close eye on any changing skin lesions.

2. The big news this week for anyone not living under a rock was Tropical Storm/Hurricane Isaac. My parents live in Florida and got hit by the storm when it was still a Tropical Storm. They were fortunate to avoid significant flooding in their neighborhood, but I have friends rather close by who ended up with several inches of water in their house. Yuck!

3. And then, Hurricane Isaac went on to the Gulf Coast. And, of course, I have lots of friends and family there since I went to college at LSU and med school at Tulane. Everyone I know is doing well and I don’t think any of them got their houses flooded this time around. My parents also own a some land in southwestern Mississippi with a trailer on it. The most recent word is that the trailer is still standing – but no one would have been crazy enough to try to ride out such a storm in a trailer. They’re glad it didn’t seem to sustain much damage, though.

4. The other big news was the Republican National Convention. And we didn’t watch any of it. I know, I know, we’re pathetic homeschoolers. In our defense, we don’t start “school” till next week when I plan to have the kids watch the speeches by the candidates of both major parties. I’m not sure what kind of discussion we’ll have, but I will ensure that they will be somewhat educated citizens.

5. Wild Man has been taking every opportunity in the last few days to allow his brain to become completely “mushified” before school starts by watching TV and anime shows and playing video games. I told him I don’t mind much – it gives me a nice, blank slate to work with next week.

6. Rosie Girl has worked her last weekday of the summer. She’s now back to just weekends (except for teaching piano lessons and babysitting). She’s saved up a good bit of money which will go a long way toward buying a car before she goes to college.

7. I finally have all the books in the house on the correct bookshelves. Both kids have cleaned their desks in the new schoolroom/old sunroom. (I have several bags of items to sort through and decide how to handle – probably throw away – but at least the kids did their part of the cleaning up!) Now I need to spend a good bit of tomorrow setting up calendars and school assignments. The organizational part of me is happy. The lazy part of me – not so much.

How has your week been? Did you get flooded? Did you watch the convention or make your kids watch it?

Check out 7 Quick Takes Friday to see what others have been up to!!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Some Things I’m Learning About Myself

I’m probably going to ramble. I have a migraine. You’ve been warned.

I still struggle with the idea that the migraines are somehow my fault. If I ate better, exercised more, handled stress better, or was just somehow a better person, I wouldn’t have migraines and would still be working. And that would also make me a more valuable person because somehow having an M.D. but selling yarn is just not right. (FYI, the rational part of my brain understands that these thoughts are not correct, but they’re hard to overcome when I have a migraine because my head hurts and all the neurons are firing in the wrong order or something and I go a little crazy. Yesterday, I was totally loving my life in yarn – and I’m pretty sure I will again as soon as this migraine lets up.)

I also have trouble with the idea that I’m a picky eater. Somehow, that is also my fault. If I could just get over myself, I’d be able to eat all those gorgeous fruits and veggies – never mind the fact that when they actually hit my tongue, I gag and have been known to vomit. This feeling gets worse when I have a migraine, but I’m rather insecure about the picky eating thing all the time. (You’re surprised that I’m a functioning adult? Don’t worry, so am I!)

I’m reading a book right now called Suffering Succotash which is about picky eaters. It has been wonderful in helping me understand that most of my pickiness is likely genetic. There may be a few things I can do to expand my palate (which I’m willing to try), but my pickiness is not a moral failing.

I totally realize that believing my pickiness is my fault is not terribly rational. Somewhere in my perfectionism, I came to believe that anything imperfect about myself must necessarily be my fault – acne, body shape, food preferences, lack of athletic ability, inability to paint my nails neatly, etc. On a spiritual level, though, (you knew I’d go there, didn’t you?) it’s more than just perfectionism. If I can’t accept less than perfection, I’m turning my nose up at who God made me to be.

We live in a fallen world and we’re fallen creatures. Only God is perfect. When I require myself to be perfect, I’m trying to be God. And that doesn’t work out very well. In fact, there are days when I’m not doing such a great job of being me.

What am I learning about myself?

  1. Not to trust my emotions when I have migraines because the migraines themselves mess up my brain chemicals.
  2. It’s OK to cry, especially during a migraine, because of the aforementioned brain chemical mess.
  3. Migraines are still not my fault.
  4. Being a picky eater isn’t my fault.
  5. I can go a week or longer without sugar without dying. (Yes, I have proven this recently. And I even ate more fruits and veggies to make up for it. Not more variety, mind you, just more of the ones I already like.)
  6. I can live without chocolate. And when I do get to have chocolate again, I want the good stuff.
  7. I’m a recovering perfectionist. I must be getting better, though, because there’s a load of unfolded laundry in the dining room that hasn’t been calling to me.

There’s another bit of my life I’m learning about. I guess I should thank God for the migraines since it’s given me such great opportunities for introspection!

In the meantime, though, please remember to pray for the Gulf Coast. I went to college in Baton Rouge and medical school in New Orleans and still have lots of family in that area. The damage from Isaac is not nearly as devastating as that from Katrina, but there will be lots of clean-up. You can always donate to the American Red Cross to help defray some of the relief costs. Also, Haiti had still not recovered from the earthquake when Isaac went through there. Food for the Poor is an excellent organization that is already working in that area and is accepting donations to provide clean water and food. Haiti’s relief efforts have been significantly hampered by a major cholera outbreak. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

What are you learning these days? How did you fare through Isaac? How can I pray for you or your family?

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Where is God when it hurts?

We’ve been watching a lot of Olympic coverage here at Chez Martin. We’ve heard Gabby Douglas and Lolo Jones (and others) talk about their faith, and it’s great to hear these young people willing share that this is an important part of their lives. The questions become more complex, though, when these athletes who claim Christian faith don’t win the medals. How does that fit with “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength”? This article at Christianity Today gives a nice response, but I want to go into a bit more depth here.

Does God promise us an easy life, a perfect life? No. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that we get to win gold medals if we live good Christian lives. In fact, we are told to expect problems and difficulties. John 16:33 “. . . In this world you will have trouble. But, take heart! I have overcome the world!” But Jesus said that he is with us and has already beaten them!

We’re never alone. God is always with us, even when life really sucks. The Psalmist writes in Psalm 139:

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

Our life circumstances may not be what we want or expected – I have chronic headaches, Lolo Jones didn’t get a medal, etc. – but God is walking through it with us. If that’s not comforting, I don’t know what is!

James 1:2-4 tells us to “2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Some of these athletes that we’re watching on TV are in the process of losing their dreams. Where is God in that? He’s right there. He’s teaching His children through every circumstance, Olympic or mundane, to love Him and serve him more.

God is not like Santa Claus – if we’re good, we get presents. God allows us to live through the circumstances of life, whether of our making, someone else’s, or just “random” (although with God holding together the universe, nothing is truly random). And then God uses those events to teach us and mold us to be more like him.

Let’s also look at who Jesus hung around with. He chose to be with the poorest and most humble of people. His disciples were fishermen – not exactly the upper crust of society. He had dinner with Pharisees (religious leaders) and with Lazarus (rich but immoral), but he also spent time with outcasts like the Samaritan woman. So, while it’s certainly not wrong to pursue excellence like gold medals, it’s also important to remember that Jesus doesn’t love successful people any more than he loves anyone else.

And what about Philippians 4:16 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthen me.” [NKJV] Let’s look at the entire passage.

10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

It appears that Paul is saying that he can be content in all circumstances through Jesus’ strength, not that he can do whatever he pleases. I heard in church so often that if we just prayed enough, we could do anything. At times, that message would be tempered by saying that we could do anything that was God’s will. Yet, it appears that Paul is trying to tell us that he has the strength to be content in any situation through Jesus. It’s an incredibly important lesson, but quite different from the usual interpretation.

When we think about Christ strengthening us, maybe we need to think about him strengthening us to be content. When life doesn’t work out the way we want or expect, Jesus is still walking right there with us. When we fall, He picks us up.

Where is God when it hurts? Right beside me.


Wednesday, August 08, 2012


At Family Camp this year, Jill Briscoe asked if God had ever taken away one of our dreams. She told a story about how she had dreamed that her mother would visit her in the US, but her mother died before she ever made that visit. Jill talked about mourning the loss of that dream and how God gave her new dreams.

I’m mourning the loss of my medical career, at least the way that I knew it. If I do go back to the practice of medicine, it won’t be practicing medicine the way that I was used to. I won’t deliver babies again or do hospital work. If I practice medicine again, it will probably be outpatient medicine only. Long hours and late nights don’t go well with someone with headache issues!

Only in the last year or so have I been willing to face that reality. I went through high school and college with the intention of going to medical school. I had a few thoughts of other career trajectories – a piano teacher said that I should consider a music career and I debated getting a PhD in Sociology and becoming a researcher and professor. But, in the end, I went to medical school and enjoyed it (well, as much as one can enjoy sleeplessness and general abuse). I loved being a family doctor. I felt like part of the community. Sure, the work was hard, but it was a good kind of hard.

Now that I’ve been out of it for so long, I’m not sure that I want to go back, though. Going back into medicine after being away for a long time is really hard. And running a yarn shop is allowing me to tap into some creative parts of me that I didn’t know even existed until recently. I’m not concerned about my education being “wasted”. All education is a good thing; besides, it gives me an extra advantage in educating my kids.

I’m still mourning, though. It’s a loss. At least my counselor says so. And she encourages me to have my feelings even though I really don’t like feeling sad. (Why can’t I just say “oh, well” and move on?)

The Bible has plenty to say about mourning and then about being renewed.

In this section of Jeremiah, the Jews have been carried off into exile. Nobody is happy about the situation. But, God has Jeremiah prophesy that He knows what is going on and that He will eventually take care of things. Earlier in Jeremiah 29, Jeremiah’s letter tells the exiles that God wants them to settle in the land of exile and live patiently because God is control and has plans for them. In chapter 30, God (through Jeremiah) acknowledges their weeping and mourning and tells them that He will eventually turn it into gladness. Note that He doesn’t say to “get over it” or “be happy”, but to wait expectantly because He is in control.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans(A) I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper(B) you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.(C)

Jeremiah 30:13 Then young women will dance and be glad,
young men and old as well.
I will turn their mourning(AP) into gladness;
I will give them comfort(AQ) and joy(AR) instead of sorrow.

The same message is given in the New Testament. In the Beatitudes, Jesus says “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). We are told that Jesus mourned the death of Lazarus (John 11:35). Jesus also tells us “In this world you will have trouble. But, take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

I’m mourning right now. While my emotions may be up and down (also partly a casualty of the migraines), I can hang on to the promises that those who mourn will be comforted and that Jesus has overcome the world. Besides, I love the yarn shop. I think that one day I’m going to look back and say that medicine was the early part of my life and yarn is the later part and Jesus is all through it.

Have you had any dreams that you had to give up? How did you handle it? What are your favorite scriptures when you are mourn?


Saturday, August 04, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday–August 3, 2012

It’s Friday again. Funny how this keeps happening every seven days, huh? So, what’s up? Glad you asked . . .

1. Our family finally has 2 clean vehicles!! Yes, I paid (bribed, rewarded, choose your verb) Wild Man to clean them within an inch of their lives. Turns out that money is highly motivating for that boy. And that’s a good tidbit of info for me!

2. Wild Man got back from Colorado with the youth group on Saturday night. I’m sticking with my “migraine diet” as well as “no sugar” diet except that I’m allowing myself one sweet treat on the weekend. After we got Wild Man and all of his things packed into the van, we stopped at the Wega Drive-In for ice cream, enjoying the slightly cooler air of the evening, and being together as a family again!

3. And here is the obligatory complaint about the weather. I promise not to complain much about the cold and snow this winter, but I just can’t help saying something about how awful this summer has been. It’s been above 90 degrees more days than I can remember when we’re used to just having a week or two of such high temps. It’s like living down South again. The nice thing about living up here is supposed to be that we deal with rotten winters but have amazing summers. Alas, that’s not how it worked this year.

4. I really worked at the shop for 2 1/2 days this week. Not bad, considering my usual schedule. I’m being reminded, though, that work is actually work. And I’m tired.

5. Are you watching the Olympics? It’s messing with our sleep and reading time around here, but we love watching it anyway.

6. Yoga is from the devil. Not because it’s got overtones of Eastern Religion – after all, a person can do yoga poses without being Buddhist or Hindu. No, it’s because it’s really hard and almost kills me! I did five minutes yesterday and thought I might never move again. Yes, yoga is from the devil.

7. My counselor and I are working to find something that can be comforting to me during a migraine that isn’t food. When the pain is bad, but the nausea is under control, I like to eat ice cream. It just makes me feel good. But, it’s not really good for me. Well, not in the quantities in which I’d like to eat it. I’m going to try lighting a vanilla candle on the table beside me and see if the scent and general happy glow help the next time I have a migraine.

And now, it’s Saturday. So, maybe it should be 7 Quick Takes Saturday. Alas. Anyway, check out what’s going on with others at Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, August 01, 2012


I’m convinced that migraine headache is a misnomer. The correct term should be “migraine attack”. As anyone who has had more than a couple of migraines can tell you, the attacks take over the entire body. What is interesting, though, is that headache and nausea seem to be the only two symptoms that everyone has. I’ve talked to lots of people with migraines, both in my role as physician and not, and found that there are lots of neurological and non-neurological symptoms that can be associated with these attacks. Here are some of mine:

  • One of my more recent ones has been to develop crying spells about 6 or 8 hours before the headache pain begins. And the crying isn’t actually about anything. I just cry. This happened at church this weekend. We started singing the last worship song and I started sobbing for no good reason. It took a good fifteen minutes for the crying to stop, and by then I could feel all the other emotional changes starting.
  • Irritability. This usually starts an hour or two before the headache. PWM sent me home from the yarn shop one day before the headache started because he could tell I was getting irritable and knew that things could only get worse. Not that I snap at customers, just that it’s hard to be “normal” when part of my brain is plotting how to get away from the rest of the world.
  • GI symptoms. I never get heartburn except during a migraine attack. Sometimes it starts before the headache, sometimes after. And, of course, there’s the nausea (and, hopefully not, vomiting).
  • Sleep disruption. Even after the headache pain is controlled, I have trouble sleeping during the attack. I think it’s all part of the crazy brain chemistry.
  • Myalgia or diffuse muscle pain. This usually happens late in a migraine attack. My migraines last from 12 to 36 hours, so the myalgias generally start somewhere after about 8 or 10 hours. Moving hurts, being touched hurts. It’s not good.

There are probably more diffuse symptoms that I don’t remember right now. The point is that migraines aren’t just headaches – they’re “everything hurts” attacks.

One of the things I like about my neurologist is that he understands this. He is treating the headache part most aggressively right now because that is what is most debilitating and because it appears that stopping the headache part can abort the attack, which is why I had the Botox treatment. He doesn’t look at me like I’m crazy when I tell him about my muscle pain or my sleep issues. He doesn’t think I’m crazy because I also have a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. In fact, he said that recent fMRI (functional MRI) studies show changes in the brain that suggest that fibromyalgia is like a migraine all over the body. Which makes complete sense because the myalgias I get during the migraine attacks are like the worst fibromyalgia attack I’ve ever had.

I’m not going to get profound or anything like that tonight. Migraines suck. My treatment is not great right now, but I have a family doctor and neurologist who care that my treatment isn’t great and want to help me get better, if possible. But, they also haven’t guaranteed me anything. I’m thrilled to be listened to and to have a neurologist who is realistic. A cure would be great, but getting through 3 or 4 days without an attack would be a really good start. We’re not there yet, but it’s actually OK. God is still good, even when every part of my body hurts. (It’s easy to say that today since I had a pretty good day! I pray I can say that the next time I’m stuck with a big migraine!)

That’s all. Just some crazy migraine talk from my little part of the world. So, what’s up with you?