Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!!!! Let Go!

It's that time of year again. We're saying good-bye to the old year and ringing in the New Year!

2015 was a year of challenges and blessings. 

  • PWM continued to teach high school and middle school math. 
  • We decided to close The Knitting Nest this summer. 
  • My headaches have stayed about the same.
  • Rosie Girl is still in college studying for a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Music with  Minor in Religious Studies.
  • Wild Man is senior in high school.
  • My parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a party that my brother and I threw for them in Florida over Thanksgiving!
  • We welcomed Ashley, a Chinese exchange student into our home for the rest of the school year.
So, what's up for 2016? The plan is for Wild Man to graduate high school. Other than that, I just don't know!

I've decided that my phrase for this year is "Let Go". I've found over the last few years that my life is easier when I just let life happen and quit trying to have control over every last detail. My goal this year is to control only the things that I need to control and let the rest of it go. I imagine this will require lots of prayer along with my meds and healthy lifestyle. 

Don't get me wrong, I don't plan to neglect anything. This is part of my multi-year goal of pursuing peace. Last year, I worked on focus. As part of that, I gave away a lot of "stuff". We closed The Knitting Nest and gave away or sold the physical assets of the business (except the building). I also gave away the majority of our books that we don't need. This year's phrase of "Let Go" is the next step. I've been gradually getting rid of physical things. This year's phrase reminds me to let go of the emotional and spiritual baggage that I don't need.

Here are some scripture passages that reflect my phrase of the year:

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

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.

Happy New Year!!

Sunday, December 27, 2015


It's the most wonderful time of the year!! Christmas time! I have always loved Christmas, although my depression and bad memories have sabotaged my favorite season too often over the last fifteen years. But, why do we celebrate?

Yes, we need some kind of celebration to break up the short days of winter (although I didn't understand this when I lived in South Florida). And, yes, we need to celebrate something when it is so cold (although it's only chilly this year and I also didn't understand this when I lived in South Florida). And, yes, Christianity has basically appropriated pagan holidays to celebrate the birth of Jesus in December.

Let's face it. The evidence is that Jesus was born in the springtime. I assume that the Church appropriated pagan holidays in solidifying their hold over the culture. So, Christians celebrate Jesus' birth in the winter. And we know that Easter was in the spring, so the two holidays don't conflict and the church calendar (for more liturgical types) works out really well.

So, approximately 2015 years after the fact (give or take a few years), we celebrate the fact that a woman who was pregnant, but apparently still a virgin, was traveling with her husband, when they arrived in a small town for the census. In this small town, she gave birth in the corner of a barn or a communal room. 

What? The God of the universe thought this was a good plan to save humanity from our sin? He starts out as a baby in a small town in Judea in a family headed by a carpenter. This does not really sound like a stellar start for the Son of God. 

Luke tells us that angels appeared to shepherds out in the fields. Again, shepherds? My dad tells us that it is likely that these shepherds were watching the sheep that were likely to be used as offering in Jerusalem at the temple. This is really symbolic if you know the whole Christian narrative. Still. Shepherds. 

Matthew at least tells us that Magi (wise men, magicians) from the East came to visit Jesus. That's a bit more like it. And the brought gifts! Of course, when they told Herod about a new king, Herod got all paranoid and ordered all baby boys killed. Which totally makes sense because extrabiblical sources also tell us that Herod was a homocidal maniac.

Given the above evidence, it would appear that Christians, like me, are crazy! But, I don't think so. (Obviously) Yes, God sent Jesus into the world in the most unlikely way, using several miracles - I'm not going to try to explain the virgin birth or angels appearing in the sky. Miracles. Jesus is a miracle. And his life, death and resurrection defy explanation, but that's how God works sometimes.

I believe in God's love. And God's love for humanity involved plenty of miracles. Believing that and loving God back is what gives my life meaning. God's not crazy, just into miracles for you and me.

Christmas 2015

Christmas!!! What a wonderful time of year! I've been very fortunate this year to not be downed by depression. I've had a good combination of medications and activities to keep my mood up.

And, we had a wonderful Christmas present this year! Her name is Ashley, and she is an exchange student from Shanghai. Her current placement wasn't working, so her placement agency wanted to get her moved soon. She came to our home a week after we volunteered our home, which was about 2 weeks ago! Ashley and Wild Man are already friends because they are in classes together in school and hang out together. She and Rosie Girl get along great because they have many of the same interests. We seem to be working out as a family really well.

We're spreading our Christmas celebration out over several days in order to minimize the impact of my headaches. We went to church on Christmas Eve. We opened presents and played with toys on Christmas Day. My parents arrived on the 26th and we goofed off some more that day. And we're having Christmas dinner today. 

I called my neurologist on Monday for steroids because my migraine had been going on for two weeks and I was having trouble hanging on. My headaches are better, but now I have steroid jitters! And the headache came back today, probably because of the winter storm on the way. In any case, Mom is cooking dinner.

Our other fun Christmas thing is that we're making a gingerbread church. The pieces were kind of warped, but we got the main structure together. Tomorrow's winter storm will be a great time to finish the last bit of construction and do the decoration. Ashley and Rosie Girl are pretty excited about the project.

At some point this week, Grams is going to take the kids to see Star Wars. PWM and I may join them, depending on how I feel.

Somehow, in the middle of all of this, I get a chance to sit and remember why we celebrate.  And it's all good. I pray you are having a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Fragility of Christmas

First, go read Have Yourself A Melancholy Christmas by Tyler Huckabee. It's excellent and is a great jumping off point for what I've been thinking.

Why do so many of us struggle with depression during this time of year? Christmas should be a happy time! There are lights and Christmas carols and Christmas trees and Nativity scenes. Why should we be sad?

We should be sad because it's winter. Christmas Day is only four days after the shortest day of the year. I grew up in South Florida, so I never understood the reality of Seasonal Affective Disorder. After 19 years in Wisconsin, I certain get the reality of the shorter days and the colder weather.

And, from a faith perspective, we are in Advent, not yet Christmas. We are still in the waiting time. We are waiting for the Messiah. It's night and we're waiting for dawn.

But, it's also a hard time personally. My depression gets worse because of the dark, but also because it's hard to get enough exercise. There are also several unpleasant anniversary events that occur during later November and December. I've lost several good friends, had difficult work events, and other hard personal situations happen over the last fifteen years. All that to the extra social events and expectations of the season, my mood can drop fast.

I'm taking a higher dose of antidepressant this year. I'm not trying to run a yarn shop. I have fewer things on my to-do list. Even with the headaches, I'm enjoying the season this year, much more than I have in a long time.

Yes, Christmas can be fragile. We expect to be joyful during this season, but there are lots of reasons why we don't.

That's OK. God isn't expecting us to be all smiles and happy because it's December. He's expecting us to love each other. Whatever it takes, love. Do less if you need to. Hold the holidays with care, as if they are a fragile ornament that will break.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Gun Control

So, it's happening yet again. 

Another mass shooting. The 352nd so far this year. 

I've been a good Republican. Parroting back the words. "Guns don't kill people. People kill people." 

It's not enough, though. Those people killing people are using guns.

"But, making guns illegal won't stop criminals from getting them." No, it won't. But, it will likely decrease the number of guns circulating in society. Maybe it will make it more difficult for even the criminals to get them.

Maybe gun control isn't the whole answer.

But, can we afford to sit here and do nothing?! 14 people died today, maybe more. Over 300 have died in 2015. We must do more.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Mom and Dad's Anniversary Party!!

Today was the day. It was the day of my parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary party. My sister-in-law and I have been planning this party for the last two and a half months. I took care of arranging the venue and my sister-in-law took care of the decorating. Such special memories were made today and I want to share just a few with you!!

We found out that one of my friends from high school has a cake decorating business, so I did my due diligence and checked things out. Oh. My. Goodness. Her cakes are gorgeous!! I contacted her and she was excited to be able to make a cake for my parents. Before I went back home, she brought cake and icings and fillings to the house for us to taste. What a treat! The flavors were all delicious, but we picked out the ones that we liked the best. My sister-in-law took care of working with Stacy to choose what the cake should look like and they did an amazing job!

Our photographer was a good friend of my brother and his wife. She did a lovely job of all the photos, as you can see. She also staged a picture of Mom and Dad cutting the cake just like the one from their wedding fifty years ago! What a special memory!

The first couple that came in the door were people that I haven’t seen in 30 years, but I would have recognized anywhere. Our families used to do lots of stuff together when I was a little kid, back 40+ years ago. They moved to Okeechobee in the early 1980’s and we saw them only sporadically after that. They brought my parents a couple of sheets of photographs, including a picture of me and my brother riding horses in the 1980’s. There were also pictures of my Mom’s and my graduation party in 1990. And I got to hear about what their children are up to these days!

Another guest today was my very first piano teacher and Spanish teacher. Her daughter is a good friend of my mom’s from the church choir and this woman was her daughter’s “plus one” for the party. Starting in first grade, I went to a private, Christian school. In elementary school, we did Spanish one year, alternating with German the next year. Mrs. Chase was the Spanish teacher and Mr. Chase was the German teacher (and also an administrator). Mrs. Chase was also the piano teacher. Once a week, I was taken out of my regular classes for a thirty minute piano lesson. Mrs. Chase was also the choir teacher for elementary school. Today was the first time that I have seen Mrs. Chase in 38 years!!

There were two couples that were friends with my parents early on in their marriage and were mentors to my parents. Of course, I didn’t recognize them, but I was thrilled to meet them. One of the women is also an avid knitter, so we bonded immediately over yarn. It’s a little strange to meet people who have known you since birth when you’re 48 years old!!

Wild Man and Rosie Girl performed “Love You Too Much” from “The Book of Life” and “Love Is An Open Door” from “Frozen”. They got a great reception from everyone there. It was great fun for me to hear from people I didn’t even know how talented my kids are. I agreed that they are very talented and that they had worked very hard. At the end of “Love Is An Open Door”, the kids changed the dialogue to the following:
Wild Man: “Do you think Grams and Grandpa sang like this on their first date?”
Rosie Girl: “I don’t know. Can they even sing?”
Both: Shrug shoulders
This is hysterical to everyone in the room because both Mom and Dad sing very well and have been in choir off and on for many years!

We had a request from someone to sing my Dad’s favorite hymn, “Victory in Jesus”. The problem was that Wild Man, our resident worship leader, doesn’t know the hymn and wouldn’t be able to lead it a capella. I remembered, though, that our Minister of Music from when I was in high school (he is now a Minister to Senior Adults) was at the party. I asked him if he was willing to lead the hymn. Not only was he willing to lead the hymn, but his wife was able to play it on the piano. It was wonderful to have everyone standing and singing together with Bill leading the music just like it was 30 years ago!

Our programming during the party was my brother giving a short speech that included implying that I had vodka in my water cup as well as explaining that the secret to a long marriage is having great kids! I then gave a poetic prayer and the kids sang their songs. After the music, my dad came up to give a short extemporaneous talk on the nature of faith. That’s my dad – don’t give up the opportunity to talk about Jesus!

My brother’s two friends and their families were there. They called themselves the Three Musketeers. I prefer to call them the Three Troublemakers. They may be married and have children and be upstanding members of society now, but I remember the days when they were a bunch of high school hooligans. My brother is the only one who had real trouble with high school. He ended up getting a correspondence school diploma and joining the Marines. He’s now an electrical engineer with a masters degree working on defense contracts at Lockheed Martin. Another friend went on to become a lawyer and is married with a lovely daughter. The third guy has a degree in business, is married with three kids, and is teaching math. I guess the three troublemakers made good, after all!!

During the afternoon, one of the servers came up to Dad and talked very seriously to him for several minutes. I asked Dad about the conversation later. Apparently, this server has been with his girlfriend for a couple of years and wanted to know about how to know when it was time to get married and how to stay married for so long. I think it was really cool that this guy came to the man who had been married for fifty years to get marriage advice!!

It was a wonderful afternoon of friends, family, and fun! Mom and Dad truly enjoyed themselves, which was the ultimate goal. I hope you enjoyed these stories and pictures as much as I enjoyed the reminiscences. If you haven't hugged your loved ones lately, go do so. Don't wait for these big events. Enjoy every single minute!! 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!! I hope you had a good day focusing on thanking God for all his blessings. I'm in our hotel room right now after a day with family.

My sister-in-law and I have been working for the last couple of months planning my parents' 50th wedding anniversary party. The party is in two days!! We've done the planning and now we just need to do the actual partying!!

I came down here on Monday to tie up all the loose ends. The good news is that there weren't many loose ends to tie up!! Mom and I cooked a bunch yesterday and then cooked some more today. PWM and the kids arrived today along with PWM's mom. My brother and his family arrived last night. This afternoon we had a big, traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Our little part of the family is staying in a hotel, so we're watching the Packer game tonight in the hotel. Well, I'm watching the game, Wild Man is doing something with his phone, and PWM and Rosie Girl are sleeping.

Tomorrow is the day for party preparation. My sister-in-law is the artistic one, so she is in charge of decorations. I'll just be helping her decorate the banquet hall at the country club tomorrow afternoon. And tying up more loose ends.

I have a list about a mile long of things to be thankful for. Despite the headaches, which have still been hanging around despite it being Thanksgiving week, I really do have a good life. My parents are both still alive and have been married for fifty years - fifty years!! That's amazing!! Not only have they lived long enough to be married for fifty years, but they still love each other and get along with each other. PWM and I are blessed to have our own little family. And I could go on and on. 

So, that's what's up with me on this Thanksgiving night.

Sunday, November 15, 2015


I'm feeling so discouraged today. I know that my antidepressant is working because I'm just discouraged and not completely depressed and apathetic.

I've had a migraine every day for about a week and a half. And this morning's was the worst, 8+/10. I treated today with 4mg of tizanidine which brought it down to a 6/10, which is much more manageable.

The migraines have all been triggered by weather or hormones, but having a reason for them doesn't make the pain better. On the bad days, I take a triptan or tizanidine, but I can only take a triptan twice a week. I took ibuprofen on Tuesday, so I could go have lunch with Rosie Girl. (Ibuprofen is something I take very sparingly because I have mild kidney damage.)

I've tried to do the things that make me feel emotionally better when I'm in pain. I've been walking when I can, although that often makes my head hurt worse. I've tried to eat healthy. I made butternut squash soup and discovered that I don't like it. Sigh. Mint M&Ms, on the other hand . . . . 

And then Paris happened the other night. Yikes! 

I have lots of plans for the next couple of weeks and I'd really like my body to cooperate. Rosie Girl is in the university's choir and orchestra's production of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony next weekend. Then, the week of Thanksgiving, I'll be in Florida to help put on a big 50th Anniversary Party for my parents. It's going to be lots of fun, and I'd like to be able to enjoy it without a huge migraine!!

I'm hanging on the John 6:33 "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart; I have overcome the world." I'm not feeling it, but it's all I've got now.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Being Thankful

Yay, the holidays are here! Thanksgiving is just around the corner, so it's time to thank God for everything I have.

Except that I'm not feeling very thankful right now.

I'm on the fourth day of this migraine. No, it's not severe - only about a 5/10 - but it's bad enough to keep me from doing much. And the stabbing pain through my right cheek every 15 or 20 minutes could go away. And my PMS irritability is through the roof. Not to mention the cramping. And occasional nausea.

So, no, I'm not feeling very thankful. To God or anyone else. 

In fact, I'm feeling pretty sorry for myself, thankyouverymuch!

And right now, I'd like you to feel sorry for me, too!

So, now that that's off my chest, let's talk about what real thankfulness is all about. It's about giving thanks for what I have no matter what I feel like. God has been amazingly good for me, in spite of the migraines.

"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
I Thessalonians 5:18

That was written by the Apostle Paul who had a lot of practice being thankful even when life was hard. And I think being thankful despite shipwrecks and being in prison is pretty impressive.

Actually, thankfulness is an act of the will, not something we feel. So, I can tell God that I am thankful for my family, my home, my church family, my friends, the fact that migraines are painful but rarely fatal, etc. even when I don't feel particularly thankful. When Patrick gets home, I'll thank him for being a wonderfully supportive husband even when I'm headachey and cranky. When Chris gets home, I'll thank him for bringing home Subway (not a day for me to cook!) and for being an awesome teenager. When I go to Stevens Point to see Lydia tomorrow, I'll hopefully feel more thankful, but even if I don't, I'll thank her for being an amazing young adult with a compassionate heart who cares about her mama. 

And having written all that out, I'm starting to feel a teensy bit thankful. (But I just had another stab of pain in the cheek, and that can really go away forever as far as I'm concerned!) But, mostly, I'm reminded to express thanks no matter what I feel. It's what God tells us to do, it makes me quit thinking about myself so much, and it allows me to communicate to others what they need to know.

So, go tell someone that you are thankful for them! (And quit feeling sorry for me - no matter what I said before!)

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Thinking About Gay Marriage

I've done a lot of thinking about gay marriage and homosexuality over the last couple of years. How could I not? It's in the news; it's in our churches; religious leaders are talking and writing about it ad nauseum.

I'm pro-gay marriage because it doesn't affect me if a gay couple wants to have the same rights and privileges that my husband and I share. As a physician, I know how difficult it can be to deal with medical and end-of-life issues with a friend of a patient, but how easy (relatively) it is with the spouse of a patient. That marriage certificate smooths many things, including being allowed into an ICU, being allowed to continue or terminate life support, etc. And I don't care if that spouse is the same sex or opposite sex of the patient I was caring for.

I will admit that my views have crystallized in the past few years because of a gay friend. She's not the first gay friend I've had, but she is almost a daughter to me and has been since she was five years old. She came out a few years ago. Now she has a partner and might one day like to get married. Last week, she and her partner came over to dinner before they went to the Fair with my daughter and we all had a wonderful time. Even if I believed that gay behavior was sinful (which I'm not sure about) and didn't support gay marriage, I would still be friends with these young women. They are lovely girls and are fun to be around. Just like lots of straight people.

I also know lots of divorced people and I hang around with them. They are great people and fun to be with. But, I know that divorce is wrong. But, that doesn't affect my relationship with them. I still love them.

I read a lot of Christian blogs. There has been a lot of virtual ink spilled about the evils of gay marriage and how it's going to destroy marriage in this  country. Very little has been written about the divorce epidemic in this country, and even in the church (yes, I know that committed Christians actually have a low divorce rate, but I'm talking about overall attenders).

I think that the reason we don't talk much about divorce is two-fold. The first reason is that once people are divorced, it's over and done with and they are forgiven and can move on with their lives. Generally, I buy this, especially when people are moving on from abusive marriages.

Second is that most of the people writing this terrible blog posts about gay marriage know plenty of divorced people and not a lot of gay people. It's easy to call gay people names and act like they're going to send this country to hell in a handbasket when you don't have much relationship with any. It's harder to write mean things about people you know and like. I have a feeling life would be different if they had lunch every week with a couple of gay friends - not just acquaintances, but friends. They might still oppose gay marriage, just like they oppose divorce, but their tone would change. They would be sorrowful, instead of angry.

Loving your neighbor is hard from a distance. Maybe we all need to figure out a way to get to know these neighbors that we rail about. I have a feeling what we write in blogs and on Facebook would be a lot different.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Suicide and Physicians

This week, it was announced that my colleague and pulmonologist was found to have committed suicide. He disappeared about two months ago and his body was found about a month ago. The medical community in the Fox Valley and Waupaca has lost a wonderful and compassionate physician.

I first knew Jeff as a colleague when I was working as a Family Doctor in Waupaca. I referred complicated pulmonary cases to him as well as getting ICU consults. He was always incredibly professional, but also just a nice guy. After I quit practicing, I went to see him for a sleep study and I was diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea. I saw Jeff as a pulmonary patient once a year. Again, he was professional and a nice guy. And he always asked about my migraines and about whether or not I was close to being able to come back to practicing medicine.

He hid his depression well, as those of us with depression tend to do. But, 400 physicians every year commit suicide. 400. That's a lot. Too many. According to what I've read, the primary underlying cause is depression or bipolar with substance abuse coming next.

Why so much suicide? I've done a little research and what I've read confirms what I experienced. Even in physician groups that try to do a good job of finding depression in patients, physicians are terrible at taking care of ourselves. Many physicians don't have a primary care physician themselves. Many don't recognize the symptoms of depression to see a physician.

And then, there is the stigma of depression or, even worse, substance abuse. Admitting to substance abuse can affect licensure and future practice. This is devastating to a physician.

There are remarkably few support structures for physicians who are depressed. Apparently, Jeff was known to have a history of depression, so he, at least, was in the mental health system. But, he was in a minority. Most physicians with depression or otherwise at risk for suicide don't seek help and don't have much help available.

Working in medicine can be stressful and overwhelming. I worked in a large medical group that did make some attempts to provide some mental health resources in times of stress. After a case where we lost a baby, both the clinic and the hospital did debriefing sessions to help us process our feelings. At the hospital debriefing, the (humanist) chaplain said, "Well, we know that life has no purpose, but we can still find meaning in it." I left soon after. I was reading the book of Lamentations at home and trying to find meaning through God. I didn't find the chaplain helpful at all. At the clinic debriefing, we were led by an EMT and didn't try to find any religious meaning, but talked through our actions on the day in question. It was much more helpful. So, the current structures to help are iffy, at best.

But, it's not just the bad days that are the problem. Medicine is inherently overwhelming. Physicians are expected to not make mistakes day after day after day. Working in an ICU has the immediate life and death decisions, but even the day to day work of a family physicians has the overhanging dread of making a big mistake. And this is just wearing.

I'm going to miss seeing Jeff once a year for my pulmonary visit. I'm sure his friends, family, and colleagues are devastated by their loss. And what is so sad is that Jeff had an illness that probably could have been treated.

I've written before about depression. Untreated depression leads to suicide. And it leads to suicide more often for physicians than for other people. 

Please, whoever you are, if you are depressed, contemplating suicide, or even just thinking that the world would be better without you, talk to someone. If there's no one around to talk to, call 911. They know who to contact to get you help. 

Depression is a fatal illness. And it hurts more than just the person who has it.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Depression, Medications, and Me

A number of years ago, I read a letter to the editor of the journal of the Christian Medical and Dental Association that questioned the use of anti-depressants. The author suggested that if some of the authors of the Bible like David and Jeremiah had lived in modern days they would have never written their portions of the Bible because they would have been medicated. At the time, I disagreed with the assertion, but I didn't have the confidence or experience to write back. Now, fifteen years later, I'm going to respond to that unknown physician.

Anti-depressants are used to treat depression, not sadness or guilt. Depression is not ordinary sadness. Yes, the primary symptom is sadness, but it also includes lack of motivation, inability to feel happiness, and physical symptoms such as sleep disorders and appetite changes. 

We know that anti-depressants work when someone starts to feel normal emotions, not just happiness. In fact, someone on anti-depressants will feel sad at appropriate times, but will be able to feel happy at reasonable times, as well. A depressed person can't feel normal emotions. I can speak to this because of my experience as a physician who has prescribed anti-depressants to patients, but also because of my own depression.

There's no evidence that David was depressed. He was still able to write much of the book of Psalms. A depressed person has difficulty doing things because of a lack of motivation. According to Psalm 51, David did feel appropriate regret and remorse from his "affair" with Bathsheba and his subsequent murder of her husband.

Jeremiah was very sad about the state of Judah and the prophecies that God had given him, but he was also able to continue to prophecy. Again, there was no evidence that he was depressed.

So, the whole issue comes down to whether or not anti-depressants make us "not ourselves" and whether or not God wants us to use them. After all, if they would change us so much that God wouldn't be able to use us to do something like inspire the writing of the Bible, then they must be pretty bad.

Hogwash! Depression is an illness of the brain. It makes it's victims feel sad and melancholy and unable to feel happiness. Anti-depressants don't make a person feel happy; they make a person able to feel normal emotions, both happy and sad.

I've felt the stigma of depression, but I'm glad I've been willing to accept treatment. My risk for depression was really high based on my family tree. There is depression and addiction scattered throughout my family tree on both sides. I was fortunate that my first bout didn't happen until I was in my 30s. Now that I've got chronic migraine, depression is an unwelcome companion.

Without treatment, I wouldn't just be sad, I'd be sitting on the sofa and doing nothing. My doctor and I are titrating up my dose of amitriptyline, which is the second anti-depressant I'm on (I'm also on citalopram). I don't really like the side effects of the amitriptyline (dry mouth, hunger, fatigue) but I've spent this summer being sad and headache-y from trying to go without my medication. 

My depression meds aren't my entire treatment. They help adjust my brain chemicals, but they are helped significantly by counseling, exercise (when my head doesn't hurt too much), and a (somewhat) healthy diet. 

Depression is real. It's treatable with non-medical treatment and with medications. It seems to me that if God is OK with antibiotics for strep throat, then he's OK with anti-depressants for the biological illness of depression.

And the meds work. I'm still having headaches, but my mood is finally better. I'm tolerating the headaches better. I'm not happy about the headaches, but i can feel a range of emotions again. And it feels so good.

Just stuff . . .

  • Chronic migraines suck. Really. I'm on Day 4 of this one and going crazy.
  • The increased dose of amitriptyline is decreasing the intensity of the headaches so I tolerate life a lot better. I'm increasing up to 100mg (with my doctor's permission) tonight to see if we can stabilize things even more.
  • The liquidators came this week and bought the last of our yarn, notions, and fixtures. They didn't pay near what they're worth, but we knew that. The fact is, they paid something and they took the stuff away.
  • Wild Man has the music room in the shop looking good. And we still have a good incentive to replace the old windows and update the heating and cooling system since he's keeping musical instruments in there.
  • When my head calms down, PWM and I are going to spend a night at a hotel with Sleep Number beds because we think that we want to purchase one. There's a hotel in the Valley that has those beds, though, and we'd like a full night's sleep to see if they're as good as advertised. Then, Rosie Girl can have our queen sized bed in her apartment and the double bed will go in the guest room out in the shop.
  • Poor Wild Man has a cold and went to see the NP today for the cough. He doesn't need antibiotics, but he got steroids, and inhaler and cough suppressant. The combination of steroids and inhaler makes him quite jittery and he's not happy about it! But, he's not coughing as much and will probably be able to sleep tonight
  • Rosie Girl has a real, live boyfriend. They don't get to see much of each other because of work schedules in the summer, but they'll get more face time when school starts!
  • I've been pondering 1 Corinthians 11. It's the chapter about head coverings in worship and it's quite confusing. The interpretation that makes the most sense to me is that Paul was having a mock conversation with the Corinthians. Here's a link to a good post.
  • I've been distressed this week at how little I've been able to do. I cooked dinner on Monday and Tuesday nights. Other than that, we've had food from The HItching Post, leftovers, and PWM grilled. So, we're not starving. I just feel bad when I'm sitting and reading a book when others are working.
  • We got a new deck. The contractor was just going to replace the sections that had been made with untreated lumber and leave the good stuff. It turned out that there was untreated lumber even all the way up to the house, so we had them just start over. Now, we have a brand new deck with all the railings up to code and the stairs with proper width, etc. I keep forgetting to take pictures. And, we have to stain it in about a month after the lumber all dried
  • Our tags for our items for the fair came in. We're still a bit confused about when to take our stuff and where, but we know who to ask now. The tickes had misspellings that had to be remedied and I didn't now that I could only submit one item per category so they just put my second item under PWMs name. I think we understand the basics now.
  • Well, it's probably time to try to sleep. I had a three hour nap today, so I'm not super tired, but I could probably sleep if I had a chance. We'll see.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Sin Management or Grace

First, you need to go read this post by Chaplain Mike at Internet Monk. Done? Good.

I don't want to talk about depression today, although I could and probably will spend lots of time talking about it later, especially now that I feel better. Instead, I want to talk about "sin management".

I grew up Evangelical and Modern and Productive and I'm very good at sin management. This is what Dallas Willard calls our tendency to find a sin in our lives and then make a project of getting rid of it. Our Christian bookstores are full of books to help us deal with our various sin issues. We find the problem, get to the root of it, deal with it, and we're done. I like that approach. We do that in medicine. Have an ear ache? I'll figure out what's causing it, give you treatment, and hopefully you are cured.

But, is sin management really how God works. Some people would say no. In fact, a majority of people, if pressed, might agree that sin management is hit and miss at best. And it's not really scriptural. Have you noticed how the self-help (sin management) books have to do a lot of proof-texting of bible verses to make their plain work? Have you noticed that Paul doesn't write letters saying, "Hey, here's a four step plan to quit drinking, a three step plan to quit lusting, and a six step plan for success in your business." Yeah. The greatest preacher in history didn't write much in the way of how-to.

So, what does Got want us to do? I mean, I grew up in a world of solving problems. That's what I do. When I was working in medicine, my job was to try to understand a person and their illness (not just the illness), figure out the problem, and come up with a rational treatment plan. And that's how I lived the Christian life for a long time, too

When I read the Bible, though, I find something different. In the Old Testament, God has given us the story of Israel. I think God wants us to get to know him through these stories. And I think he wants the same thing when we read the New Testament. We meet Jesus in the Gospels. Then we walk with Jesus through the Epistles and learn through the letters to the churches how we can use that wisdom in our lives today.

The sin management thing hasn't worked for me. And, nowadays, my biggest problem is pain. I don't need God giving me assignments. I'm just too tired. I need grace. I need to walk with Jesus. And when I slip and fall, he's still there when I come back. He hasn't chosen to heal my pain. Yet. 

And then, as Chaplain MIke reminds us, joy can break in. Because God is doing everything, not me. I just walk along with Jesus and do as I'm told. Because grace.

Friday, July 31, 2015

The end of The Knitting Nest

Tomorrow is the last day of The Knitting Nest. I have seriously mixed feelings about this. I really liked being a small business owner. But, I was never really the owner. PWM did all the paperwork; I never got around to learning QuickBooks. I liked the customer interactions except when I didn't. On the days when my head hurt - which was a lot - it was hard to deal with customers. And on really bad days - which are unpredictable - I couldn't get out of bed. So, yeah, I'm going to miss being with customers and talking about yarn and patterns. But, I won't miss trying not to be sick when I really am sick.

Something else that's hard for me, though, is that I have a sense of failure. I feel like I should be able to keep the shop open. My conscious self understands that this is crazy talk. I have chronic migraine which is a chronic illness. I can't predict which days I'm going to feel well. Trying to run a small business even a few days a week is an exercise in futility. Instead of doing something that's just going to lead to closing the shop in a few months, we're doing the responsible thing and closing now, in the summer, while PWM can do a lot of the work (especially since I've had terrible migraine and depression for the last month). And I'm going to keep telling myself that this is a good thing and we didn't fail.

And, it's going well. We've sold probably 75% of our stock already and are hoping that tomorrow is busy as well. What's left tomorrow will be given to some carefully selected charities and the rest will be liquidated. We have plans for the building, including a guest bedroom, woodworking space for PWM, and a music room for the kids. I'm excited because we're bringing my grandfather's armoire into the living room for my yarn storage! (Yay! Redecoration!)

So, this is a bittersweet time. We are glad for the four years that we had The Knitting Nest and for all the friends that we've made. (I've had two people give me their phone numbers and ask me to call them for them to come knit with me on days when I feel OK. Isn't that sweet?) We'll miss the shop. But, we're excited for what comes next. PWM loves teaching and is glad to be able to spend all his time focused on his students. I'm going to start off by spending some time resting and then working on some projects at home. After that, we'll see . . . .

Abortion July 31

Abortion and Planned Parenthood are in the news again. Honestly, abortion should be a headline every day. The killing of precious little lives, even if they are in the womb, is unconscionable.

But, what is also unconscionable is what brings women to abortion clinics in the first place: an unplanned pregnancy and a feeling of being trapped. This is where we need to spend some time and money if we are going to lower the abortion rate. Young men and women need to learn about sex and contraception and have access to affordable contraception. For a long time, I was an advocate of abstinence-only sex education, but studies have shown that kids in those programs were getting pregnant at a higher rate than their peers; it wasn't working. Kids in comprehensive sex education programs are the ones getting pregnant later. And, nowadays, kids are becoming sexually active later no matter which program is being used.

Women need access to contraception. Whether or not it is fair, women control the contraception decisions in couples. And women are sexually active these days whether they are married or not. Affordable contraception is important. For working women, contraception is part of normal healthcare insurance. For women who don't work full-time, Planned Parenthood and other community resources are necessary. In any case, without contraception, abortion becomes the back-up plan. And it's a bad one.

Women also feel trapped in their pregnancies because of what happens after they give birth. Women already in poverty know that having a baby almost eliminates their chances of higher education. Trying to work, find childcare, and a reasonable living situation are difficult enough when you already live well below the poverty line. And more babies equals more pressure.

What can we, as Christians, do to help stop abortion? There are lots of things. There is the political route of voting for candidates who will not support abortion. But this post is focused on social issues. First of all, make sure your own children get a full understanding of sexuality and contraception. If you have the chance to help at a school, then do so. If you are a medical professional who can work at a free clinic that provides women's health-care, then do it. Not only can you help provide contraception, but you can counsel women about minimizing their number of sexual partners, preventing sexually transmitted infections, and choosing life. And we can all participate in anti-poverty programs. Giving food to the food bank, giving to Goodwill or other thrift stores, helping with childcare organizations. Anytime we help with poverty, we are giving women a chance to lift themselves a little higher.

These aren't my only thoughts on abortion, just the ones provoked by a Facebook post by Rachel Held Evans. When my head doesn't hurt so much, I'll write more.  What are your thoughts??

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Fort Wilderness 2015

We're home from Family Camp! And, as usual, we had a great time. Here are some of the highlights.

  • There was a new music who was great. And, Wild Man got to play bass guitar during morning worship on Thursday!
  • On the morning we left for camp, I woke up at 4am with a migraine. Fun! The migraine stuck around for the first 2 days of camp, so I did a lot of sleeping.
  • On the last full day of camp, I twisted my ankle while walking to the lake for the Loon Float. We ended up not seeing the loons (the first time in about 10 years that Michael hasn't seen the loons!). On the way back to the cabin, I twisted my ankle again, this time pretty badly. PWM and I went to Marshfield Clinic in Minocqua where I got an air cast and some pain meds (I can't take ibuprofen). I have a badly sprained ankle or possible fibular fracture, but they're treated the same way, so I didn't get an XRay done. So, I'm hobbling around.
  • Wild Man won the archery tournament for his age group!
  • Rosie Girl and her friend, Maggie, went on several horse rides.
  • Wild Man and his girlfriend went on the tube float (floating down the Wisconsin River in inner tubes) and were part of a seaweed fight.
  • During the tube float, Rosie Girl babysat a couple of kids for a family who didn't all want to go on the tube float. Apparently, running around after 6 and 4 year old boys for three hours is pretty tiring!
  • Rosie Girl, Wild Man, PWM, and Jenna (Wild Man's girlfriend) were all in the carpetball tournament this year. Jenna did better than anyone else - and it was her first year!
  • The food was beyond delicious!
  • Rosie Girl made a pair of moccasins at the craft shop.
  • It rained all day one day, so we played games and read aloud a lot in the cabin that day.
  • Maggie is the undisputed winner at Sequence.
That was our week at Fort Wilderness. We can't wait to go back next year. And, we're already unpacked with everything put away except for laundry!!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Great is thy faithfulness, O God, my Father.
There is no shadow of turning with thee. 
Thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not.
As thou has been, thou forever wilt be.

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest.
Sun, moon, and, stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth.
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide.
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.
Blessings all mine, and ten thousand beside!

Great is thy faithfulness; Great is thy faithfulness;
Morning by morning, new mercies I see. 
All I have needed, thy hand hath provided;
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.

This is my favorite hymn of all time. And, now, at age 47 (OK, almost 48), I can still sing it with as much feeling as I even could. God is faithful. He knows how rotten chronic migraine is. He knows how miserable it is to be closing up The Knitting Nest. Yet, He's here and giving us little blessings through the whole thing. And reminding us of the bigger picture - my improved health by not trying to run a business that I can't and Patrick working in the school, which is clearly where God wants him!

What I didn't learn until early adulthood and what wasn't significant to me until a few years ago is that this hymn that celebrates God and his faithfulness is actually part of Jeremiah's lament in the book of Lamentations. Here's the quote:
Lamentations 3:19-33
I remember my affliction and my wandering,
    the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
    and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”
25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
    to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.
27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke
    while he is young.
28 Let him sit alone in silence,
    for the Lord has laid it on him.
29 Let him bury his face in the dust
    there may yet be hope.
30 Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him,
    and let him be filled with disgrace.
31 For no one is cast off
    by the Lord forever.
32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
    so great is his unfailing love.
33 For he does not willingly bring affliction
    or grief to anyone.

This hymn that celebrates God's faithfulness was born out of a lament. The people of Israel were suffering in an awful way and this was their crying out God for relief. Yet, in the middle of their distress, they remembered God's faithfulness in the past.

This is what I want to do when I sing this song. To remember God's faithfulness and love and mercy despite whatever is happening now. Despite the headaches. Despite the life changes. God is faithful.