Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Simplicity is Key - Holidays 2013

What is one of your favorite past-times during the holiday season? What traditions do you hold dear to your heart and carry forth each year?

My husband and I love the nights when we turn on our fireplace (electric heater - one of our best investments!), turn off the lights, and just sit on the couch enjoying each other's company while we drink hot cocoa with whipped cream and watch the tree lights twinkle against the various ornaments.
We will always do that. I can visualize us sitting together sipping cocoa in 50 years. It doesn't happen every night, but when we do take advantage of the opportunity to just stop and listen and be together in quiet, it is a glorious moment and I cherish those evenings.

My sister has some wonderful tips on her blog, Art at Dawn. And truth be told, I've incorporated several of her ideas into our lives in the past (ahem - baking cookies...). Part of the holiday season that we love and loathe at the same time is the frenzied schedules, wild decorating, incessant baking and cooking. But do we have to blindly accept this?

We're trying something new this year. We want to try to capture the same spirit of the season with less stress - less hassle - fewer moments of "I need to catch my breath." How are we attempting it, you ask? Two occasions have already presented themselves:

  1. Our tree. We used to get a live tree. When Syd was old enough to pull it over, we invested in a beautiful pre-lit artificial tree that was covered in "snow." Last year, however, the "snow" caused rather severe allergic reactions in the three of us while we were putting it up and taking it down, so we decided it was time for Steve to take it to work and we would go back to our live trees. But why spend money and time on that when we had these lovelies packed away? Our three trees have been in storage for nearly 10 years. I wasn't even sure they would work. But once I started setting them up, I loved the way it looked - especially when we set up our growing village for the first time since Syd came along. This was simple to set up, Syd had a ton of fun unpacking the villagers, and the house is just as festive as it would have been with the single tree.
  2. Our cookies - I love baking. It relaxes me. But when I am trying to balance home, school, laundry, cooking and baking, it can get stressful. Add in the fact that my little chef is old enough to truly help me and wants to, and things can get even more exciting! I decided that we're going to try a single type of cookie this year that allows you to choose different additives to change the flavor. And I don't mean my famous biscotti. I will miss baking my biscotti, but I am excited to try variations on my meringue, and I am looking forward to having my little helper work with me. 

I am sure there will be more opportunities and more choices to make as the season progresses. I have no doubts there will be those harried moments. But I also know that I feel more relaxed entering this season than I have in quite some time, and it is a rather enjoyable feeling to experience. 

So, as the season begins with tomorrow's Thanksgiving celebrations, what steps are you taking to ensure enjoyment in all you do? How are your plans progressing? In all the memories that filter back to my mind's eye as I think of the holidays, it is the people I remember the most - the visiting with family - and the moments of quiet that punctuate the noise that accompanies those visits. I look forward to having crowds visiting and an abundance of food, but I also look forward to the contrasting solitude and serenity that comes with a moment of silence and a mug of hot cocoa, sitting next to my wonderful husband.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Why I Decided not to Stress - Nanowrimo 2013

At the beginning of this school year, I made a vow to myself to use every spare moment - to prioritize my time - to cherish opportunities for accomplishing everything. While I have had a few set-backs, I have been far more successful in keeping up with everything. Nothing is perfect, but I feel I am more balanced and more up to date than in the past. For example, this is the first time I've ever gotten both summer reading projects for my AP kids graded within the first half of the first quarter. I have been pleased with my efforts, and vowed to keep working towards the goals I had set for myself.

November's Nano started with big expectations. I was looking forward to writing my next novel, and I felt confident as the month began. I easily sailed through the first week, building my word count up and surpassing the daily goals by 2,000 words in that first week.

The second week began and I knew I was going to have to fight to make my word count. I had a few days at school where I seemed to run at a break-neck speed. I began to fall behind. I held my ground and managed to take care of school, the house, and cater to my son, somewhat, and still catch up by writing nearly 5,000 words in one day over the weekend.

That was exhausting.

Syd is still in the habit of getting up by 5:30 on most mornings. Now that I'm no longer nursing, we've gotten into the habit of getting to bed by 10:30. On 'Mommy Nights' - days when I bathe Syd, rock and read, and put him to bed, I am usually free by 8:30. That gives me two hours to get ready for the next day, to complete school work, to straighten the house and throw a load of laundry in, and to write.

Let's be honest. Not much writing was getting done after 8pm. I am tired in the evening. It is difficult to keep everything in balance and I had faith that I could still do it all. I have a great idea for my book and it started to write itself. But then it took a very odd turn, and I struggled to make connections between where it was heading and where I wanted it to head.

But then I started feeling that same gripping, drowning feeling I've had in the past. I started to stress over not getting an opportunity to write. I started fussing at Sydney when I was trying to write and he wanted to play, or watch Mommy write, or just needed a granola bar or milk in his cup. And I felt horrible.

And my grading began to pile up. And laundry began to pile up. And my cooking/baking slackened.

Needless to say, I started to struggle to find the words to put down on paper. And I fought myself to force myself to write.

And then I wondered why.

I've accomplished this once. I know I will have more opportunities to complete this in the future. Why does it have to be THIS year? Why?

And I realized... it doesn't.

And I decided to let go. To return to the plans and vows I had made myself that were making me content. I returned to playing with my son. I returned to baking for fun. I returned to trying to keep the ever-growing/never-ending piles of laundry smaller.

And I felt peace.

So, remember, above all, "To thine own self be true," and pick your battles. Do what makes you happy for who you are, not for some random goal you feel you have to accomplish. I got halfway to the end in my Nano 2013 sprint. And I'm very happy about that. And I'm perfectly content to leave it sitting there until time and energy allow me to refocus on my writing as opposed to my other goals in life.

And most importantly - I felt peace with my decision.

This holiday season, do what makes you happy. And find your peace.

Friday, November 22, 2013

My Story - Endometriosis: Part IV - Post-Baby

My baby boy was beautiful. Perfect. Truly perfect.

He was breach, so by having a c-section, his head came out perfectly round with no pointed crown. He had flawless skin and has only started developing freckles as he's aged. He didn't have any birthmarks. He had eyes so dark it was difficult to see what color they were, but then they turned a cool gray/green. He was, and still is, beautiful.

Sydney knew what he wanted, too - his latch was unmistakable. He grew quickly and is still a big eater. I nursed him for nearly 3 years. And because he ate nothing but breastmilk for the first 7 months, the hormones to produce the milk prevented anything else from happening with my endometriosis. It was wonderful. I started to think the pregnancy had "cured" everything.

When Syd turned 7 months old and started solid food, the milk production obviously reduced. With the reduction, the pain started to return.

Over the course of the next few months, the waves of pain, discomfort, and bleeding began to increase exponentially. It was manageable while I still nursed primarily, but as Syd began eating increasing amounts of solid food, and reducing the amount of milk, the symptoms grew.

By the following August, in 2011, I was experiencing so much pain my doctor recommended we try an IUD to control the hormones and help alleviate the excruciating discomfort. During work week of the school year, I paid a visit to my doctor. And I regretted it.

We were to wait up to 3 months to make sure the hormones were working. Every month that passed, I kept hoping that "it would soon be better - by next month, I would be fine." Every month that passed got worse. And the end result of what was transpiring was a solid four-month stretch that I wouldn't wish on anyone. Here, there are details I will refrain from going into - but something had to change.

In December, I read a book that spoke of the uses of progesterone to treat any number of maladies in "aging" women - not menopausal - not perimenopausal, but premenopausal women. I was absolutely miserable. To be quite honest with you, I've shut out some memories from that time (less than a year ago) and can only say that I was ready to just get everything taken out.

At my next doctor appointment, I discussed everything - laid it all out on the table. I'm sure I was instrumental in causing her to be late with subsequent appointments, but frankly, I didn't care because I was desperate for something to change. We immediately removed the IUD and the doctor asked I keep her up to date on how my body was sorting itself out.

I fought to try to do whatever I could to help myself. I increased water consumption. I tried regular exercise. I increased natural foods - grains and fresh veggies. I tried to monitor my sleep and, even with a young one, maintain a consistent sleep schedule. Nothing worked. My body was all over the place.

Three months later, I started bleeding. Hard. And bad. I, again, will refrain from detail. But it came to a point one afternoon where I called the doctor's office on my way home and asked the nurse to do whatever she needed to do to 'fix it.' I was absolutely desperate lest my home life and my career be compromised. She called me back within 20 minutes and told me when to be at the hospital for an ablation.

Less than a week later, I had an endometrial ablation. I was very lucky in that the outpatient surgery coincided with the beginning of our spring break, so I did not miss out on any school. However, I did not get anything done for school that week, and I missed out on a lot of play time with Sydney. The end result was initially quite worth it, though.

Since the ablation, I have had absolute negligible amounts of bleeding - nearly 2 years later. The procedure rectified the weakness that accompanies loss of blood, and the loss of blood, itself, but it has done nothing to remedy the pain, the bloating, the discomfort of endometriosis, nor the cravings, the irritability, the acne, the bloating that accompany a normal menstruation cycle.

Essentially, I still have the exact same problem as before, minus the expulsion of endometrium cells. I call these my "non-period periods." In addition to my "NPPs," I also have near constant pressure on my lower abdomen and lower back pain. I can no longer sleep on my stomach as it makes my lower back ache far too much. I have trouble lecturing for too long in class because standing for extended amounts of time makes me feel like someone is squeezing me in a vise. I am miserable during our SoL testing because we are not supposed to sit - we have to be constantly moving to monitor the students as they test and these tests last for hours on end. I have to watch how I pick up my son, how I play with my son, how long I spend time doing chores around the house.

I hate this aspect of my life. I refuse to let it derail the plans I have. It sidelines me, sure, but it won't win. The problem is, I'm not even sure having a hysterectomy would rectify the situation in any manner. So, it is a game of "how much can I take before I must lie still with a heating pad." It is a constant reminder to me that I struggle to do what I should be able to do without blinking.
Photo courtesy of
I know this path in my life is far from over. I just wanted to let others know where I've traveled in hopes of helping someone - anyone - who experiences the same situation. So, to all my Endo Sisters, stay strong and refuse to give in. I'm here for you.