Saturday, September 8, 2012

The grass is always greener

"When do I get to go to daycare?" asked Lily.
It was the eve of the first day of kindergarten and the topic of conversation had been about all the exciting things she could anticipate the next day.
"What do you mean daycare? You're going to kindergarten." I was truly perplexed by this question.
"But I want to go to daycare. Where your mommy and daddy go to work all day and you get to take naps at daycare and stay all day," she explained, with a serious look of anticipation waiting for any facial expression of mine that would reveal an answer.
After thinking for awhile about my answer I replied, "Sweetie, you're never going to go to daycare. You're so fortunate to have a mommy who can stay home and be with you every afternoon." I said it as sweetly as possible, thinking that surely she would see how lucky of a little girl she is to have such an awesome mom to hang with everyday.
"But, I want to go to the daycare..." trailing off in a full lip-quiver while real tears began to well up in her five year old eyes.
I gave her a look and changed the subject and the conversation ended there. Kindergarten was a success and no tears from anyone, even Mommy.

But that conversation played over and over in my head the past few days. And it evoked lots of emotion in me. I was a little ticked actually. How ungrateful, I thought! Doesn't she know how big of a deal it for me to be at home? You see, I just officially became a stay-at-home a few weeks ago after a very slow exit from the working mom world.
For the past 10 years I've worked for Barnes & Noble and although retail can have it's fair share of stressful moments (i.e. Black Friday, Christmastime, every time a new return policy was enforced..) I really enjoyed my time there. The people I worked with are awesome. They came to my wedding, threw me baby showers, and helped me with my schedule when I became sick. They really have become like family to me.
In the year after my daughter was born she did attend daycare while I worked as a manager full-time. I had such issues with the quality of care she was receiving that it caused a flare up. One day I walked in to pick her up and I felt her diaper was so soaking wet that it had soaked through her clothes. When I asked the daycare employee about it she said. "Oh, we're out of wipes." What?? The only thing the daycare provided besides some questionable care (a few of the women were wonderful, don't get me wrong) was baby wipes. And they ran out? Send someone to the store! Don't leave my daughter sitting on the floor with urine soaked clothes! I left the room and told the director we were done.
My flare up got worse and I ended up having to take some more time off work. When I returned to work part time (not as a manager anymore) my mom watched her for the time I worked which was such a blessing. It gave them some quality time and afforded us the savings in childcare so we could withstand the huge pay cut I had just received. After I had my son I went back to work even more part time. I worked one night a week anticipating that there would be a day when I could logistically work more hours again. This past spring I tried to work a little more and it was pretty much terrible for our family dynamic. I would only see my husband in passing as he got home from work and I would throw him the reigns as I headed out to the store. Some nights we even met at the store and I had to hand them off. It got crazy and it wasn't working anymore. So I told my manager I needed to take the summer off and that I would be back in the fall when the kids start school.
But as the start of school approached my husband and I both knew that we couldn't go back to being two ships passing in the night. The truth is, I have a full-time job. Yes, I'm a mediocre maid, a chauffeur who can't park (or backup) worth a lick, a chef with good intentions, a boxing referee, a short-tempered teacher, and a play date coordinator. And now I can officially say I am a stay-at-home MOM! 
For so long I have been toeing that line and keeping one foot at my job and one foot at home and not fully being available to either. No matter which side I stood on the other side always looked like the better option. When I worked I longed to be at home and playing with my kids and watching their milestones. When I was at home I looked forward to the nights I worked so I could have adult conversations without having to keep one eye on my kids. The grass on the other side was always greener and maybe a bit better maintained, too. So we decided I needed to stay home for this season. And it was certainly the right decision. But right away I began day dreaming about my new steps, my next season. My imagination trailing to what 'could be'.

On Thursday, with both my children at school, I was blessed with some quiet time on the beach beginning a new book, The Resolution for Women, by Priscilla Shirer. In the first chapter I was hit like a ton of bricks when she discussed how she hadn't been fully engaged in her life and how she wanted to change for the upcoming year.
"Only for the coming year would my husband be exactly like this. Only for these fleeting moments would my children talk, look and act exactly like this. And if I chose to hurry through them in an attempt to avoid the parts I didn't like, I'd simultaneously miss all the things I did like about this season." 

Wow. So powerful. That's what I was doing! After I finished the chapter I closed the book and looked up to see an elderly woman probably around 70. She was walking down the beach at the surf's edge with a cane, clutching her hip as if it was bothering her. Her right hip. The same hip that bothers me. Tears started to stream down my face. As I watched her slowly make her way down the beach God reminded me of how fleeting this life is. James 4:14 popped in my head: 
Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 
Tomorrow I may be that older woman clutching my hip, slowly making my way down the beach, and laughing at how much of a hurry I was in when I was 33. Wishing I had slowed down and enjoyed the season for all it held. 
Given my life the past few years I shouldn't be the least bit surprised that my daughter is standing on one side of the fence and looking over at the other side thinking how green and well-groomed their grass may be. 
For this season I am making a commitment to be fully present and engaged and have a grateful heart. Those are all traits I want for my children, but I have to truly model it first. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Food is my new medicine

If you've been following my blog or my Instagram for any amount of time you'll notice I am scatter brained about what I am interested in discussing, but there is one recurring theme: food. I don't have an addiction to food or even a love/hate relationship with food. I have a fascination with food. I love to shop for it, research the best recipe for it and then to finally enjoy some good quality time cooking it. I relax by cooking the way most people relax sipping a glass of Merlot.

When I first got sick almost 5 years ago, I approached it the same way I did every cold, flu or ear infection that I had in my lifetime: find the right medicine and then I'll get better. First was the steroids, which I was supposed to be on for a weekend which turned into 8 months. Then was the methotrexate, which is used as a chemotherapy for cancer patients and makes you want to throw up all the time. Then came the weekly injections which actually suppress my immune system to keep my disease under control. These meds helped and I am so grateful for that. I was finally able to be a mom. I was able to carry my baby up the stairs without pulling on the banister for support. And I've been on these meds since, except for while I was pregnant with my son (pregnancy naturally suppresses the immune system which works out nicely for me.) But these medications are not without their own side-effects. I catch any cold that comes around and if I get the flu it could be very serious, so I always get the flu shot, which I'm not really crazy about. It is also known to cause malignant forms of skin cancer and lymphoma. I actually had my first 'atypical' growth removed this spring. I always said that I would rather live a better quality of life rather than a quantity of years, but how short will my life be cut because of these drugs? What kind of gamble is that? That's not fair to my family. So I have been on a quest (with my doctor's blessing) to try to get off these meds. It's been quite a process.

The one thing I now know without a doubt is that the food I eat directly affects my disease. Figuring out exactly which foods help and which foods harm has been how I've spent most of my summer. (Sounds fun, right?) I've pretty much watched every food documentary available on Netflix and HuluPlus and done countless hours of research on the Internet. We switched to all organic and as local as possible several months ago. Organic is a switch I was hesitant to make because of the crazy hike in our food budget. But how can I expect to get better if I am ingesting pesticides on vegetables which purposely kill living things? Or antibiotics and growth hormones in meat which alter the way the animal should naturally grow? Why was that such a hard sell? Once we went organic I read more about nutrients. Did you know that as soon as a fruit or vegetable is picked it begins to loose nutrients? So the longer it takes to get from the field to your fork, the less nutrients will get in your body. So, local doesn't just support your local farmer, it's actually better for your health. After going organic I had hoped that getting off medications would be easy, but it wasn't until recently that I really see a light at the end of the tunnel.

A few weeks ago I turned on yet another food documentary, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. If you haven't seen it I highly recommend doing so. The movie follows Aussie Joe Cross on a cross country road trip while he's doing a 60 day juice fast. No food, only freshly extracted juice from a juicer. He encourages others to join him and the results are inspiring. I have long been wanting to do some kind of detox and this movie reignited that goal. I began researching juicing that very night. A few days later a very generous friend loaned me a juicer and I started experimenting. I asked my husband to join me for a 10 day fast, kind of expecting him to laugh at me, but to my delight he said yes!
His and Hers Juices, Day 1 

In the days leading up to the fast I weaned my coffee habit down to one cup a day and starting eating more fruits and veggies. Another supportive friend lent me The Juicing Bible full of great recipes and I scoured several juice plans on the web for ideas.
This is an actual before and after. It takes a LOT of fresh fruits and veggies to make juice.
I don't have a cost analysis per day, but we tripled our food budget for those 10 days!
But it was still less than a medical bill I recently received for a routine check up. Keep perspective!  

The leftover pulp. Really wish we had started composted when we started this, but we didn't have it all together. We plan on composting soon, though!

We started the fast on a Sunday so we could see how this new normal would look at home. We didn't do too much and I slept off a caffeine headache in the afternoon. The first few days were the toughest because of the caffeine, but I wasn't terribly hungry (I am, of course, only speaking for myself.) I did have a very vivid dream on day 2 of raiding the kitchen and eating everything in sight, only to wake up in the middle of the night chewing on my pillow. Yum. After Day 3 the caffeine headaches subsided and I actually started to have a sustained amount of energy throughout the whole day. As the toxins began to leave my body I had a few new aches and pains, but not the same inflammation my body usually fights.  Days 4 & 5 I even cleaned my house top to bottom (which I don't normally do, ever.) Day 5 was the night
I had a slip and after that temptation seemed to be everywhere. But I held strong and made it to Day 10! My husband did amazingly well and I am so proud of him for supporting me through this even though the lack of food made him less than happy.

Juice is so beautiful when freshly extracted! I grew to look forward to the rainbow of colors.
I really thought it was kind of funny to buy this 25 pound bag of carrots. The cashier asked me if I owned a horse...

                                       Turns out we are the horses.
                                                  I used those last few carrots to make my final juice on Day 10. 
 The night of day 10 we broke fast. I broke fast very slowly and started with just fruits and veggies the first two days then included meat and dairy and some grains (corn and rice). I still have yet to eat any wheat. The reason I am slowly reintroducing food is so that I can possibly pinpoint any food allergies which may trigger inflammation. When you first start feeding a baby solid food you are supposed to wait 3 days before introducing a new food in case of an allergic reaction. I am babying myself, so to speak.
My first chew: portabello mushrooms, green peppers and onions and fruit.  ParTay! 

The results have been pretty amazing. First, we both unintentionally lost weight. I lost 10 pounds and my husband lost 15. In 10 days. I'm sure we'll both regain some, but that wasn't our goal at all, so it was surprising. As far as my medication... I took my shot 2 days before the fast started and I haven't taken it since. It's been 18 days! And I feel good! Previously I've only been able to go 10 days in between injections and that was with a fair amount of pain and pain meds. I haven't even needed to take ibuprofen. The other night my knee and ankle started to swell up so I made myself a juice of apple, ginger and parsley. (disclaimer- ginger juice is awesome for inflammation, but when drank by itself, it feels like fire going down your throat. Best to mix!) The pain and inflammation went away within 30 minutes! That's so amazing to me! Food can be my new medicine!

The power of prayer hasn't been lost on me throughout this process either. I truly know that God has been putting this matter on my heart for a long time. I was afraid to let go of the things of this world and ask for healing while truly believing it could happen. I was reminded earlier this summer when I began a bible study on James that trials are indeed a gift which produce perseverance.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. (James 1:2-8)

So not only have I been asking people to pray for me for wisdom and healing, but I have been asking with the belief that I will be healed. And here I am, on my way to being healed, with a cocktail of mixed fruits and veggies in my hand. Cheers! Here's to your health!

(I'm excited to hear people have an interest in starting juicing endeavors of their own! As with every diet, you should always consult a doctor before you begin. And let me know if you do- I will be your prayer warrior and biggest cheerleader!)