Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My New Year's Resolution

I was starting to feel a tad bit normal again and to plan out my resolutions for the new year when my doctor upped my chemo dosage.

That threw a big ol' wrench in the works. Now I have to adjust to the new level of meds, and as I type this, I have no idea how I will respond to a higher dosage.

Will it make me feel much worse?

Will my Friday and Saturday recovery turn into a Friday-Saturday-Sunday recovery. Or even extend into Monday?

I've been working myself so hard to get 6 days of work done in 4 for the past few months. I'm exhausted. I'm frazzled. I'm weak. I don't think I can push myself any harder.

So, I'm giving myself a break and will not be writing out a list of resolutions as 2013 ends. Grace will be the theme of 2014.

The grace to say, "I'm sick." and that be okay.

The grace to do as much as I can when I can do it and prop up my swollen feet when that is needed instead.

The grace to do school from bed, to eat sandwiches for dinner, to take naps.

The grace not to constantly consider if I should be on this approach to wellness or be on that treatment plan and to filter out unsolicited advice.

The grace to stay off Pinterest, to limit the blogs, and to do what is necessary to keep a realistic perspective.

The grace to ask for help, to delegate, to receive assistance.

The grace to stop worrying, to stop overthinking everything, to stop trying to be perfect.

The grace not to plan a fancy dinner party when I can sit at Jesus's feet instead because He is the only one who possesses the grace I need and He freely gives it to those who ask.

I resolve to continually ask, seek and knock.

Grace and peace in the new year,

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Oopsie Joes

So lately I've had trouble using my brain.

I don't know if it's that I turned 40 last April or if it's because I'm on chemo for lupus or if it's that I'm really in the early stages of Alzheimer's.

Some days I think it might be all three.

But I have been saying and doing weird things lately. Like the other night, I told Michael his clean socks were at the store. I meant to say in the drier. That makes sense. All our best clothes are in the drier. But I had been thinking about going to the grocery store and so store is what came out.

Well, I actually made it to the store yesterday. Sadly, his socks weren't there. I, however, was having a particularly good day, and while the boys were at art class, I reintroduced myself to my long-lost friend, Kroger.

I walked in uber-prepared. I had a grocery list in hand and even had rebate checks to redeem. As I filled my buggy with everything I needed for the week, I checked that list carefully. Carefully! When the last item was marked off, I checked out (my total was only $21 thanks to those rebates!), drove home, and got it all put away while the boys were still at art class. I even had time to hop online and buy Michael's Christmas present during the Cyber Monday sales.

Homeschool Dawn was back in the saddle, people.

Yee Haw!

Come dinner time, I grabbed the pack of ground beef bought earlier in the day and threw it in the skillet without a second thought. Chili mac was the plan.

But then I remembered something crucial: chili mac requires mac which takes longer to cook than beef. Why had I not started boiling the macaroni already?

I ran (okay, you got me) hobbled to the pantry and dug... and dug... and dug. I pulled every.single.box, container, bag, what-have-you off the shelves, and there was not a scrap of macaroni to be found.

Grumble, grumble, grrrrrr!

I was NOT going back to the store because that "organized" trip may have only cost $21 dollars but it used up 74 whole spoons. And I only get about 50 of those per day. Michael was busy helping Ben understand factoring the something-something when the whatcha-ma-digger is a doohickey. I was not interrupting that magic moment. So I would find a way to fix the problem that did not involve disrupting Algebra class or taking another trip to the store.

(Although maybe if I had made the 2nd trip, I would have found Michael's socks! They weren't in the drier, either.)

I rummaged through the pantry again and found a package of Spanish rice. I was going to cook that up and then mix it with the beef, add in some dehydrated onions and cheese and bake it up... something I used to do all.the.time. when M and I were first married.

Then I discovered that pack of rice had been in the pantry for nearly a decade.

Great, I couldn't even whip up a newly-wed concoction.

The ground beef was getting brown, so I had to think. Thnk. Think. Think.

Tomato sauce!  I had a can right there on the counter because I was going to use it in the chili mac.

Now, for some reason, in my mind, tomato sauce equals sloppy joes. But the thing is... I have never made homemade sloppy joes. EVER! As I stood at the electric can opener, ready to swirl open that garlic-y tomato goodness, I came to my senses as I envisioned a runny mess. How I would I get that sauce to thicken?

Soggy buns. Ick.

I was about to lose hope, freeze the cooked ground beef, and pull out the peanut butter and bread, when the distant dinner bell from a ranch in Oklahoma signaled help was on its way.

The Pioneer Woman!

If anybody would know how to make homemade sloppy joes and help me rescue my meal, it would be P-Dub.

Sure enough, she had a recipe for sloppies, and it did not call for tomato sauce. (Duh) It called for ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire, tomato paste (ah-ha, thick, not runny) and chopped veggies. However, at this point, there was no way I was going to chop onions and celery and what-have-you.

Sorry, PW, nothing personal. Usually, I am all about your deliciously fresh, from-scratch, chocked-full-of-goodness recipes. But my spoons were completely gone and at that moment I couldn't have chopped butter.

The ketchup and brown sugar in her "cast of characters" got me to thinking, though. I make a homemade BBQ sauce that is to die for (or so I've been told) and ketchup and brown sugar are two of the base ingredients. I ran to the kitchen (okay, you got me again... still hobbling) and whipped up my sauce. Then I just started adding in whatever spices I thought would work and make it less BBQ-y and more sloppy joe-ish.

I poured the sauce over the browned, strained beef and set it to simmer. I wanted the sauce to get good and warm, but also just about that time, Brian entered the kitchen to let me know he finally knew the capital of Maryland.

We've been working on that for quite awhile so I left the stove to listen to his recitation. It was quite good!

Good job, Bruster. Good job!

When I returned to the kitchen, the sloppy joe meat was starting to look a bit, ahem, Cajun. I quickly turned off the eye. Desperate to feed my family something, I scraped up that blackened, BBQ-turned-who-knows-what-sauced beef and plated up the Joes.

Miracle of all miracles, that stuff was good! Everyone asked me to make it again next week.

And make it I will... if I can remember exactly what I did.

Here is my best attempt at a recipe. Maybe I'll insert pictures another day so you can pin it.

But probably not.

Step One: Carefully make a grocery list for chili mac but forget to buy the macaroni.

Step Two: Brown ground beef. When it's half-way through cooking, realize you don't have the noodles and need to change your meal plan.

Step Three: Desperately try to recreate some weird casserole you concocted when you were in your early twenties and thought cookbooks were for losers. Suddenly realize you seriously need to clean out your pantry.

Step Four: Read the Pioneer Woman blog and hope she can save you. Realize that you are not as good as she is and so you can only pull off half her recipe. Go throw a bunch of dehydrated onions on the meat as it finishes browning because you don't have time or available spoons to chop the real ones.

Step Five: Mix together 1/2 cup ketchup, 1/2 cup brown sugar, a BIG squirt of yellow mustard, a tiny dash of ground red pepper, and a couple big dashes of chili powder. Throw in various other spices for good measure. It doesn't really matter what. Just pick stuff.

Step Six (This is very, very important to the overall success of the meal): Leave your meat and sauce cooking on low heat for about 10 minutes too long. It will start to blacken underneath and stick to the pan.

Step Seven: Scrape that stuff up out of the pan and get some of that blackened goodness in there before plating.


We call them Ooopsie Joes.  My family says you should try them sometime.


Chemo Brain

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Inscribed on My Heart

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Phil 4:13

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The Surprise Gift

Twenty years ago, soon after Michael’s and my engagement, I received a phone call from my soon-to-be mother-in-law. She was cooking up a surprise for us, a wedding gift which she hoped would become a family heirloom, and she needed to know if a particular Bible verse was significant to us, to our relationship at the time.

Immediately, I knew the answer I wanted to give but hesitated to share. I had one of those verses in mind. You know, one of the verses that gets so overused that it becomes a Christian cliché.

Phil 4:13.

Even Oprah claims it as her “life verse.” How was I supposed to sound super spiritual and impress my future MIL with a verse embroidered on thousands of throw pillows across America?

Nonetheless, no matter how “overused” it was, I wanted that verse to be the one on our family heirloom. Feeling like I had just picked “C” on a multiple choice exam, I hesitantly told MIL what I wanted. To make sure she understood just how deep and, more importantly, not-cheesy I intended my selection to be, I qualified my answer by explaining the significance of the context.

             I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. Phil 4:12

I quoted verse 12 and explained things about the Apostle Paul’s life that I’m certain she already knew. Then I explained how Michael and I wanted a marriage built on the rock who is Jesus Christ. We knew there were good times to come as well as difficult ones. As man and wife, we were sure to experience seasons of being abound and times of being abased. We were entering married life confidently, not because we believed in ourselves or imagined life would be perfectly rosy, but because we were confident in Christ and that come-what-may He would be our strength.

Even though I was probably trying, in part at least, to impress my future MIL with my Biblical prowess, I really did mean what I had said. But, as much as I really and truly believed, I didn’t quite understand what I was saying… not as fully I thought I did at the time.

For nearly twenty years, Michael and I have been constantly learning more on the subject....
Continue reading "Inscribed on My Heart" at my new blog, I'm a Little Lupie.

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Saturday, November 16, 2013


After a rather difficult month or two of starting and then stopping and then starting chemo, I was rather blessed to get an inner-ear infection.

Yes, you read that correctly. BLESSED!

Because I developed infection, the immunosuppressive therapy (chemo) had to halt which allowed me to take the boys on a field trip to the Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta.

We were greeted in the Great Hall
by Tyrannosaurus Rex.
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Ben and Brian immediately found a good hiding spot!

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Um, just keeping it real.

We do have two teenagers in the house now. ;-)

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To be fair, though,
Brian is not the only one who can be silly.

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Real cool, Brontosaurus Ben.
Reeeal Cool. ;-)

After fighting off the dinos,
the boys, Nohnie, and Papaw,
who graciously agreed to be our chauffer
since I am not able to drive long distances right now,
enjoyed an IMAX movie with images from the Hubble
while I enjoyed some chat time with a friend.

Then we ate a FAB lunch at the cafeteria.
During our lunch break, something VERY interesting happened.

Before you scroll down any farther,

You may find the next image a bit disturbing
as it may cause you to question
everything you have ever believed to be true.


Proceed with caution!!

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It's scarier than the T-Rex, I know.





It defies all logic; however,
there you have it.

Three boys, not all of them related to each other,
sitting in public,
enjoying each others' company,
not practicing spelling words.

I hope it didn't cause any coronary episodes out there.

Okay, thank you for indulging my sarcastic side.
Now let's get back to the museum. :-)

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After lunch, we made our way to the hands-on exhibit
and got all science-y.

Well, the boys and Papaw did.

I kept my distance, wore a germ mask
and bathed in hand sanitizer.

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They enjoyed "playing around" with equipment
which taught them about optics,
sound waves, the weather, and more.

Brian enjoyed being the weatherman.
He's pointing to Atlanta while standing in front of the green screen.

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We found some more dinosaurs,
and even Papaw decided to get a little goofy.

You're welcome, Papaw.
You. are. welcome.

We also went through a wonderful exhibit on the wildlife of Georgia.
Of course, I was too busy identifying the birds on display
to take any pictures.

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Then we made our way to the special exhibit on Marco Polo
where we followed his journey from Venice,
through the Middle East, and on to China.

Side Note: Do those of you who knew Michael when he was a teen agree that Ben looks
just like him at that age!? I see the young man I met 25 years ago in this particular pose.

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The editors in the family found a few, ahem, mistakes
along the way.

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Can you find the mistake, too?

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Okay, so now I'm totally worried that there are glaring errors in this post
and I'm a total hypocrite.

All in fun, fellow editors, all. in. fun.

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Then we found a way to work in Dr. Who
because, well, that stereotype about homeschoolers
just may be true.


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Then everyone learned a valuable lesson about only making silly faces for the camera.

Mom will NOT be deterred from her blogging plans.

The face you offer the camera IS the one that will be published
for the whole world to see.

(Well, at least the 27 people who still read this blog.)

Be warned, teenagers.

Be warned. ;-)

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We did manage to get one nice shot with Nohnie before leaving.

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We also caught up with Ben's new BFF, Marco, who had made his way back home to Venice.


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Friday, November 1, 2013

My Favorite Hymns

One of my favorite bloggers, Kellie at Blue House Academy, just wrapped up one of my favorite blog series. Through October, she shared 31 Hymns I (well, SHE, but I'm quoting here) Love. It was wonderful to have a daily reminder to sing worship to God hit my inbox each morning. Thanks, Kellie!

She wrapped up the series by asking her readers to share their favorites. Choosing 10 that were not already on her list was quite a task. We did not have to pick an original list, but I'm funny like that. Not wanting to copy and paste her work, I have expanded the challenge a bit. ;-)

Here are the hymns she included in her series that would make my ultimate top 10 list. You should click over to listen to the great musical arrangements she included in many of her posts.

  1. Fairest Lord Jesus
  2. Marvelous Grace of Our Loving Lord
  3. O, the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus!
  4. Great Is Thy Faithfulness
  5. Come Thou Fount
  6. A Mighty Fortress Is Our God 

Now, here are the hymns that make my official (not on Kellie's list) top 10. (See how sneaky I am about narrowing down a really, really long list!):

  1. My Jesus, I Love Thee
  2. When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
  3. Jesus, Lover of My Soul (I couldn't find a video I liked for this one. How did you find all that great music, Kellie?!)
  4. Not What My Hands Have Done
  5. Stricken, Smitten and Afflicted
  6. Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise
  7. Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us
  8. Good Christian Men Rejoice (I had to get ONE Christmas hymn on the list!)
  9. His Eye Is on the Sparrow (Hey, you knew I would work birds into this somehow! This is a favorite because it is one the boys and I have always enjoyed singing together, particularly when we go bird watching.)
  10. Amazing Grace
Thanks for a great month of hymns, Kellie! I hope my readers enjoy my choices as much as I enjoyed yours.


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Friday, October 18, 2013

This is a test...

There is no need to be alarmed. I'm not really posting anything. This is merely a test to see if my cool new signature works.


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Thursday, September 19, 2013

That's So Dawn: The Gas Pump

Since laughter is the best medicine, I have decided to revive an old segment here at Olive Plants: That's So Dawn. If you're new here, TSD posts are ones in which I have a good laugh at myself. I hope you will, too.

Today while Ben and Brian were at a yearbook staff meeting (yes, homeschoolers have those), I decided to run some errands. Because my low gas warning had dinged on the way to the meeting, the gas pump was one of my stops. It reminded me of a classic TSD moment....

About 7 years ago I was travelling through Alabama to Tennessee to visit my parents. It was just me and my two little boys. I pulled over for gas, and for the first time in my gas-pumping experience, I was asked to enter the zip code.

A pang of anxiety hit me as I had no clue what the zip code was for Jasper, Alabama. I stood there and stared at the screen like a deer in headlights for what had to be 3 or 4 v-e-r-y---l-o-n-g minutes.

What to do? What to do?

Finally, I had the good sense to go ask the attendant.

Me: Um, excuse me. What is the zip code here.

Attendant: 3-5-5-0-3

Me: Thank you!

Back at the pump I punched in 3-5-5-0-3.






I couldn't understand why the attendant had given me the wrong zip code. I mean, what was his problem? Didn't he even know his own zip code?

Me: Excuse me. That zip code didn't work.

Attendant: Um, what?

Me: The zip code. The zip code you gave me didn't work. It says, "invalid entry."

Attendant: Um, ma'am, that's not asking for the zip code here. It wants YOUR zip code. It's a security measure.

Me: *air-headed giggle* Oh, thank you.

If I lose my hair to methotrexate, I'm gonna buy a blonde wig. It seems blonde should be my color.

Laughing at myself,

Auto-immune Update

Last week was Invisible Illness Awareness Week. I had a tough week because of my invisible illness, Lupus, and didn't get this post up in time. Nonetheless, I want to take advantage of a meme going around to raise awareness so that I can update you all on my status.

30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know

1. The illness I live with is: My "probably lupus" status has been upgraded to definitely SLE. I also have RLS and migraines.

2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: 2012

3. But I had symptoms since: well...my answer has changed since I was diagnosed. I originally said they started when I was 19 (in 1992) but as I have read about others' experiences with Lupus, I have come to realize that I really experienced the first symptoms at about 8 years old. 

4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is: to limit the number of plates I keep spinning each day. That's hard because my illness(es) wax and wane. When I'm feeling well, I have the energy to keep many plates spinning. However, when I feel poorly, whatever plates are up are bound to come crashing down. The mess is easier to clean up if I keep it simple to start with.

5. Most people assume: that I feel so bad all the time because I'm overweight. If I could just get my act together, get off the couch, and shed a few pounds, I would be as good as new. I wish it were that simple. However, let me clarify that "most people" are not those in my inner circle: my church family, homeschooling homies, and life-long friends. They have shown an outpouring of love and support which overwhelms me.

6. The hardest part about mornings are: EVERYTHING. Even on good days, I wake up feeling like gongs are going off inside my head. Most days I am very stiff and sore for about an hour after waking and look like a new-born calf when I walk. I have to factor in lots of wake-up time when deciding on what time to set my alarm the night before.

7. My favorite medical TV show is: ???  I'm not much of a t.v. watcher, and medical shows have always been my least favorite. Sorry. 

8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is: my heating pad. My muscles cramp and ache severely in the evenings, and I frequently chill... need I say more? :)

9. The hardest part about nights are: twitchy legs. I have Restless Leg Syndrome, too, and my legs start dancing and kicking as if they have a mind of their own around 8 p.m. each night. That causes huge sleep problems.

10. Each day I take: 9 prescriptions and a slew of vitamins/supplements. I just began immunosuppressive therapy and am taking a med used in chemo. The possible side effects, like hair loss, have me a bit on edge. (no comments please) 

11. Regarding alternative treatments I: ... sigh. This is a sore spot for reasons I don't need to air on the internet. My only comment is that deciding on a course of treatment is a difficult and personal matter that I truly doubt anyone takes lightly. Each patient should be free to follow her conscience whether she leans toward alternative or "allopathic" medicine.

12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: neither. Both stink in their own ways. That's like choosing between the proverbial rock and hard place. ;) 

13. Regarding working and career: My career is home educating my kids and teaching homeschool classes. There are days I feel like throwing in the towel. I just can't do it as well as I want. Yet, in those times, it seems I always get a big reminder about how important my kids are... how they will be grown and starting families of their own before I know what has happened... how much other homeschoolers appreciate me... or a million other wonderfully important things. It makes the sacrifices and struggles worth it.  I'm learning to take it one-day-at-a-time because long-term decision making is not healthy for the chronically ill. As God wills....

14. People would be surprised to know: I have a real and on-going struggle with anxiety. It's linked to my condition. Sometimes I feel like my head is about to explode from the nervous stimulation within my body and I just can't process any input or stress. I have to go into my hiding place and breathe, pray, read the Bible, and just "be" until the battle within ceases.

15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: there is no normal. Some days I feel great... and it shows. Some days I feel lousy... and it shows. I'm learning to be real and let people know exactly how I feel-- not in a grumpy, leave-me-alone sort of way, but also not in the Southern polite, "I'm just fine, honey, how are y'all?"-way either. I'm learning it's okay to say, "Thanks for asking. I am having a tough day and would really appreciate your prayers." I'm also learning to say, "Hey, I'm doing great today. Thanks! Praise be to God!" without feeling the need to keep up an all-too-happy appearance all the time out of fear of how I am perceived. In other words, I refuse to be inhibited by the invisible illness stigma.

16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: get a diagnosis! It took me nearly 20 years of actively seeking one. I have a great team of doctors now and am so thankful!

17. The commercials about my illness: don't exist. Not for lupus, at least. Now, I know you've seen the RLS one and laughed. ;)  The condition is NOT as funny as those commercials. :)

18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: nothing. My life didn't change drastically because of my diagnosis. I had lived with the symptoms of my condition for so long and had suffered so much that my life has actually been much better since diagnosis.

19. It was really hard to have to give up: the cello. I love to play but it hurts my hands so badly. 

20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: organizing meds. Lol! Seriously, I haven't taken up a new hobby, but my favorite hobby of bird watching is really helpful. It keeps me moving just enough to make me feel stronger without bringing on debilitating pain later. Taking in fresh air helps lift my spirits and lower anxiety. It lets me be in a quiet, introverted space which clears my mind, and observing the creation reminds me of how great the Creator is. I need daily reminders that God is greater than my condition and sovereign over all things, including lupus.  

21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: I'm not sure. I think I have struggled for so long that I don't know or remember what "normal" is. I think I would just relish whatever "normal" feels like and be incredibly thankful not to have to feel chronically ill for that one precious day. I do look forward to the day that Jesus Christ "will transform (my) lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself."  (Phil 3:21)

22. My illness has taught me: that I am not God. I struggle to forgive people who don't understand my condition. Yet, God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. If I could snap my fingers and make my suffering go away, I would do it in a heartbeat. Yet, Christ humbled himself by becoming obedient to death- even death on a cross. He secured the salvation of all Christians through suffering. He is my sympathetic High priest, and I encourage you to taste and see that he is good. (John 3:16, Phil 2:8, Heb 4:14-16, and  Ps 34:8)

23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is: (sorry to say this, but...) giving advice or comparing my illness to their less serious conditions. Again, this only makes me keenly aware of how much greater the Lord is than I am. He endured suffering far worse than mine, and yet He is sympathetic and caring toward me in my condition. May He grant me much grace to be gracious.

24. But I love it when people: understand the wild swings that accompany my illness and understand when I'm not at my best that it isn't for show or sympathy. Those of us with invisible illness really do struggle with worry that we're not being taken seriously or that we seem like hypochondriacs or that we're using our illness as an excuse. When you just get it, we just love you!

25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is: But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Cor 12:9-10

26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: to find rest in God. To do what pleases Him and not what you think you have to do. Don't wallow in self pity but also don't keep up appearances. This life is not about the pursuit of happiness, the accumulation of stuff or living up to artificial standards imposed on us by others.  This life is about enjoying and glorifying God, whatever our personal circumstances, and if we will seek 1st His Kingdom and His righteousness, all other things will be added unto us-- including the grace to live with chronic illness. (Matt 6:33)

27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: living with it has gotten so much easier since my diagnosis. It helps SO much to be able to put a name to it other than "mysterious pain syndrome." My doctors treat me completely differently than they did before. When I go in with a problem... they are ON IT! No more tests or lectures... just help. It is amazing!

28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: lots of things, but I have to give my husband the biggest props here. My illness affects his life as much as it does mine, and he is truly living out "in sickness and in health." I'm a spoonie and he's my dish. I'm glad he ran away with me, even if the running has become hobbling.

29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because: I decided to post this because it has really helped me to read others' experiences.  I think that everyone who takes some time to share his/her story is actively helping those who are in the same chronically ill boat. My love and prayers are with those of you who suffer silently.

I also want to let you know about my new blog where I will be updating my friends and prayer partners on my condition: I'm a Little Lupie.

30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: thankful to have a friend like you, one who takes time to listen and to understand. Thank you!


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Last-minute, Impromtu Vacation

Last month, we made a spur-of-the-moment decision
to travel to my birthplace...
...Knoxville, Tennessee!
A friend of mine posted on facebook once that her young daughter
asked why Knoxville has a big disco ball in the sky. LOL!
That is no disco ball,
although that is a cool idea,
but the Sun Sphere, built as the centerpiece of the
1982 World's Fair.
You gotta be THERE!
Since we were 30 years late for the fair,
Michael took the boys to a Redemption CCG tourney
which was held at a local church.
Brian played in his first tournament.
I have no idea how they did because...
I spent most of the day at the hotel sick from a lupus flare.
I did manage to venture out to the BIG used bookstore.
If I hadn't felt so poorly, I could have spent the whole day there.
I did look through most of their collection and was able
to buy most of Brian's literature books for the year.
Now, that's what I call FUN!
The next day, we went birding as a family.
I had mapped out some of Tennessee's best birding spots
 between Knoxville and the town where I grew up.
Our first spot was a wildlife area
near Strawberry Plains, TN.
We like dragonflies, too!
The fields were full of birds, particularly indigo buntings.
We also saw yellow-breasted chat, common yellowthroat,
and a variety of other warblers. In the woods surrounding
the farm, we saw a yellow-billed cuckoo.
The YB Cuckoo was on our lifelist from having heard it
but this was the first actual sighting for all of us.
In Jefferson City, a small town where my parents went
to college and only a few miles from where I lived almost
all my life, we went to a spot I never knew existed before this trip.
There we spotted egret, heron, and geese.
Soon, we made our way to my hometown, Morristown.
We stopped for pictures in front of my high school alma mater.
We thought it was interesting that the sign just happened
to show an announcement  about freshmen orientation
as I snapped the shot of my up-coming freshman.
He missed that orientation. lol
We also did some birding at one of my favorite spots,
 Panther Creek State Park.
That evening, we made our way to the Great Smoky Mountains
National Park. The birding was not as great as we had anticipated.
With it being tourist season, there were just too many people
for the birds liking. The trails were all way too steep
for me to attempt to hike, too. :(
We did see some beautiful sights, though.
The boys got the chance to hang out in the Chimneys, too.
Splashing in this creek is a treasured memory of my childhood
and now is something Brian will always remember as well.
He and Michael had a lot of fun climbing the rocks.
This one reminded us of Pride Rock from The Lion King.
Brian wanted his turn to present "Simba," too.
Then they found a "horse" and became cowboys!
I think they had some great Father-Son QT!
As we drove into the higher altitudes, we did spot more birds.
But still not on the trails!
No, Ben, we are NOT hiking all the way to Maine. :)
The boys enjoyed crossing back and forth...
... and back and forth between Tennessee and North Carolina.
Brian was able to touch a mountaintop. LOL!
The guys took the long hike up to Clingman's Dome
while I stayed below and bird and people watched.
I felt better about my decision to stay behind as I
saw people in excellent physical condition
panting and wheezing. :)
Michael and the boys made it to the top, though,
and I added the chestnut-sided warbler
to my life list. Win-win!
They enjoyed the hike back down much more than the one up!
After the Dome, I pretty much forgot all about taking pictures.
We took the long way down out of the mountains
as we drove through NC, back to Georgia,
just in time for Michael to have gallbladder surgery!
What a fun trip!
I'm glad we decided to be spontaneous for once.
Happy trails!