Be Soft

My parents have been dead a long time. Or not so long. It depends on my mood, how long it seems. My mom died in April 2007, my dad in January 1993. I often wonder what advice they would give me now, about being childless, being disabled and in chronic pain and  often frustrated and depressed. Then, by chance, today I came across a quote that spells out what I know in my heart they would both say to me so perfectly, it gave me chills. In fact, I can hear my mom’s voice…

Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let the pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.

Kurt Vonnegut

(These photographs were edited using presets and textures by 2 Lil’Owls. If you’d like to purchase some and take your photography to the next level, check out my affiliate link at https://2lilowls.com/ref/9 )

Summer’s End

The end of summer is always bittersweet, but this year more than usual. I had all kinds of things I was hoping to do this summer, from lunch with friends to trips to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum to take photos, and did nothing, almost, thanks to my ever-present chronic migraines. I even missed the annual Resch Family Reunion–something I look forward to all year–for the second year in a row.

The highlights? I saw my beautiful and sweet niece Kathryn get married in May. (Late May counts as summer, right?) I made it to a family party at my Aunt Sheila’s and got to see my cousin Elissa who was home visiting from Florida in July. My darling niece Laura and her husband John took us out to dinner. And in August George’s sister and her husband invited us to stay with them for a long weekend in Cornucopia, a village not far from Bayfield, Wisconsin, on the South Shore of Lake Superior. It was heavenly. Lake Superior is my favorite place in the entire world. The weather was lovely. And the company was, of course, superb!

All of these activities, it should be noted, took place with pharmaceutical help. Sigh. But I did get some pretty pictures. And hope is on the horizon…It turns out my insurance covers migraine Botox after all, so hopefully this fall will not be so excruciating!

The summer began with peonies…

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Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food, and medicine for the soul.

Luther Burbank

And continued with more flowers, at home and in Cornucopia…

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The family party…

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Summer is the annual permission to slip to be lazy. To do nothing and have it count for something. To lie in the grass and count the stars. To sit on a branch and study the clouds.

Regina Brett

Corny days and nights…

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If the sight of blue skies fills you with joy; if a blade of grass springing in the fields has the power to move you; if the simple things in nature have a message you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive.

Eleanora Duse

And if you have a husband who brings you flowers just because he knows they will cheer you up; nieces and cousins and friends who send you sweet messages on social media; friends who stand by you no matter how many times you cancel plans; family who take you out to dinner and invite you over and have you come to stay with them; be grateful, for this is God telling you that you are loved beyond measure.

N.B. Photographer friends, FYI all presets and textures were from 2lilowls.com. I highly recommend their products! If you choose to purchase something, I’m an affiliate and I’d love it if you used my link to do so: https://2lilowls.com/ref/9  (This way I get a small portions of the profits so I can indulge my growing texture addiction!)

 

Wordless Wednesday

My chronic migraines are giving me a rough time the last year especially, which is why I am doing less writing and more posts with primarily photographs. It’s hard to concentrate on writing when there is an entire percussion section going mad inside my skull…but hopefully soon I will have some decent writing days. I hope. 

In the meantime, on a happier note, here are some peonies! 


Hamster Wheel Syndrome 

 

Do you ever find yourself in a rut?

I know I do, frequently.  My addled fibro-fog prone brain doesn’t help matters, either. When I was in graduate school i had the toughest time finishing papers because my mind would just get stuck, and I couldn’t come up with any more ideas; it was as though my brain was a hamster on its little exercise wheel, running, running, running, and getting nowhere–except frustrated and angry. Or even with my photography, as much as I enjoy it, I still sometimes find myself, camera in hand, looking at a bunch of peonies and thinking, “Dammit, how am I supposed to make these look interesting?”

Some wise mentors/friends of mine gave me great advice, which I try to remember to follow, and sometimes actually do recall: Change things up. Get off the hamster wheel. Study for a different class, take a nap (YES!), go for a walk, meditate for a while, play with the pupster, have some ice cream (the last two are my ideas, of course)…whatever. Just get off that darn squeaky wheel.

Apparently burnout/hamster-wheel-syndrome is common amongst creative people too, as photography books and photographer friends of mine have also given me a number of ideas to help me leap off the wheel. One is to experiment, learn something new, like macro photography…or do only flatlays for thirty days…or shoot the same spot outdoors everyday for a month at different times and observe  how the light changes, how it looks at different angles, etc. One of my favorites is a group project a talented friend of mine, Susan Licht (Licht Years blog and Licht Years Photography in Boston), does a couple of times a year on Facebook, called a #weekofdiptychs. Diptychs, according to Merriam-Webster, are

  1. a 2-leaved hinged tablet folding together to protect writing on it waxed surfaces
  2.  a picture or series of pictures (such as an altarpiece) painted or carved on two hinged tablets
  3. a work made up of two matching parts

So this past week a number of us did spring-themed diptychs and posted them on Facebook. and I have to admit that it rekindled my passion for photography and my creativity, and most of all, despite a nasty fibro flare, I had fun! Our yard is simply glorious at the moment, blossoms exploding all over the place, the scent of lilac everywhere…

Anyway, here are some of my diptychs. If you like photography, I hope you’ll try doing some of your own! (I use the Moldiv app on my iPhone and you can also create templates in the Lightroom print module, as well as in Photoshop.)

goodbye may

Goodbye May…you’ve been simply lovely, despite the twin evils of fibromyalgia and depression. Tulips, crabapple blossoms, lilacs, lilies of the valley, and peonies galore. Of course Catholics celebrate May as Mary’s month, and for me, May has always been my mom’s month, bittersweet now that she’s gone, since her birthday and Mother’s Day fall so close together. So goodbye to May…and hello June! I’m looking forward to summer flowers (my salvias and lupines are blooming already) and hopefully a photography trip up to the North Shore (of Lake Superior, for all of you non-Minnesotans out there).

What was your favorite  part of May?

the sweet, simple things

It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.

–Laura Ingalls Wilder

I find it interesting that the older I get the truer this is! A small bouquet of tulips, a letter from a friend, my husband’s dimples, snuggles from my cocker spaniel, crabapple blossoms in early May…it really is about the little things, after all.

How about you, my fellow fibro fighters? What are a few of the small, sweet things that matter in your life, that help keep you going despite the pain, depression, and fatigue?

11 Things People With Chronic Illnesses Need to DO — fabwithfibro

 

Great list. I think I can handle it. http://themighty.com/2015/12/11-things-people-with-chronic-illnesses-need-to-do/

via 11 Things People With Chronic Illnesses Need to DO — fabwithfibro

Hey fibro friends, I found this on a terrific fibro blog I discovered today, called “Fab with Fibro” (which is what we all want to be, right?); the link is from The Mighty, one of my all-time favorite chronic illness (physical and mental) websites. They have a marvelous newsletter I highly recommend.

Anyway, I’ve been struggling with giving up my long-time dream of being a chaplain. Lots of tears, anger, envy toward the entire world of healthy people who can take any job they want without needing to think twice about health limitations…in other words, loads of grief with a big dose of self-pity mixed in. So when I read this list by The Mighty, it felt as though it was written specifically for me. So I thought I’d share this, with many thanks to fabwithfibro, for those of you who are coming bang up against fibro and other health limitations too.

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fibro frustration

Really, frustration should be listed as one of the symptoms of fibromyalgia. I’m too tired and sore to feel rage, which is what this feeling would morph into if I felt better…although of course my not feeling well is the cause of the frustration, so there you go. Another example of the crazy spirals and cycles this disorder causes. Please excuse me, gentle readers, for giving into the temptation to vent. One of my goals for this blog was to be genuine, which I haven’t been, because I haven’t been honest about my physical or emotional state of health.

I didn’t even write about breaking my foot last October–a break that required two surgeries, thousands of dollars out of pocket, and is still causing me pain. I was stuck in bed for over two months after the break. And all I did was fall in the kitchen! Thanks to the fibro…I have dizzy spells and last summer I actually blacked out a few times. Unfortunately, I was rushing to let the dog in when I fainted this time, and twisted my foot as I fell, which caused a complicated break called a Lisfranc fracture. A fracture which almost always requires surgery. One thing I can say for certain though, is that I have a husband who truly loves me! And a dog who considers it her duty to take care of me whenever I’m sick. Fiona stuck to me like glue the entire eight weeks, while George waited on me hand and foot (excuse the pun).

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Nurse Fiona caring for the patient

I finally got back on my feet–both of them–in January, but I had some extremely painful nerve damage in my second toe. Thankfully, that has gone away, perhaps because my anticonvulsant (gabapentin) that I take to control my seizure disorder also helps with neuralgia (a side benefit to seizures I never considered, but actually the same medication helped when I had ongoing pain from the shingles too). The second surgery, which was March 18, was simple, just to take out one of the metal plates from the first surgery, but that too turned out to be unexpectedly painful and to make life even more interesting, I developed a nasty, painful, blistering rash on my upper foot and ankle, on Good Friday no less. Time for antibiotics.

Well, it’s all over but the pain. The pills took care of the rash, my post-op X-rays looked great, my stitches are out. And I should mention that my surgeon was terrific, skilled and kind, as were all of the nurses, anesthesiologists, etc., involved in my care. My surgeon thinks the residual pain in my foot may be due to fibro; I can tell it’s not bone pain, and he did have to move a lot of tissues and nerves around during the surgery to get the plate removed. So fibro makes sense as a cause.
Damned fibro.

I’m also having a nasty, cruel depression relapse (probably partly tied to the fibro and vice versa…don’t you love it) and trouble with anxiety over finances. Major anxiety. I’m looking at filing for relief from my student loans on the basis of total and permanent disability, which makes me cry every time I think about it. And every time I think about the blood and sweat and tears that went into that master’s degree.

Too tired to write anymore. I’ll finish this tomorrow.

 

Graduation Dinner Reflection

At our graduation dinner last night the other four Master’s in Theology graduates and I were asked to submit short reflection related to our time as students and now graduates of the Theology Master’s Program at St, Catherine University. I wound up writing mine straight from the heart, so I’m afraid it was less about my favorite class or my most uplifting experience, but at least it had the virtue of being honest.

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I must admit that last week’s graduation was bittersweet. I was thrilled to be graduating, oh my goodness, yes, especially with my family there, and with my friend Sherri (who was absolutely glowing and stunningly beautiful); but at the same time I was fighting a migraine and on some fairly heavy-duty painkillers (!) and my fibromyalgia had me so sore that we went straight home afterwards instead of going out—where I sat around in my brand-new academic robes and hood and gorged myself on takeout pizza and watched bad WWII movies on Netflix with my husband George. Okay, so that part was fun, actually, and I wish we had thought to take photos of me stuffing mushroom pizza in my face wearing my graduation regalia!
The bittersweet part is that people keep asking me what is next, and I stumble around, trying to come up with something funny to say, and I’m at a loss. The dream that has kept me going, through the myriad of chronic pain conditions that has required me to drop classes and seek numerous extensions and medical leaves of absence (thanks Bill! (our super-understanding theology department head)) has been pastoral ministry, especially the idea of chaplaincy. That’s the whole reason I entered this program. And now these chronic pain conditions are making it impossible for me to hold down even a part-time job. Or be a reliable volunteer, much less work full-time as a hospice chaplain. So there is triumph in the degree, but grief and uncertainty when i contemplate my immediate future.
Still, there are several treasures  I will take away from this outstanding program to help guide me in my coming journey. I have met so many amazing, compassionate, loving people here at St. Kate’s, both faculty and students, who I am honored to count as role models, mentors, and friends. I know that your prayers go with me, just as mine go with you, and that our journeys together do not end here, but in many ways have only just begun. I am excited to continue growing as both a scholar of theology and as a pastoral minister. My studies here have opened so many doors! I feel I have only dunked my toe in the water. And, too, I will take all of your stories with me. I have had a rough time, yes. But I am not the only one. So many of you have done battle with your own pain, and done it with immense grace and courage, and I cannot tell you how much I admire you and will continue to do so for the rest of my life. Finally, I take with me the knowledge that I need to trust in the process, as Deb (my mentor and pastoral ministry prof.) told me recently. This is very difficult for me, (trust is not my strong point) but I know she is right—I need to learn to take better care of myself, and learn to trust that the Holy Spirit will lead me in the right direction, even if I don’t know where in the heck I am going now, beyond more physical therapy. After all, Someone helped me through comps!