Health Matters: My Story

28 Jul

A while back I mentioned on Facebook that I was taking the first steps on a new journey to understanding my health. A few people asked me to write about my experience, so here it goes. I am nothing if not honest in all aspects of my life, so be warned, this will be a very open discussion and the TMI alert is set on full. (Mom, Dad, you’ve been warned!) 🙂

I want to share with you all what led me to my breaking point a few weeks ago, but to get there, we have to go way back and follow a series of dumb luck events. This might take a while…

I’ve been overweight since about the third or fourth grade. And while this story is about so much more than just a weight issue, my inevitable struggle with body image stems from being a girl who was bigger than most of the boys from fourth grade to sixth grade. I’m considered on the short side now, but I tell you I have not grown an inch since fifth grade. I was 5’4″ then and I’m 5’4″ now. My weight has fluctuated my whole life.

I started playing sports in late grade school and through junior high. I loved basketball and soccer, and it made my body stronger and quicker. But I still wasn’t skinny or small by any means. When I reached high school I didn’t make the basketball team simply because I couldn’t keep up. I was diagnosed with exercise induced asthma around age 13. I didn’t know such a thing existed. Dumb luck moment of my life #1. I was crushed when I didn’t make the team and I think having the asthma and being told I wasn’t good enough led me to kind of give up on physical activity in general. I dove into music and writing and even quit the soccer team my junior year.

In college I was walking miles to class and eating less because of money. I was also working summers as a camp counselor and very active. I would say this was the most fit time of my life. I got married when I was 21 and the year leading up to that was all about looking my best. My beloved roommate Nicole forced me to get up and go to the gym with her many mornings. She motivated me a lot and I was seeing results. On my wedding day I was probably a size 8 and that’s the smallest I’ve ever been.

It’s a far cry from the size 0 and 1 models ever present in our society. I was thrilled to be a size 8 (as anyone should be) as I spent most of my life hovering around size 10-11.

After graduation from college I started a desk job and thus propelled myself into one of the most debilitating lifestyles you can imagine. I hate being stuck at a computer all day. I started to feel like it was impossible to fit a healthy lifestyle into one that required me to sit for at least 7.5 hours a day. I tried the South Beach Diet and lost weight, until I ate bread again. I tried Pilates (which I love), but gave up on it when I no longer has suitable space to work out. I bought a treadmill because I was so depressed that I couldn’t exercise at all, but it now site in the basement covered in junk.

The point is, I’ve had an up and down struggle with my body, exercise and food for a really long time.

Then dumb luck moment #2 happened. In my early 20s I went for a 5-year physical and found that I had hypothyroidism and high cholesterol. In my mind I was terrified. Isn’t high cholesterol something that happens to you when you’re 50? 60? And what the heck is a thyroid? Nothing much was explained to me at that time and I was put on Levothyroxine and Zocor to manage my levels. I’ve had blood drawn more times than I care to count and have to have my levels checked at least once a year.

When I moved to a different city and started seeing different doctors, one finally explained to me that my cholesterol was hereditary. When it happens at such a young age, it is usually a genetic thing, and taking medicine was effective, but really the only thing I could do.

I still had no idea what the thyroid did until recently. The thyroid gland controls how quickly the body uses energy, makes proteins, and controls how sensitive the body is to other hormones. It’s basically complicated (oxymoron?). Mine is underactive. And when I was pregnant and/or off of birth control my thyroid level fluctuated, actually operating better. When my doctors discovered this, the reaction was, “Huh…well let’s change your dosage.” No possible explanation, just take these and we’ll keep checking you.

The past 9 years or so have just been a confusing mess. With two chronic issues to manage, the introduction of birth control right before I got married, and trying to manage my weight, all while bouncing around to different doctors because either they moved away or I didn’t mesh with them, has been discouraging and frustrating.

I felt like no one really knew me or cared about what was going on with my body. It was scary. I felt so lost and alone.

I was researching things on the Internet blindly, not knowing what to believe. I was so confused with conflicting studies and opinions, especially about diet. I found an article on Live Strong that said people with hypothroidism should avoid things like spinach, kale, strawberries, broccoli and foods with fiber because they can interact with thyroid medication absorption. So suddenly, all these really healthy things that I enjoyed eating were supposed to be limited. And I felt angry.

As someone who has struggled with weight my whole life, I had finally found a good routine of somewhat healthy eating, only to be told I couldn’t, I shouldn’t. I just cried.

I started to look around at my friends, my family, and all the people I knew who didn’t have to try too hard to be skinny. People who were blessed with high metabolism and great genetics. People who would feel fat as a size 8. I started to feel really sorry for myself, stacking up all the things that were weighing against me that I couldn’t control and I felt very defeated.

I was worried constantly about my health, stemming from watching my father go through cancer and a triple bypass surgery within a year of one another.

On top of all that I was basically working two full-time jobs and watching my son part time, so the lack of having any time to plan healthy meals, or having money to buy organic things just drove me further into depression.

Another area of my life was also suffering. (insert parental TMI alert here) As I mentioned, I started birth control shortly before getting married at age 21. And for the past 10 years I can tell you without a doubt that a low libido has plagued my marriage more than any other single issue between my husband and I. Sex should be part of a healthy marriage and I love my husband dearly, but my body refused to respond. That’s the best way to describe it I guess. I just never really cared about sex.

On top of that, I have PMDD (basically really bad PMS) that was taking me through a crazy roller coaster every month from high highs to low lows, anger, fatigue, irritability, depression, feeling out of control, sleep problems, etc. etc. etc. And my husband took the brunt of these things more than anyone. You can imagine it wasn’t helping our chemistry together.

So a couple months ago I stopped taking birth control, on the idea that maybe the hormones (although I was on a low-dose and had tried various pills) were contributing to the PMDD and low libido.

I don’t remember always feeling like this, so I was going to try anything I could to change. The intense hormones I was experiencing were causing me to doubt my feelings for my husband, which was very scary because quite simply, I adore my husband.

The breaking point came in conjunction with reading about the foods I was supposed to avoid and experiencing continued frustration with my libido. On top of which I was dealing with the chronic issues and really not understanding what was going on with my body, consequently spiraling into a very bad depression.

I started researching about hormone replacement therapy and came across Dr. Shelley Alexander at New You Health Studio. She is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine with a new business not far from me. I had a free consultation with her and was sold after 30 minutes.

Dr. Alexander’s office is in a very well-to-do area of town, and while this type of medical treatment is not covered by insurance, I decided I would not let society or money dictate what my life was going to look like. I just simply did not care about the cost, being at my wits end, and I didn’t want to look back on my life and think, I wish I would have done things differently.

My experience with Dr. Alexander has been life changing already. I will talk more about my first experience with her next time. I can’t wait to share this journey with you.

Here’s to our health…

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Take the SpaghettiOs

2 Jan

I’ve been thinking an inordinate amount lately about life and how I really feel about it. Being the daughter of a psychologist means I have a deeply rooted sense of empathy. I want to understand people — why they feel and act the way they do. But this good, innate sense of trying to grasp humanity also makes me susceptible to distress.

As we were strolling into an estate sale and I was waxing poetic my thoughts on life and current events with my dad, he pointed out that empathy is great, unless it leads to anxiety.

That’s where I run into trouble.

I generally have a hard time comprehending things that happened in our history. Dinosaurs? An ice age creating a bridge to North America? The American Civil War lasted four years? Our country participated in slavery? Lincoln existed and was assassinated? The Holocaust? The crucifixion of Jesus? Pearl Harbor? 9/11? Floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes…

The list quickly shows how memorable moments in history can be greatly negative ones. We remember the tragedies in our history so as (hopefully) not to repeat them. And these moments of calamity ultimately show us we are not invincible, but we are capable of great love, generosity and kindness.

I wonder if every generation feels like the dangers of their time are great. Or maybe the fact that they are more apparent to me now is simply because as adults, we realize and understand the dangers more. When you are living through things that will go down in the history books, it feels surreal.

I grew up in a semi-rural setting, one that allowed us to play in the dark, ride our bikes down the street, and walk to the corner for snow cones. It wasn’t until I was in high school that bomb threats began occurring and then the ultimate defining moment for our generation: Columbine.

I don’t know if it’s adulthood or just how times have changed that make me more afraid to walk down the street to the drugstore with my son or have me eyeballing every single movement in a movie theater (such an enjoyable experience now).

But it sucks. I don’t want to be afraid.

Last month was pretty excruciating. The killing of innocent children and brave, brave teachers; family friends losing a young child with no explanation; an amazing man losing an amazing wife to a long, hard-fought battle; and multiple friends unable to conceive a first or second child, with no answers.

Life, as they say, is anything but fair.

But tragedy, even as I struggle with the anxiety that ensues, has taught me two things: All life is precious and death comes to us all.

The Psalmist wrote: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

I’ve heard that quoted hundreds of times, but this world in which we live, makes it real.

Every person has the capacity for good and for evil. Sometimes we choose evil. And in those times of inconceivable pain and loss, we cannot allow evil to win. We cannot allow fear, fear of a life we have no control over, to guide our existence.

In these times, when I’ve felt I cannot walk, I cannot comprehend the evil, or understand why things so precious are taken away, all I can do is feel God’s hand on my shoulder and hear his tears hit the ground with mine.

Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me, because when nothing else makes sense, God says keep going, do good, trust me that we will get through this together.

And until recently I didn’t really get it. But tragedy has made me less afraid of the end of this life.

I love the words of Sir Paul McCartney:
“At the end of the end, it’s the start of a journey to a much better place, and a much better place, has got to be special, no need to be sad, no reason to cry.”

God’s ultimate goal for all of us is eternity in a much better place. A place with no death, no sorrow, no tears. I choose to believe that. Because without a better place, none of this tragedy makes sense.

We watched a few episodes on TV about people who are preparing for various disasters/attacks and I started to wonder if those people were smart or crazy. From tyrannical governments to hurricanes, terrorists to nuclear power plant meltdowns, some things will happen, others, maybe not. I just don’t know. It seems less unlikely the more time goes on. But for some reason it’s just not enough for me to want to arm up and defend the can of SpaghettiOs in my basement from looters (or zombies).

If it comes to that, you can have the SpaghettiOs. I’m overcoming fear.

Love Doesn’t Stink

10 Dec

I don’t often put my hopes in celebrity relationships, but the rate at which they are failing is unsettling. Maybe it was the demise of “Jelena” (that’s Justin and Selena for all people out of touch with all things important). Just kidding. It wasn’t. I’m full of sarcasm today.

But it very well could have been the fall of Bachelorette Emily and the adorable Jef, with the nail on the coffin being the demise of Amy Poehler and Will Arnett.

Despite the feigned and forced romanced brewed on TV, we route for people to actually find love and live happily ever after — especially when they’re as funny as Amy and Will.

But alas, something is teaching people, even celebrities, that love should be easy and should always feel like The Notebook (and I lurrrve The Notebook).

The thing is, if everyone gave up when they lost the proverbial “spark” I doubt anyone would be married anymore. If only people believed the person they first felt that spark for was worth fighting for.

I get that sometimes people make mistakes, rush into things, or are in abusive situations, but if all that’s missing is a spark, may I politely but lovingly say, “Get over it”?

I was a mere 21 years young when I wed my love. Looking back nearly 10 years, that’s young. Very young. And probably a tad stupid. 🙂 But we’ve been together for 13 years. Thirteen joyful, heartbreaking, blessed, hard, hopeful, frustrating, loving years. Love is not easy. And we’re not giving up. Not even close.

But enough about me.

I went to a small Christian college in my younger days, where I met some truly amazing people who also happened to get married young. I feel encouraged and blessed watching how their relationships have also grown, matured and overcome challenges these past 10 years. When the media plays love as a fool, it is inspiring to know such people willing to fight and cling so tightly to their mate.

I know a couple of people who have made big compromises, like moving away from their families for their husband’s job. You know who you are. And I respect you for the support you show to the love of your life.

Then there’s my grandparents. In their generation, divorce was the exception, not the norm and they fought through a lot. I mean a lot. And as I watch my 82-year-old grandpa care for my grandma whose health has been failing the last few years, I know what love is. My grandpa is a farmer and I’m pretty sure my grandma fixed most every meal he ate in his adult life, so it’s adorable and heartwarming to watch him cook for her now, with love. I’ve never heard him complain.

At Thanksgiving, my 2-year-old sat at a rickety old folding chair at a small folding table. Grandpa pointed out that his girls (he had four) used to bring him lunch in the field and sit at that very table and chairs.

Love.

The point was driven home when my grandma spent this past Thanksgiving in the hospital and Grandpa, while enjoying our company and the amazing food (didn’t I say he had four daughters?), was concerned with getting back to my grandma’s side.

When in the hour of our twilight, I look forward to that love. Not the unrealistic love we see in movies, but the kind that gives, sacrifices, compromises, supports, defends, nurtures and encourages.

Here’s to love. Undying, unconditional, enduring love.

 

And now for a (terribly embarrassing) treasure from way back when. 😉

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Falling Down and Getting Back Up

3 Dec

You know what happens when you’re a mom, wife and work two full-time jobs? You can’t keep up with DIY projects for your blog. Sad but true.

I have a creative outlet in VintageKC and keeping up with that is just about all I can manage. But I’m realizing I have no outlet for my thoughts about life and the person I’m slowly becoming. So, here comes a change in format for the ol’ blog. I’ll still post DIY projects as they happen, but I think for my sanity as a writer, I need to release the musings in my head.

Here goes nothing…

The process of becoming a business owner and creative director means lots of ups and downs, brick walls and stumbling. I’m trying to learn as I go, but there’s no one better to teach me about dealing with life than my darling son.

He falls down a lot.

Because of his Hemiplegia, his right side is weaker and as much as he tries to run fast and avoid pitfalls, a lot of times falling is just an inevitable part of his life. And that’s a lot like my life. I work so hard, so fast sometimes, that falling seems to happen on many occasions. Whether emotionally or physically, feeling like I can’t keep up or I’m neglecting aspects of my life, there are lots of ups and downs.

For the winter issue of VintageKC I had spent months planning and collecting items for the 1960s fashion shoot. Aligning schedules for 15+ people is no easy task, let alone outfitting eight of them. It was the biggest thing I’ve ever undertaken. And then I hit one of those brick walls I mentioned. Or maybe a hole opened up in the Earth right beneath me. Either way, I ended up standing outside a closed restaurant with 13 people trying to find a new place to shoot. The restaurant had closed the night before our shoot and failed to mention it to me.

Enter the full sprint faceplant.

It was one of those truly unbelievable moments in life. After some brainstorming by my awesome team, we ended up at The Aladdin Hotel downtown, which, as you can see in the magazine, ended up better than I could have dreamed.

Maybe someday I’ll be Tyra and just dream up crazy ideas and make other people execute them. 😉

But what I’m learning from watching my son in his reckless abandon in running around our yard is that falling down doesn’t mean giving up. He falls, always unexpectedly, but he gets right back up and right back out there running again. When I ask if he’s okay, he responds joyfully. I guess that’s because he’s doing what he loves and being free.

As much as he falls, he could be so discouraged. He could lay on the ground and cry and feel sorry for himself (Who does that? Not me…okay maybe me.), but he doesn’t. He has taught me more about strength, perseverance and living joyfully than he will ever know. And he’s just being himself. Just being two.

Being an adult, owning a business, running the show, it’s all a potentially stressful time bomb. But it doesn’t have to be. Just take one step at a time.

Something my son is learning is to be careful around potentially dangerous situations. He knows he needs help with stairs and will wait patiently for a hand; he knows that when he goes between two bricks in our yard to slow down and step carefully, one foot at a time.

And thus I’m learning to slow down and care for the things and people around me, as hard as it is sometimes to sweep and cook and clean and change diapers and still find time to be creative. But if I care for these things and these people, when I fall, they will be there.

I guess I’m simply learning to deal with roadblocks and stumbling through the car-obsessed, vegetable-avoiding mind of my wee offspring. Ninety-nine percent of stumbles are not the end of the world. As I found out this time around, sometimes obstacles open up doors to bigger and better things. You just have to believe.

Follow your dreams with reckless abandon, friends.

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Estate sale find 🙂

2012 Fall Wreath

1 Oct

If I had to choose between the expansive modern mansion of Cameron Diaz and quaint cottage in the English countryside of Kate Winslet in The Holiday, I would always, always choose the cottage. Probably no surprise there. I love cottages, which is why I needed to bring a little nature into my fall wreath this year.

I spent about $25 on this wreath because I had the foam wreath base from last year. I wrapped it in $8 moss from Hobby Lobby (you could use a coupon if you were more prepared than I), and P.S. mark which side is the back because I swore I was wrapping all the same way and then ended up with seams on both sides. Der! Then bought a yard of burlap (I’ve got tons left) to make the base for the feathers. Simply make tubes of burlap with hot glue and pin them in an “s” shape. There are some whole wreaths done that way but I wanted more.

Then I added some guinea feathers, a small pumpkin and long feathers that were 40% off in the fall decor section of Hobby Lobby. The perfect accent were peacock feathers, because, well, everything is better with peacock feathers.

Happy fall everyone! I can’t wait to see your wreaths. ‘Tis the best season of the year!

Check out the Pinterest Challenge at: www.younghouselove.com

Cheap Frames and a Wall Collage

30 Aug

Last week I escaped the walls closing in around me and went on a frame thrifting binge. I hit up Through our Children’s Lives and Savers (and a few garage sales as I meandered between the two). I’ve wanted to do something with my uninspired “dining room” (because it’s really just a pass-through to the kitchen) wall, and I’ve wanted to do a frame collage for like … ever.

So I came home with a bunch of frames, a can of white spray paint and a few mats and got to work. The frames cost me in all about $10. Love.

Once I decided what to frame, I began the daunting, but necessary task of tracing all the frames onto newspaper and putting a template up on the wall. It’s still not a foolproof method, but it will save headaches and nail holes. Trace each frame onto the paper, cut it out, and then turn it over and punch a hole through the paper where the nail will hang. It’s genius really. And I stole it from Young House Love.

Sorry, I had already hung the first one when I snapped the pic. 😉 Here’s the result, minus one I added yesterday:

I had fun picking out the content of the frames. From family photos (yes that’s one of our engagement pictures … 10 years ago!).

To artsy postcards our hipster friends send us for save the date cards and thank you notes.

And of course I showcased my love of animals with vintage prints.


Then the little artist had to get involved. I love showcasing what those little hands create.


This wall is also fun because you can see it while sitting on the couch in the living room:

Or while cooking in the kitchen:

This little wall makes me happy every time I look at it. It really brightens up the dark paint in that room and I can’t wait to add more and/or change things out.

ORB-ing Abraham Lincoln + Dryer Vent Pumpkins

28 Aug

Remember that time I spent an afternoon rubbing bronze oil on Abraham Lincoln? Me neither, gross.

But I did happen to spray some awesome Rustoleum Oil-Rubbed Bronze paint on some Lincoln bookends for my dad. The stuff is magical.

Before and after:

He is made of plaster and had some bad chips, but at $.10 each (eventhough Dad gave them $1), I said I could spruce them up real nice! Why, Mr. Lincoln, you are so very regal and dashing in your new coat of paint. Get down with your ORB self!

Since I was outside and covered in paint already, I also decided to tackle a fall project I blatantly stole from my friend Amy’s blog, that she blatantly stole from another blog via Pinterest. 😉

She made her dryer vent pumpkins out of plastic vents from Menards. I sauntered into Home Depot expecting to find the same thing and was sorely disappointed. Same thing with Ace Hardware. They did have the aluminum vents, which the original blogger used, but at $10/vent, that was waaay over my budget. So I dusted myself off and walked into my favorite place: Habitat Restore. I’m like a kid in a candy store in that place. And sure enough there was a scrap of used dryer vent for a whopping $2.

Sometimes I wonder what the people behind the counter there think with me purchasing a lame piece of dryer vent. What the? I’ll spare you the details of this super-simple project. Just cut in two (I had to use wire cutters) and hot glue the ends together. Will the wonders of hot glue never cease?

Then paint away! I chose Rustoleum’s Fire Orange because it’s awesome and plain old white, because…um…what other color do you paint pumpkins? Then jam a stick in the middle and add moss.



So pretty, so cheap and so easy! I heart you fall.