Today was beautiful. Actually, it was freezing cold and I woke up late and rushed out the door without any breakfast or caffeine. But, when I arrived at my destination, none of that mattered anymore. I was walking into a place where love was palpable.
In Dallas, there is a church called Wilshire Baptist, that recently voted on a resolution stating that it would permit all members to participate in congregational life regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, including the ability to consider all members for leadership, ordination, baby dedication, and marriage.
As I am sure you can imagine, in the middle of a red state, in the bible belt, after an extremely contentious election, this has caused quite an uproar. Because of this decision, the church will be expelled from the Baptist General Convention of Texas (although they can still operate as a Baptist church.) This was a consequence of their vote that the congregation understood when they made their decision. What was not expected was that protesters would show up last Sunday, with bullhorns, screaming at the people walking into church about how they are all going to “Burn in Hell.”
Way to act Christian, Christians.
I respect everyone’s right to their beliefs, but I have no respect for people that spew hatred. In my home church the message that “love is love” is preached from the pulpit and that is one of the reasons the members there are my people. I believe in a Jesus who very clearly said that we are supposed to love our neighbors as ourselves and that everyone is our neighbor- and we don’t get to make exceptions for that.
I have been having a lot of feelings lately, I mean these last few weeks, right?!!! No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, I think everyone is feeling a little rough after this election cycle.
You know how I got through the election? By drinking an entire bottle of wine in my “command center” surrounded by the TV, my laptop, and my phone, while stress-eating half a bucket of leftover Halloween candy. Around midnight when it was pretty clear how it was going to turn out, my husband had to force my drunken crying hot mess into bed and take my phone away from me.
But I digress. One of my friends from church invited me to a Facebook group of people who were going today to form a line of love in front of Wilshire Baptist. The idea was to serve as a sort of anti-protest just in case the protesters from last week came back.
Luckily they did not, but something magical did happen. At 8:30 on a Sunday morning a small group of about 20, most of us strangers to each other and with no ties to Wilshire Baptist, welcomed the church attendees with smiles and signs of encouragement and thanks. It went so well that a bigger group of us came back at 10:30 to greet the next service.
And I can’t even begin to count the number of hugs I got today. I certainly can’t count the tears that were shed, a large portion of them admittedly by me. All the pastors and church staff came out to thank us, most of them crying, to say how hard this time has been. More than one person expressed to us that this showing of community support meant the world to them. I had one woman tell me that she had not been to the church in almost 40 years because she was not sure she was welcomed and that today was her first day coming back. I think she picked a pretty good day for a homecoming.
For the second service, I brought my kids and husband with me because I wanted them to see this outpouring of love for our community and the impact it was making on our neighbors who were hurting. Standing out there chatting with strangers, hugging everyone, and covering these people with love was not only good for them, it was healing for my soul.
A part of me has had a wall built up around my heart recently. Sometimes I feel like there is a battle inside me between my desire to love everyone well and my fear of what could happen when my heart is that open. The scary state of the world made me want to protect myself-to curl up in a little ball and just hope for it to get better.
Today I got to remember that the best part of life isn’t waiting for the world to get better, it’s doing what little bit you can to actually make it better.
Tonight I decided that I will no longer participate in any conversations about weight- my own or anyone else’s. The big exception to that being with my doctors (and my therapist) of course.
I just wanted to take a moment to explain myself so you don’t find me rude if I change the subject or move into a different conversation when you bring up your new diet, or the 5 pounds you can’t seem to loose, or how the cheese that we are eating is going to go straight to your thighs. It’s not that I don’t get it. In fact, the reason I feel the need to draw this line is that I get it too much.
It is far too easy for me to look at the numbers on a scale or the way my clothes are bunching around my waist and think how much better, how much happier I would be if I could just make that little bit extra of me magically go away. I can go back through my blogs and read One Hundred and Thirty Pounds and see that being skinny was a far cry from being healthy, but that doesn’t mean that the impulse to blame everything that is wrong in my life on my weight has just disappeared (see One Hundred and Fifty Eight Pounds.)
So I am taking action. I am not giving that seed room to grow. My beautiful girls will hear enough of that from the world around them. I refuse to allow them to hear it from me.
And talking about what’s wrong with our bodies is like a competitive sport for moms. And even if we think those conversations are just between us grown-ups and our mommy juice, our little ones see and hear much more than we realize. I am going to step on out of that race. I don’t want to ask my daughters one day where they learned to hate their perfect bodies and have their answer be, “I learned it from watching YOU Mom!!” (Cue the 80s PSA music.)
So I’m not going to do it anymore. I won’t judge you if you want to have these types of discussions, but I will do my best to bow out of the conversation. I am writing this publicly so that if you hear me breaking this new rule for myself you will gently correct me. “We don’t say bad things about our bodies,” will work just fine to help me remember my resolution.
I took a bath tonight. I read a book. And as I got out and I rubbed lotion on my much- scarred belly, my thighs dimpled by cellulite, and my breasts that will never look the same after nursing twins, I made an important decision. I am going to really work to love this body- broken and imperfect as it is. Because a healthy body-image is something I would be proud to have my girls learn from watching me.
Yesterday was an amazing day. A Hallelujah, sing in the car, have a super-cool dance party with the hubs and kids sort of a day. Yesterday I got some incredible news- my Osteoporosis has not only stopped getting worse, it may actually be reversing itself!!!! I also had a great meeting with the wonderful folks at Cancer Support Community of North Texas. The work they do for people affected by and living with cancer is unbelievable. If you or anyone you know are dealing with cancer, please check them out as a resource. They have support groups, informational meetings, kid’s nights, social workers, counselors- you name it, all FREE to members (but that actually cost a lot of money, so if you have some extra cash laying around you might want to throw it their way!)
At this meeting I got invaluable ideas and support for Mommies In Need, and I also came away from it with my favorite new term: “Mitzvah Therapy”
When I explained the whole backstory of Mommies In Need coming from my struggles and said that it has really been a huge source of comfort and joy to me in my recovery, one of the women in the meeting said that was an example of Mitzvah Therapy. In its casual usage a “Mitzvah” is an act of kindness that you do for a person without expecting anything in return.
When I got home I googled the term and found this video:
The story told here made me cry in it’s simplicity and beauty. In it, Bill O’Hanlon describes what the late Dr. Sol Gordon coined “Mitzvah Therapy” and tells a lovely story about how it changed one woman’s life. Now, I am all for psychotherapy- I’m not canceling those appointments anytime soon! But as he says in the video, psychotherapy is all about you and Mitzvah Therapy is all about giving.
And I have a confession to make here, I have kind of become a giving junkie. Seriously, I am always looking around for my next fix. I actually keep some of it a secret (I guess until now) from my family because it seems a little crazy- well, crazier than usual. If I have extra cash I pay for the parking of the person behind me whenever I leave the hospital lot- someone did that for me once and it made me smile on a not-so-good diagnosis day! I have blessing bags in my car with protein bars, tissues, soap, etc. to give to any homeless people I see. We did a diaper drive for the twins birthday and I got a huge high when the woman picking up the donations was so excited about everything she was loading in the car to distribute to underserved families. I even carry around $5 gift cards to Starbucks that I sometimes give to random moms when I see them carting 3 kids through Target or dealing with a toddler having a stage 5 meltdown. I hand it over with just a few words, “One mom to another, you probably need to treat yourself” and walk away.
I tell you this, but please don’t go on about how awesome I am or anything like that. I mean, I’m pretty cool, don’t get me wrong, but I am not writing this for compliments! See for me, those acts are actually pretty selfish, because I get such a huge boost of happiness and even self-confidence from doing those things. When I walk away from that mom who has a little light of hope in her eyes that someone gets what she is going through, I feel pretty darn good about myself. And that feeling, really helps me get through the day sometimes. I have been forced to deal with a lot in the past few years- see A Brief Timeline of Crazy. And there are days when I can get pretty depressed or anxious or just plain mad that all of those crazy and terrible things happened to me.
And I need my psychotherapy to work on the root of that depression and anxiety and anger, it’s not something that just goes away when you ignore it- believe me, I tried that and wound up with panic attacks (which I really don’t recommend!) But for me, when I get in a dark place, being alone and thinking about myself is a surefire way to go even darker. And the quickest fix? A little Mitzvah Therapy!
So maybe I have taken this to an extreme by starting my own non-profit, but seriously, try to insert a little random kindness into the days you are feeling like crap. It’s hard to be grumpy when you are giving joy to someone else. Even just holding the door open for someone with a genuine smile on your face, rather than grudgingly doing it with no eye contact can brighten a person’s day just a bit.
Ugh, sorry if this whole post is a little Pollyanna, but I am coasting on a major high right now. Mommies In Need has officially accepted TWO new families to help! I am overwhelmed by the amount of support that this cause has gotten in such a short amount of time. Don’t get me wrong, my heart hurts for the women we are helping. I have been in situations like theirs and I know the kind of rough road they are going down. But I am filled with joy knowing that Mommies In Need is taking a huge burden off of them by making sure their children are well taken care of.
If you feel like doing a little Mitzvah Therapy of your own today, please consider donating to our campaign to support these Mommies in their journeys through cancer.
I’m in the middle of a 24 hour urine test today for my Osteoporosis. It will help give a progress report to my Mineral Metabolism specialist about how much calcium I am losing and what course of treatment we should pursue. I’m hoping for a “just keep doing what we’re doing” response since all of the Osteoporosis drugs have some pretty serious side effects, especially for someone as young as me. (Thank you Prednisone for giving me Grandma bones at 35!)
And this test is super annoying, because I have to collect all my urine for 24 hours and store it in a jar in my fridge. Then I have to bring it into the clinic tomorrow after fasting for 12 hours (that means no coffee in the morning- I may be a danger on the roads) and get huge amounts of bloodwork. So if you are someone like me who pees every 5 seconds, you basically can’t leave the house unless you want to carry a little mini pee jar around in your purse. Plus my in-laws are in town so I had to be all “please don’t touch the orange jug in the fridge, it’s full of pee.”
Flopsy has pink eye and ANOTHER ear infection. My Uncle, who usually takes our dog to play with his during the days, has been recovering from surgery- so my dog’s constant barking is driving me up the proverbial wall. My to-do list seems to be multiplying on it’s own and no matter how many things I cross off, it just keeps getting longer. And we are transitioning the twins to big girl beds, which means they are crappy sleepers again and it takes roughly 800 hours to get them to go to sleep each night.
I was pouring my pee into a jar for the fifth time today and feeling extremely annoyed when I stopped and laughed and realized for a moment just how lucky I am. I am so happy to be at a place in my recovery when my treatments, symptoms, and diagnostic tests are merely annoying to me. This time last year I barely noticed when I had to do the urine test because I was so sick and in so much pain that I wasn’t leaving the house anyway. And I wasn’t frustrated with my dog or my kids or my to-do list because I was completely incapable of doing anything. I was in survival mode: trying to manage my pain, discomfort, and depression just to get through the day.
Even though I still have rough days where I am clutching my heating pad with wretched cramps for 6 hours because I accidentally ate a vegetable, if I step back and look at it I am truly grateful. Because now I am in a place when every day is not full of pain anymore. Life is not always easy, but it is livable. And I have hope that it will continue getting better. I get extremely frustrated with setbacks in my health, and even though I understand rationally that I have to be patient with my body because healing (especially from as much trauma as I have been through) is not a linear process, I don’t wanna. I am so over being sick and just want to be “normal” again. I am working on being kind to myself and coming to terms with the fact that like it or not I am missing 3 major organs now and my body will never function the way it did before I got sick. Fundamentally I don’t trust my body anymore because so much has gone wrong with it in such a short time.
But I am working on that too. I am just starting to have a glimmer of confidence that eventually I will figure out this body and become comfortable with my new normal. It might not be on my timeline but I think it will eventually happen, and that’s a far cry from the days when I could not see any sign that I would ever feel good again.
I have a friend who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and my friend Annie has just finished her chemo and is in the middle of that intense healing process. We are also opening up for applications for a new family to help with Mommies In Need. So I am hearing from people who are in that really dark and difficult place where I was hanging out a year ago. And my heart hurts for them. Because being really sick sucks. And it sucks for a long time. But if I can do anything for the people that are in that place of intense suffering right now, maybe it is to be a little shred of hope that eventually it will get better.
Maybe one day they will find themselves being annoyed by little daily tasks and laugh with joy because they realize that they are actually able to do those tasks again. They will realize that annoyance is actually a blessing because it means they are past the point where being sick consumed their entire lives. That perhaps everything they went through lead them to a life they never thought they would have but are profoundly grateful for.
Now if you will excuse me I have to go pee into a jar.
I would like to start this post by saying that I am not a doctor, or a scientist, or an astronaut. Although I do know many, many doctors (seriously, I have seen close to 50 different MDs in the last 4 years) a few scientists and one guy who did a summer internship at the Air and Space Museum- so by internet article standards that pretty much makes me an expert. I mostly get my news from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and since his show returned a few days ago (hooray!) with a giant expose on doctors taking gifts from pharmaceutical companies I have seen even more articles pop up in my newsfeed about the dangers of “Big Pharma.”
I get that the pharmaceutical industry is a big money making machine and needs a lot more oversight in place. What worries me, however, is how this discussion feeds into the paranoia that leads people not to vaccinate their children because they believe doctors are only giving vaccines to get huge kickbacks. The doctors John Oliver is talking about are making bank pushing things like Viagra and Anti-Depressants. The Polio vaccine is not a big moneymaker, and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t have any off-label uses!
I will be the first to say that I truly understand that drugs can have horrible side effects- this is coming from a 35-year-old who has full blown Osteoporosis from all the Prednisone I took in the past few years. But I will also say that Prednisone was the only thing that actually controlled my Ulcerative Colitis. My doctors kept trying to get me off it, but without it, my flares were debilitating- I got Osteoporosis, but I didn’t bleed to death, so I count that as a win.
I would like to highlight here that I also tried everything else possible to control my disease. If you aren’t familiar with Ulcerative Colitis, it is an auto-immune disease where your body attacks your colon and causes these horrible ulcers that are intensely painful and come with digestive problems that I am sure you don’t want to hear about. It was like living with food poisoning for several years. Oh yeah, and I bled- a lot. So as much as I knew that steroids were not a long term solution, I kept begging for them because it was only when on a high dose that I got any sort of relief. I went through 6 or 7 other prescription drugs, multiple specialists, tried all sorts of diets, acupuncture, some wack-a-do thing called Total Body Modification (which did absolutely nothing and was stupidly expensive btw,) and spent months in treatment with a woman who is a highly regarded naturopath.
I did my research and found someone with excellent credentials, wonderful reviews and great recommendations. This woman was lovely and kind and I am sure that her methods work for some people, but it was the holistic supplements that she gave me that sent me into the worst flare of my life, and down the path where I eventually had to have my colon removed.
This is where I get really worried about people who choose to use Complimentary Alternative Medicine instead of the opinions of actual doctors. Because medical specialists exist for a reason. I have a GI Specialist, Colon and Rectal Surgeon, Endocrinologist, and a guy who just focuses on Osteoporosis in young patients because no one person can possibly be a true expert in all of these fields- there is just too much information.
When I went to the naturopath and asked if she had ever treated anyone with Ulcerative Colitis, she said “I treat the whole person, not just the disease,” and then gave me some water that had been blessed by a Shaman to drink. But I bought into it because I wanted so desperately for something to work. Her months of treatment never helped me (she convinced me that all my problems were because of diet, but after 4 months on her strict and gluten free meal plan, my symptoms were no better) and when I got a cold, she gave me some herbs that probably work fine for people without a diseased colon. But because of my medical conditions, something about them triggered a life-threatening flare for me.
And then when I went on prednisone again, it no longer worked. So we pulled out the big guns and I went on Remicade. This is an iv immuno-suppresent with a host of nasty side effects but at this point I was willing to do anything to get some quality of life back. It looked like I was getting a little better for a few months and then it just stopped working. That was the point at which my GI had a long sit down with me to discuss options.
At that meeting he told me that if I wanted to continue to try various perscription drugs there were many left that we could attempt to use. But he flat out told me that in his experience patients that have proven resistant to multiple treatment options often don’t find a drug that works for them, and he referred me to a surgeon to discuss removing my colon. At first I was horrified by the thought, but after a lot of research and discussion with my family and doctors, I realized that this was the best option for my long- term health. I am happy to report that a little more than a year after the first surgery, the only thing I take for my digestive system is Imodium and an RX probiotic. I am pretty much drug free except for my Synthroid (because of the thyroid cancer, but that’s a whole different story!) and my Xanax- which you would have to pry from my cold dead hands!
I tell this lengthy story for a few reasons. First of all, while I don’t doubt that there are unscrupulous MDs that over-proscribe because of the perks they get from drug companies, I also KNOW that there are many doctors who do what they do because they truly want to help people. I’m pretty sure that my GI would have made a lot more money by keeping me on a string of different drugs- at one point I was coming to his office twice a week (and now I only need to see him once a year!) Also, Remicade is extremely expensive (around $7,000 a treatment) so he also could have pushed me to keep trying that for another six months. But instead, he referred me to a surgeon who CURED me! Granted, it was a horribly invasive cure that required 2 surgeries, weeks in the hospital, and close to a year of recovery, but long-term the drug companies are making a lot less money off of me!
Secondly, all of this concern about “Big Pharma” is just fueling the vaccine debate- WHICH SHOULD NOT BE A DEBATE.
As someone who has spent the better part of the last four years either with newborn infants or in a severely immunocompromised state, I beg you to vaccinate yourself and your children.
Measles and Whooping Cough are coming back because we can no longer rely on herd immunity to protect those that cannot be vaccinated because of age or actual medical reasons. Yes, some people have vaccine reactions- some people are also deathly allergic to peanuts. Are you not introducing your child to any potential food allergens because there is a small chance they might have a reaction? If so, fine, that doesn’t hurt anybody but your child who will just be eating boiled chicken and white rice for their entire life.
But choosing not to vaccinate does hurt people. Little babies are getting sick and you can prevent that.
I am truly shocked by some of the things that friends and friends of friends believe about vaccines. For example- I am 99.999% sure that vaccines are not, in fact, made from aborted fetuses. If that is why you don’t vaccinate your children, I am 100% sure that I just unfriended you on Facebook.
And then there are the people I know who are incredibly well read and educated, smart and articulate, who still refuse to give their children vaccinations. And that’s where I circle back to homeopathy.
Most people who don’t vaccinate cite individual examples of vaccine-injuries as one of their reasons. Well, if anecdotal evidence is enough to convince you, then your shouldn’t use homeopathy either because I just told you a story about how I was homeopathically-injured. Therefore, homeopathy must be terrible for everyone and evil and it is irresponsible to give to your children.
Oh wait, but there is a contingent of people who believe they can get full immunization just by using homeopathic products. So they are giving their babies all sorts of herbs and medicines that are not at all controlled or tested by the FDA. Is the FDA flawed? You bet. But it is far better than having no controls in place.
Here’s a fun tidbit for you: Hyland’s, a very popular brand of homeopathic medicine, uses Belladonna in it’s baby teething tablets. Does that sound familiar? It is a highly toxic plant, also known as Deadly Nightshade, that people used to poison each other with in ancient Roman times (I heard about it on a tour of the Getty Villa, but I digress.) Apparently it is such a small amount that it shouldn’t have any adverse effects on children. But there is no one but the company making it that oversees the process and makes sure that the batch you give your babies didn’t get a little extra POISON in it by mistake.
Look, despite my history, I am not an alternative medicine hater. I think that it actually has great benefits for some people if used carefully and with the knowledge and guidance of a person who has actual medical training. But it is called Complimentary alternative medicine because it should serve as a compliment to advice from your MD, not in place of it.
Find doctors that you trust and then listen to them. 10-15 years of medical training is not exactly a “get rich quick” scheme. Most people who go through that do it because they actually want to help, not so that they can secretly inject your littles with mercury and aborted fetus tissue while bathing in $100 bills from the makers of the whooping cough vaccine.
Please, don’t let your internet “research” guide you to leave your kids open to diseases that could kill them or that they could spread to others. Because anyone can write an article on vaccines… you just read mine and I fully admitted in the beginning that I get my news from a comedy program!
So here it is, yet another post about the Elf on The Shelf for your Facebook feed. I have read a lot of these blogs and articles advocating how the Elf brings a smile to their kids faces or about how the Elf is super creepy. (Personally I go with super creepy but that is probably because my #1 nightmare as a child was about my dolls coming to life to move around the house when I slept.) What bothers me is not that people are voicing their sometimes very hilarious takes on the whole Elf thing, but that in the comments sections Moms are waging war on each other.
Over an eff-ing Elf. Seriously people, let’s take it down a notch. Move a little Elf around your house and tell the kids it spies on them and Pintrest it every day in excotic locales and/or hilariously ironic settings. Or don’t. I really don’t care. I certainly don’t think it reflects poorly on your parenting one way or another. It’s just a holiday tradition. I don’t get up in arms about what kind of Cranberry sauce you use on Thanksgiving (BTW the proper answer is none, it’s disgusting) or what kind of Halloween candy you give out (but seriously Dots lady, those thing are like gobs of Kool-Aid flavored cement) so why are we so defensive about our position vis a vis Elfgate?
It’s just another way to get all up in each other’s grills, because that is a lot easier than doing something productive. And I get it, I am a stay at home mom, so I often feel the need for righteous vindication. I stopped breast-feeding and supplemented with formula because of health reasons. My babies never slept in my room because every noise they made woke me up in a panic, I learned that with the monitor on the lowest setting I could hear if they really cried but not every whimper and that is what I used. And we did a modified cry-it-out thing because I am terrible at instituting a pre-planned course of action that involves hours of baby crying, but we desperately needed the twins to sleep. I sort of wore my kids but only because it meant I might have one hand free. I give them every single vaccination that my pediatrician recommends and if they are sick they get Tylenol or antibiotics. I am firmly anti-spanking but also at a total loss right now because time-outs seem to be nothing but a joke to my littles. I made my own organic baby food for about a day and then gave up and moved to those packet thingies. I have spent many nights away from the loves of my life both because I had to (like when I was in the hospital) and because I wanted to (because getting a break makes me a better mom.)
I have made a lot of decisions that other moms might not agree with, and it feels incredibly personal when someone attacks the way you raise your children. So personal that it sometimes makes you want to leave a nasty comment on that someone’s shared article because you just had an XL glass of wine and a really hard day and how dare they flaunt their obviously wrong choices in your Facebook feed! Because being a stay at home mom means that a huge part of my identity is tied up in the parenting and lifestyle choices I make for my kiddos. And I personally have a deep seated insecurity that I am probably screwing my children up in a million small ways that they will one day work out in very expensive therapy.
I am just trying to figure this parenting thing out as I go, and every new study, or article, or child development book floods me with anxiety that maybe I have been doing this all wrong and these precious creatures that I have been entrusted to care for are going to be the worse for it. And then I try and take a deep breath (and maybe a Xanax) and realize that I know deep in my heart that my way may not be the “best” but it is the best I can do for my family given our circumstances.
So this holiday season, I would like to challenge us all to just be a little kinder to each other in social media where the easy thing is to only speak up when you are angry. Maybe do a little something I like to call Anti-Trolling. Instead of finding those threads that infuriate you and sparking up a rousing debate that is going to change no-one’s mind and will probably leave everyone feeling like crap. Let’s take that energy and instead use it to give some loving words of encouragement to something a person took the time and energy to write, or sing, or make into a video. It’s kind of a new hobby of mine. In fact a few of my consistent blog readers/bloggy friends are complete strangers who I Anti-Trolled because I read something of theirs that sparked a desire in me to compliment them or just send a little kindness their way. Give it a try, I promise there is a lot less remorse to drunk commenting to someone, “You are the greatest, I loooove your writing, I think you are super awesome and I want to be best friends and watch Mean Girls together,” than to actually being mean!
I just want to take a quick moment to say I am truly astounded by the outpouring of support I have gotten since my last blog post about starting Mommies In Need. In a little over a week, we have more than doubled our original goal for helping Annie and her family!!!
I was not sure if I could really do this thing, or if I was just being an (even more) insane person. But you guys are backing me up and giving me the courage to keep going. The amount of people who have shared the link, donated, or offered to help in some other way is incredible. I think it has spoken to a real need in society. I have heard over and over again when I explain the idea to people, “I never really thought about it, but I don’t know what my family would do if I got that sick.” Mommies In Need is growing at the rate that it is because it offers a tangible and relatable service to people who are in an unthinkable situation.
So just to keep you in the loop here are just a few things that have actually happened in the last week:
We have the beginnings of the 501(c)(3) paperwork done. This is an extremely tedious process but I am hoping to have at the very least the articles of incorporation submitted to the state by tomorrow. Once that goes through, I can get the rest of the forms to the IRS in the next few weeks.
We have a Secretary and Treasurer for the Board. We will be having board meetings and voting on measures and all sorts of official stuff!
We have a Mommies In Need bank account where all of your incredibly generous donations are going. And by bank account, I mean real bank account, not a bag with a dollar sign on it under a loose floorboard.
We now have a PO Box. Send us something! I recommend a check made out to Mommies In Need, but you could also send Annie a letter or card of encouragement, a sonnet you write about how generally awesome I am, or whatever else you feel inspired to pass along. Our new address is: Mommies In Need, PO Box 601562 Dallas, Tx 75360.
And most importantly, we have raised enough money to fund a Nannie for Annie (sounds like a Dr. Seuss book) for over 2 months!!! I am amazed and overwhelmed by the generosity and enthusiasm that everyone has shown.
So please continue to donate or have people send checks to our new address. You can also send me an email at email@example.com if there is some other way you want to get involved or just want to be on the mailing list for any and all Mommies In Need info.
I am so excited that we are able to help Annie and hopefully many more mommies like her in the future. Thank you to all of you for listening, supporting, and sharing! And for jumping on board this crazy train with me!
I have said on this blog before that I no longer believe that everything happens for a reason. Some of you may have heard me articulate this as “I don’t believe that God gives us the bad stuff.” I just can’t wrap my head around a world where the difficult path that I have been down was chosen for me, that I have suffered so much because I am uniquely strong enough to bear it. I think we have a lot more choice than that, and sometimes shit just happens. And it’s not fair, and it’s not because I deserved it, or because I needed it to grow as a person. I am just someone who for a long time couldn’t catch a break. And I went through a long string of crazy health problems and am just now coming out the other side of it.
What I do believe is that people who are dealt a rough hand have the option to bet on it anyway. We don’t always have the ability to change the circumstances that come into our lives, but we can choose to keep going, to get out of bed every day (or most days) and hope for the best. And if we are lucky, we can find a way to turn those things into something great. And sometimes God, or The Universe, or Completely Random Chance (whatever you want to name it that makes sense to you) lets things line up in a way that all that crap makes sense and has a purpose and can be turned into something beautiful.
This is more philosophical than I usually get here, but I need to explain to everyone why all of the sudden I have become (even more of) a crazy person and decided to take on a huge project when I am not quite fully functional myself. I started a charity. Like yesterday. With no real plan in place, just flying by the seat of my yoga pants and praying that it turns out ok.
I have actually been thinking about starting this since I first got sick. Because I always knew how fortunate I was that with the help of our families we could afford to hire a nanny to get me through the worst of it. And I found Wonder J– as I have written before she has been amazing for our family. I always knew that I could focus on taking care of myself and be there for my girls as much as possible, but have confidence that if I hit a wall and had to go lay down, or got dizzy, or was about to poop my pants (sorry for the TMI but we are talking colon removal here!) Flopsy and Curly were in good hands. I can’t even begin to describe how much I needed this help, I am not exaggerating when I say I am not sure I could have gotten through the last few years without a nanny. Cause stay at home mommies don’t get sick days. Ever. Not if you have a cold and not if you have cancer.
Stay at home mommies of young kids don’t have disability insurance and most of us don’t have any sort of childcare set up. Maybe a MDO or a couple of hours of babysitting here and there. Not enough to go to seven doctor’s appointments a week. Or be in the hospital for 20 days in a year. Or go through invasive treatments and surgeries that leave you feeling like warmed-up death. And if you can’t afford to hire help than at best you have tons of different people volunteering a few hours here and there, having to explain your kids schedule to every person that helps you, feeling guilty that there is no consistency in the kids lives, and at worst have to miss vital appointments or treatments because you can’t find someone to watch your kid with strep. Who, by the way, you shouldn’t even be near because you have a severely compromised immune system. Not a great situation, huh?
So when I heard that my friend Annie (who has two darling kids and not-so-cute colon cancer) was back in the hospital following surgical complications, and did not have and could not afford full time help to get her through the rest of her surgeries and chemo, I knew I HAD to do something. See, a few years ago, I would have heard her story and thought, “Aww that sucks, she’s so nice, this is going to be really hard for her.” But now I hear that story and say “NO!!! You can’t do this by yourself, if you can’t get help then I will get it for you.” And then the real miracle happened. Our previous nanny (who left only because she got a full time job, we loved her) texted me and said she was looking for a new family. And I thought, “Hello, all I have to do is put these two together, raise a bunch of money, and I’m off.” So Mommies In Need was born.
But can’t I just raise money for another charity that does this? Nope. If there is one, I couldn’t find it. And my vision is very specific. I want to not only fund the nannies for sick moms, but also provide them with someone who is vetted, background checked, and stamped with the SuperCrazy Mommy seal of approval (as in I have/would leave my own kids with them.) Because when you are in pain is not the time to have to do interviews and reference checks and try to find the right person. My long term goal is that if I get a call for a mommy who just got a diagnosis I can move fast and have a reliable nanny to her in a few days.
I know that there is a daunting amount of work ahead of me, I just opened the new bank account and am starting all the 501(c)(3) paperwork, and I actually do have “Grand Plans” for the future. But already I am amazed at the people who have stepped forward and said they think this is important and want to be a part of it. I am feeling grateful that everything came together at the right time for me to get off my ass and actually start this thing. So is it crazy? Yes. Is it Super Crazy? Yes! But I am doing this because I feel like I finally found the good that I can pull out of all the shit I have been through. This non-profit is my silver lining, my reason for all my difficulties. I actually have an answer now to the question that plagued me everytime I got hit with another diagnosis or huge crisis.
In Mommies In Need I found my “Why?”
*If this blog has ever spoken to you, or made you laugh, or given your day a little lift, please consider donating to MommiesInNeed. If you can’t donate, please check out the fundraising page and share it on any media platform you can. Plus as you will see on the campaign page, if you donate $100 or more I’ll Be Your Best Friend! You can also like me on Facebook for more updates on this project.
I rant a little (or a lot) on this blog. I talk about the crazy things that are going on in my life and how difficult it has been to deal with it all. I have talked about my anxiety, my cancer, my miscarriage, my disordered eating, and my surgeries, in addition to the general insanity of raising twin toddlers. If you want to get caught up quickly you can visit A Brief Timeline of Crazy. And while I have just begun mining the things I want to vent about and get off my chest, I feel the need to pause for a minute and say that despite all of that I never forget that I have also been amazingly blessed. I can’t say anymore that I believe that “everything happens for a reason,” but I do believe that if you try, you can take the bad that happens to you and make something beautiful out of it. For me that something is a new appreciation of the good things in my life, as well as the ability to be there for others who are going through a difficult time. So here is a list of 10 things for which I will be eternally grateful:
Flopsy and Curly- more than anything else they have been my reason for getting out of bed and my motivation to keep going no matter how crappy I felt. They are awesome and hilarious and they love tutus, purple, and sparkly things (just like mommy!) They were the worst sleeping babies in the history of the world, but I am incredibly thankful that they are relatively even-tempered toddlers. They play really well with each other about 75% of the time, which is pretty good for 2 1/2 and every single day they do something that stops me in my tracks because it is so cute, or sweet, or smart, or funny and I think, “I am the luckiest person in the world that I get to spend my days with these two amazing little people.” Like when Curly put her hand on my cheek and looked into my eyes and said, “You’re my sweet girl.” Or when Curly was getting frustrated with putting on her own shoes and Flopsy said, “I’ll help you” and then put Curly’s shoes on for her. Or yesterday, when they were playing on the swings and taking turns sitting on each other’s lap and swinging together. I seriously almost had a stroke from cuteness.
Sebastian- My husband is incredible. Truly, it makes me mad sometimes because I can’t even complain about him when I get together with a bunch of other moms. He helps around the house, gets up in the middle of the night with the kids when I’m not feeling well, is a loving and devoted dad, encourages me to take “me” time or go out with friends when I can, and managed to pick up all the extra work I could not do this past year when I was really sick. He also has to put up with much more of my crazy than anyone else and somehow still loves me. The most annoying thing about him is that he is almost always right. Please don’t tell him I said that!
My Family- By this I mean my parents, siblings, grandparents, and also Sebastian’s family who have been wonderful through all of our turmoil. I seriously don’t know how we would have survived the past few years without the family support we have had. They have gathered around us like a giant protective hugging net that has kept us from falling- yes a hugging net, I don’t know what that is either but I’m sticking with it.
My Friends- Even those who I have not talked to on a regular basis in the past years have come out of the woodwork to support me. Especially since I started this blog and actually let people in to the realities of what was going on with my life, I have been showered with love from my friends.
Wonder J (Our Nanny)- I have a whole post dedicated to her, but knowing that my kids are in such good hands has taken a ton of mommy guilt off my shoulders!
Dr. Awesome (My Therapist)- she helps me keep the crazy at bay and gives me Xanax. ‘Nuff Said.
That I Had Twins- sure, having 2 babies at once was front loaded with difficulty, but when I got the scary news that my uterus had been removed to save my life, I was devastated, but not nearly as much as I would have been if I hadn’t had two darling babies to go home to. I know that my family is perfect and complete. Plus, I don’t get a period anymore- can’t say that I miss that!
The Body Scan that Found my Cancer- it was horrible timing, but I do realize how lucky I am that a random scan before surgery found that lump and I was able to have it removed long before I ever showed symptoms. Otherwise, that little ball of yuck could have kept growing for a long time and put me in a much worse situation.
Our Financial Security- I am immensely grateful that we had good insurance and the ability to get through these years without the crippling debt that chronic illness and multiple surgeries can bring to a family. Sure, I would much rather have taken an awesome vacation than spend 20 days in the hospital this year, but we didn’t have to choose between paying for my medicines and paying for food. I do realize how very lucky I am for that.
This Blog- I only go to therapy once a week, but I can write here whenever I want! It has given me a sense of purpose, a way to express myself, and an outlet for the whirling dervish of thoughts that are constantly going in my head. It has allowed me to be honest in a way I have never been before. I am very good at putting up a front of being fine when I am actually far from it. It has been so helpful and freeing to me to have a place to let down my guard, to show the mess I have going on inside, and to advertise to the world how NOT perfect I am.
I started thinking that I needed to write this because I have several friends in crisis right now, and I constantly get people saying to me, “Well, I guess I shouldn’t complain. It’s not as bad as what you’ve been through.” I would like to state right now for the record- that is total BS. If you are dealing with pain, difficulty, or trouble in your life, that is yours and you have every right to be upset about it. A dear friend of mine who has been through cancer, the loss of her mom, and many other struggles said something to me that I will never forget. I was saying essentially the same thing to her, that I shouldn’t complain because it could be much worse. And she said, “If that helps you right now, then use it. If it doesn’t, don’t!” I love that thought. Sometimes you need to wallow in your grief or pain or difficulty to get through it. And sometimes you need to look at the big picture of the world and be amazed that in the scheme of things your life is actually pretty good.
Right now I feel the need to show my gratitude to the universe that let me get through this horrible time in my life with myself missing a few organs and a little bit of sanity, but mostly intact. For the first time in a very long time I feel hope. And that is so beautiful. I want to say to those out there who are in the midst of a dip in your life when you feel like things will never get better… I have been there. Like really there, in a pit, thinking that I would never be able to climb out. And while I am not at the end of my journey of healing (so don’t be surprised when I have ranting posts later about Ulcerative Colitis, or surgeries, or other craziness) I can finally see that glimmer that things are going to be OK. It is crazy how that snuck up on me. I didn’t notice I was doing so much better until one day I realized that I could breathe a little easier, that I wasn’t in a constant state of tension waiting for the next of like 40,000 shoes to drop. And for that spark of hope I am completely awash in gratitude. Thank you to everyone reading, commenting on, and messaging me about this blog. You have all helped me to find that spark, thanks for being part of my therapy. But don’t worry Dr. Awesome, I still need to come to you for my Xanax!
A couple of days ago, I had the unicorn of parenting experiences: a tear free visit to the doctor to get a flu shot! My two and a half year old twins were actually excited to get their shots. Yes, you heard that right, excited. As in I briefly mentioned to them that after nap we would be going to the doctor to get shots and when they woke up, Curly said to me, “Mama, is it time to get shots now?!”
In fact, we went to a flu shot clinic and there was a wait, so I said we could go get dinner while we waited and that was when they got upset… because we were leaving the building without getting our shots. I had to promise that we would come back after dinner and they would in fact be poked with needles.
And the actual vaccination experience? Great! Curly went first and while she flinched a tiny bit at the actual shot, there were no tears, because she was eagerly anticipating her Band-aid and sticker. Flopsy went to the table willingly, cried for about 30 seconds after the needle went in, and was perfectly happy by the time we left. Then we met their daddy for ice cream. All in all it was a lovely afternoon, unlike last year’s flu shot debacle, which involved Stage 5 meltdowns from both girls and myself.
I wish I could attribute this stellar behavior to my superior parenting skills, but alas the credit goes to whatever genius came up with Doc McStuffins. Yes, Disney Jr., home of the good doctor, is now my favorite channel ever because my kids are obsessed with going to the doctor, pretending to be a doctor, saying they want to be a doctor when they grow up, and apparently with getting shots. The first thing they said was that it would be “just like on Doc McStuffins.” I jumped on that bandwagon with both feet and my bells on. I let them watch an extra episode on TV that day and loudly led a “Time for the Check-Up” sing along in the car. I even bought Doc McStuffins Band-Aids for them to use on the boo-boos.
I have to pause here and say that when they were first born, I was that parent that was all, “Absolutely no screen time until 2 or their brains will rot and fall out of their heads.” If you took that approach and were able to stick with it, then more power to you! I, however, kind of relaxed those rules around 18 months when I realized just how much I could get done during 15 minutes of Sesame Street. And then as they got older but were still waking up at the crack of dawn, an entire 50 minute episode gave me a beautiful semi-quiet time to mainline some coffee and become a mostly functional human being.
Now, while I still try to make sure we don’t spend all day in front of a screen, I am starting to realize just how much they pick up from the blessed moving pictures machine. And despite all of the TV naysayers, some of that stuff they pick up is pretty awesome. Like the time Flopsy said that something was “humongous” and when I gave her a funny look, she said “that means big, big, big, Mommy.” I know that, but how do you? You are 2 and 1/2! Sesame Street! It’s also where Curly learned the word camouflage, which she thought she was doing when she hid behind a sheer curtain. Not quite kid, but maybe if you keep watching, you will have the more subtle language nuances down by 3!
So if Doc McStuffins makes them want to be a doctor, I say Hooray! I am so glad there are TV choices out there that get kids to aspire to real careers. I mean, if they say they want to grow up and be a princess, I’m not going to tell them that is totally impossible- but we should probably start running in different social circles. And if Angelina Ballerina gets them hyped up for their ballet class, then she can pirouette her way into our living room anytime. Now, if someone can just get Cailllou cancelled, our TV experience would be perfect. For some reason they love that whiny bald kid, and that show seriously makes me want to start drinking at 10 am!