Friday, December 31, 2010

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Reflections on 2010

Wow. I cannot believe the year is almost over and I have yet to reach my goal of "catching up" on my blog. This has been a very introverted year for me... probably why my blog has been so neglected. I struggled with writing our annual Christmas letter this year. In so many ways, 2010 was really crappy. It would make for a really depressing country song. lol How can you write an upbeat Christmas letter, yet be honest about life at the same time? I hope I achieved my goal... if you received our letter, you'll have to let me know!

When I re-read some of my latest posts (from Oct/Nov), I can hardly recognize myself. This is a good thing. A VERY good thing. I have been pain-free for what seems like forever now (truly since mid-November). My medications are working properly and I've had no side effects (other than being illness prone). The details of the joint pain have faded from my memory, but the impact of the disease on my whole self (mental, physical, spiritual) has not. I am enjoying my less hectic life. It was forced upon me, but I embrace it. My commitments are few. My energy is still not 100%, but I am learning balance and how to live life without overdoing it.

I feel as if I'm in a very weird place in life. We've lived in this locale for 2 1/2 years now (can't believe it has been that long!), which is half as long as we lived in the Dallas area. Our relationships are nowhere as deep or meaningful here. We are still struggling to "fit in". We have had a lot of upheaval with our church home this past year and are searching once again for the path God wants to lead us on and the "home" to embrace.

Disconnect is the word that I most associate with right now. I've been disconnected from a church home/family, disconnected from volunteering in organizations that I care about, disconnected from others in many ways. Part of me is very happy with the depth of relationship that occurs between myself and my immediate family when we are disconnected, but the rest of me longs for the intimacy of relationships with others. I'm hoping 2011 will be a year of connection. My desire is to put down deep roots here to provide stability for my children... but right now, my instinct is to run away or flee back to our comfort zones - either closer to family or back to Dallas. To a place where people know me and love me for who I am. Once in a while, I see the glimmer of a potential friendship and that tides me over for awhile. I'm pretty sure it is called hope. Life has bogged me down. I hope that 2011 will unbog me. Only through God's grace. I certainly don't deserve it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Crazy days Update

First of all, I want to start with this... an update on Matt Chandler. I don't recall if I've mentioned him on the blog or not. He is a pastor where I used to live and his daughter attended the preschool where I worked. So, I have a slight personal connection to the family and have been following his story very closely. You can read his story via the link below. I have been awed and inspired by the way he has handled suffering. In the beginning, I spent many days praying that if I were put in that situation that I would handle it with as much grace and faith as Matt has. I have experienced a fair amount of suffering this year (nothing in comparison to brain cancer) and I feel like still I have a lot to learn about grace and faith. I hope this inspires you...

Secondly, my mother-in-law did have a brain aneurysm and brain surgery to fix it. The surgeon said that if she did not have surgery, within days the aneurysm would have blown and she would have died. She is alive and well and went home from the hospital on Halloween (Merely 2 weeks and 2 days after her surgery) - PRAISE GOD! She had absolutely NO symptoms of stroke and no complications - PRAISE GOD! Please continue to pray that she would recover quickly. Her main issue (aside from a nasty scar) is that she was virtually immobile for two whole weeks, so she is very weak and tired. Things could have been SO much worse and we are so grateful.

How is it going with Rheumatoid Arthritis? Better. I have now started all three of my medications and have had no side effects so far - PRAISE GOD! My daily symptoms have been reduced - my joints are working better, though I'm physically exhausted a lot. At least one of the drugs is an immune suppressant and I came down with a pretty nasty cold this weekend. I have started doing a lot of research on RA and treatments, especially non-medicinal - just to see what is out there. I've decided that sometimes ignorance is bliss and that research is very depressing. I've found message boards of "support", but all I find there are people who list every symptom that is bothering them that day and the difficulties they are having. I know how miserable it is to suffer with chronic pain, but I don't want to spend all day reading about other people's pain too. There is a tough balance between getting the support you need and detailing your troubles to others.

I'm amazed at how life can be strolling along... flowing smoothly... and in one instant or one day - things change. For Matt Chandler, that one day was last Thanksgiving. For my mother-in-law, that one day was October 13. For me, that one day was May 23. It catches you by surprise. You weren't expecting this. But, God has a plan. He is not surprised. He knows when your day is. You may even have several days. He is the same God before that day, during that day and after that day.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Crazy days

Yesterday, I went back to the Rheumatologist. I definitely have Rheumatoid Arthritis... and so begins an aggressive treatment plan. The medicine I'll be taking can also be used in cancer treatments - it is that potent. The side effect risks are high and who knows how my body will react to it. It is immune-suppressing, so I had to get a flu shot and pneumonia shot and I'll have to stay away from sick people this winter. They also took 4 vials of blood (again) and did both hand and chest x-rays to have a baseline to compare to later. I will start on three medicines - one will be eased into as another is eased out of. The third is to combat the effects of the other two. I'll be taking two different supplements as well. I feel happy that we finally are progressing and will be treating this icky disease, but I'm also frustrated with the fact that I'll likely battle this the rest of my life. There is no cure. Only treatment. I just keep reminding myself that God is bigger than any disease and that I need to rely on Him for strength when I feel that I have none left.

Right after the boys went to bed last night and the moment I finished telling Tommie all about my doctor's appointment, the phone rang. It was my father-in-law (Tommie's dad). Linda (Tommie's mom) was taken to the ER yesterday afternoon where they discovered a brain aneurysm. (That news certainly made my problems look small.) They flew her via helicopter to a big city hospital and had a neurosurgeon standing by. Last night, they put a catheter into her brain to drain the blood/fluids that were pressuring her brain. That offered some relief, but not enough. Today, they are doing an angiogram to determine the next step and to see whether brain surgery will be required. She is in the neuro ICU and is stable, but serious. The results of the angiogram will tell us how severe this is and whether we need to head up there right away or not. It is kinda scary, but we know that she is in God's hands. As my father-in-law said this afternoon, if it's her time to go, at least we know where she'll be - with our Heavenly Father. I pray that the outcome is quick and positive. Hopefully, they are able to stop the flow and that she recovers in a few days with no lasting problems.

Crazy couple of days... I'm so grateful that God is in control, not me. Somehow, I don't think that I would do a very good job. :)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Thoughts about RA, life and God

Do I have Rheumatoid Arthritis? 50% of people with Palindromic Rheumatism will get RA. Well, I'm not positive yet. My blood work came back indicative of RA, but I haven't gone back to the Rheumatologist yet to hear what exactly that means and what we're going to do about it. In the meantime, my joints have gotten progressively worse.
Different joints on different days, but flares have been overlapping. Most mornings, it is difficult to walk - my feet feel like platypus feet, painful to step on and won't fit into shoes very well. Some days I have a body part that just won't work right all day. Do you know how difficult it is to function without shoulders, hips or hands? This was my view this morning. As you can see, at least 3 of my fingers are extremely swollen (and painful). I am unable to make a fist with either hand today, which makes things like pouring coffee, washing my hair, driving, holding a pen, typing... difficult. I push through.
Life goes on with or without me. I refuse to allow joint pain to win.

Typing is very painful today, but also therapeutic. I don't talk about this much to anyone, so it's nice to get this off of my chest. This is probably one of those blog posts that I would rather no one read, but I feel like saying it anyway.

I struggle not with why did this happen or does God love me... but I struggle with a) how can we fix this quickly because I refuse to live the rest of my life with progressively worse pain and b) how can God use this for His glory.
I feel as if I'm letting everyone around me down.
I have held independence, reliability and activity as pillars in my life. Those pillars are being broken. I'm forced to renig on commitments. I'm forced to ask for help and become dependent on others. I'm forced to slow down. And. I. Don't. Like. It.
I'm struggling with how to fully rely on God and not feel guilty that I cannot keep up with the Amy that still lives inside this broken body. The Amy that everyone else still sees and doesn't understand that there is a difference. I'm frustrated.
I have complete faith that God can heal me. The question is: will He? I know many people that believe you can and will be healed if you have enough faith. I also know faithful Christians that have struggled and died. The only thing I know is that my God loves me, He wants the best for me and He is capable of healing me. My job is to praise Him. I'm praying for self-discipline to spend time with Him daily and not worry about others' expectations of me, because right now I don't have it. When I die, those people won't be there - it will be me and Him. Did I love Him? Did I praise Him? Did I serve Him? Do I know Him? Healed or not won't matter then.
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Saturday, October 9, 2010

October 9 - Day 278 of 365

My parents visited this weekend! They took us out for a fancy dinner for our birthdays. Everyone cooperated for the photos... with a little resistance! I threatened to take pics of the food all night, if they didn't pose. :)
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Fall Festival

The local Fall Festival is the biggest event of the year. We took my Mom & Dad with us, so they could have the true local experience. Saturday's weather was beautiful, but unseasonably warm. We enjoyed everything from pronto pups to monte cristos to fried twinkies! The main attraction at the festival is the food, then the rides. It certainly wasn't the kiddie karaoke - yikes!

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Friday, October 8, 2010

October 8 - Day 277 of 365

Why do I have a random photo of an oversized cat and a group of pre-K students, you ask?
I am the oversized cat. Cool Cat is a tool to teach kids about fire safety & prevention. Just another fun part of my job...

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Monday, September 20, 2010

September 20 - Day 259 of 365

30 Day Baking Day

My friend, Jennifer, and I do 30 Day cooking together a few times per year. This time, we decided to bake instead! We made cobblers, pumpkin rolls, banana bread, soup, breakfast muffins, pumpkin bread, etc. It was a LOT of work, but it's so fun to have all of our fall baking done. Now... if Mother Nature would only recognize this season as FALL and cool off!

This is fresh apple cobbler filling...

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

September 19 - Day 258 of 365

 The rest of our day trip was spent at Audubon State Park (named after John James Audubon - artist & nature lover). We have been to this park before, but never inside the nature center/museum. One of our quests was to have a park ranger sign our book and take a photo. Once we did that, he told us to go through the museum for free, because it was about to close. It was so neat... with a bird viewing room and a tower room. Beautiful park!

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

September 18 - Day 257 of 365

Actually, I'm cheating... back-dating the blog. I really have no photos from the 18th, but we had a big family outing on the 19th that is going to take two posts. :)

I've been so lax on blogging that you probably don't know that we are participating in the Family Adventure Quest through Kentucky State Parks this year. We opted to do several weekend/day trips in lieu of a "real" vacation this year. Partly to save money and partly because it is difficult to get away for a whole week!

With the FAQ, we paid $15 to register our team and received a backpack, water bottle and booklet of 25 quests. If we complete all 25 quests, we will receive an $85 gift card to KY State Parks. Pretty awesome! The quests take you to many of the 52 KY State Parks... some can be answered with a little online research and others require a photo of your team for proof.

We live pretty close to Kentucky, so our day trips are sometimes only an hour away... but some weekend trips are 4-5 hours away. We've taken 3 day trips so far and one weekend trip. We're camping in October for fall break also. For this weekend's quest, we visited the Jefferson Davis Memorial. It was a lot of fun, but my one regret is that we should have waited until the trees had turned fall colors first. Ah, well...
The memorial is 350 feet high (as compared to the Washington Monument that is 550 feet high).
In this part of Kentucky, we saw many Amish buggies. Can you spot the buggy in the pic below? Do you see what else is on the corner?
I'm a Yankee through & through, so it was interesting to see so many rebel flags in the museum and gift shop. I still see the rebel flag as a symbol for racism... but that's a story for another day.

 On our way back home, we passed through this town...
 And saw some tobacco fields...
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Friday, September 17, 2010

Thursday, September 16, 2010

September 16 - Day 255 of 365

The not very cheer-leader...

This little cutie cheers for Truman's team. Sometimes she's not very cheerful. Ironic, isn't it?
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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

September 15 - Day 254 of 365

Harrison is in love with his teacher this year (which is an answer to prayer!). He keeps making and/or bringing gifts to her. I think it's so sweet!! He even wrapped his gift in a gift bag with tissue... *awww*

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

September 14 - Day 253 of 365

Harvest Time in Southern IN
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Finally a name

I finally got in to see the Rheumatologist today after a 7 week wait. My original appointment was at the end of October (a 3 month wait!), so I'm very grateful they had a cancellation and got me in today. I haven't said much about my current physical ails on my blog, because I've been feeling very out of sorts and was undiagnosed... no need to alert the world to listen to me whine about my aches & pains. :)

In a nutshell, I got bit by a bug (type unknown) on May 23rd and immediately started having joint pain (along with tiredness). The joint pain is a daily thing in my fingers/toes with occasional "flares" in other joints of a more serious nature. I've "donated" quite a bit of blood to the cause and had no definitive answers. At this point, both the doctor and Rheumatologist agree that the bug bite & joint pain are unrelated, though it is strange that they occurred at the same time. Anyway, they are testing for Lyme disease (again) just to rule it out for good and also doing some other tests. Unless something major turns up from this round of testing, the Rheum. has diagnosed me with:

I'm relieved to have a name for it (aka - I'm not crazy!)... but I'm still believing that God can and will completely heal me. Most important to me right now is that PR does not develop into Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).

Right now, I'm supposed to keep managing the pain with Advil (as I have been doing for the past 4 months) and keep a log. When I return to the Rheum., she will determine whether I should take further meds. The blood tests should show her whether I am one of the 40% who may develop RA. There is one medication that can help prevent people with PR from getting RA.

Monday, September 13, 2010

September 13 - Day 252 of 365

God and Me class for Cub Scouts
Truman is taking a class to earn his religious knot. I'm assisting his teacher with the class. It has been very fun to teach the boys about God and see what answers a group of 6-8 year old boys come up with! I'm honored to help teach the leaders of tomorrow.

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

September 11 - Day 250 of 365

First flag football game of the season!
Go Bengals!

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Friday, September 10, 2010

September 6 - Day 245 of 365

On Labor Day, we ate at Monical's Pizza right before leaving to head home. Oh, Monical's... how I love thee! The original Monical's is in Tolono, IL (and closed on Labor Day, just in case you were wondering). We ended up eating at one in Champaign. Their pizza is thin & yummy and a family pleaser includes a large pizza, pitcher of pop and salad. The Sweet & Tart salad dressing is perfect for a salad or on the pizza itself. I have wonderful memories of going to Monical's after every Friday night football game during high school. Good times! I always try to eat there when I'm in town. Ask anyone from central IL and I would bet they love Monical's!

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September 10 - Day 249 of 365

Happy Birthday to me (1 day late)! We celebrated by going out to our favorite Mexican restaurant, then home for ice cream cake & presents. The boys wrote sweet love notes to me and Tommie got me the perfect present! Life is good...

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September 5 - Day 244 of 365

On Sunday, we had a Majeres family gathering.
Lots of sports, ride-on toys, chatting, eating and S'mores! I love my family!
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September 4 - Day 243 of 365

I'm not sure that I will be able to keep up with Project 365, however I will post a photo per day whenever possible. :) Last weekend, we visited our families in IL and my in-laws gave me a fantastic new camera. We went to Argyle Lake State Park in the afternoon and tried it out. Pretty awesome, if you ask me! Thanks, Mom & Dad Payne!!
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Dear Blog:

There have been many reasons why I have neglected you over the past few months.
  • I was busy in April/May and got out of the habit of updating you.
  • I didn't think anyone was reading you (I have been corrected about this!).
  • I have had a rough time with my health since May and did not want to use you as a platform for complaints.
  • I was cheating on you. I started a 2nd blog for my business and was planning to leave you forever. I have since gotten a different job, so my business plans are on hold. I hope you will forgive me and take me back.
For all of the lame excuses I can think of, I am sorry. I make no promises about the frequency of which I will visit you... but I promise not to banish you from my life completely (yet!). lol You have been there for me through thick and thin and I enjoy your company. Thank you for not leaving me.


(This post is starting to make me think of a comparison between a blog & God... but we'll save the deep thoughts for another day!)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

September 8 - Day 247 of 365

We had my first big event for my new job today. The event involved local restaurants and some fun local entertainment. This was one of my favorite entertainers... a 7 piece Dixieland band!
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