Saturday, August 30, 2014

Rest, Rest, Rest, Rest... RUN!!!

For the past two years (plus a couple of months), since we moved back "home" to my parents' property, I've been in a rest cycle. Resting, recovering, recuperating from wounds, both literal and figurative. It's been a season of transformation, which is always a bit uncomfortable, because you never know exactly how you're going to come out on the other side. It has been a season of examination: internal and external, physical and spiritual.

And now, like someone thrust suddenly out of a long, dark tunnel, I'm blinking and squinting in the light like a newly-emerged mole.
No, really, that's how I feel. 

At the end of April I received my first book contract. Squee!!! Since then, I've been working with my editor to polish the story and prepare it for publication. No release date yet, but I'm OK with that. The more editing we do, the better the story gets!

In June/July I celebrated my 44th birthday. And I received an invitation to participate in a novella series with seven other authors that completely WOWED me. I flung myself into research, and wrote a historical novella set in 1921 Colorado Springs. That novella, Sadie's Gift, releases Monday, Sept. 1st on Amazon, and a few days later on Nook.

Also in July, I thought I'd lost the job I'd been waiting for since last November. Two days later, I had the job back. A full-time job that I can do from my house. It doesn't get much better than that! I've never had a full-time paying job before... I homeschooled four children, and served as a pastor's wife, but I didn't get paid for those roles. This is altogether different, and a blessing! It's also a big transition... I'm accountable to a number of other people now in a new way, and my schedule, which has been that of a lady-of-leisure, has to evolve.

Then I received a call (that received word keeps coming up) from my friend and leader at ACFW Colorado, asking me to consider taking over the role of Colorado Area Coordinator for American Christian Fiction Writers. WOW. I prayed, and prayed... feeling neither equipped nor prepared, but God didn't say "no," and it seemed good to the Holy Spirit on the inside. As of Monday, I will take up the coordinator mantle for Colorado's amazing group of writers. What an honor, and a responsibility!

These are things I've been believing for and expecting for years. Decades, even. Why couldn't I have had them happen ten or twenty years ago? Because I wasn't ready. I lacked the confidence, the maturity, the empathy, and the experience to handle them. Even now I feel like a hatchling just emerging from her egg. All of this is new to me, every day is filled with opportunities to seek higher counsel, and it's good!

My point? If you're in that "shelf season," don't fret, be patient, and enjoy the rest. God hasn't forgotten about you!



Tuesday, August 12, 2014

12 Hysterectomy Lessons, One Year Later

Today is the first anniversary of my total abdominal hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy. Why do I continue to share my personal medical history with the world, the checkout ladies at the grocery store, and a random older woman I swam into (literally) at the pool? Shouldn't I just shut up about it?



No, I shouldn't "just shut up." Twenty MILLION American women will have a hysterectomy this year. They will have questions, and they will need encouragement and validation, and if I can be a voice that helps them through the ugly days (and there are ugly days), I am honored to do so.

So... 12 lessons learned:

1. Being gutted like a fish is a BFD (big frickin' deal), no matter how "prepared" you thought you were for the event. Let yourself heal, especially in the first few weeks following surgery. Follow doctor's orders, get help, and don't even attempt to put on your Wonder Woman garb.

2. There's a whole new version of normal. Nothing in your body from ribs to knees will ever be quite the same. But that's OK, because most everything from ribs to knees was probably affected in some negative way by whatever prompted your need for a hysterectomy. Seriously, wardrobe was one of the hardest adjustments to make... Granny panties to support your abused belly, loose skirts and dresses for months... I still have soreness around my incision if I wear jeans for more than a few days in a row.

3. You find out how compelled you are to bargain shop for tampons and pads when you don't need them anymore. It's a bit disturbing to realize how much of your brain was dedicated to the purchase and use of feminine hygiene supplies.

4. Hormones are the elixir of life. Up until your surgery, hormones may have been the bane of your existence, prompting PMS and PMDD and feeding all sorts of other troubles. After surgery, hormones become your friend. (Obviously, many women opt out of hormone replacement therapy, for good reasons. If that's you, your story will be different, and I wish you well!)

5. You'll need to set alarms to remember your elixirs. Do not take said elixirs randomly. I accidentally doubled my testosterone dosage one day, and flew into what I can only describe as a "red rage" just a few hours later. I don't remember ever feeling that out-of-control since my teenage years. Set those alarms, people!



6. You'll probably mourn those missing parts, even if you loathed them for years, and that's OK. I didn't think I would go through the grief process others had mentioned, but three months post-op I found myself sitting on my bed with my prayer journal, weeping for my lost reproductive organs. Like bidding an estranged relative farewell at a funeral, I said good-bye, grieved their loss, and moved on. Your experience may differ, especially if your reproductive years were cut short by surgery.

7. Boobs continue to grow, whether you want them to or not. This was an unforeseen by-product, and fairly common side effect of hysterectomy. Had I known in advance, I might have changed my mind. Probably good I didn't know...

8. You'll be tempted to fall into the "old lady" pit. Don't go there. Just because you're "technically" in menopause (if you had your ovaries removed), that doesn't make you OLD! Old is a state of mind, not a state of body. But the temptation to stop doing things, to make excuses, to quit setting goals, etc., may rear its grizzled, wrinkly head... kick it in the face and move on.

9. Lots and lots of the women you meet every day have been through the same thing. If you open up, they will, too, and there's healing to be found in that communication. Sometimes it's healing born of simple sharing, sometimes it's healing that comes from wisdom and knowledge gained from other people's experiences. I spent HOURS on www.hystersisters.com reviewing forums and reading articles. It was hugely helpful to know that I wasn't alone in what I was dealing with.

10. Open your mind to alternative therapies: acupuncture, visceral massage, Reiki, meditation, etc. Ask lots of questions, and don't give up. It took six months for me to be able to lie flat on my back and stretch my arms overhead without feeling like my abdomen was ripping. A few acupuncture treatments and some visceral massage made all the difference.

11. Everyone's experience is unique. Don't judge! Even though it's especially hard not to judge the woman who runs her first triathlon less than six months after her surgery, be kind... she probably has some other issue you don't want.

12. Recovery takes a LOT longer than you think (or than anyone tells you). Cut yourself some slack. Getting better is like watching kids grow... a little bit every day. One of the best things my husband told me was to realize I was getting a little bit better every day. I sang that Beatles' song "it's getting better all the time" for weeks like a mantra. Stay hopeful and positive and, to quote another old song, "accentuate the positive" in your life!




Thursday, July 31, 2014

Eating Disorder? Who, Me?

I had an epiphany on the way home from church a couple weeks ago. I stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few things and left with a full cart and a peanut butter Snickers bar. After I devoured the candy bar, I felt guilty. (Doesn't everyone feel guilty after they eat a candy bar?)

Since it was Sunday, I started planning my diet for the week ahead. At which time a still, small voice spoke up on the inside...

You'll never be skinny enough to satisfy yourself.

I know that's true. Ten years ago I starved myself down to a point where my doctor told me she was concerned. (Don't worry, I'm not at that weight now!) Even at that size, I wasn't happy with my body. I wanted to be skinnier. I viewed anorexic women, chemo patients, meth addicts, and pre-pubescent teens with secret, shameful envy.

Today I run into people who haven't seen me since the super-skinny phase and their response is, invariably, "WOW! You look great! You look so healthy!" The first few times it happened I shrugged it off, but after enough people said it, I started to wonder... Did I look THAT unhealthy when I was in my super-thin mode? I recall a few comments from acquaintances who asked if I well at the time, but I was so caught up in the rush of finally being SKINNY I didn't examine their questions. I liked being a size 2-on-my-way-to-negative-numbers, even if my friends and family described me as "skeletal" and "bird-like." Darn it. If that was "skeletal," I liked it.

That's because you wanted to disappear. 

OUCH. I had to think about that. When I went on my 1200-calorie a day diet (or less... a 900-calorie day was a good day, a righteous day, a day for celebration), and started exercising like a maniac six days a week, I was in a state of what I now recognize as clinical depression. The church my husband and I planted was struggling, money stress was a daily fact of life, I was homeschooling four children, I'd cut off contact with my parents because we had doctrinal disagreements, I loathed where I lived, and my best friend had just moved halfway across the country. Starving myself (I called it a diet, but when peanut butter starts to play a major role in your fantasy life, something's wrong) was a way to take control of my life, which felt completely out of control. In truth, I didn't want to be IN my life at the time.

So you tried to shrink yourself out of existence.

Yes, I suppose I did. If it weren't for a concerned husband who noticed my disappearing boobs, I might have fallen headlong into a full-fledged case of anorexia/bulimia. Oh, I wasn't throwing up after meals like I did in high school and college, but I had discovered the trick of chewing and spitting... take a bite, chew it up, then spit it into the trash without swallowing. I was taking ephedrine daily, and sucking back enough espresso that when I exercised my sweat smelled like Starbucks. I spent hours every day perusing fitness and diet websites for validation and wrote down every single thing that crossed my lips.

At the same time, I was proud of myself. I praised God for the dropping numbers on the scale, even while I stifled the voice of my conscience. My whole life was wrapped up in what I ate and what I weighed. I counted the number of chocolate chips I could eat without going over my calorie limit, weighed my raisins in a kitchen scale, and had a running tally in my head of calories in vs. calories out. For someone who dislikes math on principle, those years were YEARS of mental calculations. You could ask me the calorie count of almost any food and I could tell you, without looking it up, its caloric value by weight.

Fast forward a few years, a major life change, a total hysterectomy due to undiagnosed endometriosis, and now, packing an extra 10-15 pounds around and feeling "fluffy," I find myself struggling. I no longer want to escape from my own life, and I'm no longer depressed (most of the time), but I'm still not "skinny enough," and, I have to admit, I never will be. It's like I have the wrong eyes in my head. Or the wrong body... Whose body IS this, anyway? I've never been at peace with it, not since I was 5 years old and my ballet teacher pointed out my "jiggly" thighs to the class during plies. Maybe not even before that.

I could put myself back on the high-intensity physical training program I was on, except that my post-surgery body won't allow it. I'm limited to yoga, Pilates, and isometrics for the foreseeable future, or endure debilitating pain. I could starve myself again... except I've discovered the joys of a glass or two (or sometimes three) of red wine in the evening, and I'm not willing to give it up, even for the sake of those extra pounds. As I told a dear friend recently, my "drinking problem" has trumped my eating disorder.
6 Give beer to those who are perishing,
wine for those who are in anguish!
7 let them drink and forget their poverty
and remember their misery no more. 
Prov 31:6-7 NIV
Eating disorder? Isn't that extreme? No, I don't think so. Eating disorder or disordered eating, however you want to define it, probably fits. It's probably been the case since I was a child, fretting over the size of my belly in my leotard.  I'm just now coming to terms with the truth of that. It's likely I'll never be able to look in the mirror and be pleased with what I see, no matter what my husband says, or what my Bible tells me. The broken record in my head that tells me I'm fat and dumpy and frumpy and flabby and floppy trumps every other voice.  

So now I'm 44, and I have an adult daughter who struggles with her own body image issues, and a granddaughter who is, as yet, thankfully too young to get the whole concept. I've wasted enough of my life hating what I see in the mirror (or only looking in the "skinny" mirrors, and fearing the scale at the doctor's office more than the outcome of any test). It's time to make a change.

Wish me well, I'm not sure what this is going to entail, but WHEN I come out on the other side I will be the first person to share the story of my journey, in hopes of encouraging and inspiring others.

Meanwhile, if you're battling with food issues, battling with body image, battling with some other unseen problem, may the mercy and grace of God be with you, and may you hear His voice in those dark places, revealing truth and showing you the way out of the darkness and into the light. Even when you don't love yourself, God loves you unconditionally.

Blessings.




Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Cuss-o-phobes

So...
I'm probably going to end up in all kinds of trouble for this, but, oh well.

Cussing is a Big Ugly Deal in the Christian community. Otherwise kind and loving churchgoers are unfriending people for cussing on Facebook, writing snarky reviews if an author uses the F-bomb, and are generally horrified by the appearance of words that earn a "bleep" on primetime TV and quite a few words that don't.

Now, don't misunderstand me... If you can't communicate your story/movie/TV program/article/interview/FB post/Tweet without using a series of repetitive F-bombs, you are a lousy communicator. Buy a dictionary and read it, please. While you're at it, pick up a thesaurus.

BUT... on the other hand, everyone who gets all "judge-y" about the proliferation of redundant cuss words needs to stop and examine their own speech. Saying "fudge" or "frick" or "fooey" in a moment of frustration, anger, or rage is just a candy-coated version of the F-bomb. The motive behind an outburst of "poop" or "crap" or "darn it" isn't any different than the less socially acceptable forms. It's the motive behind our words that counts, not the order in which we string our letters and syllables.

My point? All of you who cringe in horror and get offended when you see a "bad" word, it's time to step back and recognize that we all say "bad" words. It's a heart issue, not a vocabulary issue, and unless your heart is perfect, you're guilty of the same crime. Have a little mercy, if not for the sake of those doing the cussing, then for your own sake.

On that note... if you have friends who don't ordinarily avail themselves of F-bombs and S-words and the like as part of their regular, lazy, uneducated vocabulary, and you see those friends availing themselves of these words in their tweets or FB status updates, PLEASE take the time to ask them what's going on in their lives and how you can help. People who don't usually use profanity to express themselves and then suddenly begin doing so are usually in some kind of crisis: spiritual, emotional, mental, social, etc. They don't need people pointing their bony fingers and rebuking them for using a "bad word," they need someone to step in, say "what's up, buttercup?" and pray with and for them until they can see the light at the other end of the ugly tunnel they've found themselves in. Just a thought.


Let me repeat myself: There is no legitimate reason for using cuss words (real ones or their candy-coated substitutes). From a writing standpoint there's no real reason for using adverbs, either. Both, in excess, are lazy communication, and we should strive for better. But while we're doing that, let's stop acting like we're worthy of sainthood because we haven't said s*** or d*** or f*** for awhile.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Our culture of fear and why it's wrong

While a gun shoved into the waistband of a 60-some-odd year old man's pants goes off while he's in Walmart's checkout line gives me pause, the mommies who made an appearance at a Texas Target store (no pun intended) with their toddlers in tow and their assault rifles strapped to their back are enough to drive me to my knees.

Add to that the media frenzy over the local diner whose 20-something waitresses wear their plaid flannel shirts and their gun holsters snug on the job. My question: Why?

It's fallout from 9/11. Our nation has succumbed to fear. We're afraid of Islam, we're afraid of socialism, communism, whatever political position opposes our own, we're afraid of our own government, and we're afraid of each other. Fear rules us, and in the grand scheme of things, whether you're a Christian or a Buddhist or an atheist, that should concern you.

Fear is one of the greatest motivators. Animals in the wild run away from that which frightens them. Domesticated animals endure trips to the vet, or car rides, or whatever their master insists they tolerate, but they're still afraid. And humans? Instead of encouraging one another NOT to be afraid, our systems are triggered by fear. The more fear, the more news... Sensationalistic journalism has reached heretofore untold heights, and the American people, in response, have become more polarized in their views than ever before.

If we all took in every article, every post, every infographic, with a "fear-o-meter," might we find the truth on the other side? Or at least a place to discuss and interact without all the vitriol and turbulence? Is that even possible, in this day and age?



Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Celebrating closet independence

I found a bit of freedom in an unexpected place: my closet.

This post isn't about coming to terms with wearing a larger size. It's deeper than that. It's about letting go of identities that no longer fit us.



Clothing is a kind of costume, chosen based on current life role, regardless of comfort, fashion, or suitability to my figure. Sometimes, when those roles change, it's hard to shift out of the costumes... Mom jeans, anyone?

For three years there have been clothes in my closet that scream ID=Pastor's Wife. In my mind, that's what those clothes represent, and today I let those clothes go (still need to go through the shoes, because I now have NO reason to wear heels, so why are they shoved under my bed?).

It's uncomfortable and liberating at the same time. Why? Not because being a "pastor's wife" was bad. (OK, there were huge parts of it that sucked, but it wasn't all bad.) But because my identity should not now, or ever, be wrapped up in my clothing. On a deeper level, my identity shouldn't revolve around being a human DOING or a human DRESSING.

I have a friend who spent time in a mental institution. She kept her "hospital clothes" and pulled them out when she felt herself falling again into the abyss of depression and mental illness. She dressed according to her self-perceived identity. When I realized what she was doing, I scrutinized my own closet. Did I have clothes I put on only when I was depressed or unhappy? I did! I also had "church clothes," and "mommy clothes," and "party clothes." Why didn't I just have clothes that were comfortable and functional, without being fussy?

Anyway, after my closet purge (isn't it weird how you can fill huge trash bags with clothes and still have a full closet?) I'm hoping the garments hanging in my wardrobe will be better representatives of who I am now, not who I wish I was, not who I think I should be, not who I'm trying to be, just who I AM: daughter of God, sister of mankind, wife and lover, mother, grandmother, friend, writer, believer.

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