Sunday, October 27, 2013

One Little Word 2013: Hope

One Little Word 2013: Hope Collage
As some of you know hope has been my focus for this year. It seemed appropriate as one of the most difficult years of my life was coming to a close. I quickly learned how faith, hope and charity are tightly intertwined. Many times we focus on faith and charity and seem to leave out hope. I first blogged about my love for the word hope here.

I am once again taking a class online where at the beginning of each month we are given a prompt to make our word (focus) more visible in our lives throughout the year. I blogged about my one little word for last year here.

Even though hope is one of my most favorite words, I have come to realize the depth that this one small word holds, and how much I had to learn about the power that it holds.

We were given the prompt to make 12 intentions using our word for this year. I really struggled and wasn't even sure what was realistic to hope for. Not until I worked on a hope collage that was the prompt for February using magazines I already had, some from my sister and some even pulled out of the recycling, did this word, hope, begin to take root in my heart. For I knew with a surety that this year would be a year of change, and with the limited strength I had I needed something to hold onto, and that was hope.

One Little Word 2013: Hope

Being surrounded by darkness I found out how difficult it can be to hold onto hope and not let fear take over. Having the faith that if what you hope for doesn't turn out the way you expected that it is not the end. Heavenly Father has something else in mind, so you see where you are at and refocus and put your trust in God. Much easier said than done.

My 12 hopes for this year are broad in nature because under each one I have some specific hopes of a personal nature and some involvinvg those around me.
  1. Discovering Hope
  2. Cultivating Hope
  3. Hope in God's Timing
  4. Hope in Moving Forward
  5. Hope in Strengthening Relationships
  6. Hope in Sharing My Story
  7. Hope in Healing
  8. Hope in Embracing Charity
  9. Hope in Forgiveness
  10. Hope in my Redeemer
  11. Hope for an Open Heart
  12. Hope to Walk in the Light
It is now October, and the year is coming to an end. I think back to two years ago when the signs of depression started to emerge but when I was blind to them. Little did I know what was in store for me. I think back to a year ago when I believed my journey with depression and anxiety was coming to an end. I believed that November and December were to be months to grieve the many loses I had experienced and to find healing of my soul. Little did I know then that my health was beginning to fail. That choices I had made earlier in the year and issues that had traveled with me for many years were surfacing, and it would be a long journey. One that continues on today.

Today I think about this year and the many hopes that have seemed to be unfulfilled. How much could really happen in a little more than two months? Is this truly my year of hope?

Earlier this year before we moved but knew we would be, I was prompted to write down nine sayings that others tell me, I tell myself and I added what Heavenly Father tells me.
  1. This is a year of hope.
  2. Forgive yourself.
  3. Hope for new doors to open.
  4. You will end up where you are needed and where your needs will be met.
  5. Don't give up on hope.
  6. Hope can light the way.
  7. I have a purpose and a path.
  8. "Hope On. Journey On." -Elder Holland
  9. Heavenly Father loves ME
I have learned this year that holding onto hopes isn't as easy as it seems. Many times I have wanted to give up hope on situations or certain people. Hope many times seemed to = pain for me. And those are times where my faith was failing. For hope is to cherish a desire with anticipation, to expect with confidence, to trust, and a desire accompanied by expectation of or a belief in fulfillment or success.

This year thus far has turned out nothing like I had imagined. But I was looking at it with my own mortal eyes and not those of my loving Heavenly Father.

"When you feel that there is only a thin thread of hope, it is really not a thread but a massive connecting link, like a life preserver to strengthen and lift you. It will provide comfort so you can cease to fear, strive to live worthily and place your trust in the Lord."
-Elder Richard G. Scott
And so I continue to hope and not give up. I do small actions of faith to help me carry onward with the expectation that my hopes will be fulfilled in the Lord's time. Simple things like buying a special box that will one day hold letters that I will always cherish, framing a photo of a loved one, following a prompting even when I don't have the desire to do it, etc.
"...but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass..."
-Alma 37:6

Sunday, September 1, 2013

"Fresh Courage Take"

"Life's journey is not traveled on a freeway devoid of obstacles, pitfalls, and snares. Rather, it is a pathway marked by forks and turnings. Decisions are constantly before us. To make them wisely, courage is needed: the courage to say "No," the courage to say "Yes." Decisions do determine our destiny.
The call for courage comes constantly to each of us. It has ever been so, and so it shall be."
-Thomas S. Monson
The minute Tom read me the email that BYU was wondering if he was still available to be a visiting professor I knew he would get an offer. I knew it even though in the very beginning he was in second place for the position. Moving to Utah was not in my plan or my hope, and so I held on that he would find a job in Eugene. It is was what both of us wanted more than anything.
Tom noticed online that there was a job opening at BYU for a full-time math professor. Back in the day it had been Tom's dream to teach at BYU. To follow in his father's footsteps, but the thought of working with those who taught him daunted him, and he decided that isn't what he wanted after all. Plus while going to school and teaching at the University of Oregon he discovered that his heart was in teaching. Not in research. For those of you that don't know to teach at a research university in math you need a post-doctorate. It is kind of like a residency. A couple of years to give you more experience and to really focus on research with the hopes that you will get a few papers published. BYU requires a post doctorate which Tom does not have. So when Tom told me he applied for the job I just shrugged my shoulders. We both knew there was no chance that they would even consider him for the position. Little did I know what Heavenly Father had in store for us.
Heavenly Father made it crystal clear where our lives needed to head next. Just as he did when it came time for us to leave Provo and head to Eugene where Tom would work on getting his Ph.D. I believed that the University of Oregon was more like a pit stop along our path to where we were ultimately headed. I had come to accept that we would be returning to Utah where we would most likely live for the majority of our lives. The price I would pay for marrying someone from Provo. But throughout the six years that we lived in Eugene (we didn't realize the program was six years) we both came to love it and it became home for the both of us.
I sometimes wake up and wonder how did I get here. Especially considering my physical health, mental health and emotional health. I can't believe that Heavenly Father would ask me to leave my psych nurse, therapist and nurse practitioner. Sure I can find all three here in Utah, but two of them I met with for nearly two years. But Heavenly Father gave the call and somehow I drudged up the courage to say "Yes." I know without a shadow of doubt that Tom and I are supposed to be here in Utah, in this exact apartment and in our exact ward. Just like I knew when we moved to Eugene.
But for me, saying "Yes" was the easy part. The actual packing up and driving out here seemed unreal. It really felt like we were just going on vacation for a week as we stayed at Tom's parent's house until we could move into our townhouse. We have been truly blessed by family and friends who helped us get here at every stage of our move.
We have almost been in our townhouse for a month. Much time has been spent on figuring out where to put furniture, buying some "new" furniture, unpacking, rearranging and even more shopping. More than enough to keep us busy but overall it has been a very difficult month for me. Tom has often heard me say, "I want to go home." He always asks in return, "Eugene or Heaven?" The answer varies depending on how I'm doing emotionally.
It is hard because there are so many people we want to reconnect with here. We have family from all four sides, Tom's full immediate family, my sister and brother, and countless friends. But I am physically spent and feel like hibernating. There is still so much to do to make our townhouse feel like home. I even have on the wall "Love the heart of this home." Every time I pass it on the stairs I think to myself, "That is a lie." I feel that all the faith that I have built up over the past two years is leaking through a sieve.
"Brothers and sisters, this is a divine work in process, with further manifestations and blessings of it abounding in every direction, so please don't hyperventilate if from time to time issues arise that need to be examined, understood, and resolved. They do and they will. In this Church, what we know will always trump what we do not know. And remember, in this world, everyone is to walk by faith."
-Elder Jeffery R. Holland
I do know that we are where we are supposed to be. What is supposed to happen over the next two years as we are traveling this new path I do not know. This quote reminds me that I need to focus on what I do know and continue to have faith in Heavenly Father's plan for us here in Utah. And there are days where I am back to where courage is choosing to breathe. And I'm sure I will experience many more days like that. Many times these words come to mind as I struggle through the everyday.
"In that imaginary instant, I couldn't help calling out to him: "Don't you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead." Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don't come until heaven. But for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come."
-Elder Jeffery R. Holland
And so I continue to trudge onward. Organizing, unpacking, painting and doing a little decorating with the knowledge that in time this will feel like home. "If we now shun the fight? Gird up your loins; fresh courage take. Our God will never us forsake. And soon we'll have this tale to tell. All is well! All is well!"

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Project Life 2013: Week 1

It is hard for me to believe that we are in week 21 of this year. In so many ways the time has dragged by slowly, and in others it has quickly passed by. I am behind on Project Life (no surprise there), but I actually do have more than just one week completed. :o)

Week 1-Left Side (Melissa Bell)

Some people start their weeks with Monday through Sunday. Sunday has always been the beginning of the week for me, so that is where each week starts. Now the first of this year was on a Wednesday. When I take the photo a day approach, I will put that picture in that day's slot. That meant that this year I had some extra spaces to fill at the beginning of the layout. It varies year from year what I fill it with. I usually don't worry about it until the end of the year, but this year I decided to tackle it first.

The top left card is a card that was designed to be used for the title page. I trimmed it because I wasn't a fan of the clock motif in the right bottom corner. I wanted to use the card though because it says "Living Life One Day at a Time." And that is exactly what I am doing with the help of loved ones.

Week 1-Close-up (Melissa Bell)

The orange card is one of Becky Higgins's freebies that can be found on her blog. It is her reason for creating Project Life products and very much influences the way she lives her life. "Part of Cultivating a Good Life is Celebrating the Little Things." And that pretty much sums up what Project Life is all about. By capturing the everyday moments I come to realize how important they are and how much they influence the big things in life.

Week 1-Left Side (Melissa Bell)

I am a lover of quotes, so don't be surprised to find them spread throughout my album. :o) I have been known to buy scrapbook paper and then want to create a memory so that I can use my new favorite product. Yes, that is a little backwards. Ha! I sometimes can get caught up in trying to get the best photo that I forget to really experience the moment. I have felt plenty of guilt for forgetting to snap a photo because I got too caught up in the moment. That is O.K. It means that I was living in the moment instead of worrying about capturing it on my camera.  I've learned that my favorite photos I have taken are ones that are candid and unplanned.

January 1st my parents, Tom and Chris paid a visit to the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge. I picked three photos from the experience and had Tom do the journaling since I wasn't there. Two of the photos were taken by Chris I believe and one by my dad. (He loves capturing shots of birds.)

Week 1-Right Side (Melissa Bell)

January 2nd Chris drove my mom and I around Vancouver. I was on the hunt for the perfect pair of jeans for Chris (part of his Christmas present). Chris learned quickly earlier last year that taking photos is important to me. If he is out and about with us he usually takes on the role of photographer. It is such a HUGE blessing because he gets shots that I never would. And yes I actually end up in some of the photos. :o)

January 3rd was quite a full day. Chris helped my mom put away some Christmas decorations, and a song came on that she loves, and she started to dance. My mom is known for her zest for life, and she had Chris join her, and he actually did! He was shocked that she actually knew how to dance (her father taught her). Chris also got his first experience chopping wood with my dad. I think Chris experienced many "firsts" with my family, and he was a great sport about it all. We also headed back to Eugene.

January 4th I made a trip to Kohl's. My youngest sister asked if I had gotten the new Dr. Seuss animals. I wasn't aware that they were the choice for Kohl's Cares for Kids at that time. They had different animals around black Friday. I was disappointed to find out that they were out of Horton. We have been wanting to add him to our ever growing collection. But I did bring home these two. The alligator is in Dr. Seuss's "ABC" book and the yellow one is in his "Sleep Book" (this story has the ability to make me tired and ready for bed). Tom was excited for both. For the journaling I had Tom write his top 10 reasons for loving Dr. Seuss. You will also note a tab that says, "Remember this*." It pulls out to share something kind Chris did for us that I felt was important to document and remember but that didn't have a photo to illustrate it.

Week 1-Close-up (Melissa Bell)

January 5th Tom made a trip to WinCo to stock up on groceries since we had been out of town and were running out of food. I found it funny that WinCo still had their Christmas paper bags for bagging groceries. I included the receipt and circled the total cost.

Week 1 Insert-Frong Side (Melissa Bell)

I had fun putting together the insert for week one. My brother-in-law got me to try "Draw Something," and before I knew it many of us were drawing pictures back and forth to each other. I like my inserts to be smaller than 12x12 so that they are sandwiched between the weekly layout. This page protector is Design F that I trimmed down. All the photos are screenshots that I took with my smart phone. I cropped them to 3x4 in Photoshop Elements.

Week 1-Backside of Insert (Melissa Bell)

The other side of the insert showing more of the drawings that were sent my way. I thought about putting what word was being drawn but thought it would be fun to look back and see if I could still guess them. :o) I just have to say my brother-in-law is amazing! I don't know how he draws such detailed photos and his screen is smaller than mine! I attribute it to the fact that he just finished up medical school. Ha!

Week 1-Close-up of Insert (Melissa Bell)

A close up of the top of the backside of the insert. I cut the card out on my cameo. I took a screenshot of the kind of options you are given of what to draw and cut it out. I wanted to show a little more detail on how "Draw Something" works. The harder the word the more coins you earn. If you collect enough coins you then can buy a new set of colors to draw with. It is nice having a game where I don't feel stupid. ;o)

Monday, May 6, 2013

Project Life 2013: Title Page

I know that I've shared a photo of my title page on Facebook via Instagram, but I thought I would share some close-up shots and why I chose to set it up the way that I did. It may seem simple, but the title page is actually usually the last part completed of the year being documented.

Title Page (Melissa Bell)

I based some of my cards off of other people's title pages that I found on Pinterest. I love scraplifting (using someone's ideas as a starting point) and making them work for me. With each Project Life kit comes cards to use for the title page. Not a single one made it onto the spread this year. That isn't normal for me but what I wanted to include just didn't allow room.

Somewhere on the title page you will always find the year being documented. The TWENTY 13 was cut on my cameo (die-cutting machine). I bought the shape in the Silhouette Store. The card that is backing it may have been one of the cards that was supposed to be used on the title page or back page. I added the hello epoxy sticker for a little embellishment. What can I say? I love adding dimension. :)

The C.S. Lewis quote was a freebie give by Elise Blaha Cripe. She actually designed one of the editions that came out early this year called Seafoam. This quote really sums up my hopes for this year. I am hoping that 2013 is very much different than 2012. It is just as difficult so far, for some of the same reasons and for some different ones. When my mom read the quote she mentioned how in the next life we will find better things. No. I'm talking about THIS year. That I left 2012 behind and that this year holds better things than I left behind.

The upper right card was very much inspired by someone else. The column of days was cut on my cameo. The black square is where I am planning on putting a photo. I'm thinking of a feet shot. I'm not sure why, but I have been in love with those shots for a couple of years. Maybe because it is a different way to show who is present. (Or it could be the fact that there is nothing I can complain about the way I look).  :)

The "At the Start" cards are actually from the Seafoam edition. I saw how someone used it, and I decided that I wanted a place where I could include where each of us are at the beginning of this year. I own the card digitally and pulled it into Photoshop Elements to change the colors so that they match with the other cards. There is a card for Tom, Chris and me. As I have mentioned before on Facebook via Instagram (I'm seeing a pattern here), this year Tom and I are including a third person's point of view. Chris has really become like family, so I asked him at the beginning of the year (or the end of last) if he wanted to take part, and he gladly accepted. I had each of us fill out a questionnaire, and that is what you will find on each of the cards though I added the cuddling question for fun. :) I also included a wood veneer on each card. In the scrapbooking world you will find those little people referred to as "Potty People" or "Restroom People" since they are the silhouette of what you will find on public bathrooms to indicate which bathroom is for the girls and which one is for the boys. Here are the cards close up:
Title Page-Chris (Melissa Bell)

Title Page-Melissa (Melissa Bell)
With my card you will notice that I've edited out some information. From time to time you may see me do that since my life is very much influenced by others, and I want to respect those boundaries.

Title Page-Thomas (Melissa Bell)

At the end of this year I hope to have us fill out similar questions and see how much has changed from January to December. This year will most definitely bring more changes.

The other card inbetween these will hold another photo. I'm thinking of a shadow shot with the three of us. Another go to photo shot for me. :)

The bottom left card will hold a headshot photo of us or something similar. I like including pictures taken actually during the year to include on the title page. I don't even think I have a photo of the three of us. The three flags say memories, hope & together. I chose to include the word hope because it is my One Little Word for this year.

The bottom right card is a saying cut with my cameo that I bought in the Silhouette store. It is something that I need to be reminded of often. I can get caught up in the doom and gloom and forget that there really are those out there that love me and are keeping me in their prayers. And ultimately I am loved by my Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Project Life

I have mentioned Project Life before via Instagram and Facebook, but I know most of you that read my blog are not scrapbookers, or you once were but just don't have the time anymore.

At the end of 2008, Creating Keepsakes was selling a scrapbook kit titled "Project 365" designed by Becky Higgins. I didn't know a whole lot about it except for what the magazine had to say about it. My first reaction was that there was no way I could take a photo every single day for 2009. Sounded crazy to me! But as the thought mingled in my brain and I saw photos of the kit I began to have a change of heart. I wasn't actually doing much scrapbooking for myself and "Project 365" was designed in an easy way to capture the everyday moments, moments that usually didn't end up on a "traditional" scrapbook page.

The morning it went on sale I was at my parent's computer ready to purchase. The site was overloaded with people trying to buy the kit. I don't know how many times I would almost get to submit payment just to have to start all over again. I was exhausted (I think it may have been New Year's Eve the evening before) and tempted to go back to bed and try later in the day. But something caused me to keep trying and somehow I was able to grab two kits, one for my mom and one for me. Turns out that the kits sold out in record time and there were many unhappy with Creating Keepsakes for not being prepared. I don't think they realized how popular this idea was going to be. I felt so blessed that I listened to the prompting and didn't go back to bed.

Becky Higgins then quit working for Creating Keepsakes and started her own company. Everyone was on pins and needles wondering if she was going to come out with a new kit. People wanted to keep documenting their lives using her system. She did indeed come out with a kit titled "Project Life" (it is now referred to as the Cherry Edition). This time she made the kit so that you could do a photo a day, capture a week at a glance or a month or even do it just by events in your life. It was more versatile. I believe the first batch sold out, and she had to order a second one.

Since then the concept & products of Project Life have grown by leaps and bounds. Becky Higgins has partnered up with American Crafts (huge scrapbooking manufacturing company) so that Project Life will be available for retailers to sell (starting next month). Project Life just recently made its TV debut on HSN, where two editions were available to buy at a special price, and they went like hotcakes. Other scrapbooking companies are now following the trend and are providing cards/page protectors/cardstock, etc. that you can either mix with Project Life products or use on your own.

The concept is genius and is one that anyone at any age can do. I am in my fifth year of doing Project Life. 2009, 2010 and 2011 I took the photo a day approach. Last year is still in the works, but I am taking the weekly approach. I knew I wouldn't be picking my camera up as often as I struggled with depression and anxiety. 2012 also includes inserts of memorabilia and extra photos. It looks like it will take up four scrapbook albums while the first three years only took up one each. This year I am back to doing a photo a day with the idea that it would leave me time to work on 2012. Well I loved including inserts so much that I'm doing that again this year and getting a little more creative with the spreads. I'm not scrapbooking "traditionally" yet, so this gives me the perfect creative outlet.

There is a cute short video on Becky Higgins's blog that visually shows what Project Life is all about. If you are at all curious, I definitely recommend watching it. You can find it here.

Project Life has many editions (seven new ones coming out in May) and is also available digitally and on Shutterfly. I am hooked and can't imagine documenting my life without it. I wish that it existed back when I first got married so that I could have the past seven years documented this way.

Project Life Editions I have used:

2009: Project 365 (no longer available)
2010: The Cherry Edition
2011: The Amber Edition
2012: The Cobalt Edition
2013: The Clementine Edition

P.S. I also own Baby for Her Edition (to document my baby years), The Olive Edition (hopefully to document about my grandparents), The Wellington Childhood Mini Kit (document missionary experience), The Bridgeport Childhood Mini Kit (to document our time with Bryce), The Mayfield Childhood Mini Kit (to document our time with Josalyn), The Blush Edition (just because it is my second favorite of the new ones that will be available and I couldn't pass up the good price on HSN), various page protectors, 12x12 envelopes, 6x12 envelopes, 9 Mini Albums, grid cards, patterned paper, cardstock, etc. As you can see I have a weakness for all things Project Life. I'm planning on owning all the editions I don't buy in physical format digitally (ummm...have already purchased a lot). Next on my list...The Honey Edition!

P.S.S. I am hoping to share Project Life 2013 pages here on my blog. I thought before I do I would share a little more information so that you know exactly what it is I'm sharing. :o)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My Reason

Many of you know that I am a fan of Josh Groban. I have been since I first heard him sing. I thought he must be in his late 30's or early 40's with such a voice. Little did I know that he is my age. :o) Josh has recently come out with a new album. I have only listened to two of the songs, and I own the single "Brave." As I started to listen to it more closely and looked up the lyrics, I became puzzled. It made me also reflect on my own life because so many of the lyrics relate to my life and how I have felt for over a year now. I love the chorus but it is the last two lines that has caused me to reflect on my experiences over the past year and what I'm experiencing now.

"You wanna run away, run away and you say that it can’t be so.
You wanna look away, look away but you stay cause’ it’s all so close.
When you stand uṗ and hold out your hand.
In the face of what I don’t understand.
My reason to be brave.
There have been so many instances when I have wanted to run away, whether that meant jumping into the car and driving off, leaving the apartment with Tom chasing me down and following me, (making sure I stay away from the river), or having moments where I wanted to physically end my anguish. I thought moments like these were behind me, but once again, as I have been struggling with my physical health, which also makes the emotional & mental more difficult, I have wanted to run. And nothing has scared me as much as an unpremeditated episode that took place the beginning of January. My therapist asked me, "What stopped you?" when yet another attempt was made later. What is my reason?
I wish I could look away; sometimes I can compartmentalize my actions so that I'm not haunted by memories. My psych nurse even has a hard time imagining what I've had to tell her at times. She looks at me and just can't simply see it. But there are moments where it does hit me strong, and I can't look away.
Recently a close friend was in a car accident. He was on his bike and was hit in a cross walk. At first I thought, 'a cross walk of all places!' He has biked both coasts more than once. He is an avid biker and has had moments where he has had to jump off a road with his bike for his safety. He wants to bike cross country once he retires. When I heard the news, (and not much was known then), my heart stood still. It was like time stood still, and I pleaded with God that he wasn't dead or dying. He is like an uncle to me. He has been there for me in all the big events of my life. He even created a nickname for me that now all his family members call me. My friend, (his daughter), and I rode down to southern California to pick him up from one of his biking trips, and we spent three days at Disneyland. I went on a small roller coaster with just him. It was one that he would never had gone on had his sister not encouraged him. She has since passed away. It was a moment for me to share that experience with him. I love him dearly, and life wouldn't be the same without him. Thank goodness for miracles! He is alive and I'm told improving a little each day.
But it caused me to reflect on the gift of life. Tom found me next to the couch crying my heart out. I felt that I had been so selfish. In my weakest moments I don't care how my actions will impact my loved ones. Thinking about how life would be so different for myself and especially for my friend's family made my heart heavy. I couldn't look away. And once again I contemplated what is my reason for being brave? For stopping before it is too late?
For almost over a year I wouldn't have been able to give you an answer. In those short moments what caused me to turn away? I am physically, emotionally, and mentally weak. It is hard for me to mentally take in much. Poor Tom. So many times I've cut him off mid sentence telling him I can't take any more. My brain just can't process it. Emotionally I'm still struggling with depression and anxiety. I never imagined in a million years that I would still be struggling this long. My physical weakness has a lot to do with why I'm still struggling. I'm getting stronger, but there are days that taking a shower drains me of all energy for the entire day. I have to take at least one nap a day. I don't sleep through the night very well, and I often wake up at 4:30am and am not able to fall back to sleep. Overall I'm one weak individual. So what keeps me moving forward? What is my reason for being brave?
Many of you know and share my religious beliefs. Some of you may not. I believe that we existed before we came to earth. That we are literally spirit sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. Our spirits are sent to earth to gain a body, learn, grow, experience the good and the bad and ultimately become more like our Heavenly Parents. A soul is the combination of body and spirit. My body is weak, but I have been impressed upon that my spirit is strong. Stronger than I realize.
My reason for being brave? I wish I could say that at the last minute I think of loved ones or how I still have a full life to live, but I do not. I don't completely understand it all, but I believe it is because my spirit is strong. It causes me to turn around at the last minute, move forward, hang on for one more day...I strongly believe it is a HUGE reason why I'm still here. It is my reason for being brave.
Watch the Music Video Here

Friday, March 22, 2013

Adrenal Fatigue: Part 1

I'm not exactly sure when I started to notice a decrease in my energy levels. As many of you know I became an avid biker over this last summer. I usually spent two hours biking a day, which was anywhere from 18 to 24 miles each day. I often went with a friend. It was like my body craved it, and my bike called my name each day. I sometimes would go out two times a day. It was also a great way for me to cope with my anxiety and help me get to sleep since I still struggled with getting a full night's worth of sleep.

At some point biking became a chore. I would often get dressed and ready and find myself sitting on the floor staring at my bike for hours. Sometimes I would force myself to eventually get outside and bike hard, while other times I just couldn't find enough motivation. Eventually I had to pick between bike riding and accomplishing something else during the day. I couldn't do both. The days I picked something else I felt guilty. The choice was then taken from me and I was lucky if I got much of anything done during the day. The days that I got on my bike became history. I haven't biked in months.

The beginning of October I know for sure that I started to notice other changes in my body because I asked my friend what happened to her when she ate wheat (she had celiacs). My symptoms didn't match up. I didn't know what was wrong but took peanuts out of my diet since that is a very common sensitivity or allergy to develop. I think I may have noticed a small difference.

Towards the end of October my energy levels started to decrease even more. Tom was getting stressed out with his research, so I went to spend almost the entire month of November with my parents. I took up plenty of things to work on. Tom warned my parents that I would probably hibernate in my room quite often. This visit home I chose a different room to stay in than "my" old room since I associated it with negative memories from earlier in the year.

My stay at home in November was mostly positive. All of a sudden I had a huge desire to make cards. It was my first time wanting to do one of my old hobbies. I got my friend to drive me to my favorite craft store in Vancouver (Craft Warehouse), and I went a little crazy. My last visit to that store I had left empty handed. I'm not sure that had ever happened before. Since I usually woke up really early I would head downstairs and work on cards. But as Thanksgiving drew closer I just started to make card kits to put together later. I felt that I finally was finding something that helped to bring happiness into my life. Well, those kits never even got put together.

The day of Thanksgiving I found myself feeling sick just at the smell of meat cooking. I couldn't even imagine eating it. I spent the meal up in my bedroom. I also was beginning to notice that I could only spend so much time doing something or being around people before I had to retreat into my own little space. I believe my mom was disappointed that I didn't join my family and friends for the meal. She didn't fully understand why and neither did I. I thought I was going crazy!

My therapist always starts off asking me how I'm doing (I sometimes try to beat her to it first...catches her off guard a little. Ha!). I guess I had been answering tired for quite sometime. She asked if she could go get something and she came back with a book titled: "Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome" by James L. Wilson, N.D., D.C., PhD. I had never heard of adrenal fatigue before. There are two tests that you can do at home to see if you have it and since she had a blood pressure cuff she had me lay on her couch. I found it ironic because just the night before I was thinking it was a good length couch for some Freudian therapy.

As I laid there for five minutes she read off some of the symptoms. Many of them she didn't even need me to reply...she already knew the answer. Some of them applied to me some of them did not. Some of the symptoms are:
  • Difficulty getting up in the morning. (Nope. Total opposite.)
  • Continuing fatigue not relieved by sleep. (Big YES!)
  • Craving for salt or salty foods. (Nope- craving for refreshing foods.)
  • Lethargy (lack of energy). (YES!)
  • Increased effort to do every day tasks. (YES! So annoying!)
  • Decreased ability to handle stress. (Yeppers!)
  • Increased time to recover from illness, injury, or trauma. (Oh yeah! Caught a simple bug from Josalyn and it took me forever to get over it.)
  • Light-headed when standing up quickly. (Light-headed and tingly often.)
  • Mild depression. (Well this one was a no brainer. More than mild.)
  • Less enjoyment or happiness with life. (Yes though depression also plays a big part in this.)
  • Increased PMS. (I don't remember how I answered this one.)
  • Symptoms increase if meals are skipped or inadequate. (Yeah. And at the time I was eating the same three meals every single day.)
  • Thoughts less focused, more fuzzy. (For sure and so frustrating!)
  • Memory less accurate. (Yes. Though long-term is mostly fine. I struggle with talking and getting the word order right and the tenses. I notice it and repeat it right but get very frustrated.)
  • Decreased tolerance. (Poor Tom! My mom also thought it was becoming a new trait to be rude and abrupt. Or if you put a twist on it I was letting my feelings out more which is good right?)
  • Don't really wake up until 10am. (I didn't find the next three to be true. I have since learned why.)
  • Afternoon low between 3:00pm and 4:00pm.
  • Feel better after evening meal.
  • Decreased productivity. (Yes. Do I get anything done besides resting and laying on the couch? Sometimes it feels like I never do.)
After the five minutes my therapist took my blood pressure while I was still on the couch and then once again after I stood up. Everything was normal but she still wasn't convinced. She copied the questionnaire/test out of the book to have me take over the Christmas vacation.

Tom, Chris and I spent close to two weeks at home. I would say it felt like the majority of that time I spent in my room alone. Tom & Chris shared a room so that I had my space and my sister ended up sleeping in my parent's bedroom. I sometimes asked myself "why did I even bother going home?" Once again I skipped the big family meal. I decided I wanted to become a vegetarian. Just the thought of meat made me sick. I procrastinated in taking the questionnaire but eventually pulled it out. As I took it I felt that I was going to come out mild. Some areas I scored mostly zeroes but guess what? It showed that I had a severe case of adrenal fatigue. I let my therapist know and she wasn't surprised.

Now that my behavior had a name it seemed that everyone was a little more understanding of my behavior. There was something to blame that wasn't "my" fault. Did any of us know what exactly adrenal fatigue even was? No not really. I've been assigned by my therapist and the nurse practionaner that I'm presently seeing to read the book and try to implement the lifestyle it suggests. The idea is that under certain circumstances you can deal with adrenal fatigue on your own without seeing a doctor.

I'm still not reading. *sigh* I only have read the forward and since buying the book I have only cracked it open once (today to type out the symptoms). But from the 1930's to the 1960's an extremely safe remedy was approved by the FDA called adrenal cortical extract (ACE) and was very safe. Since the 1970's the FDA has "outlawed" and persecuted this remedy. Reasons? Money and politics. What used to be known as a widely accepted syndrome is now pretty much unknown. I even asked my brother-in-law who is about to graduate from medical school if he knew what it was. His response was: "Your adrenal glands are worn out?".

Even though it is now March there is still much for me to learn and so many of my other health concerns are interwined with adrenal fatigue. That is why I'm splitting up this topic into parts. As my therapist has read bits and pieces of this book she has recognized many around her struggling with adrenal fatigue on some level including her oldest son (we have a couple of things in common). We both are seeking medical help (from the same nurse practioner) because of the severity of some of the symptoms we are experiencing. But I will leave that for another day.

But I most definitly have learned the difficult way that because of the way we treat our bodies, may it be through poor nutrition, lack of exercise, accumulating stress or reasons out of our control, our bodies begin to shut down to preserve what funcitions and body parts it deems most important. My lifestyle has been changed for months partly because of adrenal fatigue, but there is hope. And I try my best to hold onto that hope for healing in so many different areas of my life.

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Priceless Gift

When I first moved into my present ward I did NOT want a calling in primary. I hadn't really been in primary much since I was a child. It was a foreign land and I was intimidated. I also hadn't interacted with children very much over the past seven years while going to school. I kept my fingers crossed that I would be passed over.

I was called to be on what was then called the Enrichment Committee. I could handle that. I felt a sigh of relief that I had gotten away with not being put in primary. But then Tom was extended a second calling, and it became apparent that in our ward if you didn't hold a leadership position you usually had more than one calling. I didn't feel so "safe" then.

The dreaded day came. I was asked to team teach what was then CTR 6 (now CTR 5). What a huge blessing it was to have someone to follow and observe for a couple of weeks. I started to learn the names of the children in our class and even other children in Jr. primary. I began to teach every other week. We had a large class with a couple of children with special needs, so at times it would get to be pretty crazy. But I loved every single one of them. I loved watching how they grew so much in that second half of the year. Because I joined them late I moved up to CTR 7 (CTR 6) with them as their teacher. I was excited to be able to spend more time with them.

There was always the intention of calling another teacher to help me out. On a typical Sunday I would have probably about seven children. I was down to one now with special needs. I have to admit that there were Sundays that I went home crying thinking that I hadn't accomplished anything. I struggled with finding the balance of disciplining but also not letting one child disrupt the learning of the other children. I had a smart class, and I wanted it to be fun for all. Eventually I would pull Tom in with me while I taught if it looked like I was going to have a big class. He came to love every one of those kids too. I never did get a team teacher, but I was sad to see "my" kids graduate to Sr. primary.

I was excited to get a new class and to get to know other kids in the primary better. I had a small class now, and they were all sweethearts. I came to love them quickly. There were no more Sundays of crying. It didn't mean that every Sunday went smoothly. But compared to the year before my class was easy to work with. The kids were eager to learn and gave insightful answers to questions. I was happy right where I was.

Besides enjoying teaching I also enjoyed sharing time. I loved to hear the different children participate. Sometimes I would be blown away by their answers to questions asked. I also liked having the opportunity to relearn the primary songs. I had pretty much forgotten most of them. During my difficult year of teaching by myself I would always remind myself to be grateful that I didn't have to teach sharing time. That task seemed daunting. Not only did you have to teach the lesson twice, but you had adults observing you as well. I liked the fact that it was just the kids and me when I taught. If I botched it I knew that they would forget by the next Sunday, and they would love me no matter what.

I had a dear friend move out of the ward boundaries. She had been serving as first counselor in primary presidency. She asked me what I thought about being in the presidency. I was blunt in the fact that I did NOT want to be a counselor. I didn't want the stress of teaching sharing time. My friend passed the word onto the primary president and once again I felt "safe." I went out of town for two weeks and on my return my friend asked me if I had thought about primary at all. My answer was an emphatic no. She asked the question a couple of times. I knew then that I was in trouble. I was able to escape the first couple of Sundays back, but the fateful day came when I was called to be the first counselor in the primary presidency.

I knew that I was going to be pushed out of my comfort zone multiple times. The women I served with were loving and wonderful. I felt welcome right off. I don't remember what my first sharing time was about, but I thought I was going to pass out I was so nervous. Yet I survived and continued to do so as time went by. I became known for going a little over the top with my lessons. I felt that if I was bored preparing the lesson, then the kids would be bored hearing it. I always worried that I wouldn't have enough material to fill up my time, but I almost always took up the whole time. I think our music leader just came to expect that when it was my turn to teach. I couldn't help but look for creative ideas to teach. I was still nervous before teaching, but the minute I started all fear disappeared as I would get immersed in the lesson and the kids. I honestly loved teaching sharing time.

I cornered the 1st counselor in the bishopric one Sunday as I was checking in on nursery and found out that the bishopric would be considering whether or not to change the primary presidency after the children's program (Nov 2012). This program was both the president's and my third time, though this year I ended up being out of town. I still put the rough draft together; I shared the information with the president (who is also a friend), and we would laugh and guess at where we would serve next. She felt that she may be called to Young Women's. At the time I had a feeling that I may be called to nursery. We had been needing more help, but we had a hard time coming up with names. My last few months in primary, when I had the strength to make it to church, were mainly spent in nursery. I missed my interaction with the older children but I loved each of the kids in nursery too.

My first Sunday back at church after the Thanksgiving break I was notified that I would be released the following Sunday. I was notified at the same time as another counselor, and I acted cheerful. I knew right away who the president would be and that the counselor I was sitting near would be called back into primary. I expected to feel a huge sense of relief. With the decrease of my health and just the different things that took place the first Sunday's of the months, I hadn't taught sharing time since July. I thought knowing that I wouldn't have to teach sharing time would make me feel less stressed and less guilty. My reaction surprised me.

As I sat sitting in church as the meeting went on it slowly began to sink in. I looked around the room at the different children. It began to dawn on me that the world of primary would no longer be mine. I wouldn't have the children running up to me to give me a hug, to show me a loose tooth, to tell me about their birthday party, to tell me how many teeth they had lost, to show me their very first pair of heels, etc. Such small moments that I would no longer have.

It took all I had to hold in the tears until I found an appropriate time to get up and go out to my car. It wasn't sitting in a very private location, so I drove off and parked in a parking lot that was mostly empty, and I sobbed. I'm not sure how long I sat there, but my heart was breaking. The laughter I had experienced at the idea of being released was forgotten. The following Sunday I didn't go to church because of health reasons but also because I knew I couldn't handle sitting there as my name was announced and another's to replace mine.

My time in primary was a priceless gift: a gift that Heavenly Father knew I needed even though I dreaded it at first. As most know, primary can get to be noisy and pretty crazy, but stepping through the primary doors at times was like walking into a piece of heaven. Children eager to learn and share. After my time in the Johnson Unit last year Sister Roderick had the children draw something that made them happy. Those drawings can still be found hung up above my closet. It is amazing how much love and healing can be found in a child's arms when you have a hard time finding it anywhere else.

I have to be honest and say that at times it still hurts. I happened to be looking at instagram, and I saw a picture of a Sunbeam giving her first talk. A child who had just been in nursery last year. In the photo I could see some of the presidency sitting where I once sat. I found myself tearing up. I miss them. I know that the timing of my departure was right. My health started to decrease even more quickly after that, but yet it was another loss. One that I didn't realize would hurt. It is a huge feat if I make it to just Sacrament Meeting now. I know the children are in good hands and are loved very much by their teachers and leaders.

     Heavenly Father, are you really there?
     And do you hear and answer ev'ry child's prayer?
     Some say that heaven is far away,
     But I feel it close around me as I pray.
     Heavenly Father, I remember now
     Something that Jesus told disciples long ago:
     "Suffer the children to come to me."
     Father, in prayer I'm coming now to thee.

     Pray, he is there;
     Speak he is list'ning.
     You are his child:
     His love now surrounds you.
     He hears your prayer;
     He loves the children,
     Of such is the kingdom,
     The kingdom of heav'n.

"A Child's Prayer", words and music by Janice Kapp Perry

(*Note: The majority of this blog post was written before I was officially released. I was planning on publishing it shortly after, but because of health issues writing takes so much out of me physically and emotionally.)