Opposites of Answers

For the last six-ish months I’ve been having “unexplained” abdominal pains.

For the last four-ish months, we’ve been trying to explain/fix it.

If I were a betting woman, I’d say stress is the cause. 11.5 months of living in renovations while raising five Littles is too much and I really think the pain is my body talking to me, telling me that all is not well with this set up and my system. But honestly, I can’t really test that theory until the house is done-done and we’re still a handful-ish of weeks away from that, so who knows. Considering that all the medical tests that we’ve run have been just as unclear (that’s not true; some concerns have been ruled out by the tests – they just haven’t indicated what is happening), it’s possible that I’m right.

The latest attempt to eradicate pain has led me back to acupuncture, something I haven’t used in my life since before Trumy was born. It has been both good and challenging on many levels, but three weeks in and I’m still experiencing the same symptoms, this week especially. I know healing methods like this take time, especially when the backlog is as deep as mine, but I was presented with an intriguing question recently that, like the pain, just keeps coming back to me.

In addition to being challenged to “let it go” (heaven help me; if 2019 has been a lesson in anything, it’s been about living with things outside of my control, even when in theory, I should have it and, quite frankly, I’m freaking over it), I was challenged with working to reverse the emotions that have set up camp in my system. The practice given to me to do this was to notice the emotions arising and then, assuming they were unwanted, imagine the opposite.

Call me crazy, but I am struggling.

For one, I’m a big believer in feeling all the feelings. Mr. Rogers and this excellent article a friend happened to share earlier today would seem to agree. As I’ve discussed with my therapist over the years, the important thing is not to get stuck in any one feeling. But stuffing or an inability to navigate through feelings is just as dangerous because those emotions are going to set up shop somewhere in your system and come back when you least expect or understand them.

But isn’t that what I’m already experiencing? Pent up emotions already messing with my physical body that in turn is hurting my emotional body? For example, I have been so mad these past couple days and I’ve also been experiencing more abdominal pain. Which one came first this week? I don’t know and am very much having an egg/chicken debate with myself about it because I can totally see how either one could influence the other.

So even though I didn’t really understand or even accept the opposite feelings challenge, I tried to do it. I’ve just been really, really angry lately and if I could opposite it away, I was ready for that to happen. Of course that’s when I realized, holy crap – that’s really, really freaking hard to name. So much so, that when I put it out to friends as a thought experiment on FB “the opposite of anger is _____” I got over a dozen different answers. I also got a link to an article that actually explores (and does so beautifully), the language and psychology behind this struggle to pinpoint an actual opposite of anger specifically which you should definitely read.

img_5572So how can I opposite my anger away if I can’t name an actual concrete opposite? Honestly, like the rest of this medical mystery, I still have no answers, which means I just have to keep trying to take care of myself and my system in the hopes that this really will get better (and by get better, I mean GO AWAY). That being said, if you have a favorite way for navigating (not stuffing) anger in particular, I’d love to hear it. I’ll be honest, one of my favorite ways is (shocker) with words, so a little writing and one of my favorite comfy sweatshirts go a long way some days. Others, not so much.

And if you have an opposite for anger for the thought experiment, I’d love to hear that, too! The list generated so far has been so eye and heart opening.

Words on Words

Today was a first. Even though I’ve been writing the words upon words here for over eight years now, today was the first time that they resulted in me getting up in front a group and giving voice all by myself to the same experiences that I share with you all here.

Y’all, that is a great honor and a terrifying thing to have done! But I did it, so now I can – in true form – write to you about it.

To explain: it’s been a few years since I’ve been a regular at MOPS because of preK schedules and having new babies and just life. But it’s still a special group to my heart because when I started attending it, also over eight years ago, I met some amazing people, many of whom are still good, good friends. So when that same group (now called Moms of Hastings; check ’em out here if you are interested in joining a local mama group) reached out early this fall to ask if I’d like to come speak to them about body image and postpartum and the basic challenges of motherhood, I said (to myself): “that sounds scary and also right up my alley” and to them: “Yes!”

Today was that yes come to life and while I won’t share the whole transcript of my (sorry ladies, a little rambly) talk, I do want to share the gist as well as the experience with you.

After the initial ask, I made some notes and wrote out some ideas weeks and weeks ago and then promptly set it all aside until just last week when I picked up my notes and flushed it out into a longer piece. Then I realized I needed to make it way longer to be the correct amount of time, so I kept reworking and managed to practice it a couple times. img_5750But then yesterday (spoiler alert: you may not know this about me, but I have always been a stellar student who is also a giant procrastinator) when I should have been practicing all the live-long day, Wilson got sick and wanted nothing more than to be in my arms the entire three hours Trumy was at preK. Somewhere in that experience is an upcoming post about NICU flashbacks, I promise.

So, I didn’t get to run through as many times as I maybe would have liked, but I felt pretty solid on my three main points which were as follows, and yes, I really did stand up and give an entire talk about words:

  1. Talk therapy saved me. I didn’t say those exact words this morning but that’s the gist of it, folks. Having access to a trained professional who listens to, guides, challenges, and helps me? Hands down the best form of self care I know. Plus she got me to the yoga and we all know what a role that’s played in my life.
  2. The words you use and surround yourself with matter. And yes, I did quote Daniel Tiger’s “Use your words” song because Wilson is obsessed with him and this blog is already named for a different PBS show, so how could I not?
  3. Challenge yourself (obscure reference here: Go Doane!) to quit belittling your body in passing conversations and don’t join in or feed the flame when others do the same. I’m not asking people to stuff their feelings or desires for change in their bodies, but I think if we could change the culture of shared body shaming, we’d all be a lot happier and healthier no matter what our metrics are.

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For the most part I think it went pretty well but gosh darn it, I thought for once I’d be able to get up in front of a group and speak about my life and NOT cry, but, nope. That streak continues.

But really, I know that’s OK because the part that got me was by far the hardest part to talk about which is that I have a condition that I will most likely always have to work against in my life/in my brain – body dysmorphia. And I don’t know how many speaking engagements I’d have to do before I’d be able to say “I have a mental condition that I work with and through every day of my life that impacts both me and my family depending on how I am managing it” and not cry. To quote Lizzo completely out of context, “that’s the human in me.” And that’s fine. I learned today, however, that when you are the only speaker instead of a member of a panel, and you get all sniffly, it’s a lot harder to stop and collect yourself/blow your dang nose while everyone in the room is watching you. You know, the important things you don’t think about until they are happening. In front of a group. 😉

Scary as it was to get up and do that this morning (and hard as it was to leave a sad, still img_5756sick Wilson at home to go do it), I’m glad I was asked and I’m glad I did, because the more we give voice to our struggles, the easier it gets to carry our individual loads because then they aren’t just ours to bear. To share one direct quote from this morning with you:

If sharing my stories has taught me anything, it is that real beauty in relationship with self, others, and spirit comes when we can speak truthfully to our imperfections and our successes and love our way through it all the same.

 

Time Change Woes

My husband doesn’t know it yet but he bought me “I’m Sorry” Coffee this morning. He also doesn’t know he is the reason I need it.

So we can probably all agree that the time change sucks. Every time, spring or fall, messing with clocks and sleep is a beast. And somehow, in his own sleep dep stupor thanks to having to sleep with a cold and cough recovering TJ, Ben also messed with my room darkening shades last night, the first night after the time change, also known as the worst time to mess with my shades.

So first, a little health update. Since August we have been trying to get a grip on my abdominal pain and three months later we still don’t have any clear answers. I’ve tried antacids and had bloodwork and an ultrasound and still nothing is clear and the pain still comes and goes. The only real known is that my sleep is still off the rails hence why the messing with the shades turned into such a caffeine requiring offense.

Again, a little background….I have never been a good sleeper and since Baby Lincoln arrived six years ago, Ben and I joined the 14% of American partners who don’t share a sleeping space because with all the babies bothering me, the last thing I needed was a snoring husband also keeping me awake at night. I also don’t sleep with a clock and do my best to shut out as much light as possible. Even though we no longer have a baby to keep us up all the live long night, my sleep is clearly still fragile and in need of repair, which I am working on in hopes that better sleep will equal a better belly (not abs; just not abdominal pain).

So, when B failed to put down the roller shades before closing my curtains last night, it is no wonder that strange, unexpected light came in and bothered me. When I saw it, I assumed morning was almost coming and with the time change that would make sense. But then no kids were running around and I was not sleeping and not sleeping and not sleeping for soooooo long that I finally realized something was wrong.

I didn’t know until after B left for school what had happened.

Turned out, though, that I was wrong and that the “I’m Sorry” Coffee actually came from my kids because it was one of them last night who put curtains down post bath without pulling shades, not Ben (we got a minute to chat over his lunch and he was appalled by the accusation, and not in a trying to get out of it way – it really wasn’t him!).

Clearly my brain is on backfire mode today, even with all the coffee and so it goes post time change.

Here’s to pulled roller shades and much better sleep tonight! And no misdirected marriage angst come tomorrow!

Deviation

When I was in college, I spent a semester in Africa traveling and logging many, many miles – from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania all the way to Cape Town, South Africa to be exact. Along that journey, we encountered many literal roadblocks, but one memory that will always stick with me is of coming upon road construction in which the sign read “Deviation” instead of “Detour.” It felt like such an excellent word choice because sometimes when your path goes off the rails against your control, the whole experience does feel a bit deviant.

Case in point? Home reno. We’ve spent this entire summer on a deviation thanks to the driveway and the roof/exterior of the house. In fact, come Tuesday, the roof and metal wrapping and sealing and wood replacement and all that jazz  shit will hit the one month mark on all its own. Like most aspects of life, there are multiple reasons for this, which I’d be more than happy to explain in a private message or in-person conversation, but I’m pretty sure we can all agree that that is just too long, especially when for at least half of that time, a giant trailer has been parked in my driveway and big old machines and tools have been stored in my garage. This means we can’t clean up the yard and just let the kids out to play, must less the sanity-losing that goes into such a drawn out process.

img_5220I was so at the end of my rope with the not-finishing/not-moving of things yesterday that I loaded up the baby in the double jogger stroller and pushed her a mile to the YMCA to pick up Trumy from Prek and then pushed them both the mile back, in a mad dash attempt to walk it out, but even all that in the hot midday sun barely burned off my mad and crazy.

Then, miraculously, enough of the stuff got done by sundown last night that the trailer and the tools disappeared, leaving us with the possibility of starting Operation Garage Clean Up. ‘Cuz, did y’all know that when your structure has three layers of shingles on it, but no plywood under those layers, and all that gets scraped off, it leaves a giant freaking mess all over everything underneath it? Neither did I, but it might just be the worst mess to date of this reno and that is freaking saying something.

So this afternoon, after we survived (and even enjoyed) our first Soccer Saturday with img_5253three kids playing and us coaching two of the teams in a Triple Header Extravaganza, we set to work on getting everything out of the garage (so it all could be cleaned) so we could clean the actual garage (so we could then put everything back in it).

I got out there first and noticed pretty quickly that it wasn’t just shingle and tar-dust coating everything but also like real chunks of splintered wood and even old nails and staples and all kinds of crap. When Ben came out to join me, I warned him and told him I was trying to sweep it all up so we could get rid of it safely because popped tires and poked feet have been my biggest fears for the last four weeks.

And with good reason, because not ten minutes in to my husband helping me, he somehow flipped a nail up with his Keen that caught the back of his heal and, you guessed it, ended up sending him to get a tetanus shot instead of cleaning with me. Ironically, the last one he had was in 2008 when we traveled with a Doane alumni trip to Africa.

img_5257So yes, deviations in many forms continue to crop up in the process, and with one more room left to go in the basement, we’re still not back on the road of just living in our house in peace and quiet (y’all know that it’s rarely quiet here, right? That’s just a metaphor or pipe dream or something.) which after 10 months of this feels like a foreign concept indeed. I know we’ll get back to that path eventually, but after how much more deviation is a big old guessing game.

The NeverEnding Story

Have you noticed that it has been some time since a reno update has appeared here?

Yeah……that’s because this summer took us down a rabbit hole of sorts and even though we STILL have a room left to finish in the basement before we can put in carpet and finally put all the things away in their proper place, we’ve been dealing with Outside Issues (and yes, they get a proper name with capital letters).

As you may remember, we discovered this spring that before we could finish the basement in good faith, we needed to replace our busted, busted driveway to keep water from leaking into the “new” underground spaces. Thankfully we found a crew that could take on the job and they attacked it, taking out our entire sidewalk, Hastings Classic Driveway (i.e. super long and therefore super expensive to replace), and back patio and replacing it in a two-ish week time span.

During that time we  my husband also expressed interest in replacing gutters which turned into a roof inspection which turned into an adjuster and a claim and yep – plans for a whole new roof thanks to good ole’ NE weather damage.

All of that took place in July. Then we started the Waiting Game, thanks to good ole’ NE weather.

August was bizarrely wet this year and we could not get a stretch of days long enough with a good enough forecast to do all that needed to be done to our would-be-exposed structures.

Finally, last week – the last week of the month – the weather turned and the project got started. I won’t even go in to all the ups and downs of roofing. Nope. It will get cranky and whiney and angsty way too quick. What I will do is document the fact that once again, this renovation has taken us down a path we could have never anticipated.

img_5114In the process of replacing dented metal sheeting around the windows, the discovery of rotten wood along the base of of our sunporch windows was made. Because, sure. Why wouldn’t we want another surprise project that makes everything take twice as long and costs more money? See – cranky, whiney, angsty. It’s just where I am right now.

But seriously. Sept. 1 marked the started of 10 months, which if I’m not mistaken means our reno has now taken just as long as it would have to grow a human. But we’re not even done yet (with the reno; we’re done growing humans)! With this new extended take-the-windows-out-replace-the-wood-put-the-windows-back business now added to the roster, our outdoor chaos continues , much less allows us to get that last room finished and put back together as soon as we’d like (which was like yesterday, or better yet – six months ago).

If this all feels eye-roll-worthy, trust me; I get it. We are privileged to have been able to poke the bear in the first place. At the same time, we never anticipated the major additions to the initial plan and now each and every little extra that pops up feels like a big kick in the pants. And it also feels like this wild ride is never going to end and projects are never going to stop adding themselves to the list.

My advice to people now when they start talking to me about house projects they are thinking of doing? Don’t. Don’t do it. Because if you start, you might just end up growing a house baby that is going to take way more liberty (and space in the budget) than diapers.

Or, at the very least, you’ll lose your marbles a bit and start making house/baby analogies in a desperate attempt to explain your crazy because dang – renos and crazy just go together it seems.

Making Peace with Sunday Dinner

Just shy of a year ago, my feathers got seriously ruffled when someone made a comment to me insinuating that I wasn’t doing enough as a mother by not having a hot meal ready to go the second we walked in the door from church. If you’ve ever read anything I’ve written about church, you know that it often hits me in all the feels and leaves me sweaty and exhausted by the time service is over because, well, five kids 10 and under makes for a long haul, no matter how welcoming the majority of the environment is to their presence (and thank goodness for all those who are so gracious and accepting of my wiggly, not-so-little herd).

Today at church was the kick-off of Sunday School, which Ben teaches, and the baby no longer naps through, so the whole crew was there bright and early to get all the info and send 4/5 off to their classrooms (actually, the baby tagged along with Daddy and his class because after him heading back to school two weeks ago, she’s not really willing to let him out of her sight if she can help it, come the weekend). And then we stayed for service, as is our tendency during the school year (sorry, summer; you sort of went off the church attendance rails this year).

By some force of magic (and the help of a familiar, friendly face), Wilson went to the nursery during most of the service. That meant I got to hear more than I normally do which is always nice, but we still had Truman (who went on an all-day early-bday extravaganza to Omaha yesterday and is still in fall-out today) and a “How much longer is it???” asking Lincoln from like the first hymn on, and yeah – still sweaty, still tired when it was all said and done.

And you know what?

That’s fine. It’s totally OK for our time in the pew to be a little bit challenging right now (and for the foreseeable future). We’ll get what we get out of it and our kids will hopefully get something out of it too, and someday far from now, we’ll be empty-nesters who can actually pay attention start to finish and that will be a grand adventure, although in a totally different way.

For now, we’re going to let some things go, and by things I really mean Sunday dinner. I didn’t really care too much last year when the flip comment came my way (except for the rudeness of said comment) and now a year later, I am just full-on embracing the fact that our Sunday routine after church is going to be constituted of precisely No Routine.

After my kids have held their sh!t together for 2.5 hours of Sunday School + a full church service, I really don’t care what they do once we get home, short of cleaning their hands and changing out of their church clothes*. I don’t even care if they sit down right away to eat; I mean, why would they want to after being so still for so long leading up to that point?

You want to go play in the dirt? Fine; change your clothes first.

You want to go read a book? Fine; wash your hands first.

You want to eat some left-over pizza or a granola bar and crackers or some watermelon for lunch? FINE. Change your clothes and wash your hands first and have at it!

I just don’t care for formality at this point. What I care about is that my family is here and free to have a little say in how they unwind and process and if we can give them a little more grace and space in the doing so, along with ourselves, then that’s all the better.

*I really wish I had gotten a picture of the little Welschies today before we came home and they changed because how they dress for church is definitely another avenue of Pick Your Battles (and Mama’s not picking this one) in our house. Lincoln was in gym shorts and a t-shirt. Truman, khaki shorts and a t-shirt. Harrison, sweatpants with a “fancy” t-shirt and his dress shoes. Wilson in a cute little dress. Raegan in a fancy fancy dress she got as a hand-me-down from friends. So basically, a giant hodgepodge and again, it all went fine. I might fight this more on days they have to sing/play bells in front of the congregation, but beyond that? Whatever. img_4915I will dress myself up as I like and I remind myself that just like Jesus doesn’t give a flying flip if my kids eat cheese and crackers for lunch after church, he also doesn’t care what their clothes look like, no matter how much society may try to make us think otherwise.

 

 

Medical Mystery? We’ll See.

Oftentimes I use this space to sort out life as I write. Getting my thoughts down in words has always helped me process which means I don’t always know where I am going to land by the end of a piece when I begin it. Such is life, right?

But today’s post feels even more open-ended than that because I know for certain that when I hit “publish” I am still not going to know any more answers than I do in these opening lines, no matter how large my word count grows.

Long story short, I’ve been dealing with unexplained, persistent, and at times really troubling abdominal pain for much of this summer.

In typical Type-A fashion, I didn’t want to go in to see someone about it at first because I wanted to give it time and figure it out myself. But as the weeks passed and things didn’t improve or show any sign of definite cause, I decided it was time to seek out professional help which I did a week ago.

Thankfully, as of now, nothing is presenting that seems imminently scary and that alone is a huge relief. However, what that leaves us with currently is taking time and space (and a few other measures that I’ll keep private for now) to allow some hopeful healing to take place.

If things improve, awesome; that’s obviously the best outcome possible. If they don’t, we’re back to the drawing board, so to speak, to keep seeking out answers by more extreme means. But there-in lies my writing conundrum in sharing any of this because I really don’t have resolutions to share at this time and that’s hard for me. Waiting and wondering are hard for many of us, I would assume, especially when pain and discomfort are involved. But I’m doing what I can to lighten my load (any time I utter a phrase like that I snort because we all know that is easier said than done, yes?) and make changes to my routines that might help the healing process.

Enter one attempt: the standing desk.

One pattern I have noticed this summer is that sitting tends to aggravate things and that’s how I tend to hold my body when doing all of my online teaching/grading. So after hemming and hawing for a few weeks (another pattern of the summer, unfortunately), I decided to invest in a standing desk from which I can do more or most of my online adjunct work. It is early days in terms of deciding how the standing feels in my body versus sitting, but the colors of it are already making my heart happy, so I figure that’s as good a start as any to improvement.

Where things go from here only time will tell, but in that meantime, I’ll do what I can to aid and assist the process of healing.