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I love that quote from Adam Savage.

The reality I'm rejecting today is that I'm old enough to have a 21-year-old daughter.

Yesterday we celebrated Munchkin's 21st birthday.  Facebook's On This Day reminded me that 5 years ago today, she got her driver's license.  She then drove her Dad and I back to my house (he had insisted on being there for her driving test for some reason), kicked us out of the car, and took off for her first solo drive.

She's always been an independent person.  I've alternately been grateful and annoyed by that trait in her.  "My do it!" was probably her first complete sentence.  (Actually, I'm pretty sure it was "Izzy is a stupid cat" but the other makes a better story.)

And of course, this is still how I see her:

But now she's an honest-to-goodness adult.  She recently got her EMT certification, and last week finished her orientation for her first ambulance job.  Oh, and she's moved out of the house again (though it'll be nice when all of her stuff manages to follow her).  So I guess she's been "launched", whatever that's supposed to mean.  I do hope that I gave her a solid enough foundation to make her way in the world without too many stumbles.

That's the thing about parenting that I sometimes think a lot of people miss.  We're not raising children, we're raising people to be functional adults.  Munchkin didn't have an easy go of things, with a single Mom for most of her life, and some really disasterous step-family stuff.  So the self-sufficient streak was probably a really good thing through the years it was just me and her against the world.

I think I probably did a good job with her.

But I still insist I'm not old enough to have a 21-year-old kid.  Just sayin'.

I've been trying to write this post for a couple of weeks. My thoughts and feelings balked at being committed to paper. I think I've worked through it enough to write now, so we'll see...

First, I read an article on Migraine.com (https://migraine.com/expert/fighting-for-migraine-with-words/) by Dr. William B. Young about how the words we use affect how we see our own battles with chronic illness, but also in a more far-reaching way affect how other people view us and our illnesses.

Dr. Young made the point that a condition is fundamentally different than a disease, and migraine is so much more than a headache. By using words like "migraines" or "migraine headache" we change the perception for ourselves and others and minimize a serious neurological disease. Also, using the term migraineur reduces the person to their illness much in the way the terms epileptic or schizophrenic do.

It's more than political correctness, it's about the perception these words create. I've used the term migraineur for years. Like other labels, it's simple and concise. I like simple and concise language, and have always resented political correctness being thrust upon me and my choice of language. However it's important for me to recognize the impact of the words I choose. This is like choosing to say rheumatoid disease instead of rheumatoid arthritis or psoriatic arthritis. The word arthritis dilutes the full impact and implication of rheumatoid disease.

Incidentally, I'm not trying to tell my readers or anyone else what words they should or shouldn't use. I'm just offering some food for thought, and offering an opportunity to think about the language you choose to use.

Part of my challenge in processing this is that I still tend to not think of migraine as the neurological disease and disability that it is. It's been just another fact in my life since I was a teenager. It runs in our family - my sister, nephews, and daughter all have it. Sis and I suspect our Mom has it based on our observations (though Mom disagrees).

I've written before that I never considered myself to have chronic illness until my rheumatoid disease was diagnosed. As I became more educated on the subject of chronic illness, I realized that I've lived with multiple chronic illnesses for most of my life. While my asthma is fully controlled with medication, I still have to make decisions in order to keep from having an attack. I cannot exercise in cold air without a mask, I cannot go to smoky environments, and I have to exercise caution when dusting or cleaning, and I can't go to concerts (second hand marijuana smoke has forced me to leave too many concerts early). I've had migraine attacks since my late teens, and it's affected my life to varying degrees ever since. Rheumatoid disease and fibromyalgia are just the two latest entries to my list.

So while I was still digesting and processing the information from Dr. Young's article, I watched the film Unrest (https://www.unrest.film/) and it reduced me to tears. It's available on Netflix and other streaming media. If you or anyone you love deals with chronic illness, I highly recommend that you watch this film, though I will warn you in advance it is hard stuff. It chronicles Jennifer Brea's experience with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) which has been associated with chronic fatigue syndrome. (Note: this association is disputed by some ME researchers.)

While the film is specifically about ME which I do not have, so many of the themes struck home with me, as I believe they do with all people who have chronic illness. People not believing us when we share our symptoms and struggles. Doctors telling us it's a mental condition (and even prescribing depression medication). Fighting to get referrals to specialists or specific testing. Feelings of guilt from placing burdens on our family and friends because of our illness, and of not "pulling our own weight". Relief when we finally get a diagnosis, even if it's incurable, because it means there's tangible proof finally. Grieving the person you once were and can never be again. Worrying about missing too many days of work, or not being productive when we drag ourselves in. Wondering if you will ever have a pain-free day again.

I've had to catch myself several times while typing out these paragraphs, as I tend to write that people "suffer" from chronic illness. This is yet again one of those words that changes perceptions. Certainly there is suffering that goes along with chronic illness. For some of us, it's intermittent. For others, it's fairly non-stop. But the term is passive, it's being subjected to something. It's like using the phrase "victim of" and while some people use it, others hate it. I don't embrace being a victim, even though the legal term applies. Similarly, I don't embrace suffering from anything. I prefer more active terms. I survived abuse, I fight chronic illness. It's also important to recognize that some people don't like the active verbs, either, and find being labeled a "fighter" or a "warrior" demeaning. Dr. Young probably offered the best advice, in that we can use any term we want when relating our own experience, but we should try to avoid applying labels to other people as only they define their experience.

The biggest word I struggle with, however, is "disability". When I think of someone with a disability, I think of wheelchairs, canes, severe impairment of a sensory system like sight or hearing, or like some of the people in Unrest essentially being bedridden. I have a strong aversion to calling myself disabled or saying that I have a disability. Part of my resistance is because I don't want to minimize what those with the more severe impairments deal with. I am still able to hold down a full-time job. I recently finished a master's program while continuing to work full-time. That doesn't fit the picture in my head of someone with a disability. Never mind that while doing that, I was completely unable to keep up with even minimal housework or cooking, and every weekend was spent recuperating from the week before. Part of it may be a fear that someday the impact on my daily life will be much more severe.

Perhaps the other thing about words is that while they can change perception, we can maybe create a change in how certain words affect us and others by changing the dialog around them. Especially when dealing with hidden or invisible disabilities, talking more about them and how disability is on a continuum can change how we and others see the concept.

There's one word I won't give up, though. Spoonie. The story by Christine Miserandino (https://butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/) in which she explains to a friend what it feels like to have lupus has given all of us who deal with chronic illness a touchpoint around which we have built communities of support for each other. It gives us a shorthand to use with each other and our allies. It might be reductive, but for me it's an identity within a community and that's an important thing to have, especially when you have a chronic illness.

happynewyear2018So it’s a new year.  I’m always struck how this arbitrary line in time is given so much importance.  I mean, it makes sense.  But then it doesn’t, really.  Resolutions are made and rarely make it past the first week of the new year, but we still do it, year after year.  Wipe the slate, start over, good intentions and plans for better outcomes.  Until we “fail” and then it’s forgotten until the next New Year’s Eve/Day.

I’ve tried to stay away from the whole New Year Resolution thing for years because I believe it sets us up for failure.  Instead, I’ve tried to embrace the idea of choosing a theme for the year, and focusing on that.

Of course grad school, coming to grips with chronic illness, changing jobs, weight loss surgery, and other changes for the past few years has demanded my attention and focus, and even yearly themes have been something I’ve lost track of as the year progressed.

2018 feels different to me, and I think it’s because it’s really a time of change for me.  I finished grad school mid-December.  I started looking back and realized that I’ve been in school almost non-stop in addition to work and family, for basically the last 10 years.  It’s been a decade since I’ve had significant amounts of free time, so this is all unfamiliar territory for me.  When invited to join things, or when I’ve had an interest in an activity or hobby for the last few years, I’ve said “yes, in 2018.”  Well, 2018 is here and I have quite the list.  I can’t do everything that has interested me, but I do have some things to start with.

So I’ve decided the theme of 2018 is going to be Renewal.  Renewal of hobbies and interests.  Renewal of career momentum.  Renewal of relationships with the people most important to me.  Renewal of my self-care program.  Renewal of my physical health initiatives.

So Happy New Year, and I share this quote from Neil Gaiman as my wish for all of you:


It's been a little over a year since I started tracking my "Level 10 Life" and I thought it was time for an update. I think I've been improving my life in the last year, so it's interesting to see it graphically represented.

Companions - My goal this year was to cultivate closer relationships with my core group of companions. Between #gradSchoolSucks, chronic illness, weight loss surgery, and other demands on my time, I haven't spent as much time with the people I care about but I think it's been a little better. Progress, not perfection, right?

Romance - The Mister continues to be the most awesome mate for me. We had our first real honest to goodness fight recently, and I'm frankly impressed with the way we recovered from it. I have never been with anyone where we were able to be painfully open and honest about the things that drove the fight (because it's rarely about whatever the fight was about) and end up closer as a result. He's awesome, and we're awesome together.

Health - I did one of the best things I have ever done for my health last year, with the weight loss surgery. I've had some rough spots since health-wise but it remains a really good decision, I think. I'm able to move easier than I could last year and I just overall feel better, even when my chronic illnesses are fighting me. I gave myself credit for that, but there's still a lot to be done. I just signed up with Good Measures which provides consultation with Registered Dieticians who are experienced with bariatric patients. Had my first consult this morning, and am really feeling good about this step as well. My goals for the next year are to improve the quality and variety of my diet, and get back to working out reguarly (including weights) so I also need to get enough protein in to support muscle gain.

Environment - We've de-cluttered quite a bit, even though you can't tell right now from all the boxes piled up in my front room right now. I haven't posted about it here, but Munchkin ended up moving home after the roommate situation went WAY south. She'll be here for a year or so pursuing her career goals and building up a financial reserve for her next foray into independence. So a lot of the decluttering and home maintenance has gotten set aside, but there's still some improvement.

Career - I've been increasing my responsibility and skill set at work, and will graduate this December with my master's, so I'm doing good in this arena. Next year will be focused on finding the next job, if that's in the cards.

Finances - Haven't managed many of the financial goals, but we did buy The Mister a used truck for cash, and paid off my jalopy. We're doing better than just treading water, but there's still a long way to go on this. Re-committing to YNAB again.

Personal Growth - This is completely stagnated while #gradSchoolSucks. I don't have the bandwidth to do much here. I do want to start journaling regularly again, and grad school ends in December, so that'll be when I can really start moving on this area again.

Spirituality - Pretty much the same response as for Personal Growth. Not a lot of time to focus on this.

Recreation - Ditto.

Giving - I'm still medic-ing for the derby league, and really enjoy that. Nothing else has really changed, but as with Personal Growth/Spirituality/Recreation, 2018 will be my year!

So in summary, some forward progress in the areas I prioritized this year through WLS and Spoonie Life, and still lots of room for improvement.

Well, it finally happened.  Munchkin has flown the coop.

Shortly before Thanksgiving last year, Munchkin's dad (Ex#1) passed away after long-standing health issues.  As she dealt with cleaning out his hoard (seriously, I'd forgotten how much stuff that man could cram into a closet) she decided she would keep the lease on his duplex and her BFF would move in with her.  It's taken her this long to get the place liveable and get the bulk of his stuff cleared out in between school and work.

But this week Muchkin & roomie decided even though things aren't 100% ready, to start sleeping over there and get the rest done while living in it.  So I'm officially an empty nester.  Though my garage will be serving as a storage facility for Munchkin's overflow for the forseeable future, and she hasn't completely cleared out her room yet.  Hopefully she'll finish that out this weekend.  Her leasing company bans pit bulls, so the dogs will be staying with us, and I imagine Munchkin will still be a frequent visitor.  We'll just have to train her to text before she comes over so we can put clothes on.  LOL.

So it hasn't quite hit me or the Mister yet.  We'll have our hands full for a while moving our own furniture around and filling space back up, as we get used to rattling around in the house by ourselves.  I plan to take over Munchkin's old room and turn it into my office/craft space and we'll see how the rest of it comes together.  I think we'll adjust to it just fine, I don't anticipate being all weepy over my baby being on her own.  But you never know until you are actually dealing with a situation, right?  We'll see how it goes.

 Well, 2016 is finally winding to a close. My friends who are into numerology tell me that 2016 is a "9" year, one of endings and closure. They say that 2017 is a "1" year of new beginnings. I hope that's true. Because while there have been good things that have happened for me in 2016, it's been a slog of a year.

We've lost so many celebrities this year, and some of the losses have been hard. Which always feels odd to say. I mean, I've never met these people, and only know them through their movies or music or writing, plus whatever news and gossip hits the few media channels I frequent online. Why should their deaths impact me in any personal way? But the fact remains that it does. I think part of the phenomenon is that it reminds us that time marches on, and we're older than we feel. Well, most days anyway. And that Death comes for us all in our time. Sometimes before our time, it seems.

Many of the famous people who died this year were getting up in years, and had been in poor health. So it's not like most of the deaths were surprises. I mean, when someone who's in their late 90's dies, how is that surprising? Sad, perhaps, but surprising? It's the ones who were "so young" that always cuts most deeply. It reminds us that we're not immune. I've known that from a young age working as a Paramedic, and more recently as an ER nurse. When you see death regularly as part of your work, you have a very intimate sense that each day is precious. That sense gets numb sometimes, but it's always there. Deaths of well known people just alert the sense once again.

A friend posted this link today on Facebook, and while I'm not a Millenial, some things he had to say really hit home for me.

Simon Sinek on Millenials in the Workplace

If you don't have time to watch the whole thing (but I highly recommend it), one of the things he talks about is how social media causes dopamine to be released, which hits the addiction/pleasure center of our brains. He is of the opinion that if you're sitting with friends but texting/facebooking/whatever on your phone with other people, you're missing out on some of the really incredible things that are supposed to happen when you spend time with friends. If when you wake up in the morning, your first action is not to greet your significant other, but to turn on your phone and check facebook, then you're losing out in your relationship. If you're on your phone while waiting for a meeting to start, you're not creating relationships with your co-workers through seemingly insignficant chatter.

That really made me stop and think. Evenings at home have my family sitting on the couches, watching TV together, but not really together. Munchkin is typically on her phone doing something with her friends. The Mister is usually playing a computer game and occasionally checking his Facebook. I'm checking my Facebook and other social media, or doing homework. None of us are focused on the TV show we're watching, and we're certainly not doing anything actually TOGETHER. That's not to say every minute of our lives has to be doing something as a group, but shouldn't some nights, some activities be more present somehow?

I have a group of people who are my tribe. They are more vital to my well being than my blood family in many ways. We get together in person all too infrequently, and when we do there is a technology device in virtually everyone's hands. We do interact and chat and catch up with each others' lives, but it's an intermittent experience. Someone will get a text from another friend and engage with that for a while, or possibly share it with the group, or get disinterested in the topic of conversation and check out with their phone for a bit. Part of that is because we're a tribe of introverts, but I wonder what it would be like to have a gathering where the devices were left in the vehicles, or even just in the bags, for an hour or two.

I know lately I've been feeling very disconnected from my friends and family. I don't know if it's the season, or the culmination of a hard year for everyone, or maybe the long-term effects of the technology addiction that Sinek talks about. Sure, we "talk" all the time on Facebook, but that just seems to be very superficial to me right now.

When problems brought about by technology arise, I'm a person who tends to ask if there's not also a solution that technology offers rather than a knee-jerk reaction to decide that technology is bad. Perhaps I need to see if some of my friends are interested in a group video chat or even just a one-on-one Skype on a regular basis so we're more in-touch than what Facebook allows. Maybe just more in-person get-togethers are in order, and technology can facilitate the planning and coordination. I don't want to sound like I think technology or social media is the bad guy. I'm in touch with friends who I would have never found again without social media, even if it's just the occasional update about how life is going, it's still nice to wave at them. I have friends who have moved away that I've been able to stay in touch with through social media, where we'd have completely lost touch without it. I think it's about finding ways that technology helps, and limiting the downsides.


New beginning for 2017.

Makes me ask the question, what's REALLY important to me? What's worth the time and energy to start over and build on?

At this point in my life, I'm finding that it's about the people in my life. My relationships. I haven't been a good friend in many cases. I get wrapped up in my own stuff, anxious about talking on the phone (it's a weird phobia, I know), over-scheduled and stressed, and the first thing that goes is my communication and face-time with the people who are important to me. I think I'll catch up later, and then suddenly months have gone by. Relationships take work and time, after all. It's going to be up to me to figure out how to make that time and energy available.

But that's my priority for 2017, I think. Right up there with finish grad school. And get back to the gym. And start cooking more. And start journalling. And keep a cleaner house. And write a book. (Too much? Probably.)

It seems trite to do all of this self-analysis and "I'm going to change my life" stuff coming up on New Year's. Maybe it is trite, but it's also a collective threshold that our culture recognizes, so it's kinda built-in. Why not use it? Either it becomes a true "new beginning" or it's something that sounds good, and it's tossed aside by Super Bowl Sunday and at least it was a good blog post, right?


Wow. Over a month since I've posted anything. I plead life changes, grad school, work, and illness as excuses. Life is beginning to look a LOT different than it did pre-op. I'll post more on that later.

It's interesting to me how we define moments as life-changing. Life before this event and life after this event. There are the huge ones that everyone remembers as a frozen snapshot in time: JFK assassination, Reagan shooting, Challenger explosion, 9/11 attacks. The "where were you?" moments. We all have stories to share about where we were when we heard, how it's changed our life or society since then.

But then there are the personal ones. Some tragic, more that are joyful (hopefully), but each one marking a point in life where everything changed. Moving to another state, life-changing injuries or illness, graduation, marriage, ending relationships, forming new relationships, encountering the death of loved ones. Events that change the trajectory of your life, for better or worse.

It seems like I've had nothing but changes over the last few years. Back to school 3 times. 4 new jobs. Divorce. Remarriage. Chronic illness diagnosis. Weight loss surgery. Whew, and that's only the last 5 years. Needless to say, my life doesn't look anything like it did five years ago. I live in the same house and Munchkin is a constant as are friends, family, and the remaining cats. Nothing else is the same, and that's a good thing.

Some of these are certainly life changing moments. A clear line in the sand of time where something stopped or started or both. But many of them blend in like a wave of tiny changes that go almost unnoticed until in a moment of retrospection you look back and see how far you actually got moved.

I've been - mostly - a "go with the flow" kind of person my whole life. Especially regarding my career. Opportunities presented themselves, and even if it meant a complete shift from the prior plan I embraced those opportunities. That's resulted in an odd patchwork of job history and an interesting mix of skills. It's served me well overall. It meant that when a chronic illness diagnosis required me to leave bedside care, I only experienced some regret but no panic as I made the decision to move into Informatics. When changes come, I tend to roll with them.

The only things I tend to really regret are opportunities I've missed. Like when I was too scared as a 19-year-old to take a Paramedic job in Alaska (even though I "had people there") because it was so far from home. And leaving bedside care and a future as a nurse practitioner because I really didn't have a choice. I don't carry around a lot of regrets about life choices, and I think it may be because I did embrace opportunities and change when they came.

Since this has apparently become a "Wear Sunscreen" kind of post, I'll close with my advice for what it's worth. (And if you've never read "Wear Sunscreen", click the linky thing and read it now.)

Embrace the opportunities that come to you. Take the job that means moving across the country. Go to school (or even back to school) for the thing you've always wanted to be but didn't think you could. Go out on the blind date (but have a safe call set up). Travel every chance you get. Take that dance class that requires a public performance at the end. Life is about change, so buckle up for the ride and enjoy it.