Health Update

For several months my pain has been manageable. Nothing has been out of control as far as swelling and I’m used to my other aches and pains. But lately, something has been creeping in. Testing just revealed that I am battling a parasite. To say I’m freaked out is a huge understatement. A parasite was discovered last year. I dropped raw milk out of paranoia and followed an herbal protocol that did the trick. I looked at my notes and it happened around this same time last year. Certain parasites can come back each year despite treatment and there are close to a 1,000 that can infest the human body. I play in dirt (compost) when I garden, wipe a kid’s behind everyday, clean a little box for two cats, handle raw meat, vegetables from my garden, farmer’s markets and the grocery store, I eat at restaurants, and I am a freak about washing hands. I could try to figure out where this critter came from and go crazy cleaning and generally freaking out. Or I could do what I am supposed to to get rid of it (going herbal route) and support my body the best way I can. I knew something was amiss though due to pain all over rapidly increasing over the past couple weeks. My boxing gloves are on.

A recent visit with my rheumatologist to go over current lab work revealed MCV and MCH still just above normal. My doctor said that since they are not too high above normal, despite being up there for years, and because the additional blood work he had done came back normal, he is not worried.

blood work 2014

He and I got to chatting and I said that sometimes I wonder what in the world I will feel like when I am sixty if my body is doing this kind of stuff at forty. He responded with a sympathetic “yes…” that trailed off. It was not what I was looking for. I wanted to hear hope. I wanted to hear, “Oh, you’ll be fine!” accompanied with a smile. Honestly, I wanted to hear it even if he didn’t think it was true. Is that bad? I have hope. I fight hard against seeing this as a downward spiral even though people all around me are getting worse. But on the other hand, I do appreciate my doctor’s honesty. No mention was made of my antibiotic protocol (now one year and four months into it), so I am continuing with it. I am scheduled to see my doctor and have blood work done again three months from my last appointment.

Another flaky, red patch has come about as well, and this time in a more prominent spot. Lovely.

psoriatic skin

Current state of my toes and nails affected by psoriatic arthritis. Thank God for nail polish.

psoriatic feet

Shoes I am getting rid of this week thanks to psoriatic arthritis. Can we please have a moment of silence to mourn.

high heels

I can still smile about it all and sport a pair of Naot heels when I want to. Thank God.

mirror

When I was at my chiropractor’s office yesterday, my four boys were waiting in an area outside the room. One was drawing, one had his eyes closed, and two were on electronic devices. I was sitting on the table in the room with my doctor with my back to the door that was open. I hadn’t noticed my four year old come in and sit down. I had just told my doctor when asked how I was doing that I was experiencing increased pain, blah, blah, blah.

And then I felt a little hand on my back rub up and down a couple times. I turned around to see my little guy. He looked at me and said, “your back hurts?” Oh, it broke my heart. I wanted to take my words back. I am attempting to make the best of the situation by embracing the fact that hardships help teach compassion. My little guy does not have touch at the top of his love language list, so it means all the more to me that he came over and put his hand on me out of compassion.

I find comfort in my pursuit to demonstrate joy to my children despite an uncooperative body.  Because dwelling on what a drag it is to deal with pain and be hyper conscious about food and products is not going to help produce fruit in anyone. Does anyone else struggle with how our children process what it means to have a parent that is not fully well?

Beware the Purple Potion

A few days after our Thanksgiving gathering and exposure to sickness my youngest son looked like this:

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A few more days and he looked like this:

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both eyes red

and after a couple weeks of misery that included goopey eyes that itched and burned,

his eyes look like this:

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and just days before Christmas,

his cough finally relented and he looked like this:

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Playing the part of Joseph

I’m so happy to be on the other side of this battle. I nourished and supported his little body and environment in every way that I knew how.  To see him still become so ill was really hard–especially because I work hard to nourish him and keep him healthy. I tried to see it as a positive, as an opportunity for his developing immune system to go to battle and come out stronger as a result. I told him to tell his body to fight and stay strong at heart.

To add to this, my husband also became very sick. Husband has been like man of steel. Seriously, the man never gets sick any more. For several years now, he has taken the vitamins I recommend, given up a lot of garbage (stuff you can’t really call food), and he eats what I cook from scratch. Since we’ve been married, his cholesterol levels have come down and returned to normal, he gave up the inhaler he has always used, he went from being lactose intolerant to being able to consume dairy without unpleasant side effects, and he stopped getting the nasty, blow a lung coughing kind of colds that he always got when we were dating. The man sounded like a barking seal reliably each year. But he hasn’t sounded like that or come down with anything like that in years.

As a result, he got really used to feeling good. I know because of how he reacted to becoming sick. He was not happy about the situation and everyone in the house knew it. It was rough-for both of us. His cough was unrelenting and his patience for it was slim. He consulted with a friend of his who is a doctor and this is one of the items that was recommended to him to help him get through the nighttime coughing:

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My husband went to the store and purchased this. I warned him beforehand it would be a bottle of poison, but he trusted the medical professional. He did not look at the label in the store and brought his purchase home. In addition to the sleep aid there are chemical preservatives, artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, and corn syrup in the mix. This is the solution when people are ill?

I’m not going to lie, it irritated me that my husband purchased and considered using a product like this after everything he has learned. Is it that worth it? My body reacts to the stuff in this purple formula like it is poison and you still want to chug it? And it definitely irritates me that this is what a well respected doctor has been taught to recommend. I told husband to consider having a glass of wine before bed instead and pointed out that his purple bottle of chemicals has 10% alcohol in it. He doesn’t drink, so I figured it wouldn’t be too tough to “knock him out” so he could sleep.

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I’ve mentioned that Red No. 40 is banned in Europe. Enough said. High fructose corn syrup suppresses the immune system and promotes inflammation among other things. According to the Cosmetics Database Polyoxyl 40 Stearate (listed as PEG – 40 Stearate) is a moderate to high hazard ingredient. It mentions cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity, organ toxicity, and irritation concerns, and has been found to cause tumor formation at moderate doses in rabbits. (poor rabbits…) Sodium benzoate has the ability to deprive the cells of oxygen, break down the immune system and cause cancer. And saccharin showed up on a blood test of mine as antagonistic to my body, as did the colors. And did you catch the ingredient “flavor”? What in the world is flavor? What chemical concoction might that be? And shouldn’t it be required to be listed?

What is all of this doing in something people take when they are not feeling well and need some sleep? Why is a bottle of this even legal?

It was frustrating to see my little guy and husband get so sick despite my best efforts and back flips to get them well. But thankfully, I never felt a twinge of anything. I ramped up my own immune boosting protocol and ate lots of live food in the process because I was playing with snot and getting coughed and sneezed on by my little guy–and big guy–and hoped for the best! Christmas definitely came a little early for me in the way of wellness.

My response to my son and husband getting very ill was not so desirable to my husband. I went commando in my attempts to get them better. My husband already thinks I’m an extremist when it comes to eating well and taking care of my family food wise. (I beg to differ.) You can imagine my response to all this sickness. I was probably not the most compassionate wife to my husband during this display of sickness. Because I work hard at wellness, I have no tolerance for whining, complaining and laying around if you are not doing everything you can to be well. I realized how deep I have to dig lately to be compassionate to others when they are not feeling well if they are not being proactive, eating wisely and moving their bodies. Just being honest. The same goes for myself if I choose to indulge from time to time. If I feel like junk as a result, I have no one to blame but myself and try not to mope around and complain about it.

I would in my defense like to say that I threw the book at my husband in my efforts to get him well. I ramped up his vitamin C, D and zinc. I gave him fresh, live food,

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I made soups with vegetables and homemade stock, I had humidifiers and simmering pots of essential oils going, I tried to get him to neti pot his nose and clean it out, I suggested he get some fresh air, sunshine on his skin and encouraged him to walk barefoot on the earth. I knew the barefoot part wouldn’t happen, but the walk did. 🙂 I made him teas and homemade cough syrups that had everything from apple cider vinegar to thyme and honey, I kept the four kids occupied so he could rest for hours at a time, I encouraged him to get his spine adjusted (noticeable improvement in health after), and I showed him love and support (I promise, I did).

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After three weeks his cough finally subsided just in time for Christmas. He and I are getting to sleep through the night again and I am praising Jesus!

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I share all of this so you may be mindful of what is in those colorful bottles of cough syrup, sleep aids, etc. We have to be our own health advocates because unfortunately, the shelves are lined with bottles of toxic concoctions and well meaning doctors are not always recommending what is truly in our best interest.

Praying this finds you feeling well and staying well in the new year!

The Ultimate

The ultimate husband that is. About a year ago I went on a women’s retreat with two of my new neighbors. We drove up together and bunked in the same room. God met us there too. It was awesome. It was something we all said we would do again. While on the retreat, there was a table with resources for things like marriage and parenting. I saw this cover and thought it was hilarious. I told the girls we should send our guys a snapshot of it and tell them it was what the retreat was really about. We had a good laugh! In all seriousness, today is my wedding anniversary and this is my guy! He is the ultimate husband to me!

He really is and I am so blessed and so in love with him. Happy Anniversary, baby!

(He doesn’t read my blog. And he can’t seem to remember the name of it. But why would he? He lives it with me. Who wants to read about it in their spare time? But I am going to send him a link so he knows he is the ultimate husband to me.) 🙂

A Pain in the Neck!

So sorry for dropping off the face of the earth after Christmas. I’ve continued to check on my fellow bloggers, however, and each of you are never far from my prayers.

It’s important to me to record what has been going on with my health before my memories fade. The past couple months have been a bit of a ride. The pain I’ve dealt with in my neck for some time now, escalated to a level I could barely tolerate one night. In trying to sort out what is going on in that area, I’ve had multiple visits to my rheumatologist, chiropractor and an acupuncturist (a full blooded Chinese man, as my husband said). I’ve also had multiple visits with a neurosurgeon and two MRIs, with two more scheduled  for July. One of which is for my lower back. Not crazy about the fact that my wellness team is growing. But I’m so thankful that I have a team of outstanding professionals aiding me in my battle for my health.

As far as my AP experience, I am pharmaceutical free as of last Friday. Feels strange and a little scary. It is still weird to wake up in the morning and not have to take an antibiotic. Weird and wonderful. I decided to continue past the six month mark with my antibiotic protocol and was just shy of completing nine months (I loosely had a year in mind). But recently, I began to think about quitting one of the antibiotics (azithromycin). From day one it caused me to experience increased pain levels the morning after I took it. I could basically count on hurting every Tuesday and Friday. Initially, I interpreted this as a good thing based on the fact that with AP it usually gets worse before things get better. But being almost nine months in and still experiencing increased pain got me wondering if it was such a good thing still. I also began noticing a bit of stomach distress after taking my azithromycin. And if that wasn’t enough, I saw my rheumatologist last week and saw my latest labs and they show my liver showing its first signs of distress. That’s enough to cause me to pull the plug.

I’m at peace with the decision and now I’m holding my breath to see how my body responds. In the meantime, I am trying to be very diligent about taking my numerous supplements and nourishing my body with good food since I notice a decline in how I feel when I slack off a bit. I am also making sure to do all I can to repopulate my gut with healthy bacteria.

I came up with a year of AP in my mind after extensive research. Even though my rheumatologist thought we should call it quits after six months, I felt strongly about pushing past six months. I felt like more work needed to be done in my body. Thankfully, he agreed to let me continue with careful monitoring every six weeks. He has really been a blessing. But I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling lately that it was time to drop one of the med.s. When I asked my doctor about this he said that I would need to quit the rifampin as well because on its own, one can develop antibiotic resistance. He also said that my body could be having a bad reaction to the azithromycin and that is why there is increased pain. So, just like that, I’m done with them both.

I asked him about trying antibiotics again in the future if my body starts to get out of control again. He said that is definitely a possibility and we would probably go the minocycline route.

At this moment, I am so glad I tried the AP route and would do it all over again. Something tells me I may have to. But hopefully, it won’t be for a long time, if ever. I am trying to stay focused and positive in my mind. I want my subconscious thoughts to be uplifting.

It helps to look back over my AP diary and my previous posts and remember how much pain I was in because it gives me a better perspective of the progress I’ve made. The pain I feel now in my joints feels like residual pain–tenderness left over from being attacked and inflamed. My feet still have tender spots, as does my right ankle. But I walk barefoot all over my house now and outside without any problem. Praise the Lord! Even if all of this is fleeting, it is fabulous right now.

It has also been several months now since a joint has swelled and I don’t wake up with morning stiffness (just achy joints). My progress has held steady in terms of my hands and feet, wrist and ankle. My neck and back are a different story. I wish I knew if they were separate issues or somehow related to my condition because they have both become worse and extremely painful at times.

As far as my pain in the neck–the night of January 30 almost sent me to the ER. I was struck with intense, mind numbing pain that evening in my neck and upper back. It was awful. I’ve never experienced anything like it and pray I never do again. I didn’t know what to do. It felt like lightening shooting down my spine. But the last place I wanted to end up was the ER in the middle of the night.

There was a lot of sobbing and cursing involved that evening. I tried to find relief first with an anti-inflammatory and a pain killer. But if offered no relief. In fact, it felt as if the pain level actually increased. I was afraid to move it hurt so much. I soon called the pharmacy to find out if I could take a third drug–a muscle relaxer. The pharmacist said they will sometimes do that in the ER and if my combo didn’t work–to go to the ER. It was hard to breath without lightening pain in my neck and upper back. I could not get in to any position that offered even a bit of relief.

It was only by the grace of God that I made it through the night. I was able to remain calm and tried to focus on my breathing and prayer, and at some point I actually fell asleep.

The following morning (and into the following week) every step or turn brought a strong shot of lightening pain. I could barely move without getting jolted. When I walked, I also heard an audible knocking sound coming from my neck. Completely creeped me out. The pain was different from anything I’ve ever experienced before. It felt electric and more intense than anything I’ve ever known.

I called my mom who lives roughly three hours away the next day for help. Praise God she has angel wings. She came and went multiple times over the coming weeks. I lost track of how many visits she made to help me care for my family. Her help, along with my sweet husband was priceless, because suddenly I couldn’t drive or do much of anything without the electric jolt zapping me.

The next call the following morning was to my rheumatologist to request an MRI. I’ve had x-rays taken of my neck recently and they showed nothing. It was time to get a closer look. When I saw my rheumatologist a couple weeks prior to the incident for a follow-up, I was in a great deal of pain in my neck area. He prescribed an anti-inflammatory, a muscle relaxer and a soft collar and said that the pain was probably not related to my disease.

After calling him to request the MRI, he asked to see me again first. Praise God, his office staff got me in the very next day. At this appointment he said that my pain might be related to my disease after all. He asked if I wanted a shot in the arm for pain and inflammation. Yes, please. I was given a shot of toradol which caused my arm to hurt like crazy all the way home, but worked like a miracle for 15 hours. He also offered me a prescription for a steroid dose pack (which I declined knowing that it would end up seriously ticking off my joints) and said he could give me a shot of Enbrel on the way out if I wanted. In retrospect, it is slightly alarming to me how trigger happy he was with a biologic. But it reminds me of how much pain I must have presented in. I know he was just trying to help in any way he could.

After leaving, I read his notes on the order for the MRI. They read–seronegative RA or possibly ankylosing spondylitis. He never made mention of the second disease to me during my appointment. I struggled with the possibility, but didn’t want to give in to the idea. Somehow it didn’t fit, yet somehow it easily could.

What is interesting to me is that I went to my PCP roughly three and a half years ago for crazy neck pain before ever seeing a rheumatologist for the first time. He referred me to physical therapy and said it was nothing to be concerned about. He never ordered x-rays or suggested anything else. When I saw the physical therapist, he said that based on the way I presented I should give up the kickboxing and running I was doing permanently. What?! I remember this news clearly because it broke my heart. I loved kickboxing. I didn’t understand. At the time I was healthy, active and fit. Why did I suddenly have to give up something I loved? He recommended PT a couple times a week for a couple months. I went diligently and found relief. But there was never any explanation for why my neck might be painful enough to send me to see a doctor. The only thing I could attribute it to was kickboxing.

I had a follow up appointment with my rheumatologist to get my MRI results. He said there was a lot written for C5-C7, which is never good. My heart sank. But how bad could it be I thought? The radiologist’s report said there was a very large bulging disc pressing on my spinal cord and depressing the sac. My rheumatologist said that based on the report, it was very likely that I would need surgery and referred me to a neurosurgeon that he described as conservative. He said that out of the hundred or so patients he had sent his way, roughly ten had needed surgery.

I have to tell you that after years of being the girl that doesn’t show up on paper, I was relieved to finally show up on film–and in a big way. My doctor said he couldn’t believe I’d been living with this level of pain and offered me whatever I needed in terms of relief. I’ll never forget the way he looked at me after reading the radiologist’s report.

February 2, 2011

They got me in to see the neurosurgeon the very next day. When we got to the office, the waiting room was full–full of people that looked like they were hurting. My husband and I waited two and a half hours to see the doctor and I was the last patient to be seen.

The neurosurgeon finally came in, apologized for the delay and said he could help me. He said my situation was more extreme than most, but an open and shut case for him basically. He also said I was not in danger of paralysis in the meantime. All I needed to hear. Surgery was definitely the order of the day and he said he recommended that he perform it as soon as I would allow him to.

It was great to get a good look at my films for the first time. Anyone could see the disc bulging and pressing on the spinal cord. It was a crazy thing to see. He said there was some damage to the cord and asked if I was experiencing any numbness or tingling in my arms or legs. I told him that my hands had been falling asleep at night for quite some time. In fact, I mentioned this to my PCP when I saw him about my neck years ago and he said it was probably due to me having them in positions that caused this. Guess not.

The neurosurgeon said I would need an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. Huh? The way I heard him explain this to me was, “Cut you open in the front above your collar bone, remove your entire disc, insert a disc composed of a dead person’s bones encased in an artificial plastic material, blah, blah, titanium plates and screws in your spine, blah, no neck movement for six weeks, no driving, lifting or bending for at least two, collar worn for six weeks.” Eek.

The neurosurgeon then led my husband and I down the hall to his nurses’s office and said if I chose, I could schedule the surgery with her. For some reason, my gut said to simply book it. For some reason, thoughts of a second opinion and further research weren’t a part of the equation. I just felt the need to move forward with the surgery so I could get on with healing.

In retrospect, I think there was a part of me that was thinking–there is actually something wrong with me that I am being told can be fixed. I’m so used to hearing–this is something you will have to deal with for the rest of your life. There is no cure and you will have to take drugs to attempt to manage it for the rest of your life as well. So, a prognosis for pain relief with surgery was in some strange and tiny way–a relief.

I can’t help but wonder if  the problem with my neck is holding up greater progress with my hands and feet. It is certainly possible since the area of my spine affected is connected to my hands and feet. What if alleviating the problem with my neck takes a load off my hands and feet and I am able to cross a few more hurdles toward better health? A girl can dream, right?

I scheduled the surgery for their first opening and left with my head spinning, wondering how in the world my family would function with me out for two to six weeks. No neck movement for six weeks and zero activity for two? How was that going to be possible? I’ve never not done anything for two weeks. I felt overwhelmed.

I wrote what follows in February after I scheduled the surgery and stuck it in my drafts folder. (I have since cancelled the surgery.)

It’s very difficult to wrap my mind around what is to come. Unlike my last c-section (my 4th), which at times brought on fearful feelings before it occurred, I feel almost completely removed from what is about to happen. Just focused on getting through surgery, being the best patient I can be and moving on to recovery.

Does this mean that my neck issue is related to my disease or is it a separate issue? Neurosurgeon thinks they are separate issues, but my rheumatologist seems to be on the fence.

My oldest son brought home cards written by all of his classmates. Just seeing the stack of cards with my name on it made me cry. I realized in that moment how concerned my son was since he talked about it with his teacher and his class. I couldn’t even open the cards for a couple of days. I was too overwhelmed. But when I did, God’s power and love was unleashed through those kids.

There are a lot of people praying for me. When I stop to think about all of the people praying for me, I can’t help but cry. It just humbles you. I don’t always like asking for prayer. Maybe because it sometimes means there is a bit of a crisis going on. But I believe in the power of prayer with all my heart. And somehow, I have been able to get by this week without my mom being here. The pain is significantly less. That’s a praise report if you ask me and nothing short of a miracle considering how much pain I’ve experienced the past couple weeks.

(The following was written present day….)

Then I began to have second thoughts about the surgery. It led me to research it more extensively and seek a second neurosurgeon’s opinion (he looked at my MRI films and offered epidural pain relief, pain killers and said if that didn’t help that I should have an anterior cervical discectomy performed). I also made another appointment with the neurosurgeon scheduled to do my surgery. I had more questions now and more concerns.

At this point, I was managing to function at a decent level, but was not lifting my little guy or anything else heavy for that matter, and was taking it as easy as possible. I continued to get weekly adjustments (very gently) from my chiropractor and saw an acupuncturist. The pain was now more tolerable and my constantly interrupted sleep (due to pain) was something I accepted as par for the course.

My neurosurgeon was very understanding at the follow up appointment and said if I wanted to wait on surgery, that he wanted to have another MRI done in four to five weeks to make sure I wasn’t in any danger. I left feeling extremely grateful that I would get another look and thought–OK, time to work on healing. I wanted to see improvement in my follow up films. I remember praying a few days later, Lord, please allow me to see your work through my MRI films. I knew a lot of people were praying and I wanted to show them something awesome. I felt prepared for either situation though.

It makes me cry now thinking about my prayer because here is my second MRI. Huge improvement.

March 9, 2011

I have to show them side by side. Here is first one again. Ouch.

February 2, 2011

My neurosurgeon was amazed with my follow up MRI. He said he has never seen an improvement as major as mine happen so quickly. He was taking pictures of the first films I brought with me again with his phone to show his colleagues the improvement. Take all the pictures you want I thought. 🙂 He said that he had to eat his words in a sense because now my surgery was more optional than critical. But he still highly recommends that I have it done based on my age, condition, family demands, etc. He said that if I were his sister or his wife he would say, “Baby, you should really have this done.” He also said (without knowing anything about my faith) that when he goes before God, he would be at peace saying he had recommended I have this done. Heavy sigh….

When I think about the fact that my neck went crazy at the end of January and we are now into May, I am stunned. I know we all say time flies, but I feel as if time has warped. More so than ever it seems.

It is also very hard to believe that my oldest is completing his first year of middle school at a private school with a butt kicking curriculum in just a few weeks and two of my other boys will be through another whole school year. This has by far been the fastest a school year has ever flown by. Maybe because my husband took over driving my boys to school each morning a few months ago. Praise the Lord. I don’t know. But something has truly impacted my sense of time.

My youngest is also turning two this month. Unbelievable. It seems like just yesterday that we had a big monkey birthday for him and a house full of children and adults. This year, I am planning on an intimate family gathering.

And now by the incredible and amazing grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, my husband and I are going through the process of building a home. Oh, thank you, Jesus. It came out of left field and I am left speechless by the gift. I am still in awe. I’m sure this has added to the time warp. Our new home is going to so beautiful and for me–something I really never imagined in my wildest dreams would happen at this point in my life. Sometimes it is truly too much to process and I break down and cry.

Our first new home together is said to be done toward the end of June. Dear Jesus, help me get my entire house in order and packed without feeling incredibly overwhelmed. Help me to manage the needs of my body with the needs of my family.

I am so thankful to be moving out of the home we are in now. Our home is beautiful, has woods behind us resulting in privacy, and was built by my parents. We are minutes away from my boys’ school and right across the highway from our church. It has been such a blessing to live here in our home in this location.

But this is also the home that my ex-husband lived in with me. If walls could talk….

I think it will be incredibly therapeutic to start a new chapter in our new home. I don’t consciously think about the evil that took place in our current home. But just like my residual joint pain, I think there is a residual effect that we might not even fully understand the ramifications of physically that can take place if we are surrounded by an environment that was once destructive physically, mentally and spiritually.

My husband and I are the first to buy a lot on the street we are moving to. All of the neighbors will be new and I have been praying about each one. I can’t wait to meet them. I do know that our neighbor to the left has five kids and they are a blended family like our own. I think that’s pretty neat. Our neighbor to the right is in Virginia with her two boys while their home is being built and her husband is in Afghanistan. I plan to take pictures of their home process for them. Just feel the urge to do so.

Since I have decided for now to not have surgery, I have to know what my limits are. When I start to feel less pain and have increased mobility in my neck and back, I push my limits (i.e. lifting, sweeping, bending, stooping) just a bit more to see what my new normal is and to attempt to determine if this is a doable normal for me. Doable in the sense that I can carry on, get things done and not limp along pathetically relying on others all the time.  It has required getting used to a new level of pain, a new level of limitations. It’s amazing what we are capable of accepting as our new normal. And I have to accept it for simply what it is or I will turn into a resentful and unpleasant grump.

My other option is to give surgery a shot, to replace my God given disc with a mix of a dead person’s and an artificial material, a few long screws and a plate–which gives me the creeps. And quite honestly, I think that surgery is a crap shoot because it could bring relief, or it could even bring more pain if I don’t respond well to the procedure.

Of course, each time my neck and back flare up, I contemplate surgery because sometimes my new normal is pretty crummy. But thankfully, in the midst of this my energy level is good, my mind feels clear and my other joints feel the best they have felt in years.

Praying this finds you well. So many of you are on my heart and in my prayers.

Post Holiday Gratitude

Having a sane, enjoyable, casual holiday gathering with family that love you and accept you exactly as you are is awesome. I am so grateful.

I am so thankful for the connections I have made with people blogging and people reading. It’s been so wonderful connecting and learning from you. And I love that you guys are all over the place–in some of the most beautiful places in the world.

Christmas is coming. I want to enjoy every minute of it. I confess. I love Christmas. I love the way it makes me feel. I love what we are celebrating. I try to stay clear of the commercial trappings in my heart. But I like gifts, and I love to give them. Always have. What can I say? And I love colorful lights flashing in my house and in my yard. It’s celebratory and fun for me. And I love getting out the manger scene. I put it in a different spot for first time in seven years today. I think it looks better in the new spot.

I give thanks for all of my family and friends everyday in some way.

A few of my favorite moments from Thanksgiving:

Morning snooze with daddy

Checking out the "doggie" at the back door

Sister and her honey hanging by the fire

A sunflower discovered

Cousins plopped on the grass together

A little heart to heart

"Baby!"

Grunting along with grandpa

The opposing team

Two sweet monkies

Doggie love

ooohhh--computer

Rockin' grin!

Table time with the cool uncle

He's losing his nose!

Cozy kitty

Dear Family:  Other favorite memories include sister’s yummy gluten-free pineapple stuffing (You and mom are the best! Thanks for the gluten-free fare.), getting in a little shopping with mom and sis just before the sales ended, playing badminton with the guys (Couldn’t have done that with my wrist a year ago. Awesome.), gathering around a warm fire outside while the temps dropped and the sun went down, getting my T.V. dose with a bunch of What Not to Wear episodes, watching Outsourced and laughing with you guys, seeing all of my guys fully absorbed in Star Trek, and witnessing my brother-in-law feeding my niece Thanksgiving dinner and my nephew pancakes and blueberries at IHOP with patience and love. Sweet memories. I love you guys! I have so much to be thankful for.