Welcome to another edition of Insecure Writer’s Support Group. I finally remembered! Click the image above if you want to learn more abou...


Welcome to another edition of Insecure Writer’s Support Group. I finally remembered! Click the image above if you want to learn more about the group.

Today’s question is:
What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time (if at all)?
Well isn't that just the perfect question at a time that I happen to be contemplating that exact thing! Why do I write? What is my real goal here? Is this all a waste of my time?

Of course the first reply to that I think of is no, it's not a waste of my time as long as I'm enjoying it. But when you become wracked with insecure thoughts, you start to lose a little of your enjoyment. I'm a hack. I'm no good. No one wants to read my stuff. On and on goes the mind. But enough of that for the moment, and on to the answer to the question of the day.

My ultimate writing goal is to finish the book I started during NaNoWriMo, about my eating disorder recovery. I guess my way-down-the-road goal is to write many books, but I'm not in a place in life where that is possible. "If it's important, you will make time!" say too many, yeah, yeah, I know. And I will, someday. The fact is there is simply not enough time right now for everything I want to do in life. I am finally coming to some sort of acceptance about that and the fact that it's okay. Some things can wait. Not everything we want in life is going to happen right now. And some things, like writing a bunch of books, will be a lot more enjoyable when I have more time. As it is right now, I spend a minimum of 8 hours a day in front of a computer for my day job. When I come home at night, the last thing I want to do is sit back down in front of the damn computer, even if it is to do something fun like write.

So for now, the goal is to just finish the book, no matter how long it takes. As for blogging, I'm still contemplating my goals there. The goal of the blog for me has always been just to keep me practicing writing, you know, where people will potentially read it. Probably not the typical blogger’s answer, but I don’t really think of myself as a “blogger.” Like my blog name states, it’s really more of a journal. The key difference in my mind being that I don’t want to attract an audience through use of promotions or product giveaway gimmicks. I want you here because you like to read what I write.

So I guess my blogging goal is still the same. Just keep doing it. Unfortunately, that’s been a lot harder for me to do so this year. I’ve been struggling with all the usual writing insecurities, plus health problems that won’t just go away. There will be a few weeks where things are good. I feel healthy, I'm running and doing lots of yoga, I have energy and optimism. I'll feel like yeah life is great! Now I will start writing again! And then I'll get sick , injured, or have an allergic reaction to...I don't know what, life I guess.

And when that happens, in the pit of depression I go, and out the window goes the motivation to write. I’m sure I'm not alone, being in an insecure writer's group and all. I'm sure some of this is a normal part of the writing process or some such thing someone will say. But it all leaves me with that ugliest of thoughts. You know the one.

The thought of giving up.

Gasp! Yep that's right. I kind of want to give up on writing, for now. Throw in the the towel and just say enough already. Then maybe I could just focus on all the other things in my life that need my attention. Like my health, children, husband, family, friends, career, etc., etc. and on the list goes.

But there's another part of me, the somewhat obnoxious and stubborn part, saying...

Never. Give. Up.

Well shit it's been 2 months since I've posted anything. And I missed Insecure Writer's Support Group the last several months...

Well shit it's been 2 months since I've posted anything. And I missed Insecure Writer's Support Group the last several months as well! Where have I been, you may be asking? Mostly avoiding writing (insecure writer much?), but that's a different topic. For now I'll focus on the fun stuff.

Last week, Brian and I went to Saint Lucia for vacation. Yep, just the two of us again, no kids (thank you so much Grandma Paula, you're the best!). And yes, we just took a vacation last year too. Spoiled much? Oh yeah. But this one was a celebration. This July, we'll hit our 15th wedding anniversary. That's a pretty awesome accomplishment, one we're quite proud of and felt it was something worth celebrating. And our favorite way to do so is to travel. Lucky for us, the in-laws had time-share points that needed to be used and we were happy to help them out. :)

So on the evening of April 19th we headed to the airport. After having missed our first flight last year to Belize because 6am flights simply do NOT work for us, we opted for the red-eye flights instead this time. It's not really any better because sleeping on an airplane in coach has got to be the most uncomfortable thing ever. I think we maybe accumulated an hour or two's worth of sleep the whole way there. That's over 5 hours to JFK and then 4 1/2 hours to Saint Lucia. It was exhausting.

But we made it. We stayed at the St. James Club Morgan Bay resort, which was of course on the opposite side of the island from the airport and shuttles and cabs to take you on the over 1 1/2 hour drive were, as you can imagine, a bit pricey. So we opted to rent a car. They drive on the left side of the road. The steering wheel is on the right side of the car. This was by far the biggest challenge, and subsequently, greatest learning experience, of the trip.

I'm on the wrong side of the car?!
The island is not very big but it is incredibly mountainous. That makes getting around quite the journey. There were no traffic laws, or if there were, no one followed them. The roads were insanely windy and narrow. There were very few posted speed limits and even less street signs. People pass any time they want to, even on a hill with no visibility and another car coming right at them. Emergency breaking to prevent head-on collisions are just a normal part of driving in Saint Lucia. But we made it, safe and sound...well alive anyway. I honestly wouldn't recommend renting a car there for anyone who isn't up for a serious driving challenge.

View from our room
We arrived at the resort in the afternoon, just in time to get settled, take a quick swim in that beautiful ocean, and grab dinner before crashing early out of pure exhaustion. But our room was awesome. Ground floor and only a very short walk to the beach. We mentioned it was our anniversary when we booked it, so maybe that's why they gave us the good room. And a bottle of champagne. The resort was very nice and the staff were always super friendly, helpful, and fun.

Beautiful beach
We spent the first several days doing exactly what we wanted. Laying on the beach with a drink in hand, soaking up that sun. Actually I was heavily sun blocked, under an umbrella, and/or wearing a shirt most of the time because I burn like a redhead and we were close enough to the equator to make the sun all the more intense for this pasty chic. I learned a valuable lesson about the expiration date on sunblock. Turns out it actually does mean something. Weird right? Ah well, what's another dozen freckles when I already have thousands?

View from the spa
I mostly laid on the beach and read. I indulged at the spa one day. Brian went sailing a few times. We both went kayaking but I didn't make it 20 minutes before the waves started to get to me and I had to go back. (Yep I even get motion sickness on a kayak, wtf.) We did lots of swimming in the ocean and some in the pools. We did yoga a couple times. But mostly we just enjoyed some much needed rest and relaxation.

View from the hilltop pool
Every evening we made time to watch the sunset. Something we rarely make time to do in daily life. It's the little things like that about vacation that make it so nice. And the sunsets did not disappoint. 

This doesn't even do it justice
Who needs a selfie stick when you got long-ass arms?

Wednesday nights are beach party night at that resort. There were bonfires and tons of local food and drinks. There were guys walking around and doing stunts on stilts and a bunch of people dressed up in some funky costumes. I never heard what the costumes were about, but the Burners in us felt right at home. The staff were so good at creating a party atmosphere. There was entertainment every night  we were there, with a variety of live music and a couple nights there was even karaoke. Brian of course participated. Go check it out on his Instagram.

Beach party
It's not every day you get your picture with the devil
We had planned on hiking the Pitons while we were there. But after talking to a few people, locals and tourists, who had done the hike we'd intended, we realized we were not in shape, or in the mood, for that strenuous of a hike. Everyone said it took 4 hours round-trip, with the first part being moderate but very hot as it's in the jungle. The higher you get (the peak was 2,500 ft and the hike included 2,300 of it), the more it cooled off, but the more it turned into rock climbing instead of hiking. Even Brian wasn't feeling up for it, and he's the good climber! So I didn't feel bad slacking off. Instead we did the Tet Paul Nature Trail that was near the Pitons. Super easy walk but still great pictures. All the benefit for no work! Well I drove there so I wouldn't have to take Dramamine, so that was still work. Crazy ass drivers and the road there were even windier and narrower than the one from the airport.

Mountain on the far left is Mt. Gimie, 3,117 ft.
Gros Piton, 2,579 ft.
Petite Piton, 2,425 ft.
After the walk we headed back to the nearby town of Soufriere to find some lunch. This town, and the drive there, was educational. It gave a more realistic feel of what life is like for locals. It's not resort living for them. From what we saw, the majority of jobs are working in tourism or on farms. Many people appear to be living in poverty. It was pretty similar to Central America in that regard. Every country we've been to now always leaves me with those guilty feelings. You know the ones. The "man do we have it good and don't truly appreciate it" and "geez I wish I knew how to help"? Yeah those. Two of the many reasons traveling is an important thing to do. Especially for us spoiled Americans.

Anyways, back in our privileged life.... before heading back to the resort, we enjoyed some snorkeling at Anse Chastanet Beach. The water was so clear right off the beach here so I didn't have to get on a boat (win!). And Brian decided to test the waterproof-ness of my phone. Thankfully it held up and he got a few good shots.

Not sure what kind of fish but they were very pretty
Sea snake ahh!
I ended up in the middle of a big school of these guys, so awesome
The skinny one is a pipe fish, there was also a huge school of them not far from us
And then like that, the week was over. More red eye flights and then we were home. Tired but very happy. Saint Lucia was a wonderful vacation. I would highly recommend it if you're looking for a Caribbean destination. Relaxing and spending some real, quality time together was the best way to celebrate our soon-to-be 15 years of marriage.

This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness (#NEDAwareness) Week. So in honor of that, I wanted to write a little bit about what re...

This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness (#NEDAwareness) Week. So in honor of that, I wanted to write a little bit about what recovery has been like for me, and what I have learned.

I have been recovered for many years. So these days recovery looks pretty damn good. My life is what I want it to be, what I have made it. Not every day is a breeze, life is still full of ups and downs. But at least I am experiencing true happiness. And I won't lie to you, it took a very long time to get here.

The first step was of course deciding that I wanted to live. The next step was love. I had to learn to take care of myself, to love myself and eventually my body. I'm sure this is as hard for everyone else as it was for me. And it takes more than just eating healthy and exercising in moderation. I've had to learn not to be stressed out all the damn time. I've had to learn how to relax. I've had to learn to accept myself for who I am. Instead of over-analyzing every aspect of my life, I try to, ya know, live it. Instead of constantly worrying if I'm enough, I regularly have to take a step back and realize that "enough" is right up there with "perfection" and "balance" on the list of illusions the world is trying to sell you. There is no such thing as enough. You have to let that fear go. You are beyond enough. But it doesn't matter how many times I or anyone else tells you that. You have to want, really want, to believe that yourself.

This year's NEDAwareness theme is "Let's Get Real". So complete, unfiltered truth here. Recovery can be a fucking nightmare. But guess what? If you're letting your eating disorder consume you, you're already living the worst nightmare imaginable. Recovery might suck large but it's nothing compared with what you're constantly doing to yourself. I know you might feel numb a lot of the time and so you think living with your illness is not that bad. But as your body slowly deteriorates, the numbness won't be enough. Eventually all you will feel is pain. All you will see are nightmares, even when you're awake.

Recovery makes you face those nightmares. It requires that you quit hiding behind your illness and instead stand up to it. It forces you to shed that numbness and feel everything, no matter how painful. It usually includes therapy of some kind, whether you want it or not. And in it, even if it takes years and years, you will have to talk about all the things you don't want to talk about. The primary one being why you are doing this to yourself. You may not, like I did not, know why at first. And that will be part of the challenge. Sorting through all your own agonizing feelings and memories to find the source.

I spent many years in recovery not knowing why I felt the way I did, why I had started hurting myself in the first place. I spent most of those years not really trying to figure it out, but instead trying to put it behind me and hope I was past the worst of it. It wasn't until depression came back and knocked me on my ass after so many years of recovery that I sought out treatment again. That I started to dig for that why. That I realized I would never be free until I understood it.

And after a lot more work and soul-searching, I found my answer. Like a revelation, the pieces started to fall into place. And I began to understand the most important piece of the entire puzzle. The piece I think is critical to everyone's recovery. That this was not my fault.

It is not your fault!

It is not your fault. It is not your fault. Say that to yourself, over and over until you believe it. These are powerful words that have the ability to help you take that next step in recovery. Once you believe them, you will realize the next steps are entirely in your control and up to you. It was not your fault it started. But now you choose to continue down the self-destructive path that leads to a life of misery and likely an early death. Or you choose to find a different path. Your own path instead of your eating disorder's path. This path is still hard, uncertain, and full of challenges. But it is yours to make it what you want. And trust me when I say, it is a beautiful path.

Life in recovery is messy, imperfect, surprising, and will still often feel out of your control. But it is beautiful in spite of, and often because of, all of it's so called imperfections. All of the lies your eating disorder is feeding you couldn't be farther from the truth. Life is worth living. You are worthy. You have no idea what amazing experiences life has in store for you. No matter how bad life can suck sometimes, there is still always wonderful things along with the challenges. Don't let your eating disorder steal all of life's joy from you. Don't let it steal your life. And never forget...

Recovery is worth it.

So what does your self-care routine look like? Anyone else sick of articles and ads asking you that question? I know I am. I'm real...

So what does your self-care routine look like?
Anyone else sick of articles and ads asking you that question? I know I am. I'm really sick of seeing yoga ads that look like their selling sex and yoga clothes instead of just encouraging you to try yoga. "Treat yourself" or "take care of you" slogans are being used to try and sell you all sorts of things, from clothes and beauty products to prescription drugs and overpriced exercise programs. As if spending a bunch of money on crap you don't need counts as self-care. I know I'm not the only one who's sick of being targeted. I recently read this article about what self-care really looks like. It hit home on a lot of points so I'm going to share a few with you. My favorite first (on what self-care is)...
"It is letting yourself be normal. Regular. Unexceptional. It is sometimes having a dirty kitchen and deciding your ultimate goal in life isn’t going to be having abs and keeping up with your fake friends."
Yes! All of that. Right there.

I've always felt pushed by society and pulled by my own desires to be exceptional. Events in my childhood left me often wishing I was normal, but at the same time being afraid of it. I believed being normal wasn't good enough. I was smart and strong and so had to be proving that at all times. While I think it's good to challenge ourselves, it's hard not to let this mentality go too far. It's an easy slip into being a perfectionist, where nothing is ever good enough.

I know perfection isn't achievable. I know life is rarely going to balance. Both perfection and balance are illusions that society tries to tell you are real. But I do want to feel that I'm doing enough, while actually taking care of myself. But I don't want self-care to be on my mental checklist of things I have to remember to do everyday. It should be something that comes naturally, something that we just all do for ourselves because it feels good and is a great way to enjoy our lives. It shouldn't be something I end up only doing because I get so overwhelmed with life that I literally quit functioning until I get some rest.

It's not always quite so extreme. Sometimes there is a bit of balance. Sometimes I take care of myself because it feels good and not because I've worked myself to exhaustion. Sometimes I don't make a stupid to-do list for the weekend and I just rest and spend time with my family. Sometimes I take a bath because it's relaxing and not because I'm sick. Sometimes I take a vacation because it's fun and not because I'm in desperate need of a break from my life. And when I look at self-care with the re-defined thoughts brought up in that article, I feel a lot better about what I do.

My house will never be perfectly clean. Five minutes after we clean it there's toys and dirty clothes strewn all over the damn place or someone spilled something or smeared chocolate on something or brushed their teeth (which means toothpaste everywhere). I've learned to let go of the illusion that my identity as a wife and mom is somehow tied to the cleanliness of my house. How tidy my house is, is not a reflection of how good of a woman I am. It's simply a reflection of the fact that we LIVE in this house. 

And having abs and fake friends are on the list of things I just don't have time for, and that's okay. Because those things do not help my life. Fake people tend to have a negative influence on me. People that talk too much about the superficial things in life, things that I try my best to ignore, I find a challenge to be around. Either because it's things I simply do not care about, or it's things I'm trying not to care about. Like abs for example. Who doesn't want nice abs? But I've spent years trying to have a positive body image, and stressing about my abs does not help my cause. I simply don't have the room or willpower for these types of people in my life right now.
"It is disappointing some people. It is making sacrifices for others."
Yeah it is. You can't make everybody happy. It's never gonna happen. I have a tendency to be a people pleaser. Even the aforementioned fake people, I used to want everyone to like me. But at some point, I started to lose the energy to give a shit what everyone thought. I try not to worry about making anybody happy now except the people I care about. And for them, I make a lot of sacrifices. I tend to doubt myself there and worry that I'm not giving enough, because sometimes I let them down too. But that's crap. I know deep down that I'm giving my best. It may not always look how I imagined it would. But I know it's my all because I'm not holding back on the people I love.

Sometimes I have to choose between doing something I need and doing something for someone else. And sometimes those sacrifices happen and I put the other person first. And other times I have to put myself first. That's what self-care really looks like for me. Learning my limits, knowing when to say no. And the real challenge for me, not feeling guilty about it afterwards.
"...it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from."
That is really the best definition of self-care. Mostly we run around like crazy, trying to do everything for everyone all the time. And when we finally take a break it really does feel like an escape. And sometimes during that break you'll get that urge to keep running far away from your life. It's okay to admit it, we've all felt it at some point I'm sure. But I don't want to feel that feeling ever again. I love my life. For whatever reason I sometimes allow it to overwhelm me and stress me out, but it doesn't have to. In those moments when I stop, and be still, and really listen, I see the truth. I already have everything I've ever wanted. I don't need to overwork myself. I don't have to prove anything to anyone. I can just be happy and enjoy this beautiful life that I've made for myself.

Well then 2018 is already hauling ass isn't it? I completely missed IWSG last month, but if you read my posts about Sebastian ( here...

Well then 2018 is already hauling ass isn't it? I completely missed IWSG last month, but if you read my posts about Sebastian (here and here), then you understand I was a wee bit occupied worrying about my darling son. Quick update there, he's doing much better. Only mild headaches this last month. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

So this month's question is...
What do you love about the genre you write in most often?

When I first read that I thought oh that doesn't really apply to me, because I don't really write in any one "genre". But the more I thought about that I realized, that's not entirely true. On my blog I definitely bounce around topics, but they're all basically non-fiction articles about one thing or another. And then my book is also a non-fiction, personal history type. So that would put everything I currently write about in the non-fiction genre.

So what do I love about it? Simply put, I like the truth. I like to tell stories too, and I'm sure I'll try my hand at a good, old fashion fiction story one day. But right now, there's so much to write about just from my life. The here and now. The past that brought me here. I find it all very fascinating. It's also just what my blog name says, a journal. It's life as it's happening for me. I already have enough years of posts that it's interesting to go back and read stuff from a few years ago. It's just another thing I find helpful for learning about myself and growing as a person, and especially in my writing.

I love that anybody can come to my blog and know that whatever they read, it will be true. Of course it's my truth, which may not be your truth, but that's the point isn't it? All of us are here together, but we're not all having the same experience. Talking, reading, and writing about each other's lives is how we all learn from each other and about humanity. The more we understand each other, the better we will communicate, and ultimately (hopefully) get along better.

The other thing I love about non-fiction is trying to assist and educate people. Writing has been not only a great, therapeutic outlet for me, but has given me the opportunity to help people. I've reached others with eating disorders, and have I think, at least been some help there, even if it's only been to give them hope that recovery is real and possible. And because of our experiences with Sebastian, I've educated myself about neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) and have been able to help spread awareness about this, not-so-long-ago, unheard of genetic disorder.

Well it's late and I'm tired, and that's enough of my truths for today. I have a lot more posts being written in my brain, so hopefully I'll make time to get them out of my head in the next couple weeks. Until then, hope you're all enjoying 2018! :)

You all got time to hear this shit because I have good news! Sebastian does not have a brain tumor! And more good news, he hasn't had a...

You all got time to hear this shit because I have good news! Sebastian does not have a brain tumor! And more good news, he hasn't had a bad headache in a whole week!

First, in case you didn't hear, Sebastian made it through the MRI without wiggling at all. The tech said he didn't have to re-do a single image and he did better than many adults! They were also very impressed that Brian had him practice ahead of time. I think the practice helped a lot, and that we impressed upon him how expensive important it was for him to be still for it.

We saw Sebastian's neurologist yesterday and she reviewed the radiologist's report of the MRI with us. There were a couple of spots, what they call Unidentified Bright Objects (UBOs), because they show up as just a bright spot on the image. They have no mass and so are not pushing on anything. They are very common on MRIs of kids with NF1 and do not cause any problems that they know of. I stumbled my way through a few abstracts of studies done on these spots, and they are studying the correlation of UBOs with learning disorders. But it didn't sound like anything definitive had come from these yet. Still very interesting as they all mentioned that a majority of NF1 patients had these spots on their MRIs, but only while they're young. Apparently the spots can lessen or go away entirely as they grow up. Fascinating, and definitely worth further study, but thankfully nothing to be concerned about.

The neurologist thinks Sebastian likely experienced his first migraine (and hopefully last in my mind), probably triggered from illness, since he'd been so sick right before. There's quite a long family history of migraines on my side, so it's not surprising between that and NF1, that he may suffer from headaches. The good news about that is there are plenty of us in the family with experience in figuring out headache triggers. So I'm confident we will be able to figure out his and help him avoid the pain as much as possible. 

With this in mind, we also took him to see my naturopath yesterday, as I knew from my own experience that natural medicine tends to be much more helpful in finding the source of things like headaches. And giving you gentler treatment options as well. Here we talked about things like diet, probiotics, supplements, and essential oils. I'm not against treating him with Ibuprofen, but I want to save that for when it's really bad. I like having other options for whenever it's not so bad, and ideas on working towards preventing it.

In my own experience, headaches are more often than not caused from something basic. Not getting enough sleep, not drinking enough water, eating unhealthy, and not getting enough exercise are at the top of the list. For me the list extended into things like inhaling any fragrances or chemicals, which can trigger an instance migraine complete with light sensitivity and nausea (seriously people, lay off the perfume and cologne, you're killing me). So yes, migraines suck, but I feel much more confident and prepared on how to handle this than any other diagnosis they may have thrown at us.

Next steps will all depend on if they come back at all, and if so when, how bad, any obvious cause, etc. So we'll see what happens. But in the meantime, I'm going to keep celebrating every win we get on this NF journey. And doing my happy dance, which I'm not gonna lie, probably looks a little something like this:

Well Happy New Year! I sure hope your year has started off better than ours. It's been, well, challenging to say the least. And not j...

Well Happy New Year! I sure hope your year has started off better than ours. It's been, well, challenging to say the least. And not just since the new year, but for almost a month now. As if the holidays aren't stressful enough, we had to add a hefty dose of illness to ours.

It all started on December 17th. Sebastian began throwing up rather suddenly. It seemed to be some sort of stomach virus as Oscar developed the symptoms later that day as well. They both recovered quickly from the stomach part but also seemed to develop colds right afterwards. Nothing too surprising as it is Oscar's first winter in preschool and Sebastian had made it most of the school year so far without getting too sick. Thankfully, Brian and I managed to avoid the stomach part of it but I did catch their cold which hung around for weeks. Typical winter for me.

The odd part happened a few days after the boys seemed to be through the worst of this bug. In the middle of the night on Oscar's birthday, the 22nd, Sebastian woke up screaming in pain with a headache. His exact words were "my head is exploding." Not exactly the words you want to hear your child use...ever. We did what we could to calm him and gave him some children's tylenol. He suffered on and off for several days. By Sunday we were very concerned and called the advice nurse and his pediatrician's office to get the on-call doctor. Both said the same thing. We should probably go to the ER if we think it's that serious.

We hesitated at that. Not only because the ER is obscenely expensive, not covered by our insurance unless the deductible has been met, and a ridiculously long wait for mediocre healthcare. But because we weren't sure if the doctor really believed Sebastian needed emergency care, or if it was because he has NF1. Headaches are very common among people with NF. Sometimes it's from a tumor, but not always. The fact that he had been sick a few days before and was still fighting a cold made us question if this was really an NF issue versus just a really bad sinus headache. Sebastian has always had a low tolerance for pain and been on the sensitive side, which makes it very difficult to tell when something is serious. 

So we waited it out, got him in to see his doctor on the 26th. She was uncertain about the cause of his headaches and remained on the fence about if we should go to the ER still. The issue being that scheduling imaging and getting the results takes a long time. We were very frustrated by this. Why is our system setup in a way that we can't get urgent healthcare? It's only super slow or emergency for things like this, no in between. And yes, I called EVERY urgent care in our area, and not a single one of them have a CT scan or MRI machine. The doctor recommended going to the ER if any new symptoms developed or the headaches continued after the cold symptoms were gone.

The cold went away and the headaches continued, but just in the afternoon and at night. He woke in agony again late on the 27th, and so, sick of the uncertainty, Brian took him into the ER. They did a CT scan and said it was clear. The doctor labeled them "tension headaches" and said to keep treating with Ibuprofen and Tylenol.

Tension headaches seems like a very broad diagnosis, especially since he's had no history of headaches. It sounded more like one of the many labels that actually means "we don't know." Sometimes, instead of a vague diagnosis, I'd prefer the doctors were honest and just admitted to not knowing. Some people think the label helps. But going on 5 years now knowing about Sebastian's NF, I'd have to disagree with that. We have the label. It doesn't really help, but instead trades the stress of not knowing with too much knowledge. We know all the things that might go wrong. It makes every tiny thing that happens to him into something much bigger. Maybe he does have a tiny tumor in his head somewhere causing these headaches. Or maybe he just has a lingering sinus infection, crappy posture which is hurting his neck, clenching his teeth, an unknown food or environmental allergy, not drinking enough water, not sleeping enough, etc. etc. forever and ever. The list of things that can cause a headache is ridiculous.

But as everything with NF, we simply do not know. And the only way we have to even attempt to know, is to run more tests. The headaches continued at night for over a week. Some nights it wasn't so bad and others we slept very little. It got to the point where we started giving him Ibuprofen in the evening before dinner just to avoid the onslaught of pain. And it gave us all some much needed sleep. Then Oscar caught yet another stomach virus, and two days later it hit the rest of us at the same time. It's been a rough couple of days. But oddly enough, Sebastian has not complained of a headache since then. Maybe he's just been distracted by the stomach pain? Guess we'll see tonight as we're all on the mend now.

But last week when it was still bad, we told the doctor we were still concerned even though it didn't seem to be an emergency. They tried to schedule an MRI but of course their soonest available was several weeks out. They put in an urgent request to a different hospital, this time at OHSU (which has been better anyways in our experience), and he is going in tomorrow afternoon.

If you've been following my blog for awhile, you know we've avoided the MRI for years because for a child, it requires full anesthesia. In the past we were told the youngest a kid had made it through without being sedated was 9. Not sure when this changed, but now they offered a different option. They can let him watch a movie instead of sedating him. This was amazing, and hilarious, news. Amazing that there's a chance he can do this without the drugs. And hilarious because what does that say about TV? Yep, we're still laughing.

So Brian, being the resourceful man he is, decided it would be a good idea to have Sebastian "practice" for the MRI. He had him lay on cushions on the floor and watch the TV upside down, but this didn't seem quite enough, or good on his neck. Even in that awkward position, he made it about 30 minutes without moving. But Brian worked on a better design, and came up with this:

That's an iPhone above the glass

He's made it the 45 minutes, but I did see him wiggle a couple times. Hopefully that will be acceptable as tomorrow is almost here. If you have any positive vibes, healing energy, prayers, magic crystals, or whatever happy thoughts you have to send our way, we could use it and are, as always, grateful for your support.

And just like that....it's December. And the first Wednesday of the month, which means IWSG time! If you're interested in joinin...

And just like that....it's December. And the first Wednesday of the month, which means IWSG time! If you're interested in joining the fun or want to know more, visit their website.

Today's question:
As you look back on 2017, with all its successes/failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?
Well this question is kind of perfect for what I wanted to write about anyways. If you read last month's post or follow me on Instagram or FB, you likely know that I participated (and completed woop!) in NaNoWriMo this year. I finished out the month with 51,597 words. Is it done? Helllll no. Just as I anticipated, it is a giant mess of a first draft. It's 99 pages of word vomit, no joke. It's definitely not what I want it to be yet, but there are glimmers of it in all that word vomit. It will be raw. It will be real. And it could make you cry, laugh, and likely say "ewwww" more than once.  But undoubtedly your next question is the one I kept being asked by anyone I mentioned NaNo too....what am I writing about?

More than once that question caught me off-guard. Not because it's a weird question, duh it's totally obvious. But for some silly reason, I hadn't given a whole lot of thought to the fact that if I told people I was doing this, they'd want to know what I was writing about. Well, I am writing the story of my eating disorder, from its deceptive beginnings to its defeat. Despite my openness about it on this blog and social media, it's not something I actually talk with very many people about.

I didn't realize just how uncomfortable it was to talk about until I told a few people. Weird how it's so much easier for me to write about these things than to say them out loud. Not that it's easy to write about either, but it's a whole lot less easy to talk about it. Guess I'll have to add giving a speech about it to my I-do-NOT-want-to-do-this-so-I-guess-I-have-to-do-it-someday bucket list.

Writing this story has been painful, emotional, and insanely difficult. More than once I wanted to quit because "WHY am I putting myself through this?!" But then I'd remember a few important things. Like that I need to do it. For my fellow eating disordered peeps but also for myself. I can't really explain why, but for some reason it feels like closure for a long open wound. And if something is really hard, maybe that's a good reason to do it.

So as I look back at 2017, I see plenty of successes and failures of course. The recent NaNo experience being freshest in my mind, is a combination of both success and failure. I'm proud because I did it, I actually made myself write my first draft. Something I didn't anticipate actually doing this decade even. But it also feels like a step back because reliving this shitty experience over and over again so I can write it is like violently ripping open that still healing wound. But I know I'm better for it. If I could backtrack, I'd probably think twice about who I told I was participating in NaNo. Or at least mentally prepared myself for saying it out loud more than once. Watching people's looks of surprise, confusion, and sympathy was well...uncomfortable.

There were many other successes and failures this year. Figuring out my gut issues was a whole lot of failure for a long time, but looks like it's coming out as a success finally, yay! Vacationing in Belize, huge success. Continuing to kick ass at work. Always working hard to be a good mom and wife. Making big progress with my depression. Sure there's stuff that could've gone differently, but I prefer not to dwell on that hindsight bullshit. Obviously if you'd known how things would turn out, you'd do them different. But that defeats the purpose of life. We don't know how our lives are going to turn out. All we have is right now. So let's just enjoy right now.

In case I don't make time for another post this month, Happy Holidays my dear reader. You are awesome for being here and reading my ramblings. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

It's the first Wednesday of the month, so that means time for more IWSG. Today's question is: Win or not, do you usually fini...

It's the first Wednesday of the month, so that means time for more IWSG. Today's question is:

Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNo project? Have any of them gone on to be published?

More than likely your first question is, what's a "NaNo" project? NaNo for NaNoWriMo....don't worry, I didn't know what that was until recently either. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people participate in this writing challenge where they attempt to write 50,000 words during the month of November. The idea is to get a first draft going of whatever novel you want to write.

I have never participated in this challenge before. I have never tried to write a novel. So obviously the answers to today's questions are no and no. But this year, considering that burning desire I've been having to get my whole eating disorder story written, I've decided to join the fun. I signed up just yesterday and will start writing as soon as I finish posting this.

50,000 words in 30 days means I have to write over 1600 words a day. I'm not gonna lie, this sounds completely overwhelming and not really do-able at all, given the busyness of life right now. Do I think I can meet the goal? Yes. Do I think it will be a good first draft? Hell, no. It will be the shittiest of shitty first drafts ever, but if it gets me started, then it'll be worth. If it gets me writing more regularly, it will definitely be worth it. If I don't meet the challenge, oh well, the goal for me is really just to try. So as long as I put in an honest effort, I will feel like I succeeded. Or at least that's what I'm telling myself.

So...on this note, you will probably not hear much from me this month. I will be holed up at the computer each night, undoubtedly with a giant glass of wine and my vape pen full of CBD oil, seeing how many words are really stored up inside me. If anything good comes out I might share an excerpt here and there to get some feedback.

I'm scared and excited. This is going to be really hard. But I'm betting it'll be totally worth it.

Aug 7th, 2015 This week I'm at a nerd conference for work. While sitting through the boring introductions during a session, I made ...

Aug 7th, 2015

This week I'm at a nerd conference for work. While sitting through the boring introductions during a session, I made the mistake of checking Facebook real quick to fill my time. I saw the #metoo hashtag, and not knowing what it was about, I of course looked it up. After reading about this sexual harassment and abuse awareness, I went back to the Facebook search of that hashtag, which shows you first all your friends that have posted about this. As I scrolled for what seemed like forever, my eyes started to fill with tears. Now I'm not much of a crier really, especially not in front of anyone but a few select people, so I swallowed that lump and quickly put away my phone. That was not the time to think too much about that.

It moved me beyond words. It's not that sexual violence is news to me, it's the sheer number of women (and I'm sure men, but I only saw women in my feed) that have been hurt by this that hit me hardest. Since the movement is about both harassment and rape, I at first thought I shouldn't share any of my own experiences, because lucky for me I've never been raped. And really harassment doesn't seem like a big deal next to rape in my mind. But then I thought, that's not right either. Even if most of the people posting about this have only been harassed and not raped, that's still too many. It's still uncalled for and still needs to change. And the thought process behind rape is probably similar to harassment...the idea that the person deserves to be treated like they have no say in the matter. That it's okay to use your power to manipulate those under you. That it's okay to victimize someone. It's not. So here we go.

I remember being sexually harassed before I even knew what sex was. Some dirty pervert grabbed my ass in a grocery store one time when I was just a little kid. I had no idea why or what that was about, but I of course got scared and quickly ran back to my mom. I don't remember telling her what happened, but I do remember the fear and shame that immediately followed. Now as a parent my reaction to the memory is seriously appalled. Who does that shit?! If someone touched my kids that way I'd freak out! And I'm sure my mother would've done something as well if I'd told her.

As I'm now sure is a typical scenario for most young girls, I was harassed plenty growing up. Whether it was catcalls, whistling, inappropriate remarks, suggestions, or groping, there were too many times over the years to recall each one. I just know there were way more than should've been allowed, let alone normal. There were even a couple incidents in my teenage years that got dangerously close to date rape, but thankfully I was able to stop it before that happened. But I know way too many women that weren't that lucky.

I get that teenage boys are horny. But guess what? So are teenage girls. I know, I used to be one. So that is no excuse. But for whatever reason, not nearly as many guys get harassed by girls as the other way around. So why is this so one-sided? Why has no one taught guys that this is completely unacceptable behavior? Instead it was often written off with, well boys will be boys. Bull fucking shit. If my boys behaved like that I'd be outraged. I can't even think of what the appropriate punishment would be, but there's no way they'd get away with "it's just a guy thing." I think I've already done a pretty good job of teaching them boundaries, and will continue to do so throughout their life. I just don't understand why everyone isn't doing the same thing. But now that I think on it, teaching your kid boundaries is a whole other blog post for another day.

Or how about those excuses that "she was asking for it" by the way she dressed or behaved? This argument is old but still enrages me just as much as the first time I heard it. If a woman chooses to show off her body in public, that in no way means she's asking to get harassed. Maybe she is looking for attention, but I guarantee she doesn't want people to be rude or violent. Maybe she wants a compliment, like hey, you look good! etc. but not hey, nice tits! with an ass grab. NO! For goodness sakes can't anyone give a compliment without crossing that line? Yes you can. I know as soon as my boys start showing an interest in dating, I will be teaching them appropriate ways to pay a compliment without crossing any lines.

The even bigger problem with not teaching your kids boundaries and appropriate behavior, is they often grow up to continue that terrible behavior. And if you do this as an adult, the punishment if you get caught sexually harassing anyone, is much bigger...or at least we all hope it is! Realistically that depends on the situation as we all know too many people still get away with this bullshit, even in the workplace.

I'm lucky enough to work at a small company, thankfully full of respectful guys where I not only never have to deal with any harassment, but not even any disrespect. At previous jobs I did encounter plenty of sexism though, which often felt like borderline harassment. There's still more men in my field than women, although thankfully that's changing and I'm hoping within my lifetime I'll see it even out a bit more. But when I started, I was not only a minority, but was even called "an anomaly". I got a lot of weird looks, suspicion that I couldn't possibly know what I was talking about, being a girl, and very young. But as people gave me a chance, or in some cases had no choice but to give me a chance, they realized that I was not only smart, but was often more friendly than my coworkers. I had to go out of my way to be very nice and keep my mouth shut about those rude remarks to get some people to take me seriously. And while that was a frustrating experience, I know every woman who's been a minority in her field has had to face the same crap.

My goal is to do what I can to help ease the way for women in my field. And that's always meant I had to learn to deal with sexism and harassment. Speaking out when things are over the line is important, which I would not hesitate to do now if I encountered any harassment. But when I was starting out in my career, I was too afraid to speak up as I didn't want to fill anyone's stereotypical ideas of a woman in a man's field who cries harassment. That's really sad, and I wish I hadn't felt that way. I like to think if anything really over the line had happened, I would've said something. Thankfully it never did, so I don't know how I would've dealt with it for sure. But I do know I felt uncomfortable plenty of times and just kept my mouth shut. And it shouldn't have to be that way.

Ladies, and gentlemen, we should never feel like we have to keep quiet when we're harassed. You can't be comfortable in your job or life if you have to deal with harassment on a regular basis. It's better to say something. Yes if the person harassing you is an asshole, they might very well make it difficult for you. But so what? It's difficult being harassed too, so you might as well stand up for yourself and face the difficulties of that situation over staying quiet and feeling shamed. You owe it to yourself and to every other woman (or man) that's going to follow you. The more work we do on this now, the less our children and their children will have to put up with it. Think of how far the civil rights movement has come in the last 100 years! And think of how much farther it could go. But it takes everyone involved to stand up for themselves, and those around them.

Don't be afraid. Don't be ashamed. Don't be quiet. Help this end. Be heard.

Photo credit: Brené Brown I recently read the book "Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution." by Brené Brown...

Photo credit: Brené Brown

I recently read the book "Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution." by Brené Brown. I'd heard a couple of the author's Ted Talks before, but hadn't read any of her books yet. Then the chronic illness Facebook group I'm in decided to start a book club, and this was the first book they recommended. What an awesome book! I am so glad I decided to join in on the reading fun. Today's post isn't a typical book review, because I'm not a book critic. Instead it's about what I got out of the book, which was quite a bit.
"Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it's having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it's our greatest measure of courage."
For starters, this book is about why we should allow ourselves to be vulnerable. The reason being because it's the only way to live a full and authentic life. It's difficult for most of us, if not all of us, to do this. Being vulnerable means we will inevitably get hurt. Our instincts kick in and we immediately resort to fight or flight to protect ourselves. Especially if we were never taught how to correctly identify and deal with our emotions, specifically shame, we'll end up guarding ourselves over all sorts of things, even seemingly insignificant ones. Instead we need to realize that all this pain and discomfort is worth it so that we can truly live and love to our fullest extent.

Sebastian 10/03/2009
The first thing that came to mind when trying to think of a photo that represents vulnerability, was pictures of me with my babies when they were first born. I can't think of anything that makes me as vulnerable as parenting. It's the scariest thing I've ever done in my life, by far. Not like cliff diving scary, but love scary. True, unconditional love. Allowing yourself to love anything that much means opening yourself to endless hurt. We hurt when our kid's hurt, and growing up means lots of hurts. If you're anything like me, then simply the thought of anything bad happening to your kids causes you immediate discomfort. But we know it's inevitable, they will get hurt. They will experience pain, illness, heart break, and loss. And as their parents, we'll be right there suffering alongside them. But we'll also be there to teach them it's okay to hurt, feel shame and discomfort, and how to get back up.

Oscar 12/22/2013
"We own our stories so we don't spend our lives being defined by them or denying them."
The next big vulnerable spot in my life is of course my history with an eating disorder. Which leads me into the next topic in this book that really spoke to me. That was the idea of owning our stories. This section really helped my brain make a connection it had long been searching for. The answer to why, oh why, do I have that urge to share my eating disorder story? It's painful to recall, even more so to write down and share with the world, but I do it anyway. I always thought it was because I wanted to help others like myself, and that is true. But it's more than that. It's that desire to do exactly what that quote says. To not be defined by it or to spend my life denying it. I tried denial and avoidance for a long time, preferring to pretend I didn't have a problem, even after I was far down the road to recovery. I liked to tell myself the worst was in the past so there was just no point in thinking about it, talking about, or sharing it. But that never worked. It wouldn't stay bottled up. I could feel it in there like a time bomb. Either share it or it will explode and take me down with it.

So instead I shared my story. First it was just writing occasionally in a journal that no one ever read. Then it was little bits about it on this blog. And now it's the goal to write it all out, which will likely fill a whole book. And to figure out how to get the story to the people that will be helped by it the most. Then I think I will finally feel like I did it, like I shed myself of that definition and denial.

The rest of the book was about how to get our asses back up after they've been kicked. That's "The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution." part. The Reckoning is recognizing your emotions and that something is triggering them. And then being curious about why and how that is happening. The Rumble is the struggle to figure it out, the challenge and the uncomfortable part. The Revolution is the result of coming out on top of that struggle. This process will always change who we are.

Of course this part also brought me back to my own story, and how it followed that same path. I didn't know that's what was happening, and it sure took a long time. But once that real revolution part happened, the urge to share my story became too strong to ignore. Because I realized I had survived something really hard and there was no reason for me to feel shame over it. Instead I should be proud.

I've never thought of myself as a strong or brave person. I have as many fears and phobias as the next person and I avoid most things that cause a strong adrenaline rush. Whenever my fight or flight kicks in, my response is always flight. Run away and fast! This is really uncomfortable and there's no reason to go through it so run! But when it came to my eating disorder, running meant death. I had to stay and fight. And the fact that I was able to come out on top after a serious ass kicking, is something I am proud of. It made me want to be braver in more of my life. Because while every moment of it was insanely uncomfortable, in every way, it was worth it for the transformation my life has gone through. From a broken shell of a human being to one full of love, for others and finally, for myself.

So if you're looking for a little inspiration, motivation, or help understanding some of your emotions and struggles, pick up Rising Strong, or probably any of Brené Brown's books as I'm sure they're all wonderful. It will force you to think about things you'd rather not, but it will be so worth it.

For many years, I've had the urge to want to help others like myself. Others struggling through depression and eating disorders. I r...

For many years, I've had the urge to want to help others like myself. Others struggling through depression and eating disorders. I recently joined a couple of eating disorder support groups on facebook with this in mind. I quickly realized a few things. First, I was slightly overwhelmed by the sheer number of people who need help and this is just in these groups! It just breaks my heart that so many people on this planet struggle as I did, with something as vital as eating. Second, I have to limit how much time I spend on there because I can't help everyone and I won't be able to help anyone if I let it all drag me down. And lastly, I realized I was right. I do have the ability to help now. I am far enough in my recovery that I can be supportive. I can read people's posts and while I can remember back to a time I completely related, I no longer have that urge to be that person anymore. For someone who was told by my first therapist that I would never completely recover, it's really amazing to realize how wrong that was.

Today's post is mostly for the people in these groups, and anyone else who stumbles upon my blog that has an eating disorder. Today I am here to give you hope. The hope that you can recover. The truth that it is possible. I'm living proof of that. It's not just something the people in your life tell you to try to make you feel better. Recovery is real. I won't lie to you, it's not easy. No part of it is, it's always hard. But the farther on the path of recovery you go, the easier it gets. Some days are harder than others of course, and I still have days where I have to wrestle with my thoughts. But it's not like it was 15 years ago, or even 5 years ago. I have way more good days than bad. Even with more stress in my life now with work, family, kids, health problems, etc. you name it. Life has not gotten any easier but I have learned healthy coping mechanisms instead of destructive ones.

It all comes down to a choice. My father gave me the advice long ago when I was in the worst of it. I didn't listen then of course, but later on I realized it was actually great advice. He said, "you're complicating things. Keep it simple. Do you want to live or do you want to die? You want to live. Do you want to be happy or miserable? You want to be happy." After that is where we part ways on opinions, because as someone who has struggled with depression on and off for most of my life, I know that it's not as simple as "just be happy". Yes you have a choice. But when you're depressed, it's very difficult to choose happiness. Often you feel like you don't know how. And I think eating disorders are always the result of severe depression, so the two go hand in hand, often feeding off each other and making the cycle worse and worse. But you still have a choice. The choice to try. The choice to not give in to every evil your eating disorder whispers to you, but to instead tell it to fuck off. The choice to find the beauty in your life instead of only the pain. The choice to turn your determination to hurt yourself into determination to love yourself.

My current (and wonderful 😊) therapist has a great question you can ask yourself while you're thinking on this. "Do you want to do this for the rest of your life?" This type of self-examination can really help put things into perspective. When we're trapped in the depths of an eating disorder or depression, we get wrapped up in only our current pain without even realizing it. But if we can step outside of that and see beyond what we're experiencing right now, we can help ourselves. Try to picture yourself 5, 10, 20 years down the road. I don't know about you, but I always like to picture my future self as happy and past whatever my current problems are, not still struggling with the same bullshit.

Failure, imperfection, "I can't do it", none of these things have a place in recovery. Fuck all of that. Perfection is an illusion, move past that myth. Control is bullshit. You can't control all the shit that happens in your life. You never will. That's the hard truth about life. Learning to to let go of the idea that we can control everything is a huge step to recovery. Controlling your eating will not fix anything in your life. It won't fix your problems with your family. It won't fix your relationships. It won't help you achieve your goals. Eating disorders are not the answer. They are a terrifying obstacle, but you will be so much stronger once you come out on top.

Here's something that really helped me get started. I set a few real life goals for myself. It's good to write them down somewhere you'll see them often. Get your degree, get that job you want, travel, skydive, have a family, whatever it is. And add "happiness" to that list. If you really think about what you want in life, combined with wanting happiness, you'll know I'm right. The eating disorder is holding you back, it will not get you what you want. Don't let it stand in your way. Don't let it destroy you. I know you feel weak, but you're not. I know deep down there is strength in there. We all have it, we just have to find it and use it to rise out of the hell we've created for ourselves.

If you choose life and happiness, then you can recover. If you work hard and stay determined to recover, you will. I think the hardest part is that first step, that choice, that hard decision. That moment, or moments, where you decide, I WANT TO LIVE! I don't want to die. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom first to find it, and sometimes you don't. Everyone's bottom is different. Some suffer most of their lives, others only for a few years, before they find their bottom, their place where they realize what they're doing to themselves. Where the reality hits you hard that if you keep doing what you're doing, you will die. But whether you get close enough to stare death in the face, or just catch a glimpse of it, you'll see your choice, clear as day. Life or death? Will you succumb or will you fight back?

Choose to fight. Choose life. You CAN do it. You CAN recover. Don't let eating disorders claim another beautiful life. You deserve to live.