Surgery Recovery - Swirls of Emotion

Here I sit nearly 3 weeks post surgery, and while I feel pretty great physically - no major pain to speak of, and I have more energy than I've had in some time - I have been struggling with my limitations post surgery. The first week or so after surgery was easy enough to sit back and let others help with things. But as I started gaining back my energy and I didn't have any pain to indicate I needed to -NOT- be doing things, I found that my body wasn't quite ready yet to resume all those normal-life type things. One evening I helped with getting bags of groceries out of the car, and while I tried to be cognizant of not getting heavy bags, apparently the lifting and moving ended up being a not-so-good idea, after all. I didn't experience any pain immediately, but a couple hours later some mild cramping indicated that it may have not been the wisest choice. I've also found that while my energy levels seem to be up, I am still easily tired. So it leaves me a little stir crazy feeling like I can (or should) be doing things; but my head telling me "maybe that's not the best idea just yet". 

My body is also trying to level out my hormones, which is kind of exciting {heavy sarcasm}. I've had extreme acne - the likes of which I haven't seen since I was a teenager. I cry at the drop of a hat - but only sometimes and absolutely when I least expect it, or when I absolutely don't -WANT- to be emoting. A friend mentioned to me that it may take over a year for my body to adjust and my hormones to settle down. [Insert excited clapping here]{More heavy sarcasm} In addition to the extreme acne my body went into ultra-hypothyroidism mode and my TSH levels jumped over 2 whole points from where it had been just 90 days ago. So thankfully since I had already had a check up with my regular doctor we caught that pretty quickly and adjusted my medication accordingly. Let me tell you, as an Enneagram 9 messy emotions in myself are SO HARD to give grace to. It's easy for me to love on and come along side others who have big and/or messy emotions, but to have them myself... that's hard. Enneagram 9's don't always know what we are feeling - we're not deeply in touch with our feels. 9's don't do conflict (like a cat with water...), and sometimes emotions feel conflicting. SO when big AND messy emotions start showing up it feels scary, and out of control (box that up and throw it into some deep dark corner somewhere RIGHT NOW!). My head-space feels off-kilter - like I've lost my balance so to speak. I feel scattered and frayed at the edges. So even though I know in my head that my hormone imbalance is at the root of all this crazy-feeling-stuff it's still hard in the midst of the crazy feels to make sense of, and to calm the feels. It feels lonely, and scary. 

What am I doing in all my spare time? Well, I've done a lot of Netflix-ing. I've done some painting (and now have more projects I can tackle thanks to my mom who amazon-ed me more materials). I've entertained my imagination with all sorts of ways that I -could- organize my house, but may or may not ever get executed once I am physically able to do so. I go for walks for coffee because that's one of the only ways I am allowed to get exercise for at least another 3 weeks. I found out the hard way last night that I can't even play a family game of Monopoly because the repeated bending at the waist and scrunching things up there apparently angered my insides and I started having mild cramps again. Then major emoting followed, because 1) Anger - are you kidding me?! I can't even do THIS? 2) Sad - because we had to stop the game, and family game night is such a fun thing around here. Something I am SUUUUUUPER looking forward to is Mosaic's Women's retreat coming up next weekend. I think it'll be so good for me to have a change of scenery. Plus it'll be a super-awesome weekend of fellowship and worship, and all kinds of things that I hope will fill my cup. I have such fun memories of the first one I went to 2 years ago, and the new friendships that began blossoming from that time together. Plus a sweet friend and mentor of mine is going to be speaking so I'm pretty excited about that, too. 

I am SO VERY THANKFUL for my super-amazing family. I truly do not know what I would do without my husband and daughter. They have come along side me and taken such great care of me, with not a single whimper or moan about having to do things like laundry and dishes. My husband is super intuitive with my emotions, and can sense/feel when I'm not feeling quite right. He helps me talk through things in ways that my brain wouldn't naturally do. It has been helpful and validating to have him talk me through the feels and for him to affirm that I am not crazy, and my feels are natural part of the process.

So - this is where I am. Sitting in my crazy jumble of feels. 

Visual Impairment

The world of visual impairment is varied and vast. Impairments can range from simple vision corrections with the use of corrective lenses all the way to complete vision loss. There was a great article I came across a while back that helped me, and ultimately drove me to write up my own version of what visual impairment from the eyes of Teena looks like.

It all started October 2012. Up to this point I had what would be considered normal corrected vision. With some minor help of contacts & occasionally glasses I had 20/20 vision. After October and a diagnosis of Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension I was left with aprox 45% of my vision. January 3rd, 2013 I was told I was legally blind; no peripheral vision or night vision. My husband explained it best, and I've used his analogy ever since - It's like looking through a pair of toilet paper tubes. My right eye I have between 5-10% vision left, and my left eye has 35-40% vision left. I have central vision (the same corrected vision I had before just lots less) so I make eye contact and track things with my eyes, but there is a lot that goes unnoticed. I frequently trip over things because I can't see my feet unless I'm staring directly down at them. I am not allowed to drive any more. However because I don't use a cane many people don't realize I even have a visual impairment. I have a cane, and occasionally use it. But it feels like a blaring red beacon and when I'm in normal surroundings that I am familiar with I don't usually have any problems. I very rarely find myself in unfamiliar places alone these days so even if I do have problems I usually have a friend near by whose arm I can use for guidance.

I have a significant gap between my eyes vision fields, which in normal every day activities isn't blatantly obvious (our brains are such interesting pieces of magic). I'm not aware of the gap, until I miss something significant. Computer screens are now one of my worst enemies because that gap is very obvious and my brain is not able to fill in the gaps so easily. Where once upon a time I spent far more than 8 hours a day staring into my computer screen crunching numbers and analyzing data, now I can barely stand to be in front of one for more than 15-20 minutes without giving myself a migraine.

When Vision Changes

As most of my friends know, several years back I lost a significant amount of my physical vision. Back in October of 2012 I had a swift onset of Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertention, which ultimately claimed 85% of the vision in my right eye, and about 60% of the vision in my left eye. Leaving me with zero peripheral vision, a label of legally blind, unable to drive ever again, and a new perspective on life.

The first year after the diagnosis was hands down the hardest. Getting used to my new reality, understanding my limits without limiting myself, the learning to give myself a lot of grace in the process. There are still hard days (weeks, and months even). But what I have come to find is that not just my physical vision changed. I have found myself in a whole new place! Let me back up a little bit. Before my vision changed I was a full time working momma. I was struggling big time at life. My marriage was going through hard stuff. Work was grueling. I had a 3 year old who was absolutely the best gift I'd ever been given, and the most challenging obstacle I'd ever encountered up to that point. I felt like I was being pulled in a million different directions all at once, and was not doing any of the things well. I was good at my job, I loved working at the L'Oreal Bentonville office. My team was amazing, and lots of fun to be around. It was the first job in my whole career that I actually didn't dread going to work every day - because I enjoyed the people I was around. But I also felt like I wasn't giving my marriage, and my child nearly enough of me. And there were just no good options. I felt like I was just slogging it out.

Looking back I can see that God set me on that path in order to set me up for the next phase. Because of where I was, I was able to utilize amazing health insurance benefits that kept us from major financial ruin when my health catastrophe hit. It also meant that I was able to secure long term benefits once it was confirmed that my vision would never return. But these were just things to maintain care of myself and my family. God had/has bigger plans for what happened.

Over the years I have been amazingly blessed by the women that have come around me and offered love and support. Whether it be a ride to the grocery store (Hello Teena Taxi Ladies!), or friends that stop by to chat "just because". The body of Christ has really been there for me in ways that are just amazing. It has taken me a long time (and sometimes I still struggle) to get used to accepting help. But I have found that - if nothing else - it is an amazing way to start a relationship. Many of the ladies that I so lovingly call my Teena Taxi Ladies I had never met before they volunteered to drive me around. Now - I love them all dearly and call them all friend.

So for this introvert - it's been a good thing that I have to call on others, and ask for help. Because if I had simply been a stay at home mom when I felt like I wanted to be, my life would not be nearly as rich in relationships as it is now. It's so easy for us introverts to hole up and go about our day to day without ever popping our head out of our holes to see who or what could use our assistance. But now, I'm finding that the more I spend time around the ladies in my circles, the more enriched my days are. So even though I may be bent on my introvert ways, I recognize that it's not always healthy for me to stay there. So now I challenge myself as often as I can build the emotional energy to do so, to engage with others and live in community. Bring it all; the good, the bad, the ugly.

Reflecting - 3 Years of Change

At this point, 3 years ago I was experiencing the initial onset of what a week later would be diagnosed as Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension. By the end of the day I was experiencing blurry vision in my peripheral region, in less than 48 hours my vision continued to deteriorate. I saw several doctors, and visited the ER and everyone kept telling me I had a sinus infection and the pain in my head, and neck and shoulder spasms were due to stress. It took over a week for someone to finally address my extreme vision loss and take things seriously. Unfortunately by that point, and what we didn't know at the time, was that permanent damage had been done to my optic nerves. I would never drive again, and I would not return back to work. My life was drastically changed. Yet God has been so faithful to us. I have experienced such joy since that painful time. Because I can't work, I now have the time and energy to focus on my family the way that I wished I could while working. Because I can't drive I have built some really fun relationships with ladies who are willing to take me (and The Ginger Girl!) wherever we need to get to. God orchestrated the timing of our move to the downtown area which has afforded me amazing freedom and mobility in ways that I hadn't had since my illness. Yes, there are many days that I get frustrated. Yes, I have spent time being angry. Yes, I wish I could just drive myself and not have to think ahead and plan out every single detail if I want to get out. Yes, I get paranoid that people don't understand my disability because it's not obvious and I worry about being judged harshly for it. But ultimately, I'm in a lot better place emotionally, spiritually, and physically *because* of what happened 3 years ago. 

God does know the plans He has for me. They are plans for a future, and a hope. When I am weak, He is strong. 

Parenting yes's and no's

I love what Jen Hatmaker says in her blog about parenting yes's and no's. As a parent I'm constantly worrying if I'm getting it right. Am I setting my focus on the things that matter? Am I demonstrating grace, or am I just being too soft? Jen has some good thoughts. 

Bubbling over

God has been teaching me some really amazing things these past few months, and I really am just literally bubbling over. I came to a realization today while sitting through Dianne Sanabria's Identity In Christ and Spiritual Warfare class just how far God has brought me over the last 4 years. To the point that I do not even recognize the person that I once was! Hallelujah! HE sets us free! I was so bound up with anger and resentment. I was bitter and depressed. I was self righteous and superior to those around me. I was confused, unhappy, and insecure. He has brought me to a place of humility. Through that humility I have learned how to BE loved, and I have been shown love that is beyond my own comprehension. He started calling me by name, and had to drag me through the trenches to get me to pull closer to Him. But in those darkest moment he has shown Himself to me. He has cared for me in ways that I cannot express. The God I know today is so much bigger and so much more real than I ever gave Him credit for. If only I could let others see what I see and have them embrace it for themselves. It is literally painful to me to see others who are stuck in the same way that I was. To be blind to the bondage that is holding them back from feeling the power of our Saviors love for us! I am so thankful for all of the amazing people that God has one by one placed in my path on this journey to find Him. Each has served a unique roll and I can look back and see the stepping stones of the journey He has me on. So with all of that I am SO EXCITED for what He has planned for me in His grand story! He WANTS me, He has CALLED me. I am His child and He has freed me. All glory to our Father and Creator! Praise His holy name!

Finding Quiet

I have found that when I have too much time on my hands I seldom appreciate the quiet and the space to do life as I choose. Yet when the pace picks up those sweet moments of peace in between the chaos are simply golden. I got a moment of golden peace today. Between Baker Bash and quick lunch with my Ginger Girl I stopped to sip coffee and have peace in a bustling coffee shop. Then strolled over to the library where I plugged in my headphones and just journaled. My selfish side tends to yell that I need more quiet time. But I actually seem to be more productive with my peaceful moments when they're tucked neatly between blankets of bustle. And if these winds of change that are brewing are any indication, that's a good thing. Things are about to pick up. They're about to get real in a hurry. So we best get used to how change feels. God has big things in the books. 


Finding Your Identity in Christ

I started a new study this week through my church and we're focusing on finding your identity in Christ. And in that, I had an opportunity to step outside my comfort zone and be a "table leader". If you know me very well, you know that I run from leadership roles. I fear them, I don't feel well equipped. If given the opportunity I will come up with 100 (in my mind) good reasons why you don't want me doing that. Yet God in his infinite wisdom knows just exactly how to put me in those circumstances so that I can thrive. That is what happened to me today. As it happened several of the ladies who had volunteered to be table leaders came down with one illness or another, and we were left with only 2. One of which being my sweet friend who drives me. So when I tagged along to the meeting before the study I was graciously asked if I would help. Well, as I do when faced with an "I need help" situation, I was unable to come up with a good reason not to help. So I nervously took my paper with questions to aid in table conversations with heart thumping and palms sweating. And you know what? I didn't die. In fact, I was blessed with some of the best 30 minutes of conversation I've had in a while. These 5 women who had never met before, myself being the youngest, managed to laugh and cry and enjoy each others company enough and become even more excited about the weeks to come as we embrace our identity in Christ. So, here I am, throwing my hands up once again. Okay God. Clearly YOU got this. I had NOTHING to do with this, but you let me in on it anyhow.

A few of the things that stood out to me today from the study:

Why is your identity important?

  • how you do life is determined by what you believe
  • you cannot pour out to others what you don't know yourself

"Your Christian walk is the direct result of what you believe about God and yourself . If your faith is off, your walk is off. If your walk is off, you can be sure it's because your faith is off." ~ Neal Anderson in Victory Over the Darkness (emphasis mine)

"... idols can't be removed, they must be replaced. What we need is a living encounter with God." ~ Timothy Keller in Counterfeit Gods

When we believe lies about ourselves, we are believing lies about God. 

When I have the opportunity to share with others about my experiences from the last few years of my life; the healing of my marriage, and the complete redirect of my life when I lost my physical vision it is SO FREEING. God uses opportunities like this to remind me that HE works all things for good for those that love Him, and that HE HAS A PLAN for this, for me. I just have to have enough faith to continue to put one foot in front of the other and follow in the direction He's taking me. He's working out the details. I just have to keep walking.

Acorn ponderings

I am going to attempt to describe my ponderings from today as I was mowing the yard on how God spoke to my heart by using acorns. **Full disclaimer - sometimes my story telling is not exactly in a straight line, and occasionally takes random detours. This drives certain people (AhemJeffAhem) a little bonkers. So my apologies in advance if it's not exactly concise. 

Over the last several weeks the weather began to think about getting colder (although it changed it's mind this last week...) and got pumpkin spice latte's and all things Fall started to emerge in the market places. Additionally our roof began being pelted with acorns from a tree in our back yard that is a rather mature acorn maker. It started off with just a tap or two that I recognized from years past as the start of fall. *TAP* Yep, there's those acorns again. *TAP-TAP* Yep, it's fall alright. Then occasionally it sounds like someone just threw a bucket of acorns at the roof *WOOSH BAM*. I mentioned to my husband recently that I was a little wary, even, of stepping off of our covered back porch for fear of receiving a concussion from those crazy acorns. I could just picture it: the news article would read "Bentonville woman receives emergency care after neighbor finds her unconscious from head trauma due to acorns".  Needless to say; while I was mowing my yard today I was a little wary of going too close to the tree lest I get smacked.

But then my heart was stirred. *Hey, you* What? Can't you see I'm trying to be productive here? *Don't you think all of these acorns here scattered on the ground, do you think this is maybe how you speak to Me?* I'm not following... *Sometimes you come to Me with your daily needs and wants, and others you pelt Me with the desires of your heart.* WOOSH BAM indeed. Whoa. Then, as we do these days, I went to take a picture for posterity sake and it dawned on me; the closer you get to the trunk of the tree, the thicker the crop of acorns becomes. *WOOSH BAM* 

Matthew 10:29-31  Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Psalm 37:4  Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

What an Awesome God we serve, when he can speak to me through the acorns in my yard.

weight loss

Jeff and I have been working hard over the last 9 months to get healthy. The goal for Jeff started out with just wanting to be healthier, and has turned into him losing a solid 40 pounds (WOOHOO! Rockstar!), and becoming a running machine. We all got new, good quality bikes back in November to help us on this track. We've tracked calories, we've adjusted the things we consume, and increased our overall activity. For Jeff, he saw results pretty quickly, losing 15 pounds in the first several weeks. For me, it's been a lot slower process to boost my metabolism. After 10+ years working behind a desk my body has taken longer to get jumpstarted. But it appears to finally be moving in the direction I want it to! It's soooo much easier to stick with something when *I* am seeing tangible results. Finally I can say that I have lost a big round number (10) and I'm seeing the results in my, now, baggy jeans. It may have taken 9 months to get here, but I'm just glad to finally see results. I haven't turned into the running (or riding) machine my husband is, yet. But I do walk. A lot. And when I walk it's a speed walk. It's what me and my siblings used to call my mother's Cedar Point walk. We would go to *The Awesome-est* Roller Coaster park when we lived in Ohio, and would occasionally get season passes. When we were all old enough and tall enough to ride the big coasters we were on a mission each visit to ride every coaster as many times as possible. So the Cedar Point walk was this walk-as-fast-as-you-can-without-running thing (*because running was not allowed at the park in the lines...) Anyhow, running just has not been my thing in the past. My lungs couldn't handle it, more than anything. Last fall I tried jogging for very short periods of time and in the length of 3 houses in my neighborhood I'd be dying. So I stopped trying and just stuck to the speed walking. Well apparently that has paid off. This past weekend I was pleasantly surprised when I went on the Fun Run with Aylin (After Jeff did his actual RUN RUN in the Mana Spring Fling 5K) and while keeping up with the kiddo we actually jogged most of the 1 mile and I DIDN'T DIE! And I wasn't absolutely toast after, either! So maybe it's time to try the jogging again...