Just Keeping it Real

Wow. I don’t even know where to begin so I guess I’ll just start by writing about the Good in my life. I have so many things I feel incredibly thankful for, but I want to share the fact that I am officially off of the opioids! Yay!

No thanks to the pain management doctor though. He was becoming less and less helpful in working with me tapering off. I think the pain clinics will take your money as long as they can while they push for you to try the “new and improved” spinal cord stimulator or another spinal injection (I’ve had 18 of those injections and they never worked, but I knew it kept my doctor(s) happy and me leaving the office with new scripts).

I had been at a standstill for months and was really, really frustrated. Then the morning of my last scheduled appointment (in August) I simply woke up and said, “I’m done.” That was a defining moment for me. Not showing up to an appointment could easily break my pain management contract. And with the opioid epidemic, it was no secret that it was getting harder and harder to find pain management doctors that would accept the responsibility of new patients.

But I truly felt those words, “I’m done”. They were Soul Words. It was a Body-Mind-Spirit moment of consciousness; the kind that can make your toes curl, like the blissful moment you fall into an orgasm. But unlike orgasms, Soul Words tended to elude me. This was profoundly different than saying “I’m working on getting off these meds that I’ve been taking for the past decade”, which I always meant each time I said it, but during that mind-blowing moment it became crystal clear to me that I would be on the meds as long as a dr. told me I needed them; that it was okay; go on, have some more. It was all simultaneous, and from the very center of my Soul, the Source of those two powerful words, I faced honesty and truth without judgement and without doubt. I was done. So I didn’t go to that appointment.

The next day I felt a little uneasy, but I put on a new fentanyl patch (which would end up being my final one) and began to take note of when I actually “needed” a pill for the breakthrough pain. I was still being prescribed 180 of the 10mg oxycodones for the “breakthrough” pain each month to take along with the fentanyl. I’ve been prescribed as many as 210 pills with the 15 patches; but this didn’t change the fact that I had way more than I should. Way more than I needed. People without the opioid tolerance are usually sent home after surgery with 30 pills of 5mg oxy, vicodin, percocet, etc. with maybe one refill, if they’re lucky. For me, that would be like getting a box of Tic Tacs, because every month the pharmacist would hand me enough opioids to kill a pack of mules.

Making the decision that I was done made me realize what a habit it had become to just take a breakthrough pain pill at the first sign of pain, even the slightest twinge. You see, it had been drilled into my head that “you can’t let the pain get too bad because it’ll be harder to get under control”. Well, of course I didn’t want that to happen!

Now I had to face the unpleasant task of re-shaping my thoughts and begin to lessen my fear of something getting out of control. Oh, the irony! At first it was awful to make myself stop each time I reached for pill and ask, what else can I try first? (and not in conjunction with?). I knew I would have to deal with some additional discomfort than what I already lived with every day.

I knew I could try an ice pack. A warm epsom salt bath. Some gentle yoga. Qigong. Meditation. The tens unit. The compound cream. Writing. Creating. Reading. Even that awful acupressure mat. I had this mental list of the things I knew I could try first and If those things failed, I took some Advil or Tylenol. Then I took an oxy. Sometimes another one an hour later. Then I began to notice that as I reached for the pills less and less, the first options were working better and better.

It took a long time though.

And I am not a patient person.

I knew I had hit a milestone when I began breaking the oxys in half. Little by little, day by day, I made progress. Then something totally amazing happened. I went a day without any pills and didn’t even realize it until I went to bed and saw half an oxy from the day before still sitting there on the shelf of my medicine cabinet.

I’m in no more pain than when I was on the opioids. I haven’t had any worse Fibromyalgia flare-ups either (my rheumatologist had once told me that long-term opioid use can actually cause Fibro). Well, no dwelling on the past decade, eh?

My therapist told me it could take another month or two to get my serotonin and dopamine levels back to normal, but at least he’s not suggesting we increase my antidepressants. I will more than likely be on the neurontin the rest of my life because of nerve damage from surgery #1. But I’m okay with that.

Moving forward, I ended up flushing 6 leftover patches and 97 oxycodones. l still have the other half of the last oxycodone sitting on the middle shelf of my medicine cabinet. When I see it every morning and night when I take my other meds, I think about how it no longer has any power over me. It’s a reminder of how far I have come.

Many Blessing on Your Journey )O(

Little Strands of Hope & Grief

Well, it’s officially month 2 of my stepping down from the meds. I’m wearing a 37.5 mcg/hr patch, but have started taking Clonidine to help with the withdrawal sweating/shaking. We haven’t lowered my oxy dose, in fact it’s increased by 20 mg per day to keep me at a more regulated level.

Last month fell into a sort of blur. Not at first, of course. In fact, I took advantage of a partly sunny day and the kids and I headed to the pumpkin patch. I thought, “Hey, this’ll be a breeze!” But that was only day 1. I managed to go to the serpentine costume “parade” at the school on the following Monday but I was hot flashing big time, majorly woozy, and actually bumped into a wall on my way out the door. (geez, I hope nobody saw that) I didn’t go trick or treating w/the kiddos. The pumpkins never got carved. My husband called the dr. and picked up an rx from their office for a 25mcg dose and I stuck that thing on immediately, like the fiend I was.

I did a lot of coloring. So much so, I don’t think my hand will ever recover.

Slow and Steady.

This week I began to feel pretty darn good. Finally. I’m feeling really encouraged and am looking forward to the day I’m done with all of it!

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But tonight I got some pretty devastating news. Our white German Shepherd (my constant shadow) will be put down next Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. They will then cremate her and her ashes will be scattered over a rose garden dedicated for those purposes.

There are many reasons why, the number one being that her health has rapidly declined over the past several months and she is having a more difficult time holding her bowels, which is distressing to her because she doesn’t want to make messes.

She has always been fiercely protective of strangers, but things took a turn for the worse when she bit a child who had come over to play. It nearly broke the skin, and would have, had she wanted it to. The boys were roughhousing and as I was walking to the room to tell them to calm down, but she had already bitten him on his forearm. The mom was very understanding though. In fact, I was more upset than she was.

I already feel tremendous grief and a growing sense of loss. That gaping hole will only get bigger between now and Tuesday afternoon.

I’m trying to decide on how we should tell the kids.

Preparing for a Different Kind of Storm

My life has been busy over the past few weeks. We’ve had some storms come by, along with remnants of Typhoon Songda. The Oregon Coast weathered 2 tornadoes and while we received over 9 inches of rain in two days, we were fortunate and didn’t lose any big trees, only our power.

We held onto our plans, dropping the kids off with my parents to head home to do some much needed (in my opinion) work on my studio. As promised, my husband helped me declutter and paint. I had been gearing up for this for quite some time so when the power went out we continued to paint by candlelight and ate cold pizza while listening to the giant trees outside creak and groan with the wind. It was really rather romantic, that is until our backs both ached and we joined in the groaning of the trees. My husband couldn’t help but allude to the fact that we should be groaning while throwing our backs out doing something that was actually fun. I told him to shut up and keep painting so we could both actually finish. His only response was to flick paint at me. My husband…speechless? Encouraged by his lapse in sarcastic comebacks, I told him it would be nice if he tried not to make a mess this time. A little back and forth innuendo match ensued which made for great entertainment.

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Almost there!

What once resembled a curio/new age store now feels very “Zen” to me. A little sparse in comparison, it has become a place of serene solitude. I have organized my herbs, crystals, and tools of the trade in a way that I can actually find something easily. My craft area and supplies are separate from my writing desk. It’s a humble, quiet retreat that calms and soothes my spirit as soon as I walk in whereas before I felt weighed down in a mess of unfinished craft projects and candle stubs from a previous ritual.

Remember that binder of daily routines, tasks, and lists? I condensed things further into a Witchy bullet journal. I have my weekly plan, daily tasks, important and not-so-important tasks, weekly menu plan, the moon phase and the sign(s) it’s currently in, the weather, Tarot card of the day, spaces for quotes I like, and my long wish list of things I want to try, places I want to see, and things I want just for the sake of wanting. I have a place for my accomplishments, several pages for a brain dump, and a place for a monthly memory collage. I also made a symptom log in order to find any trends or connections to certain activities I did, and another log to track my meditation/yoga/tai chi practices. All of this easily fits in this one little 5×8 journal that will easily see me through to Imbolc.

The process of clearing out and simplifying has led me to reevaluate the other stagnant areas of my life that are in need of attention as well. One in particular I have been avoiding for some time.

It’s not easy to choose the path opposite of least resistance, but I did. I saw my pain management doctor today and I told him that I wanted to step-down on my pain meds. I told him what I wanted in the long run and the accompanying fears that go along with it.

We agreed that over the course of the next two weeks I will step-down from my current dose of Fentanyl 75 mcg/hour to a 50 mcg/hour patch. I will also go from 80 mg oxycodone for breakthrough pain down to 60. That’s the short-term goal. If things go well, the next step will be to drop down from the 50 dose of Fentanyl to a 25 mcg patch with an additional 12.5 mcg patch if needed. At that point I’ll have dropped down to 30-40 mg oxycodone.

I honestly don’t know where it’ll go from there, but my ultimate goal is to be off of the fentanyl completely by August. I haven’t set a complete shut off time for the oxy, but that will more than likely be revealed as I get closer to my goal.

My doctor and I talked in great detail about the possible hard times ahead. I have been on pain medication for so long (starting like so many others like me; with a little vicodin, on to morphine, then to oxycontin and methadone, to where I am now) that I probably won’t feel too great and I’ll have to deal with my pain spike in other ways. He paused here and there as if giving me the opportunity to change my mind. We ended the appointment with the agreement that I give him a call between now and my visit next month if things became “unmanageable”. That made me laugh. I told him that things were already unmanageable for me in the opioid department. Duh!

So there you have it. Whatever the oncoming weather, be it storm or sunny skies, whether I’m huddled in the corner in a cold sweat or sitting in a chair reading a good book, I’ll be ready to deal with whatever comes my way and stand behind whatever choices I will make. It’s up to me now.

Many Blessings on Your Journey )O(

The Swamp Thing; Sweat, Tears, and Triumph

I think back to my sappy post from a few weeks ago and am amazed at what all happened between then and now.

I will admit that yes, my husband is sweet and caring and thoughtful and good in bed. And yes he missed us like crazy while he was gone. Yet I found myself rolling my eyes when I saw the fourth text from him within an hour. Wasn’t he supposed to be busy doing all that fancy biomedical training?

He left us with big hugs and kisses and even the sweet little journals, but he also left the pool looking like shit. I mean Swamp Shit. I asked him for weeks if he could get the pool up and running before he left on his trip. I never really paid much attention to what he was actually doing, just that he was working on the pool. Besides, he knew what he was doing. And what a relief, because it was going to be getting hot and the kids were going to want to swim. Come to find out after he left (he was lucky he had already left the state of Oregon) he actually filled it with water after almost a year of non-use. My only guess was that he thought he could do shock treatments daily and the pool fairy would come in the middle of the night and voila! (I’m sure there is a pool fairy, but she’s probably a smart, sassy undine who didn’t want to help him anyway). He had to have been hoping I didn’t go and look over his shoulder or check on the progress he wasn’t making. Honestly, I don’t know what he was thinking, but I sure as hell know what I was thinking.

It was very warm that first week, and the kids were wanting to swim so badly. But after one look at that nasty water I knew I wasn’t letting them so much as dip their big toe in that pool.

So I did what any crazy Mother Bear with fibromyalgia, CFS, ruptured discs, spine hardware, and an “I’ll show him”attitude would do and spent the day draining the pool. Early the next morning I scrubbed and shop vac’d as much and as fast as I could because I desperately needed to refill it before the plastic hardened (the temperature was going to reach the high 90’s that day). I refilled it, scrubbed and rinsed both the filter and the pump and sprayed out the skimmer. For the next several days I spent hours using the broom and net. I checked the chlorine and pH, and added more chlorine. The levels were fine but there was still some debris floating in the water. The skimmer wasn’t doing as good a job as I had hoped. It was also still a bit cloudy. So I gave it a dose of shock treatment and by the next morning the water was clear but all the the debris had sunk to the bottom forming a gross sludge.

Here I was at the end of week one and also at my wit’s end. But I wasn’t about to give up. I began rigging a pool vac. I had no idea what I was doing other than slowly morphing into an absolute lunatic; but I was cleaning that pool even if it killed me. I had wielded my nightmare into becoming my quest and I spent 5 hours, a ton of duct tape, an extra garden hose, pool hose, and shop vac hose…. and after a ton of trial (the original pool vac was completely useless by the way) and error, cuss words, and more trial and error, I must say I’m proud of the crazy looking thing I thought up. With a good siphon trick, (with a little added suction boost from the pool fairy who had been watching all of my hard work and was obviously now on my side) I was well on my way to victory. I was going to conquer the monster from the bottom of the pool and the demon within.

Towards the end I felt a burst of much needed energy as I pictured my significant other sleeping at the Marriott getting fresh towels daily and his bed made for him. I was sure he had already swam plenty of times while I had been here working my butt off so that our kids could get the chance to. He was fed meals during his classes and given a $27.00 per night dinner allowance while I was too tired and in pain to cook, doling out freezer meals to the kids that I had warmed in the microwave.

Several hours after I had finally finished the pool my husband called. He asked why I hadn’t answered any of his texts. I curtly responded that I hadn’t had much of a chance to look at my phone. Without much pause he told me about his Sunday afternoon. He went for a walk to the city center where he decided to watch the new Star Trek movie and then wandered around the mall for a while. Then on his leisurely stroll back he sent me pictures of the scenery, the park, the neat statues, etc. He then made an offhand comment about me sending him some pictures of myself later on.

That was it. I felt like an enraged cartoon character (think Tom the blue cat or Wile E. Coyote) red with anger, whistling like a steaming hot tea kettle about to blow. I had held it together, kept my complaints to a minimum, was supportive of him. But now all bets were off. I spoke through a clenched jaw to keep my voice down as I explained to him what kind of Hell I had been living in. My fingers were cracked and raw from all the stupid tape and I had a horrific sunburn. And on and on went my tirade. I felt so much better afterwards and had a good cry. All while he was still on the phone.

I had done one of my crash and burn cycles plenty of times before, and I spent the next 7 days recovering from the pain flare that I caused myself. The kids did get to swim a lot the next few days while I lounged in the adirondack watching them splash each other and play “shark”. All I needed then was a cute straw hat and an ice cold lemonade.

And as much as I hated to admit it, I also felt a deep need for my husband. Maybe it was my triumph. Maybe I was proud to prove to him I could do it. Perhaps it was because I realized I had the strength to do something so physically challenging by myself. Or quite possibly it was after faithful daily Qigong practices of the 8 Brocades, some heartfelt journaling, meditation, a myofascial release massage, and extra helpings of pain medication and supplements. Maybe a combination of all those things. All I knew was that I actually missed the lazy ass.

Many Blessings on Your Journeys of Triumph )O(

The to Return to Reality; A Family Affair

So much has happened since we left for our vacation. Good things happened in our little bubble and bad things happened on a global level. For purposes of this blog and my topsy-turvy emotional state, I’m going to stick to my little “bubble”for the most part.

Sigh.

Our week at Disneyland was all in all a success. It wasn’t perfect, it was really hot and crowded. The kids weren’t perfect. My husband wasn’t perfect. And I know for damn sure I wasn’t perfect. But those little imperfections were so small and short-lived that they were easily forgotten about. So basically we had an amazing adventure.

And I was scared.

Scared of a panic attack on the plane because of my claustrophobia. Scared that the kids were going to fall out of a ride. Scared I would be in so much pain I’d have to spend a lot of time in the hotel room alone. I was scared of being scared of the crowds. Scared the kids would drown in the hotel swimming pool. Scared of forgetting my fentanyl patches. Scared of a crazed gunman running loose….the list could go on and on but you get my point. Catastrophizing is something I’m really good at and I do it with great clarity and knack for detail.

No wonder I don’t ever like leaving the house.

But once we boarded the plane, cramped as it was, the kids’ excitement was contagious. It was not only their first flight, but their first trip to Disneyland. We met the pilots who handed out stickers and trading cards (I have no idea who you trade Alaska Airlines cards with, but hey, it’s the thought that counts).

The four of us were pretty much inseparable for the week except for on two occasions. One was when I took a few hours to myself at the resort spa getting a massage, using the sauna and steam room, and then their amazing shower with its expensive shampoo and body wash. While my hair was drying I drank every variety of tea they had while wandering around naked underneath a fluffy white bathrobe and spa slippers.

It was pure bliss.

The other time was when we dropped the kids off at “Pinocchio’s Workshop” (the only prerequisites were that they were “potty-trained” and “played well with others”) to be watched properly while my husband and I took a couple of hours to ourselves in the hotel room. Alone at last, we ordered room service, fooled around and then took a nap while our 9 & 10 year-olds ate Mickey Mouse shaped chicken nuggets and apple sauce under harsh fluorescent lighting amongst much younger kids. I figured at least they had each other. After being “rescued” we took them over to Downtown Disney for a big waffle cone to help make-up for it. For the most part it worked.

The thing I was surprised about was my lack of homesickness. I still get weepy just thinking about how much we enjoyed each other (kind of sad, I know). The day after we got home my husband started talking “reality”. We had to go over bills and discuss his upcoming two week trip for work. I actually started to cry. I didn’t want all that reality crap. Give me Cinderella and the dumb light parade. I want to watch fireworks while standing in line for a ride. I want to complain about how much my feet hurt, and by how hot it was so it must be time to get another frozen lemonade.

Coming home meant I was no longer sheltered from the big wide world. I was ripped from the clutches of Fantasyland where there was no bad news except that maybe the carousel was down for the day. We never once turned on the t.v. in the hotel room, never saw the news or read the paper. I left my laptop at home and the only apps we used were the ones for the Fastpass and other related “necessary” updates. We were constantly busy at the park or at the swimming pool (where I rode the giant waterslide with the kids more than once).

So the reality of the world hit me harder than I could have ever imagined. It was time to return to dealing with laundry and dentist appointments, and hearing about what’s going on in the “real world”. How fortunate we were to have the luxury of even being able to seclude ourselves in non-reality, turning a blind eye to even Tomorrowland’s foibles. Most of the world has no such luxury. I’m daydreaming of frozen lemonade while over 600 million people lack access to clean drinking water. The children in war-torn countries have no idea what it’s like to stand in line to go on a thrill-seeking ride. Thinking of these things can really put things back into perspective, depressingly so. I have been working hard not to feel horribly guilty for indulging in a family vacation that we had been saving up for years to take. Knowing these things makes it all that more special; that we were blessed with a reprieve, and that we took joy in just being together.

Over the past few days we have looked through the many photos and laughed about the ridiculousness of some of the rides and I am able to smile. As far as reality goes, that’s the reality of our Summer Vacation and I will treasure it always.

Many Blessings on your Journey )O(

Find Your Voice; Light Your Future

Speak, Listen, Watch, and Learn from your past experiences; all of your triumphs and mistakes. If you didn’t like the outcome and you feel that your present course is once again leaning in that direction, then it’s time to Reflect. Reflect your inner light upon your gained knowledge and look to your future; for this is wisdom and your future will shine as bright as you are willing to let it.

-Journal Entry August 2015

This morning I drew two cards from my Thoth tarot deck and placed them in front of me while sitting on the bed. The Nine of Wands and Adjustment. How succinctly put. To the point. I expected no less from the Thoth imagery and yet I only grab this particular deck when I’m feeling bold and courageous. After surviving a day like the one I had yesterday, I woke up feeling a simmering frustration within, an annoyance that felt like it was going to boil over at any moment. It was residual negative emotions and I knew I needed to direct the energy, but where? What lesson could I learn from yesterday that could make me stronger today? And better still, what about stronger tomorrows?

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9 of Wands. Today the 9 of Wands represents both the reflective and reactive parts of me. The Sun stretches high towards the sky, his masculine energy represents taking action. The Moon reaches far into the depths of the soul, her feminine energy represents intuitive realization. It’s about blending action with realization to complete what is necessary for success. These aspects are both powerful on their own working within their elements, but here they bring their energies together by reaching across the card to become balanced with one another. As Above, So Below.

VIII – Adjustment. I look at her and I see honesty and integrity in the face of adversity. She is about standing up for what you belief is right. She is a reminder to me that If I feel the need to change something in my life, something I am not satisfied with, then I have the freedom of choice to change it. She is Justice and sheds light on the path towards balance. She speaks of being objective in the face of adversity and trust that the universal law of balance will adjust accordingly. This is also represented by the Sun and Moon, Masculine/Feminine energies intersecting in the 9 of wands.

I meditated a while on these two cards and I journaled. I wrote about how I am blessed with many things in my life, but strength and balance are hard to come by. Those two things are easy to forget when I’m living in pain and feeling the fear that I feel during a pain flare. But strength and balance are the two thing needed most during those difficult times. When I don’t have both strength and balance within my life, I begin to suffer beyond the physical symptoms. The pain then begins its personal attacks on my emotions. I start to question everything I feel is wrong in my life, wondering if maybe I deserve all of this because I’m weak. Then my self-esteem plummets.

Yesterday’s experience was a rather frustrating one as it was my monthly check-in with my pain management doctor. I needed a prescription refilled for a special compound cream. The doctor’s office had partnered with a new pharmacy and she was adamant about me using it instead of the usual place. I told her I had been trying to get it refilled there for two months but there were always excuses as to why they couldn’t. They didn’t have all the ingredients, they were too swamped, they were in-between pharmacists, and my all-time favorite: The pharmacist didn’t know how to make it.

I finally gave in and left the doctor’s office knowing that she didn’t really listen to me at all. It was all a waste of time, now I was running late and had an hour drive home ahead of me. I hurt all over and I felt drained, beaten down, hopeless and even worse, helpless. I was lucky to even have a pain management doctor; a doctor that some people will wait years to get. She could end our contract at any time and I was afraid to push the envelope. I drove away without a new prescription for the compound cream and in my frustration and rush, I forgot to get the referral to the doctor she had mentioned at the beginning of the appointment; a rheumatologist that specializes in lupus and MS and might be able to help me more than my current rheumatologist.

I am not one for confrontation, and I know I have a tendency to avoid it to a fault. But just imagining myself spending another day and another dreadful night dwelling on my lack of assertiveness was incentive enough to make changes. My fear the day before allowed me to feel bullied by someone who is supposed to help me and support me in effectively dealing with my pain. The contract between us goes both ways. Where was my voice?

I looked at the cards again. There was a difference between causing conflict and being assertive. Finding my voice doesn’t mean I have to yell to be heard. I can be effective in expressing myself, my feelings, my emotions, and my needs while at the same time being mindful of the sensitivity of others when choosing my words. I brought my thoughts back to the cards. I took a deep breath and felt my inner struggle begin to cease. What was I fighting so hard against anyway? These were simply situations that I could deal with effectively, or not. It was my choice. I just needed to find my voice.

To deal with the important matters in regards to my health, I would have to make phone calls. More than likely a lot of them. This is something I avoid as often as possible, but if I wanted things to change I needed to dedicate the day to making those calls. I spoke with doctors and their assistants, pharmacies and my medical insurance company and got some things sorted out. After the first few calls I learned the truth about the price differences between the pharmacies for the same exact medication and that the “new” pharmacy wasn’t the “preferred” pharmacy as far as my insurance company was concerned.

The phone conversation with my pain management doctor took longer than it should have as I kept trying to explain the issues I had with having the special compound cream filled by the new “preferred” pharmacy. Not only did I feel uncomfortable about the lack of knowledge and organizational skills of this new pharmacy, it was going to cost me $70.00 for 60 grams when the original pharmacy only charged me $35.00 for 240 grams. This difference was huge and could not be ignored. She was insistent on using the “new” pharmacy and I kept telling her that option wasn’t going to work for me, and on and on it went. But I stood my ground and calmly persisted knowing that there was no justification to have to spend that kind of money. I had found my voice and spoke with confidence in being my own advocate. She finally accepted what I was saying  (I had been heard!) and we ended the conversation on a positive note.

There’s now a new refill order phoned in to the original (non-preferred) specialty pharmacy and the compound cream will be here at my doorstep within the week. I also got the referral to the rheumatologist and spoke to the new patient coordinator there; the paperwork will be here the day after tomorrow. This prompted me to go ahead and switch my primary care doctor with a different doctor within the same clinic; something I’ve been wanting to do for quite some time. He has always been unfriendly and cold towards me and I choose to no longer put up with that sort of treatment in regards to my health care if I don’t have to.

I had a long overdue conversation with my oldest child’s doctor and even compromised diplomatically with my ex-husband about the bill for her latest hospital stay. I spoke to a medical billing office and we are now getting reimbursed for charges that should never have been paid for out of pocket in the first place.

Finally, and without guilt, I made one last phone call to secure a time slot this Saturday for a floatation therapy session (I have yet to try this) after my acupuncture appointment.

I accomplished so much in one day and at the moment I feel power over my life. I had tied up loose ends and dealt with the things I had been consciously avoiding. All of those little things were causing me big stress and that stress was slowly bleeding into all other areas of my life. It spiked my pain levels and dropped my self-esteem.

Later today I cleared the deck, thanked its imagery, and put it away. It was the beautiful imagery in the cards that spoke to me at a time I was willing to listen. They reminded me that I had a strong voice, I just had to make the choice to use it. I’m glad I did because It felt liberating to finally be clear and assertive in expressing my needs, especially to those I have sometimes felt intimidated by in the past. I had a right to be heard, truly heard by others. I took what I have learned over the years since my pain began and turned that knowledge into action by weaving wisdom into power. Yes, I made the right choice and have had a say in how I light my path towards a brighter future.

May you always find your voice.

Many Blessings on Your Journey )O(

Baring it All

This morning, after my shower, I wrapped a towel around my hair and another towel around my body. As I was about to leave the bathroom I stopped, because out of the blue, like a slap on the butt, I decided to do something completely out of character. I dropped the towel I had wrapped around my body and courageously stood in front of the bathroom mirror naked as I wiped the steam from the mirror unveiling my body; baring it all.

I don’t spend a lot of time looking at my naked self. I’m not sure if it’s pure avoidance, some kind of shame or form of embarrassment. Maybe it’s simply fear, because fear will branch out into all of those other things; (avoidance, shame, embarrassment). But there’s a part of me that is downright angry at my body because when the pain flares up and things seem like they’re spinning out of control, I feel so fragile; like a raw egg that could crack at any moment. But I was tired of looking the other way unless I was clothed and in front of a full length mirror.

On the contrary, at this moment I stood facing myself, looking into my own eyes. Was I seeking an ally? Some sort of approval? Would I find that part of myself that sees beauty in all things, even the physical me? I think I did find it because I took a deep breath and relaxed, allowing my eyes to move slowly along my body.

My eyes were immediately drawn to the deep surgical scar that ran vertically from my navel down to my pubic bone. The evidence of a failed back surgery. My gaze then wandered across my lower abdomen, along the faded yet thick scars from two C-sections. Just above those were five small incision scars scattered across my lower belly from a laparoscopic uterine lysis surgery to remove scar tissue adhesions.

Then across my torso were four puncture-like scars from when I had my gallbladder removed. There was a small scar that ran under my left breast from a cyst removal when I was fourteen. I knew without looking that I had a five inch scar down the middle of my back from another failed back surgery; the one that caused permanent nerve damage.

Ah yes, I mustn’t forget the faded stretch marks that had inched their way across my belly and ended in thin tendrils along my hips.

What I was looking at was a roadmap of my life.

Then in a flash of clarity, like another slap on the butt, came the realization that my avoidance of looking at my body wasn’t just the physical scars, my widened hips, my enlarged breasts that fed and nourished my children, or the little laugh lines forming next to my eyes.

It was the lack of willingness to really see.

Each of those things are filled with strength, hope, survival, nourishment, laughter, love, and life itself.

Each one of those things are a facet of me.

I looked again, this time more closely at myself and searched for the strong woman that I know I am. I want to get out of the habit of feeling like a failure as a wife, a mother, and a witch. I must truly look at myself and honor my many strengths while acknowledging my many weaknesses. I know in my heart that I need to surrender and trust in the fact that my physical body, even though its limitations and pain, holds me and supports me through the good times and the bad.

I want to enrich my life and let go of The fear, judgement, and the ugliness of self-doubt that holds me back from living my life to the fullest. Gazing into the reflection of my own eyes, I saw the warmth and comfort within. Now is the time to shed away all that doesn’t serve me. This will be a perfect starting point on my journey towards re-balancing and repairing my body, mind, and spirit.

I am not a failure. I am a strong, independent, loving woman and I need to be proud of all the things I have lived through and fought for in my life. It’s time for me to be proud of all the things I am currently living through and fighting for at this moment and those moments yet to come.

I then spoke gently to myself.

“You will no longer be a victim. You can face your pain and fear head on because you’ve done it all of your life; you just didn’t realize you were successful at it. You now know you are. You no longer have to pretend you’re not in pain or overwhelmed. It’s okay, and it doesn’t make you a failure. It’s time to claim loving acceptance of your physical body, trust in the knowledge your mind now holds, and align with your spirit exactly as you are.

Only I have the power, knowledge, and control to overcome the obstacles in my life to promote healing on every level.

Now, where do I begin? Hmmm….Actually, I think I already have.

Many Blessings on Your Journey )O(

The Art of Distraction

I woke up at 6 a.m. to my hips and thighs aching, not unusual after a long weekend. I tossed and turned a bit, took my pain meds, then tried the heating pad. Today is a holiday for crying out loud, President’s Day to be exact, and I so badly wanted to sleep in with the rest of the family. But when I couldn’t stand it any longer I got out of bed, grabbed my laptop, and trudged my way to the living room where I reclined my reading chair and decided to look over the emails I (un)intentionally ignored over the weekend.

However, I tend to get sidetracked and an hour later I was perusing the White House Historical Association’s website, wondering how I got there in the first place. I traced it back (as best as I could remember) to it starting innocently enough on my MSN homepage. My intentions were good, but before I signed in to my email, I saw the evil slideshow that stopped me dead in my tracks, like always. First pause and click: “Meth in Bra Leads to $712m Seizure”. Then, “ Malawi Gets Its First Grammy Nomination, With Album by Prison Inmates”. Followed by a story about how a rescue dog became mayor. I mean, come on, I had to know how that happened. I was just about to shift gears when I saw “Strange Facts About Every American President.” So in honor of President’s Day I figured I should read it. You know, out of respect. That somehow led me to reading a tweet from Hillary Clinton, and somewhere between there and here I ended up reading useless facts about the White House. But did you know that the most famous of the White House ghosts is Abraham Lincoln? Well, if you didn’t, you do now.

I have yet to read one single email.

But I did manage to waste and hour of my life. But then again, I learned some things. And learning is good, right?

Finally I realized it was time to truly wake up to the day. I’d had my fill of both dark and uplifting news stories, tempting links to Wikipedia, and all the other website diversions that seem loosely joined for no other purpose than to keep me unfocused, emotional, numb, or all of those things at once. Or perhaps none of those things at all.

The sun is shining, at least for the moment, a promise of a productive day. I have a list of things I need to get done and as I mentally tick them off one by one I can only think of a few things on that list that is truly important today;

Get some vitamin D (which I am deficient in) by spending some time outside with the family. Maybe I’ll even hug a tree, and if I ask nicely maybe it will allow me to suck in some of its vitality. That sounds really good right about now.

Work on the quilt I’m making for my daughter’s birthday gift from me. I have two weeks to get it finished and for once I’d love to finish a project ahead of schedule instead of pulling a painful all-nighter.

Other important to-dos:

Take a nap.

Make some scones.

Eat a scone.

Straighten up my altar.

Play cards with the family.

Eat another scone.

Try not to take another nap.

Choose a working Tarot deck for the week.

That’s about it. I understand that some of these may seem like distractions from what I probably should be doing but I have the rest of the week to worry about those things I don’t really want to do. Like laundry. Blech. The way I see it at the moment is that If we all have clean underwear, it can wait another day. Besides, all of the other things “to-do” are necessary to set my Spirit straight and kick my butt in gear for the week. I hope.

What’s on your to-do list today? I hope you can find time and a willing tree to hug today too. We could all use and share the love.

Many Blessings on Your Journey )O(

The Comfort Zone

You have probably heard that getting out of your comfort zone is a good thing. Stretch your wings. Aim high and venture forth.

But honestly I don’t want to.

I like it here in our little house in the trees, where I can’t see the road, or neighbors, and where the deer bed down in the meadow at night. It’s comfortable, it’s isolated, and it’s far removed from the outside world. Yes, I am a hermit, one who imagines herself being just fine with living out here in the woods alone. Someday I want to be the crazy old woman in the forest with a big cauldron in her front yard and everyone will think I’m completely nuts. Even the UPS driver will wish I wasn’t on his delivery route. Of course I’ll have a few cats and a pet crow that likes to perch on my shoulder and whisper secrets in my ear.

And if that’s all I had for companionship I think I’d be alright. Besides, other than my cute cats and cool crow, I’d have myself to talk to.

Anyone like me who suffers with Social Anxiety Disorder, whether it’s from chronic pain, anxiety, depression, PTSD, etc. can relate to what I’m saying and know how debilitating it can be.The truth for me is the longer I stay away from people and public places, the more I stress about doing so. The more I don’t want to. And there are more of us than people think there are.

Over the entire month of January I left the house for only what was necessary; my kids’ basketball practices & their Saturday games, which of course puts me in a social situation with other parents who (more times than not) are overly aggressive. I’ve been to doctor’s appointments, and the grocery store. That pretty much sums it up. I don’t think the art studio counts.

This is coming from a woman who traveled to Europe to meet up with her girlfriend back in the day. Wow, a lot has happened over the last 15 years.

But I ventured away from my house last night, just for fun, which was something I fought really hard against. I knew this outing would put me in a public setting that I wasn’t used to. It was far away from my comfort zone, like the little town 12 miles up the road. It wasn’t the elementary school gym and it wasn’t my doctor’s office. I was headed into the metropolis of busy freeways, lots of bridges, and narrow city streets. There would also be people. A lot of people. My level of anxiety was high when I put on my coat and several times I wondered if I could just maybe, somehow get out of it. But I sucked it up and spritzed on my best perfume then smiled at myself in the mirror because my husband and I were going on a date. The first one in many moons.

We saw a movie at a theater downtown then walked along Hawthorne where we spent way too much time in Powell’s Books. We skipped the trendy restaurants and Portland’s food trucks and finally settled in at our favorite burger joint. We both ordered pepper bacon cheeseburgers and waffle fries. We kinda shared a large milkshake- I say “kinda” because I slurped down way more than my fair so I could get the most (I’m bratty that way). It was an absolutely disgusting meal, and I enjoyed every bite.

It’s times like last night that I’m reminded of the good things that exist outside my comfort zone. There’s no guarantee in life that I won’t be in a car accident, mugged, or worse. But then again there’s no guarantee that I won’t slip and fall in my own home while holding scissors the wrong way or not get trampled by a deer (that actually injured me once, but that’s another story) while wandering along our trails.

Ask me today and I’ll tell you I’d love to see an old friend and catch up. Hell, I’ll even drive to the mall and do some shopping in the Macy’s store where that horrible shooting happened a few years ago. If I keep pushing myself, especially in times I don’t want to, I may begin seeing the world from beyond my comfort zone as somewhere I sometimes would rather be!

As much as the eccentric crazy old woman who lives deep in the forest spending her time conjuring magick and the occasional mayhem just to keep things interesting sounds fun, maybe I don’t really want to be alone. At least not yet.

But if I finally do find myself there I really hope I will have earned it. That I’ll have come full circle by venturing out of my comfort zone. I’ll travel and do great deeds. I’ll meet new people and hopefully share lots of laughter and joy. I’ll spend years and years loving my grandchildren, and teaching them the Ways of the Witch.

And there’s so much more. I want to give more time and energy to charity. I want to sew quilts for the newborns in the neonatal unit (I’ll never forget that small yet caring gesture from a stranger and how it gave me and Atticus so much comfort when he spent his first month of life there). I want to spend oodles and oodles of time with my husband, walking on the beach, playing chess, watching stupid movies, and laughing together until it hurts. And of course making love. A lot.

I want to see Greenland one day. I want to watch a play on Broadway. And while I’m at it, I want to have backstage passes to a Duran Duran concert and a private dinner~and stuff~with John Taylor (hey, a girl can dream)….He’s the one “free pass” *wink, wink* that my husband has given me, no questions asked. I only said okay because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings (another *wink, wink*). But gosh I love my man.

I want to keep making time for my watercolor painting and Soulcollage work. I want to continue guest speaking at Tarot workshops and at the University. I want to write a book. And I want to blog.

I suppose I have a lot of living I want to get done.

I know there will be bad bouts of pain where days and weeks will easily slip by, but I know that I have to fight to be a part of the outside world and push through my comfort zone once the pain episode subsides. Who knows? Maybe something greater than I ever thought possible will come out of it all. But before I get busy, I think I’ll go and call my friend and catch up. Maybe meet for lunch…. In the city.

Many Blessings on your Journey )O(

Making Magick With Shel Silverstein & Chicken Noodle Soup

When the kids get sick I have a knee-jerk reaction to find out how I could have prevented it. The Goddess knows that I try and be a great mom, but the reality of it is I’m not perfect. My kids had the flu this week and I’m frustrated I couldn’t have prevented it.

It’s also a very difficult undertaking for me to care for my sick children in times of personal debilitating pain. This week has been one of those weeks, but somehow, I not sure exactly how, I’ve made it through. My children are well and finally back at school today and I think I’ll go ahead and collapse. Well, after I do a few things.

I’ll be somewhat functional today while I do a much needed load of laundry, (because Mount Washmore is gaining amazing altitude in the laundry room) catch up on correspondences, and empty the dishwasher. But then I’m going to relax. No, collapse. Well at least until 3:30.

I’m crossing my fingers the school doesn’t call because one of my kids starts feeling icky again, and I sure as hell hope that they don’t catch something else that may be going around.

I’ve known the most fastidious of germaphobes who still get sick. I myself am constantly making sure everyone washes their hands, eats reasonably healthy, and are active. I also make sure my kids stay home from school/social situations when they are sick so they aren’t spreading the illness to others. But some things just can’t be helped.

2015 flu season, commercial cleaning company, detroit office cleaning, detroit jantorial services, smart clean, cleaning for health, germs, dirty bathrooms

The awful thing was that I knew it was coming. Last week during my daughter’s basketball practice I watched as more than half the girls on her team were coughing and sniffling then handling the basketball, which was being bounced around from teammate to teammate. I inwardly cringed as the ball made its rounds, knowing that the germs were successful in finding new little hands to cling to.

As much as I tried to keep the right balance of vitamin C, echinacea, and zinc going, and as much as I charged and anointed my healing candles and surrounded my children with energy of protection, they still succumbed to the flu. My efforts failed. Am I truly so powerless? I mean, what kind of Witchy Momma am I?

At first I panicked. Then I cried. How was I going to care for my sick kids when I myself was on the verge of insanity from my pain? The area around my fusion and disc replacement was in knots, my sciatica was turned to high, and my fibromyalgia reacted to the stress with a vengeance. But I would do what I had to do, then my husband would take over when he got home from work (bring on the guilt, I think I can take it).

So the daily routine this week went like this:

I would be jolted awake by coughing fits after short bouts of painful sleep, but would take a deep calming breath and go and visit each child. I’d give out doses of honey if they asked, I’d spread globs of vicks vapo-rub on their feet while giving a quick tickle that made them squirm or smile just a bit before I put their socks back on. If needed, I would refill the humidifiers and add additional germ-killing essential oils, sometimes refreshing the cool rags for foreheads, and giving a dose of Tylenol if needed. I’d do all of this calmly and methodically then shuffle back to bed.

I spent a lot of the daytime sitting in the living room surrounded by sick kids with fever, coughing, and whining as my company. I wandered around picking up used Kleenex off the floor (no one could seem to hit the makeshift paper bag garbage can sitting right next to them) and would periodically go around the house wiping door handles, faucets, and light switches with an essential oil mix or just go ahead and heavy hit places with Lysol spray. I’d rinse the dishes, and maybe do a load of laundry. But when my body warned me to stop doing things, I listened and rested. At night my husband would give me a massage which caused tears to stream down my face, but as always, it ended up relieving some pain.

During a late Monday morning when my pain was at a steady level I took the opportunity to make a double batch of our favorite chicken noodle soup. We had it for lunch the first few days and we ate it with crackers while sitting on the sofa together watching old episodes of The Andy Griffith Show and Lassie while nodding off now and then.

When they’d get tired of watching Lassie save the day they’d come find me in my bedroom on the heating pad, our adjustable bed in the zero gravity position with the full body massage on (that bed was one of our best investments we made to help manage my pain). Usually by the time they found me I had been resting long enough and my afternoon medication had kicked in that they were welcome to climb into bed with me. We would read Shel Silverstein’s wacky poems over and over again or look through our family pictures on the laptop, revisiting their baby years, vacations, holidays, all of which brought smiles and occasional laughter. A much needed reprieve from misery.

By Monday afternoon and thereafter, I was having have them each take a warm but quick shower and change into clean pajamas. By then they would be tired again so back to the couch. During the late afternoon I reheated some of the soup broth and they sipped on it while settled in their own little makeshift nests of pillows and blankets on either end of the couch, zoning out in their little foggy orbits. Thankfully the television stayed off.

By Tuesday afternoon they began arguing. For lunch they finished off the soup. A good sign they were recovering!

By Wednesday their coughs had become considerably less often and there were very few wads of Kleenex on the floor.

By Thursday they were playing with toys and complaining about how bored they were.
I was relieved when they slept through the night and that their eyes were bright this morning and they were ready to go back to school. Thank you Dear Goddess! I too was feeling so much better that I even did a little happy cha-cha-cha in the kitchen after the school bus drove away. Yes, I definitely feel better.

It took many years of Mommyhood to finally understand that I needed to slow down the pace when caring for my sick kids. One of the things I wish I knew as a younger mom (way before I even had to deal with chronic pain) was to relax when caring for my sick kids. Of course I still worry and listen to my inner-mom intuition, but when I come from a place of calm I am better aware of whether they need more or less of something and can adjust accordingly. It also gives me the ability to send them healing energy more effectively. I can make sure they drink plenty of fluids and gently remind them to rest, then taking that opportunity to rest myself. I can read aloud to them when they don’t feel well enough to read on their own. We can even watch an old movie or t.v. show together even if we end up napping through some of it. And I can even find the opportunity to make chicken noodle soup.

The way my life is now, living with daily chronic pain, I know from experience that If I don’t slow down when I know I should then my pain level will spike to an unmanageable level causing all kinds of misery. My children can sense when Momma’s not okay, but I can do my best not to add additional stress to their recovery. If I repeatedly went down the checklist of things to do for children with the flu, constantly took their temperature, and tied to maintain a perfect house through it all, I would be a raving lunatic stressed out to the max, and believe me I’ve been there, done that. Now as an older mom with young children and pain issues I’d have to add delirious from pain to the stressed out lunatic description. Stress is ugly and will spread just as quickly and with as much stealth as the nasty virus that has invaded my children.

It’s important for me to find joy in the little things that we did this week. Yes, it’s awful that my kids were sick, and no, it wasn’t necessarily a productive week. However, we were blessed with those quiet moments to connect and to feel the love and healing that came from them. In the process, I ended up loving and caring for myself which gave me the strength to overcome the obstacle of pain. I really believe that love is the best medicine of all. The beautiful feeling we find in love that is given and received in times of need is above and beyond any magickal power you will ever have, ever want or ever even find.

Many Warm Blessings of Health on Your Journey )O(

homemade chicken noodle soup

Photo from Honey Bee’s Recipes

         Magickal Chicken Noodle & Herb Soup

This is my take on the basic chicken noodle soup recipe that I have tweaked over the years. It’s now a family favorite and staple during cold and flu season. It’s full of cold and flu fighting herbs and the potato thickens it just a bit. If you are worried about the amount of herbs being too strong, start with half the amount and adjust to your taste from there. It makes about 8 servings and is ready in about 30 minutes. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup diced onion
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 cup diced celery
12 cups chicken stock*
½ teaspoon sea salt (optional)
3 cups diced cooked chicken meat

1 (8-ounce) package dried egg noodles
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup diced potato
1 tablespoon chopped lemongrass**
2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
2 tablespoons finely minced ginger
2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Directions:

In a large pot over medium heat drizzle in the olive oil. Add onion, garlic, and celery and cook in olive oil until just tender, about 5 minutes. Pour in chicken stock and stir in chopped cooked chicken, dried egg noodles, carrots, potato, sea salt (optional), and herbs. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes.

*Take advantage of store bought rotisserie chicken for both the meat in this recipe and for making chicken stock for future recipes. After removing the meat, save the carcass to make chicken stock. Place the carcass in a large crock pot. Cut 3 whole celery stalks into thirds being sure to keep the leaves on the ends as they are full of flavor and place in pot. Then add 3 carrots cut into thirds. 2 medium onions quartered, 4 cloves of garlic, split, 2 sprigs of thyme, 2 sprigs rosemary, 3 teaspoons sea salt, and fresh ground pepper to taste. Fill with enough water to fully cover the chicken. Cook on low for 10-12 hours. Strain through cheesecloth and discard bones and vegetables. Store in refrigerator or freeze in gallon freezer bags.

***Lemongrass can usually be found in the produce section where the herbs are stocked. Our store sells it fresh as well as in a tube next to the ginger, tarragon, thyme, etc.