Friday, 31 July 2015

How I'm managing my fibromyalgia now

I've been doing much better lately with my fibromyalgia symptoms, but a pre-virus flare-up left me stricken and wondering what exactly I'd been doing in the past few months to keep the beast at bay.

Although I've read that it takes a good six months for fibro suffered to bounce back after pregnancy and childbirth, I'd like to think I can credit a few well-executed self-care techniques for keeping me functioning.

I did give up gluten, followed by dairy, for a couple of months.  When I went back to eating those particular foods in late May and found that there was no apparent connection between them and my fibro symptoms, I decided not to cut them out again.

Still, avoiding so many foods meant I necessarily ate healthier things.  Bread and cheese and their next-of-kin meant weight gain and sluggishness, things undesirable in themselves but especially unhelpful when one already has an autoimmune disease.

The past month, I've been focusing on eating positively as well as negatively.  That means choosing deliberate foods instead of just avoiding them.  Using the Whole30 as my guidepost for yes-foods, I consider each addition before adding it.  So, I may have something with sugar in it (like a dollar sweet tea from McDonald's), but it's not sneaking in under the radar.  Being aware of it means that I have the control to actively choose and curate my diet around that it for the rest of the day.

But don't think that I'm depriving myself.  I'm focusing on meats, fruits, and vegetables, but I go for the gold, always getting my favorites.  I mean, if you have a meal you only sort of like, why eat it?  Then you'll definitely feel like you're missing out (and set yourself up for diet failure).  Instead, I keep coming back to old favorites I never tire of: salad with lots of onions, avocado, and tomatoes; juicy hamburgers, sans bun; and brothy soups with lots of veggies.

I've also become a religious napper.  I've always liked naps. craved naps, welcomed them like old friends . . . but I've never exactly scheduled them.  Now I take a nap nearly every day at the same time with Roan.  It helps that Afon is going to school, so there's a built-in schedule.  Also, Afon doesn't nap, so it's a little hard to sleep when he's here.

What I'm not doing--and would like to do next--is add regular, gentle exercise to my routine.  It's important for fibromyalgia patients to keep moving, even when it hurts because, "Exercise gives you endorphins.  Endorphins make you happy.  Happy people just don't shoot their husbands!"

What do you do to keep healthy and feel well?

Tuesday, 28 July 2015


"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2015."

Afon:  Finally getting the use of the motorized toy tractor his grandparents got him years ago.  He enjoys putting handfuls of dirt into the claw and careering recklessly about the yard.  It does make me a tad nervous that he understands the function of a gas pedal.

Roan:  Still no teeth.  Plenty of gurgles: "crrr, crrrrr, cccrrr."

Later than usual after being ravaged by a stomach bug.  Me, that is.  The babes are just perfect, and thank God for that!

Last Thursday when I retrieved Afon from school and was buckling him in, I heard "mama" and immediately looked up in response.  Roan was peering right at me from over the brim of his carseat.  <3

Monday, 20 July 2015

If religion doesn't matter. . .

Every now and then, I post something that could be controversial.  I thank you kindly for keeping the discussion respectful and retain the right to delete and block any commenters whom I feel are not remaining so.

I was browsing Instagram, one of my favorite pastimes, as it can be done through snatches of seconds at a red light or while waiting for the bacon to sizzle.  The hashtags are so interesting.  But I came upon one I found curious, almost amusing.  It was #religiondoesntmatter.

The sentiment was encouraging.  One would think it the signature hashtag of atheists and agnostics, and that would make sense in that case.  They would say religion doesn't matter because all religion is false.  But it turns out that the hashtag appeared in support of various religions, and that made it all the more confusing.  Why, if religion doesn't matter, are the Instagramers members of any religion at all?

They'd probably say something like, "Because we like it."  And to that I'd say, so?  

It doesn't matter if we like it.  Because it doesn't matter.  And if it doesn't matter, it doesn't matter in any circumstances.  And why do we expend any energy whatsoever on something that doesn't matter?  There are certainly other worthy endeavors we could be lending our precious time to: like writing the next great American novel, traveling the globe, or spending time with family.

(This is not to say that those who struggle or doubt are hypocrites.  It is not hypocrisy to say with the apostles, "Lord, to whom should we go?  You have the words of everlasting life.")

It reminded me of a conversation I had with a religious Sister and a few others.  A person said, "I don't think my religion is better--or more true--than anyone else's."  

I replied, "I hope you do.  I hope you love your faith or religion or beliefs with the fierceness of a mother's love.  Otherwise, what's the point?  Why bother practicing religion?  If there is one you find better, you should belong to it.  Or keep searching until you find your preference."

It's what C.S. Lewis means in his introduction to {Mere Christianity}, when he writes about his book being only the hall in a large house with many doors.  One does not stay in the corridor but "above all you must be asking which door is the true one; not which pleases you best by its paint and paneling."

At this point, the Sister mumbled something which, to this day, is one of the saddest things I have ever heard.  "I can't leave my religion; I've been Catholic all my life and am too old too become anything else now."

I don't pity her.  She's a good woman and doubtless has done much more pleasing in the eyes of God than my feeble prayers and half-hearted Mass attendance.  To pity someone is God's work, and I am not fit to pity anyone.  Rather, it makes me grateful.  Grateful that I should have been born into, through no virtue of my own, this most beautiful of faiths, and the last living home of truth, goodness, and beauty on this old, tired planet.  And sad that there are some who are not partakers of the banquet at which is served the Eternal Bread from Heaven.

Sunday, 19 July 2015


"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2015."

Friday, 17 July 2015

7 Quick Takes

-- one --

This little guy is six months old!  Half a year ago we met face to face for the first time.  Read about {Roan's birth story} here.

-- two --

We finished {The Sword in the Stone} and I'm so annoyed that there's no equivalent audio for the other books in our library system.  The voice actor who read it was marvelous, I'll try to find who it was.  But reading it for the second time, the character faults and strengths start out from the proverbial page, and the tragedy of King Arthur is making sense more than it ever has.

Now we're listening to {Princess Academy} by Shannon Hale.  I like it, even though it was slow-going getting into it.

-- three --

My mother is helping to take care of my nephews, so I've got both boys in bed with me this week.  Usually, Afon sleeps with her so that I can get up throughout the night with the baby without the one disturbing the other.  So I've been putting Afon to sleep in a separate bed and going to sleep with Roan in another; but the little man sneaks into bed with us each night without fail.

-- four --

I jumped on ordering {Chatbooks} before the monthly subscription price went up permanently.  It's $6 per 60 photo volume, and you are able to exclude photos in order to curate your Instagram feed collection or make an entirely different themed album.

One of my volumes got shipped out before I had a chance to look at it, and I was annoyed that reposted grams of other folks were included in my private collection, so I emailed, and wow!  Prompt and friendly customer service!  I am very pleased.

And the books are beautiful and so well made.  Since I don't have time for scrapbooking these days, I really appreciate the collection of glimpses into my life as something I can hold and share.  It's worth skimming off the extra $6 per month to invest in these.

Use the code above to get your first book free!


-- five --

I need a new pair of shoes.  I'm down to two pairs: these string sandals that have lasted many a year and the recent Walmart purchase.  I could just go back to Walmart and buy a new pair, or a different one, but I'd rather put down a little more money and get some use out of them.
What do you guys recommend?  Something comfy but cute, and maybe that can be transitioned from daily mom chores to Sunday service.  What's in?  What do you have?

-- six --

Jim Gaffigan has a television show . . . your argument is invalid.

Watch the first two episodes on Hulu before it leaves!  Then come back here, and let's gush about how awesome it is.

-- seven --

On the blog this week:

Linking up with Kelly for {Seven Quick Takes}.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Roan Reuel's Birth Story

(Note: My husband was in Wales during the birth of our second son, which explains his absence.  We Skyped as soon as we could afterwards, but my mother was my attendant during the birth.)

It was about 4:45 am, and there was a gush like a waterfall.  Where the heck was all that hiding?  So I sat in the bath, told my folks, felt a few contractions that went away, went back to sleep for several hours, and my mom was like . . . we better go in, just to make sure Baby is okay.  I felt some weak, irregular contractions.  There was a second gush, and I wager that's why the baby was measuring so big.

We tried to three times to drive to the hospital before getting very far.  First, my father's car was making a treacherous noise.  So we doubled back around.  My father sent us on, telling us not to worry about it.  The noise got worse.  So we took a detour to our trusty mechanic's.  He is an island man who runs his shop off of the abbey's property.  He has one of those mouths always on the verge of laughter and a generosity of spirit that staggers.  His rates are fantastic and his loyalty even better.  So we feel we can show up any time and are pretty confident that he'll find room for us in an emergency.  As we cruised up and rolled the window down on the passenger's side, we let him know what was up.

"Oh, my God!" he said, in Trinidadian accents.  His smile split his face it was so broad.  "I can't believe it.  You're in labor?  You're so calm!"

I brought him a hearty helping of entertainment that day, as  he went on that I had always had such a laid back personality.  He gave us one of his loaner cars and we were at last on our way.

I arrived at the hospital, filled out paperwork, etc.  They wanted to induce me, of course; because like last time, my baby was in no hurry to come out.

That takes hours, first they take you to triage to listen to the baby's heartbeat, then they prep you with a big bag of IV fluids (???), then they hook you up to the Pitocin.   My platelets were just shy of the minimum level to get an epidural, 101.  100 is the cut off.  Normal platelets are three-hundred something. 

Then the anesthesiologist came in and wasn't happy with the IV because it was too small.   If there was an emergency, he said, they'd need a bigger needle.  So he stuck me four more times trying to find a vein, and oh my gosh it hurt!   I still had this massive blue-black bruise in the inside of my right arm two weeks later.   Then he gave up and shared with me that if I were ever in a real emergency, like ambulance/ER, they'd have to go right to the neck in my vein, no messing around.  Eep!  (My girlfriend, whose mother is a nurse, told me he was exaggerating and that there is always someone in the hospital who they can call on who is a whizz with small veins.)  He was from Nigeria, very handsome and soothing-sounding, and he wanted to get me epidural-ed up pretty quick, but the midwife was kind enough to consider my personal empowerment during labor and chased him away, firmly but professionally.
So then the contractions got quite painful.  I don't think they're worse on Pitocin, but the progress is a lot faster than natural labor, which may make it seem more painful.  Experienced moms, is that the case?  Anyway, I asked for the epidural, and the anesthesiologist had me lean forward against my mom and plunged the needle into my spine--at which point, my right leg immediately seized up, and it felt soooooo much more painful than when I had it with Afon.   They lowered me back down, and I don't think the pain ever went away completely.   I remember the anesthesiologist making a comment about how I could still move my legs too well.  But I don't know why they didn't do anything about it.  

The contractions got worse and worse until they were ready to have me push, but Roan was not facing the way they wanted him to be, so they made me go on my side, first one, then the other, to try to push him out.   He wouldn't come.   No progress at all, and each time, his blood pressure shot up. He was happier when I lay flat on my back. 

Then I heard them start talking about prepping for a C-section.  Now, during this time, I was pretty fairly screaming, and I told my mom I was dying, and everyone had to keep telling me to calm down and stop screaming and remember to breathe.  It was about that time I started asking for a priest. They were like, "You're not dying," but I kept asking.  I asked if they could somehow pull the baby out, and they said they'd only do that as a last option.

"Mommy, why does it hurt so much?"

"Because God was really, really mad at Eve."

They ordered a STAT C-seciton, which means, like, NOW.   So my mom couldn't come in with me.

It felt like an eternity of time between them rolling me out of the delivery room into the operating room.  The last thing I said to my mom was, "Pray for me," and I was saying "Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy," over and over again.  They rolled me down the hall and I could see a surreal reflection of myself on the ceiling in something metal.  Every time I had a contraction, I'd whip my head back and forth and reach out like a crazy person and twist my legs.  I was a regular Gollum, pawing and begging.  They took forever to prep for surgery, and I kept asking where the anesthesiologist was. 

"I want to go to sleep," I said. 

 I must have asked four times, and the fourth time, I said, with the best pathetic smile I could manage, "Is he really coming, or are you all just telling me he's coming." 

 Because, like, I knew I was asking every 30 seconds or less. 

 "No, he's really coming." 

In a second, they kept saying. 

I suspect they didn't know the timing, they were just telling me that to shut me up!  

When the anasthesiologist finally came in, I reached my arm out to him and weakly tugged his short sleeve, brushing his arm with my fingertips, and he looked at me, a little bit startled.  

The midwife said, "She wants to go to sleep." 

I pawed a few more people, squeezed the midwife's hand, and told the nurse that if anything happened to me or the baby, would she please call a priest? and she said she would. 

Then I ceased to exist.

When I existed again, it was in scraps of distant conversation and a sensation of moving.  They were saying things like, "wisdom teeth" (the only other operation I've had) and "only one blood clot."  I had to move off of the stretcher onto a bed, I think, or maybe that was before, or later, and the male nurse in the recovery room was saying something to someone else about how his daughter had moved back in with them, and that she was "preggers," weird choice of words.  He didn't seem worried at all, that's why it stood out to me, my dad would have been so disapproving.  Funny what you remember when you're only barely conscious.

When I tried to talk, my voice came out hoarse; I could barely speak.  (Later, I was told they shoved a tube down my throat to get oxygen into me during surgery.)

"Was it a boy or a girl?"

"A boy, I think.   Let me check."  In and out, he was talking to someone.   "Yes, a boy."

I was disappointed for a few seconds, then was made to move, I think--or they let me go back on my side (I was there before? they seemed to intuit that I had a preference)--and then I asked how much he weighed, and the nurse said at first 7 lbs 8 oz (which was wrong because Roan was exactly 6 lbs 8 oz, like Afon).

Then I appeared in a different room, and my mom came out of my peripheral vision to the left, and she said, "Oh, Christie, he's so cute." And they rolled him up in his bassinet and put me in his arms and I thought he looked so much like Afon!
It was the worst pain I've ever felt in my entire life, but you know I would still have done it if I'd known.   With a lot less grace than Jesus in the Garden, though!  I'm so glad we don't know the future!

For many days after, I thought back on those last minutes, when I was begging to go to sleep and reaching out to any kind soul that would touch me.  I can't explain what it was like, except to say that in those minutes I loved each and every one of those doctors and nurses in the operating room with me.   I was totally dependent on them, like a child, and I could barely grasp that they were there to help me, that they were going to look after me.  It must be what a dog feels for its master or a baby for its mother, just complete, reckless, total love and gratefulness.   I'll never even see those people again, but I'm still in awe that we would do this for each other.  I was suffering, and they helped me.

I choose not to know the sex of my babies, so as to have something to look forward to, though in both instances, and especially this one, all else is extinguished from my brain but pain and primal concentration.  The name I held onto for a girl was Elsbeth--don't worry, I've been assured many times over that it was a good thing this never came to pass, though I stand by it stubbornly--but the names for boys have always been more difficult for me to settle on.  The gendered names of my babies change often throughout pregnancy, but a few days before his birth, I'd fluttered around the name Roan, and had it in my mind during labor, as I had Afon's, so that when he was presented to me, I thought Roan.  An Irish name meaning "little redhead."

My sister suggested the middle name Reuel ("friend of God" in Hebrew), after Tolkien, and after John's hearty approval, I announced his arrival to our little world.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Liturgical Lifestyle | Saint Benedict's Day

tabernacle // Benedict in the monastery shadows of Saint Leo Abbey  // his alter incensed for his special day // scholar  // Corpus Christi // saint

Saint Benedict was a scholar; his twin, Scholastica, founded the sister order to his own.  I want to believe she gives her name to the very word.  Benedict's rule was revolutionary at the time, though it has since grown familiar--the ideal of monasticism, what even the un-baptized and un-churched think of when they hear "monk."

I've not spent very much time connecting with Saint Benedict, and that is a shame, because it must be his order I am thinking of when I strive for {the cyclical rhythms of a domestic monastery}.  And medieval saints are my favorite.

Saturday was his feast, so Afon and I paid a brief visit to the Eucharist in his honor.  We found his altar lit and hung with incense, paradoxically light and heavy with the kind of contemplation that is only driven from deliberate and carefully crafted monotony.

Sunday, 12 July 2015


"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2015."

Roan + Afon:  Afon was cut off of his pacifier at age three, but re-introduced to the concept when his baby brother was born and had pacifiers of his own; now he takes them right out of Roan's mouth, so casually, like it's nothing, without malice or jealousy; and sweet Roan takes no notice but shares cheerfully.

In this portrait, I set about to take Roan's picture.  Afon insisted on joining us.

Friday, 10 July 2015

#7QT: Reading, Writing, and Drawing

-- one --

Everybody not going to Edel, stand up and say "hey-oh!"

That's it?  Really?!

As for the rest of you, OMG, have fun for us!  I'm so jealous.  Charleston!  (Any other Southern Charmed fans out there?)

-- two --

We finished listening to {Little House on the Prairie} and are now on to {The Sword in the Stone}.  This is a mad favorite of mine, since I am an Arthurian enthusiast.  But it stands on its own as a pristine piece of literature for the ages.

I'm not going to be homeschooling any time soon, at least not Afon, but this book would be ideal as both a model and a tool for home education.  "Eduction is experience, and the essence of experience is self-reliance" says Merlin.  Wow.  Just think about that for a minute.

And White's knowledge of natural sciences is so thorough and the opposite of boring.  I mean, I liked Biology in high school, but man, if Merlin were teaching it, I might not have gone on the English major track after all, that's how good it is!

White's insights as an Arthurian scholar are really profound as well.  And if you like folklore and fairy tales, you'll not get a better explanation of what fairies are than out of the mouth of Robin Wood in The Sword in the Stone.

This was my professor's copy of Malory when he was in school at Oxford.  It's one of my most prized possessions!

-- three --

I hope that if you are here, you know Tolkien wrote much, much more than the stories of Middle Earth, though no little can be said for the masterpiece that is The Lord of the Rings.  But did you know he was also a talented illustrator?

I've found that people were much better at drawing before the age of television and modern entertainments.  I think it was just natural for the childhood era of drawing to extend further into adolescence and beyond because there weren't as many distractions.  I'm just conjecturing here.  But I've been fond of Tolkein's illustrations ever since purchasing a book that document some of the letters from Father Christmas he wrote for his children.

Now this new book is out with new-to-me pictures that are really fascinating; they remind me of Blake's etchings, and that seems fitting, somehow.  You can read up on {Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator} {here}.

-- four --

It makes me want to start carrying a sketchbook with me everywhere.  I did it in Rome, along with my camera, and now I have a beautiful record of my four months in the Eternal City.  I'm not a great artist, but I'm very fond of the Pre-Raphaelite school and of modern Japanese manga style.

It's my own take on Alice, in Wonderland!  (Suki is my pseudonym for anything fandom.)

-- five --

It's just one more thing that needs prioritization.  While I have small children, blogging is a great channel for creativity because there is no physical product that Afon can tear up and therefore has to be carefully minded and put away out of reach.  Even when I did draw, I was terrible at filing and organization.  I usually just kept all my most recent pictures in a grubby pile by my bed with my art things and then went through them when they got to be too numerous.  I hated when anyone moved or otherwise touched these piles, too, because then I wouldn't know where to find them!

-- six --

So it's probably crazy that I've got this little {Etsy shop} selling hand-lettered quote cards and prints, but I do so enjoy it!

-- seven --

A much speedier outlet is collecting bits of inspiration and things from what I've read and jotting them downing a notebook.  This is called a {commonplace book}, and this is mine:
It's a Moleskine, of course, and Afon helped make it very pretty with some pen marks of his own.  I'd like to get some sketchbook versions of these, too.  If anyone is interested, I'd be happy to custom make them some, and we can go round Etsy.

Joining Bonnie this week for {7 Quick Takes}.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

#5Faves: Pictures I found in unpublished drafts

Count them, one, two, three, four, five.  My sister trying to whistle using a blade of grass.  Could she be any more hippie?

I can get absorbed for hours in looking through unpublished posts and re-discovering photos.  These were from May of several years ago: before Wales, before Roan, before working two jobs and being diagnosed with fibromyalgia.  But I'm not gonna say what you think I'm gonna say: that "everything has changed."  Not on the surface, anyway.  The rhythms and loves and the aspirations are the same as ever.  This sweet, sort of desperate attempt at daily living is still strived for, always not quite finished, always looking forward over the horizon to what tomorrow brings.

But I can definitely say that each day and each year I grow a little bit in peace.  And that's my favorite thing, by far.

Linking up with Jenna for {Five Favorites}.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

What Roan Wore | The Threaded Owl

bandana bib // {The Threaded Owl}
dungarees // Koala Baby, hand-me-down

I've been talking about Roan's teething/drooling for going on months now.  It's got to the point where within minutes of dressing him, he soaks the front of his outfit, and then he's soggy for the rest of the day.  Those sweet, neutral-colored cloth bibs everyone gifted me at Afon's baby shower?  Powerless in the face of Roan's epic drool.

So I did a little Etsy search.  I wanted something that snapped (no ties, Afon could tug that right off of him), was very absorbent, and held up in the wash.  Plus adorable fabric.  It's a non-negotiable.  I found these at The Threaded Owl, already made and ready to ship.  The rest is history!

Sunday, 5 July 2015


"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2015."

Afon:  has caught an incourageable cold leaving his nose all sore.  He brings home all softs of nasty things from school, I'm sure.  No surprise, as this is him rolling around on the concrete floor outside of Sonic.

Roan:  His murmuring has turned into babble.  It used to be "ahhhhh, ahhhhh, ahhhh," and now it is "abuhbuhbuhbuh, abuhbuhbuh."

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