Monday, July 23, 2012

Road Trip... One More Down

Last week, I took a few days off from reality to take a random road trip with Tom.

And where do people go when they want to take a road trip?

Cornfields of Indiana...

We had about 48 hours to touch four different states, and managed to get a lot done.

My requirements for a road trip are pretty simple:

-Good music, and the ability to change music to suit my mood.
-Entertaining car games/ discussion
-Stopping for whatever whim I deem fit

That's really it. I make an easy road companion, and I was really excited to get out of town for a few days.  Tom was actually in charge of the schedule and arrangements, which suited me fine.  I wanted to maintain my free spirit. :-)  Hotel reservations do not equal free spirit in my book... ;-)

So, we headed out of Tennessee on Wednesday, and made our way to Evansville, IN.  It had been my first real journey into Indiana.  I had made it barely into the state once, but I had never ventured around.  We stopped in to visit his grandmother at the nursing home, then hit the bookstore (yay!!!) before hitting the hotel. I would like to say I appreciated a hotel with a comfy bed and cozy setting.

Welcome to Indiana!

Early Thursday morning, the spontaneity began. On our journey further into Indiana, I saw that we weren't far from seeing Santa Claus, as well as Lincoln's boyhood home.  Of course we had to stop!!!  Here's a few pics from our stop...

Me and Tall Santa...

Tom and Tall Santa...

After that adventure, we had to book it down the road to make it to Bedford, IN.  We met Tom's childhood friend, Tod, for lunch. Afterward, we stopped at the Magic Morning Bakery to get Tom's favorite, Smiley cookies...

Next, we delivered a computer to Tom's cousin, Trent, in Indianapolis.  After that stop, we made our way to Terre Haute, to see his cousin Ryan in a play at the community theater. It was a fantastic show, and a wonderful end to the evening.

The next morning, we decided to venture over to Illinois to make our fourth state.  Here's my picture with the sign...

Welcome to Illinois!

We stopped back to see Tom's grandmother on the way home. We also went over to see his aunt and uncle, as well as cousins and twin second-cousins (that are two!).  Seems like we crammed in a lot of visits in just a few days!

One more thing off the list! At first I had envisioned a week-long journey out into the middle of nowhere by myself. This was back when I was dealing with the idea of being alone (and learning to like it).  Now, I am at a point where I am content to trade that idea for two days with an incredible someone.

Onto the next project...

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Plan Is a Start

This is when I become a model…

I was sitting in a training session yesterday, listening to the speaker and looking around the room. I noticed that the people were wearing clothing with very intense colors. I mentally scratched my head, and then realized that all of my symptoms for the week began to make sense.

It’s one of those moments when you realize it is really going to suck. There’s no turning back, and it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better.  Fortunately, I have been here before and I know what it is like.  I know what it meant to see those colors and notice those sensations.

Two weeks prior, I had intense nausea—the kind of nausea where I wasn’t even able to move my head without fear of losing my lunch.  I remember one of the days I went from feeling a little off to quickly looking like death. One of my coworkers drove home behind me to make sure I even made it home a mile down the road.  I was miserable, and there was something terribly wrong. Even when I started feeling better the next day, I wasn’t completely better.  My sleep started getting jumbled and I began having intense pain through my legs as I slept.  I was tired and achy in the daytime, but not enough to really think something was wrong.

This week, I hadn’t slept.  Ok, that might be exaggerating. Over four days, I had probably nine hours of good sleep. I had become absolutely miserable.  I was feeling dizzy and felt a lot of pain during my sleep.  I was also hyper-sensitive to sounds, smells and touch. Bumping into things hurt, textures and clothing bothered me, and I noticed there was quite a bit of tension in my jaw.

I looked back over these paragraphs and realize there is quite a bit of whining going on.  I need for people to understand I am a person that walked on a broken foot for five days before going to the doctor, and I have dealt with pain often without getting assistance.  I have realized now that this is ridiculous.  We have a culture where pain is glorified and we are supposed to be miserable.  I am not always the best example (mostly because I don’t make time for myself), but I would like to change this.  In fact, the rest of this post will be about the brain, how it works, and self-advocacy. I know it’s a break from the project, but it’s part of my life and my hope is that this story will reach people that don’t know about people with different needs.

So, here goes:

 Fibrofog: My brain was already a bit jumbled from fibromyalgia before the accident a few years ago. Fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue causes something called fibrofog.  For those of you out there with children, think about the first few months with a new baby—massive sleep deprivation, where there is little ability to have a clear thought.  This is exactly how it feels to have fibrofog.  To people without children, I liken it to what it is like in college when you cram for exams and stay up for days on end. After a few days, you lose the ability to function. 

Energy: Loss of energy can be difficult if you have your cognitive wits about you, because your mind still tells you all the things you NEED to be doing.  I am a goal-oriented person by nature, so when I am in the midst of a flare, I hate taking it easy and not doing everything I am supposed to.  It makes me miserable to have zero energy. I want to be active and participate.  I want to work. I want to have a family. I want to get out and have a life.  I don’t know of a person that enjoys a life on a couch watching television.

Pain: There is constant pain, and it comes from things that shouldn’t cause pain. An excellent example happened this week.  We have had a drought for the past few weeks, as well as intense heat.  I went to run errands after training this week, and we happened to have some fairly steady rain. I went without an umbrella, and the raindrops actually caused burning pain on my skin as they hit my arms. Touch that is inconsistent and is not deep pressure is painful. During a flare I do not like to be hugged if it isn’t deep.  I am not a fan of someone just patting my arm, and I become edgy if people bump into me.  I am not a mean person by any means—my body just interprets these signals as pain.  Until they can figure out a solution to these crossed wires, all I can do is apologize.

So, all of these issues (and many more, really) were present before I had the accident that reset my world.  The accident caused exponentially more pain and a lot of memory and organizational issues.  After I was about to move about from the accident, I created a notebook to organize information. It made sense to get all of my needs in one place.

I realized now what this notebook is: a self-advocacy notebook.  And now, I realize that I need one. I teach my students that they will succeed if they identify their needs and tell people what they need to help them succeed.  I guess the best model I can be for them is to model how to do such a task.  So, I am going to sit down and identify what it takes for me to function best and what I need from the people around me.  I am fortunate to have a wonderful support network.  I have a great group of people that work best when they are educated on how they can help me. 

My irritability stems from me being tired and in pain, and when my family knows that, they will know how to help me. They will also know it is temporary and it is not their fault. Communication is important, and another vital need of this notebook.

This reminds me of the emergency behavior plans we have for students with behavior problems. It is a Plan B of sorts for students that often require de-escalation, isolation or restraint. I remember reading a student that had a “mad and sad plan,” and wishing I had one of those.  We all probably really need one of those…

So, the notebook is in its preliminary form, and will develop over the next week. It will grow as I become stronger in what I want. I know there is a lot I can expect from myself, because I carried a lot by myself for so long. I also know that I function best when I don’t carry everything on my back (which keeps me from having flares). So, the more I share the weight, the healthier I will stay!

I am hoping that this intervention came in time.  I think I am finally getting smart enough to realize the flares before they get to be too strong.  I remember the last one—I was stubborn enough to wait a month to see the doctor.  I finally sat in her office in tears. I told her I hadn’t slept in over a month, and I needed my sanity. I was in constant pain, and I was losing my mind. Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue will make your body feel like it is failing you. In fact, your body is short circuiting, and is in effect failing you… I felt like I had the flu for the past few months, even though I had to continue working full-time to maintain a living.

I will not go there again.  I cannot do that again.

A plan is a start.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Telling Fish Stories...

This morning I woke at 4:15am to prepare for a fishing excursion.

I never thought I would EVER say that in my life.


I was terribly tempted to roll over and go back to bed, but I knew in about 30 minutes there would be a car waiting in my driveway. Rods were prepped and ready, worms were purchased, and snacks were packed.  We were about to catch this fish!

So, I rolled out of bed and attempted to get ready. I fumbled around in the dark and tried not to wake the rest of the house.  When there were a few minutes left, I went into my son's room to get him ready. He's not a morning person, but he jumped out of bed. He'd been waiting for this day for quite some time.

We'd been practicing casting in the yard, and Tom had been over teaching him how to fish. He had been on the fishing hype for weeks now, and he was READY.  He was beyond tired, but he was still enthusiastic.

Shortly before 5am our ride arrived. We packed into the car and took off to the Holiday Marina off Tims Ford Lake.  Since I had never been fishing, I wasn't terribly particular about where we went.  To be honest, there wasn't even a size requirement, so I was really set on catching something small.  And with the recent heat and drought, I rationalized that at least I had a few months to actually catch this fish.  At least it would be fun trying.

When we arrived at the marina, it was decided that Alex would cast first, because he had never been fishing. He is a young child, so his attention span is short. He did well... considering... I will say that through all of it, I was glad he was there to experience fishing with Tom and me, and to see the action. The bonding experience is worth quite a bit, and I know that meant a lot to him to see me catch my first fish. He will get the hang of it as he gets older.  Here's a cute shot of Tom helping him cast his line.

Tom helps Alex cast his first line...

After Alex was set, it was my turn. There was no way I was going to touch the worms the first time around! Over time, maybe we will talk...  After my worms were set, I sat and waited. After a few tries, I moved location.  We tried a few different places to see if we could locate a decent group of fish close to the docks.  At some point, Alex said he would be content to sit on the rocks and watch. Shortly after, he said he would be much happier to go home (did I mention he was tired? and grumpy?).

Tom's daughter was casting off a dock opposite the rocks when I hooked my fish.  The kids were sitting over on the dock, and ran across the bridge to join us. I tried and tried to reel in the fish, and of all times for the rod to give me trouble this would have to be it!  Eventually I asked for some assistance, and Tom just reached out, grabbed the line, and pulled the fish in.  He was much bigger than we had imagined I would catch. Yay!!! I was so excited!!! Here's a picture of my first fish!

Mr. Fishie 07-09-12

After I took a moment to think about it, I decided I did indeed need to hold the fish. I needed to get a picture of me with the fish to prove that I was there and that I caught the fish. I also needed to get over the idea of holding a fish (not my idea of fun...).  My students will get a kick out of this picture.  I do want to thank my parents for the shirt. They believed I needed an entertaining wardrobe for this momentous occasion.  On the front it said "Fishing Chix," and on the back it said "I'm a Reel Keeper."  Yes, I actually wore a shirt that said that... 

That's me! Give me credit... This picture took place before 6am...
So, fishing was a great success!  I suppose as time goes by, the fish will grow bigger and bigger in my memory. I'm glad I had the experience, and I'm glad I had someone to teach me. One project down!

Thanks Tom! :-)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Tomorrow's the Big Day!!!

Tomorrow I will catch a fish...

It's been forever since I have been on here, and I do apologize (to myself as well). It's not that I have taken a break from the project.  Really, it's just that I have taken a break from sitting in front of a computer and thinking of things to say for a little while.  I finished teaching an extended school year, took a few summer excursions, and took care of a couple of medical issues.  Now I am ready to get back to typing about this project, and the fact that there is only a little more than four months left...

So, tomorrow I catch the big one...

Or a tiny fish... It really doesn't matter.  The fact is, I have a fishing rod, I have learned how to cast my line, I have practiced in the back yard (the neighbors love watching me), and tomorrow I will try this LIVE.  AND I will have the camera there to document the process.  Because fishing shouldn't be calm and relaxing. It should be intense, well-planned, and documented...

For progress on the other projects, I will say there are two that will have their obligations met soon. Tom's birthday frog cake will be made in a couple of weeks for his birthday gathering (which was postponed from his original birthday), and we have a road trip scheduled when we fly to Seattle in October. So, there's a few more knocked off the list!!

In a few weeks I will be meeting with my seniors in the National Honor Society. I have a few ideas to raise money for charity, and I want to involve them in the process and teach them how to create change in their community. So, raising $1,000 should be fairly easy, and will occur before October.

More than anything, I really have to get to reading the books. I am a teacher, and I am having a hangup on reading? Probably because my stack grew incredibly large over the school year, and I have moved the exciting reads to the front of the line. So, I guess I will be reading the classics while on the exercise bike...

Just a couple more months before the big 3-0. It's crazy to think I am moving into the last leg of this project. It's also pretty crazy to think I could really pull this off. I know I have always been dedicated to my goals, but even I had to wonder if this was really going to happen. Guess I should have given my self a little more credit, eh?

Here's the list! It's getting smaller!
  1. Learn to play the drums.
  2. Read ten great works of literature.
  3. Catch a fish. (tomorrow!)
  4. Learn how to create a website.
  5. Run a 10K. (due to leg issues, I am still figuring out how to work this. ideas?)
  6. Learn how to decorate a cake. (July for Tom)
  7. Learn 20 words in Italian.
  8. Take a road trip. (while in Seattle in October)
  9. Eat vegetarian for one month... and enjoy it! :-) (thinking the month of September)
  10. Ride a hot air balloon. (October)
  11. Fly across the country. (Seattle- October)
  12. Raise $1,000 for a charity.
  13. Karaoke... in public...
  14. Buy and drink a REALLY expensive bottle of wine. (birthday?)
  15. Get in much better physical shape- making my numbers look much better at my physical before 30.