Friday, September 11, 2015

Channeling my inner Nicole Curtis

This was after we discovered the fish tank had been leaking down the drywall.

Everybody's on board for tearing up the carpet. It's the easiest part!

 Boo set to removing the staples that held the padding down while The Boyfriend started yanking up all the tack strips around the perimeter of the room. Both kids worked harder than I had all day.

 Shortly after removing the carpet, we realized we also had a plumbing leak, which had damaged the subflooring. So instead of just having the simple task of laying flooring, we also now have to figure out how to patch the drywall and call a plumber to fix and find the leak in the wall.

It was somewhere around this point that I went from "I can totally handle this" to "Oh my God, what have I gotten myself into? I just wanted a new bed!" Thankfully, we're in a place where we can afford the fixes (watching enough house-flipping shows on HGTV has taught me, if you don't have the budget for things that can go wrong, don't tackle the project in the first place), provided they're not too big. At this stage of the game, they're still manageable.

Yesterday, Hubby and I hit the ReStore shop, Walmart, Lowe's and Menards to pick up the things we need to make the repairs and do the changes we have taken on.  Hauling the usual Walmart purchases (things like cat litter, shampoo & conditioner, and paper towels), four sets of mini-blinds, five boxes of flooring, three  bags of drywall repair stuff, and lamenting about the bait-and-switch faucet we had to buy, everything finally made it in the house by 7pm. Thankfully, a friend of ours was here checking out the water damaged floor, so he helped carry everything in. He also stuck around and helped Nate disassemble our old bed and move it to the office so the new bed can be delivered tomorrow. I ran out of energy somewhere around 10pm. Sleep finally came around 3am after I set in motion an action plan for the rest of these fixes and updates.

Today, though I was tired and in some pain from all the running I did yesterday, I had a lot on my to-do list. Unfortunately, I had a few setbacks. the light bulbs I bought for my bathroom vanity were too big, the blinds for the living room were too narrow, the filters for the furnace were the wrong size, as were the sheets for the new bed. And, because I couldn't figure out this fancy ladder we borrowed from the neighbor, I couldn't reach the peak of the ceiling to scrub the trim. I finally gave up about 2:00, grabbed a Coke, and plopped my ass in front of the TV to watch Sex and the City reruns until my feelings of inferiority subsided.

Eventually, I got back up, put on my big girl panties, and sucked it up. I spent the afternoon patching all the nail and thumbtack holes in office and bedroom, then I got the new new plantation blinds hung in office (including one botched attempt at hanging a support piece that blew out my elbow early in the game). I finished that just in time for the plumbers to show up to give me estimates for the leak in the wall. I hired one and am looking forward to him fixing it on Sunday (without charging me overtime for it being a weekend - go me!). 

After that, I took down the curtain rod in the bedroom, patched those holes and took the Roman shade down too so I can paint around it without dripping on the shade (which I have always loved more than any other window covering). Once that was done, I emptied our nightstands and cleaned them so I can sand them and stain them tomorrow (including removing all the metalwork to be spray-painted). Then I moved all the dressers out from the wall so I could get all the dust bunnies who've taken up residence since we moved in (the last time I cleaned the cobwebs from the corners of the ceiling). I also cleaned the ceiling fan before vacuuming. I was even feeling adventurous enough to wash windows and the trim around them (inside and out, including the gunk in the window tracks). 

I hit a wall of pain and exhaustion about 10pm and rested for a while with some ice on my elbow. Hubby brought me some dinner home and I inhaled that, talked to the girls who were finally home and done with homework. When everybody went to bed, I tackled the bedroom again. 

Almost all our furniture is hand-me-downs or second-hand things we've picked up along the way. This includes a 90's style black lacquer dresser with gold trim. It's functional and in good shape, but it's ugly. Ohhhhhhh, so very ugly. So tonight, I decided to take the outdated mirror off the top, remove all the gold trim, and take off the handles so I can paint those to match the nightstands. I'll leave the dresser black, but the other dresser (which was bought in 1983 by my parents) needs to be painted so it matches the first one. Oh, did I mention in all that I managed to wash and dry 3 loads of laundry?

There's still SO much to do before the bedroom is inhabitable again, today was a success in my book. 

Tomorrow, I tackle the drywall repair in the office and master bath, I will sand the nightstands and dresser, and pick up the paint, a few supplies for that, and the lumber and hardware to make the new headboard. I have to stop at Walmart and exchange the stuff I bought in the wrong size, too. Oh...and I have a doctor's appointment at noon, I have to pick Bethany up from school at 1:45, come home and pick Shelby up after she gets out of school, drop her off downtown at 4:30 and be home by 6pm so I am here when they come to deliver the new bed. I was hoping I would get the bedroom painted tomorrow night, but I think it's gonna have to wait.

For those wondering what crawled up my ass with this Fixer-Upper-Home-Reno-What-the-Hell-do-I-think-I'm-doing thing --- it all started with a bed.

Did I take on too much? Yes.
Is this typical of me? Yes.
Will it all get done? Yes.
Will I spend a month bedridden when all is said and done? Yes.
So why am I doing it? Well, because if I'm going to spend a month in bed, I want it to be the prettiest little place of retreat I've ever seen. It's been the last thing in the house to get updated and it's long overdue. But hey...if you feel like sending me chocolate and hot apple cider, who am I to stop you? *hint hint*

Monday, September 7, 2015

How a new bed leads to total renovation

Most people, when they need a new bed, they just go out and buy a new bed. The process is done once the bed is delivered and setup.

That's not us.

No, see. When we decide to get a new bed, it winds up being a total renovation of half the rooms in our house. How does this happen? Let me walk you through the process. I'll give you a hint: it starts with Pinterest.

  1. Buy new mattress and box springs. Opt to go from the current Queen size to a King so you have more room in bed. (This? This is where the trouble began.)
  2. Decide to move current bed to office, including the beautiful head/footboard you just bought a year ago.
  3. Move office bed to the girls' room to replace the mattress on the floor that one of them has been sleeping on for almost a year.
  4. Decide that since the office is sans bed and it's mostly empty, you should paint it as you've talked about doing for ten years when you moved in to the house.
  5. Realize that your bedroom with its brand new bed on the way also needs a fresh coat of paint. Again, because you've talked about it for ten years and it's high time you get it done.
  6. Since you're painting the bedroom, you should probably buy a new bed so the fresh walls don't get dirty without a headboard behind it.
  7. "Man, king-sized beds are expensive! Let's build a headboard instead!" Begin pricing building materials and realize that you're saving a small fortune by making it yourself.
  8. "You know, if we're not spending all that money on a bed, we can put the new flooring in the office. I mean, it'll be empty. We might as well." You know, because you've been talking about yanking up that gross, dingy carpet for years.
  9. "If we're buying the flooring for the office, we probably should do the bedroom hallway. Oh, and we should also redo the bathroom so it matches the rest of the floors." By the way, this endeavor includes the kitchen, laundry room and master bath. "Even if we don't have the energy to do it all at once, at least we'll have the flooring so we can tackle it when we are able to and won't have to track down matching flooring."
  10. "Awesome! Let's get started!"
  11. Start moving things in office. Realize the fish tank has ruined part of the wall because the filter spilled over the back of the tank.
  12. Spend the afternoon peeling wet drywall and make a note to look up "patching torn drywall" on YouTube later.
  13. Begin tearing up carpet and padding in office and hallway.
  14. Realize there is a plumbing leak in the wall between the office and bathroom that has ruined part of the subfloor.
  15. Shit. "Well, so much for getting all the flooring at once. We've got to throw some money at this repair now. Guess we'll get enough flooring to just do the office, hallway, and bathroom." Note to self: save the packaging and purchase information so we can match the rest of the flooring later.
  16. Let the teenagers tear up the carpet tack strips and staples from the padding while you look up cost of new plumbing parts, drywall spackle, and subfloor pieces. Be grateful the teenagers are powerhouse workhorses who aren't afraid of hard work. Remember to feed said workhorses later.
  17. Have a meltdown.
  18. Curse the bastards on Pinterest.
  19. Be grateful the bastards on Pinterest posted links to fix the stuff that needs to be fixed.
  20. Dry your eyes and realize this is TOTALLY doable and could have been a LOT worse.
  21. Realize that the wall repair you've been intending to do in the master bathroom can be done now that you know how to patch the torn drywall. Go crazy chipping away the warped paint from the water damage in said bathroom.
  22.  Get excited that yes, your house is total disaster, but hey, you get a new bed delivered Friday and you're gonna sleep like a baby...eventually.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

This is NOT OKAY!

The previous blog has been removed by the blog owner to protect Roxanne and her family, as well as to ensure that her legal case against Joe Pata is not compromised in any way.

Permission is NOT granted to use this photo of the victim for any reason.

For those who are interested, a fundraiser has been established to help Roxanne with moving into a new home and purchasing a dependable car. Any remaining funds will be applied toward helping her children work through the tragedy that has struck their lives. Please go here to donate and help spread the word. YouCaring: Roxi's Restart

Thank you for your concern and interest regarding this situation, for the donations, prayers, kind thoughts and words, but mostly for respecting her privacy at this time.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Walk a mile

As I've battled Lyme disease for the last year, I've gone through the full gamut of emotions: depression, bargaining, confusion, denial, and many, many forms of anger -- anger at my doctors for not catching it early, anger at the outdoors, anger at the ticks, and a LOT of anger aimed at God. It's been the hardest thing for me to deal with.

But I experienced something today that put a lot of things in perspective for me.

Today would have been my mom's 77th birthday. I don't usually make a special trip to the cemetery to visit her, but since we were in town today, we took the small detour. We stopped to get flowers and I decided since I was there that I'd also make a quick stop and leave a lily on the headstone of Maria, my bestie's mom, since they're buried at the same cemetery.

My husband and I pulled up behind a car parked along the side of the road in the cemetery and I noticed near Maria's grave, there was a newly-dug gravesite. Wilted flowers were gathered near one end, not far from a clearly bereaved woman who was crumpled on the ground with her hand resting on the fresh dirt. I didn't recognize her (the cemetery is one of the biggest in Des Moines) and I don't make a habit of approaching grieving strangers, so I let her be as I walked toward Maria's grave.

I had trouble finding Maria's stone because I've only been there a couple of times, so I wandered a couple of minutes before I realized she lay to rest only about four sites away from the new grave. By now, the woman stood and I glanced over, catching her eye. She looked overwrought with pain and I was immediately drawn to her.

Softly, I said, "You look like you could use a hug." She nodded and I embraced the stranger. As an empath, I often feel the emotions of those I encounter and this woman was no different. Her pain was an overwhelming loss and it was almost too much for me, but I hugged her tighter. When I pulled away, I noticed a beautiful tattoo on her arm that had been recently inked. It was what appeared to be the face of a teenaged boy. Underneath it was his signature.

I immediately recognized the name and face as a sixteen-year-old boy who was recently murdered, and while I already knew the answer, I asked her if she was his mother. She nodded. 

I handed her the lily in my hand. "I think this will do you more good than the person I brought it for," I said. She took the flower and hugged me again. Realizing I could offer no more comfort (could anyone?), I spoke words of condolence and a promise of prayers for her family and left her again.

My tears fell once my back was turned, and I immediately realized that my anger at God was so foolish. How could I be angry at Him when this mother had so much more reason to be angry than I did? After all, when our children are hurting or sick, don't we beg God to cure them and give us the ailment instead? Don't we tell our kids, "If I could fight this battle for you, I would"?

I cannot fathom the pain of losing a child and can't begin to imagine how much grief this woman must be feeling to have him taken in such a violent way, but I knew that my frustration over a disease that I'm actively healing from...a disease that won't kill me...a disease that I can't pass to anyone else...that my frustration and anger was futile.

I don't know why I got Lyme disease. I don't know why this young man was killed. I don't know a whole lot of anything about why bad things happen. But I do know that I can't...that I won't spend one more minute being angry. I'm still alive. Everything else is manageable.

I continue to pray for this woman and her broken family. I hope you will, too.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Canasta, for the win!

Yesterday was my Lyme anniversary. It was a year ago that I got the dreaded news that I had been infected with Lyme disease. I'd gotten it years before then, but after years of battling the unknown, it had finally been diagnosed.

In the last year, I've fought for my life - literally. I have felt more pain than I thought a person could possibly tolerate and live to tell about. But worse than the pain, was the emotional strain the disease and its side effects had on my brain. I spent much of the last year struggling with severe memory loss, cognitive dysfunction, questioning my worth, wondering what the point was to my life if it was to be filled with that much pain, and honestly, wanting to die more than I wanted to live. I've always fought depression, but never like this. I'd never wanted to kill myself.

Somehow, though, I've survived. I'm intact. I'm alive! I've had limited pain for the last month. And tonight, I won two games of canasta against my husband. I can't even remember the last time I was able to function well enough to remember how to play the game, much less strategize and win. It's a sign of vast mental improvement.

I'm too nervous to say I'm over the hump, but I definitely see the progress I've made. I have another few months of treatment to go (and at least two months being symptom-free) before I'm considered "in remission" but I feel so much better than I did. Even if this is as good as it gets, I'll take it over what it's been.

I am so fortunate to have the most amazing doctor. She's been such an incredible foundation for me through the last six months. She's literally been at my beck-and-call, providing me her cell number to text whenever I've needed her. She's knowledgeable and trained in Lyme disease treatment and without her, I couldn't have done this. All the specialists I went to over the course of the last year combined didn't do what she did. I am so thankful for her.

Thank you all, as well, for your prayers, kind words, thoughts and support. I am so blessed to have you in my life.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Sugar, and spice, and everything nice

I've spent the last twenty years raising kids. I looked forward to when they talked, walked and could become potty-trained. Being able to feed themselves, sit in the backseat without a car seat, and sleep in a big-kid bed were also milestones I anticipated. My husband and I have worked very hard to raise responsible, independent kids who are able to make mature decisions and live successfully as adults.

So, what happens when you succeed?

You lose your shit.

You sit sobbing in your office at a quarter-to-midnight because you realize that your baby girl turns eighteen in fifteen minutes. You panic because you aren't sure if you've taught her enough, given her the right examples, or taken enough pictures so she doesn't feel like she was slighted by the second-child syndrome. 

You struggle to find words profound enough to express how much you love her, how proud you are of her strength, and how you will support her unconditionally as she charges through life, blazing a path of her own.

You think back to when she pouched food in her cheeks like a chipmunk and that time she accidentally knocked her plate of spaghetti on the floor then stood there saying "Taa-dah!" like it was some well-planned magic trick. You think about the adorable way she sneezed as a baby--one full sneeze or two, then a big breath like she was going to do it again but instead she'd let out a sigh and grin. You remember the way she mimicked the pigeons outside her bedroom window and how she communicated with animals before she did humans. You recall when she started learning where her body parts were and she called her tummy her "Buddha", except she wiggled her tongue when she said it and it came out more like "Blubbub". You also can't forget when she finally got that whole toilet-training thing and came running out of the bathroom at the restaurant yelling, "MOMMY! I went ICKY in da potty!"

You realize that the days of reading her bedtime stories, tucking her in, and her waking you up in the middle of the night because of a bad dream are gone, and that the next closest thing you'll get to doing that again is when she lets you take care of her children. HER children!

You pray that you've taught her right from wrong, good from bad, and how to love herself enough to be okay when someone breaks her heart. You hope that you've given her good memories of her childhood and that you weren't really the tyrant she claimed you were when she was "soooooooo mad at choo!"

You remember all those times when you just wished she'd grow up a little bit more quickly so she could do more, see more, understand more...and then you realize she did.

And all you want are those eighteen years back so you can go back and make sure you did it right--that you played enough, laughed enough, and loved enough.

Peanut, you have always been such a bright light in my life. Your heart is so big that sometimes I can't even believe you're mine. Your generous spirit, forgiving nature, and loving personality are my most favorite traits, and I hope you carry them with you always. I love you with all my heart and I am so very proud to be your mom. Happy birthday, baby girl!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

It's Time to Change

I've thought about suicide many times over the last thirty years. I'm a lifelong veteran of anxiety and depression, and I was recently diagnosed with mild bipolar disorder. All that aside, however, chronic Lyme disease, which has affected my brain on a molecular level, is what has caused me the most issues where my mental health is concerned. This disease has changed who I am as a person and I hate who I have become. I cannot fathom spending the rest of my life this way. So, yeah, I think about suicide.

Pretty morose thinking, huh? I agree. What's probably even more shocking is that I am the one writing it. Mel's thought of suicide? No way! Not me, right? I can find a joke in anything. Why would I want to kill myself? That's ridiculous! She's got a wonderful husband! She loves her kids! She has a great job! She's surrounded by such a great support system! 

But the truth is, I think about it a lot. I just don't admit to anyone. The consequences for admitting so would be too great, and let's not even discuss what would be said about me behind my back and the fodder that could be used against me as a mother.

Mental illness is whispered about like it's some sort of STD you pick up in a seedy motel. Along with that, come the people who think it's an excuse for behaving a certain way...or, the opposite, that people have to behave that certain way in order to be categorized as having mental health issues. Don't forget to add in the side effects from the hordes of psychotropic drugs we're prescribed to fight our illness. And, of course, everybody has their own opinion about how you should treat it effectively ("Snap out of it," is my personal favorite).

There's a social media campaign going on right now called Time to Change. Its main focus is to end mental health discrimination. So right now, I want you to eliminate the stigmas you have in your head about mental illness. Forget what you know because, chances are, you don't know as much as you think you do.

Take my friend, Mike for instance, pictured in the center here:
Mike was one of the happiest people I've ever known. Never without a smart ass comment, hilarious joke or some funny sexual innuendo, he was always the life of the party. He was the first to jump to someone's defense or the first in line to help out. If you needed someone to listen, you called Mike. If you needed someone's ass kicked, you called Mike. If you needed anything, you called Mike. He didn't know a stranger because he wouldn't let them stay one for long. He was a decorated officer of the law and a successful entrepreneur in numerous ventures. He shared his life with his beautiful wife, Laura, and was surrounded by friends constantly. Last summer, Mike killed himself, devastating all of us who were left in his wake. The most overheard phrase at his funeral was, "I had no idea..." We all thought we knew Mike. We didn't. 

Two weeks after Mike was laid to rest, I got the news that my friend Nate died. He was only 24, so even before finding out the circumstances behind his death, I knew it had to have been one of two probable causes: accident or suicide. Not able to fathom that Nate was anything but blissfully happy, I wanted to believe the first. Unfortunately, it wasn't the case.
I met Nate only a few months before his death, but for the time I knew him, we bonded deeply. I felt a kindred spirit in him and, at the time, I couldn't figure out why. I just knew we had it. Nate's heart was one of the most generous hearts I've ever known. His career was on the rise and everything he touched was turning to gold. As a part of the male revue show, Men of the Strip, he'd just been spotlighted on the E! network. He was on the top of the world. Nate was incredibly handsome and talented beyond belief, but his greatest qualities were his extraordinary sense of humor and the ingrained sense of duty he felt when it came to taking care of others. In fact, that sense of duty is partially to blame for his death. Nate always felt it was his job to take care of others -- to love them, to protect them, to make them laugh -- and when his own demons became too much to bear, he left this world in the way he did so he wouldn't become a burden on those who loved him. His family and close friends knew he'd fought some mental health issues, but it wasn't until he died that anyone knew just how big Nate's battle really was.

Another person whose suicide affected me deeply this year was a guy by the name of Chris. While I never met him in person, Chris touched me more deeply than some people I've known my whole life. 
He'd been a regular on Dance Party, USA, back in our teen years, which I used to watch with my mother. Chris was one of her favorites and mine. When Mom became ill with cancer, I would record the shows she missed, and we would watch them together later. She always said it reminded her of when she was a teenager and watched American Bandstand. My mother and I didn't have a lot in common, but that was one thing we bonded over. A year later, when she passed away, Chris and the others were a source of comfort and familiarity for me as I grieved. I've never forgotten what the kids on that show did for me. Last month, during an especially hard bout of bipolar depression, Chris took his own life. He, like both Mike and Nate, was extremely successful in life. He had three amazing kids, he was surrounded by a supporting family and lifelong friends, and, in 2014, he was named Teacher of the Year. He'd spent his whole life giving back to his Philadelphia community. But, also like Mike and Nate, very few people knew just how deep Chris' pain went.

It's so easy to jump to the conclusion that people who commit suicide simply don't know how much they're valued by their loved ones. Or we can't understand their deaths because they had so much "going for them." But the fact is, when you're in a frame of mind where suicide is a logical solution, none of that matters. It doesn't matter how much we're loved, how much success we've obtained, how much money we have or how many lives we've touched. All that matters is finding a way to stop hurting and for some of us, death seems like the only solution. It's not that we want to die, really. It's more like we just don't want to be alive, because alive = pain. And that pain seems never-ending.

I don't pretend to know every thought my friends had before their deaths, but I do know my own thoughts. And voicing these feelings in a public spotlight is the scariest thing I've ever done. For someone with anxiety, the last thing I want is attention focused on me; I know what people will think. I know what they'll say. And I know the assumptions that will be made. But if we want to bring awareness to mental illness and suicide, we have to start talking about it. We have to erase the stigmas, forget what we've heard, and we have to fucking talk about it.

We can't just light a candle and hope the problem goes away. We have to roll up our sleeves and reach out. We have to be honest with what we feel ourselves and we have to be willing to listen to those who are brave enough to speak out instead of act on their feelings.

This isn't a problem we can throw money at in hopes of finding a cure. Mental illness doesn't work like that. It takes being down in the trenches and getting soaked to the skin before you can make a difference. Will you do it?

Mike needed this. Nate needed this. Chris needed this. I need this.

If someone you know shows signs of depression, has thoughts of suicide or you've noticed they're just not dealing with the stress of life quite as easily as they used to, please reach out to them. Be an ear, be a shoulder, be a friend. If you can't help them carry their burdens, encourage them get in touch with someone who can: a therapist, a doctor, a mental health support group, or all of the above.

If you are having trouble getting through your day and thoughts of dying seem more promising than thoughts of living, please talk to someone. If nothing else, find help here:

National Suicide Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

It's #TimetoChange

* My deepest gratitude to the McBride, Estimada, and Tully families for allowing me to honor your loved ones in this small way. As always, I pray for peace and comfort for your families.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Lyme Life Update

I was going to put all this in a FB status and realized it's easier just to put it all here.

I had an appointment with my Lyme doctor today. Let me just tell you how amazing this woman is. I couldn't ask for a better physician. At my first visit, we sat together going over symptoms, side effects and treatments for more than two hours. She didn't even leave the room. Today, we sat for an hour together going over what's working, what's not and how I'm feeling compared to the last visit. She's never in a rush, never trying to push me out the door. She even gave me her cell phone number so if I have questions between visits, I can reach her easily. She is incredible and has restored my faith in traditional medicine.

Last month she put me on three hard-core antibiotics. I dealt with a lot of nausea and had to orchestrate each dose carefully so I didn't take anything on an empty stomach. I'm hoping that's not the case this month, but I'll be taking precautions. Now, we've gotten rid of two of those original medicines and I'm on three additional ones. This puts me on a total of four antibiotics and six supplements. Add to that two daily pain killers, a sleeping pill, an anxiety pill, and two pro-biotics I have to take so the antibiotics don't give me an infection. Some of these pills are taken once a day, some twice. Some are switched over mid-week so my body doesn't get too used to one medication. I feel sometimes like this is all a giant game of keep-away/sneak-attack with the Lyme bacteria. I am also on a restrictive gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free diet. I can have minimal foods with those ingredients in them, but the more I have, the worse I feel. The last two weeks has been proof of that. The good news is that I'm learning how to better deal with what I can't have. I've found substitutes for some things and others, I just do without.

I've lost count of the number of pills I take on a daily basis. I think it's partly due to the fact that I hate that I have to take so many. I've always been such a homeopath when it comes to medication and trying to heal the body naturally. But the bottom line is, this is the fight of my life. Literally, it's a fight for my life. With the wrong treatment or too-aggressive of a treatment, I can have organ failure. Already, my body has gone into menopause because of the disease itself. The doctor is optimistic that once the Lyme is under control that normal ovary function will return, but in the meantime, I'm on two hormone replacements. So this isn't just some fatigue and arthritis I'm dealing with. It's some serious stuff with very real consequences.

One of the concerns I had, given my history with ovarian cysts was that I had another one. I've been having a lot of abdominal pain on the left side (reminiscent of what I had before my surgery in 2012 to remove my right ovary). At first I thought it was ovulation pain, but when my doctor told me a few weeks ago that I'd gone into menopause, I knew that wasn't it. We're still not completely sure what the problem is, but thankfully an ultrasound showed that my left ovary is perfectly normal and not cystic. Since surgery at this point in my treatment could send me back to square one, this was a true blessing.

My doctor has also begun treating me for bartonella (I told Midget I have Barton Bellas...unfortunately my version is pretty aca-awful), which is a common co-infection with Lyme disease. Bartonella is also the cause of cat scratch fever (not to be confused with the one Ted Nugent sings about. I think you'll need an ointment for that one). (Isn't it good to see I haven't lost my sense of humor in all this?) Since Bartonella tests aren't very sensitive (means that you can have it and the test can still come back negative), she's decided not to make me go through the expense of it. Since bartonella can be passed through ticks, fleas, body lice and through cat scratches, it's hard telling how I got it or when. We just know that it's likely I have it based on my symptoms and since it's treatable with antibiotics (hey, what's one more, right?), we're moving forward with treatment.

Overall, I have good days and bad days. On the good days, I tend to push myself without realizing it. That's one of the troubles with chronic illness: when you feel good, you want to leech as much from the day as possible but sometimes that can set you back days, if not weeks. I felt really great last week and over the weekend, so I (with Midget's help) put my office back together, which consisted of moving furniture and LOTS of boxes and totes. I'm paying for it now with pain and muscle fatigue. Those are what define my bad days (along with mood swings, mental fog and complete exhaustion, among other symptoms).

I try very hard not to complain. A positive attitude is vital to get through this but I never imagined being this young and feeling this old. Unfortunately, it's a reality and something I'm going to have to deal with for quite a while still. I've learned to control the things I can control and let go of what I can't. I've had to learn to say "no" more often. I've also had to let go of toxic situations and people. I've grown distant from some friends and lost others altogether, but I can't focus on the losses, only the gains.

One of those gains has been how supportive my family has been every day. They've really stepped up and done what needs to be done around the house. Hubby hasn't complained once about my mood swings or the days when I have no energy to do anything. And the kiddo has totally gone out of her way to do more than her share of chores to help pick up my slack. I could not imagine dealing with this disease without their support.

I probably won't update again for a while, but since so many of you have asked and have seen updates so far, I wanted to let you all know what was going on.

Long story short, I'm not in remission, but I'm on my way. I'll take it. :)

Friday, October 31, 2014

I missed my wife

When my hubby and I were on the subway last week in NYC, he just looked at me and said, "I missed my wife."

People on the train next to us probably thought it was him relaying that he missed seeing me while we were apart from one another. And he did, he always does. But it was so much more than that.

When I'm in New York (or Denver, or Los Angeles, or Nashville, or Las Vegas or any city other than home), I smile and laugh - sometimes for no reason whatsoever other than the feeling of being totally carefree for those few days I'm away.

This is the first time that we've traveled together, so he hadn't witnessed it before now. He never got to see the glint return to its familiar spot in my eyes. He hadn't heard the giddiness in my laughter. The deeper breaths I take also went unnoticed.

But this time, he saw. He heard. He noticed.

And if for only those five days together, he got to see his wife again. We're both hoping she sticks around.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Come on along and listen to...

...the lullaby of Broadway.

There really is a lullaby of Broadway. It sings so sweetly and enticingly to my inner 18-year-old. I was a theater major once upon a time. My dream was to end up on Broadway. Truth be told, it's still my dream, though I have no idea how I'd go about pursuing it at the stage of the game.

But I was chastised for not believing in my dreams tonight, so I will say it could happen. Stranger things have, right?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

You win some, you lose some...

This afternoon on the way to lunch, a lady on the corner glanced up from whatever she was doing on her phone, looked at me and my bright pink highlighted hair and said, "Wow! I love your hair!" I said thank you. She said, "That's a really great color! I love it!" (Aside from the miracles of a New Yorker speaking to me in the first place and actually looking up from her phone) she totally made my day.

Fast forward to coming back to the hotel from NBC studios. Two guys in their early to mid-twenties walked toward me on the sidewalk. One rambled off something like "smack a bitch" as he looked at me with a weird look. His buddy quickly added "and dat's a biiiiig bitch!" And they both broke out in hysterical laughter. I just shook my head.

There was a time when the second interaction would have erased all the compliments I'd received in a month. But tonight, I just kind of smirk because I'm not remotely bothered by their juvenile name calling. Besides the fact that I'm more woman than the two of them combined could ever handle, I'm in a place where I choose to believe the compliments instead of the insults.

I like it here.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sirens and honking and trains, oh my!

First night in New York City and the air is filled with sirens, honking and the roar of the train.

These noises make me smile and my heart beats faster.

I can't explain how a city that is constantly screaming, noisy and chaotic can soothe me the way it does, but I'm at such peace here.

Every three minutes the train comes up Lexington from Grand Central and shakes the windows a little.

Every three minutes I'm reminded I'm home.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Living with Lyme

My friend NeeCee shared this article with me today:

Those are just two examples of people who have been dealing with lyme disease. I've been somewhat vague on how it's affecting me because, for the most part, everybody's story is different and I don't feel like my story is any more special than anyone else's. I also don't want pity. Well-wishes are one thing, but I have no desire to live my life with messages of "Oh, I'm so sorry about (*whispers*) your disease." I've never wanted attention for being sick.

My family is no stranger to chronic illness or terminal disease. My sister has heart issues and type II diabetes. My mother had colon cancer and it took her life. My aunt fought and beat breast cancer. My brother has severe asthma and allergies that dictate his days. My dad had a total of six heart attacks before cancer finally took him at the age of 65. We aren't unfamiliar with sickness. But somehow, this disease caught me off guard. 

With our family history, I suspected at some point I'd get cancer. Or that I'd have to deal with insulin doses. I'd mentally prepared myself for those possibilities/probabilities. But nobody prepared me for Lyme disease. Hell, I didn't even know what the signs were until others pointed it out to me and suggested I get tested. It was the farthest thing from my mind when I started developing symptoms. But there it was on paper: lyme disease; not acute.

It took me by surprise, but at the same time, with all the research I'd done while waiting for my test results, I think I would've been more surprised if it hadn't come back positive. I had almost every sign. The only one I didn't remember having was that bulls-eye rash. Everything else was there, and while it may sound odd, I was hoping it would come back positive. Not because I wanted to have it, of course - who the hell would want to be this sick? - but because it would finally give a name to all the shit I'd been dealing with the last several years. 

Like most people with multiple nondescript symptoms, I just wanted an explanation. I was so sick of giving excuses that seemed like bullshit even to myself and I was the one who knew what I was going through. I blamed my brain fog on the anesthesia from my hysterectomy in 2012. My pain was, of course, from sleeping wrong and not seeing my chiropractor as often as he'd suggested. The Bells' Palsy and skin rashes were an allergic reaction to something, I'd said. My deepening depression, growing anxiety and increasingly common mood swings had to be because of stress. Sleeplessness, exhaustion and weird sleep patterns could be blamed on my anxiety and depression. I mean, literally everything could be explained away by something else. But there was only one single thing that would encompass them all and it would finally have a name.

Until my diagnosis, I sucked it up and dealt with life as it came at me. After all, if it didn't have a name, how could I not just deal with shit? I had no excuse, no reason, no explanation. Hell, if I'd known I had lyme disease two years ago, I could've saved myself thousands of dollars in therapy where I tried to figure out why I felt so fucked up all the time. I still tend to think I'm stronger than I am, more motivated than I feel, more capable than not, and as a result, I get pissed at myself because I end up overdoing things.

Anger is a very real part of this whole thing. I don't, however, know if it's a symptom of the disease or a side effect of the diagnosis. I spent a month on oral antibiotics which made me extremely sick a time or two. Then I spent a month on IV medication through a PICC line that totally hosed my birthday month all to hell. Anger at my circumstances was a natural reaction to what I was going through, I'm told, but I still feel guilty about it. I've never been real tolerant of bullshit, but since being diagnosed, I've noticed it has only gotten worse. I hope now that I'm done with medication and I'm on the way through my post-treatment phase that it will lessen. I try to take each day as it comes, but I notice that I have to force myself to have good days sometimes. It doesn't come as easily as it once did. That pisses me off, too. Sometimes it feels like a neverending cycle in that respect. 

Mostly, I just miss who I used to be. I was fun-loving, carefree, spontaneous and happy. Now, I have to remind myself to be some of those things, and I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that I will probably never be some of them, too. Spontaneity is rarer for me because I have to stock-pile my energy. Happy is a choice, I'm learning, but I do try to find happy in every day - whether it be something grand or something minute. I still love having fun, but carefree is something I'll never be again.

That part sucks.

This will always be on my mind. Even if I get to the point of being symptom-free, it will always be in the back of my mind like a stranger lurking in a dark alley. My health was something I used to take for granted, but the bottom line is that I will always be sick. There's no remission from chronic lyme disease, no survival rates, no pink ribbon campaigns and universal sisterhoods like there are with cancer. Thousands of people have it, but nobody talks about it. That's hard. Most days I feel very alone in this. Those are the days when I stay in bed and lose myself in a book or Netflix binge. Other days, I pretend I don't hurt just so I can feel normal...even if it's bullshit. 


Because I know what people think. Hell, if half the medical community doesn't recognize chronic lyme disease as a real thing, what hope do I have with friends and family who don't have the answers? People who don't know anything about Lyme don't understand that I hurt almost all the time. Or that going to the grocery store or making dinner for my family can put me in bed for a day and a half. Or that traveling can take me out for a week straight. They don't understand that extra stimulation such as a crying baby or a fight between family members makes me want to beat my head against a wall. They think me being asleep at 3 in the afternoon is laziness, or that being awake at 3am is insomnia. They don't understand how painful it is for me to sit at a ball game without moving for two hours. And that even just listening to them vent about work or their kids makes me want to cry because the burden is too great for me to carry. 

I feel like I should be spending my day apologizing to people around me because I'm sick. They have to hear me scream when I'm angry and cry when I get frustrated. They pick up the slack when I don't have the energy to both make dinner and clean up afterward. They work hard because I can't. Most days I feel like a complete burden. I'm working through that guilt, but it's not gone yet. Mostly, though, I just miss me.

I have hope that even if my physical abilities don't return to what they were that my mental capacities do. I'm smart. I'm funny. I'm ridiculously talented with words. But I'm also forgetful, crabby and tired a lot. I'm optimistic and I try and keep my hopes up, but at the same time, I have to be realistic because I don't want to set up false expectations for myself. I'm still working on the balance there.

But in the meantime, I'm just taking things day by day, breath by breath.

That's the Lyme life.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

So what's the deal with these strippers?

"What's the deal with these strippers?"

I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've been asked that question over the last several months regarding Men of the Strip. I've been called a groupie, which I'm not. I've been asked "which one are you with?" The answer is none. I've been asked if I work for them and travel with them (nope and nope). I've even been asked which one(s) I'm sleeping with. That got hysterical laughter as a response. The bottom line is, these guys are my family.

In November 2013, when I saw them for the first time, I knew I would be making the Men of the Strip a part of my life. Not because they're ridiculously handsome (they are!) or because I want to sleep with them (get real! they're almost young enough to be my sons!). I made them a part of my life because I believe in them. I believe in their brand. I believe in what they're doing. I believe in their talents, their charisma, their dreams and their ambition. I believe in every single one of these guys as individuals, and the men who brought them together, too. I've never seen a better group of people with one collective vision. 

When I witness someone living out their passion, fulfilling their dreams and reaching their goals, it gives me inspiration to follow my own journey. I see how hard they work at what they do, how much they push themselves to get where they want to go, and how committed they are to the project. They give me something to aspire to and I am so grateful for that.

I love these guys with all my heart and I will always stand by them and behind them proudly. I laugh when they laugh, I cry when they cry, and, let's face it, I scream when they get naked. I kid, I kid (No, I don't). Seriously though, I feel like a part of the team at this point (albeit waaaaay in the background) and I'm honored to be considered as such. They respect my advice, they're grateful for my help and support, and they return the love that's given.

For those who don't know me, when I am passionate about something, I'm passionate to the core. I'm not a groupie, I'm not a girlfriend, I'm not a plaything - I'm a fan, I'm a believer, but most importantly, I'm a friend and one of the luckiest people on earth to because of it. Thank you, Mike, Juan, Jeff, Glenn, Kyle, Chris, Keith, Joel, Chaun, Garo, Charles, Derek, and of course, Nate for welcoming me into your crazy world and allowing me be even the most remote part of this amazing team. 

My love, respect, appreciation, and gratitude to you all.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Forty Acts of Kindness

Meet Baby Mel. 

In twelve days, this baby turns forty. FORTY! In those forty years I've accomplished a lot of amazing things. I've loved. I've lost. I've survived. I've triumphed. All in all, those forty years have been incredibly generous to me. My world is filled with friends, family and loved ones who've made my life richer.

When I turned thirty-nine last year, I told my friends and family, "Forty is a big deal and I want a big deal made out of it. I want a party. I want cake. I want to have the time of my life." I've reminded them numerous times in this last year and last month, I found out that my bestie and my hubby worked together to send me to Las Vegas around my birthday to see New Kids on the Block. I. Am. THRILLED!  I can't wait to leave and I really hope the Lyme is willing to take a three day break so I can thoroughly enjoy my vacation.

That being said, I still want my fortieth birthday to be something special - not just for me, though. With this illness has come a lot of self-reflection. Some of it has been hard to swallow, but mostly, it's been a good thing. I've realized that as far as an impact on the world goes, I haven't made much of one. I'm not saying I haven't impacted people's lives; I've been told I have and I believe that. But I want to go bigger. Be bigger. DO bigger.

That's where you come in.

Between now and July 6th, I am asking everyone who reads this to do ONE random act of kindness and then tell me what it was. Just one. It can be simple, it can be complicated. It can be expensive or it can be priceless. Just pick one thing that you can do for someone else who hasn't asked you to. There are too many examples to list here, but some that come to mind are buying someone's lunch at a restaurant, adopting a shelter animal, plugging a quarter in someone's parking meter, sending a card to someone whose life could use some brightening, offering a stranger a hug. If you need ideas, go here, or here, or even here. The ideas are truly endless. 

Like I said, though, I want to know what you've done. If you want to tell me anonymously, that's fine. But I'd like to update this blog in a couple weeks and fill it with the things that people have done to help make the world a better place. I tend to be a bit cynical at times and I know others can be too, so I want to inspire convince them that the world isn't as bad as we think it is.

Will you help?

You can let me know in numerous ways what fun and selfless thing you've done:
Twitter: @OUBad
Email: mel.henry at gmail dot com
Or by commenting here in this blog

I, too, will be doing acts of kindness. Forty of them, as a matter of fact. I can't wait!

I'm looking forward to seeing the creative ways we all come up with for giving back!!

P.S. Can I still get the cake, too?