Origin Stories.

Every year about this time, I write a post similar to this one. Then I don’t publish it, out of concern that my words would be misread or misunderstood. This year I decided to go ahead and hit that publish button.

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For the past ten years, the constants of my life have been that I am a writer, a mom, a wife, an accountant, a homeschooler. But four years ago, that shifted dramatically. Very suddenly I found myself sure I was going to die, dealing with daily chest pains and blacking out and heart racing. Four months of every medical test imaginable and I was diagnosed with Dysautonomia. Since that point my life has consisted of working every day at being able to minimize my symptoms. Drinking obscene amounts of water, running nearly every day, abstaining partially or wholly from the delicious parts of life like caffeine and chocolate and sugar, IV treatments, and tracking everything imaginable to see what helps or hurts my situation.

For clarification, I actually do live a fairly normal life, but I work seriously hard at being able to do so.

There are some things I can’t fix, however. I have tried countless things to make my brain work as quickly and as wittily as it used to, and nothing seems to help. Writing takes infinitely longer, and I have shrunk my writing schedule down from 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, times a week to the current 2 and sometimes only 1 time a week. If I happen to go back and read something that I wrote more than four years ago, I end up in a funk for a couple of days because it makes me so mad at how well my mind formerly functioned. And then it frightens me that my brain is in a continuing state of decline, and it’s going to get even worse.

Every year about this time, when my Dysautonomia gets especially rough (thanks, summer) and my brain gets unendingly fuzzy, I struggle with whether I should continue writing, or if I should take that pressure off of myself and quit while I’m ahead. Other times I glance at my blog’s dwindling visitor numbers and ponder whether I’m like a sitcom that’s gone three seasons too long.

But then I remember that the real reason I’m writing is for my children to read. They have 2,100+ posts over nearly ten years, many documenting their lives, and they already enjoy reading and hearing the stories I’ve captured here. Although Ali has reached the age where I don’t write about her as much because she deserves her privacy, Noah still has a lot of childhood left to document. And so I convince myself to keep writing – to not care if I’m boring people or losing readers with my diminished ability to craft words in a captivating manner. I write for the reason I started writing – to record our own personal history book.

(It really is hard to remember that because I love you all so much, and the hundreds of relationships I’ve birthed out of writing are precious to me. But at the end of the day, I try (but often fail) not to stress about my writing.)

So if I don’t write as often as I used to, or if you also notice that my writing style has drastically shifted, or if I take a long quiet break, please know that I’m probably somewhere, racking my brain for words and original thought, frustrated that I can’t remember how to think creatively.

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But as hard as the writing loss has been, from the journey of dysautonomia came my love for photography. Because when my brain was too foggy to form words, I could still tell stories in picture. And since I was now forced to exercise to stay lucid, I was seeing (and appreciating) more of my surrounding world on the daily.

From that birthed Picture Birmingham, my photography business where I sell my prints, note cards, and other photo art products so that I can donate all the profits to The WellHouse, a ministry that helps rescue and care for victims of human trafficking. In the three years of Picture Birmingham’s existence, it has raised over $15,000 for The WellHouse – and zero dollars of that would have existed if I hadn’t gotten dysautonomia.

So although my daily life is affected in annoying and constant ways, and although my ability to craft words and love for writing has been decimated, and although I have to work every day to live normally, dysautonomia has forced me to LIVE to be able to live – and therefore, to help my children also live a life full of seeing our beautiful world. It has forced me to appreciate my state, to explore, to engage in nature, and to do crazy things like go in a wet cave and climb on a slippery pedestal above a 50 foot drop.

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It has changed who I am and what I value. It has given me an appreciation for this spectacular world and an ability to go explore it. It has given me the opportunity to use those explorations to help women that are suffering in ways that I cannot imagine.

So yes, I have an incurable illness. And yes, that’s really stupid and annoying. But as illnesses go, this one does have its blessings. And I am, (at least some of the time,) okay with that.

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On Nuts and the Blogosphere.

Like you, my inbox has gotten its usual case of severe Winter Flu. It’s a pox, really. A Plague. Every retail establishment I’ve never been interested in is sending me multiple emails a day about their Black Friday Deals and their even better Cyber Monday deals and their EVEN BETTER final sale prices and their AMAZINGLY BEST post-Cyber-Week deals.

STAHHHP.

But. Being a blogger also brings an entirely other echelon of contagion, as well.

Every day. Every stinking day. I get emails from brands suggesting their amazing product for any “Christmas Gift Round-Up Posts” that I might be writing. Or offering me hi-res images (squee!!!) of their fantastic new item in exchange for blogging about them. And of course there are the endless stream of non-humans wanting to guest post and possibly include an innocent link or two in their unbelievably meaningful post titled “Ten Steps to Picking the Right Vacuum for Your Household.”

Seriously. STAHHHHHHHP.

I always forward the best of these emails to Chris, because he, as a blogger’s husband, has come to truly appreciate the pain of a horrible marketing pitch.

Which is what I did with this beauty earlier this week that had the tricky subject line “Quick Question”:

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Guys. I so wanted to reply back and explain to the Community Coordinator that any blogger willing to “create a conversation about on-the-go snacking this holiday season” for any amount of compensation, let alone the enticing promise of “and we will share our favorite posts with our Twitter community”, most likely doesn’t have any readers that are interested in what they have to say because WHO WANTS TO BE A PART OF THIS CONTRIVED CONVERSATION. I respect you, and myself, too much for that. 

(And besides that, who exactly feels comfortable typing in the URL “nuts.com” without all the trepidation?)

But I didn’t. And instead I texted Chris excerpts, and as I knew he would, he internalized the great email pain on my behalf.

Nuts Text One

But then.

Then, a few minutes later, my blessed husband sent me this repurposing of my photo from Monday.

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Nuts Text Two

 

Because THIS is how you successfully reach people in the year 2015.

This message was not brought to you by nuts.com. Although it should be. And if nuts.com would like to buy my photo to skyrocket them into viral internet fame, it’s for sale. Because nuts. And my magnificent husband.

The Great Questioning.

Ninety-three percent of the relationship between a mother and her children is comprised of answering questions. The same questions. Over and over and over.

They never tell you that in the parenting books. Or at the hospital.

“This is how you change a diaper…and here’s how you get them to latch on…and you need to clean their umbilical cord stump like this…and are you prepared to spend the next twenty years of your life answering the same pointless questions on repeat?”

I guess it would be a bit overwhelming to find that out when you’re just trying to figure out how to properly hold a freshly popped-out miniature human.

But it’s true.

_MG_9955The question pictured is less adorable than it appears.

All children’s questions can fall into these categories:

1. What is happening next?

Examples: What are we having for lunch? When can we see Gramamma and Pop again? When will I lose my first tooth? How many days until we go on vacation again? When can I get a parrot for my birthday?

2. Can I have?

Examples: Can I have candy? Can I have that toy? Can I eat my pancake even though it dropped on the floor? Can I have random object that doesn’t exist anywhere in the known universe except in my head?

3. Why not?

Examples: Why can’t I stay up until midnight? Why can’t I eat candy for breakfast? Why can’t I have the random object that I just made up?

4. Will you get me?

Examples: Will you get me some juice? Will you get me a snack? Will you get me that box of stickers on the top shelf of your closet that will almost certainly cause a landslide of other random objects to pour down onto your head?

5. Are we there yet?

Example: I know we just pulled out of the driveway, but by some beautiful coincidence have we also just arrived at our destination?

6. What does that say?

Examples: What does that sign say? How about that sign? And that sign? And that sign and that sign and that sign and that sign?

7. What does that mean?

Examples: What does vasectomy mean? What does episiotomy mean? What does incessant questioning mean?

 

Questioning has always been the biggest hobby of the shorter members of our family, but lately, we have been plagued (and I do mean plagued – like the-land-crawling-in-locusts-plagued) with the first category of questions. Our two children seem to be obsessed with the future, and spend 99% of the present asking about said future.

I don’t think Chris quite believed me when I told him how bad it had gotten (“Like locusts in your ears, in your cereal, in your toilet, in your sealed water bottle bad, honey”), because when I suggested we have a family meeting about this problem, he seemed to think this too drastic a step.

Until the weekend came.

“I’ll answer all their questions this weekend”, he vowed.

I readily agreed. It’s not that Chris is normally unhelpful – he’s actually the most helpful sort – but fathers have the ability to completely tune out children – especially their steady stream of questioning – in a way that mothers can only lust after.

Chris took the family to the mall to see a traveling Lego exhibit. During the entire tour of the mall, he was barraged with the locusts flowing from our children’s mouths.

“Are we almost there?”

“Can we go to the hot dog truck next?”

“When are we going to eat dinner?”

“When I’m ten do you think I’ll be able to do a cartwheel?”

“Are we going to eat dinner at the mall?”

“Can I have a car when I grow up?”

“Can we go to Build-A-Bear and make a Minion?”

“Can we ride the train?”

He answered each question with a carefully measured level of patience and ignored my smug sideways smiles.

Finally, he started answering with, “Just enjoy the present, kids. No more questions about the future. We’re at the mall doing something special. Just focus on that.”

The questions then got modified to focus on “the present”.

“What is the next Lego exhibit we’re going to see?”

“When will we find the Lego White House?”

“When we grow up can we make giant Lego sculptures like this?”

My smile began to have giggling sound effects as I filled with glee at not being the only one to realize that our children had jumped headfirst down the rabbit hole of endless parental inquisition.

We piled into the car and Chris sucked in a deep, calming breath.

I went ahead and said it for him.

“We need to have a family meeting, kids.”

“Okay Mommy!”

“Y’all have got to quit asking so many questions about the future. We can’t always, or don’t want to always, answer them. We will inform you what is going to happen next when when choose. So. We’re going to have a code word that Daddy and I will say when you’ve just asked a question about the future, and you’ll know that code word means ‘we’re not going to answer that and you need to not ask questions like that ever, ever again.’ So – what would y’all like the code word to be?”

(We’ve done this code word trick once before and it was a great way to not feel like we were nagging all the time. Ali was having a problem biting her lower lip and was therefore pushing her two front teeth outward, making the dentist threaten early braces. So we came up with the code word “strawberry”, and every time we said that to her she was to quit biting her bottom lip. It helped break the habit and we didn’t have to waste syllables constantly.)

Ali: “How about Snickerdoodle?”

Me: “Too long. I’m going to be saying this code word A LOT. I need something two syllables or less.”

Ali: “Then just Doodle?”

Me: “We like Doodle’s Sorbet too much. Let’s not sully that name.”

Ali: “Okay. Could we use a car name?”

Me: “Sure.”

Ali: “Hmm….Honda?”

Me: “Honda is perfect. So anytime Daddy or I say ‘Honda’, you both know what that means. Right?”

“Right.”

It took approximately two minutes.

“Where are we going for dinn—“ “HONDA!”

Then, at dinner, “When I’m twelve can I get a kitten?”

“That’s like the biggest Honda ever.”

Then, after dinner, “Where are we going next?”

“HONDA!”

“Are we there yet?”

“HONDA!”

“Are we close to there yet?”

“HON-freaking-DA!”

It hasn’t slowed the questioning yet, but Honda is calling and wanting their royalty check.