Low batt.

In 2003, Christine Miserandino explained chronic illness to a friend in terms that are now widely referred to as The Spoon Theory, see it here.  Since that time, people like me, who have chronic illness, have been thankful to have a way to convey tangibly what it feels like to be totally depleted, or “out of spoons”.

We were away this past weekend at a basketball tournament in Chicago, and, having used all of my spoons, I shared the analogy with my husband.  I told the story, as best I could remember it, and he said, “Hm. I like the analogy.  I get how spoons can carry, or hold, energy.”  Yesterday I was talking with my daughter after almost two days of trying to replenish my store of spoons.  She was trying to understand how a whirlwind trip to Chicago took me out of commission for most of two days.  My husband prompted me to share the spoon theory with her.  I did.  She said, “so can you store up spoons in advance?” I replied, “No.  You can loan some out from the future, but you’ve got to pay them back.  That’s what I’m doing now.”

So, if you got this far  without clicking on the link above, you are probably scratching your head and trying to decide whether or not you are going to continue reading this cryptic post or if you are just going to close the window.  If you clicked and saw the page-long “spoon theory” you might have said, “Well, I’m not gonna read all that and this blog post.” I know.  That’s why in the past three or four years I have only shared the spoon theory a half a dozen times.  It’s an effective analogy, yes.  But it takes some explaining.

So, I was going through my motions this morning thinking to myself, “is there a more accessible way to convey how I am feeling?” I mean, people with chronic invisible illness find themselves in this position rather often.  People look at us and think, “She looks alright to me!” They don’t understand when we “can’t” stay to watch the second round of games in the tournament because we have to go sleep.  They don’t understand why we make plans always “tentatively” because we might feel like crap on that day. They wonder why we didn’t make it to Bible study in the morning, but we were able to teach a class in the afternoon.

Maybe we could think of it in terms of limited battery life. We all carry devices around with us wherever we go, don’t we?  They all rely on batteries.  To make sure that our devices are functional all day long, we plug them in every night at our bedside.  Some of us have chargers in our cars.  In many public places — airports, malls, libraries –we can now find charging stations.  We push our devices to their limits.  They get depleted; we have to plug them back in or they will be rendered useless.

Most people have internal “batteries” that can keep them running for twelve to fourteen hours with a minimal recharge sometime during the day.  They might be up and out the door before seven, sipping a cuppa joe on the way to work.  They might need a brief pause around 10 o’clock and some kind of a lunch break, but then they are good to go for the rest of the day.  They might even have enough battery life left to get dinner with friends or attend a play or a concert in the evening. In fact, they can keep up this pace day after day and even get away on the weekend occasionally without fully depleting their battery life.

Not me.  Not any of us with chronic illness.  Our batteries have been rendered less effective.  I might have up to eight hours of battery life per day.  If I start off at 7 am and don’t take a break, I will almost certainly be done and in my pajamas at 3 pm.  So, I don’t usually function that way.  I use 20% of my battery, then I sit down and try to ‘re-charge’.  I may get 5-10% back if I sit down, put my feet up, have a cup of tea, or close my eyes.  In that way, I s-t-r-e-t-c-h eight hours of battery life into twelve to fourteen hours of wakefulness, if not usefulness.

Occasionally, I throw all caution to the wind and decide that I am going to take a chance, push my battery to the limits, attend a basketball tournament out of state, and suffer the consequences.  That’s what I did this last weekend.  I had already had a pretty busy week — I had tutored twelve hours, taught the first two classes of the semester, arranged for doggy care, done laundry, tidied the house, purchased new jeans, and packed — before we woke at 5:30am to prepare for a journey to Chicago that would begin at 7am.  We arrived in Chicago around 11am CST, found the gym, got some lunch, then watched two basketball games.  Of course we “sat” at the top of the student section, so, because they stood for the whole two games, we stood for the whole two games.  All of this was a physical drain on my batteries.  And then there was the emotional drain.  All emotion drains battery life — positive and negative.  While at this tournament, I saw many former students and some former colleagues.  There was so much hugging and smiling!  I loved it, but it drained me.  By the time we headed back to the hotel at 5pm, I was done.  I put on my pajamas, crawled in bed, and began to read student papers.  (Yes, I realize that I said I was done and then I continued to do more — I’m telling you, I threw caution to the wind!) My husband and the others went out to get food.  When he got back, I had barely enough energy to chew.  I ate my dinner, then fell asleep before one episode of “Modern Family” could play out.

Then I slept for TWELVE HOURS.

We got up at 8:30am, grabbed a quick breakfast and headed back to the gym for more reunions, more hugging, more standing, more yelling, and more cheering — four games worth!  Then, at 9:30pm, we started the trek home. Since my husband was driving the van following two charter busses full of students, I wanted to stay awake to keep him awake and alert.  So, we drank caffeine at 10pm and chugged along.  It was like I had purchased an external battery pack. I was wide awake on purpose.  We blared music and sang.  We talked and laughed.  Finally, at 2:15am, we arrived home.  Of course I couldn’t go straight to sleep. I had to run out that external battery, which was, of course, disposable, not renewable.

I found that out halfway through my sleep, if you can call it that.  Having depleted all of my own battery, and the external battery, my body didn’t even have enough energy to sleep.  It started to scream from the inside out — a burning sensation filled my gut, my joints ached.  No position was comfortable.  I thought I would have to run to the bathroom to be sick.

Have you ever run your phone battery down so low that the phone actually shuts off? When you first plug it in, you get that image of a battery with a thin red line showing the depravity of life you have allowed your phone to deplete to? Guys, I had a screaming red line.

For all of Sunday I whimpered, whined, and convalesced while my husband, dear man that he is, carried my charge cord around and kept plugging it in — he brought me scrambled eggs and toast, which I at first couldn’t even eat; he ran me an epsom salt bath, which I gladly soaked in for an hour; he brought me tea, and water, and ice; he watched a movie with me; he endured an emotional meltdown; he encouraged me to go to bed at 7:30pm.

Then I slept for TWELVE HOURS. AGAIN.

It’s now Tuesday morning, and I’m pretty sure my battery is at about 70%.  I’m gonna go amble off to the gym, hobble onto the treadmill for a few minutes, then sit in the jacuzzi.  After that ‘workout’, I will meet with three students and prepare for tomorrow’s class.  I hope I still have 15-20% left at 7:30pm so that I can sit in on a board meeting conference call.

But if not, I’ll just have to crawl into bed and sleep some more.  That’s the price of throwing caution to the wind when you have limited battery life.

Isaiah 40:29

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

Let it simmer

So today is a ‘let it simmer’ kind of day.  You know what I mean?

I rolled out of bed rather reluctantly, muttering under my breath something about, “I am so sick and tired of being sick and tired…” I made my smoothie and my tea.  I got in the car and drove to the physical therapist.  When she asked me how I was doing, I admitted that I was feeling frustrated, defeated, and maybe even hopeless.

In her gentle physical therapy whisperer way, she put her hands on me, played an audio recording that spoke directly to my need, and spoke directly to my body, soul, and spirit.

Her words, and the words on the recording, reminded me that I had just celebrated in this blog yesterday the fact that I have been blessed by this illness. Blessed to pause.  Blessed to process.  And, as I see in the first paragraph I wrote above, I have been blessed with a home,  a rather comfortable bed,  tea,  the luxury of a smoothie every morning,  a vehicle, and the privilege of going to physical therapy once a week.

And not just any physical therapy — a physical therapy session wherein my therapist speaks Biblical words of truth into my life.

And it’s not oppressive. Or preachy.  Or false.  It is true.

How do I know it’s true?  Because as I am lying on the table, feeling her hands on my head, hearing her utter simple words of truth, I feel tears — soft, quiet, tears — dripping down my face.

She’s known me for two months, yet God’s spirit inhabiting her could see the need in my spirit and speak directly to me.  I don’t even remember what she said to tell you the truth.  All I know is that in those moments on that table I was reminded that He loves me, He pursues me, and He will heal me.

Yeah, I’m just gonna let that simmer for a bit today.

Psalm 107:43

Let the one who is wise heed these things
    and ponder the loving deeds of the Lord.

This is Now

I wonder how many times I am going to write the same content in this blog before I finally get it.

I’m knocked down again, because I was probably trying to do too much.

We had dinner with friends last week.  The couple asked me, “So how are you feeling?” I answered, “Well, I was doing great until I sat on the bleachers in the cold at the football game for three hours.” That was nine days ago.  Yes, it can be something that little.

I went on to explain the frustration I have with this because I used to be able to do so much.  So much.  But, as I’ve written so many times in this blog — that was then, this is now.

I knew I was in trouble last weekend when I had difficulty moving around the day after the football game.  We went to church then came home and rested.  I fussed and whined for a bit, then my husband suggested we go for a walk.  Movement always helps.  After we walked, we came home to make it an early night.

I didn’t adjust my schedule last week to allow myself time to recover, after all, I teach two hours three days a week and see a few students outside of that.  What would I need to pare down? I am already pared way down.   So, I was moving a little slowly, big deal.  Surely I could still teach and see a few students.

Well, a few students turned into ten hours of tutoring.  Add that to six hours in the classroom and five to six hours of prep and I still had a work week that was fewer than twenty-five hours.  However, we also went to dinner and a play on Thursday night. Then, we drove to a neighboring town on Saturday for a wedding.  Yesterday we spent the morning at church.  Finally, I uncharacteristically agreed to meet two students on Sunday evening.

And this morning? Well, I pried myself out of bed at 8:00am to take my meds and send messages to my doctors to see what I can do about the fact that I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck.  My body aches– neck, hips, knees, back. My eyes are the worst — aching, irritated, sensitive to light. And fatigue?  Yeah.  I’ve made a promise to myself that I will shower at 11 this morning so that I am on time for my noon class. I will probably force myself to stay dressed long enough to drive out and refill my medication at the pharmacy, otherwise I won’t have pain meds tomorrow morning.  And, I will likely make an agreement with myself that I am only allowed to watch television and crochet if I do twenty minutes of Pilates first.

And, I know I’ve got to do some preparing because I have four students tomorrow — one who is new.  Wednesday I teach and then I will see four more students. And even that, folks, is sounding like a lot right now.

It sounds like a lot to a girl who used to arrive at school before 7am, prepare for students or attend meetings until 8, teach, observe other teachers, mentor students, run with the cross country team, and still go home to make dinner, do laundry, and attend events with the family.

That was then, this is now.

I have to remind myself of what I wrote just a few days ago.  This opportunity to slow down has afforded me the time to reflect and find meaning in the ways that I have lived my life for the past forty-nine years. This new pace, this pace of now, is a blessing and an opportunity.

But today I don’t like it. At all.

Psalm 55:17

Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.

Hope for Healing

About a month ago I read a book given to me by a pastor friend.  I mentioned it in the post, “Praying for Healing.” I was wrestling with the conflict between believing that God can heal me and being content with my current state.  I still am, but some shift has happened.

First, I have begun to pray more consistently for my healing.  In those prayers, I have imagined what it might look like if I were fully restored to the health that I had just over three years ago.  It would be amazing.

Second, I went to my rheumatologist who has declared that my malady is not psoriatic arthritis, but fibromyalgia.  She has been saying this for a year, but this time she was more insistent.  In fact, her recommendation is that I go to a primary care physician who can prescribe medication to manage my pain.  She doesn’t need to see me any more; I just need to accept this diagnosis. Period.

Third, I consulted with my primary care physician, who specializes in integrative medicine.  She believes that I can feel better than I do. She believes that I will one day have a regular schedule again.

So, as any rational person would do, I decided to ignore the rheumatologist. I am not going to see her any more. Instead, I am stepping up the treatments suggested by my PCP.  And, oh yeah, I’ve been praying.  For improved health.  For complete healing of my body, mind, and spirit.  For an understanding of the pace that will work for me.

For the past month or so, my integrative medicine doc has been prescribing some homeopathic interventions.  They are weird. Small tiny pellets that look like the interior of a vintage bean bag come in a small brown bottle.  You put 3-5 of these pellets under your tongue, as directed.  That’s all.  Oh, and you can’t drink coffee.  Tea is fine, but something in the coffee renders the homeopathic remedies ineffective.

And here’s the thing about homeopathic remedies — sometimes they cause a mild flare before they improve health.  And, guess what.  They did.  I was on one of the remedies for just a few days when I had a recurrence of the ocular herpes that I contracted about a year ago.  It was miserable.  I had to see my ophthalmologist and get an antiviral to get it under control. Also, I have had a slow simmer of psoriasis for most of the time that I have been on these treatments.

However, here’s the good news.  I am noticing an increase in energy.  Now, granted, I did just change jobs, so I might be flying on adrenaline.  I did just reduce my hours, so I might not be as exhausted.  But, I am pretty sure this is legit improvement.  I mean, anyone with chronic illness will tell you that the overwhelming fatigue you feel on a daily basis is not something that can just be disguised by excitement or adrenaline.  I have been so exhausted for the past three years that I have been barely able to see to drive home at night.  I have had difficulty forming complete thoughts or sentences after dinner.  I have hardly been able to walk into the house at the end of the day.  But guys, this week I have started a new position.  I have met new students and remembered their names.  I have helped my daughter load up all her belongings for a cross country move.  I have hosted dinner guests.  And, I have stayed up late at night to blog, to read, and to manage family details.

It’s something.  I’m hopeful.  And for even this small improvement, I am thankful.

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,

Psalm 108: 1-4

Praying for healing, pt. 2

A week ago I wrote about a book that had been given to me by a trusted pastoral — How Can I Ask God for Healing? When I left you, I was headed to that pastor’s house to return the book.  I read all the way there and still had about 100 pages to go when we walked into his house.  I handed the book to him and said, “I want to return this to you; you can see by the book mark how far I made it.” He said I could keep it longer to finish it.  I replied, “Doesn’t somebody else need it?”  He said, “I only loan this copy out to special people; I would really like you to finish it.”

Well, what do you say so an octogenarian pastor whose speciality is prayer?  Do you tell him, “No thanks, I’m good.” And, to be honest, by that time, I had kind of become attached to the book, I did want to read the ‘rest of the story’.  So, I thanked him and brought the book back home.

While we were in his presence, he pulled me aside and shared several stories of how prayer had changed the lives of people he had been working with.  He wasn’t trying to build his argument; he was simply sharing his awe at the power of God.  I was reminded of his rich history in ministry and of the authority he has in terms of spiritual things.

This week I finished the book.  This morning I turned back to the introduction and started reading again.

(Note to my children and any former students, this is a prime example of my favorite saying, “Anybody can change.”)

Here is the journey so far:

I have an autoimmune disease — or at least something that looks like one. For the last three years I have struggled with extreme fatigue, psoriasis, joint pain, inflammation, and eye irritation.  These symptoms limit my life and have caused us to make major life adjustments — change in careers, relocation to a much smaller home, significant financial decisions, and numerous lifestyle changes including diet, exercise, social life, etc.

Some positive things have come from this situation. We move much more slowly; I have experienced significant emotional and spiritual healing;  I have been freed to write again, which brings so much value to my life. We have praised God in this disease for the ways He has used it to alter some patterns that have needed to be altered for years.

But the truth remains, I do have a disease. Why wouldn’t I ask God for healing?  Let me clarify by saying that I have prayed for healing.  It is a regular prayer of mine that God would heal my body, mind, and spirit.  In fact, shortly after my symptoms started, we gathered many trusted members of our faith community to pray over me.  As I look back and remember all those hands on me and tears rolling down my cheeks, I picture myself hoping God would heal me, but actually feeling that these prayers were step one in accepting the fact that things were going to be different from now on.

Let me further clarify by saying that my husband is a faithful man of prayer; I doubt that a day has gone by in the last three years that he has not asked for my complete healing.  He, and our pastor friend, and probably my mother.

Me, I regularly pray that God would heal my body, mind, and spirit, while at the same time accepting the fact that I am walking in a new reality. And I want to affirm that accepting reality is, by its own right, rather healthy.  Acknowledging that my symptoms are real and not fabrications of my mind has been a struggle in itself.  I really do have limitations even though it may not appear from the outside that I do.  Saying out loud, in the presence of others, that I “can’t” do things has been a monumental step in this new chapter. Is it possible for me to know that I have a disease while at the same time praying for and believing God to heal me?  I think that is the conflict of the moment.

So, as per usual, I read my Bible study this morning.  Joshua and the Israelites marching around Jericho seven days in a row, because God said so, and making the walls “come a-tumbling down”.  As I was reading it, a page from How Can I Ask God for Physical Healing popped onto my brain screen– it’s actually a chart, two pages long, of all the healing stories in the Bible.  Shriveled hands, blindness, leprosy, paralysis, fever, death — all healed because Jesus said so.

Again, I know God can heal me, at His word.  Do I trust Him enough to ask boldly and believe that He will? Or will I continue to pray, “Well, if you want to, it’d be great if you took away this disease.”

I’ll keep you posted.

And the prayer, offered in faith, will make the sick person well;

The Lord will raise them up.

James 5:15

Praying for Healing?

So, a few days ago I ended my blog post with the scripture from Matthew 7, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”  Sounds simple, right?

I mean, didn’t I just write on Thursday about all the prayers that had been answered?  I have seen the beauty of ask and receive, but in one area I am struggling.

My husband and I have a dear pastor friend — no, he’s more than that.  I will call him a spiritual father — especially to my husband.  He is a prayer pioneer who has spent more hours on his knees than anyone else I know. Since he heard about my illness he has prayed for me every day.  Every. Single. Day. Several months ago he passed a book to me through my husband called How Can I Ask God for Physical Healing? So, knowing that it was from the man who we deeply respect and love, I opened and began reading it immediately, right?  Nope. I actually stuck it in a drawer and forgot about it.

Why?  Well, my reasoning has been that although my physical health is suffering, many areas of my life are much healthier than they have ever been.  Why would I beg God to take something away that He has used to create dramatic change in my life?  I mean, if He heals me, I will probably just go back to my butt-kicking, name-taking habits, right?

When I received this book I thought to myself, “(Sigh), I am not one of those name it and claim it type of people. If God decides to heal me, great.  If He decides not to, that’ll be ok, too.”  I mean, yes, my life is very different than it once was.  I move more slowly, my thoughts get a bit cloudy, some of my activities are limited, but I’m not dying over here.  I could live like this.  I don’t love it, but worse things could happen.  “I don’t need to read a book about healing; I am just coming to terms with the new realities of my life.”

So I was at work the other day when my husband sent me a text asking if I was done with the book; our friend wanted it back. Gulp. No, I hadn’t actually started it.  Later in the day, my husband told me that we had been invited to this friend’s house for a family dinner — today.

Well, that was the nudge I needed.  I read about a hundred pages yesterday and picked up the book again when I got home from church today. Here’s what I have so far — the book does not outline a 12-step process that ‘guarantees’ healing; I don’t know why I thought it would.  It doesn’t tell me all the things I am doing wrong in my life or ways to change so that God will provide me with healing.  It doesn’t say that God will heal me; it does say that God can. 

Of course I knew that.  I have said that all along.  But, further, it challenges me to take a good long look at why I became sick in the first place — I have done this to a degree, but this gives me some additional areas to consider.  It also challenges me to examine my relationship with God and what I believe about Him.  I am fine with all of that, but I am getting to the sticky part of the healing prayer topic– you may have heard this language before, I know I have. Trusting God for healing. Using authoritative faith. Believing God for his promises.

Now, to be fair, I am judging the second half of the book before I have read it…and I am planning on giving the book back to its owner in just a few hours. I am not sure I will finish it.  So, why am I blogging instead of reading?  I think because I am not sure I want to totally invest myself in ‘believing for a miracle’.  I mean, I do tend to invest 100%.  And the book has already told me that God may choose not to heal me.  What if I ‘believe for a miracle healing’ and I don’t get it?  Will I be angry with God and give Him the silent treatment — again? I don’t know that I want to take that risk.  I think I would feel better about just accepting what I have been given, walking in this path, and not questioning it.

You know what I mean?

But nagging in the back of my mind is this thought — why don’t you just finish reading it?  will it kill you? is it possible that you could learn something or reshape your thinking? why are you so closed to this topic?

Ok, ok…I have another hour before we have to get in the car.  Let me read a little further and see what I find.  I’m trying not to be stubborn over here.  I’ll let you now what happens.

John 16:23-24

I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name…

Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

Reviewing Observations

Last June I resigned my full-time teaching/school administrator position to relocate to Michigan from Missouri.  I did this because a) I love my husband; and  b) I have a life-style changing auto-immune disease. I took six months off from work and have been gradually introducing more and more work into my life since January. I’m almost a year into this grand experiment, and  I’m eady to review some of my observations.

After the initial dust settled from our cross-country move, I spent a significant amount of time on the couch watching Netflix, in my bed resting, at the gym exercising, and on my computer blogging.  I really needed that time to recover after over 20 years of parenting, schooling, and working at or above my human capacity.  It was lovely — I had time to make friends, I began to listen to my body, I reconnected with my love for writing. It was healing physically, yes, and also emotionally.  For the first time in twenty-two years, my husband and I were living alone, enjoying a slower pace, and sucking up every minute of it.

But, I couldn’t quite rest easily because I didn’t have any students in my life. I know, I know –over the past umpteen years I have fussed and fumed about the menagerie of kids that have sat across the table from me — they are egocentric, they don’t meet deadlines, and, indeed, they smell bad.  But, you know, I love them. I can’t seem to get enough of them.  Something magical exists within each of us — an innate ability to learn, to process, to interact and be changed — that will never cease to take my breath away.  I had to have students back in my life.

It started with just one guy — a graduate student who needed help on his dissertation.  What a joy that was!  I got to have a text-based conversation with him about educational practices and how they impact learning!  That taste just whetted my appetite, so I moved onto a retired writing instructor who had written a novel and just wanted a final proof for grammar and punctuation errors.  That led me to set up a profile on an online service connecting teachers with students for one-on-one assistance.  In six months I have logged over 120 hours with almost twenty different students ranging from sixth graders to graduate students.  I’ve worked on research papers, vocabulary lessons, dissertations, speeches, and test preparation.  Each lesson is different, each student a challenge.

So why didn’t I stop there?  While tutoring independently, I could still maintain my exercise regimen, still build friendships, still find time to rest.  Why did I have to push the limits and take on a job that will soon be at forty hours a week for the duration of the summer? Because I had to know. I had to know if I was imagining my limitations or if they were real.  Maybe I was just burnt out from teaching and sorely in need of a vacation.  Maybe I had imagined all my symptoms.  Surely I didn’t have that much pain, that much fatigue, that much stiffness.  How could a regular job be too difficult for me?

Because it is.  This week I worked thirty-two hours at the agency and an additional seven hours tutoring.  Not quite 40 hours, but it was a bit too much.  Yesterday, at the end of an eight-hour shift, I met some friends for drinks and dinner.  I called one of my friends by the wrong name — twice!  This is a friend I have known since the fall! I was mortified. I thoroughly enjoyed the evening, but I was home before nine and crawled straight into bed — no reading, no television, no nothing.  I was entirely depleted.

This morning I woke up crabbily.  I can feel the inflammation through my body like an electric current.  It is as if I am electric blanket that has been turned up to ‘high’ —   I can feel all the wires as they heat up.  My lips are dry and tingling. My back and hips ache.  My eyes are screaming, “If you think you are going to put those contacts in, think again!”

Yup, it’s too much.  And, just to be sure, I am going to push it a little further.  This week will be a little lighter because of a trip I am taking for the second half of the week, but then I am certain I will be working over forty hours a week for the duration of the summer.  Why don’t I just walk away now?  Because I know me.  If I walk away right now, I will rest up for a few weeks then start thinking that perhaps I was imagining my fatigue, maybe I didn’t really have all that pain, maybe my symptoms weren’t real.

Nope, I’m not going to walk away right now.  I am going to finish the experiment all the way to the end to be sure I come to all the right conclusions. My hypothesis is that I am going to be utterly exhausted and ready to slow back down, but I’ve got to complete this experiment to be sure.

Psalm 103:8

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

Living in the Tension

The tension is rising. How long will I last?

I’ve been working about twenty hours a week at the agency and an additional eight hours tutoring on my own. Just twenty-eight hours.  No big deal, especially when compared to what I had been doing before moving to Ann Arbor.  And, I’ve been holding my own.  Kind of.

My family has been helping with laundry, cleaning, and the care of the dog.  I cook dinner two or three times a week and expect that the other nights everyone can forage for their own sustenance, because I often have no interest in food at the end of the day.  I recommitted to walking and minimal Pilates this week when I noticed that my exercise life had all but disappeared. And, I’ll admit that a few symptoms are creeping back in.

It’s nothing serious — a little more fatigue, a little more stiffness, a mild rash on my face and some minimal psoriasis peeking out — nothing that anyone but I (and the people who live with me) will notice. But I’m only at twenty-eight hours.  ,

The agency is just beginning to show signs of the summer crank-up.  A co-worker showed me the “summer chart” yesterday with the names of all the students and instructors that will be crammed into our office suite starting in the next couple of weeks. It’s exciting–and intimidating.  We are going to increase our student and staff load exponentially by the middle of June.  I am expecting to be at full-time status in about three weeks.

Gulp.

I’ve been working from eight to noon, coming home, eating lunch, and resting for a few hours before I head back out to see my second round of students.  Then, when I get home the second time, I shed my clothes, get into pajamas, try to eat a little bit, watch a little television, catch up with Facebook and Words with Friends, then crawl to bed to read and sleep.

Wake up, repeat.

By the weekend I’m pretty wiped.  Last night I slept for ten hours. I am happy to say that it is going on eleven o’clock and I am still in my pajamas on this Saturday morning.

Now, as the work at the agency cranks up, the tutoring is going to slow down.  Many of my tutoring students are preparing for June exams, so they will not continue with me in the summer.  In fact, I think I will only have three or four weekly appointments once I hit full-time status, but do the math and you’ll see that I will be close to doubling my hours.

Yeah, I’m not sure how it’s going to work out, but I’m committed to the experiment.  By the end of summer I hope to know what the sweet spot is — how many hours of work is optimal?  My guess is right around twenty — just a little less than what I am doing right now.

So why am I moving forward with more? Because teaching feeds me. Yeah, I’m tired, but I got to celebrate with a ten-year-old who read ‘discombobulated’ this week. I got to read and discuss The Giver with an eleven-year-old who hasn’t read such a challenging book in his life! I got high-fives from a seven-year-old who spelled a whole bunch of words correctly.  I got to say “Bam!” when a police officer, who is studying for a test that will enable him to work for the DEA, remembered the three ways to punctuate two consecutive independent clauses.  I got to sit next to a Romanian immigrant and answer countless questions about English grammar and usage.

No, I didn’t get a ton of time to blog.  I didn’t make it to the gym.  My face hurts, and I’m pretty exhausted. But, guys, I got to watch people learn all. week. long. And the icing on the cake? I was learning right along with them. The last five months of working one-on-one with so many different students has taught me so much about language, but also so much about how people learn, and so much about what it means to me to be a teacher.

So, for the next few months, I am going to live in this tension.  Thanks, friends and family, for supporting me in my experiment. I know that my decision to live in the tension impacts you, too.

Psalm 90:17

Let the favor of the Lord, our God, be upon us, and establish the work of our hands;

yes, establish the work of our hands.

The Little Sleep

Four weeks into the new job and I’m struggling to find my rhythm.  Maybe it’s because the first two weeks were full-time and the second two weeks have been part-time.  Maybe it’s because I continue to tutor outside of work in addition to the instruction that I do at work.  Or it could be the fact that I spent last weekend away from home.

Whatever the reason(s) I feel a little discombobulated. I get up early, go to work, then come home before lunch to take care of household stuff, do my Bible study, read, work on my puzzle, or more often than I care to admit — nap.

I’ve never really been a napper. I have found that if I fall asleep in the middle of the day, I like to knock out for a couple of hours.  The problem is that when I wake up, I am often excessively crabby and not fit for human interaction.  Or, my mid-day nap interferes with my night-time sleep. Many people have told me to master the ‘catnap’.  I’ve tried.  True, after 15-20 minutes of napping, I generally feel refreshed. If I get right up and start moving, I have that second wind that everyone talks about.  However, I don’t generally want to get up after just 15-20 minutes.  If I was tired enough to lie down, I want to get some serious sleep.

And lately, I have been tired enough to lie down.  In fact, while I was away last weekend, I took advantage of our free time to nap!  Other women did crafts, went for a walk, or even shopped.  Me? I was knocked out. When I woke up, since I was not at home with people who love me regardless of how crabby I get, I put on my best behavior and walked with my roommate to the nearest coffee spot.  We had a lovely cuppa before we returned for the last activity of the evening.  But you can probably guess how that worked out — yup, I was still awake at 1am!

So, I fell asleep on the couch the next evening, woke to go to work, plowed through the next couple of days, and then yesterday took another nap.  When I woke, I had dinner, took a walk with my husband, refrained from caffeine, but still found myself awake until almost midnight.

Maybe this is my new rhythm.  Maybe I have to learn to be flexible — sleeping when I can.

*********************************

You won’t believe what just happened.  I wrote the last line, crawled into bed, and then slept for an hour!

This is definitely a new rhythm for me.  I have not been one to stop in the middle of a task to take a phone call or talk to a friend, let alone to lie down for a nap! Remember me? I the one who has been a soldier — marching on to battle unknown foes, kicking butts and taking names.  I haven’t been the kind of person who would stop mid-stride, drop all my defenses, and — gasp — sleep!

I think I need to face the facts — I am becoming a napper.  All kinds of changes are happening over here.

I lie down and sleep; I wake again because the Lord sustains me.

Psalm 3:5

Adjusting the Routine

I haven’t been finding time to get to my blog.  Remember back in the old days when I wrote every day? When I rolled out of bed each morning, brewed myself a cup of tea, did my Bible study, then blogged?  If you can believe it, those days seem like a distant memory.  And yet, I have only been in the house by the river for seven months.

I remember my husband saying, when I had only been here for a month or so, that routines are a great way to acclimate during a transition.  I clung to my routines!  And, you know, even though life has transitioned again a bit, I have clung to many of those routines.

I still have my parade of beverages most mornings. Back in December, I did the Ultra-Simple diet, which I can now tell you started a period of time where I was almost symptom-free.  The Ultra-Simple diet included starting the day with the juice of half a lemon in hot water, a cup of green tea, and a smoothie.  I still drink all three most mornings.  In fact, I’m drinking them right now.

I still make it to the gym or do Pilates at home most days.  One of the things I have learned about auto-immune disease is that movement is crucial to well-being.  I spend a lot of time every week tending to my body.  Back when I was in middle school,  high school, and even college, I spent hours in front of the mirror trying to get my face and my hair just right. My main goal then was to look good.  Last night I spent a hour at hot yoga stretching my muscles. My main goal right now is to feel good.

I still do my Bible study more days than not.  In fact, this morning I noticed I only had two more blank pages in the Sermon on the Mount study.  My anxiety rose just a little bit because I don’t know what the battalion will choose to study next, but then I remembered that I am still working through the other book on ten weeks of prayer — it is taking me much longer than ten weeks.  My Bible study centers me, reminds me what is important, and begins my day with truth.

I still meet with my battalion once a week — my group of ladies that come through rain, snow, sleet, and hail every Wednesday morning to spend two hours studying God’s word.  These women are at the heart of my Ann Arbor community.

My routine has been a comfort.  Especially in the midst of change.

What change?  I am working more.  On average I tutor half a dozen students every week.  I may have to start blogging about my students — they are amazing.  I have a sixth grade girl who continues to amaze me as we work through vocabulary, literary terms, grammar, and analysis.  I have a 40-something RN who is studying to become a nurse practitioner; she struggles with academic language, but not with learning. I tell her something once and she has it.  I have two high school freshmen — one girl who would rather eat than study and one boy who would rather study than eat. I have twin sisters whose similarities end in their appearance- — everything else about them is different.  I have a single mom who never graduated from high school and is now enrolled in community college and working on a degree in criminal justice.  I meet them in their homes, in libraries, and in Starbucks.  I read their writing online and respond via email, Googledocs, and Microsoft Word.  This is taking a chunk of my time, but perhaps you can tell that I love every minute of it.

So, with every change comes an ex-change. Sadly, the one exchange I have noticed is that I am not finding as much time to blog.  However, I am gathering lots of material.  So, more blog posts will be coming. All in due time.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.