I Have An Autoimmune Disease…Here’s What You Don’t See

In 2016, I was diagnosed with Graves Disease–an autoimmune disease that leads to overactivity of the thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism).  While there are other diseases much worse than my diagnosis, I still deal with a lot of frustrating and annoying symptoms.

I look just like everyone else when you look at me, and like many people with autoimmune diseases, you wouldn’t know I have Graves Disease. My thyroid levels are controlled through medication, and I meet with an endocrinologist every few months to talk about symptoms and monitor thyroid levels.

While I usually look perfectly fine on the outside, there’s a lot going on with me that you might not see or notice.

I have many days that I am completely fatigued. While I love working out, some more strenuous workout activities can wear me out for a few days. In the past, I could run many miles, work out with weights, push myself hard during exercise and just deal with some sore muscles the next day while continuing with work outs. These days, it takes me longer to recover from a hard workout.  Workouts leave me exhausted and I need to nap or rest for a day or two before participating in another strenuous workout.

In addition to fatigue, I often have heart flutters and heart palpitations.  The palpitations can make me feel light-headed or breathless. On days where my heart rate is higher than average, I have a difficult time working out, and I have to slow down and partake in exercise that doesn’t raise my heart rate too high, like yoga or walking.

My hands tremor often. It’s usually slight and not very noticeable to others unless I hold my hand out to show them. But some days it’s difficult for me to draw straight lines, to hold my toothbrush steady while I’m brushing my teeth, or to put my coffee cup up to my mouth without it jiggling around. It can be frustrating.

Joint pain seems to be one of my biggest problems. When I do have flare-ups, the pain seems to be in my ribs, ankles, or knees. Over-the-counter pain killers are somewhat helpful, but the aches and pains can make things like sleeping difficult.

Graves disease can affect eyes (known as TED or Thyroid Eye Disease). Many days, one of my eyes will appear larger than the other. I deal with dry, red, burning or irritated eyes occasionally, most likely related to Graves Disease. Eye issues and bulging eyes are a symptom of Graves Disease…this symptom is noticed often in pictures  taken of me–one of my eyes will appear to be a different size than the other.

I also have days where my anxiety and irritability are more pronounced than normal. The anxiety will affect my ability to sleep, and I’ll have many nights that I only get four or five hours of shut-eye if I’m lucky. My mind races often, thinking about a million things at once.  It’s hard for me to chill out and relax. In addition to these issues, brain fog is a constant. I have a hard time remembering conversations or details all the time.

Yes, you might look at me or spend time with me and think there’s nothing wrong with me at all. You might think I look “normal” today and I must be better, or that I’m having a great day. I do have good days; but often, I am dealing with symptoms that I am hiding well and muddling through because I have to. Unfortunately, even with medication, I can’t control how I’m going to feel from day to day.

So if I have to decline joining you for a workout,  if I cancel our plans to go out because I’m feeling anxious, or if I hide behind sunglasses all day, forgive me. If I seem tired or irritable, forgive me. If I can’t remember what we talked about yesterday, forgive me.  Often, my autoimmune disease is to blame.

Even though you can’t see my autoimmune disease, it’s there.

My Kids Aren’t Perfect, And I’ll Never Expect Them To Be

I have an important announcement to make. My kids are far from perfect.

Don’t get me wrong, I think my kids are pretty amazing. There are a lot of things they achieve that I’m super-proud of. But I don’t expect perfection from them.

All three girls do well in school. I don’t really push them too hard, though. I don’t have a set amount of reading time or homework time. We don’t have tutors, and I don’t create extra work or worksheets for my kids. I don’t send them to summer enrichment camps. I expect them to do whatever the teacher assigns to them each week. I encourage them to do well, and I praise them on their successes. But I will not push them competitively to achieve. I want them to want to achieve. I don’t want it to be more stressful than the stress they put on themselves. Do I expect them to get all A’s? No. I love it if and when they do, but if they get a lower grade, it’s all OK. I’m more concerned with them trying their best. If it didn’t work out this time, then it didn’t work out. I don’t get angry, I don’t ask them why they didn’t get a perfect score or perfect grade, and I don’t compare them to the other kids in their classroom. To me, they are successful when they put their own effort into their schoolwork, and they do the best work they are capable of doing. Yes, that usually means an A or a good grade/score, but if it doesn’t end up that way, life goes on.

I also don’t expect my girls to be the best athletes in town. I want them to choose activities they enjoy. I want them to love the sports and hobbies that they pick. We aren’t  naïve—we talk about hard work, and they know that if they want to get better at something it takes patience and effort. I don’t force them to have extra coaches or practice more at home after their actual practices are finished. If they want to go outside for a  run or if they ask to go to the batting cage, I’m happy to go along. I am an encouraging mom, and I let them know how proud I am of their achievements in their activities. But, again, I want them to want to decide on their own to get better or do better. I could make them practice more, but are they going to love that sport or are they going to lose their spirit?

I don’t want perfection from my kids. I am not perfect, so why should I expect them to be perfect? I have bad days, there are a lot of things I am not good at. I fail at things all the time. And I’m just fine.

And I want my kids to be kids. They have their whole lives to worry about success, achievement, and working super hard to prove themselves. I want them to have time to play, chill out, and just have fun without worrying about being the best all the time.

I’d would rather my girls be kind to others, be encouraging, know how to accept defeat, know how to share, be proud of their friends achievements and not jealous. I would rather my girls look for the good in the world and think about others. These are the things that will change the world….not if they are perfect students and perfect I their sport or activity.

Here’s my message to my girls: Please, daughters. Never expect perfection from yourself. No one is perfect all the time. And striving for constant perfection only leads to stress, anger, depression, and feeling insecure.  Always do what you feel you can do, and know it’s OK if you fail or you don’t succeed. Your other qualities will help you achieve more in life than if you get straight A’s, are in the gifted program, or if you are the best player on the team.

Ten Things You Might Not Know About Me

I thought it’d be fun to share with you ten things you might not have known about me….

  1. I’ve run a lot of races, and I used to really love running before I was diagnosed with Graves Disease.
    I’ve run one marathon, four half-marathons, two 10K’s, and over a dozen 5K’s. Running was my choice for exercise, and it helped me stay sane while raising twin babies/toddlers.

2. When I was in high school, I attended a school that was similar to
the one in the movie, Fame.
The name of my school was FPAC (Fine and Performing Arts Center of Howell High School). I was accepted into the creative writing program. I took core classes in the morning, and then afternoon classes were spent writing and learning about the arts. It was one of my best experiences.

3. My writing has been published.
I won my first writing contest (a poetry contest for a local lumber company) when I was in 2nd grade. In grade school, I remember winning a writing contest that my school library held, and I was so excited that the prize was a paperback book!  In fourth grade, I’d write plays and my teacher would let me produce them and the class would perform them each Friday. One of my Halloween stories was published in The Asbury Park Press when I was in high school. I’ve had a number of articles published in a sorority magazine called The Triad.

4. I’ve finished a couple degrees and I’m really close to finishing a couple more.
My undergraduate degree is in Speech Communications. I also have an MBA. I only have one semester and student teaching remaining to finish my Elementary Education degree, and I have one more year remaining to receive my MLS (Master Library Science degree). I love taking classes and learning, and I was accepted and almost went to law school (but met my current husband around that time, and that changed my plans!).

5. My husband and I were good friends before we ended up dating and getting married.
Eric’s from St. Louis, but I met him when I was the one living in St. Louis and he was already living in Charlotte. We were friends and kept in touch via email/instant messenger while I lived in California. Somehow I ended up getting transferred to North Carolina for work.  Eric set me up with one of his friends that I was interested in dating. That didn’t work out (I was spending a lot of time hanging out with Eric because he was fun and liked to do things). Eventually, Eric and I decided we would make a good pair. We were engaged in September, and we married that following March.

6. Eric and I got married in Las Vegas.
My dream (before I even met Eric) was always to get married in Las Vegas. I wanted it to be completely cheesy–Elvis impersonators and a little chapel. Eric agreed to a Vegas wedding, but wanted something more classy. We settled on a wedding at The Venetian. A little Italian singer dressed in costume sang, “That’s Amore” and strummed his guitar while I walked down the aisle with my dad. It was the best wedding ever! I wouldn’t go  back and change anything about it!

7. I try my best to protect my girls because I don’t want them to have to deal with things I had to while growing up.
I know I can’t protect them from everything, but I pray a lot that they won’t have to go through things that I dealt with as a child and teen. I was abused by a neighbor, I dealt with an eating disorder for years, and I was taken advantage of by a teacher when I was in high school. I share these things about me not for attention or pity. I share them because it is a part of my history, it happened, and I am who I am today because of what I experienced. I am real, and I am honest.  These are all issues I hope that my girls never experience.

8. If I could have any career I’d be either a writer and write novels, or I’d be a librarian.
I love reading, I love information, I love writing, and I love books.

9. I love animals.
If I could talk Eric into it, I’d live on a farm or somewhere with a lot of land so we could have many dogs, cats, chickens, cows and other farm animals. I wouldn’t have horses, though. I fell off of one as a child, and I am still nervous riding them.

10. I have an awful sense of smell.
I hardly ever notice awful smells. When the girls were in diapers, I’d never know they pooped unless I checked their diapers. I change the cat litter daily, but I don’t notice the smell too much. I only know if someone has passed gas or if something smells bad if one of the twins (who has a great sense of smell) tells me she smells something stinky.  The only time I was good at smelling odors was when I was pregnant.

Hopefully you learned something new or interesting about me! And I hope you enjoyed getting to know me better :).

 

Please Don’t Invite Me To Your Home or Online Shopping Party

Dear mom friend, please don’t invite me to your shopping party.

I really like you, but I really don’t like having to sit at a Pampered Chef, Thirty-One, or Arbonne party listening to the salesperson friend of yours tell me all about the great products she wants me to buy. I hate having to sit around your living room with other women I don’t know well, trying to make small talk with them. I very often don’t feel like overpaying for a pizza stone, some moisturizer, or a monogrammed bag. If I need these things, I will almost always head to Target or Amazon Prime to find a good, inexpensive version of what I need.

The same goes for online Facebook parties. You don’t need to add me to your LipSense or Jamberry sales event. I’m not interested. Seeing selfies of people making pouty lips to show off a great lipstick color does not inspire me to purchase your crazy expensive product. I prefer to go to a salon to have someone do my nails rather than attempt to stick some Jamberries on myself, thank you.

And Beachbody buddies, seriously, I am OK with my non-beach body, eating real food, and exercising my own way. I have no desire to spend hundreds of dollars on those shakes you’re selling. I enjoy my lunches out with friends more than I’d enjoy shaking up some weird-smelling drink and chugging it down.

I promise, if I find I am in need of the product you are selling, you will be the first person I contact. But please leave me be. I am OK not getting an invitation to your shopping/marketing pyramid party. Thanks.

Today I’m Not Doing Anything

Like most moms, I try to do everything all the time. Every day, I feel guilt if I’m not busy cleaning, running errands, volunteering, organizing closets, helping the kids, or exercising. I feel like I need to be busy all the time, or I’ll “look” like I’m being lazy. I feel like I haven’t accomplished anything if I take a break.

Today, I have decided to be lazy. And I’m writing this post because I’m not going to let myself feel guilty about it–and because I don’t think you should feel guilty either.

Here’s the truth:
I only slept four and a half hours last night and maybe six the night before. I’m exhausted. I deserve to just sit here with my coffee and computer this morning.

I ran with my oldest daughter yesterday on some wooded trails, and I tweaked my back. Normally, I’d push through it and still head to the gym for a hard workout, but I won’t today. I’m going to let my body get some rest.

I have about eight books sitting on my nightstand and I haven’t had much time to read anything since school and activities started back up, so I’m going to treat myself to some time on the back porch with a book today.

With softball games, gymnastics, homework and after-school activities keeping us away from home this evening until bedtime, I’m not going to make dinner to reheat late at night. I’ll let my kids grab a bowl of cereal for dinner, or they can pop some frozen waffles into the toaster. It’s quicker anyway, and everyone will be tired when we get home tonight.

 

I’m not going to run myself ragged this morning. I’m going to breathe, relax, enjoy sipping my coffee while it’s hot, take some time to write and read (both things that I love and are last on my priority list), and maybe even take a nap to catch up on some much-needed sleep.  I’m going to accomplish some “Julie” time today and relish in it.

And I won’t allow myself to feel one bit of guilt.

What Goes Through My Head During A Spa Day

In my head, there’s nothing better than a Spa Day. I imagine how relaxing it’ll be. I picture the masseuse working out all the tight muscles and knots in my back as I relax and listen to the peaceful spa music playing in the background. Afterwards, I see myself sitting with my legs up in the seating area, enjoying a glass of champagne, my body completely free from tight muscles, in complete bliss.

I scheduled a Spa Day with a good friend of mine last week. I couldn’t wait to spend a day of relaxation while the kids started their school year and I started my year of going back to being a stay at home mom. It would be the perfect treat, and I was ready for those relaxed muscles and that bliss I was looking for. But in reality, I’m awful at relaxing. Instead of enjoying the peace and tranquility, here are some of the things that went through my head during my 50 minute massage…

Please don’t fart, please don’t fart.

I wonder how many people actually fart when they get a massage…that would be so embarrassing!

Oh, God, stomach! Seriously, don’t growl now! (big growl rumbles from my stomach)

(While I’m face-down on the massage table…) What is the massage therapist thinking right now? What if she’s making faces at me? Maybe she’s sticking her tongue out at me. She could be doing the dab or some crazy jig and I have no clue what’s going on since I can’t see her. What in the world is she doing while she’s giving me a massage?!

Do you think the massage lady’s hands get tired? I bet it’s better to be the first massage of the day because her hands aren’t worn out yet. I wonder what types of bodies come in here. Does she ever get grossed out? I could never be a massage therapist. I don’t have the patience to rub backs all day long. I wonder if my body grosses her out…

Ok, try to think calm thoughts. This is a massage–you should be relaxing and enjoying the silence. How much longer is this massage? I wonder if my time is almost up. Ugh, hurry up. I’m so ready for my glass of champagne.

Oh, no…I think my time is almost up, and I haven’t relaxed much. Think calm thoughts, think calm thoughts.

Crap, my hour’s up! I seriously could use another hour of massage. I didn’t get enough time to relax 🙁

As much as I love, love, love a Spa Day, I still have to figure out how to shut my thoughts off so I can chill out. I’m so bummed that I spent my 50 minutes on the table thinking all kinds of crazy thoughts. I wish I would’ve been able to shut off my brain.

I did enjoy putting my feet up, chatting with my friend, and sipping on a glass of champagne afterwards, though!

This will have to become a goal for this year…I think it might be time to schedule another Spa Day so I can work on enjoying the massage and the relaxation… 🙂

Who’s in?

For The Love of Books (Book-Lovers Will Understand)

As long as I can remember, I’ve loved reading books.

I remember going to story time at the library in town when I was in first or second grade, and the children’s librarian reading us books and singing “If You’re Happy and You Know It” with us. I couldn’t wait to check out craft books and Dr. Seuss ones.

We moved to a new city when I was in third grade, and I recall walking down the path from our house into town to visit the public library and check out books to read for the summer. I’d sprawl out on a blanket in our backyard, and I’d open the pages to Encyclopedia Brown, How to Eat Fried Worms, or something by Judy Blume and read all afternoon.

In middle school, I loved non-fiction and biographies. I’d head to the school library and pick out books about Henry VIII, King Tut, Robert Frost, and other people and subjects I found interesting. High school, my interest turned to mysteries and books by Mary Higgins Clark.

I will read almost any book—young adult, fiction, science fiction, mystery, self-help…all genres end up on my Kindle or my bookshelf. I always have a stack of books to be read sitting on my nightstand, ready for me to open and dive into.

Why do I love books so much? Probably the same reasons you do (if you are a reader and a book-lover). Books are like a good friend. They are there for me to open when I’m bored or feeling lonely and need some company. They offer me an escape from my boring, routine life. They provide me with a “break” from my reality where I can live through a character I’m reading about and follow him/her through adventures I’d most likely never experience. I gain more knowledge from books, learning things I never knew before or hearing words that help me grow personally and professionally.

Books help me better understand other people, other situations, and other lifestyles. Just like movies, I can always find a book to fit whatever mood I’m currently in. I love when a book is so good, I am sad for it to end because I want to read more. I love that I can join my friends and have long conversations about novels at book club. I love that I when walk into a bookstore or a library, it feels like home to me.

There’s nothing like sitting down on the couch with a cup of coffee and a good book—it’s a friend, a hobby and a love that I’ll never outgrow.

 

I Stopped Trying To Be A Pinterest Mom

I tried to be a mom that was more like Martha Stewart.

I had a moment at home where I decided I was going to be a Pinterest mom. I would start doing more crafting, other than coloring in my seven year-olds’ coloring books with them. I would actually use our oven and cook rather than throw some hot dogs or pancakes in the microwave.

This wasn’t the first time I got the grand idea that I would be more amazing homemade mom-like. I get these bursts often. I have ordered organic fruits and vegetables to be delivered at home with plans to make healthy, home-cooked meals for the family…only to have half the order rot because I’d rather order pizza or go out to eat than cook dinner. I have spent hours on the computer looking up seasonal wreaths, sewing ideas, and DIYs. Then I head to the craft store and purchase yards of fabric, Mod-Podge, flowers, greenery, and special floral wire. Weeks later, the purchases sit in the bag I brought them home in, still waiting to get used.

I decided to order meals from a meal company. All the ingredients right at my fingertips. I just needed to follow the instruction sheet with all the detailed pictures to produce a homemade, delicious and nutritious meal. I tried making the meals for a month. I grumbled the entire time. Prepping the ingredients–all the dicing, slicing and grating–was so time-consuming. Good, real-food meals took a lot of effort and time. I had to cancel the meals because I just couldn’t devote so much time to meal preparation, and I didn’t enjoy it at all.

I turned our downstairs bedroom into a craft room. It’s beautiful—all in greens and grays. The furniture is specially made for crafting with multiple drawers, gift wrap and ribbon holders, and other compartments. Each drawer is full of crafty treasures….scrap book paper, glitter, stamps and ink, paint, brushes, watercolors, fancy scissors…anything I need to create is right there at my fingertips.

Unfortunately, my girls use this room way more than I do. I get bored easily if a craft can’t be completed in 20-30 minutes. I don’t have the patience to work all day on a craft project waiting for parts to dry, painting and dying items, and measuring and cutting everything with precision.

I wish I’d learn by now that no matter how many bursts of energy I get to be more crafty and more chef-like, it’s short-lived. I know the truth is I’ll never be a Martha Stewart-like mom. I’ll never have homemade centerpieces on the table every Thanksgiving and my friends won’t be receiving homemade chocolates or ornaments for Christmas. My kids will be having grilled cheese, soup from a can, or Chick-fil-A a few times a week because it’s quick and easy.

In reality, I’m more of an Amazon Prime-type mom. If someone else can make it for me or if I can microwave it, I’m good to go. And I’ve become OK with that. Goodbye, Martha Stewart!

School Is Starting, And There Are Five Things I Am Not Looking Forward To

School starts in a few days. I’m a routine kind of girl, so I’m thrilled we will get back on a schedule and have all our days planned out with school, appointments and activities. However, there are a few things I really am not looking forward to now that school is quickly approaching.

  1. We have to get up so freaking early.
    Our lazy summer mornings will be gone. No more sitting on the couch in my pajamas with a cup of coffee until 8 or  9 o’clock. The coffee and the pajamas will just have to come with me as the sun rises to school car line drop-off.  Tell me again why little elementary school kids have to start school at 7:30am??
  2. I have to pack lunches every day.
    The dreaded lunch-making duties start up once again. It wouldn’t be so difficult if my girls all liked the same foods. Instead, I have a vegetarian, a picky carb-lover, and two girls are in a peanut-free classroom this fall. Gone are the, “go look in the fridge and make yourself something for lunch” summer days. Momma’s got to get her healthy lunch-packing game back on.
  3. Waiting at the bus stop (or rushing to get to the bus stop on time) is a pain.
    The afternoon bus is never consistent. One day, the bus will arrive five minutes earlier than scheduled, and other days I wait for 20 minutes or longer for the bus to drop the girls off. Once the girls are old enough to walk themselves down the street to our house it’ll be better. But for now, I wait and wait at the bus stop–or I sprint up the street to the bus stop.
  4. I become an afternoon and evening taxi driver.
    Three children means lots of different interests and after-school activities. I become a taxi driver once school starts. Homework gets done in the car some evenings, and drive-thru meals or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches get served in the Suburban. If we are going to fit in everyone’s interests, this is how it has to go down.
  5. I struggle trying to get the kids to go to bed early.
    My girls love late nights. I’m an early-to-bed kind of mom, but getting my kids to bed is a struggle. The first few weeks of school are NOT fun. My little ones turn into temper-tantrum, whiny, emotional, cranky monsters because they take a while to get back on the school sleep schedule.  Our house is a bundle of fun each evening that first month of school.

Bring on the planned-out daily schedule, but some parts of our school day routine just sucks. What parts of the back-to-school routine do you not look forward to?

I Walked Away From A Job I Loved

When I decided to quit my job, I surprised many. I loved my job, and I was passionate about it. (I think) I was good at what I did. I had found my dream job–a career that was perfect for me. Still, I walked away.

Here’s the easiest way to describe why I made my decision: I have three daughters that look up to me as their mother and role model. They see and hear everything I do, and they learn from my actions.

In my opinion, it was most important for me to show them that I valued myself. What I stand for and what I am willing to tolerate speaks volumes to my daughters. I was willing to walk away from a job I loved because I love myself and what I believe in more.

I want to teach my impressionable girls they should always put themselves, their morals and values, and their needs first too.

My family is more important to me than any job. This summer, it was easy for me to make the decision I would focus my energy on my family this next school year. My children deserve (and I want them to expect) a mother who is strong enough to make difficult decisions, and one who is strong enough to not regret those decisions.

Will I return to work someday? I hope so. I loved what I did, and I’d love to find myself working again. I’m in no hurry, though. For now, I’ll take some time to care for myself, focus on my children and give my family 100% of me.

I'm a mom who is always looking for ways to make my family's life less stressful, more meaningful, and full of love and life. Read on as I share thoughts and ideas that inspire me to try to provide that for myself and my family.