Category Archives: Inspiration

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.

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!

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.

Somewhere Along The Way, I Forgot How To Have Fun

I climbed into bed last night at nine, with my flannel pajamas on, my hair back in a headband, Crest white strips stuck to my teeth, and a book in hand–my nightly routine for years now–and suddenly it hit me hard. It came out of nowhere.

My life is routine and boring.

Somewhere along the way, I forgot how to have fun.

Sometime between trying for baby #1, years of infertility treatments, babies #2 and #3 (twins), my husband’s longer work hours, and taking care of a family of five, I lost my mojo.

I used to have fun. I used to know how to have a great time. And somehow, I lost that knowledge.

I used to have dinner or lunch out with girlfriends each week. Meals were somewhere other than Chick-fil-A, and I enjoyed a day drink (or two), dressed in skinny jeans and heels. We’d spill on the latest gossip and talk about work, boyfriends or husbands, and plans for the weekend. I haven’t enjoyed that kind of meal out in a while.

I would make often make last-minute plans with my husband to get away for a weekend. Want to leave after work Friday and head to the mountains? Sure! Want to drive a few hours to go watch a college football game and make an overnight trip out of it? Of course, I do! Going out of town last-minute was exciting and enjoyable. I haven’t spontaneously gone out of town for a weekend or overnight trip in a long time.

My husband and I would cuddle on the couch while watching a movie on TV. Popcorn, chips and beer or wine, giggling and flirting with each other was a common Saturday night event. I haven’t had a night on the couch with just me and my husband in a long time.

I would sleep in until noon on a Sunday after a night out dancing at the local bar, and I’d lounge in my pajamas all day. ..just chillin’ after a late night out. I haven’t had a night out past midnight in a very long time. I haven’t slept in until noon in what seems like forever.

Why did the fun disappear? How did it get boxed up and put away high on a shelf in my closet? Why did I let it get put away?

While life was changing, I let the fun trickle away. While our family was growing and my husband’s job was growing, I was allowing my fun and the things I enjoyed to shrink.

I became so serious and practical over the past few years. I don’t laugh as much as I used to. Nothing is last-minute or spontaneous these days. Everything is planned.

Scheduling a night out means finding and paying for a sitter, not drinking much, and getting home at a decent hour because we don’t want to look wild and crazy in front of the kids or the sitter.

Lunchtime is spent at home in yoga pants, folding laundry and sweeping the kitchen floor while making macaroni and cheese for the kids.

Weekends are for youth sporting events, kid’s birthday parties, and catching up on errands and chores that couldn’t get done during the week because of after-school activities. Weekends are for the kids to have fun now, and not the adults.

Weekend movies on TV are PG and kid-friendly, and everyone piles on the couch together (usually with kids sandwiched  in between the parents).

Getting to sleep in is a thing of the past. “Sleeping in” now means the luxury of getting to stay in bed until eight. Pajama days are a thing of the past—I’ve got to shower and get dressed because there are too many errands to run to get prepared for the upcoming week.

I want the excitement back, though. I miss the fun and the spontaneity. I want to go out last-minute with my husband more often. I want to meet up with my friends and wear trendy clothes. I want to decide on a Thursday night that we are going to head to the beach for the weekend. I want to have fun again. I want part of my life to be exciting and surprising again.

Yes, I lost my mojo somewhere along the way. But it was there once before, so I know I can find it again. I just need a little glimmer that the good times are still there–I’m “old” now, and I’m realistic enough to know that my life has changed, so the fun will have to  evolve a bit. But I know I can figure out how to have a good time again. And it’ll be a sweet time getting back to re-inventing a new, fun life.

Dear Friend, Sometimes I Can’t Deal With Your Anxiety

My dear friend. I love you. I think the world of you, and I enjoy talking with you. But I need to be honest with you.

Sometimes I cannot deal with your anxiety….because I have a lot of anxiety of my own.

I don’t mind getting texts or phone calls from you. I love our conversations. But when you send five, ten or twenty texts one right after the other about the same issue that’s bugging you out, sometimes I can’t deal.

I know you need someone to talk to, someone to listen to your fears or concerns. Sometimes, you just need to vent or talk the issue(s) out with a friend so you can get reassurance or advice. But when I give you reassurance and you keep going on and on and on, some days I have to walk away and tune out for a bit. I either don’t respond to you anymore, I change the subject, or I text you with, “Hang in there! Got to go–one of the kids needs me. Talk soon!” or something similarly generic.

I am here for you, really I am. But please know that I have a ton of anxieties of my own that I’m dealing with on a daily basis. I worry about whether my husband’s plane landed OK this morning. I worry if I’m a good enough mother and wife (and friend). I freak out because I’m sure I’m not going to get to an appointment on time.  I get nervous when I haven’t heard from my mom for a week because I’m sure I must have said or done something wrong.

We all have crap we are dealing with. As much as I want to be there for you as a friend, my crap needs to take priority.

When you send me text after text worrying about why your sister hasn’t called you, or your voice message freaking out over whether or not your son made the soccer team, or the after-work calls asking me over and over if I think your boss is mad at you because you got to work late again…and I don’t respond or I change the subject, it’s not that I don’t care about you.

It’s that my plate is pretty full of anxiety-producing problems today and I can’t really spend the day listening to and focusing my energy on all of what’s on your plate.

When I have cleared a little bit of space on my plate, of course I’ll take you out for lunch, go for a walk with you, or grab a glass of wine one evening so you can throw all your anxieties out there. We are friends, and I care about you. Just know that today, I might have to many of my own issues to be able to handle yours too.