Monday, November 23, 2009

Ending NaBloPoMo



I just don't have it in me to complete NaBlo...I'm sick...I'm tired. I'm sick and tired. When I'm not in school, I'm in bed or doing homework. I honestly can't handle anything else right now. I'm having to give up some very important things...much more important than a blog contest. My heart is broken right now.

Life can be tough sometimes. This is one of those times.

God will bring me through it, as He always does.

Praying and waiting. That's all I know to do.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Life With Periodic Paralysis

People have asked what is wrong with me, so I decided to commit a few blog entries to the list of conditions that make up my life with systemic disease. Systemic disease is actually a group of diseases, each affecting different systems of the body and eventually resulting in organ failure. Common systemic diseases are Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, and Juvenile Diabetes. There are so many conditions out there, it will make your head spin. Just Muscular Dystrophy alone has approximately 40 types. If that's not overwhelming, I don't know what is.

One of my primary conditions (and most prominent at the present time) is a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy called Periodic Paralysis. It is a channelopathy, meaning that vital substances (in my case, electrolytes) transfer inconsistently in and out of muscle cells. I have the Hypokalemic form of the disease. Sadly, it has never once been understood by any doctor that I've seen. All mistake it to be Hypokalemia, which is a true lack of potassium in the blood. What I have is not a true lack. The potassium is there (in other words, my bloodwork is normal), but it's not in the right place. Therefore, my muscles do not have the correct electrical charge necessary to function properly. It's like trying to force two of the same magnets together...they don't come together, they rebel. As do my muscles when they are trying to function without the necessary balance of electrolytes. They rebel, and sometimes depolarize, which is crippling and can be fatal. It is also excruciating. Imagine a charlie horse in the entire body, and that is how I feel when I am in the midst of an attack of Periodic Paralysis. I've been in a chronic relapse of Periodic Paralysis since September of 08, with acute attacks happening regularly. It has been a significant nosedive and I appear to be continuing to decline. There are a ridiculous amount of triggers of HKPP's acute attacks, including weather conditions, stress, heat, cold, eating, not eating, physical activity, standing or sitting still...the list goes on. The trigger this week appears to revolve around eating. I can go for a few hours without eating and have an attack, or I can eat regularly and have an attack. It's one big catch-22. I never know what to do and never know what's going to happen when I do it. It is a painful, frustrating, never-ending roller coaster.

Due to my decline over the years, I have chronic muscle atrophy and I have become very breakable. All I have to do is move wrong, sit wrong, lay wrong, breathe wrong...it takes nothing for muscle and cartilage to pull and tear. It is agonizing, and injuries as far back as the early 2000s cause me great pain to this day. I hurt from head to toe 24/7/365. I never escape it, even in my sleep.

HKPP greatly affects the smooth muscles, which includes the lungs and heart. I don't breathe normally and I have heart problems (currently in Hypertension and Tachycardia, in fact...trying to get it under control). It is absolutely, positively EXHAUSTING. I can't even put into words how exhausting it is to live like this day after day. Physically and otherwise. It is disheartening, and I'm tired. I am so, so very tired. I'd give anything to be "normal". (Critics, you might as well not even bother preaching to me about that last sentence. I refuse to sugar coat this...I'm keeping it real. Deal with it or move on.)

All I can do is be honest and speak from my heart. At this moment, I am just so freaking tired. Nevertheless, I am blessed. I wish things could be better, but I am grateful that it's not worse. Because I know it could be. I will never, ever forget that. I don't take God's mercy for granted.

I'll write about my other conditions soon. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It's Soup Season!



I am a soup fanatic, especially when it's cold outside. I've stocked up on some of my favorite canned soups, but I also love to make my own. Here's my recipe for EASY black bean soup!

One large can Bush's Black Beans
One large can chicken broth
1/2 yellow onion
One tablespoon minced garlic
Salt, black pepper, and red pepper to taste

Throw it all in a pot and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes. Easier than pie, and it's so yummy! Enjoy!

Monday, November 16, 2009

One For One

When you buy one pair of shoes from TOMS...



...they put a pair of shoes on a child in need.



I went through the McDonald's drive-through today and wasted seven dollars and change on junk that I didn't need. It's so easy to spend money on things we don't need, isn't it?

So I decided that I wanted to do something with the money that I received this week for teaching...something other than spend it on more junk at McDonald's. I thought about getting something that I could use. I own three pair of shoes (including those god-awful crocs...ha!), and thought that I could use a pair of casual flats...something that I could wear to church or something. I imagine folks would appreciate not having to see my uglier-than-sin crocs every time I enter the room. So, I went to TOMS and ordered the above pair. $44 + tax + shipping = 50-something bucks. That's the most I've ever spent on shoes in my entire life...




...and it was worth every penny.



I never thought shoes could make me cry like a baby...



...so much for that. :)


Go to TOMS.com. Join their mission. Make a difference.


To embrace life is to truly live
Never taking more than what you give ~Me © 2008

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Bucket List

I've had a bucket list for years, well before the movie came out. Back then, it was called the Life List. Of course me and everyone else who had one has changed it to the Bucket List since then. Loved the movie...if you haven't seen it, you really should.

So here it is...my 2009 bucket list:

Get back down to my ideal weight, and STAY THERE.

Obtain at least two of my three planned certifications/degrees. (I actually HAVE obtained two…working on the third now!)

Become a published author.

Be financially independent someday.

Collect postcards from all over the world.

Travel to as many places as my health and finances will allow.

Number 7 will require me to get on an airplane, so flying has to be on my list too. (which will require someone to fly with me and hold my hand, no doubt) :-)

Create a fabulous portfolio of photographs, and not let a hurricane destroy them. (Darn you, Katrina)

Learn to draw.

Qualify to be a foster or adoptive mom.

Continue and increase my charity and volunteer work.

Tour the Food Network Studios in New York.

Go to Disney World and Universal Studios.

Go to Mall of America in Minnesota.

Invest in Real Estate (or an RV…it’s a coin toss at this point).

Learn to sew with a sewing machine, and make pillows and blankets for charity.

Go to a spa, and let them pamper me like I've never been pampered before.

Have a booth at an Arts & Crafts Festival. (WOW…I can cross this one off my list!)

Learn how to DJ and do at least one show.

Learn to play a musical instrument.

Re-learn French.

Visit the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

See real snow, and play in it.

Ride on the back of a Harley Davidson (just a couple times around the block would be sufficient, thank you) :-)

Kidnap my brother Layton and attend an Alabama Crimson Tide game at Bryant-Denny Stadium.



(EDIT NOTE: Bucket list is updated annually. You can now find my current bucket list on Pinterest. I update it regularly. "Travel" and "people I want to meet" bucket lists are separate. I'll share those lists eventually.)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bob Ross Charity Workshops





(Click on Abby's photo to visit her website)


Although sick and broke (in more ways than one), I try to do as much charity work as I can. It gives me a reason to get out of bed. I wanted to do something big that I had never done before, so I decided to go out with a bang this year and have my last two Bob Ross workshops in 2009 to benefit charity. I held one workshop at Hobby Lobby in Biloxi, MS and the other today at Hobby Lobby in Mobile, AL. Great fun, and a total of $465.00 was raised for cancer research! YEAH!!!

Thanks to all of my wonderful students for helping make this happen! I couldn't do it without you! You rock!!!

Friday, November 13, 2009

We all scream for...



ICE CREAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What's YOUR favorite flavor? :)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Tropical Storm Ida

You know you live on the Gulf Coast when you have a tropical storm in NOVEMBER!

Are you kiddin' me???

I went to the point of Pascagoula yesterday to take a pic or two. I got out of my car with umbrella in hand...



...and it IMMEDIATELY did THIS. Haaaaaaa! Shoulda known.

So I gave up and decided to get rained on. No biggie, it was only sprinkling at the time and the gulf was a little rough but didn't look too bad. I went out too early, really.

Thankfully, Ida was kinda a pansy. Strong wind gusts (still present 36 hours later) but not much flooding or damage to the area. The school studio got a little water, surprisingly, but all is well.

Now someone please inform Mama NaNa that it is indeed NOVEMBER and we dun want none 'o dis mess anymore. Mmmmk thanks!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Ryan




No little boy should lose his father.

Ryan was a single dad, raising his son Skyler since birth. He worked his butt off as a laborer, sometimes seven days a week, so Skyler wouldn't go without. He would come home after a long shift, and find his son with toys in hand, waiting to play Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with his dad. They were two peas in a pod.

Ryan developed an abscessed tooth. A phobic of dentists, he refused to go even though people begged him to. If he only knew how serious a tooth infection could be. He would have never let a fear of needles and pain take him away from his son. He didn't know it could happen to him.

The infection went to his brain. It turned into meningitis, and he had a massive stroke. I received a call from my mother that Ryan was on life support. I canceled my class and went immediately to Mississippi, where I found Ryan in a coma with tubes and hoses coming out of his brain. It is an image that I will never, ever erase from my memory.

Ryan had chosen to estrange himself from my side of the family several years prior, so we had not seen each other in a long time and I don't think that he would have wanted me there. Tough luck, I told him. I held his hand and declared that he is the most stubborn person I've ever met. I picked on him and played with his toes, giving anything if he would wake up and cuss me out. I reminded him of when he used to spontaneously break into the song "Love Shack", which always made his sister and I double over in laughter. I demanded that he wake up and come back to his son. I prayed. I cried. I fussed. I told him that I loved him and that I'd give anything if things could have been different. I told him that I was so sorry that this happened to him.

He was removed from life support on November 7th.

The tragedy made the front page of the newspaper. Killed by a toothache. Dentists stepped forward and pleaded with the public to not be afraid of them. People everywhere made dental appointments because of Ryan's story. Twenty-nine is too young to die. Five is too young to lose a father.

Skyler is being raised by his grandmother (his mother left shortly after his birth), and he misses his daddy horribly. He lives in my town, but he doesn't know I exist. I see him at the baseball field and wish I could be there for him, but I'm not permitted to do so. Family feuds are senseless and cruel. They hurt so many people...sometimes for generations to come. Life is too short and fragile for such things, but it is far beyond my control. All I can do is pray for Skyler to be ok.

My heart is crushed for him. It's so unfair. No little boy should lose his father.

Friday, November 6, 2009

GREEK FEST!!!

In line to order food!


Crazy lady singing on top of a dining table! Does she realize that she flashed everyone directly below her? The world may never know.



The adorable kids!



The Music!


The Vendors!


The crowd!!! (And that was only HALF of them!)


The awesome art! I could only dream of painting like this!







I have a couple of vids that I'll share later via YouTube.

Greek Fest is annually the first weekend of November in Mobile, Alabama. It is held at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church on S. Ann Street. Very cool place, and Greek Fest is always a fun time! The $2 admission fee benefits several local charities including Penelope House Domestic Violence Center, an organization that is near to my heart. Next year, come join me!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

All things work together for good

I was 19 years old. A high school graduate, I was planning to pursue my college education at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. My goal? Graphic Design. I felt like I had finally found my niche in 10th grade when I entered the Graphic and Print Communications program at the Pascagoula Vo-Tech Center. I spent all of my spare time in the print shop, won a medal in competition in my first year, and even worked there part time during the summers. So my decision to enter the Graphic Design program at MGCCC was a no-brainer. I registered at my local campus, and would start with Drawing and Design. Then something happened with my financial aid, and the grant that I was expecting wasn't there. Having no funds otherwise, I backed out of college and got a job instead, very disappointed.

I was 22 years old. Working at the mall part time, I decided to jump back on the college bandwagon. I was approved for financial aid and registered with the same Drawing and Design schedule that I had a few years prior. I was so excited to finally be going to college! The first day of school arrived...and I was in the hospital unable to walk. I had a severe kidney infection, the result of a disease called Renal Tubular Acidosis, and was in a hypokalemic crisis, the result of a disease called Periodic Paralysis. The two conditions are debilitating, and I remember being bedridden for weeks. I called the college to withdraw, absolutely devastated. I remember crying and asking God why. I didn't understand.

At the age of 30, I finally became a college freshman. I barely survived my first semester at Bishop State, due to a kidney obstruction that resulted in surgery and put me out of school for nearly 3 weeks (of a 10 week semester)! I'm still not sure how it happened, but I managed to catch up on nearly everything and ended up with 3 A's and a B. What a whirlwind...it was utter insanity. But my grant wasn't approved for the following year, so I couldn't return. I remember asking God why this was so hard to accomplish. Was I not meant to go to college and better myself? I was so frustrated.

So this year, with my health declining and the clock ticking, I took a leap of faith. I applied for grants and debated for months on where I would go. Living right smack in between Mobile and Gautier, I had a hard time deciding and practically flipped a coin. I registered at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. On my schedule? Drawing and Design.

And now, it all makes sense. The disappointment of not starting college after high school. The devastation of being seriously ill and having to withdraw the second time. The frustration of not being able to return to Bishop State. Because at the age of 31, sick and broke, I am a freshman at MGCCC in the art department. It is not easy. I'm exhausted and miserable most of the time. I've been so sick and in so much pain that I've nearly collapsed. My blood pressure is high. My tolerance of my condition(s) is low. Sometimes I cry all the way there. Sometimes I cry all the way home. It is HARD.

But I LOVE it. It gives me a reason to get out of bed, and even though I don't understand what my purpose is in this life, right now I can't imagine being anywhere else with anyone else than this place and these people. I am so grateful to be there, I could burst. It's only been two months and I'm already dreading the day that I have to leave. I pray every day that I will do well in my classes, and somehow, make a positive difference while I'm there.

Lately, I've been thinking back to all of the frustration, heartache, and chance that has occurred where college is concerned. I didn't know why all of these bad experiences had happened to me, but God knew all along. I think about the what-ifs and it scares me. I think about the here and now and cry like a baby. I am so blessed. I talked to a teacher today who was going through a tremendously stressful event in her life, and how God intervened in the nick of time. Her story was just another reminder that our steps are ordered by the Lord (Psalms 37: 23-26). Whether we realize it immediately, as this lady did, or years down the road, as I am now, God can take our heartache and disappointment and frustration and use it for our good. That's why even in the hard times, I am in awe of God's hand on my life. I am so undeserving of His love and mercy. All I can do is say thank you, and pass it on.

All things work together for good for those who love God, which are called according to His purpose. - Romans 8:28