Valentine’s Gift Ideas for Him {both to buy & to make}

I’ll go ahead & say it. Valentine’s is a holiday for girls. Yes, it involves a couple per say but let’s me honest, it’s all about the guy giving the girl a gift. As the female half of the holiday this puts us in a far more difficult situation than one might assume. There’s a bazillion go to ideas for guys that are perfectly acceptable…roses, chocolates, jewelry, a six foot tall teddy bear, you get my point. Even though we know as girls that the holiday is quite one-sided towards us that doesn’t mean we can just show up empty handed. The sucky part is we can’t show up with roses, chocolates, jewelry or yes, even a six foot tall teddy bear. Well we can, but we’d really just be wasting our money. Unless your guy is that one man who enjoys getting a dozen red roses & in that case we need to have a little heart to heart my friend.

So what to do, what to do…

In past years I’m willing to admit I’ve gotten P the gift that keeps on giving (especially if you get pregnant from it! bu-dum-bum-ching!) some new lingerie for myself. It does feel a little self indulgent though, I mean yes it’s for him but technically it’s buying something new for me. Besides, sex isn’t really a gift. At least not a one sided one, it should be more like a dessert that you order & share. In theory at least. So I thought I’d do some digging around the net & find a list of Valentine’s gift ideas for the man in your life. Some are sweet projects that you can make & for you craft-challengned or just super time constrained readers there’s plenty below that you can order. Although get to it & go for that overnight shipping, we’re down to 4 days & the clocks a tickin’!valentine's day gift guide for him ::by little pink monstervalentine's day gift guide for him ::by little pink monster vday gift guide 1

“Found You” Love Artwork, Custom Made Pet Portrait (will probably not be done in time but I love the idea for a future gift), Instead Download Love Coupon Book, I <3 My Husband Shirt (more for us but the sentiment is sweet), Monogrammed Knife, Wood Inset Men’s Ring, Custom Boxers (you could totally DIY this idea!), Stone Love Note, Geek Love Art, Snuggle Mittens, Palette iPhone Case

valentine's day gift guide for him ::by little pink monstervalentine's day gift guide for him ::by little pink monsterRed Glazed Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies (pic is from a slightly different batch), iPad ‘Mix Tape’ Cover, Love Note Fortune Cookies (I actually made these for P one year, they were a bit labor intensive but SO yummy! Although we didn’t have kids yet, not sure I could pull that off nowadays),  ‘My Property!’ Freezer Paper Stenciled Boxer ShortsValentines Mix CD Case, Anatomically Correct Heart Pattern (so so cute!) & finally the lift a flap ‘Peek-a-Boob’ book I wrote about here…I don’t know about your significant other but I don’t think a million dollars could make my hubby happier than this would!

Any other ideas?? If so or if you love one of these please let me know in the comments below & share it with a friend using the ‘share it’ toolbar at the bottom of the post!

OH! And just to tease you…remember this picture I posted on Instagram Friday? If you guessed Elsa from Frozen…DIY ElsaThere are few things better than driving yourself crazy working on something for your kid & then seeing them burst at the seams with pure joy when you give it to them. Worth every.single.second. Full tutorial & pics up on the blog next!

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Gluten Free BBQ Macaroni & Cheese (made with leftover chicken wings!)

Did you do anything fun last night for the Superbowl? I can’t remember the last time we spent it with friends, Superbowl had become a lot like New Year’s Eve…it was just way more enticing to stay home with the kids & relax. Not this year however, well, we did stay home but we had everyone come to us! (;

I did lots of easy appetizers (they can all be found on my Pinterest board here) & now that today is such a gross, cold, rainy day I came up with a yummy way to reuse some of the leftovers.gluten free bbq macaroni & cheese (using leftover chicken!)

One of these days I’m going to write a post telling you what my experiences have been trying out different diets to help my body heal but for now I’ll just say that I’m still gluten free (well, more ‘gluten low’ as my dr call it) & I think I always will be. My stomach is so much happier with me, I have less headaches & joint pain but if I’m honest the biggest incentive for keeping gluten out of my diet? My pooch belly vanished! Even when I was running regularly I still always had a little pooch, I figured it was just an inevitable consequence of growing two babies in there but now I know it was bloat & it was from gluten. It truly just disappeared. Pretty quickly too. So yes, it’s nice to be healthier & have less pain but never having a tshirt bulge again? I’m in.

All that to say…I’ve gotten pretty good at making my favorite foods in gluten free forms. One that is really easy & tastes so much like the original is homemade macaroni & cheese. I made a ton of my garlic lemon chicken wings for the party & decided to shred up the leftovers & make the girls & myself some amazing Gluten Free BBQ Chicken Macaroni & Cheese. If you’re intimidated at the thought of making a cheese sauce from scratch you need to put your big girl panties on & give it a shot, I promise you’ll be like, Whaaa? That was so easy & oh.my.cheesy.goodness does it taste good!”

bbq mac cheese collage(click on image to enlarge recipe)

 gluten free bbq macaroni & cheese (using leftover chicken!)A few things to note…

Depending on your gluten tolerance level you might need to find a special gluten free BBQ sauce, for me just leaving out the noodles is enough & a bit in the sauce doesn’t bother me but be aware.

Also if you don’t have chicken wings think about using any leftover meat you can shred, a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store would work or how good would a package of bbq shredded pork be?? Just make sure it’s seasoned on it’s own so you don’t bland down the dish. Also if your kids are like mine they’re professional macaroni & cheese investigators. If it’s shaped differently or the color is too orange or yellow than they throw up the ‘imposter mac cheese flag’ & boycott. I knew they’d never go for the bbq flavor (even though I know darn well they’d like it if they tried it, garrr! so frustrating those little palettes are!) so during the cheese sauce creation process I paused before adding the chicken & bbq sauce & tossed together the girl’s portions with the plain cheese sauce. Everyone’s happy. To the rest of the sauce I added the chicken & bbq sauce & then tossed it with the remaining noodles. Nomnomnom!

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LPM on Lets Talk Live:: Doily Stamped Valentines Day Decor

You guys, you have to tell me the truth. You have to be that friend that would tell me my butt looked big in those jeans. Except it’s not my butt…it’s my shirt. When I came home from shooting Let’s Talk Live on Thursday my lovely husband gave me a big hug & told me how great I had done, except for one thing, did I know my shirt was see through? I’m sorry, whaaaa?!

I obviously already knew my blouse was sheer, hence why I wore a flesh colored tank underneath but he says it didn’t look like a sheer blouse with a tank underneath, he says it looked like a sheer shirt with NOTHING underneath. Oh dear.

Little Pink Monster on Lets Talk Live :: Doiley Valentines CraftingI’ve watched the video three times now & have no clue what he’s talking about, am I missing something here?? You can see it for yourself here & please report back below!

Regardless, I had SUCH a blast doing another segment & am super excited to say that the producers have asked me to come in & do a DIY/Crafting segment on the last Thursday of every month. Woohoo! Dreams are coming true my friend, I do believe things are looking up. (:

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The Valentine Tree

Valentines Day Tree :: by Little Pink MonsterYou guys, first off a huge thank you to all of you who have been emailing & commenting with not only your well wishes but also your advice & tips. I’d truly be lost without you. I really mean that, ‘thank you’ just doesn’t begin to cover it. This little autonomic neuropathy is truly beginning to give my other ailments a run for their money as biggest pain in my arse. I finally met with a local neurologist which was informative to say the least. As soon as I wrap my head around everything she told me I’ll be sure to write about it but for today I want to post about nothing but the pink, frilly & lacy wonderfulness that is Valentine’s Day!

I’m not quite sure if it’s the home decorating withdrawals from the Halloween, Thanksgiving & Christmas marathon or the fact that I can indulge in as much pink, red & heart shaped girliness I want, but for whatever reason I truly love Valentine’s Day. Between the Mayo trip & scratching my cornea over the weekend (if you missed my Instagram pirate chic picture than let me catch you up, on Thursday I was bundling Sophie up to go home from school & had my keys looped on my fingers, as I zipped up her coat I somehow flipped my keys up right into my eyeball. It was a moment of pure grace. I was quite surprised to find out that the pain from scratching your cornea is right up there with early labor, who knew right? Luckily, eyeballs heal very quickly, it’s completely better now.) All of that put me a bit behind but no more, last night I put together something I’m going to call, “The Valentine Tree”Valentines Tree by Little Pink Monstervalentines tree :: by little pink monsterYou really can just let your creativity run wild with this one but for my valentines I tried to capture the look of vintage doily postal valentines. I printed out a dozen instagram pictures & assembled them along with some scrapbook paper, stickers, ribbon, buttons & whatever else I could dig up until I had a lovely set of sweet ornaments that had just the right amount of charm & personality. For the base I filled a vintage mason jar with pulled apart cotton balls & a good sprinkling of glitter snow leftover from Christmas. I snapped the branches off a bush in the backyard. Valentines Tree :: by Little Pink MonsterValentines Tree :: by Little Pink MonsterSpeaking of Valentine’s crafting, tomorrow afternoon I’m going to be making my second appearance on ‘Let’s Talk Live‘ at 11am on Channel 8 or you can watch it streaming live on Channel 8′s website See if you can spy my little tree in the background! I’ll be showing the ladies how to make doiley print items like the dresses the girls & I made last year. Cross your fingers for me, live crafting makes me a bit nervous, I mean what can go wrong with fabric paint & two nicely dressed news anchors??Instagram & Doiley Valentine Tree :: by Little Pink Monster

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Where is the love?

I would say about half of you reading listen to my husband’s radio show & the other half have found me through the crafting/blogging world, I want to talk about something that stems from what happened yesterday on the radio but really pertains to all of us so bear with me even if you aren’t a Kane Show listener…

Yesterday P had a ‘family meeting’ to explain why Melanie, one of the co-hosts, had left the show. In that conversation he mentioned me being sick & how in order to be there for me at Mayo in Jacksonville he couldn’t give as much time at work. There’s only so much one person can do & trust me when I say my husband is the hardest working man I’ve ever met in my life. He will go go go for his family & his job until his body literally gives out on him. You can’t stop him from that either, it’s just who he is.

After his explanation of what happened I received a whole bunch of wonderful emails from people who heard him on the show but hadn’t really known me or LPM, they were all so sweet & heart felt. Reading the stories of other young women who have gone through this same rough journey that I’m on is beyond encouraging & knowing that people will take the time to look for my blog, open their email & send me, a stranger, their personal stories & well wishes is truly beautiful. Strangers showing love through online connections. It makes you think society must be full of love right?

One of the emails mentioned that she found my blog by googling “Kane’s wife’s blog”, that caught my attention, I’ve googled myself a few times (you know you’ve done it too!) & never really found much but that phrase never crossed my mind. So of course I did it. Wish I hadn’t…

I found a few message board threads about DC mommy bloggers & I was so taken back at how horrible other local moms can be! They don’t know me or how much of my heart I’ve put into LPM yet they had no problem saying to others…

“I find it and her annoying. Should I just admit to being a hater?”

“If I was a SAHM, would I spend my time making little crafty things? Probably not.”

“Every time I see a carefully crafted mommy blog like that, I wonder why the hell they don’t get a real job since they obviously have time.”

Here’s my honest reaction when I read those among others…I laughed. I mean, really? What is this high school?

It really is just part of the job that when you’re affiliated with a medium that puts your life in the public eye (moreso my husband’s job than my blog) you’re going to get some grown up women who never grew beyond being mean girls that are so unhappy with themselves that their first reaction is to spew hate to others. I can actually shake that off pretty easily. P & I have been doing this for 7 years, you learn to let it go.

Here’s what I can’t shake off.

There’s something very special about the crew that’s on the Kane Show now, we have Danni, John & Eric over our house all the time & I love the family dynamic we’ve settled into. I’ve been in the radio world for more than 10 years & I know this group is something special. My kids adore John, they come running when he & his lovely girlfriend Laura come to the door. Eric knows me so well & even brought me a nice bottle of whiskey to make hot toddies when I was sick this past week. And then there’s Danni. Danni is the new girl, although I truly mean this when I say I feel like I’ve known her forever. I’ll be honest with you, I adored Sarah. She & I spent a lot of time together & I was really sad when she chose to leave, I actually resolved after that to not get so personally involved with P’s co-hosts because it felt like a break up when she left.

But then I met Danni…danni and nat

I’ve never met someone who is so genuine. She says exactly what she means & I love that, but there’s more. I don’t know how she does it but once you get to talking to Danni, like really talking to her, you realize that she’s completely willing to bear her soul to you. I’m sure that’s gotten her into trouble along the way, when someone is willing to make themselves vulnerable there will be people that will take advantage of that but Danni has somehow managed to be an extremely strong woman yet is still completely willing to make herself vulnerable by loving & caring for anyone who needs it.

This morning I was going through my instagram & started reading through a thread that mentioned my husband & I, it really didn’t say anything too bad about me but my goodness I couldn’t believe how strangers could type such horrible things about Danni. I truly do not understand. What is it about the anonymity of a phone or keyboard that brings out such incredible nastiness in people??? We’re constantly hearing stories on the news about bullying & how teens are literally killing eachother over social media nastiness yet we as adults are more than willing to do the same thing? Aren’t we better than that? I’m sure every person who left a nasty comment about my husband or Danni has at some point had their feelings hurt by someone being mean to them. Didn’t that feel bad? Why do that someone else? Especially someone you have never met. Someone you do not know. Why?

I was talking with Danni this morning & trying to encourage her to be strong & not take to heart what nasty people are saying because they’re unhappy about the changes in the show but there’s only so much a girl can take. She told me that someone actually posted that they hope her daughter dies. Her two year old sweet little girl. Can you imagine as a mother hearing a stranger that you’ve never met tell you that about your child? You’d lose your mind right?

So I want to ask you to do me a favor, please…

If you’re a mother, a daughter, sister or friend please think before you type. Words hurt, even if their from strangers on twitter or instagram.

If you want to do something nice please leave a comment for Danni, she’s a darn sweet mother who’s unfairly being bullied by people who are unhappy with changes in the morning show. Changes I might add that were absolutely not what any of us in our little family wanted. You can find Danni on instagram @iamdannistarr or on twitter @iamdannistarr

I’m sorry to go on this tangent but nobody is gonna mess with my family and not hear something from me!

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Mayo Day 4: Time to go home (and a surprise answer!)

**I’m so sorry I left you hanging after my last post, I started writing this a few days ago but then we traveled back home & since then have had a really hard time both physically & mentally, when that happens I kind of have to shelve blogging and go into survival mode.

Wow, being at Mayo was seriously the fastest & yet somehow longest week I’ve ever experienced.

I’m going to make this post quick for a few reasons, one I’m excited to get back to posting about other things that I really love & aren’t all a bunch a medical jabber & two, what I really wanted to convey were the feelings one goes through during this process, I’m hoping by talking about all of the ups & downs it can be helpful to you, even if you’re hard time isn’t necessarily about your health.

Yesterday’s appointment with Rheumotology went well. They were incredibly thorough & even took the time to talk with P & my Dad at length to gain their perspective of how I’ve been the last two years. Their conclusion wasn’t too far off from what we already knew. I definitely have an ‘athritis causing inflammatory auto immune disease’ but it hasn’t show itself enough to know which one it is. Could be RA, Lupus, Sjogrens, Graves…who knows, I’ll just have to wait until it shows itself more specifically. The bad part of that is I still don’t have a name, without a name you can’t easily tell people what’s wrong with you when they ask. However, without a name you also can’t drive yourself bananas googling it on the internet so I guess that’s good. The other good news is that the medication I’m already on (plaquenil) is what they would suggest for any of those diseases. So even though we don’t have a name we have a treatment & that truly is the most important piece to the puzzle.

The Rheumotologist also confirmed the Fibromyalgia diagnosis. Fifty percent of people with an auto-immune disease will develop Fibro along with it. (you only have a 4% chance of having Fibro if you don’t have an auto immune disease)

Fibromyalgia is a bitch.

I’m sorry about the language but seriously, I HATE HER. Fibro has caused me to develop TMJ, PFD, muscle spasms, muscle atrophy, IBS & restless legs. What a whore.

So I really thought after that appointment that was going to be it, it wasn’t what I was hoping for but it was something I could eventually make peace with. Turns out however that the best answer I was going to get was yet to come…

After Rheumotology my doctor had scheduled some ‘Autonomic Testing’. My very limited medical knowledge tells me that your Autonomic System regulates most of your subconscious functions…blood pressure, digestion, temperature control, heart rate, sexual functions & a few other things.

Before my trip to Mayo I was having a lot of anxiety about what to expect so I did what any rational person would do…I googled it. I stumbled across a young woman’s blog who had documented her trip to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. She seemed to have a lot of the same symptoms I had & at the end of her visit she learned that she had a disease that had affected her Autonomic System & it was just wreaking havoc on her. I had never even heard of your Autonomic System before but after reading her experience a light bulb went off & a little feeling in my gut said, ‘this could be a BIG part your problem’.

I’ve been having a lot of problems with my blood pressure dropping & starting to black out so the abnormal blood pressure symptom immediately caught my attention. A week ago the loud ringing I get in my ears when I’m starting to black out even woke me up during the middle of the night. I didn’t even know you could black out in your sleep. Beyond bizarre. I’ve also noticed that lately if I get cold I can NOT get warm & on the other hand sometimes, very quickly & for no apparent reason, I’ll get crazy hot & start sweating all over. I figured it had to do with my ‘issues’ & never thought it could be something else until I read about blog girl’s experiences. I also am never hungry. I’ve lost 14 pounds & hate the way I look. I try to eat because otherwise I feel like crap but after a few bites I’m uncomfortably full. Autonomics handle digestion…interesting. Also remember when I spent 3 days in the hospital because I had lost feeling in my legs, hands & face? The best the hospital neurologist could tell me was that it was from a B12 deficiency. (on a side note I totally believed him at the time but while I was gathering my records for Mayo I noticed on my hospital labwork that my B12 was in the normal range, I’m wondering now if he was just fishing for an answer because he didn’t really know. Just another reason people, you cannot always take one doctor’s word as gold!) Because of all of that I was sure to tell my Mayo Primary Dr that I wanted to do the Autonomic Testing. (only a handful of places in the country have the capabilities to test for it) She agreed although she doubted that was the problem.

I did the Autonomic Testing 6 hours before our flight was to leave to take us home. Craziest testing I’ve EVER done, they basically try to make you faint, you can read more about it here. Right before we left for the airport I had my last meeting with the primary doctor to go over the trip. She reiterated what the other doctors had told us & what their recommendations were for when I got back home. The one thing she didn’t have yet however were the Autonomic Testing results. UGH! She promised to call me if they were abnormal & if I didn’t here from her then I could assume it was fine.

We packed up our stuff, loaded the girls into the rental car & made our way to the airport. As we were sitting by the gate getting ready to board my phone rang. It was the Mayo doctor. I felt like a boy I really liked but wasn’t sure was going to call actually did. She said results were abnormal & lead the doctors to believe I have a small fiber neuropothy. I didn’t have a lot of time for her to explain but basically a disease had caused my nerves to malfunction & not regulate my body the way they should, it was also most likely the reason for my awful pain in my legs & feet. SFN are relatively rare & often go undiagnosed, I’m extremely blessed that I happened to be at a hospital that could diagnose it, I’m certain that if I hadn’t gone to the Mayo Clinic I would not have been diagnosed correctly. (in case your curious SFN are often either genetic or are a result of your body experiencing an infection or an auto-immune disease. When I told my local rheumotologist she said there’s a lot of new research that connected Fibromyalgia with SFN as well)

I got off the phone & told P, he was so funny, his reaction was exactly like mine, “YAY! That’s great!! Well, I mean, not great, but so happy we have answer!” I immediately called my mom & dad to tell them the good news. Weird right? Somehow when you’re sick for a long time & have so many doctors brush you off as being ‘anxious’ or a ‘hypochondriac’ to finally get a concrete black & white answer is the best feeling on Earth. For a little while at least. Now that I’ve had some time to digest & read more about small fiber neuropathy it’s made things really real. Really real that it’s not easily treated. Really real that there is no way to reverse the damage. Really real that often it gets much worse. I don’t know, I thought I had accepted the fact that I had ‘something’ that I was going to be dealing with the rest of my life but for some reason I feel like I’m going through all of those emotions for the first time. It kind of feels like grieving maybe?

I’m sure this is quite boring for lots of you or you’re tired of hearing about it but for those of you who always leave me the sweetest comments & encouraging emails or your stories about difficulties with your own health…sigh, thank you doesn’t even begin to convey how it makes me feel. It truly makes things easier for me.

So what now? I literally just got off the phone with my pain management doctor because last night was the 6th night in a row that the leg pain wakes me during the night & I have to go sit in a hot shower to get relief & while I wait for my next dose of pain medication to kick in so I can go back to sleep until it wears off 3-4 hours later & I have to do the whole thing again. Not sleeping makes me a not kind person. That’s at the top of my list for figuring out. I have a neurologist appointment this Thursday & then need to find a GI doc & physical therapist to get started on building some strength. It’s going to be long road & I’m not feeling the most confident but as Glennon from Momastery says…we can do hard things

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Mayo Day 3

Have you ever opened your eyes in the morning & already, before you even get out of bed, you already feel beat down & broken?

This was one of those mornings. Everything hurt. I spent the night rolling over from one hip to the next because after a few hours something in my body tightens up & the feeling of being stuck in a tin can wakes me. After a night like that you wake up already tired. Sometimes, like today, I know as soon as that one foot falls out of bed & hits the floor that it’s not going to get better. It’s going to be a hard day.

Yesterday afternoon I was truly on a high of hope that this could all turn out ok. In fact, I called my pain management doctor and begged him to put me on a new regime that would get me off of all the pain medications. If my problems were muscular than in theory a muscle relaxer should bring relief & make pain medication completely unnecessary. He agreed & called one in to the CVS down the road so I could start right away & I was SO EXCITED. I was so sure it would work. As I write this in hindsight I’m shaking my head because I should have known better. I should have known there is no magic pill that all of a sudden is going to help me sleep like a baby & & feel the peaceful relief that I so desperately want. However like many times before by bedtime I found myself in a brutal flare & went to bed nauseous, groggy, in pain & sad. BUT before I went to sleep, in a desperate state, I reached for my phone & read my ‘Jesus Calling’ for the day,

“Much, much stress results from your wanting to make things happen before their times come. One f the main ways I assert my sovereignty is in the timing of events. If you want to stay close to Me & do things My way, ask Me to show you the path forward moment by moment. Instead of dashing headlong toward your goal, let Me set the pace. Slow down, & the enjoy the journey in My Presence.”

How quick I am to get a little glimmer of a way out & just take the ball & freakin’ run with it. I had it all planned. I made the calls…I called my Doctors, told my loved ones….this was it! I forced it. I made it happen before it was time. I get that now.

After my feet hit the floor this morning & it became clear a bad day was here I foud a little silver lining in the fact that today was the day, my appointment with the rheumotoligist. My “gold star appointment” as my Mayo primary doctor had called it. Maybe I could dare to hope one more time that he/she would have an answer. One I couldn’t see coming. One it was time for.

I got dressed & as I made my way down to the hotel lobby for some coffee I remembered something, I hadn’t yet checked my patient portal. (Mayo has a fancy system where you can check your online account for appointment times, doctor’s notes & lab results) I opened it up & found that the lab results my primary doctor had ordered at the beginning of the week were in…

Wouldn’t you know it, they were pretty much all normal.

I lost it.

I started thinking about all of the sacrifices everyone had/is making for me to be here. My mother who’s keeping my children, my Father who’s utterly selflessly gone with me to every appointment…I don’t know how he’s getting his regular work done when he’s spent the entire day, every day with me, but he never shows it. He always smiles & thanks me for asking him to come. My sweet stepmother who’s without a husband this week so he can be with me, P’s co-workers & bosses who have truly juggled everything so he could do his show from Jacksonville…all of these people were giving so much so I could get answers. After looking at these labs I was hit smack in the face with the very real reality that I might not get ANSWERS.

So I did what I often do when I’m completely overwhelmed with my feelings. I sat down to talk to you. I opened my laptop to write this, to tell you I’m broken, scared & dreading this appointment because after reading those labs I have no more hope.

And you know what? Right then something happened, something that actually happens a lot when I sit down to write. I realized my mistake…

HOPE.

Hope was my mistake. Hope is fragile. Hope can be built up on a dime & dashed by a fluke.

TRUST.

To truly trust that God is leading me through this, that’s my way out, it can’t be changed by labs, tests or the best specialists. It is a firm foundation.

If I can just do that, maybe this will still turn out ok. Then again maybe my idea of “ok” isn’t the plan, maybe another outcome is. I guess that’s why it’s called “trust”.

Appointment is in twelve minutes. Gotta run my friend…

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Mayo Day 2

Today I had two appointments that I pretty much blew off as exams that my primary care doctor needed to check off but turns out they might just be the best answers I get out of this trip.

I can never remember what I told you verses my other girlfriends or my mom so excuse me if I’m repeating myself, but this past year I’ve had a few symptoms that have really made life tough. They didn’t come & go like the usual joint pain, fatigue or fever flares. One, which is by far the most intrusive in my life, has been my lower back pain that shoots into my hips & down my left leg. My pain management doctor ordered an MRI months ago but nothing on it showed why I was having this pain. There was a small herniation & a few degenerative discs & since those were the only findings my doctors recommended treating those with their usual back protocol in hopes that it would somehow solve the pain. (Normally this type of pain is nerve related but the MRI showed nothing pressing on the sciatic nerve) First was an epidural injection with the devil in a bottle, Prednisone. When that gave no relief they moved me on to radio frequency where they actually burn the nerve on the suspected trouble making joint, and in between those treatments were a few months of trying a bazillion different pain medications that gave me side effects which ranged from twitching to pooch belly constipation.

After today I finally know the reason none of those treatments worked. The problem was never my discs or aggravation of my sciatic nerve. My problem was my crotch.

Hehe, do I have your attention now?

Let me back up…a few of my symptoms that I mentioned to the Mayo primary doctor were that sometimes I get horrendous pelvic pain, it’s comes on quick & goes away just as randomly. Also this past year peeing is, well, harder than it should be. I had an entire urologist workup in the past which showed nothing & yet the problem remained. I’m guessing this was why she wanted me to see the Mayo gynecologist, and guess what that lovely woman found within 2 minutes of examining me? I have Pelvic Floor Dysfunction.

Your pelvic floor is kind of like your house’s foundation. It’s a bunch of muscles that run from your front to your back & they hold everything in place. Turns out mine are in constant spasm. When those muscles are spasming they cant’ relax enough to start a stream of urine, at least not without a heck of a lot of effort, also when they’re all freaking out it causes constipation, pain during sex & a host of other problems. The gynecologist started telling me about causes of PFD…a really bad bladder infection or trauma are usually the culprit. Neither of which related to me, I asked her if any diseases are associated with it, without missing a beat she answered, “Fibromyalgia.”

“Oh, well I have that.”

At this point it’s only halfway through the day & I’m already feeling pretty darn overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with relief that if PFD is the source of my pain than a solution could be just around the corner & also pretty defeated that once again Fibromyalgia is sneakily wreaking havoc. You know, I’m also kind of pissed that no one picked up on it sooner but whatever, gotta let that one go.

Next up on the grind was an appointment with a ‘doctor of physical motion’, I’m still not entirely sure what his specialty includes but my impression is he recognizes when pain is a result of your body not moving the way it’s designed to. Dr. Rizzo was a very nice but very to the point man. He pulled up my MRI (the one my local doctor had done) & was able to show me yet another reason my back hurt. For those of you who are medical professionals please excuse my poor regurgitation of all your jargon. On the outside of your spine there are some small, finger looking muscles that go up & down your back. Not your big back muscles, these guys kind of nestle underneath. My MRI shows that at the top of my back these muscles are nice & plump, when you get a little lower however they start to look a little rough. I believe the term is ‘muscle atrophy’. When those wimpy little muscles aren’t pulling their weight everything starts get out of whack, on the other side of those muscles are tiny little nerves that run impulses up & down your back…mine are pissed. He explained how my wimpy muscles & my crooked pelvic floor muscles are related in throwing everything off kilter, even as I’m trying to explain it to you I’m really not exactly sure how it all works but I do know this, it can be fixed with physical therapy. About 4 months is his guess before I should expect to see results.

When my Dad & I asked what causes muscles to atrophy in a young, relatively active person he gave a few different diseases. Guess what one was? Fibromyalgia.

Between these two visits just stick a fork in me…I’m done.

I really thought that Rheumotolgy would be where I’d get my big answers but after today I’m wondering, could all of my problems really be from the Fibro? I can’t really explain why but I hope not. Fibromyalia is such a vague, confusing syndrome…my rheumotologist always said she thought it was secondary to some bigger problem I had but at that point it was the only thing identifiable. For the last year I’ve been waiting to know what that ‘big thing’ was & that it wasn’t just the boogey man.

Two more days to go, Rheumotology & Autonomic Testing, if they don’t show some unturned stone than I think this whole trip will be learning that a problem I already knew I had, had gotten out of control.

photo(8)My ability for finding unnecessary purchases in random places has truly outdone itself, hospital gift shop matching sequined dorothy slippers for the girls & myself? Yes, please.

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Off to Mayo we go…

Well it’s here. I made the appointment what seemed like an eternity ago but those darn holidays, they just made the last three months of the year fly by.

I haven’t talked about my health in awhile because of two reasons…there really isn’t anything new to share & I’m trying not to think about it so much. After my last hospital stay my second rheumotologist gave me the same advice the first one did…it’s time to let the big boys handle things, make an appointment at either John Hopkins or Mayo Clinic.

So I did, and now it’s here. Now I’m here.mayo clinic jacksonville

My dad is here with me which I’m very grateful for, he & P are going to switch off coming to my appointments. This place is crazy you guys. I’m sitting in the third waiting room since I arrived an hour ago, my first impression is they do not mess around here. This is not a place where they get your appointment wrong or misplace your file. They know who you are & why you’re here before you do…a well oiled machine to say the least.

Mayo is pretty much the place to go when no one else seems to be able to help you or when you need the best. The tough cases come here, the otherwise hopeless cases come here or in my case, the ‘I don’t know what is wrong you’ come here. Hopefully, for answers.

I have had the worst anxiety the last few days about this trip. my worst fear has been, “What if they don’t find anything? What if once again I go through lots of awful tests only to show up as ‘normal’, what if this all ends with yet another doctor shrugging his shoulders & saying, maybe it’s stress?” Somehow I’ve resolved that I just need to have faith that whatever the outcome, it’s meant to be this way. Whatever they say, it’s for a bigger reason & I must believe that good will come of it. (Just because I know that & can regurgitate it to you does NOT mean I always remember that, I’m learning that faith is an ongoing decision, & sometimes, often, I still make the wrong one.)

So far today I’ve gone through patient registration. I proved I am who I say I am, I gave them all of my films & labs, which they promptly scan & enter into your ‘patient portal’ online, & I’ve met with my primary care dcotor. Your primary care doctor is kind of like your team captain. Mine is a sweet, young, very pretty blonde woman. I felt like she was caring & eager to help me find some answers. After a good review of the last two years with her she then decided what she’d like to see on my schedule. That’s not where the magic happens however, the magic comes from Ruth.

Ruth was my assigned scheduler. She takes all of the doctors’s requests (a visit to gynocology, neurology, rheumatology, physical motion, xrays, ultrasound & of course labwork) & MAKES IT HAPPEN. Girlfriend is better than match.com

While I was getting my blood drawn she was working the phones calling all of the different departments, trying to get me into to see them in the next 72 hours. It took her a little while but somehow her magical headset pulled through & I received my schedule for the rest of my visit. Except for neurology. Those buggers play hard to get & I can’t get in to to see them until February 19th. And that was because I got lucky & slipped into a canceled spot, normally I would be waiting until May!

So the schedule looks like this…

Hip Xray now, Gynocology this afternoon & Ultrasound this evening.

Doctor of physical motion (your guess is as good as mine!) tomorrow & Rheumatology the next day.

Autonomic testing on Monday with my final meeting back with my primary care doctor that afternoon.

I’m finding that I’m oddly excited about this, I’ve never experienced any sort of medical organization that comes even remotely close to this place. If I’m going to find answers anywhere it’s got to be here. It’s just got to.

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2014 Resolution #1: Stay within the border!

I had a dream last night…true story.

It was one of those where it’s so troubling & seems so incredibly real that you wake up in a panic, sit straight up in bed & have to look around the room to finally breathe a little easier that it was just a dream.

In my dream P, Sam, Sophie & myself had traveled to a foreign country that we quickly realized we were not supposed to be in. We were taken prisoner & were forced to live in a refugee type camp with other condemned travelers. (weird I know, maybe it was the scallops I had for dinner, just stick with me…) We went through our days with this awful gut feeling that our family was in terrible danger, somehow we just knew if we stayed there & waited for help our children could be taken away from us. So we started searching for a way to escape. We found an underground group of civilians of this war torn country who were risking their lives to help families like ours cross a nearby river which marked the border of the country. The night came for our escape & while the details are a bit fuzzy I remember having horrible anxiety while walking down every dark hallway or hiding in the shadows while soldiers paroled nearby that this could be it, I could lose everything. We had decided I would carry Sophie in a sling (she was a bit younger in my dream than she is now) & P would take Sam. We tried staying close together but both agreed that no matter what just get the child you were holding across. Even if meant splitting up.

There were many close calls but we, along with around a dozen other people trying to escape, had finally reached the river & the most dangerous part. The people helping us spoke a foreign language & there was so much confusion. Also unnerving was we learned that an integral part of a successful escape involved certain guards & government workers who were paid off to turn their heads & let us pass various checkpoints. This was the most terrifying part of my dream & I remember it crystal clear. At one point we had to slowly move past a man who was ‘letting us through’ & when it was my turn I locked eyes with him. Just typing this I can remember such a strong feeling of hate in his eyes, I cradled Sophie next to my chest & watched his dead eyes follow me. There was an overwhelming feeling of fear that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. It’s so crazy that a completely false dream can leave you with such very real emotions. We all finally got to the river & had to wait for someone to call us when it was safe to try & swim across. It was painfully slow, only one or two at a time could go & the rest of us knew that the longer we stayed there, on the wrong side of freedom, the more we were at risk. Throughout the shuffle we had somehow ended up a few people ahead of P & Sam, I was looking back at them when a blonde American looking woman who was dressed as a doctor ran to all of us & yelled, “I can take one!” My instinct to jump at the chance for survival kicked in & I raised my hand & said, “She & I count as one, she’s just a baby, please take us!” The woman nodded & quickly ushered Sophie & I down a different path than I had seen the others go. I caught one quick glance of P & Sam but we were moving so fast that I couldn’t even make eye contact with them to say goodbye. This is when I started to cry in my sleep, the thought of not kissing them goodbye. The sadness was quickly replaced by panic when I realized that this woman was not with our group. She was not there to help us but worked for the country’s government. They had discovered our plan & sent her to try & deter as many of us as possible. When I realized that I had chosen wrong & had led Sophie & I into certain misery a wave of regret rushed over me that was so powerful, I finally woke up. I sat up & after a few deep breaths turned my head to see a peacefully sleeping Sam & P in the bed with me. Our little family wasn’t torn apart, we weren’t in danger, we were all completely tucked in & safe, all piled in one bed, getting ready to start a new day together.

I laid back down but turned on my side so I could just stare at their two little peaceful profiles. I thought about what a bizarre & terrible dream that was. I believe that dreams usually come from an underlying fear or emotion that your subconscious is grappling with, or bad seafood, so what could it mean for me? I’m really not sure. I knew I wouldn’t be able to fall back asleep unless I thought about something reassuring, then it hit me. It’s New Years Day. It’s a chance for a fresh start, for resolutions that we hope will lead us to a better life, maybe this awful dream could actually be the inspiration for an important lesson.

Doing the TV segment last week breathed new life into my drive for making this blog, & therefore my passions, into a real career. When I first thought about ways of resolve for the new year seizing the TV opportunity & a few others that have come up as a result of it, seemed like a good plan…until now.

Perhaps what would make me the happiest would be to focus on how I can improve the lives of those who are truly the most valuable to me. Those horrible feelings of fear, panic, & loss that overwhelmed me during that dream were because my family is the most important thing to me & for what felt like a very real moment I thought I was going to lose them.

So what’s the point of all this? To creep you out with a crazy dream that probably should have stayed in my own little puzzling head? Partially. Moreso to say this…

On this New Year’s Day when you’re making resolutions to eat better, work out or stay organized perhaps instead think about resolving to better improve what you love but might take for granted. Basically this, think about what you would be the most devastated to lose. I think it’s safe to say that’s probably what is the most important to you. Then think about what is something small you could change in your relationship with that person (I’m assuming it’s a person, if it’s a thing then maybe we should be having a different conversation. No judgement!) that would make them happier. For example, my children would love if I read to them at night & my husband would adore to get more kisses & hugs every day.

If I’m taking care of what’s most important to me than I’m also taking care of what makes me the happiest. If you’re being fulfilled by that then I believe that the other common resolutions will fall into place. One good decision will lead to another. (and yes, I did steal that line from a cereal commercial. What?)

So those are my New Year’s Day two cents, this whole post was mish-moshed together at 2am so there very well may be some flaws in my logic, even if you don’t agree with everything I say I hope you leave here today with a little nugget that will make your life happier.

Happy 2014!!!Family.

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