Friday, March 11, 2016

Be kind

Every year at this time I get anxious as I sit down to write my personal fundraising page for the MS Walk.   I don't know about you, but it's hard to open myself up and let people see what's really going on inside. It's hard to be vulnerable.  In years past I've had a "theme" of sorts to my fundraising.  Whether it was hope, strength, joining together as one for a cure...this year I'm struggling.  I'm exhausted, forgetful and to be honest a little afraid.
 I've got some decisions to make regarding medication that I have pushed off for over a year.  This past year I tried a new avenue with a more holistic approach.  I tried acupuncture, went to a nutritionist and saw new doctors up at Duke Integrative Healthcare.  I "cleansed" my body of gluten, alcohol, sugar, caffeine, dairy and meat.  I started seeing a therapist to help me accept this diagnosis, some 5 years later.  I started taking a private Pilates class to help my body be less stiff, to work on my balance and to challenge myself mentally. I quit my job last September because it was just too much for my mind to handle.  I got confused and it started taking me longer and longer to get my projects done.

Through all this I have I have done my best to remain positive.  I've tried to take something from each of last year's experiences to move forward.  After many a crying conversation with Stephen, we decided that if I was going to quit my job it wasn't going to stop me from working.  The focus was just changing.  The focus became working on me.  Trying to find a rhythm to a disease that has no rhyme.  My job was to focus on getting me stronger, physically and mentally.  We bought a piano last October so I could challenge my mind to learn something new.  I now take Pilates classes three times a week.   Sometimes that is all I can do...go to Pilates and then come home and rest.  Other days I can go on for hours and then later that night it hits me like a ton of bricks that I have done too much.   It's hard to accept that I do not have control over how my body feels and reacts to MS and life's daily stresses.

I have learned something very important along the way.  It's funny because I have always preached this to the girls, ever since they were little.  It is simply to be kind.  Be kind to others.   Try to understand that everyone comes from a different place and we never know what has happened to them before we meet them that day.  They could have had a fight with their mom.  Maybe their dog is sick.  Maybe their best friend said something mean.  Maybe their parents are getting divorced and they don't know what to do.  Maybe they just don't feel well.  It could be anything under the sun.  No matter how they treat you, you must be kind in return.  I never really told them to apply that to themselves.   This year as I have explored new ideas and approaches to my MS and I have found one common theme in all of it.  Be kind to myself.  Treat my body and mind the way I want to be treated.  Take care of it.  Challenge it.  Understand that there are some days when it's not going to do what I want it to do.  Let go of unrealistic expectations.  Embrace the challenges and be proud that I give my best and it is good enough.

As I reread what I have written so far I have to correct myself and say that I am not struggling with a theme this year.  I've learned something new about myself this past year and I need to share that with all of you.  BE KIND.  It's that simple.  This is something you all should do whether you have Multiple Sclerosis or not.  I think if we make the choice to be kind to ourselves the results will be tenfold.

As I've said, MS is an unpredictable chronic disease for which there is no cure.  If sharing my story with you has touched you heart, I ask for you to thoughtfully consider donating to my MS Walk team.  The funds raised go to local people right here in NC, as well as much needed funds for medical research to find a CURE for MS.

As my beloved New England Patriots have said "Do your job".  Well they did theirs and won the super bowl!  I'm going to do mine and win this fight against MS.  I would love to have you by my side supporting me on Saturday, April 11th for the MS Walk.

-JAH


21 Day Cleanse...what was I thinking?

You read it right...S and I are in the midst of a 21 day cleanse, day 17 to be exact.  Trying to jump start our bodies by cutting out most of the things we LOVE!!  We cannot have gluten, caffeine, animal products (that includes glorious cheese!!), sugar (my addiction is on hiatus) and my beloved wine (alcohol in general).  It literally took me about 9 months to make this decision.  Yeah, it was that major for me.  So every night I am trying to come up with vegan meals for us adults and then something the kids will eat.  With 2 kids one week and 5 the next it has been tricky with all those different mouths to feed!! 

It's really not as bad as I thought it would be.  We got the idea from Kathy Freston's book Quantum Wellness Cleanse.  She actually looks at your whole person in this cleanse and how each of us is unique.  It's really a low pressure book.  After rereading some parts, I finally decided to jump in!  My first goal was to loose weight...on day 17 I am down 3 pounds (not very impressive to me, could it be all those veggie tortilla chips and Mrs. Renfros, salsa ?!? Maybe ).  My second goal was to detox my body, which includes what goes in and what comes out.  This past March I ended up in the emergency room, ambulance and everything, with severe stomach pains.  After waiting far too long the diagnosis was in...I was full of shit, literally.  Good God!!  I was embarrassed to say the least...who new poop could cause so much pain?  Well I do and now so do you!  I can happily say that I have met this goal, through the cleanse, yea me!! My third goal was to see if these changes would help my sleep.  As you may know...I'm creeping up on 45 in October...sleep after you are 40 can be non-existent.  I'm not sure if the cleanse actually helped or if it was my discovery of Sleepytime Extra Wellness Tea.  My guess is...it's the tea.  I highly recommend giving it a try. 

So on the positive side I met all my goals.  While I didn't melt away into a sleek size 2 like I was hoping for, I'll take the 3 pounds and call it a night.  Who knows, I could shed the rest in these last 4 days!!  I'll keep you posted on that one!  There really isn't a negative side to this cleanse...although last night S and I looked at each other and he said what I was thinking..."boy I'd love a drink right now".  First time in 17 days that I really missed my pinot noir.  We will reunite on Monday for my anniversary.  I think we will make some adaptations to our old way of eating.  I'm not going to stay a vegan 3 weeks/21 days//504 hours, however you would like to note it, will be long enough for me.  I think I'll be able to incorporate the two eating styles into something moderate and still healthy.  I've seen both extremes and I can honestly say I am not interested in either as a life change.  I will limit the process foods and focus a lot more on clean eating.  Real food actually tastes really good!!




I do want to share my intense love for Pinterest  That website/app is outrageously good!  If you are not on Pinterest you need to drop everything and go there (well after you finish reading this post!)  I have found so many recipes and wellness tips I feel like I have found a gold mine.  Never mind the gardening, fashion, decorating and everything else in the world you can think of...it's amazing.  Click on the "follow me on Pinterest" link to the right and you can see all my pins!
I'd love to hear your thoughts on cleanses and clean eating?  What do you think???

-JAH

Merging my two blogs back to one

Merging my two blogs back to one...here are my posts from Striving for Balance.

Welcome to my new blog!  I'm so glad you are here.  Many of you have followed me for the past 6 years at She is Running Down a Dream .  For those of you new to my writings, thanks for coming into my little piece of the world.  A little background for you...I am married to the absolute love of my life (lucky me, I know!).  We will be celebrating our first anniversary next week!  Between the two of us we have 5 daughters and a part time dog.  I started my first blog 6 years ago while I was going through some medical testing.  After months of the unknown, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis on December 22, 2009.  I used my blog as an outlet as I tried to come to terms with my diagnosis, to deal with the ending of my first marriage, to share lessons learned and for A LOT of self reflection. 

I came to the decision to start a new blog that would correlate with my world as it is today.  I'm a newlywed again. This time with 5 daughters. My family has grown by three amazing people.   Being part of a blended family can have it's highs and it's lows.  New personalities, new environment, new "rules"...really new everything.  Along with that, I'm still working on my ability to accept my diagnosis (and the changes that it brings to our daily lives).  I've taken a new approach to managing my daily living and my health.  It's more encompassing.  It includes the physical, emotional & spiritual pieces as a whole.  Instead of just going by what my neurologist prescribes I am seeking out new alternatives.  It's certainly a process and one that is still in the beginning stages. 

As I begin on this new journey, I hope you will come along for the ride.  It's sure to be interesting as I continue Striving for Balance.  Be sure to follow me so you will get my most recent posts on family, love, food (I love, love, love food!) along with my thoughts, reflections and musings on everything in my little piece of the world!

-JAH

Friday, February 7, 2014

Courage to bloom

The past four years I have been under the impression that I was "managing" my
MS, when in truth I was trying to ignore it.  I pushed through, stiff upper
lip and all. I thought if I just plowed through life, running full steam
ahead that I would "beat" this disease.  I pushed it out of my mind, as best
I could, trying to prove that this could and would not change me or my life.
My parents always said I had to learn things the hard way...and "the light (finally)
dawns on Marblehead". 

Last summer, after getting some test results back my neurologist suggested
that I consider changing my course of drug therapy.  Over the past months since I have
been trying to decide if this is something I want to do.  A very smart person
in my life asked me a question I had never asked myself..."what is your plan
for managing your MS?"  At first I was honestly insulted...I got up every morning
and faced the day, I wasn't crying a pity party in my soup. I was forging ahead! 
I had a plan...to do what ever my neurologist told me to do...that's why I go to
a specialist,right?  I thought I had done pretty good considering the circumstances. 
I was doing the best I could...or was I?  I was then asked..."is that it?"  
I started thinking and I had to admit to myself that I really didn't have a plan. I was in denial.

According to the 5 stages of grief "Acceptance means that you've grasped the reality of your situation
and you're ready to incorporate that reality into your life. " Hmmm...I think in the
back of my mind acceptance meant that I was defeated.  I have really struggled with
this idea.  To be honest I am still struggling with it.  Ever fiber of my being has been telling me
that acknowledging this is wrestling with defeat and defeat is unacceptable.  But I had to admit
my plan wasn't really working anymore (if it ever did).  So I started to do what I do best, research.
There is so much information out there it is overwhelming and intimidating.  Where the hell do
I begin?  Since I now realize that relying solely on the medical community is no longer an option for me my new plan is to look for ways to attack this on all fronts.  It's a necessary turn in the road. 
I know it won't be easy but I am going to try to keep my mind open to all that is out there for me
to tap into.  I have to remember that this too is moving forward, the game plan has just shifted...but I am still IN the game. 
 

To that very smart person in my life...thank you.  Many times it's hard to see the forest
through the trees and it takes someone with courage to point that out.  Thank you for
challenging me to be the best person I can be and thank you for reminding me that it is
always worth the risk to bloom.

"and the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was greater than the
risk it took to bloom"  Anais Nin

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Endurance, perserverance for the race we have before us


What a fantastic year it has been!  2013 brought so many wonderful experiences and we made so many amazing memories!!  As many of you know I got married this past September.  It’s been a whirlwind.  God has truly blessed me…growing our family to five daughters, giving us the means to expand our home and add 3 additional bedrooms, listing and selling my townhome in just 5 weeks, and of course most importantly finding the most incredible man to spend the rest of my life with. 

It’s been 4 years since I was diagnosed with MS and my life has seen many changes.  Some, as you can see from above, have been more than I could ever have dreamed of and others quite frankly have been a nightmare.  The physical and cognitive changes that MS has made to my brain, therefore my body, can be quite discouraging at times.  The physical symptoms have relatively stayed the same; numbness in my limbs, spatial issues, balance difficulties, pain in my back that has been not so lovingly named the” MS hug” along with extreme fatigue.   Cognitively, I have a pretty bad scar on my brain somewhere that has caused great memory loss.  I have lost complete conversations.  I have missed appointments that I didn’t remember scheduling.  I have forgotten some of the “little things” that make up the special memories of time I have spent with loved ones.  While there has been many a dark moment for me physically, emotionally and cognitively I can truly say that I am blessed. 

Every day I get up and out of bed I am thankful.  Thankful for the ability to walk.  Thankful for the ability to see.  Thankful that that I have been given a new day.  Thankful that I have true JOY in my heart.  Thankful for my amazing husband.  Thankful for our five absolutely beautiful, inside and out, daughters.  And believe it or not, Thankful I was diagnosed with MS.

I believe we are all given different races to run.  I believe we all have a purpose. I believe God Almighty has a plan.  I believe his plan is for me to share my story with others.  To encourage, lift up and give hope to those who may not feel as if they have any and to be an example to my daughters of perseverance regardless of life’s challenges. To be a witness to the amazing things God has for all of us, for even when we are at our lowest, He is working miracles for us. 

I share all of this with you so that you may see the HOPE I have for my future.  The HOPE I have that as many come together as one we will find a CURE for this disease.  I am asking again this year for you to share your blessings with me.  I ask for your support as our MS Walk Team, the Village People, fundraise to find a CURE and to support those with MS.  I am asking for you to be by my side as I run the race set out before me. 

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” –Hebrews 12:1-2

I thank you all from the bottom of my heart

Jo

http://main.nationalmssociety.org/site/TR?pg=team&fr_id=22866&team_id=363143
 
 


 

Monday, September 9, 2013

happy, happy days


After having lunch with a good friend of mine last week, I was reminded that I need to do more writing. We had not seen each other in some time and took a couple of hours to catch up.  During that time I was able to share all the wonderful things going on in my life.  She has told me on more than one occassion that my writing has lifted her spirits...she referenced my stiletto post from last year.  This friend and I have had an instant connection since we met.  We have not know each other for years and years, yet there is something intrinsically there that draws us close to one another.  She has seen me during some of the lowest points of my life.  As I was sharing all the good things that have been happening over the past months she was beaming.  Literally smiling from ear to ear with tears in her eyes.  You see, she has never been witness to my happiness.  She has never see my eyes light up, the love in my heart and the joy that is now engraved into my soul.  She had only seen the pain, sadness and heartbreak.  In seeing my smile, she too could be happy.  That day she was having a tough time of her own and that's when she told me to get back to writing.  She told me she drew strength from my writing, especially the stiletto post, which she had just read that morning (before she knew we were going to meet).  She told me that it was important to share my joy after I had shared so much heartache.  She reminded me of a conversation we had when I asked her if she thought I would ever be happy...we both now know the answer is yes. 

So here I am...starting up again.  This time with peace, joy and love in my heart.  As you read this, if you are struggling with something in your life, please know that "tough times never last, tough people do" (thanks Gram, after 25 years I still hold these words close to my heart). Hopefully my darkest days are behind me...for right now my future is bright like a sun shiny day!  I am so very grateful.  When I was coming out of that dark place I promised myself to live my life to the fullest, with no regrets.  Thankfully God had a plan for me.  A plan so wonderful that I could have never dreamed to come true.  I have found a wonderful, kind, generous, loving man.  He knows all about me and my history. He sees the scars.  He has seen the deep bruises that needed to heal.  He can find the beauty in them and in me.  He sees the good in me, actually he sees the great.  He has made me a better person and I think I have done the same for him.  We are truly partners.  Working towards the same goal...enjoying every day, taking chances and living with no regrets.  We are getting married in 20 days time, embracing each other and running toward our future, careful not to wish a day away.  Together we will bring a total of five daughters into our family.  Five sweet, wonderfully beautiful (inside and out), unique girls.  We are blessed beyond words. 

So as this new journey begins, don't worry...those stilettos will be on my feet every chance I get.  I promise to share these wonderful times with you.  I thank you all for standing by me in those really dark, ugly times.  I hope you will feel the love and happiness that fills me everyday.  I hope that it makes even a small difference in your life.  I hope your heart is touched with joy and if you are in a darker place, know that their is hope, as long as you have faith. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

words...


I've been off this grid for a while...missing my outlet of words...

If you have read this blog before you know my story...it's like anyone else's...full of words.  I've been trying to come back to this place to write, to release...yet it's been difficult to find the words.  Like so many of you my life has been upside down and all around...I've written about dark places.  I've written about finding light.  I've written about blessings.  I've written about pain.  I've written about love lost and love found.  I've written about beauty and I have written about ugliness.  Why has it been so hard for me to come back and write more?  Have I been afraid to share what's on my heart?  Have I decided that some things are better left private?  Or have I just not been able to find the words? None of those questions on their own holds the entire answer...however when combined I can see the answer.   

I was not sure how to "re -enter" my own writing space...writing that sentence is suprising to me...afterall it's MY space...these are MY words...I guess it is like anything else...if you venture off the path long enough you may lose your way. I wouldn't say that I have been lost these past 5 months.  I actually think that I have found myself...off the beaten path...
It seems I just could not find the words to share the experience.  Maybe this experience was one not meant to be shared? 

The reason behind my absence really isn't important.  What is important is that I know I want to write again.  While the past three years I have been journaling a lot about my struggles and my source of strength, I am turning the page and seeing a new chapter to write about.  I am excited to see where this new chapter takes me.  I look forward to sharing new experiences with you, perhaps in a different way...

So if you are a returning reader and you see a change in style, remember the author is still the same.  The dreams are still the same.  The book is even the same...the page has just been turned.

-JAH


Words they'll try to shake you
Don't let them break you or stop your world
Stop your world from turning 'round
When words keep you from feeling good
Use them as firewood and let them burn
Let them burn, let them burn
-Words by Train