Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tucson times

I forgot (read: was unable to locate) my camera cord before heading to AZ, so you'll have to deal with the pictures I have taken on my phone...which actually aren't too bad...yay EVO! I am having so much fun with my nephews and getting to hang out a lot with my family. I would have more pictures of Carter, but I am usually holding him. Apparently, he's quite taken with Aunt Sissa...no complaints here :) Good times!

Uncle Bobby caught in the act of beating up on John Michael

Carter chowing down and flirting at the same time. Kid has talent :)

Blowing out his number 4 candle

Apparently sitting on a just-got-woken-up-by-my-adorable-nephews-Sissa is a lot of fun

Monica and I left John Michael and Nana to make cookies and this is what we returned to...

Wearing Sissa's hat

On the "milk truck" at Shamrock Farms

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Going Gluten Free

Yup, I am. Starting on Jan 1st, I am going to go gluten-free for 3 months.

Why? I've been doing a lot of research and talking with a doctor or two and studies are showing that inflammation and gluten are related. Autoimmune diseases come with lots of inflammation- a friend of mine, and a doctor, has RA and eats gluten free and has had positive results- less pain, fewer flares, etc. I don't have RA, but my disease is in the same family, so I figured, hey it doesn't hurt to try it! And if it helps, WAHOO!!!! From what I've read, you need to be gluten-free for about 3 months to see any affects, and if it works, well just call me Gluten-Free For Life Girl. :)

So I am researching away right now, finding recipes, making meal plans... If you have any good blogs, cookbooks, websites that you recommend for gluten-free please let me know. Since I don't eat a lot of meat (and NO beef), gluten-free vegetarian recipes would be even better!

I plan to do a gluten-free status post once a week to let you all know how it is going.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Girls Group Christmas Party 2010

Photos compliments of Allyson, who is launching her photography career :). Check out her blog here. We had our Girls Group Annual Christmas Party and it was FUN :). Love my girls and so blessed to have them in my life.


Gift exchange

Wreath :)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Vault of Torture

I really really really wanted to call this blog "Ovary Crunchers" but thought "hmm, is that really appropriate?" So I made it the first line of my blog instead :D. Read on, you'll get to it...

I had a, we'll call it "back episode", on Tuesday. And to start off, NO, it was not related to my running a mile on Saturday. How do I know? 1)Unless running can cause joint inflammation in one's left hand as well as the back, this was totally related to the fantastic action of my white blood cells attacking my connective tissue (ie my disease) 2) I have been running for the past month, for comparable durations to what I did in the mile, and never experienced any issues- these running episodes were in addition to 3-4 workouts per week (stationary bike, elliptical, aquajog/swim) that I have been logging, so I really don't think the running caused this. However, I will of course, continue to pay meticulous attention to every minute sign that my body throws when I start running again. Believe me, this gal does not want to be on the active lifestyle sidelines.

That being said- I woke up on Tuesday morning unable to bend my fingers on my left hand (an occasional occurrence for me, so that didn't worry me). However, my inability to stand without seeing stars and triggering my gag reflex from the pain did worry me. I crawled to the medicine cabinet (praise the Lord I keep the potent stuff in a lower drawer), downed a Vicadin (hate that stuff) and a muscle relaxer and proceeded to sob myself into a drug induced stupor. (Big thanks to the roomie who worked from home in case I needed something- thankfully no bonding moments with a bedpan were required of her). By the afternoon, I could hobble fairly well and I continued to improve into the evening.

Of course, once I could speak without drug-induced slurring, I called my awesome chiropractor/PT inflictor to schedule a torture, er, PT session the next day.

On Wednesday, I was THANKFULLY able to move around pretty well, some limping and I was doing the whole stand-up-like-an-old-lady routine (no offense meant to the elderly out there). I headed to the Vault of Torture, or more commonly known as my chiropractor/PT inflictor. Where I proceeded to regress to my pre-run-by-two-months-PT-treatments of...you got it, OVARY CRUNCHERS.

What are ovary crunchers? The most hated of all hated PT therapies (Dr.A, if you are reading this, I am very thankful for all your help. Really.). My chiro has me lay on my side on the torture table and she proceeds to grip my side with both hands as hard as humanly possible and dig her fingers into my belly, attempting push my ovaries through my lower vertebrae in the process. Whilst my ovaries are being crushed, I then have to swing my leg up, and then as back as far as I can go without passing out, and then down. This HURTS. Tears are shed. Why must I do ovary crunchers? Well, apparently, when my body experiences the Big Bad Inflammation, it goes into self-defense mode (i.e. every muscle in my body attempts to curl up, fetal position). One of the most trouble-causing culprits is the psoas muscle (red arrow is pointing to it below).

It's a big tough muscle and mine is SUPER tight (it's like its trying to get away from the inflammation...smart muscle). So ovary crunchers are pretty much the only way to get at the muscle (since it's buried behind things...like my organs) to stretch it and get it to behave. Along with some other contortionist-like stretches that are part of my now vast PT stretch repertoire.

So there you have it. Right now, I feel like I did about oh, 2 months ago. Not quite ready to walk a speedy walk, but not far off. I am super estastic to see how quickly my body has bounced back this time and I pray that this will continue. And that this back inflammation does not become part of my standard tool bucket of disease symptoms. Thanks for all your prayers!


Thank you so much to all of you who have been praying for me, encouraging me through emails, texts, and notes. I am so thankful for your friendship and appreciate your words. You all ROCK! :)

Saturday, December 4, 2010


Reindeer Run 2010

Surprise! :) :) :)

You read the title correctly. Read on for the whole story…

I started “running” again on Nov. 7th, 3 months and 3 weeks from the day I spent in the ER sobbing to the doctor about the scary back pain I was experiencing and that started a bazillion doctor visits, scans, weeks spent laying on my back, PT sessions, lots of tears-grimaces-winces-groans, baby steps, small flickers of light…you get the point…on with the story.

On Nov 7th I was on the Seabrook trails and feeling good, so I upped my pace and put more weight on my footfalls…not even sure if you can call it jogging, let alone running…I did that for 10 seconds. It felt the same as walking (i.e., still felt that dullish right side back pain, but it didn’t get worse). A bit later, I did another 10 seconds, with more weight on my footfalls. Felt the same as the first 10 seconds. So then I did two 30 second jogs about 15 minutes apart. Oh wow did it feel AMAZING to move my legs like that again! And yes, I told my chiropractor/PT inflictor and she approved :).

Here are the walk/run combos I have logged since Nov 7th:

Walk 1 mile, run 30 seconds, walk 1 mile, run 30 seconds

Walk 1 mile, run 30 seconds, walk 1 mile, run 45 seconds

Walk 1 mile, run 1 minute, walk 1 mile, run 1 minute

Walk 1 mile, run 2 minutes , walk 1 mile, run 3 minutes, walk 1 mile

Walk 1 mile, run 2 minutes, walk some more, run 2 minutes, walk some more, run 2 minutes (total 3.1 miles)

Walk 1 mile, run 2 minutes, walk some more, run 3 minutes, walk some more, run 2 minutes (total 3.1 miles)

Walk 1 mile, run 5 minutes!, walk 2 miles

Walk .25 miles, run for 7 minutes, walk, total 2 miles

Walking .25 miles, run for 9 minues, walk, total 2 miles

And TODAY, walk 2 miles, run 1 mile :) (~11:30 pace)

I bawled tears of joy during the first 3 minute run I did. Bawling and running with a HUGE grin on my face and chanting “thankyouLordthankyouLordthankyouLord”.

(followed by a quickly squashed mental wail of “oh my gosh I have completely lost my cardio fitness…being honest here :) ).

The walking was done at a pretty decent clip, 15:15-16:00 minute pace, with the runs at a slow-for-my-usual-pace of 11 minute/mile. In each of these combos, when I start running, I feel the same “not quite right” right back pain feeling- it’s not truly painful, just annoying. Then, as I have increased the run durations, the feeling almost goes away, and I feel pretty much pre-July normal.

So this morning, my running buddy Lisa, who had said she would walk this race with me, actually got to RUN the last mile with me, and I crossed the finish line…RUNNING… ::INSERT BIGGEST GRIN EVER::



Sunday, November 28, 2010

Christmas Decorations 2010!

I was nervous this Christmas decorating season...a whole house to decorate...and my puny lil pile of Christmas decorations leftover from my apartment ::gulp::

Have no fear, Black Friday is here! I scored some great more-than-half-price-off decorations and a great Christmas tree. Along with some creativity (fishing line, hooks, 1/2 price fabric, and festively wrapped cardboard boxes), I think I achieved the festive, yet-non-Griswoldesque look I was going for. The outside of the house leaves much to be desired, only a few poinsettas and a wreath, but next year folks, next year there will lights.

So here you go, Christmas Decorations 2010 in all their holiday beautifulness :)

Snowflake mobile over my couch! (fishing line, screw-in hooks and glittery snowflakes)


Breakfast nook

Christmas tree!

Festive wall vases

Behind the kitchen sink

Presents on top of the cabinets

I love my new elf candle holders from CB2!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Vet

I loathe traveling anywhere with my cats. I really really do.

Why? Short answer (some of you have heard the full tales):

Bacon pooping in his carrier and prompting an immediate pull-over-at-nearest-gas-station-and-try-not-to-breathe-until-you-get-there response

Eggs screaming (yes) so much that I let her out of her carrier and she then proceeds to crawl from the backseat, over the drivers seat and my shoulder, down my front, trying her best to wedge herself between the gas and brake pedals.

Bacon ripping a cardboard carrier (stupid idea) airhole enough to push his head through, and then toppling face first from the seat to the car floor.

So, I was not looking forward to traveling the 15 minutes to the vet with both of them in my car. The reason for the vet? Nothing serious- just been awhile since they had shots and they are both fat and I need help getting them to lose some weight.

Claire attempted to help me get them in their carriers on Wednesday, but it was an epic fail when Bacon rocketed out of his carrier before she could slam the door shut and hid under my bed. The vet graciously rescheduled me for Friday.

Yesterday, I pulled out the big guns and had my friend, Moose, come help me. She's great with cats.

The cats ended up in the carrier, but not before Moose almost got her hand amputated by Bacon's flailing front legs and the mattress and boxspring on my bed were removed to actually get Bacon out from under the bed. When I closed the door on the last carrier, Moose looked at me and said "Wow. I have NEVER seen cats struggle so much. That was pretty bad". Finally, the reason for my loathing-traveling-with-my-animals has been recognized by somone other than me.

I drive the 15 stressful, ear-drum splitting minutes (my cats scream, they really do) to the vet. At which, my cats proceed to demonstrate that they are not really domestic house cats but sabertooth tigers that were undiscovered, spitting, growling, cowering in the most inaccesible corner in the office, etc. The only way to get the blood, give the vaccines, shave Eggs, etc was to sedate them. Both of them. Seriously, who has cats that need sedated for a CHECKUP!? ::raises hand:: So I leave them for a few hours in the very capable hands of the vet...who has been laughing through the Eggs and Bacon Show, whilst I am practically in tears and horribly embarrassed by their uncharacteristic behavior.

3 hours later and my holiday money now spent at the vets, I bring home two yowling and seriously ticked off cats who, even though it's almost 24 hours later, are still hissing at me whenever I walk past them, but it's okay if they bite me, because they've been vaccinated.

I just can't wait to see how they handle this diet food. I'm afraid I'll wake up one morning missing a big toe because Sabertooth Bacon (or Eggs) has nibbled it off...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Gotta love dreams

I had a dream last night that I was competing in a triathlon...after I ran a half-marathon. Apparently, I am an over-achiever even in my dream state.

'Course, I didn't end up doing the triathlon, 'cause I hadn't finished packing my transition bag the night before and my bike tires weren't pumped up since it had been sitting in the garage for the last 5 months...and I was stressing out about being able to get out of the transition area before they closed it and was freaking out to my running/training buddy Lisa about it...this is the second triathlon dream I have had since being sidelined and the location of the tri was the same...some random lake in the middle of the woods...it's quite a pretty locale with a smooth-as-glass lake that looks fun to swim...

This is what happens when you cheer on a friend who is running a half-marathon with your running buddy earlier in the day and then talk about marathons with friends over dinner...and you are currently experiencing a moratorium on tri-ing/running. ::chuckle::

Least I can run/tri in my dreams, right? :)

Just call me Harry...

Yes, minus the electric blue spandex running pants that "Harry" sports in a speed-walking scene in the movie "When Harry Met Sally", that's me....bent elbows and everything...although I do hope my hips don't rock as much as his did because that CAN'T be good for anyone's back... (I know that's random, but I remember thinking how...well...dorky he looked speedwalking...oh how the proud must fall :) )

Sunday, November 7, 2010


I've recently started reading through Psalm 27 and I am breaking it down verse by verse and spending time thinking about, praying about, and writing about what each verse means. It's been incredibly fruitful and I love what God is teaching me (or reminding me of!). I'm not going to share my thoughts on each verse, but will trying to give you a sampling. I'm using the ESV Bible.

"The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?"- Psalm 27:2

From Merriam Webster: "A stronghold is 1) a fortified place, 2) a place of survival or security, and 3) a place dominated by a particular group or marked by a particular characteristic

Where to start....

A fortified place is a place that has been added to, built up to provide extra protection. Everything around me can fall apart (by the way, I'll write more about this with my thoughts on verse 3...) but if I stick near to God, the stronghold, the fortified place, I will not be shaken, or rather, the important stuff won't be shaken (i.e. the fact that I belong to Him) because face it, we're human and stuff does shake us up. Praise God that He doesn't move.

A place of survival or security- for me, the thought of trying to draw one breath without God is, mind-boggling. I know I "did it" at one point- before He, in His grace and mercy showed me my need of Him, but I could not imagine going through every day life, let alone hardships, without Him. It points back to the "fortified" part- He is stable. This world is not. I can mercifully seek Someone who is stable and I know He is there and that my hope lies with Him. Eternally.

A place dominated by a particular group or marked by a particular characteristic- I want to be marked as a woman who loves the Lord (that's the particular characteristic)- that every action, word, and thought is saturated with Him, that people see Him through my actions and words. I fall very short of this mark, but it's a process, and I pray that my desire to honor Him in everything will only increase through the years.


I signed up for a race.

The Reindeer Run/Walk 5k. The first race I ever did three years ago. This year, I'm going to walk it with my running buddy, Lisa, who is awesome.

I'm just a bit excited to sign up for a race again. Just a bit.

::imagine 50 million ginormous grins right here::

See told ya, just a bit.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Small touches

Just a few small things I've been doing around the house:

1) White spray paint is awesome

A $3 can of spray paint goes a long way. I painted these frames to better fit in with my color scheme. And "Harriet" got a white coat as well. My roommate, Claire, bought one of these wire blackbirds from CB2 (his name is Horatio) and I liked it so much that I bought one too (Harriet)

White frames

Harriet and Horatio

Harriet's perch

2) Light fixtures!

Irma's husband, Jonathan, came over today and spent 2.5 hours hanging several light fixtures that I had purchased. Amazing what a difference it makes!

Perfectly nice Tuscan style, but not me.

Hehe, much more me :)

Again, nice Tuscan style, but not the look I am going for

Sleek, modern pendant (sorry for the different angle). Ah, now for a dining table!

From bare bulb in the closet-turned-office to funky flower fixture :)

Workouts this week!

Oh yeah, that's right, I am posting about my WORKOUTS THIS WEEK!!!!! ::happy dancing::

Monday- had PT and my chiropractor said not to come back this week. Yup, you read correctly, I'm trying only ONE PT session per week. Thank you Lord!

Did a two mile walk Monday evening and it hurt. A lot. I stepped off of a curb too hard and jarred my back so strongly that I exclaimed outloud and grabbed my back. But after some ice, it felt back to its usually "hi, I'm Melissa's back and I like to make my presence known but I'm getting less stubborn about it" feel.

Wednesday- 4 miles on the recumbent stationary bike and a 1 mile walk. Felt pretty good.

Thursday- 2o minutes on the elliptical (first time I have done that! The back didn't hurt AT ALL) and a 1 mile walk...felt the walk, had to slow the pace.

I plan to aquajog today.

And all of this with only ONE PT session this week. Considering I've been doing 2 sessions a week for the past 3 months, this is a HUGE deal. So thankful to be moving in the right direction, ha, just thankful to actually be moving! :)

Cleaning supplies?

This is a pretty random post. I've been trying to stick with "green" cleaning supplies as much as possible. I started with the Greenworks brand when I first got my house- but it turns out I am not a fan because it leaves a sticky residue (sticky floors are not fun).

I recently switch to using Meyer's products (cleaners and laundry detergent). I LOVE this brand. They smell SOOOO good.

Basil scent for laundry, floors, and bathroom. Lemon verbena scent for kitchen

The laundry detergent is a great deal too. I thought at first "this is going to be pricier" but when I looked at the numbers- nope. Most all natural laundry detergents that are good for H.E (high efficiency) machines are expensive (usually around $9-11 for ~26 loads). Meyer's (purchased at Walmart): $7.98 for 32 loads. Not a huge price difference, but it still counts!!

If you're using natural cleaning supplies as well, what do you recommend? And yes, I know that you can mix vinegar and stuff like that, but 1) I'm lazy and 2) it doesn't smell as pretty :)...still, Id be interested to hear suggestions.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fall decorations

I've never decorated for fall, but I've been to a few of my friend's houses recently, and I just love their fall decorations (Irma...Megan...Jessica...) so I decided to get into the spirit of things, small scale :).

Gourds, pumpkins, and fall foliage around the kitchen sink (I have another bowl of gourds on the coffee table too)

Fall foliage and Yankee Candle's "Autumn Leaves" candles
(can't thank Lisa enough for introducing me to that scent)

So, like I said, small scale. But the decorations make me smile. :D

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Medical update

So the latest on the medicalness of Melissa...

Saw the rheumatologist a week ago. We upped the dosage on the organ rejection medication (used for immune suppression). Turns out I've been running fevers of about 100 degrees every day starting around 4pm- this is due to my disease and just illustrates that my disease is VERY active right now (my doctor admired my gruesomely purple fingers and toes, with lovely angry red blister/ulcers on them...seriously, who needs a Halloween costume when you've got my hands? :) ).

He then asked how my back was doing and if I had decided go with the spinal injections. I told him that I wasn't convinced that the ortho doc thought it was biomechanical and given that I have made some awesome progress in general and especially since going on the new medicine, I am thinking it's all disease related, and given that the spinal taps I had in high school botched some nerves up for a good few years (my left leg would go numb if I sat in a certain position), I didn't feel that poking around in my spine right now was the right thing to do. And he agreed with me 100%. That made me feel good.

My disease flared a little stronger this week (stress) and my SI joints became inflamed again. But I was actually pretty happy about it because it shows that it is my disease and not some weird other back thing going on. They (SI joints) are already feeling better so I figure I will be back where I was activity-wise last week as soon as things calm down again.

But in general (pretending this week didn't happen)...things are definitely improving!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Tima's Baby Shower

So you remember that Tima and Mark came to visit me in September? Well, I was super excited to get to see them again just about a month later in Arizona for their baby shower!...little Miller due to arrive in the middle of December. And, I managed to convince my brother to pick me up from the shower and jet to Chandler to meet our parents (who had just arrived back from Idaho and were driving down to Tucson) for a quick dinner. That's a lot of birds to hit with one stone :)

I had to post a picture of this cake...they had it made to match the invitations I did, how cute is that!?

The glowing Mommy-to-be! Can't wait to meet my honorary nephew!

More invitations

I've been busy this fall with making invitations. I made some for my friend Christina's baby shower, but, alas!, I forgot to take a picture of them. Here are a couple of pictures of my two most recent invitations:

Invitations for TimaSue's baby shower

Birthday party invitations

Saturday, October 9, 2010


My parents are heading up to Idaho today to visit the grandkids. Last night my mom passed these two John-Michaelisms along. This kid cracks me up. I can't wait until Carter starts talking!

John Michael to his mom (Monica): "Mom, when Nana and Papa come, I can't kick them because they are old"

(I should mention that he has started playing soccer so kicking is on his mind a lot...)

Monica: "Um, well, you can't kick them because it is not nice to kick people"

John Michael (thinking about this): "Mom, when you get old, I will buy you a car"

I love almost four year old randomness :)

John Michael started preschool a few weeks ago and is apparently having some separation issues (tears) in the morning when Monica drops him off. This week he was a little under the weather and stayed home for a day or so. But then he was better and it was time to go back to school.

John Michael- "My tummy still hurts. I want Fruit Loops for breakfast"
John- "John Michael, are you really sick or are you pretending?"
John Michael (smiling up at his daddy)- "Well, I think I will be okay if Mommy stops at Starbucks on the way to school and gets me a vanilla milk"

I busted out laughing at this. Little manipulator.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


I couldn't blog about this right when it happened, but I came across a really awesome article this past weekend and felt it was time.

As many of you know, my Aunt Laurie passed away from ovarian cancer on August 23rd of this year. She fought a great battle for 3 years. And she is very missed. I am so incredibly thankful that I got to reconnect with her 3.5 years ago at my cousin's wedding, because I got to know better what an awesome woman she was and I hope to be half the homemaker she was.

The article that I stumbled across is about a woman triathlete who was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer. Participating in triathlon means you spend a lot of time listening to your body- what to feed it, how to hydrate it, stretch it, rest it. And for triathlete Jenn Sommermann, things felt a bit "wrong"...this led to her stage 3 diagnosis. It is such a miracle that they discovered the cancer at stage 3, which meant the chances of successful treatment were still realistic. Ovarian cancer is near impossible to detect early. Laurie's was discovered at stage 4.

I want to encourage you to visit Jenn's blog here. She has a pretty awesome story and is out there raising awareness for ovarian cancer and raising funds for research. Go Jenn!

And I'd love to race one of the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund races for Laurie once my back is healed. There's a goal.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Running shoes on...went for a...

WALK! Ha, bet you thought I was going to say something different didn't you? Oh well, some day I will once again type those three wonderful letters :)...but I digress...

I put my running shoes on for the first time in almost three months and walked around my neighborhood. My walking has gotten better- in the office, I am locomoting at an almost normal-Melissa pace and I barely notice that my back hurts. So now, I am trying to get better at walking longer distances. Not sure how far I went today, less than a mile, and I felt it...but it was tolerable. Baby steps!

I've decided to try REALLY hard to avoid the injections because the fact is that none of my doctors really understand what's causing the pain (I mean, the inflammation is causing the pain of course, but they can't seem to decide if the cause of the inflammation is disease related or biomechanical related)...so I am going to give it the rest of October to see where I end up. I AM improving, albeit slowly and still with some pretty yucky days, but improvement is improvement. I am still aquajogging, swimming "non-agressive" laps without kicking, and doing PT twice a week.

I was telling a friend over dinner last night that I am actually thankful that I had those 3 horrible weeks in July/August where I couldn't get out of bed. Because now, when I get frustrated that I hurt after walking across my worksite, or sitting on a couch for 2 hours, I just think "yeah, well it's not as bad as those three weeks". If I had just woken up one morning with the current uncomfortablness that I am experiencing, I think that would have been a lot harder to deal with. So I am thankful for the comparison!

Here's to walking around the neighborhood! Next up...stationary recumbent bike!?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Labor Day Weekend

Yes, obviously this is a delayed post...at least I am getting it in before September is over!

TimaSue and Mark visited me on Labor Day weekend. We had a blast. T-Bone Tom's for BBQ, I gave them a NASA tour (TimaSue was a trooper seeing it all for the second time), went to Galveston for some beach time and ice cream on the Strand, Doctor Who, movies, church, chillin', shopping...definitely a great weekend! Can't wait to see them in a few weeks for their baby shower! They were my first official vistors in my house!

Post T-Bone Tom's...stuffed with fried pickles, pulled pork, and Shiner...well not Tima, that wouldn't be good for Baby Boy Miller :)

Getting ready to head to NASA for their tour (they were very proud of their purple badges...)

Playing flight controllers (the ADCO on-console that day gave up his seat for a photo op, thanks Jon!)

Yum! Ice cream at La King's after an afternoon on the beach.

Just about to head to the airport. FUN weekend!

Friday, September 10, 2010

More finished books...

Added to the finished pile:

The Good Earth- Pearl S. Buck
Good writing, story of a farmer's life in China...had a very "solid" feel...a bit on the depressing side, because of how matter of fact/truthful it was. Glad I read it.

Born to Run- Christopher McDougall
Excellent book! Not convinced of the merits of barefoot running, but it did get me to add chia seeds to my diet and to contemplate short short distances of barefoot running in the grass...once I start running again that is :)

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society- Mary Ann Shaffer
This was a fantastically awesome book that will probably end up on my "all time favorites". It's set in post WWII London and it's about a writer who corresponds with a town on one of the Channel islands. The entire story is told through the letters they exchange. I feel like I know every single character in the book personally. Very well done.

Currently reading Wuthering Heights...nope I have never read it...it took a bit to get into it, but as one of the characters in the Potato Peel Pie book said "when Cathy's fingers touched the window, I was hooked"...exact same thing happened for me (and yes, it was the Potato Peel Pie book that made me want to read Wuthering Heights...I love when books inspire you to read other books! :) )

A Soliloquy on All Things Medical

Haven't felt like blogging in awhile, but I had a couple of doctors appointments this week, so for those of you who want the latest, read on...

I've been having a LOT of problems with my autoimmune disease the past couple of weeks and it worsened this week. So when I went in to see the back orthopedic surgeon on Tuesday, he said that we had to wait for my disease to settle down before doing anything. He told me not to be a hero though (snort- seriously I am like the biggest whiner ever!)...if my back is still hurting me in a week, just give him a call and they will schedule the epidural. And my back is still hurting. It is, however, MUCH MUCH better than it was, a fact that I am so grateful for. I can walk for about 30 minutes before I start becoming uncomfortable, as long as I walk a moderate pace (which to me feels SLOOOOW). I can stand without much shifting around for about 20 minutes...and with lots of shifting for about 40 minutes. Sitting isn't too bad either, when my SI joints are behaving (my disease can cause inflammation in the SI joints, which seems to be happening every other day or so). So all in all, I am much improved from almost two months ago! Yay!

I saw my rheumatologist today and unfortunately we are adding another medication to my daily routine. I'm already on one immunosuppressive drug and a super strong anti-inflammatory and we're now adding another immunosuppressive drug (seriously, put me in a plastic bubble!). Plus, they hooked me up to an IV and pumped me full of steriods this afternoon to help try and calm things down.

I hate being on more medications.

BUT, I am very thankful that I am not taking these medications for their originally intended use:
one med is a chemotherapy drug (I take a very very low dose) and the other is used for organ transplant receipients. See what I mean? Me <- THANKFUL!!!!

So here's to some prayer and Western medicine...do your thing!

Latest living room picture

Here you go Mom (you really need to get Facebook :) )

Things still to go on the walls...

Saturday, August 14, 2010


I met with the back orthopedic surgeon on Tuesday and the good news is- it's nothing bad. No ruptured discs, no tumors, no massive degeneration. Yay! It is however, some arthritis around that spina bifida occulta (minor) and some inflammation in that area that is impinging on the nerves, hence the pain. So he wants me to wait 4 more weeks to see if it will go down on its own and continue with the PT I've been doing with my chiropractor. If after a month, there is still no significant change, I am to come back so we can talk about doing localized steroid injections into the spine to help with the inflammation. So in one word: WAIT

I've decided that I don't like the word WAIT.

I had a bit of a struggle that day with WAIT. I hurt. I am tired of hurting. I had a "hate" rant on the drive home. I listed all the things I "hate" about the situation I am in. I cried. I got home and called my mom once I had composed myself, which as you all know, doesn't work, because as soon as you hear your mom's voice, it's over :). So I go on and on for like five minutes and at the end, she says "honey, I'm sorry, I didn't understand a word of that". I totally busted up laughing. And that's what I needed. I saw my selfishness. I just received good news from a doctor and I was mad about it. So I asked myself, "what are you so mad about?"...

The long and short of it is I am mad that this is preventing me from being ME. I can't hurry to the teapot when it is whistling LOUDLY when the water is ready, or answer the doorbell in a normal amount of time, or take care of ONE errand in less than 30 minutes...let alone run and bike, and do the 50 million things I like to do at one time. I can't be ME.

BUT (of course you knew there was a BUT coming)

"I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me" Galatians 2:20

That's my identity. I am not defined by how many errands I can run in an hour, by how quickly I can get from point A to point B without grimacing, by how "hyper" or "bubbly" I am feeling (yes those are two recent descriptions of me that I have heard)...I live my life for God, I belong to Him, and He loves me. That's ME. And inflammation in my spine can't remove me from that position.

Very thankful for the perspective that God revealed and for the grace for me to see it. I am also thankful that this is temporary and I admire people I know (Aunt Laurie, Lyle Gurnsey) who are fighting much more painful battles than I am...and they keep their chins up and keep on fighting. Yeah, I am uncomfortable, but really, what do I have to complain about? I belong to God.

I started doing acupuncture treatments this week, in hopes of reducing the inflammation and pain. After two sessions, I think I am walking a bit better, so that's great.

And as part of my PT, I am about to go jump in a pool and aqua jog! Pretty sure I will have the lifeguard take a picture of me in the pool, with my iPod bandana-ed to my head so I don't get bored jogging in the water (or get the iPod wet!)

Here's to progress, slow progress, but progress nonetheless!

Thursday, August 5, 2010


That would be spine+kryptonite=spinonite. And I am referring to the amazing powers of my spine to render MRI machines useless.

Today I went to the back orthopedic surgeon. He's great. He pulled up my xrays and explained all sorts of cool bone/spine medical stuff. For those of you who have spent excessive amounts of time in doctors offices/hospitals, you know that it's really interesting to learn about what's going on in your body and why...(plus I've always had this medical geeky side to me...ask Claire, who was subjected to my excited ravings the other day about an article I read about antibodies...it was really cool though...really).

But I digress...

So the back doc said it's definitely my back, not my hips. He ordered a MRI of the lumbar spine to figure out what might be causing the pain. His two big theories right now are 1) turns out I have a congenital deformity in my spine (called spina bifida occulta- no, not 'spina bifida', according to the back doc, whoever discovered the occulta bit, he shoulda thought twice about the name). I already knew this from the hip doc who looked at the xrays. Basically it means that one of my lower vertabrae is weird- instead of the two ends meeting up, one end is actually on top of the other end (like, almost bisecting it), at about a 60 degree angle (I know you can't see it, but I am TOTALLY forming the shape with my fingers for you all right now :) ). Anyhow, lots of people (10-20%) have these types of occultas and it's not a big deal...for most people. As it would happen, I am a medical oddity in a lot of areas (hush) and thus, it may be causing some weird inflammation in my spine or something (although why NOW beats me...) or 2) that I could have a bulging disc....good news there is it doesn't look like anything is herniated (which matches the zero leg pain I have- the big red flag for herniated discs). So back MRI for me.

Once I again, so pleased with the design of the medical center, everything in one (okay one LARGE and spread out) location. I waited for about 3 hours there until my MRI appointment (praise God they were able to get me in today! I was not expecting that).

All the techs I have interacted with throughout this process have been so friendly and kind. Nothing different about today.

Tech Guy leads me into MRI room #1 (oh yeah, this story requires numbering...). The platform goes in the tube, the jackhammering starts, stops, platform moves out, Tech Guy realigns something, platform goes in, jackhammering, platform moves out while they reboot the machine (at this point, I inform him that the digital display above my head has an incorrect weight for me...I did not spontaneously gain 30lbs...), platform in...FAIL. Tech Guy informs me I have broken the machine. Oh quipy Tech Guy.

We walk to MRI room #2 (read, rinse, and repeat on the above, except without the me gaining 30lbs)...Tech Guy informs me I will be receiving a bill for 10 million dollars...

...they load me into a wheelchair (I'm in a hospital gown by the way) because they recognize that it will take me about 3 days to walk across the street to the OR where there are additional MRI machines...wheel me away...I think I looked a bit conspicuous in that wheelchair wearing silver sandals and holding a bright orange purse in my lap...or maybe not ::shrug:: MRI room #3 was a success. AND, they felt so bad about it taking so long that I got my parking fee waived. Saved $9! Nice.

I meet with the back doc on Tuesday to review the results. He said based on the findings, they will probably (hopefully!) be able to pinpoint the source and do a procedure where they inject pain reducing stuff (I wasn't clear if it was steroids or numbing potion) into my back. According to him, I am already on the world's greatest anti-inflammatory (I actually did not know that, I just know that it works...good to know my rheumatologist isn't holding out on me ;-) ), so there's not much else he can do at this point.

On other progress, they got me a close-to-my-office-building parking spot at work, so next week I am going to try going into the office for a few hours- I'm managing/tolerating sitting much much better than I was a week ago. PROGRESS!!!

Standby for more medical drama on Tuesday... ::close with medical drama theme song::

Monday, August 2, 2010


One of my amazing girls sent me a get well ecard this afternoon, and it literally popped up during a particularly challenging time for me today. In it were these verses for encouragement:

"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal" 2Cor 4:16-18

I love when you can see His hand move in your life. I love that He understands that we sometimes need those more tangible reminders of His presence.

::teary-eyed smiling::

Saturday, July 31, 2010

In the finished pile...

So besides some telework and movies, my only other activity option has been reading. Here's what I've read in the past two weeks. Please let me know if you have other recommendations!

The 4 books in the Twilight series
Confession- I skim-read because I didn't like them. I don't like her writing style (it did improve somewhat as the series went on), there isn't really much of a plot, and Bella just bugs me. A lot. Sorry to all you fans out there, but at least I now know what everyone is talking about when they ask "Edward or Jacob?".

The Winding Ways Quilt (Jennifer Chiaverini)
This one wasn't the best in the Elm Creek Quilt books, but meets the "just some fun easy reading" description.

The Help (Kathryn Stockett)
This book rectified the damage done by Twilight's one-syllable-word sentence structure. Beautiful, rich writing that made the characters leap off of the page (cliche I know, but oh so true). I love putting a book down and feeling that I have learned something along the way. Thanks for the recommendation Lindsey!

The Great Train Robbery (Michael Crichton)
Kind of like Ocean's 11 meets The Italian Job. Quick read, entertaining, and I learned some random stuff about trains and dog-fighting. Another good recommendation from Lindsey.

Their Eyes Were Watching God (Zora Neale Hurston)
I know, this is a modern classic, but I never got around to it until now. I enjoyed it- love the voice she wrote it in- at first it was challenging to pick up the rhythm of the dialogue, but once I got it down, the story feels like it is singing at you.

The Glass Castle (Jeannette Walls)
Sad, reluctantly funny at times, and a must read. I absolutely love how this memoir was written: honest and unapologetic "this is how it was". I had a hard time putting it down. Lindsey, I am sensing a pattern...

Currently reading: The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck).


So, back in February, I bought a couch from craigslist with the intent of reupholstering it to put in my living room. Well...it's still sitting in my garage :). So I came up with a contingency plan "Musical Sofas".

Here's how it's going to go:

Sleeper sofa in TV room is getting moved to guest bedroom so guests actually have a place to sleep. Craigslist sofa is moving from the garage to TV room and will be covered with something more appealing than the current eyesore 1960s orangish brown tweed that currently graces it's cushions.

So what's going in the living room?

I found these online at Macy's (on sale too! love it!). I love the vintage-y yet modern lines. They are super comfy too (although the cushions need to get a bit more broken in!). I have a coffee table in a box (see it in that back corner?), it's waiting for a rug that I ordered back in May (yeah...import issues apparently). I want to make sure everything "goes" in case I need to return the coffee table/rug (although I shudder to think of having to return that rug after waiting close to 3 months for it to arrive!). I'm still searching for throw pillows too...once the rug is in place, I'll be able to really "build" the room up, you know, things that make it more homey.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The medical saga continues...

Good news...I think...the hip orthopedic surgeon (after more xrays and much leg, hip, and back movement) thinks the labral tear in my hip is not the cause of my pain (I kinda agree with him, solely because my hips don't hurt, it's my lower back). He says a lot of people have labral tears and don't even know it. So...no hip surgery for now! He's referred me to a back orthopedic surgeon...not that it means I need to have back surgery (oh I shudder to think of back surgery...best not to think of it at all), but the back guy will have more insight into what seems to be causing the pain. I went to the said-referred back doc today, but he was MIA (well, not MIA, he's on vacation...bad schedule people...). So I am seeing him next Thursday (that is, if I can't get into a different back doc's office before then...I'm pretty desperate here...I mean, if a receptionist, nurse, or doctor just says, "how are you doing?" to me, I turn into bawling, sobbing Melissa. It's quite the feat...a soggy, mucus-y feat that is...).

Anyhow, after returning home after my longest-time-not-in-a-semi-lying-down-position, the only position that provides a slight lessening of my uncomfortableness (yeah, let's just say I was ouching it up quite a bit when I got home), I called my sports med chiropractor and praise God she got me in this afternoon (where Blubbering Melissa once again appeared). She read my reports, films, moved me around, and proclaimed that I definitely needed to see the back doctor, but, that did have some angry hip flexors that she would gingerly (her words) stretch in hopes of getting those to unangrify. So, I'm back at home, my soas muscle (main hip flexor) stretched, pulled, iced, a fancy "recommended by NASA" quality lumbar pillow at my back, and every other day appointments set up with her until I see the back doctor...and I still hurt the same.

Things to be thankful for:
1) Getting some good Scripture memory done (2 Cor 12:9-10). Owned.
2) Online shopping- my house is getting accessorized with the click of a button
3) Ability to do some work from home- just emails, telecons, working on a flight rule, but its helping to keep me sane
4) Reading- I've read 7 books in the past 1.5 weeks, perhaps I will make my New Years goal after all
5) Awesome friends and family calling/emailing to check in on me. Thanks all!

To be continued with the next doctor's visit...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sanity helper

Making these invitations this week helped keep me sane with all my laying around. I rigged up a little table so that I could work on these in my now-well-honed "lie-a-bed" position.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Not quite expected...

Warning- potential medical TMI ahead- Warning

I was at home this past week due to some pretty bad pain in my lower back that's not allowing me to sit or stand for very long. This was following the end of a pretty bad flare up of my autoimmune disease that I have (Sjogren's Syndrome). I saw my rheumatologist on Tuesday and they did labs and ordered some MRIs and xrays. My doc was thinking at the time that the back pain was actually coming from my hips (this assessment was due to my reaction to the manipulations he did of my legs and my yelling and wincing and the fact that pounding on my back didn't hurt :) ).

I heard back from the doctor today and the scans show deterioration in my hips due to the steroids we use to treat my disease, which has caused some arthritis. I also have a tear in my hip labrum (this is the cartilage in the hip socket)- based on what I read, the tear is probably caused by the arthritis- but I definitely want to confirm that with my doc). He's referring me to a orthopedic surgeon, who I hope to get into on Monday. Based on the research I have been doing, the tear has to be fixed surgically. It is possible for the pain to lessen with a..."conservative lifestyle" (read "sedentary") but as you know, I'm not very sedentary :). It looks like most people are out of work for 2 weeks following the surgery and the recovery time is well...long...months of PT and such. So, I am going to talk with the ortho doc and see what my options are. I am also going to be talking with the sports med/chiropractor doc who helped me earlier this year with my ankle, because they treat tears as well, and see what the game plan is going to be. I also know that my rheumatologist wants to get this all taken care of sooner rather than later. So do I!

I'm trying very hard not to think about all the races I had planned for this fall. It's okay, there are other races. ::determined face::

I'll keep you all statused on how things pan out...but prayers for this flare to completely settle, for wisdom on what to do, for patience and trust in lieu of a raceless fall, and that throughout whatever happens, that I may glorify Him, would be appreciated.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Green bags

I take my lunch to work every day and I use a LOT of sandwich baggies. My friend Christina brought some of these to work awhile ago and I thought it would nice to try something more reuseable than my bagillion plastic baggies a day routine (and I just finished off a box of baggies, so now seemed like the time). I bought 3 of the WasteNot Saks brand of reuseable baggies from this website- dishwasher safe, and according to the reviews, these handle "juicy" foods (ie fruit juice won't leak out into your work bag) really well.

Can't wait to try them! Now I need to get reuseable grocery bags...

Mini Office

So, I have two walk-in closets in my bedroom (yeah, I know...) and I don't need both, so I decided to convert the smaller one into a mini office for me, since my spare room is a hobby/craft/guest bedroom.

What do you think?

The orange desk is from West Elm- which I got off of craigslist for a crazy awesome price. The white thing sitting on the chair (one that I painted several years ago in lieu of spending $200 at Anthropolgie for the same thing) is the light fixture that will replace the "closet bare bulb" thing I have currently- but I gotta find someone who can show me how to cut cables and rewire and suchness first.

The squares on the wall are scrapbook covered cork board- handy for pinning up important things and fun momentos.

Yeah, I know it's a bit unconventional, but I really like it so far. I need to still remove the gold metal plate at the top of the entrance and get a rug to cover the rail guard on the floor, and add a small bookcase, but other than that, it's about done. At some point, I may paint in there too...but I'll leave that until I tackle my bedroom...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Knight in Shining Armor?

I think I need one of these in my house...

And for those of you who know me...you know I am only half joking...maybe even only a quarter joking....hmm....(wheels turning)....quirky...

Friday, July 2, 2010

Summertime food favorite

I grew up in Arizona. It is very hot in Arizona during the summer. Very hot. So hot, it takes away your appetite sometimes (my parents don't have AC in our house, we use this thing called 'evaporative cooling'- works great since there is little to no humidity in AZ). Anyhow...hot. So, during the summer, my mom would whet our appetites by making tunafish salad and fill hollowed-out tomatoes. It was awesome biting into that tuna-y tomato-y coldness when the rest of you was sweltering. I'm not a fan of tuna anymore, so here's my adaptation of our family's summertime favorite:

Chicken Salad Stuffed Tomatoes

1 1/2 cups cooked and shredded chicken (I used 3 medium chicken breasts)
2tsp honey
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1c mayo
3 ribs of celery, chopped
1 red apple (unpeeled) cut into chunks
shredded swiss cheese
fresh basil
~6 medium to large tomatoes

I mix the honey, vinegar, and mayo and then add it to the chicken/celery/apple mixture. Add swiss cheese and fresh chopped basil to taste.

Scrape out the inside of the tomatoes and stuff with the chicken salad. Top with extra cheese and/or basil and refrigerate for a few hours until chilled. Then eat. Enjoy!