Monday, September 15, 2008

The Internet Family Reunion

I am blessed to be part of an internet-based mothers group. That could probably be read two ways – we are internet-based moms (true!) and we are part of a group that meets on the internet (also true). The Internet is for many things, but one of my favorite parts is community building. I’m an XNFP and a Gemini. On any given day, I can be either an Introvert or an Extrovert – and sometimes a little in between. The Internet allows me to switch between the INFP and ENFP personalities fairly seamlessly. It’s a blessing to me because it allows me to be present without the whole social anxiety issue taking over.

It is also a blessing to get to know so many wonderful people. Many people say that the Internet is causing people to be increasingly isolated from each other. How can that be possible, when every day people gather in chat rooms and on message boards to share their lives with each other? My life has been enriched and enlarged by being a part of these groups. People I would not have otherwise met are now a part of my circle of friends. Facebook has also brought me back in touch with old friends from high school and college. Email allows me to stay in touch with friends and family. SmugMug gives me a place to share my pictures (when I remember to upload them). Blogspot and LiveJournal give me a place to post my opinions. All of these things could be accomplished without the Internet. It just makes it so much easier to do them and to share them with others.

So how can the Internet be a bad thing? Consider this: my heart is heavy today, and it is all the Internet’s fault. If the Internet didn’t exist, I would never have gotten to know Stacey McDaniel. I would never had experienced her courage, love, and strength. I never would’ve laughed at her stories or cooed over pictures of her children. I never would’ve prayed fervently for her during her long battle with brain cancer. I never would have been sitting here thinking of her children’s future without her.

Stacey is one of the gutsiest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. She never let things get her down for long. Her attitude will always inspire me. She was so tough, so strong, so loving that it seemed she could conquer anything. So now, I prefer to believe that the brain tumor didn’t win – she won. How could she not? She was Superwoman to me and so many others. A community that would not have existed without the Internet is grieving. We are, in a way, a family. Some have met in person, others not. Yet the power of friendship and community holds us together. Stacey was a part of that family. She is greatly missed.

When I heard the news of Stacey’s passing, I could not help but think of another member of my Internet family. Kathy Woltman was a member of the November 98 Topaz Treasures, my very first Internet moms’ group. The group has since disbanded, but I still think of it often. It’s easy – it was such an integral part of my first years as a mom. Kathy was an inspiration and a life-saver for me. I was having my first baby; Kathy, her fourth. She had a lot of experience and was always willing to share it with the rest of us. Moms groups are a lot like any other family – we laugh, we cry, we fight, we learn, and we love. We lean on each other a lot.

After Kathy had her fourth, she experienced her first bout of post partum depression. At the same time, I was going through my first. I was in denial, Kathy tackled hers. We both made it through. More importantly, Kathy once again shared her experience. Her willingness to describe her experience in detail and to post it on the Internet helped me to recognize what was going on after I had my second child. I got help that time, and the next time. Kathy’s words inspired and comforted me. It hurts my heart and soul to know that ultimately we couldn’t do the same for her.

Not too long ago, I read one of those “Chicken Soup for the Soul” stories. In it, someone’s friends had died. The person eventually made it beyond their grief by deciding to live for her friends, because they did not have the opportunity.

“We who must remain, go on living just the same. We who must remain, go on laughing just the same.” The Eagles, “My Man”

So, no – the Internet is truly a blessing. Without it, I would never had gotten to know these two incredible women and my life would be so much smaller and darker – if it existed at all. May God bless Stacey and Kathy – you’ll be in my heart forever. Amen.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Exercising my options

This morning, I made good on my promise to start working out this week. After 40 minutes on the treadmill, I am flush with endorphins and lofty goals. So, here it goes - between now and when school ends on June 18, I plan to lose 60 pounds. That's 40 weeks - less than 2 pounds per week. That will bring me back into a healthy weight range. I'm not going to post my starting weight now. I just can't bring myself to do it yet. Maybe later. I will try to post my progress on the 18th of each month. I have the time to exercise and make healthy meals. I also have the responsibility to myself and my family to be healthier than I am now. So, here goes nothing - or maybe quite a lot.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Music Monday

Stef asked what music is moving people today. Today, as on so many days from the past several months, it's Jason Mraz. BUMD and I were watching Mraz's performance on Bonefish Grill's Notes from the Road last night. The show mixes musings from the artist with live performances. Last week's Ben Folds performance was full of quirky genius; Mraz's show was more philospohical. He described the opening number, Make it Mine, as a montage of his life. It's very positive and uplifting, and is one of my current favorites. The lighthearted and goofy video underscores the song's message - Carpe Diem. I love, love, love this:


The kids are all at school and the house is mine. MINE. There's a word I don't hear very often anymore. They've all grown out of that lovely stage and into others. I tell myself that if they ever stop that progression, we're in trouble. There's only one thing that stops progress and I hope not to see it anytime soon.

The first week of school went well. Lots of form to be filled out. Paperwork makes the world go around. Do I really need three copies of the school handbook? What a waste of paper. To counteract that, I've spent part of this morning decreasing the number of catalogs that come in the mail. I read everything online anyway. What's the point of wrecking the mail lady's and garbage guys' backs?

Not that the house is silent for long - the dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer are currently running. The kids get out of school early on Mondays to allow time for teacher planning, so they'll be home soon for a quick break before heading back out to CCD. We're actually fairly unscheduled compared to many families. I can't handle the constant travel that lots of activities involve. The kids aren't complaining either, so I'm not too worried. They may curse me later in life, but they'll have to do that in their own blog - this one's MINE. Hah!

Friday, September 5, 2008


As part of having more "me" time, I'm doing some things to take better care of myself. Next week, I'm going to try to establish a regular workout routine. I've tried and failed to do that countless times before. Actually, I have succeeded - I just don't tend to stick with it for very long. This time may not be any different than prior attempts, but at least I'm trying again.

Another thing I did was to finally get to the allergist. I live in the DC area - allergies are a given. That's what we get for living on a swamp. When I was a teenager, I used to get allergy shots. Things got better until I moved to this area. Since then, I've tried many different kinds of allergy remedies with varying results. Every spring and fall, I swore I was going to go to the allergist and get some serious help. My youngest has been going to an allergist for a few years due to her food allergies. Her allergist's nurse practitioner, after listening to me sniffle, even suggested that I schedule an appointment. Suggestions and thoughts are good, but actions are a little harder to come by. Throw in an HMO and delays are inevitable. Needless to say, the sniffling went on for quite a while. Like I said - it's not exactly an atypical condition in this area.

What was atypical, was my reaction to cinnamon just over a month ago. Did you know that most cinnamon isn't cinnamon at all? It's cassia. This is what I get from watching too much Alton Brown. If you've never tried his cinnamon bun recipe, you should. They're divine. Just don't feed them to me. I love them, but I love breathing even more. Silly, I know.

So there I was, eating a late night snack of cinnamon toast. This time, I used some of the newly purchased "Saigon Cinnamon". It's pricey, but I'm a sucker for new things. Why not taste "real" cinnamon? Evidently, my body didn't agree. First, I noticed my throat itching. I tried drinking some water. When that didn't work and my head started to feel congested, I took two Benadryl. Soon, I started having problems swallowing and started wheezing. I asked the BUMD to get me the Primatene Mist inhaler that I was sure was in the closet. Oops, threw it out while I was decluttering (Darn you, Fly Lady!). He handed me the phone and then ran out to buy another one. While he was gone, I felt pretty bad - I'll spare you the details. By the time he got back, though, the Benadryl had kicked in. It is a testament to the power of Benadryl that the Primatene Mist didn't make me the least bit hyper. I take one Benadryl to sleep. Two - zombie time.

Now, why didn't I call 911 or go to the ER? Looking back, I'd say pure stupidity. Anaphylaxis is nothing to mess with. That said, it was after 11, the kids were in bed, and I was in denial about how bad things were getting. Luckily, it all ended well.

But, really - a cinnamon allergy? I've been eating cinnamon my entire life. Why would it start now? Skeptic that I am, I decided to test it again a couple of days later. I made a paste of cinnamon and water, and rubbed it on my wrist. Within a few minutes, the area was red, raised, and itchy. No denying that (at least not for long, since I took two more Bedadryl). The next day, I had an appointment to see my primary care doctor and got an inhaler, an EpiPen, and the all-important referral to the allergist. Fast forward one month, and I now know that I'm allergic to several trees and grasses. I didn't test positive to any foods. I guess that makes sense, given that cinnamon/cassia is a (very yummy) tree bark.

For now, I'm going to start getting allergy shots again. I'll also keep trying to avoid cinnamon. Evidently, it's only very bad for me in heavy doses. I slipped up the other day and had a pie with graham cracker crust, forgetting that graham crackers usually contain cinnamon, and ended up with a nasty headache. Avoiding pies should probably be on my list anyway, if I'm going to be dieting and exercising. Speaking of dieting, I recently read an article that said cinnamon would help weight loss. I think that's more weight than I want to lose. There's always a catch. Sigh.