Monday, March 20, 2017

So, I did a thing awesome, incredible, great, horribly painful, terribly sad, emotionally-disastrous thing.

I addressed my demons.

I opened the closet door, dragged out my mental health skeletons and purposely shoved them into the spotlight. Had this been at the behest of a therapist, I'd have kicked and manipulated things so that door was never opened again. Honestly, I'd been getting along really well and felt that I was managing my mental health pretty well. My medication was working, I had very few crying fits that hadn't been brought on by an episode of This is Us, and overall, I felt good. So why dredge up the past and exhume the decaying corpse of depression, you ask? To save a life. Possibly, to save many. 

A couple months ago, I auditioned for a non-profit event called "This is My Brave." It's an organization that was created by a couple of women who felt that sharing their stories of mental illness could benefit others - that storytelling saves lives. I saw the post about auditions on Facebook and thought very carefully before doing anything, but my inner superhero had a pocketful of Kryptonite for my sense of self-preservation and I threw caution to the wind. Initially, I didn't even think of how I would be affected by what I had to share; I just thought, "maybe someone can relate to what I've been throughand they won't feel alone." 

Holy. Shit. Y'all.

People warn you not to practice channeling the evil on Ouija boards, don't open paint cans in an enclosed space, and don't drive drunk. But they don't warn you about digging up old ghosts of mental illness without a therapist on stand-by. It caught me off guard, knocked the wind out of me, and I have been flailing like a turtle on its back ever since. I thought I'd dealt with this stuff and tucked the remnants in convenient, little spaces in my brain. The organized apothecary of memories has since been obliterated. There are slivers of wood and shards of glass everywhere - which is kind of ironic considering I don't really even trust myself around sharp objects at this point. (Kidding. Sort of.)

I feel like the Red Cross should be here in a tent set up outside my house with the aftermath this thing has left. Don't get me wrong - I am incredibly proud to be part of the show and I hope that my story reaches someone -- many of someones, if possible. This experience has been nothing short of amazing and I expect the compilation of all our stories will be a powerful catalyst for those who suffer from mental illness. For that, I am so grateful and I am humbled to be a part of it. I'd do it again and again if it means touching just one more person. That being said, if I'm distant and quiet, or possibly quick-tempered and edgy - this is why. I am still trying to pick up the shreds. I'm searching for stronger bottles, thicker cabinet doors, and a less combustible space to store these emotions of mine.

I will be okay. Not today. Not tomorrow. Probably not even next week, but at some point, the dust will settle, the smoke will clear and the light will sparkle in my eyes again. Until then, don't walk around here barefoot; the Red Cross hasn't returned my call yet, so you're on your own for first aid.

*Author's note: I am not suicidal. I am not a danger to myself or others. I have felt very much like not being alive, but I don't want to kill myself. Please don't freak out and call the authorities for a welfare check.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Women are done...

Bear with me...long, but well worth the read. Also, this may seem like a political post, but it's really about much more than that.

People have been blowing up my timeline with propaganda regarding all the women who have come forward to make claims about Donald Trump sexually harassing them. "Why'd they wait so long?" "That happened ages ago, who cares?" "A month before the election and they're just NOW coming forward? Agenda much?"

Here's the thing: I don't know if he did or did not harass, belittle, assault, offend, fondle, grope, or rape the women who have come forward (or those who haven't). But what I DO know is that women don't come forward because no one takes us seriously when we do.

Sexual assault/harassment has always been (and will always be) an incredibly difficult thing to prove and sadly, without proof, no one believes the victim. If there aren't scratches and bruises, bodily harm or other signs of physical battery, the victim is dismissed. They're ignored. They're laughed at. They're made a spectacle of. They're belittled. They're mocked. They're called liars, gold diggers, attention whores and manipulators.

But I want you to imagine for just a minute....

And please be honest with yourself...

You're a woman in the presence of someone famous who has more money than God, and he touches you inappropriately or makes offensive comments about your body. Now, you don't know that he's done it to other women or not. You only know that he's done it to you. Maybe you work for him. Maybe you're networking with him. Perhaps he's just someone at the same event you're at. All you know is that he's rich, powerful, and has a team of lawyers who would rip you to shreds in court if you even THOUGHT of filing a charge against him. They would dredge up every boyfriend you ever dated, show every compromising photo of you they can find, and ask you when you lost your virginity. They would question how you dress, whether you've ever had plastic surgery, and most importantly, if you told that man that you didn't appreciate his comment/behavior.

Women don't come forward because this happens every day. Every. Single. Day. And nobody gives a damn. Not the police, not the courts, and certainly not this man who just tried to hug you, grab your ass, kiss you, or paw at you like some possession he just bought at Sotheby's.

Until we stop giving our power to men like this, no one will ever take us seriously. Until we stop giving them our blind eyes, our averted glances, and our uncomfortable, but tolerating demeanor, we will always be questioned about what WE did to encourage THEIR bad behavior.

Take it back, ladies. Don't let your self-doubt determine your voice. And men? Imagine your daughter, sister, mother or wife in that situation. How would you protect her? Would you protect her at all?

I don't care who you vote for in this election - that's between you and your ballot, but if you truly believe that Donald Trump (and men like him) is doing nothing wrong and that somehow all these women who have come forward are liars, you need to step back, sit down and listen up: women are done taking your shit.

Our mothers gave us life, our ancestors gave us a foundation, suffragettes gave us our voice, and I am giving you permission. No one else can decide how you are treated. Speak out. Stand proud. Be bold. Don't quit.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Fifteen Years

It's been 15 years, but I am certain you know exactly where you were and what you were doing. I know I can.

It's hard for me to think about that day. My kids were still so young and, as far as real life goes, I was still fairly naive. Living in the Midwest tends to create a safety net that makes us a little disconnected with things that happen elsewhere in the world. We still wave at cars as we pass them on gravel roads. We know our neighbors - if not by name, at least by face. We still tend to leave doors unlocked sometimes and we trust that our kids know where they need to be when the streetlights come on at dusk. That day changed all that for everyone.

I can't tell you what it was like for people in Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., or New York City that day and I thank God that I can't. But for me, and I'm sure many others, it took away my sense of security. I locked doors again. I looked at people in public with scrutiny instead of recognition. I was more protective with my kids and where I allowed them to be - all the time, not just when it started getting dark. And I worried. Day. Night. While I slept. I worried. I still worry. As my youngest child is just weeks away from signing a contract with the U.S. Marines, I worry. With my oldest child living 700 miles away, I worry. I worry for my grandchildren who haven't even been conceived yet. I worry for friends living in big cities where this could potentially happen again. I worry. I worry. I worry.

In October 2014, my husband and I visited the 9/11 museum in New York. I'd been to Ground Zero at least twice before that, seeing it at varying stages of rebuilding and was profoundly affected each time. But to see, touch, hear, and even smell (yes, some scents never go away for those of us with empathic abilities) the relics and memorabilia from that fateful day was more than I could handle. I sat outside for quite a while after visiting the memorial and just cried. Grief? Sorrow? Pain? Survivors' guilt? A combination of it all? I can't go back there again, I do know that much. But I encourage everyone to visit it at least once in their life. 9/11 changed us all, but that museum will change you all over again in a completely different way.

As always, I honor those who lost their lives that day, as well as those who survived. I share your pain and my strength with you all.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

My Lyme Road

For those close to me, you probably know the transition my health has taken over the last several years. But for those who are new to my life or those who may just be on the outskirts or might not understand how my Lyme disease has affected me, I want to summarize it. It also helps me to put things down on paper so I can see the progress I've made on days when it feels like all I do is move backward.

I want to state blatantly, though, this post isn't for sympathy or for someone to tell me how strong I am. I'm not. I'm a survivor. That doesn't make me strong. Please lend your understanding, but keep the sympathy for someone who deserves it.

Lyme disease is caused by spirochete bacteria (they look like little corkscrews) called borrelia bergdorferi. They are typically vomited into the body by a tick after it bites and feeds on your blood. Sometimes there's a rash and flu-like symptoms. In my case, there were not and I don't remember the bite. So, I could have had it from just a few months before testing positive, or I could've had it since I was a kid...or anywhere in between. Symptom wise, I believe I was infected somewhere between 2004 and 2007. For those who are immediately diagnosed, treatment is quick, usually simple and while the antibodies are always there, generally speaking, it's "cured" by most definitions. Testing is incredibly difficult because accurate testing has not been developed. It's a hit-or-miss kind of thing, so the fact that my tests came back positive is miraculous enough. Most Lyme patients don't get solid proof that they have it.

For those of us who are bitten and don't realize it, it turns from acute Lyme disease to chronic Lyme disease. It's also incredibly difficult to treat because the CDC does not recognize chronic Lyme disease as an actual disease. They (along with most medical doctors) believe that once a round or two of antibiotics is administered that the disease is cured. Any symptoms beyond that treatment is considered "post-treatment Lyme disease treatment" and "in rare occasions lasts more  than six months". Considering the hundreds of thousands of people with ongoing Lyme disease, this is not the case. It's not "rare" that it lasts longer than six months. Almost everyone who has been treated for Lyme disease beyond the immediate period following an infected tick bite goes on to suffer from months and years of ongoing symptoms, if not a lifetime of fighting relapses and risks of reinfection. It's important to know that while the CDC is one of the most knowledgeable sources on most diseases, for years they refused to recognize the sheer volume of patients diagnosed with Lyme disease. They hid the truth from the public, and they've hidden treatments, tests and other truths about the disease itself from those who suffer from it. I caution anyone with Lyme or if you think you may have Lyme to research as much as you can, but seek treatment from a Lyme Literate Medical Doctor. These doctors have been specially trained and certified for the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease and its co-infections.

Anyway, back to my truths...

Those corkscrew bacteria are Satan in a molecule. They are like teenage boys: they screw EVERYTHING. Cells, organs, blood, tissue, muscles, brain, eyes, name it and it's going to penetrate it. In the late-stage chronic lyme sufferers (like myself), when it penetrates the brain, it literally drills into the gray matter in your skull and permanently damages everything in its path, microscopically speaking. For me, it started in my thyroid and moved up my spine, through my cerebellum and into my temporal lobe. It has affected memory, hearing, speech, body temperature balance, ability to think of correct words and phrases, moods, and caused me increased sensitivity to noise, temperature and smell. I have muscle fatigue, pain in most of my joints, exhaustion in general as well as everything I mentioned above. Sometimes, I have good days. Most of the time, I'm average. But my bad days are bad. Those are when I stay in bed, limit my interaction and sleep - not just for recovery, but for the sake of saving relationships because my moods are volatile and I can't control them well. Anxiety attacks can come out of nowhere, last for hours and take days to recover from. So can bouts of rage and anger. These mood swings zap energy from me and it takes me a long time to get over them, much less the repercussions of the people who are in the path of my tornadic destruction.

It also affects my balance, my equilibrium, my organ function, my immune system, my breathing/cardio abilities, and my energy levels. You'll sometimes hear me refer to having -or not having- spoons. That's based on the Spoon Theory, which describes what many chronic illness sufferers deal with: http://www.butyoudontlooksick. com/articles/written-by- christine/the-spoon-theory/

Again...the symptoms aren't all the time...and not all symptoms at once (usually)...but my bad days can cover quite a few symptoms in varying degrees of strength.

As far as the timing of my diagnosis, I can only go off of what my symptoms were and when they developed. While depression and anxiety have been lifelong issues for me, the majority of the other symptoms began in the mid-2000s. My mother-in-law remembered me talking about being bitten by a tick in 2004 after we'd taken in some baby bunnies who'd been abandoned by their mother, and I remember picking numerous ticks off of them when we first brought them inside. I don't remember the bite, but my MIL did. By January 2008, I had dealt with several episodes of Bells Palsy (where it looks like somebody's had a stroke and half their face is sliding off their skull), which is usually a symptom of late stage Lyme. I had major health issues in 2012 when my reproductive organs began failing. I lost my right ovary in Feb 2012 to a dermoid teratoma tumor, then lost the uterus and cervix in May that year. Six months later, I went back under the knife a third time so the doctors could repair what didn't heal correctly. Menopause began shortly after that and I've dealt with numerous hormonal changes. This was also when the major mental and emotional issues began. They never seemed to get better. I blamed all the anesthesia, but as it turns out, most likely, it was Lyme related. I was finally diagnosed in 2014 at the urging of several friends, and it has pretty much consumed my life since then.

I have taken a plethora of antibiotics, both oral and intravenously. I have changed dietary habits, added numerous vitamins and supplements, hormone replacements, anxiety and depressive medications as well as hordes of natural and homeopathic regimens to help ward off the symptoms I deal with.

I have, during the course of my treatment, felt suicidal and hopeless more often than I care to admit. I also push people away who either aren't strong enough to deal with the ugliness of this disease or lack the strength of dealing with me while I fight this disease. I am incredibly difficult to love right now. I tend to keep to myself as often as possible.

Again, I don't want sympathy or pity. But I will happily take your acceptance. I'll take your attempt at understanding. I'll take your commitment to learn more about it. I'll take your proactive approach to preventing it in your own lives and the lives of your pets and children. I'm not strong. I'm not a hero. And I don't deserve your admiration for persevering through this hideous disease. But I will gladly help you learn more so you don't wind up like me.

Saturday, July 2, 2016


Home is a strange word, sometimes. It can describe a hotel room for the few days of a vacation. Maybe it's referring to where you grew up. It might be your home town, or where you graduated high school.

For me, home hasn't really ever been a specific place so much that it's feeling that I'm somewhere with my people who get me.

Tonight, I'm 1,000 miles from where I live, but I am home.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Catching up

Did something today I'm not usually comfortable doing. I was taught, growing up, that you can never have too many friends. I was taught to always be nice and make room in your life for people who might need you.

Since then, life happened and I realized that's all pretty much crap. I can have too many friends. Not real ones, mind you - ones who are there through good and bad times - but those "friends" for the sake of being a number in someone's friend count? No thanks.

I got a message today from someone I knew for a number of years. We weren't ever close friends, but we did things occasionally. Over time, we drifted apart, as friends do. And a few weeks ago, in a grand sweep of clutter removal, I took her and about a hundred others off my friends list on Facebook. It wasn't personal, mind you - I just felt that our time as friends had come to an end. Today, she sent me a message, asking me to call her. Since I don't really do phone calls, I explained that and asked her what was up (making sure nothing was wrong). "Oh, nothing. Just wanted to catch up."

See, here's the thing. I put my life out there on Facebook. I wouldn't have told her anything she couldn't see there during the years we were friends. But mostly, I don't do "catching up". It's trivial, it's pointless, and I don't enjoy those types of conversations. Ask me about important things - like what my favorite childhood memory is. Or when the last time was that I felt true fear. Or what keeps me up at night. Or, maybe what it feels like to not want to end my life for the first time in 33 years.

We literally hadn't spoken in over two years, so my thoughts are, if you couldn't at least drop a note, LIKE a post, or comment on something I said, then there's not much to catch up on. I needed my friends the last two years. NEEDED them. Not just for a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on, but literally, physically needed their help and support. She didn't give it.

So, for the first time in my life, I used my strength and turned down an opportunity to "catch up" with an old friend. I explained that over the last few years, I've learned who my friends are and who they aren't, and considering she hadn't spoken to me since 2014, it was pretty clear to me which category she fit into. I was polite. I was to-the-point. And I don't feel guilty. I'm taking my life back.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

You did that.

My precious friend,

You are the reason I became an advocate for gay rights.

Of course, at the young age of 16, that was back before I knew what being an advocate meant, or even that gays didn't necessarily have the same rights as straights. 

Before I met you, I was raised in a politically and socially conservative home. People were good solid Christians, they didn't cheat on their spouses, men didn't sleep with other men, motorcyclists were all Hells Angels wannabes, and every Sunday night we watched the Disney Movie of the Week on ABC. That's just what we did. 

As I grew older, I didn't know anyone who was gay and out. Obviously I had gay friends, but at the time, I didn't know it. They were just either "secure in their manhood" or a "tomboy." I'm pretty sure the only time my mother ever explained to me anything about homosexuality was when I asked her the difference between being gay and being lesbian. She said, "lesbians are women." That was the extent of it.

Then I met you. You, in all your babouscka-wearing glory prancing in that parking lot donning a darling pair of boat shoes, a bouffant hair-do that made me incredibly envious, and the best sense of humor I'd ever experienced. You were out and proud of who you were, and you didn't give a damn who knew it. You didn't march in any parades, nor were you begging people to accept you as you were. You didn't feel the need to explain anything or justify yourself. You just were. You were perfectly you.

My whole life changed that day. I began opening up my mind and realizing just how closed it was in the first place. I accepted you without question because I loved you, and to me, it didn't matter who you slept with or what you stood for. I just knew you were one of the greatest friends I'd ever met. I valued YOU; the rest of the package was superfluous. 

You are the reason I am able to accept, love and support my gay daughter and everything that's important to her.

YOU did that. 

Thank you.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Spoon Theory and those who abuse it

I think some people don't understand the spoon theory as it pertains to real chronic illness. If you've got a temporary injury, if you're recovering from an illness like the stomach flu or a head cold, or if you've just had a lousy day because of situations that occurred, you're not out of spoons; you're tired/pissed/hurt/sick/in recovery.

The spoon theory has become so overused by people who are just unable to deal with their emotions on an every day basis and as someone who has truly been out of spoons, and someone who is friends with others in my same situation, this irritates the hell out of me.

Depression, anxiety, chronic illness, terminal disease...those types of long-term things is what the spoon theory was based on. If you jerked your back out of place while lifting your kid's tricycle or broke your toe by stubbing it on a coffee table? You're not out of spoons, you just have very little ability to deal with being in pain. If you're not in and out of doctors' offices, hospitals, therapists, clinics and pharmacies all the time, then you have no idea what it's like to TRULY be out of spoons. If you haven't had to budget which prescriptions to get filled vs. how many groceries you can afford if you get them all, then you probably don't understand chronic illness. If you have the energy for the things you WANT to do, but not the things you NEED to do, then you're not a "Spoonie". If you choose to be nice to some folks, but use others for what they can give you, you're just an asshole, not someone with chronic illness. If you have the energy for political debate on social media (substitute political with anything you're passionate about), then you're not really worried about how many spoons you'll have left to make dinner or help your kids with their school work.

Yes, this post may make me seem judgmental, and yes, I understand there are exceptions to my generalizations, but I'm so OVER emotionally-incapable people using excuses for being lazy. Don't get me wrong - I have compassion and empathy for those with chronic illness like ALS, Cancer, MS, Lupus, Lyme Disease, Depression, Anxiety, Fibromyalgia and the numerous other incapacitating diseases that rob us of time, energy, and good days. But, I don't have a single rat's ass for those who hide behind something they Googled one day so they can lay around being energy vampires, sucking the life out of those around them.

Please understand I recognize that most of us don't "look" sick. This rant isn't about that. This is about what you spend your time and energy on. And if you think people aren't paying attention, you're only fooling yourself. They just don't want to be the jerk by pointing it out to you. Me? I have no qualms about that because I've been in the trenches with not a spoon to spare. 

To me, this is the equivalent of someone who buys fatigues and medals on Ebay and pretends to be in the military to gain sympathy, respect, pity or special favors. And honey, it's the same here: if you haven't been to war, you don't get to wear the uniform.


Living in the midwest, I don't get to spend very much time at the ocean, but when I'm there, the reverence I feel is overwhelming. I took this the last time I was in LA. February in California is, by far, much warmer than February in Iowa, but it was still a chilly day at the beach as I checked off "#264. Photograph a Pacific sunset" from my bucket list.

When it comes to waiting for the perfect shot, I have infinite patience. It's pretty much the only thing I have patience for, actually. But I rarely expect anyone else to wait with me. Not many people I know understand my process because they're not artists themselves, but my bestie, being the infinitely patient person she is, sat with me as I took photo after photo. We sat on those cold rocks shivering for about an hour. The tide came in, the air got colder, but for that hour, I was at total peace. It was the perfect ending to a wonderful day.

With three kids and a hardworking husband, my life is filled with schedules, deadlines, and activities. My house is always noisy, people are always coming and going, and I don't have a lot of time where I can just relax. But for an hour, on the shores of Malibu in February 2013, I was at total peace.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

I did it, Mom!

I grew up inhaling books the way most people did air. My mom took me to the library every week as a kid. Most kids my age would check out two or three books. Me? I had stacks - literally stacks of books. Big ones. Chapter books. And I would read every single one in a matter of days. Sometimes, I'd even check them out more than once so I could read them again. Encyclopedia Brown, Ramona Quimby, and Farley Drexel Hatcher were some of my best friends growing up. (They still are.) My mom had to beg the librarian to let me check out more than a couple of books at a time because most kids my age didn't read more than what was required by school, much less did they read like I did. Mom always swore I would write books someday. I didn't care so much about that. I just wanted to read.

In fact, in elementary school, I failed a lot of creative writing assignments. Surprising, right? Not really. When we were given twenty minutes to write a story, there wasn't enough time to develop an outline, characters and a successful story. So I might have gotten the first paragraph or two done, but nothing more, and it would usually be marked "incomplete". When I got to junior high and high school, my teachers began expecting more from me because they knew how much I read. My sophomore English teacher refused to take book reports from me if the book was less than 150 pages, even though she didn't require that from other students. She told me "You're better than all these sappy teen romances." She was right. So I passed up Sweet Valley High for more mature authors like Stephen King and V.C. Andrews. I still devoured the sappy romances in between the 300-page monsters I summed up for English class, of course, but she had encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone.

Fast forward twenty-some years and at least a thousand books I'd devoured.

Writing my own book came as a fluke. A friend of mine discovered an old fan fiction story she'd written in high school, and we noticed that she'd put me in it. My inspiration came from that story. What had "I" done prior to being in her story? Where was "my" history? Bottom line is that she hadn't written one. "I" was a superfluous character. I wasn't okay with that. So, I began writing My Book. That was the title: My Book. Catchy, right?

Four years, at least three sets of name changes, and a lot of editing later, I published my first book, Distance and Time. I never planned on publishing it, much less making it a series. I was perfectly content with my one, silly, little story, but my friends weren't. They urged me further. I was happy with what I'd done. I was okay with it. "Josh" and "Carly," however, weren't done. Before I knew it, I was writing Better in Time, the second book and the finale, All This Time. As I neared the publication date for book three, Distance made it to #154 on the Amazon bestsellers list (out of over one million books). My mind was blown. I cried with joy for days!

Yesterday, I released the final book in the series, All This Time. My entire Time After Time series has been published. Each book has its own set of great reviews, and I have written a best seller. If, at any point, I decide to stop writing, I am profoundly comfortable with my success as an author, and I am grateful to each one of you who helped me with that journey.

I did it, Mom!

Time After Time full series purchase links:

Distance and Time (Time After Time, #1) Kindle
Distance and Time (Time After Time, #1) paperback
Autographed paperbacks: $15 through me, incl. shipping (Contact for details)
Free on Kindle Unlimited

Better in Time (Time After Time, #2) Kindle 
Better in Time" (Time After Time, #2) paperback 
Autographed paperbacks: $10 through me, incl. shipping (Contact for details)
Free on Kindle Unlimited

All This Time (Time After Time, #3) Kindle
All This Time (Time After Time, #3) paperback
Autographed paperbacks: $15 through me, incl. shipping (Contact for details)
Free on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon UK Links: (Free on Kindle Unlimited)
Distance and Time   (Paperback) 
Better in Time   (Paperback) 
All This Time   (Paperback)

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Happy New Year!

2016? Already? I feel like I just started 2015. Needless to say, I'll be writing the 6 over the 5 for months to come.

I'm in such a great place right now. Truly. It's so different from where I was last year at this time. I'm still dealing with Lyme disease, but thankfully, it went on vacation a few weeks ago and, knock on wood, the symptoms have been almost completely gone. I'm starting to get some energy back (though I still battle with fatigue and exhaustion sometimes) and my brain fog is also at an all-time low. I'm also recovering from carpal tunnel surgery that I had last month. My strength is returning quickly and I'm ridiculously pleased with my surgeon and the work he did. My hands feel better than they have in a long time. I have several weeks to go before I'm back to normal, but all roads seem to indicate I'll get there soon.

The family is crazy as always. Big Man has been at his job for about six months now and loves it. He moved out into his own place and has been adjusting well to bachelor life. He graduates from DMACC in May and is well on his way to incredible success with his company. Boo has been working her butt off and saving money to get her own place. In the meantime, she's just enjoying life with her boyfriend and friends. She will be returning to school in the fall. Midget (I don't know why I still call her that - she's 4" taller than I am!) is in her senior year of high school, and if all things go as planned, she'll graduate in May. She's planning on taking a few months to enjoy a pressure-free summer, then will be enlisting in the military. I'm so proud of my kids and proud of where they're going in life. They make life so much more interesting! Hubby, too, is doing great. This marks year 11 with his company and he loves it as much as he did at the beginning. It's challenging and stressful at times, but he's never been one to back down from a challenge. After all, he married me 15 years ago, right?

I'm gearing up for a new book release in February and cannot be more thrilled. Becoming an author was the best choice I've made, aside from my family. It's allowed me to meet so many people whom I've become close to, and I know there will be so many more joys to come. The feedback I've gotten on my books has been so encouraging and positive. I can't say enough about how great my readers are. I see hateful, negative reviews on so many other authors' pages, and it breaks my heart. I'm sure my day is coming, but until then, I feel so fortunate to have the readers I have.

I don't really have any great epiphanies to share with you today, and I know my blog posts have been further and farther between, but I wanted to catch y'all up on life at my house. I hope everyone's new year is healthy, prosperous and filled with love and good memories to be made.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Friendsgiving and a Full House

My mother had three kids and married a man with three kids, so needless to say, I came from a big family. I also grew up on shows like The Brady Bunch and Eight is Enough so I always envisioned having lots of kids someday. The holidays were always fun and exciting, especially when my cousins, aunts, and uncles were included in the festivities.

Then once I grew up and had kids I realized that I am NOT a Brady or a Bradford. Quite frankly, kids make me kinda crazy, so I stopped at two. I would never have those crowded (but cozy) Christmases of my youth, but that was okay. I'd have my sanity. Right? (Shut up.)

Last summer, we were blessed with a third child (can an 18 year old be referred to as a child?) who unexpectedly joined our family after having been in foster care through most of her teens. Bethany rounded out our brood and has made a great addition to our family. Trust me when I say she brings enough fun, excitement, and yes, chaos to the house. Most of the time it's welcomed chaos. ;)

Today, she planned a friendsgiving celebration, inviting her boyfriend and numerous friends and coworkers. There were appetizers, relish trays, turkey with all the trimmings, pies (pies, and more pies), and lots of people.

This unexpected girl who joined our lives has given me a full house after all and I wouldn't want it any other way. I'm not a Brady or a Bradford, but I am a Samples and this is our world.

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


I sat down yesterday and began writing another book. I've had about a half-dozen ideas come to me in the last few months, but this one was inspired by a book my husband was cackling about a couple weeks ago. I looked at him and told him I found the opening paragraph to my next book. He looked at me like I was crazy, but since that's not a new thing for us, I just grinned and began typing in an empty Word doc. I read back to him what I'd written and he kinda gave me a blank stare and one of his "whatever works for you, honey" looks. God bless him.

Writing for me has been way tough for the last year. Between Lyme bacteria literally drilling into my brain, medication has taken quite a toll on my memory, as well. Disease has skull-fucked me into oblivion and I'm pissed about it. (Yeah, so much for that peace I talked about in the last blog, huh?) When I'm pissed, I become motivated. So yesterday, I sat down and wrote over 2,000 words in a new story. New characters, new story line, new everything. It was hard and it's probably crap and will be edited into something completely different from what I'm writing now, but I have more voices needing to be heard.

It's encouraging to know the characters are still there and even more encouraging that they want to tell their stories. But most encouragingly, I've been writing like a mofo. I'll take it!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Fall ramblings

I'm pretty sure I should have been a fall baby. I love this season. I love everything about it - the sights, the colors, the sound of whistles on a football field, the cooler temps, the smell of leaves burning, even the evenings that begin before supper time.

This year, as my physical limitations have kept me pretty grounded to home, I'm learning to become content with my own company. We did a lot of home renovation the last couple months, so I've been enjoying the new digs. It's amazing to me what a little color change and new energy can do to a space.

As I've been spending more time by myself, I've opened my mind and interests a little, exploring meditation and various pagan traditions. I have friends and family who dabble in alternative faiths and it has fascinated me to learn more about other people's practices and rituals. (Before anybody freaks out: no, I'm not worshiping Satan or praying to toast with the shadow of the Virgin Mary burned into it. Relax.) I've just been paying more attention to the elements around me - the moon, the tides, the stars and nature, in general. I've been paying homage to family and my ancestry as well. In doing this, I'm also trying to remove some of the clutter from my life - physically, spiritually, and emotionally. It's been wonderfully freeing for me.

While I do still have a ways to go with my Lyme treatment and subsequent testing for co-infections, I'm finding a lot of peace in letting go of the things that don't matter in the long run. I shredded stacks of old files, papers and notes I no longer needed. I've purged a lot of clothing, personal care products I admitted I'd been hoarding, and many other things that have been gumming up my life. 

I'm finding ways to bring calm and peace to a life that is anything but calm and peaceful. I'm learning that a lot of it has to do with choices. I can choose to be chaotic or I can choose to let things go. Don't get me wrong. Sometimes, you need to be involved and it can create chaos until all the parts fall into place, but I'm trying to do better about choosing peace.

As we head into the holiday season, I wish you peace and lots of wonderful memories with loved ones.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Lyme Life - update

I posted this last summer after I was diagnosed, but I've added a few thoughts and decided to repost it here:

I was diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease in May 2014, though my doctors and I suspect I've had it for a decade or more. I don't remember a tick bite, nor did I have a specific bulls-eye rash or flu-like symptoms. It wasn't until I suffered significant memory loss, several episodes of Bells' Palsy, and years of pain that I even considered getting tested.

I spent my childhood running around in the yard and the pasture behind our house. We went fishing and camping every summer. And I don't remember our dogs and cats ever wearing flea & tick collars. We were a rural family and we sure weren't going to let some pesky bugs dictate our lives. As a kid, I remember hearing about something called Lyme disease, but I had no idea what it was or the effects it had on its victims. Even as a parent to my own kids, Lyme wasn't something I ever concerned myself with. If anybody got a tick, it was plucked away with a cotton ball soaked in nail polish remover and we went on with our lives.

How foolish we were.

My diagnosis took me by surprise, but at the same time, with all the research I'd done while waiting for my test results, I think I would've been more surprised if it hadn't come back positive. I had almost every sign of late-stage Lyme. In fact, I remember hoping the test would come back positive. Not because I wanted to have it, of course - who the hell would want to be this sick? - but because it would finally give a name to all the shit I'd been dealing with the last several years. 

Like most people with multiple nondescript symptoms, I just wanted an explanation. I was so sick of giving excuses that seemed like bullshit even to myself and I was the one who knew what I was going through. I blamed my brain fog on the anesthesia from my hysterectomy in 2012. My pain was, of course, from sleeping wrong and not seeing my chiropractor as often as he'd suggested. The Bells' Palsy and skin rashes were an allergic reaction to something, I'd said. My deepening depression, growing anxiety and increasingly common mood swings had to be because of stress. Sleeplessness, exhaustion and weird sleep patterns could be blamed on my anxiety and depression. I mean, literally everything could be explained away by something else. But there was only one single thing that would encompass them all and it would finally have a name.

Until my diagnosis, I sucked it up and dealt with life as it came at me. After all, if it didn't have a name, how could I not just deal with shit? I had no excuse, no reason, no explanation. Hell, if I'd known I had Lyme disease three years ago, I could've saved myself thousands of dollars in therapy where I tried to figure out why I felt so fucked up all the time. I still tend to think I'm stronger than I am, more motivated than I feel, more capable than not, and as a result, I get pissed at myself because I end up overdoing things.

Upon diagnosis by my primary care doctor, I spent a month on doxycycline which made me extremely physically sick a few times. Then, when the doxy didn't work, I was sent to an infectious disease specialist who put in a PICC line for IV meds that totally hosed my 40th birthday month. I did feel better for a few weeks after those meds, but by fall, I was miserable again. At that point, my doctor didn't know what else to do. I succumbed to the disease and accepted that it would just be something I'd always have to deal with.

Fortunately, a friend of mine suggested contacting the website to find a Lyme-literate medical doctor. I had no idea what that meant, but as I explored the website (as well as a couple others), I discovered that there are two "schools of Lyme treatment." The first is what most doctors follow. It's set in place by the CDC and it does not involve anything called "chronic Lyme disease." It doesn't exist, according to them. The second school of Lyme is a precedent-setting group who is willing to risk career and reputation to treat what they know is real. LLMDs are regular doctors (general practitioners, OB/GYN, infectious disease, or internal medicine doctors, etc.) who also treat Lyme disease and all its co-infections. They often have to challenge medical labs, insurance companies and other doctors and specialists to do so. There have been times when these doctors have lost their licenses for treating patients like me. There have been lawsuits and medical board hearings more times than not, and the results rarely go favorably. To find a good LLMD is a rarity. In the entire state of Iowa, there are only three doctors (that I'm aware of). I'm very fortunate to have found mine.

Impatience is another very real circumstance. My Lyme doctor told me at my very first visit, "this is not going to go away overnight." I had no idea how right she was. The most frustrating part is feeling like I've made progress and then slipping backward. For every five steps I take, I might get to keep one of them. While not every single day is a battle, the majority of them are. Being in my forties, but feeling like I'm 80 is not fun. I've learned to measure my days by the degree of severity of the symptoms, not whether or not I am experiencing any. Every day, there's pain. Every day, there's brain fog. Every day, there's something I forget. Every day, there's neuropathy. Every day. Some days they're at a one, some days they're a nine. They're never a ten, though because I know there's always room for them to be worse. I've never rated my symptoms at a ten. I hope I never have to.

Mostly, I just miss who I used to be. I was fun-loving, carefree, spontaneous and happy. Now, I have to remind myself to be some of those things, and I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that I will probably never be some of them, too. Spontaneity is rarer for me because I have to stock-pile my energy. Happy is a choice, I'm learning, but I do try to find happy in every day - whether it be something grand or something minute. I still love having fun, but carefree is something I'll never be again.
That part sucks.

This will always be on my mind. Even if I get to the point of being symptom-free, it will always be in the back of my mind like a stranger lurking in a dark alley. My health was something I used to take for granted, but the bottom line is that I will always be sick. There's no cure for chronic lyme disease (only remission), no survival rates, no pink ribbon campaigns and universal sisterhoods like there are with cancer. Thousands of people have it, but nobody talks about it. That's hard. Most days I feel very alone in this. Those are the days when I stay in bed and lose myself in a book (or at least try to - my concentration has been a little sketchy) or Netflix binge. Other days, I pretend I don't hurt just so I can feel normal...even if it's bullshit.


Because I know what people think. Hell, if half the medical community doesn't recognize chronic lyme disease as a real thing, what hope do I have with friends and family who don't have the answers? People who don't know anything about Lyme don't understand that I hurt almost all the time. Or that going to the grocery store or making dinner for my family can put me in bed for a day and a half. Or that traveling can take me out for a week straight. They don't understand that extra stimulation such as a crying baby or a fight between family members makes me want to beat my head against a wall. They think me being asleep at 2 in the afternoon is laziness, or that being awake at 3am is insomnia. They don't understand how painful it is for me to sit at a ball game without moving for two hours. And that even just listening to them vent about work or their kids makes me want to cry because the burden is too great for me to carry. As time has gone on, more friends have learned about how this disease affects me, but making new friends isn't really happening; it takes too much effort to explain this all to them.

I feel like I should be spending my day apologizing to people around me because I'm sick. They have to hear me scream when I'm angry and cry when I get frustrated. They pick up the slack when I don't have the energy to both make dinner and clean up afterward. They work hard because I can't. Most days I feel like a complete burden. I'm working through that guilt, but it's not gone yet. Mostly, though, I just miss me.

I have hope that even if my physical abilities don't return to what they were that my mental capacities do. I'm smart. I'm funny. I'm ridiculously talented with words. But I'm also forgetful, crabby and tired a lot. I'm optimistic and I try and keep my hopes up, but at the same time, I have to be realistic because I don't want to set up false expectations for myself. Eighteen months into this and I'm still working on the balance there.

Most importantly, I try and remember that even those four steps may slip away, I am still gaining ground. Some days I feel okay. I'm motivated and energetic. I do my hair, throw on some make-up and venture out for a short while. It usually tires me out, but I refuse to let this disease dictate my life anymore. It's spent too much time doing that already. I just take things day by day, breath by breath.

 That's Lyme life.