Caravan Sonnet: March 2013

3/28/13

Chronicittles: Katie's Diabetes Story

{Chronicittles Disclaimer: Those that are sharing their personal chronicittles stories are sharing just that- their stories. They are people that are struggling {or have struggled} with the ins and outs of a chronic illness and have found ways of surviving and thriving. Their stories are meant to encourage, inspire, and challenge those that are struggling but are in no way meant to be a physician's advice. Please be aware that this is a space for learning and encouraging and not a space that will allow critical comments of any persons story. A reader should consult with his/her physician regarding any information gleaned from these stories. Thank you so much for reading!}

It's with great pleasure that I share with you Katie's story! Even though I have never met her "in person" I am honored to call her a friend! She is truly inspiring and I am excited to have her share her story with y'all!
*all pictures in Katie's post are Katie's*
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Hi guys!  I’m Katie, and I struggle with a host of chronic illnesses, which – as I’m sure many of the other Chronicittles (thanks for the term, Rebecca!) out there can testify to – seem to come in batches and interact with each other like an orchestra of horribly tuned instruments.  One is bad enough… toss ‘em into an orchestra pit and have them play together, OW!  On the “confirmed” list are… type 1 diabetes, depression, anxiety, and PCOS/infertility… I’ve also had ADHD and PTSD suggested and debated by a few doctors. 

Rebecca has asked me to talk about my diabetes, which is great, because that’s the illness
I’ve known the longest and the one that I’m most comfortable discussing publicly.  (If you want to talk about experiences with any of the others, email me! I love making friends who can relate to the stuff that’s so hard to talk about.) 

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 12.  I had just started sixth grade, and my mom and grandmother had taken me back-to-school shopping a few weeks before.  I was 5 feet tall, but only weighed 74 pounds.  I didn’t look sick, but I was definitely far too skinny… especially considering the crazy food binges I’d been going on.  I was using the restroom 15-20 times a day, and drinking a gallon or more of (sugar free, even then) Kool-Aid, artificially sweetened tea or water every day.  A close friend of my mom’s had a daughter that had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes a couple of years before this, so my mom was already pretty sure what was going on when she made my pediatrician appointment.  I was incredibly lucky that she caught it so early – I didn’t get as deathly ill as many kids do before diagnosis. 

I like to think I handled my diagnosis pretty well, all things considered.  During my hospital stay – Labor Day weekend, 1999 – I learned as much as the doctors could teach me about my new lifelong companion, and gave myself my second ever insulin injection.  I would’ve done the first if that nurse hadn’t been so quick and sneaky! ;-)  When I went back to school that Tuesday, I gave 45-minute presentations to my classmates, explaining the basics – no, it’s not like your grandmother’s diabetes – and what kind of symptoms they should tell a teacher about if they see them.  And diabetes and I coexisted fairly well for the rest of my k-12 career, even if it made me slightly more cautious than most kids.  I even sailed through puberty relatively unscathed – a miracle because insulin is a hormone, and when it’s goofed up while all of the OTHER hormones are goofed up… it’s lovely.

Trouble came in college.  I had been struggling with my depression and anxiety for years, but I had a particularly disturbing run-in with a professor that shook my belief in the one trait I had always taken pride in: my intelligence.  I hadn’t been taking excellent care of myself, what with the whole college thing and all (easy mac at 3am, anyone?), but diabetes is greatly affected by stress, and BOY was I stressed.  I went home for the weekend to work my part-time job, planning to work Saturday and Sunday and head back to campus for the last two days before Thanksgiving break.  By the time I left work on Saturday, I was feeling pretty lousy.  I tested my blood sugar –which was sky high – and took a big dose of insulin before collapsing into bed.  I woke up about 3am, violently sick.  Between trips to the barf bucket, I managed to wake my dad up and ask him to take me to the emergency room.  We hung out there for a while, and they did a lot of blood work, hooked me up to fluids and an insulin drip, and medicated my nausea away.  At about noon on Sunday, we were told I was being admitted to the ICU, my last coherent memory.  I vaguely remember being wheeled up there, and I have flashes of memory – mostly of pain when central lines were being placed in deep veins.  I woke up Tuesday evening. 

From there, finishing college was a truly grueling battle.  Any little stressor could send me back to the hospital – and did, at least a dozen times – which would cause me to miss class.  Which would set me behind.  Which would stress me out.  Sensing a pattern?  I did finally finish my degree, and on time, an accomplishment I am fiercely proud of.  That summer, I married my wonderful, patient and supportive husband (and we adopted our first baby – a red maltipoo we named Charlemagne.  Charley for short).  That fall, I started grad school. 

Four years later, I am in reasonably good health.  I haven’t had another DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis – the nasty complication that was always the culprit behind my ER and ICU visits) since the month I met my husband (coincidence? Doubt it!  He calms me down and encourages me so much… believes in me SO much more than I believe in myself).  My eyes are in non-diabetic shape, as are the nerve endings in my feet and fingers.  My blood sugars run higher than the medical community prefers, but if I press, I can get doctors to admit that at least I’m stable!  Part of the reason for the trouble keeping my blood sugar down is the PCOS, too, so even my best efforts are going to fall a little short (the cacophonic orchestra, again).  Most days, I’m tired.  Sometimes so tired that doing the dishes requires a nap, sometimes just a little draggy.  That could be the depression or the diabetes… it’s hard to say.  My default setting is ever-so-slightly nauseated.  Again, probably the depression? 

The upside and downside to a diabetes diagnosis are the same, in my opinion.  It is a lifelong, incurable illness.  I will never get rid of it (unless that cure that has been five years away since I was diagnosed 13 years ago pans out), but I have a normal or near-normal life expectancy.  Frankly, some days, another 50-60+ years with this disease sounds like too much to handle, but I know that I WILL handle it.  Because the other option is to give up – give into the complications, the frustration and fear, the constant nagging of the beeping devices attached to me (a pump, and sometimes, a continuous glucose monitor).  I am so blessed to have the technology to help me stay healthy, and the support of friends and family who patiently listen to me gripe about stuff that makes me sound like I’m 90.

My advice to really anybody with a chronic illness is to accept help.  There’s not much your loved ones can do to ease the physical effects, but there are probably little things they can do to make self-care easier.  My husband fills my insulin pump reservoirs, so that there is always one handy if I need to refill the pump.  If you’re on multiple pills, let someone fill your pillbox every week.  A suggestion my nurse practitioner made years ago was to let my mom count my carbs and program my pump for a meal every once in a while so I didn’t have to think about what I was eating.  Don’t let your illness be isolating.  People who love you REALLY do want to help.
My other advice is to seek out people who can relate to your struggles.  My husband lives with diabetes ALMOST as much as I do, thanks to my tendency to (over?)share, but other type 1 diabetics can provide great sounding boards for me when I’m not sure if my feelings (physical or emotional) are normal.  I have NEVER shared anything with a group of diabetics that someone in the group didn’t echo.  Fortunately, the Diabetes Online Community is huge and active and fun J  Check out Type 1 Diabetes Memes (on Facebook and Tumblr) for a good laugh… I also love reading the archives on Six Until Me, written by a girl who documented her pregnancy with pre-existing diabetes really well.  These are some of my favorites, because they cater to MY personality and current interests (read: babies!), so do some google searching because there are blogs for every diabetic’s tastes and interests.  The internet is such a cool tool!

Best of luck to all the other Chronic Littles out there!  Please feel free to email me or stop by my (admittedly, rather sporadic) blog… I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I do have 13 years of experience with chronic illness, love to make friends and am a pretty good listener :-)

Katie R. Hodge
Always, Katie {Jewelry and Accessories}{etsy shop}
{blog}
{on Facebook}
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Thank you so much Katie for sharing your story with us! Stay tuned next Thursday for thoughts about the importance of pets while having a chronic illness!

3/26/13

Smitten: Free Shape Quick Blow Dry Hair Spray

smitten: {adj}: infatuated, charmed, captivated, beguiled, betwitched, enamoured

There are certain products that I use or have that I am just smitten with. I love discovering great products on other blogs and hope that these items that I talk about from time to time on here might be a wonderful discovery for y'all!

I have to share that I am really excited to share with you one of my favorite products that I use on my hair. {I do admit that this is not a natural or organic product but I don't use it everyday.} While my schedule this year carries with it different hours I fell in love with this product last year with very early mornings that encompass being a teacher. *smiles* As someone who has very thick hair it takes me at least 30 minutes to fully dry my hair. To be honest this is just not time that I had in the morning!

Last year my hairdresser mentioned the KMS product: Free Shape Quick Blow Dry Hair Spray. I admit that I was a little skeptical that it would cut down the drying time at all. Imagine my SURPRISE when it cut down the drying of my hair to twelve minutes! YES, all of my hair only took me twelve minutes! I was AMAZED and seriously so thankful.

It is so easy to use. After washing your hair simply towel dry your hair and spray the Free Shape Quick Blow Dry Hair Spray onto your hair. Start drying and get on with your day!

I will admit that it is a little bit pricey (at salons the price ranges from $18-$20 for a 6.8 oz bottle) but I recently found it on amazon for approximately $14 for a 6.8 oz bottle. You don't have to spray a ton on your hair (I use approximately 5 sprays for my whole head) and a bottle lasts me six months (using it 5 days a week last spring).

I definitely recommend trying it!

3/25/13

Notes from the Porch:a diagnosis and a thank you

I wanted to start off by saying a HUGE “thank you” for all of the sweet comments, emails, messages, phone calls, and text messages that I have received since I wrote my blog post on Wednesday, March 20th, 2013. I also wanted to take a moment and address some questions that have been brought to my attention and explain (in a very simplistic way) some things that have been happening in the last several months. After struggling with some health issues for a couple of years I was diagnosed last Winter with ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis) or CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) as it is currently referred to in the United States. Under the care of a WONDERFUL doctor I was able to improve greatly and I am forever indebted to her. As I was improving and looking forward to some amazing graduate school opportunities I chose not to share this information for many many personal reasons with my entire wonderful community. CFS is greatly misunderstood and from my perspective there were lots of people in my world that had much more important things going on that needed more attention. In addition to this as a teacher I didn’t want my students to be worried or concerned about me but wanted to shield and protect them from this news. I am so incredibly grateful for dear friends who shared in my burden at school (and you know who you are specifically) and for those outside of my family who came along side of me and have truly walked some dark days with me.

Early this fall it became very obvious to myself and my family that I was not healing as well as I had hoped or planned and some decisions would need to radically change. I have chosen to not share all of the details but I will suffice it to say that I needed constant help from my parents for each day and it became obvious to many doctors that something was not right. My M.E. doctor recommended a couple of weeks ago that I be tested for several different things and I was recently diagnosed with Post-Chronic Lymes. Lymes is a very difficult disease to understand and treat and I don’t want to burden people with specific issues that I am dealing with but I do covet your prayers and support.

To be frank- my intention was not to share this for a little while as I myself am adjusting to this diagnosis and am searching to find the best doctor and treatment but I had received several emails inquiring about some rumors and I wanted to clarify and answer some questions. While I am struggling with several different issues going on right now I appreciate more than words can say your sweet prayers, your sweet messages, and your sweet showings of love during some extremely difficult and dark days.

While this has been difficult and I will admit that there has been moments of severe discouragement and tears at what I envisioned life would look like this year versus the reality of what life is like I do want to make several things very clear. My faith has not been shaken despite this time of severe testing. I must learn to be faithful in this assignment… one that I certainly never would have asked for but one that I pray will and can still bless and serve my precious Lord and Savior.

Yes, I do have certain fears about the future with my health and there is a deep sadness as I am surrendering in a new way than I ever have had to to my precious Lord. There is a WHOLE new vocabulary that I am having to learn and coming to know… one filled with health jargon that I have never wanted to know nothing about. There are lots of tears. BUT there have also been extraordinary blessings amid the darkness.

I don’t believe that this is an accident, and I don’t believe that this is not “of God”. As Elisabeth Elliot and so many others that have walked difficult days before me have said- we live in a fallen world where all of us- and creation in general- fall short, because of sin, of what God intended for us, and illness and crime and cruelty are just reminders of that “fallenness”. I trust God’s sovereignty over my life and over this world and for our lives and for this sickness. God can HEAL, but in the meantime I trust that even this illness and these problems that I am experiencing may serve HIS good and holy purpose. I pray that through my little life even this situation may encourage others to arouse love and care in others, to inspire people to turn our trust from myself to HIM and maybe in some small (struggling) way maybe spur some to reflect on what is truly important in life. I TRUST that I WILL see the GOODNESS of the Lord in the land of the Living (Psalm 27) and do know that the Lord truly shouts to us in our pain.

I am kept from despair during dark days because I trust that God has specific assignments for us during our lives and that HE uses every moment for HIS glory. Thank you so much for all of your prayers and support. I am beyond blessed by your love in my life!

With lots of love, Rebecca

3/22/13

Isle of Palms, SC

I have always loved the ocean. One of the best decisions that I ever made was to go to grad school in Virginia Beach. Seriously, I love the ocean. *smiles* Several years ago I fell in love with Isle of Palms, South Carolina on one of my first senior trips there. I had the privilege of staying in a beautiful house right on the ocean and it was simply gorgeous. The house not only sleeps thirty people, has ten bathrooms, and is beautifully decorated, but also has the opportunity to spend time on one of the countless decks enjoying the view.

In my first trip to Isle of Palms and it took us approximately twelve hours to drive from Washington DC to South Carolina and it was worth every minute.
We arrived for a week of true beauty and it was a lovely senior trip.
I have SO many wonderful memories from this trip. It was full of laughter, full of precious memories, and it was such a dream to be on this senior trip. My co-leaders for this trip were so delightful and I spent many happy moments talking and learning from each of them. Elaine was a delightful and easy-going woman who had so much precious wisdom that she imparted into me that even years later as I was walking around the house I could hear her gentle and strong voice urging me to follow and obey the Lord.
The trip was filled with lots of happy memories of hilarious prank wars between the girls and guys (I admit it, they won...), lots of cooking, lots of trips to the Piggly Wiggly, sweet moments hanging out at the beach, and lots of lovely moments spending time with these seniors before they graduated.
I definitely credit the AMAZING memories during the Senior Trip of 2008 for my desire to return to Isle of Palms. {And yes, don't worry... I never bought or wore another piggly wiggly shirt in my life! *smiles*}
When I was given the incredible opportunity to teach the 12th grade girls Bible class at my school in Georgia I wanted to implement a girls on trip for the class. The boys counterpart class did a camping trip but I wanted to take the girls to the ocean. While the Georgia coast is beautiful, I couldn't stop thinking of the beautiful senior trip from three years before. I knew that it was a long trip for a weekend but I truly believed that it was something that would be an unforgettable memory for the girls. I called the realtor, lobbied for the opportunity to go, and thankfully had the support of the school, and the trip took place. 
I have to say that it was wonderful to go back. It was such a precious time with the girls and we made so many memories. One thing that I loved was the surprise that many of the girls had about how nice the house was! One girl even admitted that she had thought I might have been exaggerating the beauty. We all had a good laugh about that! It was a very short trip but it was a beautiful time and I loved the opportunity to go back to Isle of Palms!
The weekend was extremely short (we literally had less then 48 hours in Isle of Palms!) and I only got a few pictures. We had a great time and I knew that I wanted to take next years class back but also knew it needed to be a little longer!

I was SO grateful for the opportunity to go back in 2012.
The 2012 trip was filled with lots of beauty, special moments, and lots of laughter. It was a dream trip that brought so many precious memories with it. It was filled with amazing women and beautiful conversations.
We were able to spend more time at Isle of Palms and it was simply lovely. We had lovely moments hanging out at the beach, playing games at night (ok, I admit it- those were a little bit of a disaster!), talking, watching movies, going out to dinner, and enjoying simple days filled with lots of laughter.
If I didn't have enough pictures from the 2011 trip I had hundreds from the 2012 trip. (Thank you beautiful weather and a new camera! *smiles*)
This time of year I can't help but think of these precious memories and trips to Isle of Palms, South Carolina. If you haven't had the chance to go I greatly encourage you to take a trip! I can't wait to go back someday! Isle of Palms is truly filled with beauty, close to Charleston, filled with history, provides amazing restaurants, wonderful shopping, and lovely opportunities to spend time with loved ones at the beach.

3/21/13

Chronicittles- Leah's Heart Story


{Chronicittles Disclaimer: Those that are sharing their personal chronicittles stories are sharing just that- their stories. They are people that are struggling {or have struggled} with the ins and outs of a chronic illness and have found ways of surviving and thriving. Their stories are meant to encourage, inspire, and challenge those that are struggling but are in no way meant to be a physician's advice. Please be aware that this is a space for learning and encouraging and not a space that will allow critical comments of any persons story. A reader should consult with his/her physician regarding any information gleaned from these stories. Thank you so much for reading!}
It's with great pleasure that I share with you Leah's story! For the past three years I have had the incredible opportunity to get to know this beautiful woman who is an amazing artist, an incredible philosopher, and is quick to bring a smile to all of those around her! I am excited to have her share her story with y'all!
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When I was thinking of the best way to begin my story, I figured I should introduce myself first. It always helps me to put a face to the words I’m reading.

            My name is Leah and I’m 19 years old, soon to be 20 in June! Woot! I attend Georgia College in Milledgeville. The picture above was taken approximately in the middle of my health struggle. Ever since I was in middle school, I always remember being the slow, un-athletic kid. I could not comprehend how people could run the mile in less than 12 minutes. I would be a quarter of the way finished and feel like I was going to pass out. But despite my seemingly un-fit self, I tried out for soccer in 6th grade, prepared to conquer the world with my crazy soccer skills. To be honest, I really was not that bad in terms of ability. In fact, I loved playing soccer. But I just could not keep up with everybody. I just got winded so fast. Twenty girls tried out over the course of two days. I remember talking to my friend, who had spoken with the coach after the first day of try-outs. “Don’t worry,” she said, “Coach told me that they only have to cut one player. She said they have to cut the weakest link, which won’t be you or me.” To this day, I recall that conversation word for word, probably because I was the one player. 19 out of 20 girls made it, including one with a broken wrist that could not even play in the games. And I was the “weakest link” because I could not run as long or as hard as everyone else. It was that point in my life that I decided I was either overweight, out of shape, or both. In my mind, I would always be the weak one; the one at the back of the race.

            In eighth grade, along with getting winded easily, I had my first heart palpitation. If you don’t know what a heart palpitation is, I will do my best to explain it. There can be many causes but the sensation itself feels like a suction, or a skipping feeling in your chest. In my case, it felt like my heart would miss a beat and then try to catch up. At first, it was very scary because I had no idea what was going on. But I talked to my doctor and she told me they “just happen” sometimes. (Thank you, medical professional, for that mind blowing explanation.) I didn’t care too much at the time because they happened very infrequently.

My sophomore year, which was an extremely pivotal point in my life brought with it my first heart break. Which, looking back, it seems so dumb to be hurt by such an obviously fruitless and detrimental relationship. But at the time, I was absolutely devastated. The guy said some not-very-nice-things to me that left me feeling like I would never be good enough for anybody. I had lost touch with many of my friends because of the relationship and I felt wholly alone and abandoned by those who I looked up to. I consequently got quite depressed and found myself wallowing in the state of it. After two months of ignoring me, the guy texted me to tell me that it was my fault he became suicidal. He told me I had a “terrible habit of making people feel like they needed to go jump of a cliff.” (Well, ouch, dude.) That comment made me start thinking. And thinking about certain things when you are depressed is never a good practice. Why am I even alive if I make people feel that way? Just for the record, I never actually considered suicide an option. What did cross my mind however, was that I would rather not be alive in general. I wasn’t going to actively stop myself from existing, but at the time, I wasn’t opposed to something happening to me. All during this period of time, my heart palpitation were increasing in frequency and intensity, as if to remind me that my heart was going to beat whether I wanted it to or not.

Let’s fast-forward some more, fantastic things happened between my sophomore and senior year. I surrendered my depression to God and recovered substantially from the emotional ditch I had dug myself into and was introuced to my life passion in the process: art. I don’t think that he knows it, but my art teacher (who I’ve known from kindergarten to the present) showed me the best form of therapy imaginable. I discovered that painting and creating works of art allowed me to heal and process the hurt I had kept crammed deep inside of me. It still does that for me, to this day. Also that year, I began dating my super-fantastic, amazing boyfriend (Who I just shared in a 2 year anniversary with this past February! Woohoo!) Things were getting better, but my health was plummeting downhill. My heart palpitations had increased to several a week, and I could no longer walk to my car after school without having my heart race.

My senior year, I became a slave to my poor health. I thought, I’m probably experiencing this because I’m out of shape and overweight. And I could fix that. I happen to have an iron will and if I set my mind to something, consider it done. I went from 145 to 125 pounds in two months by cutting my caloric intake to 1,000 calories per day. Sometimes I would cheat and reduce that to 800-900 per day.  But even after I lost the weight, I was still experiencing intense heart palpitations at least once a day and had developed chronic pain in my chest and left arm. The pain was so intense some nights that it would bring me to the point of tears. My mom and I began seeking a cardiologist that school year and found one soon enough.

            They ran every test under the sun on me and my dysfunctional little heart. I mean Echocardiograms, Stress tests, Holter Monitors, blood tests, etc. And to my surprise and discouragement, absolutely everything came back completely normal. I remember sitting in my cardiologists office when he told me that I would just have to get used to it. “It’s probably stress,” he said, “you’re heart just happens to beat a lot faster than everyone else’s.” And he was right. My average resting heart rate was 102 BPM. I was frustrated, but accepted that I was just less physically able than everyone else and I would remain, “the weakest link.” That is, until I walked up the stairs after school one day and felt my heart rate explode to 200-300 BPM. I remember standing in the hall, barely able to breath, thinking I was going to die. After a minute, it finally slowed back to normal and I sat on the ground, exhausted. I felt like I had just ran a 10 mile marathon. It was back to the Cardiologist for me.

            My doctor prescribed me 25 mg of Toprol Xl, a beta-blocker, meant to keep my heart rate from accelerating uncontrollably. He guessed that I had some sort of Atrial Fibrillation, an irregular heart beat caused by faulty electrical impulses in the heart. I was just glad to have a name for it. The medicine helped with my heart rate, but I still had palpitations and excruciating chest and arm pain.
July 2nd, 6:00pm, 2012. My boyfriend drove me to the emergency room after the left side of my body went numb while I was walking on a treadmill. I remember sitting in the room shaking because I thought I had experienced some sort of clot related to my heart condition. They admitted me to the hospital overnight and started me on a powerful blood thinner, Heparin.
There is a picture of me in my beautiful hospital garb. I had an MRI and a CAT scan that night. In the morning, a cleaning woman came in and asked me something I didn’t expect. She said, “You are too young to be here. Did you pray to the Lord about your heart before you went to the doctor?” And I thought, well, no. Why didn’t I? Why did I feel that the doctors had a better answer?

Before I was released, two doctors came in to give me their medical opinions. One, a neurologist, told me I suffered a severe migraine, gave me some baby aspirin, and told me to go home. The other, a cardiologist, said he had to condemn me to a life of blood thinners because I was prone to clots. If I took the blood thinners, I would have to go to the emergency room if I ever fell and hit my head. I had a major decision to make: If I listened to the Neurologist and he was wrong, I could go home and have a clot go straight to my brain. But if I listened to the Cardiologist and he was wrong, I would be stuck on a controversial and dangerous blood thinner for the rest of my life. The painting I did below (called “That is the Question,”) depicts my struggle in that choice. And do you know which option I chose? Neither.
Instead, I took the advice of the most wise person in the hospital: the cleaning woman. I prayed and I trusted God. I was put in touch with a friend of mine who recommended the book, “Eat Right for Your Type,” after she had successfully overcome her heart issues by changing her eating habits. My iron will and I decided to give in a shot, considering I had little left to lose. I dropped my beta-blocker cold turkey (I do NOT recommend that) and I completely cut out wheat, corn and everything artificial completely from my diet the same day that I met with my friend. Over the next month, my chest and arm pain ceased altogether. My heart rate went from an average of 102 BPM to 70 BPM at rest. I nearly cried out of joy that day I was able to walk to my car without losing my breath. My heart palpitations have not stopped completely, but they are now infrequent and very mild, typically only recurring if I eat something that contains traces of wheat.

            I look back today, on the past 8 years of my life, and cannot believe how far God has brought me. He was there when I didn’t make the soccer team and I felt worthless. He was there when I cried in the shower out of desperation during my sophomore year depression. He was there during every doctor’s appointment, every medical test, and every minute I was in the hospital, just waiting for me to finally look in his direction.
My life now is by no means perfect. I still struggle with depression on occasion. I still have days where my heart just won’t cooperate with me. But I don’t feel weak any more. I no longer feel like I am going to be the last one to finish the race. I don’t know where God is leading my path now, but what I do know is that I’m going to follow wherever He takes me. In the words of my current favorite author, J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Road goes ever on and on, down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, and I must follow, i f I can.”

 
Encouragement, Thoughts, Advice
1.  Before making any dietary changes involving wheat, get tested for gluten intolerance or celiac disease while you still have wheat in your diet. You cannot get tested once it’s out of your system unless you go back to eating it, which, in my case, is now impossible. So test first, cut out later :)
2.  Read up on “Eat Right for Your Type.” I am not claiming it as a Miracle-cure-all. But it has some logical solutions to common health problems.
3.  I know doctors can be annoying. And I know you may be sick of hearing, “You’re probably just stressed.” If results keep coming back negative, check out the possibility of food allergies or intolerances. What we eat can significantly alter our health more than we realize.
4.  Pray before your doctors appointments. Doctors are still human. They may know more than you do, but I recommend talking to God before you talk to them.
5.  Be thankful for your health. It may not be perfect, but there is always someone who has it worse than you do. Always remember that.

Please email me if you want to ask me anything! If you want to see more of my artwork, I have a facebook page called “Collier Art
" ~please stop on over and check it!  

3/20/13

flowers and the hope of spring

I celebrated my birthday on Sunday and felt SO beautifully loved with lots of special phone calls, messages, cards, gifts, and emails. As y'all know I mentioned on Monday how much I adore flowers. They are truly one of my favorite things.

Unfortunately, on Monday I found out some difficult news about my health and I will admit that the last 48 hours have been very difficult with my health issues. So imagine my SURPRISE when this morning I received the most BEAUTIFUL bouquet of flowers. I opened up the box and inside I was greeted with lovely tulips and a very encouraging note. To say "thank you" seems impossible. THANK YOU SO much Jen for your thoughtfulness, your perfect timing with your words of encouragement, and my flowers that I will enjoy for days to come. As we greet this first day of Spring (one of my favorite seasons) I am overcome with hope that truly Spring is coming in all different ways!


3/19/13

First Things First ~ Bloggy World

Hi y'all! I am excited to link up with the first things first gals this morning! Since I am still a new blogger in "bloggy world" (as I affectionately call it) I am excited to connect with these ladies and answer these questions!

1. First ever blog post
I "officially" started blogging for Caravan Sonnet on January 21st (of this year). I entitled my blog post the journey begins because I knew that blogging would be an adventure or caravan. *smiles* I had been thinking and planning on starting this blog for many months but first was developing my business blog. I did contemplate I tried I gave up the idea of combining my business and personal blog due to time constraints and love to share my heart and my life (which includes my business) fully on this blog!

2. First ever comment on your blog
 My first comment was on one of my first posts New York Winter Wonderland and it was by a former roommate of mine whose blog I had recently discovered! I was very honored that she stopped by and commented! Since I "knew" her I didn't get the shocked feeling that someone was reading my blog until I had a couple of comments on my post the single journey that I wrote a couple of weeks later. I sadly didn't realize that by responding to comments on your blog didn't actually respond to your commenter until a couple of weeks later, but I treasured those comments! I really felt that I had laid my heart out in that post and was so honored that people encouraged me!
3. First blog-friends
I feel that bloggy world has given me an amazing opportunity to be introduced to some of the sweetest, smartest, and most diverse group of women. I have loved every minute. I love the opportunity to connect and "meet people" from all over the United States and the World. A couple of the first ladies that I connected with (technically in the month before I officially started Caravan Sonnet) were Bridget and Amanda. I had read their blogs for a couple of months and I would credit both of them for inspiring me to start blogging. Looking back now, after a couple of months in bloggy world, what I am most impressed with is that they both have very busy lives and lovely blogs and took the time to email with me. As time has continued I am honored to read their blogs and connect with them and other ladies in bloggy world. I can't wait to continue to develop these relationships!

3/18/13

speaking of flowers ~ flower lingo

Did you know that in the 1700s it was common to communicate through flowers? I recently read this and I have to say that as a person who adores flowers I totally understand the power of "flower communication". *smiles* It truly does not have to be a large bouquet of flowers or even store bought bouquets (although many of these are gorgeous!). I think some of the most darling bouquets are those that are handpicked with love. I truly think that the 1700s were on to something and had found a truly charming pastime.
So what do flowers communicate and mean? For those of you like me that would love to reinstate this charming tradition here are a few flowers that are common with their meanings. Have a wonderful day y'all!
Roses: love {cabbage roses mean ambassadors of love while rosebuds mean young love}
Red Tulips: overt declaration of love
Forget Me Nots: True Love
Lemon Blossoms: Promise someone that you will be true to them
Peach Blossoms: Say that you belong to them
Lilacs or Lavender: Give to a new love
Lily of the Valley: happiness
Sweet Peas: Bon Voyage
Honeysuckles: Sweet Natured
Zinnia: Thinking of You

3/13/13

Veggie Panini Sandwich

I am not a foodie blogger but I do love to cook and love to share different recipes on this blog- specifically for those that have unique allergies and are gluten free. I have made this sandwich many times in the past and with the thought of Spring right around the corner I wanted to post it for y'all to try! Enjoy!


 Veggie Panini Sandwich

{Dressing Recipe} 1/4 cup mayo, 2-3 cloves garlic, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, pinch of salt and pepper - mix this all together in a blender and set aside in refrigerator for at least 1 hour (a suggestion: letting it sit 24 hours allows all of the flavors to really pull through!)

Additional Items you will need: focaccia bread, pesto, feta cheese, veggies, panini maker*

Cut up thin slices of the following veggies:
*red bell peppers
*zucchini
*yellow squash
*tomato
(any other veggie that you want!)

Slice gluten free (or regular) focaccia bread and prepare your sandwich :
(1) spread some of the dressing recipe on one side of the focaccia bread
(2) On the other side of the focaccia bread spread pesto
(3)lay your slices of veggies down on one slice of bread
(4) sprinkle feta cheese over the top
(5) "seal the sandwich" by placing the other slice of bread on the top of the sandwich
(6)cook on the panini maker for approximately 30 seconds
(7)(ENJOY!)

*I often add slices of turkey to this sandwich for extra protein

What are some favorite Spring/Summer Sandwich recipes that y'all enjoy?

3/12/13

birthday moments of gratitude

I turn thirty-three on Sunday and I am excited! I truly believe that there are good things in store for thirty-three! I am excited to see what the Lord has planned for this coming year!

I know some people reflect on New Years but I have always looked back on my "new years" in two different ways: (1) at the start of a new school year and (2) on my birthday. As I am about to turn thirty-three in a couple of days I look back on thirty-two with so much thankfulness and gratitude from the past year. Here are thirty-two moments of extreme gratitude from this past year.

one: having the opportunity to celebrate my 32nd birthday in Hilton Head with my sis

two: starting my birthday off worshiping my precious Savior at the ocean.... perfection

three: Having dear friends stand beside me this past year when I was diagnosed with a serious chronic illness. One friend even provided money for medical needs. I am so blessed.

four: Of students who lavished their love exponentially on me everyday... especially on my birthday.

five: Perhaps the most perfect cake ever.

six: Moments of grace for each day. Truly Psalm 68:19 proved true.

seven: Catch phrase for AP US History-  it was a classic *smiles* {yes, I did leave my birthday decorations up for weeks...and weeks...and weeks...}

eight: Witnessing the "first" senior prank. Classic. {Poor Jordan :(}

nine: Discovering the joy that comes through change.

ten: High school basketball game memories

eleven: Having three years of ice talks with IBFL

twelve: My mom's surgery being successful.

thirteen: The "soccer goal"

fourteen: The opportunity to be around these ladies everyday for months.

fifteen: Graduate school blessings

sixteen: Cherished friendships and three amazing ladies who were awesome chaperone's

seventeen: Abundant flowers (my favorite thing) that I received in the spring -my desk was never empty.

eighteen:  Having wonderful Middle East History classes where we celebrated everything

nineteen: The day that all that happened in room 214 was ballroom dancing

twenty: An extra week with this amazing friend on the senior trip

twenty-one: The gift that left me speechless

twenty-two: Quiet moments of kind words and love

twenty-three: A perfect last senior trip

twenty-four:  Precious cards that said goodbye and then hello again in the fall

twenty-five: Laughter

twenty-six: Three incredible months on my lake.

twenty-seven: The boat that had been prayed for

twenty-eight: The miracle of her car accident and thanking God for more time on this earth with this amazing woman and friend.

twenty-nine: Having two precious friends come to camp

thirty: The beautiful rainbows that brought beautiful promises.

thirty-one:  Celebrating seven years

thirty-two:  The unconditional love, support, and help of my parents