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Daily Prompt V.7 – Fruits?

List your top 5 favorite fruits.

My top 5:

  1. Mangos
  2. Strawberries
  3. Blueberries
  4. Oranges
  5. Bananas

Last night, I made a quick meal of smoked chicken enchiladas, black beans, and simple salad. My husband, Bryan, smoked a chicken a few days ago and after considering several options, I decided to make enchiladas. I used drained, canned black beans but amped up the flavor with onions, fresh garlic, and spices.

My smoked chicken enchiladas with butter flour tortillas. These were deliciously spicey.

I decided to treat my family to some fresh fruit parfaits. I cut half of a small angel food cake into cubes and toasted them in a pan on the stove with a little butter. Then, layered whipped cream, toasted angel food cake, two of my favorite fruits (sliced strawberries and blueberries) in small glasses. Mine had chia seeds and cashew cream. It was a lovely scrumptuous treat.

One for myself, daughter, and husband.
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Health update 2023: My multiple sclerosis journey

I’ve been hesitating to share this post because it’s been an emotional ride, but here it is. My neurologist called me on Friday, March 31, 2023, to confirm I have multiple sclerosis (MS) and that he was referring me to an MS specialist (neurologist who specializes in MS).

After a solid, almost two months of research on my part, he confirmed what I had suspected. The dots started connecting after 2/6/2023, when he unexpectedly called me (on my son’s birthday) to notify me of the results of the MRI I had on 1/30/2023. I hadn’t thought about MS in about 7 years, let alone contemplated it was the reason for the symptoms I had been experiencing.

In January 2022, I had an unrelated surgery. In about the second week of recovery, I noticed I was stuttering occasionally. It would be the first time in my whole life I’ve ever stuttered. You can read about my hysterectomy recovery blog series on my blog site, such as in the post: How it started vs how it’s going: 2 weeks post surgery.

I thought the stuttering was a reaction from the anesthesia. I’ve undergone several surgeries and have been told that I have trouble waking up from anesthesia. I told my gynecologist the issue, and she referred me to the neurologist.

MS is a complex, chronic autoimmune disease of which there is no cure. I am not a doctor, but this is what I’ve learned. It’s a neurological condition where the body attacks itself, particularly the myelin in the nerves, and the symptoms can be disabling. For many people, it can take years before MS is diagnosed because the symptoms can mirror other conditions.

The diagnostic criteria is specific – there has to be evidence in dissemination of space and of time. Usually, there have to be clinical symptoms, though some people are asymptomatic. An MRI has to show evidence of brain lesions and/or lesions on the spine. In some cases, a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) has to indicate evidence of certain proteins linked to MS – oligloconol bands. I had a lumbar puncture on 3/16/2023.

In about 2008 or 2009, I was diagnosed with a condition called optic neuritis, which is one of the first symptoms of MS. I was almost at complete vision loss, accompanied by excruciating pain. At the time, I was treated for three days (outpatient) with an intravenous infusion of steroids at the recommendation of an MS specialist.

He didn’t diagnose me at that time because the optic neuritis was one event in time. I was also sorely deficient in Vitamin D as discovered by my primary care physician, so he indicated my treatment would be high doses of prescribed Vitamin D for 3 months and then continued over the counter Vitamin D.

After visiting with this MS specialist for several years and several MRIs later, he recommended I pursue alternative therapies and lifestyle changes because my symptoms didn’t warrant being on medication that would cause me to be sicker than my symptoms. I did just that, moved on with my life, not thinking about MS, and was diagnosed with breast cancer some months after our last visit (roughly 2015 or 2016).

In the last 9 months or so, I’ve had emerging symptoms that I now realize are MS symptoms. These symptoms come and go: muscle spasms mostly in my feet, back, and rib cages, stiffness in my lower body, cognitive issues related to attention, concentration and memory, stuutering, some numbness and trembling, sensitvity to heat and cold, and blurry vision. These symptoms don’t come all at one time, but sometimes, a few occur simultaneously. The painful muscle spasms have been increasing.

I made up my mind before the 3/31/2023 call that I would accept whatever outcome I faced and deal with it. I want to live to see my grandchildren and grow old with my husband. My new MS doctor assured me that if I could survive cancer, then I could survive living with MS. I’m holding onto this hope.

Some light lessons I will share in the face of a health crisis is this:

  • Learn everything you can about the condition. I find it empowering and makes me less fearful.
  • Engage a small circle of friends and family, asking them to pray for you. You don’t want to go through it alone.
  • Slow your life down and take inventory of what needs to change. Something is going to have to change in your life in order to take care of yourself.
  • Amp up your self-compassion because you’re going through a lot. Let go of blame, shame, and the high demands you may place on yourself.
  • Let people help you. I learned this through my breast cancer journey. I’m no superhero. I need help.

I hope this encourages someone. I know it made me feel better because I don’t want MS to take over my life, control me, or make me hide. I want to learn to live with it and still have a full life.

I plan to share more of my MS journey in future posts.

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Intention for the week V.8

On our way back home from church yesterday, our teenage daughter, Elise, said something so profound to her dad as he was making a case for his behavior the other day at a fast food drive-through. She perceived that he was rude. I wasn’t there. Elise said in her snarky way, “Intention doesn’t equate to impact.” Wow. I don’t know where she heard that, but I had to give it her – valid point!

I unpacked that a little in my head. You may intend a certain response or outcome, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will materialize based on actions you control. I suppose there may be instances where you don’t control the outcome, but for simplicity, let’s say you can.

My “intention” with establishing and sharing my intentions for the week in my blog posts is to ensure I stay focused and in a head space that is healthy for me mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. By sharing, I intend to help others.

I want to approach life by being intentional about decisions I make that impact my outlook on life. I do go back and review what I’ve posted to keep me focused and provide direction for the next week. I don’t want to be typing words just for the sake of writing a blog post. My life is very full as a wife, working mom, and everything else. It’s easy for me to get swept up in it. These posts help ensure I have impact. With that said…

My intention for this week: May I not shrink in the face of pressure to not speak up or be myself. May I be honest, but kind and patient in my communication with others. May I dig into my endless well of calmness in the midst of any chaos. May I speak encouraging words to myself and my children. May I give myself an imaginary hug when needed. May I be in the moment more often than not and take good photos so my future self will smile at the memories.

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Travel blog with food and how I reset

My work trip to Rockville, Maryland, and Washington D.C. was productive, invorgorating, and most of all, enlightening. It was an exercise in learning new information, applying this information, and collaborating with others to plan for our state. The depth of work we did would not have been possible without meeting in person. This was my first work travel trip since the pandemic, so it’s been over three years. This trip was enjoyable, which is saying a lot for a state employee attending to state matters.

Three days, two nights, and I barely took photos on this trip, but after all, it was a work trip. However, one night, I had the pleasure of enjoying Ethiopian food for the first time with 5 of my colleagues, and it was amazing. I took photos. I kept wondering, “Where have I been to be living this long and just now partaking of this delicacy?”

Actually, every meal I ate was delicious, including my vegetable plate of grilled cauliflower steak, green beans, and mushroom risotto for day one’s dinner at Founding Farmers in Washington D.C. I just forgot to take photos. It occurred to me a few hours before our flight back to Texas that the seafood in this region had to be delicious considering the Atlantic Ocean in its backyard.

With any trip where I travel overnight, when I return, I do the things that bring me back to equilibrium. Think about it: the hustle and bustle to and from the airport, the traveling in unfamiliar places, eating different foods (albeit tasty), sleeping (if I manage to do that) in an unfamiliar bed, and not drinking as many fluids as usual….all of these activities and more take my body out of equilibrium.

One of the first things I do is get a relaxing, steamy shower and good night’s sleep. My husband, Bryan, got us home after midnight early Thursday morning. Remember, we had a late flight. I was grateful that I took the rest of the week off, so I slept in later on Thursday morning. I usually unpack my bags quickly, but I took my time on Thursday.

I was craving my nutritious foods, so I began prepping for my green smoothie and some fresh juice.

Produce for fresh squeezed juice: apple, ginger, celery (going bad), carrots, & a cucumber.

Usually, completely unpacking helps me feel accomplished after a trip, and I tend to do it the day I return. This time, I didn’t completely finish unpacking until Friday morning. I put a few items back throughout Thursday. I took my time and didn’t feel rushed.

I spent the weekend filling my belly with nutritious foods, tending to my plants, doing a little work catch up, and nesting with my family! I’m refreshed for the week ahead.

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Progress not perfection

Just like that, January is over, and here we are in February. I want to recount the positive things in real time as much as possible because time is flying. As I reflect on my vision board, I indicated that I would “write away” and I did just that by participating in January’s Bloganuary challenge….31 days of blog posts, each day a different topic.

A snapsot of my vision board. For more, check out my post What I want to achieve this year?

It was my first year participating, and I learned I enjoy blogging first thing in the morning after my spiritual meditation practice. I’ve wanted to post daily, but I haven’t been able to keep up with it. Well, I’ve read it takes 21 days to develop a habit and it worked for me. I missed about 3 or 4 days, but this is by far the most I’ve blogged in a month. I probably haven’t blogged 30 times in some years, so I’m off to a great start.

What I enjoyed about the Bloganuary experience were the different blogging prompts, which seemed random, at least to me. It challenged me to blog about topics I previously would not have. I even wrote a short (very short) story. It allowed me to reminisce about pleasant experiences. It reminded me of books and authors that have inspired me to read and write. Finally, I enjoyed the comradery with fellow bloggers.

Other notable January milestones are that I’ve been in remission from breast cancer for 6 WHOLE YEARS. It’s also been one year since my full hysterectomy. I truly believe health is wealth. I strive to keep my physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, and financial health in check every day, although sometimes it’s difficult.

I love starting my year off with a challenge because it boosts my sense of accomplishment. February reminds me of love, so I plan to focus on the people I love this month, including myself. My son turns 22 this year, so we will be celebrating. I’m also considering participating in a vegan challenge. I’ll keep you posted.

Cheers to February!🥂

What are you looking forward to this month?

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Lost treasure

Hydrocephalus was a mystery to us. We never heard of it until May 2016 in an emergency room of all places. We had been going about our lives, and then this condition came along. And it came with a vengeance – confusion, unsteady gate, and memory loss. The most insidious of the symptoms was the memory loss. How did he get it? Why did he get it? What caused it?

The worst didn’t come until December 2017 when he had to be hospitalized for 3 weeks, followed by 3 months of 3 different therapies (speech, occupational, physical). Could you imagine not knowing things you used to know with all certainty, like what city you live in, the year, how to walk, what you did 5 minutes ago, or how to read or do basic math?

I couldn’t imagine, but I lived it with my husband, Bryan, when we learned he had this strange (to us at the time) condition called hydrocephalus – water on the brain. It’s a condition where the spinal fluid floods the brain. It stole a treasure trove of his precious memories. Some have come back. Some come and go. And some are lost forever.

I naturally forget some things as I get older. We all do that. Our brains hold our precious memories, which to me is like treasure. When I’m feeling down, I can recall moments like when I watched how much fun my son had playing with his little cousins in Chicago last September, which boosts my mood. When I’m missing someone I love dearly like my mom, I can pull from my treasure of memories and end up feeling close to her again. When I’m stressed, I can recall our time at the beach last summer when the waves and sand were tickling my butt….utter peace and joy.

My husband is doing so much better, but it’s a condition we are living with. He often impresses me with what he can remember. He sometimes remember things I’ve forgotten.

The brain is a fascinating masterpiece. It holds a treasure trove of precious memories, and losing memory is devastating. I write my thoughts so I don’t forget.

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End of an era

This, my friends, is the end of an era. The year 2022 marks the last full year of me being in my forties. In 2023, I will officially turn fifty and I’ve been preparing for it.

I’m optimistic about living my best life in my fifties. Sometimes, you need to evaluate the past to put yourself on the path to a better future. For work, at the close of some projects, we facilitate a “lessons learned” debriefing to discuss the activities of the project such as what worked and what didn’t work.

Similarly, I’ve been reflecting on my forties, and based on light lessons I’ve learned, there were thoughts, actions, beliefs, etc., that served me well during that time and some that did not. I’ve been facilitating a personal debriefing in order to set myself up for a healthy and prosperous decade in my fifties.

My current forty nine year old self has thought about some nuggets of wisdom I’d tell my forty year old self if I could go back in time. They are in no particular order, though I think the first one set the tone for my thirties and early forties. See if you can relate to any of these.

  1. You’ve proved you can accomplish things many people could not. You don’t need to prove you are worthy. God made you worthy. In fact, you don’t need to prove anything else to anyone.
  2. You are great. Own it.
  3. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Practice self-compassion daily.
  4. You were right about certain people and situations. Don’t feel bad for your accurate perception.
  5. You’re a good parent. You’re a positive example for your kids.Your kids are kind and good people. They are resilient. They have aspirations of their own for a better life.
  6. Your kids will be going through different phases, so your parenting style will need to adjust accordingly. Though it can be frustrating, painful, and sad for you sometimes, you will experience the joy of watching their unique characteristics unfold.
  7. Don’t work to the point of becoming numb because then you won’t have much left for yourself and family.
  8. You’re going to have major health challenges, and the exercising and eating you are doing right now will serve you well for your physical, mental, and emotional health.
  9. Your mummy will pass away soon, and you will keep her close by exemplifying the positive things she taught you, sharing with others, and passing them on to your kids.
  10. Grieving is not just for loved ones who are deceased, but you will also grieve some relationships, phases of your marriage, phases of your kids’ development, and things that no longer serve you.
  11. Life will get harder at certain points, but you are resilient. You will get through it.
  12. Get a handle on your spending so you can save more for the future and have more money for fun experiences.
  13. Don’t be so agreeable.
  14. Pay attention and care for the people who do so for you. Don’t be consumed about the few people who don’t show up for you consistently or at all.
  15. Instead of asking God to “use you” and subsequently burn yourself out, ask God to place you in healthy environments where you can grow and make positive impacts.
  16. Being a workaholic is toxic.
  17. Travel more, locally and beyond.
  18. You will travel a lot in Texas, meet many people, and learn more about Texas than you know about your home state of Illinois.
  19. Despite political affiliation, people are people.
  20. Stay ready because opportunities are coming.
  21. You have more control than you think.
  22. Speak up more on things that are unacceptable.
  23. Sometimes, people don’t understand you, and that doesn’t make you wrong.
  24. Seek a therapist sooner rather than later.
  25. You are beautiful inside and out. You always have been, and you will continue to be.

For the milestone years like forty and fifty, I notice many women on social media want to show they are their sexiest and most beautiful selves. I may have subscribed to that a bit when I approached forty, but I have different plans for my fifties, not to throw shade on anyone.

In my fifties, I plan to continue evolving into the best version of myself spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially. I want to be an all-around better human. It’s true – the older and wiser you get, the less you care about what others think, and you get more comfortable in your own skin. I want more of this too.

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Health wins

Last week, I had my biannual visit with my oncologist. I’ve been seeing him since I was diagnosed with breast cancer 6 years ago. Though no one wants to ever they have cancer, one of the things I’ve appreciated is that in all my experience as the recipient of medical care, those who work in cancer treatment are especially more compassionate. I could be biased, but these professionals take extra care of the person.

What I love about my visits with my oncologist is that he consistently makes me feel like I’m doing something right. I think we all could use more of that. For each visit, I get bloodwork drawn after check-in…before I see the doctor. By the time I see him, he mostly has everything he needs to know from the bloodwork and vitals. But then there is also the qualitative data that he obtains from talking to me about how I’ve been.

Overall, my bloodwork is remarkable again…”all between the lines,” as he likes to say. The results of the cancer markers came a few days later, and all were normal. No one has ever described my bones the way he has (October was the first time I’ve done the bone density exam). He said my bones were strong (along with some other flourishing words of which I don’t remember). My mammogram was also clear. Win!!!

In June, he changed my cancer medication to accommodate my now post-menopausal body. It wasn’t long before I could tell body has been more achey and stiff. I’ve attempted to do more stretching to relieve it, but it’s the medication. I have a friend who has been taking it for years, and she has the same symptoms if not worse. However, her doctor hasn’t taken her off of it.

This medication is important, particularly because the type of breast cancer my friend and I had is fueled by hormones (estrogen and progesterone). The body still produces hormones after menopause. I told him about my painful symptoms and he listened. We discussed some options. He prescribed a different medication, which I haven’t picked up from the pharmacy yet. This is another win for me.

The light lesson for this post is to celebrate the wins no matter how small, big, or routine. As a high achieving person, I’m usually looking for ways to do more and be more, but I’m learning to be in the moment and appreciate this journey. These health wins remind me God has my back and I’m alright.

Cheers to this new week! Christmas is in 7 more days!

“Oh Christmas tree” decorated by me!
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Bye COVID and Hello new week

One of my fears came and went…I caught COVID. If you read my previous post I tested positive, you’ll know my symptoms were mostly mild except for one day. Things could have been much worse. Thankfully, I was vaccinated and received a pneumonia and flu shot in September; otherwise, my symptoms might have been worse. Even though I believe my son had COVID and brought it to our household, I admit that just like many people, my guard was down for a while. I never got the COVID boosters. I don’t remember the last time I wore a mask, but I’ve been wearing them for the past two weeks. My husband, Bryan (aka cuddle buddy) finally came back to our bedroom last night. It was difficult to fall asleep because I worried about infecting him though my symptoms subsided and it’s been over 10 days.

It feels great to be headache and congestion free. My taste buds returned. The general malaise feeling is gone. I’m at about 90% of myself. I enjoyed one hour of dance earlier today and made a big pot of sausage and shrimp gumbo. We attended an outside concert at church of Christmas music by an amazingly talented group. This definitely got me in the Christmas spirit. I’m looking forward to feeling even better tomorrow.

Voices of Lee from Lee University at Life Austin Amphitheatre

What light lessons did I learn from this COVID experience? Well, you’ve got to still be careful. It’s important to continue to practice proper hygiene. Respiratory illnesses like the cold, flu, and COVID have increased, particularly after the Thanksgiving holiday. It makes sense to wear masks again to protect yourself and your family. I was fortunate this time. I don’t want to pass the virus on to anyone, especially anyone with a weaker immune system than my own.

When I think about my life, I’ve survived many things I thought would take me out: breast cancer, death of both parents, lots of disappointments, and now COVID. My 2022-2023 motto is to just KEEP GOING. Life happens and it’s not always sad and depressing or happy and fun. It ebbs and flows. There are a multitude of emotions and experiences. I can do things through Christ that strengthens me. I get stronger and more resilient each time.

Despite COVID, I’ve been very productive at work these past 2 weeks and I plan to continue for the new week. I’m looking forward to seeing my colleagues and team for a section-wide, in-person meeting. Most staff in our section teleworks so we haven’t had a large group meeting like this since before COVID. My boss also coordinated an in-person team building exercise for his direct reports and it sounds fun. To end the week, I will have lunch with my team on Friday. I will be masking up for all of this.

I’m entering this new week grateful for the people in my life, knowing I’m equipped to handle most anything, and confidence in my ability to effect positive change and make a positive difference in someone’s life.

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I tested positive

An office photo on Thursday, 12/1. My thoughts, “Oy vey!”

The week before last, I was basking in a Thanksgiving stupor of love and good cheer with family and friends. A few days later, on Monday, I woke up with a faint, dull headache. I was scheduled off work, but decided to catch up from the holiday. I work from home anyway, so no big deal.

About 7 hours later, I felt something building up in my respiratory system and decided to call it a day. My husband, Bryan, had been feeling sick since Sunday. I went to bed early and actually got 9+ hours of sleep. I worked again on Tuesday, but only about 6 hours. Good thing I stocked up on over the counter medications because I decided to take a dose of a generic Nyquil. A COVID-19 test reported a negative result. But things got really interesting early Wednesday morning.

Rewind to the Monday before Thanksgiving. It was my first time attending an in-person, all day conference in almost 3 years. It was a leadership conference at a hotel, targeted for women in Texas state government. I was so excited to be around so many other influential women and practice some of what I learned with my team. On Tuesday, I worked and at some point at the start of my day, my son, Caleb, asked me to help him find the thermometer because he was feeling sick. He said he had been coughing all night and didn’t feel well. I told him to mask up until his symptoms subsided. He had a slight fever and against my advise, decided to go to work. He said he had to go because other people were calling in sick.

A few hours later, I heard Caleb’s voice and learned from Bryan that Caleb’s boss sent him home. We reminded him to wear masks around us and he went on to stay in his room the rest of that day. It was the next day, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, while I was in the grocery store stocking up on medications I thought to call Caleb to tell him to take a COVID-19 test. Admittedly, it didn’t occur to me to ask him to test until I was talking to a friend. When I got home, he said he took it and the result was negative.

On the following Wednesday after Thanksgiving, I was awakened to uncontrollable chills, weakness in my joints, and a pounding headache. I could barely lift myself off the toilet when I went to the restroom. I decided not to work though I signed into my laptop for a few minutes to notify my boss and team I would be out sick. I stayed in bed the whole day, napping mostly in the morning. The chills only occurred one time in the early morning. The headache refused to subside until hours later, even despite medications. The weakness steadily improved.

I woke up groggy Thursday morning, but felt much better than Wednesday. My nose was stuffy and generally felt like I had a cold. After texting with my siblings and learning two of my nieces, my great niece, and my brother in law in Chicago tested positive, I decided to do the COVID-19 test again and WHOILA! The result was positive. Since my symptoms felt more like a cold, I proceeded to work in my office for most of the day. I went to bed early and did it again on Friday.

Both Bryan and Caleb took the test (Caleb twice) and their results were negative. I’m doubtful I’m the only one in the house who has/had COVID-19 and am convinced Caleb brought it in the house. However, I had been out in public a few days before Thanksgiving too. I let our friends know so they could be aware. And actually, the Friday after Thanksgiving my friend let me know her husband was sick, but with none of the symptoms we ended up having. Our symptoms didn’t start until days later. I’ve been quarantining since the positive result last Thursday and have since taken two more tests, both were positive.

My natural instinct is to try to figure out how I got it, but it really doesn’t matter. My main concern now is recovering and making sure I don’t pass this on so we are not playing a game of hot potato with this virus. Bryan has been sleeping on the couch which has been the hardest because we are each other’s cuddle buddy. It feels weird being separate in the same house. Elise doesn’t come near me. She’s been masking up in the house and walks around with disinfectant wipes. Caleb has a lingering cough and is the most reckless among us. We told him he needs to go to a drive through clinic tomorrow.

For the past almost 3 years, I’ve wondered if the fate of most would be to eventually catch the virus. Now that I got it, I do think it’s a bummer especially not knowing the long term effects considering my medical history. However, I’m thankful my symptoms are mild, which I attribute to the vaccines. My doctor also gave me a pneumonia and flu shot in September. It all helps.

In the mean time, I will retire to bed early tonight. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Let me know if you or someone you know had the virus and what the symptoms were like.

Bryan being the trooper that he is! Nights without my cuddle buddy is the worst.