Tag Archives: live

Be Who You Needed

In many ways, this quote has become my motivation this year. I could spend hours, if not days, talking about what I lacked and needed growing up. The struggles that almost took my life time and time again as a child, adolescent and young adult. I could point fingers and place blame on person after person for why I was the way I was, why I hated myself for so many years despite having so much to be thankful for.

But forgiveness allowed me to stop the useless finger pointing and take on the new challenge, applying to every part of my life.

“Be who you needed when you were younger.”

And it has truly changed the way I breath, the way I live, the way I love.

So who did you need? What did you need? What do you still need? Turn to the Word, pray for the strength and then do this very thing. Become who you needed. Become who you need. Become who the world needs. For there is beauty in becoming who you need … in becoming who you are meant to be … amongst the mess.

Coffee is Not My Best Friend

I don’t drink coffee.  untitled design (42)

I used to. I used to love it. I use to crave it! But over the years, I learned caffeine and I don’t mix so that bittersweet friendship needed to go…

In middle school, I was tall. In fact, I was almost my exact height now. Five feet six inches at the age of twelve, I was as tall as a few of the boys and towered over most of the other ones including my brother just a year younger than me.

The problem to my “middle school” Jen was that I liked the short boys, but was way too insecure with myself to see that…that was totally okay.. that my height was part of what made me beautiful. I just wasn’t ready to stand tall around anyone…So of course the next best solution at that age was…

“to stunt my growth” so I turned to coffee or so I thought… Untitled design (43).png

(I obviously do not encourage this behavior at all, but can’t help to laugh at myself looking back now. I also wanted bigger breasts and tried some outlandish theories for that too like eating while hanging off my bed ….

I was… untitled design (44)

am upside-down, hot mess and lucky I never choked on anything… but I digress…)

This was where my love of ice coffee and Coffee Coolattas started. I drank them every day throughout high school and college. Then, I shifted to black coffee in my 20s until I discovered a non-fat creamer that I indulged in for way too long. When first pregnant with my son, I tried to give it up but the afternoon migraines were too intense so I would save my cup of Joe for after lunch.

Because of the breastfeeding elimination diet I did for TJ due to his allergies, I could not use my “fat-dairy’ creamer. (apparently no matter how artificial it was, it still contained dairy). 

Then, came my miscarriage a year later which led me to do a three day whole food cleanse where coffee was not allowed…

It was then that I just stopped for what I thought would be a week or two. Soon though, I found myself pregnant with Madison and felt more comfortable sticking to being coffee-free.

Nine months later right on my due date (I have very punctual kids…can’t say that about myself these days… but I digress again ), my daughter arrived. 

During those first hours following her birth, a migraine started and the nurse and doctor both recommended that I drink coffee.   So, I did and sure enough the headache went away but what I didn’t know yet… I was already hooked again.

During those first two months, I found myself waiting for that one cup of coffee as if my day and life depended on it. When I drank it, I could take on anything…. for that hour at least and then

crash!

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Literally, I would crash. It was such a drastic shift in mood and energy level that I decided to challenge myself.   Did I really need this coffee? 

I am always up for a challenge so I took it on. This led to a terrible week of night sweats, exhausted days, and irritability.   It was truly a detox from one cup of coffee…(okay more than 1.5 cups or 2 at this point since my mug kept growing in size. One cup is one cup no matter the size, right?)

Anyways, that is when I finally faced the facts:

If my body had to detox from something like that, it was not meant to be.   

Therefore, I have been coffee free for 2.5 years now and don’t miss it.  I do still love the smell of coffee brewing in the morning though and I still have not given up the wine …. not so sure I will… I mean it’s much more pleasant to embrace the Friday mess of this house…

without feeling the need to clean or do laundry as I sip on a glass of Shiraz…

But once again I digress.

Stay tuned: Read up on some other sources of energy we use coming SOON to a blog near you. 😁)

 

 

A Healthy, Happy Home

Creating a healthy home has always been one of my greatest goals.  Even before kids, I considered myself healthy. However, it wasn’t until after TJ’s diagnosis that I began to see past some of my old ways of health to an even more natural way. It really opened my eyes to a world that I was not seeing clearly beforehand.   I thought I was healthy before that: I worked out every day and ate a low fat, lean diet, splurging on the weekends of course.   (Yes, I had fallen terribly for the fat free fad….oh how I had been wrong!) So to say the least, it was a huge wake up call when I took on the elimination diet for TJ and started to read more about food system.  I learned about true health by following and listening to people like Robyn O’Brien.
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While I still have a ways to go, we have come far.

Once again, I am NOT a doctor. Just a mama, wife, teacher, friend, Jesus lover, writer trying to figure out how to embrace the mess… (See disclaimer below)

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Over the past years, we have learned some go-to tips to assist our family’s health, and propel it forward…
  1. Prayer – This may sound repetitive throughout my posts, but good! It should be! The power of prayer cannot be defined.   We have truly seen it transform our health and you can too! There is no special way, time, or place. Just pray
  2. Rest – There was a time I would have told you that the r in propelling your health was to run daily.  However, as much as I still love to run each morning, getting enough sleep and rest has proven to be much more beneficial.
  3. Oils – Aside from healthy cooking oils and those in our diet like olive and coconut, essential oils have empowered our house.  It took me many years and a thousand questions (Thanks Mary for your patience!) before I actually bought my first premium starter kit from Young Living.   It’s been three years now since then and oils are now part of our daily routines.  They helped us toss out our unhealthy candles, became a friend to our immune systems, and eliminated so many unnecessary chemicals that our house once carried.We diffuse them, roller ball them up, bathe with them, make lotion using them, and even clean with them! With oils, it is important to always find a high quality brand! (Want more information on oils? Send me an email to theartofamessyhouse@gmail.com or comment below. And stay tuned for future posts.)untitled design (34)
  4. Probiotics – We saw a lot of doctors after TJ had his first reaction.  Unless necessary, I would NOT recommend doing that. Seeing a lot of doctors leads to lots of conflicting advice and one crazed Mama…or Dada.   Anyways, one recommendation that every single doctor during that time suggested was to use a good probiotic.   We went with UltraFlora Balance by Metagenics after two of them suggested that one. TJ and Madison have both used it since before they were one years old just in a reduced form. It was also what I used throughout my pregnancy with Madison. Sometimes, I switch it up too for myself with good high quality, trusted brands.
  5. Elderberry – This is very new to me this year.   During flu season last year, I read a lot about elderberry and purchased an organic brand of it.   However, it was stored away until this past Christmas when TJ got the stomach bug the night before Christmas Eve! (One of my worst nightmares!) So, we tore open that bottle and have been using it since whenever someone in the family has a compromised immune system. Next up…to try to make our own.
  6. Love – All you need is a little TLC… tender loving care, they say.  But the reality is sometimes, people are hard to love.  Sometimes, it just feels good to vent about something or someone..to burn off that steam exploded inside.   It’s healthy too… but the healthiest I have ever felt was when I began to more easily let go up “the drama,” “the negativity,” and even the people who are just plan “mean” … and focus on love. Hug more, kiss those dirty cheeks more and say “I love you” out of routine. Stop fixating on what’s wrong; challenge yourself to see the good in the picture instead. Walk away from the hate; embrace the love.

 

In addition to these ways we PROPEL our health, I also chew a clove of garlic at the first sign of a sore throat.   (I had to add this today as I am feeling under the weather and needed a morning clove.) It is not for everyone and I am sure that I do not need to tell you, it does not have the greatest taste.. or smell.  I didn’t add it to our list because I am the only one who uses this as my kids are too young to force allium sativum on them, and Timmy is not a fan of the technique.  No kissing tonight hun!

So there’s my mnemonic device for health, PROPEL!  The ELA teacher in me at work…the believer at heart. It’s not cliche.  It’s real.

 

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Even though we still get hit by viruses, we breath easier knowing that we have resources that help propel our health past the always lingering season of germs and mess.

Disclaimer: This blog is a personal blog and used as a way of sharing and connecting with other readers. The posts, articles, and stories shared on the site are meant as a source of encouragement. In this challenging world of food allergies, motherhood, and life, I have found reaching out to other parents and people in my shoes to be extremely resourceful and inspiring. Therefore, I want to give back and do the same. I am not a doctor; therefore, the information on my blog is not intended as medical advice so as always, please consult with your doctor.

Some Days Just Stink

Every January people ring in the New Year with high hopes of it being the break-through year of dreams taking off and miracles happening. And this past January 1st was just the same. I believed the great blessings that this year would bring as soon as the clock struck midnight. While I had tried to stay awake, I had only made it to 11:41 pm.

Hmmm… maybe my lack of endurance had been to blame for what soon happened…

Anyways, I woke up that first day with anything but a restored attitude. Instead, every ounce of my body struggled to get out of bed as I woke up with a massive headache. We had been with our friends and their kids the night before so maybe the two drinks I had gave me a headache? How could I be hung over? Wow, maybe my age was really catching up to me.

Still, I pressed on as parents do… cooking and straightening up, packing and prepping for the upcoming school week after being off for winter break. It was brutal. I told myself I would watch my former student and his Kentucky football team in the Citrus Bowl as I wrote and prepared this blog. However, I found myself freezing under covers watching the game with a heating pad along my spine and my eyes fighting to stay awake.

Soon enough, when the aches began, the thermometer told me different story, a 101 fever! Great! It was the first day of the year …the first day for a restored attitude …

and I could not work out because I felt so terrible…

I could not write (I always started mornings off by praying and writing)…

I could not spend time with my kids…

could not have a romantic evening with my husband…

I could not even eat…

I was not productive…

I just laid around and waited for bedtime.

The virus passed quickly as usual since I had worked hard in building up my immune system after having the kids. Now, I was back at school still not feeling like myself, but functioning and sweating actually more than I would like to admit. I was trying not to feel discouraged. We had so much to look forward to…

My husband had a potential new job offer much closer to home…

My daughter was finally getting to try straight cow’s milk with our allergist the following week …

TJ’s annual blood work for allergy levels would be back soon and for the past two years they had dropped significantly for eggs and dairy…

So much to look forward to! So much to praise God for… just around the corner…

If we could just get to the corner, everything would be okay…

Then the next week came and my husband Timmy took our daughter to try cow’s milk with her doctor. I had it planned out; since I was working until late we would go to church the following day to go to the alter and praise God for the outgrown allergy, a tradition we had done for all of the other food challenges TJ and Madison had passed and allergies they had outgrown. I mean she already ate chicken francaise, Hersey kisses, pizza, baked products, a bunch of items with cow’s milk in it, there was no doubt in our minds that she wouldn’t pass…

until that exact thing happened.

She didn’t pass….

…after just one drop, her mouth got red and itchy. We would have to try again in August…

Then, TJ’s annual results got back and they had stayed pretty much the same. The same!?! I believed… we believed they would drop drastically again…

To make matters worse, Timmy still had no news on the job offer that was given over a month ago.   They had been negotiating back and forth … until finally it fell through …

Jen, breath, it’s all just around the corner.  Just not yet….

 

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And then I read TJ’s report card: “He has a kind heart. Sometimes, he gets frustrated because his friends don’t understand him. I love his art work!”

WHAT!?!?!? Great sandwiching of the comments … but why was this the first time I was hearing about this. Sure, we noticed certain sounds were lacking like tr and k but he was our first, we had no idea what was typical and what wasn’t. As a special education teacher, I tried my hardest to not overanalyze and diagnose my own children.  Maybe, I was wrong…maybe I should have asked…

Guilt and frustration were having a field day…

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So I lost it. 2019, what were you trying to do to me? It had only been a week, but bad news after bad news plus the pile up of responsibilities on my plate at school, built up for a meltdown.

I started to think …
What a “great” year this is going to be?
Now what… will this year bring?
Can we restart?

And even something I totally had wrong:

What had I done wrong?

Then, as I stopped myself to pray. These words spoke to my heart…

“Be present and stay patient in prayer.”

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6:9

It was the time to start declaring the year was going to be one of blessings.  It was not time to be fooled by a bad day, week, month or season. It was certainly not the time to stand around and wait to enjoy “the right now.”

The whole time when I was waiting for the perfect news to praise God and to declare how blessed we were, I had it all wrong.

It’s not about waiting for the thunder to pass …

it’s not about waiting for the good news…

it’s not about waiting for the prayer to be answered ….

the allergy to be cured … the money to come…

It’s about seeing the beauty of the storm itself.

It’s about accepting that some days, some weeks, some seasons just stink, and

that. is. okay.

But what is not okay is believing that those days and storms will always be. Instead, it was believing and knowing that they all have their purpose. That they do transform us into who we are called to be… into our best selves … and for that we can genuinely smile through it, knowing storms do eventually run out of rain.

So get those rain boots on and walk proudly through those puddles. Find laughter through all seasons. Embrace the storm as you learn to dance in the rain, even if it tracks in some mud along the way. 

 

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To 2019… even though we got off on the wrong foot, every day is new chance to start over and for that … we are just getting started!

“And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm...” – Mark 4:39

The Comeback

The Comeback – January 2019
And we’re back!
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Stepping back…
When I stopped blogging over three years ago, I ended in a panic.
Here I was writing posts about remaining strong in faith in order to overcome fear; and there I was living what felt like a lie. Don’t get me wrong, I was genuine in my goal to not allow the anxieties of motherhood, food allergies, my miscarriage and life control me. My heart wanted so badly to help others through experiences similar to ours. However, I felt like a hypocrite because I myself was battling a war, invisible to most except those very close to me. I needed to help and heal myself in order to best guide my family. I needed healing in every sense of the word. I needed a break from researching, from reading articles, from adding more worry onto our already allergen and chemical aware plates and homes. I needed to find myself and allow myself the time to heal. I needed to admit that I was not okay, that I deserved more, and that there was more. I needed to do it for my husband, my son, my soon-to-be-daughter, my family and friends and most importantly, myself.
Reflecting back …
Having battled anxiety most of my life, I truly believed it was inevitable. The perfect setup. Since the age of five, anxiety was my middle name. (In fact, since I didn’t have an actual middle name given to me at birth, I used to joke to myself that this was indeed meant for me.) Anxiety was just my way,; it was part of my being and always would be … or so I thought. Luckily, I was very mistaken …
Then add into the mix:
-My 7.5 month old son had an anaphylactic reaction to his first taste of yogurt in the middle of a December snow storm where there were NO Epi-pens in the ambulance…
 
-We learned of his 20 more possible allergies at his follow-up appointment…
 
-His skin reactions, his daily breathing treatments, and his viral-induced asthma every time he got sick from age 1-2.5 after he had pneumonia…
 
-Then my best friend from high school experienced the loss of her son (a heart-breaking stillbirth at 35/36 weeks)…
 
-Then my own miscarriage…
The anxiety just continued to build on and on, like a mountain I had no business climbing, yet there was no other way to get down. I was stuck. I was functioning but depressed. I was functioning but anxious. All. The. Time. Looking back, was I even functioning? Was I even present? Was I even living?
Nothing brought me joy. It was a terrible cycle: I would fake it first, then I would get so frustrated with myself for being disingenuous that I would beat myself up even more. A vicious cycle. The whole time my heart had the right intentions. It knew what it wanted and needed. It wanted to inspire others, but inspiration starts within, and fear had tried to wipe me empty. I was a cry for help through broken smile.
Then, I got pregnant with my daughter. It was a difficult pregnancy in the sense that I was nauseous, exhausted and sleep deprived for most of it, nothing like with my son who had spoiled me. She kicked my butt and belly literally! Many told me that it made sense since “girls steal your beauty.” What I didn’t realize yet, it was quite different: she was starting to inspire me…
…to redefine my beauty.
She arrived on her due date naturally just like my son had. What are the chances?!?! (Wish my lottery skills were just as good.) Her birth was a blessing and still the questions stood, why was I not content? Why was I unhappy? I felt so beyond guilty. How could I be this terrible of a person? Of a mother?
I was not beaming with happiness and joy, but she was beautiful and everything I dreamed of. From the time we found I was pregnant, I knew she would have a fighter’s heart like her Mama much like Kip Moore’s song “ Hey Pretty Lady” reminded me. And she had beautiful hazel eyes that resembled her daddy’s baby blues bringing back to Donna Lewis’ “I Love You Always Forever.” I dreamed this dream years before. I dreamed this dream for years. I needed to remember just that, as she smiled back at me … “a fighter’s heart like her Mama”...
The fight back to reality…
Those months that followed my daughter’s birth I found a breast lump, had other OBGYN scares, became engorged for an entire month when she had already been nursing for eight months, … the list was endless and really all added up to one diagnosis in the end: post traumatic stress from my son’s anaphylactic reaction then mixed with a hormonal imbalance leading to … postpartum anxiety.
I couldn’t see it then. I was too caught up in feeling and even scarier, believing, that I was dying. I really thought I was dying. I did not want pity, sympathy nor attention; I wanted someone to save my life. I was in a crisis. I was terrified that I was going to abandon my children. That I wasn’t going to be who they needed. And I beat myself up for it every day and every night. Panic attacks became a normal nighttime routine. I felt so alone all the time but the most isolated times were when those around me, helpless in their own way, asked me to snap out of it. I knew they meant well. But how? If only a snap of the fingers could do such a thing.
Finally, when my daughter was 9 months old I stopped nursing, still exclusively pumping for another 1.5 months. This allowed her to take the bottle that she had refused for the first 9 months of her life when she much rather take the boob. I am Taurus and while I don’t follow signs very often, I do know and admit to how stubborn I am. I was very headstrong about wanting to make it to a year or more, like I did with my son. However, reality hurts when it hits you especially as you are trying to climb your way out of rock bottom. My kids needed me in a different way, much more than just my milk could provide.
Stubborn ways would not save me, but letting go would. So I did just that …
Getting my groove back …
The power of the mind is incredible. I vowed to change my thinking: I would overcome this. I needed a therapist to connect with, to deepen my faith and learn to rely on that faith. I knew deep down that this would be used for good, I just couldn’t see how yet but I knew …
Walk by faith, not sight. – 2 Corinthians 5:7
After therapy for a few months and then even doing some sessions of EMDR light therapy, I had some eye opening experiences, a lot of healing, and even more forgiveness. As the ELA teacher in me would say, I also had some aha moments and lessons learned:
  1. Postpartum anxiety is real! How can it not be? Have you ever watched the news or googled searched something or even scrolled your Facebook news-feed to find only positive posts. I think not! I’ve learned Google was the devil for a Mama like me who spent much of her time being undated by negative judgments and news. What we all really need is someone to lift us up. So do just that, surround yourself with positive words. Click on a Bible app or put some positive affirmations on a notes page of your phone. Google search uplifting quotes so that when you go to search up something not-so-positive, you see the inspiration instead. Surround yourself with those who lift you up and cheer you on, not those who judge. It may mean eliminating or limiting social media or even some people. It’s difficult, but possible and worth it.
  2. You deserve happiness.. I deserve happiness. Everyone deserves happiness. Don’t let the lies of the world make you believe something else. Learn what makes you happy as an individual. Then, do what makes you happy. For me, it’s prayer, writing, poetry, being creative and running. It’s not selfish to know and make time for what brings you joy. Even if it does not involve your kids directly, it indirectly does in a greater way than you think. It’s easy to lose yourself in motherhood, and in life in general. So, recognize and embrace what makes you, you.
  3. Forgiveness is key. Or else you cannot fully move on from the past. I had some major resentment raging in me still and often pointed my fingers at others to temporarily let go of it. Cycles will be cycles if you do not forgive. Just think about it. It doesn’t always mean we have to tell the person we forgive them. Sometimes, it doesn’t make sense to, while other times it is necessary. Either way it is a conscious decision that heals the heart. It was one of the deepest releases and moments when I did just that. It made room for a whole lot more of love, joy and hope. It made room for peace.
  4. You are not alone. Even in a dark room breastfeeding your baby when everyone else seems to be have cocktails at a party or watching television, and you are worried about your milk production or if your daughter’s rash means food allergies like your son, you are never alone. Isolation can happen after a baby. Do not feel guilty. Reach out and build a support system. Like I suggested above, put positive sources of entertainment on your phone as you nurse like a Bible app, read positive news, journal, or write a poem. Sometimes, I would forget calculating how long she nursed and wouldn’t allow my phone near me. Instead, I would sing songs and just talk to my daughter. There are support systems for everything. Find other food allergy families, if you need support. Postpartum groups for breastfeeding are wonderful for so many reasons beyond nursing. Build that village and remember you are never in it alone. Ask for help… that makes you stronger than you think.
  5. Take care of yourself – even if it means taking the drug the doctors recommend or the yoga class you feel like you do not have time for. For those who know me, they would tell you I really try to take the natural, organic, GMO free route as much as possible. However, in hindsight, I should have taken the medication the doctors had prescribed for the postpartum anxiety. But I didn’t and while it took longer, I healed. Healing is possible for everyone.
Reflection back …
So often we label mental health has a weakness. We label food allergies as a weakness. We label asking for help as a weakness. We label, we label, we label. The problem is we label. I found new depths of strength and courage in those labels though. I found a way to stand confident in the fact that history will not repeat itself. But I had to forgive myself and a bunch of others before I had enough room to let amazing joy fill me up.
The reality is once you can learn acceptance in the now, no longer putting life on hold for the greener grass of tomorrow that may never come, that is when you start to live. That is when joy fills your heart. I never had real joy before now. I faked it and was full of shame because of it. But now I realize, through acceptance of myself, forgiveness of my past and that of others who may have left scars, I’m so much stronger than I’ve ever imagined I’d be.
My son, TJ started off with 21 food allergies and has outgrown all but 3 (dairy, eggs, peanuts) at his age of 4.5 now. My daughter Madison Grace has a kick-ass immune system and can’t have sesame or straight dairy milk. And don’t get me wrong, it sticks when we recently learned of her sesame allergy. It stinks when we attend birthday parties and TJ can’t eat the pizza or the cupcakes. However, we have our yummy alternatives and they are accepting of it. They are happy. Don’t get me wrong fear throws a lot at me still as it does for everyone. We all have our own battles but it’s more important to know the battles have all already been won. (John 16:33)
The difference now is I own my joy and it’s wrapped in my deep faith. Its home is in my heart and if it’s possible for me, it’s possible for anyone. Even in my lowest, I’ve never believed in the word impossible. Nothing is impossible with faith. Stand for something, or fall for everything.
And we smile back…
And now I can truly say I genuinely smile with my son who has been waiting the whole time for me to do just that, to let go, smile on… for we are truly learning to embrace the beauty and art of a messy house!
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