Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Today Kevin posted his first addition. I learned things I did not know. I knew that would happen, but I didn't realize I lost track of him so early in his life.
Kevin will celebrate his 30th birthday in a few days. I am so thankful that he is still alive. And that He has turned his life over to God.
Life was "normal" for us. We had the all-American family. Dad, Mom, 2 adorable blonde, blue-eyed kids, house on a culdesac (for safety's sake), good church, busy life. I was a stay-at-home mom, and felt very privileged to be that. We had to pinch the pennies pretty hard, but I was good at it. I listened to Christian radio every day and tried to implement the advice I heard. I went to young mom's Bible study where we discussed our kids and their development. Both DC and I had been raised in wonderful Christian homes, so we just kind of did things the way we were raised and thought things would work out.
I don't remember Kevin being a difficult baby at all. He was adored by his big sister. He slept through the night at 8 weeks. We didn't have any traumatic potty-training issues!
I think I posted about the time Kevin got lost at the Pet and Doll Parade downtown on the last day of school, when he was 4. We lost him for over an hour, and he was picked up by the band director and taken back to the school where the band began the parade, about a mile from the end of the parade, where I was frantically looking for him. He was very shy after that and did not want to draw any attention to himself by having his picture taken or doing "show and tell." He pretty much clung to my legs for several months thereafter.
Kindergarten went well - he enjoyed climbing on the bus and being a "big kid." There were a couple of times when he was young that he would bring things home that didn't belong to him. It alarmed me a bit, but I didn't think it was a life-altering situation.
We lived in a neighborhood with lots of kids. Two of the boys were really ornery and I would work very hard to keep Kevin away from them in the summertime. I didn't trust their influence on him. I'm sure he has stories about their times together that would singe my hair! I do know they lit matches around lawnmower gasoline one time. It's a miracle they didn't get really hurt - or dead!
There was the time he was busted at Wal-Mart for shoplifting - I think it was chap stick. It was somebody else's fault, of course.
Sixth grade does stand out in my mind in several ironic ways. It was the first time Kev was interested in singing - the music teacher was a "Barbie Doll," according to the up-and-coming hormone-ridden pre-teens. They all joined choir that year, and even went to school early to practice. I thought it was very cool. But at the same time, his first male teacher did not like Kevin and his group. I was called in for several after-school conferences. I didn't really like his friends, but didn't know them very well.
I thought 7th and 8th grade went well. I had no idea he was starting on his spiral downward, sampling alcohol from his friends' parents' liquor cabinets. He talks about his language at school - we never heard that at home, amazingly enough. I never knew you could be that disciplined in your speech patterns to keep it clean at home and let it all out with "friends."
I planned my life around being home with the kids - I began working a few hours a day in the school district so that I'd get them to school, be home when they got off, and be home all vacations and summers. How could I have my head so far in the sand??
I just recently learned of that first marijuana joint when, just before he went to Teen Challenge, I finally asked him point blank when he took his first drug. I was astounded at the answer. We weren't able to communicate very well for many years.
I knew that he was not much fun to be around those early teen years, but had no idea the direction he was heading. It was hard to get him up for church and Sunday school, his attitude was not endearing, and his anger began to be more and more volatile. But I think we just thought it was his adolescence kicking in. Little did we know. Very little.
I haven't spoken in specifics about Kevin's situation, because I didn't feel it was my place to do so. You just know that we have have some hard times. Kristen and I shared our struggle with her anorexia a couple of weeks ago. Now Kevin is going to share his journey through, and I emphasize THROUGH, heroine addiction. I am so thrilled to be able to share this with all of you, and pray that it will reach the right eyes. He will be guest blogging from his wife's site. I will then counter with my version of the story.
Please join us for this journey. He will probably post once a week, and I'll keep you updated on when. Please let anyone know about this who is struggling with addiction, and is willing to read someone's story of struggle and victory. Please pray that Kevin and I will say the right words at the right time.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
81. My expenses immediately doubled. I know - doubling $30/month doesn't sound like much. But double the utilities as well, and factor in the fact that I wasn't making much, it was a blow.
82. I had spent the summer in Colorado, counseling at 2 camps. There I met a pastor's wife who was eager to introduce me to THE bachelor, a rancher, in their church.
83. We met and spent the rest of the summer going between his town and mine, getting acquainted, trucking around in his big green Ford pick-up, and falling in love.
84. I went back to my teaching job, more lonely than ever - no roommate and a new boyfriend back home.
85. I did enjoy the little church there, sang in the choir, and got invited over for meals. I'll never forget getting the flu and being so sick all by myself - a girl is never too old to wish her mom was there to take care of her when she's sick!
86. "The Rancher" and I wrote letters and talked on the phone - often. I actually traveled to cattle shows in Kansas City and Tulsa. You should have seen me holding the rope for this huge white bull, who knew I was afraid of him. It could easily have been the end of me! My brothers couldn't believe it!
87. It wasn't all bad - I wish I had all the letters I wrote "the rancher" because they were basically a journal of all the cute things the kids said to me every day. They did keep me laughing much of the time.
88. I went home for Christmas. He tried to tell me he wasn't ready to settle down. I didn't believe it.
89. I had resigned my teaching job mid-year, which turned out to be a terrible mistake. I moved back home at the end of the semester, and he promptly broke up with me 2 weeks later.
90. Now I had no boyfriend, and had to move into my parents' house after being in my own place for a year and a half. We got along fine, but I felt really cramped and stifled and lonely.
91. I directed the day care center operated by the church Dad pastored. It turned out to be a poor fit for me.
92. I couldn't get a teaching job - no wonder - would you hire someone who had quit in the middle of the year?
93. I must have been really awful to be around. I was so unhappy and was sure "the rancher" would come to his senses and realize how much he missed me and how wrong he had been.
94. I had presented God with a plan and asked him to sign the bottom line. I ran ahead of him. I am so thankful that He is a redeeming God and can make something beautiful out of the messes we make.
95. I eventually got a really good job as a personnel secretary in a garment factory, driving 100 miles each day in my little green Mustang. I think I've mentioned it before, and it was a wonderful time of growth for me.
96. I was trying to make the move closer to my job, just when I met DC. I suddenly wanted to stay right where I was. My folks had moved into a different parsonage and the church had my dad build a little apartment in the basement to be able to house missionaries and evangelists. I got to live in it for awhile, and it was a blessing.
97. God has such a great sense of humor and timing - 35 years after the heartbreak, God brought DC and me into contact with "the rancher" in a most amazing way. He and his wife have a son who had been miraculously changed through Teen Challenge. Their son was instrumental in getting Kev into the program. "The rancher" and his wife even helped us financially.
98. When DC found out I drove such a long ways to work every day, he couldn't believe it. When we got married, I decided not to drive so far any more. I got a job in a bank in the town just north of us, in marketing. My typing skills carried me a long ways into jobs that I really enjoyed.
99. I quit working when Kristen was born and was a SAHM for years afterward. I loved every minute (well, almost every minute). I was blessed.
100. I am going to stop now - this could go on forever. I never thought it would be so much fun to come up with these 100 things. It has given me ideas for many more posts to come. Thanks for coming along.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
I changed to New Blogger last night, so now many of your comments are "anonymous." That made me a bit sad when I discovered it. Change is hard, no matter how necessary. There is always that uncomfortable adjustment period.
Speaking of change, Monday is the first day of my new schedule, working mornings every day instead of 2 whole days and a half day. Kristen posted the "cons" of the new arrangement in a recent post. I have discovered a few myself, but know that we'll all adjust. I realized, after I had made my case to my co-workers and they agreed to the change, that there are many things I had adjusted in my old schedule that now will not work with the new. Oh, dear! More adjusting ahead. One thing I'll really miss on the home front is taking the girls to library story time every other Friday, then stopping at KFC for a bit of lunch. That has become a real routine for us. But I'm glad Kristen gets to now take them to the library.
"If at first you don't succeed, you're running about average."- Author Unknown
This quote was in my e-mails this morning. I thought it was appropriate for my week. You may have noticed that I didn't post my weight loss ticker this morning. That's because I'm not weighing this week. I really messed up this week - 3 weeks forward, 1 week back. I am considering it a blip on the screen and will go forward from this moment on.
There is a bit of light snow on top of the ugliness again this morning - that is 6 week-ends in a row. I don't think we'll ever have two lanes on our residential streets until June. It makes picking up the kids from school and parking on the street for church (since we don't have enough parking lot space) very difficult, let's say impossible.
I keep thinking about the snow covering up the ugliness every week-end this winter. It looks beautiful and pure for a day or so, then it begins to melt and turns muddy and ugly again. It's kind of like our lives if we just live for Jesus on the surface. We may look good and clean and pure for awhile, but the ugliness inevitably shows up again when melt-down occurs.
Psalm 51:6-8 from The Message says:
Soak me in your laundry and I'll come out clean, scrub me and I'll have a snow-white life. Tune me in to foot-tapping songs, set these once-broken bones to dancing. Don't look too close for blemishes, give me a clean bill of health. God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life. Don't throw me out with the trash, or fail to breathe holiness in me. Bring me back from gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails! Give me a job teaching rebels your ways so the lost can find their way home. Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God, and I'll sing anthems to your life-giving ways. Unbutton my lips, dear God; I'll let loose with your praise.
I love that phrase asking God to "breathe holiness in me." God doesn't just cover up the ugliness - He soaks us, scrubs us, cleans us from the inside out if we allow Him to.
There has been a lot of complaining about the really cold winter and the unusual amount of snow this year. We seem to forget that we have complained for the last 4-5 years about the drought. God must just shake his head. I was walking down the sidewalk toward the Dollar Store the other Saturday morning when a little older-than-me lady was coming across the parking lot. She hollered, "Do you think we'll ever see green again?" I imagine she'd just moved here from someplace like California and hadn't experienced one of these occasionally hard winters before. I said, "Oh, yes, and it's going to be incredibly green because of all of this moisture!"
Psalm 55:8 seems to sum it up very well.
"I don't think the way you think. The way you work isn't the way I work." God's Decree. "For as the sky soars high above earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think. Just as rain and snow descend from the skies and don't go back until they've watered the earth, doing their work of making things grow and blossom, producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry, so will the words that come out of my mouth not come back empty-handed. They'll do the work I sent them to do, they'll complete the assignment I gave them."
I have to keep reminding myself of this as well, as I almost slide under my car on the built-up ice in the parking lots.
Have a blessed week-end! Take notes on your pastor's sermon - it will stick with you longer!
Thursday, January 25, 2007
61. Mom and Dad took me to college in Oklahoma. It was the first time I'd been alone with them since I was 11 1/2 months old!
62. I loved dorm life from the first moment. I said good-bye to them that Sunday afternoon, then realized I should probably walk with them to the car - after all, they were leaving their firstborn behind. I realized that when my mom began crying.
63. I didn't get homesick until my birthday, when I finally turned 18.
64. I soon became known as "Mouth of Third South." I loved to go around to all the rooms and socialize as everyone was getting ready for bed - putting curlers in their hair, etc. Then I'd get back to my room and everything would be dark as I had to get ready for bed in the bathroom while my roommate and "bathmates" were already asleep!
65. I had some horrid jobs getting through college - I will post about them soon.
66. My first serious boyfriend was my freshman year - he was 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighed 125 pounds! Oh, yeah. (And I DID gain the freshman 15).
67. I broke up with him when I found out he went back to the dorm to goof off when I went back to study - I assumed he was doing the same. He ended up being drafted, and I have always wondered what happened to him.
68. Alot of my guy friends (including the above mentioned young man) declared religion as their major to stay out of Viet Nam. Unfortunately, if they flunked out (which he did), that free pass was taken away and they were eligible for the draft.
69. Every guy was talking about "his number" in those days - if you don't know what that means, you're young. (It's where they fell in the draft lottery).
70. My freshman antics came back to haunt me when I became RA (resident assistant) of Third South in my junior year.
71. The year before that I was RA in a dorm which had been condemned - it had been a boys' dorm which was re-opened when a glut of applications came in and they had to find room for an unusually large number of freshman girls - another whole post to come!
72. My future sister-in-law was one of the freshmen on my floor that year.
73. I thought I was going to have money when I became a teacher, so I fell for a waterless cookware sales pitch and signed up.
74. My roommate and I both made this mistake, and her father helped us out of it - that was when I learned the "three-day regret" law - thank goodness!
75. One of my favorite elementary education classes was "Children's Literature." We had to read 50 kids' books for an A. I read 82 - classics, Newberry winners, Caldecott winners - it was great fun.
76. My student teaching experience was a disaster. It might be why I only taught for 1.5 years.
77. When you graduate from a Christian college without a husband or a fiance, you start to panic! I thought God had made a colossal mistake.
78. Did you ever watch National Geographic Explorer? Several years ago, the host was named Boyd Matson. He was Butch Matson when we went to the same college at the same time - I had a crush on him, but he didn't know I existed.
79. I got a teaching job in southeast Kansas, as did my senior year roommate. We moved there together with our new cars - my 1969 Mustang and her 1969 Ford LTD. I taught 4th grade. She taught high school English. We thought we were set.
80. It turned out to be a very difficult year - lots of work, very little money. We rented the upstairs apartment of an old house for $60.00 a month! She went back to western Kansas the next year and left me there alone and very lonely.
TO BE CONTINUED. . .
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
41. An addendum to my fear of heights - for some reason on a trip to Six Flags Elitch's in Denver, I decided to face my height fear head on. I looked up at the Tower of Doom and decided to prove to myself that I could survive it. Probably one of the worst possible rides ever invented. But I did it! My kids could NOT believe it. Neither could I.
42. I also said that my dad "left the ministry for two years." He supplied in pulpits around Minnesota for at least 50 of those 200 Sundays and we got to go with him many of those week-ends and meet many new and fun people.
43. I took a typing class during these two years. I learned that it was something I was really good at. Another girl and I became rivals and each reached 72 words per minute on old-fashioned upright manual typewriters.
44. I type in my head all the time. It enabled me to keep up my speed, even though I didn't type much in the years I stayed home with my kids. I typed 90 wpm on a computer when I tested for a job after years of not working - even though it is an annoying habit, it was good for something!
45. I also add and subtract numbers on license plates. I know, I'm weird! But it also keeps up my math skills.
46. The typing came in handy in college. I didn't really enjoy babysitting for spending money, so I typed papers for guys. I also made a lot of good friends that way.
47. It was during this period that I didn't care how tall I was - I wore 3 inch spikes most Sundays, which made me 6 feet tall and about ruined my feet.
48. I also liked to wear hats - I had one bowler hat for Easter, which caused the young boys to called me Abraham Lincoln.
49. I also had a green coat and was called "Jolly Green Giant."
50. For some reason I didn't let these things bother me. I thought I should have a complex, though, so I read a book called For Tall Girls Only. One suggestion - when someone asks you "how's the weather up there?" just spit in their face and say, "It's raining." That just cracked me up. I never really tried it.
51. We moved to Nebraska the summer before my junior year. I have blogged about my time there as editor of the school newspaper and all of the great experiences that provided.
52. We had a great youth group in this church.
53. My brother became the director of the youth choir. We had fun going to smaller churches and singing.
54. We planned our own lessons for youth group and planned our own banquets. That was before youth pastors.
55. My sister and I discovered we were two of only 4 girls in the whole high school who didn't belong to pep club.
56. We couldn't afford it that year, but we went to every game anyway.
57. We won the state tournament in basketball and had to sit with our parents!
58. We figured out a way to belong the next year, and it was great fun.
59. I was only there for junior and senior years, yet I am still in close contact with 2 of my friends from that time - I talked to both of them today.
60. Even though I loved this high school, I could hardly wait to get to college.
TO BE CONTINUED.
Monday, January 22, 2007
22. I have never wanted to live any other way.
23. Being the eldest, I was given a great deal of responsibility.
24. I was mad when my youngest brother was born - I wanted a girl so that we wouldn't be outnumbered.
25. He and I became very close, because I helped Mom a lot with him.
26. When I was 10 I almost drowned when I hit a drop-off in a Minnesota lake.
27. My mom couldn't swim either, but she was tall enough that she was able to reach me and rescue me.
28. I still have a fear of water and cannot even float, much less swim. I don't even like to get my face wet in the shower!
29. I got a D in swimming class because of this phobia. It's the only D I ever got in my life.
30. The P.E. teacher wouldn't get into the water to help anyone, but would stand on the edge of the pool and try to tell us what to do. After we moved, the class I would have been in threw her into the pool, and it turned out she couldn't swim! They were expelled from school for awhile. I wonder if I would have been in on that.
31. My sister and I used to designate Saturday night as "giggle night." We must have driven our mom crazy!
32. I had a very tender conscience. As a teen, I would go into my parents' room when I got back from any event and tell them all about it. Someday I'll tell the story of the slumber party when the police arrived - I made sure they knew all about it so they didn't hear it from someone else. The policeman in this little town reminded us of Barney Fife.
33. I was the tallest girl in my high school class (there were only 82 total).
34. I lived in 23 houses/apartments (not counting dorm rooms) during the first 30 years of my life, but have lived in the same house for the past 28 years.
35. I am afraid of heights - can't do roller coasters, haylofts, ladders, mountains.
36. We moved back to Minnesota in the middle of 5th grade - as far north as you can go.
37. My sister and I worked very hard to lose our Arkansas accents quickly, because we were teased mercilessly - we practiced saying "I" instead of "Ah" every night.
38. We lived in an apartment at the back of the church for the first year or so - two tiny bedrooms upstairs, a living room and kitchen downstairs - 7 people. The aroma of Mom's roast always permeated the sanctuary before Dad finished preaching.
39. The time in northern Minnesota was the least happy years of our lives. It was a very rough town.
40. Dad got very sick and had to leave the ministry for awhile to regain his health. We became laymen's kids for a couple of years. I missed being the p.k. My sister kind of liked the change.
TO BE CONTINUED . . .
Sunday, January 21, 2007
11. Dad became the pastor of a tiny church, whose current pastor was an elderly lady in poor health. The size of the church doubled when we became a part of it!
12. My second brother would stand on the platform and pretend to preach when we got there before anyone else. Today he has his Ph.D. in Old Testament Theology.
13. My parents ran a used clothing store in this little town, and we spent all day Saturday down there. The big treat of the day was a nickel giant Baby Ruth or Butterfinger candy bar and a nickel RC Cola. We got first dibs on the donated clothes in the boxes. We thought it was great!
14. We played missionary and Bible School in our yard. We had a neighbor whose granddaughter was visiting and we led her to the Lord during one of those back yard Bible schools. I wonder what ever happened to her and if she remembers that commitment she made.
15. Heber Springs Elementary made a big deal of Halloween. Each class had a candidate for queen and king of the Halloween festival. I was honored to be the queen in the 5th grade and my brother was king that same year in 3rd grade. Our sister had to be a witch that year, and the pictures show that she wasn’t very happy about it. Mom made me a beautiful red dress and we made our own crowns. What excitement!
16. One day I had a huge surprise – they bought me a piano! I don’t know where they came up with the money. But I began taking piano lessons at age 7.
17. We had no pianist at the little church, so Dad would give my teacher the hymns for that Sunday’s service and they were part of my lesson. I had a little offertory book as well. Of course I couldn’t reach the pedals and wouldn’t have known what to do with them if I could. I was 8.
18. I took it upon myself to start playing the organ when we were in Omaha, at age 15. I am a very generic pianist and organist, but can make the organ sound better.
19. I quit playing anything when I went to college and found that everyone was so much better than I could ever hope to be! But I always had to play when I came home. I have continued to do so throughout adulthood, mostly the organ.
20.My piano crashed into a million pieces on O Street in Omaha, when Mom and Dad were moving. The truck driver headed up to the church to get Dad’s books from his office, nobody fastened the back gate of the truck, and that was the end of my precious piano. Can you imagine the cacophony of sound that created?! They didn’t dare tell me until the next time I came home from college. It was so sad.
TO BE CONTINUED . . .
Saturday, January 20, 2007
I have tried really hard to come up with 100 things about myself to entertain you with today. I have not had the time. Nor the time to read all my friends, nor to comment. I need to stay up all night sometime to catch up, but that isn't too practical an idea. I think I will post 10 at a time for the next 10 posts, if you don't mind (well, let me know soon, because I'll do it anyway, I guess).
When I was at the gym this morning, I was reminiscing about my journey to exercise and fitness, albeit with many detours along the way. I grew up in a family that was not athletic. I was always a klutz, self-conscious, and the last one chosen for any team at recess or in P.E. That doesn't do much for a girl's self-esteem. I hated organized sports, and feared the ball (softball or volleyball) was going to hit me in the face and break my glasses.
I had a few short moments of minor success in high school P.E. (called phy ed. in Minnesota, phys. ed. in Nebraska) when I grew to my lofty height and could actually hit the basket during the basketball unit. But that was short lived.
It wasn't until I was in my early thirties that I decided I needed to begin an exercise program. I bought a good pair of shoes and began walking the neighborhood while DC watched the kids. I think I've mentioned before that it became a time of solitude for me and I began to really enjoy it. I was walking 4 miles a day for a long time, as I listened to good music on the old fashioned Walkman.
At a later date, I joined an aerobics class at a church and went 3 times a week with a bunch of Christian women who really did more chatting than bouncing - well, they tried to do it at the same time, but I am not sure how effective the exercise was! I had to quit that during a particularly difficult time in life when I needed to be at home right after work. More about that probably in later posts.
Later, Kev and I joined the health club together. It was fun and he was encouraging. He left town and I continued for several years. It was expensive, but it was good motivation. I enjoyed the "quiet room" there, where I didn't have to watch the jocks heave and grunt their way to huge muscles.
Fitness 19 came to town and their opening offer was so appealing - lifetime low rate, never to go up. It's not fancy like the health club, but it has everything I need. No quiet room, but you can't everything. I didn't need the sauna, the pool, the racquet ball room, the basketball court, the classes. So this works just fine, thank you very much.
I was thinking of all this as I worked with the weight machines this morning. When I am doing the stationary bike and the simulated foot-in-place running (can't think of the name of it!), I am able to read. I can't do the treadmill because of an injury to my left foot that just never completely healed. It can't take the pounding.
But I have to tell you, I love to people watch. I love to go to the zoo and watch the people even more than the animals. The airport is a great place to observe the human animal. You know I enjoy student-watching (which I will miss now that I won't have lunch hour on campus with my new schedule), and watching people exercise is very entertaining! I just hope NOBODY'S WATCHING ME!
There's the HUGE guy who used to come into the quiet room and do some exercises on the big ball - back on the ball, head the other direction, lower body covered in very tight Spandex points - are you getting the picture?? I had to keep my eyes on my book when he came in - it was revolting!!
Then there's the guy who sits on one of the machines, does a round of arm stuff, then sits for a good ten minutes before the next round - tying up that machine for many more minutes than he should when there are people who want to use it. He's a big, tattooed, pony-tailed, bearded guy that I don't want to cross! (not that there's anything wrong with any of those things!)
There was a well-proportioned young woman this morning with white shorts and the mini top, sashaying on her machine. I really don't think it was proper form, but I'll bet she was getting plenty of attention!
My favorite, though, is the guy who sits at every weight machine, setting it at the highest weight possible, and making the most incredible grimacing faces as he does the routine. Hilarious! I'd love to take a picture on the sly. I doubt he knows he's even doing it.
Well, as I said, I hope nobody's watching me!
First 10 things about me that you may or may not know:
- I am the first born of 5 children - 2 girls and 3 boys.
- My dad was in the Navy when I was born.
- He hitch-hiked home to be at my birth, but I was late and he had to get to base.
- His request for an extension had been granted, but he didn't know it until he got back to Corpus Christi, Texas.
- His CO was a kind man and let him come back to Minnesota to see me.
- He was 21, Mom was 18.
- When he got out of the Navy, he went to Bible College. We lived in the basement of the Boy's Dorm - 3 kids by then.
- My sister was born 2 weeks to the day before my first birthday - we loved being the same age for two weeks. Still do, I guess!
- My first brother was born on Halloween the next year.
- We moved to Arkansas when I was 4. We used to sing in country schools when Mom and Dad went out with Child Evangelism to teach them Bible lessons and help them earn their way to camp. (Those were some good days, when you could do that in schools).
TO BE CONTINUED
Hop on over to Kristen's and read about our invitation to join us for a blogger get-together at some point in the future, if you are interested. We'd love to have you come and visit!
Thursday, January 18, 2007
I have been reading Max Lucado's devotional thoughts again this year from his book, Grace for the Moment. Kev actually gave me this book a few years ago, and it means so much more now than it did then. His inscription reads, "Dear Mom, When things get a bit tough, maybe this will help lift your spirits." None of us had any clue at that time (undated) how really tough things were going to get.
January 14 says: Philippians 2:5, "In your lives you must think and act like Jesus."
"It's dangerous to sum up grand truths in one statement, but I'm going to try. If a sentence or two could capture God's desire for each of us, it might read like this:
God loves you just the way you are. If you think his love for you would be stronger if your faith were, you are wrong. If you think his love would be deeper if your thoughts were, wrong again. Don't confuse God's love with the love of people. The love of people often increases with performance and decreases with mistakes. Not so witih God's love. He loves you right where you are."
Don't you just love that??
God shows his love in unusual ways sometimes. About two weeks before Christmas, I lost an envelope with 9 $20 bills. $180!! Just before Christmas!! I never found it, and can only hope that whoever found it needed it more than I did. Today I needed gas on my way home from work. I was on empty. I meant to fill up at Sam's yesterday, but circumstances took over and got in the way. So this morning I went to work on fumes, praying that I wouldn't run out of gas. God even answers prayers when you do foolish things!
On the way home, I planned to stop somewhere just to put in a few bucks' worth until I could get to Sam's. I could just see myself walking on icy streets to the nearest gas station, borrowing a can, leaving my driver's license with them, walking to my minivan, putting $2.00 worth of gas in it, driving back to the station, putting in some more. Not a fun prospect. I "happened" to look in the little compartment under the radio and, lo and behold, there was a $20 bill. I remember putting it there, but can't remember what it was for. Obviously, I didn't need it for that after all, so it really came in handy this afternoon for some gas. What an unexpected blessing.
I have been taking care of the little rascals since Feisty was born, Care Bear was 2, and Anakin was 7. I have worked 2 1/2 days a week, switching off with Kristen for the other 2 1/2. Recently I have realized that the two entire days are really wearing me out. I realized that if I could do five half days in the afternoon, it would have lots of advantages. Kristen's department was open to the change. I didn't think there would be a problem with mine. But there was. We had to have a meeting of the entire support staff this afternoon to decide if I could have my request granted. It had to do with coverage at closing time (something I have rarely had to do). I prayed and asked for prayer from others. The answer was yes, I can do it. I think it's going to be better for the students I work with, and for my physical health.
I am finally digging out from under the blizzard on my desk. I accomplished so much today. I feel so much less stressed. Another answer to prayer.
Have a wonderful rest of the week!
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Saturday, January 13, 2007
It is Monday, the 25th - national holiday for MLK. It is politically incorrect to say so, but I would much prefer celebrating President's Day. Now before you send me off to those who would thrash me, there is a very practical reason, aside from the fact that we don't celebrate Lincoln and Washington any more. I'll say no more on that topic. The practicality is that we have just had quite a few days off for Christmas (winter holiday, excuse me!), and now we have today again (when I am so far behind from "winter holiday" and so many snow days), and we don't get another day off until Memorial Day! I am planning to go up there today to work on grade point averages, because I am so very, very behind. There was a deadline that happened during the snow days, so I am buried in file folders. I have to figure grade point averages on each and every file - this involves computing the average of every college they attended, then averaging them all together. Very time consuming. Don't tell me to get a computer program - I would still have to input every grade, so might as well do it the old fashioned way. But -- right now I feel like staying home in my robe and slippers, because it started out the day at -4F.
The snow is not pretty any more - but at least the piles that have been plowed and are all over parking lots and sides of streets, turning gray and ugly, are now covered again with the new accumulation that we got yesterday - just a beautiful, dusty snow all day. There was so much snow that they had to haul it off in dump trucks - I don't know where they put it all. DC said I should have taken the kids on an adventure and followed the trucks to see where they were going. My suggestion would have been to throw it in the lake in the middle of our town - we could always use more water in there when it thaws!
I desperately need to get to the gym, I want to go to Wal-Mart and exchange a gift (better late than never), I want to check out a great luggage sale at Kohl's, and I'm thinking of getting my ears pierced again - I gave up several years ago because I kept getting infections in my ears. The left piercing wasn't good, and I always had to struggle to get the earring through. It ceased to be enjoyable! But I chopped my hair off the other day and went back to "the wedge," so now am feeling like I want to have something on my ears again. But mostly today I would like to stay in my robe and slippers and catch up on my reading - cyber and book.
As you see, I've finally posted my first weight loss record, as I promised. So far, so good! But unlike Morning Glory (my SIL), it hasn't started showing up on my clothes yet. But it will!!
MG also mentioned the evolution of her blog throughout the last year. I was rather dragged kicking and screaming into this world. I didn't like the word "blog" (still think it's kinda weird). But Kristen told me I HAD to meet Diane at Partners in Prayer for our Prodigals, because our lives had run on a parallel plane to some extent. I read her, loved what I read, commented off line, heard back from her, and suddenly Kristen had created a blog for me - she called me one day and told me I was set up. DC has begun to notice how much time I spend in this little room compared to before June, and wonders if it's a good thing. I tell him I have more friends than I've ever had, we pray for each other, great things happen. I wonder if we'd like each other as much in person. I think we would! Our hearts and souls are going out there into cyberspace every day or so. I can hardly wait to read what you have to say, and wish I had much more time to do so.
I'm approaching my 100th post. It's taken me 7 months. I know some of you have done 200 in the same length of time. For someone who was known as "Mouth of Third South" in college, I haven't kept up with the amount of words. But working and taking care of the kiddoes does limit my time - I could skip sleeping, but I don't think that's a good idea!
I have so many post ideas in my head and written down on scraps of paper all over my house - I really need to get a folder going, don't I? The other day when I was looking for pictures of Kristen's journey through anorexia, I found at least 10,000 pictures in a box in a closet. I knew they were there, but just not HOW MANY! I need to retire so I can put together albums before it's too late.
Thank you all so much for following the series Kristen and I just finished on our journey through her anorexia battle. It turned out to be a very positive experience for both of us. Right now, she's at home working on a new post in which she will show you a picture of what happened on Saturday when I had the kids during Praise Band practice. They were playing so nicely and quietly, so I checked a few messages. When I left, they were playing with the petals of my dying poinsettia plant - they have wonderful imaginations. Care Bear decided to make me a picture, gluing petals and leaves on a piece of paper. When she got the glue stick out of the drawer, she found something else. Go to Kristen's site here and see what it was!
Our choir song from last week continues to go through my head. I'm going to close today with the words to that song. It was such a good one for heading into the new year.
Darkness around me, sorrow surrounds me,
And though there be trials, still I can sing.
For I have this treasure, my God reigns within me.
And I am determined to live for the King.
Hell’s gates are trembling from saints’ prayers ascending.
Darkness is crumbling from praises we sing.
Our Sovereign victorious is marching before us.
And we are determined to live for the King.
I am determined to be invincible
‘Til He has finished His purpose in me.
And nothing shall shake me, for He’ll never forsake me.
I am determined to live for the King.
When I am weary I’ll look to His face,
When I am tempted I’ll trust in His grace.
I am determined to be invincible
‘Til He has finished His purpose in me.
And nothing shall shake me, For He’ll never forsake me.
I am determined to live for the King.
Have a wonderful Monday!
I experienced a few difficulties at this facility and before the three months was up, I ended up going home. I hadn't relapsed; I wasn't back into my unhealthy eating habits, but it hadn't ended up being what I really needed. I could have gone home straight after the Ranch and been as in good of shape as I was when I went to Chandler. However, it did afford me a few more months of time before I had to truly get back into the "real world" and test my new found knowledge of myself and my illness. (I must qualify all of this by saying that I'm sure that with 11 years under it's belt that this Residential treatment facility is now flourishing and every bit as wonderful and helpful as the Ranch itself for assisting those just leaving the Ranch.)
By this point in time, I was a healthy 115 pounds. The plan was to head back home for a couple of weeks and then head back to Kansas to go to school again. It was only October by this time, so until the fall semester ended, I would stay with the woman who had given my mom the connection to Remuda Ranch; who I had worked with at the Orthopedic Surgeons Office. I went out there to live with them, rent free, and find a job until school started in the spring.
I got a pretty good job out there working as a customer service representative for a credit card company. I enjoyed the job and it was good to be back in Kansas where my friend and roomate lived. She was now married, and I had found three other girls to room with when school started again in the spring.
However, once again, things on the school front were not to work out for me. I went home that Christmas to be with my family and while I was on the plane on my way home, the woman I lived with called my mom and told her that I wouldn't be able to return and continue living with them. One of her reasons? I left dishes in the sink rather than washing them and putting them away. They were rather OCD. I was devastated and once again felt like a failure. It was only two weeks until the semester was to begin; yet they weren't willing to let me come back for two weeks so I could go to school. I ended up quitting my job and dropping out of school for that semester, once again. Looking back on it now, I'm sure I could have found someone to stay with for those two weeks. Or I could have remained at home for those two weeks and gone back when school started. But I had taken a giant step backwards in my confidence level and felt the need to be back at home; in my familiar surroundings. Having had that blow to my self-esteem and being away from home, I could have easily slipped back into my behaviors. So I came back home. Again. I have never again heard from or spoken to the woman that I lived with and worked with and was so good to me for so long.
I ended up going to the community college for the next couple of semesters and remained at home until January of the following year when I took a giant leap and moved into my own apartment with a roommate in the town north of my parents. I haven't lived at home since.
That was ten years ago. The same month I moved in with my new roommate, I got my job where I currently work. I have not once slipped back into my anorexic behavior. That is not to say that life has been all roses since that time. Hardly. I've had a lot of things I've dealt with since that time; but happily, none of them have caused me to go back. I've had boyfriends; I've had plenty of heart-break. I've had more than one (count them four) bad roommate situations, several more apartments; financial difficulty; a "sowing my wild oats" period of my life where I decided I was tired of being the "good girl" that never did anything wrong. But through it all, I can honestly say that I have never again looked at a fat gram; or a calorie; or counted how many servings of carbs or protein or "optional calories" I've eaten. I can't remember the last time I worked out. My favorite foods are nothing you would consider exactly "healthy". I eat fries; I eat pizza; I eat ice cream; I eat chips; I eat cookies. I eat all the things that I used to consider my "fear foods" without a moments thought. Something changed in my metabolism after I went through this because I still get an occasional glance or look or "concerned question" from people who wonder if I still have that "eating problem". And all I have to say to this is: "Hey. I eat...and I eat what I want. That's all I can do". So to those people who still think I have an eating problem I say, "Phooey on you. I know where I am. And I know I eat fine. You don't believe me? It's your problem". Nothing ticks me off more to this day when people comment about my weight. Leave me alone already!! I'm not what a doctor might consider my "ideal weight". Probably about ten pounds under. But I'm fine. It's been 11.5 years since I left the Ranch.
So, where am I now? I'm 32 years old. I have a husband of almost five years and three beautiful children who I am extremely blessed to have. Not all women who come through an eating disorder are ever able to have children. I live in a nice home in a nice neighborhood. I have a job in which I just celebrated my 10 year anniversary on Monday. I have friends.
My life is by no means perfect. Whose is? But I feel blessed to be where I am today. Blessed to have what I have. Blessed for all the people who got me through this ordeal that now seems light years away. Blessed to have found Remuda Ranch. Blessed to have life. It's been quite a ride thus far.
The first day we walked into chapel at Remuda Ranch during Family Week, Kristen was the designated song leader. She stood up there leading this song, and I will never ever forget it. Every time I sing that song in church, or it runs through my mind, I realize how very true it is. The words have also helped me through many other subsequent hard days.
When her time at Remuda was completed, DC and I went out there to move her to Chandler. This seemed like an exciting option and the perfect solution to the next step. It didn't work out that way, as Kristen related. Being the guinea pigs for a new program was not the best situation. She had some fun, gained some independence, made a little bit of money, and bought her first car (unfortunately, she was taken for the young inexperienced shopper she was and it wasn't such a great deal!). I flew out in October to drive home with her. She headed back to KC to get a job and get settled in and ready for the next semester of school.
The next blow to her self esteem came when the people she lived with would not let her come back. The lady had called me at work the day Kristen was coming home for Christmas to tell me she couldn't come back. I was left with the task of telling her this news when she got off the plane and we were on our way back home. That was one of the hardest conversations I ever had.
Our trip back to pick up her things and drive them home turned out to be another great adventure. We were delayed in taking off and didn't get to the KC airport until after midnight. It was too late to get her car, which had been left in a Park and Ride. The shuttles to the parking lot were not running that late. So we spent the night in a very deserted, very cold airport, trying to sleep with our heads on our carry-on luggage. It was a very long night. We then went to the two places where her things were stored (very awkward time getting her things from the house where she had lived), and then on to the dorm where she expected to live. At approximately noon, we headed back north on the freeway to an unknown future. Kristen actually posted about the experience we had on the way home that day. We feel certain we were visited by angels when we fell asleep and drove into a ditch. You can find that story in Kristen's post of 9/6/06, if you have time to go back to her archives and look it up.
Taking some classes, working in various jobs, trying to find her new niche in life was another difficult period. She landed a job at the university where I work in short order after she applied, and has been there ever since. If you have followed her writing, you know of her desire to complete what she started and have a degree under her belt.
I am probably guilty of being one of those who wishes she could put on a few pounds, but as she said, she eats anything and everything - that is a blessing to this mom's heart. She was able to bear children. She is back singing, which has been such a big part of her life.
Kristen mentioned her experimentation on the darker side of life - not being the "good girl." That is another whole set of chapters in this life story. So much of it has to do with what our family was going through with her brother at the same time. One day my co-worker and I were talking about our children and how we wished they were young again so we could control their lives again. She said, "Yes, but it's out of our hands." I said, "I know, but it's still in my face!" She said, "That's the name of your future book! It's Out of My Hands, But it's Still in My Face!". I was told by someone near and dear to me that it seemed like a negative title, leaving God's power out of the mix. But to me it just meant that I had to give up what I cannot do any more, but that the consequences of actions still affect us. And it is so true - they still are.
If you've been reading me long, you know that I came into this blogland at the time that Kristen's brother was coming back from Teen Challenge as a new person, an overcomer, delivered from a road on the way to death and destruction. I hope someday he and I can do something similar to this series.
Friday, January 12, 2007
I don't remember much at all about the drive to the airport or the flight out to Arizona. I only remember getting to the check-in counter at the airport and being asked by the person checking me in if I needed assistance in the plane from a flight attendant. She thought I was twelve years old. I indignantly informed her that, "No. I do not need assistance. I'm 20 years old!" Needless to say, I think she was quite embarrassed.
When arriving in Arizona, a representative from Remuda Ranch was standing at the gate holding a sign up with my name. The drive from the airport to the ranch was about 1.5 hours. It was a long ride for me. I didn't talk much to my "chauffer" and stared out the window most of the time taking in the sights of this state that I had not visited before. The highway was lined with cactuses. The land was dry. It was more than just a little hot and arid. I wasn't sure quite what to expect from this new adventure I was about to embark on. What I did know was that I was tired of being in the situation I was in. I was tired of being tired; tired of feeling like I was on the outside looking in. Tired of the constant struggle and battle that I was having with myself. Logically, I knew I needed to eat to live, but that struggle within myself and the fear of losing control was still there. The help I had received up to that point from my parents, from my nutritionist and from other people who cared about me, although appreciated, was not quite enough.
Trust was an issue for me at that point. Not trust in that I didn't trust the people that were helping me, but trust that the people who were trying to help me were trying to change me somehow. I was scared to leave this control I had established for myself; even though I knew at this point that the control was gone. But I was so exhausted that I was ready to be helped. I had established a relationship with the admissions counselor who admitted me to the Ranch and I felt safe going there, even though I had never met her in person. Somehow I knew and trusted that where I was going that I was going to be OK there. I felt less scared going there than I did to any college I had attempted up to that point. I know that part of that had to do with the fact that I was going to be taken care of. I had obviously not reached a point in my life where I felt confident enough in myself to be on my own; to be independent; and to feel like an adult who could manage life on her own.
One thing that I have learned throughout my experience and through watching the other people at the Ranch is that in order to really truly successfully beat the Anorexia/Bulimia/eating disordered monster, a person must want the help and be ready to accept it. Without that, truly trying to get someone help for it is useless. Sure, they can go to the hospital and get tubes put in them to force them to physically gain weight. They can go to all the therapists in the world, but until the person is ready for help and realizes that there is a problem, it won't truly be solved. I was ready for the help. I longed for the person I used to be; the happy-go-lucky, not a care in the world young woman I had left behind only two short years before.
When I arrived at the Ranch, I was in awe. The beauty of my surroundings was breath-taking. The Ranch sat on top of a hill in the foothills of a little town called Wickenburg, Arizona. From the highest point, I could look down and see the town and the beauty below me. There was a "main house" that housed the dining room, a large sitting room with a large screen TV and couches, and two or three residents rooms. Outside there was a beautiful porch and sitting area with a swing for relaxing. Below the main house was a housing area that consisted of about 10 rooms for more residents and below that were two small houses; one consisting of four more rooms and another that had two more bedrooms and the art room. There was a boarding house that housed about a dozen horses and a ring for riding the horses. There were two dogs that lived on the Ranch; one whom I remember was named "Ugly" because he was truly, well....ugly.
After I took my tour of the Ranch, I was introduced to my "big sister" Rachelle. Each new resident is given another resident to act as their "big sister" throughout their early days. Rachelle was very outgoing and very kind and made me feel at ease right away. Lucky for me, (tongue in cheek), I arrived just as the residents were getting ready to eat lunch. My first meal was pizza. As a new resident "enjoying" my first meal, I was given lee-way and was not forced to eat it and there were no penalties if I didn't. After that, all bets were off. At meal times, there are about four to a table and the table is monitored by a staff person. You are required to eat everything on your plate in the allotted time (1/2 hour) and if your meal is not completed within that time, then they give you a huge glass of Ensure to drink to suppliement the calores you did not consume with your meal. After meals, bathroom visits were also monitored by a staff person. (for obvious reasons).
There were four levels that you could achieve as a resident. With the graduation to each level, you were granted more priveleges. Very few people ever reached level four. As a new resident, you are automatically on Level 1. This level granted literally no privileges and you were monitored very closely. Level 4 allowed "free-reign" of the Ranch; the ability to walk around with no staff present and a seat at the "family style" table at meals where you were able to serve yourself food. Prior to sitting at the "family style" table your meals (which were custom made to each individuals needs) was sitting on a counter to be picked up as you enter the cafeteria.
My first few days at the Ranch were difficult. I had to complete all sorts of surveys, tests, visits with the staff doctor, psychiatrist and nutritionist. It wasn't until I was there for about three days before I got to get involved in the every day life of the Ranch. I also was not allowed to call my parents.
My feelings the first few days after observing the other residents made me feel like perhaps I didn't belong there. There were others there who were so obviously worse off than I was. I entered the Ranch right at 100 lbs. But there were girls there with feeding tubes up their noses, girls who were literal skeletons and sometimes I felt as I was walking around there being looked at like, "What is she doing here?!" I can honestly say that I was one of the "heavier" girls there. One girl, who ended up being my best friend at the Ranch was a mere 85 lbs. One girl took up to 200 laxatives a day. One girl had already been there for 3 months (the typical stay at the Ranch is six weeks). Some had been suffering with the disorder for the large majority of their lives. I was a "newbie" having only been in it for two years.
I soon became immersed in my life at the Ranch. Activities throughout the day included group therapy sessions, individual therapy, Equine therapy (we got our own horse and got to ride it twice a week; once in the ring, once throughout the hills surrounding the Ranch), Art Therapy, chapel, nutrition, and various others. We got weighed every single morning before breakfast. I began to slowly gain weight.
As time went by, I made some wonderful friends there. These girls were kindred spirits. They were going through the same thing I was and we understood eachother. I felt myself coming alive again. The unconditional love, acceptance and friendship I felt from every person I encountered at the Ranch was un-matched. I started to not care when I saw the numbers going up on the scale. I moved up in the various levels and when I was moved up to level 3, I got elected as "mayor" of the residents. This wasn't a huge responsibility, but a new mayor is elected every two weeks, and I got my turn. I made announcements at meals; I was in charge of finding big sisters for new incoming residents. I became one of the residents that the "new girls" looked up to when they arrived at the Ranch.
By the end of my six weeks at the Ranch, I felt like a new person. I felt loved, accepted, confident and more sure of myself. However, I didn't want to leave. I experienced some of my friends leaving and I was wishing I could just stay at this safe haven forever. But I couldn't. My therapist recommended that I move onto the new "half-way house" program they had started in Chandler, Arizona. This would be an additional 3 month program in which I lived in a neighborhood with several other residents; we continued with therapy programs, a nutritionist and could either get a job or go to school. It seemed like the perfect transition for me...
I don't remember much about the trip to the airport either. But I definitely remember standing there wishing I could go with Kristen, and feeling so bad for her when the attendant thought she was 12 years old. If nothing had done it before, I think this confirmed to Kristen how ill she was, that she could look so young.
One of the aspects of anorexia that is not discussed much is that many young women who become afflicted do so because they really don't want to grow up. They quit having their periods, they go back into a pre-pubescent body form. Much of it is, as Kristen stated, fear of the unknown in growing up, the desire to stay in a safe environment.
We didn't get to talk to Kristen for at least a week - I don't remember exactly. But I do remember a couple of the phone calls and realizing that the lilt was coming back to her voice. One call she told me that she had been in the shower when the Holy Spirit just covered her spirit as the water was covering her body. It was such good news!
We learned that in the middle of her treatment we were required to go to Arizona and participate in "Family Week." We had no idea what was ahead. I did get enough of an idea to realize that her dad had no clue what we were getting into. The "issues" that had caused their problems were going to be discussed. I knew that part of the problem with Kristen was that her dad had held her up on a pedestal, telling her how glad he was that he had her as the "good girl" when her brother was beginning to cause us so much grief. That seemed to be a burden she could not bear.
We decided not to take her brother with us. He was not in a place in his life to be an aid in this process. We left him home with fear and trembling. Though he was old enough to take care of himself, we knew that he would probably take this as an opportunity to do things that we wouldn't want to know about - and he did and we did find out! But we had a whole week to stay at another former dude ranch close to Remuda. (Wickenburg, Arizona has been known as the Dude Ranch Capitol of the World. Many of these former tourist attractions have been bought and turned into mental health therapeutic facilities). We stayed at the other ranch with most of the other families - five families in all.
The structure of the family week included morning devotions (so uplifting and refreshing) and a morning briefing and class time with one of the counseling staff. We had individual meetings with her therapist. Then the big surprise - we had to sit in a big room, four families surrounding the fifth, as they sat in the middle with the young woman's therapist. Some of the families were very dysfunctional, some of the residents hadn't seen one or other parent for years. Some of the parents came in for Family Week, not having any notion of what had been going on with his/her daughter. One lady was in her 40s and her husband was there to try to help her get well. It was an amazing experience. I kept sitting there thinking "Why are we in this situation? Our family has always been so "normal!" I've since learned that there's really, truly no such thing as "normal" in this world. This can happen to anybody's family.
The "stuff" that had been discussed with the therapist all came out in the middle of the circle, with all of the other families watching and listening. The resident had to confront her family with some of her discoveries. I was shocked at some of the things that came from the recesses of Kristen's memory. There were things that had happened in sixth grade on the playground. Why hadn't she told us? Because, she said, it would have made things worse. She "thought we knew!" It was then I realized that not only were parents supposed to know everything that they saw happening, but were supposed to intuitively know when their child was having trouble in school without being told! There was also a situation with a former neighbor girl. This one I knew had been a problem, because I had done everything I could to keep them in separate classrooms in school. She was a very controlling and demanding "friend" and Kristen wanted badly to make this girl's life better - the ultimate "fixer."
After a grueling day of listening to or being the family on the spot, it was wonderful to have the oasis in the middle of the desert to return to for the night. DC and I spent the after hours discussing, trying to understand, but also relaxing and enjoying the beauty of the cooler evenings in the high desert - the smells, the animal and bird sounds, the peace.
A highlight of the week was the rodeo. Kristen enjoyed the equine therapy aspect of the program. The rationale behind using horses has its roots in the fact that if the anorexic woman can conquer her fear of this very large animal, and can even learn to control it, she can possibly transfer this feeling of control to other areas of her life. It was such a joy to watch Kristen do her maneuvers with her horse - she was really good! She had never been on a horse before.
The key to Kristen's success was, as she said in her latest post, that she was READY. She told us that the adolescents who were there in the house served as a detriment to the older ones who really wanted to get well. Several years later we went to visit the ranch again and found that they had bought another ranch totally for adolescent girls. We went to visit it and were saddened to see almost every one of them walking around looking like skeletons, dragging feeding tubes around as they waited for their dinner hook-up. Most adolescents are not mature enough to know they need help. Their parents send them to such a facility to save their lives. They are so desperate. The saddest thing I've ever heard is the proliferation of "anorexia help sites" on line, where young girls go to learn how to succeed, how to hide your illness, how to fool people who are trying to help you. Like any other addiction, you have to reach the end of yourself and be ready to get well.
Remuda Ranch had put together the top psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses, and nutritionists. They have survived in a world where clinics are closing because of lack of insurance coverage. We are so thankful to God for this facility which is founded on biblical principles and saved Kristen's life.
Don't forget to go over and read Kristen's perspective on her time there here.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
After being given the "OK" by my nutritionist to give college a second shot, we once again packed up my belongings and headed south to Oklahoma. I was filled with fear and trepidation wondering if I would succeed this time, or if I once again would end up coming home with another failed semester under my belt. Yes, I had gained the weight that my nutritionist had required of me; I had spent several months back at home healing and relaxing. But how would I feel once my parents left me again and were hundreds of miles away from me?
I had high hopes for the semester. I had a new roommate; one I had met and become acquainted with in the two weeks I was there before; I had a few friends I had made that were anxious to have me return.
Within about two weeks of being there, I discovered that my new roommate appeared to be using me as a "learning tool" on how to become skinny. She asked me for tips, constantly ate my "safe foods" (I had gotten to the point where I quit obsessively counted the optional calories and would allow myself once in a while to partake in a Snackwells cookie or two without counting the extra clories) and began self-induced vomiting. This obviously was not a healthy environment for me to be in while I was attempting to succeed and become healthy.
I eventually got permission from the school to move out of the dormitories and move in for the remainder of the semester with my grandparents who lived only blocks away from campus. I rarely participated in any of the activities at school and after moving away from campus, found it even more difficult to do so and the motivation to try wasn't there. Although it appeared like I was going to complete the semester, my heart wasn't in it. I began communicating with my life long best friend who was going to the Nazarene College in Olathe, Kansas. I even drove out there by myself for a weekend visit with her and became acquainted with some of her friends and even met a guy. Guys had been the last thing on my mind for quite some time needless to say, so the fact that I felt interest and he seemed to as well made me feel somewhat "alive" again. As well, being with someone who was extremely familiar to me was also a comfort. By the end of my semester, I had decided that I was going to leave my current college and go out to Kansas the following school year to room with my best friend.
I don't recall much about the summer following my freshman year of college, which must be a good thing because it means that I wasn't going through anything terribly memorable. I do know that I continued to see my nutritionist throughout the summer, although with less frequency than I had before.
When the summer was over, and I packed up to go to school in Kansas this time, I had a completely different feeling. It was one of excitement and anticipation. I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that I would be rooming with someone I knew my whole life. There was familiarity and comfort in that fact for me. She knew me better than anyone else in my life, probably, besides my parents.
We enjoyed a great first semester together. We were inseparable. We went shopping, to Tippins restaurant to eat cornbread and chicken noodle soup; to the St. Louis Bread Factory to eat their bread bowl soup. We loved to go to movies and pick up a bag of Jelly Bellies to eat during the movie. We taped Days Of Our Lives during the day and watched it together in the evening before we retired faithfully every night at 10:00 (we were rather nerdy college students....I mean, who EVER goes to bed at 10:00 pm in college....we did!) One particularly snowy weekend around Christmas, we sat in our beds all day looking at our homey little Christmas decorated room and cross-stitched. I have very great memories of that semester with her.
Over Christmas vacation, my best friend and college roommate got engaged to her long-time boyfriend. The plan was for them to get married in the summer after that school year was over. While I was happy for her, all of a sudden I felt insecure again. This would mean that I would no longer be able to have her as a roommate. While I didn't realize it at the time, my fall back into losing weight and unhealthy eating was due to my uncertainties of the following school year; not having her as my comfort.
Over the course of the 2nd semseter, I began to rapidly lose weight again. I would come home in the evenings from classes and after work and eat half a can of chicken noodle soup. I would save the rest for the next night. I would have a couple of pretzels or animal crackers throughout the day and that was all. I began to rapidly lose weight again. My roommate was unaware of my eating habits because she worked in the evenings at a car dealership. She was, however, noticing the rapid loss of weight. She began asking me what I had for dinner that evening. Sometimes I would tell her I went to the cafeteria, sometimes I would tell her I went out to get something. Other times I would tell the truth. I didn't want to be harassed about how and what I was eating.
Eventually, my employers at the orthopedic surgeons office I worked for began to notice the weight loss as well. Word got back to my parents and they began to research what should be done for me. I don't remember how they found Remuda Ranch , but through their research, they decided this was where I was going to go. I had to go through a lengthy interview process with the admissions staff there; I had to be evaluated by a nutritionist, a doctor and a psychiatrist to determine if Remuda was the right fit for me. And it was. I was set to be a bridesmaid in my roommates wedding on June 10 of that year, and the following Monday, I would be leaving for Arizona and entering into the best thing that ever happened to me....
We made it through the winter with Kristen showing some improvement. She was anxious to prove that she could handle school again, so we took her back for second semester. She roomed with someone she'd met in the dorm and on campus early in the first semester. She seemed like a nice enough girl - until they moved in together. Oh, my word! This girl was disaster personified. We had sent Kristen with what she considered "safe" foods, which she kept in her dresser on her side of the room. Every day she would find these foods missing. This was very distressing, because she really wasn't "well" at all, just trying to make it through her freshman year with grit and determination. This girl had so many personal problems, and as Kristen said, she decided to make Kristen her role model for an eating disorder - asking her to help her remember to purge! It was horrendous to Kristen, who was trying to become "normal" again.
In February, the school held Mother/Daughter week-end. I was so excited to go back to my alma mater and spend time with my daughter. But I knew the minute I got there that it was not going well. The final blow was when her dorm resident assistant called me into her apartment that Sunday before I flew back home. She told me that Kristen was in bad shape and she didn't know if we should leave her there. I told her that if we took her home again, she would never survive the feeling of failure. It wasn't long after that when my parents took Kristen to live with them for the remainder of the school year. There was nothing better than Grandma and Grandpa loving her to help her make it through that year. In spite of all this trauma to her body and her psyche, she maintained a very good grade point average. The year finally ended and she came home for the summer.
It was at this point that I discovered Chris, the nutritionist. I don't remember how we found her, but she was a life saver. As I said before, there were no good therapists in this area at the time who had a clue about treating this disorder. Incredible, but true. Kristen called her the "top nutritionist" in the area, but the truth is, she was the ONLY one. She worked out of an office in the hospital and she was wonderful to Kristen. We kept in close contact with each other and to this day, we have never received a bill from her. Someday I'm going to look her up again and show her pictures of Kristen's girls. One of the side effects of this disease is the inability to conceive and carry a pregnancy. God worked miracles in Kristen's mind and body in so many ways.
At the end of that summer, Chris released her to go back to school, armed with some good tools. You can go to Kristen's latest episode for the story of that year with her best friend from church - nursery through high school. I remember her coming home for spring break and looking once again gaunt and unhealthy. It was at that point that I knew we had to do something drastic.
It was shortly after spring break that I received a call in my office one day. Shockingly, it was Kristen's supervisor at the nice doctor's office where she worked in the afternoons. I could tell she was having a hard time broaching the subject she needed to discuss with me. I helped her by letting her know I knew why she was calling. She had a daughter with bulimia who had been helped by a Minrith-Meyer clinic in Dallas. She suggested I look into this organization. When I called and started the process of discovery, I was told that there was a clinic in Arizona called Remuda Ranch. It was no longer one of theirs, but they recommended it highly. The SAME DAY, Chris called me to tell me of a place she had just learned about - Remuda Ranch. Coincidence?? I don't think so!
I immediately got in touch with this wonderful place. We'll be telling you a lot more about it in the next episode, but suffice it to say that God had gone before and prepared the way. Chris told Kristen that she wouldn't force her to go right away if she would promise to go the minute her roommate's wedding was over. Oh, my, those wedding pictures haunt me to this day - the dresses were low in the back and her little bones just protruded so that it made my heart hurt as I sat in the church and witnessed the wedding of these good friends. Remuda Ranch had a bed opening up on the Monday following the Saturday wedding. Coincidence?? I don't think so!!
As she said, Kristen had to be evaluated by several "specialists." After her long conversation with the most wonderful woman, an admissions counselor at Remuda (who became a good friend of mine over the months ahead), we located a psychiatrist who had to certify, for insurance purposes I suppose, that she was a good candidate and needed to be in this treatment center. This guy was unbelievable! He probed into her past and learned about a sleeping problem she had in junior high. That's all he wanted to talk about. He told her to go home and eat M&M's - to cut them into smaller pieces, if necessary, when she had trouble eating. HUH??? I had to clue him in on the fact that this disorder has very little to do with food and everything to do with control. I can clearly remember the letter I wrote to him, objecting strongly to sending the check I had enclosed because his help was non-existent, and in fact detrimental.
This facility was very costly, but we had wonderful insurance at the time. Our insurance rep at DC's company became a friend as we worked through this crisis. The coverage was 90%, which was unheard of even then, and most likely nonexistent now. Many of the women there had no coverage whatsoever. She also connected us with EAP (Employee Assistance Program), which discounted the cost to about 2/3 of what it would have been. Amazing act of God!
We'll resume coverage beginning with the trip to the airport in the next episode.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
The year was 1993. I was a senior in high school. I had thoroughly enjoyed all four years of my high school career. Throughout high school, I had been involved in cheerleading, swimming, band, choir, and the spring musicals. I had great friends, and although I was far from being one of the most popular kids in school (I was one of those who just sort of walked through the halls un-noticed by most people except for my good friends), we had great times together. I was one of the "good kids". I didn't party, didn't break curfew, had friends who were like me in those aspects. The closest thing we ever did to being considered "bad" was toilet papering our crushes lawns and stalking their houses doing drive-bys over and over again to possibly get a glimpse of the poor unsuspecting schmuck. I was a "comfortable" teenager; greatly looking forward to the upcoming adventure I was to embark on the upcoming fall: college. All my life, I had looked forward to college. My cousins and I used to play college together, turning our houses and bedrooms into dorms and dorm rooms. I had visions of what my life would be like at college; on my own, doing my own thing, carving a future out for myself. The pictures in my mind of what college would be like were painted in large part by my mom who had told me many stories of the time that she spent in college; the great friends she made, the things she did, the activities she was involved in.
The plan was to go to the Nazarene college in Bethany, Oklahoma. I had family there, had spent time there in the summers visiting my cousins; and that is where my mom went to college. I was familiar with the town, familiar with the college campus, and because of the time I spent there in the summers with my cousins, I knew a few people. I knew that I was headed for the adventure of a lifetime. And I couldn't wait. The application was submitted, accepted, and dorm arrangements were made. Now all I had to do was wait....
Second semester of my senior year was in full swing. Rehearsals for the spring musical, "The Music Man" were beginning. Chamber Singers (the choir I was in) were performing up to two times a day at various locations. I was working part time after school at KFC. Needless to say, I was a busy senior. And I was enjoying it. I was also dating someone who I worked with at KFC (much to the chagrin of my parents who were less than pleased about it....ironically, I ended up marrying this guys best friend 10 years later....).
As the semester wore on, and summer was fast approaching, I noticed that my Chamber Singers dress was fitting a little more snugly than it had before. The aforementioned boyfriend also once made a comment about me being "squishy" when he was hugging me. This could be attributed to the fact that I worked at KFC and constantly snacked on the less than healthy, albeit very tasty, food that we made there. Regardless of the reason, I wanted to go to college healthy and aware of my food choices so that I would not fall victim to the dreaded "freshman fifteen".
My mom, being a "chronic weight watcher" had all the stuff necessary for me to learn how to eat; not necessarily lose weight, but just learn how to make smart choices where food is concerned. So, I pulled out all of her old Weight Watchers materials and began to use the program. I learned how many carbs were "OK" per day, how many proteins, veggies, fruits and fats....a word I had truly learned to fear and hate. Also allotted were optional calories which came in the form of salad dressing, candy, gum, etc. Yes....optional calories could be used on gum. No longer would I stick a piece of gum without calculating how many of my precious optional calories I was using.
Within the first week, I had lost seven pounds. It wasn't necessarily my intention, but since it had happened, I wasn't disappointed. My chamber singers dress fit well again, and my snug fitting jeans weren't quite so snug.
Week after week, I continued to lose weight. I could no longer go to restaurants without carrying my precious cheat book that showed me how many carbs, proteins, etc....each potential food item contained. If what I wanted to order was not listed, or I couldn't figure it out with certainty, I wouldn't order it. Eating out became a chore rather than a pleasure. Something to fear, rather than enjoy.
Once I hit a certain weight, my mom told me I needed to start using the tools to maintain my weight, not continue losing. But this meant increasing my daily allotment to which I had become so used to, and also (in my mind) meant gaining weight back, rather than maintaining it. It was a risk I was unwilling to take. In fact, the more pressure I got to increase to maintain, the lower I went in my daily portions. It became something I could control that no one else could....what I didn't realize, was that I was losing control...
As the summer continued, and the days got closer to packing up and moving hundreds of miles away from the only home I had every known, fear began to set in. At the time, I didn't realize that it was fear. I continued to maintain the illusion of excitement over "flying the coop". Over the course of the summer, I had gone from weighing about 125 lbs (a very healthy weight for someone who is 5 feet 5 inches tall) to weighing around 100 lbs by the end of the summer. My diet consisted of salads with a single tablespoon of fat free Italian dressing (which counted as 5 optional calories) and baby carrots for snack. I would frequent the grocery store almost every day to get a 2 lb bag of baby carrots and munch on those when the need to eat something hit me. After leaving the grocery store, I would go through the Drive-Thru at McDonalds and buy a large Diet Coke. It was the middle of the summer, yet I was cold all of the time. I can specifically remember one instance when I was going to the grocery store where I felt like I was in a daze; I was dressed in very baggy jeans (that two months ago had been too tight) and a sweatshirt and I still felt cold.
My friendships began to suffer. I no longer communicated with any of my friends from high school. Something within me had lost the ability to enjoy life and just be. Every day activities made me nervous and stressed out. I was most comfortable sitting at home watching TV and the clock counting down the hours until the next meal time arrived. Would it be something I could tolerate? Would the meal "calculate" within what I was still allotted for the day? I filled myself up on diet soda because it made me feel "full" yet it wasn't giving me any dreaded calories or fat.
Finally, the time came to pack up and leave for college. I remember one Sunday morning sitting in church with my mom and a feeling of great anxiety and depression overcame me. I wrote my mom a note that said something like, "I have been excited for college for so long. I feel like I should be excited, but I just feel depressed." I couldn't grasp why I was feeling this way. I wanted to be excited so badly. But all I felt was sa black cloud hanging over my head.
The day arrived to leave for school. The drive was about 12 hours. I don't remember much about the drive out there, except for the fact that when you're on the road, there aren't many options for eating except stopping at fast-food restaurants. Suffice it to say, at this point, fast food was not an option for me. Unless I wanted a salad. But the only type of "safe salads" you can get a fast food restaurant are side salads, and even then, they didn't have the right type of dressing.
When I arrived at school, orientation involved all sorts of "getting to know you" activities. I got right in there and put myself out there and made some friends right away. I was bound and determined to make this work for me. My roommate situation wasn't ideal. I spent most of my time I had made with girls from other floors. I got right in there, and did my best to be brave when my parents left me and headed back home.
The cafeteria at school was not fun for me. I stuck to half sandwiches with tiny amounts of meat, or cereal. I wasn't able to use my scales to see how much meat I was eating, or see the calorie count on the bread I was consuming. So rather than risk that I was eating more than I should, I quit going to the cafeteria.
Within about two weeks of arriving at college, I got very ill. I had no energy and I couldn't concentrate. I felt like I was in the twilight zone. My grandmother, who lived just a few blocks from campus took me to the doctor, and after some blood tests it was determined that I had mono. Arrangements were made for my parents to come back and pick me up and take me home immediately. I was torn. I desperately wanted to go home where I felt safe and secure again, but at the same time, I felt like a failure for not being able to do what all of the other 18 year olds were doing; succeeding and having fun at college. I so badly wanted to stay and feel "normal" again. But I had to go home.
My dad came and picked me up. The day I left school was bittersweet. Even if I did get to come back later, would it be the same? Everyone else will have already made friends. I would be behind. Could I come back recovered and still have the great college experience I so longed for?
The remainder of the semester, I spent most of the time laying on the couch at my parent's house. They began the task of nursing me back to health. They got in touch with a well-known nutritionist in our area and I began seeing her once or twice a week. My mom asked me to trust her and let her prepare things for me to eat and trust that she wouldn't give me anything that made me fat. I told her that I would try, but when the first morning I was home she gave me an English muffin with peanut butter and honey on it, I panicked. That was two breads, two proteins, two fats and my entire allottment of optional calories for the day. That one little breakfast contained everything I allowed myself for the day at that point. How was I going to do this?!
It was difficult being back home for me; not only because of the failure I felt I was, but because it was blatantly obvious that my brother was not thrilled at the prospect. He was a junior in high school and I'm fairly confident was happy to be the only child for awhile. Not to mention that my parents were investing so much of their time and effort on me. I sometimes have blamed myself for the path he went down due to my illness.
As fall and winter came, I began to regain some health. My nutritionist told me that if I was able to gain to 110 lbs by the end of the semester, she would feel comfortable allowing me to go back to school second semester. I actually even got a part time job at TCBY after I had recovered from mono. It was in my plans to go back in January. And I did. But there was more difficulty to come....
My precious daughter, Kristen, is a survivor. In fact, our whole family could be classified as such. We went through at least ten years of really tough stuff.
We were a very normal, everyday family for many years. Often DC and I would comment on the serious trials of other families and wonder why we had been spared such trauma. We marveled at the faith and stamina of some couples we knew who had stuck together through thick and very thin.
We had our usual squabbles with and between the kids; life wasn't always smooth with Kristen and me. The high school years weren't as much fun as the earlier years had been.
Kristen's senior year was a very busy one and we didn't see a lot of each other. Work, school, church, extracurricular activities kept her in a whirl. She seemed to be a very beautiful, happy, well-adjusted young woman on her way to college. The only blip on our screen was the young man she mentioned, and she is telling the whole truth when she says we did not approve. Some of the things she shared with us about his past did not bode well for her future. Frankly, I'm surprised she told us some of the things she did, unless she did it for shock value. She was also very stubborn.
As I mentioned in my most recent post, I have always been concerned about my weight. I often wonder if I modeled too much concern in front of her and set her up for this journey. I wonder if I was too strict, if I was too controlling, if I was too much of a "helicopter" mom.
I very vaguely remember Kristen asking me about my Weight Watchers program I was doing at the time. I shared the literature with her, thinking that if she felt she needed to lose a few pounds, this would be the best way to do it. At that time, the program started with a week of only 900 calories per day. Seems crazy now, but that's what they did that year. It was called Jump Start, if I recall. From there, you added calories each week until you reached a point where you continued to lose weight, but weren't starving yourself. When I realized she had begun the Jump Start week, but never went up in points, I became alarmed. She adopted the philosophy that if 900 calories was good, 800 was better! I could not convince her of the danger. She wasn't going to classes, but was looking to me for guidance. Only she wasn't taking my advice.
I was a delegate to our denomination's international convention that summer in July. I remember as if it were yesterday the call that came to my hotel room after a great day with delegates from around the globe. My world changed that moment when I heard her quavery voice coming across the miles from Colorado to Indianapolis, "Mom, I'm scared. I don't know what to eat." I turned to a statue at that moment. I could not believe what I was hearing. I had no idea things were as bad as they were. I'm learning some of these things for the first time as I read her posts.
I had first heard of anorexia years before. Of course Karen Carpenter's death brought it to the public's attention in a dramatic way. I do recall that when I first heard of it they said it mostly hit upper middle class young girls who were highly motivated and somewhat perfectionist. I thought at the time that she was a good candidate. Never in my worst nightmare did I envision the future with this insidious disease.
I told her I couldn't do anything from those many miles away, but we would tackle it the minute I got home the next Monday. My first call was to the school nurse I worked with in the middle school. She tried to help, but we learned there just wasn't much help in Northern Colorado at that time. Nobody knew what to do about this serious situation. We tried some family counseling, but it was a dismal failure. We spent the rest of the summer wondering what in the world to do.
I knew in my gut that Kristen should not be going to college. But she kept insisting that she really wanted to and needed to, so we packed her belongings and headed for Oklahoma. My memories of college were so wonderful, and that was what I wanted for her. To have her at my alma mater had been a dream for many years. This dream come true soon turned into a nightmare. The horrendous traffic jam we sat in before we got through Denver was a harbinger of things to come!
We got her moved into the 4th floor of the dorm on a hot, muggy August afternoon. Her roommate was pretty weird. I didn't have a good feeling about any of it. I'll never forget seeing her walk across campus to meet us for breakfast that Sunday morning - she looked like a walking Bosnian refugee to me, just skin and bones. How had this happened to my beautiful, healthy baby?
DC and I headed home that afternoon with heavy hearts. We knew she was not well and should not be there. We took turns crying all the way home - one of us would stop and the other one would start. I'll never forget stopping in Hays, Kansas to spend the night, ordering a pizza brought to the room because we were too physically and emotionally spent to go out to a restaurant.
The call from my mom telling us about the mono was just another blow. As we looked on it later, we realized that the anorexia lowered her resistance, which brought on the mono, which caused her to feel even less like eating than before. It was a vicious cycle. I had just begun my job at the university, so could not take time off to go with DC to pick her up - only two weeks after leaving her there. Thank God my parents were there, because I don't know what she would have done without them.
I had no time built up that I could stay home with her. I would leave her lying on the couch and head for my new job. I so clearly remember packing a small cooler with "safe" foods that I thought she could force herself to eat. She didn't do very well. As she mentioned, her brother wasn't very happy to have her home, and he began to withdraw from the family, which is another story in and of itself.
I went to the university library and checked out every book I could find on the subject of anorexia nervosa. I devoured them, and can remember typing up long passages (I wonder what I did with them). Most of them blamed the mom. Most of them said it was incurable. I chose to believe the one that I found called It's Not Your Fault. This one also said it could be overcome. It saved my sanity.
She did improve, began to eat a bit more, and was able to work a few hours a week - ironically at TCBY. I guess that was good, because you could get fat-free, sugar-free yogurt there. She mentioned that she was cold all the time, and this was winter! But it got her out of the house and back into a semblance of life. Fritz, our little dachshund, that I memorialized a few weeks ago, became her constant companion with unconditional love. Talk about animal assisted therapy!
TO BE CONTINUED.