Dear Senator

Dear Senator,

I am one of many of your constituents writing and calling your office concerning the Senate health care bill. While relieved that the vote has been delayed, I am fearful for the future. So, I write.

You know the numbers. You know how many New Mexicans are covered by Medicaid, how many live with pre-existing conditions and how many need or may need treatment for addiction. You know how pervasive poverty is in our state and how not only access to care, but access to affordable care can make the difference between life and death for so many of us.

You’ve also, I’m sure, met with representatives from our hospitals and our large insurers. You’ve met with employers and with individuals who are concerned about their rising premiums. I know you meet with patient advocacy groups regularly who tell you their stories of living with disease, the personal and financial costs of the disease, and they tell you to please support research and access to care. I’m sure your staff have many leave behind packets with personal stories and statistics. This letter doesn’t re-state all that you have heard and read, but instead poses a question.

As an American, I can’t help but wonder what the philosophy is behind this draft bill, and why instead of working to repair the Affordable Care Act, the GOP is looking to completely replace it. We’re all reading about a possible future should this bill pass in which millions lose access to affordable healthcare across the nation including those on Medicaid who need it desperately.  “Healthcare is a business” and “this isn’t an emotional decision” are position statements that are beyond belief to me when we project how many of our fellow Americans may die as a result of this bill.  How is this at all even discussed as an option in a country that values prosperity and freedom?  In my mind, the question arises, do I have a right to health care? I’ve read conflicting arguments on this question. Many believe it is a basic human right, and others see healthcare as a business and believe that if citizens have a right to healthcare it is impeding the freedom of others, such as those that would be forced to provide it. As old-fashioned and patriotic as it may sound, one of the perks of being an American is, well, liberty or freedom. The Declaration of Independence states, “ We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Believe it or not, I didn’t choose to be among the millions with chronic illness. If I did, my story would read more like this.

“I remember when I decided to be diagnosed with my first chronic illness. At 14 years old, I thought, I would love a disease that allowed me to first, mooch off the government and second, provide me with social and economic limitations. Why would I choose to be diagnosed with a disease with such financial and emotional costs? Oh, to be a more grateful citizen than your average healthy person, I suppose. Oh, and to gratefully mooch off the government. If at all possible, I would use my disease to not work so that I could be lazy. After all, laziness is why I chose to have all these devastating illnesses. Totally worth it.  Right?  Still waiting all the great benefits of disease to kick in, but I’m sure they will eventually.”

Of course, I didn’t choose to be diagnosed. I also didn’t choose the illnesses that I was diagnosed with as an adult. Like all those living with chronic illness, we were dealt a shock. Why do we deserve to pay so much more in our struggle to be healthy, if we were never given the choice? I am so fortunate because I have insurance through my employer, but there was a time when I moved home and helped with the family businesses. I was only able to be with my family because my husband and I could get covered by Medicaid. Then, I found employment with health benefits. I’ll never take for granted that Medicaid was there when we needed it, and it kept me healthy.

I didn’t intend to be an expensive patient, but I do need comprehensive and affordable health insurance. The essential benefits packages that we fought so hard for just a few years ago mean that I won’t be thrown into poverty just to pay for my medical care, and for all those who are yet to be diagnosed, it won’t mean bankruptcy. It means we don’t have to choose between food and our prescriptions.

Here’s the deal. If I don’t have access to my prescriptions, I can’t work. If I can’t work, I won’t have access to my prescriptions. My prescriptions, and my many specialists, keep me able to do things like drive a car and hold employment. I can then pay taxes, and contribute to our economy. As simplistic (and slightly sarcastic) as that may sound, it’s the truth.

What would happen if my provider cut essential benefits like prescription drug benefits or coverage for my specialists?  Even with a pretty good paying job,  I couldn’t afford the out of pocket cost.   I would have to just stay home in pain, suffering from the complications of my illnesses that would eventually take my independence before taking my life? Basically, without affordable insurance, I couldn’t work. I would have to use the emergency room on a regular basis just to get medication and then I couldn’t pay for the hospital visits. Then, the complications of my disease would worsen. I would then be trapped by my pre-existing conditions.

I have already written that I am fortunate to be covered. If you met me and shook my hand you wouldn’t be able to tell that I live with chronic illnesses. I am not that constituent that will tell you that I would likely lose my insurance should this bill (or something like it) pass, and I know many have shared that story with you.  But of course, even being among the healthy and insured, I have pre-existing conditions and the protections I have seen for pre-existing conditions in this bill are anything but.

What I can tell you is that health care is freedom. So, do I not have a right to affordable health care so that I can work and contribute? Do I not have a right to manage my illnesses with medications, necessary tests and guidance from qualified doctors so that I can live and pursue happiness? Do we not all have that right?

Lawren McConnell

Remembering Dad

“This is my baby, Presh.  I call her Presh, because she is precious.”

Dad would always introduce me as his “Presh.”  It would be the first thing he would tell a stranger that would come across our path.  I would get quizzical looks from people because I was a woman in my thirties, not a baby or toddler.  But once he explained the nickname they would smile and I would give a shy and slightly embarrassed head nod.

I hope Dad knew how much that little nickname meant to me.

When Dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2012 I flew from California to visit my parents a few months later right before Christmas.  Dad was still every bit my dad, but his disease was noticeable for the first time.  Amongst all the reassurances that he would be fine from friends and family, I knew better.  I don’t know how I knew, I just knew.  So I cried.  For days and days I cried.  When I emerged from my pain, I had a coat of armor.  For the next five years, my father deteriorated in front of my eyes, both physically and mentally.  We were losing him, but I didn’t cry.  I was strong for him and my family.  I owed him that.  Every time I was hurt or scared I was comforted by his words, “It’ll be fine. You’ll be okay.”  These simple words were never empty to me because they came from a man of incredible strength.  And he was always right.  So I never worried or cried for long.

My armor protected me as I had to witness his suffering from disease, as I had to say goodbye, as I had to lay to him to rest.  Now what?

From those that have lost their parents, I have been warned that it will hit me all of a sudden, or that I will need to take time to reflect.  I think today, Father’s Day, is a fitting day.  So, let it hit me.

You know who could help me through this grief?  Dad.  I think that is what is so hard for me.  It’s not the father I had that I will miss, but the father I will need in the future that I am devastated to not have.  Who will tell me that it will be fine, that I will be okay?  If I succeed in any area of my life, I can’t see his smile and the pride on his face.  I can’t share new experiences with him.  I can’t reminisce any more.  Remembering Dad is easy, thinking of my future without him is what hurts.  And it hurts like hell.

So first I will remember him.  A lot of daughters are thinking about their dads today, and lucky ones, like me, grew up with an amazing father.  Dad and I had drastically different childhoods.  My dad didn’t have an amazing dad.  My father’s childhood was nothing short of tragic.  How he emerged with a sense of humor and a love of life is beyond me, but he did follow in his father’s footsteps for a while and became an alcoholic.  As an adult, I learned more about his first life, before he gave up drinking.  It was filled with anger and grief, betrayal and loss.  In April of 1987, my father fell on his knees, gave his life to Christ and gave up drinking.  I was three years old at the time, the youngest of his four children.  He never had another drink.  I don’t remember any of this.  I only remember that I would run into his arms and jump on him to play and he would wince in pain because he was recovering from cirrhosis.  That was the only trace of his previous life I could see growing up.  He played me with anyway.

My childhood was radically different.  My father was not an alcoholic.  He was always around.  He taught me about landscaping and planting trees and rose bushes, although his lessons never really landed.  He let me ride the tractor and even though my constant need for attention delayed his work, he would always indulge me.  He taught me how to play basketball and ride a bike.  He taught me how to saddle a horse, and how to take care of animals because they take care of us.  He would joke that I was spoiled, and I was.  Not only because I had a 90’s Barbie collection that my mother would describe as “ridiculous,” but because unlike my father, I had a Dad that was my constant guide, counselor and friend.  Our relationship only strengthened as I grew older.  How was it he was able to give me this?  He was so broken before.  I believe it was his faith that healed his brokenness and only a miracle of God that I had such a loving Dad.

Dad wasn’t just healed for my benefit.  He dedicated himself to his career in law enforcement.  He helped so many people.  He had witnessed depravity, murder, kidnapping, child abuse, drug abuse, domestic violence and the list goes on.  He wasn’t spared further pain after giving up drinking.  He lost his son, my older half-brother, in 1991, but instead of turning back to the bottle he again prayed.   At that time, I remember Dad spending a lot of time outside planting.  I remember him sitting in his recliner staring into space.  As a child, I didn’t understand.  As an adult, I still don’t understand how he could face such unspeakable pain and then turn that pain into a way to help others.  There are so many parents that lose their children to gun violence.  My dad delivered the news.  He could comfort in ways no one else could.  He also reached out to fellow officers who battled alcoholism and told his story openly and honestly.  He founded a Bible study called, “Cops for Christ,” a place for public servants to share their stories, pray together, find comfort in the Word and learn more about faith from priests, ministers and pastors from different churches and communities.

Dad never shared with me the tragedy he witnessed in the field.  He wanted to protect me from that as long as he could.  One lesson that he may never know landed, was to love thy neighbor.  Seems simple enough, but much harder in practice.  All kinds of people would turn to my dad for help.  They could be the recipient of a speeding ticket or the victim of a violent crime.  They could be wealthy or they could be poor.  He tried to help everyone he could, and he wanted me to witness that.  If you needed food, Dad got you food.  If you needed a place to stay and park the trailer, our yard was your home.  If you needed a little money, Dad could find some work for you (even if he could do it himself).  As a child, I never understood why Dad would surround himself with all these needy characters.  As an adult, I know that he was following the footsteps of Christ.  He would not judge you based on your social class, political party or the sins of your past.  Everyone falls short, and everyone needs a helping hand.  My dad was a recipient of grace and forgiveness, and he never forgot it.

That’s the lesson I hope he knows I got in the end.  Everyone deserves another chance to become better, to do better.  And there are those, like my Dad, who finally take the opportunity to create a life they never thought possible.

Dad left a lot of different memories with different people.  Many were touched by his life.  When I remember him as only I can as his daughter, I am truly humbled.  My father was by no means perfect, but to me, there was no one more perfect to be my dad.

Now I must move forward, which is much harder than remembering.  When Dad took his last breath, his suffering was over, but for our family, the world stopped spinning.  How is it possible to live in a world that no longer contains Lawrence Romero?  My grief, of course, is selfish.  But, I must deal with it when it hits me hard on days like today.  I must move forward by remembering what I promised him when I said goodbye.

Tell His Story
Dad was worried that he didn’t have the chance to reach more people.  He wanted to help more people suffering from alcoholism.  He wanted to let them know that it wasn’t hopeless.  I didn’t battle alcoholism like my parents and grandparents because that battle was waged on my behalf.  Dad broke the cycle.  My father’s example reminds me that this disease is incredibly dangerous and that I don’t need alcohol to tame my sorrow – I have my faith and my family.  Because I have not battled alcoholism myself, I cannot help others the way that my father could.  But I can tell his story in hopes that it provides a real example of triumph over adversity, any adversity, and that there is mercy and forgiveness for those that seek it.

Take Care of Mom
I did tell Dad that I would take care of Mom although I laughed when I said it.  Mom took care of not only Dad but she took care of me.  She is a strong, independent woman, and she is going to do what she wants when she wants no matter what I say.  But I can fulfill this promise by being supportive as she learns how to put herself first for the first time in 35 years. Mom is smart and resilient, so all I can really do is watch her embark on a new adventure.  I know she will do incredible things.  I have no doubt.  I’ll give my two cents here and there, but taking care of Mom means making sure that she knows she is loved beyond measure.  Dad wasn’t always a prince charming (to say the least), but he loved her deeply.  So, Dad, know that she is not alone, and that even though you are not here, she is still loved here on earth, very deeply.

Be Okay
This is the hard one.  I told Dad I would be okay.  It’s so much harder to be okay without him here to tell me that everything will be fine and I’ll be okay.  Even when he was sick he would have moments of lucidity that he would use to tell me that it was okay.  He lived in a prison.  He could barely move and he was in so much pain at times.  He was fearfully confused from dementia, but he would still try to comfort me.  Oh, Dad, I never told you how hurt and angry I was that you got sick.  Being okay was easier somehow when you were here.  The world was safer with you in it.  It made more sense somehow.  But dammit, I’m going to be okay.  I have a family that loves and comforts me and I have work left to do.  More than that, I have your words.  You may have left, but you left behind your words of comfort.  I’ll listen to you still.  You stayed strong when struggle came, and I am, after all, your daughter.  I’ll always be yours.  Your Presh.

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Mr. and Mrs. Do Nothing

“Do not confuse my bad days as a sign of weakness. Those are actually the days I’m fighting my hardest.”
– Unknown

I am the dud of every gathering.  I am the first to leave…if I show up.  When I am there, I am the person to get the most “Aww…”s followed by an awkward shift in body language and an obvious desperation to change the subject.

Don’t ask me, “How are you feeling?”  Don’t ask me, “How is your husband doing?” Oh, and you really don’t want to hear the answer to, “So how is your Dad doing?”

Chronic illness sucks.  It also sucks the life right out of parties.  I’m “that girl.”  The one to feel sorry for.

I’ve always been introverted.  Heaven is a pancake dinner in my pajamas, and I have always avoided social situations when I could.  But this is a new level of flakiness for even me.  Why?  Because I don’t feel good!

My husband, who I have written about in past posts, also doesn’t feel good.  For three years, his pain has become increasingly worse with no diagnosis yet.  It hurts for him to walk, to move, to not move.  It physically shows, so he hates going places not only because he feels like he is mimicking someone who just got hit by a car, but because he doesn’t feel like it.

I had my first chronic illness, epilepsy, under my thumb.  My medication worked.  Seizure-free.  I could exercise, and work long hours and take care of my husband.  Then my stomach was messed up…for a long time.  After a few months I got a diagnosis:  Ulcerative colitis.  This new chronic illness is not controlled.  My first course of treatment does not seem to be putting me in the Eden of UC patients:  Remission.  Focusing is hard, sleeping is nearly impossible and going places? My angry colon starts protesting with just the thought.

The Chrohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America has a walk.  My husband immediately signed us up.  Just trying to absorb the fact that I have an autoimmune disease, I was really upset to be diagnosed with another illness that has a walk associated with it.  But I followed the lead of my husband and parents and was very optimistic that I would feel better soon, and there so many worse diagnoses out there, etc.

We didn’t go to the colitis walk.  Why?  Because I have colitis and I didn’t feel like it!

So, we are that couple.  Birthday party?  Nope.  Fun gathering of intellectuals?  First ones to leave.  Froyo with my bro? Haven’t even tried.  We’re starting to not even make commitments knowing that they will more likely than not be broken.  I go to work, and the medication I am taking keeps the symptoms at bay for a nine hour work day, but barely.  On days when the meds can’t help, I have to call in sick.  When I have to call in sick, I feel like a complete failure, because I’m supposed to be tougher than this.  I’m also supposed to be happy and funny and optimistic and fun to be around.

I’m freakin’ PLEASANT, dammit!

My husband’s pain is awful in the morning and then depending on if its a “good” day or “bad” day, gets worse or lets him move around, sometimes even drive down the street.  My symptoms begin to alleviate in the morning then get worse in the late afternoon and then just keep me up all night.  Between the two of us, there is no good time.

Husband and I love our alone time, but we are also forsaking our ability to carry conversations with real, live adults.  Small talk is hard for me, and I worry my husband will only know the outside world through Facebook.  Talking with others who are living with chronic illness helps, but we still are the couple to feel sorry for because of our age.  We should be more active and have more friends.  We should be starting a family and taking Instagram photos on top of the mountain crest we just climbed.

Do I feel stronger for living with chronic illness?  I wish I could be flowers and roses, but this post is not about making chronic illness seem like a great asset.  No!  I don’t feel stronger, I feel like crap.  The physical crapiness is made worse by the mental anxiety of not being the best employee, wife, daughter, volunteer or friend.

So, we do nothing.  Some days are good, and we go out with family or run errands we had been putting off day after day, but most days are not good.  What can we do?  We can stay in our pajamas, cook a healthy meal and watch TV.  Glamorous?  No.  Productive?  No.  But Mr. and Mrs. Do Nothing are not celebrating chronic illness, we are living with it.  The best we can, day after day, and tomorrow may be good.  If it’s not, then we have each other, and the comfort of our marriage…and our pajamas.

And for that, I’m thankful.

Diagnosis We Don’t Know

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”
— Psalm 40:2

Diagnosis We Don’t Know.

Diagnosis We Don’t Know is the latest in the seemingly endless barrage of crap that keeps hitting me and my husband.  What…the…*explicative*???

Okay, end of my whining.  Now for the backstory (the condensed version).

My husband’s symptoms started about one year ago, shortly before we moved back to our home state.  Why did we move back to our home state?  My father had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and my sister with terminal cancer.  My mother was drowning in three businesses, and Dad hadn’t seen a doctor since his diagnosis.  He has six doctors, so that was a lot of appointments to miss.

Upon our return, Dad started to really hit his Parkinson’s and his diabetes hard, and at the same time we were proud of Dad, we were frustrated with his diseases.  I developed a strong anger towards disease, stronger than ever before, and not a very healthy anger.  My anger and frustration peaked when my sister passed away.  I decided to focus on getting Dad through his grief and back to his fighting stance.  Whereas living with diabetes was like shooting a missing target, living with Parkinson’s (PD) was like shooting at a target that you couldn’t even see.  Why did he develop PD?  Don’t know.  What stage was he in?  Don’t know.  Will an extra dose a day help?  We can try…don’t know we’ll see.  Physical therapy.  Speech therapy.  My hatred of Parkinson’s was intense partly because I was so confused by it.

It was a lot of stress, all the while I’m helping Mom with two of her three businesses and Husband is finding that he can’t think straight at work.  His first symptoms seemed like his old essential tremor was claiming more territory.  Then he felt as if he was in a fog.  Then the tremors led to soreness…then stiffness.  Then he couldn’t take wide strides when he walked, so he started to shuffle.  His right side became a lot slower than his left.  All this coupled with the fact that he lost his sense of smell a long time ago….the list of symptoms pointed to…you guessed it…Parkinson’s.  End of backstory.

The thought of my husband having PD was too much to process because going through it with Dad as was intense.  Dad is a strong optimistic guy, but this disease can take down even the strongest most upbeat of people on the bad days.  Not to mention fears of the future.   I didn’t want my husband facing the same thing!  My husband is young, so it is very rare for someone his age to be diagnosed with PD, but of course, it does happen.  Nine months ago, when his symptoms were becoming too much to ignore, we went to the doctor.  Then to a neurologist.  Nine months of tests including blood work, an MRI, an EEG and even a thyroid ultrasound.  Test after test after test.  Each new appointment brought up another “It could be…we can test…”  We finally secured an appointment with a movement disorder specialist who after a physical examination reported “NOT Parkinson’s”.


So what is it?  Uh…we don’t know for sure.  As elated as I am that he wasn’t diagnosed with a neurodegenerative disease, it’s hard to really jump for joy at my fullest capacity to jump without knowing what it is exactly.  In other words, we still can’t completely rule out anything.  For my husband, it has been a long process of elimination.  But we don’t know what it is by knowing what it’s not…yet.  This, to me, is the most frustrating aspect of brain diseases and disorders.  There is no knowing exactly.  The brain is too complicated for such wishful thinking.  Even though we have come so far (I mean, I have epilepsy and was never prescribed an exorcism), we are still in the dark ages when it comes to the brain.

It’s frustrating to watch my husband struggle to do simple tasks or to hear him moan in his sleep.  It’s downright torture.  But when I start to cry out to God “Not fair!” I think of all the people who received a diagnosis and it was devastating.  A lot of these people are in my family.

On top of the health-related stress the financial stress is very pressing.  A few weeks ago, my toothache became pretty bad, so we found a dentist.  After (almost) 30 years on earth, I had my first cavity.  I was handed a proposal for a root canal and crown to the tune of $2,500.  My husband was handed the same proposal in the next room at the same time.  I went numb, and it wasn’t just from the three shots of Novocain it took to drill out my cavity and fill it.

People deal with cavities all the time, and I consider myself a tough lady with a high pain tolerance but it when it comes to my teeth I am a wimp.  I felt so betrayed by life!  I became a complete monster.  I needed constant sympathy and petting from my husband, and I was selfishly angry because he was supposed to be the healthy one.  I’ll deal with all the chronic illnesses, but he has to be the one to deal with me and be the caretaker and bringer of pain killers.  I writhed and whined in tooth pain for two full days.  I blamed everyone but myself for that.  At the end of the two days, I started to sort out my monstrous behavior and thoughts of throwing things.  Seriously…a cavity?  C’mon.  I had a toothache-induced nightmare that my jaw fell off.  So see…it could be worse.

Every time I drink anything I am painfully reminded that I need a root canal.  But I can deal with the pain for now.  We have a lot of medical bills, but we will always have a lot of medical bills.  It’s not worth it to worry about tomorrow’s medical bills.  It’s difficult for me to talk (or write) about financial stress (I am a prideful woman), but I know there a lot of people out there dealing with similar struggles.  They know how much time out of the day it takes to simply call your insurance provider or clinic or pharmacy.  How one piece of mail can turn into two months of phone calls and hair pulling.

I don’t know where God will lead us, but lead us He must, because I have no idea what is going on right now.  My husband and I have a lot of blessings to count, and in the darkest moments of utter confusion, I try to count them.  We have an unwavering God who knows what is to come and is preparing us for it, never giving us anything we can’t bear, and the strength to meet our struggles.  We have each other.  We have parents who love and take care of us.  We have friends who follow-up and ask how we are doing.  We have a senior cat with impeccable dental health.  I mean, the list goes on and on.

Is my life where I thought it would be right now?  Absolutely not.  I fight off the feeling of unfairness when others my age are able to hold dinner parties in nice homes with beautiful kids and plan family vacations.  I have to keep in mind that Diagnosis I Don’t Know has given me some gifts.  I’ve learned patience.  I’m a lot stronger now than I was a year ago (cavity episode aside).  My marriage continues to strengthen.  The more strength I am given the more I can give to my husband.  Most importantly my faith in God hasn’t been this strong since I was a child.  My husband and I are being worked on by the Holy Spirit, and we do have a long way to go filled with obstacles, setbacks, risks and more opportunities to stumble.  I’ve never felt more blessed because even though I can’t see in front of me, I know the ground I stand on is solid.

My “Non-Wedding” Nuptials

Prayer Hands

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife and the two will become one flesh.”
— Ephesians 5:31

Husband and I met in October of 2005 on a blind date.  Unimpressed with one another, neither one of us could remember how we ended up on a second date.  But we did.  Chalk it up to a guiding hand.

Over the past seven years and 11 months, we have been tested by fire.  We’ve faced trials of unemployment, extreme financial stress, new jobs, relocations, health scares, deaths in our families and three breakups.  We know how blessed we are, we know we could have faced much, much worse.

Husband was there, rubbing my shoulders, comforting me when I felt completely alone and it all piled up and I collapsed underneath a real deal nervous breakdown.  When you are weighed down by so much grief and anxiety, your body forgets how to act normally and I felt I had lost all control.  The only times when I felt I could breathe easier were when he was holding me or I was in prayer.  These tests we have been through together have made us stronger, brought us closer, and have also stripped away our desires for anything other than a life together.  Just having each other has proven enough to get us through so far.

We were married by our family pastor.  He has meant so much to our family, as he baptized me and my father, has been a spiritual guide, and even married Husband’s parents 34 years ago.  He has comforted us in grief and loss and taught us to always “Go to the Lord in prayer.”  His wife was in attendance as well as our parents.  That was it.  No wedding party.  No guests.  No big dress.  No cake.  No band.  Just us.  Our parents were present to give us away as we started a new family.

I have absolutely nothing against weddings.  I think it is beautiful to declare your love in front of your family and friends!  We didn’t have a wedding for a few reasons.  First and foremost, we wanted it to be about the two of us, entering a sacred contract.  We wanted to focus on that, without being distracted by seating charts, timing the food, my hair, etc.  (I’ve planned and managed events.  I know I would have been distracted.)  I had that big wedding planned in my head for years, but after all this time, it slowly melted away, leaving me with one desire – to begin my marriage.

Second, weddings are expensive.  Husband and I want financial security and independence.  We want to live in our own house!  We want a savings account!  We have a lot of work and penny pinching ahead of us.  We know lean.  We’re tired of the stress.  So, even if we had a small wedding, and we started inviting close family, we would inevitably hurt even more feelings of those we love but did not receive an invitation.   I have been in those uninvited shoes.  Not fun.  So, for those who wrote me and addressed their missing invitation – Sorry!  We love you, we give praise because you are part of our lives, but we did not have an event to invite you to!  I got some nasty comments about not being invited.  I’ve also gotten so many well-wishes, that I feel overwhelmed with how many people are happy for us.  We are not letting people cloud our memories of what was a beautiful and meaningful moment between the two of us with a shadow of guilt.  We did not mean to hurt anyone!  Hey, my dress was $25 and my bouquet was donated.  I hope those that are hurt understand that we have been together enough time that we felt already married.  We have felt that way for quite some time now, we just needed to legalize it.

I sympathize with brides who have worked to make everyone happy, because it is an impossible task.  I have a small handful of people who are upset with us.  Over the years with my friends, I have witnessed so much stress and hurt feelings during the wedding planning process and the wedding itself.  If we had been married years ago, if we had a wedding budget and we actually planned a wedding, I would have been on Faux Pas #5692 before the time we exchanged vows.  I salute the women who plan their weddings, because I feel the added stress would have propelled me to Vegas to elope, which would have really made people upset!

Weddings with guests are about declaring your love and commitment in front of your loved ones.  Lee and I have declared such love and shown such commitment for almost eight years.  We’re pretty much old news.  That is the last reason we voted against a wedding. God knows our love for each other and we know it.  That has proven enough.  For that formal declaration not made in front of a full church….I write this – My friends and family know that  I dragged my feet for years, and while I was doing all that foot dragging, God was removing every opportunity that would pull me from Husband and adding lots of obstacles and experiences that would show how much I loved Husband and how much better I was when he was with me.  When the time finally came to say our vows, I felt no reservations, and I have never been more sure of anything.  He’s my best friend and partner in life.  I’m incredibly fulfilled and completely taken care of each day I get to spend with him.  I praise God for him, for I feel undeserving of such a committed and faithful man.

Our “non-wedding” nuptials were not due to selfishness, but honestly they were a reflection of our experiences during those tough times when it felt the world was collapsing around us.   Just having each other to hold as we prayed was enough.



“Every increased possession loads us with new weariness.”
— John Ruskin

During a recent family gathering in which the conversation lead to a discussion on material possessions, I was asked, “Do you get attached to stuff?”  My answer was a quick and easy, “No.”

Oh, I am by no means above wanting things.  Just check my Pinterest boards.  But I do not attach sentimental value to things anymore.  I don’t think I’m cold about it.   What has turned me apathetic to my belongings has been all the moving Fiancé and I have done in the past few years.  When you have to pack all your stuff, you realize how much you don’t need.  And how much you hate to pack it.

Fiancé and I live the simple life when it comes to our stuff now.  If we’re not using it, we’re donating it.

He who dies with the most toys still dies, right?  Stuff is just stuff!  With one exception.

I do have a material possession that I am attached to. My “one thing.”  Everything else precious to me is intangible – in memories and thoughts – except my one thing.

Cootie.  Cootie the bear.

Mom and I made Cootie when I was young enough to still go crazy over stuffed animals, but not too young enough to help.  Mom found a pattern, sewed him together, and I stuffed him and helped sew him up.  His last seam is all too easily noticed, reflecting my talents as a seamstress/bear maker.  His eyes are slightly misaligned.  But, he can look happy, tired, angry and confused.

Cootie moves to California
Cootie moves to California

As I near 30 years old, Cootie still goes with me on all major treks in life.  He moved with me out of my parents home, out of state, out of that state, and all the way back again.  He gets seat belted, because my “one thing” has to be remain safe.  He takes care of me at night by keeping danger away.  True story.

Cootie hates sharing the road trip with a cat
Cootie hates sharing the road trip with a cat

Even though he is made of materials found in Walmart’s craft section, he is worth more than gold.  He represents the bond between my mother and me.  If I have a daughter, Cootie will be placed in her care, to make sure she is safe and watched over.  Somehow, through his misaligned eyes, she will be watched by me and my mother.  It gives me comfort to know that Cootie will be with her in the future.

After I die.  I still need him for a while yet.  He’s my Cootie, my “one thing.”

Think about it!  Do you have one material possession that means more than the others?  If so, comment below!

Back East

NM Landscape

“How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.” 
— William Faulkner

Three and a half years ago, I left my home state in the firm belief that I would not move back again.  Heading west, I knew I would return to New Mexico for visits, but that was it.  Now I am back in the Land of Enchantment for the foreseeable future.

The time I spent in New Mexico while living elsewhere was richer.  I became more aware of the differing cultures and my own roots.  Even the desert landscape seemed more vibrant.

I moved away for the sake of following opportunity, and I have no regrets for doing so.  I feel everything happens for a reason and I leave it to God to direct me to rewarding successes and mistakes to learn from.  I returned for family at a time when my family faces new challenges and my last opportunity came to an end.

The decision to move back was not easy emotionally, but it was an easy one to make.  Fiancé and I knew it was time to start over, to be with family and carve out a new path.  Time to step back, take stock of what is really important, and start again from a firm foundation.  It is also a time to look forward  years down the road and think of what we would regret more – moving closer to family or staying away?  Staying apart from family still kept our thoughts with them.  We couldn’t help but think that we should be helping, doing something, if only by being closer.  Sleep was difficult and the feeling of being orphaned was prevalent in each day.

There is a lot to do and figure out.  A lot of work ahead of us.  We are not home quite yet, at least geographically.  What I have developed is a sense of home apart from a place, but in a person.  Fiancé is my home, no matter where I am.  We’ll move forward together…no matter where we move.

Happy 2013

 “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
— Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Grandma always used to tell me was all she wanted for me was that I be happy.

Let the New Year’s Day resolutions commence.  Already on all my social networking sites I have seen healthy recipes, exercise tips and lifestyle plans being tweeted, posted, emailed and pinned.  Among my past resolutions, I have resolved to lose weight, cut down on coffee, learn Spanish and take dance classes.  My favorite year was the one where I resolved to develop more muscle tone.  Ahh…good times in smaller pants.

Well, since losing the extra weight is now a weekly resolution, I am not setting myself up with that one.  Getting healthy is also a daily resolution, a constant balancing act of medication, meditation, exercise and most importantly…SLEEP.  Sorry, but Spanish and dancing will take a backburner again this year.  I know myself slightly better.  When I can, I will.

This year, I just want to focus on being happy in the moment.  Not a new resolution, but one that should be revived.  So much stress and fear this past year has broken my body.  Yet, I am still here.  One thing I have learned is that our good days can become a memory all too soon, within the  blink of an eye.  Money can dry up, disease can invade and the sense of security can dissipate.

I do not have all the things I want, and I have not accomplished what I wanted to accomplish, but I have today.   I can make the most of it, and appreciate the heartbeat of my fiancé under my cheek and the purr of my cat under my hand.  Tomorrow is a new day, but today is pretty sweet within itself.

The 28th Year

“The years teach much which the days never knew.” 
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

My 27th year was filled with great change and new challenges.  I changed jobs twice, moved twice and got a puppy.  Oh wait, that last one is slated for this next year, along with moving out (again) of a one bedroom apartment.

I took every opportunity that God presented to me and took great risk.  I mark my birthday in the midst of getting on my feet and feeling secure.  This past year has brought adventure.  That would be an understatement, actually.  With the love of my life, I have put my wings to flight and found so much “new.”  New is exciting, adds to experience, but also adds challenges.

I know myself to be a tough cookie.  I have a strength to take on challenges that present themselves to me, with the repetition of “This too shall pass” in my head.  What I was not prepared for was that this past year presented unprecedented challenges to my family and the people I love.  New and recurring health battles for my family and myself, along with the stress of finding stability in the “new” has left me emotionally and physically drained.

I needed to take today to stop the whirlwind of worry around my head and try to find meaning in it.  When my mother was 28 years old, she married the love of her life, my father.  In the next year, I plan to marry the love of my life, and build a foundation with him.  I am so grateful for Fiance.  This past year has taught me that you can lose important pieces of your life in an instant.  Relationships can change, money can disappear.  I have learned that I must cling to the important people.  My family, my friends and Fiance, my partner in everything.  Even Dublin.  I’m not going to fret that a wild bird of prey will swoop down upon our tiny balcony (at the exact time that I let Dublin outside to hunt for pine needles) and grabs him with his giant claws and whisks him away to be devoured.  No, I will just hug Dubbers every day and not dwell on his feline fragility.

The same applies with everyone and everything.  I will appreciate what I have while I have it.  Each moment and each day of my 28th year.




“The Lord sustains them on their sickbed, and restores them from their bed of illness.”
— Psalm 41:3

Today marks another World Diabetes Day.

November 14th commerates the birth of Sir Frederick Grant Banting, one of the men who discovered insulin, saving millions of lives.  November is Diabetes Awareness Month, in which the diabetes community goes blue, or gray, or blue and gray.  The hope is that our neighbors to which diabetes is foreign will learn something about a disease that impacts hundreds of  millions worldwide, each one differently.

Just keeping up with what is new to learn in diabetes is a full-time job.  (I almost kind of sort of have that job.)  Each person living with diabetes has a unique perspective, a perspective that must be respected, because only one person knows what diabetes is.  It’s their enemy, it’s their greatest motivator, it’s their burden or its their success.  Learning about what diabetes means to different people living with it or caring for someone living with it, has became an ever increasing focus of creating awareness.

This month is also Epilepsy Awareness Month.  I know remarkably little about my own illness compared to the information I have accumulated on diabetes.  In fact, I know few others with epilepsy, enough to count on one hand.  I have more friends with diabetes than I do without.  I know my epilepsy as best I can from tests and discussions with specialists.  I know my epilepsy from how it impacts my daily life, how it impacts people’s opinions of me, and I am quite aware that it could be worse.

This month also marks new types of awareness for me.  I am now more aware of Parkinson’s.  My father was recently diagnosed with a disease I knew absolutely nothing about.  Search by search, I am learning more, becoming more aware, learning about our next steps.  I was also woefully in the dark about cancer, until my sister’s recent diagnosis sent me searching for information.  Information filled with very long words for complicated categorizations, treatments and stages.

At this point, I’m becoming tired of becoming disease aware.  It’s a lot of awareness to take in.

Through the health obstacles I know, all the new ones to learn about,  I found a deeper awareness.  I am more acutely aware than ever how fragile our bodies are, how susceptible to disease they can be, and how important the strength of the spirit is in attaining health.  I am more aware that my family is more important than the next paycheck to pay the bills.  I am more aware that the tight embrace of a new friend can lift an enormous weight of anxiety off the shoulders.  I am aware, through continuous reminders, that God is good, that he is all around us and that something will be learned of new challenges to the body.  Another new awareness to come…to make us stronger and able to lift up others not yet diagnosed..or even aware.