I hope you enjoy Cuba As I See It
15-17: Near Perfect
12-14: : Excellent
9-11: : Good
6-8 ☹️: Not Ideal
3-5: Wipe everything with sanitizing wipes before you “go”
0-2: Hold your breath, don’t touch anything, and pray you don’t catch a disease
I am on a Delta Airlines flight and they just offered me peanuts. We usually fly American Airlines, so I was shocked. Luckily my daughter is not with me or I would be freaking out.
Why? I am the mom of a child with food allergies. And sitting near someone eating peanuts could kill her. Literally. Last time I checked, an airplane is not a great place to have a major medical emergency. Unlike milk or eggs or most other food allergies, peanuts somehow contaminate the air around them and even a trace amount in the air, similar to the way a smell works, can cause a reaction. So why the peanuts when so many have similar reactions? I have no idea. Obviously someone making decisions doesn’t understand the severity or seriousness of the situation.
My daughter is allergic to all nuts (technically that’s peanuts and tree nuts), any milk products, eggs, and shellfish. She will have a life-threatening reaction simply by being in the same room as peanut butter or getting milk or ice cream on her skin. A tiny bit of the wrong margarine (99% of the ones on the market) can make her deathly ill. This reaction by definition includes more than one body system, such as GI, respiratory, skin, etc. As a mom, these reactions are very scary. You never know how bad it’s going to be this time; each one is different. Maybe this time she’ll “just” throw up and break out in hives all over. But it could be just as likely that her lips and face will swell up and her throat will close off and block her airway and kill her. And as the parent, you’re the one making the on-the-spot call about what to do. Except in an airplane the options are more limited. Even at home it’s a crazy-stressful situation. Can it be treated with just Benadryl? Do I call the ambulance? Give an EpiPen (a shot of epinephrine)? Give 2 EpiPens? Which hospital to use? When seconds matter, you don’t have time to call the doctor. Is this a reaction that will keep getting worse or is this as bad as it will get this time?
And complicating the situation for some families, the families with no prescription plan, is the fact that the price of EpiPens has increased to where they are now $600 for a pack of 2. Some reactions take 2 to control. And last time I heard, ambulances don’t carry them, so even if your insurance plan covers an ambulance ride and emergency care, you’re still supplying the EpiPens.
So next time you hear about the mom of a food allergy kid who seems to be taking it a little too seriously, going a bit extreme, put yourself in her shoes. If it was your kid who could die simply from being in the room or on an airplane with peanuts, would you take it lightly, try not to inconvenience someone? I hope not.
And Delta Airlines, please change your snacks before you kill somebody.
I hurt every day of my life. I have for the last 17 years (except the last 2 trimesters of each of my pregnancies). My particular dragon to fight goes by a variety of names: Chronic Intractable Headache, Transformed Migraine, Migraine With Aura, Menstrual Migraine, Migraine Without Aura, and a few others. The particular manifestation shifts at times, but it’s always a headache. The list of treatments I have tried is as long as my arm. Nothing takes it away. Every new practitioner is convinced that THEY have the answer and it’s really so simple. But it’s never quite so simple.
I say this not to gain pity, but it’s my reality and someone might find my story helpful.
So what do I do when I wake up hurting every day knowing that the pain will likely grow as the day progresses? Knowing that tomorrow will likely be just as bad if not worse?
I suppose that sounds rather negative. I think it’s not; it’s facing the ugly truth of reality. As the Bible says in Proverbs 13:12, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” I can hope and hope, but after several years of deferred hope I got rather “sick” of it and decided to go with reality instead. The truth sets free. Yes, a miracle could happen, but it hasn’t yet, and I have to go on and live life.
I am inspired by my Grandmother who suffered from migraines, debilitating rheumatoid arthritis, and finally ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease); I don’t remember ever hearing her complain. She went shopping on her knotty feet, created Christmases that were unforgettable, expressed her unbelievable love for her grandkids, and generally squeezed every positive moment she could out of her painful life.
There are things I cannot do. Flashing lights are bad. Loud noise is bad. Exercise is painful. I taught 1 kid to ride a bike and all the running-behind-the-bike triggered a multi-day flare up and put me in bed. So I try not to do things that are going to increase the pain. The day I took the kids skating with a homeschool group and got an aura (the flashing lights only I can see that occasionally alert me that a bad one is coming) in the car on the way there, I had to call in backup because the loud music and flashing lights were just going to compound the pain. The day I woke up on vacation fully intending to go skiing with the family but instead lost my breakfast and lunch and everything else I tried because of a migraine, I had to accommodate. Me barfing on the ski slope would be a memorable family experience, but not one I wanted to create.
But there are things I CAN do. If I’m going to hurt anyway, I might as well be adding something positive to the pain. Do I WANT to get out of bed? Usually not. Does it help to stay in bed? Only about twice a year. Do I end the day saying “I wish I had just stayed in bed?” Never. Do I feel great throughout the day? No. Do I want to crawl in a hole and pull it in after me? Absolutely. Do I feel good at the end of the day that I actually got some stuff done? Yes. Was the stuff I got done as much as I wanted? Often not.
Sometimes I have to put the goals really low. Sometimes my goals have to be really short-term. “In the next 10 minutes I’m going to load the dishwasher instead of griping at everyone because I hurt” or “I am going to get through dinner without busting out in tears” or “I’m going to church today with a smile on my face and there I’ll spend time with my Father and worship Him along with my spiritual family.” I have made the decision that I want to get all I can out of life. I will add positive to the pain. Some days are better. Some are worse. I try not to borrow trouble or hope from tomorrow. Today is enough.
Sometimes, though, I do choose to do big things. I chose to have 5 children. I choose to educate them at home with the best possible education. I direct the music and children & youth departments at church. I travel to Africa with my husband. I bite off more than I can safely chew and then I chew away. Often I surprise myself by what I can do when I have decided I will do it.
The other decision I have to make is how to present myself to those around me. I have consciously decided that I don’t want to be thought of as “the headache woman.” I talk about it to my family so they know what’s going on, and sometimes, honestly, just to vent. I rarely talk to others about it unless I think it can help them or if I have to explain my behavior. When I am in a loud place and have to wear earplugs or if I am wearing sunglasses inside I might say something. But I have chosen to be a women who has a lot of things going on and oh yeah, I think she has headaches.
How is this working out for me? Quite well, actually. I have a life; I have a busy, fulfilling, contributing-positive-to-the-world life. I have friends. My family is cared for and loved. Is life perfect? No way. Is it better than it could be if I made different, less-positive choices every day? Oh yeah.
So if you have chronic pain in your life, whether physical or emotional, add something positive to it. Add several things positive to it. Determine that you will get as much out of life as you can in spite of the hand you’ve been dealt. Because it sure is better than crawling in a hole and pulling it in after you.
One of our children was quite unhappy with how they were doing in quiz practice. I, however, can remember where this same kid was 2 years ago and the progress they have made in memorizing, quoting, interrupting questions, answering questions, just everything. So I am quite happy and pleased with how they are doing. If I gave you details, you would definitely be impressed too. They, being a kid, can’t really remember what 2 years ago was like and it seems totally irrelevant to right now. They want progress quickly. Perfection. NOW!
I guess God probably feels the same way about us. He sees the mighty-long-way He’s brought us and says, “Look where you used to be and how far you’ve come! Look at all that progress! Look what I’ve done for you!” But we don’t want to hear it because we too want progress quickly. NOW! Perfection! STAT!
So I’m taking a moment tonight to consider where He’s brought me from and brought me to. And I’m vowing again to trust Him when He says He’s in control of my path, and I’m promising to continue to let Him keep bringing me along, mistakes, failures, goof-ups, and all.
A little tip (and laugh) for today:
When we bought our house we noticed that the front yard was beautiful and well-balanced with colors. A large spruce graces the front corner, an ornamental plum with year-round red leaves sat in the middle (it’s gone now, died a while back), and a dogwood sits near the house with its graceful flowers every spring.
Next to our driveway, is a beautiful tall female ginkgo tree. Evidently they have gender, these trees. It really is beautiful with fan-shaped leaves that turn bright yellow in the fall. There’s literally no other tree like these, and I appreciate uniqueness, so I thought it was pretty neat.
Unfortunately, the female version of this tree also drops its fruit in the fall. This fruit has a smell distinctly resembling dog poo when broken or stepped on.
It must be a very healthy tree because we have a bumper crop of fruit this year. Immediately upon pulling up to our house and opening our car doors, our olfactory senses are accosted by the stench of our entire front yard filled with these stink bombs. I’m sure the neighbors love it too.
Walking our driveway or front sidewalk is like an adult version of hopscotch with dire and smelly consequences for a misstep. As we all walk to get in the car you can hear the distinct sound of popping as people fail to avoid the stink bombs. We get in the car and inevitably somebody has some on their shoe. It makes for an interesting ride to wherever we are going.
I just cleared them all off with a snow shovel, but before I even got done some more had fallen. There are probably as many left in the tree as have already fallen. This gives us something to look forward to, I guess.
So here’s my advice: if you want a beautiful ginkgo tree, make sure you get a male one. Or plant a female one NOT near your driveway or anywhere people walk. Or plan to hold your nose upon exiting your house during all of November.
I suppose there must be a deep moral lesson to be gained from this story, but right now I can’t think what it would be. I’m too busy snow-shoveling, (mine-sweeping?) my driveway.
Maybe the lesson is that sometimes life gives you stinky stuff, so you might as well get a laugh along with it.
I recently had a birthday. Turning 41 isn’t normally seen as a big landmark year. They don’t sell black birthday cake candles that have “41” stamped on them, and since I avoided any over-the-hill party last year I think I’m safe from that. This birthday did make me think, though, about how our culture handles aging.
At 41, fewer people are asking me how old I am. The number of brave souls who ask for that information is still higher than those who ask my weight (maybe that will be a future topic if I get wise enough), but it is dropping precipitously.
Our American culture is very future-oriented. We spend a lot of focus on educating our children, our babies even, to prepare them for their tomorrows. We arrive at appointments on time if not early, because we plan for them and stop whatever we are doing when it’s time to leave for the appointment. We plan, we save, and we set goals. We allow our tomorrows to shape our todays.
Not all cultures are like this. Some cultures live in the present. Grocery shopping is done several times a week, and the refrigerators are small because having food for today is good enough. Fresh is valued over canned or frozen. There aren’t many clocks around because who needs them? What is happening now is more important than the event coming up an hour from now. That event will be dealt with in an hour when it comes.
Other cultures value the past more. The wisdom of their elders, ancestors even, is valued more than the yet-unfulfilled hope of what their children will one day become. Age is a valued and respected commodity.
So how does all this relate to turning 41? In a culture where the future is more important than the past or even present, our culture tells us there’s something wrong with growing old and having less future in front of us.
“Anti-aging” creams are a staple of the cosmetics industry. “Covers fine lines and wrinkles” is a stock phrase in advertising. Plastic surgery is a common way to fight gravity and its effects. Women are especially targeted, though men do have the option of dying their hair or attempting to cover their baldness.
But I ask, what is wrong with being old? What is wrong with LOOKING old?
I have a few, luckily not many, friends who haven’t made it to 41. Frankly, I’m glad to be alive. I’m thankful that I’m still able to walk and talk and think and smell a flower and cuddle a baby and watch my kids grow.
Speaking of kids, mine are getting older and they think that is wonderful. They love birthdays, and only part of that enthusiasm is because of the presents. I think it is wonderful too. Nobody wakes me up 3 times every night crying to be fed. They can dress themselves and even sort their own laundry. They make their own breakfast and lunch and even occasionally dinner. Everyone assumes that is a good thing, and it is.
So why isn’t it good for all of us to age? Why don’t we celebrate each year like the children do? I don’t mean we should rent a bouncy house and invite our friends over, but why aren’t we excited about what is to come in the next year?
Perhaps it’s because we’re scared to death of death. Yes, I just used the “d” word. Don’t get me wrong; I like life. I want to squeeze as much out of my time here as I can, and the more time I have, the more I can do. However, if I dread death so much that I also dread aging, I will allow it to negatively affect the time I do have left.
So I am glad to grow older. Not only is the alternative a lot less desirable, but with each year I am a better version of myself. I learn and cope and thrive and live. My hair will turn silver, then white, and I will let it. Each of those silver strands is evidence that I am growing older and better, wiser and more knowledgable. Why wouldn’t I want people to see that?
This past year I chose a few things I wanted to learn about. For the first time in a while, the subjects weren’t related to educating my children or the proper care of a baby. They were things that I had always wanted to learn but I had assumed that the learning phase was finished because I’m not a youngster any more. But I’ve realized that I have a lot of life left. And yes, I’m planning and goal-setting and all of those American things, but I’ve adjusted my thinking to look forward to the golden years and make the most of them.
Will you join me on the journey?