Sunday, February 7, 2016

Starting the Year Off with Great News

It feels oddly wonderful to say, "there's not a bunch of things to report" regarding our January trip to Shriner's Hospital in Greenville, SC for Jackson's scoliosis follow-up.

Believe it or not, I actually don't have any photographs from our hospital day either!

On January 18th, Jackson had his usual x-ray taken at Shriner's.  Our incredible Dr. Pete later strolled into our exam room and exclaimed: "Praise God, he looks wonderful!"  Thanks be to Jesus, those are the BEST words in the world!  Jackson's spine continues to grow straight thanks to the power of prayer, an amazing surgeon, and many years of life-saving Mehta casting.

The new news?  Doctor Pete felt it would be safe for us to wait 9 months before returning to Shriner's for a follow up x-ray.  Wow!  Nine months; the longest we have ever waited between appointments since Jackson's birth.  Great, great news!  Although we LOVE Greenville, it will be a welcomed break from hospital visits and nerves.  X-rays, we'll see you in October!

*   *   *

What do I have pictures of?  When we were in Charlotte the evening prior to Jackson's appointment, we were able to take in a Charlotte Checkers AHL game.  Fun stuff.  What I do have are a couple of fun pictures from that!  


Jackson - 1
Scoliosis - 0
{Daddy 0 too}

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Stand Up

First, I want to ask you not to judge.  I start here … because it’s a place that I struggle myself.  “Body image” has been a very broken place for me since I was a little girl.  I am sensitive to it, and I always have a strong negative or positive reaction to anything “body” related.  Therefore, whenever someone publically posts anything “body” related, I tend to either immediately judge them {for bragging} or, more often, immediately judge myself {for not being good enough}.  I am just being real with you.  So first, don’t judge {and know I’m right there too if you share in this struggle}.

Second, I want to explain to you that this blog post comes from one of the deepest places in my heart.  As I said before, “body image” is a broken place for me.  It is also a place where God {yes!  God.} has begun to beautifully piece me back together.  Am I finished struggling?  Resoundingly, no!  But that’s why I need Him … and it is most certainly why I must continue to practice 2 Corinthians 10:5 by “taking every thought captive and making it obedient to Christ.”  Likewise, because I have wrestled so long and hard in this arena, I do feel that God {only through His amazing grace} has given me some authority over it.  Due to social media and the outpouring of popularity of fitness-related posts, over and over again I see women {sorry guys, this post is talking to the ladies} lamenting their shortcomings, sharing their progress, and shouting their successes.  My heart aches when I see other women “hating” on themselves for falling short of an imaginary bar they have set for themselves.  Then, I am very much reminded of the many ways I do this very thing to myself inside my head.  This morning, I finally felt led to publically share my health and fitness journey over the last 2.5 years--post-weight-loss-skin-and-all.  :)  

At the end of 2012 when I was at my largest, I didn’t think I was fat.  I acknowledged that I had gained too much weight during my pregnancies, but when I looked in the mirror, I did not consider it that profound.  In my head I had created two very distinct categories of women which I thought of as those “having extra weight on” and those who were “very heavy-set.”  I was, according to me, in the first category.   One day in January 2013, the scale told me otherwise.  It was one of those dreaded moments with the scale--the ones where the nurse has to move the large weight over the next notch to the right.  Reality struck, and I knew I had to change my way of thinking.  I would love to tell you that I swallowed hard, did not condemn myself, and leaped off in the direction of health and fitness.  But that would be a lie.   Really, I spent the next month wallowing in self-hate, convincing myself {and every loved one who would listen} that I woud never, never be attractive again, and choosing to continue in my own bad habits.  I really cannot tell you what eventually changed my mind, but the day after my 27th birthday, I decided to step up to change.  That was the first time in my long history of weight and “body image” struggles that both my body and my mind began to evolve.

Thirty-one months have passed since that day, and besides being 75 pounds and 6 pants sizes smaller, so much has changed in my life.  It is beginning to sink in that maybe, just maybe … since I’m nearing the 3-year mark of this journey … it is actually transitioning into a lifestyle.  Along this road traveled, a portion of scripture introduced to me at a women’s conference spoke to me in countless ways.  Incredibly, although it tells of Peter being rescued from prison while awaiting his trail and probable execution, I have found ways to apply it to both mental and physical health.

“The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance.  Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell.  He struck Peter on the side and woke him up.  “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.”
Acts 12:6-7  
Peter’s circumstance was dire, the situation felt unbelievable, but he STOOD UP 
with the chains still on.  And, guess what?  The chains fell off his wrists!  And that’s just the point:  sometimes we have to choose to STAND UP WITH THE CHAINS STILL ON {even when it feels ridiculous} and believe that, through God’s amazing grace, they will fall off of us.

Again and again, I have come back to this place.  I had to STAND UP with the chains of obesity still on.  This meant I had to join a gym and face people I didn’t want to face.  It meant that I had to talk to my doctors about the reality of my BMI.  It meant that I had to eat less and exercise more.  But the chains fell off.  I had to STAND UP with the chains of my inner critic still on.  I had to listen to her jeers of self-hate {gosh!  She’s mean!} and learn to quiet them.  I had to constantly remind myself that I wasn’t running a race, checking boxes, or finding a quick fix.  But the chains fell off.  I had to STAND UP with the chains of toxic relationships still on.  This meant learning to decipher when good people were not good for me.  Unfortunately, this meant making sometimes painful decisions.  Other times, it meant learning to redirect my own thoughts to remind myself that most other people aren’t nearly as mean as my inner critic – they simply don’t understand my brokenness.  But the chains fell off.  I had to STAND UP with the chains of burn out still on.  There have been many seasons of excitement and dread during the last 31 months.  Some have brought a few {or 18} unwanted pounds while others have brought amazing strength and enhanced fitness.  I had to endure the seasonal forecast and keep going.  But the chains fell off.  The last one has been the most difficult for me.  I had to STAND UP with the chains of comparison still on.  This meant I had to continuously “check myself” when I began to long to be someone other than who God created me to be.  It meant I had to stay grounded in reality instead of wishful thinking and fantasy {…if only I were tiny and petite…}.  It meant learning to tell myself to STOP inside my head.  And the chains are falling off {I told you I am still very much a work in progress}! 

Throughout this process, never once have I had the key.  The Lord was the keeper of these keys.  Now, make no mistake, I have used the key.  I have worked very hard.  I have sweated a lot.  I have pushed myself to change in ways I never thought possible.  I have turned off social media.  I have sacrificed.  I have gone to bed early because I was hungry.  I have re-lost pounds that I gained back.  I have cried.  I have set relational boundaries.  I have lost sleep.  I have celebrated.  I have let other people off the hook for my own dysfunctional thinking.  I have decided that this has to be forever.   Yes, I have most certainly used the key.  But the key was always given to me by Him.  God’s promises and grace at the forefront of my mind have been the deciding factor in allowing me to keep moving forward and watching the chains fall off!  Without Him, I would have given up a long time ago.

If anyone reading this identifies with anything I have written, please remember that you’re not alone.  More importantly, remember that God has the key … but sometimes you have to STAND UP WITH THE CHAINS STILL ON and trust Him to supply the rest.  And if you need proof—I’m it.

*   *   *

Looking for a few practical {and oftentimes funny} musings that I have thought of/used during my journey {I’ve had 31 months to think about these things!}?  Here they are … as concise as possible:

1.     Didn’t meet your goal?  Oh well!  If you are in Christ, you have eternity. J

2.     Comparing yourself to someone else?  Think about dogs.  J Seriously.  Would you ever look at a Labrador and wonder why is was bigger than a Chihuahua?  Reality check!  Just like dogs have different breeds … people have different ancestry and genetics. 

3.     No one thinks you’re going rogue if you don’t eat a slice of birthday cake.  Okay.  So this is a pet peeve of mine.  J  At Jackson’s birthday party, I was the only adult who ate a slice of cake.  People I didn’t even know were dieting refused it.  It kinda made my chuckle in observation.  If you don’t want to eat cake, fine.  But if you DO want to eat a slice of cake, just eat it!  If your fitness journey is a real lifestyle … it’s for life.  I really hope that you don’t go the rest of your life and never eat a slice of cake {and if you do … can I have your corner piece with the extra icing?}.

4.     Notice how your fitness improves what you love!  This summer I took the boys to Dutch Wonderland.  Oliver didn’t want to walk up the four stories of stairs each time we rode the water slide … so, naturally, he asked me to carry him up.  As I was doing this, {he weighs 36 pounds} my knees were killing me.  Then I remembered that I used to carry MORE THAN TWO OF HIM around EVERYWHERE I went.  Every.  Single.  Day.  Proud moment.

5.     Extend grace to people “behind” and “ahead” of you in their journey.  Have a friend who is working hard to lose weight?  Encourage her!  Notice her changes!  Pass along information to her.  Have a friend who is a fitness guru?  Tell her she inspires you!  Ask her for workout advice.  Have a friend who hurts your feelings by making thoughtless body-related comments?  Give her grace.  Realize that {talking to myself here, too} sometimes it’s your internal reaction that’s the problem … not really what she is saying.  And if that’s not the case, do what you need to do with that relationship without judgment.

6.     Keep challenging yourself.  New workouts are so much fun!  Switch up your diet.  Do a water drinking challenge.  Get stronger.  Get faster.  Do something new!  As Nike says:  Just Do It!

7.     Give God the glory!  Remember, He is the keeper of the keys.         

Friday, July 24, 2015

Immeasurably More ... April/July X-Rays

Confession time:
I should have posted a scoliosis blog update in April.

But I didn't, for many reasons.

I was afraid of needlessly worrying so many PIS parents who follow Jackson's story.  I never wanted to shed doubt on Mehta casting as treatment for PIS.  I didn't want to confuse everyone for something even Jackson's doctor was unsure about.  But mostly ...

I just didn't want to entertain a "what if" I was hoping would never become reality.


On April 15th, 2015, Jackson had another orthotic-free follow up at Shriner's Hospital for Children in Greenville, South Carolina.  We all had very little anxiety that anything had changed with Jackson's straight spine.  We planned to take a quick x-ray and to spend the afternoon enjoying beautiful Greenville.

But that routine x-ray looked like this:

Jackson's doctor was able to measure about a 7 degree, left-sided curve.  Unfortunately, because Jackson's scoliosis was left sided, the doctor was concerned that there was a small chance this could represent a recurrence of the scoliosis.  If so, Jackson would be his first "cured" patient to ever experience a relapse of his/her progressive scoliosis.  We were shocked.  Jackson's doctor expressed to us that he thought it "extremely highly unlikely" to be a recurrence, but he was still worried.  He asked us to return for another x-ray in 3 months rather than 6 months (we thought we were about to be released into bi-annual care).  At this 3 month follow up visit, he planned to take another x-ray to determine if this small visual curve represented "true" scoliosis or poor posture during the x-ray.  The doctor briefly discussed with us a potential for more Mehta casting, a full-time brace until age 16, or a part-time brace until age 16 depending on how the curve looked in 3 months.

How many of you believe that I went home okay with this?  Quick the contrary!  During the first two weeks after hearing this news, I was devastated (and downright depressed).  I played out every scenario of Jackson's future in the worst possible ways.  All I could envision was Jackson growing up forever imprisoned by his condition and struggling to make friends.  I also felt like we had wasted almost 5 years of our lives treating a condition that was returning only 7 months after being deemed "cured."

Through the help of some very trusted friends and mentors, I finally got a grip on my thought life a few weeks after coming home.  What helped the most was deep prayer ... and practice (because I believe this takes practice) BELIEVING that God had already cured Jackson ... and that His healing was complete.  We chose to only share our heartaches with prayer warriors ~ people we trusted to lift Jackson's spine up to the Lord and to BELIEVE with us!


On July 20th, 2015, we returned to Shriner's in Greenville.  On our way there, we got struck in traffic AND behind a terrible car accident ... making us almost 2 hours late for Jackson's appointment.  Anxiety ran high.  The staff at this Shriner's is incredibly accommodating and understanding, and they willingly moved Jackson's appointment so that he could be seen.  When we disappeared into the x-ray room, I had already made up my mind that regardless of how crazy/helicopter parent-ish we came across, Justin and I were going to coach Jackson through proper standing for his x-ray.  Everyone (doctor included) felt that Jackson had not been standing properly in April.  Our first answered prayer came by having an amazing x-ray technician who understood the importance of this film.  She helped Jackson to stand straight and was incredibly patient.  What a blessing.

Here is this week's x-ray:

Still see a gentle curve, don't you?  Look closely at what direction it is going!  To the right.  This is the opposite side of Jackson's PIS.  In other words, July's x-ray VERY closely mirrors his original brace "graduation" x-ray that showed 7 degrees of OVERCORRECTION to the right.

I love the assurance these two images give me when viewed side-by-side.  They are almost identical!

Jackson's doctor assured us that after looking at this new x-ray, he was sure that April's x-ray was showing a postural curve due to the way Jackson stood during the film.  He was no longer concerned about a recurrence of Jackson's PIS ... and we could wait the full 6 months before returning for a follow up.  Wow!  Six months is the longest we have ever gone without a Shriner's visit since Jackson's BIRTH!  Praise God!

Yes, Praise God!
LOOK at what He has done.  

This is a side-by-side comparison of April's "concerning" x-ray and July's "overcorrected" x-ray.

Nothing short of a miracle.
Certainly an answered prayer.

Evidence that:
"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."
Ephesians 3:20-21

Friday, January 23, 2015

Orthotic-Free Follow Up #1

It's pretty much a rule that I become rather introspective whenever we are at Shriner's for Jackson's scoliosis.  On our most recent trip (this week), that was particularly true.  I look around the lobby and the hallways, and (just being honest) I think about how unfair life is that children are born without legs or bound to a wheelchair for their entire lives.  I also tap into the deepest well of thankfulness within me.  Being completely candid with you, it's easy to get complacent.  It's easy to take healing for granted as time passes beyond the "good news."  Honestly, our journey with Progressive Infantile Scoliosis was grueling and long - but it had a really (so far) happy ending.  It had a rare ending.  Jackson is in the stark minority of 100% cured babies.  I know that we are eternally blessed by God that Jackson's spine is straight and that he has been orthotic-free since September 2014.  Many, many of our scoliosis friends are not in this fortunate place, and my heart aches for them when I am reminded so plainly of this reality at Shriner's. 

On Wednesday of this week, Jackson has his first follow-up since going brace-free in September.  Gone are my days of intense anxiety with physical symptoms (casting days at Shriner's Philly).  Gone are my days of weepy worry (casting days at Shriner's Greenville).  Gone are my days of quick-and-easy brace checks and adjustments.  We are in the season of maintenance.  This is an important season, and one that could always become a game changer.  Jackson's doctor is supremely (but never 100%) confident that Jackson's scoliosis is unlikely to return, but that will never (until age 21) be certain.  This appointment became a reality check for Justin and I.  It was a reminder that nobody's health is guaranteed and an overflowing of new gratefulness and praise.  It was further proof in the power of prayer.

Shriner's Greenville has a new x-ray machine that uses super low levels of radiation.  The caveat is that the child must remain PERFECTLY (almost impossibly) still for about 5-7 seconds.  Before this appointment, Jackson has been afraid to enter this capsule-like machine.  In a moment of bravery (and hoping for a trip to ToysRUs), he chose to give it a try.

The x-ray image from this machine is composed of tons of tiny crosssection images that populate on a screen.  As I was standing behind the radiation barrier and watching this image appear, I could hear Jackson's nurse saying "don't wiggle buddy, don't wiggle."  My heart sank when I saw the x-ray appear on the screen with (just guessing) about a 12-15 degree scoliotic curve.  However, Jackson's arms/shoulders were leaning in the film as well.  I asked the nurse if we could redo Jackson's x-ray in the traditional machine that he is used to (instantaneous image capture).  She agreed to do this because of his motion during the first x-ray.

And praise the Lord, this x-ray looked 1,000,000 times better!  Still, I was on pins and needles waiting to see Dr. Pete, not knowing how he would read these results.  We sat and waited for awhile, the whole time I found myself repeating scripture in my head.  For those of you who were praying for us from afar, you are so very much appreciated!  I truly, truly felt those prayers during this visit.  Listing to a mother and father sob two rooms down from us, I was also reminded of how quickly life can change.  We have to choose joy. 

My eyes filled with tears when Dr. Pete entered our room and without hesitation said "He looks perfect, just as I expected!"  When I questioned him about the "bad" x-ray, he said the technicians didn't even send it through the computer system (probably due to poor quality from Jackson moving).    Dr. Pete reassured us that he expects Jackson to continue to grow straight because (although not guaranteed) the odds are in his favor.  Again, he also referred to prayer which I love.  Dr. Pete is an incredible physician!  He asked us to return in 4 months for another follow-up.

Truth: I am still a little uneasy.  My head wants to 100% believe that the "bad" x-ray as a result of only Jackson's movement.  Facts tell me that the second x-ray looked perfect.  Reality is that Jackson's skilled orthopedic surgeon read the x-ray as ZERO degrees.  But, I'm a mom.  And, I'm a worrier.  I am glad that we return to Shriner's in 4 months for a follow-up x-ray.  My heart has trouble seeing a 12-15 degree curve - even momentarily, and even if it was an incorrect representation.  However, I still choose joy. 

Joy came easy in Greenville South Carolina's 70 degree January!  On a day that could have turned out SO differently, my family and I were able to enjoy the downtown Riverwalk together and to soak up the beautiful, warm sunshine.

And that evening we even enjoyed a nice "manager's reception" at our hotel.  Note:  the kids are drinking lemonade!

It was a much needed evening of relaxation.

We ended our trip (on the drive home) with a stop by Justin's Mammaw's house to celebrate a late Christmas with family.  And most importantly, to celebrate God's continual healing of Jackson's spine.


Friday, January 9, 2015

My Louis Vuitton

Well, here she is:  my little vintage Louis Vuitton bag, a Speedy 25.

Kudos to the vendor for selling me a bag with REALLY excellent "bones."  She arrived in far better condition than I had even imagined she would ~ and the "restoration" process was little more than cleaning the monogram canvas, conditioning the leather, and polishing the brass.  For an older, used handbag, this LV even had a very nice deep honey patina {no yucky, black oil from years of being mistreated}.  I cannot complain!  {then again, who would complain about a Louis Vuitton bag in their grasp for approximately 18% of the price of a new Speedy 25 ?!?}

For those of you who appreciate this sort of thing, I took some photographs of the miniature restoration process so you can see the classic beauty of my new handbag ~ one which with never go out of style!  I am just SO excited!


This is what I mean by excellent "bones."  This is her directly out of the parcel box.

And here as well - prior to any cleaning.

But here's that same brass fastener after some Wright's brass polish.

Nothing that a little elbow grease and some awesome cleaners can't handle.  After doing some research, I ordered this 100% natural cleanser from Green Wyre that has proven safe for Louis Vuitton handbags and has been featured on several other fashion blogs.

I used Apple leather conditioner for the vachetta.

And buffed with a make-up sponge.

And now what you've been waiting for ... some "after" photos of my girl {alright, I know the lingo is ridiculous}.


In today's mail came my Louis Vuitton padlock to complete the ensemble!  I got VERY lucky with my #300 padlock as well.  It had NO scratches and only moderate tarnishing.  Again, with my Wright's brass polish, it looks BRAND NEW!  Boy!  Take a look at these "before" and "after" images of the LV padlock!



And the final look is QUITE a "Voila"!
And a "Ta Da"!
I am so impressed!

This final product.
Watch out Rodeo Drive ... here I come!
{I wish}

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Memory Jar

Last January we started a family tradition {which mostly I do} of writing down the tiniest moments and memories throughout the year on little strips of paper and depositing them into a large, vintage, glass mason jar in our living room.  On New Years day, we sit down together and read through favorite glimpses of the previous year.  This year was so special.  There were tender moments like Jackson kissing my nose each time he rode to the bottom of his indoor "roller coaster."  There were funny moments like my placing my bottle of wine "rear facing" in an empty carseat after a LONG day with the kids {safety first!}.  And there was just a lot of goodness:  sweet conversations, silence during a big snowfall, cute words the kids said in funny ways.  We emptied out our big jar a few days ago, and today it stood empty waiting for its first deposit of 2015.  Well, it's getting one tonight.  Hopefully next January it will seem much more funny than it did today.


Yesterday, Oliver transitioned to his "big boy" toddler bed by default.  It was certainly NOT by Justin or my choice, but for safety reasons as he suddenly learned to climb out of his crib despite his mattress being all the way on the floor.  We celebrated with him {despite our apprehension} and took the mandatory "big boy bed" photographs.  He was pretty proud of himself.

Last night he slept fantastically in his bed.  Naturally, we had the same pep talk today at nap time, and I {mistakenly} trusted he would rest well.  About 20 minutes after nap began, Jackson announced to me: "Oliver pooped and it's everywhere."  This was only partially true.  Oliver had pooped, taken off his clothes, and {I guess?} reached into the back of his diaper and smeared poop on his legs and belly.  He was still standing inside of his bedroom, and I didn't know exactly what or why this had happened.  So, I cleaned him up, repeated my pep talk, and ventured back downstairs.  Mere child's play in a mom's day. 

Fast forward another 20 minutes and Jackson announced to me "Oliver has the white butt stuff and it's everywhere."  So, I bounded up the stairs where I found this:

And this:

And this:

And this:

And this:

And this:

And this:

:back out of the room:
:walk downstairs:
:scream again:
:retrieve cell phone:
:return to child:

I've been a mommy for 4.5 years now ~ and today took the cake.  Does anyone out there know how HARD it is to clean Desitin, Vaseline, A&D ointment, and baby powder out of EVERYTHING?!?  First clue:  most of them are intended to be moisture barriers and soap/water do NOT cut through them.  Oh.  My.  Goodness.

Next came some big discipline {please note that he was laughing and thought this whole action was a giant, funny game}.  Mommy did not.  Game over.

Then came a lot of this:

{those REALLY shiny feet?  that's vaseline.  covering them.  think oil spill.}

Because these precious items left for the entire rest of the day:

And someone realized that he had to be wiped clean {perhaps scrubbed is a better word} ... and then he had to HELP clean:

So then there was more of this:

I sincerely think the only thing that didn't happen during nap time today was actual napping.  Oliver didn't sleep.  I didn't relax.  No one got anything productive done at all.  Actually, I am still washing the rocking chair cushions because the ointments refused to come off the upholstery whatsoever.  I'm washing them individually - because they are huge.  I'm washing them each twice - because I have to.  

But, we have something for our memory jar!

Only a few hours after today's catastrophe, the photographs already make me laugh {though I dare never let Oliver see this!}.  Perhaps today's catastrophe with be tomorrow's belly laugh?  It's January 7th, and something tells me we are not going to have a boring 2015! 


Mamas out there:  what mess "takes to cake" in your life?  Tell me I'm not alone!  Comment below!