Remembering how to write and cry

Big sigh as I finally settle in to write. So much has happened, and I’ve said so little. For years now, I’ve barely written. It’s a huge part of how I think and process things, and yet I’ve abstained. Why?

Probably because it got so big, and part of me has been scared that once I start, I won’t be able to stop until I get it all out. And I don’t have the time for that, do I? To write forever and ever… That’s how I felt about crying, too. But I’ve cried a lot lately. And it doesn’t usually last that long. I cried on the drive to work this morning. I wailed and howled in my car with the windows cracked so it would have somewhere to go. I cried as I walked to the parking garage from the office. It was cloudy and cold with a brusque wind. I ran until I couldn’t. To keep warm and get there faster. While I cried. It was darkish and rush hour long over, so I only passed a couple people along the way. Only let my hair obscure my face for a few people and let the crying sounds go quieter as I passed them.

And as soon as I closed that car door with myself encased, I let it the fuck go. I wailed, then snub snub snubbed as I came close to the exit of the garage and noticed there was an attendant at the non-monthly spot one lane over. And then I was done with unintentional human interaction for the whole drive home. And I screamed my cry then. It was almost like I was singing high notes. I sustained some of them for quite a long time. And then I settled down a bit and called a friend. And I vented a bit to him until he had to go. Then I finished the drive home.

Shortly after arriving, I subjected my mom to a few solid hours of my unbridled frustrations. I had so many, and they just needed to be heard… to be out of me and into the world… I cried some more. She hugged me close and cried with me. Not fixing, not advising. Just listening and being present and loving. Such a nurturing soul, my mother. I am so grateful for that. I didn’t put on kid gloves. I didn’t curb my language. I just let it all the fuck go.

And I could stop right now, and part of me wants to, because I’m feeling so very tired, wrung out, raw and numb. My glasses are once again speckled with the remnants of so many tears. I keep falling asleep with my fingers on keys. It’s been tough for me on a lot of fronts. But I know I’m going to be OK. And I do have a lot of friends. So grateful for that.

So this is unfinished, but it’s writing. I wrote. And sometimes that’s just how life goes. Things can remain seemingly unfinished. They can drop off suddenly. They can build and crescendo only to evaporate… Life is full of mirages and oases. I’d like to say that I’m wise enough to know the difference most of the time, but I’m certainly not. I’m going through… I’m going THROUGH.


Hindsight can be a tricky temptress, luring you in and giving you the idea that you could’ve done things differently or better, if only… The siren song is often the sweet lullaby of “This could’ve saved you or somebody else from so much pain.” With this one simple trick, you could just poof away a bunch of pain and suffering. If only you hadn’t zigged when you should’ve zagged! But it’s a lie. Always. Because, quite simply, YOU CANNOT CHANGE THE PAST.

The vast majority of our insight comes to us via hindsight. We best understand things when they’re firmly in the rearview mirror. We generally have FAR more information about a situation after it has occurred than we did at the time when we were first processing it. And quite often, a moment that later holds great significance to us appears routine or ordinary as it’s being experienced initially. But only later is that significance revealed.

I’ve come to trust that in any given moment, I am doing the best I can with all the information I have available to me at the time. And so are you. So is everybody on the planet. We’re a very judgmental society, so most of us balk at the idea of “best” and say things like “Well, clearly I wasn’t doing my best when I committed X blunder.” Oh, but you were. There are so many factors involved that we tend to overlook the things that compromise our ability to make decisions and so forth. Maybe the day you did that thing that makes you cringe when you think about it you had barely gotten any sleep for several days in a row and were running on fumes. Maybe you hadn’t been eating well and your body and brain didn’t have the fuel needed to move you around and think clearly. Maybe somebody had been pushing your buttons like they were trying to win at a video game they’d never played before, mashing away at the buttons with reckless abandon, just trying to make something happen.

We forget all the things that led up to the cringey thing, but boy do we ever remember the thing itself. That’s usually emblazoned in our memory in vivid technicolor and available for instant and rapid playback. In my work, I talk a lot about self-acceptance, forgiveness, kindness and compassion, which are all a part of real self-love. To get to that self-acceptance and self-love, we don’t need to take into consideration all those factors (though that can be very helpful sometimes), but rather trust that we were doing our best at the time under the circumstances and with the information available to us.

If I trust that in the past, I did the best I could at the time, then it’s a lot easier for me to trust that I’m doing my best in each moment as it arrives. Right now.* And if I trust that, there’s no need for cringing, because I’m doing my best, and future me knows that. So does present me, who is creating my future moment by moment. The future isn’t plans and projections. It’s a collection of moments that lead up to a moment. Another point in time. I want to create those moments with gratitude and abundance, not worries and fear. I want my collection of moments to be filled with more joy and laughter than sorrow and regret. And so I live that way.

This is far more of a practice than a realization. In every moment, I’m either consciously aware that I’m doing my best with what I’ve got, or I find a way to remind myself of that fact, or I completely lose sight of it for awhile and feel some strong and maybe also unpleasant feelings. And whatever I’m feeling is OK.

I wrote that over a month ago and got distracted after I wrote that last sentence. I wanted to expand on that thread, but every time I’ve come back to it, I can’t seem to pick it up again. My websites were all down for awhile due to hosting issues that have now been resolved. Would’ve just posted it immediately if I’d known… Which is pretty much the point of the post. Hindsight, right? I did the best I could with the info available to me at the time. And so did you. Really.

A Slingshot Kind of Week

SlingshotThe past couple years, I’ve somewhat consciously experienced a lot of energetic shifts. And a pattern has emerged. That pattern was very clear this week. Monday I felt great. Woke up ready to go, stayed in flow, got a ton of housework done and felt really pumped. Got my hair cut and ran some errands after that. When I got home, I felt kind of tired. I’d done a lot of stuff in the morning, but didn’t feel like I should be that tired. Got a solid 8 hours of sleep, but felt kind of tired in the morning still. Started reading The Mood Cure by Julia Ross (reading = listening to the audio book for me whenever an audio book exists) and it made a lot of sense to me.

I had my first client coming for an Intuitive Guidance session with me. I was really excited, and all I wanted to do was clean my kitchen and the parts of the house she’d walk through on her way to the basement healing room. Her appointment was at 5:30pm and I had all day. But I didn’t do it. My kitchen was still a wreck with things gathered in piles everywhere and a couple sweet potatoes baking in the oven when she arrived 15 minutes early.

I ran around making a few last minute preparations as I got her ready for the session and then settled into it. That went really well! And it turned out that (like me), she finds it kind of comforting when she goes to a person’s home and it’s lived in rather than pristine and perfect. Whew!

After she left, I noticed the slight headache I’d had most of the day becoming more prominent. I also realized that the sweet potatoes were still baking in the oven. They turned into a delicious smelling, crusty, syrupy sort of mess. I turned the oven off and left them in there. Didn’t feel like eating much. I was also oddly nauseous. I’m not prone to nausea, generally, so it’s a noteworthy difference when it shows up.

I’ve had plenty of flu and that kind of sickness throughout my life, so I know what that feels like. It wasn’t that. I didn’t throw up or anything. Just felt weird. Couldn’t think very well. Remembered that I had taken my Nuvigil (for narcolepsy) in the morning and my supplements. Hadn’t eaten great, but that was a pretty weird feeling.

Wednesday I woke up feeling the same, but it was more intense. I used to call those kinds of headaches a psychic hangover, but I don’t feel that’s it. I think it’s a precursor rather than something that happens after the fact. Definitely in this case. I spent the whole day on the couch unable to do much more than watch some TV or tap around on my iPhone. The cat and parrot have been super agitated most of the week as well. Much whiny meowing and squawking. Always a treat. Neither one of them would sit with me to be petted. The bird just flitted between perches beyond my reach and screeched most of the day.

I was really going downhill in the afternoon. A call from a friend brought up a lot of old wounds for me and I was depressed and extremely emotional the rest of the day. My husband, Shannon, had a lovely day till he came home. It was hard for him to deal with me in that state. Understandably so. I knew I wasn’t being reasonable or logical. But I also couldn’t get out of the hole. The message I got when I asked for help was that it would pass, but I needed to allow myself to go through it.

I burned sage and smudged myself and the house to clear anything out that didn’t belong. Felt a little lift, but the heaviness was still there and got worse again. I’ve had one migraine in my life, and this is different. There are similarities, but it’s hard to explain. It’s a different feeling. And I can’t make it stop. It’s hard to just relax into it and let it run its course.

Finally got to sleep late. I was thrilled to wake up the next morning (after some crazy dreams) feeling like myself again. Out from under the anvil of whatever that was. I was afraid to push it, lest it return. Wound up just having a very chill day in with Shannon after he returned from his morning job. He’s been doing a lot of handy man work this week and wanted some down time. We talked a lot. It was good.

I went to the Clintonville Co-op shortly before they closed and got some things there that I haven’t been able to find anywhere else. Watched some TV and relaxed after making dinner. Then went to bed.

Woke up this morning feeling AWESOME and energized! Last night I’d gotten chicory root granules at the Co-op to make like coffee (a tip from my friend Beatrice). The taste is somewhat similar, but instead of making your system more acidic like all coffee and many other things in our typical diet, it is an alkalizing, caffeine-free beverage that’s really good for you. Shannon woke up a little late, but I popped right up and made some of that and a decent breakfast. The chicory was good with some cinnamon! I got Shannon everything he needed to start his day, and everythin felt easy and light.

I have some appointments today, and I have a feeling that there will be big shifts coming from somewhere. That’s the thing with this pattern I mentioned initially. This week is like pulling back a slingshot. Wednesday was where it was pulled back as far as it could go. It takes a lot of energy to hold that back. Thursday was having it held there and taking aim at the target. Still takes a lot of energy to hold it, but you’re focusing more on where you want the shot to go than pulling it back.

And this morning was the release! Pechooooo! I don’t know what’s happening, but I feel myself hurtling through space right now. I don’t know what the targets are, or when I’ll hit them exactly, but that shot is in motion! It’s hard to remember this part when you’re in a Wednesday place, though. Really hard.

Today I’ve got a lot of awesome work to do, and I’m excited about it! I don’t even know what yet, exactly, but I’m showing up. I’m going where I’m called to go and doing whatever feels right in each moment. And instead of thinking it would be good to write about this someday, I just sat down and wrote it, and now I’ll post it. I want to do more of that. There’s so much more to share! Much love to you!

My Weddings

When I was 25, I married Jason Keys. My maiden name was a common German name that I didn’t like spelling for folks the first part of my life, so I took the opportunity to make my life a lot easier and shorten my last name spelling procedure to “Keys, spelled like car keys or house keys.” For awhile I said “like Alicia Keys,” but a lot of people think she spells it “Keyes,” so that was fairly short-lived.

Jason was English and lived in England. We met in October 1998 at a Housewarming party for a mutual friend, Tony, who had been Jason’s best friend for 12 years and had met me on the internet a year prior. Tony loved the US so much when he visited me that he moved to Minneapolis, MN with his company within a year. The Housewarming party was for his new US friends and some of his oldest UK friends. Five guys from the UK came over and spent a couple weeks there. They rented a car and figured out how to get to the Mall of America and back, and that’s about it.

Jason and I had similar taste in music and Goth clubs and hit it off as friends. He somewhat resembled Justin Hawkins of The Darkness, but with longer hair and better teeth. When out with him, people often asked what band he was in. None. They also assumed that he was a heroin addict or something, but he’d never so much as smoked a cigarette.

We emailed each other for awhile and I visited him in England in December 1998. My plane tickets were a combined birthday present from Jason and Tony. I spent a long weekend in the land of fish and chips and amazing dance clubs and didn’t really sleep till I got back home. Had a great time! Shortly after I returned, Jason called me and asked if I’d be willing to try dating him long distance. I was, and we did.

In 1999 after a few visits back and forth along with daily emails and a few phone calls a month (international long-distance calls were really expensive!), I called him expecting to break up with him. I knew I wasn’t willing to move to England (so expensive!), and I assumed he wouldn’t be willing to sell his business in England to move to Delaware, OH where I was currently living. I turned out to be wrong there. I was surprised that he wanted to come live with me in the US, but quickly started working on logistics to make that happen.

Since he was a British citizen, he could only come here and stay longer than a few weeks if we got married. I researched the different types of visas back when the Internet was still young, and most of that information was in various online forums. Easier than looking things up in the library, but not as easy as it is now. The K-1 Fiancé visa made the most sense, so that’s what I put most of my time and energy toward until he moved to Ohio in December 1999.

Despite my best efforts to make the process go as smoothly as possible, it didn’t. When he flew here on his visa, he landed at Cleveland Hopkins Airport and went through customs there. They didn’t stamp his passport with a work permit, which meant he wasn’t allowed to work here until he got far enough in his application for permanent residence to get his Social Security Number. Amazing how significantly the omission of one little press from an ink pad onto paper would affect both our lives.

He had 90 days from the date he entered the US to get married before his K-1 visa expired. We set the date for January 22, 2000. I had left my job at Harding Hospital in late November, 1999 and was out of work until February, 2000. Neither of us was working when he got here. Legally, he couldn’t. And with everybody freaking out about Y2K back then, nobody would hire me. It made a tough adjustment even tougher.

I didn’t want a wedding. We were struggling to get by as it was, and didn’t want the expense or the hassle. I really wanted to just elope at the courthouse. But I let friends and family talk me into “a small wedding” instead. I wanted it as small as possible, and definitely didn’t want people spending the money to fly here from England for it. How tiny can a wedding be if people are spending thousands of pounds just to fly out for a weekend to see it?

Thirty-eight people, it turns out. My good friends, Glenn and Kay, were like a second family for Jason and me. She hosted the wedding in the living room of her big, pink stucco house in Delaware. The reception was at a nice restaurant nearby. Seven people flew here from England despite my protests. Jason’s parents divorced when he was young, and he had lived with his maternal grandmother, Violet, for his adult life carrying on his grandfather’s business after he died. Violet came along with several of his friends and stayed at the Delaware Super 8.

One of my friends I’d known since 1994, Adam, had agreed to officiate my wedding. I was trying to keep things simple and save money. He and his friend would’ve made 40 people total, but the day before the wedding, Adam canceled on me. I hadn’t looked into getting our marriage license far enough in advance, and needed it 3 days before, when we only had 1. When I told Adam about the technicality, he freaked out and refused to make the trip to marry us.

With the marriage license not effective until a couple days after the wedding date, I couldn’t just find another official to do it. Adam had made it sound like all of us could be locked up for it, since the K-1 visa hinged on it and all that. But a bunch of Brits had flown out for our wedding on Saturday, and I wasn’t going to let them leave without seeing what they came for. And that’s when I feverishly started the search for somebody who would fake marry us the next day.

I called Kay and we started to brainstorm. After going through a few prospects, she landed on her friend Gregg who had recently gotten out of prison. Nobody including me had met him before, so he fit the bill to fill the role on short notice. I was up till 4am figuring out logistics, writing vows, fixing the printer so I could print them out for Gregg to read, fixing a broken strap on my wedding dress… FUN!

My mom had thoughtfully given me a spa visit as a wedding gift. I went after a few hours of sleep. I didn’t really enjoy it. I was still trying to figure some things out and my brain was fried. I hadn’t washed my hair in a couple days when I went, knowing that I was having somebody do my hair and makeup at the end. She said her style would work better with dirty hair, so it stayed unwashed and she put it up in tiny decorative hair clips. I felt gross and dirty with a bad paint job on top.

I had put on some weight between the time I bought my disco ball-esque wedding dress and the wedding day, which is why my strap broke and made that whole thing a challenge. The living room was decorated with lovely silver wreaths and such. Kay really enjoyed decorating for the holidays and did a wonderful job. The people from England did their best to enjoy the small wedding that wasn’t really what anybody wanted. We exchanged our vows with Gregg. He was a good sport about the whole thing. Jason’s grandma asked him all these questions about whether he was a vicar or not, and what parish he was from. Gregg had no clue what she was talking about and did his best to keep up his role of “preacher guy.” I felt bad for putting him in that position the first time I met him. I didn’t know what else to do.

It was very cold, snowy and icy that January 22. Nobody fell and hurt themselves getting from the wedding to the reception, thank goodness. We had a nice, expensive dinner that everybody seemed to enjoy. Everything was very nicely done there. I enjoyed that more than the “wedding.” At the end of the night, I was just glad it was done.

The following Monday when our marriage license became legit, Jason and I sat at the dining room table with Glenn the next room over from where we had the wedding, and his longtime friend legally married us by going through a very simplified set of vows and we said our “I do’s,” signed the papers and that was it. I would’ve been perfectly happy if that had been the only thing we did. So my official wedding date was January 24, 2000, when my engraved picture frame and other gifts had January 22, 2000 on them. A reminder of the wedding that never quite was.

He went back to England around six months later. It was a confusing and difficult time for me. And just as I had done the bulk of the INS paperwork to get him over here, I did all the divorce paperwork myself. Thus, it didn’t become official until December 19, 2001. Nearly a year and a half after he went back home.

I wasn’t so big on marriage before that, and far less so afterward. When I was a girl, I didn’t play with dolls or dream about my fairy tale wedding day. I’ve always been a bit of an odd bird. I didn’t get a fairy tale, but I got a good story. Sorry if you’re reading this now and you were one of the people at that first wedding that didn’t know what the deal was. I did my best to give people what I thought they wanted, and it wound up being pretty ridiculous.

When I started dating Shannon, he wasn’t so big on marriage, either. He hadn’t been married before or had any children. But somehow it made sense for us. There wasn’t a big proposal or anything. We just talked about it, and it made sense. And when my parents generously offered to upgrade our accommodations on an already planned family vacation to a honeymoon, we gladly accepted. They gave us the master suite with the balcony facing the ocean and a whirlpool tub. I woke up in time to watch the sunrise from that balcony every morning when we were there. So grateful for such a generous gift!

And for that to be our honeymoon, we had to get married beforehand. I picked 5/30/15 because I liked the balance of it. All divisible by 5. It turned out to also be the 17th anniversary for my friend Heather and her husband, Chris. It was the day before we were set to leave for Carolina Beach.

I had never wanted a big wedding, and Shannon hadn’t thought about his wedding at all. And when we talked about trying to figure out where to have it, who we’d invite, where the cutoff point would have to be, where the money would come from for it and all that, we both got really anxious and stressed out about it. Everybody wanted it to be bigger. We’ve both struggled a lot financially this year and gotten by with a LOT of help (especially from my Mom), and didn’t want to put our money toward a wedding, or further tax the sources of help we’ve received for a wedding.

Our good friends, Donna and Ward, generously offered to host our wedding at their beautiful home. There isn’t much that stresses me out more than event planning. I just don’t like it at all. And for this wedding, I wanted to have things the way that I wanted, not the way everybody else would want them. My first wedding was a lot of stress over trying to appease people, but I wanted my wedding with Shannon to be OURS. There’s no way to please everybody, so this time we did what felt right to US. And of course there were people who were not happy with our choices. I wish that wasn’t the case, but I’ve spent too much of my life putting the wants and needs of others above my own, and all I get from that is exhaustion on all fronts.

What we had was a lovely ceremony with just the four of us there. I chose the time of 3:33pm for it, as that’s one of my favorite numbers, but of course I ran reeeeeally late and I think we actually got married around 5:55pm (more 5’s! whee!) during a small break in a rainstorm on their back balcony. We said our vows and he cried, and it was just how we wanted it.

Donna made an incredible feast for us that included all the vegetables I’d given her from my fridge so they wouldn’t go to waste while we were on our honeymoon. She somehow whipped all that up while I was getting ready! We felt so incredibly special, blessed and loved for the beginning of our marriage. Part of what made it great is that we didn’t have anybody else waiting for us, and didn’t have to do things any kind of certain way. We just got to let it unfold. And for us, it was absolutely perfect.

Yesterday, we had Shannon’s family reunion and today we have mine. My parents organized my family reunion and booked the location exactly a year ago. They could only reserve it for the day, so we decided to have our reception in the same place later in the day. It just came together serendipitously. Much like Shannon and I have. We’ve invited both families (the capacity is 70, so 35 per family) and Donna will be there to reaffirm our vows. We’re looking forward to having our families together for the first time!

Happy Father’s Day, Solstice and everything. 🙂

My Special Tea

I was at an event a month ago hosted at my friend’s house. It’s a beautiful home set back in the woods with lots of windows and bird feeders drawing our feathered friends in close. The event was about creating a Native American Medicine Wheel Garden. During the first hours, we talked a lot about sacred space, empowerment and how we impact the Earth we inhabit. I was feeling really good and happy as we transitioned into a break.

Rainbow HairThere was food and drink available, and I thought a cup of tea sounded nice. They have a lot of tea and several varieties were sitting out in a wooden chest; each in either a nice zip closure style bag, or in a tea tin. I picked one up and saw that it was called “Rainbow Harmony,” which really appealed to me. I was getting my hair dyed rainbow colors the next day, and it made me smile. After seeing that it had previously been opened (I typically won’t open a sealed bag), I grabbed the metal measuring scoop and shoved it into the little bag expecting to pull out a scoop of loose leaf tea. But it came out empty. I could see there was something in there, so I took a closer look and saw two dime-sized balls in the bag. “What kind of fancy tea is this?!” I thought. I read the label and it said it was a blooming tea, and to steep it until it unfurled into a flower.

I thought “Oh, that’s *special tea*” and put the bag back in the chest. As I started to peruse the selection again, I wondered why I felt unworthy of the special tea. They had put it out there, presumably to be enjoyed rather than admired, respected, and put back in the chest. I thought “*I’m* special, and I’m going to enjoy this special tea!”

a cup of blooming teaAfter popping one in a white mug and pouring boiling water on top, I took it over to a table where a few others were gathered. I watched as it unfurled and bloomed slowly. The aroma was delightful! The others at the table wanted to see, and so we all enjoyed its unfurling. And then I got to drink it.

The flavor was subtle and earthy. The sweetness from the scent didn’t quite make it into the flavor, but it was a lovely experience all around and I savored every second of it. I even brewed a second mug of tea from the same bloom at the end of the event.

And now I’ve written about it. So who was that tea for if it wasn’t for me? How many times a day do I think about something I want and then decide that somebody else deserves it more, or that it’s just not something for lil’ ol’ me.

We all have different gifts in this life. Nobody sees things through quite the same lens as anybody else does. Why do I always feel like I’ll leave those things for somebody who would likely appreciate it more, or better?

I do that in so many aspects of my life… figure that somebody else knows better. I trust my intuition to a point, but I often defer to somebody else’s perceived expertise. There are many people I can help, and many that I have helped. If I’m going to fully embrace that as part of my life, I have to take opportunities like that instead of leaving them for somebody else. There are plenty of opportunities to go around. If we all took the opportunities to use our gifts to help each other, it would create even *more* opportunities, not reduce them! “The more we have, the more we have to give.” There is plenty for everybody. And helping people to see that is just one of my “special teas.” What’s yours? 🙂

From the Harmony Healthcare Newsletter

Preface: I wrote this a couple weeks ago for the Harmony Healthcare Newsletter. We were so excited about the new office opening up and all the people we’d be able to help. Less than a week ago, tragedy struck and dashed those hopes when my beloved boss, mentor and friend, Dr. Mark Chirila, unexpectedly passed away on Saturday, January 31, 2015. I’ve taken so many lessons away from this and I have countless more coming. Also, I’m incredibly lucky that I got to work alongside such an exceptional human being and feel like I was in exactly the right situation with exactly the right people around me. How many people really get to have that? Lucky me. Truly. I’m so glad I wrote this when he was alive to read it. He told me almost daily how much he valued and appreciated me there. I told him a lot less, because that was a pretty new thing for me. But I’m really glad these weren’t posthumous thoughts. It’s how I felt when he was here. And he knew that. <3

Jacki Keys: Meet Our New Practice Manager

How did I get here? I spent nearly 20 years working in IT. In the mid 90s, I was a transcriptionist at Harding Hospital, a local mental hospital back then. I went from that to being their sole computer support person and spent the next 8 years in tech support at various places, mostly in the healthcare industry. From support, I transitioned into database work and was a DBA (Database Administrator) for about 6 years, then tried to become a programmer, then a user experience designer, and this past September I found myself at Harmony Healthcare just wanting to do whatever I could to help.

Jacki in 2012 on left, 2014 on right

I’d heard Dr. Mark’s name mentioned for years before I finally got myself to his office. Most often I’d hear “he changed my life” or “it was a miracle” mentioned in the same breath. I’d even met him and his amazing wife, Brielle, socially. He’s one of the few people I’d heard unanimously great things about, and I trusted the opinions of those who gave them. But I always thought to myself “I’m not as sick as they were. I’m doing OK. I know more about food than most. I’ll go when I can afford it.” I made really good money as a DBA. When I quit that job and career in January 2012, that changed dramatically, and I’ve struggled to make ends meet since then. I’d never been happier, but money was still a concern.

This past July, the signs pointed to me having Lyme disease. I didn’t go through whatever they do to officially diagnose it, but I had a tell-tale 8″ bulls-eye rash on my thigh and accompanying chronic fatigue and a host of other weirdness going on. The doctor put me on a round of strong antibiotics and Prednisone. Oof. I hadn’t taken antibiotics in years, but knew that Lyme disease was nothing to mess with, so I complied. If only I’d known then what I know now… But that’s always the case in life. You do the best you can with the information you have at the time, and that’s all you really can do!

I felt so messed up after a few days of taking that stuff. But I knew I had to finish it OR ELSE. You don’t just stop taking antibiotics or steroids. That’s when the message to go see Dr. Mark seemed to come from everywhere. This time I listened. I didn’t know how I was going to pay for it, but I knew I needed to go. And that may well be the best decision I’ve ever made.

My first appointment with him was the most comprehensive wellness experience I’ve ever had. Dr. Mark asked me all sorts of questions to get at the root of what was really going on with me. Over the course of that first meeting, I learned that I didn’t actually have Lyme disease, but rather a collection of symptoms stemming largely from food sensitivities. He was able to show me what my body needed and what it reacted badly to. It was a LOT of information. And there are a lot of things I thought I knew that turned out not to be true. At that first meeting, I wasn’t sure that was really the case, but everything he told me was so accurate that I decided to give changing my diet dramatically and adding whole food supplements a shot.

It’s important to note that he wasn’t advocating for a one-size-fits-all diet. He was telling me what worked specifically for me. He said I should see a real difference within 8 weeks, if I really made those changes. Some people might hear that and think it’s a long time. It’s not. When you’ve been eating things most of your life that you didn’t know your body was sensitive to, 8 weeks is nothing, and boy did I ever see changes!

I still had a few days left of antibiotics and prednisone, and my body needed more recovery and repair work as a result. Even so, within 6 weeks, most of the symptoms I had associated with Lyme disease were gone. As a bonus, my lifelong allergies to dogs, cats and most furry creatures were GONE. Completely gone. There’s a cat that sleeps in my bed now GONE. Dr. Mark hadn’t even mentioned that as a possibility until I said something to him about it. The thing is, it’s different for everybody. But he’s seen that happen many times. It is truly amazing what your body can do when it is no longer under the constant stress of foods that aren’t right for you.

My first appointment was in August, I started work in his office on September 19, 2014. I’ve worked a lot in tech support and customer service, but I had never done anything like this before. He said I was welcome to do as little or as much as I wanted. It would’ve been fine if I wanted to just stay in the office, deal with paperwork, the computers and filing, etc. But I wanted to learn as much as I could about nutrition and how to empower people the way he had empowered me to heal myself. He got me training sessions with our local Standard Process rep on my third day working there, which was a huge vote of confidence. He’s sent me to several such sessions and training workshops since then, and I’ve soaked it all up like a sponge.

It’s crazy when I realize I’ve only been working there for about 4 months. I’ve learned so much and feel so much better! I had my 40th birthday in November and I looked and felt better than I had… I was going to say in 20 years, but really I’ve never looked or felt this good! My energy level is high consistently throughout the day, I don’t have the constant cough, stuffy head, throat clearing I used to, my skin has cleared up so dramatically that most people who’ve known me for years have commented on it. I just feel better, and my changes were almost completely based on changing my diet (for me, part of that was adding some meat back in after many years of being a vegetarian and avoiding the soy and wheat that were my daily staples as a “carbitarian”) and adding Standard Process and Medi-Herb supplements.

Tomorrow is my last day on the Standard Process 21 Day Purification Program with my boyfriend, Shannon. We’ve both experienced an amazing transformation from that as well. I love working at Harmony Healthcare! I fully believe in what we do here. I don’t have to put my morality aside when I come to work the way I did for most of my adult life. It’s an incredible feeling to love what you do for a living. As Practice Manager, I’m figuring new things out every day. And with our new office, there’s a whole other set of new things to explore and grow into! We’re so excited to move into this new space. I hope you’ll come and check it out soon!

Note: Obviously, you can’t come and check out the new office anymore. I just wanted to repost that as it was published originally. If I started changing things, I’d probably change almost everything. That’s a snapshot in time back to Thursday, 1/22/14. It came from a place I can never go back to. And so I move in the direction he’d want me to most… Forward. <3

And to help his family move forward, please donate to his memorial fund to help cover the costs of his medical bills and funeral costs. Even a little means a lot! Thank you!

When I grow up – Part 2

(You don’t need to read Part 1 first, but you can if you like.)

In a month I’ll officially be 40 years old, which I think is great. Since my late 20s, I’ve had mystics tell me that once I approached 40, things in my life would get pretty awesome. I’d really start coming into my own, and apparently that meant something amazing. I have mentioned this to many of my close friends over the years, including my mom. I had no idea what they were talking about until a few months ago. And then stuff started to really change.

I feel like the cycle that began in January 2012 when I quit my job as a DBA without a net came to a close a couple weeks ago. That was a tough cycle for me. I floundered A LOT. I’d catch the scent of something I wanted to do or experience and move toward it, only to find it a mirage that vanished when I got closer. I had several jobs that I initially thought were going to be great for me, but they quickly proved to be a bad fit. I was volunteering a lot of my time, but barely scraping by. I remained fairly positive, but things just weren’t working. I tried to be a Ruby programmer, UX Designer, WordPress site designer, Web Content Manager… So many things in a couple years. And everything was just hard.

I got frustrated and discouraged. With each job, I’d try to figure out what I was doing wrong. “Why can’t I get myself to just DO THE WORK? I can do so many things, so why is this so hard for me? Why can’t I just buckle down and do it?” The answer eluded me, and it was maddening. I leaned a lot on friends and family for financial support. It has been a very uncomfortable time that way, and I’m still working through it. But thanks to my mom and a few amazing friends, I was able to maintain a decent lifestyle throughout.

Later the day I quit my last job that wasn’t working out, I had my first 2-week follow-up appointment with Dr. Mark Chirila at Harmony Healthcare. In two weeks, I was already starting to feel better after making radical changes to my diet and adding in whole food supplements, but that’s another story. After my visit, he made a comment about his office help not being available lately, and how he’d be a lot faster if he wasn’t working alone.

Harmony Healthcare

Without thinking, I said, “I can do office work, and I’m available… nowish.” He said, “You’ve had a rough day, quitting your job and all. I don’t want to push you into anything. Take a week or so to think about it and get back to me.” But while we talked about it, I got the most interesting feeling of deep warmth in my core. And then it moved up into my heart. Something in me knew I needed to work there, and that it would be good. I told Dr. Mark that, and he just smiled at me and said, “I’m glad to hear that. We’ll see what happens in a week or so.”

Then I got back to the business of doing other things. I had recently stepped down from the board of directors of a charity I had spent much of my time and energy on, and felt a lot more free. I still had web work to do for a couple clients that I had unfairly kept on the back-burner, but I felt far more unencumbered than I had in a long time.

I had thought it over. He wanted me to work part-time at a wage I haven’t worked for in probably 20 years. I figured I could help him out part-time, do my web work part-time to make up the difference, and it would all work out.

My first day was Friday, September 19. On my first commute to work, I was stuck in traffic behind an overturned semi with a fuel leak and was about an hour late. No time for training, and there were clients in the office. Hooray!

A couple of them greeted me and hugged me, because I knew them from elsewhere. They were so happy to see me! That was the response I got from several other clients throughout the day as well. I didn’t know what I was doing at all, but Dr. Mark was kind and just pointed me to different tasks. I jumped in and helped as much as I could. We were packed all morning and closed to clients at noon. I wound up being there till around 6pm getting up to speed on as much as I could. The next day was very full and started at 5:30am. I helped a friend get set up at an event and then headed to the office and made it there right when Dr. Mark did.

We had another day of back-to-back clients. I felt better prepared and was taking vital signs for them before they went back to see Dr. Mark. I tried not to be nervous, and did my best. I told people it was only my second day and most of them were surprised. I had picked up a lot very quickly. And it was nice to remember that I can do that.

Once the clients were gone, I had to leave for the next thing. Dr. Mark told me how happy he was to have me there, and how much faster everything had gone with me there to help him out. Every day I have been there, he has shown his gratitude and appreciation for me. Every. Day. I’d go to the moon and back for him if he asked me to, and I’d do it with a smile. I have never felt so valued as an employee.

Monday was my third day, and he gave me my own key to the office and had set up a training session with the Standard Process (supplements) rep from 9–11am. That was a huge vote of confidence! He had asked me how much I wanted to learn and said that it was fine if I just wanted to take care of the office work. But I want to learn as much as I can, so he has given me as many opportunities as possible to learn. In my first month, I’ve had 3 formal training sessions along with all the things he teaches me every day. I’m a fish in water there, and it feels wonderful.

It turned out that I’m not part-time there. I’m full-time. I’m currently consulting as Keys Creative LLC, but I’m very much a part of the team. He’s very well organized, and I’ve been learning his systems and suggesting new ones as I get acclimated. This is what I’ve always wanted to do, which is just figuring out what needs to be done and have the freedom and trust to DO IT.

I no longer feel ineffective, lazy and like I don’t know why I can’t force myself to work. I feel empowered and valued. I’m doing a great job there, and I’m reminded of that often. When I make mistakes, I let him know and do my best to rectify them. I don’t feel ashamed or like I’m doing a bad job or am afraid he’ll fire me or something. We’re a team with strengths and weaknesses that compliment each other well. A couple months into being a client there, and a month into working there, I’m the healthiest and happiest I’ve ever been in my life. And that was before I met my awesome boyfriend a week ago! Some days I wind up working crazy long hours because I just feel so good there that I have a hard time leaving. I’ve worked 12 hours there and then gone on to have a fun night out afterward, because I feel energized after working there. Can you even imagine feeling that way after a long day of work? I sure couldn’t. But it keeps happening!

Things will be hard in your career. But I want to encourage you to think about how you want to feel at your job. That’s what got me here. I wrote about how I wanted to feel, which was effective, efficient, valued and appreciated. I wanted to use all my skills and gifts to help people in whatever way I could do that the best. And so here I am, and that’s exactly how I feel and what I’m doing. The bumpy and winding road I took to get here doesn’t matter anymore. I’m just so happy to be here now. <3

Ending, beginning and in-between

I dated a wonderful guy for nearly 9 months, and this post is about the end of that relationship and my feelings about it. I’ve had a lot of relationships in the past 20 years or so that I’ve dated. I have learned from all of them, and none are the same. The context of the relationships before I was married in 2000 was a lot different than the context of those that followed my divorce a short time after. I was never one for white-picket-fence-dreams of my own Prince Charming who would one day ride in on his white horse, marry me and make babies with me. I knew from an early age that I never wanted children of my own, and that is one of the few things in my life that has remained constant since. I didn’t dream about my wedding or being married. It was never a goal of mine.

Long story less long, I dated a British guy for a couple years when the internet was still young, and we were still on dial-up. When it came time to end the cross-continental relationship, he decided to do so by selling his family business and moving to Ohio to take the distance out of our relationship equation. We married in January 2000 after using a K-1 Fiancé visa to get him over here. He went back home about 6 months later after not getting the right stamp in his passport on his way over to allow him to work in the US. It wasn’t a fun experience for him, and in hindsight it made all the sense in the world for him to head back home after that.

But when he left, it was the first time I had received a definitive NO at the end of a relationship. And while prior to that I didn’t think so much of marriage, afterward I felt very betrayed. Like, “You can’t just pick up and go back to England! We’re MARRIED! We signed stuff! YOU PROMISED!!!” It was very hard for me to accept at the time. And that’s when I learned some of life’s most valuable lessons:

  1. There truly are no guarantees
  2. Safety and stability are an illusion
  3. Happiness is not a future event that is contingent on anything happening. It is always present, and it is always a choice

I was really angry with him for the next couple years. I demonized him and felt very wronged. And then one day I realized that he had never done anything to hurt me. He was just living his life and doing the best he could from moment to moment. As we all are. If anything, the biggest mistake he made was moving over here in the first place. Him going back home was best for both of us. It just took me awhile to see that. I contacted him and apologized for the actions I took and words I spoke in anger. He accepted that and we are on good terms to this day, though we haven’t spoken in years.

Before I got married, I hadn’t realized how much baggage from my upbringing I had gathered around that concept. At the time, I think I was only the second divorce on both sides of my family or something crazy. Those folks just stayed married. In the years after my divorce, I released that baggage and became even more clear on my philosophy about relationships. And that pretty much boils down to the following:

  1. Enjoy each other
  2. Be respectful to each other
  3. Don’t stay together unless you are both still growing together
  4. Re-evaluate often

Fairly simplistic, but that’s it right off the top of my head. An object in motion stays in motion unless acted upon by an external force. In a relationship, the default mode is staying together. And many of us, myself included, tend to stay in relationships longer than they serve us. Breaking up is hard. Nobody likes it. Even if things have gotten really terrible and you’re relieved that it’s over, it’s still a hard thing to go through and takes time to process. But if you’re staying with somebody largely to avoid a breakup, you’re probably not happy there and you likely won’t be.

I think my longest relationship lasted nearly 5 years (definitely not my marriage). And I stayed most of those years because I felt like real relationships took work. Lots of work. Relationships are hard sometimes. Stick it out, stay the course, make it work! Only… that’s pretty much all it was… was work. There was a lot more there in the way of shared space than there was shared experiences and joy.

My most recent relationship ended yesterday. Not out of malice or spite, or just plain getting sick of each other. There was still a lot of good there. We’re both awesome people. He’s extremely intelligent, kind, compassionate, funny, multi-talented, helpful, and just an all-around good person as well as a really great friend. And I do miss him already.

But it became clear to me that we were in very different places on our respective journeys. And though we learned a lot from each other, I feel that I need to travel this next bit either alone or with somebody who is in a similar place to me. And I feel that’s ultimately best for him, too. Sometimes it’s OK to just accept each other where you are, recognize the distance between the two, and not continue to try to bridge that gap. It’s OK to be in different places and respect each other there. Neither one of us is less than the other. Neither one of us is wrong. We both did our best to care for each other, and at times that was really great. It’s a new experience for me to come to the end of a relationship without a boatload of resentment on both sides. I wish there was a way we could’ve come to it without any pain for either of us. But I did my best, and I know he did, too. <3 </3

DIY Cable Hider Box

I recently gutted my home office and rearranged the furniture since this is where I spend much of my life working now. Time for new systems and procedures. Yay! In the last iteration of my workspace, there were all these cables just behind my monitor. My desk has no hole or grommet for cables to go through, so they’re either on top of or behind the desk. They were neatly bundled, but cables are still cables and made it look and feel messy even when it was at its best. So I went to my basement looking for something resembling this CableBox thing. I was thinking about a shoe box or something like that. I found this little black folding crate. Holes on the side? Check. That’ll do.

Small crate of cables

I threaded the cables through the handles and left the cord bundle in the middle like the picture above. When I was done threading all the cables through, I just flipped it over so the bottom was on top, making a little hideaway for the mess of cables. That also created a little bit of usable space back there, so I put my external hard drive on top of it. Looks better and slightly more functional than cable town of yore.

Finished with drive on top

Looks pretty clean from the front view, too. I’ll probably get a little artsy and cover the crate with fabric or paper or something, but this is fine for now.

Front of workspace

And then there were meds

I last wrote about this in 2012 when the very expensive sleep study I underwent showed “nothing remarkable.” That was pretty devastating to me, and I just gave up hope at that point. I couldn’t afford another sleep study, and was afraid it would come to the same conclusion anyway. And I wrongly thought that was the only avenue for help for me.

Nearly two years later, I was at dinner at CodeMash and talking about the symptoms that have plagued me since I was a kid. My friend Zach (@theotherzach) gave me a little quiz about what it was like for me in school. I daydreamed a fair bit in class, fell asleep, tested very high, but always performed far worse than my test scores indicated I was capable of. He told me to read “Driven to Distraction” ASAP and felt that I would find myself in that book. Another of my symptoms is that I fall asleep about 10 minutes into reading a book. It seems to have gotten worse over the years. So I barely read more than social media snippets these days. I put it on my list and looked it up to see if it had a version on I find that I can only manage to consume book-length information by listening to an audio version while also doing something else like driving, mowing the lawn, shoveling the driveway or cleaning the house. Without another activity to occupy my body, I will fall asleep about 10 minutes in, just like reading. At that time, I couldn’t find it and forgot about it for a few months. I think I ran across a reference to it somewhere and gave my search another try.

driven_to_distractionThis time I found it. There was a 13+ hour unabridged version and a something like 1.5 hour abridged version. I got the unabridged version. Glad I did. I did find a lot of myself in that book. I was the daydreaming girl in the back of the class who occupied my mind with other things and couldn’t focus on tasks in class. I was just smart enough to compensate. It was easy enough in elementary school. As I got older, it got harder and I focused most of my energy on cleverly skipping class and missing as many days of school as I could without having to make them up in the summer. I finished high school with around a 2.75 average and headed to college. I tried harder and did better there, but dropped out after changing majors and schools a few times and never looked back.

After listening to that book, I felt I likely had ADD [Note: Apparently ADHD is the official term for all things under that umbrella right now. I don’t like it since the H stands for Hyperactive, which I’ve never been, so I just use ADD]. Narcolepsy had been ruled out by the sleep study, so that’s what it had to be. I also watched Greg Baugues’ (@greggyb) excellent talk on Devs and Depression from Steel City Ruby. That really resonated with me. The chronic procrastination, things starting out well at a job, but ending the same way after a year or so… Anyway, I got health insurance for the first time in a couple years and made an appointment with my GP for the day after it took effect. He updated my shots and did a wellness check for me, but said that he couldn’t test or diagnose me for ADD, and that I’d need to see a psychiatrist for that. Great… since my insurance does not cover specialists.

I looked online and found a psychiatrist that specializes in ADHD and adult anxiety disorders in my area. Made an appointment for the following week. One of the things I liked about him is that he prioritizes new patients so they’re not stuck waiting without help for months after they finally decide they need help.

I made it to my appointment. I struggled to make it on time, as I pretty much always do. Thought I’d be a half hour early, but it was only 5 minutes. Went in and he asked me some questions about my past. I told him about reading Driven to Distraction and the parts that resonated with me. But I also told him about what brought me to the sleep study in 2012 and how surprised I was by the results I was given. He said that he’d like to see my actual results as the interpretation of sleep studies can be quite subjective. After awhile, he said he could set me up with a study at a place he felt did a better job, but based on my symptoms alone he felt fairly sure it was narcolepsy. He continued on to say that he has seen many ADHD patients, but he has never encountered somebody who had the falling asleep type symptoms to the extreme that I did. And I had to fight back tears.

I felt vindicated. Finally, a doctor understood me and was willing to help me. He said that there was a newer drug he wanted to try me on that was only approved for narcolepsy, but that had also been known to treat ADD symptoms for some people. He felt it would help treat my primary problem (narcolepsy), and also help with my ADD symptoms. I wasn’t sure how to react. Inside, I was doing a dance of joy. FINALLY!!!! I was afraid that I’d somehow find my way out of that office with just another bill and no help, though. I did my best to play it cool. And I left the office with a script and a coupon for a free month of the medication. He also warned me that it’s prohibitively expensive otherwise and could run upwards of $500/month, because of course it is. I put that out of my mind for the time being and just focused on seeing if it helped or not.

I filled my script and took 1/4 dose right then. I think I felt it take effect about 20 minutes later. I just felt kinda better. Lighter. Maybe even a little lightheaded. Went home and did some work. And I kept at it until the evening. I was worried about getting to sleep, because difficulty falling asleep was one of the side effects. No trouble there. Fell asleep fast and got about 8 hours in. Better than usual! Felt awesome in the morning. I woke up at 6am, took half a pill and was working a half hour later. Completely unheard of for me. I usually have trouble getting up in the morning, and then just mess around till after lunch without doing much. Then I’d feel sleepy after lunch and doze a bit until my boyfriend got off work and do something with him. Days just slipped by.

But this first day on my new meds, I was a whole different me. I’d think of something on my to-do list, and then I would just DO IT. Without hesitation, without distracting myself with a bunch of other stuff… I would just DO IT. And that was amazing. I was able to stay heads down in a task from start to finish. And I just kept doing that all day long. Just ticking boxes off my Wunderlist… It felt great. And when it was time to go to sleep, I felt tired and ready for bed. And I slept.

Unfortunately, I was so focused on what I was doing that I forgot to eat dinner. Appetite suppression is one of the side effects, and I didn’t feel hungry or like I needed to eat. Normally, that was an easy distraction for me, and I’d snack a lot throughout the day. I didn’t eat breakfast in the morning, either. Just noticed I had a headache. And I freaked out about that. Thought it was a side-effect and was afraid I’d have to be all Flowers for Algernon after just one great day on the meds. But I did eat some food eventually and started to feel better. But the headache persisted. And then I realized I was going through caffeine withdrawal.

Before my appointment, I had been self-medicating with caffeine as much as I could. Took in anywhere from 200mg-400mg a day. I keep track of my sleep with the Jawbone UP, and was keeping track of my caffeine intake with the UP Coffee app on my iPhone. It didn’t matter if I had my caffeine in the morning or in the evening, my sleep was still pretty good. I was getting 7+ hours a night. But I was told not to drink caffeine or alcohol with the medication, so I stopped cold turkey after my appointment. Yes, good old caffeine withdrawal. Maybe the last time for that one… But it made for a very unpleasant day.

The third day was far better. Felt like I got through withdrawal by that morning for the most part, and I had been eating decent and regular meals. The headache went away, and my ability to focus and accomplish things returned. I was overjoyed to realize that the awful I felt the previous day was just due to a lack of food and withdrawal, and not side effects of the medication. That afternoon, I even had an amazing moment where I realized I was sitting outside on the patio of a loud bar/restaurant, coworking with friends who were talking loudly right next to me while a football game blared near my head, and yet I was able to write an email and do some work with little trouble. Again, that is completely unheard of for me. Pre-meds me would’ve been completely distracted by all the noise the whole time and struggling to drown it out with my headphones up as high as I could manage them. I might’ve even fallen asleep due to all the activity around me. But there I was without my headphones on and just able to focus on what I wanted to rather than everything all at once all the time.

Tomorrow marks my first week on meds, and I’m so grateful to be starting this new chapter of my life. Not that I haven’t been distracted at all this week, or that I’ve done what I should be doing every waking moment. I haven’t. I’m still me and still human. But I have abilities that I did not have before I started the medication. And I spent a lot of my life feeling damaged for things that were beyond my control. Falling asleep at inappropriate times can be pretty embarrassing and humiliating. Not being able to focus on learning or doing things for work has definitely held me back in both school and my career. I had so many people tell me that I just needed to try harder or buckle down. But that wasn’t the case. I couldn’t. And for a long time I believed that I probably could if I really wanted to. But I proved myself wrong on that time after time as well.

I finally have the tools I need to be successful. Now I’m working on learning how to use those tools. Some days will be better than others, but I’m excited about this next phase. And I suppose part of my point here is not to let a sleep study or just one doctor or just one person tell you they can’t help you or that there’s nothing wrong with you when you really feel they’re wrong. Keep looking and keep asking. Don’t give up on yourself. You deserve to live the best life you can. <3 <3 <3