Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Thrifty-ish American Girl's Attempt at a Filofax

About a month ago, I started trying to come up with a system of organization.  I am a scatterbrained, messy-ish, clutter-thriving, artisty girl.  I am a multi-tasker.  It is both my strength and my weakness.  It helps me to accomplish a lot of things.  But it also means that sometimes little things get ignored, or I get things all out of order.  I jump from project to project to keep from getting too bored with something.  I am pretty sure I have un-diagnosed ADD.  But, Lord knows, I don't need another diagnosis or another daily medication prescribed to me.  See my recent post about my journey with epilepsy and the rise and fall and re-rise of my medication experience.

For all of these reasons, I decided I needed to come up with a way to make sense of the organized chaos in my head.  My "crochet/sewing/random creative endeavors" business has gone from a hobby that sometimes gave me a little extra spending money to somewhat of a second job.  I wouldn't call it a second full-time job yet.  However, I feel it would be justifiable to say that I have 1.5 jobs...2.5 jobs if parenting counts as a job...3.5 jobs if each kid counts as a separate job (I have two little boys)...and 4.5 jobs if being a wife to an amazing husband counts as a job.
So let's just say that I have four and a half jobs right now.
1. Wife to Brian
2. Mother to Shea
3. Mother to Patten
4. High school teacher
...And a half...sewing, crocheting, and making other random things
One day I hope to reduce my day jobs to three and a half.  I love my husband and my boys and can't picture my life without any of them.  And I can't imagine a life that doesn't involve me making things in one way or another.  You do the math.

That being said, I really need to see how it all adds up.  I need to see how I am really using my time and how productive I can be.  I need to see what all I am accomplishing, and have proof that I can eventually make MAKING THINGS my "full-time" job.  I need visual AND ARTSY evidence that what I think can be done really can be real life...not  just in my dreams.

I could go in the direction of Excel spreadsheets like most entreprenuers, but even looking at Times New Roman font when I am typing on my computer bores me.  And I don't like numbers.  I know...I know...I have to like numbers.  I can at least make them tolerable if I write them on paper in pretty handwriting with colorful fine-tipped markers.

SO...I scoured Pinterest and pinned fun planner/organizer pins to my Pinterest boards (go browse my boards and pin away).  As I researched, I fell in love with the Filofax system.  I saw planners made  by people whose brains worked like mine did.  Check them out and see what I fell in love with. The one that I loved the most was from "A Bowl Full of Lemons."  Filofaxes are just glorified planners exploding with color and personalization and randomness that make order from the chaos that is the mind of an artist.  The more I saw of it, the more I loved.

I did see some downfalls, but I felt that I NEEDED A FILOFAX...NO MATTER WHAT...and I NEEDED ONE TODAY!...or at least  before January 1st, because it is pointless if I can't start off the year perfectly organized (or at least that is how I thought of it).

Here are the downfalls:
1. The ring placements and paper size are very specific so I couldn't just put anything in it.  I needed special paper with special holes.  I was willing to cough up the extra bucks because there were paper inserts that seemed to meet all of my needs.  I thought that could probably get expensive, but WORTH IT!
2. The outside of the Filofaxes are all the same, different fun colors, but basically all the same.  However, I could get over that by putting fun clippy thingy's on my pages that stuck out to the outside of the book.  WORTH IT!
3. I would have to break out of my shopping store comfort zone.  If you know Soddy Daisy, Tennessee, (which you don't know if you don't live here), you know there aren't a lot of options.  Unless I want to drive 30 minutes, my options are slim pickings.  Within a 10 minute drive, I have a Bi-Lo (I mean Food City), a dollar store, Cottage Closet (an adorable little consignment store), and a Wal-Mart.  If I drive 25 minutes, my options are a little broader.  That is where the closest medium-sized town mall is located.  That's where you can find your standard pool of restaurants.  And that is the outer limits of my shopping comfort zone:
* Food City for groceries
* Target for everything else.
* Wal-mart if necessary...I don't hate it.  It just isn't my first, second, or third choice.  But it is my last.
So going somewhere else was not what I wanted to do.  But, like I said, I wanted a Filofax so it was WORTH IT!

So picture this.  I leave my two boys at home with my hubby and have one hour to shop before I have to go to the neurologist for another follow-up appointment (same old song and dance).  I went to Staples.  It wasn't going to be traumatic because Hobby Lobby was in the same shopping center and if I needed some retail therapy I could go recover there (and buy fabric remnants, because you can never have enough fabric remnants).  So there I was, bopping joyfully into Staples on a mission to find the brightest Filofax cover and the most colorful calendar inserts and as many cheap things to cutesy it up as possible.  And I didn't care how much it cost (well to some extent), because it was...wait for it...WORTH IT!  So there I was, walking straight past the woman getting coached on how to hook up her new printer to her first ever laptop, to the planner aisle.  I looked high.  I looked low.  And I saw nothing that even looked Filofax-esque even in the least.  Then I thought, "hey, I bet it has it's own little section of the store if there are whole Pinterest boards devoted to it."  You probably could have seen a light-bulb above my head.  But it went out quickly after I searched the whole store with no luck.  I walked out like a puppy with its tail between its legs.  I was bummed to say the least.

Then I thought that there was a slight chance that Target would have them, or at least something similar, because Target is hip and trendy like that.  Yes, I used the words hip and trendy, and hip and trendy are not hip and trendy words anymore, but sue me.  Target is hip and trendy.  So surely they had Filofax.

WRONG!  They had neither Filofax nor anything like it.  After a quick Google search, I discovered that Filofax is a UK thing.  And there is no K in my corner of the woods, just an S.  By that time, I knew I HAD to go home with a planner.  So I made it my mission to thriftify and Americanize the heck out of my planner.  I was going to make the coolest Filofax wannabe on a thrifty-ish budget.
Sidenote: I say thriftyish because I was determined to do this with as little money as possible to kind of stick it to the "Filofaxers" for not making their awesome planners readily available in the US.  I quickly discovered, to be as cool as Filofax, you have to spend a little money.

See one of my mermaid tails below, and let me know if you would like to order one.

Here is what I came home with the cost of a mermaid's tail later.

I set up a draft of a color-code system on the heart-covered paper from the dollar stop section at Target.  I just slipped it into the front pocket of my Filofax wannabe...I will just call her Milo (short for  My-lofax).
Pink (because I am not a huge fan of red)=Personal
Green=Orders (Like $, get it?)
Purple=Quotes and other randomness
Black=Contacts, dates, more official businessy stuff

I made 5 sections in Milo: Planner, Orders, Motivation, Blog, and Accomplished. And I did a practice for my page-a-day planner. I have 5 more tabs to determine behind these. I will probably use them for the not as fun businessy numbers stuff like expenses and such.

I stuck a cute little mini notebook into the back pocket secured temporarily with a rubber band. If I decide to keep it there I will find a more permanent securing method.

Milo will receive much more tinkering I am sure, but I am excited about the direction Milo and I are headed for the start of 2016.  If I don't see you before then, HAPPY NEW YEAR, my friends!

Be a FRUITLOOP in a word full of Cheerios!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas Eve in ICU

Read the Facebook post I am sharing first. It is SUPER IMPORTANT...especially for the mommies and soon-to-be mommies I know. This shared post is from my mother in law. That means this post is about my father in law...who I love. We got a call on Friday morning on our way out of town that Bruce was in the hospital because he couldn't update was he was put on a ventilator...then that he had bacteria in his blood...all extremely scary updates to be getting when we are on the other side of the country for Christmas. And all of this because of a rare strain of influenza. All of which could have been prevented if that strain had been wiped out by shots that are available to every child but some parents are scared to give their kids. There are consequences for more than just your child if you decide not to give them life-saving and others-saving vaccines.
Thanks for hanging in there Brucey...hope you enjoyed your 5 day nap. Love you!
Merry Christmas, my friends!

Friday, December 18, 2015

We're still in LOVE

This wonderful man doesn't have a facebook so I can't tag him. But I have to share just how much I love him. I don't say this to brag but to tell you that this kind of love exists and not to settle for anything less. It has been exactly 5 years since this moment when he looked at me in this picture as I walked down the aisle. And he still looks at me like that. Five years after our wedding day we are even more in love than we were then. We first met in January of 2008 and look at us now. Back then we were just college students all wrapped up in giddy feelings and butterflies and "young love." Full of "I love yous" and "I love you more." And now we are parents full of the same things.
No, those moments are not as often as before. Now we have grown up jobs.  We have many more bills and I'm not talking dollars. We have a nonstop 2-year-old bundle of energy and a cuddly bundle of cuteness that still cries a lot. We have lots of dirty diapers and wet or dry pull ups. Bed time doesn't start when we are ready to go to sleep. We have two hyper dogs, lots of laundry, a load of dishes every night. We have lots of doctors appointments. Getting ready for work isn't a 20 minute process but now about an hour long ordeal. And there isn't anyone I would rather spend the madness with.
Because in the midst of all of the craziness, when our eyes meet it looks just like that picture. We laugh at the mess and roll our eyes and blow each other a kiss.
On a roadtrip like the one we are on now with a crying 5 month old in the back and a 2 year old trying to drown out the cries with his singing and having to turn off the music because it is just too much, he reaches over to hold my hand.
Life is still crappy sometimes. It gets hard and messy and downright sad sometimes. We get homesick. We get mad then we get over it. We stress out then realize it's not a big deal in the big scheme of things. Life isn't easy. It's not perfect. I'm not perfect. He's not perfect. But together we are perfect.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Sometimes Life Is a Pill

This post will start with a rant and end with a plea. I will need you to share it with anyone who will listen for more reasons than one.  This video will give you a preface to what I have to say. Please watch it. It is a message that needs to be heard. It may not apply to you but it applies to my family and me.
Don't proceed until THAT is seen.

Her story is much like mine. My struggle was not depression but it took the same path.  My journey started in 8th grade with a grand mal seizure (or whatever the medical term is now when you fall to the ground unconscious, shake violently, and stop breathing). I woke up in an ambulance with no  knowledge of why I was there. I don't really remember the events that put me there. But I was told after returning to normal that I had flirted with the paramedic in the spongbob scrubs. Allegedly when I was asked why I was going to the hospital I said that I passed out in front of Target.  In actuality, it had happened while channel surfing with my cousin in a dark basement. After a cocktail of medical tests: MRI, EEG, cat scan, and blood tests, I was sent home drug free. The doctors said that a lot of people have one seizure and never have another one. So they sent me on my way. Hooray, I had left with a clean bill of health and no percriptions

For a long time, it looked like the doctors were right.

I started high school and immediately found my niche, passion, love, and gift in running. With running came many things...people who would, over the four years of high school, become my lifelong friends, endless incredible memories of victories, pains of defeat, and the opportunity to finish college debt-free. My junior year of high school revolved around me trying to decide what NCAA school I wanted to run for. I went on official recruiting visits to Clemson, Auburn, and University of Georgia. My junior year track season ended with a second place finish in the state track meet. I was ready to win it all my senior year.  My one focus the summer before my senior year was to run as far and as fast as I could. I almost doubled my weekly mileage and practically lived at Tribble Mill Park or the shoulder of roads around Grayson, Georgia. I was topping off my last summer of high school with a week of running camp at UGA. I fell in love with it all...the town, the track, the "SEC hype," the campus, the waffles in the cafeteria, and the crappy dorm rooms. I was convinced I was meant to be a running bulldog. By the end of the week, the coaches were convincing me they could see me there, too. I was living large, just short of prideful. I had it all laid out. I could picture the red and black uniform with way too short shorts.

A week later all of those plans changed. I was knocked off my high horse. I learned humility because I had no other choice.

It was our last cross country summer practice. I was running and fell back behind my teammates a bit. I figured I was just tired from the week of running camp. Then my vision got blurry. I couldn't run any more. So I started walking but my feet felt like lead. A couple passed me walking the other direction on the trail. They asked if I was okay. In my head I was saying, "no, I need help." But no words came out. So I just nodded and kept walking. That was the last thing I remember...a blurry couple walking past me smiling.

Then few of my teammates found me on their way back to their cars to end their run. Two of them slumped me over their shoulders and tried to carry me to our coach. One of them sprinted ahead to tell him and our parents, "I think Meredith just had a seizure." The next thing I remember is getting hoisted into the front seat of one of the x-c moms' SUVs and taken to the hospital. The whole ride I was conscious. I don't know who I was with. All I knew was I couldn't move or answer any of their questions. At the hospital later I didn't recognize my parents right away. I threw up a lot. My brain and my body were a mess. And it took a long time and lots of different PERSCRIBED drugs (in case any of you were wondering if I had a drug problem) to get them back to normal. Walking out of the hospital was stepping into the my new reality as we searched for a medicine to fix what was broken. 

Pill #1-Topamax (used for depression and/or epilepsy) In a very short period of time I lost about 20 pounds. I literally stopped eating. I would be so hungry then after one bite I would be stuffed and sickened by the sight of food. I was the skinniest runner at all of the meets. And that says a lot. I was running terribly. Every college that used to call me after all of my races stopped calling. I was lucky if I finished races. My mom thought I was anorexic because I was trying to lose weight and run faster. I told her even if I was it wasn't working. But I wasn't. I thought, maybe I was anorexic. It definitely wasn't a conscious decision so maybe I was messed up in the head. She took me to an eating specialist. As soon as she looked at my chart she diagnosed me with "involuntary anorexia." She said I wasn't the first one she saw on Topamax. She informed us that doctors also prescribed it as a diet pill. No doctor had ever told us that. That wasn't on the pill bottle. But I hadn't had any seizures since I started it. So instead of changing my neurologic medicine, the eating specialist told my mom she could mix this powder into my food to give me the calories I was missing. So there was that. Not long after that I had a seizure at school. It was right after I finished my final in my photography class. We all finished the test long before it was time to change classes. Some people laid their heads down and went to sleep. One girl stretched out on the floor and went to sleep. I decided that was a great idea. So I walked over by the window because I wanted to sleep in the sunlight. That's where I made a mistake. Sunlight streaming through windows and epilepsy don't mix. Well, I laid down and never closed my eyes. I was in stare mode. I was frozen. I couldn't move or talk to ask for help. I was just stuck frozen staring at the beam of sunlight. The bell rang to change classes and I still didn't move. A student shook me to wake me up and I wasn't sleeping. Then it clicked. "Oh yea, she has epilepsy." Seconds later I heard them say over the intercom, "first responder to the photography class." I heard squeaky tennis shoes running down the hallway. I knew it was Coach Bryant even though he wasn't the first responder. He knew it was me. Then teachers were kneeling around me on the floor trying to snap me out of my far away place I had gone. A few times I was able to look around just enough that they knew I was with them but not enough to really be with them. Then I heard the sirens and thought, "how embarrassing. I'm leaving school on a stretcher." Then I remember the paramedic snapping that peppery stuff in my face to try to bring me back and it worked for a second then I was more out than before. I woke a LONG time later and again didn't know where I was or why I was there. Then came ...
Drug #2- I forgot the names. I can't pronounce them anyways so what's the point? This one made me forget everything....what I had studied, what class was next, my best friends' names every now and then. And I was very angry very easy. That drug didn't last long.
Drug #3-....didn't last long either. I had night terrors. Not nightmares...terrors. One night, at 17 years old, I jumped out of bed screaming and ran downstairs and jumped into bed with my parents. I told them there was a praying mantis in my room. They laughed. I said I would laugh too because they don't bite but this one was human-sized and laying on my chest. It sounded just as crazy to me but I swore I wasn't crazy and I wasn't going back to my room til they killed it. And I said all of this wide awake. Not sleeptalking.
Drug #4-Lamictal-my miracle drug...for a while. My seizures went away and no side effects came. I started feeling healthy again...and running fast too. At state my senior year I got 3rd in the two-mile then broke my finger at the starting line of the mile...but that's another story. But it was too late for my dream schools. They had moved on to greener pastures...TRUE DEFINITION OF A BLESSING IN DISGUISE. But then as life changed or miles increased or stress went up so did my dosage but it worked and still works mostly.
Drug #5-...still up for debate but seems good so far. The Lamictal seemed to be slacking on its job lately. No seizures but recently my brain has kind of been in slow motion...slurred speech...forgetting what I am doing...forgetting words like accommodation in IEP meetings. No good. I guess two babies under age 3 and a stressful job can throw off chemical imbalances and mess with seizure medicine. But so far so good with the 750mg a day total thay I take to keep my brain working how it should.
I could use this post to vent about the absurdity of the profit that drug companies make (a month of my Lamictal would be $1700 without insurance), the nonchalant prescribing of medication and laxidasical roller-coastering of dosages. All of these would be justified battles to fight, I feel.
But this post is about the necessary evil that is modern medication. I have it to blame. But more than that I have it to thank. Not too long ago a person like me might be institutionalized. Instead I am nearly seizure-free and have a husband, two kids, and a job teaching other people's kids.

I freaked out when I realized my oldest son had epilepsy, too. He was having 12 or so staring seizures a day as a one-year-old. I was more scared to medicate him than I was to see him freeze for 30 seconds at a time. Then I was told that it was going to have to happen when he started falling behind in school even if he only missed 30 seconds of instruction a day. I was reminded it is a necessary evil.
Drug #1-The go-to drug for infants with epilepsy. Promises of very little side effects. Wrong. He started hitting and biting almost immediately. We didn't want a baby with aggression headed into the terrible twos.
Drug #2- Lamictal-They tried it on him because it worked on me, but they didn't seem convinced it would work. And now it works for both of us. But he went from sleeping through the night on his own to hardly sleeping at all.
Drug #3-suggestion...some kind of sleep medicine drops...we just worked through it. Sometimes it still needs work. But a little less sleep is better than seizures or a doped-up toddler.

All that to say, there is no shame in getting help, even if it is in the form of medication. Now, this can not be an argument for illegal  self-medicating or self-harming drugs. Doctors may not fix things the first time but I am proof they can help if you let them.

So here's to you doctors. Thank you. But also remember that what you write on prescription papers will have an impact on every patient: their health, their moods, their families, and their wallets. Don't prescribe nonchalantly. Take it easy on our bodies, our brains, and our wallets.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

6 Reasons I am NOT Depressed

I honestly don't think I could be any happier than I am right now, or any more content, or excited about the future.

Over Thanksgiving break, I had family and friends here I don't get to see very often staying in my house.  I have an amazing husband who is an answer to many prayers I prayed long before we met at Scenic Land School. 

I have two incredible boys who are growing and changing and learning faster than I can blink my eyes.  And I feel blessed that I am getting to watch that happen. 

Without really thinking about it, the spirit of Thanksgiving swept over me like a gust of wind and shifted my perspective.  I am not a pessimist, but lately I have been seeing the wrong side of things. 
Yet, I seem to have it all straightened out in my mind. 

1.The world is not primarily dark.  Yes, there is evil and hate in the world.  There is lots of it.  The latest mass-murders in San Bernardino, California have made that all too clear.  But light and love still shine stronger.  Lately, I have noticed the stars.  My son asks to go see them every time we get home after dark.  He stares up at the sky and says, "Jesus made that."

2. No, I don't always love my job.  But I love the people I do my job for.  No, I didn't miss my work over Thanksgiving break, but I did miss the young people I try to serve.  No, I didn't miss their snarky attitudes or their laziness.  But when I go more than two days without my students, I find myself wondering if they were having a good Thanksgiving, too. 

3. Yes, my oldest son is two.  And yes, he can sometimes exhibit the stereotypical behaviors of one who is two.  But I am treasuring watching him learn to be a person.  I love his incessant drive to do exactly what he wants to do with every ounce of seemingly endless energy he possesses.
I love seeing his passion for baseball build without any persuasion from his baseball-obsessed father.  I love watching my husband as he watches his son fall in love with the game he loves.
  I love the way Shea loves and protects and shows genuine concern for his baby brother. 

4. I love Shea's baby brother, Patten.  There is not much learn or observe about him yet.  But what I have learned and observed about him, I love.  I love his little neck rolls, and leg rolls, and arm rolls.  I love his squishy chunky cheeks, with or without his dry flakey skin.  I love his quick, not-quite-yet laugh and his open-mouthed smile.  And I love how his favorite person to watch is his big brother.

5. Yes, there are a lot more family members that couldn't be with us for Thanksgiving than the ones that could.  And yes, it would be much easier and more convenient for all of the people we love to be one big happy family all living just around the corner.  But for more reasons than one, that just isn't the case.  But how blessed are we to have so many loved ones to miss?

6. Sure, there are plenty of things I would change if I could.  But I have way more things that I wouldn't change FOR THE WORLD!

Despite all the stress, and the oftentimes mess, and the things that would leave any person depressed, the one thing I am feeling right now is BLESSED!

PS-The family photos were shot this weekend by my friend, Lorie.  She is an amazing photographer.  She will take your photos, too!
Check out her website.