Currently (July '16)

Thankful for...a crazy stressful but eye-opening full time job that is teaching me so much about the field of social work and how sure I am of this career path. Also for the opportunity to live with Grandma Shirley for the summer. She is such a gem and the memories we continue to make together are priceless. What a gift!

Watching...The Frey Life! This couple vlogs daily and shares the reality of what it's like to live with/be married to someone with a chronic illness. They are honest, vulnerable, and hilarious to boot! I watch their latest vlog before closing my eyes at night and it always leaves me smiling. I'm also contemplating restarting Friends and watching ALL THE EPISODES all over again. #noshame

FYI...this post is in no way, shape, or form sponsored by the links I'm sharing today. ;) I've just become rather obsessed with the black hole that is YouTube and want to share awesome people with awesome friends. :)

Listening to...The Coteries (!!!) Particularly their original songs I'm Traveling On and Ain't No Time... but also their awesome cover of Mercedes Benz by Janis Joplin. Seriously, do yourself a favor and subscribe to this group on YouTubeThey were featured at 'Music in the Park' a few weeks ago here where I'm living with my Grandma for the summer. Super humble, down to earth people and a sound you can listen to at 10,000 feet in the air, while studying your assets off for some big exam, as you're running [away from your problems], or as you drift off to sleep at night. Embedding video below so you can have a listen as you finish this post!

Writing...at insanely random times/when my head feels like it's going to burst if I don't get some thoughts down. I also have several blog posts in the works, just waiting til my little 'ole heart is content enough to click that "publish" button! I've been taking a step back from a few forms of social media and removing that distraction has given me soooo much more time to focus on productive writing and where this hobby of mine is going. It's also given me a lot more time to READ-- books, posts on my favorite blogs, and even the cereal box as I enjoy my daily bowl of Frosted Flakes. #stilladdicted #notevenonPrednisone

Smiling about...to be completely honest, I'm sort of just doing my best to plaster on a smile each day whether it's fake or not. We're abiding by the whole "fake it til ya make it" dealio around here! At least for right now. ;) My blood pressure/sugars have been dropping ridiculously low and it's causing so many strange symptoms. I'm having some tests done Thursday and into next week so we can get a handle on what exactly is going on (this is a new issue since surgery). Until further notice, you'll likely find me looking something like this...

Reading...here's an update as of lately:

     - I finished up a memoir titled Two Kisses for Maddy about a week ago. I found it remarkably touching and really        enjoyed the honest, candid nature of the author. Essentially, his wife passes away the day after giving birth and he      shares his story of what it was like moving 'through' the grief, rather than moving 'on.'

     -I'm currently digging into/working through Night Falls Fast by Kay Redfield Jamison. It's a scientific type memoir       subtitled "Understanding Suicide." After losing an uncle to suicide this past winter and continuing to deal with my         own mental health struggles, it has been an informative, comforting read.

     -Just yesterday, I started ANOTHER book titled Writing as a Way of Healing. Let me just say-- ALL the praise               hands...on every page. I'm writing a book within the book all along the margins-- HA! Mainly jotting down reflective     thoughts! If you enjoy writing, get your hands on a copy pronto! And if you have any book recommendations, share     'em here! :)

Working on...Travel plans for the remainder of the summer...and even into the fall! At the end of July, I'm headed to Arkansas for girls week with one of my best friends, Val. We both have rheumatoid arthritis and other similar conditions. We have been talking via e-mail, text, phone, etc. for over 4 years now but have never actually met. I cannot wait to squeeze her in person!

Praying about...the upcoming school year, social work internship/program acceptance, the service dog process that continues chugging along, friendships, and for our world. May we learn to acknowledge the tragedies happening around us by FEELING instead of BLAMING or seeking revenge. And may those feelings convict us to do what is right and good for the sake of peace and prosperity for all...amen?!

What are your currently's?


Handicap Placards and Dirty Looks

It's unbelievable to think that I'm here typing this with virtually ZERO tummy pain, digestion issues, cramping, constipation, or Miralax anywhere in sight. My subtotal colectomy was nearly two whole months ago, I am out of the hospital, and mentally I am feeling like a million bucks. Unbelievable. All of it.

That's not to say recovery hasn't been a bear, however. I'm still dealing with some incision pain as the scar tissue settles in and figuring out new dietary restrictions (more on that to come in another post!) has been more difficult than expected. I really, really have to watch what I eat now in order not to irritate anything and while those changes are wholesome and GOOD, it's still been a challenge! One day at a time and continuing to adjust. :)

The thing I'm most excited about is how much more freedom I have now. I'm not scared to go out to dinner with friends or worried about running out in the middle of class, a meeting, etc. to go to the bathroom. I'm not curled up on the recliner at home with 6 trillion pillows surrounding me as I reach for another Percocet. This past Sunday, I spent the WHOLE day out with my best, best friend Amy. We got our nails done, shopped a bit, met her boyfriend and another friend for dinner, and even stayed up late watching movies together!

Overall, it was a phenomenal day filled with so much freedom. I mean that. But something has bothered me since then-- something that happened before we even got into the mall. As Amy and I pulled into the bustling parking lot, I eyed an open handicap spot right near the mall entrance. Since surgery, I have utilized my handicap placard about 95% of the time I'm out and about. Though I owe no one an explanation or need to write out a list of reasons why, I will do so to prove the point I'm hoping to get across in this post. Here goes:

  1.  Prior to surgery, I was taken off of both Methotrexate and Humira. Both of these medications treat my autoimmune arthritis and keep it at bay. I have not yet "restarted" those medications due to some insurance complications and nearly any level of activity is causing "mini-flares" right now, resulting in me reaching for pain pills and using ice packs 'round the clock. Parking in a handicap space during this time and saving those spoons/that energy is truly making a difference in my joint pain right now. On Sunday, I CERTAINLY utilized my right to park there because I knew I would be out and about all day with my friend Amy. 
  2. While it has been nearly two months since surgery, my incision pain still spikes (some days more than others). It is still difficult to get up from a sitting position (or from being seated in a car) and use those core muscles that are still healing. As the scar tissue settles underneath those incisions, it definitely contributes to the pain. All we can do is wait and let my body continue to heal and do what we can in the meantime to make things easier.
  3. Last Saturday night (the night before the incident I'm about to describe), I had to take 1000mg of PM Tylenol in order to fall into a light sleep. I woke up 8+ times that night from nerve pain, dystonia spasms, and restless legs. I was unable to really fall asleep until around 3am-- and ended up sleeping til around 11:30am Sunday afternoon. That is life with chronic illness and it never goes away. Fatigue is a nasty, nasty reality.

Here's the rest of the story: as Amy and I began to turn into the spot, a pregnant woman and what appeared to be her significant other looked at us, stopped walking, stood in the handicap space, and pointed down at the handicap symbol. (Note: my handicap placard was NOT hanging from my rearview mirror yet-- I store it in my middle console when it is not in use.) That's right. They both stood there, pointed to the symbol, and then had the audacity to wave me away.

We didn't need to exchange words with them for Amy and I to know what they were ensuing. We are two young girls and both of us look completely healthy on the outside...a perfect remedy for finger pointing judgement and dirty looks. Lovely.

I waved back at the couple (ensuing "kindly move out of the way, please"). The couple proceeded to shake their heads as they started walking towards their car a row over. Amy and I parked and I looked in my rearview mirror to see the couple standing outside their vehicle staring at me. I opened the door and took a few seconds to unbuckle myself, grasp the seat, swing my legs onto the asphalt, and push up while additionally holding onto the door so I would not fall. I gave myself a second after standing up and again glanced over at the couple...still standing outside their vehicle and STILL watching my every move. The man shook his head and wagged his finger at me. I processed the interaction and instinctively sat back down in the driver's seat of my car. I reached for the handicap placard I had hung on my rearview mirror, whipped it out the door, and waved it at the couple with a smirk on my face. I then hung it back up and proceeded to get out of my vehicle.

As I was walking into the mall with Amy at my side, I whispered "can you believe them?!" as a wave of guilt ran over me. I thought "Kenzie, you're not limping today. You didn't need that spot." I thought "Really? Your freaking surgery was nearly two months ago. You can park in a regular spot now." I thought "Those people are right to point and wave at you. You're not doing enough. You need to walk more each day anyway."

...and just as that third thought ran through my mind I stopped myself. I took the key to my mind/thoughts back and said to myself "those people are not you, those people don't know you, and those people's finger-waving judgement isn't about you." Because realistically? It's not. It's not at all.

I should not and will not allow these thoughts continue, because right now is about celebrating. It is about the fact that I got out of the house for. an. entire. day. FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE MAJOR ABDOMINAL SURGERY! Not only am I recovering...I am fighting and I am doing that in the best way I know how. When I know better, I'll do better.

While I never, ever wanted to possess a handicap placard or the right to park in a handicap parking space, I also know that utilizing that part of my treatment plan right now has allowed me to do some pretty awesome things I might not otherwise have had a shot at. I don't need to defend what I know is my reality. At the end of each day, I know I'm doing the best I can, and some days that does means using a handicap placard to help me through. But never, ever, ever does that mean I'm not doing enough or am undeserving of respect.

I want to end this post by saying thank you to that couple. Yes, you read that right...THANK YOU. Thank you for reminding me that the opinions of people like you don't matter a single bit in the grand scheme of this battle-- a battle I'm winning one tiny victory at a time. Your judgement isn't about me. I am free from it and all that it entails. Yes indeed...I am.