Seizure Update

Here’s a “quick” seizure update. I was going to include it in my next post “Seizures: Not Quite As Extreme As Smiting, But Kind of Similar” but it got too long. So for those of you who have been curious about what’s going on, this should bring you up to date. And then you can come back later this week and we can debate whether or not God is using the neurological equivalent of lightning to try to tell me something.

Seizure update: I’ve had four “big” seizures and one “little” one in just over 8 weeks. Three of the four big ones have been in the last four weeks. They did an MRI after the first seizure. There was a “spot” on the MRI. They thought it was a weird shaped vein. Apparently these things can suddenly start (and stop) causing seizures for no reason. I’m on antiseizure medication which isn’t really working so far. Continue reading

Can You Be At Peace Without Being Content?

When I first contemplated this week’s topic in the FSSP (Peace), I realized something unusual. When I thought of the word peace, I didn’t have much of an impression of anything at all. Normally if you say a word, a bunch of related images cascade through my mind. Like an infinite version of Pinterest in my brain. (Whoa. That sounds kinds of scary. But it’s true.) But I didn’t have a board for peace.

I decided to do a little test. I used a random word generator to generate four words and wrote down my primary images associated with each. Then I did peace. The results are below. Prepare to be shocked. Ready? Continue reading

Reason 1,001 That I Love Pandora

This song came on while I was walking home from the bus stop this afternoon. It’s a beautiful day out, but it’s pretty muggy and I was wearing my business casual clothing from work (e.g. long pants and a sweatery thing). I was feeling quietly exhausted. Almost peaceful. Which, as it turns out, is different than happy. And different than content. [More on that in my next post…]

Anyway, this song came on and I felt like it was singing back to me exactly how I felt for most of this week. Which somehow made everything a little better. More points for Pandora.

(Sorry about whatever ad pops up before the video. Negative points for YouTube. Also, try not to be distracted by the lack of gravity and abundance of skinny jeans.)

 

The Long-Awaited Paleo Post

Okay, so I keep promising (or promised at some point?) to talk about Paleo. Which is a style of eating that I tried for a bit and loved, but which has been (along with many, many other things) collateral damage of my seizure tornado. (FYI–If you understood that last sentence, you’re either related to me, paying much more attention to these blog posts than I think anyone is, or we’re soul mates).

Anyway–Paleo is basically eating protein, veggies, and fruit. Is it technically also not eating dairy, grains, legumes, sugar? Yes. But I’m an optimist… let’s focus on the good things you do eat instead of the things you “can’t.” There are many sites where they talk about the Paleo diet at (extreme) length. I’ve posted a handy infographic at the end of this post for those of you who want more info. Or you can Google it.

All I’ll say is this: Continue reading

Fruit of the Spirit Summer Project Week 3 – Peace

Let’s kick this week’s FSSP off with a little honesty… I completely forgot to read Galatians 2 last week.* So this morning I read both Galatians 2 and 3 to get caught up and kick things off right.

And man was I glad that I did. Because Galatians 2 is a pretty awesome little chapter. Such an awesome chapter, in fact, that I’m not even going to get to the topic of peace or Galatians 3 until tomorrow’s blog post. Galatians 2 has more than enough to cover today.

What struck me the most while reading it was this verse:

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” Galatians 2:20-21 (ESV)

This verse hit me particularly hard. And I know that it’s going to be difficult for me to sufficiently explain why, so try to follow me here. Many of you (at least those of you who know me in real life) have probably heard me describe this whole epilepsy thing as having to achieve 100% of your normal results (in work, life, relationships, etc.) with 80% of your normal resources (energy, memory, independent transportation, etc).

My default reaction has been to try harder. Think harder. Attack the problem from a new angle. Somehow use my mental and physical muscle to reach my normal 100%.

And I’ve failed at it. Different things slip depending on the day, but pretty much across the board I’m finding that I’m falling short of my normal standards.

I’ve been wrestling with that this week. I’ve found myself picking my way carefully along paths that I normally run down. My decisions have been less automatic. Everything seems to require more thought.

I have control issues in general** but this week the background theme to my life has been one of learning to loosen my grip a little. Slow down. Be flexible. Let things fall through the cracks if they have to.

The result has been that for the first time that I can remember (not that that’s a valid standard to go by these days), I can feel a little breathing room in between my self worth and the concept of 100% achievement.  Apparently they are not, in fact, the same thing.

This lesson crystalized in my mind when I read Galatians 2:20-21 this morning. I love that phrase: I do not nullify the grace of God. To me this phrase translates as: Who I am is secure in Christ. Separate from the world. Separate even from my actions, in many ways. Certainly separate from my ability to achieve 100% perfection.

By remembering that these are separate I acknowledge a whole host of awesome things: what Christ did for me when he died, how uniquely and intentionally God made me who I am, how closely by my side God walks, how carefully he plans and direct my steps.

Only a fool would trade an identity rooted in these eternal, immutable things for one rooted in achievement. Especially (ironically?) if you can’t achieve things.

I know we’re supposed to be starting on peace today (and I will… later), but I find myself lingering on joy. This phrase—I do not nullify the grace of God—is on a loop running through my mind. It’s a rhythm pounding in my chest. And I am filled with gratitude and joy for what God has shown me this week about myself… about who He made me to be and where my value comes from.

*Side note #1: The phrase “completely forgot to…” is becoming a much too regular part of my vocabulary. See future post on the unexpected consequences of having zero memory.

 **Side note #2: See future post on control issues and seizures. Possibly entitled “Seizures: Not Quite As Extreme As Smiting, But Kind of Similar.” 

The “Extraneous Things” Approach to Writing & Life

When I feel like writing, I sit down and… drink coffee, cruise Facebook/Twitter, read (or reread) something by one of my favorite authors, draw, write out lists of deadlines I’ll have to hit to publish my (unwritten) book by my (unrealistic) timeline, cruise Facebook some more, make a playlist of good writing music, try to determine if soccer is giving me a blood blister under my big toenail, work on a list of ideal pseudonyms …

Basically, I do everything but write.

If my writer friends (and by writer friends I mean people whose blogs and twitter feeds I read consistently who I think are both awesome and hilarious but who, technically, I’ve never actually interacted with) and I are a representative sample, this appears to be a common practice among writers. Except for maybe that toenail part. That’s just kind of gross.

What I’m getting at here is this: we focus on the extraneous. As if by thinking about coffee and doodling, we can approach the finicky beast of actual writing from the side, avoiding eye contact and making little crooning noises so as not to spook it. Or get mauled by it. Depends on how violent writing is for you.

This behavior on its own is strange. But wait, it gets more ridiculous.

If I’ve settled into my groove of “writing” and some other commitment comes up, my resentment towards this interruption is hilariously disproportionate to the activity that’s being interrupted. For example, right now I’m closing in on two solid hours of “writing” during which I’ve written zero words (well, fictional words at least) but successfully managed to reopen my Facebook account (which I’d arbitrarily closed a couple months ago).

If all goes according to plan, my friend Theresa will be arriving in about ten minutes to pick me up so we can go to Feed My Starving Children and pack food for starving kids. And until about five minutes ago I was considering flaking out because I didn’t want to interrupt my writing time. Because I was in the groove. Really I’d finally spent enough time doing things that were writing-related that I could feel the words just around the corner (yes, yes I did just mix those metaphors; deal with it).

This seems ludicrous at first–both the inefficiency of this round-about approach and my frustration when it’s interrupted, but I think this “extraneous things approach” is actually a valid (and widespread) technique. I myself am a fan of the extraneous because I like the details and rituals of things. The way good coffee smells is one of the things I love about writing. Maybe I could put the same words together without it, but why would I want to? Or maybe the extraneous is like stretching before you work out. You give yourself a chance to slip into things, to loosen up.

I bet if you think about it, you’ll realize you do this in other areas of life. I’m an accountant and I certainly do it at work. There are all these little administrative rituals of scheduling and calendar stalking and coffee drinking that I go through before I get down to the real work. Maybe the key is not to discount the extraneous, not to always take the most direct route, but to allow for some meandering along the way. Maybe it’s the extraneous details that make writing (and life) an enjoyable rather than inherently repetitive journey.

Joy & Adaptation

Note: I started this post yesterday and finished it today (after being consumed in the middle there somewhere by a killer headache and hours of tax accounting….your call on which was worse). Try not to let the inconsistent use of words that indicate time (now, today, etc.) disrupt your perception of the space-time continuum.

Anyway… onwards…

As predicted, I am much happier with my progress on the FSSP topic of joy than I was with love. Maybe because joy seems, at least to me, to be much less work than love.

I enjoyed my day today despite the fact that it primarily consisted of buses, a 3 hour dentist appointment, more buses, and (currently) a massive headache. I didn’t get all the work done that I had planned and I spent a lot of time waiting (not my favorite activity). But the weather was beautiful, I was thankful that I have a job that allows for the flexibility I needed today to get to the dentist via various buses, and my new dentist dental student was funny and interesting (for those of you who like to read between the lines, that means cute).

I’m currently missing my first ever guitar lesson because I failed to plan ahead enough to go (pretty guitar + hard guitar case + bike = no dice) and I have a strong feeling that today is going to end with more than the recommended daily dose of Excedrin Migraine. But overall I’m feeling pretty good. Why? I’m pretty sure it’s because overall I’m feeling pretty grateful.

“I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.”
― Anne FrankThe Diary of a Young Girl

I’m free. I’ve got room to roam and grow (both physically and spiritually) and people to do both with. And I believe that I’m the child of a God who will always direct my feet back to a joyful path no matter how many times I decide to take a detour through disaster. If that’s not a recipe for a happy life, then I don’t know what is.

The End.

Fruit of the Spirit Summer Project – Week 2 – JOY

“Joy is to fun what the deep sea is to a puddle. It’s a feeling inside that can hardly be contained.” Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

This week as part of the FSSP, we’re reading Galatians 2 and working on developing JOY.

I had a seizure this morning so I didn’t get to do my normal Saturday morning  quiet time and dig into this one yet, but I thought I’d do a quick post to frame things up for us (or at least for myself) and then we’ll get into things more as the week goes on. Unlike the topic of love, I’m overflowing with ideas about joy and theories that I want to explore this week. Which might make for more (and shorter) posts than last week. One can hope, at least.

Before I dive in, I’ll tell you my current hypothesis regarding joy. We’ll see if I feel the same at the end of the week.

Joy hypothesis: Feeling joy is a matter of gratitude. It’s a process of noticing the blessings we’ve been given already, rather than seeking new ones. This is not to be confused with happiness. Happiness is a momentary reaction to a specific combination of internal and external factors–mood, relationships, work, weather, etc.. Happiness is both more illusive and less valuable than joy, which–much like hope–rests inside of us regardless of circumstance. It is only our own outward focus that prevents us from actively experiencing this joy. We busily seek happiness from external things, craving that momentary flash of joy-like emotion, and miss the reservoir of joy that is already inside of us, refilled daily by gratitude and Christ.

My goal this week is to (1) shift my focus to explore the joy that the Lord has put inside of me, (2) figure out what strategies work for me when trying to stay centered in the joy of my faith (rather than chasing fleeting moments of happiness), and (3) learn some new things!

Two of the ways that I plan to accomplish this (other than spending good quiet times with the Lord) are:

  1. Taking the time to notice the things I’m grateful for and (when appropriate) express my gratitude to those responsible for putting those things in my life. Starting with my Father’s Day Post tomorrow.
  2. Listening to messages on joy. I commute to work by bike, which gives me 30 minutes of uninterrupted listening time twice a day. I usually blast country on my iPhone. But I’ve found some messages on joy and am planning to work them in throughout the week as well. I’ve posted links to the messages below in case you’re interested.

Joy Messages: 

Note: If you want to download one of these, you should be able to do so by right-clicking and selecting “Save Link As…” (or whatever the Windows equivalent of that is… I’m on a Mac).

Caveat: I haven’t listened to these yet so there may be something completely wrong or controversial in them. No promises. These are just the ones that looked interesting to me. If you’ve got other ones that you think would be good, shoot me the link!

That’s it. Tune in tomorrow for more about joy despite (because of?) trials. And to hear about how awesome my dad is.

Random Side Note:Terry Pratchett (the author I quoted at the beginning of this post) is a UK writer who is so well loved that he was knighted for his Service to Literature. How cool is that? 

Emotional Reciprocity v. Emotional Generosity

“I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close.” ― Pablo Neruda, 100 Love Sonnets

I’ve been thinking a lot about love this week as part of week one of the FSSP. And I’ve found myself primarily focusing on how I want to be loved. Which, strangely, didn’t occur to me as the worst possible approach until I tried to sit down tonight and put together some thoughts about what I’ve “learned” in the process. Which as of an hour ago had amounted to, umm, nothing.

But, like any good Type A personality, I don’t like to fail at things. And it’s the first week. So instead of watching back to back episodes of Season 2 of Game of Thrones (so inappropriate but so addictive), I sat down with a stack of books (devotionals, bible, etc.) and tried to gut out something profound. This lasted about two minutes, at which point I Googled “how to love people.” Which is when I realized that I really, really, really didn’t learn anything this week. And that I suck at loving people.

Don’t worry… this was a turning point. (Otherwise this would be a very short, very depressing post.)

Most of my self-focused thoughts on love this week boil down to the idea of emotional reciprocity. Basically I feel the most loved when I’m in relationships where there is equality of investment. Ones where I want to hang out with the other person as much as they want to hang out with me, where we pretty much equally initiate communication, etc. Those blissfully mutual relationships that feel (at least for some magical period of time) like they’re both deeper and somehow less effort than other relationships. Your investment of time, trust, and emotion is immediately repaid in full. They just feel good.

The people with whom you have emotional reciprocity are the ones in your inner circle who want to be there. Trying to force someone to reciprocate your feelings is a quick road to hurt and anger. It’s a road I’ve found myself on recently so this is what I spent the week thinking about. [For those of you who are now completely distracted by the idea that the last sentence is my way of saying that I’ve been harboring unrequited romantic feels for someone and they’re just crushing my soul by not loving me back… sorry to disappoint you. I’m talking about friends here. Better luck next time. Now stop trying to guess who I hypothetically liked and focus.]

As of two hours ago I’d come to the logical conclusion that I needed to reevaluate my inner circle. The people who I was relying on were proving to be unreliable so they were getting cut and replaced. I made a joke that some people were being “cut from the team” and that I was “taking applications,” but this wasn’t too far from the actual plan.

So you can see why I found myself at loose ends when I sat down to write about how to love others well. I’d just spent the entire week thinking about how to make others love me well. Spiritual growth fail. 

This is the point at which I decided that my own logic was probably flawed and that I should maybe stop thinking so hard about love and start listening to what God went through a lot of trouble to tell us (over and over and over again) about love in the Bible. Which is when I ran into this little hammer of a verse:

“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” 1 John 4:9-12 (ESV)

This verse outlines something that runs completely contrary to emotional reciprocity. God loved us before we ever loved Him. His love is not contingent upon ours. God’s love paints a picture for us of emotional generosity. And as I read through verse after verse, this was the theme that kept coming back to me. That we are called to live lives that are emotionally generous. To love first, reach out first, listen first. Because doing these things doesn’t just tell others about who we are, but also about who God is.

We have the opportunity to be weak, broken mirrors that imperfectly reflect the blinding brilliance of God’s love, but that imperfect reflection can be the glimpse someone needs to comprehend that God could love them. That brief glimpse might be the thing that makes it just a little easier for them to step towards Christ.

So here’s my hypothesis: I think (hope) that the joy and purpose that we receive in the process of being emotionally generous will make up for what we give up by not seeking emotional reciprocity. Because, really, having relationships with people who don’t initiate text conversations  or hanging out as much as I do (no joke, these are the kinds of things I’m judging you all on) should be a pretty easy thing to accept when the tradeoff is the opportunity to better reflect God. And frankly I’m hoping that I learn to better understand, accept, appreciate, and enjoy God’s love for me in the process.

(And yes, I do realize that this entire thing just wrapped back around to me feeling more loved, which was my selfish goal in the first place. It’s funny how often God convinces me to take a different path and it ends up going somewhere that I wanted to go anyway but was failing to find….)

Okay, enough with the words. Let’s get to the action part of the FSSP. How do I execute on my hypothesis and actually love others better? I’ll tell you how. I’m going to pick three people and be intentionally emotionally generous with them this weekend. I just wrote their names down. Don’t worry, you’re probably not one of them. Unless you are. Try not to be paranoid if I’m being nice to you. Sometimes I’m just nice.

Anyway, in these three relationships I’m going to listen first, serve first, etc. without regard to how well the other person returns any of those things. And I’m going to do it with joy and a peaceful heart, knowing that this outpouring of my own emotional capacity is simply expanding the room in my own heart for God to fill with himself.

Win, win. I love a plan where everyone wins. Maybe these little love seeds will grow into something after all…

The Fruit of the Spirit Summer Project – Week 1 – LOVE

I’ve been really, really angry lately. Hateful even. Not my normal style (or so I hope).

Which means that I have a lot of work to do to successfully pull off week one of FSSP. It’s a long journey from hate to love. A journey that the Lord started preparing my heart for last night in some very obvious ways. Against my will and without my permission. I was considering staying in HateVille indefinitely, which is a strangely cathartic place to be. But the Lord had other plans and apparently decided to play the whole “I am all powerful” card and force my hand.

Anyway, here’s the story of how the Lord started doing the heavy lifting for me last night:

I go to The Rock Church in Minneapolis, MN. We have services on Friday nights at 7:30. I was there last night. Kind of against my will. It was a rough week and I’d been indulging in struggling with some pretty serious anger about the varying degrees to which I felt like some of my closest friends from The Rock had suddenly disappeared over the six weeks since I started having seizures (Can you feel the drama here? It was not pretty).

My friend Natasha (who I’m never angry with because she is both hilarious and awesome… see footnote at the end of this post regarding her awesomeness) came over to listen to me vent hang out before church. When Natasha arrived I tried to talk her into going to see a movie instead of going to church. But she refused to play along. Thanks to my seizures Natasha was also my chauffer for the evening so she pretty much had final say on where we were going. And she said we were going to church. Kate’s Anger – 0 / God – 1

So we went to church. And one of my friends, who’d been the unsuspecting recipient of about 80% of my pent-up wrath during the week, acted totally normal when they saw me (despite having pretty much been verbally back-handed the day before). Receiving grace from others when you don’t deserve it makes it really hard to be angry. Kate’s Anger – 0 / God – 2

One of my favorite things about The Rock is our worship music. We—literally—Rock. I love singing. I sing loud and repeatedly bump into whoever is next to me because I’m kind-of-sort-of dancing. Except last night. I was fine for the first three songs. I don’t remember what they were but they were about God and who He is. I’m down with that.

But then they played a song called He Loves Us, which is one of my favorites. Check it out later (or now… I’ll wait). So the band starts playing this song. And I’m silent. Not “I’m so overwhelmed by your love that I can’t get the words out” silent. This was… “I’m can’t sing this right now because I’m not sure I believe it” silent.

I just stood there with my arms wrapped around myself in one of those defensive self-hugs that I almost never do (and distinctly remember doing the first time I ever came to The Rock and felt probably about as broken as I felt last night). I was not disengaged or angry. Just still. And empty. In those three minutes or so I realized that at that moment I didn’t believe those lyrics. Which was a big deal. And probably the clearest way that God could have shown me that I was having a serious heart problem. Kate’s Anger – 0 / God – 3

Then the message started. It was a good one. I just checked and the link to the recording isn’t up yet, but once it is I’ll post it. It was about guarding your heart and mind so that the things that go into them produce good fruit. About staying encouraged and joyful. As soon as Karl (the pastor) started speaking, I knew it was going to be a painfully on-point sermon.

One of the verses Karl used was Mathew 12:34-35, which says:

For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. (ESV).

My initial thought was “How can joy brim over from the black and empty pit where my heart is?” (I know, my thought life is more dramatic than you were expecting from an accountant, right?).

Karl went on to show a slide with two lists. On one side were characteristics that result from a good heart: joyful, friendly, kind, helpful, cheerful, positive. On the other side were characteristics that result from a bad heart: frustrated, angry, gossipy, selfish, worried, complaining, depressed. Yeah, guess which side of that list described me this past week? Not the good side. Again, signs of a serious heart problem. Kate’s Anger – 0 / God – 4

Then this morning I had some time to kill before my favorite coffee shop would be open so that I could go do my first quiet time of the week on love (after all, coffee equals love). While I waited to leave, I flipped open one of my C.S. Lewis books in a half-hearted attempt to let the Lord show me something that would help me to get in the right frame of mind to consider the topic of love.

My attitude was half sarcasm, half unspoken plea that He’d help shake me out of this week-long funk. The equivalent of a mental eye roll, a sigh, and an “Okay, Lord. Here’s your big chance…” all in one. An attitude that I find myself having more often than I should and He has yet to smite me. If I was God and someone was giving me that crap, I would definitely want to smite them. Luckily for all of us, I am not God.

Anyway, this is what I flipped open to:

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”

Let me translate that for you:

“Stop being such a self-centered jerk and look around you. God loves all these people and you’re missing the big picture when you reduce them to mere satellites in your overly dramatic, self-centered life. Maybe you should connect with someone and do something that could have an eternal impact instead of feeling sorry for yourself. Man up.”

Kate’s Anger – 0 / God – 5

Side note: Most of my translations of C.S. Lewis quotes end with the phrase “man up,” which I find strangely motivating considering that I am not, in fact, a man.

Okay, let’s wrap this up because my point is really this:

When I think about this FSSP, I tend to go straight for the cliché gardening images. We’re talking about growing spiritual fruit after all. Why reach for the unnecessarily complicated analogy when God already set up an analogy for you? So I won’t. Let’s stick with gardening. So the theoretical goal before me is to grow some love within a week. I don’t grow things in real life so this is all conjecture, but my understanding is that you till the soil, drop the right seeds, cover the seeds up, feed/water the seeds, and wait for plants to grow.

So let’s pretend I’ve got a little plot of dirt where I’m supposed to be growing these things. Well, as of yesterday, the spot where I’m supposed to plant and grow love was covered up by a cement block. One of those little trowel things was not going to be sufficient to break this cement up so that I could get to the soil underneath. And frankly just looking at that cement block and thinking about how to break it up and move it out of the way would have been exhausting. I would probably have given up before I even got startred. But the Lord knew what I was going to need to do and prepared the ground for me. So when I showed up this morning with my wimpy trowel and seeds (coffee and Bible?), the concrete was already broken up and I just had to muscle the chunks out of the way and get to work on the ground underneath.

Now I just need to figure out how to adjust the acidity (ahem, hatefulness) of this soil so that it doesn’t kill these cute little love seeds…

 

 

**Side note re: Natasha’s awesomeness: Natasha is a good friend. She is, for example, the kind of friend with whom you can have the following text conversation (actual conversation modified slightly for clarity):

[Two hours before we’re supposed to get together]

Kate: Hey, can you pick me up tonight for our coffee date?

Natasha: Absolutely!

Natasha: Where am I picking you up at?

Kate: Thanks. By the way…you are hilarious for saying yes before asking where I’m at. What if I said Wisconsin?

Natasha: I’d leave now (to come pick you up).

Kate: Best answer ever. But I’m at my house. You can pick me up there.

 

The Fruit of the Spirit Summer Project (FSSP)

I wrote this about a week ago and sent it out to a bunch of the singles at my church. Then I realized that some of you might want to participate so I’m reproducing it here. I believe it’s the shortest post on this site so far, which is reason enough to read it.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to fall away from things in the summer. We’re all busy traveling and those of us in Minnesota are busy soaking up as much Vitamin D as possible in preparation for another seven (ahem, nine?) months of winter. As a result, I end up missing things–church events, quiet times, service opportunities, etc. This inconsistency often leads to missed opportunities—for both growth and outreach.

In an effort to disrupt this pattern, I’m planning to do a little summer project. The key here is little. As in teeny, tiny.

Mark (our pastor at the Rock) has mentioned the fruit of the Spirit several times in the past few weeks and it keeps popping into my head. I thought I’d combine some weekly reading in Galatians (a short, summer-length book if ever there was one) with a weekly focus on a specific one of the fruits of the spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23. Here’s the schedule I’m planning on using:  

Week of: Reading Fruit of the Spirit to Focus On
June 8, 2013 Galatians 1 Love
June 15, 2013 Galatians 2 Joy
June 22, 2013 Galatians 3 Peace
June 29, 2013 Galatians 4 Patience
July 6, 2013 Galatians 5 Kindness
July 13, 2013 Galatians 6 Goodness
July 20, 2013 Galatians 1 Faithfulness
July 27, 2013 Galatians 2 Gentleness
August 3, 2013 Galatians 3 Self-Control
August 10, 2013 Galatians 4 Love

For example, for week one I’ll read Galatians 1 during one of my quiet times and reflect on it (probably during my first quiet time of the week). Then I’ll brainstorm ways that I can be more loving (that week’s fruit of the spirit). I’ll probably try to find some other verses that talk about love. I’ll be intentional about praying in each of my quiet times that week that God will show me opportunities to grow in this particular area. And I’ll come up with some specific action(s) that I can do during the week that exercise exceptional love. Pretty easy, right? The goal is just to stay engaged and intentional during the summer in a way that is simple enough to fit in with my summer chaos.

Anyway, I thought it could be cool to do with some other people if any of you are interested. I don’t want to add anything to anyone’s schedule so we wouldn’t get together at all, but we could talk / email about ideas we have or things that come out of our reflection and actions each week. Or (for the overachievers among us) we could coordinate our big act of love/whatever for the week. We’ll see what happens (or doesn’t).

End of email. So I’ll be posting a few times a week as I work through this project. Which leads me into the next post… about my extremely rough start to Week 1: Love. Rough as in walking across hot coals. Slowly. With bare feet. While carrying a 150 lbs sand bag. For miles.

What To Do If You See Me Have A Seizure

Otherwise entitled “DO NOT CALL 911 Unless… “

Watching someone have a seizure is a scary thing. Or so they tell me. I myself have never witnessed one.

To be quite honest, the idea of watching someone have one freaks me out. I believe this to be a common reaction. There is a certain innate aversion to things that we cannot control or understand, especially those that we perceive to be associated with death.

The reality is that if I continue to have “big” seizures, some of my friends and family will likely confront this unsettling situation. How do I best equip them to do so?

I’ve always believed that knowledge fights fear. When my family moved to Minnesota from Illinois, I knew there were ticks in Minnesota. I was afraid of them. It kept me up for most of the night for the first week we were in our new home. Finally on the fourth or fifth night, I got up and went to the computer upstairs. I researched ticks. I looked at pictures of them. I read about what kinds of diseases they could cause. I read statistics on how many Minnesotans were infected with these diseases each year. And the picture that I came away with was one I could accept and deal with. A much less scary picture than the one my imagination had been painting every night.

I’ve found the same to be true of seizures. Visually, I’m sure they’re scary to watch. And five weeks ago I knew next to nothing about them. But I know a lot about them now and the picture painted by this knowledge is actually a relatively tame one in most cases.

So here is my short list of handy guidelines on what to do if you’re with me when I’m having a seizure. Quick caveat: this applies to me and my wishes. I’m not a doctor. If you see someone else having a seizure, it’s never bad to err on the side of caution and call 911.

Kate’s Seizure Guidelines:

  1. Don’t let me hit my head on anything, if you can. It’s easier to do this by clearing the area of stuff than by trying to stop my convulsing. If I hit my head hard or seem to have otherwise injured myself on the way down, call 911 so the paramedics can check me out when I come around, just to be on the safe side.
  2. Check your watch. If I seize for more than three minutes, call 911.
  3. Other than points 1 or 2 above, it’s pretty much a waiting game. I should stop seizing in less than 3 minutes. I might not be breathing for a minute after that but I should start again pretty quickly. Your call on CPR, but my understanding is that this is pretty much unnecessary in most instances.
  4. Wait for me to come around. Let me know that I had a seizure and tell me to relax. It’ll take me a while to actually get up to speed, mentally, so don’t expect great answers to questions for a good 10-15 minutes. I won’t remember those first 5-15 minutes anyway, so if there’s anything you’ve just been dying to confess to me, this is the time to do it.
  5. If I come out of one seizure and go into another one within 5-15 minutes, call 911.
  6. That’s it. Good job!

So This One Time, When I Thought I Was Dying…

So after I had the “BIG” seizure (April 23, 2013… a date that I’m guessing will be burned into my brain for a long time), I had a bunch of medical tests done. MRI. EEG. More CTs. They sound scary, but you just lay there while they scan you. For the EEG, you even get to fall asleep. Extremely easy.

I have developed a strange affection for medical tests. Probably because it became clear almost immediately that they were going to be the easy set of tests associated with having seizures. Medical tests are nothing compared to the real life tests that have cropped up — how to ride the bus, how to handle seeing people for the first time after they watched you have a seizure, how to distinguish between drug side effects and your overactive imagination, how to talk to coworkers about seizures, how (and when) to tell your mother that you had another one… the list of life tests is much longer and seems to grow daily.

But I digress. We were talking about medical tests. About a week after I saw my neurologist, I had an MRI and an EEG. I actually liked both because I like being tested. Math tests, aptitude tests… I’m a big fan. So I go to my MRI. The techs are really nice. I lay on this platform that slides into a big white tube that makes hammering noises around me for 40 minutes. I spent the majority of the time congratulating myself on how non-claustrophobic I am and wondering if the weird different noises the machine was emitting were making different parts of my brain light up on the scans. Then they pulled me out and injected me with some stuff (contrast) and put me back in so they could take more pictures. One of the lab techs was a little too nice to me when they pulled me out to inject the contrast (he called me “blue eyes”) and even nicer when they pulled me out at the end of the test (he called me “princess”). Which was the first time in this process that I thought “oh no, I’m dying.” Because “princess” is something you call someone after you’ve seen a giant brain tumor on their scan, right? I don’t look like a “princess” otherwise. I look like an accountant.

So I leave the MRI and they promise to get the results to my doctor in a couple of days. Fine. I go to my EEG. Now this test I’m more excited about. Basically they put a bunch of electrodes on your head and watch the electrical activity in your brain . Usually they strap you down, but the tech said that I seemed pretty with it so she was going to skip that part (umm, thanks?).

During an EEG they flash a bunch of strobe lights in your eyes (I know, seems like a bad idea with someone who has had a seizure, but apparently strobe lights cause seizures less often than you’d think). They also make you hyperventilate (which I didn’t realize I could make myself do; bonus talent revealed). Then they have you fall asleep if you can. I didn’t think I fell asleep, but the tech said I did. At this point, I’m just assuming that my own idea of consciousness is flawed and trusting medical professionals so I’m assuming I did. When you’re done, they say the same thing–we’ll send this to your doctor and she’ll get back to you.

So I wait a few days. I’m already thinking vaguely that I’m dying because of that MRI tech’s overly solicitous “princess” stuff, but trying not to panic until I have more information. Then I get an email from MyChart. MyChart is the best thing ever. It’s an online system that my hospital (and many others) use that allows you to log in and see your test results, exchange emails with your docs, schedule appointments, etc. So much more organized that I ever would be. Anyway, it emails me and says that my MRI results are up. WHAT?! I immediately go to the site to read the report. Even though my neurologist hadn’t called me yet. Which I knew could be a bad idea, but… impulse control isn’t my strong suit and I’m kind of an information addict.

Here’s what the MRI report said (at least the way I was reading it… with the assistance of Dr. Google): We found something abnormal in her brain. It’s about the size of a pea. It’s in location X (still can’t figure out exactly where it is because the medical jargon is so incomprehensible… and does it really matter?). There are a variety of things this could be and they include the following: infection, tumor (brain cancer), lymphoma (blood cancer), vascular malformation (weird shaped vein), a weird bruise in her brain (???), and a couple other things. We recommend that you correlate the results with her CT to figure out what the heck is going on.

In summary: It said that it could be anything. But most of the things were bad. And all of them involved my brain being abnormal. Which I normally wouldn’t mind. But I prefer electrical / psychological abnormality to structural abnormality. Structurally, I would prefer to be average.

So what do you do with this information? I have no idea what you should do, but here’s what I did…

  1. Don’t tell anyone. I was freaking out enough for everyone. I’m not a secretive person (too much the opposite if anything), but I like to wait until I have real facts rather than getting anyone riled up over nothing. The exception being myself, of course.
  2. Spend the first 24 hours making a Bucket List. Sounds cliché, but it was very calming. A project I could work on so I’d be ready when the official bad news came, if it did. It was something productive to do while I waited. And I learned a lot from the exercise. It was a very different list than I would have made a few weeks earlier. I’ll post something about it another time.
  3. Reevaluate your life. I’m an accountant. I help people fix business tax problems. When you think you’re dying, you wonder if it was a good idea to spend your time on that.
  4. Develop an immediate empathy for others who have gone through real health trials. As it turns out, life doesn’t flex to allow for personal disasters as easily as you’d think. I felt like my world was stopped… I was standing on the edge of something, holding my breath… but everything was moving forward around me and I was expected to keep doing my normal life things–work, workout, eat, hang out with friends, etc. This made me irrationally angry at people sometimes. Couldn’t they see that I wasn’t breathing? Why were they asking me for things when it was already taking everything I had to hold myself together? To be fair, I hadn’t told them anything. So they couldn’t know. But I was angry anyway. I tried not to act on that anger. Besides, there’s a chance that was just the Keppra talking anyway (see future post on Keppra & irritability).

So then my neurologist finally called. After I’d spent two days quietly contemplating the idea of brain cancer. And she said (basically)… we’re pretty sure it’s a weird shaped vein (veinous malformation for those of you who like big, precise words). It’s probably been that way since you were born. We don’t know why it’s causing seizures now. But it’ll keep causing them. But you’re not dying or anything. We’re pretty sure it’s that. But there’s a little tiny chance it could be a tumor. Keep taking your seizure meds and come back in for a new MRI in 3 months and we’ll reevaluate.

To top it off, she said “Oh, and your EEG came back normal.” Which was a bummer. If someone is measuring the electrical waves in my brian, they shouldn’t come back normal. Not because I’ve had seizures, but because I’m awesome. Which should clearly show up on a test like that. So I’m assuming that what she meant was “Your EEG didn’t explain your seizures and the extreme awesomeness that we saw on your scans is not medically relevant.”

In summary:

  1. I’m not dying (probably).
  2. Just because an MRI tech calls you Princess, does not mean that you have brain cancer.
  3. EEG’s do not always show how awesome you are.
  4. Do not read your own test results when they’re posted online before your neurologist calls you. I know that you won’t be able to resist, but don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

Okay, my laptop is dying (and if you reached this point in the post, you’ve journeyed through many more words than I intended to write when I started it) so I’ll end this part of the saga here. Tune in next time to hear about what to do if you see me having a seizure (a post most likely entitled “DO NOT CALL 911 unless…”).

The Five Love Languages

This is more of a side note than an actual post, but I think it’s a worthy one. I took the Five Love Languages assessment the other day. (Click here if you want to take it for yourself!). If you were around in the 90s, then you’ve heard of this book. It was huge for quite a while. It basically hypothesizes that there are five primary ways that people feel loved and that we’re each different in which ways are most important to us. It uses a simple 30 questions quiz to determine which of the five are most important to you. Theoretically if you know the ways your friends / family / spouse feel loved, you can express your love for them more effectively. And you know us accountants… we’re all about being more effective.

The five love language are:

  1. Words of affirmation
  2. Acts of service
  3. Receiving gifts
  4. Quality time
  5. Physical touch

Pretty straight-forward, right? Regardless of whether or not it’s the ultimate tool for this kind of assessment, I think it’s a good one. It makes you realize that people really do process love differently… and the things that make me feel loved may not be the things that make you feel loved.

So I took the test and here were my (very accurate) results:

  • Physical touch (10): This totally makes sense. I’m from a family of huggers. We have sibling snuggles. We link arms when we walk. We give shoulder massages while we’re in line at the mall. We push one another around (well, these days my brothers just push me around… they’re too big now to push back).
  • Quality time (9): I love quality time. In my opinion real friends are the ones who will sit at the counter and talk to you while you’re cooking, follow you around while you’re grocery shopping, or go with you to get your oil changed. You don’t have to entertain them to be worth their time… they’re there because they want to be with you.
  • Acts of service (6): At first this one surprised me, but then I realized that this isn’t about doing someones laundry for them. This is about how I feel when my mom brings me coffee because she knows I love it. When my brother drives because he knows I’d rather DJ. When my family doesn’t put a paper napkin at my spot at family meals because they know I hate them (because they’re gross). Those little things that somehow say, “I know you and I love you,” more effectively than words can.
  • Words of affirmation (4): Okay, everyone likes to hear how awesome they are.
  • Receiving gifts (1): Yeah… I pretty much don’t care about gifts. Unless they’re Apple products. Or coffee.

Now I just need to get everyone I know to take the quiz too… hmm…